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Ziad Jarrah. [Source: Reuters]When traveling with a radical associate known to be monitored by German intelligence, Abdulrahman al-Makhadi (see Late 1996 or After), Ziad Jarrah meets another suspicious Islamic radical. The man, a convert, is known in public accounts only as Marcel K and is the vice president of the Islamic center in North-Rhine Westphalia. In March 2001, the Bundeskriminalamt federal criminal service will begin investigating the center’s president with respect to membership in a terrorist organization. Marcel K is apparently a close confidant of Jarrah, because Jarrah always calls him before taking important decisions, for example when he leaves to train in Afghanistan and when he applies for admission to US flight schools. He will also call Marcel K during his pilot training, for the last time shortly before 9/11. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003] Marcel K will be arrested in a Europe-wide sweep of Islamic militants in February 2003. [Deutsche Welle (Bonn), 2/6/2003; Tagesspeigel, 2/7/2003; New York Times News Service, 2/7/2003] It is not known what happens to him after this.
The CIA again asks the NSA for part of the transcripts of calls between Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and al-Qaeda’s operations center in Yemen. The NSA has been intercepting the calls for some time (see Between May and December 1996), but refuses to share the intelligence with Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, in usable form (see December 1996). During the calls, the al-Qaeda operatives talk in a simplistic code, but the NSA apparently does not decrypt the conversations, and only gives Alec Station meaningless summaries of the calls (see February 1996-May 1998). Without the transcripts, Alec Station cannot crack the code and figure out what the operatives are really talking about. As a result, the CIA built a duplicate ground station in the Indian Ocean, and is replicating half of the NSA’s intelligence take on the calls (see After December 1996). However, it cannot obtain the other end of the calls without a satellite. Alec Station chief Michael Scheuer will say, “We would collect it [one end of the calls], translate it, send it to NSA, and ask them for the other half of it, so we could better understand it, but we never got it.” Author James Bamford will comment: “And so the CIA, Mike Scheuer, went back to NSA and said look,… we’re able to get… half the conversations here, but we still need the other half, and NSA still wouldn’t give them the other half. I mean this is absurd, but this is what was going on.” [Antiwar, 10/22/2008; PBS, 2/3/2009]
Mohamed Harkat. [Source: CBC]In February 1997, Mohamed Harkat, an Islamic militant living in Canada who is being monitored by Canadian intelligence (CSIS), contacts a person in Pakistan whom he refers to as Haji Wazir. Harkat asks him about Ibn Khattab, a warlord in Chechnya linked to al-Qaeda, and other people linked to Islamic militancy. Canadian intelligence is monitoring the call. In October 1997, Harkat is interviewed by Canadian intelligence and he tells them he has a banker friend named Haji Wazir and that he has deposited some money in Wazir’s bank. Canadian intelligence will later comment in court documents that Haji Wazir is another name for Pacha Wazir (haji is an honoric for someone who has been on the haj, or pilgrimage, to Mecca), and that Wazir is a “shadowy financial kingpin from the United Arab Emirates.… Wazir was the main money-handler for Osama Bin Laden.” Furthermore, Harkat is involved with terrorist financing for Khattab and al-Qaeda in association with Wazir. [Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2/22/2008 ] Presumably Wazir becomes known to Western intelligence agencies at this time, if he is not known already, but no country will take any action against him until one year after 9/11 (see Late September 2002).
Mustafa Fadhil. [Source: FBI]US intelligence is monitoring the phones of an al-Qaeda cell in Kenya (see
April 1996 and Late 1996-August 1998), as well as the phones of Osama bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan (see November 1996-Late August 1998). Between January 30 and February 3, 1997, al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef calls Wadih El-Hage, the leader of the Kenyan cell, several times. El-Hage then flies to Pakistan and on February 4, he is monitored calling Kenya and gives the address of the hotel in Peshawar where he is staying. On February 7, he calls Kenyan cell member Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul) and says he is still in Peshawar, waiting to enter Afghanistan and meet al-Qaeda leaders. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 37, 5/1/2001] Then, later on February 7, Fazul calls cell member Mohammed Saddiq Odeh. According to a snippet of the call discussed in a 2001 trial, Fazul informs Odeh about a meeting between the “director” and the “big boss,” which are references to El-Hage and Osama bin Laden respectively. In another monitored call around this time, Fazul talks to cell member Mustafa Fadhil, and they complain to each other that Odeh is using a phone for personal business that is only meant to be used for al-Qaeda business. Then, on February 21, El-Hage is back in Kenya and talks to Odeh on the phone in another monitored call. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 37, 5/1/2001; United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 39, 5/3/2001]
In February 1997, Wadih El-Hage, Osama bin Laden’s former personal secretary now living in Kenya and working on an al-Qaeda bomb plot, goes to Afghanistan and visits bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef (see February 7-21, 1997). He returns to Kenya with a seven-page report from Atef, al-Qaeda’s military commander, that details al-Qaeda’s new ties to the Taliban. Atef writes: “We wish to put our Muslim friends in the picture of the events, especially that the media portrayed an untrue image about the Taliban movement. Our duty towards the movement is to stand behind it, support it materially and morally.” On February 25, 1997, El-Hage faxes the report to some associates with the suggestion that it be shared with the “brothers in work.” US intelligence is monitoring El-Hage’s phone and learns the contents of the fax and whom it is sent to. The fax is sent to:
Ali Mohamed, the US-al-Qaeda double agent living in California. Mohamed has already been under surveillance since 1993 for his al-Qaeda ties (see Autumn 1993). He will not be arrested until one month after the 1998 African embassy bombings (see September 10, 1998).
Ihab Ali Nawawi, an apparent al-Qaeda operative living in Orlando, Florida. It is not known if Nawawi is monitored after this, but communications between him, Mohamed, and El-Hage are discovered in January 1998 (see January 1998). He will not be arrested until May 1999 (see May 18, 1999).
Farid Adlouni. He is a civil engineer living in Lake Oswego, Oregon. In 1996 and 1997, El-Hage calls Adlouni in Oregon 72 times, sometimes just before or after meeting with bin Laden. Later in 1997, Adlouni’s home phone and fax numbers will be found in two personal phone directories and one notebook kept by El-Hage (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). Records show that El-Hage has extensive dealings with Adlouni, mostly by selling gems El-Hage bought in Africa for a better price in the US. The FBI interviews Adlouni twice in late 1997, but he is not arrested. As of 2002, it will be reported that he continues to live in Oregon and remains a “person of interest” and subject of investigation by the FBI.
Other copies of the fax are sent to associates in Germany, but they have not been named. Apparently these contacts do not result in any arrests, as there are no known arrests of al-Qaeda figures in Germany in 1997. [Oregonian, 9/13/2002]
Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell with three of the 9/11 hijackers, is monitored as he gets help in meeting al-Qaeda spiritual leader Abu Qatada in Britain. In March 1997, Zammar in Germany calls Barakat Yarkas in Spain. Yarkas is widely seen as the top leader of al-Qaeda in Spain, and Spanish intelligence is monitoring his calls. Telephone intercepts show that Zammar tells Yarkas, “I want to meet with brother Abu Qatada,” Zammar said, according to a transcript of the conversation. Yarkas replies, “Yes, I’ll talk to him and I’ll ask him.” Yarkas gives Qatada’s phone number to Zammar two days later. Zammar goes on to meet Qatada, but details of that meeting are unknown. [Los Angeles Times, 1/30/2003] Yarkas has been traveling to Britain for years, meeting with Qatada and giving him money (see 1995-February 2001). In 1996 or 1997, US intelligence learns that Qatada is a key spiritual adviser for al-Qaeda (see June 1996-1997). Shortly before Zammar’s call to Yarkas, British intelligence recruited Qatada as an informant, although he may not be a fully honest one (see June 1996-February 1997). It is unknown if Zammar’s visit with Qatada becomes known to US or German intelligence. Zammar may introduce Hamburg cell member Said Bahaji to Qatada, because Qatada’s phone number will be found in Bahaji’s address book shortly after 9/11 (see Shortly After September 11, 2001).
Reda Hassaine. [Source: CBC]Reda Hassaine, an Algerian journalist who informs for a number of intelligence services, including an Algerian service, the French Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), and the British Special Branch and MI5, helps intelligence agencies track Zacarias Moussaoui and shoe-bomber Richard Reid. One place Hassaine sees Moussaoui and Reid is the Four Feathers club, where leading Islamist cleric Abu Qatada preaches. [Evening Standard, 1/28/2005; O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 133] Hassaine also sees Moussaoui, Reid, and Spanish al-Qaeda leader Barakat Yarkas at the Finsbury Park mosque in London. The mosque, a hotbed of Islamic extremism headed by Abu Hamza al-Masri, is the center of attention for many intelligence agencies. Hassaine does not realize how important these people will later become at this time, but recognizes their faces when they become famous after 9/11. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 133] British intelligence also monitor phone calls between Moussaoui and Reid in 2000 (see Mid-2000-December 9, 2000).
Apparently, this is news video of Mohammed Haydar Zammar taken shortly after 9/11. [Source: UE-TV]An investigation of al-Qaeda contacts in Hamburg by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service, begins at least by this time (Germany refuses to disclose additional details). The investigation is called Operation Zartheit (Operation Tenderness), and it was started by a tip about Mohammed Haydar Zammar from Turkish intelligence (see 1996). [New York Times, 1/18/2003]
Zammar Linked to Hamburg 9/11 Cell and Bin Laden - It is later believed that Zammar, a German of Syrian origin, is a part of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/2003] Zammar will later claim that he recruited 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and others into the cell. [Washington Post, 6/12/2002] German intelligence is aware that he was personally invited to Afghanistan by bin Laden. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (Frankfurt), 2/2/2003] The investigation into Zammar allegedly stops in early 2000, after investigators conclude they don’t have enough evidence to convict him of any crime. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 11/21/2005]
CIA Involved with Zammar Operation - Vanity Fair will later claim that “A lone CIA agent, the Germans disclose, attempted to work alongside them” in Operation Zartheit, but German “requests for greater information and cooperation from the CIA, they claim, came to naught.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] This CIA agent is probably Thomas Volz, who is the CIA’s undercover agent in Hamburg at the time (see December 1999).
Reda Hassaine, an informer for French and then British intelligence (see Early 1997, (November 11, 1998), and (May 1999)), watches leading radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri at work in Finsbury Park mosque, where he recruits numerous extremist Muslims to take up arms. Abu Hamza is an informer for the British himself (see Early 1997).
Schoolboys - Hassaine will later describe the techniques Abu Hamza used on schoolboys: “They would come to the mosque after they finished school, from 11 years old and upwards, and he would sit them down and first tell them a few funny stories. This was his little madrassa [Islamic boarding school]. Parents were sending their kids to learn about Islam, they didn’t realize they were sending them to be brainwashed. Abu Hamza would talk very slowly to them, telling them about the teachings of the Koran, and the need for violence.”
Young Men - Hassaine will say that recruitment proper began with the older novices, who Abu Hamza met in the first-floor prayer room: “This was the heart of the action. It was how the recruitment began. Many of these kids were British Asian boys, and he would talk to them in English. He would talk about Kashmir. His message was always the same: ‘Islam is all about jihad and at the end the reward is paradise. Paradise is held by two swords and you must use one of those to kill in the name of Allah to get to paradise.’”
Algeria - Hassaine will add: “When the people were Algerians he would sit with them with coffee and dates and show them the GIA videos, and he would say, ‘Look at your brothers, look what they are doing, they are heroes, most of them are now in paradise and if you go there with them you will have 72 wives. All of this will be for ever, for eternity. This life is very short, you have to think about the big journey.’”
Osama bin Laden - Hassaine will also comment: “He used to talk about Yemen and Egypt, but after 1998 all the talk changed, it became all about Afghanistan. Osama bin Laden was there, the Taliban were building the Islamic state. This was the beginning of the recruitment of a second generation of people to go to Afghanistan, not to fight this time but to learn how to fight, to train and then go elsewhere to do damage. It all began in the summer of 1998.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 84-85]
Under Surveillance - Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will also point out: “Foreign intelligence services knew this selection process was happening within months of Abu Hamza taking over in north London in March 1997. They had their own informants inside.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 79]
Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, appears before the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee. At a closed hearing he tells it that the administration has intelligence showing that China is shipping nuclear weapons technology to Pakistan, but the administration is covering this up (see (April 1992), (Mid-1990s), Early 1996, May 1996, and September 1996). Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say that by this time Oehler has “had enough” of the administration ignoring his work documenting the deals between China and Pakistan. “There was no consistent policy emerging,” they will write. “There was no strategy even. There was no considered attempt to rein China in or to tackle Pakistan, which was getting increasingly out of hand. There was just a steady drip, drip of doomsday technology from China to Pakistan and from Pakistan to—no one was exactly sure how many countries.” Therefore, Oehler makes the attempt to get the Senate to do something. Levy and Scott-Clark will say he found “the softest way he could to contradict his superiors short of becoming a whistle-blower.” However, no action is taken against China or Pakistan, and Oehler soon resigns (see October 1997). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 259-260]
Former US ambassador Joe Wilson and CIA officer Valerie Plame meet for the first time at a reception held at the Turkish ambassador’s residence. Wilson is a political adviser to the Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces in Europe. Plame describes herself as an “energy executive living in Brussels.” Wilson and Plame will marry a year later and will become involved in the “Plame Affair,” when Plame’s affiliation with the CIA is disclosed in the media (see July 14, 2003). After her marriage, Plame will generally be referred to by the name Plame Wilson. Wilson, who is accompanied by General James Jamerson, is there to receive an award from the American-Turkish Council. The reason for Plame’s presence there is not known. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 239-242, 273] However, the American-Turkish Council will later be said to be involved in the smuggling of nuclear weapons material to Turkey and other countries (see Late 1990s-Early 2001 and Mid-Late 1990s), and Plame’s job at the CIA is in its non-proliferation section (see Late February 1999), so she may be there for operational reasons. [Sunday Times (London), 1/6/2008; Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008]
After Abu Hamza al-Masri takes over as the Friday preacher at Finsbury Park Mosque, a mole working for the Algerian government is told to find out everything he can about Abu Hamza. The mole, Reda Hassaine, has been working for the Algerians against the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) in London for some time (see Early 1995). The Algerians know that Abu Hamza met with Algerian fighters in Bosnia (see 1995), and is at the top of the GIA’s network of foreign supporters. Hassaine goes to the mosque every day and, as he and Abu Hamza have two mutual acquaintances, he is sometimes able to sit with him and listen to him speak. He does not get to know Abu Hamza well, but hears him constantly talking about jihad, killing, and life after death. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 132]
[Source: Crescent Hydropolis Resorts publicity photo]The Sudanese government, frustrated in previous efforts to be removed from a US list of terrorism sponsors, tries a back channel approach using Mansoor Ijaz, a multimillionaire Pakistani-American businessman. Ijaz is personally acquainted with President Clinton, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, and other high-level US officials. With help from Ijaz (who is also hoping to invest in Sudan), on April 5, 1997, Sudan President Omar al-Bashir writes a letter to Lee Hamilton (D-NH), the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It states, “We extend an offer to the FBI’s Counterterrorism units and any other official delegations which your government may deem appropriate, to come to the Sudan and work with [us] in order to assess the data in our possession and help us counter the forces your government, and ours, seek to contain.” This is a reference to Sudan’s extensive files on al-Qaeda gathered during the years bin Laden lived there, which the Sudanese had offered the US before (see March 8, 1996-April 1996). Sudan allows Ijaz to see some of these files. Ijaz discusses the letter with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Berger, and other prominent US officials, but to no success. No US official sends any reply back to Sudan. Tim Carney, US ambassador to Sudan, will complain, “It was an offer US officials did not take seriously.” ABC News will report in 2002 that the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry plans to investigate Sudan’s offer. Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), co-chairman of the inquiry, will ask, “Why wouldn’t we be accepting intelligence from the Sudanese?” But the inquiry’s 2003 final report will make no mention of this offer or other offers to hand over the files (see February 5, 1998; May 2000). (It should be noted the report is heavily censored so this might be discussed in redacted sections.) Hamilton, the recipient of the letter, will become the Vice Chairman of the 9/11 Commission. The Commission’s 2004 final report will not mention Sudan’s offers, and will fail to mention the direct involvement of the Commission’s Vice Chairman in these matters. [Vanity Fair, 1/2002; ABC News, 2/20/2002]
Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr (a.k.a. Abu Omar), a member of the Egyptian terrorist organization Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya who previously informed for the CIA in Albania (see August 27, 1995 and Shortly After), arrives in Italy and settles in Rome. He obtains asylum in Italy and serves as an imam near the Italian capital for a few years. He will later move to Milan at the same time a key al-Qaeda operative moves there (see Summer 2000). [Chicago Tribune, 7/2/2005; Vidino, 2006, pp. 242]
Ayaad Asaad. [Source: Public Domain]Dr. Ayaad Assaad, a scientist who has worked at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top biological laboratory, since 1989, is unexpectedly laid off in March 1997, and serves his last day at USAMRIID on May 9, 1997. Assaad is a naturalized American citizen and was born in Egypt. He helped develop a ricin vaccine while working there, but had been harassed by a group of Caucasian colleagues at USAMRIID known as the “Camel Club” who make fun of his Middle Eastern ethnicity. Assaad soon gets a job at the Environmental Protection Agency. He also soon sues the US Army for discrimination and wrongful dismissal. Shortly before the 2001 anthrax attacks become publicly known, he will be the target of a letter that seems to set him up as the one responsible for the attacks (see October 2, 2001). Future anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill gets a job at USAMRIID this year, but not until after Assaad is gone. [Vanity Fair, 9/15/2003] A couple members of the Camel Club lost their jobs in the early 1990s. However, it will later be reported that while Assaad loses his job at this time due to general industry-wide cutbacks, “many of those he accused [keep] theirs.” [Hartford Courant, 7/18/2003]
Spanish intelligence has been monitoring an al-Qaeda cell based in Madrid led by Barakat Yarkas (see 1995 and After), and they are aware that a leader of the cell named Chej Salah left Spain in late 1995 and moved to Peshawar, Pakistan. He serves there as an al-Qaeda talent scout, sending the most promising recruits to a training camp in Afghanistan. Yarkas’s cell is recruiting youths in Spanish mosques to join al-Qaeda. On May 22, 1997, the Spanish monitor a phone call in which Salah tells Yarkas that the recruits he is sending are being taken care of by al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. Despite such knowledge, the Spanish government will not arrest any members of the Madrid cell until after 9/11. This is according to a book by Jose María Irujo, lead investigative journalist for the Spanish newspaper El Pais. [Irujo, 2005, pp. 23-40]
Omar Nasiri, who informs on al-Qaeda for the British intelligence service MI5 and the French service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), lends his phone to an operative of the Algerian militant Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) his handlers are interested in. The operative, known only as “Khaled,” uses the phone to make a call to Algeria that is recorded by MI5. Khaled later borrows the phone several times, and MI5 records calls he makes all over Europe. [Nasiri, 2006, pp. 291-2]
In July 1997, Islamic Jihad operative Mahmoud Jaballah receives a fax from Ahmad Salama Mabruk, a member of Islamic Jihad’s ruling council living in Azerbaijan. Canadian intelligence has been closely monitoring Jaballah since he arrived in Canada in 1996 (see May 11, 1996-August 2001) and they learn the contents of this fax while monitoring him. Mabruk’s fax gives guidance on how to recruit new operatives. Jaballah responds by telling Mabruk and Thirwat Salah Shehata, another member of Islamic Jihad’s ruling council, that he already has recruited some people affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Furthermore, they have Canadian residence papers, they have been tested, and they have proven reliable. He says it is time for them to be briefed about their duties. Mabruk replies that he is pleased and that these new recruits are very much needed. [Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2/22/2008 ] Perhaps not coincidentally, it will later be reported that also in 1997, Canadian intelligence begins a large-scale investigation of Islamic militants in Canada that will eventually be formally named Project A/O Canada. [Globe and Mail, 3/17/2007]
George J. Tenet becomes the new director of the CIA. He will remain in the position well after 9/11. Tenet was never a CIA field agent, but started his government career as a Congressional aide. From 1993 to 1995 he was a senior intelligence staffer on the National Security Council. He was a CIA deputy director from 1995. In December 1996, John Deutch abruptly resigned as CIA director and Tenet was made acting director until he is confirmed as the new director in July 1997. [USA Today, 10/9/2002]
The CIA significantly expands its paramilitary capacity under new Director George Tenet (see July 11, 1997). The agency had a large paramilitary arm that had been used during the 1960s and 1970s, for example in Vietnam, but the capacity was wound down following scandals at the end of the 1970s implicating the CIA in assassinations and torture. However, at some point in the late 1990s the CIA again begins to enlarge its paramilitary unit, known as the Special Operations Group (SOG). [Time, 12/10/2001; Time, 2/3/2003] The SOG becomes involved in the CIA’s rendition program. [Grey, 2007, pp. 142]
Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer. [Source: Associated Press]Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, and Lafi Khalil, two Palestinian men who had recently immigrated from the West Bank to the US, are arrested in New York City. They are found with a number of hand made bombs, and officials claim they were mere hours away from using them on a busy Atlantic Avenue subway station and on a commuter bus. Police were tipped off to them by a roommate. [New York Times, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] In the days immediately after the arrests, numerous media reports claim that the FBI has tied the two men to Hamas. For instance, the Associated Press reports, “The FBI has linked two suspects in a Brooklyn suicide-bombing plot to the militant Mideast group Hamas… One man was linked to Hamas by intelligence sources, the other through an immigration document he had filled out in which he said he had been accused in Israel of having been in a terrorist organization. The organization, the source said, was Hamas.” Reports say both suspects “are working for Mousa Abu Marzouk, the Hamas political leader who lived in Virginia for 15 years before being arrested in 1995, imprisoned as a terrorism suspect, and then deported earlier [in 1997].”(see July 5, 1995-May 1997) [Associated Press, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] According to another account, “law enforcement authorities say these suspects made frequent phone calls from local neighborhood stores to various Hamas organization offices in the Middle East.” [PBS, 8/1/1997] Just days earlier, there had been a Hamas suicide bombing in Israel that killed fifteen people. Mezer or Khalil reportedly called the suicide bombers “heroes” and added, “We wish to join them.” [New York Times, 8/2/1997] A note is found in their apartment that threatens a series of attacks unless several jailed militants were released, including Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the top leader of Hamas. A copy of the letter was sent to the State Department two days before their arrest. A portrait of Abdul-Rahman is also found on the wall of their apartment. [CNN, 8/2/1997; New York Times, 8/6/1997] However, on August 4, US officials announce that the two had no ties to Hamas or any other organization. In his trial, Mezer will say he planned to use the bombs to kill as many Jews as possible, though not in a subway. He will describe himself as a supporter of Hamas but not a member. He will be convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Khalil will be acquitted of the terrorism charge, but convicted of having a fake immigration card. He will be sentenced to three years in prison and then ordered deported. [CNN, 8/4/1997; New York Times, 7/21/1998; National Journal, 9/19/2001]
On August 2, 1997, the Telegraph reports that Tayyib al-Madani, a chief financial officer for bin Laden, turned himself in to the Saudis in May 1997 (see May 1997). Later in the month, US agents raid Wadih El-Hage’s house in Nairobi, Kenya (see August 21, 1997). El-Hage and and Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), both members of the al-Qaeda cell in Nairobi, Kenya, start a flurry of phone traffic, warning other operatives about the raid and the defection. Their phones are already being monitored by the CIA and NSA (see May 21, 1996), who continue to listen in as they communicate nearly every day with al-Qaeda operatives in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, London, and Germany. They also phone other members of their cell in Mombasa, Kenya. It appears they realize their phones are being bugged because at one point Fazul explicitly warns an operative in Hamburg, Germany, Sadek Walid Awaad (a.k.a. Abu Khadija), to stop calling because the lines are bugged. However, US intelligence is able to learn much just from the numbers and locations that are being called. For instance, the call to Awaad alerts US intelligence to other operatives in Hamburg who know the 9/11 hijackers living there (see Late 1997). [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 200-202; El Pais, 9/17/2003]
According to a November 2001 Spanish government indictment, in August 1997, a Syrian Islamist militant named Abu Bashir is arrested in Yemen and accused of plotting to assassinate the Yemeni deputy prime minister. He is soon deported to Malaysia. London imam Abu Qatada then contacts Osama bin Laden and asks him for his help to get settled with a job and house in Malaysia. Then, in June 1998, Spanish al-Qaeda leader Barakat Yarkas and Qatada arrange for Bashir to move to London. The Observer will report in March 2004 that Bashir apparently is still living in public housing in London. [Observer, 3/21/2004] Presumably the Spanish government knows this because Spanish intelligence is heavily monitoring Yarkas at the time, and he is frequently meeting with Qatada in London (see 1995-February 2001). Qatada is working as a British government informant around this time (see June 1996-February 1997). The exact identity of Abu Bashir is not known as there are several al-Qaeda-linked figures with a similar name.
Some time after he is appointed CIA Director (see July 11, 1997), but before 9/11, George Tenet negotiates a series of agreements with telecommunications and financial institutions “to get access to certain telephone, Internet, and financial records related to ‘black’ intelligence operations.” The arrangements are made personally by the companies’ CEOs and Tenet, who plays “the patriot card” to get the information. The arrangement involves the CIA’s National Resources Division, which has at least a dozen offices in the US. The Division’s main aim is to recruit people in the US to spy abroad. However, in this case the Division makes arrangements so that other intelligence agencies, such as the NSA, can access the information and records the CEOs agree to provide. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 323-5] There is a history of co-operation between the CIA’s National Resources Division and the NSA. For example, Monte Overacre, a CIA officer assigned to the Division’s San Diego office in the early 1990s, said that he worked with the NSA there, obtaining information about foreign telecommunications programs and passing it on to the Technology Management Office, a joint venture between the two agencies. [Mother Jones, 1/1998] One US official will say that the arrangements only give the CIA access to the companies’ passive databanks. However, reporter Bob Woodward will say that the programme raises “serious civil liberties questions and also demonstrate[d] that the laws had not kept pace with the technology.” [Woodward, 2006, pp. 324-5] There will be an interagency argument about the program after 9/11 (see (2003 and After)).
A classified US cable on this date reveals US intelligence is aware that the Taliban are paying the Pakistani government for wheat and fuel with drugs. The cable suggests that Pakistan is planning to demand hard currency instead of drugs in order to restrain drug trafficking and increase revenue, but it is unclear if this change ever takes place. [US Embassy (Islamabad), 8/13/1997 ]
Michael Scheuer, the first head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, will later write, “For most of a year the bin Laden unit prepared for an operation in a foreign city that was set to come to fruition in late-summer 1997. The unit’s lead US-based officer on this operation was an extraordinarily able analyst from [the FBI]; she knew the issue cold. Days before the operation occurred the [FBI] ordered her back to its headquarters. She protested, but was told that she would not be promoted if she balked at returning. I protested to my superiors and to the three most senior officers of the [FBI] who were then in charge of terrorism. All refused to intervene. The operation was much less well exploited because of the loss of this officer.” Other clues mentioned by Scheuer indicate this operation is the raid on Wadih El-Hage’s house in Nairobi, Kenya (see August 21, 1997). [Atlantic Monthly, 1/2004; Scheuer, 2005, pp. 191-192]
The outside and inside of El-Hage’s house in Nairobi. These pictures were apparently taken during the 1997 raid and were used as evidence in El-Hage’s trial. [Source: FBI]Dan Coleman, an FBI agent working with Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, has been examining transcripts from wiretapped phones connected to bin Laden’s businesses in Sudan (see Early 1990s). One frequently called number belongs to Wadih El-Hage, a US citizen who is later revealed to be bin Laden’s personal secretary. El-Hage often makes obvious and clumsy attempts to speak in code. The CIA comes to believe that El-Hage might be recruited as an agent. On this day, Coleman, two CIA agents, and a Kenyan police officer enter El-Hage’s house in Nairobi, Kenya, with a search warrant. The investigators interview El-Hage (who returned that day from visiting bin Laden in Afghanistan) and confiscate his computer. [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001; Wright, 2006, pp. 242-244] A large amount of incriminating evidence is discovered in El-Hage’s documents and computer files (see Shortly After August 21, 1997 and Shortly After August 21, 1997). El-Hage moves to the US, where he is interviewed by a grand jury, then let go (see September 24, 1997). He will be arrested shortly after al-Qaeda bombs the US embassy in Nairobi (see September 15, 1998). He will be sentenced to life in prison for his role in that attack. State Department officials will later strongly assert that while staffers at the US embassy in Kenya were told about the raid at the time, they were not told about any potential connection to al-Qaeda. However, US intelligence officials strongly assert that the embassy staff was frequently briefed about the bin Laden connection. [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
Al Haramain Islamic Foundation’s main office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. [Source: Bilal Qabalan / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images]Wadih El-Hage has been bin Laden’s personal secretary since the early 1990s. When US agents raid his house in Nairobi, Kenya, they seize his address book (see August 21, 1997), which contains the names and phone numbers for many other al-Qaeda operatives. [CNN, 5/25/2001] The names discovered in the book include:
Ali Mohamed, the al-Qaeda double agent living in California. US investigators are already tapping his California phone and have been tapping calls between him and El-Hage since at least 1996 (see April 1996).
Mamoun Darkazanli. He is a Syrian-born businessman living in Hamburg, Germany, who has contacts with Mohamed Atta’s al-Qaeda cell in the same city. Darkazanli’s name and phone number are listed, and El-Hage even has a business card listing El-Hage’s address in Texas and Darkazanli’s address in Hamburg (see Late 1998).
Ghassan Dahduli. He works at two US non-profit organizations, the Islamic Association for Palestine and InfoCom. Both organizations will be shut down for supporting terrorist networks (see September 16, 1998-September 5, 2001).
Salah al-Rajhi (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). He and his brother of Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, are billionaires and jointly own the Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp. Sulaiman started a network of organizations in Herndon, Virginia known as the SAAR network (named for the four initials in his name). This network will be raided by US officials in 2002 for suspected terrorist funding ties (see March 20, 2002). [Newsweek, 12/9/2002]
Ihab Ali Nawawi, an al-Qaeda operative living in Florida. He is referred to as “Ihab Ali” and his location in Tampa, Florida, is mentioned. He will not be arrested until May 1999 (see May 18, 1999). [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 39, 5/3/2001]
Essam Marzouk. He is linked to both al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad and is living in Vancouver, Canada at the time. He will later train the 1998 embassy bombers. It is unclear if the link to Marzouk is shared with Canadian intelligence (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). [National Post, 3/19/2002]
Essam al Ridi. He is a US citizen and a pilot who helped bin Laden buy an airplane in the US in the early 1990s (see Early 1993). He appears to have no militant ties after that. In late 1999, US prosecutors will contact al Ridi where he is living in Bahrain and convince him to testify against El-Hage and others involved in the 1998 embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [CNN, 7/2/2002]
Farid Adlouni. He is a civil engineer living in Lake Oswego, Oregon. In 1996 and 1997, El-Hage calls Adlouni in Oregon 72 times, sometimes just before or after meeting with bin Laden. Adlouni’s home phone and fax numbers are be found in two personal phone directories and one notebook kept by El-Hage (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). Earlier in 1997, El-Hage also sent him a fax written by al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef (see Febuary 25, 1997). Records show that El-Hage has extensive dealings with Adlouni, mostly by selling gems El-Hage bought in Africa for a better price in the US. The FBI interviews Adlouni twice in late 1997, but he is not arrested. As of 2002, it will be reported that he continues to live in Oregon and remains a “person of interest” and subject of investigation by the FBI. [Oregonian, 9/13/2002]
Khalid al-Fawwaz. He is al-Qaeda’s de facto press secretary in London. El-Hage gives al-Fawwaz’s correct name, London phone number, and street address, but lists him as living in Texas. Presumably this is a slight attempt at subterfuge. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 38, 5/2/2001]
A business card in the name Mamdouh M. Salim is found. This is a reference to Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a known al-Qaeda leader. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 37, 5/1/2001]
A business card belonging to Mansour al-Kadi is found. [New Yorker, 4/21/2008] Al-Kadi is the Deputy General of the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a suspect Saudi charity closely linked to the Saudi government. Al-Kadi will be fired in early 2004 and the entire foundation will be shut down several months later (see March 2002-September 2004). The Treasury Department will later say that Al Haramain has a role in the 1998 African embassy bombings (see Autumn 1997). [US Treasury Department, 9/9/2004]
Several business cards relating to the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). A 1996 CIA report connected the IIRO to terrorist funding, but the IIRO will not be prosecuted due to its close ties to the Saudi government (see January 1996 and October 12, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/9/2002]
According to author Douglas Farah, the address book is “full of the names of diamond dealers and jewelers, often including the purchaser’s home phone number.” This suggests al-Qaeda could be profiting from the diamond trade in Africa. [Farah, 2004, pp. 64-65]
But Farah also will note in 2004 that many of the leads from El-Hage’s address book and other documents discovered around the same time are not fully explored. In fact, he says that “Most of El-Hage’s notebooks, written in Arabic, have still not been translated into English.” [Farah, 2004, pp. 64-65]
Entity Tags: Ihab Ali Nawawi, International Islamic Relief Organization, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Mamoun Darkazanli, Ghassan Dahduli, Farid Adlouni, Ali Mohamed, Essam Marzouk, Essam al Ridi, Wadih El-Hage, Salah al-Rajhi, Mansour al-Kadi, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. [Source: FBI]FBI agent Dan Coleman and other US investigators discover a number of revealing items in the raid on Wadih El-Hage’s house in Nairobi, Kenya (see August 21, 1997). It is already known that El-Hage is a member of an al-Qaeda Kenya cell and bin Laden’s former personal secretary. Items found include:
A letter is found on El-Hage’s confiscated personal computer written by Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), another member of the al-Qaeda Kenya cell who is living with El-Hage at the time. The letter was written a week before the raid. It refers to the “East African cell,” alludes to the cell’s role in attacking US soldiers in Somalia in 1993 (see Late 1992-October 1993 and 1993), explains that a cache of incriminating files was recently moved from El-Hage’s house and hidden, and says the members of the cell are “convinced one hundred percent” that they’re being monitored by intelligence agencies. It also talks about other operatives in the town of Mombasa, Kenya, and talks about the imminent arrival of “engineers” to help the cell. [New York Times, 1/9/1999; PBS Frontline, 4/1999; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 204-205]
Another document found on the same computer reveals that El-Hage was sent to Kenya by bin Laden to initiate a “new policy” for the Kenya cell and “prepare 300 activists.” Other members of the cell were advised “of the need to move families to a secure region before the ‘activism.’” It notes that other operatives have carried out an operation in the capital of Ethiopia (presumably the attempted assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (see Shortly After June 26, 1995)) and adds, “There are a lot of explosions in the other cities, and the brothers are taking up these operations.” [New York Times, 1/22/2000]
A genuine-looking Kenyan travel stamp is found, which could be used to make documents appear authentic. [New York Times, 1/22/2000]
Other files reveal that El-Hage and an associate are fabricating false passports for operatives in the Caucasus, as well as for fighters in Somalia. [New York Times, 1/22/2000]
Further documents show that El-Hage bought guns for bin Laden in Eastern Europe and was making frequent trips to Tanzania (the Kenya al-Qaeda cell will bomb the US embassy in Tanzania in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [Wright, 2006, pp. 244]
Additionally, El-Hage’s address book is found, which provides many more leads (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). Yet, despite all this, no arrests are made and no urgent alarms are sounded. The wiretaps on the Kenya cell are actually stopped by the end of the month. [MSNBC, 12/4/2000] Crucial data about Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is found as well. US intelligence does look for him for a while. But he simply leaves Kenya for a few months and then returns, moving to another house in Nairobi and where he starts work on building bombs in May 1998. [MSNBC, 12/4/2000; Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001; US Congress, 10/21/2003] Author Lawrence Wright who interviews Coleman will paraphrase Coleman’s thoughts at the time: “Al-Qaeda was up to something, but it was unclear what that was. In any case, it was certainly a low-end operation, and the exposure of [El-Hage’s] house in Nairobi had no doubt put an end to it.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 244]
The address book of Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s former personal secretary, is seized in a US intelligence raid in Nairobi, Kenya (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). One of the contacts in the book is billionaire Salah al-Rajhi. He and his brother Sulaiman al-Rajhi cofounded the Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., which will have an estimated $28 billion in assets in 2006. Sulaiman started a network of organizations in Herndon, Virginia known as the SAAR network (named for the four initials in his name). This network will be raided by US officials in 2002 for suspected terrorist funding ties (see March 20, 2002). [Newsweek, 12/9/2002; Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007] Sulaiman also was on the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda funders (see 1988-1989). After 9/11, the US will seriously consider taking action against the Al-Rajhi Bank for alleged terrorist ties, but will ultimately do nothing (see Mid-2003 and Mid-2003). [Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007]
Ahmed Said Khadr, standng on the left, in an orphanage while working for Human Concern International. [Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]During an FBI raid on a suspected al-Qaeda cell in Kenya, US investigators discover the address book of Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s former personal secretary (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). The book contains the names of many militant contacts around the world.
One entry in his book is for “Essam,” giving an address in Surrey, near Vancouver, British Columbia. That address is where Essam Marzouk lives. [National Post, 3/19/2002] Marzouk moved to Vancouver in 1993, and ever since his arrival Canadian intelligence has suspected he is a radical militant and has been monitoring him (see June 16, 1993-February 1998). It is not clear if the FBI ever shares the El-Hage link with Canadian intelligence, and apparently the Canadians are unable to gather enough evidence to arrest Marzouk and other probable al-Qaeda operatives living in Vancouver until they leave in 1998.
The raid also discovers the business card of Kaleem Akhtar, executive director of Human Concern International, a Canadian based charity. While Akhtar has not been accused of any militant links, up until 1996, a Canadian named Ahmed Said Khadr worked for the charity. [National Post, 3/19/2002] In late 1995, he was arrested for suspected involvement in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan, which was blamed on Islamic Jihad (see November 19, 1995), but he was let go a short time later due to a request from the Canadian prime minister. In 1998, it will be reported that he is frequently traveling between Pakistan and Canada and is wanted by the Pakistani government, but he will not be arrested in either country. It will later be determined that he was one of the founding members of al-Qaeda. [Globe and Mail, 9/5/1998]
Another business card found during the raid has an Ottawa, Canada, phone number written on the back. Who this number belongs to has not been made public, except that the number is out of service by 2002. [National Post, 3/19/2002] However, there are some militant contacts in Ottawa around this time, including Khadr on occasion. In March 1997, Canadian intelligence monitor a militant named Mohamed Harkat as he says he will be meeting Khadr in Ottawa later that month. [Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2/22/2008 ] Is it unknown if the FBI shares the other phone numbers with Canadian intelligence.
Tom Simons. [Source: Stanford University press]According to later released US documents, US Ambassador to Pakistan Tom Simons
criticizes a high-ranking Pakistani official about Pakistan’s aid to the Taliban. This official protests that total Pakistani aid to the Taliban is only about half a million dollars. However, Simons replies that even if he believed that figure, it does not include wheat, petroleum, oil, lubricants, and “trucks and buses full of adolescent [fighters] crossing the frontier shouting ‘allahu akbar’ and going into the line with a day or two of weapons training. That [is] Pakistan’s real aid.” [US Embassy (Islamabad), 8/27/1997 ]
Mary Jo White. [Source: CNN]Mary Jo White, US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, which handles a lot of terrorism investigations, complains about the “wall” procedures regulating the passage of intelligence information to US attorneys and criminal agents at the FBI. The rules were recently formalized (see July 19, 1995), but she says that the 1995 procedures are building “unnecessary and counterproductive walls that inhibit rather than promote our ultimate objectives [and that] we must face the reality that the way we are proceeding now is inherently and in actuality very dangerous.” Following her complaints, an exception is created for the Southern District of New York Attorneys’ Office. The office works with the FBI’s I-49 squad, which handles international terrorism matters (see January 1996 and Late 1998-Early 2002). The FBI can now notify this office of evidence of a crime directly, without consulting the Justice Department. Once this is done, the office would then contact two units in the Justice Department, the Criminal Division and the Office of Intelligence Policy and Review. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 29 ]
Al Haramain Foundation’s Kenya office in 2004. [Source: Associated Press]An informant tells an intelligence agency allied to the US that the Nairobi, Kenya, branch of a Saudi charity named the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation is plotting to blow up the US embassy in Nairobi. The chief of the CIA station in Kenya passes on this informant’s warning to Ambassador Prudence Bushnell and others at the embassy. On October 31, 1997, the Kenyan government acts on the informants’ tip, arresting nine Arabs connected to the charity and seizing their files.
Charity Already Linked to Al-Qaeda Cell in Kenya - A 1996 secret CIA report shows the CIA has already linked Al Haramain to militants, smuggling, drug running, and prostitution (see January 1996). In August 1997, US intelligence raids the Kenya house of Wadih el-Hage because they correctly believe he is heading an al-Qaeda cell there (see August 21, 1997). The raid uncovers a business card belonging to Mansour al-Kadi, the Deputy General of Al Haramain’s worldwide operations (see Shortly After August 21, 1997).
CIA Fails to Take Warning Seriously - The CIA sends a special team to analyze the files and finds no evidence of a plot. This team wants to question the nine arrested Arabs, but the CIA station chief refuses to ask the Kenyan government for access to the suspects, saying he doesn’t want to bother them any more about the issue. The CIA drops the investigation and the nine Arabs are deported. Ambassador Bushnell is told that the threat has been eliminated. But some members of the CIA team are furious and feel that their investigation was short-circuited. Some intelligence officials believe at the time that members of the charity have ties to bin Laden. [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
Charity Later Linked to Kenya Bombings - The Nairobi embassy will be bombed in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). In 2004, it will be reported that according to US officials, “A wholesale fish business financed with Al Haramain funds… steered profits to the al-Qaeda cell behind the [embassy bombing].” One of the bombers confessed days after the bombing that this “business was for al-Qaeda.” [Associated Press, 6/7/2004] In 2004, the Treasury Department will say that two members of the Al Haramain branch in the nearby Comoros Islands helped some of the bombers escape from Kenya after the bombings. [US Treasury Department, 9/9/2004]
Charity Stays Open, Linked to Later Kenya Bombing - A month later after the bombing,s the Kenyan government will ban Al Haramain from the country, but its office nonetheless remains open. Some funds connected to it are believed to have helped support the al-Qaeda cell behind the 2002 bombings in Mombasa, Kenya (see November 28, 2002). Yet Al Haramain’s Kenya office still remains open until late 2004, when Al Haramain is shut down worldwide (see March 2002-September 2004). [Associated Press, 6/7/2004]
US and British intelligence based on satellite imagery shows that by this time there are regular flights between Pyongyang and Islamabad, the capitals of North Korea and Pakistan. Most of the flights are made by large Ilyushin-76 transport planes. This clearly indicates deliveries are being made from one country to another, although it is not evident from the imagery what the content of the deliveries is. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 261] Other intelligence indicates that at this time Pakistan is swapping uranium enrichment technology for North Korean missiles (see 1997).
The CIA celebrates its 50th anniversary with a ceremony at its headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Director George Tenet awards special medallions to 50 past and present staff for their outstanding contributions to postwar American intelligence. One of the 50 is David Blee, a former head of the agency’s Soviet division (see 1971) and counterintelligence (see 1978), whose citation says the award is for “creating a professional counterintelligence discipline.” [Guardian, 8/22/2000] In total, Blee earns two CIA Distinguished Intelligence Medals, the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Security Medal for his work at the agency. [Los Angeles Times, 8/18/2000]
The Texas tire store where El-Hage worked in 1997. [Source: CNN]In August 1997, US intelligence raids the home of Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s former personal secretary and a US citizen (see August 21, 1997). With his cover blown, El-Hage decides to return to the US. Arriving at a New York City airport on September 23, he is served with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury the next day. He testifies for several hours and is questioned extensively. [United State of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 36, 4/30/2001] US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will later claim that “El-Hage chose to lie repeatedly to the grand jury, but even in his lies he provided some information of potential use to the intelligence community—including potential leads” to the location of his confederates and wanted missing files. [New York Times, 1/9/1999; US Congress, 10/21/2003] But after this, El-Hage is not arrested. He moves back to Texas, where he had lived in the early 1990s, and works in a tire store. [Arizona Republic, 9/28/2001] In October 1997, he is interviewed by agents in Texas [United State of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 28, 4/12/2001] , and then left alone until August 1998 when he will be interrogated again shortly after the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). He is ultimately arrested and found guilty for his role in those bombings.
US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and FBI agents Jack Cloonan and Harlan Bell, all members of the I-49 squad, take Ali Mohamed out for dinner at a restaurant in Sacramento, California (he has recently moved there from Santa Clara, California). Fitzgerald pays for Mohamed’s meal. Cloonan will later recall, “The purpose in us going to meet Ali at that point in time is that we wanted to gain his cooperation. We knew of his long history having been connected to al-Qaeda, and what we desperately wanted was to convince Ali Mohamed to cooperate with us that night.” During the several-hour-long meeting, Mohamed says the following:
He “loved” bin Laden and “believes in him.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4/2001; Lance, 2006, pp. 274-276]
He organized bin Laden’s move from Afghanistan to Sudan in 1991 (see Summer 1991).
He was in Somalia training militants to fight US soldiers in 1993. He claims “bin Laden’s people were responsible” for the killing of 18 US soldiers there (see 1993).
He trained bin Laden’s personal bodyguards in 1994 and he lived in bin Laden’s house while doing so (see Shortly After February 1994). [Lance, 2006, pp. 274-276]
He says he trained people in “war zones, and… war zones can be anywhere.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2001]
He asserts he doesn’t need a religious edict to make war on the US since it is “obvious” that the US is “the enemy.” Author Peter Lance will later note these words clearly “amounted to treason.”
Cloonan will recall, “He said that he was in touch with hundreds of people he could call on in a moment’s notice that could be, quote, ‘operational,’ and wage jihad against the United States. Very brazenly, he said, ‘I can get out anytime and you’ll never find me. I’ve got a whole network. You’ll never find me.”
After dinner, Cloonan will recall that Fitzgerald turned to him and said, “This is the most dangerous man I have ever met. We cannot let this man out on the street.” But Lance will later note, “But that’s just what he did. Patrick Fitzgerald allowed Ali Mohamed to go free”—even though Mohamed firmly rejected the offer to cooperate. During the dinner, other agents break into Mohamed’s house and bug his computer (his phone is already tapped (see Late 1994). Mohamed will continue to live in California for nearly a year and won’t be arrested until after the August 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). The FBI apparently makes a report based on Mohamed’s comments at this meeting (see After October 1997). But no evidence has come to light that Mohamed’s confession is shared with top US officials or spread widely within US intelligence before 9/11. [Lance, 2006, pp. 274-276] In 2003, Fitzgerald will testify before a Senate committee and claim that when he had to make the decision after the embassy bombings whether or not to arrest Mohamed (see September 10, 1998), the “decision to arrest was made partly in the dark” because prosecutors could “not learn what information [the FBI] had gathered” on Mohamed. Fitzgerald will fail to mention that he was sitting with FBI agents when Mohamed gave this startling confession. [US Congress, 10/21/2003]
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. [Source: Daily Nation]Shortly after the US raid on Wadih El-Hage’s house in Nairobi, Kenya (see August 21, 1997), US investigators discover a letter in the house that mentions a cache of incriminating files had been moved from the house and hidden elsewhere. Investigators suspect the files could contain evidence of a coming attack by El-Hage’s Nairobi cell. A law enforcement official later says US investigators begin a “somewhat frantic, concerted effort” to locate the missing files. “The concern was high enough about something being out there to go right away.” A search for the files is conducted at another location in Kenya in September 1997, but the files are not found. [New York Times, 1/9/1999] But despite this search, and even though other documents found in the raid refer to other unknown members of the cell and the imminent arrival of more operatives (see Shortly After August 21, 1997), the wiretaps on five phone numbers connected to El-Hage are discontinued in October 1997, one month after El-Hage moved to the US (see September 24, 1997). Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), who had been living with El-Hage and using the same phones as him, takes over running the cell. US intelligence will resume monitoring the phones in May 1998 and continue to monitor them through August 1998 (see May 1998), when the cell will successfully attack US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). It will be stated in the 2002 book The Cell, “The hardest thing to understand in retrospect is why US law enforcement did nothing else to disrupt the activities of the Nairobi cell” after the raid on El-Hage’s house. [New York Times, 1/13/2001; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 203-205] The files will be found only after the African embassy bombings, when the offices of the charity Mercy International are searched on August 20, 1998. They will contain incriminating information, including numerous phone calls from bin Laden to Nairobi. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al, 3/20/2001] It is not clear why the charity was not searched before the attacks, since two of the five phones monitored since 1996 were to Mercy’s Kenya offices (see Late 1996-August 20, 1998).
Gordon Oehler, the US national intelligence officer for weapons of mass destruction, resigns from his position, taking early retirement. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will say that Oehler is “exhausted and cynical” by this time. This is because he has frequently warned of the dangers of allowing China to proliferate nuclear weapons technology, but the administration has not done anything about it (see (April 1992), (Mid-1990s), Early 1996, May 1996, and September 1996). A senior non-proliferation official in the State Department will later say Oehler “kind of set down an ultimatum” that was ignored, “and he felt he had to walk.” [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 260, 512]
The British domestic counterintelligence service MI5 meets with Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading British imam and informer (see Early 1997). After the exchange of “pleasantries,” Abu Hamza and his handler discuss his recent breach with the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), an Algerian militant group, which has been indiscriminately killing civilians (see Mid 1996-October 1997). The handler notes that “[Abu] Hamza is bowed but not broken,” and adds, “For him the jihad goes on, if not in Algeria then somewhere else.” Abu Hamza tells the MI5 officer that Britain “is seen as a place to fundraise and to propagate Islam.” Authors Daniel O’Neill and Sean McGrory will later comment, “The admission that Abu Hamza and his followers were using [Britain] to raise funds to finance terrorism overseas did not seem to cause a blip on the MI5 agent’s radar.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 145]
Hans Blix. [Source: Dean Calma / IAEA]Hans Blix, director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, writes in a letter to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan that there is no evidence that Iraq has an active nuclear weapons program. Blix says that the agency now has a “technically coherent picture of Iraq’s clandestine nuclear program,” despite some missing evidence and gaps in knowledge. He states with certainty the following: [Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 10/6/1997]
“There are no indications to suggest that Iraq was successful in its attempt to produce nuclear weapons. Iraq’s explanation of its progress towards the finalization of a workable design for its nuclear weapons is considered to be consistent with the resources and time scale indicated by the available program documentation. However, no documentation or other evidence is available to show the actual status of the weapon design when the program was interrupted.” [Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 10/6/1997]
“Iraq was at, or close to, the threshold of success in such areas as the production of HEU [high-enriched uranium] through the EMIS [electromagnetic isotope separation] process, the production and pilot cascading of single-cylinder sub-critical gas centrifuge machines, and the fabrication of the explosive package for a nuclear weapon.” [Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 10/6/1997]
“There are no indications to suggest that Iraq had produced more that a few grams of weapon-usable nuclear material (HEU or separated plutonium) through its indigenous processes, all of which has been removed from Iraq.” [Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 10/6/1997]
“There are no indications that Iraq otherwise acquired weapon-usable nuclear material.” [Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 10/6/1997]
“All of the safeguarded research reactor fuel, including the HEU fuel that Iraq had planned to divert to its ‘crash program,’ was verified and fully accounted for by the IAEA and removed from Iraq.” [Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 10/6/1997]
“There are no indications that there remains in Iraq any physical capability for the production of amounts of weapon-usable nuclear material of any practical significance.” [Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, 10/6/1997]
Double agent Ali Mohamed gives a hint about the upcoming African embassy bombings to an FBI agent. Harlan Bell, one of the FBI agents who met with Mohamed at an October 1997 dinner where Mohamed detailed his al-Qaeda ties (see October 1997), is apparently continuing to regularly talk to him on the phone (though it is not known what they discuss). Bell begins recording these phone calls (which are presumably being recorded by others as well since all of Mohamed’s communications are being monitored by this time (see October 1997-September 10, 1998)). FBI agent Jack Cloonan, who works with Bell in the I-49 bin Laden squad, will later recall that after the embassy bombings Bell will replay one of these taped conversations. “It became apparent from listening to one of those tapes that Ali was talking about a possible target in East Africa. He never specifically said the embassy or that he knew an attack was imminent, but he was giving this up in a sense before the attack took place.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 207-208]
The State Department officially designates the Abu Sayyaf a foreign terrorist organization. The Abu Sayyaf is a militant group in the Philippines with reported connections to bin Laden. Thirty groups are newly listed, including other groups associated with bin Laden, such as the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) in Algeria. [New York Times, 10/7/1997] However, al-Qaeda will not be so listed until 1999 (see October 8, 1999). Al-Qaeda is still relatively unknown; the name was first mentioned in the media in 1996 (see August 14, 1996).
The FBI installs a wiretap in double agent Ali Mohamed’s computer (the FBI has been monitoring his phone since 1993 (see Autumn 1993 and Late 1994)). According to FBI agent Jack Cloonan, “The Sacramento [FBI] office did a wonderful job of getting into his apartment, wiring it up, and exploiting his computer. So we were able to download a lot of stuff.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 276] Not much is known about what is on his computer, but a 2001 trial will mention that Wadih El-Hage, head of the cell in Kenya planning the African embassy bombings (see Between October 1997 and August 7, 1998), sent Mohamed a computer file about the death of al-Qaeda leader Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri by drowning in Kenya in May 1996 (see May 21, 1996). [Lance, 2006, pp. 297-298] Journalist Peter Lance believes that, given Mohamed’s apparent foreknowledge of the embassy bombings, the computer probably contained references to that operation. In his book Triple Cross, he asks, “If [US agents] now had access to Mohamed’s phone and hard disk, why didn’t they come to understand his role as a key player in the embassy bombing plot?… If their motive was to lie in wait—to monitor his phone calls and e-mail traffic—why didn’t that surveillance put them right in the middle of the embassy plot?” [Lance, 2006, pp. 276]
Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed. [Source: PBS]An Egyptian named Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed walks into the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and tells CIA officers that he knows of a group planning to blow up the embassy. He reveals that he is part of the group and has already taken surveillance photos of the embassy for the attack. The details he mentions, such as the use of several vehicles and stun grenades, accurately depicts how the attack will actually occur nine months later. He works for an al-Qaeda front company in Kenya. The CIA sends the State Department two intelligence reports on Ahmed’s warning, but cautions that he may have fabricated his story. Ahmed is released and deported. He apparently is involved in the bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on the same day the Nairobi embassy is bombed. Ahmed will contact the British embassy the day after the bombings and offer to help. He is overheard saying that, “I told them everything I knew” and that he had been cooperating with Western officials “since last year.” He will reveal important information that leads to the arrest of some of the bombers (see August 8-15, 1998). [New York Times, 10/23/1998; New York Times, 1/9/1999; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 205] The State Department is in charge of embassy security, and the department steps up security at the Nairobi embassy for several weeks, but then security measures return to normal. Prudence Bushnell, the US Ambassador to Kenya, will plead for improved embassy security, but her requests will go unheeded (see December 1997-Spring 1998). [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
The Bundesnachrichtendienst, a German foreign intelligence agency, informs the US that Pakistan and Iran are cooperating on weapons purchases. According to the Germans, Pakistan has set up what authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will call a “network of dummy export companies” on behalf of the Iranians, and these companies are being used to purchase weapons bound for Iran. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 512]
Ali Soufan. [Source: CBS News]Ali Soufan joins the FBI. Soufan is a US citizen and recently graduated from a US university, but he is a Muslim who was born and raised in Lebanon and speaks fluent Arabic, making him particularly suited to understanding Islamist militant threats. Soufan is assigned to the FBI’s New York office, which happens to be the office taking the lead in cases involving Osama bin Laden. Initially, Soufan is assigned to Mafia cases. But he has had a long-standing interest in bin Laden, and after reading in an Arabic newspaper about bin Laden’s fatwa (religious edict) against the US in February 1998 (see February 22, 1998), he will write an FBI memo explaining the fatwa’s significance. This will get him increasingly involved in counterterrorism cases, and shortly after the East African embassy bombings in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), he will be assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). He will begin working with FBI bin Laden expert John O’Neill and the counterterrorism I-49 squad, which is increasingly focusing on bin Laden. [Soufan, 2011, pp. 1-16]
A 1997 FBI report on double agent Ali Mohamed states, “He knows, for example, that there are hundreds of ‘sleepers’ or ‘submarines’ in place who don’t fit neatly into the terrorist profile. These individuals don’t wear the traditional beards and don’t pray at the mosques.” [Raleigh News and Observer, 10/21/2001] This is very likely a reference to comments Mohamed made while having dinner with some FBI agents and US prosecutors on October 1997 (see October 1997). One attendee of that dinner, FBI agent Jack Cloonan, will recall a very similar comment Mohamed made then: “He said that he was in touch with hundreds of people he could call on in a moment’s notice that could be, quote, ‘operational,’ and wage jihad against the United States.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 274-276] If so, it is probable that other comments he made at the dinner were included in the FBI report as well, such as his comment that he loves and believes in bin Laden, the US is the enemy, and that he trained Somalis to kill US soldiers in 1993 (see October 1997). But the FBI still takes no action against him.
French authorities worry about a possible attack by militant Islamists during the 1998 World Cup in France. This “huge security headache” is primarily related to Algerian militants who previously bombed the Paris metro in 1995 (see July-October 1995) and are now “living untroubled lives in London.” Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will write: “France was on edge. Such was her anxiety about the World Cup that she demanded cooperation from her European neighbours. Where she deemed that collaboration was lacking, or less than enthusiastic, she was sending her own teams of agents abroad to carry out the task of gathering intelligence on Islamist militants.” In this context the French authorities are most concerned about London-based radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, a spiritual leader for the Algerians (see Spring 1998). One of the people plotting attacks at the World Cup, an Algerian, is arrested in Belgium in March 1998, and this leads to further arrests across Europe, although the actual nature of the plot is not known definitively. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 123-4, 128]
Tourists in Luxor, Egypt, cower as militants begin firing on them. [Source: BBC]Fifty-eight foreign tourists are killed in Luxor, Egypt. Six radical militants attack an ancient Egyptian temple with machine guns before finally being killed by Egyptian police. The attack is the peak of a campaign to destroy the Egyptian tourism industry that had begun five years before. Thirty-four foreigners and 1,200 Egyptians were killed in the previous attacks. Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group) takes credit for the attack. This group was founded in the late 1970s by Sheik Omar Abdul-Rahman. The militants are ultimately hoping to destabilize the Egyptian economy and overthrow the government. However, the attacks backfire, alienating many Egyptians. This will be the last serious militant attack in Egypt before 9/11. [New York Times, 11/18/1997; New York Times, 11/18/1997; Los Angeles Times, 10/26/2001] The Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad is also thought to be involved. In 1999, Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda’s second in command, will be convicted in absentia for his role in this attack and other attacks. [BBC, 9/27/2004] Also in 1999, the Egyptian government will claim it has determined that bin Laden helped finance the attack. [BBC, 5/13/1999]
The British domestic counterintelligence service MI5 meets with Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading British imam and informer (see Early 1997). In view of Egyptian-born Abu Hamza’s recent condemnation of the Algerian Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) over massacres of civilians (see Mid 1996-October 1997 and October 1, 1997), MI5 asks Abu Hamza to condemn a massacre of sixty people in Luxor, Egypt (see November 18, 1997), as it thinks this might calm tensions in Britain and elsewhere. However, he declines to do so, telling MI5 that Egypt is controlled by a “corrupt, Satanic tyranny,” and adds that British tourists should not travel to Egypt. In fact, in public sermons at this time he actually condones the attacks, saying that the tourism industry in Egypt is impure and should be Islamicized. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 145-6]
The Sky 1, the ship purchased by Sadek Walid Awaad and other al-Qaeda operatives, shown as it sank in 2000. [Source: Tele News Company]US intelligence monitoring the al-Qaeda cell in Kenya trace phone calls to al-Qaeda operatives in Hamburg, Germany, where some of the 9/11 hijackers are living (see August 1997). Around August 1997, Sadek Walid Awaad (a.k.a. Abu Khadija) calls Kenya and is traced by US intelligence to where he lives in Hamburg. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 201; El Pais, 9/17/2003] Sometime over the next year or so, it is discovered that Awaad has engaged in business dealing with Mamoun Darkazanli, another al-Qaeda operative. Awaad used a Hamburg address for some of his business dealings that was also used by Darkazanli and Wadih El-Hage, who served as bin Laden’s business secretary in Kenya. In 1994, Awaad, Darkazanli, and El-Hage worked together to buy a ship for bin Laden. Apparently US intelligence puts this together by 1998, as one of El-Hage’s notebooks seized in a late 1997 raid details the transaction (see August 21, 1997). Investigators later believe Darkazanli is part of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell with 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and others. [New York Times, 12/27/2001] Less is known about Awaad and whomever he may have associated with. But in a public trial in early 2001, El-Hage identified him as an Iraqi al-Qaeda operative with German and Israeli passports. [Day 2. United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., 2/6/2001; Day 6. United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., 2/15/2001] An al-Qaeda operative with an Israeli passport connected to the Hamburg cell would seem to be highly unusual and significant, but there has been almost no mention of him in the media after 9/11 and it is unknown if he has ever been arrested.
[Source: PBS]By December 1997, Prudence Bushnell, the US Ambassador to Kenya, is aware that her embassy could be in danger. She has been told of an August 1997 warning that proved there was an al-Qaeda cell in Nairobi (see Late 1994), a precise (and ultimately accurate) November 1997 warning detailing a plot to attack the embassy (see November 1997), and other recent warnings, including information indicating that she is an assassination target. She sends two cables to State Department headquarters in Washington, claiming that the embassy’s location makes it “extremely vulnerable to a terrorist attack,” and asks for security improvements to be made. The State Department turns down her requests and begins to see Bushnell as a nuisance. In early 1998, General Anthony Zinni, the commander of US forces in the region, visits the Nairobi embassy and decides it is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. He offers to send a security team to inspect the situation, but his offer is turned down. The State Department sends its own team instead and in March 1998 determines that about $500,000 worth of easily implemented improvements should make the embassy secure. But the money is not quickly allocated. Bushnell then sends “an emotional letter to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright begging for the Secretary’s personal help.” She says she has been fighting for months for a more secure embassy as threats increase, and that the State Department’s refusal to grant her requests for funding is “endangering the lives of embassy personnel.” Albright takes no action. The embassy will be bombed in August (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
Mohamed Daki. [Source: Cageprisoners]Records indicate that would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh lives at the same Hamburg, Germany, address as a Moroccan named Mohamed Daki during this time. Daki will be arrested in April 2003, and will admit to knowing bin al-Shibh and some others in the Hamburg cell. In April 1999 Daki will obtain a visa to travel to the US, but it is not known if he goes there. It is generally assumed by the press that the Hamburg cell keep themselves separate from other al-Qaeda cells in Europe. However, Daki is an expert document forger and a member of al-Qaeda’s Milan cell. There is considerable evidence that the Milan cell has foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot. The cell is under heavy surveillance by Italian intelligence before 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and January 24, 2001), but apparently the connection between the Milan and Hamburg cells through Daki is not made. German authorities will interview him after 9/11, and he will admit ties to bin al-Shibh, but he will be let go, not investigated further, and not put on any watch lists. He will later come under investigation in Italy for recruiting fighters to combat the US in Iraq. He will finally be arrested and charged for that, but not for his 9/11 connections. [Los Angeles Times, 3/22/2004; New York Times, 3/22/2004]
The term “Londonistan” is invented by French intelligence officials at some time before 1998, according to authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory. The term’s invention is provoked by an arrangement between the British authorities and Islamist militants sometimes known as the “covenant of security” (see August 22, 1998), whereby Britain provides a safe haven from which London-based Islamists can support violence in other countries, such as Bosnia and Chechnya (see 1995 and February 2001), but also France. O’Neill and McGrory will comment: “The prominent French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere was so appalled by Britain’s attitude that he talked of ‘Londonistan’ as being the city of choice as a safe haven for Islamic terrorists and a place ‘full of hatred.‘… Bruguiere wondered whether Britain was just being selfish, and whether because these radical groups had not struck in [Britain] the security agencies simply did not care what they were doing. The French investigators also protested that Britain was also ignoring the systematic fraud and corruption carried out by these groups.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 104, 109]
Ken Williams. [Source: FBI]The FBI field office in Phoenix, Arizona, investigates a possible Middle Eastern extremist taking flight lessons at a Phoenix airport. FBI agent Ken Williams initiates an investigation into the possibility of Islamic militants learning to fly aircraft, but he has no easy way to query a central FBI database about similar cases. Because of this and other FBI communication problems, he remains unaware of most US intelligence reports about the potential use of airplanes as weapons, as well as other, specific FBI warnings issued in 1998 and 1999 concerning Islamic militants training at US flight schools (see May 15, 1998; September 1999). Williams will write the “Phoenix memo” in July 2001 (see July 10, 2001). He had been alerted about some suspicious flight school students in 1996, but it is not clear if this person was mentioned in that previous alert or not (see October 1996). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ]
Michael Scheuer, the head of the CIA Counter Terrorism Center’s special unit focusing on bin Laden from 1996 to 1999 (see February 1996), later will claim that before 9/11 members of the bin Laden family in the US are nearly completely off limits to US law enforcement. Author Douglas Farah, a former longtime Washington Post reporter, later will write that “All the bin Ladens living in the United States were granted Saudi diplomatic passports in 1996.… In 1998, when the FBI’s New York office actually sought to investigate some of the bin Laden family’s activities in this country because of suspicions of ties to terrorism, the State Department forced them to shut down the entire operation. Because the bin Laden’s were ‘diplomats’ and as such enjoyed diplomatic immunity, making such investigations illegal.” Scheuer will comment about the 1998 investigation, “My counterparts at the FBI questioned one of the bin Ladens. But then the State Department received a complaint from a law firm, and there was a huge uproar. We were shocked to find out that the bin Ladens in the United States had diplomatic passports, and that we weren’t allowed to talk to them.” Scheuer believes that these unusual diplomatic privileges may help explain how the bin Ladens will be able to depart so quickly just after 9/11 (see September 13, 2001; September 14-19, 2001). Farah later says he interviewed Scheuer about this and claims to have found a second source to verify the information. [Farah, 12/5/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005] The issue of diplomatic passports for the bin Laden family has generally not been reported in the US media, although a 2005 New Yorker article will mention in passing that in 1996, “the State Department stymied a joint effort by the CIA and the FBI to question one of bin Laden’s cousins in America, because he had a diplomatic passport, which protects the holder from US law enforcement.” [New Yorker, 2/8/2005] This is a probable reference to the 1996 investigation of Abdullah Awad bin Laden (although he is bin Laden’s nephew, not cousin (see February-September 11, 1996)). It is unclear what connection there may be, if any, between that investigation and this 1998 investigation.
Daniel Benjamin. [Source: Publicity photo]The National Security Council (NSC) completes a review of Iraq and terrorism. In an interview with journalist Robert Dreyfuss four years later, Daniel Benjamin, then-director of counterterrorism at the NSC, summarizes the report’s conclusions: “[W]e went through every piece of intelligence we could find to see if there was a link [between] al-Qaeda and Iraq. We came to the conclusion that our intelligence agencies had it right: There was no noteworthy relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq. I know that for a fact. No other issue has been as closely scrutinized as this one.” [American Prospect, 12/16/2002]
Aukai Collins in Chechnya.
[Source: Lyons Press publicity photo]An American Caucasian Muslim named Aukai Collins later says he reports to the FBI on hijacker Hani Hanjour for six months this year. [Associated Press, 5/24/2002] The FBI later acknowledges they paid Collins to monitor the Islamic and Arab communities in Phoenix between 1996 and 1999. He also was an informant overseas and once had an invitation to meet bin Laden (see Mid-1998). [ABC News, 5/23/2002; Associated Press, 5/24/2002] Collins claims that he is a casual acquaintance of Hanjour while Hanjour is taking flying lessons. [Associated Press, 5/24/2002] Collins sees nothing suspicious about Hanjour as an individual, but he tells the FBI about him because Hanjour appears to be part of a larger, organized group of Arabs taking flying lessons. [The Big Story with John Gibson, 5/24/2002] He says the FBI “knew everything about the guy,” including his exact address, phone number, and even what car he drove. The FBI denies Collins told them anything about Hanjour, and denies knowing about Hanjour before 9/11. [ABC News, 5/23/2002] Collins later calls Hanjour a “hanky panky” hijacker: “He wasn’t even moderately religious, let alone fanatically religious. And I knew for a fact that he wasn’t part of al-Qaeda or any other Islamic organization; he couldn’t even spell jihad in Arabic.” [Collins, 2003, pp. 248] Collins tells the New York Times that he worked with FBI agent Ken Williams, who will write a July 2001 memo expressing concerns about radical militants attending Arizona flight schools (see July 10, 2001). He says that he quarrels with Williams and quits helping him. It is unknown if Williams ever learns about Hanjour before 9/11. [New York Times, 5/24/2002] Collins closely matches the description of the informant who first alerted Williams to Zacaria Soubra, a flight student who will be the main focus of Williams’ memo (see April 2000). If this is so, it bolsters Collins’ claims that he knew Hanjour, because many of Soubra’s friends, including his roommate (and al-Qaeda operative) Ghassan al-Sharbi do know Hanjour (see July 10, 2001). After 9/11, Collins will claim that based on his experience with the FBI and CIA, he is 100 percent sure that some people in those agencies knew about the 9/11 attack in advance and let it happen. “Just think about it—how could a group of people plan such a big operation full of so many logistics and probably countless e-mails, encrypted or not, and phone calls and messengers? And you’re telling me that, through all of that, that the CIA never caught wind of it?” [Salon, 10/17/2002]
A son of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, the al-Qaeda leader convicted in 1995 of conspiring to blow up tunnels and other New York City landmarks, is heard to say that the best way to free his father from a US prison might be to hijack an American plane and exchange the hostages. This will be mentioned in President Bush’s August 2001 briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/18/2002] It may be the warning was discovered by reporters at bin Laden’s press conference this month, since two of Abdul-Rahman’s sons are there and speak in belligerent tones (see May 26, 1998 and May 1998). A similar warning will be discovered in May 2001, but will not be mentioned in Bush’s briefing (see May 23, 2001).
The FBI begins an investigation into the Illinois-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) by chance. A Chicago FBI agent is attending a conference in Washington, DC, and learns of foreign intelligence reports that BIF executive director Enaam Arnaout was involved in providing logistical support for radical militants. It is not clear why the Chicago office near BIF’s headquarters was not already informed about BIF and Arnaout, given what US intelligence already knows by this time: [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 95 ]
Beginning in 1993, the FBI was continually monitoring an al-Qaeda cell in Florida that sends money to militants overseas using BIF bank accounts, and one of the cell members filed BIF’s incorporation papers (see (October 1993-November 2001)). The FBI interviewed one of the cell members, Adham Amin Hassoun, and asked him about BIF and Arnaout. BIF founder Adel Batterjee was listed on the incorporation papers (see 1993).
It was reported in the Guardian and other newspapers in 1993 that BIF was shut down in Saudi Arabia, when closing a charity was a highly unusual move for that country. The Guardian says that BIF founder Batterjee, “a known political activist,” has been detained. Media reports also link him to assisting Saudi fighters in the Bosnian war (see 1993).
In 1994, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, president of BIF at the time, was arrested in the US with Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, and another of bin Laden’s brothers. Khalifa was quickly linked to the Bojinka plot and many other al-Qaeda ties and plots, yet all three were let go and Bayaid continued to work at BIF until 1998. Bayazid was one of al-Qaeda’s founding members (see December 16, 1994).
In early 1996, a secret CIA report suggested that Arnaout was involved in the kidnapping and murders of a small group of Western tourists in Kashmir, including Americans (see July 4, 1995). The report also links BIF to other militant charity fronts and extremists, including the commander of a training camp in Afghanistan. [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996]
In 1996, trusted al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl revealed that bin Laden considered BIF one of its three most important charity fronts (see 1993), and the FBI was heavily involved in debriefing al-Fadl for many months (see June 1996-April 1997). Al-Fadl also met with Arnaout and other al-Qaeda leaders in Bosnia and discussed many operations, including how to use Bosnia to establish a base to fight the US (see Autumn 1992).
In 1996, al-Fadl also revealed that BIF president Bayazid took part in an al-Qaeda attempt to buy enriched uranium (see Late 1993).
In early 1998, Bayazid moves to Turkey and works with Maram, an al-Qaeda front company involving a number of well-known al-Qaeda figures. US intelligence learns of calls between BIF headquarters in Illinois and Bayazid in Turkey (see November 1996-September 1998).
These agents will open a full field investigation into BIF in February 1999 (see February 1999-September 10, 2001). They will later learn some useful information from the CIA, but just what is unclear. The 9/11 Commission will say that the “CIA held back some information” from these agents, supposedly “because of fears of revealing sources and methods in any potential criminal litigation…” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 96 ]
In 1998, CIA analysts realize that ground crews for illegal arms dealer Victor Bout are performing maintenance chores for Ariana Airlines planes flying to and from Afghanistan. Bout’s air fleet is based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the time, and in fact Bout has been working with the Taliban since about 1996 (see October 1996-Late 2001). The CIA has also been gathering intelligence that al-Qaeda operatives are frequently moving between Afghanistan and the UAE. Ariana, Afghanistan’s official airline, is the only airline making flights between the Middle East and Afghanistan. Therefore, Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, concludes that Ariana is being used as a “terrorist taxi service.” Scheuer concludes that Bout is assisting al-Qaeda. He will later comment that when al-Qaeda operatives would travel through the UAE, “it was almost always through Ariana flights. Since Bout’s operation was working with Ariana, they were part of the same set of concerns.” The CIA also notices an increasing number of Bout’s own planes flying to and from Afghanistan. Scheuer will later say, “Our human intelligence said it was mostly small arms and ammunition, going to Kandahar and occasionally to Kabul.” [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 138-140] However, while intelligence reports on Bout’s ties to the Taliban continue, interest in his activities in Afghanistan fades by the end of 1998. Scheuer will later claim that he tried to raise concern about the Bout flights with National Security Council officials, but saw little interest. “I never got a sense that he was important. He was part of the problem we had with the terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan, but there were so many parts we were dealing with.… [N]o one was going to fall on their sword to get Victor Bout.” [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 143] After 9/11, evidence will emerge that about nine of the 9/11 hijackers worked in the Kandahar airport heavily used by Bout’s airplanes (see Summer 2000).
A houbara bustard. [Source: Eric and David Hosking / Corbis]In 1998, the CIA becomes interested in the links between arms dealer Victor Bout, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, and some US counternarcotics officials are particularly intrigued by a pattern they see between the flight patterns of Bout’s airplanes to and from Afghanistan and the hunting vacations of some Persian Gulf royals. Many of the Persian Gulf elite are known to regularly go bird hunting in Afghanistan, sometimes meeting Taliban ruler Mullah Omar and/or Osama bin Laden during their hunting trips (see 1995-2001). US analysts notice that there is a surge of Bout-controlled flights to Afghanistan in February and March of each year, the same time many royal elite fly to Afghanistan on their private jets in time for the migration of thousands of houbara bustards through Afghanistan. Then, in early autumn, there is another surge of flights by both Bout’s planes and the royal jets when the bustards migrate through the country again. Officials at the CIA’s counternarcotics center suspect some of the royals are using the hunting flights as cover to export heroin. The Bout flights increase the suspicion, since he is a known drug trafficker as well as an arms dealer. Scheuer will later comment, “They were very interested on the counternarcotics side about the patterns between Bout’s flights and the bustard-hunting season.” British intelligence is interested in the same thing, and at one point they approach United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials for permission to sneak a team of agents aboard one of Bout’s flights to search for Afghan heroin. However, they are unable to get permission, and the CIA also does not act on these suspicions. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 141]
Jordan requests the extradition from Britain of Abu Qatada, a cleric who sits on al-Qaeda’s fatwa committee (see June 1996-1997) and who is wanted in connection with a series of car bombings in Jordan. However, Britain, where Abu Qatada lives, declines the request and grants him asylum. Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will comment: “Britain had given shelter to one of the fiercest advocates of the global jihad. Abu Qatada lived and breathed the al-Qaeda ideology, issued religious decrees… allowing Algerian terrorists to commit mass murder in the name of God, and raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Islamists to carry on the war against Russia in Chechnya.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 29] Abu Qatada is working as an informant with Britain’s security services at this time (see June 1996-February 1997).
Reda Hassaine, a mole for the French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) who has penetrated militant Islamist circles in London (see Early 1997), launches an extremist newsletter to boost his standing. The project is expressly approved by his DGSE handler, who gives Hassaine £1,500 (about US$ 2,250) to fund the launch. The primary aim of the project is to bring Hassaine closer to Abu Qatada, a key militant leader in London. In addition to this, the newsletter enhances Hassaine’s position at the Finsbury Park mosque, a hotbed of Islamist radicalism, and he now has “free run” of it, enabling him to gather more information. He sees false documents being ordered and traded, stolen goods offered for sale, widespread benefit frauds organized, and credit card cloning taking place “on a cottage-industry scale.” Much of the money generated goes to various mujaheddin groups. He is also able to get access to militant communiqués before they are published, and he passes them to his French handler. The first edition of the newsletter, called Journal du Francophone, is entitled Djihad contre les Etats-unis (Jihad against the United States) and is accompanied by a photo of Osama bin Laden. The content is anti-American, anti-Israeli, and it is “full of florid praise for the mujaheddin.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 134-135]
The US and Pakistan establish an experts group at the assistant secretary level to discuss Pakistan’s proliferation of nuclear weapons. The group, which meets at least twice a year for some time, involves Robert Einhorn, assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation from 1999. On the Pakistani side there is an official from the foreign ministry, but it is military officials who are in charge, often General Feroz Khan, head of the Combat Development Directorate and a close family friend of General Pervez Musharraf (who will soon take power in Pakistan). On the first occasion Einhorn says Pakistan may be supplying nuclear technology to North Korea, his counterpart responds furiously and is “incredibly angry” and “deeply chagrined.” However, the expert group makes no headway in stopping Pakistan from engaging in nuclear proliferation because the US is only willing to use non-specific information at the meetings, apparently because it thinks more specific information will reveal it has penetrated Khan Research Laboratories, a key organization in Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation efforts (see 1998). The conversations are so vague that one Pakistani official involved in them wonders if the US really knows anything, or is just trying to bluff the Pakistanis into revealing something. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 280-281]
According to Robert Einhorn, the assistant secretary of state for non-proliferation from 1999, at this time the US has a “human source within the KRL [Khan Research Laboratories] hierarchy.” Einhorn will say this in an interview with authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clarke in 2006. The source’s identity is not known. The US knows specific details of Pakistan’s nuclear proliferation activities, which are run by scientist A. Q. Khan. However, in order to keep the source’s identity secret, it chooses not to reveal what it knows in discussions with Pakistani officials about their nuclear proliferation activities (see 1998). [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 281, 515]
Informers for the British authorities monitoring the radical Finsbury Park mosque in London identify a key extremist named Rabah Kadre. One of the informers, Reda Hassaine, mentions him in a number of reports and British authorities realise that he is an important figure in Islamist operations in Britain. In fact, Kadre is the second in command to radical leader Abu Doha, who heads a Europe-wide network of extremists. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 240]
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who claims to have made many secret trips into Afghanistan and to have fought with the mujaheddin, later describes to Congress a missed opportunity to capture bin Laden. He claims that “a few years” before 9/11, he is contacted by someone he knows and trusts from the 1980s Afghan war, who claims he could pinpoint bin Laden’s location. Rohrabacher passes this information to the CIA, but the informant isn’t contacted. After some weeks, Rohrabacher uses his influence to set up a meeting with agents in the CIA, NSA, and FBI. Yet even then, the informant is not contacted, until weeks later, and then only in a “disinterested” way. Rohrabacher concludes, “that our intelligence services knew about the location of bin Laden several times but were not permitted to attack him… because of decisions made by people higher up.” [US Congress, 9/17/2001]
Cabdullah Ciise. [Source: The Sun]Police raid the apartment of Cabdullah Ciise, an extremist based in Germany who is linked to hijacker Mohamed Atta and some of his associates in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. The police find forged Italian documents in the apartment, proving a link between Ciise in Germany and Italian cells that specialize in document forgery, especially one in Milan that is under investigation (see 1998 and October 2, 1998). Ciise lives in Germany from 1991 until October 1999, during which time he becomes friendly with Mohamed Atta as well as cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh, with whom he often watches videos about the war in Chechyna and talks about religion. Ciise is also linked to other cell members such as Mohamed Daki and his associates Said Bahaji and Mounir El Motassadeq, as well as a Yemeni named Mohammed Rajih whom German authorities will investigate for terrorist ties at some point before 2005. It is unclear what impact the link to the important Milan cell has on surveillance of the cell in Hamburg. Ciise will allegedly be involved in a bombing in Mombasa, Kenya (see November 28, 2002), will help send fighters to Iraq, and will be arrested in Milan in 2003. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 256]
George Tenet, appointed as CIA director in 1997 (see July 11, 1997), develops close personal relationships with top Saudi officials, especially Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Tenet develops a habit of meeting with Bandar at his home near Washington about once a month. But CIA officers handling Saudi issues complain that Tenet doesn’t tell them what he discusses with Bandar. Often they are only able to learn about Tenet’s deals with the Saudis later and through Saudi contacts, not from their own boss. Tenet also makes one of his closest aides the chief of the CIA station in Saudi Arabia. This aide often communicates directly with Tenet, avoiding the usual chain of command. Apparently as a favor to the Saudis, CIA analysts are discouraged from writing reports raising questions about the Saudi relationship to Islamic extremists. [Risen, 2006, pp. 185]
Al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar probably recruits future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed and other key members of the Hamburg cell into al-Qaeda this year. According to Time magazine, “US investigators believe [Zammar] may have persuaded Atta’s Islamic study group to offer its services to al-Qaeda around 1998.” Zammar was frequently seen by neighbors with Atta starting in 1997 (see 1997). [Time, 7/1/2002]
Zammar Being Monitored by US and German Intelligence - German intelligence began heavily monitoring Zammar in early 1997 and this continues until at least early 2000 (see March 1997-Early 2000). The CIA also appears to be monitoring Zammar by this time. Author Terry McDermott will later comment: “[T]he CIA told the [9/11 Congressional Inquiry] it had a long-standing interest in Zammar that pre-dated [a wiretap done in March 1999 (see March 1999)]. In other words, the CIA appears to have been investigating the man who recruited the hijackers at the time he was recruiting them.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 73, 278-279]
Police stop a car carrying supporters of Abu Hamza al-Masri on their way back from a paramilitary training camp in Wales. The supporters include Mohsin Ghalain, Abu Hamza’s stepson, and Mohammed Kamel Mostafa, his son. Abu Hamza, an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), began setting up training camps and courses in Britain the previous year to prepare his supporters to fight for Muslim causes abroad (see (Mid-1997)). Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will point out that the police followed the men’s car for some time before it was stopped and, “The authorities clearly had this group on a watch-list.” The police search the car, making remarks indicating they expect to find firearms. However, none are found, as the weapons were given to the men’s trainers, ex-soldiers in the British army, after the end of the course. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 84] Ghalain and Mostafa will later attempt to carry out terrorist attacks in Yemen, but will be thwarted (see December 23, 1998).
In 2004, it will be reported, “A former very senior CIA counterintelligence official told UPI that in 1998-99, the CIA discovered an Israeli couple, who were subcontracted to a US phone company, were working for Mossad, the Israeli intelligence service. ‘They did incredible damage—they got incredibly sensitive data, including key words identifying individuals or projects,’” this source said, adding he himself gave the case to the FBI. Additional details are not known. [United Press International, 12/9/2004] In 2005, a US criminal indictment will reveal that the FBI began monitoring some Israeli diplomatic officials in the US by April 1999 (see April 13, 1999-2004), but is it not known if there is any connection between that and this case.
By 1997, al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is living in Peshawar, Pakistan, near the border to Afghanistan. He runs an al-Qaeda guest house there called the House of Martyrs, where all foreign recruits are interviewed before being sent to Afghanistan. As a result, Zubaida soon knows the names of thousands of al-Qaeda recruits. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 224-225] In 2006, author Gerald Posner will write that beginning in 1998, Pakistan receives several requests from US intelligence to track down Zubaida. Beginning by October 1998, the US and other countries have been monitoring Zubaida’s phone calls (see October 1998 and After), and will continue to do so through the 9/11 attacks (see Early September 2001 and October 8, 2001). But according to Posner, “Pakistan’s agency, the ISI, had claimed to have made several failed attempts, but few in the US believe they did more before September 11 than file away the request and possibly at times even warn Zubaida of the Americans’ interest.” [Posner, 2003, pp. 184] In 2008, Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid will repeat the gist of Posner’s allegations, and further explain that Zubaida directly worked with the ISI. Some of the militants he directs to al-Qaeda camps are militants sent by the ISI to fight in Kashmir, a region disputed between India and Pakistan. Presumably, handing Zubaida to the US could hinder Pakistan’s covert war against India in Kashmir. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 224-225] After Zubaida is arrested in 2002, he allegedly will divulge that he has personal contacts with high-ranking officials in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (see Early April 2002).
After a renditions branch is established at the CIA in 1997, responsibility at the agency for dealing with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is transferred there. This is because he is wanted in connection with the Bojinka plot (see January 8, 1998). The 9/11 Commission will say that this both improves the CIA’s coverage of KSM—because it gives them a “man-to-man” focus—and also degrades it—as less analysis is performed related to rendition targets. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 276-7] The CIA’s inspector general will say that at this time the agency’s Counterterrorist Center considers KSM a “high-priority target for apprehension and rendition,” but will fail to recognize the importance of reporting from “credible sources” before 9/11 that shows he is a top al-Qaeda leader and is sending other terrorists to the US to work for Osama bin Laden (see June 12, 2001 and August 28, 2001). The inspector general will recommend that an accountability board review the performance of at least four officers for these failures. [Central Intelligence Agency, 6/2005, pp. xii-xiii ]
In 1998, Saif al-Islam al-Masri, a member of al-Qaeda’s ruling military council, is appointed Benevolence International Foundation’s (BIF) officer in Grozny, Chechnya. BIF is a US-based charity with numerous ties to al-Qaeda that is being investigated by the FBI at this time (see 1998). It will be shut down in late 2001 (see December 14, 2001). From 1995 to 2001, BIF provides money, anti-mine boots, camouflage military uniforms, and other supplies to the Chechen rebels who are fighting the Russian army. BIF is particularly close to Ibn Khattab, the Chechen warlord linked to Osama bin Laden, and BIF is even mentioned on Khattab’s website at the time, as a charity to use to give to the Chechen cause. The BIF office in Baku, Azerbaijan, which serves as support to nearby Chechnya, is manned by a member of a militant group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Afghan warlord closely linked to al-Qaeda. In 1999, Enaam Arnaout, head of BIF’s US office, tours Chechnya and reports on the roles al-Islam, Khattab, and others are playing there. US intelligence is aware of al-Islam’s al-Qaeda role at this time, and recovered his passport photo in a raid on the house of al-Qaeda leader Wadih El-Hage in Kenya in 1997 (see August 21, 1997). [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003 ] El-Hage was monitored talking on the phone to al-Islam in 1996 and 1997. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 37, 5/1/2001] However, either US intelligence failed to notice al-Islam’s link to BIF at the time, or failed to do anything about it. It is not known when he stops working for BIF. He will not be captured until 2002, when US forces help catch him just outside of Chechnya (see Early October 2002).
Beginning in 1998, if not before, Uzbekistan and the CIA secretly create a joint counterterrorist strike force, funded and trained by the CIA. This force conducts joint covert operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. [Times of India, 10/14/2001; Washington Post, 10/14/2001; Vanity Fair, 11/2004] In February 1999, radical Muslims fail in an attempt to assassinate Islam Karimov, the leader of Uzbekistan, leading to a crackdown on Uzbek militants. CIA counterterrorism head Cofer Black and bin Laden unit chief Richard Blee see this as an opportunity to increase co-operation with Uzbekistan, and fly to the Uzbek capital of Tashkent to seal an agreement with Karimov. One hope is that a strike force will be established to snatch Osama bin Laden or one of his lieutenants. Karimov also allows CIA transit and helicopter operations at Uzbek air bases, as well as the installation of CIA and NSA monitoring equipment to intercept Taliban and al-Qaeda communications. The CIA is pleased with the new allies, thinking them better than Pakistan’s ISI, but at the White House some National Security Council members are skeptical. One will comment, “Uzbek motivations were highly suspect to say the least.” There are also worries about Uzbek corruption, human rights abuses, and scandal. [Coll, 2004, pp. 456-460]
Dietrich Snell. [Source: Morris Mac Matzen/ Associated Press]Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the 1995 Bojinka plot with Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), and others, was convicted in 1996 of his role in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). He is about to be sentenced for that crime. He offers to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for a reduction in his sentence, but prosecutors turn down his offer. Dietrich Snell, the prosecutor who convicted Murad, will say after 9/11 that he does not remember any such offer. But court papers and others familiar with the case later confirm that Murad does offer to cooperate at this time. Snell will claim he only remembers hearing that Murad had described an intention to hijack a plane and fly it into CIA headquarters. However, in 1995 Murad had confessed to Philippine investigators that this would have been only one part of a larger plot to crash a number of airplanes into prominent US buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a plot that KSM later will adjust and turn into the 9/11 plot (see January 20, 1995)
(see February-Early May 1995). While Philippine investigators claim this information was passed on to US intelligence, it’s not clear just which US officials may have learned this information and what they did with it, if anything. [New York Daily News, 9/25/2001] Murad is sentenced in May 1998 and given life in prison plus 60 years. [Albany Times-Union, 9/22/2002] After 9/11, Snell will go on to become Senior Counsel and a team leader for the 9/11 Commission. Author Peter Lance later calls Snell “one of the fixers, hired early on to sanitize the Commission’s final report.” Lance says Snell ignored evidence presented to the Commission that shows direct ties between the Bojinka plot and 9/11, and in so doing covers up Snell’s own role in the failure to make more use of evidence learned from Murad and other Bojinka plotters. [FrontPage Magazine, 1/27/2005]
The CIA apparently ignores a warning from a recently retired CIA agent that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is heading al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations. Robert Baer left the CIA in late 1997 and began private consulting in the Middle East. Baer soon meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before. Al Thani tells Baer that KSM is now bin Laden’s chief of terrorist operations, and gives Baer other details about KSM, including how some Qatari royals helped KSM escape Qatar the year before after the CIA tracked him there (see January-May 1996 and Early 1998). In early 1998, Baer passes all this information on to a friend still in the CIA, who then passes it on to the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. But the friend writes back a week later, saying the CIA showed no interest. [Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] The 9/11 Commission, by contrast, will later claim that, in 1997 and 1998, KSM has some links with al-Qaeda, but mostly helps them collect newspaper articles and update computer equipment. Supposedly, not until after the August 1998 embassy bombings does he begin working directly with al-Qaeda on plotting attacks. This account appears entirely based on KSM’s testimony taken while in US custody. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 149-150] It will later be reported that up to 90 percent of KSM’s testimony could be inaccurate, mostly due to the use of torture (see Late August 1998). Further, the CIA gained evidence shortly after the embassy bombings that KSM was one of the masterminds of those bombings, which would strongly support Baer’s information over the 9/11 Commission version (see August 6, 2007).
Robert Baer. [Source: Publicity photo]In December 1997, former CIA agent Robert Baer, newly retired from the CIA and working as a terrorism consultant, meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before, and whom he calls the “black prince.” Al Thani tells Baer that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was being sheltered by then Qatari Interior Minister Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani in 1996 (see January-May 1996). However, the black prince knows other details, based on what Qatari police and intelligence learned when KSM was in the country. He says that KSM is chief of al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations (see Early 1998). KSM was leading an al-Qaeda cell in Qatar together with Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, the brother of the Egyptian who had killed Anwar Sadat. They also were linked to bomber Ramzi Yousef. But what worries the black prince is that KSM and Islambouli are experts in hijacking commercial planes. He tells Baer that KSM “is going to hijack some planes.” Further, he says that KSM has moved to the Czech Republic, and has also traveled to Germany to meet bin Laden associates there. In early 1998 Baer sends this information to a friend in the CIA Counterterrorist Center, who forwards the information to his superiors. Baer doesn’t hear back from the CIA. He says, “There was no interest.” [Baer, 2002, pp. 270-71; Vanity Fair, 2/2002; United Press International, 9/30/2002; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Later in 1998, President Clinton will be briefed about a hijacking threat in the US involving Islambouli, but it is unclear if Islambouli was actually involved in the 9/11 plot or any other hijacking plots targeting the US (see December 4, 1998). He will not have been captured by March 2008. Baer tries to interest reporter Daniel Pearl in a story about KSM before 9/11, but Pearl will still be working on it when he is kidnapped and later murdered in early 2002. [United Press International, 4/9/2004] Baer also tries to interest New York Times reporter James Risen in the information about KSM. But just before Risen can come to the Middle East to meet the black prince, the black prince is kidnapped in Lebanon and sent to prison in Qatar. There will be speculation that the CIA turned on the source to protect its relationship with the Qatari government. Risen will publish an article in July 1999 about KSM, but it will not include most of the information from the black prince, since Risen will not be able to confirm it. [New York Times, 7/8/1999; BBC, 7/25/1999; Gertz, 2002, pp. 55-58; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Al-Thani will continue to support al-Qaeda, even hosting visits by bin Laden between 1996 and 2000 (see 1996-2000). [ABC News, 2/7/2003] Yet the US will not have frozen al-Thani’s assets or taken other action by March 2008.
Entity Tags: James Risen, Robert Baer, Ramzi Yousef, Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, Daniel Pearl, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Al-Qaeda, Counterterrorist Center, Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Ali Mohamed, the al-Qaeda double agent living in California, receives a letter from Ihab Ali Nawawi (an apparent al-Qaeda sleeper cell operative living in Orlando, Florida, at the time (see September 1999)). Nawawi tells Mohamed that Wadih El-Hage, a key member of the al-Qaeda cell in Kenya, has been interviewed by the FBI (see August 21, 1997). Mohamed is given a new contact number for El-Hage. Mohamed calls El-Hage and speaks to him about this, then calls other operatives who pass on the warning of the FBI’s interest in El-Hage to bin Laden. US intelligence is monitoring Mohamed’s phone calls at this time, so presumably they are aware of these connections. [New York Times, 10/24/2000; Raleigh News and Observer, 10/21/2001; Chicago Tribune, 12/11/2001] Yet, despite all of these monitored communications, neither Mohamed, nor Nawawi, nor El-Hage, are apprehended at this time, even though all three are living in the US. Their plot to blow up two US embassies in Africa succeeds in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998).
Bin Laden holds a meeting with other top al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan this month to prepare for a new wave of attacks. CIA analysts are able to learn some about this meeting, apparently largely due to NSA communications intercepts. On US official will say later in 1998, “There were reams of intel documenting bin Laden before” the African embassy bombings later in the year (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Another official will say, “We’ve had the book on this guy for a long time.” But it is not known which attacks may have been discussed at this meeting or how much US intelligence knew about what was said there. [New York Times, 9/6/1998]
Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading London radical and informer for the security services (see Early 1997), tells his inner circle of his plans for the future. According to authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory, he “confide[s] to his inner circle at a meeting in his office in January 1998 that he [is] convinced it [is] his destiny to inspire a generation of jihadis [holy warriors]. It [does] not matter how young they [are]; he [is] convinced that the sooner he [has] the chance to influence juvenile minds, the better.” The authors will attribute this to the fact that he “yearn[s] to run [al-Qaeda’s] British franchise.” Numerous intelligence services have informers inside the mosque, and may learn of Abu Hamza’s intentions. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 79, 84]
Khaled Saffuri. [Source: Paul Sperry]Grover Norquist, one of the most politically-connected Republican lobbyists, founds a group to build Republican support among Muslim Americans. Norquist cofounds the Islamic Institute, sometimes called the Islamic Free Market Institute, with Khaled Saffuri. Saffuri is executive director and Norquist is chairman of the board. The institute operates out of the headquarters of Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist’s main lobbying group. [New Republic, 11/1/2001] The start-up money largely comes from Middle Eastern sources. Saffuri’s former boss at the American Muslim Council, Abdurahman Alamoudi, gives at least $35,000. Alamoudi has been suspected of ties to bin Laden and other Islamic radicals (see Shortly After March 1994) since at least 1994 and will later be sentenced to 23 years in prison (see October 15, 2004). The Safa Trust donates at least $35,000, and the International Institute of Islamic Thought (IIIT) contributes $11,000. Both organizations are part of the SAAR group and are among the organizations raided in early 2002 (see March 20, 2002). [St. Petersburg Times, 3/11/2003] Norquist is very close to future President Bush. The Washington Post will later comment that “even before President Bush’s election, [Norquist] positioned himself as a gatekeeper for supplicants seeking access to Bush’s inner circle.” [Washington Post, 7/9/2006] The St. Petersburg Times will later note that after the founding of the Islamic Institute, “then-candidate Bush began popping up in photographs with various politically connected Muslims (see March 12, 2000). The only problem was, many of these same prominent Muslims were also under scrutiny by federal investigators for links to terrorism.” [St. Petersburg Times, 3/11/2003] The Islamic Institute becomes a key power center for Muslim activists currying favor with Bush and other Republicans, and these alliances lead to more Muslim American votes for Bush. Norquist will later claim, “George W. Bush was elected President of the United States of America because of the Muslim vote.” [New Republic, 11/1/2001] After Bush is elected president, Saffuri regularly appears at the White House with imams and heads of Islamic organizations to lobby for policy changes. Suhail Khan, who was a director of the Islamic Institute, is the point person arranging the Muslim groups’ access to Bush. Khan’s late father was imam at a mosque in Santa Clara, California, which once hosted a visit by Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s number two leader. Norquist apparently boasted that he got Khan his White House post. [New Republic, 11/1/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 3/11/2003] It will later be alleged that Norquist’s ties to people openly sympathetic to Islamist militant groups stifled investigations before 9/11 (see March 20, 2002). Shortly after 9/11, one recently retired intelligence official will claim that a number of counterterrorism agents at the FBI and CIA are “pissed as hell about the situation and pissed as hell about Grover [Norquist].” [New Republic, 11/1/2001]
CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson uses the front company Brewster Jennings & Associates as cover for work against the nuclear proliferation network run by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan. Details of what exactly she does and whether other CIA officers use it as cover are not known. However, she is said to pose as an “oil consultant” and the company is also said to be involved in alternative energy in some way. [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008] According to former CIA officer Vincent Cannistraro, her specialty in the agency’s nonproliferation center is biological, chemical and nuclear weapons, and “recruiting agents, sending them to areas where they could access information about proliferation matters, weapons of mass destruction.” [New York Daily News, 1/27/2008] Plame Wilson makes a donation of $1,000 to Al Gore’s election campaign in 1999 giving the company’s name as her employer, and also lists it as her employer on her 1999 tax forms. [Sunday Times (London), 1/27/2008]
Former Iraqi nuclear scientist Khidir Hamza (see July 30, 2002), who fled Iraq in 1994 and now works at the Institute for Science and International Security, puts together a book proposal with his boss, David Albright, that intends to prove Saddam Hussein’s mission to build nuclear weapons had “fizzled.” The book proposal receives no interest, and Albright and Hamza do not write the book. [Middle East Policy Council, 6/2004] Two years later, Hamda will co-author a book asserting that Iraq is aggressively pursuing nuclear weapons (see November 2000).
Khalil Deek, an al-Qaeda operative living in California for most of the 1990s, moves to Peshawar, Pakistan, around this time. Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is also operating from the same town and is a close associate of Deek. In fact, US intelligence have been investigating the two of them since the late 1980s (see Late 1980s). It appears Deek is under surveillance by this time. The Wall Street Journal will claim, “US intelligence officials had tracked the onetime California resident for years before they had tied him, [in December 1999], to [an] alleged Jordanian plot.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/8/2000] A 2005 book by counterterrorism expert Jean-Charles Brisard will similarly relate that by the spring of 1999, “For several months the Jordanian government, with the help of the American FBI, had been stepping up pressure on [Pakistan] to arrest [Deek].” [Brisard, 2005, pp. 65] Deek lives in a rented villa surrounded by high walls. He runs a small computer school and repair shop. He helps encrypt al-Qaeda’s Internet communications. He exports drums of local honey to the Middle East. Deek and Zubaida apparently use the honey to hide the shipment of drugs and weapons (see May 2000). [Wall Street Journal, 3/8/2000; Orange County Weekly, 6/15/2006] Deek also creates an electronic version of an al-Qaeda terrorist manual known as the Encyclopedia of Afghan Jihad. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004] “US authorities say his house near the Afghan border also served as a way station for recruits heading in and out of terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.” [Wall Street Journal, 3/8/2000] Zubaida also screens recruits and directs them to training camps in Afghanistan. Deek and Zubaida share a Peshawar bank account. [Orange County Weekly, 6/15/2006] It appears that Western intelligence agencies are monitoring Zubaida’s phone calls from 1998, if not earlier (see October 1998 and After and (Mid-1996)). Deek will be arrested on December 11, 1999, quickly deported to Jordan, and then released in 2001 (see December 11, 1999). It will later be alleged that Deek was a mole for the Jordanian government all along (see Shortly After December 11, 1999).
FBI reward notice for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. [Source: FBI]Islamic militant Ramzi Yousef is sentenced to 240 years for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing. At the same time, prosecutors unseal an indictment against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) for participating with Yousef in the 1995 Operation Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). In unsealing this, US Attorney Mary Jo White calls KSM a “major player” and says he is believed to be a relative of Yousef. [Washington Post, 1/9/1998] The US announces a $2 million reward for his capture in 1998 and wanted posters with his picture are distributed. [New York Times, 6/5/2002] This contradicts the FBI’s claim after 9/11 that they did not realize he was a major terrorist before 9/11. [US Congress, 12/11/2002] For instance, a senior FBI official later says, “He was under everybody’s radar. We don’t know how he did it. We wish we knew.… He’s the guy nobody ever heard of.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002] However, another official says, “We have been after him for years, and to say that we weren’t is just wrong. We had identified him as a major al-Qaeda operative before September 11.” [New York Times, 9/22/2002] Yet strangely, despite knowing KSM is a major al-Qaeda operations planner and putting out a large reward for his capture at this time, there is no worldwide public manhunt for him as there successfully was for his nephew Ramzi Yousef. KSM’s name remains obscure and he isn’t even put on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list until one month after 9/11. [Lance, 2003, pp. 327-30]
Having already entered into its controversial relationship with the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA), the US gives in to the organization’s demands that it be removed from the State Department’s list of foreign terrorist organizations. [Wall Street Journal (Europe), 11/1/2001] Near the end of that same month, Robert Gelbard, America’s special envoy to Bosnia, says the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) is an Islamic terrorist organization. [BBC, 6/28/1998] “We condemn very strongly terrorist actions in Kosovo. The UCK [KLA] is, without any question, a terrorist group.” [Agence France-Presse, 4/1999] “I know a terrorist when I see one and these men are terrorists,” he says. [BBC, 6/28/1998]
Mahmoud Jaballah. [Source: Darren Ell]Mahmoud Jaballah is an Islamic Jihad operative living in Canada and being closely monitored by Canadian intelligence (see May 11, 1996-August 2001). On April 1997, Islamic Jihad top leader (and al-Qaeda number two leader) Ayman al-Zawahiri contacts Jaballah, and the phone call is monitored by Canadian intelligence, which later mentions that Jaballah tells al-Zawahiri about his status in Canada. In February 1998, Jaballah is given al-Zawahiri’s satellite phone number. Canadian intelligence later claims the number is “subsequently contacted many times by Jaballah.” [Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2/22/2008 ] Presumably Canadian intelligence begins monitoring al-Zawahiri’s phone number by this time, but details about what they do, how long they are able to monitor the number, and how much they learn remain unknown.
US spy satellites photograph North Korean technical and telemetry crews arriving at Sargodha air force base in Pakistan. Sargodha is a forward storage facility for Pakistan’s nuclear weapons, and is home to its fleet of F-16s, which can be used to deliver nuclear weapons during a strike on India. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 277] Additional North Koreans will visit the facility the next month (see March 1998).
Western intelligence agencies learn that Kang Thae Yun, a North Korean diplomat who facilitates nuclear co-operation between his government and Pakistan, is involved in negotiations between the Pakistan-based Tabani Corporation and a Russian company that makes mass spectrometers, lasers, and carbon fiber. They also learn he is discussing a purchase of maraging steel, which can be used in a nuclear program, but this steel is for his own government. The knowledge spurs MI6 and the CIA to increase their efforts to find out whether the North Koreans have established a cascade to weaponize uranium using technology obtained from Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 279-180]
A photocopy of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed’s Comoros passport in Sudan’s intelligence files. [Source: Richard Miniter]Gutbi al-Mahdi, head of Sudan’s intelligence agency, sends a letter to David Williams, an FBI station chief. It reads, “I would like to express my sincere desire to start contacts and cooperation between our service and the FBI. I would like to take this opportunity with pleasure to invite you to visit our country. Otherwise, we could meet somewhere else.” Apparently the FBI is very eager to accept the offer and gain access to Sudan’s files on bin Laden and his associates. The US had been offered the files before (see March 8, 1996-April 1996; April 5, 1997), but the US position was that Sudan’s offers were not serious since Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi was ideologically close to bin Laden. But al-Turabi has lost power to moderates by this time, and in fact he is placed under arrest in 1998. There is a political battle between US agencies over the Sudanese offer, and in the end the State Department forbids any contact with al-Mahdi. On June 24, 1998, Williams is obliged to reply, “I am not currently in a position to accept your kind invitation.” Al-Madhi later will complain, “If they had taken up my offer in February 1998, they could have prevented the [US embassy] bombings.” Tim Carney, US ambassador to Sudan until 1997, will say, “The US failed to reciprocate Sudan’s willingness to engage us on serious questions of terrorism. We can speculate that this failure had serious implications - at the least for what happened at the US Embassies in 1998. In any case, the US lost access to a mine of material on bin Laden and his organization.” One of the plotters in the bombings is Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), who is living in Sudan but making trips to Kenya to participate in the bombing preparations. Sudan has files on him and continues to monitor him. Sudan also has files on Saif al-Adel, another embassy bomber who has yet to be captured. Sudan also has files on Wadih El-Hage and Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, both of whom have contact with members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell (see September 16, 1998; Late 1998; 1993). Salim even attends the same small Hamburg mosque as 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. Vanity Fair magazine will suggest that if al-Madhi’s offer had been properly followed up, both the embassy bombings and the 9/11 attacks could have been foiled. [Vanity Fair, 1/2002] It is later revealed that the US was wiretapping bin Laden in Sudan on their own (see Early 1990s).
Entity Tags: Wadih El-Hage, Saif al-Adel, Tim Carney, US Department of State, Gutbi Al-Mahdi, Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, David Williams, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Sudan, Osama bin Laden, Hassan al-Turabi, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Osama bin Laden (right), Mohammed Atef (center), and an unidentified militant at the press conference publicizing the expanded fatwa in May 1998. Ayman al-Zawahiri is out of the picture, sitting on the other side of bin Laden. [Source: BBC]Osama bin Laden issues a fatwa (religious edict), declaring it the religious duty of all Muslims “to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military… in any country in which it is possible.” [Al-Quds al-Arabi (London), 2/23/1998; PBS Frontline, 2001; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/16/2001] This is an expansion of an earlier fatwa issued in August 1996, which called for attacks in the Arabian Peninsula only (see August 1996). Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad, is one of many militant leaders who sign the fatwa. This reveals to the public an alliance between al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad that has long been in effect. According to journalist Lawrence Wright, the fatwa was actually mostly written by al-Zawahiri the month before, even though it is released in bin Laden’s name only. (Some members of Islamic Jihad are upset by it and quit the group.) [Wright, 2006, pp. 259-261] Also signing the fatwa are representatives from militant groups in Afghanistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Azerbaijan, and Palestine. All these representatives call themselves allied to the “International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders” (the name al-Qaeda has not been widely popularized yet). New York magazine will note, “The [fatwa gives] the West its first glimpse of the worldwide conspiracy that [is] beginning to form.” [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] The fatwa is published by Khalid al-Fawwaz, who runs bin Laden’s European headquarters in London, and its publication is preceded by what authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory term a “barrage of calls” from bin Laden’s monitored satellite phone to al-Fawwaz. However, this does not motivate British authorities to take any action against al-Fawwaz. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 111] In March 1998, 40 Afghan clerics issue a fatwa calling for a jihad against the US. A group of Pakistani clerics issues a similar fatwa in April. These fatwas give much more religious authority to bin Laden’s fatwa. It is suspected that bin Laden “discreetly prompted these two bodies to issue the ordinances.” [Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 62-63] Bin Laden then will hold a press conference in May 1998 to publicize the fatwa (see May 26, 1998).
Sources who know bin Laden claim his stepmother, Al-Khalifa bin Laden, has the first of two meetings with her stepson in Afghanistan during this period. This trip was arranged by Prince Turki al-Faisal, then the head of Saudi intelligence. Turki was in charge of the “Afghanistan file” for Saudi Arabia, and had long-standing ties to bin Laden and the Taliban since 1980. [New Yorker, 11/5/2001]
The French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) considers kidnapping Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading radical imam who is an informer for two British security services in London (see Early 1997). The plan, which is never implemented, is communicated to a French informer named Reda Hassaine by a handling agent known only as “Jerome.”
Concern about World Cup - Jerome tells Hassaine: “Something has to be done. [French Interior Minister Jean Pierre] Chevenement says he cannot sleep on Thursday nights wondering what threat is going to emerge from London Algerians the next morning or what Abu Hamza is going to say in his Friday sermon. Paris is very anxious that they will threaten France again.” The French are particularly worried that there will be an attack during the 1998 World Cup in France (see Late 1997-Early 1998).
Kidnap Plan - The plan is essentially to kidnap Abu Hamza in front of his home while he is only protected by his sons, bundle him into a van, and then race for a French ferry docked at one of the Channel ports. Hassaine’s role in the plan is not well-defined; he may be required as a lookout or to create a distraction.
Assistance from British Authorities - Jerome says that the British intelligence services MI5 and MI6 might be prepared to turn a blind eye to the operation, but the regular British police will not help with it: “In short, if anything went wrong, all hell would break lose.” Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will comment: “The scandal could be bigger than the blowing up of the Greenpeace ship Rainbow Warrior in 1985 in New Zealand. But such was the level of French frustration—from the minister of the interior downwards—with the British that all options were being counternanced.”
Many Other Intelligence Services Share Concerns - The French are not the only non-British intelligence service to be concerned about Abu Hamza’s activities. Agencies from Spain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, and the Netherlands all tell their British counterparts that Abu Hamza is a terror leader, but the British take no action. Egypt even offers to swap a British prisoner for Abu Hamza, but to no avail. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 123, 125-126, 288]
Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar. [Source: Associated Press]Ahmed Nasrallah, a veteran al-Qaeda operative who has been in Yemen for several years, decides to defect and turn himself in to the Yemeni government. He discloses the location of al-Qaeda strongholds in Yemen and even gives away the location of al-Qaeda’s deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in a southern Yemeni town. He describes al-Qaeda’s weaponry, security, and violent plans for the future. He offers to spy on al-Qaeda in Afghanistan or on a militant Yemeni group led by Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, a relative of hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. (In 1999 Zein will be caught and executed in Yemen for kidnappings and killings.) However, two officials in the Political Security Organization (Yemen’s equivalent of the FBI) have radical militant ties and hand over Nasrallah to al-Qaeda operatives. These operatives plan to kill him for betraying their group, but he escapes to Egypt before they can do so. The Egyptian government then interrogates him for more than a year. However, it is not known what he told them before 9/11, or what they might have passed to the US. One of the two Yemeni officers helping al-Qaeda on this matter, Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman, will be recorded by Italian intelligence in 2000 apparently mentioning the upcoming 9/11 attacks (see August 12, 2000). The other officer, Mohammed al-Surmi, is Deputy Chief of the PSO. [Wall Street Journal, 12/20/2002]
Richard Clarke, the chair of the White House’s Counterterrorism Security Group, updates the US Continuity of Government (COG) program. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger has become aware that terrorism and domestic preparedness are now major issues. He suggests the idea of a “national coordinator” for counterterrorism, and that this post should be codified by a new Presidential Decision Directive (PDD). Clarke therefore drafts three new directives. The third, tentatively titled “PDD-Z,” updates the COG program. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 166-167] This program, which dates back to the cold war, was originally designed to ensure the US government would continue to function in the event of a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. [Atlantic Monthly, 3/2004] Clarke will later say it “had been allowed to fall apart when the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack had gone away.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 167] He will explain: “We thought that individual buildings in Washington, and indeed perhaps all of Washington, could still come under attack, only it might not be from the former Soviet Union.… It might be with a terrorist walking a weapon into our city.” [CBS, 9/11/2001] Therefore, “If terrorists could attack Washington, particularly with weapons of mass destruction, we needed to have a robust system of command and control, with plans to devolve authority and capabilities to officials outside Washington.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 167] President Clinton will sign “PDD-Z” on October 21, 1998, as PDD-67, “Enduring Constitutional Government and Continuity of Government Operations” (see October 21, 1998). The two other directives drafted by Clarke will become PDD-62 (see May 22, 1998) and PDD-63. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 170; Washington Post, 6/4/2006] By February 1999, according to the New York Times, Clarke will have written at least four classified presidential directives on terrorism, which “expand the government’s counterterrorism cadres into the $11 billion-a-year enterprise he now coordinates.” [New York Times, 2/1/1999] Clarke is a regular participant in secret COG exercises (see (1984-2004)), and will activate the COG plan for the first time on the day of 9/11 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001).
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