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Osama bin Laden sends a letter to al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi, and US intelligence will learn about this a year or so later. This is one of the very few pieces of evidence known by US intelligence that suggests bin Laden is alive, after bin Laden escaped from Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in late 2001. Al-Libbi has been al-Qaeda’s operational commander since early 2003.
Guantanamo File Account - In April 2011, the non-profit whistleblower group Wikileaks will release the Guantanamo prison assessment file of al-Libbi, dated September 2008. According to this assessment, which is likely based on al-Libbi’s interrogations, al-Libbi receives a letter from bin Laden in October 2004 asking about al-Qaeda’s financial situation in Pakistan and especially Waziristan (part of Pakistan’s tribal region). Al-Libbi also gets a videotape of bin Laden’s speeches. (Note that the first video footage of bin Laden is publicly released in late October 2004 (see October 29, 2004).) Al-Libbi gets the letter and videotape from bin Laden’s courier, who first met up with al-Libbi in July 2003 (see July 2003-Mid-2004). [US Department of Defense, 9/10/2008]
Musharraf's 2006 Book - In a 2006 book, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will similarly mention that al-Libbi “was in contact with Osama through a courier and the last letter he had received from Osama was sometime in December 2004. We have been looking for the couriers intensely.” [Musharraf, 2006, pp. 172] Al-Libbi will be captured in May 2005, and apparently he is interrogated by Pakistan for a few days, and then turned over and interrogated much more by the US (see May 2, 2005). So different interrogations may explain the slightly different months mentioned in each account. Bin Laden’s courier will later be revealed to be Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed, and the US effort to track him will eventually lead to bin Laden (see May 2, 2011).
Author Mike Ruppert. [Source: From the Wilderness]Mike Ruppert, a former detective with the Los Angeles Police Department, publishes Crossing the Rubicon, in which he argues that al-Qaeda lauched the 9/11 attacks, but certain individuals within the Bush administration, the US Secret Service, and the CIA not only failed to stop the attacks but prevented others within government from stopping them. In contrast to other prominent skeptic literature (see, for example, November 8, 2005 and March 20, 2006), Ruppert focuses on non-physical evidence. He believes that those responsible for the attacks intended to use it as a pretext for war in the Middle East with the intention to gain control of a large amount of the planet’s oil reserves, which he thinks will soon start to run out, forcing prices higher. He also discusses the various war games on 9/11 (see (9:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001), allegations of insider trading before the attacks (see Early September 2001), whether the CIA had a hand in thwarting the Moussaoui investigation (see August 20-September 11, 2001), and US relations with Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (see October 7, 2001 and January 2000)). [Ruppert, 2004]
British customs agent Atif Amin is amazed by comments made by George Bush about the A. Q. Khan nuclear smuggling network in a presidential debate with John Kerry, when Bush says that the network has been “brought to justice.” Amin had investigated the network several years previously and found out a good deal, but his inquiry had been shut down (see Late March 2000). Although Amin had been astonished that it had taken until 2004 to close the network, authors David Armstrong and Joe Trento will describe Bush’s comments as the “most galling moment” for Amin, as he is “sickened by the notion of Bush trying to get political mileage out of the affair.” Amin tells colleagues: “[The CIA and the British intelligence service MI6] knew exactly what was going on all the time. If they’d wanted to they could have blown the whistle on this long ago.” [Armstrong and Trento, 2007, pp. 195]
The fractious and contentious relationship between the White House and the CIA, never good since planning began for the Iraq war (see January 2003), has boiled over into the public eye in recent days, according to a New York Times report. James Pavitt, the former head of the CIA’s Clandestine Service, says he has never seen anything approaching “the viciousness and vindictiveness” of the relationship between the White House and the CIA. In recent days, numerous classified assessments have been leaked to the press by people sympathetic to the CIA (see September 16, 2004, September 28, 2004, and October 4, 2004), “to the considerable embarrassment of the White House.” The White House, in turn, has called the authors of the assessments “pessimists and naysayers,” and dismissed a recent National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq as based on guesswork (see September 21-23, 2004). Some Republican partisans claim that the CIA is waging an “insurgency” or “vendetta” against the White House, an idea that both White House and CIA officials officially reject. “Wars bring things out in people that sometimes other disputes don’t,” says James Woolsey, a neoconservative and former CIA director who is a strong supporter of the administration’s Iraq and terrorism policies. “But even with the passions of war, I think you ought to keep it within channels.” Another former intelligence official is more critical of the agency: “The agency’s role is to tell the administration what it thinks, not to criticize its policies.” CIA defenders say it is important to set the record straight by revealing the agency’s warnings about the possible dire consequences of an Iraq occupation, warnings which the White House either ignored or mocked. “There was nothing in the intelligence that was a casus belli for war,” Pavitt says, noting that while the CIA might have been wrong about Iraq and WMD, it was much closer to the mark in its prewar warnings about the obstacles that an American occupying force would face in postwar Iraq. But, Pavitt, notes, “[t]he agency is not out to undermine this president.” [New York Times, 10/2/2004] Conservative defenders of the administration angrily attack the CIA for “insubordination” and betrayal, leaving liberals and progressives in the unusual position of defending the agency. [Roberts, 2008, pp. 153]
A US PSYOP leaflet disseminated in Iraq showing a caricature of al-Zarqawi caught in a rat trap. The caption reads: “This is your future, Zarqawi.” [Source: US Department of Defense]The Telegraph reports that US military intelligence agents in Iraq believe that the role of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the supposed leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, has been greatly exaggerated. The Bush administration has used al-Zarqawi as a villain to blame post-invasion troubles in the Iraq war and to connect the Iraqi insurgency to al-Qaeda (see February 9, 2004). [Daily Telegraph, 10/4/2004] For instance, in April 2004, US military spokesman Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch said that more than 90 percent of the suicide attacks in Iraq were carried out by terrorists recruited and trained by al-Zarqawi. [Washington Post, 6/10/2006] The Telegraph reports: “US military intelligence agents in Iraq have revealed a series of botched and often tawdry dealings with unreliable sources who, in the words of one source, ‘told us what we wanted to hear… We were basically paying up to $10,000 a time to opportunists, criminals, and chancers who passed off fiction and supposition about al-Zarqawi as cast-iron fact, making him out as the linchpin of just about every attack in Iraq… Back home this stuff was gratefully received and formed the basis of policy decisions. We needed a villain, someone identifiable for the public to latch on to, and we got one.’” Millitary intelligence officials believe that the insurgency is dominated by Iraqis and that the number of foreign fighters such as al-Zarqawi could be as low as 200. However, some of these officials complain that their reports to US leaders about this are largely being ignored. [Daily Telegraph, 10/4/2004] In 2006, leaked classified US military documents will show that the US military ran a propaganda campaign from at least early 2004 to exaggerate al-Zarqawi’s importance in the US and Iraqi media (see April 10, 2006).
Knight Ridder Newspapers reveals that a new CIA report released to top US officials the week before says there is no conclusive evidence linking Islamist militant Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and the former Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein. The CIA reviewed intelligence information at the request of Vice President Dick Cheney some months before. One official familiar with the report says it does not make clear judgments, and the evidence of a possible link is murky. For instance, the report claims that three of al-Zarqawi’s associates were arrested by the Iraqi government before the Iraq war, and Hussein ordered one of them released but not the other two. The report doubts that al-Zarqawi received medical treatment at a Baghdad hospital in May 2002, and flatly denies reports that al-Zarqawi had a leg amputated there or anywhere else (see January 26, 2003). One US official says, “The evidence is that Saddam never gave al-Zarqawi anything.” Several days after the report is given to top officials, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld backs away from previous claims he had made of a link between Hussein and al-Qaeda, saying, “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.” It is widely acknowledged that al-Zarqawi spent time in Iraq before the start of the Iraq war, but he generally stayed in a border region outside of Hussein’s control. [Knight Ridder, 10/4/2004]
Knight Ridder Newspapers reports on a leaked CIA assessment that undercuts the White House claim of links between al-Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. The assessment, requested some months ago by Vice President Cheney, finds no evidence to show that Saddam’s regime ever harbored Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, an independent colleague of Osama bin Laden (see April 2002), and finds no evidence of any “collaborative relationship” between the former Iraqi regime and al-Qaeda (see October 2, 2002). In February 2003, Secretary of State Colin Powell told the United Nations Security Council that al-Zarqawi went to Baghdad for medical treatment and, while there, helped establish a terrorist base in Baghdad (see February 5, 2003). The assessment now shows that claim was incorrect. So was the administration’s claim that al-Zarqawi received safe haven from Hussein. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who in September 2002 called the evidence of links between Hussein and al-Qaeda “bulletproof” (see September 26, 2002), now says, “To my knowledge, I have not seen any strong, hard evidence that links the two.” Rumsfeld continues, “I just read an intelligence report recently about one person [al-Zarqawi] who’s connected to al-Qaeda who was in and out of Iraq and there’s the most tortured description of why he might have had a relationship and why he might not have had a relationship.” In June 2003, President Bush called al-Zarqawi “the best evidence of connection” between Iraq and al-Qaeda; after the assessments are leaked, Bush insists that al-Zarqawi “was in and out of Baghdad,” apparently continuing to press the idea that Saddam and al-Qaeda were connected. Al-Zarqawi did spend a lot of time in Iraq, but almost always in the northern sections of Iraq where Saddam’s control did not reach. [Knight Ridder, 10/4/2004] The day after the Knight Ridder report, Vice President Cheney will say during a debate with vice-presidential opponent John Edwards (D-NC) that al-Zarqawi was based in Baghdad both before and after the March 2003 invasion, a claim that is demonstrably false (see October 5, 2004).
Six US soldiers are charged with manslaughter in the killing of Iraqi prisoners. Two soldiers, First Lieutenant Jack Saville and Sergeant First Class Tracy Perkins, are charged with forcing an Iraqi man, Zaidoun Fadel Hassoun, and Hassoun’s cousin to leap from a bridge into the Tigris River near Samarra. Hassoun drowned. Another prisoner death is also being investigated (see January 9, 2004), and may result in further charges against the six. [Colorado Springs Gazette, 10/5/2004]
Four US soldiers are charged with murdering an Iraqi major general in their custody. Almost a year ago, Major General Abed Hamed Mowhoush died during an interrogation at a base near Qaim, in western Iraq. Mowhoush was smothered to death (see November 26, 2003). The four soldiers are Chief Warrant Officers Jefferson L. Williams and Lewis E. Welshofer, Jr., Sergeant First Class William J. Sommer, and Specialist Jerry L. Loper. All are charged with murder and dereliction of duty. Williams, Welshofer, and Sommer were members of the 66th Military Company, a unit of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment. Loper was a member of the regiment’s Support Squadron, and assigned to helicopter maintenance. Only Welshofer has training in interrogation practices. Mowhoush, allegedly a high-ranking member of the anti-American insurgency, surrendered to US forces two weeks before his death. The Pentagon initially reported his death as due to “natural causes,” but now admits Mowhoush was tortured to death. “General Mowhoush was allegedly placed in a sleeping bag and then bound to prevent his movement,” a Pentagon report says. “One of the warrant officers [Welshofer] reportedly sat on his chest and continued the interrogation. General Mowhoush was then rolled over, and the warrant officer sat on his back.” Mowhoush died in that position. A medical examination proved that he had died of asphyxiation. Other documents later show that Mowhoush had a bag pulled over his head, the bag was wrapped tightly with electrical cords, and he was beaten and kicked by a crowd of interrogators and officials (see January 19, 2006). Regiment commander Colonel David Teeples says of the charges, “There is no evidence, there is no proof.” Much of the evidence presented in the case is classified and may not ever be made public. “If there are witnesses or documents that would disclose classified information, the trial is closed for those portions,” says retired Air Force Colonel Skip Morgan, a former military judge. [Colorado Springs Gazette, 10/5/2004] The murder charge against Sommer will later be dropped. Williams and Loper will make plea agreements in return for their testimony against Welshofer. [Rocky Mountain News, 1/17/2006] Welshofer will be convicted, but will not serve jail time or even be discharged from the Army (see January 24, 2006).
The Iraq Survey Group concludes in its final report, authored by Charles Duelfer, that Saddam Hussein wanted to acquire weapons of mass destruction as a deterrent against the United States and Iran, but that there is no evidence that Iraq had a WMD stockpile or program at the time of the invasion. Rather evidence indicates that Iraq’s WMD capability was destroyed in 1991. Roughly 1,750 experts have inspected some 1,200 potential WMD sites since the war began. [CNN, 10/7/2004] With regard to the alleged biological weapon labs, the report says that an “exhaustive investigation” has demonstrated that the trailers found shortly after the invasion of Iraq by US forces (see May 9, 2003)
(see April 19, 2003) were not “part of any BW [biological weapons] program.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 9/30/2004; Los Angeles Times, 11/20/2005] Rather they were “almost certainly intended” for the production of hydrogen for artillery weather balloons. [Washington Post, 4/12/2006]
British Guantanamo prisoner Feroz Abbasi argues during his Combatant Status Review Tribunal hearing that he should be granted POW status in accordance with the Geneva Conventions. One of the three Tribunal members, an Air Force colonel, replies: “Mr. Abbasi, your conduct is unacceptable…. I don’t care about international law. I don’t want to hear the words ‘international law’ again.” [Sunday Times (London), 11/21/2004]
The letter sent by an Iraqi official to IAEA inspectors reporting hundreds of tons of missing explosives. [Source: New York Times]Dr. Mohammed Abbas of the Iraqi Ministry of Science and Technology writes a letter to the International Atomic Energy Agency warning that the huge explosives cache at Al Qaqaa (see May 2003) has been cleaned out. The IAEA had warned US officials of the likelihood of such an event months before, as well as before the March 2003 invasion (see May 2004). Abbas says that “urgent updating of the registered materials is required.” According to Abbas, the facility is missing around 377 tons of HMX, RDX, and PETN explosives, some of the most powerful explosives ever created. HMX stands for “high melting point explosive,” RDX for “rapid detonation explosive,” and PETN for “pentaerythritol tetranitrate.” The IAEA will forward the letter to the US. IAEA head Mohamed ElBaradei is “extremely concerned” about the “potentially devastating consequences” of the missing explosives, according to a European diplomat. Dr. Van Romero of the New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology says: “HMX and RDX have a lot of shattering power.… Getting a large amount is difficult” because most nations carefully regulate who can buy such explosives. An expert who recently led a team that searched Iraq for deadly arms says that the “immediate danger” of the looted explosives “is its potential use with insurgents in very small and powerful explosive devices. The other danger is that it can easily move into the terrorist web across the Middle East.” [New York Times, 10/25/2004]
British Prime Minister Tony Blair formally admits that he was wrong to have claimed that Saddam Hussein could deploy weapons of mass destruction within 45 minutes of giving the order (see September 24, 2002 and September 24, 2002). Blair’s Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, reveals that MI6, the British intelligence agency, has formally withdrawn the claim, as well as other intelligence concerning Iraq’s ability to produce biological weapons. The claim has been heavily refuted for well over a year (see Late May 2003 and August 16, 2003). Straw refuses to say that it was a mistake to overthrow the Saddam government, saying instead that “deciding to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt would have required a huge leap of faith.… I do not accept, even with hindsight, that we were wrong to act as we did.” He notes that other governments, most notably the US government, were also convinced that Saddam had an array of WMD which could have been quickly deployed against targets in the region. Conservative MP Gary Streeter says the Blair administration owes the nation a “full apology”: “Not an apology for the intelligence but an apology for the way that the intelligence was conveyed by the government to the country.” [Age (Melbourne), 10/14/2004] Liberal Democrat Party leader Charles Kennedy accuses Blair of “avoiding answering” questions about the absence of Iraqi WMD. Liberal Democrat deputy leader Menzies Campbell says: “The withdrawal of the 45-minute claim drives a horse and cart through government credibility.… The building blocks of the government’s case for military action are crumbling before our eyes.” [Belfast Telegraph, 10/13/2004]
Mamoun Darkazanli. [Source: Associated Press]Mamoun Darkazanli, under investigation for ties to al-Qaeda long before 9/11, is finally arrested in Germany. The Chicago Tribune calls him “one of the most elusive and mysterious figures associated with al-Qaeda and the Sept. 11 hijackers.” He has been living openly in Germany since the 9/11 attacks. The reason for the timing of the arrest is unclear, but there is speculation it may be to preempt an attempt by Darkazanli to apply for asylum in Syria, the nation of his birth. Because German anti-terrorism laws were so weak until after 9/11, he cannot even be convicted of financing terrorism. However, he is also wanted in Spain where prosecutors have been building a case against him and his associates. Germany says it intends to extradite him to Spain, but Darkazanli claims he’s innocent and is going to fight the extradition. [Chicago Tribune, 10/15/2004]
Abdurahman Alamoudi. [Source: Wikipedia/ public domain]Muslim activist Abdurahman Alamoudi is sentenced to 23 years in prison in the US for illegal dealings with Libya. Charges include that he was involved in a complex plot to kill Crown Price Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia. Prosecutors successfully argued that Alamoudi served as a go-between Saudi dissidents and Libyan officials involved in the plot. Alamoudi admitted that he illegally moved money from Libya, taking nearly $1 million and using it to pay conspirators. The plot, thought to stem from a personality dispute between the leaders of Libya and Saudi Arabia, was ultimately foiled by the Saudi government. The Washington Post notes that Alamoudi was “one of America’s best-known Muslim activists—a former head of the American Muslim Council who met with senior Clinton and Bush administration officials in his efforts to bolster Muslim political prominence.” He was “once so prominent that his influence reached the highest levels of the US government.” Alamoudi is said to be cooperating with US investigators as part of the deal. It is believed that his testimony could be very useful to an ongoing probe of the SAAR network, since he was closely involved with that network (see March 20, 2002). [Washington Post, 10/16/2004]
Islamist militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his group al-Tawhid pledges loyalty to bin Laden in a statement posted on the Internet. He states, [Let it be known that] al-Tawhid pledges both its leaders and its soldiers to the mujahid commander, Sheikh Osama bin Laden…” [Bergen, 2006, pp. 364] Bin Laden and al-Zarqawi began discussing the possibility of an alliance in early 2004 (see Early 2004). There had been other occasional contacts and linkages between al-Zarqawi and his group in years past, but al-Zarqawi had generally maintained his independence from al-Qaeda. Just one month earlier, al-Zarqawi stated, “I have not sworn allegiance to [bin Laden] and I am not working within the framework of his organization.” [Newsweek, 4/4/2005] The Atlantic Monthly will later report that at the same time al-Zarqwai made his loyalty oath, he also “proclaimed himself to be the ‘Emir of al-Qaeda’s Operations in the Land of Mesopotamia,’ a title that subordinated him to bin Laden but at the same time placed him firmly on the global stage. One explanation for this coming together of these two former antagonists was simple: al-Zarqawi profited from the al-Qaeda franchise, and bin Laden needed a presence in Iraq. Another explanation is more complex: bin Laden laid claim to al-Zarqawi in the hopes of forestalling his emergence as the single most important terrorist figure in the world, and al-Zarqawi accepted bin Laden’s endorsement to augment his credibility and to strengthen his grip on the Iraqi tribes. Both explanations are true. It was a pragmatic alliance, but tenuous from the start.” [Atlantic Monthly, 6/8/2006] In December 2004, an audiotape said to be the voice of bin Laden acknowledges al-Zarqawi’s comments. “It should be known that the mujahid brother Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is the emir of the al-Qaeda organization in [Iraq]. The brothers in the group there should heed his orders and obey him in all that which is good.” [Bergen, 2006, pp. 364-365]
Shyam Sunder. [Source: NIST]The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) releases nearly 500 pages of documents, detailing the latest findings of its investigation of the WTC collapses on 9/11. These include its hypotheses for the collapse sequences of each of the Twin Towers; details of their analysis of interviews with nearly 1,200 building occupants, emergency responders, and victims’ relatives; and information from their analysis of the emergency response and evacuation procedures. Their investigation into the collapses is based upon an analysis of thousands of photos and videos, examination of many of the elements used to construct the towers, and computer-enhanced modeling of the plane impacts and the spreading of the fires. Their hypothesis is that the towers collapsed ultimately due to the fires they suffered: As the fires burned, the buildings’ steel core columns buckled and shortened. This shifted more load to the buildings’ perimeter columns, which were already affected by the heat of the fires, and caused them to give way under the increased stress. Investigators have conducted a test with a reconstructed section of the WTC floor, and found that the original fireproofing was sufficient to meet the New York City building code. They say that had a typical office fire occurred in the towers, without the structural damage and the loss of some fireproofing caused by the plane impacts, it is likely the buildings would have remained standing. Lead investigator Dr. Shyam Sunder says, “The buildings performed as they should have in the airplane impact and extreme fires to which they were subjected. There is nothing there that stands out as abnormal.” NIST’s theories of why the WTC buildings collapsed conflict with an earlier investigation by FEMA, which claimed the collapse of the North Tower had begun in its core, rather than its perimeter columns (see May 1, 2002). [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 10/19/2004; New York Times, 10/20/2004]
Noor Uthman Muhammed, a detainee being held at Guantanamo, disputes many of the allegations made against him at a combatant status review tribunal hearing to determine if he is an enemy combatant. Muhammed admits receiving and giving military training at Khalden Camp in Afghanistan, buying food for the camp, and being captured with training camp facilitator Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). However, he contests many of the charges, and he denies:
Handling one of the weapons he is accused of using, the Zukair anti-aircraft weapon, which he says he has never heard of;
Procuring a fax machine for Osama bin Laden. He did attempt to buy a piece of similar equipment, but the deal did not go through and the equipment was for himself, not bin Laden, who he has never met;
Being assisted in his escape from Afghanistan by a senior al-Qaeda lieutenant. When he asks for the lieutenant’s name, the military officials are unable to provide it;
Having a Somali passport;
Being associated with al-Qaeda. He comments: “I have no knowledge of al-Qaeda, and I don’t know anybody from there. But if you want to say that I’m Muslim and want to make-believe I belong to al-Qaeda, then that is something different”;
Being associated with the Taliban. He comments: “I don’t know anything about the Taliban. I never carried arms with them.” [US Department of Defense, 2004 ]
Deputy Homeland Security Adviser Richard Falkenrath. [Source: US State Department]The Washington Post reports that President Bush remains focused on the capture of top al-Qaeda leaders and has shown little interest in other counterterrorism efforts. The Post reports, “Bush conducts the war on terrorism above all as a global hunt for a cast of evil men he knows by name and photograph. He tracks progress in daily half-hour meetings that Richard A. Falkenrath, who sometimes attended them before departing recently as deputy homeland security adviser, described as ‘extremely granular, about individual guys.’” Falkenrath says, “This is a conversation he’s been having every day, more or less, with his senior advisers since September 11th.” It covers “the same people, over and over again.”
"Decapitate the Beast" - In 2002, the CIA identified about 30 al-Qaeda leaders known as “high-value targets,” and the Bush administration believed al-Qaeda would collapse without them. White House counterterrorism adviser Frances Townsend similarly says Bush’s strategy since 9/11 has been to “decapitate the beast.” She says the men on the list have “unique expertise, experience, or access.” Al-Qaeda may replace them, “but does that person have the same strength and leadership and capability? The answer is no. Maybe he acquires it on the job, but maybe not.” However, many counterterrorism experts increasingly believe that al-Qaeda has turned into more of an ideology than a hierarchical structure, and that the movement can easily survive the loss of its top leaders.
Crossing Names Off a List - Since shortly after 9/11, Bush has had a card containing a list of the names of the top al-Qaeda leaders, and he likes to personally cross them off the card whenever any are captured or killed. The Post says that Bush “mentions little else, save the Taliban’s expulsion from power, when describing progress against al-Qaeda. According to people who have briefed him, Bush still marks changes by hand” on his copy of list of leaders. He sees the issue largely in terms of a battle of wills between himself and al-Qaeda leaders, although he also focuses on removing the governments of countries he believes are state sponsors of terrorism, such as Iraq.
Bush Not Interested in Root Causes of Terrorism - Bush is uninterested in polls showing sharply rising anti-US sentiment overseas, particularly in Muslim countries. One high high-ranking national security official says of the increasing Muslim hostility to the US, “I don’t think it matters.” Many counterterrorism experts and officials disagree. Wayne Downing, Bush’s counterterrorism “tsar” from late 2001 until early 2004, says that Osama bin Laden has worked effectively to “convince the Islamic world the US is the common enemy.… We have done little or nothing [to combat this perception]. That is the big failure.” The Post says that “strong majorities of several dozen officers and officials who were interviewed… cite a long list of proposals to address terrorism at its roots that have not been carried out.” [Washington Post, 10/22/2004]
A 1996 photograph of one of the Al Qaqaa storage bunkers. [Source: New York Times]The US media learns that Iraq’s interim government reports that nearly 380 tons of powerful conventional explosives, used to demolish buildings, make missile warheads, and detonate nuclear weapons, are missing from a former military installation (see October 10, 2004). The facility, Al Qaqaa, was supposed to be under US control but in reality is “a no-man’s land,” in the words of the New York Times, “picked over by looters as recently as” October 24. UN inspectors and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) had monitored the huge cache of explosives for years. The IAEA says that machine tools usable for either nuclear or non-nuclear purposes are also missing. White House and Pentagon inspectors admit that the explosives disappeared some time after the US-led invasion of Iraq. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice was informed of the missing explosives within the last month; according to the Times, “[i]t is unclear whether President Bush was informed.” US officials began answering questions about the missing explosives after reporters from the Times and CBS’s “60 Minutes” began asking questions. The CIA’s Iraq Survey Group has been asked to investigate the disappearance.
Similar Explosives Used in Other Terrorist Attacks - The immediate concern, according to US officials, is the explosives’ possible use in major bombing attacks against American and/or Iraqi forces. The explosives, mainly HMX and RDX, can be used in bombs strong enough to destroy airplanes or large buildings. The Times notes that the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland (see After December 21, 1988) used less than a pound of such explosive. Larger amounts of the same kinds of explosives were used in the November 2003 Riyadh bombings (see May 12, 2003) and a September 1999 bombing of a Moscow apartment complex (see September 9, 1999 and September 13, 1999). The explosives can also be used to trigger a nuclear weapon, the primary reason why it had been, until the invasion, monitored by UN inspectors from the IAEA.
Repeated IAEA Warnings - The IAEA had publicly warned about the danger of the Al Qaqaa explosives before the invasion, and after the overthrow of the Iraqi government, IAEA officials specifically told US officials that they needed to keep the facility locked down (see May 2003). Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita says that the missing explosives need to be kept in perspective, as US and allied forces “have discovered and destroyed perhaps thousands of tons of ordnance of all types.” Iraq’s Minister of Science and Technology, Dr. Rashad Omar, tells Times and CBS reporters: “Yes, they [the 380 tons of explosives] are missing. We don’t know what happened.” Omar says that after the invasion, Al Qaqaa was the responsibility of the Coalition Provisional Authority, which served as Iraq’s de facto government until June 2004 (see June 28, 2004). “After the collapse of the regime, our liberation, everything was under the coalition forces, under their control,” he says. “So probably they can answer this question, what happened to the materials.” The CPA is defunct; Bush administration officials say they don’t know where the explosives could be. One senior official says that the Qaqaa complex was listed as a “medium priority” site on the CIA’s list of more than 500 sites that needed to be searched and secured during the invasion. “Should we have gone there? Definitely,” says one senior official. Another senior official says that US soldiers gave the Qaqaa facility a cursory inspection during the push towards Baghdad in early April, but “saw no bunkers bearing the IAEA seal.”
Refusal to Allow IAEA Inspections after Occupation - Satellite photos taken in late 2003 showed that two of the ten bunkers containing HMX had exploded, presumably from bombing during the US offensive, but eight remained relatively intact. The Bush administration refused to let the IAEA back into Iraq to inspect and verify the Qaqaa facility or any of the other stockpiles formerly monitored by IAEA officials. By May 2004, the IAEA was warning CPA officials that the facility had probably been looted (see May 2004).
More Unguarded Stockpiles - Iraq is dotted with unguarded stockpiles of explosives, say US military and administration officials. One senior administration official notes, “The only reason this stockpile was under seal is because it was located at Al Qaqaa,” where nuclear work had gone on years ago. [New York Times, 10/25/2004]
CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. [Source: Department of Energy]The CIA analyzes bin Laden’s new speech, which was released four days before the US presidential election (see October 29, 2004), and concludes that it improves George Bush’s reelection chances. According to author Ron Suskind, the CIA, which has “spent years… parsing each word of the al-Qaeda leader,” knows that “bin Laden speaks only for strategic reasons—and those reasons are debated with often startling depth inside the organization’s leadership.” The analysts conclude that “bin Laden’s message was clearly designed to assist the president’s reelection.” Deputy Director John McLaughlin says in a meeting analyzing the speech, “Bin Laden certainly did a nice favor today for the president.” CIA deputy associate director Jami Miscik similarly comments, “Certainly, he would want Bush to keep doing what he’s doing for a few more years.” However, the CIA does not discuss why bin Laden wants Bush to stay. Suskind will write, “But an ocean of hard truths before them—such as what did it say about US policies that bin Laden would want Bush reelected—remained untouched.” CIA officer Rolf Mowatt-Larssen will later say: “It was sad. We just sat there. We were dispirited.” Several National Security Council members have already reached the conclusion that bin Laden’s presence on the international stage helps Bush (see October 29, 2004). Both presidential candidates condemn bin Laden. John Kerry says, “As Americans, we are absolutely united in our determination to hunt down and destroy Osama bin Laden.” George Bush says, “Americans will not be intimidated or influenced by an enemy of our country.” [Suskind, 2006, pp. 335-6] Several commentators believe the intervention will help Bush, for example:
Veteran journalist Walter Cronkite says, “I have a feeling that it could tilt the election a bit. In fact, I’m a little inclined to think that Karl Rove, the political manager at the White House, who is a very clever man, he probably set up bin Laden to this thing.” [CNN, 10/29/2004]
Roger Simon of US News and World Report says, “I don’t have any trouble parsing out who this helps. I think this is an enormous boost for George Bush.” [CNN, 10/29/2004]
MSNBC host Chris Matthews says, “The big thing in politics, of course, is picking the right topic… This creates a terrible situation for the challenger, because it seems to me that Karl Rove has his finger on this.” [MSNBC, 10/29/2004]
MSNBC correspondent Andrea Mitchell says, “It makes it harder for Kerry, and it shifts the subject matter back to what George Bush is strongest on. So the Bush people may not say that they are happy about this, but I’m sure that they could not be more pleased that this is the subject of the closing days. How do you say October surprise? This is one that could benefit the president.” [MSNBC, 10/29/2004]
CNBC co-host Lawrence Kudlow says, “It will play into Bush’s hands.… it falls into Bush’s lap. And unlike 2000, I think it’s the kind of thing that will cause the remaining undecided voters in the next 72 hours or so to break for Bush.” [MSNBC, 10/29/2004]
Weekly Standard staff writer Stephen Hayes says, “I think that, as most people have indicated, that is likely to help President Bush.” [MSNBC, 10/29/2004]
Other commentators from across the political spectrum who suggest the speech will help Bush include Fox News correspondent Major Garrett, Boston Herald columnist Mike Barnicle, Time magazine correspondent Karen Tumulty, former plumber G. Gordon Liddy, former presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, the Cook Political Report editor and publisher Charlie Cook, Washington Post journalist Jeffery Birnhaum, and Roll Call executive editor Morton Kondracke. [Fox News, 10/29/2004; Fox News, 10/29/2004; CNN, 10/29/2004; MSNBC, 10/29/2004; MSNBC, 10/29/2004] Some right wing commentators suggest that the tape will help Kerry, including Fox News political commentator Dick Morris, Weekly Standard executive editor Fred Barnes, Washington Times reporter Bill Gertz, Fox News host Sean Hannity, and author Peggy Noonan. [Fox News, 10/29/2004; Fox News, 10/29/2004; Fox News, 10/29/2004; Fox News, 10/29/2004] A Newsweek poll shows that Bush’s lead increases after the tape is released and, after the election, John Kerry, the losing Democratic candidate, will attribute his failure to bin Laden’s intervention: “We were rising in the polls until the last day the tape appeared. We flat-lined the day the tape appeared, and went down on Monday.” [Daily Telegraph, 11/1/2004; MSNBC, 1/30/2005] George Bush will also agree that the tape helped, saying, “I thought it was going to help. I thought it would help remind people that if bin Laden doesn’t want Bush to be the president, something must be right with Bush.” [Reuters, 3/1/2006]
Entity Tags: John Kerry, Lawrence Kudlow, Karen Tumulty, Joseph Scarborough, Michael Barnicle, John E. McLaughlin, Walter Cronkite, Osama bin Laden, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, Stephen Hayes, Morton Kondrake, Sean Hannity, Patrick Buchanan, Jeff Birnbaum, Peggy Noonan, Jami Miscik, Roger Simon, G. Gordon Liddy, George W. Bush, Bill Gertz, Central Intelligence Agency, Andrea Mitchell, Chris Matthews, Fred Barnes, Dick Morris, Charles Cook
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 2004 Elections
Roughly around 2004, the CIA suspects that Osama bin Laden has moved from the mountains of Pakistan or Afghanistan to an urban area in Pakistan. Marty Martin leads the CIA’s hunt for bin Laden from 2002 to 2004. After bin Laden’s death in 2011, he will say: “We could see from his videos what his circumstances were. In the immediate years [after bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora in late 2001] he looked battle fatigued and on the run. He didn’t look healthy. We knew he was moving. But where? We simply didn’t know. Then, he gained weight and looked healthy. I told my analysts, ‘He’s gone urban, moved somewhere stable and safe.’” [ABC News, 5/19/2011] The only publicly known video of bin Laden after December 2001 is one released in October 2004, so Martin presumably is referring to that (see December 26, 2001 and October 29, 2004).
Mustafa Abu al-Yazid. [Source: Al Jazeera]A US patrol allegedly nearly accidentally stumbles upon bin Laden. High-ranking
al-Qaeda leader Mustafa Abu al-Yazid will tell the following story to Omar Farooqi, a Taliban officer who later tells it to a Newsweek reporter. Bin Laden and his entourage is holed up somewhere in the mountains along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. A sentry spots of a patrol of US soldiers who seem headed straight for the hideout. The sentry radios an alert to bin Laden’s 40 or so bodyguards to remove him to a fallback position and supposedly there is even talk of killing bin Laden to prevent him from being taken alive. But the sentry watches the patrol move in a different direction without realizing how close they accidentally came to bin Laden. A former US intelligence officer later tells Newsweek that he is aware of official reporting on this incident. [Newsweek, 8/28/2007]
Several months after the CIA receives an Iranian laptop computer supposedly containing top-secret information about Iran’s nuclear program (see Summer 2004), US officials admit they cannot confirm the reliability of the laptop’s documents (see November 17-18, 2004). [New York Times, 11/20/2004] Under analysis, the documents begin to lose reliability. Nonproliferation expert Jeffrey Lewis of the New America Foundation will later say that he and fellow experts began disparagingly referring to the computer as “the laptop of death.” One of the biggest warning flags, Lewis will say, is the crude manner in which the documents on the laptop were constructed: “What led many of us to have serious doubts about it was how utterly unconnected from reality some of the information seemed. Some of the reports indicated that some of the view graphs were done in Powerpoint, which suggested to me that the program was not terribly sophisticated.” [Inter Press Service, 12/9/2006; New York Times, 12/4/2007]
IAEA Response - Officials with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will say that the laptop evidence, like much of the US’s other intelligence on Iran, is unreliable. “Since 2002, pretty much all the intelligence that’s come to us has proved to be wrong,” a senior diplomat at the IAEA will say. Another IAEA official will describe the agency’s intelligence stream as “very cold now” because “so little panned out.” IAEA officials are suspicious of the documents in part because most of the papers are written in English and not in Persian. “We don’t know. Are they genuine, are they real?” a senior UN official will ask. Another official who was briefed on the documents will describe himself as “very unconvinced.” Iran’s representative to the IAEA, Ali Asghar Soltanieh, will call the laptop documents nothing but “fabricated information” and “nonsense.” [Los Angeles Times, 2/25/2007]
The Defense Department considers plans to create a Pentagon-controlled espionage school, which would duplicate the CIA’s own Field Tradecraft Course at Camp Perry, Va. [Washington Post, 1/23/2005]
A Pentagon memo states that agents recruited as part of the Pentagon’s covert operations program, the Strategic Support Branch (see October 2001-April 2002), “may include ‘notorious figures’ whose links to the US government would be embarrassing if disclosed.” [Washington Post, 1/23/2005]
The Army completes a classified report on detainee abuse at Camp Nama, a Special Forces detention center at Baghdad International Airport. The report is based on an investigation led by Brigadier General Richard Formica into three specific allegations against the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Arabian Peninsula, which operates throughout Iraq. Formica’s report concludes that detainees who report being sodomized or beaten are seeking sympathy and better treatment, and thus are not credible. The report cites an Army medical report which had initially noted that a complaining detainee’s wounds were “consistent with the history [of abuse] he provided.… The doctor did find scars on his wrists and noted what he believed to be an anal fissure.” Two days later, Formica had the detainee re-examined by another doctor, who found “no fissure, and no scarring.” Formica concludes, “As a result, I did not find medical evidence of the sodomy.” In the case of a detainee who died in custody, Formica reports that the detainee suffered bruising to the “shoulders, chest, hip, and knees” but adds, “It is not unusual for detainees to have minor bruising, cuts, and scrapes.” A July 2006 report by Human Rights Watch will find evidence of “serious mistreatment” of detainees based on witness accounts of Special Forces interrogators and other US personnel. Formica will note in an e-mail: “I conducted a thorough investigation… and stand by my report.… [S]everal issues” he discovered “were corrected,” he will say. [Armed Forces Press Service, 6/17/2006; New Yorker, 6/17/2007]
Mary Galligan. [Source: FBI]Mary Galligan, the head of the FBI’s 9/11 investigation, says that the 9/11 attacks were virtually unstoppable. Galligan was the head of the FBI’s domestic terror squad in the summer of 2001, and then headed PENTTBOM, the FBI’s 9/11 investigation from just after the 9/11 attacks until early 2004 (see June 14, 2004). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 7/1/2010] She says: “If I had [9/11 hijacker Mohamed] Atta—say, we got a call from a next-door neighbor, and we sent a guy out there—he’s not gonna give us the plan, so the agent is gonna come back to me and say, ‘Mary, he’s nothing.’ And what could I do? Nothing. Or let’s assume we learned the hijackers’ names in 2000. We would have surveilled them and listened to their conversations. But we know now they didn’t even know the plan at that time. If we approached them, they would have left the country. Would bin Laden then have sent more people? Yes.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] Galligan’s comment that the hijackers didn’t know the plan for 9/11 is contradicted by much evidence. For instance, in March 2001, most of them recorded videos in which they pledged to die martyrs in the US, and some of these videos were made public in 2002 and 2003 (see (December 2000-March 2001)).
A former CIA officer will tell New Yorker reporter Seymour Hersh that, in mid-2004, the White House began putting pressure on CIA analysts “to see more support for the administration’s political position.” But after Porter Goss becomes the new CIA director (see September 24, 2004) and the November 2004 election passes, a “political purge” of employees who have written papers that dissent with Bush policies begins. One former official notes that only “true believers” remain. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
'Creeping Politicization' - An anonymous former CIA official tells Newsday: “The agency is being purged on instructions from the White House. Goss was given instructions… to get rid of those soft leakers and liberal Democrats.” [Newsday, 11/14/2004] In 2007, CIA analyst Valerie Plame Wilson will write, “Employees’ worst fears about the creeping politicization of the CIA” are confirmed when Goss issues the memo about the agency supporting the administration. She will observe: “Although a CIA spokesman explained the memo as a statement of the agency’s nonpartisan nature, it appeared to be just the opposite. It had a kind of creepy Orwellian Ministry of Truth ring to it—further dismaying CIA staffers who believed the agency was rapidly losing credibility and power as partisan politics began to degrade its work product.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 212] Days after the November 2004 presidential election, Goss circulates an internal memorandum to all CIA employees, telling them their job is to “support the administration and its policies in our work.” [New York Times, 11/17/2004] The memo also contains a caveat that they should “let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.” However, an op-ed in the Los Angeles Times calls this mere “lip service,” and says the memo leaves “the impression that in the second Bush administration, the White House will run the CIA.… Goss has confirmed the worst fears of critics who warned he was too partisan when Bush appointed him.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/21/2004]
Morale 'Dangerously Low,' Many Senior Officials Leave - Plame Wilson will recall hearing from her colleagues throughout August, while she was on leave, “that morale was dangerously low, and there was a spirit of outright revolt towards Porter Goss and his ‘Gosslings.’ Everyone was calculating the benefits of staying or jumping from the fast-sinking ship.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 213] Such new policies inspire more employees to leave. By the time the purge is completed in early 2005, about 20 senior CIA officials will have resigned or retired. Only one member of the leadership team from George Tenet’s tenure will remain. [Washington Post, 1/6/2005] Newsweek says the “efforts at cleaning house may have only thrown the spy agency into deeper turmoil.” [Newsweek, 2/21/2005] Plame Wilson will write: “At least one thousand years of hard-earned operational experience walked out when our country’s national security needs were greatest. It was devastating.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 213]
The New York Times agrees to a White House request to withhold publication of a potential “bombshell” story: an in-depth article revealing an enormous, and possibly illegal, warrantless wiretapping program executed by the NSA at President Bush’s behest after the 9/11 attacks. The Times will publish the story almost a year later (see December 15, 2005). In August 2006, the Times’s public editor, Byron Calame, will confirm the delay, and note that he has been “increasingly intrigued” by the various descriptions of the delay by Times editor Bill Keller (see December 16, 2005) and others. Keller will tell Calame that, contrary to some statements he and others have made, the story was originally scheduled to be published just days before the November 2004 presidential election. “The climactic discussion about whether to publish was right on the eve of the election,” Keller will say, though he will refuse to explain why he makes the final decision to hold the story. However, he will say that at this time he is not sure the story’s sources are reliable enough to warrant its publication before a close election. [New York Times, 8/13/2006]
Hours after new CIA Director Porter Goss issues a memo telling agency officials that it must support the Bush administration (see November-December 2004 and November 17, 2004), Deputy Director of Operations Stephen Kappes becomes one of the first casualties of Goss’s White House-orchestrated “purge” of the agency. Kappes resigns after his deputy, Michael Sulick, criticizes Goss’s chief of staff, Pat Murray; in turn, Murray sends Sulick what the agency’s head of European operations, Tyler Drumheller, calls “a truly obnoxious e-mail” that “accused Sulick and Kappes, two of the most experienced, respected men in the building, of being fools and lacking integrity.” Murray then orders Kappes to fire Sulick; instead, Kappes and Sulick both submit their resignations. They are the first of over 20 senior CIA officials to leave the agency. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 212-213] A former senior CIA official says that the White House “doesn’t want Steve Kappes to reconsider his resignation. That might be the spin they put on it, but they want him out.” Kappes’s job may be offered to Drumheller. [Newsday, 11/14/2004] In 2006, Kappes will return—after Goss’s abrupt resignation (see May 5, 2006)—as deputy director of the CIA (see June 1, 2006).
President George Bush issues a presidential directive establishing an interagency group to consider whether it “would best serve the nation” to give the Pentagon complete control over the CIA’s elite paramilitary units. [Associated Press, 11/22/2004; New York Times, 11/23/2004; New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed pentagon consultant] The units carry out the government’s most sensitive covert operations including “training rebel forces; destabilizing governments and organizations through violence; and directly attacking enemy targets and individuals.” [Associated Press, 11/22/2004] CIA paramilitary activities are conducted under presidential directives called “findings.” [New York Times, 11/23/2004] The panel will consist of representatives from the State and Justice Departments, the Pentagon, and the CIA. Critics of the proposal, including veteran members of special operations branches, note that CIA units operate “under a different set of findings and carry different legal protections than the military, in particular for cases in which they are ordered to conduct the most extreme clandestine operations,” the New York Times reports. Other critics say the move, which is based on a recommendation by the 911 Commission, is part of a Pentagon strategy to wrest control of covert operations from the CIA. Thomas W. O’Connell, the assistant defense secretary for special operations and low-intensity conflict, denies this, telling the New York Times, “I have heard it said that there is a conspiracy within the Department of Defense to go and rip off the agency’s capabilities, and I can assure you that nothing could be further from the truth.” [New York Times, 11/23/2004] Apparently in February 2005 the decision is made not to give control of the CIA’s units to the Pentagon (see February 4, 2005).
Mohamed Alanssi, an FBI counterterrorism informant (see November 2001), sets himself on fire in front of the White House in protest over how the bureau has handled him. Alanssi had previously informed the Washington Post and Robert Fuller, his FBI handler in New York, of his intention. Fuller is an FBI agent who failed to locate the 9/11 hijackers in the US before 9/11 (see September 4, 2001, September 4-5, 2001 and September 4-5, 2001). Alanssi approaches the White House and asks the Secret Service to deliver a note to President Bush. When he is turned away, he steps back and then sets his jacket on fire, suffering serious burns before the Secret Service agents can extinguish the flames. Alanssi is primarily unhappy that the FBI has confiscated his passport, because he is ill and wants to visit his family in Yemen, where his wife is sick with stomach cancer. The FBI is apparently holding the passport in an attempt to make him testify at the trial of Mohammed Ali Hassan al-Moayad, an associate of Osama bin Laden that Alanssi informed on (see January 2003). Alanssi has also complained to the Post that the FBI has not kept all of its promises, allowing his identity to become known, endangering himself and his family, not giving him US citizenship, and paying him $100,000 after promising him he would “be a millionaire.” Alanssi told the Post: “It is my big mistake that I have cooperated with FBI. The FBI has already destroyed my life and my family’s life and made us in a very danger position.… I am not crazy to destroy my life and my family’s life to get $100,000.” [Washington Post, 11/16/2004]
An Iranian exile group says it has evidence that Iran is still enriching uranium and will continue to do so despite an agreement it signed pledging it to halt such activities. The group, the National Council of Resistance in Iran (NCRI), the political arm of the Mujahedeen-e Khalq (MEK), also charges that in the mid-1990s, Iran bought the plans for a Chinese nuclear bomb from the global nuclear technology network led by Pakistan’s A. Q. Khan. Khan’s network sold the same type of bomb blueprint to Libya, which has renounced its nuclear ambitions (see December 2003). The NCRI’s Mohammed Mohaddessin says the Khan network also provided Iran with a small amount of highly enriched uranium, though the amount is too small to use for a weapon. While the NCRI provided information in 2002 that helped disclose Iran’s secret nuclear program, many of its subsequent allegations have been proven false.
Claims - Mohaddessin uses satellite photos to show what he says is a new nuclear facility inside Tehran’s Center for the Development of Advanced Defense Technology (CDADT). He says that the CDADT also houses chemical and biological weapons programs, and that Iran began enriching uranium at the site in early 2003. Mohaddessin refuses to provide any evidence for his claims, instead saying, “Our sources were 100 percent sure about their intelligence.” Those sources, he says, are scientists and other people working in the facilities, and local citizens living near the facilities who see what he calls suspicious activities.
Reaction - Many diplomats and arms control experts dismiss the NCRI’s claims, saying the claims are an attempt to undermine the recent agreement Tehran signed with Britain, France, and Germany to restrict its uranium enrichment program. In return, the agreement says, Iran can continue working on developing nuclear technology for peaceful purposes. [Washington Post, 11/18/2004]
CIA Director Porter Goss, known for being dogmatically loyal to the White House (see September 25, 2003 and November-December 2004), responds to the recent spate of leaked CIA memos (see September 16, 2004, September 28, 2004, and October 4, 2004) by issuing a memo reminding agency staff that they should “scrupulously honor our secrecy oath.” The memo is leaked to the press the next day. Goss says, “Intelligence-related issues have become the fodder of partisan food fights and turf-power skirmishes.” Goss warns that agency officials must publicly support Bush administration policies: “As agency employees we do not identify with, support or champion opposition to the administration or its policies,” Goss writes. His intention is, he writes, “to clarify beyond doubt the rules of the road.” Goss’s words may indicate that CIA employees must conform with administration policies and goals, but he also writes, “We provide the intelligence as we see it—and let the facts alone speak to the policymaker.” Many critics of the agency and its leadership say that Goss’s memo is part of his attempt to squelch dissent within the agency’s ranks. “If Goss is asking people to color their views and be a team player, that’s not what people at CIA signed up for,” says a former intelligence official. Ron Wyden (D-OR), a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, says that “on issue after issue, there’s a real question about whether the country and the Congress are going to get an unvarnished picture of our intelligence situation at a critical time.” [New York Times, 11/17/2004; Roberts, 2008, pp. 153]
Newsweek reports that US intelligence sources believe “al-Qaeda operatives [are] plotting a ‘big bomb’ attack against a major landmark in Britain—but [have] no active plans for strikes in the United States…” The article continues: “Some US law enforcement officers based in London… have become extremely concerned about evidence regarding possible active al-Qaeda plots to attack targets in Britain. According to a US government official, fears of terror attacks have prompted FBI agents based in the US Embassy in London to avoid traveling on London’s popular underground railway (or tube) system, which is used daily by millions of commuters. While embassy-based officers of the US Secret Service, Immigration and Customs bureaus, and the CIA still are believed to use the underground to go about their business, FBI agents have been known to turn up late to crosstown meetings because they insist on using taxis in London’s traffic-choked business center.” [Newsweek, 11/17/2004; Salon, 11/18/2004]
The new director of the CIA, Porter Goss (see September 24, 2004), issues a memo to CIA employees that, in author Craig Unger’s words, “instantly confirm[s] his reputation as an administration loyalist.” The memo reads in part: “As agency employees we do not identify with, support, or champion opposition to the administration in its policies. [Our job is] to support the administration and its policies in our work.” While the CIA has been sensitive to the desires of previous administrations, it has always worked to keep at least some distance between itself and the political ebb and flow of Washington, and tried to preserve at least some degree of impartiality. Goss intends to change all that and make the CIA another arm of the White House. Unger will later write: “With [soon-to-be named Secretary of State Condoleezza] Rice, [soon-to-be National Security Adviser Stephen] Hadley, and Goss in key positions, Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld had consolitated control over national security to an unprecedented degree. The notion that America’s $40 billion intelligence apparatus would speak truth to power had become a pipe dream.” [Unger, 2007, pp. 326]
Secretary of State Colin Powell tells reporters that the US has intelligence showing Iran’s active pursuit of a nuclear warhead. The evidence, Powell says, documents Iran’s attempt to adapt ballistic missiles to deliver nuclear payloads. He says: “I have seen some information that would suggest that they have been actively working on delivery systems.… You don’t have a weapon until you put it in something that can deliver a weapon.… I’m not talking about uranium or fissile material or the warhead; I’m talking about what one does with a warhead.” Powell does not claim that Iran has the nuclear material—enriched uranium—to actually construct a bomb. “I’m talking about information that says they not only have these missiles, but I am aware of information that suggests that they were working hard as to how to put the two together.… There is no doubt in my mind—and it’s fairly straightforward from what we’ve been saying for years—that they have been interested in a nuclear weapon that has utility, meaning that it is something they would be able to deliver, not just something that sits there.”
Implication - Nonproliferation expert Joseph Cirincione says that Powell is implying that Iran is trying to reduce the size of a nuclear warhead to fit on one of its ballistic missiles, a difficult task. “Powell appears to be saying the Iranians are working very hard on this capability,” Cirincione says. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said just days before that it had not seen any information that Iran had conducted weapons-related work, Cirincione notes. The Bush administration is likely to press for sanctions from the UN. Powell says that the US will monitor international verification efforts in Iran “with necessary and deserved caution because for 20 years the Iranians have been trying to hide things from the international community.” [Washington Post, 11/18/2004]
Claims Said to Be Unverified - A day later, US officials say Powell’s claims are unverified, and come from a single, unvetted source that has not yet checked out. The single source is an Iranian citizen who approached US intelligence officials with a laptop computer crammed with documents and sketches purporting to be from Iran’s nuclear weapons program (see Summer 2004). Powell and other senior Cabinet members were briefed on the laptop revelations last week, and though it was stamped “No Foreign,” meaning it was not to be shared with any foreign nations, President Bush decided to share some of the information with British Prime Minister Tony Blair. Administration officials tell diplomats from Britain, France, and Germany that Powell misspoke in alluding to the laptop intelligence. Powell’s office says Powell stands by his remarks. [Washington Post, 11/19/2004]
Congress expands the Patriot Act (see October 26, 2001) by approving an intelligence spending bill with a provision that gives the FBI the power to subpoena business documents and transactions from a broad range of businesses and entities—including libraries, travel agencies, and even eBay—without court warrants. This reduces oversight of the FBI and shifts power away from the judiciary. The Patriot Act already allows the FBI to acquire bank records and communications records by issuing a National Security Letter (NSL) affirming that the information it seeks is relevant to an open investigation; the targeted institution is legally “gagged,” unable to inform anyone, especially the subject of the investigation, of the subpoena. The new law expands the use of NSLs by redefining “financial institution” to include insurance companies, real estate agents, the US Postal Service, travel agencies, casinos, pawn shops, car dealers and any other business whose “cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax or regulatory matters.” The provision is one of the most controversial parts of the so-called “Patriot II” act (see February 7, 2003) that was withdrawn after the public learned of its elements. Like most intelligence spending bills, this one was drafted in secret and passed with little debate or public comment. Law professor Chris Schroeder, a former Justice Department assistant attorney general, says the insertion of the provision shows that “people who want to expand the powers of the FBI didn’t want to stop after Patriot II was leaked. They are going to insert these provisions on a stealth basis. It’s insidious.” James Dempsey of the Center for Democracy and Technology agrees: “On its face, it’s a cryptic and seemingly innocuous amendment. It wasn’t until after it passed both houses that we saw it. The FBI and CIA like to try to graft things like this into intelligence bills.” CIA Director Porter Goss, when he was chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, defended the provision, saying it is necessary to keep pace with terrorists and the changing economy. “This provision brings the definition of ‘financial institution’ up to date with the reality of the financial industry,” Goss told House members. “This provision will allow those tracking terrorists and spies to ‘follow the money’ more effectively and thereby protect the people of the United States more effectively.” Timothy Edgar of the American Civil Liberties Union says the bill goes too far in expanding executive branch powers. “The more that checks and balances against government abuse are eroded, the greater that abuse,” Edgar says. “We’re going to regret these initiatives down the road.” [Wired News, 11/24/2003]
Entity Tags: Tim Edgar, US Department of Justice, USA Patriot Act, Porter J. Goss, House Intelligence Committee, Central Intelligence Agency, Center for Democracy and Technology, American Civil Liberties Union, James Dempsey, Chris Schroeder, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Two Iranians attempting to illegally export thousands of American-made night-vision systems to Iran are arrested in Vienna by US and Austrian authorities. [Associated Press, 3/26/2005]
Daniel Levin. [Source: ABC News]Daniel Levin, the acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), goes to a military base near Washington and has himself subjected to simulated waterboarding to judge for himself whether or not the interrogation tactic is torture. Levin then tells White House officials that he found the experience terrifying, and he is sure it simulates drowning. Levin concludes that waterboarding clearly qualifies as torture and should not be used by US personnel except in a highly limited and closely supervised fashion. Levin, who like his predecessor Jack Goldsmith (see June 17, 2004) is deeply troubled by the White House’s advocacy of torture as a method of securing information from terror suspects, and by its refusal to issue clear guidelines as to what is and what is not torture, decides to prepare a memo—legally binding—to replace the August 2002 Justice Department memo that established torture as an acceptable method of interrogation. Goldsmith had already withdrawn the memo after finding it deeply flawed (see December 2003-June 2004). In December 2004, Levin issues his new memo, which flatly states that “[t]orture is abhorrent” (see December 30, 2004), but he notes that the Justice Department is not declaring any previous positions by the administration illegal. Levin is planning a second memo that will impose tighter restrictions on specific interrogation techniques, but he never gets the chance to complete it. New attorney general Alberto Gonzales forces him out of the department instead, and replaces him with a much more compliant OLC chief, Steven Bradbury (see June 23, 2005). Most experts believe that waterboarding is indeed torture, and that torture is a poor way of extracting accurate information. Retired Rear Admiral John Hutson will say, “There is no question this is torture—this is a technique by which an individual is strapped to a board, elevated by his feet and either dunked into water or water poured over his face over a towel or a blanket.” [ABC News, 11/2/2007; Think Progress, 11/3/2007; GulfNews, 11/5/2007] Gonzales is widely believed to have been selected as the new attorney general in part to ease the way for the Bush administration to continue its support for torture as a valid method of interrogation. Shortly after taking the office, Gonzales pressured Levin to add the footnote exculpating the administration from any legal responsibility for its previous positions, and shortly thereafter, Gonzales has Levin removed from the department. In November 2007, the Washington Post’s editorial board will decry Gonzales’s ouster of Levin, and the administration’s support for torture, as a blatant “disregard for principle.” [Washington Post, 11/6/2007] MSNBC host Keith Olbermann, a harsh critic of the Bush administration, will later call Levin “an astonishingly patriotic American and a brave man.” He will fire a broadside directly at the president: “Daniel Levin should have a statue in his honor in Washington right now. Instead, he was forced out as acting assistant attorney general nearly three years ago because he had the guts to do what George Bush couldn’t do in a million years: actually put himself at risk for the sake of his country, for the sake of what is right.” [MSNBC, 11/5/2007]
Entity Tags: Washington Post, US Department of Justice, Steven Bradbury, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), Daniel Levin, Bush administration (43), Keith Olbermann, George W. Bush, John D. Hutson, Jack Goldsmith, Alberto R. Gonzales
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties
Retired Maj. Gen. Bruce Lawlor, formerly part of the Homeland Security Advisory Council, a panel made up of business representatives, academic leaders, and security experts appointed by President Bush, says that the Homeland Security warning system had outlived its usefulness. “I’m not suggesting that we do away with communications with the public. What I’m suggesting is that maybe you do away with the color-coded system.” [North County Times, 12/15/2004] The Department of Homeland Security has also been accused on a number of occasions for manipulating the alert level for political reasons. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ] Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge acknowledges criticisms of the system, saying that the color-coded system has invited “questions and even occasional derision.” However, he also states that “the system is here to stay.” [Associated Press, 12/15/2004] He agrees with a report released by the Heritage Foundation and the Center for Strategic and International Studies that recommends reform of the system. The report specifically suggests the removal of the color-coded system in favor of a system of regional alerts. The Homeland Security Advisory Council votes to collect information from the public and the media about the threat system. Other recommendations they adopt include plans to identify potential private-sector terror targets, suggestions on how to improve terrorism-related fields of study and how to bolster terror-related training. [North County Times, 12/15/2004]
The House approves the intelligence reform bill 336-75 after a two week stand-off instigated by House Speaker Dennis Hastert on behalf of the White House and Pentagon, which publicly professed support for the bill. A compromise was not reached with the Republicans until the intelligence reform bill was altered to reduce the power of the new national intelligence director so that the secretary of defense could maintain his “statutory responsibilities.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/21/2004; CNN, 11/24/2004; CNN, 12/8/2004; Washington Post, 1/23/2005; New Yorker, 1/24/2005] “[Rumsfeld]‘s plan was to get a compromise in the bill in which the Pentagon keeps its marbles and the CIA loses theirs,” a former high-level intelligence official tells investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. “Then all the pieces of the puzzle fall in place. He gets authority for covert action that is not attributable, the ability to directly task national-intelligence assets” including US spy satellites. “Rumsfeld will no longer have to refer anything through the government’s intelligence wringer,” the former official continues. “The intelligence system was designed to put competing agencies in competition. What’s missing will be the dynamic tension that insures everyone’s priorities—in the CIA, the DOD, the FBI, and even the Department of Homeland Security—are discussed. The most insidious implication of the new system is that Rumsfeld no longer has to tell people what he’s doing so they can ask, ‘Why are you doing this?’ or ‘What are your priorities?’ Now he can keep all of the mattress mice out of it.” [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
Intelligence Brief, a newsletter published by former CIA officers Vince Cannistraro and Philip Giraldi, reports that the White House has given the Pentagon permission “to operate unilaterally in a number of countries where there is a perception of a clear and evident terrorist threat,” including Algeria, Sudan, Yemen, Syria, Malaysia, and Tunisia. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005] The operations’ chain of command will include Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and two of his deputies, Stephen Cambone, the undersecretary of defense for intelligence, and Army Lieutenant General William G. (Jerry) Boykin. Under these new arrangements, “US military operatives would be permitted to pose abroad as corrupt foreign businessmen seeking to buy contraband items that could be used in nuclear-weapons systems,” New Yorker magazine reports. “In some cases, according to the Pentagon advisers, local citizens could be recruited and asked to join up with guerrillas or terrorists. This could potentially involve organizing and carrying out combat operations, or even terrorist activities.” Describing how the operations would be conducted, Seymour Hersh of the New Yorker reports: “The new rules will enable the Special Forces community to set up what it calls ‘action teams’ in the target countries overseas which can be used to find and eliminate terrorist organizations. ‘Do you remember the right-wing execution squads in El Salvador?‘… [a] former high-level intelligence official asked me… ‘We founded them and we financed them,’ he said. ‘The objective now is to recruit locals in any area we want. And we aren’t going to tell Congress about it.’ A former military officer, who has knowledge of the Pentagon’s commando capabilities, said, ‘We’re going to be riding with the bad boys.’” [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
Surveillance photo of Muktar Ibrahim at a training camp in Britain. [Source: Metropolitan Police]In December 2004, Muktar Ibrahim is stopped at a London airport with two associates as the three of them are attempting to fly to Pakistan. Ibrahim is the head bomber in the failed 21/7 copycat London bombings (see July 21, 2005), and was monitored by British intelligence several times between May and August 2004 taking part in a training camp in Britain run by Islamist militants. He has an extensive criminal record, including convictions for theft, indecent assault on a minor, and attempted robbery. He had been arrested in October 2004 with the man known to be running the training camps, charged with a public order offense, and then released on bail (see May 2-August 2004). He and his two companions at the airport are stopped carrying warm weather combat-style clothing, $2,000 (£990) in cash, and a medical manual in which the treatment for bullet injuries is underlined. Ibrahim’s name is recognized by security personnel and his face is matched with photos from the training camp surveillance. The three men claim to be on the way to a wedding, but they can offer no explanation for the medical manual. Remarkably, Ibrahim is allowed to take his flight to Pakistan with his two associates, even though he is due to appear in court soon to be tried for his October arrest. In Pakistan, he will attend a training camp run by al-Qaeda linked militants (see December 2004-January 2005) and then he will come back to Britain and try to blow up a subway car full of passengers in late July 2005. There appears to be no further monitoring of him after he comes back from Pakistan. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis will later complain: “[T]he ringleader of the 21/7 plot was allowed to leave the country to train at a camp in Pakistan and return to plan and attempt the attack on 21/7. This was despite the fact that he was facing criminal charges for extremism.” [Independent, 7/10/2007; Independent, 7/10/2007]
Congress passes an intelligence bill that requires the Justice Department to inform it as to how often and in what situation the FBI is using special “national security” wiretaps on US soil. The bill also requires the Justice Department to give oversight committees copies of administration memos outlining any new interpretations of domestic-spying laws. It contains 11 other sections mandating reports about such issues as civil liberties, security clearances, border security, and counternarcotics efforts. President Bush signs the bill, then issues a signing statement asserting his right to ignore or override every element of it. He can and will withhold information from Congress as he sees fit, he claims in the statement. [Savage, 2007, pp. 238-239]
The chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq, leaves his post after the end of his one-year tour (see (January 2004)). According to Harper’s magazine, by the end of his tour he is a “pariah within the system” because he has filed a series of six pessimistic Aardwolf priority reports about the deteriorating situation in Iraq. One anonymous former intelligence official will say that the station chief is “treated like shit” and “farmed out,” although he is not fired. In addition, White House officials allegedly ask for “dirt” on him, including his political affiliation. [Harper's, 5/18/2006] After one of the pessimistic reports in late 2004, an official at the National Security Council even called US Ambassador to Iraq John Negroponte to ask whether the chief is a Democrat or Republican. [Risen, 2006] The station chief will also be investigated over allegations of detainee abuse (see (After January 2005)).
Andrew Warren, a CIA agent who will later be accused of date rape (see September 2007 and February 17, 2008), gets into a row in a hotel garage in Washington, DC. According to journalist Jeff Stein, “multiple sources” will say that Warren “flashed official credentials and claimed to be an FBI agent during the dispute.” At this time Warren is a senior official at the CIA’s station in Cairo, and he is back in Washington escorting Egyptian intelligence officials on a visit to the CIA. According to two sources, the row becomes so heated that the hotel manager later sends a security video of the incident to the FBI. However, FBI officials will say they cannot recall the incident. One CIA official will say that the agency occasionally uses the bureau for cover, although other intelligence professionals will say they have never heard of such practice. One former senior CIA official is incensed that Warren is allowed to return to duty in Cairo despite “such a shocking lack of judgment,” and will attribute Warren’s lenient treatment to his being an African American. [Congressional Quarterly, 3/16/2009]
The CIA’s Executive Director Kyle “Dusty” Foggo reviews the case of the killing of Afghan detainee Gul Rahman at the Salt Pit black site in 2002 (see November 20, 2002). However, he takes no action against the two officers involved in the death, one named Matthew Zirbel, who had Rahman doused with water and left with little clothing in the cold, and one known as Paul P., Zirbel’s boss who failed to provide him with the proper guidance. [Associated Press, 3/28/2010] The timing of the review is unknown, but it must occur after Foggo becomes executive director in November 2004. [New York Times, 8/12/2009; Associated Press, 3/28/2010]
A treasure hunter suspected of being a CIA operative is discovered living in the US. In May 2002, US citizen Michael Meiring accidentally blew himself up in a Philippines hotel room, and ended up losing both of his legs. He was mysteriously whisked back to the US amidst media reports suggesting he was a CIA operative posing as a Muslim militant bomber (see May 16, 2002). On June 19, 2002, the chief of the Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation vowed that Meiring would be brought back to the Philippines to face charges since he appeared to have returned to the US, and the Philippines and the US have an existing extradition treaty. [Minda News, 6/1/2003] On December 2, 2004, a Houston TV station will discover that Meiring is living in Houston, Texas. They examined court documents about him and learned that earlier in 2004 he changed his last name to Van De Meer. The Philippine government confirms that they issued an arrest warrant for Meiring and are still looking for him and an associate of his named Stephen Hughes, who is now said to be living in North Carolina. Counterterrorism expert Ron Hatchett asks, “How is he able to walk around freely within our society using the name that is on the arrest warrant for him?” Meiring is reached by phone in California. His only on the record comment to the reporter who discovered him is, “If this harms me in any way, you will find my power then, and you’ll find out who I am. But I will come for you. You harm me I will not let you off the hook.” [KHOU-TV, 12/2/2004; Filipino Reporter, 12/30/2004] In early 2005, it will be reported that Meiring may not get extradited back to the Philippines because the Philippine government cannot produce a picture of him. [Mindanao Times, 3/23/2005] However, previous media reports claimed that a picture ID of Meiring was found in his hotel room after the explosion there. The ID lists him as an officer in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a Muslim rebel militant group. [KHOU-TV, 12/2/2004] He appears to have ties to leaders of that group and other Philippine Muslim militant groups since 1992 (see 1992-1993). Since 2004, there have been no reports of Meiring being successfully extradited.
Daniel Levin, the outgoing chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC—see Late 2004-Early 2005), sends a memo to Deputy Attorney General James Comey. The memo will remain secret, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will learn that it provides legal advice on communications between defense attorneys and detainees in combatant status review tribunals. [ProPublica, 4/16/2009]
The Daily Telegraph reports that “the search for [bin Laden] the world’s most wanted man has all but come to a halt because of Pakistan’s refusal to permit cross-border raids from Afghanistan, according to CIA officials.” Even spy missions by unmanned Predator drones need Pakistani military approval involving a lengthy chain of command that frequently causes delays. Most accounts have bin Laden still alive and living in the near-lawless Pakistan and Afghanistan border region. US officials believe bin Laden and his deputies are being hidden by sympathetic local tribesmen, who are continuing to fund his operations from opium sales. [Daily Telegraph, 12/14/2004]
An extremist arrested and interrogated in Saudi Arabia appears to disclose details of an operation that is strikingly similar to the 7/7 London bombings that will occur in mid-2005 (see July 7, 2005). However, the intelligence does not yield any results before the attacks, even though it is shared with the US and Britain. It will later be unclear whether the arrested man, known as Adel, provided a truthful account or was a fabricator who just happened to predict some details of the plot. Adel is arrested in Buraydah, Saudi Arabia, in late 2004 for using a fraudulent passport, and a memo on his interrogation dated December 14 of that year, which is sent to the CIA and British intelligence, seems to reveal details of a multifaceted operation. Some details match those of the actual attack: it is to be carried out by four people in London in the middle of 2005, some of them British citizens, and will include a location around “Edgewood Road” (one of the bombs will explode at Edgeware Road tube station). The target is said to be a subway station or a nightclub. However, Adel, who is said to know Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also says the explosives will come from Bosnia and the plot will be coordinated by a Libyan businessman in London, who will help with safe houses and transport. In addition, one of the bombers is said to have tattoos on his fingers. The Saudis send Britain and the US a second report in February 2005, providing more details about the alleged bombers, who are supposed to be from different countries, although there are also apparently Caucasian British and Germans involved. The CIA checks a Syrian phone number mentioned in one of the memos, but finds nothing. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 400-2; Observer, 2/5/2006] After the bombings, Saudi ambassador to London Prince Turki will say in a statement, “There was certainly close liaison between the Saudi Arabian intelligence authorities and the British intelligence authorities some months ago, when information was passed to Britain about a heightened terrorist threat to London,” although it is unclear whether this statement refers to this warning, another Saudi warning about a possible attack in Britain (see April 2005 or Shortly Before), or both. [New Statesman, 11/1/2007] Interest in the detainee will be revived after the attack and even President Bush will become involved, but veteran reporter Bob Woodward, who examines the story in a 2006 book, will conclude that Adel is a fabricator. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 400-2] However, a Saudi security adviser will later say that he is “convinced” the information passed on was “directly linked” to the 7/7 bombings. [Observer, 2/5/2006]
Navy Secretary Gordon England says that a second detainee reviewed by the Combatant Status Review Tribunal in Guantanamo has been determined not to be an enemy combatant. England does not reveal the man’s name, nationality, information on when or where he was captured, when he was transferred to Guantanamo, or why the tribunal decided to reverse his status. So far, the tribunal has reviewed the statuses of 507 prisoners and made decisions in 230 of the cases. Two hundred fifteen detainees have refused to cooperate. [Reuters, 12/20/2004]
The US Treasury Department and UN designate Adel Batterjee a global terrorist. Batterjee is connected to the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). The Treasury Department says that Batterjee “has ranked as one of the world’s foremost terrorist financiers” by helping to fund al-Qaeda. It is not explained why the US waited until this time to list him, but counterterrorism expert Rita Katz suggests that the Saudi government may have changed their stance due to increased al-Qaeda activity in Saudi Arabia. “I think they needed Saudi support, and now it seems to be in place.” However, there is no report of Batterjee being arrested or having his funds frozen in Saudi Arabia. [US Department of the Treasury, 12/21/2004; Chicago Tribune, 12/22/2004]
Saad al-Fagih. [Source: PBS]The US and UN designate Saad al-Fagih a global terrorist, but Britain, where he lives, takes no effective action against him. Al-Fagih helped supply bin Laden with a satellite telephone used in the 1998 embassy bombings (see November 1996-Late August 1998). Britain seizes the assets of al-Fagih and his organization, the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia. [US Department of the Treasury, 12/21/2004; BBC, 12/24/2004] However, Saudi ambassador to Britain Prince Turki al-Faisal will later complain that the total seized is only ”£20 or something” (note: equivalent of about $39) and that the British government allows al-Fagih to continue to operate openly from London, despite being a specially designated global terrorist (see August 10, 2005). [London Times, 8/10/2005] Britain has long been suspected of harboring Islamic militants in return for them promising not to attack Britain (see August 22, 1998).
The Justice Department issues a 17-page memo which officially replaces the August 2002 memo (see August 1, 2002), which asserted that the president’s wartime powers supersede international anti-torture treaties and defined torture very narrowly, describing it as a tactic that produces pain “equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” The new memo, authored by acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) and Acting Assistant Attorney General Daniel Levin, is ostensibly meant to deflect criticisms that the Bush administration condones torture. In fact, the very first sentence reads, “Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international norms.” But the White House insists that the new memo does not represent a change in policy because the administration has always respected international laws prohibiting the mistreatment of prisoners. The primary concern of the new memo is to broaden the narrow definition of torture that had been used in the August memo. Levin adopts the definition of torture used in Congressional anti-torture laws, which says that torture is the infliction of physical suffering, “even if it does not involve severe physical pain.” But the pain must still be more than “mild and transitory,” the memo says. Like the original memo, Levin says that torture may include mental suffering. But to be considered so it would not have to last for months or years, as OLC lawyers Jay Bybee and John Yoo had asserted two years earlier. The most contested conclusions of the August 2002 memo—concerning the president’s wartime powers and potential legal defense for US personnel charged with war crimes—are not addressed in the Levin memo. “Consideration of the bounds of any such authority would be inconsistent with the president’s unequivocal directive that United States personnel not engage in torture,” the memo says. [US Department of Justice, 12/30/2004 ; Associated Press, 12/31/2004]
National Security Not a Justification for Torture - The memo also attempts to quell concerns that the administration believes national security may be used as justification for tactics that could be considered as torture. It states, “[A] defendant’s motive (to protect national security, for example) is not relevant to the question whether he has acted with the requisite specific intent under the statute.” [US Department of Justice, 12/30/2004 ]
Memo Divided White House Officials - Many in the White House opposed the issuance of the memo, but were rebuffed when other administration officials said the memo was necessary to ease the confirmation of Alberto Gonzales as Attorney General. [New York Times, 10/4/2007]
Torture Opponents Disappointed - Civil libertarians and opponents of torture within the Justice Department are sharply disappointed in the memo. While it gives a marginally less restrictive definition of the pain required to qualify as torture, and gives no legal defenses to anyone who might be charged with war crimes, it takes no position on the president’s authority to override interrogation laws and treaties, and finds that all the practices previously employed by the CIA and military interrogators were and are legal. Yoo will later write that “the differences in the opinions were for appearances’ sake. In the real world of interrogation policy, nothing had changed. The new opinion just reread the statute to deliberately blur the interpretation of torture as a short-term political maneuver in response to public criticism.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 196-197]
Secret Memo Will Allow Waterboarding; Dissidents Purged - A secret memo is completed a short time later that allows such torture techniques as waterboarding to be used again (see February 2005). The Levin memo triggers a department-wide “purge” of dissidents and torture opponents; some will resign voluntarily, while others will resign after being denied expected promotions. [Savage, 2007, pp. 197]
Classified US documents later found by reporters (see April 10, 2006) but dating from this time suggest that the Taliban is planning to attack US troops from bases inside Pakistan with the acquiescence or even support of elements within the Pakistani government. For instance, an August 2004 presentation accuses Pakistan of making “false and inaccurate reports of border incidents.” A document from early 2005 mentions that the US military is attempting to stop the flow of weapons to the Taliban from Pakistan and stop infiltration routes from Pakistan. Another document includes a US military commander commenting, “Pakistani border forces [should] cease assisting cross border insurgent activities.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/10/2006] Later in 2005, a report by Congress’ research arm will echo these concerns, stating, “Among the most serious sources of concern is the well-documented past involvement of some members of the Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) organization with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the possibility that some officers retain sympathies with both groups.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/14/2006]
The National Security Agency calls for proposals in regard to a new electronic surveillance program, the Advanced Capabilities for Intelligence Analysis (ACIA). Like its cousin, the Novel Intelligence from Massive Data (NIMD) project (see After September 11, 2001), ACIA will use a huge electronic database of information on US citizens and foreign nationals to track potential terrorists and terror plots. Like NIMD, ACIA will look for ways “to construct and use plausible futures in order to provide additional, novel interpretations for today’s collection” of intelligence information, according to the call for proposals. [National Journal, 1/20/2006]
In 2005, the CIA gives President Bush a secret slide show updating him on the hunt for bin Laden. Bush is taken aback by the small number of CIA case officers posted to Afghanistan and Pakistan. A former intelligence officer will later tell Newsweek that Bush asks, “Is that all there are?” In fact, the CIA had recently doubled the number of officers in the area, but many are inexperienced and raw recruits. Most veteran officers are involved in the Iraq war instead. [Newsweek, 8/28/2007] However, rather than increase the staff working on bin Laden in response to Bush’s complaint, later in the year the CIA will close Alec Station, the unit hunting bin Laden (see Late 2005).
During a dinner with visiting US nuclear experts, Iranian leaders Hashemi Rafsanjani and Hassan Rowhani say that Iran’s nuclear weapons research had been halted in 2003 because Iran felt it did not need the actual bombs, only the ability to show the world it could make them. “Look, as long as we can enrich uranium and master the [nuclear] fuel cycle, we don’t need anything else,” Rafsanjani says, according to George Perkovich of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “Our neighbors will be able to draw the proper conclusions.” [Washington Post, 12/8/2007]
Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly, the presiding judge over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), warns the Justice Department that if it does not stop using evidence collected with warrantless wiretaps to obtain warrants to continue surveillance, her court will be more reluctant to grant warrants for surveillance. Kollar-Kotelly has complained about this before (see 2004). Though both Kollar-Kotelly and her predecessor, Judge Royce Lambeth, express concerns to senior officials that Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program is inherently unconstitutional, neither judge feels that they have the authority to rule on the president’s power to order such surveillance. Instead, they work to preserve the integrity of the FISA process. Eventually, the judges reach a compromise with government lawyers: any case using evidence from warrantless wiretaps that is to be presented to the judges for FISA warrants to continue monitoring the same suspects will be “tagged,” and that evidence will not be used to obtain warrants. Those cases, numbering less than ten a year, are to be presented only to the presiding judge. Lambeth and Kollar-Kotelly both feel that the process will work primarily because of the trust they have developed in James Baker, the Justice Department’s liaison to FISC. Part of the problem stems from contradictory statements and claims from the administration; after the wiretapping program began (see After September 11, 2001, NSA chief Michael Hayden and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft made it clear in private meetings with the judges that President Bush wanted to gain all possible information on any potential terrorist attacks, and that such information-gathering must by necessity go beyond the FISA court’s probable-cause requirement. But more recent assertions by Hayden and Ashcroft’s successor, Alberto Gonzales (see December 19, 2005, claiming that NSA analysts do not listen to domestic calls unless they already have some evidence that one of the parties to the call has links to terrorism, contradict earlier administration claims to the judges. Kollar-Kotelly suspects that the entire truth of the matter is not being presented to her and the FISC. Her suspicions are validated when her court is, in spite of administration reassurances, again presented with warrant applications based on illegally obtained evidence (see Late 2005). [Washington Post, 2/9/2006]
Afghan intelligence allegedly concludes that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, but not in the tribal region. Shortly after bin Laden’s death (see May 2, 2011), Amrullah Saleh, who from 2004 to 2010 was head of the NDS (National Directorate of Security), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, will claim that as early as 2004, and certainly by 2005, the NDS secretly concluded that Osama bin Laden was living somewhere in the heart of Pakistan instead of in the tribal region near the Afghan border where most people thought he was. Saleh claims this conclusion was based on “thousands of interrogation reports” and the assumption that bin Laden with his many wives would not stay in the mountainous wilderness for long. “I was pretty sure he was in the settled areas of Pakistan because in 2005 it was still very easy to infiltrate the tribal areas, and we had massive numbers of informants there. They could find any Arab but not bin Laden.” Saleh has not said if this conclusion was shared with the US and/or Pakistani governments at the time. [Guardian, 5/5/2011]
According to Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Vice President Dick Cheney applies “constant” pressure on Senator Pat Roberts (R-Kan) to stall the inquiry that is looking into the Bush administration’s use of flawed intelligence on Iraq. The investigation, known as the Phase II investigation, was supposed to have been completed shortly after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence finished the first phase in July 2004. Cheney’s office denies that the vice president tried to influence the pace of the investigation in anyway. [McClatchy News, 1/25/2006]
Blackwater stops work on a CIA program to assassinate and capture al-Qaeda leaders. Blackwater had been hired by the agency to work on the program at some time in 2004 (see 2004). However, according to the New York Times, its involvement ends “years before” Leon Panetta becomes CIA director in 2009 (see June 23, 2009). The reason for the termination is that CIA officials begin to question the wisdom of using outsiders in a targeted killing program. [New York Times, 8/20/2009]
The US search for Osama bin Laden slows down for several years. According to an unnamed former Bush White House official speaking in 2011, “a little fatigue had set in” after a few years of mostly false leads. “We weren’t about to find him anytime soon. Publicly, we maintained a sense of urgency: ‘We’re looking as hard as we can.’ But the energy had gone out of the hunt. It had settled to no more than a second-tier issue. After all, those were the worst days of Iraq.” White House and CIA officials will later say that the war in Iraq and problems with Iran and North Korea took much attention from the search for bin Laden. Juan Zarate, President Bush’s deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism at this time, later says that few new leads emerge. “It was a very dark period.” [Washington Post, 5/6/2011] In December 2004, the Telegraph reported that the US search for bin Laden had essentially been abandoned (see December 14, 2004), and in late 2005, the CIA’s bin Laden unit is shut down (see Late 2005). There is a new push to get bin Laden, also in late 2005, but it has little effect (see Late 2005).
Ahmed Wali Karzai. [Source: ABC News]According to classified files stolen from a US army base in Afghanistan and sold in a local market, some senior officials in the Afghan government are also believed to be drug lords. Described as “Tier One Warlords” in a document, they include Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostum, the Chief of Staff of the army, and Gen. Mohammad Daud, the Interior Minister for Counternarcotics (see April 17, 2006). Further, Ahmed Wali Karzai, brother of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, is listed in a classified document as a “problem maker” who “receives money from drug lords as bribe[s] to facilitate their work and movement.” [Independent, 4/13/2006; ABC News, 6/22/2006; Associated Press, 6/23/2006] In early 2006, Newsweek will report that the president’s brother is “alleged to be a major figure by nearly every source who described the Afghan network… including past and present government officials and several minor drug traffickers.” One Interior Ministry official says, “He is the unofficial regional governor of southern Afghanistan and leads the whole trafficking structure.” Newsweek adds that, “Diplomats and well-informed Afghans believe that up to a quarter of the new Parliament’s 249 elected members are linked to narcotics production and trafficking.” [Newsweek, 1/2/2006]
US intelligence learns through communications intercepts about a meeting of al-Qaeda leaders in Bajaur, in the remote border regions of Pakistan near Afghanistan (one account says the meeting is in nearby North Waziristan instead). Intelligence officials have an “80 percent confidence” that al-Qaeda’s second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri and/or other top al-Qaeda leaders are attending the meeting. One intelligence official involved in the operation says, “This was the best intelligence picture we had ever seen” about a high-value target. [New York Times, 7/8/2007; Newsweek, 8/28/2007; New York Times, 6/30/2008]
Size of US Force Grows - The original plan calls for cargo planes to carry 30 Navy Seals near the target, then they will use motorized hang gliders to come closer and capture or kill al-Zawahiri. The plan is enthusiastically endorsed by CIA Director Porter Goss and Joint Special Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal. But Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his assistant Stephen Cambone are uncertain. They increase the size of the force to 150 to take care of contingencies. [Newsweek, 8/28/2007] One senior intelligence official involved later says for effect, “The whole thing turned into the invasion of Pakistan.” [New York Times, 7/8/2007]
"Frenzied" Debate - But even as US special forces are boarding C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan, there are “frenzied exchanges between officials at the Pentagon, Central Command, and the CIA about whether the mission was too risky.” Some CIA officials in Washington even try to give orders to execute the raid without informing US Ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker, who apparently is often opposed to such missions. [New York Times, 6/30/2008]
Rumsfeld Gives Up Without Asking - Having decided to increase the force, Rumsfeld then decides he couldn’t carry out such a large mission without Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s permission. But with the cargo planes circling and the team waiting for a green light, Rumsfeld decides that Musharraf would not approve. He cancels the mission without actually asking Musharraf about it. It is unclear whether President Bush is informed about the mission. The New York Times will later report that “some top intelligence officials and members of the military’s secret Special Operations units” are frustrated at the decision to cancel the operation, saying the US “missed a significant opportunity to try to capture senior members of al-Qaeda.” [New York Times, 7/8/2007] It is not clear why the US does not hit the meeting with a missile fired from a Predator drone instead, as they will do to kill an al-Qaeda leader inside Pakistan a couple of months later (see May 8, 2005).
Entity Tags: Stephen A. Cambone, US Special Forces, Porter J. Goss, Pervez Musharraf, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ryan C. Crocker, Central Intelligence Agency, Navy Seals, Donald Rumsfeld, Stanley A. McChrystal
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan
A close up of one of the maps showing the location of al-Qaeda camps in Pakistan. AQ stands for al-Qaeda and TB stands for Taliban. [Source: ABC News]Classified files stolen from a US army base in Afghanistan and sold in a local market that date from this time include maps marking the location of al-Qaeda training camps and leaders in Pakistan. One map shows the location of four al-Qaeda training camps in the tribal areas of Pakistan near the Afghan border. This map also shows the location in Pakistan of al-Qaeda’s number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Other maps and documents indicate 16 al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders in Pakistan. This includes Mullah Omar, the top Taliban leader. But bin Laden is not mentioned. [ABC News, 6/22/2006] One document dated October 2004 indicates two of the Taliban’s main leaders, Mullah Akhter Osmani and Mullah Obaidullah, are in Pakistan, while top leader Mullah Omar and four others are in southern Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times, 4/10/2006]
Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone issues a set of new guidelines reinterpreting the Pentagon’s reporting requirements to Congress on its covert operations. The new guidelines were drafted by the Pentagon’s legal counsel at the insistence of Donald Rumsfeld. The Washington Post reports: “Under Title 10, for example, the Defense Department must report to Congress all ‘deployment orders,’ or formal instructions from the Joint Chiefs of Staff to position US forces for combat. But [the guidelines]… state that special operations forces may ‘conduct clandestine HUMINT operations… before publication’ of a deployment order, rendering notification unnecessary. Pentagon lawyers also define the ‘war on terror’ as ongoing, indefinite and global in scope. That analysis effectively discards the limitation of the defense secretary’s war powers to times and places of imminent combat. Under Title 50, all departments of the executive branch are obliged to keep Congress ‘fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities.’ The law exempts ‘traditional… military activities’ and their ‘routine support.’ [The set of new guidelines]… interprets ‘traditional’ and ‘routine’ more expansively than his predecessors.” Assistant Secretary of Defense Thomas O’Connell, who oversees special operations policy, explains to the Washington Post, “Many of the restrictions imposed on the Defense Department were imposed by tradition, by legislation, and by interpretations of various leaders and legal advisors.” He then asserts that over time these mechanisms unnecessarily watered down the Pentagon’s authority. “The interpretations take on the force of law and may preclude activities that are legal. In my view, many of the authorities inherent to [the Defense Department]… were winnowed away over the years,” he says. In addition to its efforts to evade congressional oversight, the Pentagon also seeks to diminish its dependency on the CIA. According to written guidelines acquired by the Washington Post, the Defense Department will no longer await consent from the agency’s headquarters for the human intelligence missions it “coordinates” with the CIA, instead it will work directly with agency officers in the field. The Pentagon will consider a mission “coordinated” after it has given the agency 72 hours. [Washington Post, 1/23/2005; Washington Post, 1/25/2005]
A new chief of the CIA’s Baghdad station is appointed. Possibly due to problems the previous two station chiefs are perceived to have experienced (see (Late December 2003) and December 2004), this new official files only one Aardwolf priority report during his one-year tour. An anonymous official will later say that this report is widely derided within the CIA as “a joke,” because it asserts that the United States is winning the war despite all evidence to the contrary. Harper’s journalist Ken Silverstein will comment, “It was garbage, but garbage that the Bush administration wanted to hear.” At the end of his tour, the station chief will be given what Silverstein calls a “plum assignment.” [Harper's, 5/18/2006]
A government consultant with close ties to the Pentagon tells investigative reporter Seymour Hersh that the Bush administration has been consolidating control over the military and intelligence communities’ strategic analyses and covert operations, and transforming the role of the CIA into mere “facilitators” of the administration’s policies. [New Yorker, 1/24/2005 Sources: unnamed source interviewed by Seymour Hersh]
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh interviews a former high-level intelligence official on the topic of the military’s increased control over US covert operations, the waning power of the CIA, and the administration’s plans to act militarily against Iran. According to the former official, the Defense Department has almost a free reign in the covert activities it oversees. “The Pentagon doesn’t feel obligated to report any of this to Congress,” the official says. “They don’t even call it ‘covert ops’—it’s too close to the CIA phrase. In their view, it’s ‘black reconnaissance.’ They’re not even going to tell the cincs [the regional American military commanders-in-chief].” On Iran, the former official is clear about the administration’s intent. “This is a war against terrorism, and Iraq is just one campaign,” the former official says. “The Bush Administration is looking at this as a huge war zone. Next, we’re going to have the Iranian campaign. We’ve declared war and the bad guys, wherever they are, are the enemy. This is the last hurrah—we’ve got four years, and want to come out of this saying we won the war on terrorism.” He says an invasion is not conditional in any way. “It’s not if we’re going to do anything against Iran. They’re doing it.” The source suggests that the administration will present its intentions to the public much differently than it did in the case of Iraq. “We’ve got some lessons learned—not militarily, but how we did it politically. We’re not going to rely on agency pissants,” explains the former official. “No loose ends, and that’s why the CIA is out of there.” [New Yorker, 1/24/2005]
Details of an internal CIA report (see June-November 2004) investigating the CIA’s failure to stop the 9/11 attacks are leaked to the New York Times. The report by John Helgerson, the CIA’s inspector general, was completed in June 2004 but remains classified (see June-November 2004). It sharply criticizes former CIA Director George Tenet, as well as former Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt. It says these two and others failed to meet an acceptable standard of performance, and recommends that an internal review board review their conduct for possible disciplinary action. Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center at the time of 9/11, is also criticized. However, the New York Times notes that, “It is not clear whether either the agency or the White House has the appetite to reprimand Mr. Tenet, Mr. Pavitt or others.… particularly since President Bush awarded a Medal of Freedom to Mr. Tenet last month.” It is unclear if any reprimands will occur, or even if the final version of the report will point blame at specific individuals. [New York Times, 1/7/2005] In late October 2004, the new CIA Director, Porter Goss, had asked Helgerson to modify the report to avoid drawing conclusions about whether individual CIA officers should be held accountable. [New York Times, 11/2/2004] Helgerson “appears to have accepted [Goss’s] recommendation” and will defer any final judgments to a CIA Accountability Review Board. The final version of the report is said to be completed within weeks. [New York Times, 1/7/2005] However, months pass, and in October 2005, Goss will announce that he is not going to release the report, and also will not convene an accountability board to hold anyone responsible (see October 10, 2005), although an executive summary will be released in 2007 (see August 21, 2007).
Newsweek reports that the Pentagon is considering a new approach to dealing with the insurgency in Iraq, one defense officials call the “Salvador Option.” During the 1980s, the US, primarily through the CIA, funded and supported paramilitary units, often called “death squads” by the citizenry and various human rights organizations which monitored their activities, in El Salvador and other Central American nations. These death squads carried out numerous assassinations and kidnappings, including the murder of four American nuns in 1980. Many US conservatives consider the Salvadoran operation a success, though many innocent Salvadorans died, some under torture, and the operation fomented the US government policies that became known collective as “Iran-Contra.” Now the Pentagon is debating whether the same tactics should be used in Iraq. “What everyone agrees is that we can’t just go on as we are,” says a senior military official. “We have to find a way to take the offensive against the insurgents. Right now, we are playing defense. And we are losing.” Another military source contends that Iraqis who sympathize with the insurgents need to be targeted: “The Sunni population is paying no price for the support it is giving to the terrorists. From their point of view, it is cost-free. We have to change that equation.” One proposal would “send [US] Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria.” Among the proposal’s supporters is Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. But other Pentagon officials are shy of running any operation that might contravene the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and prefer the CIA to run the proposed operation. And many lawmakers, Pentagon officials, and military experts are wary of expanding the role of US Special Forces operations in such a legally and morally dubious direction. They also worry about the ramifications of using Iraqi Kurds and Shi’ite militia members against Iraqi Sunnis in potential death squads, characterized by investigative reporter Robert Parry as “a prescription for civil war or genocide.” Some speculate that this operation might be one of the reasons John Negroponte was recently named US ambassador to Iraq. Negroponte served as US ambassador to Honduras during the 1980s, and many feel Negroponte was a key figure in the establishment and operations of the Central American death squads. Other Bush officials active in the Central America program include Elliott Abrams, who oversaw Central American policies at the State Department and who is now a Middle East adviser on Bush’s National Security Council staff, and Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a powerful defender of the Central American policies as a member of the House of Representatives. Negroponte denies any involvement in any such program operating in Iraq. [Newsweek, 1/8/2005; Consortium News, 1/11/2005] Christopher Dickey, a Newsweek reporter with personal experience in El Salvador during the time of the death squads, writes that he is “prepared to admit that building friendly democracies sometimes has to be a cold-blooded business in the shadowland of moral grays that is the real world,” but says that the idea of US-formed death squads in Iraq, and the corollary idea of sending US Special Forces teams into Syria and perhaps other Middle Eastern countries is not only potentially a mistake, but one that is little more than “a formalization of what’s already taking place.” Former Defense Intelligence Agency analyst and Middle East specialist Patrick Lang says, “We are, of course, already targeting enemy cadres for elimination whether by capture or death in various places including Afghanistan and Iraq.” So many Special Forces personnel are already involved in such operations, Lang says, that there is an actual shortage of Green Berets to perform their primary task: training regular Iraqi troops. The operation could benefit the US presence in two ways: helping win the hearts and minds of the ordinary citizenry by successfully eliminating insurgents, or just by making the citizenry “more frightened of [the US] than they are of the insurgents.” [Newsweek, 1/11/2005]
Entity Tags: Robert Parry, Patrick Lang, US Department of Defense, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Iyad Allawi, Contras, Christopher Dickey, Central Intelligence Agency, John Negroponte, Newsweek, Elliott Abrams, Donald Rumsfeld
Timeline Tags: US Military, Iraq under US Occupation
The US television news media virtually ignores the court-martial of Specialist Charles Graner, who is charged with abusing and torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib (see May 19, 2004-March 22, 2006 and January 16, 2005), according to author and media critic Frank Rich. “[I]f a story isn’t on TV in America, it’s MIA in the culture,” Rich will write. Much of the broadcast coverage is focused on stories about President Bush’s upcoming inauguration and on Britain’s Prince Harry, who had dressed up in Nazi regalia for a costume party. The network and cable news stations grant Graner’s trial only “brief, mechanical” summations “when it was broadcast at all.” The usual claims that television news only focuses on lurid, scandal-ridden news stories do not apply here, Rich writes: “It surely didn’t lack for drama; the Graner trial was Judgment at Nuremberg turned upside down.” Viewers do not learn of defense lawyer Guy Womack’s claim during his closing argument that “In Nuremberg, it was the government being prosecuted. We were going after the order-givers. Here the government is going after the order-takers.” Rich will later write that if the American public could not be exposed to fictional films about World War II (see November 11, 2004), then it “certainly… could not be exposed to real-life stories involving forced group masturbation, electric shock, rape committed with a phosphorescent stick, the burning of cigarettes in prisoners’ ears, involuntary enemas, and beatings that ended in death (see May 3-11, 2004). When one detainee witness at the Graner trial testified… that he had been forced to eat out of a toilet, his story was routinely cited in newspaper accounts but left unmentioned on network TV newscasts.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 155]
The National Intelligence Council, the center for midterm and long-term strategic thinking within the US intelligence community, issues a report concluding, “Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of ‘professionalized’ terrorists.” [Washington Post, 1/15/2005] In May, the CIA will report that Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in al-Qaeda’s early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat. [New York Times, 6/22/2005]
Army Specialist Charles Graner is sentenced to 10 years in prison. In a military court-martial, Graner was convicted of crimes related to the torture and abuse of prisoners in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison (see October 2003), October 17-22, 2003), November 4-December 2, 2003, and (7:00 a.m.) November 4, 2003), including charges of battery, conspiracy, maltreatment of detainees, committing indecent acts, and dereliction of duty. Graner admitted some of his actions were criminal, and told jurors, “I didn’t enjoy what I did there” before he was found guilty. Asked if he felt remorse over his actions, Graner says simply: “There’s a war on. Bad things happen.” After Graner completes his sentence, he will be dishonorably discharged. He has forfeited all of his pay and benefits. Defense lawyer Guy Womack says that Graner and his six fellow Abu Ghraib guards also facing trials (see May 19, 2004-March 22, 2006) are being used as scapegoats by the Defense Department. Graner and his lawyers were unable to effectively discuss orders being handed down from superior officers during the trial, as the judge in the court-martial, Colonel James Pohl, refused to let witnesses say the names of officers who gave the orders or what orders might have been given, in effect constraining the trial to point to Graner and his colleagues as independent, “rogue” agents operating outside the chain of command. Graner did not testify during his trial, but during sentencing said that he had done what he was ordered to do by US intelligence agents, in order to “soften up” prisoners for interrogation. According to Graner, a lieutenant in his unit told him: “If [military intelligence] asks you to do this, it needs to be done. They’re in charge, follow their orders.” He believed the orders to torture and abuse prisoners were lawful, he claims. [Associated Press, 1/16/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 155] Author and media critic Frank Rich will later note that while the print media coverage of Graner’s trial is relatively extensive, the broadcast media virtually ignores it in favor of celebrating the inauguration of President Bush (see January 11-16, 2005). [Rich, 2006, pp. 155]
Attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales turns in supplementary written answers to expand upon and clarify his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee (see January 6, 2005 and January 6, 2005). Buried in the documents is what reporter Charlie Savage will call “an explosive new disclosure.” Gonzales reveals that the Bush administration had secretly decided that the Convention against Torture, an international treaty, only has force on domestic soil, where the US Constitution applies. Noncitizens held overseas have no rights under the treaty, Bush lawyers concluded. Legal scholars from all sides of the political continuum denounce the administration’s position. Judge Abraham Sofaer, who negotiated the treaty for the Reagan administration, will write a letter to Congress informing it that President Reagan had never intended the treaty’s prohibition on torture and brutal treatment to apply only on US soil. However, the Bush administration stands by its position. [Savage, 2007, pp. 213]
Pakistan’s military commander in the tribal regions, Lieutenant General Ali Jan Orakzai, says: “This impression that the Pakistani tribal areas are havens for terrorists is baseless. In my two and a half years of command I never got a single indication that [Osama] bin Laden was on our side of the border. He’s a big guy, hard to hide, and with 74,000 of my troops there it would have been very difficult for him to be hiding.” Orakzai commanded troops there from October 2001 until 2004. He adds that claims that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, is tipping off radical militants about Pakistani military movements are baseless. He even says that not a single Arab has been seen in the tribal region. [London Times, 1/22/2005] It is believed that Orakzai intensely hates the US and is sympathetic to the Taliban. Robert Grenier, CIA station chief in Pakistan at this time, will later suggest that Orakzai did not want to find the foreigners, so he conducted large, slow sweeps that allowed militants to easily get away (see Late 2002-Late 2003). Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will finally fire Orakzai in 2007 for his sympathies to militant groups (see July 19, 2007).
The Washington Post reports that according to “[f]our people with firsthand knowledge” the Strategic Support Branch (see October 2001-April 2002) has “begun operating under Network Centric Operations Industry Consortium ‘non-official cover’ overseas, using false names and nationalities” in missions that “skirt the line between clandestine and covert operations.” Under US law, “clandestine” operations are conducted in secret, while “covert” operations are more sensitive and are denied by the government if revealed. Covert actions require a written “finding” by the president affirming its necessity with prompt notification of senior congressional leaders of both parties. [Washington Post, 1/23/2005]
Five prisoners are released from Guantanamo, following a Pentagon announcement the release would take place two weeks earlier. They are Mamdouh Habib, an Australian, and the four remaining Britons: Feroz Abbasi, Moazzam Begg, Jamaal Belmar, and Martin Mubanga. British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw says the Britons’ release is the result of his “intensive and complex” discussions with the US. [New York Times, 1/12/2005; New York Times, 1/26/2005] Australian Attorney General Philip Ruddock says the Australian government requested Habib’s repatriation to Australia after the US said it did not intend to bring Habib to trial. [ABC News, 1/11/2005]
Two Men's Passports Confiscated - However, upon their return to England, the passports of Mubanga and Abbasi are confiscated by the British authorities using a little-known Royal Prerogative. Home Secretary Charles Clarke writes to the men saying that they are too dangerous to Britain and its allies to be allowed to travel, and that granting them passports “would be contrary to the public interest,” as there are “strong grounds for believing that, on leaving [Britain], you would take part in activities against [Britain] or allied targets. We therefore decided to withdraw your passport facilities for the time being.” [Evening Standard, 2/15/2005]
Abbasi's Radical Connections - Abbasi is an associate of radical London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri (see 1999-2000) who had traveled to Afghanistan and been involved in fighting against the US-led invasion (see December 2000-December 2001), and had been slated for a military tribunal (see July 3, 2003).
Deal with Blair - The New York Times will suggest that the release of the four men is politically motivated and designed to bolster British Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose campaign to gather support for the Iraq war was damaged by the news of the military prosecution of Britons at Guantanamo. According to the Times, “Mr. Blair’s critics saw his inability to regain custody of a total of nine British detainees at Guantánamo as proof of his subjugation to Washington,” and the announcement of the men’s release apparently shows that Blair can stand up to the US. [New York Times, 10/25/2004]
British police investigate Mohammad Sidique Khan, who will be the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings later in the year (see July 7, 2005). In March 2004, Khan’s car had been in a crash and he had been loaned a courtesy car by an auto shop while it was being repaired. That same month, MI5 monitored Khan driving the loaned car with Omar Khyam, a key figure in the 2004 fertilizer bomb plot (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004 and February 2-March 23, 2004). On January 27, 2005, police take a statement from the manager of the auto shop. The manager says the car was loaned to a “Mr. S Khan,” and gives Khan’s mobile phone number and two addresses associated with him. MI5 had followed Khan to one of these addresses in February 2004 after Khan had met with Khyam and dropped him off at his residence (see February 2-March 23, 2004). Then, on February 3, 2005, an officer from Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism branch asks questions to the company which had insured Khan’s car. The officer learns Khan registered the car in his own name and the name of his mother-in-law. None of this information will be presented in the 2006 investigation into the 7/7 bombings by the government’s Intelligence and Security Committee. This also contradicts repeated assertions by government officials that Khan’s name was not known before the bombings. The Guardian will comment when this information comes to light in 2007: “The revelation suggests Khan was being investigated much nearer to the London bombings than has been officially admitted. The discovery that Khan was reinvestigated the following year appears to contradict claims from MI5 that inquiries about him came to an end in 2004 after it was decided that other terrorism suspects warranted more urgent investigation.” [Guardian, 5/3/2007] In early 2004, MI5 classified Khan a suspect worth investigating, but went after higher priority suspects first (see March 29, 2004 and After). It is unknown if any more action is taken on him before the July bombings.
A former chief of the CIA’s station in Baghdad, Iraq (see December 2004), reportedly brags about mistreating detainees. Details of the comments, including who they are made to, are unknown. However, they do lead to an investigation, which finds that the former chief’s statements are untrue and that he was exaggerating. [McClatchy, 8/25/2009]
The FBI office in New Haven, Connecticut receives an e-mail that looks like a terrorist threat. The agents there follow the normal routine: they ask the service provider, a group of Connecticut public libraries, for the real name, street address, and Internet logs of the sender. The agents have no search warrant, grand jury subpoena, or court order. What they do have is a National Security Letter (NSL) that describes the records needed. According to the expanded USA Patriot Act, the NSL is all the FBI needs, and the NSL statute bars the librarians from disclosing the request to anyone. The librarians will refuse to hand over the information, and will file a federal lawsuit challenging the NSL as an unconstitutional infringement on free speech (see July 13, 2005). The e-mailed threat will turn out to be a hoax. Kevin O’Connor, the US attorney in Connecticut, later says the FBI suspected that the threat was a hoax from the outset, but believed they had an “obligation” to pursue it. “We weren’t tying up librarians or reading through books,” he will say. “All we wanted was identifying information. God forbid it isn’t a hoax.” The librarians who challenge the NSL, however, feel differently. George Christian, the point man in the librarians’ legal challenge, will say, “The idea that the government can secretly investigate what the public is informing itself about is chilling.” A judge will strike down the NSL gag order, allowing Christian and his three colleagues (by now dubbed the “Connecticut Four” by the media) to disclose the fact that they had received an NSL, with a judge calling the NSL gag order “antithetical to democratic concepts”. In April 2006, the government will drop its NSL request (see August 2005-May 2006). Christian will be unmollified. “The fact that I can speak now is a little like being permitted to call the Fire Department only after a building has burned to the ground,” he will say. [USA Today, 7/6/2006]
The Justice Department issues a secret opinion that countermands and contradicts the administration’s official policy that torture is “abhorrent” and will not be practiced by US military or law enforcement officials (see December 30, 2004). The secret opinion is, the New York Times writes two years later while publicly revealing its existence, “an expansive endorsement of the harshest interrogation techniques ever used by the Central Intelligence Agency.” The opinion gives explicit authorization to abuse detainees with a combination of physical and psychological abuse, including head-slapping, stress positioning, simulated drowning (“waterboarding”), and prolonged exposure to intense cold. New attorney general Alberto Gonzales (see November 10, 2004) approves the memo over the objections of deputy attorney general James Comey, himself preparing to leave the Justice Department after a series of battles over the legality of torture and the domestic surveillance program (see March 10-12, 2004). Comey says at the time that everyone at the department will be “ashamed” of the new opinion once the world learns of it. [New York Times, 10/4/2007]
CIA Director Porter Goss tells the Senate: “Islamic extremists are exploiting the Iraqi conflict to recruit new anti-US jihadists. These jihadists who survive will leave Iraq experienced in, and focused on, acts of urban terrorism. They represent a potential pool of contacts to build transnational terrorist cells, groups and networks in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other countries.” [New York Times Magazine, 9/11/2005]
Mohammad Sidique Khan passing through immigration control in Karachi, Pakistan, in February 2005. [Source: Public domain]British intelligence receives a report naming two people with extremist views who had traveled to Afghanistan. Apparently only their aliases are given, because the British intelligence agency MI5 tries and fails to discover who they are. Only after the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005) does it learn that one of them was Mohammad Sidique Khan, the head 7/7 suicide bomber. [Observer, 1/14/2007] Khan traveled to training camps in Pakistan several times, most recently from November 2004 to February 2005. He returned to Britain on the same flight as Shehzad Tanweer, another one of the 7/7 suicide bombers (see November 18, 2004-February 8, 2005).
Cofer Black, former chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, joins Blackwater. He becomes the company’s vice chairman. [Boston Globe, 11/2/2007]
A June 2005 Guantanamo file on a relatively low-level Taliban detainee allegedly mentions in passing a February 2005 meeting of militant leaders in Quetta, Pakistan. According to intelligence reports referred to in the file, Mullah Omar, top head of the Taliban, leads the meeting. Other high-level Taliban leaders such as Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani also attend. But most interestingly, representatives from the Pakistani government and the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, are at the meeting as well. In the meeting, “Mullah Omar [tells] the attendees that they should not cooperate with the new infidel government (in Afghanistan) and should keep attacking coalition forces.” The Guantanamo file mentioning the meeting will be leaked to the public in 2011. [Joint Task Force Guantanamo, 6/3/2005 ; Guardian, 4/25/2011]
A. Q: Khan (right) and Mahathir bin Mohamad, Prime Minister of Malaysia from 1981 to 2003 (left). [Source: CBC]A Sri Lankan named Bukhary Sayed Abu Tahir is accused by President Bush of being the chief financial officer for an international nuclear black market linked to A. Q. Khan, the so-called father of Pakistan’s nuclear bomb. Tahir sat on the board of Kaspudu Sendirian Berhad, which is owned by the Malaysian prime minister’s son, Kamaluddin Abdullah. The Associated Press claims that a search of publicly accessible files revealed the paper trail that outlines links between Abdullah and Abu Tahir. The paperwork revealed that they were both executives at Kaspudu Sendirian Berhad when Tahir made a deal for Scomi Precision Engineering to build components that Western intelligence sources claim were for use in Libya’s nuclear program. The Scomi Group fulfilled a $3.5 million manufacturing contract for machine parts negotiated by Tahir. Scomi officials say they did not know what the parts were for, while nonproliferation authorities claim they were for 14 centrifuges. US officials insist the components, tubes made up of thousands of small pieces, could only be used in a uranium enrichment program. A Scomi spokeswoman insisted that the company was told the parts were for the oil and gas industry. After the revelation, Abdullah severs ties to Tahir. Malaysian police say neither Tahir or Scomi have committed any crime and no arrests have been made, which the official government report backed up. President Bush has accused Tahir of using a Dubai based company called Gulf Technical Industries as a front for Khan’s network. [Malaysia, 2/21/2004; Time, 2/16/2005; CNN, 2/18/2005]
Former White House counsel Alberto Gonzales is confirmed as attorney general by the Senate on a generally party-line vote of 60-36, one of the smallest margins of confirmation in Senate history. Gonzales’s confirmation hearings (see January 6, 2005 and January 6, 2005) have been the source of great controversy, with Senate Democrats accusing him of being deliberately evasive, obfuscutory (see January 17, 2005), and even obtuse during questioning, but with a solid Republican majority, Democrats have little ability to do anything to interfere with Gonzales’s ascension to power. [Savage, 2007, pp. 213] Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) explains his opposition to Gonzales: “What is at stake here is whether he has demonstrated to the Senate of the United States that he will discharge the duties of the office to which he’s been nominated, specifically whether he will enforce the Constitution and the laws of the United States and uphold the values upon which those laws are based. Regrettably, and disturbingly in my view, Alberto Gonzales has fallen short of meeting this most basic and fundamental standard.” Dodd adds that Gonzales “has endorsed, unfortunately, the position that torture can be permissible.” Fellow Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) adds: “At the very least Mr. Gonzales helped to create a permissive environment that made it more likely that abuses would take place. You could connect the dots from the administration’s legal memos to the Defense Department’s approval of abusive interrogation techniques for Guantanamo Bay to Iraq and Abu Ghraib.” Republicans are incredulous that Democrats would oppose Gonzales’s candidacy, and imply that their opposition is racially based. “Is it prejudice?” asks Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT). “Is it a belief that a Hispanic-American should never be in a position like this because he will be the first one ever in a position like this? Or is it because he’s constantly mentioned for the Supreme Court of the United States of America? Or is it that they just don’t like Judge Gonzales?” Senator Mel Martinez (R-FL) says: “This is a breakthrough of incredible magnitude for Hispanic-Americans and should not be diluted by partisan politics. Judge Gonzales is a role model for the next generation of Hispanic-Americans in this country.” [Fox News, 2/4/2005] When Gonzales is sworn in on February 14, President Bush will use the occasion to urge Congress to renew the controversial USA Patriot Act (see February 14, 2005). [Deseret News, 2/15/2005]
The acting chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, Daniel Levin, sends a memo to William J. Haynes, the chief counsel for the Defense Department, advising Haynes that he is withdrawing the Justice Department’s March 2003 memo that justified certain “harsh” methods of interrogation of prisoners in US custody. Levin, writing in carefully couched legal language, says that many of the interrogation methods currently in use by US interrogators are not within the legal parameters for interrogation—in other words, the methods qualify as torture under US law. [US Department of Justice, 2/4/2005 ] Levin recently underwent a simulated waterboarding session to determine for himself if the practice qualified as torture, and determined that it did so. He will shortly be relieved of his position in the Justice Department, and the administration will continue its support for waterboarding and other “harsh” methods of interrogation (see Late 2004-Early 2005).
Senior defense officials say that a preliminary study commissioned by the Pentagon has concluded that authority over the CIA’s paramilitary units should not be transferred to the Pentagon. The study, conducted by the Booz Allen Hamilton law firm in McLean, Virginia, reviewed the 9/11 commission’s recommendation that CIA paramilitary operations be consolidated under Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida. Booz Allen Hamilton’s conclusions were based on a series of tabletop war games in which veteran CIA officers and Special Operations soldiers “explored how each agency’s paramilitary units would respond to different contingencies, including threats involving terrorists and weapons of mass destruction and missions to train indigenous fighters or gain control of ungoverned territory,” the Washington Post reports. A senior defense official familiar with the study tells the newspaper, “If you take the very small paramilitary capabilities away from the CIA, in my view, it would limit their ability to conduct foreign intelligence activities which they are required by law to do.” Furthermore, he adds, “we don’t have the legal authorities to be doing what the CIA does, so getting all those assets doesn’t make any sense.” [Washington Post, 2/5/2005]
In an op-ed piece published by the Washington Post, David Kay, formerly of the Iraq Survey Group, recommends five steps the US should follow in order to avoid making the same “mistake” it made in Iraq when it wrongly concluded that Iraq had an active illicit weapons program. Three of the points address the issue of politicized intelligence. He implies that the US should learn from the experience it had with the Iraqi National Congress (see 2001-2003), which supplied US intelligence with sources who made false statements about Iraq’s weapon program. “Dissidents and exiles have their own agenda—regime change—and that before being accepted as truth any ‘evidence’ they might supply concerning Iran’s nuclear program must be tested and confirmed by other sources,” he says. In his fourth point, Kay makes it clear that the motives of administration officials should also be considered. He says it is necessary to “understand that overheated rhetoric from policymakers and senior administration officials, unsupported by evidence that can stand international scrutiny, undermines the ability of the United States to halt Iran’s nuclear activities.” And recalling the CIA’s infamous 2002 National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Iraq (see October 1, 2002), he says that an NIE on Iran “should not be a rushed and cooked document used to justify the threat of military action” and “should not be led by a team that is trying to prove a case for its boss.” [Washington Post, 2/9/2005]
John Negroponte. [Source: Public domain]President Bush nominates John Negroponte to be the first director of national intelligence, a new position created to oversee all the various US intelligence agencies. Negroponte has been serving as the US ambassador to Iraq for the previous year. Prior to that he had been the US ambassador to the United Nations and held a variety of other government positions. [New York Times, 2/17/2005] The nomination is controversial because, as the Los Angeles Times reports, “While ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85, Negroponte directed the secret arming of Nicaragua’s Contra rebels and is accused by human rights groups of overlooking—if not overseeing—a CIA-backed Honduran death squad during his tenure.” Additionally, “He also helped orchestrate a secret deal later known as Iran-Contra to send arms through Honduras to help the Contras overthrow the Sandinista government.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/26/2001] On April 21, 2005, the Senate will confirm Negroponte by a vote of 98 to two. In 2007, then-CIA analyst Valerie Plame Wilson will describe the establishment of a new position as a shocking blow to morale in the agency. Once Negroponte assumes the position, she will write, “the name ‘Central Intelligence Agency’ [becomes] a misnomer.” CIA employees were promised that the “new DNI structure would not be just an ‘extra bureaucratic layer’ over the CIA, but that’s exactly what it would become. It seemed to me that the White House was bent on emasculating the CIA by blaming it for the failures in Iraq and anything else they thought they could throw at the agency and have stick.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 219] She will write of the announcement: “I remember standing in counterproliferation division’s large conference room in early 2005 when the creation of the DNI was announced to the division workforce. Our chief swore that the DNI would not be just another layer of useless bureaucracy—everyone acknowledged that we already had plenty of that. The veterans of intelligence reorganizations past made cynical comments under their breath.” Plame Wilson will observe that the reorganization of the US intelligence community under the DNI will be “an abysmal failure.” [Wilson, 2007, pp. 248]
Hunter S. Thompson, in a 1977 photo. [Source: Guardian]Hunter S. Thompson, writer and “gonzo” journalist, dies in an apparent suicide by gunshot. The day before, he had told a friend at the Toronto Globe and Mail that he had found evidence of explosives used in the collapse of the WTC on 9/11, and that he was worried for his safety. “Hunter telephoned me on Feb. 19, the night before his death,” the friend says. “He sounded scared.… He’d been working on a story about the World Trade Center attacks and had stumbled across what he felt was hard evidence showing the towers had been brought down not by the airplanes that flew into them but by explosive charges set off in their foundations. Now he thought someone was out to stop him publishing it: ‘They’re gonna make it look like suicide,’ he said.” The friend continues: “That’s how I imagine a tribute to Hunter S. Thompson should begin. He was indeed working on such a story, but it wasn’t what killed him.” [Toronto Globe and Mail, 2/26/2005] Thompson was in considerable pain from medical ailments and had been opening talking with friends about committing suicide. He wrote a suicide note four days earlier. [Rolling Stone, 9/8/2005]
The New York Times reports that, according to current and former government officials, there is “widening unease within the Central Intelligence Agency over the possibility that career officers could be prosecuted or otherwise punished for their conduct during interrogations and detentions of terrorism suspects.” The conduct is questionable because it is said to amount to torture in some cases (see Mid-May 2002 and After, Shortly After September 6, 2006 and March 10-April 15, 2007). At this time, only one CIA contractor has been charged with a crime, after a prisoner died in Afghanistan. However, at least half a dozen other investigations by the Justice Department and the CIA’s Inspector General are ongoing, and involve actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, and possibly “black sites” in other countries. An official says, “There’s a lot more out there than has generally been recognized, and people at the agency are worried.” [New York Times, 2/27/2005] Apparently due to these fears, some officers purchase legal insurance policies. [ABC News, 12/15/2007]
Haji Bashir Noorzai, reputedly Afghanistan’s biggest drug kingpin with ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, had been arrested and then released by the US in late 2001 (see Late 2001), and then ignored when he wanted to make a deal with US in 2004 (see Autumn 2004). In spring 2005, the US again contacts him and offers a deal. Author James Risen explains, “The Americans asked Noorzai to come to the United States to negotiate a deal, and to the astonishment of nearly everyone involved in the case, he agreed. Noorzai flew on a regular commercial flight to New York, where he was met by federal agents. The Bush administration was so startled that he had actually agreed to come to the United States that it was not quite sure what to do with him.” Secret talks are held in New York City, resulting in Noorzai being indicted in April 2005. “By the summer of 2005, Noorzai was in jail and was talking, but questions remained about whether the Bush administration really wanted to hear what he had to say, particularly about the involvement of powerful Afghans and Pakistanis in the heroin trade.” [BBC, 4/26/2005; Risen, 2006, pp. 152-162]
“A few months” before the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), journalist Ron Suskind interviews radical London imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed. Suskind had recently heard from a British intelligence official that Bakri “had helped [British domestic intelligence agency] MI5 on several of its investigations,” in Suskind’s words, and he asks Bakri about this. According to Suskind, Bakri looks flustered and says, “I’m upset you know this.” Asked why he helped the British, he replies: “Because I like it here. My family’s here. I like the health benefits.” In early 2007, Suskind calls Bakri on the phone. After the 7/7 bombings, Bakri moved from London to Lebanon (see August 6, 2005), but by the time Suskind reaches him, Bakri has moved again to Tripoli, Libya. Bakri admits that he misses Britain and his role there. He says that the British government misses him too, “whether they admit it or not.” He adds: “We were able to control the Muslim youth.… The radical preacher that allows a venting of a point of view is preventing violence. Now, many of us are gone or in jail, and we’ve been replaced by radical jihadis, who take the youth underground. You don’t see them until the day they vent with the bombs.” Suskind will later comment: “Bakri enjoyed his notoriety and was willing to pay for it with information he passed to the police.… It’s a fabric of subtle interlocking needs: the [British authorities] need be in a backchannel conversation with someone working the steam valve of Muslim anger; Bakri needs health insurance.” Bakri’s role as an informant will not be made public until Suskind mentions it in a book published in August 2008. Suskind will not make clear when Bakri’s collaboration with MI5 began or ended, or even if he was still collaborating when they spoke in early 2005. [Suskind, 2008, pp. 200-202] In 2002, Roland Jacquard, a French counterterrorism expert and government adviser, said that “every al-Qaeda operative recently arrested or identified in Europe had come into contact with Bakri at some time or other.” [Time, 5/27/2002]
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