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A New York Times editorial warns that the conviction and death sentence of domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) has done nothing to stem what it calls “the violence of the militias that inspired him.” The editorial warns: “The militias are different from anything that preceded them because they gather not to take out their rage on Communists or minorities, but to wage war against a government they consider treasonous. In recent years militia groups have assaulted, harassed, and threatened scores of government officials. It is difficult for most Americans to take seriously a group of people whose targets include America’s county clerks and whose members hold that manufacturers’ labels on the backs of road signs actually point the way to the nearest concentration camp. But militia ideology has already provoked the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), the worst act of terrorism ever to take place on American soil. Since that act the militias have continued to grow, and the possibility of more terrorism is undimmed.” Some American communities, the editorial observes, “can no longer enforce their land, tax, and weapons laws, unwilling to risk that an employee might be attacked by militia members” (see January 1994 and April 1994). Firefighters fear taking helicopters over land owned by some militia members, because they worry they will be shot down. Militia officials have filed phony liens against local officials in at least 23 states (see 1993-1994). The editorial states: “The militias are a particularly insidious strain of the American viruses of paranoia and violence. They echo the white supremacy of the Ku Klux Klan and the conspiracy theories and gun obsessions of the John Birch Society. They draw on the American icon of the man who wants to be left alone to live by his creed, taking ideas and leaders from the rural Posse Comitatus movement that reached its peak during the farm crisis of the 1980s (see 1969).… [W]ith the end of the cold war, it may be that conspiracy theories once obsessed with Communism turned inward toward the American government. The militias, most of which operate in small, autonomous groups, now also have the Internet to propagate theories and plans.” The McVeigh case has invigorated many hardcore militia groups, many of whom insist the bombing was carried out by the government to discredit the militia movement and to justify its intention to implement martial law and tyranny. Many mainstream groups such as the National Rifle Association (NRA) welcome militia members and echo many militias’ ideologies and beliefs. And some lawmakers, such as Representative Helen Chenoweth (R-ID), are openly sympathetic to the militias (see February 15, 1995 and May 2, 1995). The editorial concludes with praise for the federal government’s peaceful resolution of the Montana Freemen standoff (see June 13, 1996), stating: “The Freemen standoff also showed the importance of public condemnation of violence. The Freemen found little support in surrounding communities. While militia forces thrive on government attacks, they cannot withstand the disdain of their neighbors. The militias are so widespread because they ostensibly draw on ideas strongly rooted in American history. But even citizens with sympathy for those ideas need to distinguish between their peaceful and their violent expression.” [New York Times, 6/14/1997] The editorial echoes concerns recently expressed by Times columnist Frank Rich (see June 5, 1997).
Many legal experts say Timothy McVeigh’s defense lawyers may have inadvertently helped sentence their client to death (see June 11-13, 1997). At McVeigh’s behest, the defense lawyers’ strategy was to paint McVeigh as a political idealist who believed that the government’s actions at Ruby Ridge (see August 31, 1992 and August 21-31, 1992) and the Branch Davidian compound near Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), constituted the first wave of a larger assault by the government against its citizenry. Instead, many analysts say, the jury may have taken account of those beliefs in deciding McVeigh deserved to die. Law professor Laurence H. Tribe says, “The more he seemed like a person who misguidedly, but deliberately, schemed a form of revenge that involved the sacrifice of innocent life, the less likely the jury was to spare his life.” Fellow law professor Erwin Chemerinsky agrees, saying: “We especially want to deter people from thinking they can commit mass murder in the name of politics. My guess is that the defense was hoping that the jury would see this as a person outraged and maybe feel more empathy with him. I certainly think that from the defense perspective it was a counterproductive instruction.” Tribe believes McVeigh himself insisted that his lawyers emphasize his political ideology, saying: “Clearly Mr. McVeigh was unwilling to portray any kind of remorse through his demeanor or what he would allow his lawyers to argue. They must have decided that their only remaining recourse was to make what he did understandable, if outrageous.” [New York Times, 6/14/1997] McVeigh’s mother blames the government and the news media for McVeigh’s conviction and death sentence (see June 13, 1997).
According to an analysis by the New York Times, many questions remain unanswered in the aftermath of the conviction and death sentence of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Who, if anyone, helped McVeigh assemble the bomb? Did McVeigh receive help from co-conspirator Terry Nichols alone (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), or did he receive help from his friends in the militia and white supremacist movements (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995)? Was there a larger conspiracy that the McVeigh trial failed to uncover? In sentencing hearings, McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones hinted at just such a conspiracy (see June 11-13, 1997), echoing assertions he and his fellow lawyers made during the trial—that McVeigh was part of a larger, shadowy conspiracy (see April 24, 1997). Jones asked jurors to spare McVeigh’s life in the hope that McVeigh may at some future date reveal the details of that alleged conspiracy, saying: “The chapter—the book of the Oklahoma City bombing—is not closed. Do not close it. Do not permit others to close it. Let there be a full accounting, not a partial accounting.” Prosecutor Joseph H. Hartzler chose from the outset to focus strictly on McVeigh and eschew attempting to prove the existence of a possible conspiracy. While Jones and his fellow lawyers were not allowed to present what they called evidence of a “global” conspiracy involving McVeigh, Jones’s media comments, including one assertion that both McVeigh’s co-conspirators and the federal government want McVeigh executed to keep him quiet, are fueling conspiracy theories among right-wing militia groups. Within the Justice Department, many argued that McVeigh may well have been part of just such a conspiracy, though evidence of that conspiracy was thin at best and the department is not conducting an investigation into any such possibility. It is possible that the upcoming trial of Nichols may shed more light on the issue. [New York Times, 6/15/1997] Oklahoma Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City) wants McVeigh to face a state trial before his execution in order to explore his theory that the government covered up evidence of a conspiracy, and even that government officials knew the bombing was coming and did nothing to stop it. Key has succeeded in having a district judge order the empaneling of a grand jury to look into his allegations. Key’s lawyer, Mark Sanford, tells a local reporter that he hopes the grand jury will identify the notorious “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995), saying: “I am glad someone is going to start looking into the investigation the federal jury never got into. Maybe we will get some answers. We know there is a John Doe No. 2. We have to get everybody who participated. They all have to be punished for what they did.” [New York Times, 6/15/1997] Key is involved with right-wing militia groups (see July 17, 1998).
The US Senate votes 98-0 to bar burial and other veterans benefits for anyone found guilty of capital offenses. The measure is directed at former Army Sergeant Timothy McVeigh, recently sentenced to death for killing eight federal employees in the Oklahoma City bombing (see June 11-13, 1997), to prevent him from being buried in a military cemetery after he is executed. [Chicago Sun-Times, 6/19/1997] Six days later, the House of Representatives votes to approve a similar resolution sponsored by Spencer Bachus (R-AL). Bachus says his bill was motivated not only by McVeigh, but by another crime: the 1981 slaying of an African-American teenager by Ku Klux Klan members. One of those convicted in the slaying, Henry Francis Hays, was executed and then buried in a Mobile, Alabama, military ceremony with full honors. Hays served briefly in the US Army in the early 1970s. “In a military ceremony, we said to our children and our grandchildren, ‘We’re overlooking this [crime], this is a good soldier,’” Bachus says. The Hays burial caused people to ask: “Who is entitled to a hero’s funeral? Who are our heroes?” As a decorated veteran of Desert Storm, McVeigh could have asked to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery. [Deseret News, 6/24/1997; Associated Press, 6/24/1997] McVeigh’s lawyer Stephen Jones calls the legislation a non-issue, saying his client has not asked to be buried in a military cemetery or to be buried with honors: “The controversy about Mr. McVeigh’s burial in a national cemetery is a classic straw man argument. Mr. McVeigh has not demonstrated any intent or desire to be buried in a national cemetery. The politicians are simply flogging this issue for votes when they should be concerned with the legitimate problems of the country. Mr. McVeigh hasn’t been formally sentenced to die yet. He has not lost his appeals, and moreover, he has not been executed yet.” [Rocky Mountain News, 6/20/1997]
A grand jury convenes to investigate allegations that a larger conspiracy surrounds the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995), perhaps involving a federal government cover-up. Militia member Timothy McVeigh was convicted (see June 2, 1997) and sentenced to death (see June 11-13, 1997) for carrying out the bombing; his alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols awaits trial for his role in the bombing. State Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City) and accountant Glenn Wilburn, who lost two grandsons in the blast, gathered 13,500 signatures on a petition to force the review. (Wilburn became involved when private investigator J.D. Cash began his own investigation, fueled by his belief that McVeigh either had no involvement in the bombing or was part of a larger conspiracy. Cash is a strong advocate of the “John Doe No. 2” theory, which states that the putative, never-identified Doe No. 2 suspect “proves” the existence of a wider conspiracy—see June 14, 1995 and January 29, 1997). Both Key and Wilburn allege that the federal government had prior knowledge of the bombing (see June 15, 1997); Key is involved with right-wing militia groups (see July 17, 1998). Twelve jurors are selected in less than three hours. Prosecutor Pat Morgan questions jurors about their backgrounds, their acquaintance with victims of the explosion, and their views of the case. Five jurors know someone killed or injured in the bombing, or someone who participated in the rescue. One prospective member, Ben Baker, says the grand jury is unnecessary: “Everybody I’ve talked to believes this is kind of a waste of time and taxpayers’ money. I believe the same thing.” Federal officials have long stated that they doubt anyone besides McVeigh and Nichols was involved in the bombing plot, though circumstantial evidence exists of white supremacist militia involvement on some level (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Oklahoma City District Attorney Robert Macy, who will advise the grand jury, has already promised to file state murder charges against both McVeigh and Nichols. Macy originally opposed the grand jury, but now says he hopes it will “find out what the truth was in the Oklahoma City bombing, if there is any additional evidence.” Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson calls the grand jury investigation a waste of time and taxpayer money. “The notion that it can learn something that the FBI was unable to learn, is, I think, ludicrous,” he says. “The witnesses that Mr. Key is talking about, we know who they are, we know what they have to say. That doesn’t get us any closer to knowing the truth of it, hearing them say it again.” The grand jury petition names seven witnesses who have said they saw at least one other person with McVeigh in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing. None of those witnesses were called before the federal grand jury that indicted McVeigh and Nichols (see August 10, 1995). [Deseret News, 6/30/1997; New York Times, 7/1/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 266]
Omar Nasiri, who informs on al-Qaeda for the British intelligence service MI5 and the French service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE), lends his phone to an operative of the Algerian militant Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) his handlers are interested in. The operative, known only as “Khaled,” uses the phone to make a call to Algeria that is recorded by MI5. Khaled later borrows the phone several times, and MI5 records calls he makes all over Europe. [Nasiri, 2006, pp. 291-2]
In July 1997, Islamic Jihad operative Mahmoud Jaballah receives a fax from Ahmad Salama Mabruk, a member of Islamic Jihad’s ruling council living in Azerbaijan. Canadian intelligence has been closely monitoring Jaballah since he arrived in Canada in 1996 (see May 11, 1996-August 2001) and they learn the contents of this fax while monitoring him. Mabruk’s fax gives guidance on how to recruit new operatives. Jaballah responds by telling Mabruk and Thirwat Salah Shehata, another member of Islamic Jihad’s ruling council, that he already has recruited some people affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Furthermore, they have Canadian residence papers, they have been tested, and they have proven reliable. He says it is time for them to be briefed about their duties. Mabruk replies that he is pleased and that these new recruits are very much needed. [Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2/22/2008 ] Perhaps not coincidentally, it will later be reported that also in 1997, Canadian intelligence begins a large-scale investigation of Islamic militants in Canada that will eventually be formally named Project A/O Canada. [Globe and Mail, 3/17/2007]
Leading radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for Britain’s security services (see Early 1997), begins to establish a series of training camps in Britain in order to toughen up recruits he wishes to send to fight for Islam abroad. He knows that not all the training can be performed in Britain, but thinks that British teenagers may not be able to cope with the rigors of foreign camps straightaway; the British camps are simply meant as an introduction to the training regime. His first step is to establish a group to examine the laws about firing guns on private property and consider acquiring a country retreat for his militia. Initially, Abu Hamza takes advantage of venues used by companies for team bonding exercises, but he later hires an old monastery in Kent and a farm in Scotland for the groups to use. There, recruits learn to strip down AK-47 machine guns and decommissioned grenades, as well as working with mock rocket launchers. Another site he uses is the Brecon Beacons in Wales, and he hires two ex-soldiers who claim to have been in Special Forces to train his recruits. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 83-84] Abu Hamza will later attempt to start a similar camp in the US (see November 1999-Early 2000).
Entrance to Fort Hood, Texas. [Source: New York Times]Fort Hood, Texas, preparing for the annual “Freedom Fest” Fourth of July celebration, readies itself for a large crowd of local civilians planning to spend the day enjoying fireworks, marathons, concessions, military bands, carnival rides, and community activities. However, anti-government activists Bradley Glover and Michael Dorsett are captured by FBI and Missouri state police officers in Missouri before they can turn the festival into a massacre. Glover and Dorsett have become convinced that the United Nations is housing Communist Chinese troops at the military base, in conjuction with a “New World Order” conspiracy to invade and occupy the United States (see September 11, 1990). Glover, Dorsett, and others—all “splinter” members of an organization calling itself the “Third Continental Congress” (TCC—see Summer 1996 - June 1997)—are planning a multi-pronged attack on the Army base. Soon after, five others are arrested in conjunction with the plot.
History of the Fort Hood Plot - Glover and other TCC members believe that the April 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) was a plot by federal agencies to gin up an excuse to persecute “patriot” organizations. Glover told British reporter Ambrose Evans-Pritchard shortly after the Oklahoma City bombing that “it’s only a matter of time now before the shooting war begins.” He believed that the bombing would be followed by heavy-handed anti-terrrorism legislation that would see federal agencies attempt to violently eradicate militia groups, and in turn, those groups would violently resist. “If this thing goes down,” Glover predicted in May 1995, “there’s going to be an extremely large number of US military that’s coming to our side with their weapons. They’ll turn like a dog on a cat.” He believed the militias would easily defeat the government forces—“We can whip those guys. We can take out the so-called ninja wanna-bes. We’ll beat ‘em quick”—but worries that President Clinton will turn to the Chinese forces he supposedly has housed throughout the United States: “That’s what worries us,” Glover said. “Then we’re gonna be fighting big time.” Glover became known to federal authorities after his frequent interviews with reporters after the Oklahoma City bombing, and claims to lead groups such as the Southern Kansas Regional Militia and the First Kansas Mechanized Infantry. (In his “real” life, Glover is a part-time computer consultant.) When the expected crackdown failed to materialize, Glover became a national council member of a national “umbrella” militia group called the Tri-States Militia (see October 1995 and After) and then began associating with ever-more violent anti-government extremists. Glover, Dorsett, and a small group of extremists devise an extensive plan to strike at a number of government facilities and military bases, beginning with Fort Hood.
Arrests - But federal and state authorities are well aware of their plans. At 6:15 a.m. on the morning of July 4, FBI agents arrest Glover and Dorsett in their tents in the Colorado Bend State Park. The two have an arsenal with them: two rifles, five pistols, 1600 rounds of ammunition, bulletproof vests, a smoke grenade, a homemade silencer, explosive material, a night vision scope, and other items. “Their explosives would have been more damaging to the personnel at Fort Hood than to the physical installation,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Lieutenant Richard Coffey later tells a Texas newspaper reporter. “They did not have the same philosophy as the people in Oklahoma City. They were not looking for a huge explosion to make their point.” Instead, they planned small, repeated explosions. Glover, charged only with weapons violations, posts bail and flees to Wisconsin, where he is quickly arrested again after another weapons charge is added to the original indictment. Dorsett is held on an outstanding federal passport violation. Fellow plotter Merlon “Butch” Lingfelter is later arrested in Wisconsin on July 10, while looking for Glover; he surrenders his two machine guns and two pipe bombs, but says, “I’m not trying to be a noble knight in this, but it’s time somebody somewhere does something.” Despite his defiance, Lingenfelter tells a reporter that the meetings held by Glover were merely social outings. Kevin and Terry Hobeck are arrested on July 10 in Colorado after giving two illegal automatic weapons to undercover police officers; Thomas and Kimberly Newman are arrested on July 11 in Kansas after Thomas Newman gives the same undercover officers a sack full of pipe bombs.
Suicide Mission? - One law enforcement official believes that the group may have intended to die in the planned Fort Hood attack. “I think you have to have a warped sense of reality to think you can pull of a mission like that,” Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain James Keathley later tells a Denver reporter. “It sounds like a suicide mission to me. I don’t know if they could have pulled this off.” [Mark Pitcavage, 1997; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Sentences - Glover will draw a seven-year prison sentence, and the others lesser terms. [Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2001]
Entity Tags: Kimberly Newman, Kevin Hobeck, Fort Hood, First Kansas Mechanized Infantry, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Bradley Glover, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, United Nations, US Department of the Army, Southern Kansas Regional Militia, Thomas Newman, James Keathley, Richard Coffey, Terry Hobeck, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Third Continental Congress, Merlon (“Butch”) Lingenfelter, Jr., Michael Dorsett, Tri-States Militia
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Lawyers for convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) ask Judge Richard P. Matsch for a new trial. They cite a number of reasons for the request, including what they call juror misconduct. Lead lawyer Stephen Jones says that jurors violated an order by Matsch not to discuss the case among themselves before they began their deliberations, referring to a conversation held on May 9 in which one juror allegedly said during a break, “I think we all know what the verdict should be.” Matsch was made aware of the conversation and decided it warranted no action. However, Jones says the conversation proves that McVeigh did not have “an impartial jury.” Jones also says McVeigh was denied a fair trial by Matsch’s ruling that the defense could not introduce into evidence a Justice Department report that criticized practices at the FBI crime laboratory (see January 27, 1997 and April 16, 1997). Jones also attacks Matsch’s refusal to allow the testimony of federal informant Carole Howe (see May 23, 1997), which might have led the jury to conclude that “the government failed to investigate leads which concerned a larger conspiracy to bomb the Federal Building in Oklahoma.” Matsch ruled that Howe’s testimony would have been irrelevant to the charges against McVeigh. “Had the defense been allowed to admit Howe’s testimony and present evidence that others may have committed the bombing,” Jones argues, “the seeds of reasonable doubt would have been planted in the minds of the jurors.” [New York Times, 7/8/1997] Prosecutors will oppose the request, calling the trial “scrupulously fair” and “close to perfect” in its handling. [New York Times, 7/25/1997] Matsch will deny the request (see August 12, 1997).
Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer. [Source: Associated Press]Gazi Ibrahim Abu Mezer, and Lafi Khalil, two Palestinian men who had recently immigrated from the West Bank to the US, are arrested in New York City. They are found with a number of hand made bombs, and officials claim they were mere hours away from using them on a busy Atlantic Avenue subway station and on a commuter bus. Police were tipped off to them by a roommate. [New York Times, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] In the days immediately after the arrests, numerous media reports claim that the FBI has tied the two men to Hamas. For instance, the Associated Press reports, “The FBI has linked two suspects in a Brooklyn suicide-bombing plot to the militant Mideast group Hamas… One man was linked to Hamas by intelligence sources, the other through an immigration document he had filled out in which he said he had been accused in Israel of having been in a terrorist organization. The organization, the source said, was Hamas.” Reports say both suspects “are working for Mousa Abu Marzouk, the Hamas political leader who lived in Virginia for 15 years before being arrested in 1995, imprisoned as a terrorism suspect, and then deported earlier [in 1997].”(see July 5, 1995-May 1997) [Associated Press, 8/1/1997; CNN, 8/2/1997] According to another account, “law enforcement authorities say these suspects made frequent phone calls from local neighborhood stores to various Hamas organization offices in the Middle East.” [PBS, 8/1/1997] Just days earlier, there had been a Hamas suicide bombing in Israel that killed fifteen people. Mezer or Khalil reportedly called the suicide bombers “heroes” and added, “We wish to join them.” [New York Times, 8/2/1997] A note is found in their apartment that threatens a series of attacks unless several jailed militants were released, including Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the top leader of Hamas. A copy of the letter was sent to the State Department two days before their arrest. A portrait of Abdul-Rahman is also found on the wall of their apartment. [CNN, 8/2/1997; New York Times, 8/6/1997] However, on August 4, US officials announce that the two had no ties to Hamas or any other organization. In his trial, Mezer will say he planned to use the bombs to kill as many Jews as possible, though not in a subway. He will describe himself as a supporter of Hamas but not a member. He will be convicted and sentenced to life in prison. Khalil will be acquitted of the terrorism charge, but convicted of having a fake immigration card. He will be sentenced to three years in prison and then ordered deported. [CNN, 8/4/1997; New York Times, 7/21/1998; National Journal, 9/19/2001]
On August 2, 1997, the Telegraph reports that Tayyib al-Madani, a chief financial officer for bin Laden, turned himself in to the Saudis in May 1997 (see May 1997). Later in the month, US agents raid Wadih El-Hage’s house in Nairobi, Kenya (see August 21, 1997). El-Hage and and Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), both members of the al-Qaeda cell in Nairobi, Kenya, start a flurry of phone traffic, warning other operatives about the raid and the defection. Their phones are already being monitored by the CIA and NSA (see May 21, 1996), who continue to listen in as they communicate nearly every day with al-Qaeda operatives in places such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, London, and Germany. They also phone other members of their cell in Mombasa, Kenya. It appears they realize their phones are being bugged because at one point Fazul explicitly warns an operative in Hamburg, Germany, Sadek Walid Awaad (a.k.a. Abu Khadija), to stop calling because the lines are bugged. However, US intelligence is able to learn much just from the numbers and locations that are being called. For instance, the call to Awaad alerts US intelligence to other operatives in Hamburg who know the 9/11 hijackers living there (see Late 1997). [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 200-202; El Pais, 9/17/2003]
According to a November 2001 Spanish government indictment, in August 1997, a Syrian Islamist militant named Abu Bashir is arrested in Yemen and accused of plotting to assassinate the Yemeni deputy prime minister. He is soon deported to Malaysia. London imam Abu Qatada then contacts Osama bin Laden and asks him for his help to get settled with a job and house in Malaysia. Then, in June 1998, Spanish al-Qaeda leader Barakat Yarkas and Qatada arrange for Bashir to move to London. The Observer will report in March 2004 that Bashir apparently is still living in public housing in London. [Observer, 3/21/2004] Presumably the Spanish government knows this because Spanish intelligence is heavily monitoring Yarkas at the time, and he is frequently meeting with Qatada in London (see 1995-February 2001). Qatada is working as a British government informant around this time (see June 1996-February 1997). The exact identity of Abu Bashir is not known as there are several al-Qaeda-linked figures with a similar name.
Judge Richard P. Matsch denies a bid by lawyers for accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) to disqualify US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan from serving in the trial. Ryan, the US Attorney from Oklahoma City, might cry during Nichols’s trial, Nichols’s lawyers argue, as he did during the trial of Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator, Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), and thus unduly influence the jury. Ryan wept during his questioning of a witness who was testifying about the death of a little girl in the bombing (see May 3, 1997). Ryan says of the questioning: “I recognize my voice quivered. I stopped for about 10 seconds to try to regain control.” Matsch asks Ryan, “Do you believe you can participate in the trial of Terry Nichols with the necessary detachment required of a trial advocate?” Ryan says that he can, and pledges “proper decorum” during the trial; Matsch then denies the request. Matsch does grant a defense request to hold a hearing about what use the FBI made of correspondence it had seized belonging to Nichols. Defense attorney Michael Tigar presents testimony that shows officials of the Bureau of Prisons made copies of Nichols’s correspondence with his son, Josh, his wife, Marife, his mother, and some close friends in Michigan. Tigar says he protested the handing over of that correspondence to the FBI. Prosecutor James Orenstein tells Matsch that prison officials had the authority to give copies of the correspondence to the FBI, but admits the correspondence gave them nothing useful. Matsch rules: “We’re entitled to find that out. We’re going to hold a hearing and find out what was done with the mail.” [New York Times, 8/14/1997]
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997), facing execution for his crimes (see June 11-13, 1997), is officially sentenced to death by Judge Richard P. Matsch. The hearing is a formality, as a jury sentenced McVeigh to death the day before; the entire proceeding takes nine minutes. Before Matsch pronounces sentence, he allows McVeigh to speak on his own behalf. McVeigh does so—briefly and cryptically. McVeigh says: “If the court please, I wish to use the words of Justice Brandeis dissenting in Olmstead to speak for me. He wrote: ‘Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example.’ That’s all I have.” McVeigh is referring to a dissent written by Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis in a 1928 decision, Olmstead v. United States, which upheld the use of wiretap evidence. Brandeis’s dissent said that the government may not commit crimes to enforce the law, and warned of “terrible retribution” if it did. Stephen Jones, McVeigh’s lead lawyer, refuses to speculate as to why McVeigh chose to use that quote, though Jones says it is a favorite of his client. McVeigh believes the government broke the law in the Branch Davidian siege (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Jones’s defense partner, Christopher Tritico, tells reporters he is unfamiliar with the quote and will have to look it up. US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan, part of the prosecution team, later says that McVeigh’s remarks were so fleeting that “I didn’t catch it all.” Many families of the bombing victims find McVeigh’s quote cryptic and unclear. Roy Sells, who lost his wife in the bombing, says: “I don’t know if he was referring to the Waco deal or what. I wish he would’ve quoted something from his own heart instead of out of somebody else’s book. I wanted to hear what he had to say about it.” A survivor of the bombing, Paul Heath, says McVeigh’s statement makes it clear he remains unrepentant and still considers himself a revolutionary. During the proceeding, Matsch asks McVeigh for permission to release a letter McVeigh wrote to him on June 22, which asked that Jones be replaced by other lawyers from the defense team for his appeals: Richard Burr, Robert Nigh Jr., and Randall Coyne. The letter was not specific about McVeigh’s reason for requesting Jones’s removal, but cited “problems and difficulties I have had with my appointed counsel in the past.” McVeigh will publicly blame Jones for “screwing up” his trial, and has reportedly told a Buffalo News reporter that he believes Jones repeatedly lied to him about unnamed aspects of the trial (see August 14-27, 1997). Jones merely reminds reporters: “I did not seek this appointment. I am, as I said, a draftee” (see May 8, 1995). [New York Times, 8/14/1997; Serrano, 1998, pp. 320; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006; University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law, 2006] McVeigh will later explain his choice of quote to Buffalo News reporter Lou Michel. “I want people to think about the statement,” McVeigh will say. “What [lead prosecutor Joseph] Hartzler is trying to do is not have people learn. He wants to have them put their heads in the sand.” The Brandeis quote, McVeigh will say, reflects on the death penalty: the government says it is wrong for McVeigh to have killed, and yet “now they’re going to kill me. They’re saying that’s an appropriate way to right a wrong?” [Serrano, 1998, pp. 321]
Entity Tags: Paul Heath, Lou Michel, Joseph H. Hartzler, Christopher L. Tritico, Patrick M. Ryan, Timothy James McVeigh, Roy Sells, Richard Burr, Richard P. Matsch, Stephen Jones, Robert Nigh, Jr, Randall Coyne, Louis Brandeis
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) concedes that his chances of avoiding execution through an appeal are “slim to none.” In a jailhouse interview published in the Buffalo News, McVeigh says the government’s evidence against him was problematic: “Some of it was false or some could be reasonably explained by other phenomenon.” McVeigh says that lab tests could have shown that the traces of explosive materials found on his clothes when he was arrested came from his own handgun. “What does that tell you about the objectivity of the FBI lab?” he asks (see January 27, 1997). [Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
Michael Scheuer, the first head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, will later write, “For most of a year the bin Laden unit prepared for an operation in a foreign city that was set to come to fruition in late-summer 1997. The unit’s lead US-based officer on this operation was an extraordinarily able analyst from [the FBI]; she knew the issue cold. Days before the operation occurred the [FBI] ordered her back to its headquarters. She protested, but was told that she would not be promoted if she balked at returning. I protested to my superiors and to the three most senior officers of the [FBI] who were then in charge of terrorism. All refused to intervene. The operation was much less well exploited because of the loss of this officer.” Other clues mentioned by Scheuer indicate this operation is the raid on Wadih El-Hage’s house in Nairobi, Kenya (see August 21, 1997). [Atlantic Monthly, 1/2004; Scheuer, 2005, pp. 191-192]
The outside and inside of El-Hage’s house in Nairobi. These pictures were apparently taken during the 1997 raid and were used as evidence in El-Hage’s trial. [Source: FBI]Dan Coleman, an FBI agent working with Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, has been examining transcripts from wiretapped phones connected to bin Laden’s businesses in Sudan (see Early 1990s). One frequently called number belongs to Wadih El-Hage, a US citizen who is later revealed to be bin Laden’s personal secretary. El-Hage often makes obvious and clumsy attempts to speak in code. The CIA comes to believe that El-Hage might be recruited as an agent. On this day, Coleman, two CIA agents, and a Kenyan police officer enter El-Hage’s house in Nairobi, Kenya, with a search warrant. The investigators interview El-Hage (who returned that day from visiting bin Laden in Afghanistan) and confiscate his computer. [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001; Wright, 2006, pp. 242-244] A large amount of incriminating evidence is discovered in El-Hage’s documents and computer files (see Shortly After August 21, 1997 and Shortly After August 21, 1997). El-Hage moves to the US, where he is interviewed by a grand jury, then let go (see September 24, 1997). He will be arrested shortly after al-Qaeda bombs the US embassy in Nairobi (see September 15, 1998). He will be sentenced to life in prison for his role in that attack. State Department officials will later strongly assert that while staffers at the US embassy in Kenya were told about the raid at the time, they were not told about any potential connection to al-Qaeda. However, US intelligence officials strongly assert that the embassy staff was frequently briefed about the bin Laden connection. [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
Al Haramain Islamic Foundation’s main office in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. [Source: Bilal Qabalan / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images]Wadih El-Hage has been bin Laden’s personal secretary since the early 1990s. When US agents raid his house in Nairobi, Kenya, they seize his address book (see August 21, 1997), which contains the names and phone numbers for many other al-Qaeda operatives. [CNN, 5/25/2001] The names discovered in the book include:
Ali Mohamed, the al-Qaeda double agent living in California. US investigators are already tapping his California phone and have been tapping calls between him and El-Hage since at least 1996 (see April 1996).
Mamoun Darkazanli. He is a Syrian-born businessman living in Hamburg, Germany, who has contacts with Mohamed Atta’s al-Qaeda cell in the same city. Darkazanli’s name and phone number are listed, and El-Hage even has a business card listing El-Hage’s address in Texas and Darkazanli’s address in Hamburg (see Late 1998).
Ghassan Dahduli. He works at two US non-profit organizations, the Islamic Association for Palestine and InfoCom. Both organizations will be shut down for supporting terrorist networks (see September 16, 1998-September 5, 2001).
Salah al-Rajhi (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). He and his brother of Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, are billionaires and jointly own the Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp. Sulaiman started a network of organizations in Herndon, Virginia known as the SAAR network (named for the four initials in his name). This network will be raided by US officials in 2002 for suspected terrorist funding ties (see March 20, 2002). [Newsweek, 12/9/2002]
Ihab Ali Nawawi, an al-Qaeda operative living in Florida. He is referred to as “Ihab Ali” and his location in Tampa, Florida, is mentioned. He will not be arrested until May 1999 (see May 18, 1999). [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 39, 5/3/2001]
Essam Marzouk. He is linked to both al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad and is living in Vancouver, Canada at the time. He will later train the 1998 embassy bombers. It is unclear if the link to Marzouk is shared with Canadian intelligence (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). [National Post, 3/19/2002]
Essam al Ridi. He is a US citizen and a pilot who helped bin Laden buy an airplane in the US in the early 1990s (see Early 1993). He appears to have no militant ties after that. In late 1999, US prosecutors will contact al Ridi where he is living in Bahrain and convince him to testify against El-Hage and others involved in the 1998 embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [CNN, 7/2/2002]
Farid Adlouni. He is a civil engineer living in Lake Oswego, Oregon. In 1996 and 1997, El-Hage calls Adlouni in Oregon 72 times, sometimes just before or after meeting with bin Laden. Adlouni’s home phone and fax numbers are be found in two personal phone directories and one notebook kept by El-Hage (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). Earlier in 1997, El-Hage also sent him a fax written by al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef (see Febuary 25, 1997). Records show that El-Hage has extensive dealings with Adlouni, mostly by selling gems El-Hage bought in Africa for a better price in the US. The FBI interviews Adlouni twice in late 1997, but he is not arrested. As of 2002, it will be reported that he continues to live in Oregon and remains a “person of interest” and subject of investigation by the FBI. [Oregonian, 9/13/2002]
Khalid al-Fawwaz. He is al-Qaeda’s de facto press secretary in London. El-Hage gives al-Fawwaz’s correct name, London phone number, and street address, but lists him as living in Texas. Presumably this is a slight attempt at subterfuge. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 38, 5/2/2001]
A business card in the name Mamdouh M. Salim is found. This is a reference to Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a known al-Qaeda leader. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 37, 5/1/2001]
A business card belonging to Mansour al-Kadi is found. [New Yorker, 4/21/2008] Al-Kadi is the Deputy General of the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a suspect Saudi charity closely linked to the Saudi government. Al-Kadi will be fired in early 2004 and the entire foundation will be shut down several months later (see March 2002-September 2004). The Treasury Department will later say that Al Haramain has a role in the 1998 African embassy bombings (see Autumn 1997). [US Treasury Department, 9/9/2004]
Several business cards relating to the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). A 1996 CIA report connected the IIRO to terrorist funding, but the IIRO will not be prosecuted due to its close ties to the Saudi government (see January 1996 and October 12, 2001). [Newsweek, 12/9/2002]
According to author Douglas Farah, the address book is “full of the names of diamond dealers and jewelers, often including the purchaser’s home phone number.” This suggests al-Qaeda could be profiting from the diamond trade in Africa. [Farah, 2004, pp. 64-65]
But Farah also will note in 2004 that many of the leads from El-Hage’s address book and other documents discovered around the same time are not fully explored. In fact, he says that “Most of El-Hage’s notebooks, written in Arabic, have still not been translated into English.” [Farah, 2004, pp. 64-65]
Entity Tags: Ihab Ali Nawawi, International Islamic Relief Organization, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Mamoun Darkazanli, Ghassan Dahduli, Farid Adlouni, Ali Mohamed, Essam Marzouk, Essam al Ridi, Wadih El-Hage, Salah al-Rajhi, Mansour al-Kadi, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. [Source: FBI]FBI agent Dan Coleman and other US investigators discover a number of revealing items in the raid on Wadih El-Hage’s house in Nairobi, Kenya (see August 21, 1997). It is already known that El-Hage is a member of an al-Qaeda Kenya cell and bin Laden’s former personal secretary. Items found include:
A letter is found on El-Hage’s confiscated personal computer written by Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), another member of the al-Qaeda Kenya cell who is living with El-Hage at the time. The letter was written a week before the raid. It refers to the “East African cell,” alludes to the cell’s role in attacking US soldiers in Somalia in 1993 (see Late 1992-October 1993 and 1993), explains that a cache of incriminating files was recently moved from El-Hage’s house and hidden, and says the members of the cell are “convinced one hundred percent” that they’re being monitored by intelligence agencies. It also talks about other operatives in the town of Mombasa, Kenya, and talks about the imminent arrival of “engineers” to help the cell. [New York Times, 1/9/1999; PBS Frontline, 4/1999; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 204-205]
Another document found on the same computer reveals that El-Hage was sent to Kenya by bin Laden to initiate a “new policy” for the Kenya cell and “prepare 300 activists.” Other members of the cell were advised “of the need to move families to a secure region before the ‘activism.’” It notes that other operatives have carried out an operation in the capital of Ethiopia (presumably the attempted assassination of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak (see Shortly After June 26, 1995)) and adds, “There are a lot of explosions in the other cities, and the brothers are taking up these operations.” [New York Times, 1/22/2000]
A genuine-looking Kenyan travel stamp is found, which could be used to make documents appear authentic. [New York Times, 1/22/2000]
Other files reveal that El-Hage and an associate are fabricating false passports for operatives in the Caucasus, as well as for fighters in Somalia. [New York Times, 1/22/2000]
Further documents show that El-Hage bought guns for bin Laden in Eastern Europe and was making frequent trips to Tanzania (the Kenya al-Qaeda cell will bomb the US embassy in Tanzania in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [Wright, 2006, pp. 244]
Additionally, El-Hage’s address book is found, which provides many more leads (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). Yet, despite all this, no arrests are made and no urgent alarms are sounded. The wiretaps on the Kenya cell are actually stopped by the end of the month. [MSNBC, 12/4/2000] Crucial data about Fazul Abdullah Mohammed is found as well. US intelligence does look for him for a while. But he simply leaves Kenya for a few months and then returns, moving to another house in Nairobi and where he starts work on building bombs in May 1998. [MSNBC, 12/4/2000; Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001; US Congress, 10/21/2003] Author Lawrence Wright who interviews Coleman will paraphrase Coleman’s thoughts at the time: “Al-Qaeda was up to something, but it was unclear what that was. In any case, it was certainly a low-end operation, and the exposure of [El-Hage’s] house in Nairobi had no doubt put an end to it.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 244]
The address book of Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s former personal secretary, is seized in a US intelligence raid in Nairobi, Kenya (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). One of the contacts in the book is billionaire Salah al-Rajhi. He and his brother Sulaiman al-Rajhi cofounded the Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp., which will have an estimated $28 billion in assets in 2006. Sulaiman started a network of organizations in Herndon, Virginia known as the SAAR network (named for the four initials in his name). This network will be raided by US officials in 2002 for suspected terrorist funding ties (see March 20, 2002). [Newsweek, 12/9/2002; Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007] Sulaiman also was on the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda funders (see 1988-1989). After 9/11, the US will seriously consider taking action against the Al-Rajhi Bank for alleged terrorist ties, but will ultimately do nothing (see Mid-2003 and Mid-2003). [Wall Street Journal, 7/26/2007]
Ahmed Said Khadr, standng on the left, in an orphanage while working for Human Concern International. [Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]During an FBI raid on a suspected al-Qaeda cell in Kenya, US investigators discover the address book of Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s former personal secretary (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). The book contains the names of many militant contacts around the world.
One entry in his book is for “Essam,” giving an address in Surrey, near Vancouver, British Columbia. That address is where Essam Marzouk lives. [National Post, 3/19/2002] Marzouk moved to Vancouver in 1993, and ever since his arrival Canadian intelligence has suspected he is a radical militant and has been monitoring him (see June 16, 1993-February 1998). It is not clear if the FBI ever shares the El-Hage link with Canadian intelligence, and apparently the Canadians are unable to gather enough evidence to arrest Marzouk and other probable al-Qaeda operatives living in Vancouver until they leave in 1998.
The raid also discovers the business card of Kaleem Akhtar, executive director of Human Concern International, a Canadian based charity. While Akhtar has not been accused of any militant links, up until 1996, a Canadian named Ahmed Said Khadr worked for the charity. [National Post, 3/19/2002] In late 1995, he was arrested for suspected involvement in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan, which was blamed on Islamic Jihad (see November 19, 1995), but he was let go a short time later due to a request from the Canadian prime minister. In 1998, it will be reported that he is frequently traveling between Pakistan and Canada and is wanted by the Pakistani government, but he will not be arrested in either country. It will later be determined that he was one of the founding members of al-Qaeda. [Globe and Mail, 9/5/1998]
Another business card found during the raid has an Ottawa, Canada, phone number written on the back. Who this number belongs to has not been made public, except that the number is out of service by 2002. [National Post, 3/19/2002] However, there are some militant contacts in Ottawa around this time, including Khadr on occasion. In March 1997, Canadian intelligence monitor a militant named Mohamed Harkat as he says he will be meeting Khadr in Ottawa later that month. [Canadian Security Intelligence Service, 2/22/2008 ] Is it unknown if the FBI shares the other phone numbers with Canadian intelligence.
Tom Simons. [Source: Stanford University press]According to later released US documents, US Ambassador to Pakistan Tom Simons
criticizes a high-ranking Pakistani official about Pakistan’s aid to the Taliban. This official protests that total Pakistani aid to the Taliban is only about half a million dollars. However, Simons replies that even if he believed that figure, it does not include wheat, petroleum, oil, lubricants, and “trucks and buses full of adolescent [fighters] crossing the frontier shouting ‘allahu akbar’ and going into the line with a day or two of weapons training. That [is] Pakistan’s real aid.” [US Embassy (Islamabad), 8/27/1997 ]
The upcoming trial of Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) is expected to be fundamentally different from the trial of Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), according to a New York Times analysis. The charges against Nichols will be much the same—eight federal counts of murder and three conspiracy charges—but the case will include different evidence and different witnesses. Nichols was not in Oklahoma City on the day of the bombing; according to his lawyer Michael Tigar, Nichols had withdrawn from the bombing conspiracy (see March 1995), and was at his Kansas home with his family on the days preceding the bombing as well as on the morning of the bombing (see May 25 - June 2, 1995). The evidence against Nichols is strong, prosecutors say, but mostly circumstantial. And the case will hinge on evidence not introduced at McVeigh’s trial, including Nichols’s alleged participation in a robbery that prosecutors say helped fund the bombing (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). Much of the evidence that will be introduced against Nichols derives from a nine-hour interview Nichols gave to FBI agents two days after the bombing, when he voluntarily turned himself in for questioning (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Notes from that interview were not allowed to be used in the McVeigh trial because Nichols could not be compelled to testify, but Judge Richard P. Matsch has ruled that they may be introduced against Nichols. Some discrepancies exist between the government’s timeline of events and the evidence, such as an April 16, 1995 telephone call that prosecutors say McVeigh made to Nichols from Oklahoma City (see April 16-17, 1995); that phone call did not come from Oklahoma City, but from an outdoor pay phone near Nichols’s home in Herington, Kansas. Prosecutors believe Nichols lied to the FBI about the extent and purpose of his contacts with McVeigh in April 1995. [New York Times, 8/29/1997]
Al Haramain Foundation’s Kenya office in 2004. [Source: Associated Press]An informant tells an intelligence agency allied to the US that the Nairobi, Kenya, branch of a Saudi charity named the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation is plotting to blow up the US embassy in Nairobi. The chief of the CIA station in Kenya passes on this informant’s warning to Ambassador Prudence Bushnell and others at the embassy. On October 31, 1997, the Kenyan government acts on the informants’ tip, arresting nine Arabs connected to the charity and seizing their files.
Charity Already Linked to Al-Qaeda Cell in Kenya - A 1996 secret CIA report shows the CIA has already linked Al Haramain to militants, smuggling, drug running, and prostitution (see January 1996). In August 1997, US intelligence raids the Kenya house of Wadih el-Hage because they correctly believe he is heading an al-Qaeda cell there (see August 21, 1997). The raid uncovers a business card belonging to Mansour al-Kadi, the Deputy General of Al Haramain’s worldwide operations (see Shortly After August 21, 1997).
CIA Fails to Take Warning Seriously - The CIA sends a special team to analyze the files and finds no evidence of a plot. This team wants to question the nine arrested Arabs, but the CIA station chief refuses to ask the Kenyan government for access to the suspects, saying he doesn’t want to bother them any more about the issue. The CIA drops the investigation and the nine Arabs are deported. Ambassador Bushnell is told that the threat has been eliminated. But some members of the CIA team are furious and feel that their investigation was short-circuited. Some intelligence officials believe at the time that members of the charity have ties to bin Laden. [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
Charity Later Linked to Kenya Bombings - The Nairobi embassy will be bombed in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). In 2004, it will be reported that according to US officials, “A wholesale fish business financed with Al Haramain funds… steered profits to the al-Qaeda cell behind the [embassy bombing].” One of the bombers confessed days after the bombing that this “business was for al-Qaeda.” [Associated Press, 6/7/2004] In 2004, the Treasury Department will say that two members of the Al Haramain branch in the nearby Comoros Islands helped some of the bombers escape from Kenya after the bombings. [US Treasury Department, 9/9/2004]
Charity Stays Open, Linked to Later Kenya Bombing - A month later after the bombing,s the Kenyan government will ban Al Haramain from the country, but its office nonetheless remains open. Some funds connected to it are believed to have helped support the al-Qaeda cell behind the 2002 bombings in Mombasa, Kenya (see November 28, 2002). Yet Al Haramain’s Kenya office still remains open until late 2004, when Al Haramain is shut down worldwide (see March 2002-September 2004). [Associated Press, 6/7/2004]
Hassan Hattab. [Source: Public domain]Facing criticism by bin Laden and other Islamist militants for massacres of fellow Muslims in Algeria (see Mid-1996), the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) issues a statement defending its actions. It states all of the Algerian populace are apostates and deserve to die for not supporting the GIA. It justifies to raping of captured women. This statement is considered so outrageous that al-Qaeda cuts all ties to the GIA leadership, denounces top leader Antar Zouabri, and encourages another GIA leader, Hassan Hattab, to form a new group. In May 1998, Hattab and several hundred GIA members leave the GIA and creates the new Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC). Bin Laden tries to persuade the GSPC to concentrate their attacks on Algerian security forces. Within one year, the GSPC is already estimated to have 3,000 armed supporters. The GIA continues but at a reduced level as the al-Qaeda supported GSPC becomes the main radical militant group in Algeria. [Reeve, 1999, pp. 209; Gunaratna, 2003, pp. 184-185]
The Texas tire store where El-Hage worked in 1997. [Source: CNN]In August 1997, US intelligence raids the home of Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s former personal secretary and a US citizen (see August 21, 1997). With his cover blown, El-Hage decides to return to the US. Arriving at a New York City airport on September 23, he is served with a subpoena to testify before a grand jury the next day. He testifies for several hours and is questioned extensively. [United State of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 36, 4/30/2001] US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will later claim that “El-Hage chose to lie repeatedly to the grand jury, but even in his lies he provided some information of potential use to the intelligence community—including potential leads” to the location of his confederates and wanted missing files. [New York Times, 1/9/1999; US Congress, 10/21/2003] But after this, El-Hage is not arrested. He moves back to Texas, where he had lived in the early 1990s, and works in a tire store. [Arizona Republic, 9/28/2001] In October 1997, he is interviewed by agents in Texas [United State of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 28, 4/12/2001] , and then left alone until August 1998 when he will be interrogated again shortly after the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). He is ultimately arrested and found guilty for his role in those bombings.
Leading radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri edits the Al Ansar newsletter published for the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), a radical faction engaged in a bitter civil war with the Algerian government. It is unclear when Abu Hamza starts editing the publication, but it was previously edited by Abu Qatada, another leading radical London imam who broke with the GIA in the summer of 1996, so Abu Hamza may have started editing it then (see January 5, 1996 and Mid 1996-October 1997). It was also previously edited by Rachid Ramda, a suspect in bombings in France, and was reportedly financed by Osama bin Laden (see 1994). In the mid-1990s, the GIA commits a series of massacres of the civilian population in Algeria, apparently due to a change of the organization’s direction initiated by an Algerian government mole (see October 27, 1994-July 16, 1996). Abu Hamza, himself an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), initially supports the GIA despite the massacres, although other senior Islamists such as bin Laden and Abu Qatada break with the group over the issue (see Mid-1996 and Mid 1996-October 1997). However, by the fall of 1997 worshippers at Finsbury park mosque in London, where Abu Hamza preaches, are so angry that he is forced to stop editing Al Ansar and sever his ties with the organization. What happens to Al Ansar after this is not known, but it presumably fades in importance as the GIA declines in importance as well. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 43]
US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and FBI agents Jack Cloonan and Harlan Bell, all members of the I-49 squad, take Ali Mohamed out for dinner at a restaurant in Sacramento, California (he has recently moved there from Santa Clara, California). Fitzgerald pays for Mohamed’s meal. Cloonan will later recall, “The purpose in us going to meet Ali at that point in time is that we wanted to gain his cooperation. We knew of his long history having been connected to al-Qaeda, and what we desperately wanted was to convince Ali Mohamed to cooperate with us that night.” During the several-hour-long meeting, Mohamed says the following:
He “loved” bin Laden and “believes in him.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4/2001; Lance, 2006, pp. 274-276]
He organized bin Laden’s move from Afghanistan to Sudan in 1991 (see Summer 1991).
He was in Somalia training militants to fight US soldiers in 1993. He claims “bin Laden’s people were responsible” for the killing of 18 US soldiers there (see 1993).
He trained bin Laden’s personal bodyguards in 1994 and he lived in bin Laden’s house while doing so (see Shortly After February 1994). [Lance, 2006, pp. 274-276]
He says he trained people in “war zones, and… war zones can be anywhere.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2001]
He asserts he doesn’t need a religious edict to make war on the US since it is “obvious” that the US is “the enemy.” Author Peter Lance will later note these words clearly “amounted to treason.”
Cloonan will recall, “He said that he was in touch with hundreds of people he could call on in a moment’s notice that could be, quote, ‘operational,’ and wage jihad against the United States. Very brazenly, he said, ‘I can get out anytime and you’ll never find me. I’ve got a whole network. You’ll never find me.”
After dinner, Cloonan will recall that Fitzgerald turned to him and said, “This is the most dangerous man I have ever met. We cannot let this man out on the street.” But Lance will later note, “But that’s just what he did. Patrick Fitzgerald allowed Ali Mohamed to go free”—even though Mohamed firmly rejected the offer to cooperate. During the dinner, other agents break into Mohamed’s house and bug his computer (his phone is already tapped (see Late 1994). Mohamed will continue to live in California for nearly a year and won’t be arrested until after the August 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). The FBI apparently makes a report based on Mohamed’s comments at this meeting (see After October 1997). But no evidence has come to light that Mohamed’s confession is shared with top US officials or spread widely within US intelligence before 9/11. [Lance, 2006, pp. 274-276] In 2003, Fitzgerald will testify before a Senate committee and claim that when he had to make the decision after the embassy bombings whether or not to arrest Mohamed (see September 10, 1998), the “decision to arrest was made partly in the dark” because prosecutors could “not learn what information [the FBI] had gathered” on Mohamed. Fitzgerald will fail to mention that he was sitting with FBI agents when Mohamed gave this startling confession. [US Congress, 10/21/2003]
Fazul Abdullah Mohammed. [Source: Daily Nation]Shortly after the US raid on Wadih El-Hage’s house in Nairobi, Kenya (see August 21, 1997), US investigators discover a letter in the house that mentions a cache of incriminating files had been moved from the house and hidden elsewhere. Investigators suspect the files could contain evidence of a coming attack by El-Hage’s Nairobi cell. A law enforcement official later says US investigators begin a “somewhat frantic, concerted effort” to locate the missing files. “The concern was high enough about something being out there to go right away.” A search for the files is conducted at another location in Kenya in September 1997, but the files are not found. [New York Times, 1/9/1999] But despite this search, and even though other documents found in the raid refer to other unknown members of the cell and the imminent arrival of more operatives (see Shortly After August 21, 1997), the wiretaps on five phone numbers connected to El-Hage are discontinued in October 1997, one month after El-Hage moved to the US (see September 24, 1997). Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), who had been living with El-Hage and using the same phones as him, takes over running the cell. US intelligence will resume monitoring the phones in May 1998 and continue to monitor them through August 1998 (see May 1998), when the cell will successfully attack US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). It will be stated in the 2002 book The Cell, “The hardest thing to understand in retrospect is why US law enforcement did nothing else to disrupt the activities of the Nairobi cell” after the raid on El-Hage’s house. [New York Times, 1/13/2001; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 203-205] The files will be found only after the African embassy bombings, when the offices of the charity Mercy International are searched on August 20, 1998. They will contain incriminating information, including numerous phone calls from bin Laden to Nairobi. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al, 3/20/2001] It is not clear why the charity was not searched before the attacks, since two of the five phones monitored since 1996 were to Mercy’s Kenya offices (see Late 1996-August 20, 1998).
The British domestic counterintelligence service MI5 meets with Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading British imam and informer (see Early 1997). After the exchange of “pleasantries,” Abu Hamza and his handler discuss his recent breach with the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA), an Algerian militant group, which has been indiscriminately killing civilians (see Mid 1996-October 1997). The handler notes that “[Abu] Hamza is bowed but not broken,” and adds, “For him the jihad goes on, if not in Algeria then somewhere else.” Abu Hamza tells the MI5 officer that Britain “is seen as a place to fundraise and to propagate Islam.” Authors Daniel O’Neill and Sean McGrory will later comment, “The admission that Abu Hamza and his followers were using [Britain] to raise funds to finance terrorism overseas did not seem to cause a blip on the MI5 agent’s radar.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 145]
Double agent Ali Mohamed gives a hint about the upcoming African embassy bombings to an FBI agent. Harlan Bell, one of the FBI agents who met with Mohamed at an October 1997 dinner where Mohamed detailed his al-Qaeda ties (see October 1997), is apparently continuing to regularly talk to him on the phone (though it is not known what they discuss). Bell begins recording these phone calls (which are presumably being recorded by others as well since all of Mohamed’s communications are being monitored by this time (see October 1997-September 10, 1998)). FBI agent Jack Cloonan, who works with Bell in the I-49 bin Laden squad, will later recall that after the embassy bombings Bell will replay one of these taped conversations. “It became apparent from listening to one of those tapes that Ali was talking about a possible target in East Africa. He never specifically said the embassy or that he knew an attack was imminent, but he was giving this up in a sense before the attack took place.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 207-208]
The State Department officially designates the Abu Sayyaf a foreign terrorist organization. The Abu Sayyaf is a militant group in the Philippines with reported connections to bin Laden. Thirty groups are newly listed, including other groups associated with bin Laden, such as the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) in Algeria. [New York Times, 10/7/1997] However, al-Qaeda will not be so listed until 1999 (see October 8, 1999). Al-Qaeda is still relatively unknown; the name was first mentioned in the media in 1996 (see August 14, 1996).
The FBI installs a wiretap in double agent Ali Mohamed’s computer (the FBI has been monitoring his phone since 1993 (see Autumn 1993 and Late 1994)). According to FBI agent Jack Cloonan, “The Sacramento [FBI] office did a wonderful job of getting into his apartment, wiring it up, and exploiting his computer. So we were able to download a lot of stuff.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 276] Not much is known about what is on his computer, but a 2001 trial will mention that Wadih El-Hage, head of the cell in Kenya planning the African embassy bombings (see Between October 1997 and August 7, 1998), sent Mohamed a computer file about the death of al-Qaeda leader Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri by drowning in Kenya in May 1996 (see May 21, 1996). [Lance, 2006, pp. 297-298] Journalist Peter Lance believes that, given Mohamed’s apparent foreknowledge of the embassy bombings, the computer probably contained references to that operation. In his book Triple Cross, he asks, “If [US agents] now had access to Mohamed’s phone and hard disk, why didn’t they come to understand his role as a key player in the embassy bombing plot?… If their motive was to lie in wait—to monitor his phone calls and e-mail traffic—why didn’t that surveillance put them right in the middle of the embassy plot?” [Lance, 2006, pp. 276]
Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed. [Source: PBS]An Egyptian named Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed walks into the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and tells CIA officers that he knows of a group planning to blow up the embassy. He reveals that he is part of the group and has already taken surveillance photos of the embassy for the attack. The details he mentions, such as the use of several vehicles and stun grenades, accurately depicts how the attack will actually occur nine months later. He works for an al-Qaeda front company in Kenya. The CIA sends the State Department two intelligence reports on Ahmed’s warning, but cautions that he may have fabricated his story. Ahmed is released and deported. He apparently is involved in the bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on the same day the Nairobi embassy is bombed. Ahmed will contact the British embassy the day after the bombings and offer to help. He is overheard saying that, “I told them everything I knew” and that he had been cooperating with Western officials “since last year.” He will reveal important information that leads to the arrest of some of the bombers (see August 8-15, 1998). [New York Times, 10/23/1998; New York Times, 1/9/1999; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 205] The State Department is in charge of embassy security, and the department steps up security at the Nairobi embassy for several weeks, but then security measures return to normal. Prudence Bushnell, the US Ambassador to Kenya, will plead for improved embassy security, but her requests will go unheeded (see December 1997-Spring 1998). [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
Ali Soufan. [Source: CBS News]Ali Soufan joins the FBI. Soufan is a US citizen and recently graduated from a US university, but he is a Muslim who was born and raised in Lebanon and speaks fluent Arabic, making him particularly suited to understanding Islamist militant threats. Soufan is assigned to the FBI’s New York office, which happens to be the office taking the lead in cases involving Osama bin Laden. Initially, Soufan is assigned to Mafia cases. But he has had a long-standing interest in bin Laden, and after reading in an Arabic newspaper about bin Laden’s fatwa (religious edict) against the US in February 1998 (see February 22, 1998), he will write an FBI memo explaining the fatwa’s significance. This will get him increasingly involved in counterterrorism cases, and shortly after the East African embassy bombings in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), he will be assigned to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF). He will begin working with FBI bin Laden expert John O’Neill and the counterterrorism I-49 squad, which is increasingly focusing on bin Laden. [Soufan, 2011, pp. 1-16]
Ashton Carter. [Source: Aspen Institute]Over a period of nine months, faculty from Harvard University, Stanford University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the University of Virginia meet in a collaborative effort called the Catastrophic Terrorism Study Group. Its members include experts on terrorism, national security, intelligence, and law enforcement. The project director is Philip Zelikow, future executive director of the 9/11 Commission. Future 9/11 Commissioner Jamie Gorelick is also a member, along with Ernest May, who will be a senior advisor to the 9/11 Commission. The culmination of the group’s efforts is a report written by Zelikow and its two co-chairs: former Assistant Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and former CIA Director John Deutch. A condensed version of the report is published in the journal Foreign Affairs in late 1998. They write: “Long part of the Hollywood and Tom Clancy repertory of nightmarish scenarios, catastrophic terrorism has moved from far-fetched horror to a contingency that could happen next month. Although the United States still takes conventional terrorism seriously… it is not yet prepared for the new threat of catastrophic terrorism.” They predict the consequences of such an event: “An act of catastrophic terrorism that killed thousands or tens of thousands of people and/or disrupted the necessities of life for hundreds of thousands, or even millions, would be a watershed event in America’s history. It could involve loss of life and property unprecedented for peacetime and undermine Americans’ fundamental sense of security within their own borders in a manner akin to the 1949 Soviet atomic bomb test, or perhaps even worse. Constitutional liberties would be challenged as the United States sought to protect itself from further attacks by pressing against allowable limits in surveillance of citizens, detention of suspects, and the use of deadly force. More violence would follow, either as other terrorists seek to imitate this great ‘success’ or as the United States strikes out at those considered responsible. Like Pearl Harbor, such an event would divide our past and future into a ‘before’ and ‘after.’” [Carter, Deutch, and Zelikow, 10/1998; Foreign Affairs, 11/1998; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. xi-xiv]
A 1997 FBI report on double agent Ali Mohamed states, “He knows, for example, that there are hundreds of ‘sleepers’ or ‘submarines’ in place who don’t fit neatly into the terrorist profile. These individuals don’t wear the traditional beards and don’t pray at the mosques.” [Raleigh News and Observer, 10/21/2001] This is very likely a reference to comments Mohamed made while having dinner with some FBI agents and US prosecutors on October 1997 (see October 1997). One attendee of that dinner, FBI agent Jack Cloonan, will recall a very similar comment Mohamed made then: “He said that he was in touch with hundreds of people he could call on in a moment’s notice that could be, quote, ‘operational,’ and wage jihad against the United States.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 274-276] If so, it is probable that other comments he made at the dinner were included in the FBI report as well, such as his comment that he loves and believes in bin Laden, the US is the enemy, and that he trained Somalis to kill US soldiers in 1993 (see October 1997). But the FBI still takes no action against him.
French authorities worry about a possible attack by militant Islamists during the 1998 World Cup in France. This “huge security headache” is primarily related to Algerian militants who previously bombed the Paris metro in 1995 (see July-October 1995) and are now “living untroubled lives in London.” Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will write: “France was on edge. Such was her anxiety about the World Cup that she demanded cooperation from her European neighbours. Where she deemed that collaboration was lacking, or less than enthusiastic, she was sending her own teams of agents abroad to carry out the task of gathering intelligence on Islamist militants.” In this context the French authorities are most concerned about London-based radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, a spiritual leader for the Algerians (see Spring 1998). One of the people plotting attacks at the World Cup, an Algerian, is arrested in Belgium in March 1998, and this leads to further arrests across Europe, although the actual nature of the plot is not known definitively. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 123-4, 128]
The federal trial of Oklahoma City bombing co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and August 10, 1995) begins. As with Nichols’s accused co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh, recently convicted of murder and conspiracy surrounding the bombing (see June 2, 1997), the trial takes place in Denver, and is presided over by Judge Richard P. Matsch. Nichols faces the same eight counts of murdering federal officials and three counts of conspiracy that McVeigh was convicted of, and like McVeigh, he faces the death penalty if convicted. [New York Times, 11/4/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001] The jury consists of seven women and five men. It includes two bus drivers; a day-care worker; a bank clerk; a soda machine installer; a telemarketer; a loading-dock worker; a maintenance employee; an obstetrics nurse; a remedial reading tutor; a contract seamstress, whose husband is a corrections officer; and a geophysicist. Two members of the jury are African-American. As with the McVeigh jurors, their identities are concealed. Legal analysts say there is far less direct evidence of Nichols’s guilt than existed to use against McVeigh. [Washington Post, 10/31/1997; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Prosecutors tell the jury that Nichols worked “side by side” with McVeigh to build the bomb that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building. For his part, Nichols’s lawyer Michael E. Tigar says Nichols had nothing to do with the bomb plot, and is a victim of McVeigh’s deceit and a web of misleading circumstantial evidence. Lead prosecutor Larry Mackey (see October 31, 1997) says that the deceit was on the part of Nichols. Mackey acknowledges that Nichols was at his Herington, Kansas, home on the morning of the bombing: “Terry Nichols had planned it just that way,” he says. But Nichols had been involved in every aspect of building the bomb and plotting the attack. The prosecution’s case is far broader in its scope than the more narrowly focused case against McVeigh (see August 29, 1997). Tigar indicates that he plans to challenge what he calls the “junk science” used by the prosecution to forensically prove Nichols’s involvement in building the bomb. [New York Times, 11/4/1997]
The prosecution in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) opens with an array of witnesses, people who either lived through the bombing or who lost family members or friends. Unlike the heart-rending tales told throughout the trial of Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), the stories told today are strictly curtailed in order to restrict emotional reactions from jurors. Four jury members weep anyway during the recountings. Judge Richard P. Matsch, ruling in favor of a defense motion, has precluded “overly emotional” testimony, telling jurors this morning, “You have to consider it and not consider the emotions of it.” Matsch explains that testimony from survivors is being introduced only to establish who had died and how their deaths had affected the performance of the federal government, important elements in the indictment (see August 10, 1995), which charges not only murder but also a crime that interfered with interstate commerce. Witnesses stick closely to the bare facts and eschew the emotional stories and vignettes that were prominently featured during McVeigh’s trial. Even so, the testimony of survivor Helena Garrett, who testified during McVeigh’s trial (see April 25, 1997), moves some jurors to tears as she tells of waiting for rescue personnel to find her infant son, Tevin, who died in the blast. She says one child “looked as if she’d been dipped in blood,” and talks of the “line” made “of our babies” by rescue personnel who brought out the dead and injured children from the blasted Murrah Federal Building. [New York Times, 11/5/1997]
Prosecutors in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) link Nichols and his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), to the October 1994 theft of explosive materials from a Kansas quarry (see October 3, 1994). The prosecution claims that Nichols and McVeigh used those materials in the construction of the bomb that devastated the Murrah Federal Building and killed 168 people. A blaster at the Martin Marietta Aggregates quarry near Marion, Kansas, Allen E. Radtke, testifies that on October 3, he discovered that someone had stolen 1,200 to 1,400 electric blasting caps, 75 60-foot lengths of Primadet non-electric blasting caps, and 150 sticks of Tovex explosive from two sheds. On October 4, Radtke says, he found that someone had drilled open the padlock on the back door of a third shed. FBI analyst James J. Cadigan testifies that he had compared the marks left on the padlock with a quarter-inch drill bit found at Nichols’s home (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Though the marks on the padlock seem to match marks made by Nichols’s drill bit, Judge Richard P. Matsch instructs the jury to disregard Cadigan’s conclusions to that effect. Nichols’s lawyer Michael Tigar, who has called such analysis “junk science” (see November 3, 1997), says that a thousand drill bits made by the same machine might produce the same marks. [New York Times, 11/8/1997]
Lawyers for Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996), are expected to mount an insanity defense, according to the Washington Post. Kaczynski’s two lead defense attorneys are Quin Denvir, a federal public defender who has won reversals of three guilty verdicts in death penalty cases, and Judy Clarke, who convinced a South Carolina jury not to execute a woman who drowned her two children in a lake. Denvir and Clarke will argue that Kaczynski is mentally ill, suffering from paranoid schizophrenia that diminished his capacity to know right from wrong. Few expect Kaczynski to be found innocent of his alleged crimes; the lawyers’ strategy seems to be to keep Kaczynski from being sentenced to death. “I think it’s pretty clear that the defense is going to introduce the issue of mental disturbance one way or another,” says Paul Mattiuzzi, a forensic psychologist in Sacramento, California, who has testified in other mental defect cases. “The evidence of mental defect may be important in the guilt phase. But it may be even more valuable in the punishment phase [if he is found guilty], when the government is going to portray him as the embodiment of evil and the defense will want to argue that he’s not evil, he’s sick.” Legal experts agree. “This is what I suspect is really is going on,” says law professor Peter Arenella, an expert on insanity and diminished capacity defense. “All sorts of mitigating evidence might be presented to show that he’s a strange bird, not someone we should execute, because he’s crazy as a loon.” Prison authorities describe Kaczynski, currently being held at a federal prison in Sacramento (see June 9, 1996), as a “model prisoner” who reads incessantly. He is kept in isolation and is in his cell 23 hours a day. However, Kaczynski has so far refused to submit to psychiatric evaluation by government doctors. His refusal may hinder his lawyers’ ability to present evidence towards his mental state. The prosecution is expected to argue that Kaczynski is a cold, calculating killer who knew exactly what he was doing when he killed three people and injured 29 others. He is not charged with murder specifically, but with transporting and mailing explosive devices with the intent to kill and injure. [Washington Post, 11/9/1997]
Michael Fortier, a friend of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see May 19, 1995, August 8, 1995, and May 12-13, 1997), testifies against McVeigh’s alleged co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997). Fortier tells the jury that Nichols and McVeigh took him to an Arizona storage locker filled with explosives seven months before the bombing (see October 4 - Late October, 1994). Fortier has pleaded guilty to four felonies related to the bombing.
Saw Nichols in McVeigh's Company, Changes Testimony Previously Identifying Nichols as Co-Conspirator - He says he saw Nichols three times in Kingman, Arizona, the town in which McVeigh resided; two of those times, Nichols was in the company of McVeigh. Fortier testifies that he met both Nichols and McVeigh when they were Army soldiers stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia (see March 24, 1988 - Late 1990); Nichols, he says, was his platoon leader, but not his friend. Fortier says McVeigh sent him a letter saying that he and Nichols planned some sort of “positive offensive action” against the government (see September 13, 1994), and later McVeigh told him the “action” was the bombing of a federal building, to take place on the anniversary of the Branch Davidian massacre (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He told me… that they were planning on bombing a building,” Fortier says. When asked by a prosecutor who was the “they” that McVeigh was referring to, Fortier replies, “He didn’t say specifically,” a drastic change from his testimony in the McVeigh trial, when he told the jury that McVeigh was referring to himself and Nichols. [Washington Post, 11/13/1997; New York Times, 11/13/1997; Washington Post, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/17/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997]
Says McVeigh Told Him Nichols Robbed Gun Dealer - Fortier does identify Nichols as the man who robbed Arkansas gun dealer Roger Moore to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994); Fortier says that McVeigh told him, “Terry did Bob,” meaning “Bob Miller,” the name Moore used at gun shows. [New York Times, 12/16/1997]
Says He Refused to Take Active Part in Bombing, Says Nichols Withdrew - Fortier testifies that McVeigh asked him to rent a storage unit under a false name, but Fortier did not do so. He also testifies that McVeigh asked him to join him and Nichols in the bombing, but Fortier says he refused (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Later, Fortier says, McVeigh told him that Nichols “no longer wanted to help him mix the bomb” (see March 1995), testifying: “Tim told me that Terry no longer wanted to help him mix the bomb. He told me that there was some problem between—or the problem had to do with Terry’s wife, Marife. I asked Tim what he was going to do if Terry didn’t help him. I made a joke and said: ‘What would you do? Would you kill him if he doesn’t help you?’ And he answered me seriously and said he would not do that. And he went on to say that Terry would have to help him because he’s in it so far up till now.” Fortier identifies a length of explosives brought to his home for safekeeping by McVeigh as being from one of the Arizona storage lockers; an FBI expert, testifying immediately after Fortier, identifies a fingerprint on the wrapper for the explosives as belonging to Nichols.
Defense: Fortier a Lying Drug Addict - In cross-examination, Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael Tigar, elicits that Nichols never mentioned anything to Fortier about bombing a building. As defense lawyers did in McVeigh’s trial, Tigar depicts Fortier as a drug user and self-admitted liar who has admitted to lying to FBI investigators about his knowledge and involvement in the bomb plot (see April 23 - May 6, 1995), and to planning to use his knowledge of the bomb plot to wangle profitable book and movie deals. Fortier admits that Tigar’s depictions are essentially accurate. Tigar asks, “Was there ever a time in your life where Mr. McVeigh and you and Mr. Nichols were standing side by side… when Mr. McVeigh said, ‘My friend Terry and I are going to blow up a building with people in it and kill people?’” Fortier replies, “No, sir.” [Washington Post, 11/13/1997; New York Times, 11/13/1997; Washington Post, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 11/17/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997] Legal experts later say that Fortier’s testimony against Nichols is much less compelling than his testimony against McVeigh. Fortier did not know Nichols well, and had comparatively few dealings with him. [New York Times, 11/17/1997] The Washington Post describes the defense’s cross-examination of Fortier as “withering.” One of the defense’s contentions is that Fortier was far more involved in the bomb plot than his testimony indicates, and that he may have been more involved than Nichols. [Washington Post, 11/14/1997]
The prosecution in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) links Nichols and his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), to a rifle stolen from an Arkansas gun dealer, Roger Moore (see November 5, 1994 and Before July 3, 1995). Prosecutors have alleged that Nichols and McVeigh, who planned the robbery, used the proceeds from the robbery to finance the bombing. The link between Nichols and the robbery is made in part by Karen Anderson, Moore’s longtime girlfriend, who says the ornate, custom-made .308-caliber rifle found in Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, home (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) was hers. She says when prosecutors first showed her the rifle, she exclaimed: “It’s my baby!… It was made for me.” Anderson says she has been Moore’s girlfriend for over 20 years, and lives in what is apparently an open relationship with Moore and his wife Carol. Prosecutors say Nichols donned a ski mask and robbed Moore’s gun dealership of more than $60,000 in guns, precious jewels, gold, silver, cash, and other items. Anderson says she recognized several other weapons seized by FBI agents from Nichols’s home. Of one, a shotgun, she says: “I shot a pair of blue jeans with this a couple of times. Jeans with holes cost $100. I figured if you shot them yourself, you could save about $90.” Anderson’s colorful testimony and flamboyant gestures trigger several waves of laughter in the courtroom, including one instance where she apologizes for inadvertently waving a submachine gun at Judge Richard P. Matsch, saying, “I just pointed it at the judge again!” Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson quips in response, “No matter how mad he makes you, don’t fire it.” Anderson says she has a list of the serial numbers of many of the stolen guns; Moore previously told investigators his list of the serial numbers disappeared the day of the robbery. Anderson also discusses her friendship with McVeigh, and says she and Moore were so impressed with McVeigh’s warnings about a United Nations plot to take over the country that they visited several military bases in an unsuccessful search for Russian vehicles. After Anderson testifies, Moore testifies, telling the jury how he was robbed by a man who carried a shotgun, wore a black ski mask, and bound him with duct tape before purloining items from his farm, from which he runs his dealership. He says he was alone on his farm the morning of the robbery, and had just gone outside to feed the animals when he heard a voice say, “Lay on the ground.” He turned and saw “a horrible picture, a man dressed with camouflage, with a black ski mask, carrying a pistol-grip shotgun aimed right at my face.” Attached to the shotgun was a garrote wire that he says could “cut your windpipe and jugular vein.” The robber was a white man wearing what he thinks were Israeli combat boots, Vietnam-era camouflage pants and shirt, and military gloves. Moore says he could see a short beard and suntanned skin through the mouth opening in the mask. He identifies a number of weapons shown to him by prosecution lawyers as being among those stolen from his dealership. Defense lawyer Michael Tigar accuses Moore of conspiring with McVeigh to commit insurance fraud. Tigar asks Moore: “Isn’t it a fact you were not robbed? Isn’t it a fact that you and Mr. McVeigh worked out a plan to get these guns out on the market, and you would collect whatever you could from the insurance company?” Moore angrily responds, “I deny that.” He admits to seeking an insurance settlement even though he had no serial numbers for the stolen weaponry, nor an accurate accounting of the weapons he said had been stolen. He also acknowledges telling investigators differing accounts of the robbery, and engaging in friendly letter exchanges with McVeigh after the robbery, including one letter written by Moore in the days before the bombing that complained of the “New World Order” (see September 11, 1990) and stated, “Plan is to bring the country down and have a few more things happen, then offer the 90 percent a solution (Better Red than Dead).” He also admits to using the alias “Bob Miller” on the gun-show circuit, and admits to previously telling lawyers that he suspected law enforcement agents or militia members of robbing him. However, he says, he also suspected McVeigh of setting him up, and says that the letters were designed to persuade McVeigh to come back to Arkansas so he could question him about the robbery. [New York Times, 11/18/1997; New York Times, 11/19/1997]
Tourists in Luxor, Egypt, cower as militants begin firing on them. [Source: BBC]Fifty-eight foreign tourists are killed in Luxor, Egypt. Six radical militants attack an ancient Egyptian temple with machine guns before finally being killed by Egyptian police. The attack is the peak of a campaign to destroy the Egyptian tourism industry that had begun five years before. Thirty-four foreigners and 1,200 Egyptians were killed in the previous attacks. Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (the Islamic Group) takes credit for the attack. This group was founded in the late 1970s by Sheik Omar Abdul-Rahman. The militants are ultimately hoping to destabilize the Egyptian economy and overthrow the government. However, the attacks backfire, alienating many Egyptians. This will be the last serious militant attack in Egypt before 9/11. [New York Times, 11/18/1997; New York Times, 11/18/1997; Los Angeles Times, 10/26/2001] The Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad is also thought to be involved. In 1999, Ayman al-Zawahiri, leader of Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda’s second in command, will be convicted in absentia for his role in this attack and other attacks. [BBC, 9/27/2004] Also in 1999, the Egyptian government will claim it has determined that bin Laden helped finance the attack. [BBC, 5/13/1999]
The British domestic counterintelligence service MI5 meets with Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading British imam and informer (see Early 1997). In view of Egyptian-born Abu Hamza’s recent condemnation of the Algerian Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) over massacres of civilians (see Mid 1996-October 1997 and October 1, 1997), MI5 asks Abu Hamza to condemn a massacre of sixty people in Luxor, Egypt (see November 18, 1997), as it thinks this might calm tensions in Britain and elsewhere. However, he declines to do so, telling MI5 that Egypt is controlled by a “corrupt, Satanic tyranny,” and adds that British tourists should not travel to Egypt. In fact, in public sermons at this time he actually condones the attacks, saying that the tourism industry in Egypt is impure and should be Islamicized. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 145-6]
FBI agent Stephen E. Smith testifies in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997).
Nichols Told of Picking Up McVeigh - Smith testifies that Nichols told him and other FBI agents that on Easter Sunday, April 16, 1995, three days before the bombing, he drove around downtown Oklahoma City looking for his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Nichols, says Smith, drove around the Murrah Federal Building, McVeigh’s target, several times before finding McVeigh in a nearby alley (see April 16-17, 1995). McVeigh, according to what Nichols told Smith, had asked Nichols for a ride from Oklahoma City back to Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, home (see (February 20, 1995)) because his car had broken down. Nichols found McVeigh, Smith says: “[H]e was standing in a light rain with Mr. Nichols’s TV set and a green laundry bag.” Smith was one of the agents who interrogated Nichols for nine hours after the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). He was not allowed to testify in McVeigh’s trial, but was allowed to introduce the 22 pages of handwritten notes taken during Nichols’s interrogation. Smith’s testimony is the first to describe what Nichols said about the trip from Oklahoma City to Herington. McVeigh was going to bring Nichols a television set, Nichols told Smith, when his car broke down. Nichols said after he received the telephone call from McVeigh at around 3 p.m., he left about 10 minutes later and drove straight to Oklahoma City. McVeigh had told him to “drive around the block a couple times,” Nichols told the agents, and added that he passed “that building” several times. The alley McVeigh was standing in was, Smith testifies, next to the YMCA near the Murrah Building. Nichols told Smith and the other agents that McVeigh was “hyper” during the return trip to Herington, and they talked about the upcoming anniversary of the federal assault on the Branch Davidian compound in Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). Nichols told the agents that McVeigh told him “he would see something big in the future.” Nichols, Smith testifies, asked if McVeigh was planning to rob a bank; McVeigh replied, “No, but I’ve got something in the works.” Nichols was shocked to learn that McVeigh was a suspect in the bombing, Smith testifies: “He thought Tim was driving back east to see his family.” Nichols told the agents he could not discern any motive for the bombing, since McVeigh “was supposed to receive an inheritance from his grandfather and he would have money” to do whatever he wanted. Smith testifies that when the agents asked Nichols if he was worried about what McVeigh might say about him, Nichols replied that “he’d be shocked if Mr. McVeigh implicated him.… Terry Nichols said he trusted Timothy McVeigh more than anyone. Timothy McVeigh lived up to his arrangements and took responsibility for his actions.” Smith adds that Nichols never clarified what he meant. Nichols told the agents that the Easter telephone call was the first contact he had had with McVeigh since November 1994. However, other testimony has shown numerous contacts between McVeigh and Nichols since that time period (see November 7, 1994, March 1995, April 13, 1995, April 15, 1995, and April 15-16, 1995). [New York Times, 11/21/1997] Nichols also told federal agents that he spent the morning of April 18 at an auction in Fort Riley, Kansas, and that the same morning, McVeigh had borrowed his pickup truck to run errands. Nichols told agents that the morning of April 18, McVeigh called at 6:00 a.m. and asked to borrow the truck. Nichols agreed, and the two met at a McDonald’s restaurant in Junction City, Kansas, around 7:30 a.m. The two drove to the auction site, and McVeigh took the truck, leaving Nichols at the auction. McVeigh returned after 1:00 p.m. Nichols told agents he signed in at the auction site sometime around noon. [New York Times, 11/26/1997]
Story Contradicted by Other Evidence - Other evidence has shown that Nichols’s story about driving to Oklahoma City to pick up McVeigh and a television set is false. That evidence has shown that on April 16, Nichols met McVeigh at a Dairy Queen in Herington, then the two drove separately to Oklahoma City to scout the location for the bomb. McVeigh left his getaway car at the scene (see April 13, 1995) and the two drove back to Herington in Nichols’s pickup truck (see April 16-17, 1995). On the morning of April 18, McVeigh, staying at a motel in Junction City with his rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995), met Nichols at a Herington storage unit (see (February 20, 1995)). The two loaded bags of fertilizer and drums of nitromethane into the Ryder truck, and McVeigh told Nichols, “If I don’t come back for a while, you’ll clean out the storage shed.” They drove separately to Geary County State Fishing Lake, where they met and mixed the explosive components. Nichols later told investigators that he cleaned out the storage shed on April 20. One witness told investigators that he saw McVeigh with a man resembling Nichols at the motel. Other witnesses recalled seeing the Ryder truck parked behind Nichols’s house on April 17, and the Ryder truck and a pickup truck resembling Nichols’s at Geary Lake on April 18. Other witnesses said that on either April 17 or 18, they saw what appeared to be Nichols’s pickup truck parked behind the Herington storage shed (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Videotape from the Regency Towers Apartments, one and a half blocks from the bombed Murrah Federal Building, showed Nichols’s dark blue pickup with a white camper shell passing the building on April 16, though the videotape does not itself disprove Nichols’s claims of driving to Oklahoma City to pick up McVeigh and a television set. [Denver Post, 12/24/1997; Fox News, 4/13/2005] Prosecutors will soon submit evidence showing that Nichols’s claims of his whereabouts on April 18 are incorrect (see November 25, 1997).
Shared Interest in Bombs - Nichols also said that he and McVeigh were curious about bombs. They read books and magazines about them, and discussed how they worked. Nichols told the agents that “it’s possible he [McVeigh] could make a device to blow up a building without my knowledge.” Nichols, Smith testifies, insisted that their interest in bombs was strictly out of curiosity. Nichols told Smith and the other agents that he had learned about explosives from people “who came by the table at gun shows and literature he had read.” Nichols also said that he had learned “ammonium nitrate fertilizer can be used to make a bomb.… I imagine you have to put a blasting cap on it.” Smith testifies that someone had informed Nichols that ammonium nitrate could be mixed with diesel fuel to make a bomb, but adds that Nichols said he had not done that.
Cross-Examination - Nichols’s defense lawyer, Ronald G. Woods, has Smith read the entire 22-page sheaf of handwritten notes he took during his interviews with Nichols, then tells Judge Richard P. Matsch that the typewritten transcript of those notes “was not accurate or complete.” Woods also questions why the interviews were not tape-recorded. Smith calls his notes accurate, but admits that he had not written down what he now testifies was Nichols’s silence when shown a letter he had written to McVeigh the previous November urging him to “Go for it.” During the interview, Smith says Nichols admitted to having the knowledge needed to build a fertilizer bomb after initially denying it. [Washington Post, 11/21/1997; New York Times, 11/22/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997]
The prosecution in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) submits a piece of wood into evidence that it says links Nichols to the bombing. The piece of wood has ammonium nitrate fertilizer crystals embedded in it, the same type of fertilizer used in the bomb that killed 168 people. The same fertilizer was found at Nichols’s Herington, Kansas, home (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). The wood was found by a search team on April 21, 1995, in a parking lot across the street from the Murrah Federal Building. Prosecutors say the wood came from the side of the rented Ryder truck (see April 15, 1995) that convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) used to deliver the bomb. FBI agent Alton Wilson testifies that “it appears to have come from the box panel from the Ryder truck.” FBI laboratory supervisor Steven G. Burmeister testifies that when he and other FBI agents searched Nichols’s home, they found explosives, including ammonium nitrate pellets. Ammonium nitrate is the fertilizer that was the main ingredient of the bomb. “They were on the steps leading up to the porch area,” Burmeister testifies. He also says the search turned up Primadet blasting caps, which are used to detonate explosives. Defense lawyers claim the wood was mishandled by FBI crime lab analysts; FBI chemist Ronald Kelly admits in testimony that he did not follow the proper steps in recovering and handling the wood. [New York Times, 11/29/1997] In cross-examination testimony, Burmeister says that he photographed the wood in April 1995, documenting the existence of the ammonium nitrate crystals embedded in it. When he examined the wood in November 1996, he realized that the crystals had disappeared from it. Burmeister says he believes the crystals disappeared as a result of testing in other sections of the lab. [New York Times, 12/2/1997]
The Sky 1, the ship purchased by Sadek Walid Awaad and other al-Qaeda operatives, shown as it sank in 2000. [Source: Tele News Company]US intelligence monitoring the al-Qaeda cell in Kenya trace phone calls to al-Qaeda operatives in Hamburg, Germany, where some of the 9/11 hijackers are living (see August 1997). Around August 1997, Sadek Walid Awaad (a.k.a. Abu Khadija) calls Kenya and is traced by US intelligence to where he lives in Hamburg. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 201; El Pais, 9/17/2003] Sometime over the next year or so, it is discovered that Awaad has engaged in business dealing with Mamoun Darkazanli, another al-Qaeda operative. Awaad used a Hamburg address for some of his business dealings that was also used by Darkazanli and Wadih El-Hage, who served as bin Laden’s business secretary in Kenya. In 1994, Awaad, Darkazanli, and El-Hage worked together to buy a ship for bin Laden. Apparently US intelligence puts this together by 1998, as one of El-Hage’s notebooks seized in a late 1997 raid details the transaction (see August 21, 1997). Investigators later believe Darkazanli is part of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell with 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and others. [New York Times, 12/27/2001] Less is known about Awaad and whomever he may have associated with. But in a public trial in early 2001, El-Hage identified him as an Iraqi al-Qaeda operative with German and Israeli passports. [Day 2. United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., 2/6/2001; Day 6. United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., 2/15/2001] An al-Qaeda operative with an Israeli passport connected to the Hamburg cell would seem to be highly unusual and significant, but there has been almost no mention of him in the media after 9/11 and it is unknown if he has ever been arrested.
[Source: PBS]By December 1997, Prudence Bushnell, the US Ambassador to Kenya, is aware that her embassy could be in danger. She has been told of an August 1997 warning that proved there was an al-Qaeda cell in Nairobi (see Late 1994), a precise (and ultimately accurate) November 1997 warning detailing a plot to attack the embassy (see November 1997), and other recent warnings, including information indicating that she is an assassination target. She sends two cables to State Department headquarters in Washington, claiming that the embassy’s location makes it “extremely vulnerable to a terrorist attack,” and asks for security improvements to be made. The State Department turns down her requests and begins to see Bushnell as a nuisance. In early 1998, General Anthony Zinni, the commander of US forces in the region, visits the Nairobi embassy and decides it is vulnerable to terrorist attacks. He offers to send a security team to inspect the situation, but his offer is turned down. The State Department sends its own team instead and in March 1998 determines that about $500,000 worth of easily implemented improvements should make the embassy secure. But the money is not quickly allocated. Bushnell then sends “an emotional letter to Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright begging for the Secretary’s personal help.” She says she has been fighting for months for a more secure embassy as threats increase, and that the State Department’s refusal to grant her requests for funding is “endangering the lives of embassy personnel.” Albright takes no action. The embassy will be bombed in August (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). [New York Times, 1/9/1999]
Mohamed Daki. [Source: Cageprisoners]Records indicate that would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh lives at the same Hamburg, Germany, address as a Moroccan named Mohamed Daki during this time. Daki will be arrested in April 2003, and will admit to knowing bin al-Shibh and some others in the Hamburg cell. In April 1999 Daki will obtain a visa to travel to the US, but it is not known if he goes there. It is generally assumed by the press that the Hamburg cell keep themselves separate from other al-Qaeda cells in Europe. However, Daki is an expert document forger and a member of al-Qaeda’s Milan cell. There is considerable evidence that the Milan cell has foreknowledge of the 9/11 plot. The cell is under heavy surveillance by Italian intelligence before 9/11 (see August 12, 2000 and January 24, 2001), but apparently the connection between the Milan and Hamburg cells through Daki is not made. German authorities will interview him after 9/11, and he will admit ties to bin al-Shibh, but he will be let go, not investigated further, and not put on any watch lists. He will later come under investigation in Italy for recruiting fighters to combat the US in Iraq. He will finally be arrested and charged for that, but not for his 9/11 connections. [Los Angeles Times, 3/22/2004; New York Times, 3/22/2004]
Experts testify in the trial of Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) that the bomb used to destroy the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City was probably made with ammonium nitrate. Prosecutors have shown that Nichols bought two tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer and stored it, along with other bomb components, in lockers rented under false names (see November 6, 1997). In aggressive cross-examination, defense lawyer Michael Tigar attempts to cast doubt on the forensic evidence presented by the experts. FBI laboratory supervisor Steven G. Burmeister, who has already defended his findings on ammonium nitrate crystals found in a shard of wood he and other experts believe was from the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see November 28 - December 2, 1997), admits that nitromethane that, according to an FBI report, was found in Nichols’s home might have come from a container of model airplane fuel. Burmeister says that the evidence of nitromethane was found near model airplane parts; nitromethane is used in model airplane fuel. “When you reported out your results, did you report that you had found model airplane fuel and a model airplane?” Tigar asks, and Burmeister replies, “No.” Tigar then emphasizes: “You just reported you had found nitromethane. Right?” Burmeister responds, “The result was nitromethane and methanol.” Tigar continues to press, saying: “But did you take steps to make sure that people were going to understand that this was found right next to some model airplane parts? Did you do that?” Burmeister says he did not. British explosive expert Linda Jones, who testified in the trial of convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997), says she believes the bomb weighed 3,000 to 6,000 pounds and contained ammonium nitrate. Its other elements were apparently consumed in the explosion. The prosecution has called Jones as an independent expert because of widespread criticism of the FBI laboratory and its employees (see January 27, 1997 and April 16, 1997). [New York Times, 12/2/1997]
The defense in the trial of Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) opens with an array of witnesses designed to cast doubt on Nichols’s alleged participation in the Oklahoma City bombing plot with convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Three witnesses testify that in the days before the bomb destroyed an Oklahoma City federal building, they saw McVeigh in the company of a man who has become known as “John Doe No. 2,” a person that some believe conspired with McVeigh to build and deliver the bomb. Prosecutors believe that “John Doe No. 2” was an Army soldier who had no involvement with McVeigh (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, April 29, 1995, and June 14, 1995). Defense lawyers assert that McVeigh conspired with “John Doe No. 2” and not their client. Eldon Elliott, who owns the Junction City, Kansas, shop where McVeigh rented the Ryder truck used to deliver the bomb (see April 15, 1995), testifies that he rented the Ryder truck to McVeigh, and that when McVeigh picked up the truck on April 17 (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), he was accompanied by a man who was not Nichols. Estella Weigel, a health worker, then testifies that she was driving south on Interstate 135 near McPherson, Kansas, sometime between 7 a.m. and 8 a.m. on April 18 when she had to slow down for a large Ryder truck following closely behind a beige car that “reminded me of my sister’s ‘78 Mercury.” McVeigh had just bought a similar car, which prosecutors say he used for his getaway (see April 13, 1995). Weigel noted that the car had no license plates, and later realized that the driver resembled the sketch of “John Doe No. 2.” There were two men in the truck, she says, neither of whom were Nichols. Prosecutors say Nichols and McVeigh were at that time on their way to Geary County State Fishing Lake to assemble the bomb. A third witness, obstetrical nurse Mary Martinez, tells the jury she saw McVeigh driving a large Ryder truck in Junction City on the morning of April 18; a man she thought was “Mexican” was in the passenger seat. Under cross-examination, Martinez admits that her story has changed dramatically: she originally described a smaller Ryder truck with a red-haired driver, and said the passenger stood up in the cab of the truck. [Washington Post, 12/4/1997; New York Times, 12/4/1997; Denver Post, 12/24/1997]
The mother of a woman killed in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995) issues an angry statement demanding that accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see November 3, 1997) testify in his own defense. Marsha Kight, the mother of 22-year-old Frankie Ann Merrell, who died in the bombing, is incensed at media reports that Nichols will probably not testify in his own defense. Lead defense lawyer Michael Tigar says that while no final decision as to Nichols’s testimony has yet been made, his client is under no obligation to take the stand. [New York Times, 12/5/1997]
Defense lawyers continue their attempt to show that their client, accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997), was not involved in the conspiracy to bomb the Murrah Federal Building (see December 2-3, 1997), but that others besides Nichols worked with convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Two witnesses, James L. Sergent and Georgia Rucker, testify that they saw a large Ryder truck parked at Geary State Fishing Lake, north of Herington, Kansas, where Nichols lives, on April 10, 11, and 12, 1995. Prosecutors say that McVeigh and Nichols brought a Ryder truck to that lake on April 18 to assemble the bomb (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Rucker says she saw the same truck at the lake on April 18. Their testimony is designed to bolster the contention that more than just two people took part in building the bomb (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Defense lawyers also challenge the credibility of Roger E. Moore, an Arkansas gun dealer whom prosecutors say was robbed by Nichols as part of an attempt to finance the bomb construction (see November 17-18, 1997 and November 19, 1997). Defense witness Larry Hethcox says that Moore later told him the robber took many more items than he originally claimed in police reports. However, the prosecution forces Hethcox to acknowledge that the serial number of one of the guns found in Nichols’s house (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995) was of a gun Hethcox sold to Moore. [New York Times, 12/5/1997]
The defense in the trial of Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) mounts an attack on Nichols’s alleged co-conspirator, convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Nichols’s lawyers present evidence showing that McVeigh is an anti-government zealot who passed out extremist literature and even wore a T-shirt showing a wanted poster for Abraham Lincoln to a child’s birthday party—the same shirt he wore the day of the bombing. Witnesses testify that McVeigh gave them copies of the same anti-government literature found in the home of Nichols during an FBI search (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Defense lawyers say that Nichols was just one of many people to whom McVeigh gave such literature, and that McVeigh was a far more committed extremist than Nichols. The defense introduces a letter McVeigh wrote to “S.C.,” a person the FBI believes to be Steven Garrett Colbern, a drifter with a degree in biochemistry and an interest in explosives, though investigators quickly cleared Colbern of any involvement in the bombing plot (see May 12, 1995). The letter was taped to an electrical tower in the California desert, near the Arizona state line, and found by electrical worker Donald E. Pipins (see November 30, 1994). The letter says in part: “I’m not looking for talkers. I’m looking for fighters,” men who could share “a common, righteous goal.” Pipins testifies to his finding the letter. [Washington Post, 11/14/1997; New York Times, 12/6/1997]
The defense in the Terry Nichols bombing conspiracy trial (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) presents an array of witnesses who say they saw convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) in the company of someone besides Nichols in the days before the bombing. The defense intends to portray the still-unidentified “John Doe No. 2” (see April 15, 1995, April 18, 1995, April 20, 1995, April 21, 1995, and April 29, 1995) as McVeigh’s accomplice, and not Nichols. Government officials have long claimed that “John Doe No. 2” was a misidentification by witnesses of a person who had no involvement in the bomb plot, Private Todd Bunting of Fort Riley, Kansas (see June 14, 1995). Prosecutors say that those witnesses who claim to have seen “John Doe No. 2” might have seen Bunting or other Fort Riley soldiers with other Ryder trucks aside from that used by McVeigh to deliver the bomb (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995), or were influenced by the wanted poster.
Dishwasher Resembled Sketch - Darvin Ray Bates, the former mayor of Waurika, Oklahoma, says in May 1995 he hired a drifter to work as a dishwasher in his Duncan, Oklahoma restaurant. The drifter resembled the sketch federal officials circulated of “John Doe No. 2,” Bates testifies. He says, “I could never pronounce his name, and he said, ‘Just call me John’.” Bates says the man told him he was from Kingman, Arizona, the same town where McVeigh lived. In the days after the bombing, Bates testifies, he told “John” that he looked like the sketch of “John Doe No. 2,” and the man never returned to work. Bates informed the FBI of the encounter, but, he says, an agent told him “they had the two arrested that they needed in the case, and if they needed additional information they could call me.” No one from the FBI contacted Bates again.
Saw Man Accompanying McVeigh One Hour before Bombing - Morris John Kuper, Jr, a computer specialist, testifies that on April 21, two days after the bombing, he told FBI agents that he saw two men getting into an old car across the street from his parking lot at the Kerr-McGee Corporation in Oklahoma City about an hour before the April 19 bombing. One man looked like McVeigh, he testifies, while the other resembled “John Doe No. 2.” Kuper says it took months for FBI agents to contact him about his sighting. Obstetrical nurse Mary Martinez has already testified about seeing McVeigh and “John Doe No. 2” in a Ryder truck in Junction City, Kansas two days before the bombing; prosecutors were able to cast strong doubts upon her story (see December 2-3, 1997).
Sightings of Man At Motel - Hilda Sostre, a maid at the Dreamland Motel, where McVeigh stayed for four days before the bombing, testifies she saw a man resembling “John Doe No. 2” at the motel on April 17, two days before the bombing. She says she saw him walking towards a large Ryder truck. If accurate, Sostre’s sighting conflicts with the prosecution’s assertion that McVeigh did not bring the truck to the motel until much later that day. Shane M. Boyd, who was staying at the Dreamland, testifies that he saw a man resembling “John Doe No. 2” at the motel on Saturday, April 15. Boyd says he passed the man while walking back to his room (see April 13, 1995).
Store Worker Saw McVeigh, Man Together - Rose Mary Zinn says that on April 17, she was working alone in a store in Lincolnville, Kansas, when two men came in. “One was blond and white, and the other one was a dark-complected guy,” she testifies. “The dark-colored guy looked mean. So I know this might sound silly, but I thought, uh-oh, I’m going to be robbed.” Instead of robbing her, they bought cigarettes and soda and left. She says she watched them get into a large Ryder truck. She cannot testify to the men’s features, and says the blond man was shorter than his companion; McVeigh is described as being significantly taller than “John Doe No. 2.”
Father and Son Saw Two Men at Lake - Raymond Siek, who was returning from a funeral on the afternoon of April 17, says he noticed a Ryder truck at Geary State Fishing Lake, the place where prosecutors say the bomb was built on April 18. Siek testifies that he saw two men, and turned to his son, Kevin Siek, and observed, “I wonder what those idiots are doing down there in the rain.” Kevin Siek also testifies: his story is that he saw three men that day, with the third being shorter and perhaps an adolescent.
Other Sightings - On April 17, two people working at the body shop that rented McVeigh the Ryder truck, Eldon Elliott and Vicki Beemer, have said they saw McVeigh and another man in the shop, but neither can describe the second man. Estella Weigel, a health care worker, has already testified she saw a man who looked like “John Doe No. 2” driving an old Mercury similar in year and color to one owned by McVeigh sometime between 7 and 8 a.m. on April 17 (see December 2-3, 1997). [New York Times, 12/10/1997]
Entity Tags: Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Vicki Beemer, Estella Weigel, Dreamland Motel (Junction City, Kansas), Darvin Ray Bates, Todd David Bunting, Timothy James McVeigh, Terry Lynn Nichols, Shane Boyd, Mary Martinez, Kevin Siek, Eldon Elliott, Hilda Sostre, Raymond Siek, Rose Mary Zinn, Morris John Kuper, Jr
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
Marife Nichols (see July - December 1990), the wife of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997), gives what analysts call a powerful defense of her husband during trial testimony. Her testimony is combined with that of three others to cast doubt on the prosecution’s assertions that Nichols conspired with convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) to build and detonate the bomb that killed 168 people. The defense, already having attempted to establish that an unidentified person and not Nichols conspired with McVeigh (see December 2-3, 1997, December 4, 1997, and December 9, 1997), now tries to allege that McVeigh was a member of a much larger conspiracy that federal law-enforcement officials never seriously explored. The indictments against both McVeigh and Nichols say that “persons unknown” may have assisted McVeigh and Nichols in the bomb plot. The Washington Post observes that while the others’ testimonies may have helped Nichols, Nichols’s wife’s testimony may have “done more harm than good.” The New York Times agrees, saying that her testimony “seemed to confirm some of the strongest evidence against him.” [New York Times, 12/11/1997; Washington Post, 12/12/1997; New York Times, 12/12/1997]
Mechanic Testifies to Seeing Five Men at Bomb Building Site - Charles Farley, a mechanic from Wakefield, Kansas, testifies that on April 18, 1995, around 6:00 p.m., he came across five men and four vehicles, including a large Ryder truck and a farm truck laden with bags of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, at Geary State Fishing Lake, near Herington, Kansas. Prosecutors believe that McVeigh and Nichols alone built the bomb at the state park sometime on the morning of April 18 (see 5:00 a.m. April 18, 1995 and 8:15 a.m. and After, April 18, 1995). Farley says he later saw one of the men, an older man with gray hair and a beard, on television. A photo of the man is shown to the jury, but the man is not identified. Sources say the man is the leader of a Kansas paramilitary group.
BATF Informant Testifies - Carol Howe, a former informant for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF—see August 1994 - March 1995), then testifies, linking McVeigh to white supremacist Dennis Mahon and a group of Christian Identity supremacists living at Elohim City, Oklahoma (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Howe says in the spring of 1994, Mahon took a call from a man he identified as “Tim Tuttle,” a known alias of McVeigh’s (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994). Howe says she never told BATF or any other federal agents about the conversation because she did not know “Tuttle” was McVeigh. Howe also says she saw McVeigh at Elohim City in July 1994, in the company of two Elohim City residents, Peter Ward and Andreas Strassmeir. She says at the time she did not know McVeigh. After the bombing, Howe testifies, she told FBI investigators that Ward and his brother might be “John Doe No. 1 and No. 2,” the suspects portrayed in composite sketches circulated in the days after the bombing (see April 20, 1995). She testifies that in the days following the bombing, BATF agents showed her a videotape of McVeigh, and she told the agents she had seen McVeigh at a Ku Klux Klan rally.
White Supremacist Settlement Resident Testifies about Phone Call - Joan Millar, the daughter-in-law of Elohim City religious leader Robert Millar, testifies that on April 5, 1995, she believes she spoke to McVeigh on the telephone. Phone records show that McVeigh called a number in Elohim City on that date (see April 5, 1995). “When I answered the phone, it was a male voice,” she says. “He gave a name, but it wasn’t ‘McVeigh.’ He said that he had—he would be in the area within the next couple weeks and he wanted to know if he could come and visit Elohim City.” She says the caller was reluctant to explain how he knew of the settlement, then says he met some residents at a gun show. A man with “a very broad foreign accent” had given him a card with a telephone number on it, she says he told her. She asked if he had spoken to “Andy,” meaning Strassmeir, and the caller said that may be correct. Millar says the caller told her he would call again for directions, but never called back and never came to the settlement. Millar says that while Elohim City residents were angry and worried about the federal assault on the Branch Davidian compound outside of Waco, Texas (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After), they planned no retaliation. Howe, however, testifies that she heard Strassmeir, Mahon, and Robert Millar advocate some sort of direct action against the federal government. Prosecutors have always maintained that Nichols and McVeigh bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City to avenge the people who died at the Branch Davidian compound.
Testimony of Wife - Marife Nichols testifies that she heard her husband talk about the Davidian tragedy with McVeigh and his brother James Nichols, but says she “did not see Terry being so mad about Waco.” Marife Nichols walks the jury through the events of April 21, when she accompanied her husband to the Herington, Kansas, police station to give voluntary statements about the bombing (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). She describes her husband as “pale and scared,” and says, “He told me his name was in the news and James Nichols was in the news, and they’re supposed to be armed and dangerous.” Her husband worried that they were being followed by “a black car” on their way to the police station. When he said that, she testifies, “I asked him right then, ‘Are you involved in this?’ and he said, ‘No.’” She testifies that before he returned from a November 1994 trip to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995) he had told her that he was no longer having dealings with McVeigh (see March 1995). “I didn’t want Tim McVeigh in our life,” she says. [New York Times, 12/11/1997]
Cross-Examination Damaging to Defense Portrayal - Lead defense attorney Michael Tigar asserts that Marife Nichols’s testimony shows that “Terry Nichols was building a life, not a bomb.” However, under cross-examination, prosecutors quickly elicit details about the Nichols’s marriage that shows the two as distant and estranged, casting a new light on Marife Nichols’s attempt to portray their relationship as close and loving. She admits that for much of their seven-year marriage, they lived apart from one another, with her returning frequently to her home in the Philippines. She also admits that Nichols lied to her about breaking off his relationship with McVeigh, and that she suspected her husband was living a “secret life” that included numerous aliases and secret storage lockers, though she says as far as she knows, McVeigh was never in their home. She responds to questions about her husband’s shadowy activities by saying: “I don’t know. I didn’t ask him.” She recalls finding a letter to Nichols from McVeigh the week before the bombing, and though she says she did not understand the letter entirely, she remembers some phrases, including “shake and bake” and “needed an excuse for your second half.” US Attorney Patrick M. Ryan shows her a pink receipt found in the Nichols home for a ton of ammonium nitrate that prosecutors say was used to make the bomb, a receipt made out to “Mike Havens,” an alias used by Nichols to buy the fertilizer (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). The receipt was wrapped around gold coins found at the back of her kitchen drawer; federal analysts found McVeigh’s fingerprints on the receipt. Ryan places two gold coins on the receipt, fitting them precisely into two dark impressions left on the receipt, presumably by the coins. The coins belong to Nichols, and may have come from a robbery Nichols perpetrated to help finance the bombing (see November 17-18, 1997). On April 16, she says, Nichols told her he was going to Omaha, Nebraska, to pick up McVeigh, when in reality he went to Oklahoma City (see April 16-17, 1995). Prosecutors have said that Nichols helped McVeigh stash the getaway car to be used on April 19 after the bomb was detonated (see April 13, 1995). He admitted lying to her about the April 16 trip just seconds before turning himself in on April 21, she says. She admits that Nichols had used a mail-order bride service to find her, and says he once told her, “Young ones were easier to train.” Marife Nichols was 17 when she married Nichols in November 1990; after they married in Cebu City, Philippines, he left her there and returned to the US without her, only bringing her to America months later. She says that she could not remember the exact date of their wedding. She also admits that when she joined Nichols in July 1991, she was pregnant with another man’s child. That child was found in 1993 dead with a plastic bag wrapped around his head; his death was ruled an accident. The two have two more children together. She is unable to offer an alibi for Nichols’s whereabouts on the morning of April 18, when prosecutors say he helped McVeigh construct the bomb. In saying she knew nothing about the storage lockers rented under aliases, she seems to contradict Tigar’s previous assertions that the storage lockers were used for storing innocent items and Nichols chose to use aliases merely to avoid creditors (see November 3, 1997). She also contradicts Nichols’s statements to the FBI that he had not seen McVeigh for months before the bombing.
Defense Rests - After Marife Nichols’s testimony concludes, the defense rests. The Post observes: “The defense’s eight-day case was aimed at generating confusion among jurors by poking holes in the government’s scenario, with the specter of additional accomplices and a second Ryder truck. At times, it seemed like the defense was trying to put the mysterious suspect John Doe No. 2—who was never identified and never found—on trial, instead of Nichols.” Nichols does not testify in his own defense.
Prosecutors Rebut Testimonies - The prosecution offers a brief rebuttal to the testimonies of witnesses who say they saw the Ryder truck at Geary Park earlier than April 17. State park employee Kerry L. Kitchener testifies that in April 1995, he was conducting a fishing survey at the park, and he saw no Ryder truck on April 10, 11, 13, 16, or 17, dates when defense witnesses said they had seen such a truck there. He testifies that he was not at the park on April 18, when prosecutors say Nichols and McVeigh built the bomb there in a Ryder truck. [Washington Post, 12/12/1997; New York Times, 12/12/1997]
Entity Tags: Geary State Fishing Lake And Wildlife Area, Charles Farley, Washington Post, Elohim City, Carole Howe, Andreas Strassmeir, Terry Lynn Nichols, Robert Millar, Timothy James McVeigh, Patrick M. Ryan, Kerry L. Kitchener, Joan Millar, Marife Torres Nichols, Michael E. Tigar, James Nichols, New York Times, Peter Ward
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The prosecution and defense in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997) give their closing statements.
Prosecution: Nichols an Eager Participant - Prosecutor Beth Wilkinson tells the jury that even though Nichols was at home on the day of the bombing, he was an eager participant in the bomb plot, and shares the violent anti-government views of his alleged co-conspirator, convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Like McVeigh, she says, Nichols wanted to strike back at the federal government for its role in the Branch Davidian debacle (see April 19, 1993 and April 19, 1993 and After). “He intended death, destruction, and chaos in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995,” she says. His favorite quote is from Founding Father Thomas Jefferson: “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” However, “Thomas Jefferson never bombed a day care center.” Nichols was involved in the plot from its inception in September 1994, when he left his job on a Kansas ranch “to begin gathering bomb components” (see September 13, 1994 and September 23, 1994), Wilkinson says. Nichols used aliases, such as “Mike Havens,” to purchase several tons of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a key component in the bomb (see September 22, 1994 and September 30, 1994). He took part in the robbery of a quarry to secure explosives and explosive components (see October 3, 1994), and took part in the purchase of three barrels of nitromethane racing fuel from a Texas dealer (see October 21 or 22, 1994). Nichols also robbed an Arkansas gun dealer to help finance the bombing (see November 5, 1994), a fact confirmed by testimony given by McVeigh’s friend Michael Fortier (see November 12-13, 1997) and by the FBI finding items taken in that robbery in Nichols’s possession (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Nichols and McVeigh had assembled most of what they needed by November 1994, she says, when Nichols went to the Philippines (see November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995); after that point, she says, “all they had to do was wait.” When Nichols returned from his trip, they resumed their activities, using sales of guns and ammonium nitrate at gun shows to give themselves alibis. In contrast to a claim made in the opening statement by Nichols’s lead lawyer, Michael E. Tigar, she says Nichols was not building a life, “he was building a bomb, and he was building an alibi.” Wilkinson says that witnesses who testified they saw McVeigh with an unidentified person, and not Nichols, in the days before the bombing (see December 2-3, 1997, December 4, 1997, and December 9, 1997), were just plain wrong. Referring to the now-infamous “John Doe No. 2,” she says: “As a result of the media frenzy, sightings of John Doe 2 were about as common and credible as sightings of Elvis. No one is telling you Tim McVeigh was never with anyone else. The issue here is, who is on trial? John Doe 2 is not on trial. Tim McVeigh is not on trial. This is the trial of Terry Nichols.” Concluding the prosecution’s close, lead prosecutor Larry Mackey tells the jury, “It’s finally time—it’s time for justice” in what he calls “America’s most horrific crime.”
Defense: Nichols Victimized by Government - Tigar tells the jury that Nichols is the victim of a farrago of errors and circumstance; the evidence against him, Tigar says, is comprised of dishonest witnesses, sloppy investigation, and misleading circumstantial evidence. “It’s kind of like a stick on the ground, as Sherlock Holmes told Watson,” Tigar says. “If you stand here and look, it seems to point there. But if you walk around to the other side, it points in the opposite direction.” A fellow defense lawyer, Ronald G. Woods, attacks the government’s case, saying, “Anything that differs from the government’s theory, they discount, put aside, ridicule.” The witnesses who saw other men in McVeigh’s company during key moments in the bomb construction timeline were neither wrong nor mistaken, he says. Neither Tigar nor Woods refer at any length to the testimony of Nichols’s wife Marife, which is largely viewed as damaging to their client (see December 10-11, 1997). Tigar continues his previous attack on Fortier, saying: “Michael Fortier is the only witness who says he ever heard anyone say they wanted to bomb the Murrah Building. His testimony was bought and paid for, not with money but with a coin that only the government has the ability to print and hand out, and that is immunity from punishment.” Tigar says that Fortier was far more of a conspirator in the McVeigh plot than Nichols, and accuses the government of turning Fortier from a co-conspirator into a witness. Woods accuses the FBI of manipulating and fabricating witness testimony. Tigar concludes tearfully: “One hundred sixty-eight people died in Oklahoma City. We have never denied the reality of that.” But this is a nation that promises equal justice under law, he says, “rich or poor, neighbor or stranger, tax protester or not, someone who’s different from us, or not.… Members of the jury, I don’t envy you the job that you have,” he says, placing his hand on Nichols’s shoulders. “But I tell you, this is my brother. He’s in your hands.” [New York Times, 12/16/1997; New York Times, 12/17/1997]
Mohamed Atta. [Source: Der Spiegel]Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta leaves Hamburg for some time in late 1997 and early 1998, and he may go to militant training camps in Afghanistan, possibly with hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh. When Atta returns in the spring of 1998 he tells his roommate that he has been on another pilgrimage (hajj) to Mecca, although author Terry McDermott will later note, “He had been on hajj just 18 months earlier, and it would be unlikely for a student—even one so devout—to go twice so quickly or stay so long.” This is Atta’s longest absence since arriving in Hamburg, and there is no record of him spending any substantial portion of it at home in Cairo. According to McDermott, he leaves Hamburg “as he usually did over the winter holiday.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 57] But according to the 9/11 Commission, the gap is in February-March 1998, “a period for which there is no evidence of his presence in Germany.” Atta’s friends hold a party for him on his return, which is unusual for a student who has just returned from home. After returning to Germany, Atta applies for a new passport, something he will also do after returning from Afghanistan in early 2000 (see Late 1999). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 167] There are other unexplained absences from Hamburg by members of the same cell around this time (see Summer-Winter 1998). Although the 9/11 Commission, based on information obtained from detainees during interrogation, will say that Atta and his associates do not travel to Afghanistan and join al-Qaeda until late 1999, some commentators will disagree and say that this happens earlier. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 57] For example, McDermott will say of the cell members’ various disappearances in 1997-8, “Practically, there is only one place they likely would have gone—Afghanistan.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 166] Jane Corbin will say that “[t]he time that Mohamed Atta spent in Afghanistan in 1998 was a period of ambitious reach for Osama bin Laden.” [Corbin, 2003, pp. 142] Jason Burke will say that “[i]n early 1998, [Atta] is thought to have traveled to Afghanistan, probably to Khaldan camp.” [Burke, 2004, pp. 243] In mid-2002, Al Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda will allegedly interview bin al-Shibh and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan (see April, June, or August 2002). In a book he co-writes in 2003, he will claim that an al-Qaeda operative known only by a nickname Fouda gave him so he could call him something—Abu Bakr—helped set up the interview. At one point, Bakr allegedly told Fouda that he met Atta and bin al-Shibh at a training camp around this time, saying: “They came together. I did not know who they were.… Brother Ramzi was very active and very much into media, and brother Atta was very kind.” Bin al-Shibh disappears in Germany for several months in late 1997, and re-enters Germany on a new visa in December 1997. [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 124]
After the closing arguments (see December 15-16, 1997) in the trial of accused Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and November 3, 1997), Judge Richard P. Matsch sends the jury to begin its deliberations. Jurors will not be sequestered and are free to go home at the end of the day. Matsch reminds the jury that “individuals, including Mr. Nichols, have the right under the First Amendment to assemble and discuss even the most unpopular ideas, including unlawful acts, and such a discussion does not constitute an unlawful agreement.” He also tells the jurors to weigh the case solely on the evidence. [New York Times, 12/17/1997] Matsch gives the Nichols jury more leeway than he gave the jury that convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997). Though Nichols faces the same charges that McVeigh faced, Matsch tells the jurors that they can consider charges of first-degree murder, second-degree murder, or involuntary manslaughter for Nichols in the deaths of eight federal law enforcement agents in the bombing. (Because McVeigh and Nichols were tried in federal courts, they could only face charges of murdering federal agents. Both men await state charges of murdering the other 160 victims.) If convicted, Nichols could escape with as little as six years in prison without parole for his role in the deaths of the agents, or he could be sentenced to death. McVeigh’s former lawyer Stephen Jones (see August 14-27, 1997) says: “I suspect the judge’s thinking went something like this: There was no evidence Nichols was in Oklahoma City on Wednesday and that he himself set off the bomb, so the jury might infer that while he wanted to blow up the building, he didn’t specifically want to kill these people.” To find Nichols guilty of first-degree murder, the jurors must conclude that he is guilty of premeditated murder; if they do not agree on premeditation, then their next choice is second-degree murder, or failing that, involuntary manslaughter, “the unlawful killing of a human being without malice.” This would be a “lawful act, done without due caution, which might produce death,” he says. Jones is critical of Matsch’s guidelines, saying: “I can’t imagine how the judge persuaded himself to give an instruction on manslaughter. I don’t see how you get involuntary manslaughter out of building a bomb. It’s like a virgin prostitute.” [New York Times, 12/19/1997; New York Times, 12/23/1997]
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) sends a letter to the Dallas Morning News that says he expects the appeals of his conviction to fail. “Because of the intense public pressure and demand for my blood, I do not see an appeals court ruling in my favor,” he writes, echoing a statement made to a Buffalo News reporter (see August 17, 1997). McVeigh writes: “I have no fear of execution. If anything, death by execution is much more predictable than normal life or combat—because I at least know when and how I’m checking out.” [New York Times, 12/20/1997; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
Accused Oklahoma City conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and December 15-16, 1997) is convicted of one count of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction and eight counts of involuntary manslaughter. He is found not guilty of use of a weapon of mass destruction (see April 16-17, 1995), and of using an explosive, as well as the more serious charges of first-degree and second-degree murder. The jury took 41 hours over six days to decide Nichols’s fate (see December 16-18, 1997). By rejecting the murder charges in the deaths of eight federal law-enforcement officials, the jury concludes that Nichols did not provably intend to kill the people inside the Murrah building. Observers and researchers such as law professor Douglas O. Linder will later conclude that the jury believed the defense’s contention that Nichols had withdrawn from the bombing plot (see March 1995 and March 31 - April 12, 1995), and was probably swayed by Nichols’s decision to stay home on the day of the bombing instead of joining convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City (see June 2, 1997) at the bomb site. The jury may also have been moved by Nichols’s show of emotion during the trial; unlike the stoic McVeigh, Nichols broke down and wept during several moments in the proceedings. Legal analysts say the split verdict is in part because of a much more effective defense (see December 2, 1997) than that presented by Nichols’s co-conspirator, McVeigh (see August 14-27, 1997), who was sentenced to death for carrying out the bombing (see June 2, 1997). Kentucky defense lawyer Kevin McNally says of the verdicts: “[They mean] he had a much less culpable state of mind regarding the homicides. To the jury, he engaged in certain actions that were reckless, but it wasn’t a premeditated killing.” Former federal prosecutor Marvin L. Rudnick says the jury “probably compromised” on the involuntary manslaughter verdicts. Lead prosecutor Larry Mackey says: “The jury has spoken. We accept their verdict in its entirety. We are prepared to go forward now with the penalty phase.” Nichols’s lead attorney, Michael Tigar, immediately files an appeal and says he will challenge any attempt by the jury to sentence Nichols to death. However, analysts feel that Nichols will escape execution. Denver attorney Andrew Cohen says: “I would be very surprised if the jury sentenced Nichols to death. They distinguished in their own minds what both men did.” Both McVeigh and Nichols face 160 counts of murder in an Oklahoma state court. [New York Times, 12/23/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997; New York Times, 12/24/1997; Douglas O. Linder, 2001; Indianapolis Star, 2003; Douglas O. Linder, 2006] Under federal law, a conviction of conspiracy to use a weapon of mass destruction can lead to the death penalty. The law is only three years old and has never been used. This death penalty provision was passed by Congress in 1994 after the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York (see February 26, 1993). [New York Times, 12/25/1997]
Mixed Reactions - Predictably, reactions regarding the verdict are mixed. Claudia Denny, whose two children were seriously injured in the blast, says, “We’re all disappointed, but we can live with it.” She says she would have preferred murder convictions, but “one more terrorist is off the street.… The important thing to us now is our children. This doesn’t change that. It doesn’t matter.” Bud Welch, who lost his daughter in the bombing, says that the involuntary manslaughter convictions were inappropriate because that charge is what people get “for running a stoplight” and killing someone with a car. Diane Leonard, whose husband was one of the eight law enforcement agents killed, calls the verdict “a slap in the face.” Marsha Knight, whose daughter was one of the 160 civilians killed in the blast, says: “He conspired to build the bomb. What the hell did they think he was going to do with it?” [New York Times, 12/24/1997; Washington Post, 12/24/1997] President Clinton says the convictions of McVeigh and Nichols “should offer a measure of comfort” to the relatives of the victims. But, he adds, “I know that no verdict in a court of law can ease the loss of a loved one.” [New York Times, 12/23/1997]
Judge Offers Leniency, Nichols Turns Down Offer - Judge Richard Matsch later tells Nichols he will consider some leniency in sentencing him to prison if he cooperates in helping the government learn more about the bombing conspiracy. Nichols rejects the offer. [Indianapolis Star, 2003]
Entity Tags: Andrew Cohen, Kevin McNally, Bud Welch, Douglas O. Linder, Claudia Denny, Diane Leonard, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Marvin L. Rudnick, Timothy James McVeigh, Marsha Knight, Michael E. Tigar, Terry Lynn Nichols, Richard P. Matsch, Larry A. Mackey
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The media reports that federal prosecutors and Justice Department officials have rejected an offer by Theodore “Ted” Kaczynski, the so-called “Unabomber” (see April 3, 1996 and June 9, 1996), to plead guilty in his murder case to avoid the death penalty. [Washington Post, 1998]
Ken Williams. [Source: FBI]The FBI field office in Phoenix, Arizona, investigates a possible Middle Eastern extremist taking flight lessons at a Phoenix airport. FBI agent Ken Williams initiates an investigation into the possibility of Islamic militants learning to fly aircraft, but he has no easy way to query a central FBI database about similar cases. Because of this and other FBI communication problems, he remains unaware of most US intelligence reports about the potential use of airplanes as weapons, as well as other, specific FBI warnings issued in 1998 and 1999 concerning Islamic militants training at US flight schools (see May 15, 1998; September 1999). Williams will write the “Phoenix memo” in July 2001 (see July 10, 2001). He had been alerted about some suspicious flight school students in 1996, but it is not clear if this person was mentioned in that previous alert or not (see October 1996). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ]
Michael Scheuer, the head of the CIA Counter Terrorism Center’s special unit focusing on bin Laden from 1996 to 1999 (see February 1996), later will claim that before 9/11 members of the bin Laden family in the US are nearly completely off limits to US law enforcement. Author Douglas Farah, a former longtime Washington Post reporter, later will write that “All the bin Ladens living in the United States were granted Saudi diplomatic passports in 1996.… In 1998, when the FBI’s New York office actually sought to investigate some of the bin Laden family’s activities in this country because of suspicions of ties to terrorism, the State Department forced them to shut down the entire operation. Because the bin Laden’s were ‘diplomats’ and as such enjoyed diplomatic immunity, making such investigations illegal.” Scheuer will comment about the 1998 investigation, “My counterparts at the FBI questioned one of the bin Ladens. But then the State Department received a complaint from a law firm, and there was a huge uproar. We were shocked to find out that the bin Ladens in the United States had diplomatic passports, and that we weren’t allowed to talk to them.” Scheuer believes that these unusual diplomatic privileges may help explain how the bin Ladens will be able to depart so quickly just after 9/11 (see September 13, 2001; September 14-19, 2001). Farah later says he interviewed Scheuer about this and claims to have found a second source to verify the information. [Farah, 12/5/2004; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 6/6/2005] The issue of diplomatic passports for the bin Laden family has generally not been reported in the US media, although a 2005 New Yorker article will mention in passing that in 1996, “the State Department stymied a joint effort by the CIA and the FBI to question one of bin Laden’s cousins in America, because he had a diplomatic passport, which protects the holder from US law enforcement.” [New Yorker, 2/8/2005] This is a probable reference to the 1996 investigation of Abdullah Awad bin Laden (although he is bin Laden’s nephew, not cousin (see February-September 11, 1996)). It is unclear what connection there may be, if any, between that investigation and this 1998 investigation.
Daniel Benjamin. [Source: Publicity photo]The National Security Council (NSC) completes a review of Iraq and terrorism. In an interview with journalist Robert Dreyfuss four years later, Daniel Benjamin, then-director of counterterrorism at the NSC, summarizes the report’s conclusions: “[W]e went through every piece of intelligence we could find to see if there was a link [between] al-Qaeda and Iraq. We came to the conclusion that our intelligence agencies had it right: There was no noteworthy relationship between al-Qaeda and Iraq. I know that for a fact. No other issue has been as closely scrutinized as this one.” [American Prospect, 12/16/2002]
Aukai Collins in Chechnya.
[Source: Lyons Press publicity photo]An American Caucasian Muslim named Aukai Collins later says he reports to the FBI on hijacker Hani Hanjour for six months this year. [Associated Press, 5/24/2002] The FBI later acknowledges they paid Collins to monitor the Islamic and Arab communities in Phoenix between 1996 and 1999. He also was an informant overseas and once had an invitation to meet bin Laden (see Mid-1998). [ABC News, 5/23/2002; Associated Press, 5/24/2002] Collins claims that he is a casual acquaintance of Hanjour while Hanjour is taking flying lessons. [Associated Press, 5/24/2002] Collins sees nothing suspicious about Hanjour as an individual, but he tells the FBI about him because Hanjour appears to be part of a larger, organized group of Arabs taking flying lessons. [The Big Story with John Gibson, 5/24/2002] He says the FBI “knew everything about the guy,” including his exact address, phone number, and even what car he drove. The FBI denies Collins told them anything about Hanjour, and denies knowing about Hanjour before 9/11. [ABC News, 5/23/2002] Collins later calls Hanjour a “hanky panky” hijacker: “He wasn’t even moderately religious, let alone fanatically religious. And I knew for a fact that he wasn’t part of al-Qaeda or any other Islamic organization; he couldn’t even spell jihad in Arabic.” [Collins, 2003, pp. 248] Collins tells the New York Times that he worked with FBI agent Ken Williams, who will write a July 2001 memo expressing concerns about radical militants attending Arizona flight schools (see July 10, 2001). He says that he quarrels with Williams and quits helping him. It is unknown if Williams ever learns about Hanjour before 9/11. [New York Times, 5/24/2002] Collins closely matches the description of the informant who first alerted Williams to Zacaria Soubra, a flight student who will be the main focus of Williams’ memo (see April 2000). If this is so, it bolsters Collins’ claims that he knew Hanjour, because many of Soubra’s friends, including his roommate (and al-Qaeda operative) Ghassan al-Sharbi do know Hanjour (see July 10, 2001). After 9/11, Collins will claim that based on his experience with the FBI and CIA, he is 100 percent sure that some people in those agencies knew about the 9/11 attack in advance and let it happen. “Just think about it—how could a group of people plan such a big operation full of so many logistics and probably countless e-mails, encrypted or not, and phone calls and messengers? And you’re telling me that, through all of that, that the CIA never caught wind of it?” [Salon, 10/17/2002]
According to closed-session testimony by CIA, FBI and NSA heads, al-Qaeda begins planning the 9/11 attacks this year. [USA Today, 6/18/2002] In a June 2002 interview, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed also asserts that planning for the attacks begin at this time. [Associated Press, 9/8/2002] However, it appears the targeting of the WTC and pilot training began even earlier. An al-Qaeda operative in Spain will later be found with videos filmed in 1997 of major US structures (including “innumerable takes from all distances and angles” of the WTC). There are numerous connections between Spain and the 9/11 hijackers, including an important meeting there in July 2001, however, the person who filmed the 1997 video will be acquitted of making it for al-Qaeda in 2005 (see September 26, 2005). [Associated Press, 7/17/2002] Hijacker Waleed Alshehri was living in Florida since 1995, started training for his commercial pilot training degree in 1996, and obtained his license in 1997 (though it is not certain if this refers to the same person). [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/16/2001; Associated Press, 7/17/2002]
A son of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, the al-Qaeda leader convicted in 1995 of conspiring to blow up tunnels and other New York City landmarks, is heard to say that the best way to free his father from a US prison might be to hijack an American plane and exchange the hostages. This will be mentioned in President Bush’s August 2001 briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/18/2002] It may be the warning was discovered by reporters at bin Laden’s press conference this month, since two of Abdul-Rahman’s sons are there and speak in belligerent tones (see May 26, 1998 and May 1998). A similar warning will be discovered in May 2001, but will not be mentioned in Bush’s briefing (see May 23, 2001).
The FBI begins an investigation into the Illinois-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) by chance. A Chicago FBI agent is attending a conference in Washington, DC, and learns of foreign intelligence reports that BIF executive director Enaam Arnaout was involved in providing logistical support for radical militants. It is not clear why the Chicago office near BIF’s headquarters was not already informed about BIF and Arnaout, given what US intelligence already knows by this time: [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 95 ]
Beginning in 1993, the FBI was continually monitoring an al-Qaeda cell in Florida that sends money to militants overseas using BIF bank accounts, and one of the cell members filed BIF’s incorporation papers (see (October 1993-November 2001)). The FBI interviewed one of the cell members, Adham Amin Hassoun, and asked him about BIF and Arnaout. BIF founder Adel Batterjee was listed on the incorporation papers (see 1993).
It was reported in the Guardian and other newspapers in 1993 that BIF was shut down in Saudi Arabia, when closing a charity was a highly unusual move for that country. The Guardian says that BIF founder Batterjee, “a known political activist,” has been detained. Media reports also link him to assisting Saudi fighters in the Bosnian war (see 1993).
In 1994, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, president of BIF at the time, was arrested in the US with Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, and another of bin Laden’s brothers. Khalifa was quickly linked to the Bojinka plot and many other al-Qaeda ties and plots, yet all three were let go and Bayaid continued to work at BIF until 1998. Bayazid was one of al-Qaeda’s founding members (see December 16, 1994).
In early 1996, a secret CIA report suggested that Arnaout was involved in the kidnapping and murders of a small group of Western tourists in Kashmir, including Americans (see July 4, 1995). The report also links BIF to other militant charity fronts and extremists, including the commander of a training camp in Afghanistan. [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996]
In 1996, trusted al-Qaeda defector Jamal al-Fadl revealed that bin Laden considered BIF one of its three most important charity fronts (see 1993), and the FBI was heavily involved in debriefing al-Fadl for many months (see June 1996-April 1997). Al-Fadl also met with Arnaout and other al-Qaeda leaders in Bosnia and discussed many operations, including how to use Bosnia to establish a base to fight the US (see Autumn 1992).
In 1996, al-Fadl also revealed that BIF president Bayazid took part in an al-Qaeda attempt to buy enriched uranium (see Late 1993).
In early 1998, Bayazid moves to Turkey and works with Maram, an al-Qaeda front company involving a number of well-known al-Qaeda figures. US intelligence learns of calls between BIF headquarters in Illinois and Bayazid in Turkey (see November 1996-September 1998).
These agents will open a full field investigation into BIF in February 1999 (see February 1999-September 10, 2001). They will later learn some useful information from the CIA, but just what is unclear. The 9/11 Commission will say that the “CIA held back some information” from these agents, supposedly “because of fears of revealing sources and methods in any potential criminal litigation…” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 96 ]
It is later revealed that, in the years up to 9/11, New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani has little knowledge of the threat posed by al-Qaeda. [MSNBC, 10/25/2007] In private testimony before the 9/11 Commission in 2004, after being asked about the “flow of information about al-Qaeda threats from 1998-2001,” Giuliani will reply, “At the time, I wasn’t told it was al-Qaeda, but now that I look back at it, I think it was al-Qaeda.” Giuliani will also concede that it was only “after 9/11” that “we brought in people to brief us on al-Qaeda.” Before 9/11, he says, “we had nothing like this… which was a mistake, because if experts share a lot of info,” there would be a “better chance of someone making heads and tails” of the situation. [Village Voice, 10/23/2007] In a later television interview, he will admit that he “didn’t see the enormity of” the threat al-Qaeda posed to the United States prior to 9/11, and add: “I never envisioned the kind of attack that they did.… [W]hat I envisioned were the kind of suicide bombings that had gone on in, in Israel. I had been briefed on that.… But I had no idea of the kind of level of attack that was in store for us.” [MSNBC, 12/9/2007] He blames his lack of knowledge on terrorism partly on the FBI and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), a partnership between the FBI and the New York City Police Department. Giuliani will state: “We already had JTTF, and got flow information no one else got. But did we get the flow of information we wanted? No. We would be told about a threat, but not about the underlying nature of the threat. I wanted all the same information the FBI had, and we didn’t get that until after 9/11.” [Village Voice, 10/23/2007] He will also complain, “I was dependent on the briefings that I was getting from… the [Clinton] administration, and… I don’t think they saw the threat as big as it was.” [MSNBC, 12/9/2007] In 2004, the 9/11 Commission asks Thomas Von Essen, who is Giuliani’s fire commissioner, what information he had about terrorism prior to 9/11. He will reply, “I was told nothing at all.” Yet in a speech in 2007, Giuliani will claim that, with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing: “Bin Laden declared war on us.… I thought it was pretty clear at the time, but a lot of people didn’t see it, couldn’t see it.” He also claims to have been “studying terrorism” for more than 30 years. [Associated Press, 6/26/2007; Village Voice, 10/23/2007]
Following an investigation of extremists linked to the Islamic Cultural Institute mosque in Milan, Italy, arrests are made, but most of the suspects are eventually released. The mosque was a logistics base for radical Muslims fighting in Bosnia (see Late 1993-December 14, 1995 and Late 1993-1994) and has been under investigation for some time. However, according to the Chicago Tribune: “[T]he criminal case appears to [founder] on the vagaries of the Italian justice system. Because of limitations on jailing people charged with crimes committed outside Italy, most of the suspects [will be] released and [vanish].” [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001] People connected to the mosque will go on to be connected to numerous plots, such as the failed millennium attacks and 9/11 (see Late 1998-September 11, 2001).
In 1998, CIA analysts realize that ground crews for illegal arms dealer Victor Bout are performing maintenance chores for Ariana Airlines planes flying to and from Afghanistan. Bout’s air fleet is based in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates (UAE), at the time, and in fact Bout has been working with the Taliban since about 1996 (see October 1996-Late 2001). The CIA has also been gathering intelligence that al-Qaeda operatives are frequently moving between Afghanistan and the UAE. Ariana, Afghanistan’s official airline, is the only airline making flights between the Middle East and Afghanistan. Therefore, Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, concludes that Ariana is being used as a “terrorist taxi service.” Scheuer concludes that Bout is assisting al-Qaeda. He will later comment that when al-Qaeda operatives would travel through the UAE, “it was almost always through Ariana flights. Since Bout’s operation was working with Ariana, they were part of the same set of concerns.” The CIA also notices an increasing number of Bout’s own planes flying to and from Afghanistan. Scheuer will later say, “Our human intelligence said it was mostly small arms and ammunition, going to Kandahar and occasionally to Kabul.” [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 138-140] However, while intelligence reports on Bout’s ties to the Taliban continue, interest in his activities in Afghanistan fades by the end of 1998. Scheuer will later claim that he tried to raise concern about the Bout flights with National Security Council officials, but saw little interest. “I never got a sense that he was important. He was part of the problem we had with the terrorist infrastructure in Afghanistan, but there were so many parts we were dealing with.… [N]o one was going to fall on their sword to get Victor Bout.” [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 143] After 9/11, evidence will emerge that about nine of the 9/11 hijackers worked in the Kandahar airport heavily used by Bout’s airplanes (see Summer 2000).
A houbara bustard. [Source: Eric and David Hosking / Corbis]In 1998, the CIA becomes interested in the links between arms dealer Victor Bout, al-Qaeda, and the Taliban. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, and some US counternarcotics officials are particularly intrigued by a pattern they see between the flight patterns of Bout’s airplanes to and from Afghanistan and the hunting vacations of some Persian Gulf royals. Many of the Persian Gulf elite are known to regularly go bird hunting in Afghanistan, sometimes meeting Taliban ruler Mullah Omar and/or Osama bin Laden during their hunting trips (see 1995-2001). US analysts notice that there is a surge of Bout-controlled flights to Afghanistan in February and March of each year, the same time many royal elite fly to Afghanistan on their private jets in time for the migration of thousands of houbara bustards through Afghanistan. Then, in early autumn, there is another surge of flights by both Bout’s planes and the royal jets when the bustards migrate through the country again. Officials at the CIA’s counternarcotics center suspect some of the royals are using the hunting flights as cover to export heroin. The Bout flights increase the suspicion, since he is a known drug trafficker as well as an arms dealer. Scheuer will later comment, “They were very interested on the counternarcotics side about the patterns between Bout’s flights and the bustard-hunting season.” British intelligence is interested in the same thing, and at one point they approach United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials for permission to sneak a team of agents aboard one of Bout’s flights to search for Afghan heroin. However, they are unable to get permission, and the CIA also does not act on these suspicions. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 141]
Jordan requests the extradition from Britain of Abu Qatada, a cleric who sits on al-Qaeda’s fatwa committee (see June 1996-1997) and who is wanted in connection with a series of car bombings in Jordan. However, Britain, where Abu Qatada lives, declines the request and grants him asylum. Authors Sean O’Niell and Daniel McGrory will comment: “Britain had given shelter to one of the fiercest advocates of the global jihad. Abu Qatada lived and breathed the al-Qaeda ideology, issued religious decrees… allowing Algerian terrorists to commit mass murder in the name of God, and raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Islamists to carry on the war against Russia in Chechnya.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 29] Abu Qatada is working as an informant with Britain’s security services at this time (see June 1996-February 1997).
Reda Hassaine, a mole for the French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) who has penetrated militant Islamist circles in London (see Early 1997), launches an extremist newsletter to boost his standing. The project is expressly approved by his DGSE handler, who gives Hassaine £1,500 (about US$ 2,250) to fund the launch. The primary aim of the project is to bring Hassaine closer to Abu Qatada, a key militant leader in London. In addition to this, the newsletter enhances Hassaine’s position at the Finsbury Park mosque, a hotbed of Islamist radicalism, and he now has “free run” of it, enabling him to gather more information. He sees false documents being ordered and traded, stolen goods offered for sale, widespread benefit frauds organized, and credit card cloning taking place “on a cottage-industry scale.” Much of the money generated goes to various mujaheddin groups. He is also able to get access to militant communiqués before they are published, and he passes them to his French handler. The first edition of the newsletter, called Journal du Francophone, is entitled Djihad contre les Etats-unis (Jihad against the United States) and is accompanied by a photo of Osama bin Laden. The content is anti-American, anti-Israeli, and it is “full of florid praise for the mujaheddin.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 134-135]
Radical London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri helps recruit Saajid Badat, who will later go on to be involved in a shoe bombing plot. Unlike many of Abu Hamza’s recruits, Badat is middle-class, but has argued with his father and moved to London. There Badat attends mosques around the capital and is moved by the plight of Muslims in the former Yugoslavia. Badat is impressed by Abu Hamza’s rhetoric and the fact that he actually went to Bosnia, and goes to Sarajevo himself in 1998. He then goes to study Islam in madrassas (Islamic boarding schools) in the Middle East and Pakistan. His travel to training camps in Afghanistan at the start of 1999 is reportedly arranged by the same people that perform the same service for fellow shoe bomber Richard Reid (see December 22, 2001), whom Badat will link up with in Pakistan in November 2001 (see November 20, 2001). [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 229-230]
Nizar Trabelsi, who will later be found guilty of planning to bomb a NATO base (see September 30, 2003), attends the radical Islamist Finsbury Park mosque in London. The mosque is run by extremist imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, an informer for the British intelligence services (see Early 1997). Trabelsi is a former professional sportsman, but had drifted into drug dealing before being radicalized. Trabelsi will later go to Afghanistan, meeting Osama bin Laden there. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 226]
Following a talk in Burnley by radical London cleric and informer Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997), seven young men from the northern English town go to Afghanistan, where two of them die. At the talk, one of Abu Hamza’s aides, a man from Birmingham in central England who had fought in Afghanistan and Bosnia, had given a warm-up speech demanding violence and “blood sacrifice” in Britain. He told the audience: “Get training. There must be some martial arts brothers amongst yourselves. You have to pump into the brothers what you are training for. It’s so you can get the kuffar and crush his head in your arms, so you can wring his throat, so you can whip his intestines out. That’s why you do the training, so you can rip the people to pieces. Forget wasting a bullet on them, cut them in half.” The seven local men leave shortly after, saying they are going to Pakistan to study in religious schools. A few months later, news arrives that two of the men, one a university student, the other an accountancy graduate, have been killed in shelling by the Northern Alliance in Kabul. It comes to light that they had been approached to help the Taliban. Local community leader Rafique Malik will say: “Nobody knew, not even their parents, that they were going to Afghanistan. They went to Pakistan and the next thing their parents heard is that they are dead.” Abu Hamza will subsequently be banned from preaching in the Burnley mosque. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 59-60]
Informers for the British authorities monitoring the radical Finsbury Park mosque in London identify a key extremist named Rabah Kadre. One of the informers, Reda Hassaine, mentions him in a number of reports and British authorities realise that he is an important figure in Islamist operations in Britain. In fact, Kadre is the second in command to radical leader Abu Doha, who heads a Europe-wide network of extremists. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 240]
Sawyer Aviation logo. [Source: Sawyer Aviation]In January 1998, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour and his friend Bandar Al Hazmi, who are now renting an apartment together in Phoenix, Arizona, train together at Arizona Aviation flight school. Hanjour supposedly receives his commercial pilot rating while there. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] Later in 1998, Hanjour joins the simulator club at Sawyer School of Aviation in Phoenix. According to the Washington Post, Sawyer is “known locally as a flight school of last resort.” Wes Fults, the manager of the flight simulator, says Hanjour has “only the barest understanding what the instruments were there to do.” After using the simulator four or five times, Hanjour disappears from the school. [Washington Post, 10/15/2001]
One of several unofficial logos of the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty organization. [Source: Kitty Liberation Front (.com)]The BBC broadcasts a graphic documentary detailing the mistreatment and abuse of animals by Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS), a British research firm. Angered animal rights activists in Britain begin to pressure financial institutions associated with HLS to drop their support of the company as a means to force it to stop performing animal testing. The campaign grows into the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC) organization, which models itself on the tactics and ideologies espoused by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF—see 1976) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF—see 1997), among others. SHAC quickly migrates across the Atlantic to the US and into Europe; its activists will claim responsibility for a number of bombings and acts of vandalism and harassment. [Anti-Defamation League, 2005]
Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), who claims to have made many secret trips into Afghanistan and to have fought with the mujaheddin, later describes to Congress a missed opportunity to capture bin Laden. He claims that “a few years” before 9/11, he is contacted by someone he knows and trusts from the 1980s Afghan war, who claims he could pinpoint bin Laden’s location. Rohrabacher passes this information to the CIA, but the informant isn’t contacted. After some weeks, Rohrabacher uses his influence to set up a meeting with agents in the CIA, NSA, and FBI. Yet even then, the informant is not contacted, until weeks later, and then only in a “disinterested” way. Rohrabacher concludes, “that our intelligence services knew about the location of bin Laden several times but were not permitted to attack him… because of decisions made by people higher up.” [US Congress, 9/17/2001]
At its operations center in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices dealing with hijackings five times per month, on average, during training exercises. A NORAD document produced a month after 9/11 will state that the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center (CMOC) “routinely conducts the Amazon Arizona series of internal exercises that include hijack scenarios.” Prior to September 11, 2001, the document continues, “CMOC averaged five hijack training events each month.” Further details of these “Amazon Arizona” exercises are unstated in the document. [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 10/13/2001] But other sources provide additional information about what they might entail.
Exercises Are 'One of the Busiest Times' in Operations Center - According to a 1989 NORAD document, “Arizona” exercises are a “Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Base internal system training mission.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 8/25/1989] And in 2004, NORAD will state that its exercises before 9/11 that include hijacking scenarios test “track detection and identification; scramble and interception; hijack procedures; internal and external agency coordination; and operational security and communications security procedures.” [CNN, 4/19/2004] According to Stacey Knott, a technician at the CMOC, “One of the busiest times” in the operations center “is during exercises.… We have the battle staff and CAT [Crisis Action Team] in here; generals and admirals are running in and out.” Knott has said that exercises at the CMOC give her “an idea what things would be like if something were to go down,” and so, “[i]f something actually did happen, we’d be ready for it.” [Airman, 1/1996]
Operations Center Is 'Focal Point for Air Defense Operations' - It is unclear over what period up to 9/11 the CMOC averages five hijack training events per month. It appears to be at least going back to 1998: In 2003, Ken Merchant, NORAD’s joint exercise design manager, will tell the 9/11 Commission that his office keeps computer hard drive information about NORAD exercises “roughly” back to that year. Merchant will add that he “did not believe that his office retained other exercise information, such as after-action reviews, for exercises prior to 1998.” [9/11 Commission, 11/14/2003 ] According to NORAD’s website, “the Cheyenne Mountain Operations Center provides warning of ballistic missile or air attacks against North America, assists the air sovereignty mission for the United States and Canada, and, if necessary, is the focal point for air defense operations to counter enemy bombers or cruise missiles.” [North American Aerospace Defense Command, 11/27/1999] On the morning of 9/11, members of the battle staff at the CMOC will be participating in the exercise Vigilant Guardian (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [Airman, 3/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/1/2004 ]
Cabdullah Ciise. [Source: The Sun]Police raid the apartment of Cabdullah Ciise, an extremist based in Germany who is linked to hijacker Mohamed Atta and some of his associates in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. The police find forged Italian documents in the apartment, proving a link between Ciise in Germany and Italian cells that specialize in document forgery, especially one in Milan that is under investigation (see 1998 and October 2, 1998). Ciise lives in Germany from 1991 until October 1999, during which time he becomes friendly with Mohamed Atta as well as cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh, with whom he often watches videos about the war in Chechyna and talks about religion. Ciise is also linked to other cell members such as Mohamed Daki and his associates Said Bahaji and Mounir El Motassadeq, as well as a Yemeni named Mohammed Rajih whom German authorities will investigate for terrorist ties at some point before 2005. It is unclear what impact the link to the important Milan cell has on surveillance of the cell in Hamburg. Ciise will allegedly be involved in a bombing in Mombasa, Kenya (see November 28, 2002), will help send fighters to Iraq, and will be arrested in Milan in 2003. [Vidino, 2006, pp. 256]
George Tenet, appointed as CIA director in 1997 (see July 11, 1997), develops close personal relationships with top Saudi officials, especially Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Tenet develops a habit of meeting with Bandar at his home near Washington about once a month. But CIA officers handling Saudi issues complain that Tenet doesn’t tell them what he discusses with Bandar. Often they are only able to learn about Tenet’s deals with the Saudis later and through Saudi contacts, not from their own boss. Tenet also makes one of his closest aides the chief of the CIA station in Saudi Arabia. This aide often communicates directly with Tenet, avoiding the usual chain of command. Apparently as a favor to the Saudis, CIA analysts are discouraged from writing reports raising questions about the Saudi relationship to Islamic extremists. [Risen, 2006, pp. 185]
Al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar probably recruits future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed and other key members of the Hamburg cell into al-Qaeda this year. According to Time magazine, “US investigators believe [Zammar] may have persuaded Atta’s Islamic study group to offer its services to al-Qaeda around 1998.” Zammar was frequently seen by neighbors with Atta starting in 1997 (see 1997). [Time, 7/1/2002]
Zammar Being Monitored by US and German Intelligence - German intelligence began heavily monitoring Zammar in early 1997 and this continues until at least early 2000 (see March 1997-Early 2000). The CIA also appears to be monitoring Zammar by this time. Author Terry McDermott will later comment: “[T]he CIA told the [9/11 Congressional Inquiry] it had a long-standing interest in Zammar that pre-dated [a wiretap done in March 1999 (see March 1999)]. In other words, the CIA appears to have been investigating the man who recruited the hijackers at the time he was recruiting them.” [McDermott, 2005, pp. 73, 278-279]
At a Friday sermon, radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri curses King Fahd of Saudi Arabia and praises suicide bombers who recently attacked a rush-hour bus in Jerusalem. The sermon is delivered at the Finsbury Park mosque in London, which was actually paid for in part by King Fahd. A moderate Muslim who attends the sermon is angry at the praise for suicide bombings and goes to see Abu Hamza, an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), asking, “How dare you celebrate other people’s misery?” However, he is intimidated by Abu Hamza’s minders and receives no reply. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 46-47]
Police stop a car carrying supporters of Abu Hamza al-Masri on their way back from a paramilitary training camp in Wales. The supporters include Mohsin Ghalain, Abu Hamza’s stepson, and Mohammed Kamel Mostafa, his son. Abu Hamza, an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), began setting up training camps and courses in Britain the previous year to prepare his supporters to fight for Muslim causes abroad (see (Mid-1997)). Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will point out that the police followed the men’s car for some time before it was stopped and, “The authorities clearly had this group on a watch-list.” The police search the car, making remarks indicating they expect to find firearms. However, none are found, as the weapons were given to the men’s trainers, ex-soldiers in the British army, after the end of the course. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 84] Ghalain and Mostafa will later attempt to carry out terrorist attacks in Yemen, but will be thwarted (see December 23, 1998).
By 1997, al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is living in Peshawar, Pakistan, near the border to Afghanistan. He runs an al-Qaeda guest house there called the House of Martyrs, where all foreign recruits are interviewed before being sent to Afghanistan. As a result, Zubaida soon knows the names of thousands of al-Qaeda recruits. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 224-225] In 2006, author Gerald Posner will write that beginning in 1998, Pakistan receives several requests from US intelligence to track down Zubaida. Beginning by October 1998, the US and other countries have been monitoring Zubaida’s phone calls (see October 1998 and After), and will continue to do so through the 9/11 attacks (see Early September 2001 and October 8, 2001). But according to Posner, “Pakistan’s agency, the ISI, had claimed to have made several failed attempts, but few in the US believe they did more before September 11 than file away the request and possibly at times even warn Zubaida of the Americans’ interest.” [Posner, 2003, pp. 184] In 2008, Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid will repeat the gist of Posner’s allegations, and further explain that Zubaida directly worked with the ISI. Some of the militants he directs to al-Qaeda camps are militants sent by the ISI to fight in Kashmir, a region disputed between India and Pakistan. Presumably, handing Zubaida to the US could hinder Pakistan’s covert war against India in Kashmir. [Rashid, 2008, pp. 224-225] After Zubaida is arrested in 2002, he allegedly will divulge that he has personal contacts with high-ranking officials in Pakistan and Saudi Arabia (see Early April 2002).
In 1998, Saif al-Islam al-Masri, a member of al-Qaeda’s ruling military council, is appointed Benevolence International Foundation’s (BIF) officer in Grozny, Chechnya. BIF is a US-based charity with numerous ties to al-Qaeda that is being investigated by the FBI at this time (see 1998). It will be shut down in late 2001 (see December 14, 2001). From 1995 to 2001, BIF provides money, anti-mine boots, camouflage military uniforms, and other supplies to the Chechen rebels who are fighting the Russian army. BIF is particularly close to Ibn Khattab, the Chechen warlord linked to Osama bin Laden, and BIF is even mentioned on Khattab’s website at the time, as a charity to use to give to the Chechen cause. The BIF office in Baku, Azerbaijan, which serves as support to nearby Chechnya, is manned by a member of a militant group led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Afghan warlord closely linked to al-Qaeda. In 1999, Enaam Arnaout, head of BIF’s US office, tours Chechnya and reports on the roles al-Islam, Khattab, and others are playing there. US intelligence is aware of al-Islam’s al-Qaeda role at this time, and recovered his passport photo in a raid on the house of al-Qaeda leader Wadih El-Hage in Kenya in 1997 (see August 21, 1997). [USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout, 10/6/2003 ] El-Hage was monitored talking on the phone to al-Islam in 1996 and 1997. [United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 37, 5/1/2001] However, either US intelligence failed to notice al-Islam’s link to BIF at the time, or failed to do anything about it. It is not known when he stops working for BIF. He will not be captured until 2002, when US forces help catch him just outside of Chechnya (see Early October 2002).
Beginning in 1998, if not before, Uzbekistan and the CIA secretly create a joint counterterrorist strike force, funded and trained by the CIA. This force conducts joint covert operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. [Times of India, 10/14/2001; Washington Post, 10/14/2001; Vanity Fair, 11/2004] In February 1999, radical Muslims fail in an attempt to assassinate Islam Karimov, the leader of Uzbekistan, leading to a crackdown on Uzbek militants. CIA counterterrorism head Cofer Black and bin Laden unit chief Richard Blee see this as an opportunity to increase co-operation with Uzbekistan, and fly to the Uzbek capital of Tashkent to seal an agreement with Karimov. One hope is that a strike force will be established to snatch Osama bin Laden or one of his lieutenants. Karimov also allows CIA transit and helicopter operations at Uzbek air bases, as well as the installation of CIA and NSA monitoring equipment to intercept Taliban and al-Qaeda communications. The CIA is pleased with the new allies, thinking them better than Pakistan’s ISI, but at the White House some National Security Council members are skeptical. One will comment, “Uzbek motivations were highly suspect to say the least.” There are also worries about Uzbek corruption, human rights abuses, and scandal. [Coll, 2004, pp. 456-460]
Dietrich Snell. [Source: Morris Mac Matzen/ Associated Press]Abdul Hakim Murad, a conspirator in the 1995 Bojinka plot with Ramzi Yousef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), and others, was convicted in 1996 of his role in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). He is about to be sentenced for that crime. He offers to cooperate with federal prosecutors in return for a reduction in his sentence, but prosecutors turn down his offer. Dietrich Snell, the prosecutor who convicted Murad, will say after 9/11 that he does not remember any such offer. But court papers and others familiar with the case later confirm that Murad does offer to cooperate at this time. Snell will claim he only remembers hearing that Murad had described an intention to hijack a plane and fly it into CIA headquarters. However, in 1995 Murad had confessed to Philippine investigators that this would have been only one part of a larger plot to crash a number of airplanes into prominent US buildings, including the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, a plot that KSM later will adjust and turn into the 9/11 plot (see January 20, 1995)
(see February-Early May 1995). While Philippine investigators claim this information was passed on to US intelligence, it’s not clear just which US officials may have learned this information and what they did with it, if anything. [New York Daily News, 9/25/2001] Murad is sentenced in May 1998 and given life in prison plus 60 years. [Albany Times-Union, 9/22/2002] After 9/11, Snell will go on to become Senior Counsel and a team leader for the 9/11 Commission. Author Peter Lance later calls Snell “one of the fixers, hired early on to sanitize the Commission’s final report.” Lance says Snell ignored evidence presented to the Commission that shows direct ties between the Bojinka plot and 9/11, and in so doing covers up Snell’s own role in the failure to make more use of evidence learned from Murad and other Bojinka plotters. [FrontPage Magazine, 1/27/2005]
The CIA apparently ignores a warning from a recently retired CIA agent that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is heading al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations. Robert Baer left the CIA in late 1997 and began private consulting in the Middle East. Baer soon meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before. Al Thani tells Baer that KSM is now bin Laden’s chief of terrorist operations, and gives Baer other details about KSM, including how some Qatari royals helped KSM escape Qatar the year before after the CIA tracked him there (see January-May 1996 and Early 1998). In early 1998, Baer passes all this information on to a friend still in the CIA, who then passes it on to the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. But the friend writes back a week later, saying the CIA showed no interest. [Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] The 9/11 Commission, by contrast, will later claim that, in 1997 and 1998, KSM has some links with al-Qaeda, but mostly helps them collect newspaper articles and update computer equipment. Supposedly, not until after the August 1998 embassy bombings does he begin working directly with al-Qaeda on plotting attacks. This account appears entirely based on KSM’s testimony taken while in US custody. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 149-150] It will later be reported that up to 90 percent of KSM’s testimony could be inaccurate, mostly due to the use of torture (see Late August 1998). Further, the CIA gained evidence shortly after the embassy bombings that KSM was one of the masterminds of those bombings, which would strongly support Baer’s information over the 9/11 Commission version (see August 6, 2007).
Robert Baer. [Source: Publicity photo]In December 1997, former CIA agent Robert Baer, newly retired from the CIA and working as a terrorism consultant, meets Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, who was Qatar’s minister of the economy and chief of police until he was deposed and exiled the year before, and whom he calls the “black prince.” Al Thani tells Baer that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was being sheltered by then Qatari Interior Minister Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani in 1996 (see January-May 1996). However, the black prince knows other details, based on what Qatari police and intelligence learned when KSM was in the country. He says that KSM is chief of al-Qaeda’s terrorist operations (see Early 1998). KSM was leading an al-Qaeda cell in Qatar together with Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, the brother of the Egyptian who had killed Anwar Sadat. They also were linked to bomber Ramzi Yousef. But what worries the black prince is that KSM and Islambouli are experts in hijacking commercial planes. He tells Baer that KSM “is going to hijack some planes.” Further, he says that KSM has moved to the Czech Republic, and has also traveled to Germany to meet bin Laden associates there. In early 1998 Baer sends this information to a friend in the CIA Counterterrorist Center, who forwards the information to his superiors. Baer doesn’t hear back from the CIA. He says, “There was no interest.” [Baer, 2002, pp. 270-71; Vanity Fair, 2/2002; United Press International, 9/30/2002; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Later in 1998, President Clinton will be briefed about a hijacking threat in the US involving Islambouli, but it is unclear if Islambouli was actually involved in the 9/11 plot or any other hijacking plots targeting the US (see December 4, 1998). He will not have been captured by March 2008. Baer tries to interest reporter Daniel Pearl in a story about KSM before 9/11, but Pearl will still be working on it when he is kidnapped and later murdered in early 2002. [United Press International, 4/9/2004] Baer also tries to interest New York Times reporter James Risen in the information about KSM. But just before Risen can come to the Middle East to meet the black prince, the black prince is kidnapped in Lebanon and sent to prison in Qatar. There will be speculation that the CIA turned on the source to protect its relationship with the Qatari government. Risen will publish an article in July 1999 about KSM, but it will not include most of the information from the black prince, since Risen will not be able to confirm it. [New York Times, 7/8/1999; BBC, 7/25/1999; Gertz, 2002, pp. 55-58; Baer, 2003, pp. 190-198] Al-Thani will continue to support al-Qaeda, even hosting visits by bin Laden between 1996 and 2000 (see 1996-2000). [ABC News, 2/7/2003] Yet the US will not have frozen al-Thani’s assets or taken other action by March 2008.
Entity Tags: James Risen, Robert Baer, Ramzi Yousef, Hamad bin Jassim bin Hamad al Thani, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, Daniel Pearl, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Al-Qaeda, Counterterrorist Center, Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Ali Mohamed, the al-Qaeda double agent living in California, receives a letter from Ihab Ali Nawawi (an apparent al-Qaeda sleeper cell operative living in Orlando, Florida, at the time (see September 1999)). Nawawi tells Mohamed that Wadih El-Hage, a key member of the al-Qaeda cell in Kenya, has been interviewed by the FBI (see August 21, 1997). Mohamed is given a new contact number for El-Hage. Mohamed calls El-Hage and speaks to him about this, then calls other operatives who pass on the warning of the FBI’s interest in El-Hage to bin Laden. US intelligence is monitoring Mohamed’s phone calls at this time, so presumably they are aware of these connections. [New York Times, 10/24/2000; Raleigh News and Observer, 10/21/2001; Chicago Tribune, 12/11/2001] Yet, despite all of these monitored communications, neither Mohamed, nor Nawawi, nor El-Hage, are apprehended at this time, even though all three are living in the US. Their plot to blow up two US embassies in Africa succeeds in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998).
Bin Laden holds a meeting with other top al-Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan this month to prepare for a new wave of attacks. CIA analysts are able to learn some about this meeting, apparently largely due to NSA communications intercepts. On US official will say later in 1998, “There were reams of intel documenting bin Laden before” the African embassy bombings later in the year (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Another official will say, “We’ve had the book on this guy for a long time.” But it is not known which attacks may have been discussed at this meeting or how much US intelligence knew about what was said there. [New York Times, 9/6/1998]
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