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Omar Mohammed Ali Rezaq is rendered from Nigeria to the US. [Grey, 2007, pp. 245] Rezaq had led the hijacking of an EgyptAir plane for the Abu Nidal group in 1985, and had been sentenced to 25 years in prison in Malta after the plane was re-taken there with much loss of life. However, Rezaq only served seven years before somehow leaving the prison and traveling to Ghana. When he attempts to enter Nigeria, he is seized by the local authorities and turned over to the FBI, which renders him to the US. Rezaq will later be sentenced to 25 years in jail in the US for air piracy, and Judge Royce Lamberth will recommend that any request for parole be rejected. The other hijackers died when the plane was retaken. [CNN, 10/7/1996]
A National Security Agency (NSA) linguist runs afoul of his superiors after he and other linguists submit a report concluding that Islamist terrorists are planning attacks on America. The analyst, who insists on remaining anonymous and is nicknamed “J” by press reports, is fluent in an unusual number of languages. His and his colleagues’ study of Arabic language messages, and the flow of money to terrorist organizations from Saudi Arabia, lead them to believe that Saudi extremists are plotting an attack. J will recall in January 2006: “You could see, this was the pure rhetoric of Osama bin Laden and his group, the exact same group, and we had an early indication.… All of us in the group had this view of a burgeoning threat, and suddenly we were all trotted off to the office of security. Then came the call to report for a battery of psychological tests.” J will issue further warnings of potential terrorist strikes, this time involving hijackers, passenger planes, and US buildings, in May 2001 (see May 2001). In 2006, other current and former NSA officials will claim that the NSA routinely uses unfavorable psychological evaluations to retaliate against whistleblowers and those employees who come into conflict with superiors (see January 25-26, 2006). [Cybercast News Service, 1/25/2006]
American researcher John Hines and his team complete a five-year study of Soviet nuclear plans, based on interviews with 22 senior Soviet military personnel. The study finds that by the early 1970s, the Soviets realized that any possible nuclear exchange with the US would have been so cataclysmically devastating to both nations that no one could “win” such a war in any real sense. The Soviets never accepted the doctrine of MAD—“mutually assured destruction”—in an official sense, but, like the US, their policy was deterrence based on retaliation. Like the US, they believed that any “limited” nuclear exchange in Europe would quickly escalate into global thermonuclear holocaust, but they planned for it because they needed a strategy for a European conflict. In 2008, American author J. Peter Scoblic will write, “In short, Soviet nuclear doctrine was remarkably like our own.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 109]
At some point in 1994, Mohammed Atef, one of al-Qaeda’s top leaders, refuses to let Ali Mohamed know what name and passport he is traveling under. Al-Qaeda operative L’Houssaine Kherchtou, testifying in a US trial in February 2001, will say that Atef “doesn’t want Abu Mohamed al Amriki [the American] to see his name, because he [is] afraid that maybe he is working with United States or other governments.” [Raleigh News and Observer, 10/21/2001]
Robert Marr, who on 9/11 will be the battle commander at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), gains experience in military training exercises. After flying on active duty for nearly 18 years, in 1994 Marr leaves the service. For 20 months, he works as the captain of a Lear 36 business jet that is contracted as part of a simulated “target force,” hired to stage attacks on the United States. In 1996 he returns to NEADS as the director of exercise and analysis. In this post, Marr no doubt gains further experience around military exercises. In 1998, he is named vice commander of NEADS, and in 1999 he will be promoted to become the commander of NEADS. [Post-Standard (Syracuse), 3/27/2005; Spencer, 2008, pp. 5-6] Marr’s particular experience around military exercises is notable, since NEADS will be in the middle of a major training exercise on the morning of 9/11 (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Newhouse News Service, 1/25/2002]
Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta receives financial support from the Carl Duisberg Society, a German foundation that promotes international cultural exchange, primarily between Germany and the US. During this period, Atta receives some support for research and travel. He also tutors students at seminars on North African affairs. [Der Tagesspiegel (Berlin), 10/16/2001; Slate, 9/10/2009] The Carl Duisberg Society was founded in 1949 and is named after a German industrialist. It is best known for administering the Congress-Bundestag program, a bi-national, publicly-funded student exchange program between Germany and the US. [CDS International, 2009]
President Clinton gives serious consideration to launching massive military strikes against North Korea’s nuclear facility at Yongbyon. The North Koreans are preparing to remove nuclear fuel rods from the internationally monitored storage site at the facility, expel the international weapons inspectors, and withdraw from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which they had signed in 1985 (see July 1, 1968 and December 12, 1985). Clinton asks the UN to consider economic sanctions; in response, North Korea says sanctions will trigger a war. The Pentagon presents Clinton with a plan to send 50,000 US troops to South Korea, bolstering the 37,000 already in place, as well as an array of combat jets, naval vessels, combat helicopters, ground assault vehicles, and various missile and rocket systems. Clinton orders an emplacement of 250 soldiers to a logistical headquarters to manage the influx of weaponry. (In 2005, former Clinton administration officials will confirm that Clinton was quite willing to go to war with North Korea if need be.) But Clinton also extends diplomatic offerings to North Korea. He sets up a diplomatic back-channel to that nation in the form of former President Jimmy Carter, who has an informal conference with North Korean leader Kim Il-Sung. (The press portrays the Carter visit as a private venture without Clinton’s approval; later, former Clinton officials will verify that Clinton recruited Carter to go.) Some Clinton cabinet officials, particularly those who had served in the Carter administration, warn Clinton that Carter is a “loose cannon” and may well go beyond the parameters laid down by Clinton in negotiating with Kim. Vice President Gore and other senior officials urge Clinton to send Carter, believing that there is no other way to resolve the crisis. Clinton agrees with Gore. He believes that Kim has, in the words of reporter Fred Kaplan, “painted himself into a corner and needed an escape hatch—a clear path to back away from the brink without losing face, without appearing to buckle under pressure from the US government. Carter might offer that hatch.” Both sides, Kaplan will write, are correct. Carter succeeds in getting Kim to back down, and goes much farther than his instructions allow, negotiating the outline of a treaty and announcing the terms live on CNN, notifying Clinton only minutes before the news broadcast. That outline will become the Agreed Framework between the two nations (see October 21, 1994). [Washington Monthly, 5/2004; Slate, 10/11/2006]
Abdussattar Shaikh. [Source: Fox News]Abdussattar Shaikh, a San Diego resident, is recruited by a local FBI special agent as an “asset,” or informant. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 260 ] Shaikh will later offer rooms in his house in Lemon Grove, California, to two of the future 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, but it will be unclear how much information he shares about them with his FBI handler, Steven Butler (see May 10-Mid-December 2000). Despite much scrutiny after 9/11, little information will emerge on Shaikh’s background or why he came to the FBI’s notice. Shaikh was born in India and came to the US in 1959. [New York Times, 10/24/2001] He became a US citizen in 1976. [9/11 Commission, 4/23/2004] Presumably, he is of interest to the FBI because he is a member of the local Muslim community. A report by the Justice Department’s inspector general will say: “The FBI had interviewed the asset in connection with a bombing investigation several years before.… Initially the asset was not paid. In July 2003, the asset was given a $100,000 payment and closed as an asset.” The report will provide little additional information as to Shaikh’s activities on behalf of the FBI. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 260 ] It is also not entirely clear how Shaikh makes a living. Press reports after 9/11, including a report in a local magazine to which he gave a rare interview, will describe him as as retired professor of English at San Diego State University. [San Diego Magazine, 2/2002] Another profile will not identify which institutions he is affiliated with, and describes him as primarily an English as a second language teacher to Saudi military officers and their families. [New York Times, 10/24/2001]
Iraq masses its armored forces on its southern border, obviously threatening another incursion into Kuwait (see August 2, 1990). The Clinton administration responds forcefully, warning the Iraqis that it will deploy 40,000 US troops inside Kuwait within a week if the Iraqis remain in place. The US also increases its Air Force presence inside Kuwait. In response, Iraq withdraws its forces. However, the Iraqi threat impels the US to steadily increase its military presence in Kuwait. By 2000, the US will have increased its Kuwaiti troop deployment from 8,000 to 30,000. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005; Roberts, 2008, pp. 121]
The US and North Korea sign a formal accord based on the outlined treaty negotiated by former President Jimmy Carter (see Spring and Summer 1994). The accord, called the Agreed Framework, primarily concerns North Korea’s nuclear program. The North Koreans agree to observe the strictures of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (see July 1, 1968 and December 12, 1985), keep their nuclear fuel rods in storage, and allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in to inspect their nuclear facility. In return, the US, along with its allies South Korea and Japan, will provide North Korea with two light-water nuclear reactors specifically for generating electricity, a large supply of fuel oil, and a promise not to attack. The Framework also specifies that once the first light-water reactor is delivered in 2003, intrusive inspections would begin. After the second reactor arrives, North Korea would ship its fuel rods out of the country—essentially ending North Korea’s ability to build nuclear weapons. The Framework also pledges both sides to “move toward full normalization of political and economic relations,” including the exchange of ambassadors and the lowering of trade barriers. North Korea will observe the treaty’s restrictions, at least initially, but the US and its allies never do; the economic barriers are not lowered, the light-water reactors are never delivered, and Congress never approves the financial outlays specified in the accord. By 1996, North Korea is secretly exchanging missile centrifuges for Pakistani nuclear technology. [Washington Monthly, 5/2004]
White separatist Terry Nichols (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990, December 22 or 23, 1988, October 12, 1993 - January 1994, and February - July 1994) flees the scene of a robbery he has committed in Arkansas and goes to Council Grove, Kansas, where he has rented a storage locker (see November 7, 1994), and then to Las Vegas, to stash the proceeds of the robbery with his ex-wife, Lana Padilla (see November 5, 1994 and November 6, 1994). Nichols makes plans to leave for the Philippines to visit his family in Cebu City, and leaves a note to be opened only if he does not return (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994) by January 28, 1995—days after the terrorist plot Operation Bojinka was to be executed (see January 6, 1995). Nichols leaves the US on November 11.
Opening the Note - Padilla, fearing her ex-husband has left her a suicide note, opens it after taking Nichols to the airport. The note, titled “Read and Do Immediately,” instructs Padilla to send all of Nichols’s cash and valuables, including the loot from the robbery, to his wife Marife Nichols in Cebu City (see July - December 1990). Some of the cash and valuables, he says, is in a Las Vegas storage unit, and some is hidden in Padilla’s kitchen, behind a wooden panel in the back of her kitchen utility drawer. “As of now, only Marife, you, and myself know what there is and where it is. I hope you will do as I have stated. Josh has just a few years before he’s capable of being on his own and Marife and Nicole [Nichols’s young daughter by Marife—see (September 30, 1994)] have many more years of support needed. There is no need to tell anyone about the items in storage and at home.” After reading the note, Padilla is convinced Nichols intends to kill himself. She follows the directions in the note, breaks through the wooden panel behind her utility drawer, and finds $20,000 in cash in a plastic baggie.
Note to Fellow Bombing Conspirator - The note also contains two letters to Nichols’s fellow conspirator in the Oklahoma City bombing plan, Timothy McVeigh (see September 13, 1994, October 20, 1994, and 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), both addressed to “Tim.” The first tells McVeigh how to access the Las Vegas storage locker and where his blue pickup truck will be parked for his use if he needs it. Padilla drives to the Las Vegas storage locker and finds a box of carved jade, camera equipment, precious stones, and a ski mask. Much of this material will later be connected to the Arkansas robbery. The second letter to McVeigh instructs him to “clear everything out of CG 37” and to “also liquidate 40,” apparently referring to two storage lockers Nichols has rented in Council Grove (see October 17, 1994, and November 7, 1994) under the alias “Ted Parker,” which contain, among other items, a store of explosive fertilizer and some of the guns stolen in the Arkansas robbery. If he chooses, Nichols writes, McVeigh can pay for further rentals on the lockers instead of clearing them out. He warns McVeigh about possible law enforcement attention, writing: “As far as heat—none that I know. This letter would be for the purpose of my death.” The letter concludes: “Your [sic] on your own. Go for it!” Based on the instructions regarding the fertilizer, federal authorities will come to believe that Nichols is instructing McVeigh to go ahead with plans to bomb a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995).
Return to the US - Nichols will return to the US on January 16, 1995 and, after staying a few days at Padilla’s home in Las Vegas, settle in Herington, Kansas, a tiny town not far from the ranch where he recently worked (see (September 30, 1994)). [New York Times, 5/28/1995; PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996; New York Times, 11/20/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 112-114; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Nicole Nichols, 2003]
Later Attempts to Explain Letter, Actions - In his statement to the FBI (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995), Nichols will claim to have returned to the US on November 17. The indictment against Nichols will allege that he rented a storage locker in Las Vegas on November 16, based in part on his FBI statement. These dates do not correspond with other evidence showing Nichols remains in the Philippines until January 16. A chronology of events compiled by McVeigh’s lawyers (see Early 2005) also has McVeigh staying in Arkansas and New Mexico motels with Nichols in mid-December 1994. These contradictions are never adequately explained. [PBS Frontline, 1/22/1996] Nichols will also tell authorities that the phrase “Go for it!” is nothing more than an innocent reference to an old sales pitch he and his ex-wife had used in the early days of their marriage. The government authorities will not believe Nichols’s explanation. [Serrano, 1998, pp. 114] After the bombing, Padilla will tell authorities that Nichols gave her a key to a storage locker at the AAAABCO storage facility in Las Vegas, as stated in his note. The locker, she will say, contained thousands of dollars in gold and silver bouillon, tubular pipe, ski masks, and other items (see May 9, 1995 and May 11, 1995), many of which will be linked to the Arkansas robbery. After the bombing, FBI investigators will find a key to a safe-deposit box from the robbery in Nichols’s Herington home (see (February 20, 1995)) along with other items from the robbery. [New York Times, 5/9/1995; New York Times, 5/12/1995; New York Times, 5/28/1995; New York Times, 11/20/1997]
Islamist radicals based at the Islamic Cultural Institute in Milan, Italy, obtain the CIA’s Redbook, two Arabic copies of which will be found at the institute in a 1995 raid. Several seals, rubber stamps, blank and counterfeit documents, and other tools used to forge documents are also found in the raid. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 63 ] The Redbook is a manual produced by the CIA for immigration officials; it helps the officials identify terrorists using telltale signs in their passports (see 1992). The institute is a key support center for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and al-Qaeda-linked radicals fighting in Bosnia (see 1993 and After and Late 1993-1994). It is unclear how the Redbook comes to be at the institute.
Salon will later write, “A document seized in a 1995 raid of a close [Abdurahman] Alamoudi friend and political ally, University of South Florida professor Sami al-Arian, outlined a plan to ‘infiltrate the sensitive intelligence agencies or the embassies in order to collect information and build close relationships with the people in charge of these establishments.’ The unsigned document, which authorities believe was authored by al-Arian in part because it was found among his papers, added: ‘We are in the center which leads the conspiracy against our Islamic world… Our presence in North America gives us a unique opportunity to monitor, explore and follow up.’ It instructed members of the ‘center,’ thought to refer to an Islamic think tank that al-Arian founded, to ‘collect information from those relatives and friends who work in sensitive positions in government.’” [Salon, 6/22/2004] In 2005, Al-Arian will be acquitted on a number of terrorism-related charges (see December 6, 2005).
A former NSA official tells businessman William Hamilton that there is a connection between the PROMIS database and search program and the Main Core database. Hamilton is a former NSA official who helped developed PROMIS, but is now involved in a series of disputes with the government over money he says it owes his company, Inslaw. Main Core is a database that is said to collect sensitive information, including about US persons. The specific type of connection is not certain. This is one of three times officials will tell Hamilton about the link (see Spring 1992 and July 2001). [Salon, 7/23/2008]
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) holds a training exercise based on the scenario of an aircraft hijacking, which involves a real plane playing the part of the hijacked aircraft. The exercise will be described to the 9/11 Commission in 2004 by Major Paul Goddard, who is the chief of live exercises for the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) at the time of the 9/11 attacks. According to Goddard, the exercise, held in 1995, is called “Twin Star” and the FAA invites NORAD to participate in it, “since a real commercial airliner was to be shadowed by a fighter intercept.” Goddard will tell the 9/11 Commission his understanding is that the exercise involves the entire FAA system, and the National Military Command Center (NMCC) at the Pentagon also participates in it. [9/11 Commission, 3/4/2004] Colin Scoggins, the military operations specialist at the FAA’s Boston Center on 9/11, will describe what is apparently this exercise when he is interviewed by the 9/11 Commission in 2003. He will say he believes the exercise is “joint FAA/military” and is conducted “in 1995 or 1996.” According to Scoggins, the exercise involves “a military scramble to escort a hijacked aircraft,” but the fighter jets taking part are “unable to intercept” the mock hijacked plane. [9/11 Commission, 9/22/2003 ] Apparently describing the same exercise in a documentary film, Scoggins will say, “We had run a hijack test years before [9/11] and the fighters never got off on the appropriate heading, and it took them forever to catch up.” [Michael Bronner, 2006]
The new peace accords and arms reductions negotiations between the US and Russia (see November 3, 1992, July 13, 1993, and September 28, 1994) are severely tested when the Russian military informs President Boris Yeltsin that it has detected a missile launch bound for Russian territory—possibly a nuclear missile from a US submarine launched to destroy the Russian government in Moscow. With the missile in flight, Yeltsin convenes an emergency teleconference of his senior defense officials and discusses launching a nuclear counterstrike against the US. Two minutes before the missile is to detonate on Russian soil—and the Russians are to launch the counterstrike—the Russians realize the “missile” is actually a Norwegian scientific rocket that poses no threat to their nation. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 175]
After Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995), he is rendered to the US. He is read his rights before he boards the rendition flight and, as author Peter Lance will later comment, “at that time, in February 1995, the Justice Department was still quite scrupulous about the due process issues, so much so that after Yousef was led onto the plane [US agents] read him his Miranda warnings a second time.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 203] The aircraft used for the rendition belongs to the US Air Force and the operation is run by FBI manager Neil Herman. The plane is moved to a “quiet area” of Islamabad airport and, according to author Simon Reeve, Yousef is then “bundled on to the jet.” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 107] National Security Council official Daniel Benjamin will explain why Yousef and Mir Aimal Kasi (see January 25, 1993) are not extradited in the normal manner, but rendered: “Both were apprehended in Pakistan, whose leaders decided that the nation would rather not have those two—folk heroes to some—sitting in jail, awaiting extradition. Pakistan’s leaders feared that cooperating with the United States would be dangerously unpopular, so they wanted the suspects out of the country quickly.” [Washington Post, 10/21/2007] Yousef makes a partial confession while being flown to the US (see February 8, 1995).
Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick issues a memo establishing procedures to regulate prosecutors’ and criminal investigators’ access to intelligence information generated in the wake of the 1993 WTC bombing cases (see February 26, 1993). These new procedures effectively extend the so-called “wall” that arose in the early 1980s. During the criminal investigation of the bombing, the FBI came across counterintelligence information related to Islamic extremists operating inside the United States, so it began an intelligence investigation. The new procedures are established because the Justice Department does not want to be perceived as using warrants issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which are thought to be easier to obtain than criminal warrants, to further the criminal investigations, because this might possibly lead to problems in court (see Early 1980s). In the memo, Gorelick, who will later be a 9/11 Commissioner (see December 16, 2002), acknowledges that the procedures go “beyond what is legally required.” [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 28 ; Lance, 2006, pp. 549-550] A similar set of controversial procedures is issued later covering all intelligence investigations (see July 19, 1995). However, Andrew McCarthy, one of the WTC prosecutors cut off from the information, will later say this policy is “excessively prohibitive” and “virtually guaranteed intelligence failure” in the fight against terrorism. McCarthy will also note that there already are procedures in place to prevent the misuse of FISA-derived evidence. [National Review, 4/19/2004]
Abdul Hakim Murad, a member of the Bojinka plot exposed in January by Philippine police (see January 6, 1995), is rendered to the US, where he is to stand trial. [Grey, 2007, pp. 245] Murad has been held and tortured by Philippine authorities since January (see After January 6, 1995).
President Clinton declares a state of emergency for Oklahoma City. Attorney Janet Reno is at the left. [Source: The Oklahoman]In a live television press conference, President Clinton addresses the nation regarding the morning’s bombing in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). He says: “The bombing in Oklahoma City was an attack on innocent children and defenseless citizens. It was an act of cowardice and it was evil. The United States will not tolerate it. And I will not allow the people of this country to be intimidated by evil cowards. I have met with our team which we assembled to deal with this bombing, and I have determined to take the following steps to assure the strongest response to this situation. First, I have deployed a crisis management under the leadership of the FBI (see After 9:02 a.m., April 19, 1995), working with the Department of Justice, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, military and local authorities. We are sending the world’s finest investigators to solve these murders. Second, I have declared an emergency in Oklahoma City. And at my direction, James Lee Witt, the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, is now on his way there to make sure we do everything we can to help the people of Oklahoma deal with the tragedy. Third, we are taking every precaution to reassure and to protect people who work in or live near other federal facilities. Let there be no room for doubt. We will find the people who did this. When we do, justice will be swift, certain, and severe. These people are killers and they must be treated like killers. Finally, let me say that I ask all Americans tonight to pray, to pray for the people who have lost their lives, to pray for the families and the friends of the dead and the wounded, to pray for the people of Oklahoma City. May God’s grace be with them. Meanwhile, we will be about our work. Thank you.” Clinton asks Americans to pray for the victims. Attorney General Janet Reno follows Clinton in the conference, and says, “The death penalty is available and we will seek it.” She refuses to speculate on whether the date of the bombing—the two-year anniversary of the Branch Davidian tragedy (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After)—is a coincidence or something more. “We are pursuing all leads,” she says. “This has been a tragic and heartbreaking day.… We cannot tell you how long it will be before we can say with certainty what occurred and who is responsible but we will find the perpetrators and we will bring them to justice.” At another time during the same day, Clinton tells a Des Moines reporter: “I was sick all day long. All of us have been looking at the scene where those children were taken out, and all of us were seeing our own children there. This is an awful, awful thing.” [PBS, 4/19/1995; Los Angeles Times, 4/20/1995; Associated Press, 4/20/1995; Serrano, 1998, pp. 187] Clinton press secretary Michael “Mack” McCurry later credits Clinton for putting an end to what he will call “the anti-Arab hysteria that almost swept this country. Because remember, in the first several hours, everyone was pointing fingers at Arab terrorists (see 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After and April 19, 1995), which turned out to be obviously wrong.” [PBS Frontline, 2000]
Bruce Butterworth. [Source: Mineta Transportation Institute]John O’Neill, a senior FBI agent, tells congressional staffers there are no threats to aviation in the US. The staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee has asked the FBI, the director of central intelligence, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) for a briefing about threats to civil aviation. O’Neill goes to the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, DC, to respond to this request on behalf of the FBI. Cathal Flynn, the FAA’s associate administrator for civil aviation security, who goes on behalf of the FAA, will later recall that at the briefing, Senate Intelligence Committee staffers ask, “What are the indications—or what are the threats—to aviation?” In response, according to Flynn, “John O’Neill said there are none.” [9/11 Commission, 9/9/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] Bruce Butterworth, the FAA’s director of civil aviation security operations, who is apparently at the briefing, will similarly describe O’Neill’s response. He will say he “recalled FBI agent John O’Neill’s testimony to the Senate Intelligence Committee wherein he was unwilling to corroborate FAA claims about credible threats to civil aviation.” [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 ]
FBI Has Learned of 'Indications' of Threats to Aviation - Flynn finds O’Neill’s response to the Intelligence Committee staffers odd, since, he will say, the FBI has learned of a “few indications” of possible threats to aviation, such as a suspicious individual trying to get “a job with airport access” at Los Angeles International Airport. He writes a note to O’Neill, reminding him about this incident. But, according to Flynn, O’Neill “looked at the note” and “still didn’t say anything, didn’t change what he had said.” As the two men are leaving the briefing, Flynn asks O’Neill about the incident and O’Neill tells him there was “nothing to it.” [9/11 Commission, 9/9/2003 ; 9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004]
O'Neill Is the FBI's 'Most Committed Tracker of Osama bin Laden' - It is unclear when this briefing takes place. It presumably occurs sometime between July 1995 and September 2000—the time period during which Butterworth is the FAA’s director of civil aviation security operations. [9/11 Commission, 9/29/2003 ] According to Flynn, O’Neill is “the head of antiterrorism for the FBI” when the briefing is held. [9/11 Commission, 1/27/2004] This suggests that it takes place sometime between January 1995 and January 1997, when O’Neill is chief of the counterterrorism section at the FBI’s Washington headquarters. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11/2006] During his time working for the FBI, O’Neill becomes “the bureau’s most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network of terrorists,” according to the New Yorker. [New Yorker, 1/14/2002] Journalist and author Murray Weiss will write that O’Neill “had reiterated since 1995 to any official in Washington who would listen” that “he was sure bin Laden would attack on American soil.” [Weiss, 2003, pp. 360]
Benjamin Netanyahu, the leader of Israel’s right-wing Likud party, publishes a short book calling on Western nations to unite against terrorism, called Fighting Terrorism: How Democracies Can Defeat Domestic and International Terrorists. [New York Times, 11/5/1995; New York Times, 11/22/1995; Netanyahu, 2001] In the book, Netanyahu describes his long personal involvement in counterterrorism. He served in Israel’s elite commando unit, Sayeret Matkal, and participated in freeing airline hostages in 1972. [New York Times, 4/20/1999] His brother Jonathan was also a member of Sayaret Maktal and was killed during the rescue of hostages at Entebbe in 1976. [BBC News, 7/3/2006] Netanyahu created an institute devoted to counterterrorism research and named it after his brother. The Jonathan Institute organized a major international conference in 1979 attended by, among others, Senator Henry Jackson (D-WA) and George H. W. Bush. [Netanyahu, 2001, pp. 63-65] The new terrorist network, warns Netanyahu, was born at the end of the Afghan War among Arab Mujahedeen veterans. “The Soviet Union completed its withdrawal from Kabul in 1989,” he writes, “and the Islamic resistance forces have since dispersed.… [T]he Islamic resistance won, offering proof of the innate faithful supremacy of Islam over the infidel powers. In many cases these providential warriors have since been in search of the next step on the road to the triumph of Islam. Often they have had to move from country to country, having been denied the right to return to their home countries for fear that their excessive zeal would find an outlet there. Since the end of the war in Afghanistan, an international Sunni terrorist network has thus sprung into being, composed in the main of Islamic veterans and their religious leaders.… It is this group which is associated with bombers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.” [Netanyahu, 2001, pp. 80-81] Netanyahu also warns of the spread of Jihadist groups among Muslim communities in Western countries. For example, El Sayyid Nosair, an Egyptian immigrant who murdered an Israeli rabbi in New York in 1990 (see November 5, 1990), was a follower of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, who immigrated to the United States in the early 1990s. The bombers involved in the 1993 World Trade Center attack were also followers of Abdul-Rahman. After the attack, investigators re-examined files found at Nosair’s home. One document said, “We have to thoroughly demoralize the enemies of God… by means of destroying and blowing up the towers that constitute the pillars of their civilization, such as the tourist attractions and the high buildings of which they are so proud.” [Netanyahu, 2001, pp. 94]
Talaat Fouad Qassem, 38, a known leader of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group), an Egyptian extremist organization, is arrested and detained in Croatia as he travels to Bosnia from Denmark, where he has been been living after being granted political asylum. He is suspected of clandestine support of terrorist operations, including the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993). He also allegedly led mujaheddin efforts in Bosnia since 1990 (see 1990). In a joint operation, he is arrested by Croatian intelligence agents and handed over to the CIA. Qassem is then interrogated by US officials aboard a US ship off the Croatian coast in the Adriatic Sea and sent to Egypt, which has a rendition agreement with the US (see Summer 1995). An Egyptian military tribunal has already sentenced him to death in absentia, and he is executed soon after he arrives. [Associated Press, 10/31/1995; Washington Post, 3/11/2002, pp. A01; Mahle, 2005, pp. 204-205; New Yorker, 2/8/2005] According to the 1999 book Dollars for Terror, two weeks before his abduction, Qassem was in Switzerland negotiating against Muslim Brotherhood leaders. Some Muslim Brotherhood exiles were negotiating with the Egyptian government to be allowed to return to Egypt if they agreed not to use Muslim Brotherhood Swiss bank accounts to fund Egyptian militant groups like Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, but Qassem and other radicals oppose this deal. So the removal of Qassem helps the Muslim Brotherhood in their conflict with more militant groups. [Labeviere, 1999, pp. 70-71]
Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah is arrested in Malaysia and rendered to the US.
Shah had been on the run in Asia for almost a year, since escaping a Philippine jail (see January 13, 1995). He is missing three fingers on his left hand, and someone notices this and alerts the authorities. [Ressa, 2003, pp. 43] The FBI had hunted him through around half a dozen countries. After his arrest by Malaysian authorities, at the FBI’s request, he is rendered to the US. He will later be given a long prison sentence for his role in the Bojinka plot. [New York Times, 12/13/1995; Lance, 2004, pp. 326-7; Grey, 2007, pp. 245] Before his arrest, leading Southeast Asian militant Hambali had supplied Khan with a new identity and cover in Malaysia, where he lived on the resort island of Langkawi using the alias Osama Turkestani. However, a 2002 article will say that officials claim they only learn this “years later.” [Los Angeles Times, 2/7/2002]
After 9/11, there will be media accounts suggesting some of the 9/11 hijackers trained at US military bases (see September 15-17, 2001). According to these accounts, four of the hijackers trained at Pensacola Naval Air Station, a base that trains many foreign nationals. One neighbor will claim that Ahmed Alghamdi lived in Pensacola until about August 2000. This neighbor will claim that Alghamdi appeared to be part of a group of Arab men who often gathered at the Fountains apartment complex near the University of West Florida. She will recount, “People would come and knock on the doors. We might see three or four, and they were always men. It was always in the evening. The traffic in and out, although it was sporadic, was constant every evening. They would go and knock, and then it would be a little while and someone would look out the window to see who it was, like they were being very cautious. Not your normal coming to the door and opening it.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001] It is not known when Alghamdi is first seen in Pensacola. However, he uses the address of a housing facility for foreign military trainees located inside the base on drivers’ licenses issued in 1996 and 1998. Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami also list the same address as Ahmed Alghamdi on their drivers license and car registrations between 1996 and 1998. Other records connect Hamza Alghamdi to that same address. However, the Pensacola News Journal reports that “The news articles caution that there are slight discrepancies between the FBI list of suspected hijackers and the military training records, either in the spellings of their names or in their birth dates. They also raise the possibility that the hijackers stole the identities of military trainees.” [Washington Post, 9/16/2001; Pensacola News Journal, 9/17/2001] It is unclear if these people were the 9/11 hijackers or just others with similar names. The US military has never definitively denied that they were the hijackers, and the media lost interest in the story a couple of weeks after 9/11.
At some point in the mid-to-late 1990s, French authorities ask their counterparts in Britain to ban the militant newsletter Al Ansar, which is published in Britain by supporters of the radical Algerian organization Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA). Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will describe the newsletter: “This was handed out at mosques, youth clubs, and restaurants popular with young Arabs. It eulogized atrocities carried out by mujaheddin in Algeria, recounting graphic details of their operations, and described in deliberately provocative language an attack on a packed passenger train and the hijacking of a French airliner in December 1994 which was intended to be flown into the Eiffel Tower.” They add that its past editors “read like a who’s who of Islamist extremists,” including Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for the British authorities (see Early 1997 and Before October 1997), Abu Qatada, another British informer (see June 1996-February 1997), and Rachid Ramda, the mastermind of a series of attacks in France who operated from Britain (see 1994 and July-October 1995). The newsletter is also linked to Osama bin Laden (see 1994 and January 5, 1996). However, British authorities say that the newsletter cannot be banned. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 112-113]
John Yoo, the general counsel for the Senate Judiciary Committee and a former clerk for Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, writes a book-length article for the California Law Review. Yoo’s article argues that under the Constitution, the president has far greater powers during wartime than is generally recognized. Basically, Yoo writes, Congress can only do two things to restrain a wartime president: restrict spending and impeach the president. The federal courts have no power over the president whatsoever. [Dubose and Bernstein, 2006, pp. xx]
Executive Decision. [Source: Warner Bros.]Executive Decision, a military action film, has a plot about a group of Arab terrorists who hijack a transatlantic jet to gain the release of their leader, who is imprisoned in the United States. But what looks initially like a traditional hijacking is in fact a suicide mission. The plane carries a huge load of nerve gas that has been smuggled out of Russia, which the terrorists intend to explode over Washington, killing millions. The release demand is a ruse to convince US authorities to let the plane approach Washington unharmed. But thanks to an intelligence analyst who has been following the group’s efforts to obtain chemical weapons, the ruse is unraveled and the Pentagon considers asking the president for permission to shoot down the plane over the Atlantic. However, a Special Ops commander proposes a daring plan to avert a shoot down. Using a new Stealth fighter plane, he offers to board the jet in mid-air and disable the bomb. [New York Times, 3/15/1996] This movie is one of many works of fiction that will be remembered after 9/11 for their eerie similarity to the attacks. [New York Times, 9/13/2001]
Gregory Scarpa Jr. [Source: Publicity photo (mafiason.com]Ramzi Yousef, mastermind along with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and the Operation Bojinka plots, is in a maximum-security prison, sentenced to hundreds of years of prison time for his plots. However, he can communicate with Gregory Scarpa Jr., a mob figure in the cell next to him. The FBI sets up a sting operation with Scarpa’s cooperation to learn more of what and whom Yousef knows. Scarpa is given a telephone, and he allows Yousef to use it. However, Yousef uses the sting operation for his own ends, communicating with operatives on the outside in code language without giving away their identities. He attempts to find passports to get co-conspirators into the US, and there is some discussion about imminent attacks on US passenger jets. Realizing the scheme has backfired, the FBI terminates the telephone sting in late 1996, but Yousef manages to keep communicating with the outside world for several more months. [New York Daily News, 9/24/2000; New York Daily News, 1/21/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 280-82; Harmon, 2009, pp. 187-188,199-201]
President Clinton signs the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act, which the New York Times calls “broad legislation that provides new tools and penalties for federal law-enforcement officials to use in fighting terrorism.” The Clinton administration proposed the bill in the aftermath of the Oklahoma City terrorist bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). In many ways, the original bill will be mirrored by the USA Patriot Act six years later (see October 26, 2001). Civil libertarians on both the left and right opposed the legislation. Political analyst Michael Freeman called the proposal one of the “worst assaults on civil liberties in decades,” and the Houston Chronicle called it a “frightening” and “grievous” assault on domestic freedoms. Many Republicans opposed the bill, and forced a compromise that removed increased wiretap authority and lower standards for lawsuits against sellers of guns used in crimes. CNN called the version that finally passed the Republican-controlled Congress a “watered-down version of the White House’s proposal. The Clinton administration has been critical of the bill, calling it too weak. The original House bill, passed last month, had deleted many of the Senate’s anti-terrorism provisions because of lawmakers’ concerns about increasing federal law enforcement powers. Some of those provisions were restored in the compromise bill.” [CNN, 4/18/1996; New York Times, 4/25/1996; Roberts, 2008, pp. 35] An unusual coalition of gun rights groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) and civil liberties groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) led the opposition to the law. [New York Times, 4/17/1996] By the time Congress passed the bill, it had been, in the words of FBI Director Louis Freeh, “stripped… of just about every meaningful provision.” [Roberts, 2008, pp. 35] The law makes it illegal in the US to provide “material support” to any organization banned by the State Department. [Guardian, 9/10/2001]
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reportedly considers using an E-4B National Airborne Operations Center during the Atlanta Olympics. The reason for this is not known, but it could be related to terrorism fears, including a possible air attack (see January 20, 1997). [Federal Computer Week, 6/2/1996] An aviation website will later show a picture of an E-4B taking off from Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, Georgia on May 14, “after crew attended meeting with FEMA prior to ‘96 Atlanta Olympics.” [Airliners.net, 2000] However, there are no reports on whether an E-4B is actually used during the Olympics.
Mushaf Ali Mir. [Source: Paknews.com]According to controversial author Gerald Posner, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida meet with senior members of Pakistan’s military, including Mushaf Ali Mir, who becomes chief of Pakistan’s air force in 2000. Bin Laden moved to Afghanistan the month before, and the Pakistanis offer him protection if he allies with the Taliban. The alliance will prove successful, and bin Laden will call it “blessed by the Saudis,” who are already giving money to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. [Posner, 2003, pp. 105-06; Time, 8/31/2003] Perhaps not coincidentally, this meeting comes only one month after a deal was reportedly made that reaffirmed Saudi support for al-Qaeda. Bin Laden is initially based in Jalalabad, which is free of Taliban control, but after the deal, he moves his base to Kandahar, which is the center of Taliban power. [Asia Times, 9/17/2003]
Newly elected Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (see May 29, 1996) flies to Washington, DC, to visit one of his strongest political supporters, neoconservative Richard Perle. Perle is the chief author of a new strategy proposal called “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Security in the Region” (see July 8, 1996). In essence, Perle’s policy proposal is an update of fellow neoconservative Paul Wolfowitz’s Defense Planning Guide (see February 18, 1992), which had so horrified Clinton and Bush officials. But Netanyahu is clearly pleased with the proposal. After meeting with Perle, Netanyahu addresses the US Congress. Quoting extensively from the proposal, he tells the lawmakers that the US must join Israel in overseeing the “democratization” of the Middle East. War might be a necessity to achieve this goal, he warns. While the “Clean Break” authors are primarily concerned with Iraq and Syria, Netanyahu takes a longer view. “The most dangerous of these regions is Iran,” he says. [Unger, 2007, pp. 145-148]
In order to safeguard the nation’s critical infrastructure from failure or attack, President Bill Clinton signs Executive Order 13010, Critical Infrastructure Protection, assigning infrastructure protection responsibilities to several executive branch departments. “Certain national infrastructures,” the executive order states, “are so vital that their incapacity or destruction would have a debilitating impact on the defense or economic security of the United States. These critical infrastructures include telecommunications, electrical power systems, gas and oil storage and transportation, banking and finance, transportation, water supply systems, emergency services (including medical, police, fire, and rescue), and continuity of government.” According to the executive order, “Because many of these critical infrastructures are owned and operated by the private sector, it is essential that the government and private sector work together to develop a strategy for protecting them and assuring their continued operation.” The executive order establishes the President’s Commission on Critical Infrastructure Protection, which will be composed largely of individuals from outside the federal government. The commission will be responsible for studying threats to the nation’s infrastructure and making policy recommendations to department heads within the executive branch. [Executive Order 13010, 7/15/1996]
Ramzi Yousef and two other defendants, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, are convicted of crimes relating to Operation Bojinka (see January 6, 1995). [CNN, 9/5/1996] In the nearly 6,000-page transcript of the three-month Bojinka trial, there is not a single mention of the “second wave” of Bojinka that closely paralleled the 9/11 plot. Interrogations by Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza had exposed the details of this plot quite clearly (see January 20, 1995 and February-Early May 1995). However, not only does the FBI not call Mendoza to testify, but his name is not even mentioned in the trial, not even by his assistant, who does testify. “The FBI seemed to be going out of its way to avoid even a hint of the plot that was ultimately carried out on 9/11,” author Peter Lance will later note. [Lance, 2003, pp. 350-51] Murad was extensively tortured during his imprisonment in the Philippines (see After January 6, 1995), and some observers such as law professor Alan Dershowitz will assert that Murad’s case proves the reliability of torture, claiming that Murad’s torture prevented a major disaster. However, others disagree. Law professor Stephanie Athey, in her examination of the case, will write in 2007 that Murad’s torture actually produced little useful information. A computer found in Murad’s apartment held key details of the plot (see January 7-11, 1995 and Spring 1995). CIA agent Michael Scheuer will later say that the information collected from Murad’s apartment, not the information gleaned from Murad’s torture, provided actual useful intelligence. [Vanity Fair, 12/16/2008]
Tsutomu Shirosako, a member of the Japanese Red Army, is turned over to US authorities in Nepal and rendered to the US. On May 14, 1986, Shirosako had fired a mortar at the US embassy in Jakarta, Indonesia, but the projectiles had failed to explode. He will be found guilty on all charges, including attempted murder of US embassy personnel and attempting to harm a US embassy, by a federal court in Washington, DC, and will be sentenced to 30 years in jail. [US Department of State, 4/1998; Grey, 2007, pp. 245]
Marvin Bush. [Source: Eric Draper / White House]A security company called Stratesec acquires an $8.3 million contract to help provide security at the World Trade Center. It is one of numerous contractors hired in the upgrade of security at the WTC following the 1993 bombing. Stratesec, which was formerly called Securacom, is responsible for installing the “security-description plan”—the layout of the electronic security system—at the World Trade Center. It has a “completion contract” to provide some of the center’s security “up to the day the buildings fell down,” according to Barry McDaniel, its CEO.
Involved with Airport Security - Another of Stratesec’s biggest security contracts, between 1995 and 1998, is with the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority, providing electronic security for Reagan National Airport and Dulles International Airport. Its work includes maintaining the airfield access systems, the CCTV (closed circuit television) systems, and the electronic badging systems. American Airlines Flight 77—one of the planes hijacked on 9/11—takes off from Dulles.
Directors Include Bush Family Member - Marvin P. Bush, the youngest brother of future President George W. Bush, is a director at Stratesec from 1993 to June 2000, when most of its work on these big projects is done. Wirt D. Walker III, a distant relative of George W. Bush, is chairman of the board at Stratesec from 1992, and its CEO from 1999 until January 2002. Another of Stratesec’s directors, from 1991 to 2001, is Mishal Yousef Saud Al Sabah, who is a member of the Kuwaiti royal family. Al Sabah is also chairman of an investment company called the Kuwait-American Corporation (KuwAm), which, between 1993 and 1999, holds a large, often controlling share of Stratesec. In 1996, it owns 90 percent of the company; by 1999 it owns 47 percent.
Other Interests - Walker and Al Sabah are also co-investors in two inter-related aviation companies: Aviation General and Commander Aircraft. According to a 2005 report by freelance journalist Margie Burns: “Aviation General boasted of its international clientele. A 1996 press release announced its sale of airplanes to the National Civil Aviation Training Organization (NCATO) of Giza, Egypt, ‘the sole civilian pilot training organization in Egypt.’ The announcement mentions Al Sabah as chairman of KuwAm and board member of Commander Aircraft Company.” NCATO also has contractual partnerships with several US flight schools, including Embry-Riddle University in Florida.
Connections with Foreign Company a Delicate Matter - According to Wayne Black, the head of a Florida-based security firm, it is delicate for a security company serving international facilities to be so interlinked with a foreign-owned company. He suggests, “Somebody knew somebody.” Black also points out that when a company has a security contract, “you know the inner workings of everything.” Furthermore, if another company is linked to the security company, then “what’s on your computer is on their computer.” After 9/11 Stratesec CEO Barry McDaniel will be asked whether FBI or other agents have questioned him or others at Stratesec about their security work related to 9/11. He answers, “No.” [American Reporter, 1/20/2003; Prince George's Journal, 2/4/2003; Progressive Populist, 3/1/2003; Progressive Populist, 4/15/2003; Washington Spectator, 2/15/2005] Other companies involved with the security overhaul during this time include Ensec Inc., which is in charge of creating a new parking access control system, E-J Electric Installation Co., and Electronic Systems Associates, a division of Syska Hennessy. [Access Control & Security Systems, 7/1/1997; CEE News, 1/1/2001; CEE News, 10/1/2001; Building Design and Construction, 7/1/2002]
Entity Tags: Mishal Yousef Saud Al Sabah, Kuwait-American Corporation (KuwAm), Marvin Bush, Stratesec, Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, World Trade Center, Wirt D. Walker III, Washington Dulles International Airport, Ensec, Inc., Embry-Riddle University, National Civil Aviation Training Organization, E-J Electric Installation Co., Commander Aircraft, Aviation General, Electronic Systems Associates
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, fellow plotter Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and two of their associates, Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mohammed Belfas, find employment at a small Hamburg-area computer company called Hay Computing Service GmbH. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 1/11/2002, pp. 30; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002] Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi also reportedly works there. [Waterloo Courier, 12/30/2001] Atta and Belfas got their jobs through Agus Budiman, an Indonesian associate of theirs, who was already employed at the company. [9/11 Commission, 1/28/2004 ] Another unnamed individual, who will be investigated after 9/11, also works there with bin al-Shibh. [9/11 Commission, 11/6/2003] The cell members work in the company’s warehouse, packing computers for shipment. [Wall Street Journal, 10/9/2001; Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 123; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 9/8/2003]
The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) forces broadband Internet service providers such as Vonage to retrofit their networks for government surveillance purposes. The prime beneficiary of that retrofitting is the FBI’s cutting-edge electronic surveillance system known as DCSNet (see 1997-August 2007 and After), which can now monitor those networks. DCSNet also seems capable of handling other cutting-edge technologies such as push-to-talk, peer-to-peer telephony systems such as Skype, caller-ID spoofing, and phone-number portability. [Wired News, 8/29/2007]
Starting in 1997, the FBI constructs a sophisticated surveillance system that can perform near-instantaneous wiretaps on almost any telephone, cell phone, and Internet communications device, according to documents declassified in August 2007. The system is called the Digital Collection System Network, or DCSNet. It connects FBI wiretapping rooms to switches controlled by land-line operators, Internet-telephony companies, and cellular providers. The documents show that DCSNet is, in reporter Ryan Singel’s words, “far more intricately woven into the nation’s telecom infrastructure than observers suspected.” Steven Bellovin, a computer science professor and surveillance expert, calls DCSNet a “comprehensive wiretap system that intercepts wire-line phones, cellular phones, SMS [short message service, a protocol allowing mobile devices to exchange text messages], and push-to-talk systems.” The system is an entire suite of software that together collects, sifts, and stores phone numbers, phone calls, and text messages. The system directly connects FBI wiretapping offices around the country to a sprawling private communications network. DCSNet is composed of three main clients:
The DCS-3000, also called “Red Hook,” handles pen-registers and trap-and-traces, a type of surveillance that collects signaling information but not communications content.
The DCS-6000, or “Digital Storm,” captures and collects the content—the spoken or written communications—of phone calls and text messages.
The most classified system of the three, the DCS-5000, is used for wiretaps targeting spies or terrorists.
Between the three, the system can allow FBI agents to monitor recorded phone calls and messages in real time, create master wiretap files, send digital recordings to translators, track the location of targets in real time using cell-tower information, and stream intercepts to mobile surveillance vans. The entire system is operated through a private, secure and self-contained backbone that is run for the government by Sprint. Singel gives the following example: “The network allows an FBI agent in New York, for example, to remotely set up a wiretap on a cell phone based in Sacramento, California, and immediately learn the phone’s location, then begin receiving conversations, text messages and voicemail pass codes in New York. With a few keystrokes, the agent can route the recordings to language specialists for translation.” Dialed numbers are subjected to data mining, including so-called “link analysis.” The precise number of US phones being monitored and recorded in this way is classified.
Genesis of DCSNet - The system was made possible by the 1994 Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA) (see January 1, 1995), which mandated that telecom providers must build “backdoors” in US telephone switches to be used by government wiretappers. CALEA also ordered telecom firms to install only switching equipment that met detailed wiretapping standards. Before CALEA, the FBI would bring a wiretap warrant to a particular telecom, and that firm would itself create a tap. Now, the FBI logs in directly to the telecom networks and monitors a surveillance target itself through DCSNet. FBI special agent Anthony DiClemente, chief of the Data Acquisition and Intercept Section of the FBI’s Operational Technology Division, says the DCS was originally intended in 1997 to be a temporary solution, but has grown into a full-featured CALEA-collection software suite. “CALEA revolutionizes how law enforcement gets intercept information,” he says. “Before CALEA, it was a rudimentary system that mimicked Ma Bell.” Now, under CALEA, phone systems and Internet service providers have been forced to allow DCSNet to access almost all of its data (see 1997-August 2007 and After).
Security Breaches - The system is vulnerable to hacking and security breaches (see 2003). [Wired News, 8/29/2007]
USAMRIID logo. [Source: US Army]Steven Hatfill, later suspected of being behind the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001), has a two-year contract working at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top biological laboratory, at Fort Detrick, Maryland. He has access to the most restricted Biosafety Level 4 laboratories, where scientists handle viruses in biohazard suits tethered to air supplies. There’s no evidence of him specifically working with anthrax at this time or any other time, however. His contract holds little meaning after February, when he had started working full time somewhere else. [Weekly Standard, 9/16/2002; Washington Post, 9/14/2003] It is later reported that the strain of anthrax used in the attacks could be no older than September 1999. [New York Times, 6/23/2002] While at USAMRIID, Hatfill also works on virology in a different building than where anthrax is studied, so the odds of Hatfill getting access to the type of anthrax used in the attacks at USAMRIID seems extremely small. [Weekly Standard, 9/16/2002] Although he is a relatively inexperienced scientist, he begins giving public and private lectures about the dangers of biological terrorist attacks, and gets some media coverage as a quoted bioweapons expert. [Washington Post, 9/14/2003]
Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour begins associating with an unnamed individual who is later mentioned in FBI agent Ken Williams’s famous “Phoenix memo” (see July 10, 2001). Hanjour and this individual train at flight schools in Arizona (see October 1996-December 1997 and 1998). Several flight instructors will later note that the two were associates and may have carpooled together. They are known to share the same airplane on one occasion in 1999, and are at the school together on other occasions. The unnamed individual leaves the US in April 2000. In May 2001, the FBI attempts to investigate this person, but after finding out that he has left the US, it declines to open a formal investigation. The person’s name is not placed on a watch list, so the FBI is unaware that he returns in June and stays in the US for another month. By this time, he is an experienced flight instructor who is certified to fly Boeing 737s. The FBI speculates he may return to evaluate Hanjour’s flying skills or provide final training before 9/11. There is considerable circumstantial evidence placing this person near Hanjour in July 2001. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ] This unnamed individual may be Lofti Raissi, as several details match him perfectly. For instance, Raissi is a flight instructor who left the US in April 2000, is later accused of having shared an airplane with Hanjour in 1999, and is accused of being with Hanjour in July 2001. [Guardian, 1/31/2002] In addition, according to FBI investigators, Raissi engages in a number of suspicious activities during this period that will justify scrutiny after 9/11. For example, in June 2000, while training at a British flight school, he reportedly asks, “if a plane flies into a building, whether it is the responsibility of the airline or the pilot,” and warns that “America will get theirs.” [9/11 Commission, 1/5/2004] Raissi will be arrested in Britain after 9/11 and accused of training Hanjour and other hijackers how to fly, but the case against him will collapse in April 2002. He will be released, and many of the allegations against him will be withdrawn (see September 21, 2001). No media accounts will report that Raissi was mentioned in the Phoenix memo or wanted for an FBI investigation before 9/11.
Bill Clinton is re-inaugurated as president. An extensive set of security measures to prevent airplanes as weapons crashing into the inauguration is used. These measures, first used at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and thus referred to as the “Atlanta Rules,” include the closing of nearby airspace, the use of intercept helicopters, the basing of armed fighters nearby, and more. This plan will later be used for the 1999 North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s 50th anniversary celebration in Washington, the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia, the 2000 Democratic convention in New York, and the George W. Bush inauguration in 2001. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 110-11; Wall Street Journal, 4/1/2004]
Plans for Permanent Air Defense Unit Rejected - At some point near the end of the Clinton administration, the Secret Service and Customs Service will agree to create a permanent air defense unit to protect Washington. However, these agencies are part of the Treasury Department, and the leadership there will refuse to fund the idea. White House counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later recount: “Treasury nixed the air defense unit, and my attempts within the White House to overrule them came to naught. The idea of aircraft attacking in Washington seemed remote to many people and the risks of shooting down aircraft in a city were thought to be far too high.” The permanent unit will not be created until after 9/11. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 131; Wall Street Journal, 4/1/2004]
A package containing a petri dish mislabeled “anthracks” is received at the B’nai B’rith headquarters in Washington, DC. The choice of B’nai B’rith may be meant to suggest Arab terrorists, because the building had once been the target of an assault by Muslim gunmen. The letter is signed, “The Counter Holocaust Lobbyists of Hillel,” which is similar wording to a known Holocaust denier. The dish does not contain anthrax but does contain bacillus cereus, a very close, non-toxic cousin of anthrax used by the US Defense Department. There are similarities to the later real anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001), such as misspelled words—“penacilin,” in the case of the post-9/11 attacks. In July 2002, B’nai B’rith will say the FBI still has not asked it about this hoax anthrax attack. [New York Times, 8/13/2002; Vanity Fair, 9/15/2003]
David Edger [Source: Daily Oklahoma (2002)]David Edger, a veteran CIA operative, is nominated chief of station at the US embassy in Berlin. [Washington Post, 5/1/1997] Previously, Edger had been associate deputy director for operations in the Directorate of Operations (DO) since July 1995. [Associated Press, 7/31/1995] The DO is the clandestine operations arm of the CIA. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 18] Many reports in the German and international press indicate that the CIA was monitoring members of the Hamburg cell in the years before 9/11 and tried to recruit informers (see November 1, 1998-February 2001 and December 1999). Although press reports do not mention him by name, these efforts would have been overseen by Edger. He will later say that the CIA tracked some of the people responsible for the 9/11 attacks in Germany (see February 12, 2002). Edger will stay in this position until the summer of 2001, when he is appointed to the University of Oklahoma (see August 2001).
A Department of Energy study group chaired by former CIA Director James Woolsey and Harvard professor Joseph Nye warns that the United States is unprepared for the rising threat of a nuclear, biological, or chemical terrorist attack on the homeland. [Science & Technology Review, 1/1998] Despite the urgency of the threat, Woolsey and Nye say they doubt that the US can really mobilize in time. In an essay published in the Los Angeles Times, they write: “The very nature of US society makes it difficult to prepare for this security problem. Within recent memory, we have not had to battle a foreign invading force on US soil. Because of our ‘Pearl Harbor’ mind-set, we are unlikely to mount an adequate defense until we suffer an attack. Because the threat of terrorism with weapons of mass destruction is amorphous (rogue states, transnational groups, ad hoc groups or individuals) and constantly changing, it is difficult to make predictions and preparations. However, given the current geopolitical state of the world, there is every indication that terrorism will be the most likely physical threat to the US homeland for at least the next decade. Only if we go beyond business as usual and respond in a broader and more systematic manner do we stand a chance of dealing with this problem before the horror of another Pearl Harbor.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/1/1997; Washington Diplomat, 12/2001]
Judge Christine Miller of the Court of Federal Claims rejects allegations by the software firm Inslaw that the Justice Department illegally stole its enhanced PROMIS software and distributed it. The finding is contained in a 186-page opinion issued by Miller that says there is “no merit to the claims.” The decision follows a three-week trial. The matter was sent to the court by Congress, which referred the case as a part of considerations about whether to pass a private bill to compensate Inslaw. The original contract required Inslaw to install in US attorneys’ offices a public domain version of PROMIS owned by the government. But, according to Miller, without notice to the government, Inslaw installed a different version of the software and then asserted that the government could not use the software in other offices. (Note: the contract was signed in March 1982 (see March 1982), and Inslaw notified the department of the enhancements on April 2 (see April 2, 1982).) Miller’s findings are:
Inslaw has not shown it has any ownership rights to the software and that the enhancements it claims are not proprietary to it. Miller says that some of the enhancements do actually exist—12 of the over 100 Inslaw says it made—but Inslaw cannot demonstrate it owns them;
Neither has Inslaw shown that the department acted improperly in any way in connection with the software, as it had unlimited rights to the enhanced software it received and acted in good faith;
Inslaw’s decision to take its case to the bankruptcy court, rather than courts with certain jurisdiction to hear it, was a tactical one (see June 9, 1986);
A panel of independent experts appointed by the judge to review other software applications Inslaw claims are pirated versions of PROMIS found that Inslaw’s allegations were false;
In addition to not having a legal claim against the US, Inslaw does not have an equitable claim either, because it did not own the software and the Justice Department acted properly.
Assistant Attorney General Frank Hunger, head of the civil division, comments: “Both parties benefit from having a decision from a court with authority to resolve the matter—a court that has heard all the evidence. And the public benefits because all the evidence has been aired and they can be confident that the facts have finally been revealed. Certainly, the department benefits from the lifting of the cloud that has hung over it for a decade.” As the court investigated the matter at the request of Congress, the decision will be sent back there, although Inslaw will have the chance to appeal the matter to a three-judge panel at the same court beforehand. [US Department of Justice, 8/4/1997]
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 ]
William Flanagan. [Source: US Department of Defense]The Naval War College in Newport, Rhode Island, and Wall Street bond firm Cantor Fitzgerald hold three “economic security exercises,” in which the participants consider, among other scenarios, terrorists attacking the US financial community with bombings using aircraft. The exercises are intended to explore the link between national security and economic issues. [Cantor Fitzgerald, 4/29/1999; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001; Foreign Policy, 9/12/2011] They bring together “key figures from the national security, governmental, and financial communities to explore and test the relationships between international events, national security, and financial markets,” according to a report prepared by the Naval War College. [Hayes, 6/1998, pp. 1 ] The exercises are all held in New York. [Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001] The first one takes place on the top floor of one of the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, where Cantor Fitzgerald has its main offices. [Washington Post, 3/6/2002; Associated Press, 1/19/2011] Whether the second and third exercises also take place at the WTC is unstated.
1997 Exercise Considers Attacks on the US Financial Community - The first exercise, held in October 1997, is based around two related scenarios that would take place in February and March 2000, in the middle of the US presidential primary season. [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997; Hayes, 6/1998, pp. 1 ] The first scenario involves a crisis “spilling out of conflict in the oil fields of the Middle East,” which is “followed by terrorist assaults against oil fields in the Persian Gulf and US military installations,” according to Fortune magazine. America’s access to Persian Gulf oil supplies is threatened and there is a disruption of the “sea lines of communication.” The second scenario involves a cyber-terrorist attack on Wall Street, in which information warfare attacks are launched against the critical infrastructures underpinning America’s business and financial communities. The computer networks of US financial institutions and power grids in the New York area are targeted, with the intention of inflicting psychological and economic damage on the US. [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001; Fortune, 10/8/2001] Furthermore, according to David Rothkopf, managing director of Kissinger Associates, who attends the exercise, participants consider “a variety of potential ways terrorists might target the US financial community, including bombings using trucks or aircraft.” [Foreign Policy, 9/12/2011]
Senior Government Officials Attend the 1997 Exercise - The exercise addresses the potential vulnerability of the US to “asymmetric warfare,” which one participant will later describe as warfare in which “a little guy with the right technology can confront the big giant in a devastating way.” [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997] In the simulated scenarios, according to Fortune, “the terrorists succeeded spectacularly.” [Fortune, 10/8/2001] Those attending the exercise include Richard Clarke, President Clinton’s special assistant for global affairs, Rand Beers, special assistant to the president and senior director for intelligence programs, and Anthony Lake, the former national security adviser. [Journal of Commerce, 12/22/1997; Rothkopf, 2014, pp. 266]
1998 Exercise Involves a Rebellion in Indonesia - The second exercise, held on June 1, 1998, focuses on a hypothetical financial crisis combined with a sea lines of communication disruption in Asia, involving Indonesia. The scenario, which would take place around late 1998 to early 1999, involves opposition forces mounting successful rebellions in parts of Indonesia and leaders of the opposition movement declaring themselves Indonesia’s legitimate government. The US military intervenes in response to the crisis. Subsequently, “malevolent insiders” launch coordinated attacks against selected financial institutions in Singapore. These are followed by cyberattacks against some financial institutions in Japan. [Hayes, 6/1998 ; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001]
1999 Exercise Is Based around the Y2K Computer Problem - The third exercise, held on May 3, 1999, focuses on the possible global financial consequences of a serious Year 2000 computer problem, caused by computers being unable to properly read dates at the start of the new millennium, as well as “related events surrounding the millennial date change event.” [New York Times, 2/9/1999; Cantor Fitzgerald, 4/29/1999; Barnett and Hayes, 5/18/2001]
Cantor Fitzgerald Requested the 'War Games' in the Mid-1990s - The three economic security exercises are the “brainchild” of retired Admiral William Flanagan, former commander in chief of the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet, who is now the senior managing director of Cantor Fitzgerald. [Wall Street Journal, 5/5/1997; Proceedings, 10/2001; Virginian-Pilot, 9/11/2006] According to Thomas Barnett, a senior strategic researcher at the Naval War College, they have come about because Cantor Fitzgerald went to the Naval War College in the mid-1990s and said it would like to run “economic-oriented war games” with the college. [Institute of International Studies, 3/8/2005] Several senior members of Cantor Fitzgerald have close professional ties with the US Navy, so the collaboration between the company and the Naval War College is a “natural partnership,” according to a report prepared by the college. [Hayes, 6/1998, pp. 1 ]
Exercise Scenarios Are 'Amazingly Prescient' - The fact that the exercises explore “such real-world scenarios as a terrorist strike on Wall Street, war in the Persian Gulf, and a financial crisis in Asia,” Barnett will comment after 9/11, “proved amazingly prescient.” [Barnett, 2004, pp. 197] “September 11 was crystallizing,” he will say. “We all just went, ‘This is what we were talking about: a peacetime, war-like event that’s so profound it forces us to rethink everything.’” [Esquire, 12/2002] The exercises will evolve into something called the “New Rule Sets Project,” which is a research partnership between the Naval War College and Cantor Fitzgerald that aims to explore how globalization is altering America’s definitions of national security (see May 1, 2000-June 4, 2001). [Barnett, 2004, pp. 46; Institute of International Studies, 3/8/2005] Cantor Fitzgerald will suffer the greatest single loss by any company on 9/11, with 658 of its employees dying in the North Tower of the WTC. [Business Week, 9/10/2006]
Major General Larry Arnold, who became commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) in December 1997, fights to preserve the resources assigned to US air sovereignty (see May 19, 1997 and Late August 2001). To emphasize the need for air bases with fighter jets on alert, Arnold frequently gives a presentation describing “asymmetric” threats and including a slide featuring Osama bin Laden. As Arnold will later recall: “[W]e thought that the biggest threat to the US in the briefing that I always gave… was going to come from an asymmetric threat, from a terrorist or a rogue nation, or maybe associated with the drug cartels to some degree. The picture that we used to have on one of our slides there, dating all the way back to 1997 and 1998, was Osama bin Laden.” [Filson, 2002] Colonel Alan Scott, who serves under Arnold at CONR, will later describe the “El Paso example” that Arnold uses to illustrate the need for more alert sites. Scott says: “We had fairly large gaps between our seven alert sites pre-9/11. The largest was between Riverside, CA, and Houston, TX. El Paso, TX, was in the middle of those two alert sites. There was no perceived ‘military’ threat from Mexico. As the threat of terrorism arose, General Arnold began to use the example in his talks to various groups. The example was that if a terrorist called and said in one hour he would overfly El Paso, TX, and spray deadly gas, we would watch it live on CNN because we could not get aircraft to that location in time to stop the attack.” [Filson, 7/14/2002]
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).
Joseph Eash. [Source: Department of Defense]A Defense Department official expresses concern about the possibility of an aircraft being used as a weapon to cause massive damage.
At some point during his tenure as commander of the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR), Major General Larry Arnold briefs Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Advanced Technology Joseph Eash about proposed cruise missile defense initiatives. Arnold suggests to Eash the scenario of a cruise missile with a weapon of mass destruction being launched into the US. But Eash is concerned about an attack carried out using a plane that takes off within the US. As Arnold will later recount, Eash tells him, “I’m worried about someone taking an airplane off from within the US and using it as a weapon of mass destruction.” Arnold will comment, “I don’t think he envisioned someone hijacking an airliner and crashing it into the World Trade Center, but I think he envisioned a light airplane or business jet that had been stolen, either to drop some chemicals or biological agents, or maybe even to crash it.” [Filson, 2002]
President Clinton accuses Iraq of trying to build “an arsenal of devastating destruction,” and says, “[S]ome day, some way, I guarantee you, he’ll use the arsenal.” [Roberts, 2008, pp. 121]
The Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) begins issuing what authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will describe as “provocative political statements.” The IAA is headed by Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, who claims to have fought in Afghanistan with Osama bin Laden, and the organization will go on to have links with al-Qaeda (see Early 2000 and October 12, 2000). The Yemeni government had previously ignored the group, but is now irked by the statements and asks the elders of Almihdhar’s tribe to muzzle him. However, this strategy does not work, so the government offers a reward for his capture, dead or alive. Despite this, the IAA will plot a series of attacks later in the year (see Before December 23, 1998). [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 163]
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).
President Clinton creates the new post of National Coordinator for Security, Infrastructure, Protection, and Counterterrorism. He names Richard Clarke for the job, and due to the length of the title, Clarke soon becomes known as the counterterrorism “tsar.” [New York Times, 5/23/1998; Washington Post, 4/2/2000] This position is outlined in a new presidential directive on counterterrorism, Presidential Decision Directive 62 (PDD-62), which also outlines goals of fighting terrorism and attempts to strengthen interagency coordination of counterterrorism efforts. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] Clarke, who had been working on terrorism issues since the start of the Clinton administration, has more symbolic than actual power in the new position. For instance, he only has a staff of 12, compared to a staff of hundreds for the drug “tsar,” and by law he is not allowed to order law enforcement agents, soldiers, or spies to do anything. He does not have any control over budgets. But he is allowed to sit on Cabinet level meetings that involve terrorism. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 170; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 101] Clarke has a long record of prior government service, beginning in 1973 as a nuclear weapons analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. [CBS News, 3/30/2004] He came to prominence in the Reagan administration as the deputy assistant secretary of state for intelligence from 1985 to 1989. Having left the State Department in 1992, he has spent the past six years on the National Security Council staff. [Washington Post, 3/13/2003; BBC, 3/22/2004; Associated Press, 3/27/2004] After 9/11 Clarke will become well known for his criticisms of the George W. Bush administration (see March 21, 2004 and March 24, 2004), but some who know him consider him to be politically conservative. [Boston Globe, 3/29/2004] According to the Washington Post, many within the Clinton administration view Clarke as a hawk. [Washington Post, 3/23/2004] Robert Gelbard, who worked with him at the State Department in the early 1990s, says he is “no liberal. He is very hawkish.” [US News and World Report, 4/5/2004] Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA official who worked with Clarke in the 1980s, says, “You can’t accuse him of being passive or too liberal on foreign policy.” [Washington Post, 3/23/2004] At the time of the 2000 election he will be a registered Republican, and he votes that year for John McCain in the Republican presidential primary. [New York Times, 3/23/2004; Salon, 3/24/2004; Time, 4/5/2004] Larry DiCara, the former president of the Boston City Council who knew Clarke when he was younger, later recalls: “He was fiercely conservative at a time when just about everyone in Boston was a Democrat.… I’m amazed he worked for [President] Clinton.” Clarke, however, will later praise Clinton, and in an interview in 2002 will describe himself as “not a partisan figure.” [Boston Globe, 3/29/2004]
Weapons inspectors with the United Nations Special Commission (UNSCOM) report finding evidence that Iraq put VX nerve toxin into missile warheads before the 1991 Gulf War. Iraq has denied being able to make a weapon using VX payloads. The evidence comes from a classified US Army laboratory analysis of warhead fragments recovered by UNSCOM inspectors from a destruction pit at Taji, Iraq, in March 1998. Swabs from the warheads analyzed for the UN at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland showed “significant amounts” of degraded “VX disulfide… and stabilizer” in the samples, according to the UN. The laboratory results seem to confirm suspicions raised by Iraqi defectors and other sources, which indicated that Iraq, contrary to its claims, had indeed succeeded in stabilizing and weaponizing VX nerve gas. VX is an intensely lethal compound; using such nerve toxin in a missile attack would potentially inflict large casualties on the targeted population. The discovery also lends credence to suspicions that Iraq has intentionally misled inspectors about its weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has refused to admit that it ever created weaponized VX or that it deployed the nerve toxin in missile warheads. [Washington Post, 6/23/1998; TruthDig, 3/17/2008]
Leaked by INC - The Aberdeen report is leaked to the Washington Post through officials at the Iraqi National Congress (INC), which the Post will describe as “the principal Iraqi exile opposition group.” Diplomatic sources later confirm the findings, and US government officials will not dispute the conclusion.
Used to Criticize Clinton Administration - The report gives fresh ammunition to conservative Republicans seeking to target the Clinton administration for what they see as its failure to strongly support UNSCOM weapons inspections and the overthrow of Saddam Hussein. Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) will write in response to the report, “The latest example of a failed policy toward Iraq will not be swept under the rug.” Lott will write that he and other Republicans may use the issue to derail the Senate confirmations of US ambassador to the UN Richard Holbrooke and Energy Secretary Bill Richardson.
Republican Official: Iraqis 'Lied from the Start' - INC president Ahmed Chalabi will call the report “a smoking gun,” and add: “It shows that Saddam is still lying, and that this whole arrangement based on his turning his weapons of terror over to the United Nations is not workable. He has stabilized VX, which means he can store it for a long time and bring it out for use when he wants.” A Republican Senate official adds: “This report means that they have VX out there now, and can use it. They have lied from from the start.” [Washington Post, 6/23/1998]
Press Leak Alters UNSCOM Reaction - UNSCOM chief Richard Butler’s plans to announce a “major breakthrough” in diplomatic negotiations with Iraq are scuttled when the Post reports on the VX lab test results. The story focuses not just on the fact that traces of VX were found in Iraqi warheads, but on the harsh criticisms leveled by Lott and other Republicans. The Post writes: “The new indications of Iraqi deception also are likely to reverberate in US politics, where conservative Republicans are increasingly critical of what they see as a failure by the Clinton administration to support strongly either aggressive UNSCOM inspections for Iraqi weapons of mass destruction or efforts to overthrow Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.” [TruthDig, 3/17/2008]
Report Disproven - Further research will disprove the Aberdeen test results, and conclude that Iraq had not, in fact, packed warheads with VX nerve toxin (see July 1998).
Republic of Texas logo. [Source: Republic of Texas]Three members of the separatist Republic of Texas (RoT) are charged with conspiracy to use weapons of mass destruction in a plot to assassinate President Clinton and other federal officials. The plot consists of an anthrax-like toxin to be delivered via a cactus thorn fired from a modified butane lighter. One man, Oliver Dan Emigh, is later acquitted. The other two, white separatists Jack Abbot Grebe Jr. and Johnnie Wise, will be sentenced to lengthy prison terms. The RoT considers itself the sovereign governing body of Texas, under what it calls “common law” similar to beliefs espoused by the Montana Freemen (see 1983-1995 and Fall 2010). In 1996, the RoT split into three factions, led by different members. The faction led by Jesse Enloe harbors Grebe, Wise, and Emigh. Computer consultant John L. Cain was approached by Grebe and Wise for help in sending “untraceable” email messages to government officials. Cain informed the FBI, worked with Grebe and Wise, and provided the evidence that led to their arrests. Though some RoT members will express their anger and opposition to their fellow group members’ criminal activities, Grebe and Wise will be listed as “prisoners of war” on the RoT Web site. After Grebe and Wise’s convictions, RoT will become a less extremist organization, and after the 9/11 attacks, some members will say they stand ready to help the government stand off terrorist attacks. RoT members will turn their attention to patrolling the Texas-Mexican border, sometimes forcibly deporting illegal immigrants. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001; National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism, 2010]
Samir al-Hada, who helped run an al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen. [Source: CNN]Yemeni al-Qaeda operative Samir al-Hada is questioned over the embassy bombings in East Africa. A communications hub run by him and his father, Ahmed al-Hada, facilitated the attacks (see Late August 1998) and will also apparently facilitate the attack on the USS Cole and 9/11 (see Before October 12, 2000 and Early 2000-Summer 2001). Details of the questioning, such as the agency that performs it and what results are passed to US intelligence, are not known, but the communications hub the al-Hada family runs will subsequently be monitored and US intelligence will derive much useful information from it (see Late 1998-Early 2002) [New York Daily News, 2/14/2002] Samir al-Hada will die in an explosion in February 2002 (see February 13, 2002).
General Richard B. Myers takes over as commander in chief of the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), commander in chief of the US Space Command, and commander of the Air Force Space Command. He replaces General Howell M. Estes III. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 6/3/1998; Air Force News, 8/19/1998] Myers will serve in these positions until February 22, 2000, when he will be replaced by General Ralph E. Eberhart. [Air Force News, 2/22/2000] On 9/11, Myers will serve as the acting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. [Myers, 2009, pp. 10]
At some point during his tenure as commander in chief of NORAD (see August 14, 1998), General Richard Myers expresses concerns about the adequacy of the radar system over the US, which NORAD shares with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in what is called the Joint Surveillance System. Myers will later tell the 9/11 Commission that NORAD is unable to “correlate” over 50 percent of the unknown radar tracks it picks up, either because it cannot launch an interceptor aircraft in time or because it cannot deal with the tracks appropriately. Some of them disappear from radar before NORAD can correlate them with the FAA. Myers makes Pentagon officials aware of the problem, telling them, “don’t think we’re providing 100 percent air sovereignty here… we’re looking outward, and a number of those tracks are never correlated.” He will recall that in connection with the internal radar issue, “I saw a letter I put out talking about a potential terrorist issue… that’s why you would want these radars up… it’s kind of a future issue.” According to Myers, there is talk about the future potential of a terrorist threat as a rationale for “trying to get people to address the FAA/[Air Force] radar funding issue in a more robust way.” Myers also finds NORAD’s command and control software inadequate. He will tell the 9/11 Commission that the “system was very old and was contracted to be replaced, but the contractor did not perform. The issue was how many tracks the system could handle at once; NORAD kept modifying the equipment to allow more inputs but it needed a new system.” However, Myers will also confirm to the 9/11 Commission that “from a technical radar standpoint, NORAD had pretty good coastal
range, and that the activity on 9/11 was within the radar area that was accessible to NORAD.” [9/11 Commission, 2/17/2004 ; 9/11 Commission, 6/9/2004]
Mohamed al-Owhali, one of the bombers of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), is rendered from Kenya to the US. Al-Owhali was arrested in Nairobi after the bombing and gave up information to local authorities and the FBI about it (see August 4-25, 1998 and August 22-25 1998). He will be tried in the US and sentenced to life in prison (see October 21, 2001). [Grey, 2007, pp. 129, 246]
North Korea launches a Taepodong-1 (TD-1) ballistic missile eastward over Japan. The second stage of the missile splashes down in Pacific waters well past Japan. Though the missile was intended to launch a satellite into Earth orbit (a task in which it failed, though the North Koreans will claim otherwise), the test flight also proves that North Korea could strike Japan and other regional neighbors with nuclear missiles if it so desires. It could also reach Hawaii and the outskirts of Alaska with a small payload, though nothing large enough to be a nuclear device. The test alarms the US, and catches the US intelligence community somewhat unawares, though US intelligence had earlier predicted that North Korea would be able to deploy some sort of ICBM. The TD-1 is a significant development over its earlier single-stage Scud C and Nodong single-stage missiles. Another area of concern is North Korea’s stated willingness to sell its missile and nuclear technology to other countries; any missile improvements it successfully develops are likely to spread to other weapons programs. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 173; Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, 1/12/2008] According to authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, the missile’s basic design is similar to the Hatf range produced by Pakistan, which itself was based on the Chinese M-11 missile. The US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) therefore thinks this is further evidence of military co-operation between Pakistan and North Korea. [Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 277, 515]
Elena Tregubova with Tales of a Kremlin Digger. [Source: Publicity photo]According to journalist Elena Tregubova, Valentin Yumashev, the head of Russia’s Presidential Administration, tells her that secret police reports indicate that the country is on the verge of widespread unrest. In her 2003 book, Tales of a Kremlin Digger, which recounts her years as a member of the Kremlin press pool with access to top officials, Yumashev says to her off-the-record: “The fact is that we have received secret information from the special services that the country finds itself on the eve of mass rebellions, in essence on the verge of revolution… Believe me, the information concerns… secret reports that have been made to the president!” But Tregubova says that when she later discussed this information with Vladimir Putin, the then-head of the FSB (Russia’s intelligence agency), he denies it. “Yumashev could not have imagined that a mere three months later the existence of such ‘secret information’ would be categorically denied in a confidential chat with me by future president of Russia Putin, heading at that period of crisis the chief special service of the country.” According to Russia scholar John Dunlop, Yumashev’s claims suggest that he and other Kremlin figures were already thinking of a destabilization plan. Yumashev’s warning “sounds like advanced advertising for the ‘Storm in Moscow’ scenario”, writes Dunlop (see July 22, 1999). [Dunlop, 10/5/2004, pp. 16 ] Tregubova’s book, which has not been translated in English, is notorious for a scene in which Putin seems to try to seduce her during lunch at an expensive restaurant. (“I couldn’t tell whether he was trying to recruit me, or chat me up.”) Trebugova will loose her job shortly after the book is published. In 2004, a small bomb will explode near her apartment building as she is about to take a taxi. Unhurt but frightened, she will seek political asylum in Britain in 2007. [New York Times, 2/3/2004; Radio Free Europe, 4/8/2008]
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke advocates an aggressive approach to dealing with terrorists and countries that harbor them, and says terrorists are likely to go after America’s “Achilles’ heel,” which is “in Washington… in New York,” and “throughout the country.” He makes these comments during a two-day conference on countering chemical and biological warfare, held in Washington, DC. [New York Times, 10/8/1998; USIS Washington File, 10/8/1998]
Enemies Could Target Washington or New York - In his speech at the conference, Clarke says, “The United States can defeat in a conventional war any other military in the world.” Therefore: “Our enemies instead will use unconventional techniques, either exclusively or as a supplement to their attack. They will use terrorism. They will use cyber attack and information warfare. And they will use chem-bio attack.” He adds that America’s enemies “will go after our Achilles’ heel,” which is “in Washington. It is in New York. It is throughout the country. For no longer can we count as a nation on the two great oceans defending us from foreign attack here at home.”
US Willing to Take 'The First Step' - Clarke says that the US government has developed a strategy for dealing with chemical and biological weapons attacks, which includes an aggressive approach toward terrorist groups and rogue states. He says these groups and states “should know that those who engage in terrorist acts, including terrorist acts involving chemical and biological weapons, can be assured that they will pay a high price.” The government’s promise to them is “attack us and you will unleash a relentless and methodical machine against you.” Furthermore, Clarke says, the US is willing to act preemptively: “The United States reserves for itself the right of self-defense, and if that means our taking the first step, we will do so. We will not tolerate terrorist organizations acquiring or maintaining stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.” [USIS Washington File, 10/8/1998]
US Will Target Countries that Harbor Terrorists - In an interview after his speech, Clarke emphasizes that countries that harbor these terrorist groups also risk being targeted by the US. He points to the recent missile attacks against Sudan in retaliation for the US embassy bombings in Africa (see August 20, 1998), and says the US will “definitely do something” about such countries. “The something depends on what the circumstances are.” [New York Times, 10/8/1998] Clarke will repeat his claim that the nation’s “Achilles’ heel” terrorists will come after is “here in the United States” in an April 2000 interview with the Washington Post (see April 2, 2000). [Washington Post, 4/2/2000]
President Clinton issues Presidential Decision Directive 67 (PDD-67), which updates the US Continuity of Government (COG) program in line with the emerging threat posed by terrorists. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 166-167 and 170; Washington Post, 6/4/2006] PDD-67, “Enduring Constitutional Government and Continuity of Government Operations,” requires agencies to plan for governmental continuity if the US is hit by a major terrorist attack. [Knight Ridder, 11/17/1999; Federation of American Scientists, 12/12/2000] The directive is classified and there is no White House fact sheet summarizing its contents. [Federation of American Scientists, 12/12/2000; US Congress. House. Committee on Government Reform, 4/22/2004] But according to Energy Department documents, the new COG plan “could be triggered by an event worse than what’s expected from the Y2K problem and comparable to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.” [Knight Ridder, 11/17/1999] According to the Washington Post, the result of PDD-67 will be that “every single government department and agency [is] directed to see to it that they could resume critical functions within 12 hours of a warning, and keep their operations running at emergency facilities for up to 30 days.” [Washington Post, 6/4/2006] The directive puts the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—which is responsible for planning for and responding to disasters—in charge of the COG program. [US Congress. House. Committee on Government Reform, 4/28/2005, pp. 4 ] Within FEMA, the Office of National Security Affairs will specifically be responsible for COG activities. [Larson and Peters, 2001, pp. 103] FEMA’s responsibilities will include providing guidance for agencies to develop their continuity plans (see July 26, 1999), and the coordination of interagency exercises. [US Congress. House. Committee on Government Reform, 4/28/2005, pp. 4 ] Richard Clarke, who has now been appointed counterterrorism “tsar” (see May 22, 1998), drafted PDD-67 earlier in the year (see Early 1998). [Clarke, 2004, pp. 166-167] The COG plan will be activated for the first time on the morning of 9/11 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC News, 4/25/2004]
After the Taliban is warned that bin Laden has been accused of involvement in the recent 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), it initiates judicial proceedings against him. But when the US fails to provide Afghanistan’s supreme court with sufficient evidence, bin Laden is acquitted. [Associated Press, 11/20/1998] The Taliban has already received some claims regarding bin Laden’s involvement in terrorism from the US (see August 23, 1998), but these are insufficient and more evidence is requested. Originally, there is no cut-off date for supplying evidence, but when the US does nothing, the Taliban leaders become frustrated and announce a time limit on the inquiry: “If anyone has any evidence of bin Laden’s involvement in cases of terrorism, subversion, sabotage, or any other acts, they should get it to the court before November 20. If by then there is nothing, we will close the case and in our eyes he will be acquitted.” In a November 10 cable the US embassy in Pakistan, which also handles Afghan affairs, comments: “The Taliban appear to many observers not to be totally unreasonable in their demand that the US provide them evidence on bin Laden.” [US Embassy (Islamabad), 11/10/1998 ] The US then sends the Taliban a video of an interview bin Laden gave CNN in 1997, a transcript of his ABC 1998 interview, and a copy of his US indictment for the embassy bombings. [US Department of State, 11/11/1998 ] The inquiry is headed by the country’s chief justice, Noor Mohamed Saqib. After the evidence is found not to be enough and bin Laden is set free, Saqib comments: “It is their shame that they have been silent. America is wrong about bin Laden… Anything that happens now anywhere in the world they blame Osama, but the reality is in the proof and they have not given us any. It’s over and America has not presented any evidence. Without any evidence, bin Laden is a man without sin… he is a free man.” [Associated Press, 11/20/1998] However, the State Department says that it did not “endorse, support, or request” the sharia court trial, but simply wanted bin Laden extradited. A White House spokesperson says, “Without commenting on the rigor of the Taliban judicial system, it is clear that Mr. bin Laden is a proven threat to US national interests.” [US Department of State, 11/11/1998 ; Associated Press, 11/20/1998] The Taliban’s leadership is not satisfied with the outcome of the trial and will subsequently ask the US for help in getting rid of bin Laden (see November 28, 1998).
The Kemal Ataturk mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey. [Source: Noha El-Hennawy / Los Angeles Times]US intelligence learns that a Turkish extremist group named Kaplancilar, led by Metin Kaplan and based in Cologne, Germany, had planned a suicide attack. The conspirators, who have been arrested, planned to crash an airplane packed with explosives into the Kemal Ataturk mausoleum in Ankara during a government ceremony. The Turkish press says the group has cooperated with Osama bin Laden, and the FBI includes this incident in a bin Laden database. [New York Times, 2/5/2002; US Congress, 9/18/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003 ]
A view inside Atta’s Marienstrasse flat. [Source: DPA]Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi moved to Bonn, Germany in 1996, and studied German there. He then lived in Hamburg for several months in 1998, and returned to Bonn after failing a language exam. Just as he leaves town, a Pakistani student named Atif bin Mansour arrives in Hamburg, and begins living and studying together with Mohamed Atta. Early in 1999, Mansour applies with Atta for a room to hold a new Islamic study group. Mansour is a pilot on leave from the Pakistani Air Force. As the Los Angeles Times puts it, “This in itself is intriguing—a Pakistani pilot? Investigators acknowledge they haven’t figured out Mansour’s role in the plot, if any.” On this day, Mansour’s brother, also in the Pakistani armed forces, is killed (along with 15 other officers) when his surveillance plane is shot down by India. Mansour returns home and was detained and stopped from returning to Germany. Soon afterwards, Alshehhi returns to Hamburg. According to Mansoor’s father, “Atif was detained because he had not sought permission from the authorities before returning home to attend his younger brother’s funeral.” Then he is set free with assistance from a relative and works on Pakistani air force base. Contacted on his mobile phone by a reporter, Mansour says, “I won’t be able to speak further on such a sensitive issue.” [Rediff, 7/17/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Washington Post, 9/11/2002] In March 2001, Mohamed Atta applies together with a Pakistani Air Force pilot for a security job with Lufthansa Airlines (see February 15, 2001). This pilot is a member of the same Islamic study group as Mansour, but it’s not clear if this is Mansour and he did come back to or stay in Germany, or if Atta was associating with a second Pakistani Air Force pilot. [Roth, 2001, pp. 9f; Newsday, 1/24/2002] The FBI later notes that Alshehhi arrived “almost as a replacement” for Mansour. After 9/11, the FBI asks Pakistan if the flight lieutenant and squad leader Mansour can be found and questioned about any possible role he may have had in the 9/11 plot, but there’s no indication Pakistan as to whether has ever agreed to this request. [Rediff, 7/17/2002] In late 2002, the German Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigations will say that Mansour remains “a very interesting figure.” [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002]
FBI Minneapolis agent Harry Samit learns that an unnamed man plans to travel from the US to Afghanistan to train militants there, and that one of his relatives has applied to join the Minnesota National Guard. Samit wants to run a check on him and notify the National Guard, as he is worried because guardsmen have access to local airports. However, he is blocked for several months by Michael Maltbie, an agent in the Radical Fundamentalist Unit at FBI headquarters, who becomes “extremely agitated” and says this is “just the sort of thing that would get the FBI into trouble.” [Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 3/21/2006; Knight Ridder, 3/21/2006; Hearst Newspapers, 3/21/2006] Samit and Maltbie will later have another running disagreement over the Zacarias Moussaoui case (see August 15-September 10, 2001, August 20-September 11, 2001, August 27, 2001, and August 28, 2001).
As the military community is discussing the future of continental air defense in a post-Cold War world (see May 19, 1997), Major General Larry Arnold, the commander of the 1st Air Force, orders a study to review the Air Force’s air sovereignty mission. At his request, Major General Paul Pochmara forms a 12-member roles and mission (RAM) team to gather information and ideas on the subject. The team has a one-hour presentation that outlines the military’s responsibility for protecting the nation’s air sovereignty. Major General Mike Haugen, a member of the team, will later say that the group discusses everything from technology to the future of the air sovereignty mission to the terrorist threat. Haugen will say: “We made some pretty bold predictions in our briefing.… In fact, it included a photo of Osama bin Laden as the world’s most dangerous terrorist.… We didn’t predict how the terrorists would strike but predicted they would strike.” [Filson, 2003, pp. 37-38] A 9/11 Commission memorandum will add, “Osama bin Laden is featured on the cover of the brief developed by the RAM team, and he figures prominently in the study.” Colonel Alan Scott of the Continental US NORAD Region will tell the Commission: “As we started talking about Osama bin Laden, the examples we gave in our mission brief were the first WTC bombing, the Tokyo subway, Oklahoma City bombing, and Atlanta Olympics. What we did was connect those dots. The conclusion we drew was that we had a viable threat.” [9/11 Commission, 6/9/2004]
Starting in 1999 and continuing over the next two years, al-Qaeda makes persistent but unsuccessful efforts to obtain anthrax, according to US officials. This conclusion is based on documents found by coalition forces in an al-Qaeda camp in Kandahar in late 2001. The letters are written by Abdur Rauf, a Pakistani microbiologist, to Ayman al-Zawahiri and detail his efforts to obtain samples of anthrax as well as equipment to grow the bacteria. Rauf is a specialist in food production with the prestigious Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in Lahore. Scientific articles on culturing bacteria, including anthrax, will also be found with the letters, along with rudimentary laboratories. One of the notes is written on the stationery of the Society for Applied Microbiology, a scientific organization to which Rauf belongs. The note is believed to have been written while Rauf was attending a scientific conference at Porton Down, Britain’s leading biodefense research center. The letters show that Rauf was unable to obtain a pathogenic strain of anthrax and that al-Qaeda’s bioweapons program is only at an early stage before being disrupted by the late 2001 invasion of Afghanistan (see (Late 2001)). [New York Times, 5/21/2005; Washington Post, 10/31/2006]
Press reports warn that newly-developed digital data manipulation software which automate the creation of fake pictures, videos, or audio recordings could be used for political deception or military advantage. Moviegoers are used to elaborate special effects, but until recently that required expensive and time-consuming, frame-by-frame, post-production work. Now, however, software developed since the mid-1990s permit much faster, even real-time, special effects. Real-time video manipulation allows the deletion of people or objects from a live broadcast or the insertion of pre-recorded images. The technology has commercial applications: it is used in sports broadcasting to generate a virtual “first-down” line or virtual billboards. It is also used, more controversially, in some news programming (see January 13, 2000). A related technology called “digital morphing” is now available to create virtual characters who can convincingly imitate real-life persons, as in the film “Forrest Gump”. Voice morphing, a technology developed at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, allows the creation of computer speech based on a short recording of someone’s voice. The virtual voice can be surprisingly life-like: the robotic intonations are a thing of the past. For intelligence agencies and PSYOPS (psychological operations) personnel the new techniques are potential weapons of the future. While the public at large is familiar with edited or “photoshopped” images, it is not yet aware of the possibilities for audio or real-time video deception. [Washington Post, 2/1/1999; Technology Review, 7/2000]
Wissam al-Zahawie, Iraq’s ambassador to the Vatican, sets off on a trip to several African countries as part of an effort to convince African heads of state to visit Iraq. Saddam Hussein hopes that these visits will help break the embargo on flights to Iraq and undermine the UN sanctions regime. Zahawie’s first stop is Niger, where he meets with the country’s President Ibrahim Bare Mainassara for one hour. Mainassara promises that he will visit Baghdad the following April. (He is assasinated before he has an opportunity to do this.) [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 7/13/2003; Independent, 8/10/2003; Time, 10/2/2003; New Yorker, 10/27/2003] In early 2002, the Italian military intelligence service, SISMI, will allege in a report (see February 5, 2002) sent to the US that the motive behind the visit is to discuss the future purchase of uranium oxide, also known as “yellowcake” (see October 15, 2001). [New Yorker, 10/27/2003] However, no one at this time suggests that the trip’s motives have anything to do with acquiring uranium. Zahawie’s trip is reported in the local newspaper as well as by a French news agency. The US and British governments are aware of the trip and show no concern about Niger, which is actively seeking economic assistance from the United States. [New Yorker, 10/27/2003] In 2003, al-Zawahie will tell British reporters: “My only mission was to meet the president of Niger and invite him to visit Iraq. The invitation and the situation in Iraq resulting from the genocidal UN sanctions were all we talked about. I had no other instructions, and certainly none concerning the purchase of uranium.” [Independent, 8/10/2003]
FBI Director Louis Freeh, speaking of the possibility of future violence from radical-right militia groups, says: “With the coming of the next millennium, some religious/apocalyptic groups or individuals may turn to violence as they seek to achieve dramatic effects to fulfill their prophecies.… Many white supremacist groups adhere to the Christian Identity belief system (see 1960s and After), which holds that the world is on the verge of a final apocalyptic struggle… and teaches that the white race is the chosen race of God.” Some of these Christian Identity members will commit crimes to prepare for their anticipated Apocalypse, Freeh warns, and says that the US government, Jews, and non-whites are likely targets. [Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance, 5/30/2006] Freeh’s statement anticipates the FBI’s “Project Megiddo” report, which will focus on the possibility of a wave of domestic terrorism coinciding with the “end of the millennium” (see October 20, 1999).
Bill Harlow. [Source: 15-seconds (.com)]Circle William, a Tom Clancy-style military thriller by CIA spokesman Bill Harlow, is released, and centers on a terrorist plot involving a kamikaze air attack with a commercial airliner. In the book, a US submarine off the coast of Libya intercepts a cryptic phone conversation that suggests Libyan leader Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi is planing to attack the Israeli Knesset with a nerve gas-laden plane. The Pentagon quickly surmises that the plot probably requires “a terrorist willing to sacrifice himself and make the delivery using a commercial airliner.” When the CIA uncovers that Libya is keeping an unused Airbus 300 in a hangar at Tripoli airport, it infers that the plan is to first fly the plane west along the coast toward Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, then to drop below radar coverage somewhere along the route. “We [figure] they would plan [to] remain at low altitude until they could get [to] the Cairo air traffic control region. Then they would pop up, mix in with the heavy traffic along that corridor, and try [to] sneak in to somewhere in Israel.” [Harlow, 1999, pp. 116, 166] Harlow joined the CIA in 1997 after a long Navy career, mainly as a public affairs officer. He will later co-author George Tenet’s memoirs, At the Center of the Storm. [Tenet, 2007, pp. 19]
In the deadliest terrorist attack in Russia since 1996, a powerful bombing in Vladikavkaz’s main outdoor market kills at least fifty people and injures more than a hundred. Vladikavkaz is the capital of North Ossetia, a region of Russia close to Chechnya. It is unclear who is responsible, but in the following days Russian authorities distribute composites of two individuals who left the market shortly before the explosions. Some press reports say that authorities suspect “Wahabbi” rebels in Chechnya, while others speculate on a possible connection to Osama Bin Laden but offer no evidence. The Jamestown Foundation’s Monitor later explains that “the term “Wahabbi” in the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] has become a catch-all phrase for any Muslim extremist, whether or not that person is actually an adherent of Wahabbi Islam. “Wahabbis” are now, generally without evidence, blamed for any terrorist act in the Muslim regions of the CIS.” [CNN, 3/19/1999; BBC, 3/19/1999; New York Times, 3/20/1999; New York Times, 3/21/1999; Monitor, 3/22/1999; Monitor, 3/24/1999] Several months later, an Italian journalist will claim this bombing was orchestrated by elements within the Russian government (see June 16, 1999).
Lieutenant Colonel Mark Stuart, an intelligence officer at NORAD’s Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS), drafts a briefing that he then gives at various venues, on the threat of terrorists using aircraft to crash into buildings. According to a memo of his 2003 interview with the 9/11 Commission, Stuart briefs “over time in 1999, 2000, and 2001 the logical progression that linked hijackings to the use of explosives in vehicles [a probable reference to the 1998 African embassy bombings] and then, logically, to the use of aircraft.” Stuart gives his briefing at annual intelligence conferences at both the Continental United States NORAD Region (CONR) and NORAD itself. At CONR, the receiving official is Colonel Tom Glenn; at NORAD it is Navy Captain Michael Kuhn. According to the 9/11 Commission memo, the hijacking scenarios that Stuart conceives are “primarily personal views; there was no substantive intelligence. He based his analysis on the boldness of past terrorist actions.” Stuart also discusses his analyses with his counterparts at NORAD’s Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS)—a Major Clegg—and its Western Air Defense Sector (WADS)—a Lieutenant Colonel Schauer. In all cases, he briefs that a hijacking would originate overseas, inbound to the US. He never imagines it could originate inside the US. Stuart believes that security vulnerabilities overseas make it far more likely that hijackings will come from outside the US. He never imagines multiple hijackings in any scenario, although he envisions terrorists taking over planes and piloting them at the last possible moment as they crash. Stuart will be at NEADS on 9/11, and will participate in its response to that day’s attacks. [9/11 Commission, 10/30/2003 ]
The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry issues a report on the safety of the US’s chemical industry from terror attacks. The report finds that security of American chemical plants ranges from “fair” to “very poor.” Security for chemical shipments is “poor to non-existent.” [Roberts, 2008, pp. 92-93]
Radical London imam Abu Qatada is convicted in absentia on terrorism charges in Jordan. He is alleged to have masterminded a plot aimed at Western tourists. One bomb was discovered and defused outside the American School in Amman, the other, hidden in a car, exploded outside the Jerusalem Hotel, which is popular with US visitors. The prosecutor claimed that Abu Qatada, who was sentenced to life in prison, was the mastermind. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 3/16/2004; O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 107-108; Times (London), 4/15/2008] There were also to be bombs placed under the cars of a former intelligence chief and a former minister of the interior. [Associated Press, 4/15/2005] Abu Qatada will also be convicted in connection with the Millennium Plot in Jordan later this year (see November 30, 1999). However, he will deny the charges, saying: “Jordan discovers every year or two nothing but organizations claiming that they wanted to cause explosions and destruction. It was proven later that the explosions inside the cinema were unfortunately the work of some intelligence officers to cause confusion.” [CNN, 11/29/2001] Osama bin Laden’s brother-in-law Mohamed Jamal Khalifa was deported from the US to Jordan in 1995 (see April 26-May 3, 1995), but Abu Qatada, who will be arrested in Britain in 2002 (see October 23, 2002), will still not have been deported to Jordan many years later, due to a drawn-out legal battle over his extradition.
Three explosions take place at a military housing complex on the outskirts of Vladikavkaz, Russia. Vladikavkaz is the capital of North Ossetia, a region close to Chechnya. Fifteen people are injured, and one of them later dies. The blasts take place at dawn, around 6:00 am, apparently from the basements, destroying several apartment blocks. There are no clear indications of responsibility. [Monitor, 6/30/1999; GlobalSecurity.org, 2000] Two months earlier, a bombing in Vladikavkaz killed fifty. The responsibility for that bombing also remains unknown (see March 19, 1999).
A businessman reportedly approaches Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki and insists that he meet with an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. Mayaki reportedly interprets “expanding commercial relations” to mean that Iraq is interested in discussing uranium sales. According to Mayaki, he does meet the delegation but avoids discussion of trade issues because of UN sanctions on the country. They reportedly never discuss what the businessman had meant when he said Iraq was interested in “expanding commercial relations.” [US Congress, 7/7/2004] A US embassy official later tells former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who himself will visit Niger to determine the facts behind American concerns that Iraq is attempting to secure Nigerien uranium (see Fall 1999), that Mayaki is extremely wary of dealing with Iraq, and keeps the conversations on very general levels. The Iraqi may have wanted to discuss uranium, the embassy official later recalls, but nothing is ever said on the subject. Wilson later learns from the official that Mayaki speaks to the Iraqi information minister, Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf, disparagingly called “Baghdad Bob” by the Americans. At the time, Wilson is not aware of the Iraqi’s identity, so he does not include the name in his report to the CIA. [Wilson, 2004, pp. 27-28] Alan Foley, the director of the CIA’s Nonproliferation Center (see February 5, 2003), will later tell a reporter that an item in Wilson’s report (see March 4-5, 2002) leads him to believe that there may be some truth to the Iraq-Niger allegations. Writing about Foley’s assertion in 2004, Wilson says he believes that Foley is referring to the 1999 conversation between the embassy official and al-Sahhaf. Wilson will ask, “Could it be that we went to war over a conversation in which the word ‘uranium’ was not spoken at all?” The Nigerien official later tells Wilson that he wondered if al-Sahhaf might have intended to ask about a possible uranium deal in subsequent conversations. “Was that the smoking gun that could supposedly have become a mushroom cloud?” Wilson will ask. “And so is it possible that, because of that non-conversation, [thousands of] Americans have been killed, and [billions] of national treasure spent?” [Wilson, 2004, pp. 424]
The Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet publishes a report by its Moscow correspondent Jan Blomgren claiming that a group of powerful Kremlin figures have drafted a plan to orchestrate bombings in Moscow that would then be blamed on Chechens. This is the first such predictive report in the media; two more will follow (see June 16, 1999 and July 22, 1999). [Independent, 1/29/2000]
Nearly 100 hard-line militia and white separatists gather for advanced paramilitary training at the North Carolina property of former Special Forces member John Roberts, head of the Militia of East Tennessee. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Giulietto Chiesa. [Source: www.giuliettochiesa.it]Giulietto Chiesa, the Moscow correspondent for the Italian newspaper Stampa, publishes an article in the Literaturnaya Gazeta weekly entitled “There Are Also Different Kinds of Terrorists” which tries to alert the public to the possibility that state-sponsored terrorism can be a tool of a “strategy of tension” pursued by secret services. The article comments on recent bombings in Russia, in particular the Vladikavkaz bombing that killed at least fifty in March 1999 (see March 19, 1999). “That criminal act,” he writes, “was conceived and carried out not simply by a group of criminals. As a rule the question here concerns broad-scale and multiple actions, the goal of which is to sow panic and fear among citizens. […] Actions of this type have a very powerful political and organizational base. Often, terrorist acts that stem from a ‘strategy of building up tension,’ are the work of a secret service, both foreign but also national […] Terrorism of this type (it is sometimes called ‘state terrorism’ since it involves simultaneously both state interests and structures acting in the secret labyrinths of contemporary states) is a comparatively new phenomenon… With a high degree of certitude, one can say that the explosions of bombs killing innocent people are always planned by people with political minds. They are not fanatics, rather they are killers pursuing political goals. One should look around and try to understand who is interested in destabilizing the situation in a country. It could be foreigners… but it could also be ‘our own people’ trying to frighten the country…” In the book Roulette Rossa, published later in 1999, Chiesa will write that he “received information concerning the preparation of a series of terrorist acts in Russia which had the goal of canceling the future elections” and had felt compelled to write the article containing “a somewhat veiled warning.” [Chiesa, 1999; Dunlop, 10/5/2004, pp. 9 ]
The Vladikavkaz train station is bombed. Vladikavkaz is the capital of North Ossetia, a Russian region close to Chechnya. Eleven people are reported injured. The Kommersant newspaper writes that “investigators are certain that the bombing was the work of Chechen rebel field commander [Ibn] Khattab”, according to the Jamestown Foundation’s Monitor, which summarizes Russian and East European publications. However, another major Russian newspaper, Izvestia, expresses doubts about Khattab’s culpability. “The paper asked why there have been no comments on the arrest of officers from the 58th army based in Vladikavkaz, who were caught with dozens of kilograms of explosives. It also asked why the 58th army’s commanders and the heads of the North Caucasus Military district reacted so harshly to indications that those officers arrested with explosives belonged to the GRU—military intelligence. [Monitor, 6/30/1999] It is unclear from available sources when this arrest was made or if any investigation was conducted. This is the third bombing in Vladikavkaz since March 1999 (see March 19, 1999 and May 16, 1999).
Bruce Hoffman. [Source: RAND Corporation]In a keynote address at a National Defense University conference, Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert with the RAND Corporation, predicts that terrorists will turn to unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, among other innovative tactics, to commit attacks. He says: “[A]s we harden embassies and other likely terrorist targets… [terrorists] will need to turn to alternative weapons.… And here is an obvious class of weapon choices: ultralights, UAVs, all types of distance and stand-off weapons, surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades fired from a distance, remote control mortars, and man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS). Rather than saying that these are tactics or weapons that terrorists will use, I believe terrorists are experimenting with these types of weapons today and perfecting them for use.” [Hoffman, 2001 ; homelandsecurity.org, 2001]
Aleksandr Zhilin, a prominent military journalist and retired Air Force colonel, publishes an article entitled “Storm in Moscow” in the Moskovskaya Pravda newspaper. According to unnamed sources, Zhilin reports that a group of government figures in President Yelstin’s administration are plotting to destabilize Russian politics by committing spectacular acts of terrorism and other crimes. This alleged plan aims to discredit Mayor of Moscow Yury Luzhkov, a possible candidate in the up-coming presidential elections of 2000. “From trustworthy sources in the Kremlin the following has become known. The administration of the president has drafted and adopted (individual points have been reported to Yeltsin) a broad plan for discrediting Luzhkov with the aid of provocations, intended to destabilize the socio-psychological situation in Moscow. In circles close to Tatyana Dyachenko [Yeltsin’s younger daughter], the given plan is being referred to as ‘Storm in Moscow.’ […] As is confirmed by our sources, the city awaits great shocks. The conducting of loud terrorist acts (or attempts at terrorist acts) is being planned in relation to a number of government establishments: the buildings of the FSB [the Russian intelligence agency], MVD [the Ministry of Internal Affairs], Council of Federation, Moscow City Court, Moscow Arbitration Court, and a number of editorial boards of anti-Luzhkov publications. Also foreseen is the kidnapping of a number of well-known people and average citizens by ‘Chechen rebels’ who with great pomp will then be ‘freed’ and brought to Moscow by Mr. [Vladimir] Rushailo [the newly appointed head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs].” Actions employing the use of force “will be conducted against structures and businessmen supporting Luzhkov.” Also, “a separate program has been worked out directed at setting organized crime groups in Moscow against one another and provoking a war among them.” The purpose of these actions is to create “the conviction that Luzhkov had lost control over the situation in the city.” In a subsequent article in Novaya Gazeta (November 18, 1999), Zhilin will report that the plan “Storm in Moscow” was dated June 29 and that he had obtained a copy on July 2. The article will go unnoticed immediately after publication, but will be much-discussed two months later after the September apartment bombings (see September 9, 1999, September 13, 1999, and September 22-24, 1999). The BBC will report on September 30, “Zhilin’s article is interesting because it was written before the bomb explosions. At the very least it says a lot about the fevered political atmosphere in Russia that some people take these theories [of a government conspiracy] seriously.” [BBC, 9/30/1999; Dunlop, 10/17/2001; RFE/RL Newsline, 3/27/2002; National Review Online, 4/30/2002; Dunlop, 10/5/2004, pp. 11 ]
President Clinton signs the National Missile Defense Act of 1999 (NMDA), which states in its entirety, “It is the policy of the United States to deploy as soon as is technologically possible an effective National Missile Defense system capable of defending the territory of the United States against limited ballistic missile attack (whether accidental, unauthorized, or deliberate).” The NMDA mandates that the US will deploy some sort of missile defense system (see March 23, 1983 and January 29, 1991), but Clinton will refuse to order the system’s deployment in 2000, in part because it has failed its tests and in part because to deploy the system would require the US to withdraw from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (see May 26, 1972), a move Clinton is unwilling to make. Clinton will acknowledge that the US makes its own national security decision, but will add, “We can never afford to overlook the fact that the actions and reactions of others in this increasingly interdependent world do bear on our security.” [US Senate, 7/22/1999; White House, 7/22/1999; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 173-174]
Attack on Dagestan [Source: BBC]A group of Chechen rebels led by Shamil Basayev and Ibn Khattab cross into neighboring Russian region of Dagestan and seize two villages near the border with Chechnya. According to most Russian and international news accounts, the militia has about 2,000 fighters. They are Islamic militants aiming to unify Chechnya and Dagestan into a single Islamic state under Sharia (strict Islamic law). The Russian government reacts immediately by sending a large number of troops to drive them back into Chechnya. [BBC, 8/8/1999; New York Times, 8/8/1999; BBC, 8/9/1999; New York Times, 8/13/1999; BBC, 8/16/1999] Basayev and Khattab preceded the attack by building fortified bases in Dagestan. Russian intelligence officer Anton Surikov will later say that Russian officials had indications that something was being planned at the Dagestan border. “It was not being hidden. There was a certain panic here.” A senior Russian official will also say, “The dates [of the assault] were definitely known several days before.” But “the area is hilly and difficult to guard. There are hundreds of different paths, plenty of canyons, mountain paths. There is no border, actually.… That is why it is not possible just to line up soldiers to guard the border.” [Washington Post, 3/10/2000]
Yeltsin and Putin [Source: BBC]Russian President Boris Yeltsin dismisses his prime minister, Sergei Stepashin, and the entire Russian government, naming Vladimir Putin as acting prime minister. Putin is the head of the Federal Security Service (FSB), which is the new name of the KGB. [BBC, 8/9/1999] For many observers, Stepashin was dismissed because he had been unable to become a politically viable heir to Yeltsin, who must step down in 2001. Putin, who is unknown to the public, seems to have been hand-picked mainly for his loyalty. [New York Times, 8/10/1999] The Russian news service Park.ru offers this fairly representative analysis: “Only a trusted person from one of the ‘power ministries’ can ensure the safety of Yeltsin’s entourage after his term in office, and the former FSB boss can prove indispensable.” [BBC, 8/9/1999]
Yevgeny Primakov. [Source: BBC (2000)]Yevgeny Primakov, who was Russian prime minister until he was summarily dismissed by President Boris Yeltsin in May 1999, announces that he will lead Yuri Luzhkov’s Fatherland-All Russia party for the upcoming Duma elections in December. Polls indicate Primakov is the country’s most trusted politician. He has demonstrated his willingness to investigate corruption. The Primakov-Luzhkov alliance threatens the Kremlin’s plans for a political succession that would protect Yeltsin’s entourage after the next presidential elections, scheduled for June 2000. But in an attempt to re-assure the Kremlin, Primakov proposes a new law guaranteeing “full security and a worthy life” to presidents after they leave office. Reports the New York Times: “That last proposal was an obvious olive branch to Mr. Yeltsin and his presidential administration, whose increasingly desperate battle to influence the choice of a presidential successor is widely thought to be driven by concern for their own future.” [New York Times, 8/18/1999]
In the first instance of what will later become a series of bombings during the month of September 1999, the Manezh, a luxury underground shopping mall in Moscow and within walking distance of the Kremlin, is bombed. Forty people are injured; only one is killed. [BBC, 9/1/1999]
In March 13, 2000, the Russian independent weekly Novaya Gazeta publishes a bombshell that re-ignites the Ryazan incident controversy (see September 22-24, 1999). A soldier named Alexei Pinyaev describes how during the autumn of 1999 he was stationed near Ryazan, a city about 100 miles south of Moscow, and given guard duty at a military warehouse. He says it contained large sacks marked “sugar” but when he and another soldier surreptitiously opened one of the bags to sweeten their tea, the powder tasted vile. They showed the powder to their commander who then turned it over to a bomb expert. The expert identified it as hexogen. Immediately afterwards, several high-ranking FSB officers arrived from Moscow and accused the soldiers of divulging state secrets. To the soldiers’ relief, they were not sent to prison but simply told to forget the whole matter and they were later sent to Chechnya. The story causes an uproar, finally forcing the government to respond to the Ryazan controversy (see March 23, 2000). [Satter, 2003, pp. 30]
Former ambassador Joseph Wilson, who has spent much of his political career representing the US in West Africa, visits Niger at the behest of the CIA to investigate what a Senate investigation (see July 9, 2004) will later call “uranium-related matters.” Wilson is chosen in part because his wife, covert CIA official Valerie Plame Wilson, suggested that since he was going to Niger on business in the near future, he “might be willing to use his contacts in the region” to obtain information. The CIA is interested in a meeting between Niger’s former prime minister, Ibrahim Mayaki, and a delegation from Iraq to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between the two nations. Wilson will later say that the subject of uranium never comes up in a meeting he has with Mayaki (see May 2, 2004). However, CIA analysts will interpret Wilson’s information to mean that Mayaki “interpreted ‘expanding commercial relations’ to mean that the [Iraqi] delegation wanted to discuss uranium yellowcake sales.” The CIA will believe that Wilson’s report bolsters its own suspicions that Iraq is attempting to buy yellowcake uranium from Niger. An intelligence officer will later report that Mayaki indicated that the Iraqis had expressed an interest in buying uranium from Niger. [FactCheck (.org), 7/26/2004; FactCheck (.org), 7/22/2005]
The first phase of the US Commission on National Security/21st Century, co-chaired by former Senators Gary Hart (D-CO) and Warren Rudman (R-NH), is issued. It concludes: “America will be attacked by terrorists using weapons of mass destruction and Americans will lose their lives on American soil, possibly in large numbers.” [US Commission on National Security, 9/15/1999]
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