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US Justice Department headquarters. [Source: GlobeXplorer]Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) stumbles across the criminality of the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) while investigating international drug trafficking as part of a congressional oversight committee. He soon starts a vigorous congressional investigation of BCCI, and New York district attorney Robert Morgenthau launches a vigorous investigation as well. [New York Times, 7/29/1991] However, Kerry’s and Morgenthau’s investigations are consistently stifled. Kerry will later say that, “with the key exception of the Federal Reserve, there was almost [no]… information or cooperation provided by other government agencies.” [US Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, 12/1992] Kerry will later conclude that the Justice Department in particular went to great lengths to block his and Morgenthau’s investigations “through a variety of mechanisms, ranging from not making witnesses available, to not returning phone calls, to claiming that every aspect of the case was under investigation in a period when little, if anything was being done.” After the Bank of England shuts down BCCI in July 1991 (see July 5, 1991), making big headlines, Under Assistant Attorney General Robert Mueller takes over Justice Department efforts on BCCI and assigns many new attorneys to the case. But Kerry will ultimately conclude that the indictments the Justice Department brings forth against BCCI after that time were narrower and less detailed than those of Morgenthau’s, and often seemed to be in response to what Morgenthau was doing. [US Congress, 12/1992] Kerry submits his report on BCCI in December 1992, and after that investigations into BCCI peter out. President Bush will appoint Mueller to be director of the FBI shortly before 9/11 (see September 4, 2001).
The Public Integrity Section (PIS), a Justice Department oversight component, decides not to open a preliminary investigation of the Inslaw affair over the department’s alleged misappropriation of PROMIS software (see February 1988). The decision is communicated in a memo drafted by William F. Weld, the assistant attorney general for the department’s criminal division, of which the PIS is a part. The PIS finds that at least some of the people Inslaw complains about, including Attorney General Edwin Meese, former Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen, and Deputy Attorney General Arnold Burns, are appropriate targets of an investigation and that Inslaw is generally a credible source for allegations. However, according to Weld, the information Inslaw provides is not specific enough to constitute grounds to begin a preliminary investigation of the need for an independent counsel. This is because the PIS regards the facts Inslaw presented as unsupported speculation that the officials were involved in a scheme to get the enhanced PROMIS software. Therefore, the review should be closed “due to lack of evidence of criminality.” The House Judiciary Committee will be critical of the PIS’s finding, calling its investigation “shallow and incomplete,” and saying the department appeared to be “more interested in constructing legal defenses for its managerial actions rather than investigating claims of wrongdoing which, if proved, could undermine or weaken its litigating posture.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Strom Thurmond. [Source: US Government]Former Lockheed software manager Margaret Newsham, who worked at the Menwith Hill facility of the NSA’s Echelon satellite surveillance operation in 1979, says she heard a real-time phone intercept of conversations involving senator Strom Thurmond (R-SC). She was shocked, she recalls, because she thought only foreign communications were being monitored. Newsham, who was fired from Lockheed after she filed a whistleblower lawsuit alleging fraud and waste, tells the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Louis Stokes (D-OH), of the overheard conversations. In July, Capital Hill staffers will leak the story to the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Thurmond says he doesn’t believe Newsham’s story, but his office admits that it has previously received reports that Thurmond had been a target of NSA surveillance. Thurmond will decline to press for an investigation, and the reason for the surveillance has never been revealed. [CBS News, 2/27/2000; Patrick S. Poole, 8/15/2000]
In the 1980s, ISI Director Akhtar Abdur Rahman was supervising a secret trade in which CIA weapons meant to go to mujaheddin fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan were sold to others by the ISI. The profits were then used to fund the Kahuta Research Laboratories, which A. Q. Khan was using to develop a Pakistani nuclear bomb (see 1980s). To disguise where the weapons were coming from, the CIA bought Soviet-made weapons on the black market then shipped them to the ISI. The ISI stored them at an arms depot in Ojiri, near the town of Rawalpindi. By 1988, the US finally demands an independent audit of the depot, after persistent reports of corruption. On April 10, 1988, several weeks before US inspectors are to arrive, the arms depot blows up. The explosion is so massive that it kills 100 and injures over 1,000. The Pakistani government will officially determine the explosion was an accident. However, Hamid Gul, who became ISI director in 1987 (see April 1987), conducts a secret audit for the ISI about the explosion and confirms that it was caused by sabotage to hide the massive theft of munitions. The US ambassador to Pakistan estimates that about $125 million worth of explosives are destroyed in the blast. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 131-132]
The Justice Department issues a memo formally authorizing the use of rendition as a technique by the CIA and FBI to transport terrorist suspects from foreign countries. The terrorists are to be brought to the US, where they will face trial. This is the first known official use of the term rendition, although it is already in informal use. According to CIA Director William Webster, the technique is to be used in countries like Lebanon, due to the poor state of the judicial system there, and the other country’s government does not have to be informed or approve the operation. Webster will comment, “It seems to me that you have a different set of circumstances in a country like Lebanon which has no capacity to provide law enforcement or assistance than going to another neighbor such as Sweden or someplace and lifting somebody out of there.” Webster will point out that US courts will not consider seizing a terrorist in another country a bar to trying him in the US, as courts “do not much care how the defendant happened to come into America.” [Washington Post, 11/4/1989; Grey, 2007, pp. 133-134] At least one such rendition operation was carried out before the memo was issued (see September 18, 1987).
The notes from al-Qaeda’s formation meeting. The short lines on the right side are the list of attendees. [Source: CNN]Bin Laden conducts two meetings to discuss “the establishment of a new military group,” according to notes that are found later. Notes reveal the group is initially called al-Qaeda al-Askariya, which roughly translates to “the military base.” But the name soon shortens to just al-Qaeda, meaning “the base” or “the foundation.” [Associated Press, 2/19/2003; Wright, 2006, pp. 131-134] With the Soviets in the process of withdrawing from Afghanistan, it is proposed to create the new group to keep military jihad, or holy war, alive after the Soviets are gone. The notes don’t specify what the group will do exactly, but it concludes, “Initial estimate, within six months of al-Qaeda (founding), 314 brothers will be trained and ready.” In fact, al-Qaeda will remain smaller than that for years to come. Fifteen people attend these two initial meetings. [Wright, 2006, pp. 131-134] In addition to bin Laden, other attendees include:
Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002]
Mohammed Atef, a.k.a. Abu Hafs.
Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a.k.a. Abu Hajer.
Wael Hamza Julaidan.
Mohammed Loay Bayazid, a US citizen, who is notetaker for the meetings. [Wright, 2006, pp. 131-134]
Al-Fadl will reveal details about the meetings to US investigators in 1996 (see June 1996-April 1997). Notes to the meeting will be found in Bosnia in early 2002. [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] It will take US intelligence years even to realize a group named al-Qaeda exists; the first known incidence of US intelligence being told the name will come in 1993 (see May 1993).
Arnold Raphel. [Source: Robert Nickelsberg / Time Life Pictures / Getty Images]Pakistan’s president Muhammad Zia ul-Haq is killed in an airplane crash. The plane went into a steep dive, then recovered regaining altitude. Then it dove a second time and crashed. [Yousaf and Adkin, 1992, pp. 91-92] ISI Director Akhtar Abdur Rahman, US ambassador to Pakistan Arnold Raphel, and other Pakistani and US officials are also killed. A joint US-Pakistani investigation fails to definitively explain what caused the crash. [Coll, 2004, pp. 178-179] According to Mohammad Yousaf, the ISI’s Afghan Bureau chief, the crash was due to sabotage. Yousaf does not know who was responsible, but later says that the US State Department was instrumental in the cover-up. Yousaf points out several reasons why the State Department might want to cover up the crime even if the US were not involved in the assassination itself. [Yousaf and Adkin, 1992, pp. 91-92] Richard Clarke, a State Department analyst who later will become counterterrorism “tsar” for Presidents Clinton and Bush Jr., believes that Zia’s death and the destruction of a major weapons stockpile used by the CIA and ISI around the same time (see April 10, 1988) were both ordered by the Soviets as revenge for being defeated in Afgnanistan. Clarke says, “I could never find the evidence to prove that the Soviet KGB had ordered these two acts as payback for their bitter defeat, but in my bones I knew they had.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 50]
William von Raab. [Source: Sobran.com]In 1991, the Financial Times will report, “[T]here are persistent allegations that slush funds [at the criminal BCCI bank] were used for illegal, covert CIA operations.” US Customs Commissioner William von Raab will later allege that in the autumn of 1988, as he is preparing arrests regarding drug money laundering charges against a BCCI subsidiary in Florida, he approaches CIA Deputy Director Robert Gates for help. Gates does give Raab a CIA document about BCCI. But, according to the Times, “Gates failed to disclose the CIA’s own use of BCCI to channel payments for covert operations, which the customs chief learned about only later—and thanks to documents supplied to him by British customs agents in London.” The Times will cite the Iran-Contra arms-for-hostages scandal as one example of how the CIA used BCCI for covert operations. [Financial Times, 8/10/1991]
Jim Wright. [Source: Wally McNamee / Corbis]A group of Nicaraguan Contra leaders walks unexpectedly into the office of Speaker of the House Jim Wright (D-TX) and demands a meeting. They want to discuss prisoners being held by the Sandinista government. Wright is perplexed, but agrees to see them.
'Reagan-Wright' Peace Plan - Wright has engineered a peace program between the US and Nicaragua known as “Reagan-Wright,” a program very unpopular with right-wing Republicans both in the White House and in Congress. White House officials such as President Reagan’s national security affairs assistant Colin Powell and Assistant Secretary of State Elliott Abrams have attempted to derail the program by trying to persuade other Central American leaders to come out against Nicaragua and thereby undermine the peace talks. But the program has progressed, largely because of Wright’s tireless efforts and the cooperation of Costa Rican President Oscar Arias Sanchez (who won the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts). Wright had informed the leaders of the different factions in Nicaragua, Contras and Sandinistas alike, that his door was always open to them.
Enemy in House - Wright does not realize that he has an implacable enemy in powerful House member Dick Cheney (R-WY). Cheney is offended by what he sees as Wright’s encroachment on powers that should be reserved for the executive branch alone, and has devised a campaign to further undermine Wright.
Meeting between Wright and Contras - When the Contra leaders meet with Wright, the speaker has already informed the CIA that its agents who were fomenting civil unrest and provoking the Sandinistas were violating the law. He tells the Contras that they can no longer expect CIA agitators to work on their behalf. When news of the meeting gets back to Cheney and Abrams, they are, in Wright’s recollection, “furious.”
Washington Times Claims Wright Leaked Classified Information - The State Department steers the angry Contra delegation to the offices of the right-wing Washington Times, where they tell the editorial staff what Wright had told them—that the CIA is illegally provoking unrest in Nicaragua. A week later, Wright is floored when a Times reporter confronts him with accusations that he has leaked classified CIA information to foreign nationals.
Security Breach Allegation - Wright’s defense—he had told the Contras nothing they didn’t already know—does not placate Cheney, who immediately calls for a thorough investigation of Wright’s “security breach.” Speaking as a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Cheney says Wright has raised serious “institutional questions that go to the integrity of the House, to the integrity of the oversight process in the area of intelligence, and to the operation of the Intelligence Committee.”
Set-Up - An investigative reporter from Newsday, Roy Gutman, learns from State Department sources that Wright had been set up by Cheney and Abrams. State Department officials sent the Contras to the Washington Times with specific instructions to leak the CIA content of their discussion with Wright to the editors. But Gutman’s discovery has little impact on the situation.
Ethics Complaint - Cheney, with House Minority Leader Robert Michel (R-IL), files a complaint with the House Ethics Committee and demands an investigation by the Intelligence Committee, claiming Wright has compromised US intelligence operations in Central America. Throughout the process, neither Michel nor Cheney give Wright any warning of the complaints before they are filed.
Pressure from Cheney - Looking back, Wright will be more disturbed by Michel’s actions than by Cheney’s. He considered Michel a friend, and was amazed that Michel went along with Cheney in blindsiding him. Michel will later apologize to Wright, and say that Cheney had pressured him so much that he went along with Cheney in filing the ethics complaint without telling Wright. One aspect that Michel does not explain is why, as House minority leader, he would put the stamp of approval of the House leadership on the complaint, raising it to a much higher level than a complaint from a rank-and-file representative like Cheney. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 60-62]
Entity Tags: Washington Times, Roy Gutman, US Department of State, Robert Michel, Elliott Abrams, House Ethics Committee, House Intelligence Committee, Contras, Colin Powell, Oscar Arias Sanchez, Ronald Reagan, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Central Intelligence Agency, James C. (‘Jim’) Wright, Jr.
Timeline Tags: Iran-Contra Affair
Veteran diplomat Joseph Wilson arrives in Baghdad to assume the post of Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) under US Ambassador April Glaspie. Wilson has extensive experience throughout sub-Saharan and Central Africa, as well as brief stints on the staffs of Senator Al Gore (D-TN) and Representative Tom Foley (D-WA). Wilson will later write that he and his colleagues share the belief that Iraq is ruled by “a shockingly brutal regime… an ugly totalitarian dictatorship” and its leader, Saddam Hussein, a “sociopath.” For the next three years, Wilson and his colleagues will send harsh reports of Hussein’s systematic violations of the human rights of his subjects to Washington.
Walking a Fine Line between Isolation and Appeasement - Still, most of the embassy staff, including Wilson and Glaspie, are not advocates of totally isolating Hussein with extreme economic and diplomatic sanctions. Wilson will write, “Isolating a regime often results in isolating ourselves, and we then lose any leverage we might have to influence outcomes. On the other hand, when dictators are treated like any other leaders, it’s often interpreted by them as a free pass to continue in their autocratic ways, while critics label it as appeasement.… The merits of ideologically driven diplomacy versus a more pragmatic approach have been a recurring theme of foreign policy debates throughout the history of international relations and America’s own domestic policies.”
'Tread Lightly' - Wilson will note that “Iraq’s Arab neighbors unanimously urged us to tread lightly. They argued that after almost a decade of a grinding war with Iran, Saddam had learned his lesson and that his natural radicalism would now be tempered by the harsh experience.… [I]t was better to tie him to relationships that would be hard for him to jettison than to leave him free to make trouble with no encumbrances. Engaging with him at least kept him in our sights.” Iraq had behaved monstrously during its war with Iran, and had offended the world with its chemical attacks on its own citizens (see August 25, 1988) and its Iranian enemies (see October 1988). But it had emerged from the war as a powerful regional player both militarily and economically. The Bush administration is torn between trying to moderate Hussein’s behavior and treating him as an incorrigible, irredeemable enemy of civilization. And Washington wants Iraq as a balancing force against Iran, which is awash in virulently anti-American sentiment (a sentiment returned in full by many American lawmakers and government officials). No other country in the Gulf region will tolerate the presence of US forces as a counterbalance to Iran. So, as Wilson will write, “All of Iraq’s neighbors continued to argue for a softer approach; and since they clearly had at least as much at stake as we did, the Bush administration was willing to follow their lead.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 78-79, 451]
Milton Bearden. [Source: Publicity photo]State Department Special Envoy Ed McWilliams, stationed in Islamabad, sends a widely distributed cable to Washington warning that continued support for the Islamist militants will have disastrous consequences. This leads to a long and bitter debate between those who agree with McWilliams, and those, including CIA Station Chief Milton Bearden, who believe that the manipulation of the Islamists has been a huge success that can and should be continued and replicated elsewhere. In response to the warning, the embassy investigates McWilliams, searching for weaknesses such as alcoholism and homosexuality. [Coll, 2004, pp. 184] Additionally, the CIA “raises serious questions about his handling of classified materials.” [Coll, 2004, pp. 176-204]
CIA covert operations manager Ted Shackley. [Source: nndb(.com)]Following the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, the CIA is apparently worried that an investigation of the attack, which may have been conducted or assisted by Iran or one of its surrogates, will uncover dealings between the US and Iran. Journalists Joe and Susan Trento will comment: “To avoid criticism that the United States was doing business with terrorists should the secret negotiations with Iran [Iran-Contra, etc.] be exposed, the CIA participated in a bizarre campaign to divert blame for terrorist acts from Iran and Iran’s surrogate, Hezbollah, to Libya. If there was a comprehensive investigation into the Pan Am 103 tragedy, everything might be exposed. The major behind-the-scenes player in all this activity was the former number two man in covert operations at the CIA, Theodore G. Shackley.” [Trento and Trento, 2006, pp. 67]
The US learns that the Iraqi research center, Saad 16, is involved in the development of chemical and nuclear weapons. Three years earlier it had been discovered that the facility was developing ballistic missiles (see November 1986). The Commerce Department will continue to ship advanced technology products to the center. [US Congress, 7/2/1991]
In the controversial film The Maltese Double Cross—Lockerbie by Allan Francovich, DEA agent Steve Donahue says that in 1989 a man named Mustafa Jafar provides him with information about a possible attack on the World Trade Center. After describing information that Jafar had given him about a possible drugs shipment being carried on Pan Am 103, which was downed over Lockerbie, Donahue says: “In the course of many calls and in direct contact with the FBI and a number of other people, the State Department, and every normal channel and authority, it became quite clear that [Jafar] had significant information, and in fact had predictive information, in terms of the attacks on the World Trade Center, which was one of several attacks which he said were staged, were going to be staged, at that time. This was well in advance of those attacks.” The World Trade Center will be bombed in 1993 (see February 26, 1993). Francovich’s film about Lockerbie is controversial because it blames Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and their contacts with the US for the bombing, rather than Libya. [Allan Francovich, 1994]
Ramzi Yousef. [Source: Associated Press]Al-Qaeda bomber Ramzi Yousef is said to be recruited by the CIA, though details are not known. Author Richard Labeviere reported without elaboration in a 1999 book, “A classified FBI file indicates that [Yousef] was recruited by the local branch of the CIA.” [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 220-221] In 1995, Newsday will report, “FBI officials also are considering a probe of whether the CIA had any relationship with Yousef, who fought with the CIA-financed mujaheddin in Afghanistan in the 1980s.” [Newsday, 4/16/1995] But there appears to be no further reporting on whether such a probe was conducted. Yousef is believed to have masterminded a series of bombings in the early 1990s, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the planned Bojinka attack, before being captured in 1995 (see February 7, 1995). If Yousef was recruited by the CIA, it may have been in the late 1980s when the CIA recruited and trained thousands of people around the world to fight in Afghanistan (see 1986-1992). In the late 1980s, Yousef was studying engineering at a Wales college, but he’d also joined the Muslim Brotherhood while there. During a break from school in 1988, he went to one of bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan and spent several months honing his bomb-making skills. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 78]
Khalil Deek. [Source: Ali Jarekji / Reuters]In 2007, the New Yorker magazine will note, “American intelligence officials had been investigating [Khalil] Deek and [Abu] Zubaida’s activities since at least the late eighties,” but it will not explain why. Deek is a Palestinian and naturalized US citizen living in California for most of the 1990s who will later reportedly mastermind several al-Qaeda bomb plots. [New Yorker, 1/22/2007] Abu Zubaida, the nom de guerre of Saudi-born Palestinian Zayn al-Abidin Muhammed Hussein (also spelled Zein al-Abideen Muhammad Hassan) [Washington Post, 4/22/2009] , joins the Palestinian uprising in 1987, when he is only sixteen years old. He then goes to Afghanistan, presumably joins with bin Laden, and fights there before the war ends in 1989. [Suskind, 2006, pp. 95] Between 1988 and 1996, Deek is apparently involved with the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), a US-based charity which the US government will later call a “front group” for the Palestinian militant group Hamas. The IAP is closely tied to the Holy Land Foundation, established near Dallas, Texas, in 1989 (see 1989), and it appears the foundation was investigated from very early on. Deek is living in Dallas that year. [Orange County Weekly, 5/31/2001] Palestinian militant activity through organizations like the IAP may explain why these two are investigated at this time, and/or the two may have engaged in other activities. Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz will later claim that the Jordanian government “knew about Deek since the early 1990s. They had a lot of interest in him. They really considered him a major terrorist figure.” [Orange County Weekly, 6/17/2004] Deek and Zubaida will later work together on a number of operations, for instance using the honey trade to ship drugs and weapons (see May 2000), and masterminding a millennium bomb plot in Jordan. [New Yorker, 1/22/2007]
Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, begins to track missile deals between Pakistan and China. Pakistan needs missiles from China to use as a delivery mechanism for nuclear warheads it is producing at home. Oehler begins this work shortly after being appointed to the position. He had previously worked in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as the superior of Richard Barlow, another US intelligence official interested in Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program (see January 1989 and After). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257] Oehler’s activities will lead to sanctions against China two years later (see June 1991).
Robert Morgenthau. [Source: Robert Maass / Corbis]In the late 1980s, Osama bin Laden and his mentor Abdullah Azzam are running a charity front called Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK)/Al-Kifah in Peshawar, Pakistan, and it has an important branch in Brooklyn, New York, called the Al-Kifah Refugee Center that is sending money and recruits to fight in Afghanistan. The CIA apparently helps the Al-Kifah Brooklyn office send up to 200 people from the US to fight in Afghanistan (see 1986-1993). Many of them are US citizens. Zalmay Khalilzad, a State Department Afghan specialist who will go on to become a prominent neoconservative, will later deny knowing of any Arab-Americans fighting with the mujaheddin. But one anonymous Congressional aide will recall occasional mentions of Al-Kifah Refugee Center or its head Mustafa Shalabi by some of the most radical mujaheddin. He will say: “Among that cabal, the extreme militant fringes, Shalabi was known.… [T]hey were asking to talk to him so he could organize some particular assistance.” The Neutrality Act prevents US citizens from fighting against countries not at war with the US, but the New York Times will note, “Yet there is no sign that a criminal investigation ever took place even though federal agents had come across broad hints about the center’s activities when they investigated the [Meir] Kahane assassination [in 1990] (see November 5, 1990) and the slaying of Mr. Shalabi [in 1991]” (see (February 28, 1991)). Kahane’s assassin, El Sayyid Nosair, was one of Shalabi’s assistants. [New York Times, 4/11/1993] Apparently the CIA’s ties to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center prevent other US agencies from investigating it, even after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, when all of the bombers are found to have been tied to the center. While Al-Kifah closes itself down shortly after the WTC bombing, it immediately reopens in Boston under a different name and continues to publish the same newsletter and post from the same website (see April 1993-Mid-2003). Robert I. Friedman, writing for New York magazine, will comment, “[W]hen the fanatical fervor [the CIA] whipped up leads to unintended consequences—the assassination of a Jewish militant leader in Manhattan, the bombing of the World Trade Center, a terror conspiracy to blow up the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels and other Manhattan landmarks—[the CIA tried] to discourage local law enforcement agencies and the FBI from looking into the matter too deeply.” After Nosair assassinates Kahane, the FBI tells District Attorney Robert Morgenthau that Nosair was a lone gunman, not part of a broader conspiracy. However, the FBI had truckloads of evidence connecting to Al-Kifah strongly suggesting otherwise that it does not closely investigate. The FBI also blocks him from tying Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman to the WTC bombing (see After February 26, 1993). Morgenthau will later speculate the CIA may have encouraged the FBI not to pursue any other leads. “The FBI lied to me,” he will say. “They’re supposed to untangle terrorist connections, but they can’t be trusted to do the job.” [New York Magazine, 3/17/1995] Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will call Al-Kifah “al-Qaeda’s operational headquarters in the United States.” [Emerson, 2006, pp. 436] In 1994, a secret internal CIA report will conclude that the agency is “partially culpable” for the WTC bombing because of its support for radicals connected to Al-Kifah. One CIA source will say, “By giving these people the funding that we did, a situation was created in which it could be safely argued that we bombed the World Trade Center” (see January 24, 1994). But even after 1994 there is little evidence that the links from Al-Kifah were carefully explored by any US government agency. For instance, the government will not freeze Al-Kifah’s funds until shortly after 9/11, long after it ceased to exist (see September 24, 2001).
Nabil al-Marabh. [Source: Associated Press]Nabil al-Marabh moves to Boston in 1989 and apparently lives there as a taxi driver for several years. [New York Times, 9/18/2001; Boston Herald, 9/19/2001] In a 2003 interview, al-Marabh will claim that he had a conflict with a fellow Boston taxi driver who falsely accused him of planning to bomb a car. He will say he spoke with FBI agents who concluded the allegations were false. But from this time on, the FBI repeatedly tried to recruit him to become an informant. He will claim he refused the offer (see Late August 2000). [Knight Ridder, 5/23/2003] In a 2002 statement, he will claim that he traveled to Pakistan in 1992 at the behest of a roommate who “both worked for the FBI and fought in Afghanistan.” (Interestingly, when al-Marabh will be briefly detained in Canada in the summer of 2001, fellow prisoners will claim that he repeatedly says he is in contact with the FBI because they find him “special”(see June 27, 2001-July 11, 2001).) Al-Marabh stays at the House of Martyrs, a guest house notoriously connected to bin Laden. He says he meets al-Qaeda operative Raed Hijazi there (though it seems likely they already met in Afghanistan in the late 1980s (see Late 1980s).) The two of them will later be roommates in Boston in the late 1990s (see June 1995-Early 1999). Curiously, one newspaper account will claim that Hijazi became an FBI informant around the time he was al-Marabh’s roommate (see Early 1997-Late 1998). [Washington Post, 9/4/2002] Al-Marabh and Hijazi go to a training camp in Afghanistan and receive training in rifles, machine guns, and rocket-propelled grenades. [Washington Post, 9/4/2002; Chicago Sun-Times, 9/5/2002; Associated Press, 6/3/2004] Al-Marabh later claims that he spends the next year or two in Pakistan working for the Muslim World League, an Islamic charity some have suspected of funding radical militants. He also later acknowledges distributing as much as $200,000 a month to various training camps in Afghanistan at this time, but claims it is for charitable causes. He says he decides to return to the US in the wake of a Pakistani crackdown on Arabs following the World Trade Center bombing in 1993. [Washington Post, 9/4/2002; New York Times, 7/31/2003; Associated Press, 6/3/2004]
CIA contractor Billy Waugh trains various al-Qaeda operatives around the globe, possibly for more than a decade. In his 2004 autobiography he will write, “I worked right there with these al-Qaeda operatives and heard these arguments [about the badness of US policy] firsthand many times, especially during an assignment in Yemen.” This training must take place between 1989, when he is hired by the CIA, and 2001, when he begins his last assignment for the agency in Afghanistan. The reference to Yemen may indicate that Waugh worked there during the 1994 civil war, when the US supported the religiously-oriented North Yemen against the breakaway south (see May 21-July 7, 1994). The descriptions of the extremists’ arguments and attitudes contained in his autobiography indicate that Waugh, who conducted surveillance against Osama bin laden in Sudan in the early 1990s (see February 1991- July 1992), has intimate knowledge of the extremists. For example, he will write, “I have spoken to some of those terrorists [from al-Qaeda and related organizations], and they consider terror attacks against the general public their only outlet to hurt and destroy the infidels who have wrongfully ousted them from their homes so many years in the past.” [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 173, 303, 308]
Mercy International USA’s logo. [Source: Mercy International USA]The 1999 book Dollars for Terror will allege that in 1989, Mercy International, a “subsidiary of the Muslim Brotherhood, was able to establish its headquarters in the United States, in the state of Michigan, with the assistance of the CIA. The Agency provided significant logistical and financial support to this ‘humanitarian’ organization, enabling it to act clandestinely in the various Balkan conflicts as well as within the Muslim communities of several Russian republics.” [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 364] Mercy International will later be tied to al-Qaeda in a number of ways. For instance, in the mid-1990s its Pakistan branch will be headed by Zahid Shaikh Mohammed, brother of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see 1988-Spring 1995). [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Its Kenya branch will be tied to the 1998 US embassy bombing there. Its Philippine branch is tied to Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law. [Burr and Collins, 2006, pp. 128, 188-189] Branches of this charity in different countries have slightly different names such as Mercy International-USA and Mercy International Relief Agency, and it has been claimed that the US branch has no connection with the terrorism-related branches. However, a 2003 article will draw links between the US branch and other branches. [National Review, 9/4/2003]
The US government sends 25 high-powered sniper rifles to a group of fighters in Afghanistan that includes bin Laden. The armor-piercing weapons have range-finding equipment and night-vision scopes. In an early 2001 US court trial, Essam al Ridi, a pilot for bin Laden in the early 1990s (see Early 1993), will recall that he helped ship the weapons to Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden’s mentor. Azzam and bin Laden are close to each other at this time, and al Ridi will later testify he sometimes saw the two of them together. The president of the US company that made the rifles will later state that the rifles “were picked up by US government trucks, shipped to US government bases, and shipped to those Afghan freedom fighters.” The rifles are considered ideal for assassination. [Associated Press, 10/16/2001] The order, worth about $150,000 at the time, is a significant one for the manufacturer, accounting for 15-25% of its annual turnover on the guns. Their export would usually require an end user certificate from the US Department of State, but the circumstances of the sale are unknown, as al Ridi is not asked how he manages to purchase such a large number of rifles. [New York Times, 10/7/2001; Sunday Tribune, 10/15/2001] The CIA will deny being involved in the transfer. [Central Intelligence Agency, 3/7/2002] However, al Ridi will say that the CIA was aware that bin Laden ended up with some of the guns. [New York Times, 6/3/2002] This shipment is especially significant because there was a protracted debate within the Reagan administration about sending sniper rifles to Afghanistan due to worries that it could violate a US law against assassinations and put US officials in legal jeopardy. In the end, the US gave less than 100 of such rifles without night-vision scopes to the government of Pakistan to pass on to mujaheddin, but the ones sent to Azzam had night-vision scopes. The timing is also significant since the Soviet Union agreed to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in 1988 and complete the pull out in February 1989, around when these rifles are sent. The rifles given to Pakistan appear to have arrived before 1987. [Washington Post, 7/20/1992]
Richard Barlow, an analyst previously forced out of the State Department and CIA for coming to the politically unacceptable conclusion that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program (see 1981-1982 and August 1987-1988), is hired by the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon to become its first weapons of mass destruction intelligence analyst. Shortly after arriving, Barlow again builds up “a stack of evidence” about Pakistan’s WMD program, including intelligence that the Pakistan army was experimenting with a delivery system for its nuclear bomb, using US-provided technology. Barlow concludes, “Our side was at it again.” [Guardian, 10/13/2007] In the summer of 1989, Barlow is involved in investigating four criminal cases involving senior officers of the Pakistani Army who had attempted to make illegal purchases in the US or abroad of American-made nuclear-related materials, including highly enriched uranium. One of the cases involves evidence showing that Pakistan is attempting to obtain dual-use items for its nuclear program by claiming that the materials are to be used for its F-16 fleet. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
Although the Soviets withdraw from Afghanistan in February 1989 (see February 15, 1989), the CIA continues to support the mujaheddin because the Soviet-allied Communist government stays in power in Kabul. Apparently, the CIA and the Saudi government continue to fund the mujaheddin at least until December 1990, although it could be longer because the Communist government remains in power in Kabul until 1992. The “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, reportedly has been working with the CIA in the 1980s to help unite the mujaheddin factions fighting each other (see Late 1980s). The Village Voice will later report that according to a “very high-ranking Egyptian official,” Abdul-Rahman continues to work with the CIA after moving to Brooklyn in July 1990 (see July 1990). He “work[s] closely with the CIA, helping to channel a steady flow of money, men, and guns to mujaheddin bases in Afghanistan and Pakistan.” But despite working with the CIA, Abdul-Rahman still considers the US the “Great Satan” and does not try to hide this. In one radio broadcast, he says that “Americans are descendants of apes and pigs who have been feeding from the dining tables of the Zionists, Communism, and colonialism.” Matti Steinberg, an expert on Islamic fundamentalism, says that Abdul-Rahman’s “long-term goal is to weaken US society and to show Arab rulers that the US is not an invulnerable superpower.” The Egyptian official will later complain, “We begged America not to coddle the sheikh.” [Village Voice, 3/30/1993]
Iraq continues to meddle in the affairs of Lebanon as a method of seeking revenge against Syria for refusing to support Iraq in its war with Iran. Syria is in the process of seizing control of Lebanon and imposing military force to quell the fighting between the warring Lebanese factions, and Iraq has tried numerous times to interfere with Syria’s activities in Lebanon. Iraq earns the ire of the US when it tries to ship surface-to-surface missiles into Beirut through the Jordanian port of Aqaba. Such missiles deployed in an urban environment such as Beirut would drastically increase the level of violence throughout Lebanon. The US ambassador to Iraq, April Glaspie, meets with Iraqi officials daily in the US’s attempt to dissuade the Iraqis from arming Lebanese Prime Minister Michel Aoun and his Maronite Christian faction, in Aoun’s losing struggle against Syria. Glaspie points out that Aoun is a friend of Israel, and by arming Aoun, Iraq is placing itself in a tacit alliance with Israel. Joseph Wilson, Glaspie’s deputy, will later write, “For the Iraqis, of course, it had nothing to do with Israel, or Aoun’s position in Lebanon; it had everything to do with giving Syrian President Hafiz al-Assad a bloody nose and using Beirut as the cudgel with which to bash him. For the Iraqis, the road from Baghdad to Damascus went through Beirut.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 88-89]
Members of Egyptian militant group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, whose spiritual head is the ‘Blind Sheikh,’ Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, hold a series of secret meetings with US officials at the American embassy in Cairo. The meetings are initiated by Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, which wants to co-operate with the US, because it thinks the US is co-operating with and supporting the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. At the meetings, representatives of the group tell the US:
Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya has between 150,000 and 200,000 members;
One of the representatives at the meetings sat on Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya’s shura, or leadership council, between 1981 and 1988. The 11 members of the group’s shura are named at the meetings, as is its operational commander;
Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya thinks highly of Saudi Arabian King Fahd, but believes he should take a stronger line against Iran. However, Abdul-Rahman met an Iranian delegation in Pakistan in autumn 1988;
The group will not attack US diplomats;
Abdul-Rahman travels to the US yearly, and also travels to Britain;
The group is not as secret and violent as represented by the Egyptian government and has undergone a “change in thinking,” becoming concerned about its radical and violent image.
Embassy officials are skeptical about some of the claims, as the group’s representatives reveal more than the officials think is prudent. One year after the meetings, Abdul-Rahman will be issued a US visa by a CIA officer and move to the US (see July 1990). [US Embassy in Cairo, 4/25/1989 ; US Embassy in Cairo, 5/3/1989 ]
Richard Blee, a CIA officer who will later go on to head the agency’s Osama bin Laden unit before 9/11 (see June 1999), serves in Niger. The State Department’s May 1989, September 1989, January 1990, September 1990, and January 1991 publications “Key Officers of Foreign Service Posts” will list him as the political officer at the US embassy in Niamey. [US Department of State, 5/1989, pp. 35; US Department of State, 9/1989, pp. 35; US Department of State, 1/1990, pp. 35; US Department of State, 9/1990, pp. 32; US Department of State, 1/1991, pp. 62] However, given his CIA affiliation, Blee is presumably attached to the CIA station there.
Elliot Richardson, an attorney acting for the software company Inslaw, writes to Attorney General Richard Thornburgh about the dispute with the Justice Department over the department’s alleged misappropriation of enhanced PROMIS software. Richardson complains about a review of the case by the Public Integrity Section (PIS), an oversight component at the department, which came down against Inslaw’s claims (see February 29, 1988). He says that there is a conflict of interest because the department is defending itself against a civil action by Inslaw while at the same time investigating itself over the allegations that form the basis of the action. If the internal investigation found wrongdoing by the department, this would destroy the department’s case in court. His view is that the department has given priority to defending itself against the civil action, not the criminal investigation of its own wrongdoing. Richardson adds that no one from the PIS has contacted him, Inslaw counsel Charles Work, some of the witnesses in the case, or Inslaw’s owners. Despite this, the owners provided the PIS with the names of 30 people who had information relevant to the investigation in December 1988. Therefore, Richardson concludes that the only solution is for the department to appoint an independent counsel. [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Ali Mohamed, a spy for bin Laden working in the US military, trains Islamic radicals in the New York area. Mohamed is on active duty at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, at the time, but he regularly comes to Brooklyn on the weekends to train radicals at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, a charity connected to both bin Laden and the CIA. Lawyer Roger Savis will later say, “He came quite often and became a real presence in that [Al-Kifah] office, which later metastasized into al-Qaeda.… He would bring with him a satchel full of military manuals and documents. It was Ali Mohamed who taught the men how to engage in guerrilla war. He would give courses in how to make bombs, how to use guns, how to make Molotov cocktails.” Mohamed’s gun training exercises take place at five different shooting ranges. One series of shooting range sessions in July 1989 is monitored by the FBI (Mohamed apparently is not at those particular sessions in person) (see July 1989). Mohamed’s trainees include most of the future bombers of the World Trade Center in 1993. [Lance, 2006, pp. 47-49]
The US briefs Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Pakistan’s nuclear program, and says it has decided to cut off aid to Pakistan in 1990, because US law does not permit aid to nuclear proliferators (see August 1985 and June 1989). However, current President George Bush and his predecessor Ronald Reagan falsely certified that Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons during the Soviet-Afghan war (see August 1985-October 1990 and 1987-1989). The initial briefing is provided by CIA Director William Webster and contains new information for Bhutto, who receives only limited information about her own country’s nuclear program (see After November 16, 1988). To dramatize the extent of American knowledge, Webster arranges for Bhutto to be shown a mockup of a Pakistani nuclear bomb. Mark Siegel, an associate of Bhutto, will later say she experienced feelings of disbelief: “The briefing was more detailed” than any information she had received from her own military and “showed that the military was doing it behind her back.” The next day, President George Bush tells her that in order to continue to receive US aid, she must assure the White House that her government will not take the final step of producing nuclear-bomb cores. Bush says he will still allow the sale of sixty more F-16 planes needed by to Pakistan, even though Pakistan has fitted such planes with nuclear weapons in the recent past, despite promising not to do so (see 1983-7). Despite this, the sale will not go through. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
According to CIA Director William Webster, the US considers mounting a rendition operation against the bombers of Pan Am Flight 103. The plane was blown up over Lockerbie, Scotland, causing 270 fatalities in December 1988. Nearly a year later, Webster tells the Washington Post that the administration hopes to locate, seize, and bring to the US for trial the terrorists responsible for the bombing. However, it is not known who committed the bombing at this point. Discussion of the US response to the bombing leads the Justice Department to issue a memo formally authorizing the technique of rendition (see June 1988). [Washington Post, 11/4/1989] As of fall 2008, the full list of operatives involved in the bombing is not known and there are no public records of any of the known alleged bombers being rendered to the US.
Richard Barlow, a WMD analyst at the Pentagon, is commissioned to write an intelligence assessment for Defense Secretary Dick Cheney about Pakistan’s nuclear program. The report is apparently “stark,” indicating that the program is ongoing and Pakistan has configured US-made fighters to drop nuclear bombs, despite promising not to do so. Barlow also says that Pakistan is still trying to procure components and will start selling its technology to other nations (note: it is already doing so—see 1987). Barlow’s analysis is supported by a separate Defense Intelligence Agency study, which reaches the same conclusion. Barlow will later say, “Officials at the [Office of the Secretary of Defense] kept pressurizing me to change my conclusions.” When he refuses to do so, however, files start to go missing from his office and a secretary tells him a senior official has been intercepting his papers. In July, one of the Pentagon’s top salesmen criticizes him for trying to scupper a forthcoming deal to sell another 60 F-16s to Pakistan (see August-September 1989). Barlow refuses to change the report, but after he is fired he finds that it has been rewritten to say that continued US aid to Pakistan will ensure the country stops its WMD program. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Guardian, 10/13/2007]
One of the Calverton surveillance photographs introduced as evidence in court (note that some faces have been blurred out). [Source: National Geographic]FBI agents photograph Islamic radicals shooting weapons at the Calverton Shooting Range, on Long Island, New York. The group is secretly monitored as they shoot AK-47 assault rifles, semiautomatic handguns, and revolvers for four successive weekends. The use of weapons such as AK-47’s are illegal in the US, but this shooting range is known to be unusually permissive. Ali Mohamed is apparently not at the range but has been training the five men there: El Sayyid Nosair, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammed Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, and Clement Rodney Hampton-El. Nosair will assassinate Rabbi Meir Kahane one year later (see November 5, 1990), and the others except for Hampton-El will be convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), while Hampton-El will be convicted for a role in the “Landmarks” bombing plot (see June 24, 1993). Some FBI agents have been assigned to watch some Middle Eastern men who are frequenting the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn. Each weekend, Mohamed’s trainees drive from Al-Kifah to the shooting range, and a small FBI surveillance team follows them. The FBI has been given a tip that some Palestinians at Al-Kifah are planning violence targeting Atlantic City casinos. By August, the casino plot fails to materialize, and the surveillance, including that at the shooting range, comes to an end. Author Peter Lance will later say that why the FBI failed to follow up the shooting sessions is a “great unanswered question.” [Lance, 2003, pp. 29-33; New York Times, 10/5/2003]
Richard Barlow, an analyst who has repeatedly insisted that Pakistan has a nuclear weapons program (see July 1987 or Shortly After and Mid-1989), is fired from his position at the Pentagon. Barlow will later say, “They told me they had received credible information that I was a security risk.” When he asks why he is thought to be a security risk, “They said they could not tell me as the information was classified,” but “senior Defense Department officials” are said to have “plenty of evidence.” His superiors think he might leak information about Pakistan’s nuclear program to congressmen in favor of the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons. He spends the next eighteen months in the Pentagon personnel pool, under surveillance by security officers. Apparently, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby and two officials who work for Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Paul Wolfowitz are involved in the sacking. It is also rumored that Barlow is a Soviet spy. Barlow’s conclusions about Pakistan’s nuclear program are unpopular with some, because if the US admitted the nuclear program existed, this would lead to a break between the US and Pakistan and endanger US aid to the anti-Soviet mujaheddin and US arms sales (see August 1985-October 1990 and August-September 1989). After he is fired, rumors are started saying that Barlow is a tax evader, alcoholic, adulterer, and in psychiatric care. As his marriage guidance counseling is alleged to be cover for the psychiatric care, the Pentagon insists that investigators be allowed to interview his marriage guidance counselor. Due to this and other problems, his wife leaves him and files for divorce. [New Yorker, 3/29/1993; Guardian, 10/13/2007] Barlow will later be exonerated by various investigations (see May 1990 and Before September 1993).
Valerie Plame, a young CIA case officer (see Fall 1985), begins her first tour of foreign duty in Athens, Greece. She will remain there for three years, functioning out of the US Embassy under diplomatic cover as, primarily, a recruiter of foreign nationals to serve as CIA assets. Athens is a beautiful but dangerous assignment, with the radical leftist group known as “November 17” having killed a number of US officials over the past years, including CIA station chief Richard Welch in 1975. Plame’s station chief, Doug Smith, will remember her as an ambitious agent who worked hard: “It’s rare that someone on a first tour does a really wonderful job. She did well.” Her deputy station chief, who only allows himself to be identified as “Jim,” will add that he has “a very high opinion of Valerie” and the caliber of her work. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 319-321]
President Bush signs National Security Directive (NSD) 26, which asserts: “Access to Persian Gulf oil and the security of key friendly states in the area are vital to US national security. The United States remains committed to defend its vital interests in the region, if necessary and appropriate through the use of US military force, against the Soviet Union or any other regional power with interests inimical to our own. The United States also remains committed to support the individual and collective self-defense of friendly countries in the area to enable them to play a more active role in their own defense and thereby reduce the necessity for unilateral US military intervention.”
Policy on Iraq, Iran - NSD 26 is intended to promote the US’s outreach to Iraq as a counterweight to the “inimical” Gulf nation of Iran. The directive states, “Normal relations between the US and Iraq would serve our longer-term interests and promote stability in both the Gulf and the Middle East. The United States government should propose economic and political incentives for Iraq to moderate its behavior and to increase our influence with Iraq.” The directive also warns that Iraq would face “economic and political sanctions” if it continued to pursue biological and chemical weapons, and “[a]ny breach by Iraq of IAEA safeguards in its nuclear program will result in a similar response.”
Human Rights - The directive advocates making “[h]uman rights considerations” an “important element in our policy towards Iraq,” and states that Iraq should be steered away from “its meddling in external affairs, such as in Lebanon, and be encouraged to play a constructive role in negotiating a settlement with Iran and cooperating in the Middle East peace process.” The directive takes a much harder line on Iran, noting that before it can expect normalized relations with the US, it must “cease its support for international terrorism… help obtain the release of all American hostages… hal[t] its subversive activities…,” seek peaceful co-existence with Iraq, and “improv[e] its human rights practices.” [National Security Directive 26, 10/2/1989 ; Wilson, 2004, pp. 81-82]
CIA Director William Webster meets with Kuwait’s head of security, Brigadier Fahd Ahmed al-Fahd. Iraq will claim after its invasion and occupation of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990) that it had located a Kuwaiti memorandum summarizing their conversation, a memo both the CIA and Kuwaiti government officials will claim is a forgery, though both sides will admit the meeting actually took place. Iraq will accuse the CIA and Kuwait of collaborating to destabilize Iraq’s economy and government (see Late August, 1990). The memo reads in part: “We agreed with the American side that it was important to take advantage of the deteriorating economic situation in Iraq in order to put pressure on that country’s government to delineate our common border. The Central Intelligence Agency gave us its view of appropriate means of pressure, saying that broad cooperation should be initiated between us on condition that such activities be coordinated at a high level.” [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
Ali Mohamed, an al-Qaeda operative recently discharged from the US army (see November 1989), becomes an informant for the FBI. He applies to be an translator at FBI offices in Charlotte, North Carolina, and San Francisco, and is turned down. However, the San Francisco office hires him to be an informant to help expose a local document forging conspiracy that possibly involves members of Hamas. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 144] Mohamed will continue to have connections with the FBI for much of the rest of the 1990s while also running an al-Qaeda cell in California.
At some point in 1990, the FBI seizes a handwritten list of contacts from a top official of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn. Al-Kifah is a charity front with links to both al-Qaeda and the CIA (see 1986-1993). Little is known about the list, such as when exactly it was seized and why, what was done with it, or whose names are on it, except that a Texas imam named Moataz Al-Hallak is on the list (mention of the list comes from an article about Al-Hallak). The FBI also seizes a different computerized list of Al-Kifah contacts at some point. [Dallas Morning News, 2/19/1999] It will later be alleged that the CIA repeatedly blocked the FBI’s investigations into Al-Kifah (see Late 1980s and After).
Conservative defense analyst Frank Gaffney calls for a second round of “Team B” competitive intelligence exercises (see November 1976), writing, “[N]ow is the time for a new Team B and a clear-eyed assessment of the abiding Soviet (and other) challenges that dictate a continued, robust US defense posture.” [Quarterly Journal of Speech, 5/2006 ]
As part of its ongoing battle against drug trafficking, the US routinely monitors the phone records of thousands of US citizens and others inside the country who make phone calls to Latin America. The NSA works with the Drug Enforcement Agency in collecting phone records that show patterns of calls between the US, Latin America, and other drug-producing regions. The program is significantly expanded after George W. Bush takes office in 2001. Government officials will say in 2007 that the phone conversations themselves are not monitored, but the NSA and DEA use phone numbers and e-mail addresses to analyze possible links between US citizens and foreign nationals. The program is approved by Justice Department officials in both the Bush and Clinton administrations, and does not require court approval to demand communications records. In 2004, one US telecommunications firm, who is not identified, will refuse to turn over its phone records to the government (see 2004). [New York Times, 12/16/2007] The Bush administration will repeatedly claim that the government did not begin monitoring US citizens until after the attacks of September 11, 2001. However, this NSA/DEA program proves otherwise.
The National Imagery Office, which coordinates all US satellite activity, begins satellite surveillance of bin Laden’s bases and training camps in Sudan and Afghanistan. Also, bin Laden’s voice print, a computerized record of his voice is made from tapes of his speeches that were distributed in Saudi Arabia around the time of the Gulf War. The NSA is able to use the voice print to scan satellite and cell phone calls for a match. As a result, “on numerous occasions the NSA and CIA” are able to monitor bin Laden’s calls even if he is not using his usual satellite phone. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 206]
The 1999 book The New Jackals by journalist Simon Reeve will report that in the early 1990s, bin Laden “was flitting between Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, London, and Sudan.” Reeve does not say who his sources are for this statement. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 156]
Bin Laden had concluded an arms deal to purchase ground-to-air missiles for anti-Soviet fighters at the Dorchester Hotel in Central London in 1986 (see Mid-1986).
Bin Laden allegedly visits the London mansion of Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz around 1991 (see (1991)).
Bin Laden allegedly travels to London and Manchester to meet GIA militants in 1994 (see 1994).
One report claims bin Laden briefly lived in London in 1994 (see Early 1994).
Similarly, the 1999 book Dollars for Terror by Richard Labeviere will claim, “According to several authorized sources, Osama bin Laden traveled many times to the British capital between 1995 and 1996, on his private jet.”
The book will also point out that in February 1996, bin Laden was interviewed for the Arabic weekly al-Watan al-Arabi and the interview was held in the London house of Khalid al-Fawwaz, bin Laden’s de facto press secretary at the time (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 101]
An interview with bin Laden will be published in the Egyptian weekly Rose Al Yusuf on June 17, 1996. The interview is said to have been conducted in London, but the exact date of the interview is not known. [Emerson, 2006, pp. 423]
In a book first published in 1999, journalist John Cooley will say that bin Laden “seems to have avoided even clandestine trips [to London] from 1995.” [Cooley, 2002, pp. 63]
Labeviere, however, will claim bin Laden was in London as late as the second half of 1996, and, “according to several Arab diplomatic sources, this trip was clearly under the protection of the British authorities.” [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 108]
After 9/11, some will report that bin Laden never traveled to any Western countries in his life. On the other hand, in 2005 a British cabinet official will state that in late 1995 bin Laden actually considered moving to London (see Late 1995).
A study written by research analysts at the US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute concludes: “Baghdad should not be expected to deliberately provoke military confrontations with anyone. Its interests are best served now and in the immediate future by peace…. Revenues from oil sales could put it in the front ranks of nations economically…. Force is only likely if the Iraqis feel seriously threatened…. It is our belief that Iraq is basically committed to a non-aggressive strategy and that it will, over the course of the next few years, considerably reduce the size of its military. Economic conditions practically mandate such action.” [Pelletiere, Johnson, and Rosenberger, 1990, pp. 41; Gannett News Service, 10/18/2002]
Dr. Rashad Khalifa in 1989. [Source: Public domain]Al-Qaeda operative Wadih el-Hage is linked to the killing of a liberal imam in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Rashad Khalifa preaches at the Masjid Tucson. There is another mosque in Tucson, the Islamic Center, that is favored by radical Islamists, including al-Qaeda figures like el-Hage (see 1986). Many at the Islamic Center complain about Khalifa and his liberal views, such as allowing men and women to pray together. At some unknown later time, el-Hage will tell US investigators that in January 1990, he is visited by an unnamed, tall, bearded, Egyptian man who says that he has come from New York. This man says he has come to Tucson to investigate Khalifa. El-Hage serves the man lunch at his house while the man continues to angrily complain about Khalifa. El-Hage will tell investigators the man then leaves and he never sees him again. Later this month, on January 31, Khalifa is found murdered in the kitchen of his mosque. Investigators suspect the unnamed man was sent from New York by radical Islamists there. Osama bin Laden has a base of support at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in New York, and another base of support in Tucson. El-Hage will later tell investigators that he thought Khalifa’s murder was justified. Starting in 1991, the FBI will begin investigating El-Hage, and he will be implicated in the murder of Khalifa, but there is not enough evidence to charge him. [Soufan, 2011, pp. 45-46] However, he will be indicted for lying about his knowledge of the murder. He also says that the murder is a “good thing.” [CBS News, 10/21/2001] Later, seven people will be indicted in Colorado on charges of conspiracy to kill Khalifa. All seven are believed to be members of al-Fuqra, a Muslim extremist group based in Pakistan that has been tied to terrorist activities. Six will be convicted and the seventh will flee the country. However, none of the seven are thought to have committed the murder. In 2009, the prime suspect, Glen Cusford Francis, a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, will be arrested in Canada and charged with the murder. [Tucson Citizen, 4/29/2009]
Iraqi opposition leader Ahmed Chalabi, already forging ties with the CIA and positioning himself to take over from Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein (see May 1991 and 1992-1996), is also strengthening his position with the Iranian government. A CIA case officer later says that while he cannot be sure exactly when Chalabi began reaching out to Iran, he “was given safe houses and cars in [Kurdish-controlled] northern Iraq, and was letting them be used by agents from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security [VEVAK], and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.” [Salon, 5/5/2004; Unger, 2007, pp. 125-126]
Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will claim in a 2002 book that “in addition to successfully completing many missions, a significant number of planned bombings and assassinations [by al-Qaeda] have been thwarted. At least three to four dozen operations were detected and disrupted by government security and intelligence agencies or called off by al-Qaeda.” For instance, he cites a 1992 al-Qaeda plot to blow up a plane, which is called off when an operative involved in the plot is arrested. He also cites attempts to bomb US embassies in Albania, Bosnia, and Uganda, and a 2000 plot to assassinate King Abdullah II of Jordan. [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 133] Gunaratna has had unusually good access to US intelligence information. One article calls him “something of an ad hoc adviser to US intelligence officials.” And he is the only private citizen believed to have access to some top secret transcripts of al-Qaeda prisoners interrogated after 9/11. [Bergen Record, 7/10/2003]
Based on intelligence gathered about Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program, the US concludes that Pakistan has between six and ten nuclear weapons. Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker will later say that at this time Pakistan’s leadership is “fully prepared to use the weapons, if necessary, in a war against India.” There are heightened tensions between the two countries at this time due to unrest in Kashmir and Indian army manouevers (see January-May 1990 and May 1990). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
Some US officials become concerned over mounting indications that Pakistan is preparing for nuclear war due to a crisis with India (see January-May 1990). Several signs lead to this concern:
Intelligence from Germany reports that the Pakistanis have designed a nuclear warhead that could be fitted under the wing of an F-16. In addition, the US finds that Pakistan has learned to program the plane’s in-flight computer system to provide the correct flight path for a nuclear-bomb run, and that it has stepped up its F-16 training to practice what seems to be the dropping of a nuclear bomb.
The NSA intercepts a call from army chief Mirza Aslam Beg to the Khan Research Laboratories facility in Kahuta authorizing technicians to put together a nuclear device.
A US spy satellite sees that thousands of workers are evacuated from the site in Kahuta, a key facility in Pakistan’s nuclear program. A US analyst will comment later, “We thought the reason for the evacuation of Kahuta was that they expected a retaliatory attack by India, in response to a Pakistani first strike.”
The US detects high-explosive tests, an essential element of the nuclear weapons triggered process, being conducted near a suspected nuclear storage facility. The US finds that the facility has an unusually high degree of security and has also been visited by A. Q. Khan, head of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons program.
Satellite and other intelligence produces signs that the weapons are actually being deployed—a truck convoy from the suspected facility to a nearby Air Force base with secure zones similar to those used by the US military when transporting nuclear weapons.
The US then comes to believe the nuclear weapons have been loaded onto aircraft. The analyst will comment, “They had F-16s pre-positioned and armed for delivery—on full alert, with pilots in the aircraft.”
However, opinion is split in the US over the imminence of a possible nuclear exchange between India and Pakistan. CIA officer Richard Kerr will comment: “There’s no question in my mind that we were right on the edge.… This period was very tense. The intelligence community believed that without some intervention the two parties could miscalculate—and miscalculation could lead to a nuclear exchange.” President George H. W. Bush sends National Security Council member Robert Gates to mediate between the two rivals (see May 1990). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
A Pentagon investigation finds that Richard Barlow, an analyst of Pakistan’s nuclear program, is not a security risk. Based on the investigation, Barlow is told, “after thorough investigation . . . any question of your trustworthiness for access to sensitive information was resolved in a manner completely favorable to you.” His top-secret security clearances are reinstated, but the Pentagon does not restore his clearances to compartmentalized intelligence, without which he cannot do his job. Therefore, Barlow remains in the Pentagon personnel pool, where he performs menial tasks. Barlow was fired from his position in August 1989 (see August 4, 1989), and has been in the pool since then. According to his superiors, he was dismissed for “poor performance” and due to the worry he was a security risk, although it appears that it was actually due to his opposition to false Congressional testimony by a Pentagon official intended to smooth the way for a large sale of F-16 fighters to Pakistan (see August-September 1989). [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
Staff at the US embassies in India and Pakistan underestimate the seriousness of a crisis between the two countries (see January-May 1990), because they have been given manipulated intelligence about Pakistan’s nuclear capability. As they think Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons, they assume the crisis will not escalate into war. The US has been aware that Pakistan does have a nuclear weapons program and a nuclear weapon for some time (see 1987-1989 and May 1990), but has been suppressing this knowledge so that it could continue to support anti-Soviet mujaheddin and sell fighters to Pakistan (see August-September 1989). An example of the way the seriousness of the crisis is not appreciated is that US ambassador to India William Clark learns that the Pakistani air force is practicing dropping nuclear bombs, but is wrongly told that this is not important because the intelligence suggests Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons. The CIA, State Department, Pentagon, and White House are actually aware that this is a serious warning sign (see May 1990), but the intelligence has been altered to indicate Pakistan does not have nuclear weapons. For example, a report to Defense Secretary Dick Cheney by Pentagon analyst Richard Barlow was completely rewritten and Barlow’s conclusions were reversed to say Pakistan did not have nuclear weapons (see Mid-1989). Barlow was later fired from his job due to his opposition to an arms deal (see August 4, 1989). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 209-210]
After the US successfully resolves a crisis that could have led to nuclear war between Pakistan and India (see January-May 1990 and May 1990), essential details of the affair remain secret until March 1993, when they are revealed in a New Yorker article by Seymour Hersh. Hersh will comment, “Stopping a nuclear exchange seemed made to order for the public-relations machinery of the White House.” However, what reports there are at the time in the US and British press are dismissed as exaggerations by the Bush administration. Hersh will say: “An obvious explanation for the high-level quiet revolves around the fact, haunting to some in the intelligence community, that the Reagan administration had dramatically aided Pakistan in its pursuit of the bomb.… [The administration] looked the other way throughout the mid-nineteen-eighties as Pakistan assembled its nuclear arsenal with the aid of many millions of dollars’ worth of restricted, high-tech materials bought inside the United States.” [New Yorker, 3/29/1993]
When Saddam Hussein begins massing his troops on the Kuwaiti border (see July 25, 1990), the US intelligence community believes in consensus that Hussein is mostly bluffing. He wants to gain leverage in the ongoing OPEC talks, the community believes, and at most will seize a Kuwaiti oil field just across the border. The intelligence consensus ignores the fact that Hussein is moving his elite Republican Guard units, the core of his forces and what reporters Franklin Foer and Spencer Ackerman will call “the very guarantors of his rule,” from Baghdad to the southern desert. Even after invading Kuwait (see August 2, 1990), a National Intelligence Estimate released towards the end of the year concludes that Hussein will withdraw from Kuwait rather than risk a conflict with the US (see Late December 1990). Defense Secretary Dick Cheney becomes increasingly angry and frustrated at the US intelligence community. An intelligence analyst will recall being “whisked into a room, there’s Dick Cheney, he’s right in front of you, he starts firing questions at you, half an hour later and thirty questions later, I’m whisked out of the room, and I’m like, ‘What the hell just happened?’” DIA analyst Patrick Lang, that agency’s foremost Middle East expert and one of the few to predict the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, will recall: “He would ask you factual questions like, ‘OK, about this thing you said. Do I understand you correctly that such-and-such is true? And are you sure about this, and how do you know that?’ And I regard that as a legitimate question.… He wasn’t hostile or nasty about it; he just wanted to know how you knew. And I didn’t mind that in the least.” [New Republic, 11/20/2003]
In 2001, Jamal al-Fadl, a highly reliable al-Qaeda defector (see June 1996-April 1997), will claim that numerous al-Qaeda operatives went to Lebanon and received training from the militant group Hezbollah. Double agent Ali Mohamed sets up a meeting between Osama bin Laden and Hezbollah leader Imad Mugniyah in early 1994 (see Shortly After February 1994). After that meeting, al-Fadl will claim, the following al-Qaeda figures train with Hezbollah:
Saif al-Islam al-Masri, a member of al-Qaeda’s military ruling council.
Abu Talha al-Sudani, an al-Qaeda leader living in Somalia.
Saif al Adel, al-Qaeda’s probable number three leader after the death of Mohammed Atef in 2001.
Two others. One of them runs one of al-Qaeda’s training camps in Afghanistan.
Al-Fadl will add that some videotapes are brought back and he sees one of them. It teaches how to blow up “big buildings.” [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 2, 2/6/2001] Ali Mohamed will also claim in court that Hezbollah subsequently provides explosives training for al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad. So will US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, who states, “in the middle of the 1990s, al-Qaeda members received sophisticated explosives training from Hezbollah, despite the deep religious differences between the Sunni members of al-Qaeda and the Shiite members of Hezbollah.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] However, it seems the links between al-Qaeda and Hezbollah decline after this time.
In the mid-1990s, the CIA suffers “brain drain,” as budget restrictions cause the agency to get rid of many of its most experienced officials. CIA official Michael Scheuer will later explain: “They called it a buyout program through the whole federal government, and they thought they were going to get rid of the deadwood. What happened was they lost the age-40-to-48 group of very strong potential senior officers, those people who couldn’t stand the bureaucracy anymore. They couldn’t stand the crap, so they retired, and we lost a whole generation.” In 1997, George Tenet becomes the new CIA director (see July 11, 1997) and he attempts to stop the loss of talent. He even initiates a massive recruitment drive for the CIA’s Directorate of Operations’ clandestine service. But according to a Vanity Fair article, “unfortunately, the training of these new spies remained very much old-school: they were taught how to operate undercover in European embassies, but not how to infiltrate Islamic terrorist cells.” Tenet’s choice for the latest deputy director of operations typifies the problem. His pick is Jack Downing, a 57-year-old veteran CIA officer who served as station chief in Moscow and Beijing during the Cold War. Scheuer will comment, “Downing was a Marine, and then he was a very, very successful officer during the Cold War, but he didn’t have a clue about transnational targets, and he didn’t like analysts.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004]
Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. [Source: FBI]Despite being on a US terrorist watch list for three years, radical Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman enters the US on a “much-disputed” tourist visa issued by an undercover CIA agent. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993; Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996; Lance, 2003, pp. 42] Abdul-Rahman was heavily involved with the CIA and Pakistani ISI efforts to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, and became famous traveling all over the world for five years recruiting new fighters for the Afghan war. The CIA gave him visas to come to the US starting in 1986 (see December 15, 1986-1989) . However, he never hid his prime goals to overthrow the governments of the US and Egypt. [Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996] FBI agent Tommy Corrigan will later say that prior to Abdul-Rahman’s arrival, “terrorism for all intents and purposes didn’t exist in the United States. But [his] arrival in 1990 really stoke the flames of terrorism in this country. This was a major-league ballplayer in what at the time was a minor-league ballpark. He was… looked up to worldwide. A mentor to bin Laden, he was involved with the MAK over in Pakistan.” The charity front Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) is also known as Al-Kifah, and it has a branch in Brooklyn known as the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. The head of that branch, Mustafa Shalabi, picks up Abdul-Rahman at the airport when he first arrives and finds an apartment for him. Abdul-Rahman soon begins preaching at Al Farouq mosque, which is in the same building as the Al-Kifah office, plus two other locals mosques, Abu Bakr and Al Salaam. [Lance, 2006, pp. 53] He quickly turns Al-Kifah into his “de facto headquarters.” [Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996] He is “infamous throughout the Arab world for his alleged role in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.” Abdul-Rahman immediately begins setting up a militant Islamic network in the US. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993] He is believed to have befriended bin Laden while in Afghanistan, and bin Laden secretly pays Abdul-Rahman’s US living expenses. [Atlantic Monthly, 5/1996; ABC News, 8/16/2002] For the next two years, Abdul-Rahman will continue to exit and reenter the US without being stopped or deported, even though he is still on the watch list (see Late October 1990-October 1992).
Entity Tags: National Security Agency, Osama bin Laden, Meir Kahane, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, US Department of State, Abu Bakr Mosque, Al Farouq Mosque, Al Salaam Mosque, Anwar Sadat, World Trade Center
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney, accompanied by senior aide Paul Wolfowitz and US CENTCOM commander-in-chief General Norman Schwarzkopf, visits Saudi Arabia just four days after Iraq invades Kuwait (see August 2, 1990). [School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University, 8/3/2000; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 100] Cheney secures permission from King Fahd for US forces to use Saudi territory as a staging ground for an attack on Iraq. Cheney is polite, but forceful; the US will not accept any limits on the number of troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, and will not accept a fixed date of withdrawal (though they will withdraw if Fahd so requests). Cheney uses classified satellite intelligence to convince Fahd of Hussein’s belligerent intentions against not just Kuwait, but against Saudi Arabia as well. Fahd is convinced, saying that if there is a war between the US and Iraq, Saddam Hussein will “not get up again.” Fahd’s acceptance of Cheney’s proposal goes against the advice of Crown Prince Abdullah. [School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University, 8/3/2000; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 100-101] With Prince Bandar bin Sultan translating, Cheney tells Abdullah, “After the danger is over, our forces will go home.” Abdullah says under his breath, “I would hope so.” Bandar does not translate this. [Middle East Review of International Affairs, 9/2002; History News Network, 1/13/2003] On the same trip, Cheney also visits Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, who rejects Cheney’s request for US use of Egyptian military facilities. Mubarak tells Cheney that he opposes any foreign intervention against Iraq. [School of International and Public Affairs of Columbia University, 8/3/2000] US forces will remain in Saudi Arabia for thirteen years (see April 30-August 26, 2003).
A sketch of a 1990 US Army GPS system similar to that used by the Air Force. [Source: Department of the Army]Shortly after Iraq invades Kuwait (see August 2, 1990), a US Air Force official arrives at the Baghdad airport with a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver in a briefcase. He is driven to the US Embassy. At the embassy, he takes a position in the courtyard and takes a single GPS reading. He then flies to the US, where he gives the GPS receiver to CIA officials in Langley, Virginia. The CIA determines the precise GPS location of the embassy from the Air Force officer’s reading. That set of grid coordinates will serve as the center of the large and sophisticated coordinate system used to designate military strike targets in and around Baghdad during Operation Desert Storm (see January 16, 1991 and After). [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
Iraqi officials claim to have found a memorandum summarizing the November 1989 meeting between CIA Director William Webster and Kuwaiti head of security Brigadier Fahd Ahmed Al-Fahd (see November 1989). According to a Washington Post article, when Kuwait’s foreign minister is confronted with the document at an Arab summit, the minister faints. Iraq cites this memorandum as evidence of a CIA-Kuwaiti plot to destabilize Iraq both politically and economically (see May 28-30, 1990). Both CIA and Kuwaiti officials call the meeting between Webster and al-Fahd “routine,” and claim the memorandum is a forgery. [NationMaster, 12/23/2007]
The Pentagon, citing top-secret satellite images, claims that some 250,000 Iraqi troops and 1,500 tanks are gathering on Saudi Arabia’s border in preparation for an attack. But two commercial Soviet satellite images of the border area, taken at the same time, obtained by Florida’s St. Petersburg Times, show only an empty desert. “The bulk of the mighty Iraqi army, said to number more than 500,000 in Kuwait and southern Iraq, couldn’t be found,” Newsday reports. [St. Petersburg Times, 1/6/1991; Christian Science Monitor, 9/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 1/5/2003]
’Nayirah’ testifying before Congress. [Source: Web Fairy (.com)]An unconfirmed report of Iraqi soldiers entering a Kuwaiti hospital during the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990) and removing newborns from their incubators causes a sensation in the US media. The rumor, which later turns out to be false, is seized upon by senior executives of the PR firm Hill & Knowlton, which has a $11.9 million contract from the Kuwaiti royal family to win support for a US-led intervention against Iraq—the largest foreign-funded campaign ever mounted to shape US public opinion. (Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the firm should have been held accountable for its marketing campaign, but the Justice Department fails to intervene.) The firm also has close ties to the Bush administration, and will assist in marketing the war to the US citizenry. [Christian Science Monitor, 9/6/2002; Independent, 10/19/2003; Public Relations Watch, 6/3/2007] Hill & Knowlton uses a front group, “Citizens for a Free Kuwait” (see August 11, 1990), to plant the stories in the news media.
Congressional Hearings - Hearings on the story, and other tales of Iraqi atrocities, are convened by the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, chaired by Representatives Tom Lantos (D-CA) and John Porter (R-IL). Reporters John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton will later characterize the caucus as little more than an H&K-funded sham; Lantos and Porter are also co-chairs of the Congressional Human Rights Foundation, a legally separate entity that occupied free office space in Hill & Knowlton’s Washington, DC offices. The star of the hearings is a slender, 15-year old Kuwaiti girl called “Nayirah.” According to the Caucus, her true identity is being concealed to prevent Iraqi reprisals against her or her family. Sobbing throughout her testimony, “Nayirah” describes what she says she witnessed in a hospital in Kuwait City; her written testimony is provided to reporters and Congressmen in a media kit prepared by Citizens for a Free Kuwait. “I volunteered at the al-Addan hospital,” she tells the assemblage. “While I was there, I saw the Iraqi soldiers come into the hospital with guns, and go into the room where… babies were in incubators. They took the babies out of the incubators, took the incubators, and left the babies on the cold floor to die.” [Christian Science Monitor, 9/6/2002; Los Angeles Times, 1/5/2003; Public Relations Watch, 6/3/2007] The hearings, and particularly “Nayirah’s” emotional tale, inflame American public opinion against the Iraqis (see October 10, 1990 and After) and help drum up support for a US invasion of Iraq (see January 9-13, 1991).
Outright Lies - Neither Lantos, Porter, nor H&K officials tell Congress that the entire testimony is a lie. “Nayirah” is the daughter of Saud Nasir al-Sabah, the Kuwaiti ambassador to the US. Neither do they reveal that “Nayirah’s” testimony was coached by H&K vice president Lauri Fitz-Pegado. Seven other “witnesses” testify to the same atrocities before the United Nations; the seven use false names and identities. The US even presents a video made by Hill & Knowlton to the Security Council. No journalist investigates the claims. As author Susan Trento will write: “The diplomats, the congressmen, and the senators wanted something to support their positions. The media wanted visual, interesting stories.” It is not until after the war that human rights investigators look into the charges. No other witnesses can be located to confirm “Nayirah’s” story. Dr. Mohammed Matar, director of Kuwait’s primary care system, and his wife, Dr. Fayeza Youssef, who runs the obstretrics unit at the maternity hospital, says that at the time of the so-called atrocities, few if any babies were in incubator units—and Kuwait only possesses a few such units anyway. “I think it was just something for propaganda,” Dr. Matar will say. It is doubtful that “Nayirah” was even in the country at the time, as the Kuwaiti aristocracy had fled the country weeks before the Iraqi invasion. Amnesty International, which had supported the story, will issue a retraction. Porter will claim that he had no knowledge that the sobbing little girl was a well-rehearsed fabricator, much less an ambassador’s daughter. Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reporters will ask al-Sabah for permission to question his daughter about her testimony; he will angrily refuse. “Naiyrah” herself will later admit that she had never been in the hospital herself, but had learned of the supposed baby murders from a friend. In a subsequent interview about media manipulation during the war, Fitz-Pegado will say: “Come on.… Who gives a sh_t whether there were six babies or two? I believed her.” She will later clarify that statement: “What I meant was one baby would be too many.” [CounterPunch, 12/28/2002; Independent, 10/19/2003; Public Relations Watch, 6/3/2007]
Entity Tags: Susan Trento, Tom Lantos, Sheldon Rampton, US Congress, United Nations Security Council, Saud Nasir al-Sabah, US Department of Justice, Mohammed Matar, Lauri Fitz-Pegado, Citizens for a Free Kuwait, ’Nayirah’, Amnesty International, Bush administration (41), John Stauber, Congressional Human Rights Caucus, Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Fayeza Youssef, John MacArthur, John Porter, Hill and Knowlton, Congressional Human Rights Foundation, Jack O’Dwyer
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Domestic Propaganda
In July 1990, the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, was mysteriously able to enter the US and remain there despite being a well known public figure and being on a watch list for three years (see July 1990).
In late October 1990, he travels to London, so he is out of the US when one of his followers assassinates the Zionist rabbi Meir Kahane on November 5, 1990 (see November 5, 1990). He returns to the US in mid-November under the name “Omar Ahmed Rahman” and again has no trouble getting back in despite still being on the watch list. [Washington Post, 7/13/1993]
The State Department revokes his US visa on November 17 after the FBI informs it that he is in the US. [New York Times, 12/16/1990]
In December 1990, Abdul-Rahman leaves the US again to attend an Islamic conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. He returns nine days later and again has no trouble reentering, despite not even having a US visa at this point. [Washington Post, 7/13/1993]
On December 16, 1990, the New York Times publishes an article titled, “Islamic Leader on US Terrorist List Is in Brooklyn,” which makes his presence in the US publicly known. The Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS) is said to be investigating why he has not been deported already. [New York Times, 12/16/1990]
Yet in April 1991, the INS approves his application for permanent residence.
He then leaves the US again in June 1991 to go on the religious hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and returns on July 31, 1991. INS officials identify him coming in, but let him in anyway. [New York Times, 4/24/1993; Washington Post, 7/13/1993]
In June 1992, his application for political asylum will be turned down and his permanent residence visa revoked. But INS hearings on his asylum bid are repeatedly delayed and still have not taken place when the WTC is bombed in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993). [Lance, 2003, pp. 105-106]
Abdul-Rahman then goes to Canada around October 1992 and returns to the US yet again. The US and Canada claim to have no documentation on his travel there, but numerous witnesses in Canada see him pray and lecture there. Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) says, “Here they spent all this time trying to get him out. He goes to Canada and gives them the perfect reason to exclude him and they don’t.”
After the WTC bombing, the US could detain him pending his deportation hearing but chooses not to, saying it would be too costly to pay for his medical bills. [New York Times, 4/24/1993]
Abdul-Rahman will be involved in the follow up “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993) before finally being arrested later in 1993. It will later be alleged that he was protected by the CIA. In 1995, the New York Times will comment that the link between Abdul-Rahman and the CIA “is a tie that remains muddy.” [New York Times, 10/2/1995]
Meir Kahane. [Source: Publicity photo]Egyptian-American El Sayyid Nosair assassinates controversial right-wing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane’s organization, the Jewish Defense League, was linked to dozens of bombings and is ranked by the FBI as the most lethal domestic militant group in the US at the time. Nosair is captured after a police shoot-out. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993] Within hours, overwhelming evidence suggests that the assassination was a wide conspiracy but the US government will immediately declare that Nosair was a lone gunman and ignore the evidence suggesting otherwise (see November 5, 1990 and After). Nosair will later be acquitted of Kahane’s murder (though he will be convicted of lesser charges) as investigators continue to ignore most of the evidence in his case which links to a wider conspiracy (see December 7, 1991). Nosair is connected to al-Qaeda through his job at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, an al-Qaeda front (see 1986-1993). A portion of Nosair’s defense fund will be paid for by bin Laden, although this will not be discovered until some time later. [ABC News, 8/16/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 34-37]
Invesigators remove boxes of evidence from El Sayyid Nosair’s residence hours after the assassination. [Source: National Geographic]US government agencies cover up evidence of a conspiracy in the wake of El Sayyid Nosair’s assassination of controversial right-wing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane (see November 5, 1990). Nosair is captured a few blocks from the murder site after a police shoot-out. An FBI informant says he saw Nosair meeting with Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman a few days before the attack, and evidence indicating a wider plot with additional targets is quickly found. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993] Later that night, police arrive at Nosair’s house and find a pair of Middle Eastern men named Mahmud Abouhalima and Mohammed Salameh there. They are taken in for questioning. Additionally, police collect a total of 47 boxes of evidence from Nosair’s house, including: [Lance, 2003, pp. 34-35]
Thousands of rounds of ammunition.
Maps and drawings of New York City landmarks, including the World Trade Center.
Documents in Arabic containing bomb making formulas, details of an Islamic militant cell, and mentions of the term “al-Qaeda.”
Recorded sermons by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman in which he encourages his followers to “destroy the edifices of capitalism” and destroy “the enemies of Allah” by “destroying their… high world buildings.”
Tape-recorded phone conversations of Nosair reporting to Abdul-Rahman about paramilitary training, and even discussing bomb-making manuals.
Videotaped talks that Ali Mohamed delivered at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Top secret manuals also from Fort Bragg. There are even classified documents belonging to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief of the Army’s Central Command. These manuals and documents had clearly come from Mohamed, who completed military service at Fort Bragg the year before and frequently stayed in Nosair’s house.
A detailed and top secret plan for Operation Bright Star, a special operations training exercise simulating an attack on Baluchistan, a part of Pakistan between Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea. [Raleigh News and Observer, 10/21/2001; Raleigh News and Observer, 11/13/2001; Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2001; ABC News, 8/16/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 34-35]
Also within hours, two investigators will connect Nosair with surveillance photographs of Mohamed giving weapons training to Nosair, Abouhalima, Salameh, and others at a shooting range the year before (see July 1989). [Lance, 2003, pp. 34-35] But, ignoring all of this evidence, still later that evening, Joseph Borelli, the New York police department’s chief detective, will publicly declare the assassination the work of a “lone deranged gunman.” He will further state, “I’m strongly convinced that he acted alone.… He didn’t seem to be part of a conspiracy or any terrorist organization.” The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later conclude, “The [New York Police Department] and the District Attorney’s office… reportedly wanted the appearance of speedy justice and a quick resolution to a volatile situation. By arresting Nosair, they felt they had accomplished both.” [Village Voice, 3/30/1993; Lance, 2003, pp. 34-36] Abouhalima and Salameh are released, only to be later convicted for participating in the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center. Investigators will later find in Nosair’s possessions a formula for a bomb almost identical to one used in the WTC bombing. [New York Magazine, 3/17/1995] As one FBI agent will later put it, “The fact is that in 1990, myself and my detectives, we had in our office in handcuffs, the people who blew up the World Trade Center in ‘93. We were told to release them.” The 47 boxes of evidence collected at Nosair’s house that evening are stored away, inaccessible to prosecutors and investigators. The documents found will not be translated until after the World Trade Center bombing. Nosair will later be acquitted of Kahane’s murder (though he will be convicted of lesser charges), as investigators will continue to ignore all evidence that could suggest Nosair did not act alone (see December 7, 1991). [ABC News, 8/16/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 34-37] District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who prosecuted the case, will later speculate the CIA may have encouraged the FBI not to pursue any other leads. Nosair worked at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center which was closely tied to covert CIA operations in Afghanistan (see Late 1980s and After). [New York Magazine, 3/17/1995]
Entity Tags: Joseph Borelli, Mahmud Abouhalima, Meir Kahane, Federal Bureau of Investigation, El Sayyid Nosair, Al-Qaeda, Ali Mohamed, Central Intelligence Agency, Robert Morgenthau, Mohammed Salameh, Al-Kifah Refugee Center
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
The FBI is apparently under pressure to back off from investigating Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. One week after the murder of Zionist rabbi Meir Kahane, a long-time FBI counterterrorism expert meets with one of his top undercover operatives. According to the FBI agent, the undercover operative asks, “Why aren’t we going after the Sheikh [Abdul-Rahman]?” The FBI agent replies, “It’s hands-off.” He further explains, “It was no accident that the Sheikh got a visa and that he’s still in the country. He’s here under the banner of national security, the State Department, the NSA, and the CIA.” The agent concludes that Abdul-Rahman is untouchable. Noting how the government is already firmly suggesting that El Sayyid Nosair was the only one involved in Kahane’s murder, he says, “I haven’t seen the lone-gunman theory advocated [so forcefully] since John F. Kennedy.” [Village Voice, 3/30/1993] The FBI will also fail to look at a wealth of evidence suggesting others were involved in the assassination (see November 5, 1990 and After).
The New York Times reports that US intelligence has created a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) predicting Yugoslavia will break apart, probably within 18 months, and that civil war within Yugoslavia is likely. The NIE is said to be unusually bold and runs counter to some analysis in the State Department and elsewhere. It blames Slobodan Milosevic. president of Serbia, as the principal instigator of trouble. The Times also notes that, “Late last month, the House and Senate passed an amendment to the Foreign Operations Appropriation law that bars any United States loans or credits for Yugoslavia unless the assistance is directed to a republic ‘which has held free and fair elections and which is not engaged in systematic abuse of human rights.’” [New York Times, 11/28/1990]
Abu Hamza al-Masri (left) riding in a car with Haroon Rashid Aswat in January 1999. [Source: Sunday Times]Haroon Rashid Aswat is a radical Muslim of Indian descent but born and raised in Britain. Around 1995, when he was about 21 years old, he left Britain and attended militant training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He is said to have later told investigators that he once served as a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden. In the late 1990s, he returns to Britain and becomes a “highly public aide” to radical London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri. Reda Hassaine, an informant for the French and British intelligence services (see After March 1997 and Late January 1999), will later recall regularly seeing Aswat at the Finsbury Park mosque where Abu Hamza preaches. Hassaine frequently sees Aswat recruiting young men to join al-Qaeda. “Inside the mosque he would sit with the new recruits telling them about life after death and the obligation of every Muslim to do the jihad against the unbelievers. All the talk was about killing in order to go to paradise and get the 72 virgins.” Aswat also shows potential recruits videos of the militants fighting in Bosnia and Chechnya. Hassaine will add: “He was always wearing Afghan or combat clothes. In the evening he offered some tea to the people who would sit with him to listen to the heroic action of the mujaheddin before joining the cleric for the finishing touch of brainwashing. The British didn’t seem to understand how dangerous these people were.” Hassaine presumably tells his British handlers about Aswat, as he is regularly reporting about activities as the mosque around this time, but the British take no action. [Sunday Times (London), 7/31/2005] It will later be reported that Aswat is the mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (see Late June-July 7, 2005). Some of the 7/7 suicide bombers regularly attended the Finsbury Park mosque, and may have been recruited by al-Qaeda there or at another mosque in Britain. Counterterrorism expert John Loftus will later claim that Aswat in fact was working with British intelligence. He will say that in the late 1990s British intelligence was trying to get Islamist militants to fight in Kosovo against the Serbians and Aswat was part of this recruitment effort (see July 29, 2005). [Fox News, 7/29/2005]
With Iraqi forces occupying much of Kuwait (see August 2, 1990), the US intelligence community releases a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) that predicts, wrongly, that Iraq will withdraw from Kuwait rather than face a US invasion (see January 16, 1991 and After). [New Republic, 11/20/2003] This is a follow-up to the consensus among US intelligence agencies that Iraq would not invade Kuwait (see Mid-1990).
Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later write that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) first “earned his spurs” in al-Qaeda by serving as one of Osama bin Laden’s first bodyguards. Then, in 1991, bin Laden sends KSM to the Philippines where he trains members of the militant groups Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in bomb making and assassination. He works with bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa to establish an operational base there and also in Malaysia. Presumably he also works with his nephew Ramzi Yousef, who trains Abu Sayyaf militants the same year (see December 1991-May 1992). Gunaratna says that “After proving himself an outstanding organizer, [KSM] was given substantial operational authority and autonomy by bin Laden.” However, KSM’s work with the Abu Sayyaf and MILF is soon discovered and he “has been on the run since 1991.” KSM will return with Yousef to the Philippines in 1994 to exploit the network they built and develop the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. xxiv-xxix]
Mohammed Samraoui. [Source: Rachad]Mohammed Samraoui, the Algerian army’s deputy chief counterintelligence specialist, will later desert in disgust and explain in a French trial that the Algerian army helped create the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), supposedly an Islamist militant group linked to al-Qaeda fighting the Algerian government. He will say that in the months before an Algerian army coup in January 1992 the Algerian army “created the GIA” in an attempt to weaken and destroy the Islamic Salvation Front (FIS), an Islamist political party poised to take power in elections. He will say, “We established a list of the most dangerous people and demanded their arrest, but in vain: they were needed [to be free] to create terrorist groups. Instead, we arrested right, left, and center. We were trying to radicalize the movement.” Army intelligence identified Algerians returning from the Soviet-Afghan war and many times recruited them. “They all took the flight home via Tunis because it was half-price. As soon as they landed in Algiers, we took them in hand.” [Randal, 2005, pp. 169-170]
In 2002, a Philippine newspaper article will claim that “Philippine police have long been aware of operational ties between local Islamic radicals and right-wing foreigners.” Apparently these ties become first noticeable in the early 1990s. The article is mainly about a 1996 recorded testimonial by Edwin Angeles, a Philippine undercover agent who had posed as a leader of the Philippine militant group Abu Sayyaf until 1995 (see 1991-Early February 1995). In his testimony, he claimed to have attended meetings between Muslim militants and Oklahoma City bomber Terry Nichols, plus another right-wing American named John Lepney (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994). The article notes that Philippine officials believe such ties were not limited to these cases. “Why the strange alliance exists remains a puzzle to police and military intelligence agents. A senior counterterrorism expert says commerce and short-term goals could account for the unusual ties. ‘Eventually, they’ll be killing each other. But for now, they seem to be working together.’” Lepney had been seen in the rebellious areas of the southern Philippines since 1990 and occasionally boasted of his rebel ties. [Manila Times, 4/26/2002] Additionally, Michael Meiring, a US citizen who may have been a CIA operative with ties to Muslim militant leaders (see May 16, 2002) and December 2, 2004), periodically appeared in the same region beginning in 1992 (see 1992-1993). He sometimes stayed in Davao City, the same city where Lepney was based. Meiring claims to be a treasure hunter, but military officials note that there are “terrorists and intelligence operatives of all stripes about among treasure hunters’ circles.” Meiring also had ties to at least one neo-Nazi figure in the US. [Manila Times, 5/30/2002; Manila Times, 5/31/2002] Philippine officials will later identify a number of other suspicious right-wing Westerners living in the rebellious southern region of the country in the early 1990s. For instance, there is US citizen Nina North, whom acquaintances claim has CIA connections. From 1990 to 1992, she was reportedly working on business deals with bin Laden and other Middle East figures involving the transfer of gold bullion. In 2002, Philippine officials will claim that ties between right-wing Westerners and Muslim militants continue to the present day but they do not provide new information because of ongoing investigations. [Manila Times, 5/31/2002]
China begins to supply the M-11 missile, which is capable of carrying nuclear warheads, to Pakistan. However, the Chinese had apparently started supplying missile technology to the Pakistanis some time before this (see June 23, 1983 and 1989). The US has been tracking Pakistani-Chinese missile deals and the White House becomes aware of these transactions, but no action is taken. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment on the rationale for the inaction, “Despite overwhelming evidence from satellite overheads, human intelligence, and reconnaissance aircraft, Washington held back from intervening, fearing an impasse at a time when the White House was trying to better relations with Beijing, with an eye to the rapidly expanding power of the Chinese consumer who, it was hoped, would be allowed to purchase imported US goods.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257]
Christoph von Bezold. [Source: History Channel]In 1997, it will be reported that the German parliament’s Control Commission, which oversees Germany’s intelligence services, is investigating media allegations that the BND German intelligence agency covertly and illegally armed the Bosnian Muslims and Croats during the Bosnian war. The BND allegedly infiltrated the European Union’s monitoring missions that were supposed to help arrange ceasefires and assist with humanitarian aid. The Germans used that cover to smuggle weapons and money to Bosnian Muslims. In one instance, Christoph von Bezold, head of the German EU monitors in Zagreb, Croatia, was allegedly actually a BND agent and on March 27, 1994, he shipped munitions across enemy lines to the Bosnian Muslim controlled pocket of Bihac, Bosnia, in boxes supposedly containing powdered milk. Apparently this was just one of many such shipments using EU monitors as cover. In addition, Germany appears to be Croatia’s largest arms supplier during the war, although this is in violation of German law prohibiting the shipments of arms to an active war zone and a violation of the UN arms embargo on Yugoslavia as well. Most of the Croatia military hardware comes from East German supplies rendered obsolete in Germany after East and West Germany merged. Germany even smuggled former East German MiG-21 fighters to Croatia. [Daily Telegraph, 4/20/1997]
An array of Iraqi chemical weapons. [Source: CIA] (click image to enlarge)Under the supervision of UNSCOM weapons inspectors, Iraq destroys more than 38,000 filled and unfilled chemical munitions, 690 tons of chemical warfare agents, over 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals, more than 400 pieces of production equipment [United Nations Special Commission, 4/16/1998] , 48 missiles, 8 mobile missile launchers, and 29 missile warheads modified to carry chemical or biological agents. [United Nations Special Commission, 1/29/1998] After cross-referencing weapons-making materials found in Iraq with sales records from other countries, UNSCOM inspectors conclude that at least 90 percent of Iraq’s weapons have been destroyed or dismantled. Chief UNSCOM inspector Scott Ritter believes that a good portion of the remaining 10 percent was destroyed during the First Gulf War, thus leaving only a small fraction unaccounted for. [Truthout (.org), 7/24/2002; Newsday, 7/30/2002]
The British MI6 establishes Operation Mass Appeal, a British intelligence mission designed to exaggerate the threat of Iraq’s alleged arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in order to shape public opinion. [BBC, 11/21/2003] The operation plants stories in the domestic and foreign media from the 1990s through 2003. Intelligence used by Mass Appeal is said to be “single source data of dubious quality.” After the First Gulf War, the operation seeks to justify the UN sanctions policy. But after the September 11 attacks, its objective is to secure public support for an invasion of Iraq. The mission is similar to Operation Rockingham (see 1991-March 2003), another British intelligence disinformation program. [New Yorker, 3/31/2003; BBC, 11/21/2003; Press Association (London), 11/21/2003; Sunday Times (London), 12/28/2003] Former US Marine intelligence officer Scott Ritter says in late in 2003 (see November 21, 2003) that he supplied Mass Appeal with intelligence while serving as UN chief weapons inspector from the summer of 1997 until August 1998 and that he met with British agents involved in the operation several times in both New York and London. [BBC, 11/21/2003]
CIA contractor Billy Waugh, who is conducting surveillance against Osama bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan (see February 1991- July 1992), drafts a plan to assassinate bin Laden. Waugh will later say that the plan, one of “hundreds” of such proposals he prepares for the CIA, is drafted as a natural part of the surveillance and “isn’t anything special,” but is just written “in case someone decided that was the necessary course of action.” The plan is to kill bin Laden while he is traveling, because that is when his security is worst. One CIA car would follow bin Laden on one of his regular trips out of town, another would approach bin Laden’s car from the opposite direction and ram into it. The driver of the trailing car would then get out and shoot bin Laden. Given the poor quality of the Sudanese security services, Waugh thinks it would be simple to evade capture after the shooting. However, the plan is not approved because of restrictions on assassinations at the CIA and because of a lack of specific intelligence tying bin Laden to terrorism at this point. Waugh then considers killing bin Laden himself from one of his surveillance positions without permission, but decides not to do so. [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 207-210]
The CIA, which is conducting a surveillance operation against Osama bin Laden in Sudan (see February 1991- July 1992), penetrates a bank he uses. Billy Waugh, one of the CIA contractors performing the surveillance, will say: “[Bin Laden] went to the bank every day, and you might figure that if the [CIA] knew which bank he used, it would recruit someone within that bank to provide information. Well, by God they did.” Waugh will also say that the CIA “knew about [bin Laden’s] personal bank account.” However, details of what the CIA knew about bin Laden based on this penetration are not known. Although the bank most closely associated with bin Laden at this time is the Al-Shamal Islamic Bank (see August 14, 1996), in his autobiography Waugh calls the bank the “Arab Bank.” [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 203] It is unclear exactly what bank Waugh is referring to. There is a bank called the Arab Bank that is alleged to be involved in terrorism finance. [MSNBC, 4/19/2005] However, the bank’s website states that its Sudan branch was nationalized in 1970. [Arab Bank, 3/23/2008] The Arab Bank for Economic Development in Africa is also based in Khartoum at this time. [International Monetary Fund, 3/23/2008] However, there are no known connections between this bank and bin Laden.
In 1991, Ayaad Assaad is a scientist working at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory. He is a Christian and a long-time US citizen, but he was born in Egypt and his Middle Eastern background and appearance apparently bothers some other scientists at USAMRIID. Around Easter 1991, not long after the Persian Gulf War had ended, Assaad discovers an eight-page poem in his mailbox. The poem mocks Assaad, sometimes in crude and lewd terms. It makes reference to a rubber camel made by some other scientists in the lab that has numerous sexually explicit appendages.
"Camel Club" - The group behind the camel and the poem refer to themselves as the “Camel Club.” There are at least six members of this group. Three are known by name—Philip Zack, Marian Rippy, and Charles Brown—but the names of the others have never been made public.
Complaint - Assaad’s supervisor at USAMRIID at the time is Col. David Franz. Assaad will later claim he went to Franz about the poem and the camel, but Franz “kicked me out of his office and slammed the door in my face, because he didn’t want to talk about it.” Two other Arab-Americans, Kulthoum Mereish and Richard Crosland, also work under Franz and also face harassment from the Camel Club. They will join Assaad in later suing USAMRIID and claiming that Franz was a racist who failed to take any action against the Camel Club, and then fired all three of them when he got the chance during layoffs in 1997 (see May 9, 1997). By the time of the anthrax attacks in 2001, Franz will be a private consultant on countermeasures to biological and chemical attacks. [Hartford Courant, 12/9/2001; Hartford Courant, 1/20/2002] Zack leaves USAMRIID in December 1991 after facing allegations of unprofessional behavior. Rippy leaves in February 1992.
Investigation - After being ignored by Franz, Assaad files a formal complaint with the Army. Col. Ronald Williams, commander of USAMRIID at the time, heads the investigation. In August 1992, he concludes that Zack and Rippy had been at the center of the Camel Club and also were having an affair with each other even though both were married. Williams formally concludes to Assaad, “On behalf of the United States of America, the Army, and this Institute, I wish to genuinely and humbly apologize for this behavior.” [Salon, 1/26/2002] However, most of the other members of the Camel Club will still be working at USAMRIID when Assaad is laid off in 1997 (see May 9, 1997).
Alleged Patsy - An anonymous letter sent just before the real anthrax attacks are made public in 2001 will say that Assaad is ready to launch a biological attack on the US (see September 26, 2001 and October 3, 2001). Some will later suspect that this letter was an attempt to use Assaad as a scapegoat for the attacks, and his targeting may have been related to the Camel Club dispute. [Hartford Courant, 1/20/2002]
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who will later be the chief recruiter for and a key member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell, travels widely and joins al-Qaeda. Zammar was born in Syria but his family moved to Hamburg, Germany, in 1971. He became a German citizen and renounced his Syrian citizenship about a decade later. By his late teens, he developed a friendship with Mamoun Darkazanli, a fellow Syrian, and both of them joined the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Muslim group banned in Egypt. Zammar worked as an auto mechanic until about 1991, when he decides to become a full time militant, and he mostly lives on government benefits after that.
Training and Fighting in Afghanistan - In 1991, Zammar goes to Afghanistan and trains at an elite camp linked to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He fights with Hekmatyar’s forces against the Communist Afghan government before returning to Hamburg by the end of 1991.
Active in Many Countries - Over the next five years, he makes about 40 trips out of Germany, often to countries where Islamist militants are fighting. In 1995, he fights in Bosnia with other Arabs against the Serbians. In 1996, he goes to Afghanistan again and formally pledges allegiance to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda, according to an unnamed Arab intelligence agency.
His Travels Cause Attention - All of Zammar’s traveling brings him to the attention of Turkish intelligence, and it notifies German intelligence about his radical militant links in 1996 (see 1996). Knowing that his militant activity is not illegal in Germany as long as he is not involved in a plot targeting Germany, Zammar speaks openly about his travels and exploits, and he becomes very well known within the Islamist extremist community in Hamburg. He begins recruiting others to become active militants and attend Afghan training camps. [Washington Post, 9/11/2002; New York Times, 1/18/2003]
Abdurajak Janjalani. [Source: Public domain]Abu Sayyaf, a militant Islamic group, is formed in the Philippines, and is led mainly by returned mujaheddin fighters from Afghanistan. Abdurajak Janjalani, who had fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, is considered the founder of the group. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001; Strategic Update, 10/15/2001 ; Bayani Magazine, 4/2005] Janjalani had befriended bin Laden while fighting in Afghanistan in the late 1980s. He and many others from the Philippines had their training paid for by the CIA and Pakistani ISI (see Late 1980s). “Osama bin Laden wanted to expand his al-Qaeda network, established in 1988, so he turned to Janjalani to establish a cell in Southeast Asia.” Many militants break from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a much larger rebel group, to join Abu Sayyaf. It will later be reported that, “Philippine intelligence officials believe [Abu Sayyaf’s] primary goal at the time was to sabotage the ongoing peace process between the MNLF and the [Philippine government] and to discredit the MNLF’s leaders.” [Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, 9/1/2005 ] This comment takes on added meaning in light of evidence that the group was penetrated from the very beginning by the Philippine government, as a deep undercover operative became the group’s second in command and operational leader (see 1991-Early February 1995). The group begins a series of attacks by killing two American evangelists in April 1991. [Washington Post, 9/23/2001] The group engages primarily in kidnapping and extortion. It also receives early funding from Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law of bin Laden, and Ramzi Yousef, the 1993 WTC bomber (see December 1991-May 1992). [Strategic Update, 10/15/2001 ; Time, 8/23/2004]
Edwin Angeles. [Source: Robin Moyer]Edwin Angeles helps found the new Muslim militant group Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and becomes the group’s second in command and operations officer. But Angeles is actually a deep cover operative for the Philippine government and has already penetrated the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a much larger rebel group that Abu Sayyaf splintered from. Angeles is the first to suggest that Abu Sayyaf take part in kidnappings, and plans the group’s first kidnapping for ransom in 1992. He will be directly involved in numerous violent acts committed by Abu Sayyaf until his cover is blown in early 1995 (see Late 1994-January 1995 and Early February 1995). [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 7/10/2001] Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza, who will later lead the Philippine investigation in the Bojinka plot, is his main handler. Mendoza will later recall, “I received orders to handle him… I had the impression he was also being handled by somebody higher.” [Vitug and Gloria, 2000] In 2002, one of Angeles’ wives will claim in a deathbed confession that Angeles told her he was a “deep-penetration agent” working for “some very powerful men in the DND (Department of National Defense),” the Philippine national defense-intelligence agency. [Insight, 6/22/2002] During this time, Abu Sayyaf is very active. Philippine intelligence will later estimate that from 1991 to 1995 the group launches 67 kidnappings and violent attacks, killing around 136 people and injuring hundreds more. [Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, 9/1/2005 ]
After the First Gulf War (see January 16, 1991 and After), the British Defense Ministry’s Defense Intelligence Staff creates a secret intelligence office known as Operation Rockingham. The purpose of the top secret cell is to collect intelligence that can be used by the US and British to support the case for maintaining UN sanctions on Iraq. After the September 11 attacks, Rockingham helps build Britain’s case for the need to use military force against Iraq. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/8/2003; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/8/2003; Guardian, 11/21/2003; BBC, 11/21/2003; Press Association (London), 11/21/2003; Guardian, 11/29/2003] Former US Marine intelligence officer Scott Ritter, who has first-hand knowledge of the operation, will later tell reporters that “Rockingham was spinning reports and emphasizing reports that showed noncompliance (by Iraq with UN inspections) and quashing those which showed compliance. It was cherry-picking intelligence.” He also says that members of the cell were backed by officials “from the very highest levels,” including military and intelligence officers, as well as civilian officials from the ministry of defense. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/8/2003; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/8/2003] The operation is similar to Operation Mass Appeal (see 1991-2003), another British intelligence disinformation program. Rockingham is also compared to the Pentagon’s Office of Special Plans (see August 18, 2003), which has also been accused of producing misleading assessments on Iraq based on the selective use of intelligence. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 6/8/2003; Guardian, 11/21/2003]
In 1991, there is a surge in the number of US soldiers adhering to Islam, due to a conversion program sponsored by the Saudi government (see March-September 1991). Islamic activist Abdurahman Alamoudi approaches the US military and suggests they create a program for Muslim chaplains, similar to a longstanding program for Christian chaplains. His proposal is accepted and in 1991 he creates the American Muslim Armed Forces and Veterans Affairs Council (AMAFVAC) with the stated purpose to “certify Muslim chaplains hired by the military.” In 1993, the Defense Department certifies it as one of two organizations to select and endorse Muslim chaplains. The other is the Graduate School of Islamic and Social Sciences (GSISS). [US Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, 10/14/2003; Wall Street Journal, 12/3/2003] That group is run by prominent Islamic scholar Taha Jabir Al-Alwani. Most of the roughly one dozen Muslim chaplains in the US military are educated there. In 2002, the US government searches the school and Al-Alwani’s home as part of a raid on the SAAR network (see March 20, 2002). He appears to also be named as an unindicted coconspirator in the Sami al-Arian trial. Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz says Al-Alwani is a “person who supports and funnels money to terrorist organizations,” but Al-Alwani denies all terrorism ties and has not been charged with any crime. [St. Petersburg Times, 3/27/2003] Most Muslim chaplains trained at GSISS then receive an official endorsement from Alamoudi’s AMAFVAC organization. US intelligence will learn in early 1994 that Alamoudi has ties to bin Laden (see Shortly After March 1994). [US Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, 10/14/2003] In 1996, counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will warn in a Wall Street Journal editorial that Alamoudi openly supports Hamas, even after the US government officially designated it a terrorist organization (see March 13, 1996). [Wall Street Journal, 3/13/1996] But Alamoudi will work for the Defense Department until 1998 on an unpaid basis to nominate and to vet Muslim chaplain candidates. After that, he will give the task to others in his AMAFVAC organization. [US Congress, Senate, Committee on the Judiciary, 10/14/2003] Furthermore, Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) will later allege the US the military allowed Muslim chaplains to travel to the Middle East on funds provided by the Muslim World League, which has been linked to al-Qaeda (see October 12, 2001). Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ) will later comment, “It is remarkable that people who have known connections to terrorism are the only people to approve these chaplains.” [US News and World Report, 10/27/2003] In late 2003, Alamoudi will be arrested and later sentenced to 23 years in prison for terrorism-related crimes. The US military will announce around the same time that it is reviewing and overhauling its Muslim chaplain program. [US News and World Report, 10/27/2003]
The CIA is aware of the term al-Qaeda at least by this time. Billy Waugh is a CIA contractor assigned to follow bin Laden and other suspected criminals in Sudan starting at this time (see February 1991- July 1992). He will later recall in a book that when he arrived in Sudan, the CIA station chief there said to him about bin Laden, “We don’t know what he’s up to, but we know he’s a wealthy financier and we think he’s harboring some of these outfits called al-Qaeda. See what you can find out.” Waugh will note, “I was familiar with bin Laden from [CIA] traffic, but this was the first time I had heard the term al-Qaeda.” [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 121] According to most other media accounts, US intelligence does not learn about the existence of al-Qaeda until several years later, not long before the State Department publicly uses the term in 1996 (see August 14, 1996). For instance, US News and World Report will even assert in 2003, “So limited was the CIA’s knowledge that it began using al-Qaeda’s real name only [in 1998]—10 years after bin Laden founded the organization.” [US News and World Report, 12/15/2003]
Billy Waugh. [Source: Billy Waugh]The CIA monitors bin Laden in Khartoum, Sudan, where he has just moved (see Summer 1991). Billy Waugh, an independent contractor working for the CIA, moves to Khartoum and is given the task of spying on him. Waugh is a legendary fighter already in his sixties who has performed special operations for the US Army and CIA for many years and will continue to do so until he is in his seventies. The Associated Press will later report that Waugh “played a typecast role as an aging American fitness enthusiast and would regularly jog past bin Laden’s home. He said he often came face-to-face with bin Laden, who undoubtedly knew the CIA was tailing him. Neither said anything, but Waugh recalled exchanging pleasantries with bin Laden’s Afghan guards.” [Waugh and Keown, 2004, pp. 121; Associated Press, 6/4/2005] Waugh will later recall, “I was on a tracking team in Sudan keeping track of [bin Laden] in his early days as a possible terrorist network leader. Our CIA Chief of Station there told me upon arrival that [he] was one of our targets, that he was a wealthy Saudi financier and possible supporter of the terrorist outfit called al-Qaeda. He ran companies there and even owned an entire street block in the al-Riyadh section of the city.… At the time of our surveillance operations against him in 1991-92, [he] was not a particularly high priority, though evidence was gathering about him. At the time, it would have been very easy to take him out.” Waugh also claims that he saw bin Laden “in the mountains of the Pakistan/Afghanistan border in the late 1980’s when we were training the [mujaheddin] resistance.” [Journal of Counterterrorism & Homeland Security International, 6/2005]
Wadih El-Hage’s US passport. His face is overly dark due to a poor photocopy. [Source: US Justice Department] (click image to enlarge)The FBI begins to investigate Wadih El-Hage, who will soon work as bin Laden’s personal secretary. The FBI is investigating the February 1991 murder of Mustafa Shalabi (see (February 28, 1991)), the head of the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, a charity with ties to both bin Laden and the CIA. El-Hage, a US citizen living in Texas, came to New York to briefly run Al-Kifah so Shalabi could take a trip overseas, and happened to arrive the same day that Shalabi was murdered. Investigators find a message from El-Hage on Shalabi’s answer machine. They learn El-Hage had been connected to the 1990 murder of a liberal imam in Tucson, Arizona (see January 1990). [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 148-149; Lance, 2006, pp. 67-68] Further, he visited El Sayyid Nosair, who assassinated Meir Kahane the year before (see November 5, 1990), in prison, and left his name in the visitor’s log. [Lance, 2003, pp. 50-51] However, the FBI decides there is not enough evidence to charge El-Hage with any crime. They lose track of him in early 1992, when he moves to Sudan and begins working there as bin Laden’s primary personal secretary. He will help bin Laden run many of his businesses, and will frequently take international trips on bin Laden’s behalf. [PBS Frontline, 4/1999; New York Times, 1/22/2000]
In March 1991, Sen. John Kerry’s Senate investigation of the criminal Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI) investigation hears about a secret CIA report on BCCI that was given to the Customs Service. Kerry’s office asks the CIA for a copy, but is told the report does not exist. After months of wrangling, more and more information about the CIA’s ties to BCCI comes out, and the CIA eventually gives Kerry that report and many other reports relating to BCCI. But crucially, the CIA does not share documents on CIA operations using the bank. Kerry’s public report will conclude, “Key questions about the relationship between US intelligence and BCCI cannot be answered at this time, and may never be.” [Nation, 10/26/1992; US Congress, Senate, Committee on Foreign Relations, 12/1992]
Hambali, an important future al-Qaeda leader, moves to the village of Sungai Manggis, Malaysia, about an hour north of the capital of Kuala Lumpur. Hambali is from nearby Indonesia and fought in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden in the late 1980s. He starts off poor, working at odd jobs, but soon is frequently traveling and has many overseas visitors. Intriguingly, Hambali’s landlord will later say of Hambali’s visitors, “Some looked Arab and others white.” Hambali plays a major role in the 1995 Bojinka plot in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995), and after that plot is foiled he continues to live in his simple Sungai Manggis house. [Time, 4/1/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Living near Hambali in this village are other regional Islamist militant leaders such as Abdullah Sungkar, Imam Samudra (allegedly a key figure in the 2000 Christmas bombings (see December 24-30, 2000) and the 2002 Bali bombings (see October 12, 2002)), Abu Bakar Bashir, the spiritual leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah, and Abu Jibril. So many militants live in this village that it becomes known as “Terror HQ” to intelligence agencies. Sungkar and Bashir are considered the two most well-known militant leaders in Southeast Asia at the time (Sungkar dies of old age in 1999). Hambali’s house is directly across from Bashir’s and they are considered friends. [Tempo, 10/29/2002; Ressa, 2003] Interestingly, Fauzi Hasbi, an Indonesian government mole posing as a militant leader, lives next door to Bashir as well. [SBS Dateline, 10/12/2005] Despite his role in the Bojinka plot, Hambali continues to live there very openly. Beginning in March 1995, just two months after the plot was foiled, Hambali throws his first feast for several hundred guests to mark a Muslim holiday. This becomes an annual party. He also sometimes travels to Indonesia. [Time, 4/1/2002] By May 1999, if not earlier, the FBI connects Hambali to the Bojinka plot (see May 23, 1999). In January 2000, he attends a key al-Qaeda summit in nearby Kuala Lumpur. The CIA gets pictures and video footage of him at the meeting and already has pictures of him from a computer linked to the Bojinka plot (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 5, 2000). However, there is no apparent effort to apprehend him, extradite him, or even put him on a public wanted list. He continues to live in Sungai Manggis until at least late 2000. [Conboy, 2003]
President George H. W. Bush signs a covert “lethal finding” authorizing the CIA to spend a hundred million dollars to “create the conditions for removal of Saddam Hussein from power.” [New Yorker, 6/7/2004] The CIA forms the Iraqi Opposition Group within its Directorate of Operations to implement this policy. [Ritter, 2005, pp. 128] Awash in cash, the agency hires the Rendon Group to influence global political opinion on matters related to Iraq. According to Francis Brooke, an employee of the company who’s paid $22,000 per month, the Rendon Group’s contract with the CIA provides it with a ten percent “management fee” on top of whatever money it spends. “We tried to burn through $40 million a year,” Brooke will tell the New Yorker. “It was a very nice job.” The work involves planting false stories in the foreign press. The company begins supplying British journalists with misinformation which then shows up in the London press. In some cases, these stories are later picked up by the American press, in violation of laws prohibiting domestic propaganda. “It was amazing how well it worked. It was like magic,” Brooke later recalls. Another one of the company’s tasks is to help the CIA create a viable and unified opposition movement against Saddam Hussein (see June 1992). This brings the Rendon Group and Francis Brooke into contact with Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi (see After May 1991). The CIA will soon help Chalabi and Rendon create the Iraqi National Congress (INC) to further the goal of toppling Hussein. [New Yorker, 6/7/2004] Author and intelligence expert James Bamford will later say, “Chalabi was a creature of American propaganda to a large degree. It was an American company, the Rendon Group, that—working secretly with the CIA—basically created his organization, the Iraqi National Congress. And put Chalabi in charge basically.… From the very beginning Chalabi was paid a lot of money from the US taxpayers. The CIA paid him originally about 350,000 dollars a month, to Chalabi and his organization.” [PBS, 4/25/2007]
Prince Turki al-Faisal. [Source: Publicity photo]Bin Laden, recently returned to Saudi Arabia, has been placed under house arrest for his opposition to the continued presence of US soldiers on Saudi soil. [PBS Frontline, 2001] Controversial author Gerald Posner claims that a classified US intelligence report describes a secret deal between bin Laden and Saudi Intelligence Minister Prince Turki al-Faisal at this time. Although bin Laden has become an enemy of the Saudi state, he is nonetheless too popular for his role with the mujaheddin in Afghanistan to be easily imprisoned or killed. According to Posner, bin Laden is allowed to leave Saudi Arabia with his money and supporters, but the Saudi government will publicly disown him. Privately, the Saudis will continue to fund his supporters with the understanding that they will never be used against Saudi Arabia. The wrath of the fundamentalist movement is thus directed away from the vulnerable Saudis. [Posner, 2003, pp. 40-42] Posner alleges the Saudis “effectively had [bin Laden] on their payroll since the start of the decade.” [Time, 8/31/2003] This deal is reaffirmed in 1996 and 1998. Bin Laden leaves Saudi Arabia in the summer of 1991, returning first to Afghanistan. [Coll, 2004, pp. 229-31, 601-02] After staying there a few months, he moves again, settling into Sudan with hundreds of ex-mujaheddin supporters (see 1992-1996). [PBS Frontline, 2001]
The US imposes sanctions on two Chinese companies for their part in nuclear proliferation activities. The sanctions are the product of work by Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction. Oehler has been tracking missile deals between China and Pakistan for two years (see 1989) and finds out about the companies’ involvement in a shipment to Pakistan of a “training M-11 ballistic missile.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 257]
On July 11, 1991, retired Pakistani Brigadier General Inam ul-Haq is arrested by German authorities in Frankfurt. His arrest sheds light on the links between the criminal BCCI bank, the Pakistani government, and the A. Q. Khan nuclear network. In 1987, US intelligence attempted to arrest ul-Haq in the US for buying nuclear components there meant for Pakistan’s nuclear program, but some US officials tipped off the Pakistani government about the sting and only a low-level associate of ul-Haq’s was caught (see Before July 1987). [Wall Street Journal, 8/5/1991] The CIA had long known that ul-Haq was one of A. Q. Khan’s key procurement agents, in addition to being close to the Pakistani ISI. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 161] Ul-Haq’s arrest comes just one week after BCCI was shut down worldwide, and he seems linked to that bank as well. In the sting four years before, the Luxembourg and London branches of BCCI helped finance a shipment of nuclear materials out of the US. Shortly after his arrest, Senator John Glenn (D-OH) says that BCCI involvement in his could be a “smoking gun” for US investigators to learn how Pakistan’s nuclear program was financed. [Wall Street Journal, 8/5/1991] Ul-Haq is extradited to the US and convicted in 1992 of attempting to export nuclear related materials to Pakistan. He could have been sentenced to 10 years in prison and a $500,000 fine, but the judge merely sentences him to time served (several months in prison) and a $10,000 fine. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 228]
Zahir Shah. [Source: Associated Press]An assailant posing as a Portuguese journalist stabs Zahir Shah, the former king of Afghanistan, in his home in exile in Rome. Shah survives. The New York Times will later report that US investigators concluded the assailant had ties to al-Qaeda. [United Press International, 11/6/1991; New York Times, 10/14/2001] The assailant, a Portuguese convert to Islam named Paulo Jose de Almeida Santos, will later claim he was one of the first members of al-Qaeda. He claims that he discusses the plan to kill Zahir Shah in detail with bin Laden, as there is civil war in Afghanistan at the time and there is a possibility that Shah could return there and lead a secular government hostile to bin Laden’s interests. But he will say he didn’t get specific permission from bin Laden for the attack. “[T]here wasn’t a well-defined hierarchy, we were rather disorganized; you could give a try to whatever entered into your head.” He also says that bin Laden “was the guy who gave money to keep the organization going… but he didn’t give many orders.” Santos is immediately caught and serves eight years in an Italian prison for the attack. [Bergen, 2006, pp. 116-119]
Attorney General William Barr appoints Nicholas Bua, a retired federal judge from Chicago, as his special counsel to investigate and advise him on the Inslaw controversy. The affair has been running for nearly a decade and stems from a dispute over a contract signed by the Justice Department and Inslaw in 1982 (see March 1982). However, because Bua does not have independent status, the House Judiciary Committee will comment, “as long as the investigation of wrongdoing by former and current high level Justice officials remains under the ultimate control of the department itself, there will always be serious doubt about the objectivity and thoroughness of the inquiry.” [US Congress, 9/10/1992]
Ramzi Yousef, the future bomber of the WTC in 1993, stays in the Philippines and trains militants there in bomb-making. According to Philippine intelligence documents, Yousef had developed expertise in bomb-making and worked at a training camp at Khost, Afghanistan, teaching bomb-making for militants connected to bin Laden. But bin Laden dispatches him to the Philippines, where he trains about 20 militants belonging to the Abu Sayyaf group. Abu Sayyaf is heavily penetrated by Philippine undercover operatives at this time, especially Edwin Angeles, an operative who is the second in command of the group. Angeles will later recall that Yousef is introduced to him at this time as an “emissary from bin Laden.” [Strategic Studies Institute of the US Army War College, 9/1/2005 ] Angeles also claims Yousef decided to use the Philippines as a “launching pad” for terrorist acts around the world. [New York Times, 9/6/1996] One of Abu Sayyaf’s top leaders will later recall that Yousef also brings a significant amount of money to help fund the group. [Philippine Daily Inquirer, 1/22/2007; CNN, 1/31/2007] A flow chart of Yousef’s associates prepared in early 1995 by Angeles’ Philippines handler Rodolfo Mendoza shows a box connected to Abu Sayyaf labeled “20 trainees/recruits.” So presumably the Philippine government is aware of this information by then, but it is not known when they warned the US about it (see Spring 1995). Yousef will also later admit to planning the 1993 WTC bombing at an Abu Sayyaf base, which most likely takes place at this time (see Early 1992). The ties between Yousef and Abu Sayyaf will grow stronger, culminating in the 1995 Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), an early version of the 9/11 plot.
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, apparently directly assists the Abu Sayyaf militant group with a number of attacks during this time. According to a 1996 Philippine intelligence report, in December 1991, Khalifa meets with Abu Sayyaf leaders and gives them $1000 in local currency to bomb a church in the town of Jolo. In January 1992, Khalifa and future Bojinka bombers Wali Khan Amin Shah and Ramzi Yousef meet with Abdurajak Janjalani, the head of the Abu Sayyaf. This time, Khalifa gives $6,000 for two ultimately successful operations—to assassinate an Italian missionary and to bomb a local public market to disrupt provincial elections. Khalifa continues to liaison with Abu Sayyaf leaders, providing food, medicines, ammunition, and sometimes targets to attack. The last known attack with such help from Khalifa takes place in April 1993. [Ressa, 2003, pp. 27, 227]
El Sayyid Nosair. [Source: FBI]El-Sayyid Nosair is acquitted of killing Meir Kahane (see November 5, 1990), leader of the Jewish Defense League, but convicted of firearms offenses connected with his shooting of two witnesses during his attempt to flee. The judge will declare that the acquittal verdict “defie[s] reason” and sentence Nosair to 22 years by applying maximum sentences to his convictions on the other charges. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993; Independent, 11/1/1998; Lance, 2003, pp. 65] The prosecution of Nosair was hobbled by the US government’s absolute refusal to acknowledge the possibility that the murder was anything other than the work of a “lone deranged gunman” despite information gained during the course of the investigation provided by an FBI operative that he had “very close” ties to the radical imam Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. Many boxes of evidence that could have sealed Nosair’s guilt on the murder charge and also shown evidence of a larger conspiracy were not allowed as evidence. [Village Voice, 3/30/1993; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 44-46] A portion of Nosair’s defense fund is paid for by bin Laden, but this will not be discovered until some time later. [ABC News, 8/16/2002] District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, who prosecuted the case, will later speculate the CIA may have encouraged the FBI not to pursue any other leads. Nosair worked at the Al-Kifah Refugee Center which was closely tied to covert CIA operations in Afghanistan (see Late 1980s and After). [New York Magazine, 3/17/1995]
GIA logo. [Source: Public domain]The Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), established in 1991, allegedly is an Islamist militant group linked to al-Qaeda, but there are allegations it was manipulated by the Algerian government from its inception (see 1991). Militants launch their first attack in December 1991, shortly before an Algerian army coup (see January 11, 1992), striking a military base, killing conscripts there and seizing weapons. The GIA competes with an existing militant group, the Armed Islamic Movement (MIA), which changes its name to the Islamic Salvation Army (AIS) in 1993 and becomes the armed wing of the banned FIS party. After the army coup, the GIA and AIS stage many attacks in Algeria. The GIA is more active, targeting many government employees, intellectuals, and foreigners for assassination, and attacking factories, railroads, bridges, banks, military garrisons, and much more. They generally try to minimize civilian casualties, but hope to create a state of fear that will lead to paralysis and the collapse of the government. The group goes through four leaders during this time. But in October 1994 a new leader will take over, dramatically changing the direction of the group (see October 27, 1994-July 16, 1996). [Crotty, 2005, pp. 291]
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