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Secretary of State Colin Powell’s chief of staff, Larry Wilkerson, sits behind Powell during the UN presentation (see February 5, 2003). As Powell begins, Wilkerson eyes the Iraqi delegation. “I knew they didn’t know squat, Saddam Hussein wouldn’t have told those guys anything,” Wilkerson will later recall. “But I’m sitting there watching them. Are they going to say, ‘Oh, God, they’ve got us!’?” Wilkerson and his team have thrown out the entire Cheney-provided dossier on WMD (see January 29, 2003 and January 30-February 4, 2003). They have thrown out three-quarters of the dossier on Iraq’s connections with Islamist terrorism. What’s left will give Powell about 80 minutes of material. The audio and video displays Powell uses to show his evidence and reinforce his speech are slick and dramatic, with fast cuts and professional editing shown on big-screen monitors. Wilkerson feels that what is left is relatively strong, but worries that there is not all that much there. “Because we had cut it so severely,” he will later recall, “I felt that the presentation was fairly solid. But my biggest concern was the efficacy of the presentation. We had thrown out so much crap—rightfully so. But now the presentation wasn’t very effective.… I felt like I’d failed.” But, author Craig Unger will note, Wilkerson is forgetting the tremendous presence, charisma, and stature of Colin Powell. For Powell to come before the UN and lend his gravitas and moral authority to the Bush administration’s case for war gives that case tremendous credence it had heretofore lacked (see Early February, 2003). Reflecting on this, Wilkerson will say: “There’s no question in my mind that Vice President Cheney knew that. That’s why he had Powell do it.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 284-285]
Newsday reports that Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, told reporters, “Better intelligence has come from a senior al-Qaeda detainee who had been held in the US base at Guantanamo, Cuba, and was ‘rendered’ to Egypt after refusing to cooperate. ‘They promptly tore his fingernails out and he started to tell things.’” [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
Satellite photo of the Djerf al Nadaf site, showing the wall blocking the truck route. Red arrows indicate where trucks were supposed to pass through the wall. [Source: CBS News]The day after Colin Powell gives his presentation to the UN alleging proof of Iraq’s WMDs (see February 5, 2003, UN inspectors visit Djerf al Nadaf, the site the Iraqi defector Curveball claims was used to create secret bioweapons. Previously, satellite photos have shown that while the site looks much as Curveball described, there was one discrepancy: the area that Curveball said was used by trucks to enter and exit a warehouse to receive and deliver biological toxins was blocked by a wall (see February 2001). US intelligence analysts were disturbed by the existence of the wall, though some hypothesized the wall was a fake. The UN inspectors find a solid, very real wall in place. There was no way trucks could have gotten in and out of the warehouse. Jim Corcoran, whose job is to relay intelligence to the UN inspectors, will recall in 2007, “When the inspectors examined the facility, they found that this was an impossibility.” Curveball had insisted that hidden doors at the other end of the warehouse allowed the trucks to enter and exit, but no such doors exist. Corcoran recalls, “Again, there was a wall there, no doors. And outside there was a stone fence that would have made it impossible for this to have occurred.” Tests for traces of biological agents in the warehouse come up empty (see February 8, 2003 and June 2003-Late 2003). Though the inspectors’ discoveries cast serious doubt on Powell’s allegations, few outside of the intelligence community hear about the discoveries for a long time. [CBS News, 11/4/2007]
The British media learns that a dossier entitled “Iraq: Its Infrastructure of Concealment, Deception, and Intimidation” that was released by the British government to bolster its case for Iraqi WMD is plagiarized from publicly available magazine articles (see February 3, 2003). Prime Minister Tony Blair’s office initially stands by the report, which becomes colloquially known as the “Dodgy Dossier” (a term apparently coined in an editorial by The Observer—see February 8, 2003), saying the dossier had been “put together by a range of government officials.” It also says, “We consider the text as published accurate.” However, Blair officials will eventually admit that the government should have credited the article. [Associated Press, 2/6/2003; BBC, 2/7/2003] A Channel 4 news report notes: “None of the sources are acknowledged, leading the reader to believe that the information is a result of direct investigative work, rather than simply copied from pre-existing internet sources.… Apart from the obvious criticism that the British government has plagiarized texts without acknowledgment, passing them off as the work of its intelligence services, there are two further serious problems. Firstly, it indicates that [Britain] at least really does not have any independent sources of information on Iraq’s internal politics—they just draw upon publicly available data. Thus any further claims to information based on ‘intelligence data’ must be treated with even more skepticism. Secondly, the information presented as being an accurate statement of the current state of Iraq’s security organizations may not be anything of the sort. [Ibrahim Al-]Marashi—the real and unwitting author of much of the document—has as his primary source the documents captured in 1991 for the Iraq Research and Documentation Project. His own focus is the activities of Iraq’s intelligence agencies in Kuwait, Aug 90-Jan 91—this is the subject of his thesis. As a result, the information presented as relevant to how Iraqi agencies are currently engaged with UNMOVIC is 12 years old.” [Channel 4 News (London), 2/6/2003]
Alberto Mora, the Navy’s general counsel, invites Justice Department lawyer John Yoo to his office to discuss Yoo’s recent memo defending the legality of extreme interrogation techniques used against terror suspects (see January 9, 2002). Mora has been working to put an end to such tactics at the Pentagon, but was horrified when his supervisor, Pentagon general counsel William Haynes, outflanked him with the Yoo memo (see January 23-Late January, 2003). Mora wants to know if Yoo believes cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment can be allowed at Guantanamo, and if that the president’s authority to order torture is virtually unlimited. During the meeting with Yoo, Mora asks him, “Are you saying the President has the authority to order torture?” Yoo replies, “Yes.” “I don’t think so,” Mora retorts. “I’m not talking policy,” Yoo replies, “I’m just talking about the law.” Mora responds, “Well, where are we going to have the policy discussion, then?” Yoo has no idea. Perhaps it will take place within the Pentagon, where the defense-policy experts are. Mora knows that no such discussion will ever take place; the Bush administration will use Yoo’s memo to justify its support of torture. [New Yorker, 2/27/2006; Washington Post, 4/2/2008]
Major Jack Rives, a top Judge Advocate General (JAG) officer in the US Air Force, writes a memo challenging the legal opinion issued by Justice Department lawyer John Yoo justifying “harsh interrogation methods” (see January 9, 2002). Rives is representative of a large number of JAG officers who have sent fiercely worded memos calling torture and “harsh interrogation methods” illegal, regardless of what Yoo may have written. Rives writes, “[S]everal of the exceptional techniques, on their face, amount to violations of domestic criminal law,” and notes that US interrogators who use such techniques risk prosecution. And, telling soldiers it is permissable to brutalize prisoners could lead to a general breakdown in discipline and morale, Rives adds, “We need to consider the overall impact of approving extreme interrogation techniques as giving official approval and legal sanctions to the application of interrogation techniques that US forces have consistently trained [as being] unlawful.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 180]
One day after Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the United Nations in which he detailed an alleged al-Qaeda-linked training camp in northern Iraq said to be producing chemical weapons (see February 5, 2003), a number of US politicians question why the US has not taken any action against the camp. The camp, located near the town of Khurmal in territory controlled by the Kurdish rebel group Ansar al-Islam, is said to be closely linked to Islamist militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The Los Angeles Times reports that, “Lawmakers who have attended classified briefings on the camp say that they have been stymied for months in their efforts to get an explanation for why the United States has not launched a military strike on the compound…” Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DE) asks Colin Powell in a public hearing: “Why have we not taken it out? Why have we let it sit there if it’s such a dangerous plant producing these toxins?” Powell declines to answer, saying he cannot discuss the matter publicly. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) complains that she has been asking about striking the camp well before Powell’s speech based on intelligence given in private briefings, but, “We’ve been asking this question and have not been given an answer.” Officials have replied that “they’ll have to get back to us.” Representative Jane Harman (D-CA) notes that Powell’s speech could have cost the US an opportunity to prevent the spread of chemical weapons produced at the camp, saying, “By revealing the existence of the camp, it’s predictable whatever activity is there will probably go underground.” One anonymous US intelligence official suggests, “This is it, this is their compelling evidence for use of force. If you take it out, you can’t use it as justification for war.” [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2003]
Some time after Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN making the case for war with Iraq (see February 5, 2003), Powell’s chief of staff Larry Wilkerson, who headed the team that prepared the presentation (see January 29, 2003 and January 30-February 4, 2003), will criticize it in blunt terms: “My participation in that presentation at the UN constituted the lowest point in my professional life. I participated in a hoax on the American people, the international community, and the UN Security Council.” Greg Thielmann, who left the State Department’s intelligence bureau, the INR, in September 2002, will also observe: “Powell wanted to sell a rotten fish. He had decided there was no way to avoid war. His job was to go to war with as much legitimacy as we could scrape up.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 287-288]
The so-called “Dodgy Dossier,” a report on Iraqi attempts to deceive UN weapons inspectors recently released by the British government and quickly proven to be plagiarized from out-of-date articles from publicly available sources (see February 3, 2003), has already been shown to have been compiled from a graduate thesis and several magazine articles. Now the anti-war group Voices in the Wilderness says it has identified a passage from the dossier as being lifted directly from a 1999 book, Saddam Secrets, written by Tim Trevan. [Guardian, 2/7/2003] Trevan is a former UN weapons inspector who wrote on February 4 that a war with Iraq is necessary: “When you have an advanced state of cancer, surgery becomes a better option than slow lingering death. For me, horrible though war is, it is the equivalent of surgery.” [Guardian, 2/4/2003]
Charles Heyman, editor of Jane’s World Armies, criticizes the use of a plagiarized dossier as a source for Secretary of State Colin Powell’s presentation to the UN on Iraq’s supposed WMD programs and efforts at concealment (see February 5, 2003). Powell explicitly mentioned the dossier, complied by the British government, as one of the sources for his speech, “I would call my colleagues’ attention to the fine paper that the United Kingdom distributed… which describes in exquisite detail Iraqi deception activities.” But the dossier is almost wholly plagiarized from publicly available, out-of-date sources (see February 3, 2003). [Guardian, 2/7/2003] “It’s embarrassing for the prime minister [Tony Blair] and for poor old Colin Powell,” says Heyman, adding: “[The dossier] was clearly prepared by someone in Downing Street and it’s obviously part of the prime minister’s propaganda campaign. The intelligence services were not involved—I’ve had two people phoning me today to say, ‘Look, we had nothing to with it.’” [Washington Post, 2/8/2003]
Iraqi officials escort foreign journalists to missile assembly and test sites at Al-Amiriyah and other locations to counter US Secretary of State Colin Powell’s assertion before the UN that Iraq is concealing weapons of mass destruction at those sites (see February 5, 2003). The officials tell the journalists that the sites have been open to UN inspections. Iraq also challenges the authenticity of a dossier recently released by the British government that purports to document how Iraq is deceiving UN weapons inspectors (see February 3, 2003). The dossier originally claimed to have been based on high-level intelligence sources, but has now been shown to be almost wholly plagiarized from publicly available articles and reports, including one written by a graduate student. [Associated Press, 2/7/2003]
The so-called “Dodgy Dossier,” a report on Iraqi attempts to deceive UN weapons inspectors recently released by the British government (see February 3, 2003), is discovered to be, in the words of The Guardian, a “journalistic cut-and-paste job” compiled largely from public sources, written by four junior officials in Alastair Campbell’s communications office, and published with “only cursory approval from intelligence or even Foreign Office sources.” [Guardian, 2/7/2003; London Times, 2/8/2003] A “well-placed source” tells The Guardian that the dossier is the work of Downing Street and the Coalition Information Center, the organization set up after 9/11 to push the US-British case for the war on terrorism. The source calls a key section of the dossier riddled with “silly errors.” The report was apparently not vetted by British intelligence. [Guardian, 2/7/2003] A spokesman for British Prime Minister Tony Blair says that neither he nor nor Alastair Campbell, one of his advisers, had actually seen the report before it was released, instead saying that it had been “seen by the relevant people.” Campbell’s aides told communications staffers that they wanted a report that drew together evidence “proving” Iraq was obstructing UN officials in finding Iraqi WMD; they did not want a more even-handed report acknowledging that UN weapons inspectors were nowhere near to finding a so-called “smoking gun” proving Iraq possesses such weapons. Former defense minister Peter Kilfoyle says: “It just adds to the general impression that what we have been treated to is a farrago of half-truths, assertions and over-the-top spin. I am afraid this is typical of the way in which the whole question of a potential war on Iraq is being treated.” [London Times, 2/8/2003] Responding to criticisms of the report as being propaganda, a Downing Street source says, “What we are absolutely determined is that this will not stop us sharing information with the public as and when we think we can.” [Observer, 2/9/2003]
The government raises the threat level to orange. The announcement is made by Attorney General John Ashcroft, Homeland Security Secretary Ridge, and FBI Director Mueller. CIA Director George Tenet calls the threat “the most specific we have seen” since 9/11 and says al-Qaeda may use a “radiological dispersal device, as well as poisons and chemicals.” Ashcroft states that “this decision for an increased threat condition designation is based on specific intelligence received and analyzed by the full intelligence community. This information has been corroborated by multiple intelligence sources.” [CNN, 2/7/2003] Ashcroft further claims that they have “evidence that terrorists would attack American hotels and apartment buildings.” [ABC News, 2/13/2007] A detailed plan is described to authorities by a captured terror suspect. This source cited a plot involving a Virginia- or Detroit-based al-Qaeda cell that had developed a method of carrying dirty bombs encased in shoes, suitcases, or laptops through airport scanners. The informant specifies government buildings and Christian or clerical centers as possible targets. [ABC News, 2/13/2007] Three days later, Fire Administrator David Paulison advises Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves against radiological or biological attack. This causes a brief buying panic. [MSNBC, 6/4/2007] Batteries of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles are set up around Washington and the capital’s skies are patrolled by F-16 fighter jets and helicopters. [BBC, 2/14/2003] The threat is debunked on February 13, when the main source is finally given an FBI polygraph and fails it. Two senior law enforcement officials in Washington and New York state that a key piece of information leading to the terror alerts was fabricated. The claim made by a captured al-Qaeda member regarding a “dirty bomb” threat to Washington, New York, or Florida had proven to be a product of his imagination. Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, says the intelligence turned out “to be fabricated and therefore the reason for a lot of the alarm, particularly in Washington this week, has been dissipated after they found out that this information was not true.” But threat levels remain stuck on orange for two more weeks. [ABC News, 2/13/2007] Bush administration officials do admit that the captured terror suspect lied, but add that this suspect was not the only source taken into consideration. Ridge says that there is “no need to start sealing the doors and windows.” Bush says that the warning, although based on evidence fabricated by an alleged terrorist, is a “stark reminder of the era that we’re in, that we’re at war and the war goes on.” [BBC, 2/14/2003] The alert followed less than forty-eight hours after Colin Powell’s famous speech to the United Nations in which he falsely accused Saddam Hussein of harboring al-Qaeda and training terrorists in the use of chemical weapons (see February 5, 2003). [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ] Anti-war demonstrations also continue to take place world-wide. [MSNBC, 6/4/2007]
In a radio address to the US nation, President Bush reiterates the two main reasons for military action against Iraq, named the certain existence of WMD and al-Qaeda training camps in Iraq. He says, “We have sources that tell us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons—the very weapons the dictator tells us he does not have.… We also know that Iraq is harboring a terrorist network headed by a senior al-Qaeda terrorist planner. This network runs a poison and explosive training camp in northeast Iraq, and many of its leaders are known to be in Baghdad.” [President Bush, 8/2/2003]
UN inspectors at Djerf al Nadaf. [Source: CBS News]Three days after Colin Powell’s speech to the UN Security Council (see February 5, 2003), Team Bravo, a UN inspection team led by US biological weapons experts, conducts the first inspection of Curveball’s former work site, Djerf al Nadaf. According to Curveball, Djerf al Nadaf was the site of a 1998 accident involving bio-warfare material. The visit lasts 3 1/2 hours. Samples taken from the facility are tested for trace amounts of biological agents, but test results are negative. During the visit, the inspectors also note that the walls surrounding the facility would have made it impossible for trucks to enter and leave the building in the way described by Curveball. [Los Angeles Times, 11/20/2005]
Jane’s Information Group, the firm that publishes the Jane’s series of journals about global military affairs, says three of its articles were used without credit in a recent dossier released by the British government on Iraq (see February 3, 2003). The articles are from July 1997, August 1997, and November 2002, according to the publishing firm. Jane’s Intelligence Review editor Chris Aaron says, “That open sources should be used to compile such a report is not in itself surprising,” noting that the dossier’s introduction acknowledged the use of some previously published material. “However, the direct copying of entire paragraphs casts some doubt on the processes used to create dossiers of this type.… [W]hen an agency produces a report for classified consumption it will usually identify the nature of the sources used. The fact that the [British] dossier does not identify the source for each bit of evidence in the report could be taken as misleading, or taken to be an effort to disguise the classified material included in the dossier. The real mistake seems to have been to copy sections wholesale, thus making it obvious which parts of the report come from open sources and which are based on information from the intelligence community.” A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair says that the central argument of the dossier—that Iraq is systematically blocking the efforts of UN weapons inspectors to locate and document Iraq’s WMD programs and stockpiles—remains unchallenged. He calls the work “a pull-together of a variety of sources,” and says government officials should have specified which sections came from public material and which were from intelligence sources. [Jane's Intelligence Review, 2/2003; Associated Press, 2/8/2003] The articles from Jane’s Intelligence Review are “Can the Iraqi Security Apparatus Save Saddam?”, published in November 2002 and written by international security expert Ken Gause, and a two-part article, “Inside Iraq’s Security Network,” published in July and August 1997 and written by Sean Boyne. [Channel 4 News (London), 2/6/2003]
The London Times pens a scathing editorial regarding the so-called “dodgy dossier,” a report on Iraqi attempts to deceive UN weapons inspectors recently released by the British government, which was quickly proven to be plagiarized from out-of-date articles from publicly available sources (see February 3, 2003). The editorial sarcastically envisions the scene in Downing Street in the weeks before the dossier’s release, with frantic staffers saying: “What do you mean, there’s no smoking gun? Haven’t MI6 [British intelligence] got anything? No photographs? No defectors? TB [Tony Blair] is expecting a dossier next week. We promised. He said the Americans liked the last one—quoted everywhere, robust stuff, saved the CIA from having to go public with any sources. So they want another one—Colin Powell’s thinking of a spot of show and tell at the UN (see February 5, 2003), and wants to point to independent work by the Brits. So, we better get something—and quick.… Well, one of you had better put something together. Get on the Internet. Just type in ricin and Iraq and see what you find on Google. 20 pages, at least. By tomorrow.” The editorial notes that while “[g]overnmental plagiarism is nothing new… plagiarizing intelligence is more difficult. There isn’t much of it around. And the best is all secret—not easy for a media studies undergraduate to prise out of GCHQ overnight. But what TB wants, TB gets. A Downing Street unit is there to provide it. And as any student knows, extracts from American social anthropology dissertations add the required note of pedantic obfuscation to any jejune essay, with a provenance that is virtually undetectable. What better way to triple the value of intelligence assets with a thesis from California? It was regrettable that the author had so obvious an Arab name: far less convincing as a footnote than a reference to the trajectory of a military satellite. But perhaps the report could simply say it was a mix of private and public. Isn’t that the normal pattern nowadays?” [London Times, 2/8/2003] The Observer writes a similarly harsh editorial, noting that such “[d]eception can only corrode public trust,” and apparently coins the term “dodgy dossier.” The Observer editorial calls the dossier “an Internet cut-and-paste exercise largely lifted from a Californian post-graduate thesis focused on evidence from the invasion of Kuwait 13 years ago” and “sprinkl[ed with] unfounded exaggerations… inserted to strengthen the claims made in the thesis.” The editorial says: “Plagiarism is not the main issue. The central issue is that of public trust. At best, this episode demonstrates incompetence and the failure to oversee the most important claims which the government puts into the public domain. At worst, a deliberate attempt to hoodwink and mislead the public will undermine trust in anything the government says about the Iraqi threat at this vital time.… It is not only the government which has access to the Internet. Every claim made will be scrutinized more closely, and by more people, than ever before. Nothing will corrode trust more than to be caught out trying to insult the intelligence of the British public.” [Observer, 2/9/2003]
Journalist Jason Burke writes in the Observer about recent interviews he has conducted with prisoners held by Kurdish rebels in northern Iraq. One prisoner, Mohammed Mansour Shahab, claims to have been an Iraqi government agent who repeatedly met with Osama bin Laden over a several year period. The New Yorker published an article in March 2002 largely based on Shahab’s allegations and concluded, “the Kurds may have evidence of [Saddam Hussein’s] ties to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network.” But Burke is able to find a number of inconsistencies and falsehoods in Shahab’s account, and after he points them out, Shahab does not deny that he was lying. Burke suggests that Shahab, like other prisoners being held by the Kurds, was lying in hopes of getting his prison sentence reduced since his Kurdish captors are looking to promote propaganda against their enemy, the Hussein government. Burke also interviews a number of prisoners belonging to the Ansar al-Islam militant group that is allegedly linked to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. He does not see evidence of any link between that group and Hussein’s government and concludes, “Saddam may well have infiltrated the Ansar al-Islam with a view to monitoring the developments of the group (indeed it would be odd if he had not) but that appears to be about as far as his involvement with the group, and incidentally with al-Qaeda, goes.” [Observer, 2/9/2003]
Asked about the possible effectiveness of a French-German plan to send UN inspectors into Iraq with the accompaniment of UN enforcement personnel, Secretary of State Colin Powell asks derisively: “What are these blue-helmeted UN forces going to do? Shoot their way into Iraqi compounds? The issue is the resolution specifically called upon Iraq to cooperate fully, tell us what happened to all of this material, tell us what you are doing now, come clean, and not for inspectors to play detectives or Inspector Clouseau running all over Iraq looking for this material.” [ABC News, 2/9/2003]
A Labour Party lawmaker storms out of the House of Commons after saying the Blair administration lied about a recent dossier it released that purported to show Iraq’s deceiving UN weapons inspectors about its presumed cache of WMD (see February 3, 2003). Tam Dalyell, the longest-serving member in the Commons and a member of Tony Blair’s Labour Party, thunders, “To plagiarize an out of date Ph.D. thesis and to present it as an official report of the latest British intelligence information, surely it reveals a lack of awareness of the disastrous consequences of such a deception.” Dalyell calls for an emergency debate on the issue. “This is not a trivial leak. It is a document on which is the basis of whether or not this country goes to war and whether or not young servicemen and servicewomen are to put their own lives at risk and indeed thousands, tens of thousands of innocent civilians.” [Associated Press, 2/10/2003]
Secretary of State Colin Powell obtains an advance transcript of a new audio tape thought to be from Osama bin Laden before it is broadcast on Al Jazeera, but misrepresents the contents to a US Senate panel, implying it shows a partnership between al-Qaeda and Iraq. [CNN, 2/12/2003] Following Powell’s initial claim the tape exists, Al Jazeera says that it has no such tape and dismisses Powell’s statement as a rumor. [Associated Press, 2/12/2003] However, later in the day Al Jazeera says that it does have the tape. [Reuters, 2/12/2003] It is unclear how Powell obtains the advance copy, and Counterpunch even jokes, “Maybe the CIA gave Powell the tape before they delivered it to Al Jazeera?” [CounterPunch, 2/13/2003] In his testimony to the Senate Budget Committee Powell says, “[Bin Laden] speaks to the people of Iraq and talks about their struggle and how he is in partnership with Iraq.” [CNN, 2/12/2003] Powell’s spokesperson, Richard Boucher, says that the recording proves “that bin Laden and Saddam Hussein seem to find common ground.” [Reuters, 2/11/2003; New York Times, 2/12/2003; Washington Post, 11/12/2003] However, although bin Laden tells his supporters in Iraq they may fight alongside the Saddam Hussein, if the country is invaded by the US (see November 12, 2002), he does not express any direct support for the current regime in Iraq, which he describes as “pagan.” [CNN, 2/12/2003] A senior editor for Al Jazeera says the tape offers no evidence of ties between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. “When you hear it, it doesn’t prove any relation between bin Laden or al-Qaeda group and the Iraqi regime,” he argues. [ABC News, 2/12/2003] Several news reports also challenge Powell and Boucher’s interpretation. For example, CNN reveals that the voice had criticized Saddam’s regime, declaring that “the socialists and the rulers [had] lost their legitimacy a long time ago, and the socialists are infidels regardless of where they are, whether in Baghdad or in Aden.” [CNN, 2/11/2003; New York Times, 11/12/2003] Similarly, a report published by Reuters notes that the voice “did not express support for Iraqi President Saddam Hussein—it said Muslims should support the Iraqi people rather than the country’s government.” [Reuters, 2/11/2003]
Swiss voice analysts at the Dalle Molle Institute for Perceptual Artificial Intelligence decline to examine a new recording issued by a man thought to be Osama bin Laden (see February 11 or 12, 2003 and February 12, 2003). The institute previously analyzed a speech made by a man thought to be bin Laden and concluded that the speaker was not actually him (see November 29, 2002). The institute says that the previous analysis was done at the request of a French TV channel and was “mainly motivated by pure scientific curiosity.” It also says that the poor quality of that recording coupled with the limited number of voice examples meant that it was unlikely the recording could ever be properly authenticated. [Swissinfo (.org), 2/12/2003] However, US officials tell CNN that “this tape was of much better quality than the previous one presumed to be from bin Laden, which Al Jazeera broadcast in November.” [CNN, 2/12/2003] The institute does not analyze any later tapes thought to be released by bin Laden.
The wife of Mouhannad Almallah gave Spanish police stunning details about a group of Islamist militants planning attacks in January 2003 (see January 4, 2003), and she returns to the police to give them a new lead. She previously said that her husband, his brother Moutaz Almallah, Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, and Mustapha Maymouni have been holding meetings planning attacks. Now she says that her husband told her that “one day” he would like to attack the Torres Kio towers of the Plaza de Castilla, an important Madrid landmark, with a car bomb. That attack does not occur, but all the men she mentions will be killed or arrested for roles in the 2004 Madrid bombings, except for Maymouni, who will be arrested for a role in bombings in Casablanca several months later (see May 16, 2003). Police apparently take her warnings seriously because they begin monitoring her apartment one month later (see January 17, 2003-Late March 2004). The wife’s brother, who is also Mouhannad’s business partner, will testify in 2007 that Mouhannad also told him about a desire to destroy the Torres Kio towers. [El Mundo (Madrid), 7/28/2005; El Mundo (Madrid), 3/13/2007]
Democratic Senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee accuse CIA Director George Tenet of sabotaging the weapons inspections by refusing to supply the inspectors with the intelligence they need to do their work. [Independent, 2/14/2003] Senator Carl Levin tells the Washington Post that according to declassified letters he has obtained from the CIA, dated Jan. 24 and Jan. 28, the agency has not provided inspectors with information about a “large number of sites of significant value.” Furthermore, the senator charges, the letters contradict on-the-record statements made by Tenet who on February 11 claimed that the US had provided inspectors with all the information it had concerning “high value and moderate value sites.” Commenting on this, he says, “When they’ve taken the position that inspections are useless, they are bound to fail,” adding, “We have undermined the inspectors since the beginning.” [Washington Post, 2/13/2003; Independent, 2/14/2003] Tenet will later acknowledge to Senator Levin—after the US invasion of Iraq—that his comments were not entirely accurate. [New York Times, 2/21/2004]
The Blind Sheikh’s sons Mohammad Omar Abdul-Rahman and Ahmad Abdul-Rahman in 1998. It is not clear which is which. [Source: CNN]Pakistani authorities raid an apartment in Quetta, Pakistan, and apparently arrest Mohammad Omar Abdul-Rahman, a son of the Blind Sheikh,’ Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman. Supposedly, communications found at the apartment lead to the later arrest of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see February 29 or March 1, 2003). [New York Times, 3/4/2003] Government officials say he is a senior al-Qaeda operative who ran a training camp in Afghanistan before 9/11 attacks and also had a role in operational planning. Another son of the blind sheik, Ahmad Abdul-Rahman, was captured in Afghanistan in late 2001, but Ahmad was not considered to be high ranking. [Associated Press, 3/4/2003] But even though Mohammad Omar’s arrest is reported in the New York Times and elsewhere, there is no official announcement. In December 2005, his name will be on a list published by ABC News of high-detainees being held in a secret CIA prison (see November 2005). [ABC News, 12/5/2005] In 2006, the US will announce that it is emptying the CIA prisons and transferring all high-level prisoners to Guantanamo, but he will not be one of those transferred and it is unclear what happened to him (see September 2-3, 2006).
The CIA produces a report entitled “A Reference Guide to Terrorist Passports.” The report discusses a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation that was contained in the passports of at least three of the 9/11 hijackers, possibly more. The indicator was placed there deliberately by the Saudi government, which used such indicators to track suspected radicals (see November 2, 2007). However, this report is classified and is not disseminated, meaning that if a radical were to arrive at a US port with a passport indicating he was a terrorist, an immigration official would be unable to recognize the indicator and would admit him. Over a year after this report is completed, the 9/11 Commission will show a passport bearing this indicator to one of the immigration officials who admitted 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar to the US, but she will still be unable to recognize the indicator. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 25, 27, 41 ]
In his 2006 book The One Percent Doctrine, journalist Ron Suskind will claim that Mohammad Sidique Khan, the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings, was monitored as he attempted to fly to the US. According to Suskind, NSA surveillance discovers that Khan is coming to the US soon and has been in contact with suspect US citizens, including Ahmed Omar Abu Ali, an Islamist radical living in Virginia. E-mails between Khan, Ali, and others discuss plans for various violent activities, including a desire to “blow up synagogues on the East Coast.” FBI agent Dan Coleman, an expert on al-Qaeda, reads the intercepts and advocates either a very intensive surveillance of Khan when he is in the US, or not letting him in at all. Officials, including Joe Billy, head of the FBI’s New York office, worry about being held responsible if Khan is allowed into the country and then manages to commit some violent act. With Khan scheduled to come to the US in one day, “top bosses in Washington” quickly decide to put him on a no-fly list. Khan does fly to the US, and is stopped and sent back to Britain. As a result, he realizes the US is onto him and presumably takes greater precautions. [Suskind, 2006, pp. 200-203]
Confusion - However, when Suskind’s book is published in June 2006, a number of articles will dispute Suskind’s claim. For instance, Newsweek will report that “several US and [British] law-enforcement and counterterrorism officials” anonymously claim that Suskind is mistaken, and is confusing Sidique Khan with another British suspect named Mohammed Ajmal Khan. [Newsweek, 6/21/2006] The Telegraph reaches the same conclusion, and points out that Ajmal Khan pleaded guilty in a British trial in March on charges of providing weapons and funds to the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba. During that trial, it was revealed that he made several trips to the US and met with a group of suspected militants in Virginia, including one named Ahmed Omar Abu Ali.
Stands by Story - However, Suskind will resolutely stand by his story, saying, “In my investigation and in my book and in my conversations with people in the US government, there was no mistake or doubt that we are talking about Mohammad Sidique Khan, not Mohammed Ajmal Khan.” He says he was aware of the difference between the two and suggests British officials may have been trying to push Ajmal Khan instead to cover up their failures to stop the 7/7 bombings. The two officials mentioned by name in Suskind’s account, Coleman and Billy, apparently say nothing to the press to confirm or deny the story. [Daily Telegraph, 6/22/2006]
Visit to Israel - Curiously, it will be reported shortly after the 7/7 bombings that Khan visits Israel around this time, February 19-20, 2003, and the Israeli daily newspaper Maariv will claim he is suspected of helping two Pakistani-Britons plot a suicide bombing that kills three Israelis several months later (see February 19-20, 2003). [Guardian, 7/19/2005]
A dispute breaks out at the CIA after a proposal is made to render an Islamist extremist named Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr from Italy to Egypt. Nasr had previously informed for the CIA (see August 27, 1995 and Shortly After), but had been close to a senior al-Qaeda figure (see Summer 2000). Robert Seldon Lady, the CIA’s senior official in Milan, disagrees with the plan. The CIA and local Italian authorities are co-operating on surveillance of Nasr, and in a few months Lady thinks they will have enough evidence to arrest and convict him. In addition, kidnapping a man in Italy could endanger US-Italian relations. However, the rendition is supported by Jeff Castelli, the chief of the CIA station in Rome. [GQ, 3/2007 ] Reporter Jeff Stein will even say that the rendition is Castelli’s “brainchild.” [Congressional Quarterly, 4/19/2008] Opinion appears to be divided at CIA headquarters. According to one account, the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center is against the idea, but the plan is ultimately approved by unspecified CIA managers. [GQ, 3/2007 ] According to another account, it is the Counterterrorist Center that approves the rendition. [Congressional Quarterly, 4/19/2008] One of the CIA officials involved in the rendition is Stephen Kappes, assistant director of the Directorate of Operations. However, details of his opinions on it are unknown. [New York Times, 11/4/2009] CIA Director George Tenet also agrees to the rendition. [GQ, 3/2007 ]
The Italian military intelligence agency SISMI is briefed by the CIA on a plan to kidnap radical imam Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (a.k.a. Abu Omar) in Milan (see Noon February 17, 2003). SISMI agrees to the plan, but it appears other Italian agencies are not informed of it. The CIA will later claim the plan is even approved by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, although documentation to support this will not be produced. When Italian anti-terrorist authorities, who are monitoring Nasr and planning to arrest him, find he has been kidnapped, they will charge several CIA officers with breaking Italian law (see June 23, 2005 and After). [Washington Post, 12/6/2005]
Newsweek reports: “In recent weeks a small group of CIA analysts have been meeting as part of a ‘predictive analysis project’ to divine if and when Saddam might strike the United States with a weapon of mass destruction. The theory is that Saddam might slip one of his chem-bio or radiological weapons to al-Qaeda or some other terrorist group to create a massive diversion, a crisis in the American homeland that could stall an attack on Iraq.” The CIA has no hard evidence supporting this idea, but the CIA has calculated the odds, and in a report obtained by Newsweek, these analysts predict “that under the stipulated scenario there is a 59 percent probability that an attack on the US homeland involving WMD would occur before March 31, 2003, a 35 percent probability an attack would occur at a later date, and a 6 percent probability an attack would never occur.” But Newsweek will comment that “it is important to remember that the odds are determined by averaging a bunch of guesses, informed perhaps, but from experts whose careers can only be ruined by underestimating the threat.” [Newsweek, 2/17/2003] No such attack occurs.
Jacques Baute, head of the UN Iraq Nuclear Verification office, returns to Vienna after having interviewed several current and former Iraqi officials in Baghdad. The Iraqis denied that their government had tried to obtain uranium from Niger, as has been alleged by the Bush administration. Baute does not believe the Iraqis were telling the truth and intends to confront them with the Niger documents after he has researched the details of the purported uranium purchase deal that is described in the documents. He is concerned to see that the documents contain a note from US intelligence officials that reads, “We cannot confirm these reports and have questions regarding some specific claims.” Baute conducts an initial Google search for a few keywords and phrases from the documents and quickly finds an inaccurate reference to Niger’s constitution. “At that point,” Baute later recalls, “I completely changed the focus of my search to ‘Are these documents real?’ rather than ‘How can I catch the Iraqis?’” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 202-203; Unger, 2007, pp. 289] Several months later, Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the IAEA, will describe to reporters how easy it was for Baute to determine that the documents were fakes. “These were blatant forgeries. We were able to determine that they were forgeries very quickly,” she says. [Independent, 6/5/2003] In another interview, Fleming adds: “It was very clear from our analysis that they were forgeries. We found 20 to 30 anomalies within a day.” [Los Angeles Times, 8/25/2005] When Baute asks for an explanation from the US, there is no response. “What do you have to say? They had nothing to say,” Baute will later recall in an interview with Seymour Hersh. [New Yorker, 3/31/2003] There are numerous indications that the documents are forgeries.
Erroneous Postmark - A letter dated October 10, 2000 bears a September 28 postmark, indicating it was received over two weeks before its supposed writing. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 212; Unger, 2007, pp. 236-237]
Names and Titles Incorrect - Several of the names and titles of officials mentioned in the documents are incorrect. For example, one of the letters is purportedly signed by Niger’s President Tandja Mamadou. Experts say the signature is an obvious forgery. An IAEA official will tell Reuters: “It doesn’t even look close to the signature of the president. I’m not a [handwriting] expert but when I looked at it my jaw dropped.” [Unknown, n.d.; Globe and Mail, 3/8/2003; Reuters, 3/26/2003; New Yorker, 3/31/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003] The incorrectly postmarked letter is signed “Alle Elhadj Habibou”—Niger’s foreign minister who had not been in office since 1989. [Unknown, n.d.; Reuters, 3/26/2003; New Yorker, 3/31/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 212; Unger, 2007, pp. 236-237] Another letter includes the forged signature and seal of Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq’s former ambassador to the Vatican. When al-Zahawie is interviewed by the IAEA, he informs the agency that it was standard procedure for all diplomatic notes to be initialed and sealed, while letters were only to be signed—with no seal. He explains that correspondences were never both signed and sealed. [Unknown, n.d.; Independent, 8/10/2003]
Letterhead Erroneous - In addition to problems with signatures and seals, there are other problems. One letter is on the wrong letterhead. [Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003] The “letterhead was out of date and referred to Niger’s ‘Supreme Military Council’ from the pre-1999 era—which would be like calling Russia the Soviet Union,” reports Reuters. [Unknown, n.d.; Reuters, 3/26/2003]
Incorrect Citation of Constitution - Another letter, purported to be from the president of Niger, refers to his authority under the country’s obsolete 1966 constitution instead of the one enacted in 1999. [Unknown, n.d.; Reuters, 3/26/2003; Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 212; Unger, 2007, pp. 236-237]
Misspellings, Incorrect Dates - Also, in some letters, French words are misspelled and dates do not correspond to the correct days of the week. [Mercury News (San Jose), 3/18/2003] One of the letters is dated July 30, 1999, but refers to agreements not enacted until 2000. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 212; Unger, 2007, pp. 236-237]
Unrealistic Uranium Requests - The IAEA also points out that the amount of uranium which Iraq is purportedly interested in purchasing is unrealistic. Seymour Hersh, writing for the New Yorker, explains: “The large quantity of uranium involved should have been another warning sign. Niger’s ‘yellow cake’ comes from two uranium mines controlled by a French company, with its entire output pre-sold to nuclear power companies in France, Japan, and Spain. ‘Five hundred tons can’t be siphoned off without anyone noticing‘… [an] IAEA official told me.” [New Yorker, 3/31/2003] Furthermore, the purported agreement calls for the 500 tons of uranium to be transferred from one ship to another in international waters, a tremendously difficult undertaking. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. 212; Unger, 2007, pp. 236-237]
Denial of Signature - Al-Zawahie is asked whether he had signed a letter on July 6, 2000 that concerned Nigerien uranium (see February 1999). Al-Zawahie will later recall telling the inspectors, “I said absolutely not; if they had seen such a letter it must be a forgery.” Al-Zawahie provides his signature to IAEA inspectors; he will later say, “[T]hose letters must have convinced the IAEA team that the document they had was a forgery.” [Independent, 8/10/2003]
A surveillance photograph of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr. [Source: Central Intelligence Agency]The CIA kidnaps an Islamic extremist who previously informed for it in Milan, Italy. The man, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (a.k.a. Abu Omar), who was a member of the Egyptian terror group Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and was close to al-Qaeda, provided information to the CIA in Albania (see August 27, 1995 and Shortly After) and operated in Italy (see Summer 2000). [Chicago Tribune, 7/2/2005] While the kidnap is happening, one of the CIA officers involved in the operation, Robert Seldon Lady, is having a meeting on the other side of Milan with Bruno Megale, head of Milan’s antiterrorism police service, DIGOS. The meeting’s purpose is to allow Lady to keep an eye on Megale in case something goes wrong. [GQ, 3/2007 ] The US will say that Nasr is a dangerous terrorist and that he once plotted to assassinate the Egyptian foreign minister. However, Italian officials, who were monitoring him, will deny this and say his abduction damages an intelligence operation against al-Qaeda. A senior prosecutor will say, “When Nasr disappeared in February , our investigation came to a standstill.” Italian authorities are mystified by the kidnap, as they are sharing the results of their surveillance with the CIA. Nor can they understand why Egypt wants Nasr back. When Nasr reaches Cairo, he is taken to the Egyptian interior minister and told that if he agrees to inform again, he will be set free. However, he refuses and spends most of the next 14 months in prison, facing “terrible tortures.” The Chicago Tribune will ask, “Why would the US government go to elaborate lengths to seize a 39-year-old Egyptian who, according to former Albanian intelligence officials, was once the CIA’s most productive source of information within the tightly knit group of Islamic fundamentalists living in exile in Albania?” One possible answer is that he is kidnapped in an attempt to turn him back into the informer he once was. The kidnapping generates a substantial amount of publicity, leading to an investigation of the CIA’s practice of extraordinary rendition, and an Italian official will comment, “Instead of having an investigation against terrorists, we are investigating this CIA kidnapping.” [Chicago Tribune, 7/2/2005] Arrest warrants will later be issued for some US intelligence officers involved in the kidnapping (see June 23, 2005 and After).
A group of CIA officers arrives at Aviano Air Force Base, north of Venice, Italy, with Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (a.k.a. Abu Omar), an Islamist extremist they kidnapped in Milan five hours previously (see Noon February 17, 2003). Some English-speaking interrogators strip Omar’s clothes, putting him in blue overalls, and photograph him. They ask him some questions about his connections to al-Qaeda, his sending of recruits to fight in Iraq, and his relationship with Islamist radicals in Albania (see August 27, 1995 and Shortly After). However, Nasr says nothing. The interrogators punch him in the stomach and slap him across the face. Then they wrap his head in a sticky bandage, cut some breathing holes into it, and put him on a plane that arrives in Cairo seven hours later. [GQ, 3/2007 ] Twenty-six US officials will later be charged in Italy with the kidnap. One of them is Joseph Romano, a US Air Force officer whose role is to help the kidnappers at the air base in Aviano. [Congressional Quarterly, 9/23/2009]
Jeff Castelli, the CIA station chief whose idea it was to render Islamist extremist Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr from Italy to Egypt (see Before February 17, 2003 and Noon February 17, 2003), is promoted twice following the operation. According to journalist Matthew Cole, this places Castelli “deep in senior management” at the agency. [GQ, 3/2007 ]
Shortly after 9/11, counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna, a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland, begins researching for his book, Inside al-Qaeda: Global Network of Terror. He examines several tens of thousands of documents acquired from al-Qaeda and Taliban sources. During the course of his investigation, he finds no evidence of an Iraqi-al-Qaeda link. In an op-ed piece printed in the International Herald Tribune on February 19, 2003, he writes: “In addition to listening to 240 tapes taken from al-Qaeda’s central registry, I debriefed several al-Qaeda and Taliban detainees. I could find no evidence of links between Iraq and al-Qaeda. The documentation and interviews indicated that al-Qaeda regarded Saddam, a secular leader, as an infidel.” [International Herald Tribune, 2/19/2003 Sources: Rohan Gunaratna]
Mohammad Sidique Khan, the lead suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), travels to Israel, staying there for only 24 hours. Israeli officials will confirm the visit in 2006. This is seven weeks before two British citizens, Omar Sharif and Asif Hanif, attack a cafe in Tel Aviv, Israel, with suicide bombs, killing three (see April 30, 2003). It is strongly suspected that Khan comes to Israel to help facilitate the bombing in some way, especially since Khan was seen in the company of Sharif and Hanif as far back as 2001 and was Sharif’s friend (see Summer 2001). However, Khan’s precise role, if any, in the cafe bombing is unknown, and apparently his connection to the two bombers will not be discovered by authorities until after the 7/7 bombings. [BBC, 7/9/2006]
British Foreign Minister Robin Cook is personally given an intelligence briefing by John Scarlett, head of the British joint intelligence committee. Cook later says in his diary that Scarlett’s summary was “shorn of the political slant with which No. 10 encumbers any intelligence assessment.” After the meeting with Scarlett, Cook concludes that “Saddam probably does not have weapons of mass destruction in the sense of weapons that could be used against large-scale civilian targets.” [Sunday Times (London), 10/5/2003; Guardian, 10/6/2003; Cook, 8/2/2004]
The CIA assists with the interrogation in Egypt of Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, an Islamist extremist the agency recently rendered from Italy (see Noon February 17, 2003). Nasr is questioned at a Cairo prison by three agents of the Egyptian Mukhabarat, who repeatedly ask him about his recruiting network and which members of the Islamist organization Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya are working with him. Several CIA officers, presumably including Robert Seldon Lady (see February 22-March 15, 2003), watch Nasr stonewall the questions on a video monitor in a nearby room. The officers, who know intimate family details about Nasr’s life due to a bug in his house, give the Egyptians a fabricated message that Nasr is to be told is from his son. Upon hearing the message, Nasr breaks down and cries. He then tells his interrogators everything he knows, including who is involved in his recruiting efforts in Milan and which Egyptians have helped hide his money transfers. Having gotten the information they wanted, the CIA agents leave and the Egyptians begin torturing Nasr (see Late February 2003 or Shortly After). [GQ, 3/2007 ]
Popular Science magazine carries a rare interview with Tom Owen, a voice analyst who has worked on identifying Osama bin Laden in recordings allegedly released by the al-Qaeda leader. Owen worked for US media on the identification of bin Laden’s voice in a November 2002 recording (see November 12, 2002), assisted by a captain of the Saudi Interior Ministry’s forensics department he had apparently been teaching at the time. Owen, one of only eight forensic voice analysts certified by the American Board of Recorded Evidence, and other US experts identified the voice as bin Laden’s, although a Swiss facility disagreed (see November 29, 2002). The interview describes Owen’s lab and how he works, pivoting off the November recording. Owen criticizes the Swiss analysis, saying that the advanced biometrics software the Swiss used cannot work with the noise on the tape, as it is “designed to work with perfect samples.” Cleaning up the tape would not help, as this would remove the high and low frequencies a biometric system needs to make its identification.
Voice Identification Methodology - To identify voices, Owen uses a spectrograph, which produces spectrograms—“a kind of graphic speech rendering that has changed little since the 1940s”—that are then compared. His favorite tool for analyses is a “piece of vintage equipment—a reel-to-reel Voice Identification 700 spectrograph built in 1973,” which “differs little from the analog machines US Army intelligence officers built to identify and track German radio operators during World War II.” When analyzing a new recording thought to be from bin Laden, Owen compares the spectrograms it produces with spectrograms from a known bin Laden interview, such as one he granted to ABC in 1998 (see May 28, 1998). According to the magazine, there are “only a half-dozen words in common between the November tape and the ABC interview,” although the standards of the American Board of Recorded Evidence demand 20 identical words, preferably spoken in the same order.
Listening for 'Quirky Mannerisms' - However, Owen also listens for “the multitude of quirky mannerisms and pronunciation foibles peculiar to each voice,” because a trained ear can detect “the subtle whistle caused by a missing tooth, a person’s tendency to swallow in the middle of a sentence, even the way someone sets his or her jaw when speaking.” Owen plays the reporter what he calls a short-term memory tape, apparently a crucial tool in aural voice identifications. The spliced tape toggles between 2.5-second segments of bin Laden’s ABC interview and the November tape; Owen uses the tape to listen for peculiarities in a voice, especially when vowels are spoken. According to Owen, who says bin Laden’s voice is what the magazine calls “plenty peculiar,” the tape proves it is the “same guy” on the November tape and in the 1998 interview. However, the reporter comments: “To my untrained ear, it could be Darth Vader behind the static.… This is the sort of gray area that tends to make legal observers worry about the state of forensic science.”
Comments on NSA - According to the magazine, Owen’s technology is similar to that which the NSA probably uses to analyze voices, although Owen thinks the NSA has samples of bin Laden’s voice he does not. However, he does not think it has made biometric breakthroughs in analysis despite its advanced technology, which is “mostly devoted to listening.” [Popular Science, 2/24/2003]
The Senate Judiciary Committee issues an interim report titled “FISA Implementation Failures” that finds the FBI has mishandled and misused the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) in its anti-terrorism measures. The report is written by Arlen Specter (R-PA), Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Patrick Leahy (D-VT). [US Congress, 2/2003] Committee chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) not only refused to take part in the report, he issues a letter protesting the report’s findings. Other committee members were invited to take part in drafting the report, but none did so. [Salon, 3/3/2003] Specter says just after the report is issued, “The lack of professionalism in applying the law has been scandalous. The real question is if the FBI is capable of carrying out a counterintelligence effort.” According to the report, both the FBI and the Justice Department routinely employ excessive secrecy, suffer from inadequate training, weak information analysis, and bureaucratic bottlenecks, and will stifle internal dissent to excess as part of their usage of the expanded powers provided under FISA. The report uses as a case study the instance of suspected terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 16, 2001), who stands accused of conspiring with the 9/11 hijackers. FBI officials in Washington impeded efforts by its agents in Minneapolis, most notably former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, to secure a FISA warrant that would have allowed those agents to search Moussaoui’s laptop computer and belongings before the attack. [US Congress, 2/2003; Associated Press, 2/25/2003] “September 11 might well have been prevented,” says Specter. “What are they doing now to prevent another 9/11?” Grassley adds that in closed Senate hearings, they learned that two supervisors who handled the case did not understand the basic elements of FISA, and a senior FBI attorney could not provide the legal definition of “probable cause,” a key element needed to obtain a FISA warrant. [Associated Press, 2/25/2003] “I hate to say this,” Leahy observes, “but we found that the FBI is ill-equipped” to conduct surveillance on those in the United States possibly plotting terrorist acts on behalf of foreign powers. [Salon, 3/3/2003]
Lack of Cooperation from FBI, Justice Department - The report says that neither the FBI nor the Justice Department were cooperative with the Judiciary Committee in the committee’s efforts to investigate either agency’s actions under FISA, routinely delaying their responses to Congressional inquiries and sometimes ignoring them altogether. The report says that perhaps the most troubling of its findings is “the lack of accountability that has permeated the entire application procedure.” The report notes that although Congressional oversight is critical to ensure a transparent, effective usage of FISA powers (augmented under the USA Patriot Act) that do not stray from legal boundaries, such oversight has been discouraged by both the FBI and the Justice Department. [US Congress, 2/2003] The Justice Department dismisses the report as “old news.” [Patrick Leahy, 2/27/2003] Grassley says, “I can’t think of a single person being held accountable anywhere in government for what went on and what went wrong prior to Sept. 11. It seems that nobody in government makes any mistakes anymore.” [Salon, 3/3/2003]
Spark for New Legislation - The three senators use the report as a springboard to introduce a bill, the “Domestic Surveillance Oversight Act,” which will allow Congress to more closely oversee oversee FBI surveillance of Americans and government surveillance of public libraries, would supervise FISA usage in criminal cases, and disclose the secret rules of the FISA court to Congress. [Associated Press, 2/25/2003] Even though all three senators support a lowering of the standards by which a FISA warrant can be issued, the American Civil Liberties Union says it supports the bill, with reservations. “There’s a lot of concern in this country that, especially with the USA PATRIOT Act, FISA has become a massive tool for secret surveillance,” says ACLU lawyer Timothy Edgar. “One way to assuage those concerns—or show that they’re true—is to have more reporting.” Edgar says that the ACLU worries about the lowering of the standards for such warrants, but as long as the bill implement. [Salon, 3/3/2003] The question of the bill becomes moot, however, as it will never make it out of committee. [US Congress - Senate Judiciary Committee, 3/2003]
Entity Tags: USA Patriot Act, Robert S. Mueller III, Tim Edgar, Patrick J. Leahy, Senate Judiciary Committee, Marion (“Spike”) Bowman, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Justice, American Civil Liberties Union, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Arlen Specter, Domestic Surveillance Oversight Act, Charles Grassley, Zacarias Moussaoui
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
General Shinseki testifying before the Senate, February 2003. [Source: Representational Pictures]General Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, tells the Senate Armed Services Committee that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” will be needed to secure post-invasion Iraq. “We’re talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that’s fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground-force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this.” [Associated Press, 3/25/2003; New York Times, 1/12/2007] For his estimate, Shinseki will be publicly derided by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz (see February 27, 2003). [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]
The Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) sends a classified memo to Attorney General John Ashcroft. The contents remain secret, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will later learn that the memo concerns the use of information collected in the course of classified foreign intelligence activities. [American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 ] The memo may concern a just-released Senate report condemning the Justice Department’s misuse of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (see February 25, 2003).
Wayne Wright, a State Department Iraq analyst and one of the government’s most knowledgeable experts on Middle East affairs, authors a classified report on the likelihood that a US invasion will bring democracy to Iraq. He writes the report on his own initiative believing that it is necessary “to sit down and do some clearheaded thinking about an issue that was emerging.” Citing Middle East polling data, the report argues that Middle Eastern civil societies are far more anti-Western than their respective governments. Invading the country would likely result in severe sectarian-based civil unrest that would hamper efforts to build a democracy in the country. In the event that the US does succeed in establishing a democracy, the Iraqi people would probably elect leaders who are antipathetic toward the US and Israel, and sympathetic toward militant Islamism. The report, titled “Iraq, the Middle East and Change: No Dominoes,”, is distributed throughout the US intelligence community and is also sent to the White House. [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2003; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 192]
Appearing before the House Budget Committee, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz publicly contradicts General Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, for saying that it will take “several hundred thousand soldiers” to successfully occupy Iraq (see February 25, 2003).
Greeted as Liberators - Wolfowitz says: “We can’t be sure that the Iraqi people will welcome us as liberators, although based on what Iraqi-Americans told me in Detroit a week ago, many of them—most of them with families in Iraq—I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down. In short, we don’t know what the requirement will be, but we can say with reasonable confidence that the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark.” Wolfowitz says there’s no “record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another.” [CNN, 2/28/2003; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 194] He restates the opinions of the top civilians at the Pentagon that it will take somewhere around 100,000 troops to secure postwar Iraq. Wolfowitz’s statement is echoed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who says, “The idea that it would take several hundred thousand US forces I think is far off the mark.” Neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz mention Shinseki by name, but the connection is clear. A spokesman for Shinseki, Colonel Joe Curtin, says that Shinseki stands by his judgment. “He was asked a question and he responded with his best military judgment,” says Curtin. [New York Times, 2/28/2003] Shinseki will retire shortly after the contretemps with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz (see June 13, 2003).
Iraqi Reconstruction Chief's Opinion - Reflecting on Shinseki’s public humilation, Iraqi reconstruction chief Jay Garner (see January 2003) will say, “When Shinseki said, Hey, it’s going to take 300,000 or 400,000 soldiers, they crucified him. They called me up the day after that, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. They called me the next day and they said, Did you see what Shinseki said? And I said yes. And they said, Well, that can’t be possible. And I said, Well, let me give you the only piece of empirical data I have. In 1991 [during the Gulf War], I owned 5 percent of the real estate in Iraq, and I had 22,000 trigger pullers. And on any day I never had enough. So you can take 5 percent—you can take 22,000 and multiply that by 20. Hey, here’s probably the ballpark, and I didn’t have Baghdad. And they said, Thank you very much. So I got up and left.” Garner’s estimate would require some 440,000 troops in Iraq. [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed shortly after arrest. (Note: this picture is from a video presentation on prisoners the Pakistani government gave to BBC filmmakers. It has been adjusted to remove some blue tinge.) [Source: BBC's "The New Al-Qaeda."]9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is apparently captured by US and Pakistani forces with the help of an informant. One week after KSM’s capture, said to take place on February 29 or March 1, 2003 (see February 29 or March 1, 2003), the Los Angeles Times will report, “Pakistani officials have… hinted that [KSM] was betrayed by someone inside the organization who wanted to collect a $25-million reward for his capture.” One Pakistani official says, “I am not going to tell you how we captured him, but Khalid knows who did him in.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/8/2003] In 2008, the New York Times will provide additional details. According to an intelligence officer, the informant slips into a bathroom in the house where KSM is staying, and writes a text message to his government contacts: “I am with KSM.” The capture team then waits a few hours before raiding the house, to blur the connection to the informant. Little more is known about the informant or what other information he provides. He apparently is later personally thanked by CIA Director George Tenet and then resettled with the $25 million reward money in the US. [New York Times, 6/22/2008]
There are several credible sightings by CIA and military informants of top Taliban leader Mullah Omar entering a mosque in Kandahar, Afghanistan. A Green Beret team located at a base just minutes away are ready to deploy to go after Omar, but each time US military commanders follow strict protocol and call in the Delta Force commando team instead. But this team is based hundreds of miles away near Kabul and it takes them several hours to arrive in Kandahar. By that time, Omar has disappeared. Apparently this is part of a pattern only allowing certain Special Forces units to go after important targets. The Washington Post will report in 2004 that any mission that takes Special Forces farther than two miles from a “firebase” requires as long as 72 hours to be approved. And on the rare occasions that such forces are authorized to act, they are required to travel in armed convoys, a practice that alerts the enemy. [Washington Post, 1/5/2004]
The Spanish inteligence agency Centro Nacional de Inteligencia (CNI) has a highly trusted informant named Abdelkader Farssaoui, a.k.a. Cartagena, placed within a group of suspected Islamist militants in Madrid (see September 2002-October 2003). Police have been monitoring this group for months and learning all about the group in part thanks to Farssaoui’s leads. Farssaoui is so trusted in the group that he is considered one of the group’s leaders, behind only Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet and Mustapha Maymouni. Farssaoui attends all the group’s secret meetings, and since he is an imam he usually leads them in prayer. As a result, some of the others suggest holding some of the group’s long weekly meetings at Farssaoui’s residence. Farssaoui reports this to his handlers and suggests it is an opportunity to easily record the meetings with audio and video. However, Farssaoui’s handlers reject the idea, saying it is not necessary. [El Mundo (Madrid), 2/13/2006]
Osama bin Laden allegedly attends a gathering of Islamist militants in Pakistan’s tribal region. In 2011, after bin Laden’s death, the New York Times will claim that an unnamed Pakistani militant leader alleges that he sees bin Laden in the spring of 2003. Accompanied by Arab and Chechen bodyguards, bin Laden arrives unexpectedly at a meeting of nearly 100 militants at a mountain village in North Waziristan. Apparently, bin Laden doesn’t make his presence known to the entire gathering. However, the militant leader meets him briefly inside a house, and he is sure it is bin Laden because he met him once, prior to the 9/11 attacks. This leader is an informant for the Pakistani military at this time, but he will not tell the Times if he passes this information on to his Pakistani handlers. He will also claim that from about 2002 to 2004, bin Laden moves from place to place in the tribal region. He speculates that after the US begins drone strikes in the tribal region in 2004, bin Laden moves to one of Pakistan’s towns outside of the tribal region where drone strikes don’t reach. [New York Times, 6/23/2011]
Spanish police have been monitoring an apartment on Virgen de Coro street in Madrid owned by the brothers Moutaz and Mouhannad Almallah since January 17, 2003 (see January 17, 2003-Late March 2004). Police are now aware that the Almallah brothers are part of a group of Islamist militants regularly meeting there. On March 3, police extend the surveillance to the apartment of Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, since he appears to be a leader of the group and the group holds meetings at his apartment as well (see March 3, 2003-March 2004). On March 14, police also start monitoring Mouhannad Almallah’s apartment (his brother Moutaz is mostly living in London) (see March 14, 2003). Over the next months, the surveillance of this group is intensified:
Police also keep a very close eye on the cars used by the militants. Police witness many of them taking evasive maneuvers while driving around town.
They notice the militants are taking evasive action such as frequently using pay phones and speaking in code, which are signs they are taking part in illegal activities.
They discover that Amer el-Azizi, a Spanish al-Qaeda operative wanted for a role in the 9/11 attacks, had probably escaped to Afghanistan in late 2001 using Mouhannad Almallah’s passport (see Shortly After November 21, 2001).
They find that Fakhet sometimes uses a car owned by relatives of Jamal Ahmidan (Ahmidan is the member of the group who will later lead the effort to buy the explosives for the Madrid bombings, see September 2003-February 2004).
One police report before the bombings says that all three apartments are “regarded as essential points of the logistical network to support the recruitment of ‘mujaheddin’” in Spain and that Moutaz Almallah makes the group an international threat, with links in Britain and the Netherlands. [El Mundo (Madrid), 8/10/2005]
The CIA tells anti-terrorist authorities in Italy that it has reliable information that Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (a.k.a. Abu Omar), a radical Islamist cleric who was under joint Italian-CIA surveillance in Milan until recently, is in Bosnia. This is a deliberate lie; the CIA knows Nasr is in Egypt, as it recently kidnapped him and took him there, handing him over to Egyptian authorities (see Noon February 17, 2003). According to the Washington Post, the purpose of the lie is “to stymie efforts by the Italian anti-terrorism police to track down the cleric….” The Italians believe the CIA’s story for more than a year, but subsequently discover the CIA was involved in his kidnapping. [Washington Post, 12/6/2005]
Antonio Toro. [Source: EFE]Rafa Zouhier, an informant for Spain’s Civil Guard, tells his handler that two of his associates, Emilio Suarez Trashorras and Trashorras’s brother-in-law Antonio Toro, are illegally selling explosives from a mine in the Asturias region of Spain. Toro had recently been released from prison. Zouhier’s handler, known only by the alias “Victor,” includes the information in a report in March 2003 and sends it to higher-ups. He mentions that the people Zouhier referred to have 150 kilograms of explosives ready to sell. [El Mundo (Madrid), 4/9/2007] He reveals the two even asked him how to make bombs which could be set off by cell phone, and says they have been illegally selling explosives since 2001. In June 2003, police conduct a surprise inspection of the mine where Trashorras works, and they begin surveilling both of them, even though Trashorras, Toro, and Toro’s wife are all also government informants (see June 18, 2004 and September 2003-February 2004). [Expatica, 9/1/2004; Expatica, 11/22/2004] Later in the year, Trashorras, Toro, and others will sell large quantities of explosives to Jamal Ahmidan, alias “El Chino,” which will be used in the March 2004 Madrid train bombings (see September 2003-February 2004). Those bombs will be timed to explode using cell phones (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). For some reason, this sale is not detected, even though Toro and Trashorras are being monitored. Victor will reveal what Zouhier told him in 2007 court testimony. He did not mention it in several earlier testimonies, and will claim he “forgot.” [El Mundo (Madrid), 4/9/2007] Zouhier will eventually be convicted and sentenced to more than ten years in prison, on the grounds that he knew about the deal between Ahmidan and Trashorras and did not tell his handler about that as well. Zouhier claims that he did, but is unable to provide any proof. [El Mundo (Madrid), 4/9/2007; MSNBC, 10/31/2007]
Asif Hanif (left) and Omar Sharif (right) holding AK-47 rifles and a Koran. Apparently this is from a video filmed on February 8, 2003, in the Gaza Strip. [Source: Public domain]In March 2003, the British domestic intelligence agency MI5 arrests eight members of the Islamist militant group Al-Muhajiroun in the city of Derby. Two other Britons, Asif Hanif and Omar Sharif, are also identified as members of the group, but they are not arrested. MI5 is also aware that Sharif is connected to the Finsbury Park mosque where radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri preaches. [Daily Mail, 5/5/2003; ISN Security Watch, 7/21/2005] When police raided Abu Hamza’s mosque in January, they even found a letter from Sharif to Abu Hamza inquiring about the proper conduct of jihad. The letter contained Sharif’s address in Derby. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 90-91] MI5 does not monitor either Hanif or Sharif, and instead simply keeps their names on file, believing them to be harmless. Later that same month, Italian undercover journalist Claudio Franco, posing as a Muslim convert, visits the London office of Al-Muhajiroun and meets Hanif. Hanif, unaware that he is being formally interviewed, tells Franco that he is sorry the poison ricin was allegedly seized in a raid elsewhere in London (see January 7, 2003) before it could be used in an attack. The next month, Hanif and Sharif travel to Israel and are killed on a suicide bombing mission which kills three others (see April 30, 2003). After the bombing, Al-Muhajiroun’s official leader, Anjem Choudary, calls the two bombers martyrs. The group’s spiritual leader, Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, admits he knew both men. But the group is not banned. [Daily Mail, 5/5/2003; ISN Security Watch, 7/21/2005] Other members of the group will attempt to build a large fertilizer bomb in early 2004 (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004), but the group will still not be banned, then or later. (It will disband on its own in late 2004 (see October 2004).) Investigators also fail to discover that Mohammad Sidique Khan, the lead bomber in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), knew both men, was friends with Sharif and attended the same small mosque as he did (see Summer 2001), and traveled to Israel weeks before they did in a probable attempt to help with the bombing (see February 19-20, 2003).
In January and February of 2003, the wife of suspected Islamist militant Mouhannad Almallah gave stunning details on the activities and planned attacks of a group of militants including her husband Mouhannad (see January 4, 2003 and February 12, 2003). She apparently grows estranged from him and sees him less and less in subsequent months. However, Spanish investigators are impressed with her revelations, especially since they had most of the group already under surveillance (see December 2001-June 2002). At some point, she is given a phone and a special number to call at any time she learns more about the group. The group frequently watches violent videos promoting jihad. For instance, one video shows a person in Afghanistan being buried up to his head in sand. There are also videos of radical imam Abu Qatada preaching. She manages to sneak some of the videos to the authorities and return them without being noticed. But most details about what warnings she gave after February 2003 remain unknown. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/13/2007; El Mundo (Madrid), 3/13/2007]
Mohammed Quayyum Khan. [Source: BBC]In March 2003, the British intelligence agency MI5 begins monitoring Mohammed Quayyum Khan (a.k.a. “Q”), a part-time taxi driver living in Luton, England, and born in Pakistan. He is said to be an associate of the radical London imams Omar Bakri Mohammed and Abu Hamza al-Masri. It is not known how MI5 first gains an interest in Quayyum, but apparently during a trip to Pakistan in 2003, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI, tracks him overtly to warn him that they are aware of his activities. During a later court trial, an al-Qaeda operative turned informant named Mohammed Junaid Babar will allege that Quayyum:
Takes his orders from al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi. He is said to be one of about three or four operatives working directly under this leader.
Arranges for Mohammad Sidique Khan, the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings, to travel to Pakistan and attend militant training camp in 2003.
Provides funds and equipment for militants fighting US troops in Afghanistan.
Is the leader of the 2004 British fertilizer bomb plot. Five of Quayyum’s associates will be sentenced to life in prison for roles in this plot.
In early February 2004, MI5 first discovers the existence of the fertilizer bomb plot while it monitors the various plotters meeting with Quayyum (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). For instance, Omar Khyam, one of those who will later be sentenced to life in prison, is secretly videotaped meeting with Quayyum. Khyam will later admit that just before he left for militant training in Pakistan, Quayyum gave him money and said: “It’s better for both of us if we don’t meet each other. Because the security services may be monitoring me.” Yet when all the other members of the plot are arrested in late March 2004, Quayyum stays free. The Guardian will later report, “Despite the number of serious allegations leveled against him [in court], police and MI5 say they have never found sufficient evidence to arrest or charge him.” Quayyum is never questioned about his links to the fertilizer bomb plotters. After the 7/7 suicide bombings in 2005, he is not questioned about his verified links with the suicide bombers either (such as the monitored calls between him and the head suicide bomber (see Shortly Before July 2003)). He continues to live in Luton and is seen by a Guardian journalist working as a chef in a small cafe there. “He is thought to have since disappeared.” [Guardian, 5/1/2007; Guardian, 5/1/2007] Author Loretta Napoleoni will later comment that the lack of action against Quayyum is especially strange given the British government’s power to detain suspects for years without charge. She will say, “The press has proffered the hypothesis—neither confirmed nor denied by the special services—that Quayyum was a ‘Deep Throat’” mole or informant. [Antiwar (.com, 5/8/2007]
A CIA analyst who is investigating intelligence reports suggesting that Iraq is seeking US mapping software that could be used to guide its drones to the US, interviews the Iraqi procurement agent who placed the order for the software. He concludes from the interview that the Iraqi agent’s purchase order for the mapping software was likely inadvertent, and that he was actually trying to obtain other pieces of equipment from the manufacturer’s online store. The CIA reports in a memo addressed to the House intelligence committee that it now has “no definite indications that Baghdad is planning to use WMD-armed UAVs against the US mainland.” [Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 206]
The US military has drawn up plans three times between June 2002 and January 2003 to launch an air strike against a training camp in northern Iraq controlled by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that is said to be producing chemical weapons (see June 2002, November 2002, and January 2003), but months have passed and the White House has not given any formal reply to any of the attack plans. Finally, several weeks before the start of the US invasion of Iraq in late March 2003, the White House indicates that President Bush has rejected any strike on the camp until after the US invasion of Iraq begins. The camp will be attacked on March 20. Bush administration officials will later say the camp was not targeted for a number of reasons, including uncertain intelligence reports and the difficulties of hitting al-Zarqawi within a large camp area. But Gen. John Keane, the US Army’s vice chief of staff at the time, will later call the camp “one of the best targets we ever had.” He and other officials will claim the intelligence on al-Zarqawi’s location was sound and the risk of collateral damage was small due to the camp’s location in a remote mountain area. But Pentagon spokesperson Lawrence Di Rita will later claim that one reason for not taking action was “the president’s decision to engage the international community on Iraq.” [Wall Street Journal, 10/25/2004] And CIA official Michael Scheuer will later say, “The reasons the intelligence service got for not shooting al-Zarqawi was simply that the President and the National Security Council decided it was more important not to give the Europeans the impression we were gunslingers.… Mr. Bush had Mr. al-Zarqawi in his sights for almost every day for a year before the invasion of Iraq and he didn’t shoot because they were wining and dining the French in an effort to get them to assist us in the invasion of Iraq.” [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 5/1/2006]
A photo taken during KSM’s alleged arrest in Pakistan. [Source: Associated Press]Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is reportedly arrested in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. [Associated Press, 3/1/2003] Officials claim that he is arrested in a late-night joint Pakistani and FBI raid, in which they also arrest Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, the purported main financer of the 9/11 attacks. [MSNBC, 3/3/2003] An insider informant allegedly tips off authorities to KSM’s location, and is given the $25 million reward money for his capture (see Shortly Before February 29 or March 1, 2003). However, some journalists immediately cast serious doubts about this arrest. For instance, MSNBC reports, “Some analysts questioned whether Mohammed was actually arrested Saturday, speculating that he may have been held for some time and that the news was made public when it was in the interests of the United States and Pakistan.” [MSNBC, 3/3/2003] There are numerous problems surrounding the US-alleged arrest of KSM:
Witnesses say KSM is not present when the raid occurs. [Associated Press, 3/2/2003; Associated Press, 3/2/2003; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/2/2003; Guardian, 3/3/2003; New York Times, 3/3/2003]
There are differing accounts about which house he is arrested in. [Associated Press, 3/1/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/2/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/3/2003]
There are differing accounts about where he was before the arrest and how authorities found him. [Time, 3/1/2003; Washington Post, 3/2/2003; Washington Post, 3/2/2003; New York Times, 3/3/2003; New York Times, 3/4/2003]
Some accounts have him sleeping when the arrest occurs and some don’t. [Los Angeles Times, 3/2/2003; Reuters, 3/2/2003; New York Times, 3/3/2003; Daily Telegraph, 3/4/2003]
Accounts differ on who arrests him—Pakistanis, Americans, or both. [CNN, 3/2/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/2/2003; New York Times, 3/2/2003; Daily Telegraph, 3/3/2003; London Times, 3/3/2003; Associated Press, 3/3/2003]
There are previously published accounts that KSM may have been killed in September 2002 (see September 11, 2002).
There are accounts that he was captured in June 2002 (see June 16, 2002).
These are just some of the difficulties with the arrest story. There are so many problems with it that one Guardian reporter says, “The story appears to be almost entirely fictional.” [Guardian, 3/6/2003]
Account by 9/11 Commissioners Conflicts - In addition, 9/11 Commission chairman Tom Kean and vice chairman Lee Hamilton will write in a 2006 book that the arrest is made in an apartment in Karachi and carried out by a joint CIA, FBI, and Pakistani team (see Early 2003).
Account by Musharraf Also Conflicts - Also in 2006, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will publish a memoir in which he claims that KSM was arrested on February 29, 2003 (instead of the widely cited March 1, 2003), and held by Pakistani forces for three days, “during which time we interrogated him fully. Once we were done with him and had all the information we wanted, we handed him over to the United States government.” [Musharraf, 2006, pp. 193]
US officials admit that imprisioned al-Qaeda leaders Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Abu Zubaida have said in interrogations that bin Laden vetoed a long term relationship with Saddam because he did not want to be in Hussein’s debt. [Newsweek, 6/25/2003]
Al-Qaeda operative Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, under interrogation by the CIA following his capture (see February 29 or March 1, 2003), reportedly gives the agency the first information it has received about another al-Qaeda operative who was involved in the 9/11 plot. That operative’s name will be redacted in a later report by the CIA’s inspector general. Alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will later provide additional information about that person. [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 86 ]
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed shortly after arrest. (Note: this picture is from a video presentation on prisoners the Pakistani government gave to BBC filmmakers. It has been adjusted to remove some blue tinge.) [Source: BBC's "The New Al-Qaeda."]Following his arrest in Pakistan (see February 29 or March 1, 2003), al-Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) finds himself in CIA custody. After two days of detention in Pakistan, where, he will allege, he is punched and stomped upon by a CIA agent, he is sent to Afghanistan. After being transferred to Guantanamo in 2006, he will discuss his experiences and treatment with officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC—see October 6 - December 14, 2006). Mohammed will say of his transfer: “My eyes were covered with a cloth tied around my head and with a cloth bag pulled over it. A suppository was inserted into my rectum. I was not told what the suppository was for.” [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009]
Naked - He is reportedly placed in a cell naked for several days and repeatedly questioned by females as a humiliation. He is attached to a dog leash and repeatedly yanked into the walls of his cell. He is suspended from the ceiling, chained naked in a painful crouch for long periods, doused with cold water, and kept in suffocating heat. [New Yorker, 8/6/2007; MSNBC, 9/13/2007] On arriving in Afghanistan, he is put in a small cell, where, he will recall, he is “kept in a standing position with my hands cuffed and chained to a bar above my head.” After about an hour, “I was taken to another room where I was made to stand on tiptoes for about two hours during questioning.”
Interrogators - He will add: “Approximately 13 persons were in the room. These included the head interrogator (a man) and two female interrogators, plus about 10 muscle guys wearing masks. I think they were all Americans. From time to time one of the muscle guys would punch me in the chest and stomach.” This is the usual interrogation session that Mohammed will experience over the next few weeks.
Cold Water - They are interrupted periodically by his removal to a separate room. There, he will recall, he is doused with “cold water from buckets… for about 40 minutes. Not constantly as it took time to refill the buckets. After which I would be taken back to the interrogation room.”
No Toilet Access - During one interrogation, “I was offered water to drink; when I refused I was again taken to another room where I was made to lie [on] the floor with three persons holding me down. A tube was inserted into my anus and water poured inside. Afterwards I wanted to go to the toilet as I had a feeling as if I had diarrhea. No toilet access was provided until four hours later when I was given a bucket to use.” When he is returned to his cell, as he will recall, “I was always kept in the standing position with my hands cuffed and chained to a bar above my head.” [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009] However, he is resistant to these methods, so it is decided he will be transferred to a secret CIA prison in Poland (see March 7 - Mid-April, 2003), where he will be extensively waterboarded and tortured in other ways.
At some point after alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is captured (see February 29 or March 1, 2003), interrogators threaten to kill his children if he does not co-operate with them. An “experienced agency interrogator” will tell the CIA inspector general that “interrogators said to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed that if anything else happens in the United States, ‘We’re going to kill your children.’” [Central Intelligence Agency, 5/7/2004, pp. 43 ] Two of his children are alleged to have been captured in late 2002 (see After September 11, 2002). According to author Ron Suskind, this is after CIA headquarters authorizes the interrogators to “do whatever’s necessary” to get information. However, according to a CIA manager with knowledge of the incident, “He [KSM] basically said, so, fine, they’ll join Allah in a better place.” [Suskind, 2006, pp. 230]
Shortly after the arrest of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) (see February 29 or March 1, 2003), US investigators will allegedly find out that he had recently met with Osama bin Laden. Later in 2003, authors Nick Fielding and Yosri Fouda will claim that not long after KSM is transferred from Pakistani to US custody, he confesses that he had met with bin Laden within the past two months. Bin Laden is said to be in good health. KSM met him in the Pakistani province of Baluchistan after a journey involving a complicated network of phone calls and couriers. He also says that bin Laden has been concentrating his forces in South Waziristan, in Pakistan’s tribal region, and bin Laden has formed an alliance with Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Fielding and Fouda will note that this story seems confirmed by the fact that within days of KSM’s arrest, residents in the town of Chaman in Baluchistan said that US aircraft dropped millions of leaflets mentioning the $25 million reward for bin Laden’s arrest. KSM also allegedly claims to know that al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri recently returned to Quetta, Pakistan, after spending time in the Middle East. Also within days of KSM’s arrest, millions of leaflets about al-Zawahiri and his reward are dropped in that region. [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 184] It is likely that KSM is tortured during this time (see Shortly After February 29 or March 1, 2003). KSM will later say, “During the harshest period of my interrogation, I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop” (see March 7 - Mid-April, 2003).
An unnamed US law enforcement official tells the Wall Street Journal, “[B]ecause the [Convention Against Torture—see October 21, 1994] has no enforcement mechanism, as a practical matter, ‘you’re only limited by your imagination.’” A detainee “isn’t going to be near a place where he has Miranda rights or the equivalent of them,” the official says. “God only knows what they’re going to do to him. You go to some other country that’ll let us pistol whip this guy.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/4/2003; Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
In February 2003, some radical militants are arrested in Bahrain. A joint US-Saudi raid of an apartment in Saudi Arabia owned by one of them reveals the designs for a bomb called a mubtakkar. This bomb is made of two widely available chemicals, sodium cyanide and hydrogen, which combine to create hydrogen cyanide. When turned to gas, it is lethal, and counterterrorism experts are highly alarmed at this technical breakthrough. CIA Director Tenet briefs President Bush about the mubtakkar bomb in early March. [Suskind, 2006, pp. 193-197; Time, 6/17/2006] Journalist Ron Suskind calls it a “nightmare delivery system—portable, easy to construct, deadly.” The CIA has a highly placed al-Qaeda informant codenamed Ali, and in late March they contact him to learn more about the bomb. He tells his CIA handlers that Yusef al-Ayeri, a Saudi in charge of al-Qaeda operations in the Arabian peninsula, visited al-Qaeda number two leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in January 2003. He told al-Zawahiri of an already advanced plot in the US. Operatives loosely linked to al-Qaeda had traveled to the US in the fall of 2002 and thoroughly cased locations in New York City. They would place the mubtakkar bomb in subway cars and remotely activate them. The group was ready to implement an attack in about 45 days. According to Suskind, several thousand people could be killed. But Ali learned that al-Zawahiri called off the attacks, though Ali does not know the reason why. The group did cancel the attack, and US intelligence never learns who exactly they were. President Bush and others puzzle why the attack was canceled and speculate that al-Qaeda put it aside in favor of an even bigger attack. [Suskind, 2006, pp. 216-220; Time, 6/17/2006] Suskind’s account will cause alarm when revealed in 2006. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) will say that authorities took the plot seriously but were never able to confirm its existence. Other officials will debate the effectiveness of the bomb and how many deaths it could have caused. [CNN, 6/18/2006] University of Maryland professor Milton Leitenberg later says of the bomb, “What you would get, in all probability, is a big bang, a big splash, but very little gas.” He also says that concentrations of key chemicals present in household materials are so low “you would get next to nothing” by using them, and one would have to get them from a chemical supplier or steal them from a laboratory. One counterterrorism official points out, “If this is such an amazing weapon, and the design for it is out there, why has no one ever used it?” [United Press International, 6/27/2006] An article by the private intelligence service Stratfor is also skeptical and suggests that al-Zawahiri called off the attack because it wouldn’t have been as deadly as if conventional bombs were used instead. [Stratfor, 6/21/2006] CIA Deputy Counter Terrorism Center Director Hank Crumpton will also later suggest that a team was recruited to stage the attack but apparently never was sent to the US. [Newsweek, 8/28/2007]
Beginning on March 3, 2003, Spanish police begin monitoring the apartment where Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet lives. He will later be considered one of around three masterminds of the 2004 Madrid bombings. Fakhet’s apartment is on Francisco Remiro street in Madrid. Police discovered his apartment after monitoring an apartment on Virgen de Coro street where Fakhet and other Islamist militants regularly meet (see January 17, 2003-Late March 2004). Police discover that the militants sometimes hold meetings at Fakhet’s apartment as well. They identify 16 militants who meet there. They notice that Mustapha Maymouni, Fakhet’s brother-in-law, frequently sleeps on the floor there. Maymouni is arrested in Morocco later in 2003 for a role in the Casablanca bombings (see May 16, 2003). Monitoring of his house apparently continues through the date of the Madrid bombings. [El Mundo (Madrid), 8/10/2005]
Leader of House of Commons Robin Cook meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair and has the “most revealing” discussion about Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons arsenal. During the exchange Blair essentially acknowledges that Saddam does not have weapons of mass destruction that could be used against his enemies like the US or Britain. [Sunday Times (London), 10/5/2003] Cook says to Blair: “It’s clear from the private briefing I have had that Saddam has no weapons of mass destruction in a sense of weapons that could strike at strategic cities. But he probably does have several thousand battlefield chemical munitions. Do you never worry that he might use them against British troops?” Blair responds, “Yes, but all the effort he has had to put into concealment makes it difficult for him to assemble them quickly for use.” [Sunday Times (London), 10/5/2003; Cook, 8/2/2004]
Majid Khan. [Source: Defense Department]According to his father, al-Qaeda operative Majid Khan is arrested by Pakistani soldiers and police at his brother Mohammed Khan’s house in Karachi, Pakistan, on March 5, 2003. Both brothers are interrogated by Pakistani and US agents. Majid Khan is eventually transferred to a secret US prison and will remain there until 2006, when he will be sent to the Guantanamo prison as one of 14 “high-value” detainees (see September 2-3, 2006). [Reuters, 5/15/2007] The US apparently considers Khan of high value due to his involvement in plots targeting the US. Khan moved to the US from Pakistan as a teenager in 1996 and graduated from a high school in Baltimore in 1999. According to US charges against him, he became involved in a local Islamic organization and then returned to Pakistan in 2002. An uncle and cousin who were al-Qaeda operatives drafted Khan there, and he started working for al-Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). KSM worked with Khan because of Khan’s knowledge of the US, fluency in English, and willingness to be a suicide bomber. His family owned a gas station, and he allegedly plotted to blow up gas stations and poison water supplies in the US. [Baltimore Sun, 9/9/2006]
A working group appointed by the Defense Department’s general counsel, William J. Haynes, completes a 100-page-plus classified report justifying the use of torture on national security grounds. The group—headed by Air Force General Counsel Mary Walker and including top civilian and uniformed lawyers from each military branch—consulted representatives of the Justice Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and other intelligence agencies in drafting the report. It was prepared for Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and was meant to respond to complaints from commanders working at the Guantanamo Bay base in Cuba who claimed that conventional interrogation tactics were inadequate. The conclusions in the report are similar to those of an August 1, 2002 memo (see August 1, 2002) drafted by the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC). The OLC is said to have also contributed to this report. [US Department of Defense, 3/6/2003; Wall Street Journal, 6/7/2004; Los Angeles Times, 6/10/2004] The report notes that both Congress and the Justice Department will have difficulty enforcing the law if US military personnel could be shown to be acting as a result of presidential orders. [Washington Post, 6/8/2004]
President's Authority During War Gives Power to Order Torture, Supersede Law - One of the main conclusions of the report is that the president’s authority as commander-in-chief permits him during times of war to approve almost any physical or psychological interrogation method—including torture—irrespective of any domestic or international law. The report finds, “[I]n order to respect the President’s inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign… [the 1994 law banning torture] must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his Commander-in-Chief authority.” The draft report clearly states that neither Congress, the courts, nor international law has jurisdiction over the president’s actions when the country is waging war. The report asserts that “without a clear statement otherwise, criminal statutes are not read as infringing on the president’s ultimate authority” to wage war. Furthermore, “any effort by Congress to regulate the interrogation of unlawful combatants would violate the Constitution’s sole vesting of the commander-in-chief authority in the president.” According to the document, the federal Torture Statute simply does not apply. “In order to respect the president’s inherent constitutional authority to manage a military campaign… (the prohibition against torture) must be construed as inapplicable to interrogations undertaken pursuant to his commander-in chief authority,” the report states (The parenthetical comment is in the original document). A career military lawyer will later tell the Wall Street Journal that many lawyers disagreed with these conclusions, but that their concerns were overridden by the political appointees heading the drafting of the report. The lawyer explains that instead, military lawyers focused their efforts on limiting the report’s list of acceptable interrogation methods. [Wall Street Journal, 6/7/2004; Washington Post, 6/8/2004]
Guantanamo Bay Not Covered under Torture Restrictions - The report also finds that the 1994 law barring torture “does not apply to the conduct of US personnel” at Guantanamo Bay, nor does it apply to US military interrogations that occurred outside US “maritime and territorial jurisdiction,” such as in Iraq or Afghanistan. [Washington Post, 6/8/2004]
Legal Arguments to Defend against Torture Charges Conflict with International Statutes - The draft report lists several possible arguments that US civilian or military personnel might use to defend themselves against charges of torture or other war crimes. According to the administration’s lawyers, one argument would be that such actions were “necessary” in order to prevent an attack. However, this rationale seems to ignore very clear statements in the Convention Against Torture (see October 21, 1994) which states that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.” Another line of defense, the report says, would be to claim that the accused had been acting under “superior orders” and that therefore no “moral choice was in fact possible.” Likewise, the report cites a Justice Department opinion, which the draft report says “concluded that it could not bring a criminal prosecution against a defendant who had acted pursuant to an exercise of the president’s constitutional power.” This also contradicts the Convention against Torture, which states that orders from superiors “may not be invoked as a justification of torture.” The authors of the report also suggest in the draft report that accused officials could argue that they had “mistakenly relied in good faith on the advice of lawyers or experts,” adding, “Good faith may be a complete defense.” The memo also argues that the International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights (ICCPR), to which the US is a party, “does not apply outside the United States or its special maritime and territorial jurisdiction (SMTJ), and that it does not apply to operations of the military during an international armed conflict,” as the US “has maintained consistently.” Since the “Guantanamo Bay Naval Station (GTMO) is included within the definition of the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States,” the ICCPR does not apply to Guantanamo Bay. The authors are also convinced that officials would not be prosecutable under US law, concluding that “constitutional principles” precluded the possibility that officials could be punished “for aiding the president in exercising his exclusive constitutional authorities” and neither Congress nor the courts had the authority to “require or implement the prosecution of such an individual.” [Wall Street Journal, 6/7/2004]
Defining Parameters of Interrogation Methods - The document attempts to define the parameters of lawful interrogation methods in terms of the degree of pain or psychological manipulation they cause. The report states that the infliction of physical or mental suffering does not constitute torture. To violate Section 2340 A of the US Code, prohibiting physical torture, suffering must be “severe,” the lawyers advise, noting that according to a dictionary definition, this would mean that the pain “must be of such a high level of intensity that… [it] is difficult for the subject to endure.” It must also be “inflicted with specific intent,” they say, meaning that the perpetrator expressly intends to cause severe pain and suffering. But if the defendant simply used pain and suffering as a means to an end, such specific intent would not exist. Under certain circumstances, the lawyers explain, the US would be justified in resorting to illegal measures like torture or homicide. They argue that such measures should be considered “self-defense” in cases where officials “honestly believe” that such actions would prevent an imminent attack against the US. “Sometimes the greater good for society will be accomplished by violating the literal language of the criminal law,” the draft document asserts. “In sum,” the panel determines, “the defense of superior orders will generally be available for US Armed Forces personnel engaged in exceptional interrogations except where the conduct goes so far as to be patently unlawful.” Civil law suits, the panel notes, by a foreign victim of torture will not apply to the US government. [US Department of Defense, 3/6/2003; Wall Street Journal, 6/7/2004]
Report May Not Define Practices, Pentagon Implies - A Pentagon spokesman later says the memo represents “a scholarly effort to define the perimeters of the law,” and notes: “What is legal and what is put into practice is a different story.” [Washington Post, 6/8/2004]
Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, US Department of Defense, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), International Covenant on Political and Civil Rights, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Convention Against Torture, Defense Intelligence Agency, Donald Rumsfeld, Mary L. Walker, William J. Haynes
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties
Some of the documents turned over to the UN by Iraq. [Source: CIA]United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission chief arms inspector Hans Blix provides a quarterly report to the UN Security Council on the progress of inspections in Iraq, as required by UN Security Resolution 1284 (1999). It is the twelfth such report since UNMOVIC’s inception. Blix’s report to the Council does not contain any evidence to support US and British claims that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction or the programs to develop such weapons. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; CNN, 3/7/2003] International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei also reports to the Council and says there are no signs that Iraq has reconstituted its nuclear weapons program. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ]
UNMOVIC Report by Hans Blix -
There is no evidence that Iraq has mobile biological weapons factories, as was recently alleged by Colin Powell in his February 5 presentation (see February 5, 2003) to the UN. “Several inspections have taken place… in relation to mobile production facilities,” Blix says. “No evidence of proscribed activities has so far been found.” He further explains that his inspectors had examined numerous mobile facilities and large containers with seed processing equipment. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; CNN, 3/7/2003; Agence France-Presse, 3/7/2003]
The Iraqi government has increased its cooperation with inspectors since the end of January. It is attempting to quantify the biological and chemical weapons that it says were destroyed in 1991. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003]
Iraq’s destruction of several Al Samoud II missiles represents a real step towards disarmament. “The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament,” he says. “We are not watching the destruction of toothpicks. Lethal weapons are being destroyed.” [CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003] Blix adds, “The destruction undertaken constitutes a substantial measure of disarmament—indeed, the first since the middle of the 1990s.” Major Corrine Heraud, the chief weapons inspector for UNMOVIC in this operation, calls the level of cooperation from the Iraqis “unprecedented,” something that she never would have expected and did not encounter during the 1996-98 inspections. [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Blix says that the UN inspectors needed a few more months to finish their work. “Even with a proactive Iraqi attitude induced by continued outside pressure, it will still take some time to verify sites and items, analyze documents, interview relevant persons and draw conclusions,” he says, concluding, “It will not take years, nor weeks, but months.” [CNN, 3/7/2003; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003]
Iraqi scientists have recently accepted inspectors’ requests to be interviewed without “minders.” “Since we started requesting interviews, 38 individuals were asked for private interviews, of which 10 accepted under our terms, seven during the past week,” Blix explains. [CNN, 3/7/2003]
Some Iraqi scientists have agreed to interviews without “minders”—but more cooperation is needed. Blix says, “While the Iraqi side seems to have encouraged interviewees not to request the presence of Iraqi officials or the taping of the interviews, conditions ensuring the absence of undue influences are difficult to attain inside Iraq.” [CNN, 3/7/2003] Iraq needs to turn over more documents. “Iraq, with a highly developed administrative system, should be able to provide more documentary evidence about its proscribed weapons. Only a few new such documents have come to light so far and been handed over since we began.” [CNN, 3/7/2003] There is no evidence of underground weapons facilities. Blix says: “There have been reports, denied by Iraq, that proscribed activities are conducted underground. Iraq should provide information on underground structures suitable for the production or storage of weapons of mass destruction. During inspections of declared or undeclared facilities, inspectors examined building structures for any possible underground facilities. In addition, ground-penetrating radar was used in several locations. No underground facilities for chemical or biological production or storage were found.” [CNN, 3/7/2003]
IAEA report by Mohamed ElBaradei -
There is no evidence that the aluminum tubes imported by Iraq in July 2001 were meant for a nuclear weapons program. ElBaradei says: “Extensive field investigation and document analysis have failed to uncover any evidence that Iraq intended to use these 81mm tubes for any project other than the reverse engineering of rockets.… Moreover, even had Iraq pursued such a plan, it would have encountered practical difficulties in manufacturing centrifuges out of the aluminum tubes in question.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003]
There is no evidence that Iraq tried to obtain uranium from Niger. Documents provided to the International Atomic Energy Agency by the US were determined to be forgeries. The documents were a collection of letters between an Iraqi diplomat and senior Niger officials discussing Iraq’s interest in procuring a large amount of uranium oxide (see Afternoon October 7, 2002). “Based on thorough analysis, the IAEA has concluded, with the concurrence of outside experts, that documents which formed the basis for the reports of recent uranium transactions between Iraq and Niger are in fact not authentic,” ElBaradei explains. “We have therefore concluded that these specific allegations are unfounded”
(see June 12, 2003). [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003; Globe and Mail, 3/8/2003; Guardian, 3/8/2003]
The IAEA has yet to come across evidence of a nuclear weapons program. “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq,” ElBaradei states. “[T]here is no indication of resumed nuclear activities in those buildings that were identified through the use of satellite imagery as being reconstructed or newly erected since 1998, nor any indication of nuclear-related prohibited activities at any inspected sites.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ; Los Angeles Times, 3/7/2003; Associated Press, 3/7/2003; Globe and Mail, 3/8/2003; Washington Post, 3/8/2003]
In a direct response to allegations made by Colin Powell on February 5 (see February 5, 2003) related to the attempted procurement of magnets that could be used in a gas centrifuge, ElBaradei, says: “The IAEA has verified that previously acquired magnets have been used for missile guidance systems, industrial machinery, electricity meters, and field telephones. Through visits to research and production sites, reviews of engineering drawings, and analyses of sample magnets, IAEA experts familiar with the use of such magnets in centrifuge enrichment have verified that none of the magnets that Iraq has declared could be used directly for a centrifuge magnetic bearing.” [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ]
Iraq’s industrial capacity “has deteriorated” at the inspected sites because of lack of maintenance and funds. [United Nations, 3/7/2003 ]
ElBaradei concludes: “After three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons program in Iraq.… I should note that, in the past three weeks, possibly as a result of ever-increasing pressure by the international community, Iraq has been forthcoming in its cooperation, particularly with regard to the conduct of private interviews and in making available evidence that contributes to the resolution of matters of IAEA concern.” [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Inspections 'Fruitful,' Say French, Russians - Both sides claim that the reports give further support to each of their respective stances on the issue of Iraqi disarmament. French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin tells the Council that the reports “testify to the progress” of the inspections. He states that France will not support another resolution because “we cannot accept any ultimatum, any automatic use of force.” Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov says that the reports demonstrate that inspections have been “fruitful.”
Inspections Not Working, US Claims - The Bush administration does not alter its position, despite statements by the two inspectors that Iraq is cooperating with inspections and complying with demands to disarm. Colin Powell, responding to the inspectors’ reports, reiterates the administration’s position that the inspections are not working and that Saddam is not cooperating. “We must not walk away,” Powell says. “We must not find ourselves here this coming November with the pressure removed and with Iraq once again marching down the merry path to weapons of mass destruction, threatening the region, threatening the world.” He claims that Iraq’s behavior is a “a catalog still of noncooperation” and repeats the administration’s allegation that the “Iraq regime continues to possess and conceal some of the most lethal weapons ever devised.” Back at the White House, Ari Fleischer tells reporters, “As the president has said, if the United Nations will not disarm Saddam Hussein, it will be another international organization, a coalition of the willing that will be made up of numerous nations that will disarm Saddam Hussein.” [CNN, 3/6/2003; CNN, 3/7/2003; Independent, 3/7/2003; US Department of State, 3/7/2003 ]
Bush: Missile Destruction 'Meaningless' - Bush himself will call the destruction of Iraqi missiles “meaningless” and nothing more than an Iraqi “campaign of destruction,” shocking UNMOVIC inspectors: “We didn’t know what to make of [his words],” one inspector says afterwards. Former State Department official Patrick Lang will write: “In the final weeks of the countdown to war, the administration’s actions resembled nothing so much as some of the madder scenes from Alice in Wonderland. The fact that the documents the administration had used to ‘prove’ that Iraq was working on nuclear weapons were forged only led to greater insistence that Iraq was a danger. The absence of discovery of WMD by the UN inspectors was only further evidence that the Iraqis were the greatest deceivers in history and that they had succeeded in concealing their location. The destruction of the Al Samoud missiles was just more evidence of a ‘grand deception.’” [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004]
Uranium Allegations 'Outrageous,' Says Former Ambassador - The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times do give the story front-page coverage, and on CNN, former ambassador Joseph Wilson (see July 6, 2003) calls the uranium allegation “outrageous,” adding that the claim “taints the whole rest of the case that the government is trying to build against Iraq.” The US government is “simply stupid” for not finding out the truth sooner: “a couple of phone calls” could have proven that such a deal between Iraq and Niger could not have happened: “All this stuff is open,” Wilson says. “It’s a restricted market of buyers and sellers.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 71]
IAEA Report 'Widely Ignored' - Author and media critic Frank Rich will later note, “With America’s March 17 deadline for war (see March 17, 2003 and March 17, 2003) dominating the news, ElBaradei’s pronoucements were widely ignored. The news of the forged uranium documents did not make any of the three network evening newscasts and did not appear in the following day’s New York Times. (It would turn up a day later, in a four-hundred word story on page A13.)” [Rich, 2006, pp. 71]
Entity Tags: Corrine Heraud, Ari Fleischer, Colin Powell, Dominique de Villepin, Patrick Lang, Frank Rich, Mohamed ElBaradei, International Atomic Energy Agency, Joseph C. Wilson, United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission, Igor Ivanov, Hans Blix
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Communications antenna at Stare Kiejkuty, the Polish “black site” where Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was held for a time after his capture. [Source: CBC]9/11 planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, after being detained and abused for three days in US custody in Afghanistan (see February 29 or March 1, 2003 and Shortly After February 29 or March 1, 2003), is transferred to another CIA-run facility in Poland. [New Yorker, 8/6/2007; New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009] The facility is later identified as Stare Kiejkuty, a secret prison near the Szymany military airbase. Mohammed is flown in on a Gulfstream N379P jet known to prison officials as “the torture taxi.” The plane is probably piloted by “Jerry M,” a 56-year-old pilot for Aero Contractors, a company that transfers prisoners around the world for US intelligence agencies. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 4/27/2009] He is dressed in a tracksuit, blindfolded, hooded, has sound-blocking headphones placed over his ears, and is flown “sitting, leaning back, with my hands and ankles shackled in a high chair,” as he will later tell officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC—see October 6 - December 14, 2006). He later says he manages to sleep a few hours, for the first time in days. Upon arrival, Mohammed is stripped naked and placed in a small cell “with cameras where I was later informed by an interrogator that I was monitored 24 hours a day by a doctor, psychologist, and interrogator.” The walls are wooden and the cell measures some 10 by 13 feet. [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 4/27/2009]
'I Would Be Brought to the Verge of Death and Back Again' - As he will later recall, it was in this detention camp that “the most intense interrogation occurred, led by three experienced CIA interrogators, all over 65 years old and all strong and well trained.” The interrogators tell him that they have received the “green light from Washington” to give him “a hard time” (see Late September 2001 and September 25, 2002). As he will later recall: “They never used the word ‘torture’ and never referred to ‘physical pressure,’ only to ‘a hard time.’ I was never threatened with death, in fact I was told that they would not allow me to die, but that I would be brought to the ‘verge of death and back again.‘… I was kept for one month in the cell in a standing position with my hands cuffed and shackled above my head and my feet cuffed and shackled to a point in the floor.” When he falls asleep, “all my weight [is] applied to the handcuffs around my wrist resulting in open and bleeding wounds.” The ICRC will later confirm that Mohammed bears scars consistent with his allegations on both wrists and both ankles. “Both my feet became very swollen after one month of almost continual standing.”
Interrogations - He is interrogated in a different room, in sessions lasting anywhere from four to eight hours, and with a wide variety of participants. Sometimes women take part in the interrogations. A doctor is usually present. “If I was perceived not to be cooperating I would be put against a wall and punched and slapped in the body, head, and face. A thick flexible plastic collar would also be placed around my neck so that it could then be held at the two ends by a guard who would use it to slam me repeatedly against the wall. The beatings were combined with the use of cold water, which was poured over me using a hose-pipe. The beatings and use of cold water occurred on a daily basis during the first month.”
'Alternative Procedures' - The CIA interrogators use what they will later call “alternative procedures” on Mohammed, including waterboarding (see After March 7, 2003) and other techniques. He is sprayed with cold water from a hose-pipe in his cell and the “worst day” is when he is beaten for about half an hour by one of the interrogators. “My head was banged against the wall so hard that it started to bleed. Cold water was poured over my head. This was then repeated with other interrogators.” He is then waterboarded until a doctor intervenes. He gets an hours’s sleep and is then “put back in my cell standing with my hands shackled above my head.” He sleeps for a “few minutes” on the floor of cell after the torture sessions, but does not sleep well, “due to shackles on my ankles and wrists.” The toilet consists of a bucket in the cell, which he can use on request, but “I was not allowed to clean myself after toilet during the first month.” In the first month he is only fed on two occasions, “as a reward for perceived cooperation.” He gets Ensure [a liquid nutritional supplement] to drink every four hours. If he refuses it, “then my mouth was forced open by the guard and it was poured down my throat by force.” He loses 18 kg in the first month, after which he gets some clothes. In addition, “Artificial light was on 24 hours a day, but I never saw sunlight.” [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009]
Deliberately False Information - As he will later tell ICRC officials, he often lies to his interrogators: “During the harshest period of my interrogation, I gave a lot of false information in order to satisfy what I believed the interrogators wished to hear in order to make the ill-treatment stop.… I’m sure that the false information I was forced to invent… wasted a lot of their time and led to several false red-alerts being placed in the US.” [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009] It will later be reported that up to 90 percent of Mohammed’s confessions may be unreliable. Furthermore, he will recant many of his statements (see August 6, 2007).
Representative Curt Weldon. [Source: H. Rumph Jr / Associated Press]Congressman Curt Weldon (R-PA) becomes embroiled in a plot by Iranian arms dealer Manucher Ghorbanifar to contrive a secret uranium exchange between Iran and Iraq. According to Ghorbanifar’s story (see January 11, 2006), just before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, a team of Iranian intelligence agents infiltrated Iraq and stole enriched uranium for use in Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The story is later proven to be false, and based on a desire for money and to embroil Iran and Iraq in a spurious WMD plot. After first being contacted by a mysterious Iranian source through a friend and a colleage on March 7, Weldon repeatedly flies to Paris to meet with the source he later calls “Ali,” who is later shown to be Fereidoun Mahdavi, a former minister in the Shah’s Iran who now works as a secretary for Ghorbanifar. Mahdavi has already tried, and failed, to interest several Western intelligence agencies in the stolen uranium tale. He finds Weldon to be far more credulous than the intelligence agencies. According to an intelligence source interviewed in 2006, “Ali provided information that indicated Iranian intelligence had sent a team to Baghdad to extract highly enriched uranium from a stockpile hidden by Saddam Hussein.” Ali tells Weldon that an Iranian intelligence team infiltrated Iraq and stole the uranium for Iran’s nuclear weapons program. According to the story, “the team successfully extracted the stockpile but on the way back to Iran contracted radiation poisoning.” Weldon immediately informs CIA Director George Tenet. Weldon will later write in his book Countdown to Terror: “Tenet appeared interested, even enthusiastic about evaluating Ali and establishing a working relationship with him. He agreed to send his top spy, Stephen Kappes, the deputy director of operations, along with me to Paris for another debriefing of Ali.… On the day of our scheduled second meeting with Ali in Paris, Kappes bowed out, claiming that ‘other commitments’ compelled him to cancel. Later, the CIA claimed to have met with Ali independently. But I discovered this to be untrue.… Incredibly, I learned that the CIA had apparently asked French intelligence to silence Ali.” Weldon is wrong; the CIA’s Paris station chief, Bill Murray, investigates the claims and finds Ghorbanifar (whom either he or the agency mistakenly believes to be “Ali”) to be what the agency calls a “fabricator.” Murray goes so far as to take either Ghorbanifar or Mahdavi to Iraq to have them retrace the route of the Iranian intelligence mission. “Ali” is unable to do so, and Murray learns that the entire story was concocted in hopes of a large payoff: “Soon it became apparent that Ali and his sources were fabricators and were trying to extract large sums of money,” one intelligence source will say. (Murray will later deny going to Iraq with either Ghorbanifar or Mahdavi, but will call “the source” “not credible.… The sensational charges that the source made could not be substantiated.” Weldon, not to be denied, takes his story to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who pressures the CIA to investigate further. One former CIA officer later says, “CIA reluctantly, after pressure from Rumsfeld, followed up by detaching one of their weapons experts from the team that was hunting WMD in Iraq.” Again, this effort proves that Ghorbanifar’s story is completely false. In 2006, reporter Larisa Alexandrovna will call Weldon an “innocent bystander taken in by an internationally known con man and the lure of spook-like activities than an inside player with an agenda or material participant in these events. The Ali composite seems to have used Weldon as a conduit by which to provide the CIA with information.” One intelligence official will observe, “If you were going to launder intel to make up a war, you could easily send some fool on an errand.” [Raw Story, 1/11/2006] Weldon will meet again with Mahdavi, and will write about a lurid Iranian terror plot, the “12th Imam” scheme, based on his tales (see June 8, 2005 and Mid-July 2005). He will claim that the CIA has “routinely” ignored “credible” information about these and other plots.
An ill Saud Memon shortly before his death. [Source: Daily Times]Saud Memon, a Pakistani businessman who owns the land where Wall Street Journal report Daniel Pearl is killed in late January 2002 (see January 31, 2002), apparently flees Pakistan for fear of being arrested for Pearl’s death. According to later newspaper accounts in Pakistan and India, Memon is arrested by the FBI in South Africa on March 7, 2003. He is kept at Guantanamo prison for more than two years and then handed over to Pakistani authorities. On April 28, 2007, some unknown men drop Memon in front of his house in Pakistan. He is deathly ill and unable to speak or recognize people. He dies less than one month later on May 18, 2007. Memon has been the top name on the list of Pakistan’s most wanted. In addition to having a suspected role in Pearl’s death, he helped fund the Al Rashid Trust, which has been banned for being an al-Qaeda front. While some suspect a US and/or Pakistan government role in Memon’s disappearance, it is not known for sure what happened to him for those four years. [Associated Press, 5/18/2007; Daily Times (Lahore), 5/19/2007; Indo-Asian News Service, 5/19/2007]
After the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports that the Niger documents (see March 2000) are not authentic (see March 7, 2003), the US and British governments stand behind their claim that Iraq had sought uranium from an African country. The two countries maintain that they have additional evidence—from multiple sources—but do not elaborate. Pressed by journalists and inspectors to reveal their evidence, the two governments refuse. The IAEA tells Reuters that when it asked the US and Britain whether or not they have additional evidence that Iraq had tried to procure uranium, the answer was “no.” [Reuters, 3/26/2003]
'Information Blackout' - Additionally, an informed UN official tells the Washington Post that the US and Britain were repeatedly asked for more information. Neither government, the official explains, “ever indicated that they had any information on any other country.” [Washington Post, 3/22/2003] An unnamed Western diplomat tells the Independent: “Despite requests, the British Government has provided no such evidence. Senior officials at the agency think it is involved in an information black-out.” [Independent, 7/17/2003]
British Stick With Story Even after US Backs Away - The British will hold to their story even after top US officials admit (see 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003) that Bush should not have included the claim in his State of the Union speech.(see 9:01 pm January 28, 2003) [New York Times, 7/8/2003; Independent, 7/20/2003]
Additional Evidence Initially Believed to be French Intel Reports - The London Times will later suggest that Britain’s additional evidence consisted of reports provided by the French in 1999 alleging that Iraqi diplomat Wissam al-Zahawie’s visit to Niger (see February 1999) was aimed at securing a deal to purchase uranium. [Sunday Times (London), 11/6/2005] As one British foreign official explains to the Independent: “Niger has two main exports—uranium and chickens. The Iraqi delegation did not go to Niger for chickens.” But Al-Zahawie disputes this. “My only mission was to meet the president of Niger and invite him to visit Iraq,” he tells the Independent. “The invitation and the situation in Iraq resulting from the genocidal UN sanctions were all we talked about. I had no other instructions, and certainly none concerning the purchase of uranium…. I have been cleared by everyone else, including the US and the United Nations. I am surprised to hear there are still question marks over me in Britain. I am willing to cooperate with anyone who wants to see me and find out more.” [Independent, 8/10/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003]
Actual Evidence Provided by Italian Reports Based on Forged Documents - Later reporting will reveal that the main source for Britain’s Africa-uranium allegation was in fact an Italian intelligence report (see Mid-October 2001) that traced back to the forged Niger documents. [La Repubblica (Rome), 10/24/2005; La Repubblica (Rome), 10/25/2005] “I understand that it concerned the same group of documents and the same transaction,” an unnamed Western diplomat close to the International Atomic Energy Agency later tells the Daily Mail. [Agence France-Presse, 7/15/2003]
After being transferred from Afghanistan to Poland (see March 7 - Mid-April, 2003), alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is repeatedly waterboarded by the CIA, a technique simulating drowning that international law classifies as torture. He is only one of about four high-ranking detainees waterboarded, according to media reports (see May 2002-2003). [New Yorker, 8/6/2007; MSNBC, 9/13/2007; New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009] He will recall: “I would be strapped to a special bed, which could be rotated into a vertical position. A cloth would be placed over my face. Cold water from a bottle that had been kept in a fridge was then poured onto the cloth by one of the guards so that I could not breathe.… The cloth was then removed and the bed was put into a vertical position. The whole process was then repeated during about one hour. Injuries to my ankles and wrists also occurred during the waterboarding as I struggled in the panic of not being able to breathe. Female interrogators were also present… and a doctor was always present, standing out of sight behind the head of [the] bed, but I saw him when he came to fix a clip to my finger which was connected to a machine. I think it was to measure my pulse and oxygen content in my blood. So they could take me to [the] breaking point.” [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009] Accounts about the use of waterboarding on KSM differ. He says he is waterboarded five times. [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009] However, contradictory reports will later appear:
NBC News will claim that, according to multiple unnamed officials, KSM underwent at least two sessions of waterboarding and other extreme measures before talking. One former senior intelligence official will say, “KSM required, shall we say, re-dipping.” [MSNBC, 9/13/2007]
In 2005, former and current intelligence officers and supervisors will tell ABC News that KSM “won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess.” [ABC News, 11/18/2005] In 2007, a former CIA official familiar with KSM’s case will tell ABC News a sligntly different version of events: “KSM lasted the longest under waterboarding, about a minute and a half, but once he broke, it never had to be used again.” A senior CIA official will claim that KSM later admitted he only confessed because of the waterboarding. [ABC News, 9/14/2007] In November 2005, John Sifton of Human Rights Watch will say of waterboarding, “The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law.” [ABC News, 11/18/2005]
The New York Times will claim that “KSM was subjected to intense and repeated torture techniques that, at the time, were specifically designated as illegal under US law.” Some claim that KSM gives useful information. “However, many of the officials interviewed say KSM provided a raft of false and exaggerated statements that did not bear close scrutiny—the usual result, experts say, of torture.” CIA officials stopped the “extreme interrogation” sessions after about two weeks, worrying that they might have exceeded their legal bounds. Apparently pressure to stop comes from Jack Goldsmith, head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, who is troubled about updates from KSM’s interrogations and raises legal questions. He is angrily opposed by the White House, particularly David Addington, a top aide to Vice President Dick Cheney. [New York Times, 10/4/2007]
The New Yorker will report that officials who have seen a classified Red Cross report say that KSM claims he was waterboarded five times. Further, he says he was waterboarded even after he started cooperating. But two former CIA officers will insist that he was waterboarded only once. One of them says that KSM “didn’t resist. He sang right away. He cracked real quick. A lot of them want to talk. Their egos are unimaginable. KSM was just a little doughboy.” [New Yorker, 8/6/2007]
A different ABC News account will claim that KSM was al-Qaeda’s toughest prisoner. CIA officers who subject themselves to waterboarding last only about 14 seconds, but KSM was able to last over two minutes. [ABC News, 11/18/2005]
In 2009, evidence will surface that indicates KSM was waterboarded up to 183 times (see April 16, 2009 and April 18, 2009).
The CIA intelligence report on former ambassador Joseph Wilson’s trip to Niger to find the reality of the allegation that Iraq had tried to buy uranium from that country (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002) is disseminated within the government. In addition, some time around this date Vice President Dick Cheney asks his CIA briefer “for an update on the Niger uranium issue,” according to subsequent reports by the Senate Intelligence Committee. CIA officials ensure that the agency’s Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control bureau (WINPAC) receives a copy of the Wilson report. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 189]
While many in the Bush administration continue to insist that the claims of Iraq attempting to buy uranium from Niger are valid (see March 7, 2003-July 7, 2003), even in the face of a thorough debunking by the International Atomic Energy Agency (see March 7, 2003), some officials are quietly admitting that the administration was duped. “We fell for it,” says one unnamed State Department official who reviewed the documents. Meanwhile, Secretary of State Colin Powell says that the administration has “new information” suggesting that Iraq continues to try to get nuclear weapons components such as the suspicious aluminum tubes (see October 6, 2002). David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security retorts, “Despite being presented with the falseness of this claim, the administration persists in making misleading arguments about the significance of the tubes.” [Washington Post, 3/8/2003] Former ambassador Joseph Wilson will note that the administration “had chosen to ignore three reports that had been in their files for nearly a year: mine (see March 4-5, 2002) as well as two others—one submitted by the American ambassador to Niger, Barbro Owens-Kirkpatrick (see November 20, 2001) and the other by four-star Marine Corps General Carlton Fulford (see February 24, 2002), who had also traveled there. Instead, the administration chose to give credence to forgeries so crude that even Panorama, the Italian weekly magazine that first received them, had declined to publish (see October 9, 2002). The administration had ample evidence that there was nothing to the uranium charge but went ahead and placed the inflammatory claim in the State of the Union address anyway.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 2-3]
One day after the UN and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) issue a report debunking the allegations that Iraq attempted to purchase uranium from Niger (see March 7, 2003), a State Department spokesman says of the forged documents at the heart of the allegation, “We fell for it” (see March 8, 2003). Former ambassador Joseph Wilson is “astounded” at the State Department’s reaction, as he will recall a year later. Wilson had himself debunked the allegations more than a year earlier (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). He tells CNN national security reporter David Ensor that the State Department spokesman “had not spoken accurately.” Wilson does not tell Ensor about his own trip to Niger, nor of the other reports debunking the uranium claims (see February 24, 2002). He does not tell Ensor that “nobody in the management chain of command” at State’s African Bureau “had ever believed there was anything to the story that a spokesman was now claiming they ‘fell for.’” Wilson decides to expose the administration’s duplicity to the public. Appearing on CNN, Wilson is asked a question provided to the interviewer by Ensor, and replies that the State Department knows far more than it is telling about the Iraq-Niger claim. The government should check its files, Wilson says (see March 8, 2003). “We know a lot about the uranium business in Niger,” he says, “and for something like this to go unchallenged by US—the US government is just simply stupid. It would have taken a couple of phone calls. We have had an embassy there since the early ‘60s. All this stuff is open. It’s a restricted market of buyers and sellers. The Nigerians [sic] have always been very open with us. For this to have gotten to the IAEA is on the face of it dumb, but more to the point, it taints the whole rest of the case that the government is trying to build against Iraq.” Wilson adds that when one such piece of evidence is found to be false, “it casts doubt on every other bit of evidence.” Worse, “I think it’s safe to say that the US government should have or did know that this report was a fake before [the IAEA’s Mohamed] ElBaradei mentioned it in his report at the UN yesterday.” Wilson is openly dismissive of the State Department official who said, “We fell for it” (see March 8, 2003). He says: “That’s just not good enough. Either he’s being disingenuous, or he shouldn’t be drawing a government paycheck.” Wilson later learns that it is this CNN appearance that prompts the White House to produce a “workup” on him for the office of the vice president (see March 9, 2003 and After). [CNN, 3/8/2003; Wilson, 2004, pp. 325-326]
CIA manager Alfreda Frances Bikowsky takes an unauthorized trip to see alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) being waterboarded in Poland (see After March 7, 2003). Based on information from “two well-informed agency sources,” author Jane Mayer will write that Bikowsky is “so excited” by KSM’s capture that she flies “at government expense to the black site where Mohammed was held so that she could personally watch him being waterboarded.” However, according to Mayer, she is not an interrogator and has “no legitimate reason to be present during Mohammed’s interrogation.” A former colleague will say she went because, “She thought it would be cool to be in the room.” Her presence during KSM’s torture seems “to anger and strengthen his resolve, helping him to hold out longer against the harsh tactics used against him.” Bikowsky will later be reprimanded for this, and, in Mayer’s words, “superiors at the CIA scold […] her for treating the painful interrogation as a show.” A former colleague will say: “She got in some trouble. They told her, ‘It’s not supposed to be entertainment.’” [Mayer, 2008, pp. 273] Bikowsky may be interviewed by the CIA inspector general’s probe into torture (see July 16, 2003) and will later be considered for the position of deputy station chief in Baghdad (see (March 23, 2007)).
A day after former ambassador Joseph Wilson appears on CNN questioning the validity of the administration’s claims about the Iraq-Niger uranium purchase (see March 8, 2003), Vice President Dick Cheney and Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley begin a campaign to discredit him. The information comes from senior sources within the State Department, the CIA, and the National Security Council (NSC), all with direct knowledge of the campaign, and from Wilson himself. The sources will say that they and other officials are directed to unearth or “invent” embarrassing information on Wilson that could be used against him in public. Aides in the Office of the Vice President and others, including the sources, prepare a “workup” on Wilson, including memos and classified material on him for Cheney and the NSC. Officials meet regularly in Cheney’s office to discuss the progress of the campaign with Cheney, Hadley, and other officials.
Visit to CIA Headquarters - According to an official in the CIA’s Counterproliferation Division (CPD), Cheney and Hadley visit the CIA the day after Wilson’s interview on CNN. Cheney’s original target for discrediting was not Wilson, but David Albright, the former UN weapons inspector who has also challenged the credibility of the Iraq-Niger claims and the rationale for invading Iraq (see March 8, 2003). Cheney asked several CIA officials to find “dirt” on Albright for use in discrediting him in the media. At the outset, the CIA official will say: “Vice President Cheney was more concerned with Mr. Albright. The international community had been saying that inspectors should have more time, that the US should not set a deadline. The vice president felt Mr. Albright’s remarks would fuel the debate.” The CIA will eventually send a “binder” to Cheney’s office containing information about Albright; it is not clear to what, if any, use that information is put.
Cheney 'Enraged' - But Wilson’s appearance on CNN and his public ridicule of the Iraq-Niger uranium claim enraged Cheney, who saw Wilson’s comments as a personal attack against him. Hadley also took an interest in Wilson’s remarks because he personally allowed the Iraq-Niger claim to remain in Bush’s State of the Union address (see 9:01 pm January 28, 2003) even after being informed that the documents the claim was based upon were forgeries. Both Cheney and Hadley view Wilson as a possible impediment to the public’s acceptance of the impending Iraq invasion. Cheney chairs a meeting in his office the day after Wilson’s appearance on CNN, attended by, among others, Hadley, White House political guru Karl Rove, Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Cheney’s deputy national security adviser John Hannah, and several officials from the CIA and State Department, including the officials who will later discuss the matter with the press. “The way I remember it,” says the CIA official, “is that the vice president was obsessed with Wilson. He called him an ‘_sshole,’ a son-of-a-b_tch. He took his comments very personally. He wanted us to do everything in our power to destroy his reputation and he wanted to be kept up to date about the progress.” Hadley says he will write an editorial about the Iraqi threat that should offset Wilson’s remarks; the State Department will redistribute a February 16, 2003 editorial by Hadley that appeared in the Chicago Tribune to newspaper editors around the country. Cheney will appear on NBC’s Meet the Press to refute the challenges to the Iraq-Niger claims (see March 16, 2003). [Truthout (.org), 2/9/2006] In 2004, Wilson will write: “I learned that a meeting right around the time of this particular CNN appearance (see March 8, 2003) led to the decision to produce a ‘workup’ on me for the Office of the Vice President. It was not made clear to me whether Dick Cheney himself attended this meeting, although I was told that senior members of his staff and quite possibly other senior Republicans, including former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, were present and that Gingrich actively participated in a strategy session, the objective of which was to figure out how to discredit me.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 326-327]
False Allegations of 'Womanizing,' Drug Use - Within days, officials in the CIA, NSC, and State Department pass on information to Cheney and Libby that purportedly shows Wilson is a “womanizer” who had occassionally used drugs in his youth; the sources later say that the allegations are entirely false. The sources will say that they are unsure the material was ever used to discredit Wilson, since after the war began on March 19, the media lost interest in Wilson’s warnings. [Truthout (.org), 2/9/2006] Wilson later writes that the meeting about him does “not include discussion of how the president and his senior staff might address the indisputable, if inconvenient, fact that the allegation I had made was true. In other words, from the very beginning, the strategy of the White House was to confront the issue as a ‘Wilson’ problem rather than as an issue of the lie that was in the State of the Union address.… The immediate effect of the workup, I am told by a member of the press, citing White House sources, was a long harangue against the two of us within the White House walls. Over a period of several months, Libby evidently seized opportunities to rail openly against me as an ‘assh_le playboy’ who went on a boondoggle ‘arranged by his CIA wife’—and was a Democratic Gore supporter to boot.” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 441-442]
New Interest in Wilson - Cheney’s interest in Wilson will be renewed in May 2003 (see May 2003), when Wilson informs New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof that he was the special envoy who had gone to Niger in February 2002 to investigate the uranium claims (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002).
Entity Tags: Office of the Vice President, National Security Council, David Albright, Lewis (“Scooter”) Libby, Joseph C. Wilson, John Hannah, Karl C. Rove, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, CNN, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of State, Newt Gingrich, Stephen J. Hadley, Valerie Plame Wilson
Timeline Tags: Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed shortly after arrest. (Note: this picture is from a video presentation on prisoners the Pakistani government gave to BBC filmmakers, and it is not from the ISI video. It has been adjusted to remove some blue tinge.) [Source: BBC's "The New Al-Qaeda."]One week after the purported arrest of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in Pakistan (see February 29 or March 1, 2003), the ISI show what they claim is a video of the capture. It is openly mocked as a bad forgery by the few reporters allowed to see it. [ABC News, 3/11/2003; Reuters, 3/11/2003; Pakistan News Service (Newark, CA), 3/11/2003; Daily Times (Lahore), 3/13/2003] For instance, a Fox News reporter says, “Foreign journalists looking at it laughed and said this is baloney, this is a reconstruction.” [Fox News, 3/10/2003] Other information about the arrest also raises questions about his relationship with the ISI (see Spring 1993). At the time of KSM’s alleged arrest, he was staying in a neighborhood filled with ISI officials, just a short distance from ISI headquarters, leading to suspicions that he’d been doing so with ISI approval. [Lateline, 3/3/2003] One expert notes that after his arrest, “Those who think they have ISI protection will stop feeling that comfort level.” [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/2/2003] Journalist Robert Fisk reports, “Mohammed was an ISI asset; indeed, anyone who is ‘handed over’ by the ISI these days is almost certainly a former (or present) employee of the Pakistani agency whose control of Taliban operatives amazed even the Pakistani government during the years before 2001.” [Toronto Star, 3/3/2003]
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, in a speech to a Veterans of Foreign Wars conference, says: “The Iraqi people understand what this crisis is about. Like the people of France in the 1940s, they view us as their hoped-for liberator. They know that America will not come as a conqueror. Our plan, as President Bush has said, is to remain as long as necessary, and not one day more. And the Iraqis also recognize that the economic and political reconstruction of their country will be difficult. It will take their best efforts with the help of the United States and our coalition partners. But they are driven by the dream of a just and democratic society in Iraq.” [Washington Post, 3/29/2003; US Congress, 6/25/2004]
In a response to a recent report from the International Atomic Energy Agency debunking the Iraq-Niger uranium claims (see March 7, 2003), and a report from the Defense Intelligence Agency that claims the allegations are true, a CIA senior-level report concludes, “We do not dispute the IAEA director general’s conclusion—last Friday before the UN Security Council—that documents on Iraq’s agreement to buy uranium from Niger are not authentic.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 4/3/2003 ; Central Intelligence Agency, 5/30/2003 ]
In 2007, Newsweek will claim that still-classified portions of a CIA cable reveal that some White House officials wanted to mention an alleged meeting between hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi agent in Prague in a speech President Bush was scheduled to give on March 14, 2003. But after learning of the proposed speech, the CIA station in Prague sent back a cable explaining why the CIA believed the meeting never took place. Accounts differ, but one source familiar with the cable will claim that the cable was “strident” and expressed dismay the White House would try to fit the dubious claim into Bush’s speech only days before the US begins a planned invasion of Iraq. There is no proof that Bush ever saw the cable and he ultimately does not mention the claim in his speech. A senior intelligence official at the time will later claim that the White House proposed on multiple occasions to mention the claim in speeches by Bush and Vice President Cheney. While Bush never mentioned it, Cheney did on several occasions before the Iraq war began. For instance, in December 2001, Cheney claimed, “It’s been pretty well confirmed, that [Atta] did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service…” (see December 9, 2001). [Newsweek, 9/13/2006]
On March 14, 2003, Spanish police begin intensively monitoring Islamist militant Mouhannad Almallah. They locate his house on Quimicos street in Madrid and begin monitoring it too. They notice that his brother Moutaz is frequently traveling back and forth between Madrid and London. Police also apparently begin videotaping the house, although details on that are unclear. [El Mundo (Madrid), 8/10/2005] Mouhannad had been a suspect since 1998, and Moutaz since 1995, and both had already been monitored to some degree (see November 1995). Both were linked to the al-Qaeda cell originally run by Barakat Yarkas. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/2/2005] Surveillance on Mouhannad increased after police linked him to a group of militants meeting at the Virgen de Coro apartment owned and frequented by him and his brother (see January 17, 2003-Late March 2004). The police will continue to monitor him until the Madrid bombings. He will later get 12 years for his role in those bombings (see October 31, 2007).
The new head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), Jack Goldsmith, sends a classified memo to Deputy Attorney General James Comey. The contents of the memo remain secret, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will later learn that the memo concerns classified foreign intelligence activities (see February 25, 2003). [American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 ] (The ACLU has Goldsmith as the author of the memo, even though he is not nominated for the OLC slot until May 2003 [Savage, 2007, pp. 183] , and will not be confirmed for the position until five months after that (see October 6, 2003). The reason for the apparent discrepancy is not immediately discernible.)
The Justice Department sends a legal memorandum to the Pentagon that claims federal laws prohibiting torture, assault, maiming, and other crimes do not apply to military interrogators questioning al-Qaeda captives because the president’s authority as commander in chief overrides the law. The 81-page memo, written by the Office of Legal Counsel’s John Yoo, is not publicly revealed for over five years (see April 1, 2008).
President Can Order Maiming, Disfigurement of Prisoners - Yoo writes that infractions such as slapping, shoving, and poking detainees do not warrant criminal liability. Yoo goes even farther, saying that the use of mind-altering drugs can be used on detainees as long as they do not produce “an extreme effect” calculated to “cause a profound disruption of the senses or personality.” [John C. Yoo, 3/14/2003 ; Washington Post, 4/2/2008] Yoo asks if the president can order a prisoner’s eyes poked out, or if the president could order “scalding water, corrosive acid or caustic substance” thrown on a prisoner. Can the president have a prisoner disfigured by slitting an ear or nose? Can the president order a prisoner’s tongue torn out or a limb permanently disabled? All of these assaults are noted in a US law prohibiting maiming. Yoo decides that no such restrictions exist for the president in a time of war; that law does not apply if the president deems it inapplicable. The memo contains numerous other discussions of various harsh and tortuous techniques, all parsed in dry legal terms. Those tactics are all permissible, Yoo writes, unless they result in “death, organ failure, or serious impairment of bodily functions.” Some of the techniques are proscribed by the Geneva Conventions, but Yoo writes that Geneva does not apply to detainees captured and accused of terrorism. [Washington Post, 4/6/2008]
'National Self-Defense' - Yoo asserts that the president’s powers as commander in chief supersede almost all other laws, even Constitutional provisions. “If a government defendant were to harm an enemy combatant during an interrogation in a manner that might arguably violate a criminal prohibition, he would be doing so in order to prevent further attacks on the United States by the al-Qaeda terrorist network,” Yoo writes. “In that case, we believe that he could argue that the executive branch’s constitutional authority to protect the nation from attack justified his actions.… Even if an interrogation method arguably were to violate a criminal statute, the Justice Department could not bring a prosecution because the statute would be unconstitutional as applied in this context.” Interrogators who harmed a prisoner are protected by a “national and international version of the right to self-defense.” He notes that for conduct during interrogations to be illegal, that conduct must “shock the conscience,” an ill-defined rationale that will be used by Bush officials for years to justify the use of waterboarding and other extreme interrogation methods. Yoo writes, “Whether conduct is conscience-shocking turns in part on whether it is without any justification,” explaining that that it would have to be inspired by malice or sadism before it could be prosecuted.
Memo Buttresses Administration's Justifications of Torture - The Justice Department will tell the Defense Department not to use the memo nine months later (see December 2003-June 2004), but Yoo’s reasoning will be used to provide a legal foundation for the Defense Department’s use of aggressive and potentially illegal interrogation tactics. The Yoo memo is a follow-up and expansion to a similar, though more narrow, August 2002 memo also written by Yoo (see August 1, 2002). Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will suspend a list of aggressive interrogation techniques he had approved, in part because of Yoo’s memo, after an internal revolt by Justice Department and military lawyers (see February 6, 2003, Late 2003-2005 and December 2003-June 2004). However, in April 2003, a Pentagon working group will use Yoo’s memo to endorse the continued use of extreme tactics. [John C. Yoo, 3/14/2003 ; Washington Post, 4/2/2008; New York Times, 4/2/2008]
Justice Department Claims Attorney General Knows Nothing of Memo - Yoo sends the memo to the Pentagon without the knowledge of Attorney General John Ashcroft or Ashcroft’s deputy, Larry Thompson, senior department officials will say in 2008. [Washington Post, 4/4/2008]
Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, John C. Yoo, Larry D. Thompson, Al-Qaeda, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), Donald Rumsfeld, John Ashcroft, Geneva Conventions, US Department of Defense
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties
Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), the ranking Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, writes a letter to FBI Director Robert Mueller. Rockefeller asks for an FBI investigation of the forged Iraq-Niger documents (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, Late September 2001-Early October 2001, October 15, 2001, December 2001, February 5, 2002, February 12, 2002, October 9, 2002, October 15, 2002, January 2003, February 17, 2003, March 7, 2003, March 8, 2003, and 3:09 p.m. July 11, 2003), because “the fabrication of these documents may be part of a larger deception campaign aimed at manipulating public opinion and foreign policy regarding Iraq.” An FBI inquiry, Rockefeller writes, “should, at a minimum, help to allay any concerns” that the Bush administration itself created the documents to build support for the war. Committee chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) refuses to sign the letter [Washington Post, 3/22/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 292] , saying he believes it would be inappropriate for the FBI to launch such an inquiry. Secretary of State Colin Powell denies any role by the US government in creating the documents. [Associated Press, 3/14/2003] The FBI will not respond to Rockefeller’s request. [Future of Freedom Foundation, 9/2003]
A Moroccan named Yassir al-Jazeeri is captured in Lahore, Pakistan, by Pakistani police and the FBI. Al-Jazeeri is not on any wanted list and there is virtually no known public information about him before his arrest, but a Pakistani official will call him one of the seven top leaders of al-Qaeda. He is said to be linked to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in some way, who was arrested in Pakistan not long before (see February 29 or March 1, 2003). He is soon transferred into US custody. Witnesses see him at a CIA operated portion of the Bagram prison in Afghanistan in late 2003 through early 2004. One fellow detainee will later claim that al-Jazeeri told him he had been tortured and permanently injured, and forced to listen to loud music for four months straight. In 2007, Human Rights Watch will list him as a likely “ghost detainee” still being held by the US (see June 7, 2007). [Human Rights Watch, 6/7/2007]
Iyman Faris. [Source: Justice Department]Shortly after al-Qaeda leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is captured in Pakistan in early March 2003 (see February 29 or March 1, 2003), US investigators discover an e-mail sent to KSM from an associate in the US. They learn the e-mail is from Iyman Faris, a truck driver living in Columbus, Ohio, who is a naturalized US citizen from Kashmir, Pakistan. Faris had been working on a plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge by cutting its suspension cables, but in the e-mail he complained to KSM that such a plot would be impossible to carry out. Faris is secretly arrested around the middle of March, and taken to a government safe house in Virginia. FBI agents threaten to have him declared an enemy combatant unless he cooperates, and also offer to move his extended family from Pakistan to the US if he does cooperate. He agrees, and begins phoning and sending e-mail messages to other al-Qaeda operatives while the FBI watches. A senior US official will later say: “He was sitting in the safe house making calls for us. It was a huge triumph for law enforcement.” Faris pleads guilty in early May to providing material support to al-Qaeda. [Time, 6/30/2003] In late June, Newsweek reveals Faris’s links to al-Qaeda and KSM, presumably ending his effectiveness as an informant. Interestingly, Newsweek notes that Faris got a speeding ticket in Ohio in May, suggesting he was being allowed to travel. [Newsweek, 6/15/2003] The charges against him are made public days after the Newsweek article. He later withdraws his guilty plea, but is subsequently convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison. [CBS News, 6/14/2004]
A suspicious substance is discovered in a train station locker at the Gare de Lyon in central Paris. Agents find two vials of powder, a bottle of liquid, and two other vials with liquid. The Interior Ministry says the contents of the vials are “traces of ricin in a mixture which has proven to be a very toxic poison.” [Newsday, 4/12/2003] Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy calls for greater public vigilance and says there could be a connection with a network of Islamic extremists who were detained around the capital in December. Officials have in the past linked ricin production to al-Qaeda and Iraq. On January 5, British police claimed to find traces of ricin in a raid on a London flat during which five men of North African origin with alleged al-Qaeda connections were arrested (see January 5, 2003). [BBC, 4/11/2003]
Terrorism Scare - The discovery sparks widespread terrorism concerns just two days before the invasion of Iraq. French authorities double the number of soldiers in the streets to 800 and order increased surveillance in train stations and ports. Flights are temporarily banned over nuclear power plants, chemical, petrochemical and other sensitive facilities. [Newsday, 4/12/2003] Ricin, which is derived from castor beans, is relatively easy to make and stockpile. If added to food or drinks, or injected into a victim, it causes severe and rapid bleeding to the stomach and intestines. If the poison gets into the bloodstream, it can attack the liver, kidneys and spleen, often leading to death. It may be inhaled, ingested or injected. There is no treatment or antidote. [New York Times, 4/12/2003]
Alleged al-Qaeda link - US officials said in August that the Islamic extremist group Ansar al-Islam tested ricin along with other chemical and biological agents in northern Iraq, territory controlled by Kurds, not Saddam Hussein. The group is allegedly linked to al-Qaeda. UN weapons inspectors, who left Iraq in 1998 after a first round of inspections, listed ricin among the poisons they believed Saddam produced and later failed to account for. [Newsday, 4/12/2003]
False alarm - The ministry soon downgrades the assessment, saying the traces of suspected ricin are too minute to be lethal. In fact, the substance later proves to be entirely harmless. Further Defense Ministry laboratory tests show the vials contain a mixture of ground barley and wheat germ. “Preliminary tests pointed towards ricin but they were not confirmed by more complete analysis,” an official says. [BBC, 4/11/2003] They said the grain was mistakenly identified as ricin because it consists of protein whose structure is similar to that of ricin. [New York Times, 4/12/2003] However, French officials are still not entirely satisfied that the substances found are not in some way related to a planned terrorist attack. A senior Interior Ministry says the substances may be “the product of an experiment” or the remains of an effort to produce a toxic weapon. Antiterrorism police agents will continue to investigate the incident, the officials says. [New York Times, 4/12/2003]
Robin Cook. [Source: BBC]House of Commons leader and former Foreign Secretary Robin Cook resigns from British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s cabinet, in protest over the imminent invasion of Iraq. Cook announces his decision as the cabinet holds an emergency meeting at Downing Street. Cook says after his resignation is announced: “It is with regret I have today resigned from the cabinet. I can’t accept collective responsibility for the decision to commit Britain now to military action in Iraq without international agreement or domestic support.” Environment Secretary Margaret Beckett says she respects Cook’s decision to resign, and that everyone in the cabinet, including Blair himself, has anxieties about the upcoming invasion. However, Beckett says, “[N]one of the rest of us feel that they are enough to make us judge that the government is doing the wrong thing.” [BBC, 3/17/2003]
Resignation Speech - Cook retains his seat in the House of Commons. In his resignation speech to the House, Cook says in part, “I cannot support a war without international agreement or domestic support.” France, Russia, and Germany, who are battling to give UN inspectors more time to operate inside Iraq, cannot be blamed for stirring up what Cook calls “the degree of international hostility” towards the invasion. “The reality is that Britain is being asked to embark on a war without agreement in any of the international bodies of which we are a leading partner—not NATO, not the European Union and, now, not the [UN] Security Council. To end up in such diplomatic weakness is a serious reverse.” Unlike the US, Britain cannot “afford to go it alone” in the international community. “Our interests are best protected not by unilateral action but by multilateral agreement and a world order governed by rules,” he says. “Yet tonight the international partnerships most important to us are weakened: the European Union is divided; the Security Council is in stalemate. Those are heavy casualties of a war in which a shot has yet to be fired.”
Containment Worked - For himself, Cook says: “For four years as foreign secretary I was partly responsible for the western strategy of containment [of Saddam Hussein and Iraq]. Over the past decade that strategy destroyed more weapons than in the Gulf war, dismantled Iraq’s nuclear weapons program and halted Saddam’s medium and long-range missiles programs. Iraq’s military strength is now less than half its size than at the time of the last Gulf war. Ironically, it is only because Iraq’s military forces are so weak that we can even contemplate its invasion.”
If Iraq Is a Danger, Why Would an Invasion Be So Easy? - It would be a mistake to assume that an invasion will be an easy and relatively bloodless affair: “Some advocates of conflict claim that Saddam’s forces are so weak, so demoralized and so badly equipped that the war will be over in a few days. We cannot base our military strategy on the assumption that Saddam is weak and at the same time justify pre-emptive action on the claim that he is a threat.”
No Weapons of Mass Destruction - “Iraq probably has no weapons of mass destruction in the commonly understood sense of the term,” Cook says, “namely a credible device capable of being delivered against a strategic city target. It probably still has biological toxins and battlefield chemical munitions, but it has had them since the 1980s when US companies sold Saddam anthrax agents and the then British government approved chemical and munitions factories. Why is it now so urgent that we should take military action to disarm a military capacity that has been there for 20 years, and which we helped to create? Why is it necessary to resort to war this week, while Saddam’s ambition to complete his weapons program is blocked by the presence of UN inspectors?”
Comparing Iraq to Israel - Some have said Iraq has had 12 years to comply with UN resolutions demanding disarmament, Cook notes, but goes on to say that Israel has had over 30 years to comply with UN resolutions demanding its withdrawal from Palestinian territories, and has not yet done so. “We do not express the same impatience with the persistent refusal of Israel to comply,” he says. “Britain’s positive role in the Middle East does not redress the strong sense of injustice throughout the Muslim world at what it sees as one rule for the allies of the US and another rule for the rest. Nor is our credibility helped by the appearance that our partners in Washington are less interested in disarmament than they are in regime change in Iraq. That explains why any evidence that inspections may be showing progress is greeted in Washington not with satisfaction but with consternation: it reduces the case for war.”
Different Outcome under President Gore - Cook says, “What has come to trouble me most over past weeks is the suspicion that if the hanging chads in Florida had gone the other way and [2000 US presidential candidate] Al Gore had been elected, we would not now be about to commit British troops.”
Conclusion - “The longer that I have served in this place, the greater the respect I have for the good sense and collective wisdom of the British people,” Cook says. “On Iraq, I believe that the prevailing mood of the British people is sound. They do not doubt that Saddam is a brutal dictator, but they are not persuaded that he is a clear and present danger to Britain. They want inspections to be given a chance, and they suspect that they are being pushed too quickly into conflict by a US administration with an agenda of its own. Above all, they are uneasy at Britain going out on a limb on a military adventure without a broader international coalition and against the hostility of many of our traditional allies.” Cook is troubled that the House of Commons has never voted on whether or not to commit troops to Iraq, and he calls on Parliament to “stop the commitment of troops in a war that has neither international agreement nor domestic support.” [BBC, 3/18/2003]
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan orders all UN weapons inspectors, peacekeepers, and humanitarian aid workers to withdraw from Iraq. [Washington File, 3/17/2003] UN inspectors have been in Iraq since November 18 (see November 18, 2002). During their four months of work in Iraq, they inspected hundreds of sites (some of them more than once) and found no evidence of ongoing WMD programs. Their work was reportedly obstructed, not by the Iraqis, but by the US, which refused to provide inspectors with the intelligence they needed to identify sites for inspection (see February 12, 2003, December 5, 2002, December 6, 2002, December 20, 2002, and January 11, 2003). Of the 105 sites identified by US intelligence as likely housing illicit weapons, 21 were deliberately withheld from inspectors. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 344] Reflecting on the inspections in 2009, Hans Blix, the chief of the UN weapons inspection team, will say: “In March 2003, when the invasion took place, we could not have stood up and said, ‘There is nothing,’ because to prove the negative is really not possible. What you can do is to say that we have performed 700 inspections in some 500 different sites, and we have found nothing, and we are ready to continue. If we had been allowed to continue a couple of months, we would have been able to go to all of the some hundred sites suggested to us, and since there weren’t any weapons of mass destruction, that’s what we would have reported. And then I think that, at that stage, certainly the intelligence ought to have drawn the conclusion that their evidence was poor.” [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]
After the US Department of Defense publishes several reports linking al-Qaeda to Iraq, CIA Director George Tenet orders CIA researchers and analysts—who have maintained that there are no such links—to go through all the agency’s records on Iraq and al-Qaeda and search for evidence of the alleged relationship. CIA researcher Michael Scheuer leads the effort, which combs through about 19,000 documents going back nine or 10 years. Scheuer will later say, “there was no connection between [al-Qaeda] and Saddam. There were indications that al-Qaeda people had transited Iraq, probably with the Iraqis turning a blind eye to it. There were some hints that there was a contact between the head of the intelligence service of the Iraqis with bin Laden when he was in the Sudan, but nothing you could put together and say, ‘Here is a relationship that is similar to the relationship between Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah,’ which was what Doug Feith’s organization was claiming. There was simply nothing to support that.” [Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/24/2004; PBS Frontline, 6/20/2006; PBS Frontline, 6/20/2006 Sources: Michael Scheuer]
Gulshair Shukrijumah, Adnan’s father. [Source: Fox News]Suspect Adnan Shukrijumah is able to escape the US despite growing evidence of his involvement with al-Qaeda and even his connection with some 9/11 hijackers. Shukrijumah lives in Miramar, Florida, and neighbors claim to have seen him as recently as March 15 and 16, 2003. For instance, one neighbor, Orville Campbell, says he saw Shukrijumah at a neighborhood barbeque on the afternoon of March 16. On March 20, just four days later, the FBI announces a $5 million reward for Shukrijumah, after he apparently has left the country (see March 21, 2003 and After). Just after the announcement, the New York Times reports, “Residents of Miramar, Fla., said a man who appeared to be Mr. Shukrijumah was living there as recently as last weekend.” [New York Times, 3/21/2003] It is unclear why Shukrijumah was not monitored closely enough to prevent him leaving the US. CNN reports that Shukrijumah’s name first came up in documents recovered after 9/11 associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh was arrested in Pakistan in September 2002. Additionally, his name came up again in documents seized in early March 2003 when 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was arrested in Pakistan. Those documents referred to him as someone who would carry out a suicide attack. Additionally, by March 19, Mohammed identified him as one of his deputies. [CNN, 3/22/2003; US News and World Report, 3/30/2003] But those were hardly the first times US intelligence saw a link between Shukrijumah and al-Qaeda.
His father, Gulshair Shukrijumah, was the imam of a Florida mosque, and appears to have been under suspicion before 9/11 because of his links to the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, and others convicted of roles in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (2000-2001).
From November 2000 to the spring of 2002, the FBI in Florida investigated a group of Muslims it suspected of being terrorists, including Adnan Shukrijumah. Two members of the group were arrested in May 2002 and later found guilty and given prison sentences (see November 2000-Spring 2002). In April and May 2001, the focus was on Shukrijumah, but he was careful and the FBI was only able to prove that he lied on his green card application regarding a prior arrest (see April-May 2001).
An FBI informant, Elie Assaad, infiltrated the mosque run by Adnan’s father in early 2001, and grew suspicious of Adnan and his friend, 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. However, his FBI handlers assigned him easier targets instead (see Early 2001). Assaad claims that shortly after 9/11, he grew very upset after he realized that Atta was one of the hijackers. “I curse on everybody. I destroyed half of my furniture. Uh, I went crazy.” Presumably Assaad would have told his FBI superiors about the link between Shukrijumah and Atta, if they didn’t know about it already. [ABC News, 9/10/2009]
It appears that 9/11 hijacker Marwan al-Shehhi attended the same small mosque as Adnan Shukrijumah and Atta. Shortly after 9/11, the FBI visited the mosque and asked Adnan’s parents if they recognized any of the hijackers and if Adnan knew Atta or had mentioned trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan (see 2000-2001).
In the spring of 2001, the FBI also investigated Shukrijumah in connection with another Florida-based Islamist militant group. While the FBI developed evidence against others in the group, Shukrijumah kept his distance from the main plotters and he could not be linked to their plans (see (Spring 2001)).
Shukrijumah was also seen going to the Miami District Immigration Office with Atta and one other man, who may have been 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah (see May 2, 2001).
One article published in March 2003, shortly after the announcement of the reward money to find Shukrijumah, claims that in the months after 9/11, US agents went to his parents’ Florida home six times to ask about him, but he was never there. Furthermore, his parents claimed he had been gone since before 9/11 and rarely called. His parents also claim he is innocent of any links to Islamic militancy. [US News and World Report, 3/30/2003] It is unclear if the neighbors who knew Shukrijumah were mistaken that he was still in Florida well after 9/11, or if he was able to stay in the US for a long time without the FBI finding him.
According to a senior intelligence official interviewed by ABC News, “The CIA conducted more than 20 briefings on the Hill and elsewhere in the run-up to the war and in none of those did we offer up the yellowcake allegations.” [ABC News, 6/16/2003 Sources: Senior US intelligence official]
Numerous US and British, current and former, intelligence, military, and other government officials who have inside knowledge say that there is no evidence that Saddam Hussein’s regime has chemical or biological weapons or that he is currently developing them. [CBS News, 7/19/2003; Washington Post, 8/10/2003]
The CIA’s Iraq Operations Group discusses several ideas for discrediting Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in the eyes of his people using fake videos. One video would purport to show Hussein having sex with a teenage boy, according to two former CIA officials familiar with the project. “It would look like it was taken by a hidden camera,” one of the former officials will say. “Very grainy, like it was a secret videotaping of a sex session.” The idea is to then “flood Iraq with the videos,” the former official will add. Another idea is to interrupt Iraqi television programming with a fake special news bulletin. An actor playing Hussein would announce that he is stepping down in favor of his son Uday, who is unpopular with the Iraqi people. “I’m sure you will throw your support behind His Excellency Uday,” the fake Hussein would say. The agency’s Office of Technical Services collaborates on the ideas, which also include inserting fake “crawls”—messages at the bottom of the screen—into Iraqi newscasts. At the same time as these discussions, the agency makes a video with an Osama bin Laden impersonator (see (2003)). According to another former officer, the projects grind to a halt as nobody can come to an agreement on them. In particular, they are opposed by Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt and his deputy, Hugh Turner, who keeps “throwing darts at it.” The officer will say that the ideas are ridiculous and, “They came from people whose careers were spent in Latin America or East Asia,” and do not understand the cultural nuances of the region. “Saddam playing with boys would have no resonance in the Middle East—nobody cares,” a third former official will say. “Trying to mount such a campaign would show a total misunderstanding of the target. We always mistake our own taboos as universal when, in fact, they are just our taboos.” After the CIA abandons the projects, they are apparently revived by the military. “The military took them over,” one former official will say. “They had assets in psy-war down at Ft. Bragg,” at the Army’s Special Warfare Center. The projects will be revealed in the Washington Post in 2010. [Washington Post, 5/25/2010]
On the second day of a US invasion of Iraq, the US military conducts an airstrike against the training camp in Northern Iraq controlled by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. The camp is territory controlled by Kurdish rebels and it is believed that a chemical weapons lab is there. Prior to the start of the war, the US drew up three separate plans to attack the camp with air strikes, but each time the plans were rejected by the White House. [MSNBC, 3/2/2004] More than 40 cruise missiles hit the camp near the town of Khurmal, destroying what Gen. Tommy Franks calls a “massive terrorist facility.” But Saddam Hussein had been given an ultimatum before the start of the war, which meant the timing of the start of the war had been announced several days in advance. Not surprisingly, by the time the camp is hit, al-Zarqawi and many of his followers had already left it. One of al-Zarqawi’s top lieutenants, Abdul Hadi Daghlas, a.k.a. Abu Taisir, is killed. Al-Zarqawi will release an audio message several months later lamenting his death. [Wall Street Journal, 2/10/2004] Former National Security Council member Roger Cressey will later claim, “Here’s a case where they waited, they waited too long and now we’re suffering as a result inside Iraq.” [MSNBC, 3/2/2004]
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