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The NSA issues a top-secret intelligence report warning that terrorists are planning an attack in the Middle East, but the warning is not distributed until several hours after the USS Cole is bombed in Yemen (see October 12, 2000). The warning says that terrorists are involved in the “operational planning” for an attack on US or Israeli targets in the Middle East. It says that members of a group have been tracked to planning activities in Dubai and Beirut, but the names of the operatives and the group remain classified. According to one official, the warning specifies an attack in Yemen, but other officials say it covers the Middle East in general. Typically, the NSA requires one to two days to gather and distribute such highly classified reports. The warning is not reported on the US intelligence community’s worldwide computer network called Intellink. NSA reports often are sent out to a smaller network due to their high classification. [Washington Times, 10/25/2000]
Damage to the USS Cole. [Source: Department of Defense]The USS Cole is bombed in the Aden, Yemen harbor by two al-Qaeda militants, Hassan al-Khamri and Ibrahim al-Thawar (a.k.a. Nibras). Seventeen US soldiers are killed and 30 are wounded. The CIA will later conclude that with just slightly more skilled execution, the attack would have killed 300 and sunk the ship. [ABC News, 10/13/2000; Coll, 2004, pp. 532; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 191] The Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) immediately takes credit for the attack. This is a Yemen-based Muslim militant group widely believed to have close ties to al-Qaeda (see 1996-1997 and After). [Guardian, 10/14/2000] The IAA statement is released by its spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997, (June 1998), and December 28, 1998 and After). Abu Hamza says that the attack was timed to mark the anniversary of the execution of the IAA’s former commander (see October 17, 1999). [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 184] The prime minister of Yemen at the time of the bombing will say shortly after 9/11, “The Islamic Army was part of al-Qaeda.” [Guardian, 10/13/2001] The US soon learns the names of some al-Qaeda operatives involved in the attack, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Tawfiq bin Attash and Fahad al-Quso (see Early December 2000), and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see November-December 2000). 9/11 hijackers Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see October 10-21, 2000) and Khalid Almihdhar (see Around October 12, 2000) may also have been involved. This is a repeat of a previously attempted attack, against the USS The Sullivans, which failed and was apparently undetected (see January 3, 2000). [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/2002] The 9/11 Commission will later say the Cole bombing “was a full-fledged al-Qaeda operation, supervised directly by bin Laden. He chose the target and location of the attack, selected the suicide operatives, and provided the money needed to purchase explosives and equipment.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 190]
Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Khallad bin Attash, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Islamic Army of Aden, USS Cole, Osama bin Laden, Ibrahim al-Thawar, Khalid Almihdhar, Fahad al-Quso, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Hassan al-Khamri, Al-Qaeda
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Damage to the USS Cole, shown in dry dock. [Source: US Navy]9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar is in Yemen when the USS Cole is attacked in Aden harbor there (see October 12, 2000), and is reported to have had a role in the bombing. Almihdhar leaves shortly after the attack, together with al-Qaeda operative Khallad bin Attash. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 209] Bin Attash is quickly identified as one of the masterminds of the operation (see Late October-Late November 2000). Almihdhar will subsequently be accused of participating in the operation by the prime ministers of Yemen and Britain (see Early October 2001 and October 4, 2001). The Yemeni militant group Islamic Army of Aden takes credit for the bombing, and a friend of Almihdhar in San Diego will later say that Almihdhar told him he was a member of that group (see Early 2000). The Cole attack was a repeat of a failed attempt to bomb the USS The Sullivans (see January 3, 2000), of which Almihdhar had foreknowledge (see Late 1999). Almihdhar, who trained with the Cole bombers (see Late 1999) and attended an apparent planning session for the operation (see January 5-8, 2000), may also be involved in a later ship-bombing operation in Singapore (see June 2001). Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a close associate of the hijackers, also leaves Yemen around this time and is also suspected of involvement in the bombing (see October 10-21, 2000).
Hours after the USS Cole bombing in Yemen (see October 12, 2000), President Clinton says regarding the bombing: “If, as it now appears, this was an act of terrorism, it was a despicable and cowardly act. We will find out who was responsible and hold them accountable.” [ABC News, 10/12/2000] But the US will not quickly retaliate against al-Qaeda, as it did with missile strikes after the 1998 US embassy bombings in East Africa (see August 20, 1998), despite convincing evidence that al-Qaeda was behind the Cole bombing (see Shortly After October 12, 2000, November 2000 or After, and November 7, 2000).
In the months after the USS Cole is bombed in autumn 2000 (see October 12, 2000), the NSA intercepts about half a dozen communications between hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi in the US and an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, run by hijacker Khalid Almihdhar’s father in law, Ahmed al-Hada. [MSNBC, 7/21/2004; Los Angeles Times, 12/21/2005; US President, 12/26/2005 ] The hub and people associated with it are thought to have played a support role in the Cole bombing (see also October 14-Late November, 2000 and October 4, 2001). [CNN, 2/14/2002; MSNBC, 7/21/2004] It was also involved in the bombing of US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya (see August 4-25, 1998). The NSA has been monitoring the number for at least two years (see Late August 1998) and the FBI has used it to map al-Qaeda’s global organisation (see Late 1998-Early 2002). The NSA had previously intercepted calls between hijacker Khalid Almihdhar in the US and the hub (see Spring-Summer 2000 and Early 2000-Summer 2001) and also intercepts a call between Alhazmi and the hub a few weeks before 9/11 (see (August 2001)).
Under interrogation following his capture, al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash will say that after the bombing of the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000), Iran makes a concerted effort to strengthen relations with al-Qaeda. However, Iran is rebuffed because Osama bin Laden does not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia, which has poor relations with Iran. Nevertheless, Iranian officials are apparently willing to assist travel by al-Qaeda members through Iran, on their way to and from Afghanistan, by not placing telltale immigration stamps in their passports. Such arrangements are particularly beneficial to Saudi members of al-Qaeda. However, information such as this obtained from detainees under interrogation is thought to be unreliable due to the questionable methods used to extract it (see June 16, 2004). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240]
In a Friday sermon one day after the USS Cole was bombed with the loss of 17 lives (see October 12, 2000), leading radical imam and British intelligence informer (see Early 1997) Abu Hamza al-Masri encourages his followers to wage a global jihad (holy war). The sermon is nominally about the Palestinian intifada, which is in the headlines at this time, but Abu Hamza does not confine himself to this topic.
'If It Is Killing, Do It' - He says: “You must increase your action, you must increase your jihad, because when you wake up you wake the scholars up and when you and the scholars are woken up the tyrants are shaking… It’s time for you and me and everybody to sacrifice, it’s a time to prove that we are not here in the West just for the honey pot, just to take and not to give anything.” He adds: “My dear brothers, if you can go [on jihad] then go. If you can’t go, sponsor. If you can’t sponsor, speak. If you can’t do all of this, do all of that. If you can send your children, send them, you must help, you must have a stand. You must have a stand with your heart, with your tongue, with your money, with your sword, with your Kalashnikov, anything you think will help… don’t ask ‘Shall I do this, shall I do that?’ Just do it. Anything that will help the intifada, just do it. If it is killing, do it. If it is paying, pay, if it is ambushing, ambush, if it is poisoning, poison.”
'They Are All Kuffar' - Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will comment: “Stop, rewind a second, and listen again. Abu Hamza was not just talking Palestine or the old jihad battlefields of the past. This was eleven months before the World Trade Center would be demolished and three thousand people killed in the worst terrorist atrocity the world had ever seen, and here was one of al-Qaeda’s most potent mouthpieces telling a congregation at Friday prayers in London to help their oppressed brothers, ‘in any way you like and anywhere you like. They are all kuffar [non-believers], and can all be killed. Killing a kuffar who is fighting you is OK. Killing a kuffar for any reason, you can say it is OK, even if there is no reason for it.’” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 55-57]
Michael Sheehan. [Source: Center on Law and Security]In the wake of the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), Clinton administration officials hold a high level meeting to discuss what the US response should be. The meeting attendees include: Counterterrorism “Tsar” Richard Clarke, Defense Secretary William Cohen, CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General Janet Reno, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Deputy National Security Adviser Jim Steinberg, and State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Michael Sheehan.
Clarke suggests that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks. There is no hard evidence of this yet but he argues that the attack matches their profile and capabilities. He presents a detailed plan, which he’d been working on before the bombing, to level all the al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan as well as key Taliban buildings in such towns as Kandahar and Kabul.
Reno argues there’s no clear evidence yet who was behind the bombing. If there is such evidence, any US actions should not be for retaliation but only for self-protection against future attacks.
Tenet says that he suspects al-Qaeda is behind the bombing but also wants to wait until an investigation determines that before acting.
Cohen is against any counterattack. Clarke will later recall Cohen saying at the meeting that the Cole bombing “was not sufficient provocation.” Sheehan will later say that the “entire Pentagon” was generally against a counterattack.
Albright is against a counterattack for diplomatic reasons. The Clinton administration is involved in trying to create a peace settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians and bombing Afghanistan could ruin such talks.
Many also argue that if Afghanistan is attacked and bin Laden is not killed, he could emerge a greater hero in the Muslim world, just as he did after a 1998 US missile strike (see Late 1998). Clarke argues that the continual creation of new trained militants in Afghanistan needs to stop, and if bin Laden is killed, that would merely be a “bonus.” At the end of the meeting, the highest-ranking officials cast votes, and seven vote against Clarke’s counterstrike plan, while only Clarke votes in favor of it. After the meeting, Sheehan will meet with Clarke and express frustration with the outcome, saying, “What’s it going to take to get them to hit al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al-Qaeda have to hit the Pentagon?” [Miniter, 2003, pp. 222-227]
Author Lawrence Wright will later write about the FBI’s investigation of the USS Cole bombing in Yemen (see October 12, 2000): “The FBI was convinced that the [Cole] bombers had been tipped off about the arrival of the Cole, and they wanted to expand the investigation to include a member of the president’s own family and a colonel in [the Yemeni equivalent of the FBI]. There was scant interest on the part of the Yemen authorities in pursuing such leads.” Wright will also point out: “Yemen was a particularly difficult place to start a terrorist investigation, as it was filled with active al-Qaeda cells and with sympathizers at very high levels of government. On television, Yemeni politicians called for jihad against America. Just getting permission from the Yemeni government to go to the crime scene—the wounded warship in the Aden harbor—required lengthy negotiations with hostile officials.” Cooperation from the Yemen government is erratic at best. For instance, the Yemenis eventually show the FBI a videotape taken by a harborside security camera, but it appears the moment of the explosion has been edited out. [Wright, 2006, pp. 325; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] Later, when the FBI is finally allowed to interview Fahad al-Quso, who the FBI believes is one of the main Cole plotters, a Yemeni colonel enters the room and kisses Quso on both cheeks. This is a recognized signal to everyone that al-Quso is protected. [Wright, 2006, pp. 330] Between Yemeni obstructions, infighting between US officials (see October 14-Late November, 2000), and security concerns hindering movement, there will never be the same kind of investigation and trial as there was with the 1998 embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998 and February-July 2001).
Barbara Bodine at a press conference days after the bombing of the USS Cole. [Source: Reuters]The first FBI agents enter Yemen two days after the bombing of the USS Cole in an attempt to discover who was responsible. However, the main part of the team initially gets stuck in Germany because they do not have permission to enter Yemen and they are then unable to accomplish much due to restrictions placed on them and tensions between lead investigator John O’Neill and US Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine. All but about 50 investigators are forced to leave by the end of October. O’Neill’s boss Barry Mawn visits to assess the situation. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 237; New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] Mawn will later comment, “It became clear [Bodine] simply hated his guts.” After a ten day investigation, he concludes O’Neill is doing a fine job, tells Bodine that she is O’Neill’s “only detractor,” and refuses her request to recall him. [Wright, 2006, pp. 32] But O’Neill and much of his team are pressured to leave by late November and Bodine will not give him permission to return any time after that. The investigation stalls without his personal relationships to top Yemeni officials. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 237; New Yorker, 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002] Increased security threats force the reduced FBI team still in Yemen to withdraw altogether in June 2001. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] The prime minister of Yemen at the time later claims (see Early October 2001) that hijacker “Khalid Almihdhar was one of the Cole perpetrators, involved in preparations. He was in Yemen at the time and stayed after the Cole bombing for a while, then he left.” The Sunday Times later notes, “The failure in Yemen may have blocked off lines of investigation that could have led directly to the terrorists preparing for September 11.” [Sunday Times (London), 2/3/2002]
A FedEx MD-11 aircraft. [Source: Alan Radecki]The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) practices scenarios based around suicidal pilots planning to deliberately crash stolen aircraft into the United Nations headquarters—a skyscraper in New York. The two scenarios are practiced on October 16 and October 23 as part of NORAD’s annual command post exercise called Vigilant Guardian. All of NORAD, including its Northeast Air Defense Sector based in Rome, New York, participates in this exercise. [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004; Arkin, 2005, pp. 545; GlobalSecurity (.org), 4/27/2005]
Simulation Involves Planned Suicide Plane Attack - General Richard Myers, currently the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will later describe the scenario practiced on October 16: “Due to recent arrests involving illegal drug trafficking in Maine, an individual steals a Federal Express plane and plans a suicide attack into the United Nations building in New York City.” In response to the simulated crisis, exercise participants follow hijack checklists, exercise command and control, and coordinate with external agencies.
Simulation Involves WMD Directed at the UN - The October 23 scenario, according to Myers, is based around “[w]eapons of mass destruction directed at the United Nations. An individual steals a Federal Express aircraft and plans a suicide attack on the United Nations building in New York City.” In response, exercise participants practice command and control, and coordinate with external agencies, and fighter jets conduct an interception of the stolen aircraft. [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004] Federal Express currently flies mostly the DC-10 and the MD-11, which are both large jet planes, so presumably one of these kinds of aircraft is considered in the exercise scenarios. [Washington Post, 1/17/2001] The UN headquarters building—the target in the scenarios—is a 39-story high-rise, located just a few miles from the World Trade Center. [New York Daily News, 12/2/1999; Evening Standard, 9/11/2002]
Scenarios Revealed in 2004 - The details of these two scenarios will come to light in August 2004 during a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. They will be revealed by Myers, at that time the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after Senator Mark Dayton (D-MN) asks him, “Did NORAD conduct exercises or develop scenarios, prior to September 11, 2001, to test a military reaction to an aircraft hijacking which appeared destined to result in a suicide crash into a high-value target?” [US Congress. Senate. Committee on Armed Services, 8/17/2004] NORAD will state in 2004 that, until 9/11, it conducts four major exercises each year. Most of these include a hijack scenario, but not all of them involve planes being used as weapons. [USA Today, 4/18/2004; CNN, 4/19/2004] NORAD’s next Vigilant Guardian exercise, in 2001, will actually be several days underway on 9/11 (see (6:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001). It will include a number of scenarios based around plane hijackings, with the fictitious hijackers targeting New York in at least one of those scenarios (see September 6, 2001, September 9, 2001, September 10, 2001, and (9:40 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 2004; Vanity Fair, 8/1/2006]
9/11 hijacker Hamza Alghamdi obtains a US visa in Saudi Arabia. His application is incomplete, as he lists his occupation as student but fails to give his school’s address. It is also possible, but not certain, that he presents a passport containing fraudulent travel stamps associated with al-Qaeda. However, this is not recognized. He is not interviewed. The place in which the visa is issued is uncertain. The 9/11 Commission’s Terrorist Travel monograph will say that the visa was issued in Riyadh, but then say that the consular officer that issued the visa “told us that because of the workload in Jeddah, he rarely had time to thumb through passports.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14 ] A stipulation about the hijackers submitted as evidence at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui will say that the visa was issued in Jeddah. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 32 ] A General Accountability Office review of the hijackers’ visas will say that the visa was issued in Riyadh. [United States General Accounting Office, 10/21/2002, pp. 46 ] At least 11 other visas issued to the hijackers were issued by a single consular official in Jeddah (see July 1, 2000).
9/11 hijacker Mohand Alshehri obtains a US visa from the American embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. His application is incomplete, as he claims to be a student, but gives his school’s address as “Riyadh K.S.A.” (which presumably stands for “Kingdom of Saudi Arabia”). He also gives his address as “Any hotel,” and changes his desired length of stay from “1 years,” which is crossed out on the application, to “6 months.” He says he will be supporting himself in the US, and is not interviewed. The consular officer that issues the visa will say, “We only interviewed Saudis if there was a previous denial of a visa application or if there was something wrong with the application.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14, 178-9 ] The same consular officer will later issue a visa to another of the hijackers (see November 20, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14, 16, 38 ]
Using new passports obtained three weeks previously (see October 3, 2000), future 9/11 hijackers Waleed and Wail Alshehri obtain tourist visas to the US. [US Department of State, 10/24/2000; US Department of State, 10/24/2000] The visas are issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, who apparently issues the 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] The Alshehris make several errors in the applications, which should normally lead to them being rejected. They only give their employer’s/school’s address as “South city” and the address they will be staying at as “Wasantwn,” although they do not specify whether this is the city or the state. They also say they will stay for four to six months, although it is unclear how they will support themselves during this time, and on Wail’s application form Steinger does not even bother to complete the section on checking the applicant has the necessary funds. In addition, the Alshehris say they will arrive in the US “after two weeks”—presumably meaning two weeks after the visa’s application was filed. However, according to the 9/11 Commission Report, Waleed will arrive on April 23, 2001 and Wail will arrive on June 8, 2001 (see April 23-June 29, 2001). They appear to receive their visas on the same day they apply for them. [US Department of State, 10/24/2000; US Department of State, 10/24/2000; National Review, 10/9/2002] The 9/11 Commission will say that their passports may have fraudulent features, presumably related to travel stamps, although this is not certain. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 563-4]
Future 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alnami and candidate hijacker Mushabib al-Hamlan obtain US visas from the American consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14-15 ] Alnami’s visa is issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official who apparently issues the 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000) and will issue Alnami with a second visa next year (see April 23, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] Alnami’s application is incomplete, as he lists his occupation as “student,” but does not provide a complete address for his school. He also gives his US address as “in Los Angeles” and writes that “my friend Moshibab” will be traveling with him. The 9/11 Commission will later suggest that Alnami’s passport may contain fraudulent travel stamps associated with al-Qaeda, although this is not certain and is apparently not noticed at this time. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14-15 ] The 9/11 Commission will also suggest that one or more of Alnami’s passports may contain a suspicious indicator of Islamist extremism, but this is not certain (see November 6, 1999 and November 2, 2007). Some of the radicals who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 also had Saudi passports with the same indicator (see Around February 1993). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 563-4; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14-15 ] Before obtaining the visa, Alnami and al-Hamlan followed instructions given them by al-Qaeda leaders Mohammed Atef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and contacted future 9/11 hijacker Waleed Alshehri in Jeddah. They briefly share an apartment with Alshehri, who provides them with directions to the consulate and shows them how to fill out visa applications. Al-Hamlan will soon drop out of the plot after contacting his family. Alnami will later be said to fly to Beirut with the Alshehris (see Mid-November, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526]
Shortly after the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), the US supposedly obtains intelligence that prompts President Clinton to consider another missile strike on bin Laden. The US presidential election is in early November. Author Lawrence Wright will later write, “Clinton maintains that, despite the awkward political timing, his administration came close to launching another missile attack… but at the last minute the CIA recommended calling it off because [bin Laden’s] presence at the site was not completely certain.” [Wright, 2006, pp. 244] Additionally, the tie between the Cole bombing and al-Qaeda had not yet been confirmed. The first strong evidence of such a tie will come in late November 2000 when details of an al-Qaeda operative’s confession are given to the FBI (see Late October-Late November 2000). The 9/11 Commission will make no mention of any planned strikes around this time in their final report while discussing the missed opportunities to strike at bin Laden. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 237] However, the Washington Post will detail the opportunity, saying the target was a “stone compound, built around a central courtyard full of al-Qaeda operatives.” But the strike is canceled when CIA Director George Tenet calls National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and says about the quality of intelligence, “We just don’t have it.” [Washington Post, 12/19/2001] Ironically, it appears bin Laden was actually hoping to be attacked, anticipating that it would boost his reputation in the Muslim world. In the summer of 2001, the NSA will monitor two al-Qaeda operatives discussing how disappointed they are that the US did not retaliate after the Cole bombing (see June 30-July 1, 2001).
Fahad al-Quso, a Yemeni and known associate of Osama bin Laden, turns himself in to the Yemeni government after some of his relatives are questioned in the wake of the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000). [New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] He admits that he and one of the two Cole suicide bombers went to Bangkok, Thailand, and gave several thousand dollars to a man known as Khallad, who is identified as one of the masterminds of the Cole bombing. He says the money is to buy a new artificial leg for the one-legged Khallad. The transcript of the interrogation is given to the FBI a month later. FBI agent Ali Soufan sees the transcript and remembers a source he recruited in Afghanistan who spoke of a one-legged man named Khallad who is close to bin Laden. Khallad is his nickname; his real name is Tawfiq bin Attash. A mug shot of bin Attash is sent to this source, who makes a positive identification. Soufan wonders why money was being sent away from the Cole plotters and away from Yemen prior to a major planned attack and speculates that it may mean another al-Qaeda operation is being planned elsewhere. Soufan asks the CIA for information about Khallad and this other attack, which turns out to be 9/11, but the CIA withholds the information (see Late November 2000). Al-Quso will later reveal more to the FBI, leading to more missed opportunities (see Early December 2000). [Wright, 2006, pp. 328-329]
After leaving Yemen following the bombing of the USS Cole (see Around October 12, 2000), 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar travels to various countries in Asia.
He is reportedly in Malaysia in October (see October 2000);
From late 2000 to February 2001 he stays with his cousin in Mecca, Saudi Arabia (see Late 2000-February 2001);
He then returns to Yemen, to stay with his family at an al-Qaeda communications hub monitored by US intelligence (see February 2001, Late August 1998, and (Mid-June-Mid-July 2000));
Following this, he goes to Afghanistan;
There are some reports he travels to the United Arab Emirates in June (see June 2001);
He is also said to be in Malaysia again in June (see June 2001);
Finally, he goes to stay with his cousin in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, for another month. Before flying to New York (see July 4, 2001), Almihdhar tells his cousin that Osama bin Laden is planning five attacks on the US and asks the cousin to watch over his family, because he has a job to do (see Between June 1 and July 4, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 237; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 137 ]
After 9/11, there will be speculation that during this period Almihdhar is coordinating the arrival of the other muscle hijackers. According to FBI Director Robert Mueller, this would his explain his stay in Saudi Arabia and his return only after all the other hijackers had arrived. [US Congress, 9/26/2002] However, there is some evidence suggesting that Almihdhar may have visited the US in this time frame, perhaps using a passport in a false name (see June 10, 2000).
Imran Mandhai. [Source: crimelibrary (.com)]The FBI in Florida investigates a group of Muslims it suspects of being terrorists, including an apparent associate of Mohamed Atta named Adnan Shukrijumah (see April-May 2001 and May 2, 2001). The investigation starts with the November 2000 Florida arrest of Turkish immigrant Hakki Aksoy, who is found to be in possession of instructions for making a car bomb. An FBI informer named Howard Gilbert enters the Darul Aloom mosque in Pembroke Pines (a town just north of Miami) to check out one of Aksoy’s associates, Imran Mandhai. Gilbert starts plotting with Mandhai and a friend of Mandai’s named Shuyeb Mossa Jokhan. [New Times Broward-Palm Beach, 8/1/2002; Miami New Times, 8/8/2002; USA Today, 6/15/2003] Gilbert is replaced by another FBI informant known as “Mohamed the bomb maker,” who agrees to wear a wire and testify in court. Mohamed and Mandhai drive around South Florida selecting local bomb targets including a National Guard armory, electrical substations, Jewish-owned businesses, the Israeli consulate in Miami, plus Mount Rushmore in the Midwest. Mandhai and Jokhan are unable to buy weapons themselves, but Gilbert, the first informant, had given Mandhai a copy of a bomb-making manual, and Mohamed, the second informant, shows Mandhai the range of guns and explosives he can provide. [Broward Herald, 5/29/2002; FrontPage Magazine, 10/27/2003; US Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit: appeal, 7/2/2004 ] The FBI interviews Mandhai and Jokhan in late spring 2001 and they acknowledge they are training for jihad. However, the FBI’s surveillance of them stops shortly after this. The FBI takes no action against them for a year, and then indicts them in May 2002. At the trial they are both found guilty; Mandhai receives twelve years and Jokhan five. It is unclear why the FBI acts in this way, although it is possibly related to a forced curtailment of electronic surveillance that is taking place at this time. In the summer of 2000, the bureau was ordered to shutdown certain wiretaps after an FBI official was found to have been misrepresenting petitions for taps on terror suspects (see Summer 2000-September 11, 2001). Coincidentally, after Gilbert and Mandhai develop a series of courses for potential recruits entitled “Skills Necessary for Jihad” in the spring of 2001, Mandhai prints them at the same Kinko’s copy shop in Hollywood that is used by Mohamed Atta and Hamza Alghamdi to buy their tickets for 9/11 (see August 25-September 5, 2001). [Broward Herald, 5/29/2002; Salon, 12/3/2002; USA Today, 6/15/2003]
Kabir Mohabbat. [Source: ZDF]In 1999, Kabir Mohabbat, an Afghan-American businessman, had initiated conversations about bin Laden between the US government and the Taliban. According to Mohabbat, the Taliban were ready to hand bin Laden over to a third country, or the International Court of Justice, in exchange for having the US-led sanctions against Afghanistan lifted. (Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament, later confirms that he helps Mohabbat make contact with the US government in 1999.) The initial talks lead to a secret meeting this month between Taliban ministers and US officials in a Frankfurt hotel. Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil reportedly says in the meeting, “You can have him whenever the Americans are ready. Name us a country and we will extradite him.” However, after this face-to-face meeting, further discussions are never held because, Brok believes, a “political decision” has been made by US officials not to continue the negotiations. He does not clarify when he believes such a decision was made. [Reuters, 6/5/2004 Sources: Elmar Brok]
In 2008, the Washington Post will report that shortly after the October 12, 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, US and Yemeni investigators are able to determine that the mastermind of the bombing was al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see November-December 2000). Yemeni authorities insisted that Nashiri had fled the country before the Cole bombing. But an anonymous senior Yemeni official will tell the Post that in fact al-Nashiri was still in the country and Yemeni investigators had located him in a town about 90 miles northwest of the Aden, where the bombing took place. Al-Nashiri spends several months in this town while receiving high-level protection from the government. “We knew where he was, but we could not arrest him,” this official will say. [Washington Post, 5/4/2008] It has separately been reported that several months before the bombing, al-Nashiri was given safe passage through Yemen without needing to be searched, at the orders Yemeni interior Minister Hussein Arab (see April 2000).
9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alghamdi apparently flies to Beirut. Based on NSA reporting drafted shortly after September 11, the 9/11 Commission will say that a senior Hezbollah operative is on the same flight, although it will point out that this is “perhaps by coincidence.” The commission will suggest this is the first leg on a journey to Afghanistan, and say that this flight may be part of Iranian assistance to al-Qaeda consisting of allowing operatives to transit Iran without stamping their passports on the way to and from Afghanistan (see After October 12, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240, 529; Shenon, 2008, pp. 370-3] Alghamdi obtained a US visa in Saudi Arabia on September 3, 2000. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13 ] What he did between obtaining the visa and taking this flight is unknown, as is the place from which he flies to Beirut.
Salem Alhazmi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]9/11 hijacker Salem Alhazmi flies from Saudi Arabia to Beirut.
Tracked by Saudis - According to the 9/11 Commission, Alhazmi’s passport has an indicator of Islamic extremism (see April 4, 1999). Such indicators are used by the Saudi authorities to track some of the hijackers before 9/11 (see November 2, 2007), so the Saudi authorities presumably register his departure.
Alleged Iran Link - The 9/11 Commission will mention this flight in a section of its report dealing with possible co-operation between Iran, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda on travel issues (see October 8-13, 2000, After October 12, 2000, and Mid-November, 2000), but there are no direct links between this flight and Iranian operatives. The co-operation consisted of Iran allowing al-Qaeda operatives to transit Iran without stamping their passports on the way to and from Afghanistan (see After October 12, 2000), so the Commission suggests this flight may be the first step on a journey to Afghanistan. The 9/11 Commission’s statement that Alhazmi took this flight is based on intelligence reports from the NSA, mostly drafted shortly after 9/11. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240-1, 529; Shenon, 2008, pp. 370-3]
Reason for Presence in Saudi Arabia Unclear - Although several of the hijackers are in Saudi Arabia at this time to obtain visas, it is unclear why Alhazmi would be in the country, as there is no mention of him obtaining a US visa around this time. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13-16 ]
Returns, Leaves Again - Alhazmi leaves Saudi Arabia again on January 1, 2001, traveling to Yemen. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 116 ] He is presumably tracked by Saudi authorities as he enters Saudi Arabia after returning from Beirut and also as he leaves Saudi Arabia for Yemen.
The FBI’s investigation of the USS Cole bombing in Aden, Yemen, connects the bombers to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, the country’s capital, which has been monitored by the US for at least two years (see Late August 1998 and Mid-August 1998-October 2000). It was also used in the East African embassy bombings (see August 4-25, 1998) and will be used by the 9/11 hijackers (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). It is not known when this connection is made. No apparent action is taken against Ahmed al-Hada, the operative who runs the communications hub, before 9/11. However, this may be due to the importance of intelligence generated from his phone (see Late 1998-Early 2002). In early 2001, al-Hada will be publicly identified as an al-Qaeda operative at the embassy bombings trial, when his phone number is disclosed openly in court and reported in the media (see February 2001 and After). Yet he still is not publicly indicted for either the embassy bombings or the Cole bombing, even though a number of other fugitives are publicly indicted. In 2002, US officials will describe al-Hada as a “prominent al-Qaeda member who is believed to have been involved in the Cole bombing,” and say his phone was used by the bombers to relay messages and “put everything together” before the attack. [MSNBC, 2/14/2002; MSNBC, 5/2005]
Rahim al-Nashiri [Source: AP]After several weeks of investigation, US authorities learn that al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was involved in the plot to attack the USS Cole. Investigators find a second safe house used by the bombing team, and learn it was registered to al-Nashiri under a name variant. Al-Nashiri’s name is dimly familiar to FBI agent Ali Soufan, who remembers that a source said al-Nashiri was planning a seaborne attack against a US vessel in Aden (see After August 7, 1998). The FBI then finds that al-Nashiri rented a car in Aden before the bombing. Author Lawrence Wright will comment, “It was another strong link between al-Qaeda and the Cole attack.” [New Yorker, 7/10/2006 ] In addition, one of the bombers detained by Yemeni authorities, Jamal al-Badawi, identifies al-Nashiri as a person who gave instructions for the attack. Al-Badawi also says he thought al-Nashiri was working for bin Laden, but al-Nashiri did not tell al-Badawi this directly. [CNN, 12/13/2000] Although al-Nashiri was the operational manager, he was actually in Afghanistan for a meeting with Osama bin Laden when the opportunity to attack arose and was not physically present at the bombing. Investigators are aware that he is the cousin of one of the bombers of the US embassy in Nairobi, which he facilitated, and a captured embassy bomber identified a photo of him for the FBI two years earlier (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998 and August 22-25 1998). Al-Nashiri has been known to various intelligence agencies since 1998, at least, and was monitored at the Malaysia summit of top al-Qaeda leaders at the start of the year (see January 5-8, 2000). [CNN, 12/11/2000; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 152-3; Wright, 2006, pp. 318] US investigators also identify another leading suspect in the case, Khallad bin Attash, at around the same time (see January 4, 2001).
NATO, which had previously refused to enter the Ground Safety Zone to stop the UCPMB, now works with Yugoslavia to end the insurgency. NATO Secretary General George Robertson says NATO “condemns and deplores the attacks made and violence caused by a minority of extremists near the Presevo Valley, and calls on the perpetrators to cease their illegal activity forthwith.” NATO offers to patrol with Yugoslav forces, and negotiates between the Yugoslav government and Albanians in southern Serbia. Within a few months the GSZ will be removed and the UCPMB will simultaneously disperse. In all, the fighting creates 20,000 refugees. [Kola, 2003, pp. 373, 375-376]
Zacarias Moussaoui and two of the 9/11 hijackers purchase flight training equipment from Sporty’s Pilot Shop in Batavia, Ohio.
November 5, 2000: Mohamed Atta purchases flight deck videos for a Boeing 747-200 and a Boeing 757-200, as well as other items;
December 11, 2000: Atta purchases flight deck videos for a Boeing 767-300ER and an Airbus A320-200;
March 19, 2001: Nawaf Alhazmi purchases flight deck videos for a Boeing 747-400, a Boeing 747-200, and a Boeing 777-200, as well as another video. Alhazmi also purchases maps around this time from another shop (see March 23, 2001);
June 20, 2001: Zacarias Moussaoui purchases flight deck videos for a Boeing 747-400 and a Boeing 747-200. [Sporty's, 6/20/2001; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 12/11/2001 ] However, it is not clear whether Moussaoui was to take part in 9/11 or some other operation (see January 30, 2003).
In the wake of the USS Cole bombing, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger meets with Defense Secretary William Cohen to discuss a new approach to targeting Osama bin Laden. Berger says: “We’ve been hit many times, and we’ll be hit again. Yet we have no option beyond cruise missiles.” He once again brings up the idea of a “boots on the ground” option—a Delta Force special operation to get bin Laden. A plan is drawn up but the order to execute it is never given. Cohen and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Henry Shelton oppose the plan. By December 21, the CIA reports that it strongly suspects that al-Qaeda was behind the bombing, but fails to definitively make that conclusion. That makes such an attack politically difficult. Says a former senior Clinton aide, “If we had done anything, say, two weeks before the election, we’d be accused of helping [presidential candidate] Al Gore.” [Time, 8/12/2002; 9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]
Ahmed Alhaznawi in a video released in 2002. [Source: Al Jazeera]9/11 Hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi receives a new passport in Saudi Arabia. It is unknown exactly when Alhaznawi receives this passport, but he uses it to apply for a US visa on November 12, 2000 (see November 12, 2000), so it must be before that. According to the 9/11 Commission, the passport may contain an “indicator of extremism” that is “associated with al-Qaeda.” However, although it is certain some of the other hijackers have such indicator in their passports, it is not certain that Alhaznawi does. The commission will merely say that there “is reason to believe” his passport may contain such indicator and note that it was “issued in the same Saudi passport office” that issued passports with the indicator to some of the other hijackers. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 564; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 9, 15, 33 ] According to author James Bamford, the indicator is a “secret coded indicator, placed there by the Saudi government, warning of a possible terrorist affiliation.” [Bamford, 2008, pp. 58-59] The Saudi government reportedly uses this indicator to track some of the Saudi hijackers before 9/11 “with precision” (see November 2, 2007).
Future 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi obtains a US visa from the American consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 15 ] The visa is issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official who apparently issues the 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] Alhaznawi may present a passport with fraudulent travel stamps and does not fully complete his application form, leaving blank the address of his school. He is not interviewed. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 15, 36, 180-1 ] The 9/11 Commission will also suggest that Alhaznawi’s passport may contain a suspicious indicator of Islamist extremism, but this is not certain (see Before November 12, 2000 and November 2, 2007). Some of the radicals who bombed the World Trade Center in 1993 also had Saudi passports with the same indicator (see Around February 1993). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 563-4; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14-15 ]
9/11 Hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi departs Saudi Arabia. The exact date of his departure is unknown, but it must be after he obtains a US visa at the US consulate in Jeddah on November 12 (see November 12, 2000). Although Alhaznawi’s precise destination is unknown, he reportedly returns to Afghanistan for training by early 2001 (see (December 2000-March 2001)) and will also arrive in the United Arab Emirates from Pakistan in early 2001 (see April 11-June 28, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 15, 36 ] According to the 9/11 Commission, Alhaznawi may have had a passport containing an indicator of Islamic extremism (see Before November 12, 2000). Such indicators were used by the Saudi authorities to track some of the hijackers before 9/11 (see November 2, 2007).
Waleed Alshehri. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Based on intelligence reports, the 9/11 Commission will later say that 9/11 hijackers Wail Alshehri, Waleed Alshehri, and Ahmed Alnami travel in a group from Saudi Arabia to Beirut and then onward to Iran in mid-November 2000. An associate of a senior Hezbollah operative is also on the flight from Beirut to Iran. According to US intelligence, Hezbollah officials in Beirut and Iran are expecting the arrival of a group at around this time and this group is important enough to merit the attention of senior figures in Hezbollah. The commission will say that this flight may be part of Iranian assistance to al-Qaeda consisting of allowing operatives to transit Iran without stamping their passports on the way to and from Afghanistan (see After October 12, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240, 529]
Contradicted by Families' Claims - However, two to three years before the 9/11 Commission publishes these claims, the families of both Ahmed Alnami and the Alshehri brothers will deny they travel anywhere at this time, and say they leave home in December, not the middle of November. After 9/11, Alnami’s father will initially say Alnami has been missing since December 2000 and will later repeat that he left home in December 2000 in an interview with the Daily Telegraph. [Washington Post, 9/25/2001; Daily Telegraph, 9/15/2002] The Alshehri brothers’ family will also claim they do not leave until after mid-November 2000. Initially, the father will say that they left “last Ramadan.” [Arab News, 9/17/2001] The month of Ramadan begins on November 27 in 2000. [Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 11/26/2000] Based on a 2002 interview with one of their brothers, the Boston Globe will also later say that they leave in December. [Boston Globe, 3/3/2002] If this is true, the story of their travel with a Hezbollah operative would probably be incorrect.
9/11 Commission's Sourcing - The 9/11 Commission cites intelligence reports, mostly drafted between October and December 2001, as its sources. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240, 529] These reports come from the NSA. [Shenon, 2008, pp. 370-373]
Alnami Possibly Tracked by Saudi Intelligence - According to the 9/11 Commission, Alnami may have had a passport with an indicator of Islamic extremism (see November 6, 1999). Such indicators were used by the Saudi authorities to track some of the hijackers before 9/11 (see November 2, 2007).
The US puts out an international arrest warrant for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). The warrant seeks KSM in connection with the 1995 Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). [Knight Ridder, 3/13/2003] It is not clear why the US waited so long to issue this warrant, considering that the US connected him to a major terrorist act back in 1993 (see March 20, 1993), learned he was a major figure in the Bojinka plot in 1995 (see After February 7, 1995-January 1996), secretly indicted him in January 1996, and placed a $2 million reward on his head in January 1998 (see January 8, 1998).
9/11 hijacker Majeed Moqed obtains a US visa in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. The application is incomplete, as Moqed claims to be a student, but does not give his alleged school’s address. He is not interviewed. The consular officer that deals with Moqed previously issued a visa to another of the hijackers (see October 23, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14, 16, 38 ] This visa cannot be issued by a consular officer who issues the hijackers with at least 11 visas, as he works in Jeddah, not Riyadh (see July 1, 2000).
Elizabeth Colton (left) may have issued Satam al Suqami’s US visa. [Source: US Department of State/FBI]Future 9/11 hijacker Satam al Suqami obtains a US visa from the American embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Al Suqami has traveled extensively around Asia in recent years (see November 5, 1998-September 24, 2000) and uses a passport that has fraudulent travel stamps that will later be associated with al-Qaeda, but this is apparently not noticed. The application is incomplete, as al Suqami does not give the name and address of his current employer. The consular officer who issues the visa will later tell the House Committee on Government Reform that al Suqami was interviewed and will recall details of the interview: The reason for the interview is because al Suqami gives his occupation as “dealer,” which Saudis often use to mean businessman, and several questions are asked, including who is paying for his trip. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 16, 38 ] The officer will repeat this claim to the State Department’s inspector general, adding that she specifically remembers the interview, has a photographic memory, and recalls al Suqami’s photo. [Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 2/6/2003] However, the officer will say that notes are always taken during interviews and there are no such notes on al Suqami’s application. The 9/11 Commission will say that this raises “the possibility that the officer’s memory of having conducted the interview was false.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 16 ] The officer’s identity is unknown, although she may well be Elizabeth Colton. The 9/11 Commission’s Terrorist Travel monograph will say that, before joining the State Department, the officer had interviwed the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 49, 62 ] Colton has previously been chief of Newsweek’s bureau in Cairo, Egypt, where the Blind Sheikh lived before immigrating to the US (see December 15, 1986-1989). [Consulate General of the United States, Dubai, UAE, 8/2007] She has also met other notable personalities in the Middle East, such as Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. [State Magazine, 11/2000] A State Department inspector general memo of an interview of the officer will say that she helped develop the Visa Express program introduced in Saudi Arabia in May and June of 2001 (see May 2001). [Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 2/6/2003] The Visa Express manual will list Colton as the program’s Riyadh contact. [Embassy of the United States, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 6/2001]
9/11 hijacker pilot Ziad Jarrah and a couple of companions from flying school rent a plane for a trip from Miami to Nassau, Bahamas. There is no immigration departure record, although there is a record of his re-entry. Upon his return to the US, Jarrah undergoes immigration and customs checks, including an inspection of the plane by customs for the presence of drugs, contraband, and currency. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 16 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] He will later tell his girlfriend that the pilot gets drunk in Nassau and he has to fly back himself, although he does not have a license for the plane. [McDermott, 2005, pp. 197] Jarrah should not be re-admitted to the US because he is out of status—he breached immigration rules by taking a flight training course despite entering the US as a tourist—but this is apparently not noticed (see June 27-28, 2000).
9/11 hijackers Satam Al Suqami and Majed Moqed fly from Bahrain to Tehran, Iran. Shortly before, they had entered Bahrain from Saudi Arabia, after obtaining US visas there. Suqami continues to Istanbul, Turkey. Moqed’s final destination is not known definitely, but al-Qaeda operative Luai Sakra will say that Moqed arrives with Al Suqami in Turkey for training (see Late 1999-2000), so presumably he takes the same flight as Al Suqami. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 107 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 34 ] The 9/11 Commission will mention this flight in a section dealing with possible co-operation between Iran, Hezbollah, and al-Qaeda on travel issues—Iran was allegedly allowing al-Qaeda operatives to pass through Iran on their way to and from Afghanistan without stamping their passports (see October 8-13, 2000, After October 12, 2000, and Mid-November, 2000)—but no there are no direct links between this flight and Iranian operatives. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 240-1]
Two images of Ziad Jarrah. The photo on the right is from the wreckage of Flight 93.
[Source: FBI]There is some evidence indicating hijacker pilot Ziad Jarrah transits Dubai on January 30, 2001 after spending two months in Afghanistan (see January 30, 2001). [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/13/2001; CNN, 8/1/2002] However, the Florida Flight Training Center, where Jarrah has been studying for the previous six months, later says he is in school there until January 15, 2001. His family later reports he arrives in Lebanon to visit them on January 26, five days before he supposedly passes through Dubai. His father had just undergone open-heart surgery, and Jarrah visits him every day in the hospital until after January 30. Pointing out this incident, his uncle Jamal Jarrah later asks, “How could he be in two places at one time?” [Longman, 2002, pp. 101-02] Other accounts place Jarrah in Dubai one year earlier, not in 2001 (see January 30, 2000). If the 2001 version is correct, this is not the only example of Jarrah being in two places at the same time—there is also evidence he was in different places at once from March 1995-February 1996 (see March 1995-February 1996). Additionally, records seem to indicate that Jarrah flies out of the US on December 26, 2000, and then again on December 28, 2000 (see December 26-28, 2000), and then twice on the same day on July 25, 2001 (see July 25, 2001).
A map of Indonesia, with the Maluku islands highlighted. [Source: BBC]Omar al-Faruq, a Kuwaiti, is considered one of al-Qaeda’s top operatives in Southeast Asia due to links he developed while living in the Philippines in the early 1990s (see 1994). His handler is a Saudi named Syeh Hussein, a.k.a. Rashid. Hussein is said to have access to Osama bin Laden. He also has access to money, and is posing as a representative of the Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a Saudi government charity. Sheikh Bandar, alias Abu Abdallah, is the head of the Al Haramain branch in Saudi Arabia (but not the head of Al Haramain’s headquarters, also in Saudi Arabia). He has an Indonesian wife and frequently travels to Indonesia, and gives large amounts of cash to al-Faruq or Hussein during his trips to bankroll their militant activities. By the second half of 2000, there is a religious war raging in the Maluku islands (also known as the Spice Islands), as thousands of Muslim militants from the island of Java had traveled there and have joined local Muslims in fighting Christians (see January 1999-July 2001). Most militants belong to the paramilitary group Laskar Jihad. Additionally, the al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah has already set up its own safe house and weapons storeroom in Ambon, the capital city of the Maluku province, and coordinates the arrival of its own smaller group of volunteers from Java, who are known as Laskar Mujahidin. Hussein and al-Faruq concentrate their efforts on assisting these groups. They set up the “Special Program,” which is free paramilitary and religious training for local Muslim fighters in the Malukus. They build a training camp, including a wooden schoolhouse, near Ambon. From late 2000 until mid-2001, a rotating group of about 20 foreigners, mostly Arabs, help train locals to fight Christians. Hussein and al-Faruq also help provision militants coming to the Malukus from Java, Sulawesi, and Malaysia. They open safe houses in Ambon and south Sulawesi, fund training camps for Jemaah Islamiyah on the nearby islands of Seram and Buru, buy weapons, and buy a gunrunning boat. This effort is sucessful for a time, but it is increasingly plagued by infighting, especially conflicts between recruits from Java and Sulawesi. In mid-2001, the Sulawesi recruits withdraw from the Malukus. Al-Faruq and Hussein reduce their efforts in the Malukus after that, and focus more of their efforts fomenting religious violence on the island of Sulawesi (see December 2001). [Conboy, 2003, pp. 236-240]
Leading British radical and informer Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997) sends a computer to the Taliban’s foreign minister. The computer is part of a package of cash and hardware hand-delivered by Abu Hamza’s aide James Ujaama. According to testimony by FBI agent Fred Humphries, Abu Hamza sends the computer to “curry favor” with the Taliban. The cash is allegedly for a girls’ school in Khost, although Ujaama will later say that the school does not exist and it is unclear what happens to the money. Ujaama is accompanied on the trip by Feroz Abbasi, a recruit Abu Hamza is sending to Pakistan for military training (see December 2000-December 2001), although Ujaama does not accompany Abbasi all the way to his destination, angering Abu Hamza. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 196-197]
After the attack on the USS Cole, the military not only draws up plans to directly target bin Laden (see November 7, 2000), but also comes up with a larger plan looking at alternatives to assassination. Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, prepared a plan to incorporate military, economic, diplomatic, and political activities to pressure the Taliban to expel bin Laden. A “Phased Campaign Concept” calls for wider-ranging military strikes against the Taliban and other targets, but doesn’t include contingency plans for an invasion of Afghanistan. The concept is briefed to Deputy National Security Adviser Donald Kerrick and other officials in December 2000, but it is never acted on. The military makes no similar plans after Bush’s inauguration, and the CIA’s invasion plans are mostly relied upon when the US invades Afghanistan in October 2001. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; New York Times, 4/4/2004]
Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani. [Source: US Defense Department]Future 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alghamdi is allegedly arrested in Pakistan and then released. This is according to the Guantanamo file of Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani, who is arrested on September 10, 2002 (see September 10-11, 2002). Rabbani supposedly is running several al-Qaeda safe houses in Karachi, Pakistan, from early 2000 until his arrest. His file states that, according to an unnamed high-ranking al-Qaeda prisoner, Rabbani and Alghamdi are on the road either heading to or from Afghanistan and are arrested by Pakistani police. But Rabbani pays a small bribe and both of them are released. It is unknown if the police know anything about the backgrounds of the two men. [US Department of Defense, 6/9/2008] It is not mentioned when this incident happens, if it indeed happens, but presumably it would be some time between mid-2000 and early 2001, when Alghamdi likely spends time in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Note that this is based on Guantanamo files leaked to the public in 2011 by the non-profit whistleblower group WikiLeaks. There are many doubts about the reliability of the information in the files (see April 24, 2011).
Future 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi goes missing, and his family, German police, and United Arab Emirates (UAE) officials look for him until he finally calls and says he is okay.
Alshehhi Goes Missing - Alshehhi is a citizen from the UAE. In the spring of 2000, Alshehhi spent time with his family in the UAE before returning to Germany. He called his mother periodically after that (his father had already died), but the calls grew less frequent. In April 2000, Alshehhi was removed from the UAE army for the crime of desertion (see April 1, 2000). During the Islamic holy month of Ramadan in December 2000, Alshehhi does not call his mother at all. His mother grows alarmed and calls the UAE embassy in Germany. UAE officials contact the Technical University in Harburg, near Hamburg, where Alshehhi is supposed to be studying, and find out that he has not been there for a year and he has been removed from the school’s registration rolls. Local German police open a missing person investigation, but are unable to find him. On December 23, 2000, the UAE army stops paying for Alshehhi’s studies (see Spring 1996-December 23, 2000).
Alshehhi's Half-Brother Leads a Search - Finally, Alshehhi’s mother sends his half-brother Mohamed Yousef Mohamed Alqusaidi to Germany to look for him. A UAE embassy official spends several days traveling with Alqusaidi in Bonn and Hamburg looking for Alshehhi, but without success. A UAE official will later say: “We knew he was not going to school and the Germans never had this. We were trying to get him back. We were trying to track him.” In Harburg, they talk to Mounir El Motassadeq, who says that Alshehhi has gone to Chechnya or Afghanistan. Alqusaidi returns to the UAE.
Alshehhi Calls and Lies about What He's Doing - Later in the month, Alshehhi calls his family and says that stories about him being out of Germany are wrong. He says that he has been going through a rough time but things are improving, and he is now studying elsewhere in Hamburg. It is unclear if his family believes him or not. But his half-brother Alqusaidi had been periodically sending him money, and sent him money for the last time around November 2000 (see July 1999-November 2000). [McDermott, 2005, pp. 214-215] In fact, Alshehhi has been learning to fly in Florida with Mohamed Atta (see July 6-December 19, 2000).
Abdulaziz Alomari in a video released in 2002. [Source: Al Jazeera]9/11 hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari is reported to leave home in Saudi Arabia for Afghanistan at this time. [Saudi Information Agency, 9/11/2002] However, he appears to have already been to Afghanistan, as he obtained a new passport on June 5, made an ATM withdrawal in Karachi, Pakistan, on July 8, and is said to have been seen near Kandahar, Afghanistan, in the summer (see Summer 2000). [US Department of State, 6/18/2001; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 50 ] Several of the other hijackers were in Afghanistan in the summer of 2000 and return to Saudi Arabia briefly at this time to obtain US visas (see, for example, September 4, 2000 and October 24, 2000). However, there is no record of Alomari receiving a visa at this time, so it is unclear why he would return to Saudi Arabia. Salem Alhazmi, with whom Alomari will later travel to the US (see April 23-June 29, 2001), also apparently returns to Saudi Arabia at this time, but does not obtain a visa (see November 2000). Alomari finally obtains a US visa in the summer of 2001 (see June 18, 2001).
After being indoctrinated by radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri in London (see 1999-2000), a recruit named Feroz Abbasi travels to Pakistan and then Afghanistan for military training. On his journey to Pakistan he is accompanied by James Ujaama, who had tried to help Abu Hamza establish a militant training camp in the US (see November 1999-Early 2000). Before departure, Abu Hamza told Abbasi he would train with the Taliban, and that they would then expect him to fight for them, to which he agreed. After staying at an Islamic Jihad guest house in Kabul, for which Abu Hamza reportedly has the number, Abbasi undergoes basic training at Al Farooq camp, including instruction in weapons handling, battlefield maneuvers, and explosives. The camp is also visited by Osama bin Laden, who lectures the new recruits on politics. Abbasi later returns to Al Farooq for a more advanced course, covering reconnaissance, guerrilla warfare, and ambushes. After this, Abbasi, “Australian Taliban” David Hicks, and another man are interviewed by al-Qaeda military commander Mohammed Atef, and Abbasi agrees to perform missions for Atef, which may include a suicide bombing. Abbasi then has even more advanced training, focusing on assassinations and running a sleeper cell, at a camp by Kandahar airport. At some time in September 2001, he explicitly volunteers for a suicide mission. However, he is captured by the Northern Alliance three months later. When caught, he has a grenade concealed on him and could detonate it, killing himself and the two Northern Alliance soldiers that captured him. He hesitates because he does not want to kill fellow Muslims, and the grenade is found. The Afghans then put him in prison in Kandahar for two days, before formally transferring him to the US military. He is held in a prison at Kandahar airport, and then flown to Guantanamo in Cuba, where he will be held for three years. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 201-202, 208-213]
According to later German reports, “a whole horde of Israeli counter-terror investigators, posing as students, [follow] the trails of Arab terrorists and their cells in the United States.… In the town of Hollywood, Florida, they [identify]… [9/11 hijackers Mohamed] Atta and Marwan Alshehhi as possible terrorists. Agents [live] in the vicinity of the apartment of the two seemingly normal flight school students, observing them around the clock.” Supposedly, around April, the Israeli agents are discovered and deported, terminating the investigation. [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 10/1/2002]
9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi tells two associates, Mohdar Abdullah and FBI informant Abdussattar Shaikh, that he has re-entered flight training, but it is unclear if this is true. He calls Abdullah twice in December 2000/January 2001, initially saying that he is in San Francisco and will have flight training there, but he later says that he has moved to Arizona and both he and hijacker Hani Hanjour are in flight training. He also calls Shaikh to say that he and Hanjour are to have flight training in Arizona. Alhazmi lived with Shaikh for several months, but moved out in the middle of December (see May 10-Mid-December 2000 and December 12, 2000-March 2001). [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 276; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223] Hanjour is known to undergo flight training in Arizona at this time (see January-February 2001 and February 8-March 12, 2001). There is no known public record of Alhazmi training to be a pilot at this time, although there is other evidence Alhazmi trained to be a pilot (see November 25, 2007).
Stills from martyr videos recorded in March 2001. From top to bottom: Ahmed Alhaznawi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Saeed Alghamdi, Wail Alshehri, and Hamza Alghamdi. The backgrounds were digitally inserted later.
[Source: Al-Jazeera]Supposedly, all 13 of the “muscle” hijackers record a farewell video before leaving training in Kandahar, Afghanistan, around this time. [CBS News, 10/9/2002] Several will be released after 9/11. A video of Ahmed Alhaznawi will be shown by the Al Jazeera television network in April 2002. In it, he pledges to give his life to “martyrdom” and swears to send a “bloodied message” to Americans by attacking them in their “heartland” (see April 15, 2002). [Guardian, 4/16/2002] In September 2002, Al Jazeera will show a similar farewell video of Abdulaziz Alomari. [Associated Press, 9/9/2002] Alomari states, “God praise everybody who trained and helped me, namely the leader Sheik Osama bin Laden” (see September 9, 2002). [Washington Post, 9/11/2002] Also in September 2002, some images broadcast on Al Jazeera will suggest that al-Qaeda has martyr videos for nearly all of the 9/11 hijackers (see September 9, 2002). Saeed Alghamdi’s video will be released in September 2003. In it, he will mention that the video was recorded in late December 2000 (see September 12, 2003).
Wail Alshehri and Hamza Alghamdi’s videos will be released in September 2006 (see September 7, 2006). [Associated Press, 9/7/2006] Ahmed Alghamdi’s video will be released in September 2008 (see September 19, 2008).
Entity Tags: Mohand Alshehri, Osama bin Laden, Salem Alhazmi, Satam Al Suqami, Waleed Alshehri, Majed Moqed, Wail Alshehri, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Hamza Alghamdi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alghamdi, Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Fahad al-Quso. [Source: FBI]In late October 2000, al-Qaeda operative Fahad al-Quso was interrogated by authorities in Yemen, and FBI agent Ali Soufan was able to use that information to discover the identity of one of the USS Cole bombing masterminds, Khallad bin Attash (see Late October-Late November 2000). In early December, while most FBI investigators are having to leave Yemen, Soufan is given the chance to interrogate al-Quso directly. Soufan gets al-Quso to admit that he had met with bin Attash and one of the Cole suicide bombers in Bangkok, Thailand, in January 2000 (see January 13, 2000). Al-Quso admits he gave bin Attash $36,000 and not the $5,000 for medical expenses that al-Quso had claimed when talking to the Yemenis the month before. Al-Quso says they stayed in the Washington Hotel in Bangkok, so Soufan checks telephone records to verify his account. Soufan finds records of phone calls between the hotel and al-Quso’s house in Yemen. They also find calls to both places from a pay phone in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. The phone happens to be directly outside the condominium where an al-Qaeda summit was taking place a few days before al-Quso went to Bangkok (see January 5-8, 2000). Soufan asks the CIA for information about bin Attash, but the CIA wrongly claims it knows nothing, and doesn’t even tell Soufan of the Malaysia summit that it had closely monitored (see Late November 2000). [New York Times, 4/11/2004; Wright, 2006, pp. 330-331] Meanwhile, FBI head investigator John O’Neill correctly believes that al-Quso is still holding back important information (at the very least, al-Quso is still hiding his participation in the Malaysia summit). However, O’Neill had been kicked out of Yemen by his superiors a week or two before (see October 14-Late November, 2000), and without his influential presence the Yemeni government will not allow any more interrogations. After 9/11, al-Quso will finally admit to meeting with Alhazmi and Almihdhar. One investigator calls the missed opportunity of exposing the 9/11 plot through al-Quso’s connections “mind-boggling.” [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2002] In April 2003, al-Quso will escape from a Yemeni prison (see April 11, 2003-March 2004). [Associated Press, 4/11/2003]
Mohammed Ben Heni Lased. [Source: Public domain]Italian and US authorities monitor an Italian cell of extremists linked to al-Qaeda (see Early 2000-2001) while its members discuss the use of a chemical weapon, but the cell does not appear to be able to make the weapon work. In phone conversations overheard by Italian intelligence operatives, Islamist extremists Sami Ben Khemais, Mohammed Ben Heni Lased, and others discuss the best way to transport chemicals—disguised as cans of tomatoes—and how to make a bomb out of a pressure cooker and a tape player. Ben Khemais also refers to a drug, for which a Libyan chemistry professor has a formula, but, although making the drug is supposedly easy, Ben Khemais cannot do it. He also suggests asking the Russian mafia for a chemical weapon, and refers to one man as “the sheik,” possibly meaning Osama bin Laden. However, despite his plans, no attacks are actually carried out. The Chicago Tribune will later comment, “Most of the talk is inconclusive, and, at times, Ben Khemais and his associates sound more like al-Qaeda wannabes than the calculating criminals as anti-terrorist investigators describe them.” [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001]
9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar enters Saudi Arabia, remaining there for about two or three months. He spends some time in Mecca with a cousin. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 237; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 137 ] Almihdhar is on the terrorist watch list there (see 1997), and his passport contains an indicator the Saudi authorities use to track terrorists (see April 6, 1999), so the Saudis presumably register his arrival and departure.
Hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour opens an account with Citibank in Deira, Dubai, with a deposit of $3,000. Hanjour’s movements between September 25, 2000, when he obtained a US visa in Jeddah, and this date are unclear, but he flies to the US three days later (see December 8, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13-14 ] According to the 9/11 Commission, plot facilitator Ali Abdul Aziz Ali gave him the initial $3,000 and later deposits another $5,000 in the account. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 138 ] However, these deposits will not be mentioned at a military hearing to determine Ali’s combat status, although other transactions between Ali and the hijackers will be (see March 30, 2007). [US Department of Defense, 4/12/2007 ] Hanjour uses the money on this account, together with $9,600 that is deposited in his account with the Saudi British Bank, to pay some of his expenses in the US. Hijackers Fayez Ahmed Banihammed (see June 25, 2001), Marwan Alshehhi (see July 1999-November 2000), and possibly Mohamed Atta (see Late October 2001) also have accounts in the UAE through which money is passed to fund the plot. Khalid Almihdhar and Abdulaziz Alomari (see September 7, 2001) also draw on money from Saudi bank accounts. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 138 ]
Hani Hanjour’s US visa issued September 25, 2000. [Source: FBI]Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour re-enters the US, flying from Dubai, via Paris to Cincinnati, then on to San Diego, where he joins fellow hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223] Three months earlier, Hanjour had applied for a four-week course in English at the ELS Language Center in Oakland, where he had studied in 1996 (see April 30-Early September 1996). Using his conditional acceptance letter from ELS, he applied in Saudi Arabia for a student visa to enter the US, which was granted by the US consulate in Jeddah (see September 10, 2000 and September 25, 2000). However, he never turns up for his course. [Associated Press, 10/11/2001; Washington Post, 10/15/2001; Washington Post, 9/10/2002] Hanjour applied for a student visa in Jeddah, but, for some reason, appears to have been granted a tourist visa. However, upon entry the visa is changed to a student visa. The 9/11 Commission will attempt to interview the primary inspector who makes this change. However, it will be unable to do so. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14, 38 ]
Radical London imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed makes some startling comments in an interview with the Sunday Mercury. He says: “Freedom and democracy bring nothing but chaos. I am here to bring the message to Britain and to one day fly the black flag of Islam over Downing Street.” He admits that he supports jihad (holy war) “verbally, financially, and even militarily.” He elaborates: “We have had a lot of volunteers from England wanting to attend camps for military training. We send them to South Africa, Afghanistan, Nigeria, and Kashmir.” Bakri also mentions that he believes British Prime Minister Tony Blair is a “legitimate target for assassination if he ever sets foot on Muslim lands.” An article based on the interview is published on December 10, 2000, and the Sunday Mercury also gives a transcript of the interview to British intelligence. Two weeks later, a British citizen kills ten in India in a suicide bombing, and Bakri praises him as a martyr who will go to paradise (see December 25, 2000). But the newspaper will not hear back from the authorities until a month after the 9/11 attacks. [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham UK), 8/24/2005] Later in the month, Bakri also says that he has signed up 600-700 volunteers over an unspecified period of time, and will continue to do so. He says, “It is every Muslim boy’s duty to do military training. If my children wanted to go and fight for jihad, I would encourage them.” British authorities say they are aware that the recruiting is taking place on their soil, but there is little they can do to stop Britons from fighting overseas. [United Press International, 12/28/2000] Bakri appears to have been running training camps in Britain since at least the start of 1997 (see January 1997).
9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi move together from San Diego to Mesa, Arizona, just outside Phoenix. [US News and World Report, 6/20/2004] While there, Hanjour spends time training at Arizona Aviation flight school, which he previously attended in January 1998 (see 1998). According to the 9/11 Commission, “He wanted to train on multi-engine planes, but had difficulties because his English was not good enough. The instructor advised him to discontinue but Hanjour said he could not go home without completing the training.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 226] He also attends the JetTech flight school in Phoenix (see January-February 2001). In March 2001, Hanjour moves to Paterson, New Jersey, where he rents an apartment with Salem Alhazmi (see March 2001-September 1, 2001).
Convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 2, 1997) gives up on his appeals and asks to be executed. In an affidavit, McVeigh writes: “I believe I am fully competent to make this decision. If the court thinks that a psychological evaluation is necessary to make certain I am competent, I will submit to such an evaluation. I will not justify or explain my decision to any psychologist, but will answer questions related to my competency.” He acknowledges that he makes his request against the advice of his attorneys, and asks that Judge Richard P. Matsch set an execution date within 120 days. McVeigh’s lawyer Nathan Chambers says that McVeigh has been considering this decision for some time now. “This is not a snap decision,” Chambers says. “The judge is going to want to make a determination that Mr. McVeigh’s decision is a decision he made voluntarily and knowingly.” McVeigh gives no further explanation, though some believe he intends to become a martyr for the far-right “patriot” movement. Eight days later, Matsch grants McVeigh’s request. [Los Angeles Times, 12/13/2000; The Oklahoman, 4/2009; Mayhem (.net), 4/2009]
[Source: Publicity photo]A federal panel chaired by former Governor James Gilmore (R-VA) warns President-elect Bush that the US in vulnerable to terrorist attack and urges him to bolster US preparedness within one year. Gilmore states, “The United States has no coherent, functional national strategy for combating terrorism. The terrorist threat is real, and it is serious.” The panel urges the US counterterrorism effort should be consolidated into one new agency. It further argues the US has no clear counterterrorism program and argues for dozens of special changes at all levels of government. Gilmore says, “We are impelled by the stark realization that a terrorist attack on some level inside our borders is inevitable and the United States must be ready.” The panel also calls for improvement in human intelligence instead of a reliance on technology. [Washington Post, 12/15/2000] The 9/11 Commission will later make many of the same recommendations. However, the Commission will barely mention the Gilmore panel in their report, except to note that Congress appointed the panel and failed to follow through on implementing the recommendations. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 107, 479]
Ziad Jarrah using a flight simulator in January 2001. [Source: Los Angeles Times]From December 15-18, 2000, 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah attends Aeroservice Aviation in Miami, Florida where he takes lessons in Boeing 727 and 737 simulators. Around this same time, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi take lessons in a 727 simulator, but at a different Florida center (see December 29-31, 2000). After returning to the US from a visit home to Beirut, Jarrah again attends Aeroservice Aviation on January 8, 2001. His girlfriend Aysel Senguen is with him for a ten-day stay at the time, accompanies him to the flight training session, and photographs him in the simulator. [Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 10/10/2001; US Congress, 9/26/2002; Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 227] However, some accounts conflict with him being in Florida on this second occasion (see Late November 2000-January 30, 2001 and January 30, 2001). [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/13/2001; CNN, 8/1/2002]
Eric D. Hanson, a former Marine, overt racist, and member of the neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974), attends a Ku Klux Klan rally in Skokie, Illinois. He refuses to stand behind police barriers and instead mingles in the crowd wearing a shirt depicting a Star of David with a slash through it. Eyewitnesses see him attack an African-American woman as she walks down Old Orchard Road, but Hanson flees before police can apprehend him. [Nicole Nichols, 2003]
In a memo to President Clinton that is also widely distributed in the US intelligence community, CIA Director George Tenet warns: “The next several weeks will bring an increased risk of attacks on our country’s interests from one or more Middle Eastern terrorist groups… The volume of credible threat reporting has grown significantly in the past few months, particularly concerning plans by Osama bin Laden’s organization for new attacks in Europe and the Middle East.… Our most credible information on bin Laden activity suggests his organization is looking at US facilities in the Middle East, especially the Arabian peninsula, in Turkey and Western Europe. Bin Laden’s network is global however and capable of attacks in other regions, including the United States.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 128-129] Just one day later, Clinton will brief incoming President Bush on the al-Qaeda threat (see December 19, 2000).
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke submits a plan to “roll back” al-Qaeda over a period of three to five years until it is ineffectual. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] The main component is a dramatic increase in covert aid to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to first tie down the terrorists and then “eliminate the sanctuary” for bin Laden. Financial support for terrorist activities will be systematically attacked, nations fighting al-Qaeda will be given aid to defeat them, and the US will plan for direct military and covert action in Afghanistan. The plan will cost several hundred million dollars. However, since there are only a few weeks left before the Bush administration takes over, it is decided to defer the decision until the new administration is in place. One senior Clinton official later says, “We would be handing [the Bush administration] a war when they took office on January 20. That wasn’t going to happen.” However, the plan is rejected by the Bush administration and no action is taken (see January 25, 2001). According to one senior Bush administration official, the proposal amounts to “everything we’ve done since 9/11.” [Time, 8/12/2002]
Saeed Alghamdi training with weapons in Afghanistan. [Source: Al Jazeera]Future 9/11 hijacker Saeed Alghamdi apparently records a martyr video in Afghanistan on this day. In the video, which will be released in September 2003, Alghamdi specifically mentions that the video is recorded on December 23, 2000, and that it is his last will and testament before he goes on his martyrdom operation in the US (see September 12, 2003). In addition to a speech, the video shows Alghamdi training with a variety of weapons, showing that he must be at a militant training camp in Afghanistan. [CNN, 9/12/2003]
Cosain Ramos (a.k.a. Abu Ali) supplies explosives for a series of bombings in Indonesia that take place just days later (see December 24-30, 2000). Ramos had worked with Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, and was part of Konsonjaya, a front company run by Hambali used to fund the 1995 Bojinka plot (see June 1994). For many years, US and Philippine authorities failed to track associates of Khalifa and associates connected to Konsonjaya. [Ressa, 2003, pp. 136; Gulf News, 6/10/2003] Remarkably, after Ramos is arrested in 2002, not only will he not be charged, but he will be made a janitor in Camp Crame, the Philippine government’s most secure prison. He will then help Fathur Rohman al-Ghozi escape that prison in 2003 (see July 14, 2003). Al-Ghozi was not only an al-Qaeda leader, but was also the mastermind of the 2000 Indonesia bombings along with Hambali and was the very person Ramos gave the explosives to. Philippine authorities have no explanation as to why Ramos was given access to his former accomplice. [Australian, 7/18/2003]
Damaged cars from the Christmas Eve bombings. [Source: SBS Dateline]Al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) sets off two series of bombs, first in Indonesia, then in the Philippines. The Christmas Eve attacks in Indonesia comprise a series of 38 bombings in 11 cities and are directed against churches. Nineteen people are killed and over a hundred injured. [Asia Times, 10/8/2004] The attacks in the Philippines kill 22 and injure 120 in the country’s capital, Manila. The operation, involving attacks on a train, a bus, an abandoned petrol station, an airport car park, and a park, is apparently carried out by Indonesian JI operative Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi. [BBC, 2/27/2002] Many militants are arrested after the attacks. The investigation leads to JI and al-Qaeda leader Hambali, a veteran Islamic fighter who was involved in the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), is tied to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see June 1994), and attended an al-Qaeda Malaysia summit in 2000, which was monitored by Malaysia intelligence and the CIA (see January 5-8, 2000). Although Hambali, an Indonesian, has lived in Malaysia since the mid-1990s, the authorities cannot find him and say that he has fled to Saudi Arabia (see January 2001 and after). [Jakarta Post, 2/7/2001] JI’s spiritual leader, Abu Bakar Bashir, is also arrested, but then released. [CNN, 2/26/2004] Hambali will finally be captured in August 2003 in Thailand (see August 12, 2003). In February 2001, evidence will come out suggesting links between some of the bombers and the Indonesian military (see February 20, 2001).
A British suicide bomber drives a stolen car packed with explosives into an Indian army base in the town of Srinagar, located in the Indian-controlled portion of the disputed region of Kashmir. Ten people are killed, including three Indian soldiers. The bomber, Asif Sadiq (a.k.a. Mohammed Bilal), is a 24-year-old student from Birmingham. He is the first known Islamist suicide bomber from Britain. Radical London imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the extremist group Al-Muhajiroun, says, “I am not surprised by his actions. He becomes a martyr and that is the wish of every Muslim in order to go to paradise.” It will later be revealed that Sadiq was a member of Al-Muhajiroun. Sadiq is also said to have been a member of the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM). Days after the bombing, Maulana Masood Azhar, head of JEM, praises Sadiq and calls him a martyr. JEM’s newspaper says that in 1994 Sadiq joined Harkat-ul Ansar, a Pakistani militant group led by Azhar at the time which later changed its name to Harkat ul-Mujahedeen. [Independent, 12/29/2000; Sunday Times (London), 7/24/2005; Sunday Mercury (Birmingham UK), 8/20/2006]
German police foil an al-Qaeda plot to bomb the central square in Strasbourg, France. The plot is foiled when German police arrest two Iraqis, a Frenchman, and an Algerian in Frankfurt on December 25 and 26. The men are discovered with a map of Strasbourg and a video showing the market. The plot was to bomb the busy square in front of the city’s main cathedral on New Year’s Eve, just days after the arrests. A French prosecutor will later say the bombing “was avoided by a hair.” The four men will be convicted in Germany in 2003 to prison terms of ten to 12 years for their roles in the plot. France will later sentence ten Islamic militants to prison terms of one to ten years. One of those convicted to a ten year sentence in France is Mohamed Bensakria, who is considered to be a key figure in al-Qaeda’s European network. [Chicago Tribune, 10/22/2001; Associated Press, 12/16/2004]
9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, while learning to fly in Florida, stall a small plane on a Miami International Airport runway. Unable to start the plane, they simply walk away. Flight controllers have to guide the waiting passenger airliners around the stalled aircraft until it is towed away 35 minutes later. They weren’t supposed to be using that airport in the first place. The FAA threatens to investigate the two students and the flight school they are attending. The flight school sends records to the FAA, but no more is heard of the investigation. [New York Times, 10/17/2001] “Students do stupid things during their flight course, but this is quite stupid,” says the owner of the flight school. Nothing was wrong with the plane. [CNN, 10/17/2001]
Records indicate future 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah flies from Miami, Florida, to Beirut on December 26, 2000, but then also flies from Tampa, Florida, to Dusseldorf, Germany, on December 28, 2000. The first trip has stops in Munich, Germany, and Istanbul, Turkey. The second flight has stops in Fort Myers, Florida, and Frankfurt, Germany. This is according to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks. The document contains an analyst note pointing out that records show Jarrah left the US these two times, but doesn’t attempt to explain the discrepancy except to comment that one or the other flight may be right. Jarrah apparently returns to the US on January 5, 2001, after visiting family in Lebanon. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002] Additionally, around this time, there are claims that Jarrah is both training in Afghanistan and visiting family in Lebanon. One uncle of his will later ask, “How could he be in two places at one time?” (See Late November 2000-January 30, 2001). Jarrah also seems to leave the US twice in a short time period on one other occasion (see July 25, 2001).
National Security Adviser Sandy Berger asks CIA Director how he would go after al-Qaeda if he were unconstrained by resources and policies. He assigns Cofer Black and the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center to develops a plan for the incoming Bush administration. It is dubbed the “Blue Sky Memo.” The CIA presents it to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke on December 29, 2000. It recommends increased support to anti-Taliban groups and especially a major effort to back Ahmed Shah Massoud’s Northern Alliance, to tie down al-Qaeda personnel before they leave Afghanistan. No action is taken on it in the last few weeks of the Clinton administration; and the new Bush administration does not appear interested in it either. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004; Tenet, 2007, pp. 130-131] The National Security Council counterterrorism staff also prepares a strategy paper, incorporating ideas from the Blue Sky Memo. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004]
Entity Tags: Sandy Berger, Richard A. Clarke, Northern Alliance, Osama bin Laden, National Security Council, Bush administration (43), Al-Qaeda, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Clinton administration, Cofer Black, George J. Tenet, Counterterrorist Center, Central Intelligence Agency
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
The Pan Am Boeing 767 flight simulator used by the hijackers. [Source: FBI]Having finished their flight training at Huffman Aviation and passed their commercial pilot license tests (see August 14-December 19, 2000), future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi spend December 29 and 30 at the SimCenter flight school at Opa-Locka Airport, near Miami. Saying they want to join an Egyptian airline and need experience in a large plane, they each pay $1,500 in cash and spend six hours, split over the two days, training in the school’s Boeing 727 simulator. Henry George, the school’s owner who trains them, will later describe their training as a “mini, mini introduction,” and say they spend most of their time practicing maneuvers and turns. George will describe Atta and Alshehhi as “average pilots,” and say they are “quite ordinary. They were respectful and quiet almost to the point of being shy.” [New York Times, 9/15/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/2001; Aviation International News, 11/2001; BBC, 12/12/2001] The FBI will claim that Atta and Alshehhi spend December 31 at Pan Am International, also in Opa-Locka, training on a Boeing 767 simulator there. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; United States of America v. Zacarias Moussaoui, a/k/a Shaqil, a/k/a Abu Khalid al Sahrawi, Defendant, 3/7/2006] Yet no other reports, including the 9/11 Commission Report, will mention this. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel will specifically claim the alleged hijackers “never approached Pan Am,” although it will not say how it arrived at this conclusion. It will point out that, in contrast to the 767s Atta and Alshehhi allegedly pilot on 9/11, the 727 the two men train to fly at the SimCenter “is a rather old three-engine jet with an old-fashioned cockpit, including a cramped instrument panel loaded down with small dials, knobs, and gauges.… But the 767 and 757 have highly sophisticated ‘glass cockpits,’ featuring video screens and digital readouts, and requiring an advanced level of computer skills.” Furthermore, according to Steven Wallach, an aviation consultant and former airline captain, if the hijackers “took the controls at high altitude and a long distance from their targets, then they likely had considerable training in a 767 or 757. They would have had to descend and navigate to Washington and New York. They would have had to know how to operate the autopilot, as well as other intricate functions.” However, “if the hijackers took over the controls at the last moment, that would indicate a minimum of 767-757 training.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/22/2001] SimCenter owner Henry George will claim: “I suppose Atta had just enough training to keep the plane in the air—how to make turns and move it up and down. He could not, however, have taxied a 757 or 767 from the gate, got it airborne, or landed it safely.” [Daily Telegraph, 9/14/2001]
Documents obtained by Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Salem Alhazmi indicate that they are in the New Jersey / New York area at this time, although the cards may be later fakes. All three hijackers obtain USA ID cards whose expiry date is December 30, 2006. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 191-2 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] USAID Systems, the Florida firm that manufactured the system through which the cards were issued, will later tell Time magazine that Almihdhar’s card was issued exactly six years before its expiration date. [Time, 8/29/2005] However, according to the FBI and the 9/11 Commission, Nawaf Alhazmi is in Arizona (see December 12, 2000-March 2001), and Salem Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar are in the Middle East at this time (see June 10, 2000, Late October 2000-July 4, 2001, and April 23-June 29, 2001).
Almihdhar’s card later proves to be a forgery, and may therefore not have been issued on this date. The Alhazmi brothers’ cards may also be forgeries (see (July-August 2001))
Gen. Anthony Zinni [Source: US Marine Corps.]Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Henry Shelton prepares a paper with 13 options for using force against bin Laden. Several of the options describe Special Forces raids to capture or kill bin Laden. But counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later say that when military operations on al-Qaeda were discussed, “the overwhelming message to the White House from the uniformed military leadership was, ‘We don’t want to do this.’” Shelton’s chief of operations will later describe the paper as a tool to “educate” National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Clarke, and others about the “extraordinary complexity” of going ahead with any of the options. The military repeatedly complains that the CIA’s intelligence about bin Laden isn’t good enough while the CIA complains that the military’s intelligence requirements are too demanding. One CIA document notes that there is “lots of desire” for a military strike against bin Laden amongst lower-level US military officials, but “reluctance at the political level.” [Los Angeles Times, 7/25/2003; Coll, 2004, pp. 533] One reason for such reluctance is the close ties between the US military and Pakistan. Author Steve Coll will later note, “The Pentagon, especially General Anthony Zinni at Centcom, who remained close to [Pakistani President Pervez] Musharraf personally, emphasized the benefits of engagement with Pakistan’s generals.” [Coll, 2004, pp. 490]
Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi, a Jordanian Muslim militant later alleged by the Bush administration to have ties to Osama bin Laden, is allegedly arrested in Jordan sometime in 2001 for his involvement in a late 1999 plot to blow up the Radisson SAS Hotel in Amman, Jordan (see November 30, 1999). This is according to an unnamed Bush administration official. Supposedly, some time after his arrest, he is released. [Guardian, 10/9/2002; Washington Post, 2/7/2003 Sources: Unnamed Bush administration official] However, there are no contemporary press accounts of this arrest and release, and no signs of a trial. According to other accounts, at some point he is convicted for his role in the plot and sentenced to death by a Jordanian court in absentia. [Independent, 2/6/2003]
In 2008, Abdelkader Belliraj, a Belgian government informant heading an Islamist militant group in Morocco, will be arrested in Morocco (see February 18, 2008 and February 29, 2008). Moroccan Interior Minister Chakib Benmoussa will claim that in 2001 Belliraj and several of his followers travel to Afghanistan to meet al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. Al-Zawahiri gives Belliraj specific instructions to carry out. Belliraj’s followers then train in al-Qaeda camps alongside militants belonging to the Moroccan Islamic Combatant Group, another al-Qaeda linked Moroccan militant group. That group will later carry out a series of attacks in Casablanca in 2003 (see May 16, 2003) and play a role in the Madrid train bombings in 2004 (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). It is not known if Belliraj meets al-Zawahiri before or after the 9/11 attacks. [Los Angeles Times, 2/27/2008; Het Laatste News, 3/4/2008] Belliraj’s group maintains al-Qaeda links after this. For instance, in 2005 Belliraj visits training camps run by the Algerian militant group the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat. One year later, that group will change its name to be Al-Qaeda in the Magreb. [Maghreb Arabe Presse, 3/2/2008]
The US Government knowingly harbors Nguyen Huu Chanh, leader of the “Government of Free Vietnam,” an organization actively seeking to overthrow the Communist government of Vietnam. From his suburban office complex in Garden Grove, California, he plans and directs attacks against Vietnamese targets. The Vietnam government considers Chahn its most-wanted terrorist and has asked the United States to halt the plotter’s activities. [Time, 10/22/2001]
Donald Kerrick. [Source: White House]Clinton and Bush staff overlap for several months while new Bush appointees are appointed and confirmed. Clinton holdovers seem more concerned about al-Qaeda than the new Bush staffers. For instance, according to a colleague, Sandy Berger, Clinton’s National Security Adviser, had become “totally preoccupied” with fears of a domestic terror attack. [Newsweek, 5/27/2002] Brian Sheridan, Clinton’s outgoing Deputy Defense Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, is astonished when his offers during the transition to bring the new military leadership up to speed on terrorism are brushed aside. “I offered to brief anyone, any time on any topic. Never took it up.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/30/2004] Army Lieutenant General Donald Kerrick, Deputy National Security Adviser and manager of Clinton’s NSC (National Security Council) staff, still remains at the NSC nearly four months after Bush takes office. He later notes that while Clinton’s advisers met “nearly weekly” on terrorism by the end of his term, he does not detect the same kind of focus with the new Bush advisers: “That’s not being derogatory. It’s just a fact. I didn’t detect any activity but what [Clinton holdover Richard] Clarke and the CSG [Counterterrorism Security Group] were doing.” [Washington Post, 1/20/2002] Kerrick submits a memo to the new people at the NSC, warning, “We are going to be struck again.” He says, “They never responded. It was not high on their priority list. I was never invited to one meeting. They never asked me to do anything. They were not focusing. They didn’t see terrorism as the big megaissue that the Clinton administration saw it as.” Kerrick adds, “They were gambling nothing would happen.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/30/2004] Bush’s first Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Henry Shelton, later says terrorism was relegated “to the back burner” until 9/11. [Washington Post, 10/2/2002]
French experts give an in-depth report on bin Laden’s financial network to a senior FBI official, according to a source close to French intelligence. A month later, the FBI official admits to his French colleagues that the document still hasn’t been translated into English. [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/2001] It is not known what the FBI does with the report after that, if anything.
As part of a new US intelligence effort to prevent al-Qaeda getting weapons of mass destruction, “a third-country national working for the CIA” goes into an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan where chemical weapons are possibly being made. The agent takes soil samples, but later analysis does not show any dangerous chemicals. According to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, the “CIA took pride in the risks the third-country national had run in going to the camp.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 178-179]
During a post-9/11 trial in Germany, Shadi Abdellah, a militant who briefly served as one of Osama bin Laden’s bodyguards, will claim that in early 2001: “Bin Laden spoke in a speech of an attack against the United States and said there would be thousands of dead.… When there was an attack, we weren’t told. They just said to us, ‘Pray for your brothers.’” [Guardian, 11/28/2002; Associated Press, 11/2/2004] According to another account, Abdellah hears bin Laden say: “We will hit America’s spine soon. Thousands will die. We will hit them hard.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/28/2002] Abdellah spent time at al-Qaeda training camps from early 2000 until May 2001, so presumably this speech was in May 2001 or before then. Abdellah will be captured in Germany in 2002 for a role in helping to plot attacks against Jewish targets there (see April 2002). [Guardian, 11/28/2002; Associated Press, 11/2/2004] Bin Laden will make other similar public comments hinting at a massive attack against the US later in the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001). While it is unknown if US intelligence is aware of such speeches before 9/11, by July 2001 the CIA will report that a source in Afghanistan has said, “Everyone is talking about an impending attack” (see July 2001).
Mohammed Fazazi, the imam at the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg, Germany, attended by three of the future 9/11 hijackers, gives an extremely militant sermon that is recorded on video. In the sermon given at Al-Quds, he says, “You have not understood the words of God or the Koran if you believe that the nonbelievers want to do good.” He advocates killing all non-Muslims “no matter if it’s a man, a woman, or a child.” He laments the difficulty of doing this not for the victims or the number of people who must die, but for the hardship it places on the killers. The video of this sermon will later be seen by Los Angeles Times reporters. [Los Angeles Times, 7/6/2005] The three 9/11 hijackers who lived in Hamburg—Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah—are in the US by the time Fazazi makes these comments, although most of the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell members such as Ramzi bin al-Shibh are still in Hamburg. But the hijackers attended Fazazi’s sermons for years prior to leaving Germany (see 1993-Late 2001 and Early 1996). They also frequently had private meetings with him (see Early 1996). Fazazi will leave Germany in late 2001 (see Mid-September-Late 2001) and will later be convicted of a role in the 2003 bombings in Casablanca, Morocco (see May 16, 2003).
Lee Wolosky. [Source: Center for American Progress]By the end of the Clinton administration, an effort by some US officials to arrest international arms dealer Victor Bout is gathering steam (see Early Spring 1999-2000). National Security Council (NSC) adviser Lee Wolosky has been gathering evidence of Bout’s airplanes being used to smuggle weapons and possibly drugs for the Taliban. Shortly after the Bush administration takes office, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke, Wolosky, and other NSC deputies hold a briefing about Bout’s activities for Condoleezza Rice, the new national security adviser. Rice appears interested, and authorizes the NSC team to continue to pursue an attempt to get an arrest warrant for Bout strong enough to secure a conviction. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 186-187] However, Rice focuses on diplomatic solutions and does not allow any actual covert action against Bout. The FBI also does not have an open investigation into Bout and does not appear particularly interested in him. “Look but don’t touch,” is how one White House official will later describe Rice’s approach. [New York Times Magazine, 8/17/2003; Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 193] In late spring 2001, Wolosky briefs Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley about Bout and global organized crime. He receives a go-ahead to present a full briefing to President Bush on the topic, but no specific date is set. Wolosky is still trying to arrange a date when the 9/11 attacks occur. The Bush administration’s interest in Bout was already fading before 9/11, and after 9/11 the remaining interest in him is lost, despite Bout’s ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Wolosky soon quits. “We knew we were being phased out,” he will later say. [Farah and Braun, 2007, pp. 193-194] Bout moves to Russia not long after 9/11, but Rice decides that Russia should not be pressured about arms trafficking in general and Bout in particular. One source who talks to Rice claims that she reasons the US has “bigger fish to fry.” [New York Times Magazine, 8/17/2003]
Future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Waleed Alshehri are seen flying small aircraft at an airport in Oklahoma, and Zacarias Moussaoui is there at the same time. This is according to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks. The document notes that “several employees” at Million Air, located at Wiley Post Airport in Bethany, Oklahoma, see Atta, Alshehhi, and Alshehri on the same Beechcraft Duchess aircraft at the same time. Furthermore, Moussaoui is seen there in the same timeframe, although the FBI report will not mention if Moussaoui is ever seen with the other three. The employees cannot give exact dates when these people are seen, but all the visits are in the six months leading up to 9/11 and two visits are said to take place after August 4, 2001. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002]
Other Local Connections - Moussaoui takes flying lessons in Norman, Oklahoma, which is about 30 miles away from Bethany, from February to June 2001. Apparently he stays there most of the time until early August (see February 23-June 2001). Atta and Alshehhi visited the flight school in Norman in July 2000 (see July 2-3, 2000). A motel owner will later claim that around August 1, 2001, he saw Moussaoui, Atta, and Alshehhi together at his motel. The location of the motel is not specified, except that it is about 28 miles from Norman and off Highway 40, which runs about five miles south of Bethany (see August 1, 2001). [LA Weekly, 8/2/2002]
Why No Mention in Moussaoui Trial? - Several years after 9/11, US officials will charge Moussaoui with a role in the 9/11 attacks. Strangely, these sightings in Oklahoma will never be mentioned in the trial, even though almost no evidence is put forward in the trial physically linking Moussaoui to any of the 9/11 hijackers in the US (see May 3, 2006).
Ahmed Shehab. [Source: Ahmedshehab.com]The landlord and at least twelve tenants of a Toronto high rise building see 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi living there in the spring of 2001. Other witnesses recall seeing Alshehhi and/or hijacker Mohamed Atta in or near the building. Nabil al-Marabh is sporadically staying in the same building in an apartment unit owned by his uncle, Ahmed Shehab, a prominent local imam. None of the witnesses appear to have sighted any of the other hijackers. Alshehhi and Atta are also seen by eyewitnesses around this time at a Toronto photocopy shop owned by Shehab, and there are even some who see Atta occasionally working there (see January 2001-Summer 2001). [Toronto Sun, 9/28/2001; Toronto Sun, 9/28/2001; ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] The apartment where al-Marabh stayed will not be raided by police until about two weeks after 9/11, and one week after reports of al-Marabh’s connections to the hijackers has been in the newspapers. The Toronto Sun will report, “Many [building] residents questioned why police waited so long to raid [the] apartment after al-Marabh was arrested. Several tenants alleged they had seen a man late at night during the past week, taking away boxes from the apartment.” [Toronto Sun, 9/28/2001] Al-Marabh also shares a Toronto apartment with Hassan Almrei, a Syrian who the Canadian authorities are already suspecting for possible militant ties (see September 13, 2000 and After). One article says that are roommates in 2001, and it would likely mean early 2001 since al-Marabh leaves Toronto during the summer. Canadian authorities will later arrest Almrei and discover that he has extensive connections with al-Qaeda (see October 19, 2001). [ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] Some of the 9/11 hijackers may have been in Toronto as late as the end of August 2001. A motel manager in Hollywood, Florida, will later say that Mohamed Atta and Ziad Jarrah stay at his motel on August 30, 2001. He will say they gave a non-existent Toronto address and drove a car with Ontario, Canada, license plates. They claimed to be computer engineers from Iran, and said they had just come down from Canada to find jobs. [Washington Post, 10/4/2001; Toronto Sun, 10/5/2001]
The Toronto photocopy shop owned by Nabil al-Marabh’s uncle. [Source: CTV]Many eyewitnesses see 9/11 hijackers Marwan Alshehhi and Mohamed Atta at a Toronto photocopy shop owned by Nabil al-Marabh’s uncle Ahmed Shehab, a prominent local imam. Some of the dozens of eyewitness accounts say Atta sporadically works in the shop. There is a large picture of bin Laden hanging in the store. Alshehhi and Atta are also seen by other eyewitnesses in a Toronto apartment building during this same time period (see January 2001-Summer 2001). [Toronto Sun, 10/21/2001] In a series of raids after 9/11, many partially completed fake IDs will be found in the store and at al-Marabh’s apartment. A stack of tightly-controlled immigration forms enabling one to immigrate to Canada will also be found. [Toronto Sun, 9/28/2001; Toronto Sun, 10/5/2001; Toronto Sun, 10/16/2001] According to the Toronto Sun, “Forensic officers said there are similarities in the paper stock, laminates, and ink seized from the downtown store and that which was used in identification left behind by the [9/11 hijackers].” [Toronto Sun, 10/16/2001]
[Source: FBI]Bassam Kanj is killed in a battle in Lebanon. Kanj lived on and off in Boston for nearly 15 years, and was a friend of al-Qaeda operatives Nabil al-Marabh, Raed Hijazi, and Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi. All four of them fought together in Afghanistan in the late 1980s (see Late 1980s), then worked at the same Boston taxi company in the 1990s (see June 1995-Early 1999). In late 1998, Kanj left Boston for Lebanon where he apparently recruited a couple hundred people to take part in a rebellion to overthrow the Lebanese government. He is killed during a five day battle, along with 21 others. Two days after the battle, a Lebanese newspaper identifies him as an al-Qaeda operative who had received financial support from bin Laden. This leads to a renewed focus on him in the US. In February 2001, the Boston Globe will report, “The FBI is continuing to look at Kanj’s and Hijazi’s activities in the Boston area in hopes of learning more about their contacts inside bin Laden’s far-flung organization.” Michael Rolince, chief of international terrorism operations for the FBI, will tell the Globe that both men had a “higher station” than most in al-Qaeda, and will add, “We are still trying to sort out who played what role.” [Boston Globe, 2/5/2001] Presumably, this leads the FBI to take another look at Nabil al-Marabh, who had been roommates with both Hijazi and Kanj and is already wanted for a variety of al-Qaeda contacts. An individual matching al-Marabh’s description is even mentioned in a prominent New York Times story about al-Qaeda in January 2001. The article states, “In early 1997, Hijazi moved to Boston, where he had a friend from his years in Afghanistan.” [New York Times, 1/15/2001] Yet apparently there is no concerted effort to find al-Marabh, who will even be set free after being arrested trying to illegally enter the US (see June 27, 2001-July 11, 2001). The Boston FBI began investigating Elzahabi for militant ties in 1999, but lost track of him when he went to fight in Chechnya (see 1997 and 1999). But apparently he is not detected reentering the US shortly before 9/11 (see Mid-August 2001).
After the Bush administration takes office in January 2001, it is slow to develop new approaches to Pakistan and Afghanistan. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice orders a new policy review for al-Qaeda, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, but sets no deadline for it to be completed. State Department officials will later say that Secretary of State Colin Powell shows little interest in the policy review. It takes four months for the Bush administration to even nominate a new assistant secretary of state for South Asian affairs. President Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf exchange formal letters with each other shortly after Bush takes office, but the letters have little impact. In January, US ambassador to Pakistan William Milam prepares two cables to brief the new Bush administration about Pakistan, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda. There is no response from Washington and no request for further information, even though Milam is the point person for meetings with the Taliban. The US embassy is not consulted at all about the new policy review, indicating just how low a priority the review is. A senior US diplomat will later say: “Al-Qaeda was not on the radar screen in Washington. Nobody thought there was any urgency to the policy review. Papers were circulated, dates were made to meet, and were broken—it was the usual bureaucratic approach.” The first significant meeting related to the review takes place in April, but little is accomplished (see April 30, 2001). The first cabinet-level meeting relating to the policy review takes place on September 4, just one week before the 9/11 attacks. US policy towards Pakistan is discussed, but no firm decisions are reached (see September 4, 2001). After 9/11, Rice will say: “America’s al-Qaeda policy wasn’t working because our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working. And our Afghanistan policy wasn’t working because our Pakistan policy wasn’t working. We recognized that America’s counterterrorism policy had to be connected to our regional strategies and our overall foreign policy.… Al-Qaeda was both a client of and patron to the Taliban, which in turn was supported by Pakistan. Those relationships provided al-Qaeda with a powerful umbrella of protection, and we had to sever that.” [Rashid, 2008, pp. 56-60]
Clearwater Airpark. [Source: Douglas R. Clifford / St. Petersburg Times]9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi reportedly spend at least 30 minutes practicing landing a single-engine plane at Clearwater Airpark, Florida, after it has closed for the night. This is according to Daniel Pursell, the chief instructor at Huffman Aviation, the Venice flight school attended by the two during the latter half of 2000 (see July 6-December 19, 2000). What they are doing at Clearwater is unknown. Their activities draw the attention of a police aide acting as a night watchman, who leaves a voice message at Huffman complaining about the incident. The plane is subsequently identified as having been rented by Atta and Alshehhi. Pursell, along with fellow instructor Thierry Leklou, reprimands them when they return to Venice the following morning. According to the St. Petersburg Times, the two leave Huffman shortly afterwards. This incident first surfaces publicly in 2006, when Pursell testifies at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. However, others will dispute his allegations. Local police say no incident reports were filed describing the event, and neither the FAA nor city have any record of unauthorized landings during this period. According to Bill Morris, Clearwater’s marine and aviation director, a police aide would have called for backup and recorded the plane’s details in a log, rather than calling Huffman. He says even if the aide had wanted to contact the plane’s owner, it would have been impossible to ascertain who this was at night, as allegedly occurred, because the FAA’s offices would have been closed. [CNN, 3/23/2006; St. Petersburg Times, 3/30/2006; Clearwater Citizen, 4/6/2006] Furthermore, Atta and Alshehhi supposedly finished training at Huffman Aviation in December 2000, and the school’s owner Rudi Dekkers will claim Huffman last heard from them around the end of that month. [US Congress, 3/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 17 ] However, a similar incident to this is known to have occurred previously, where Atta and Alshehhi abandoned one of Huffman’s planes at Miami International Airport (see December 26, 2000). [CNN, 3/23/2006] And according to the 9/11 Commission, after passing their instrument rating airplane tests on November 6, 2000, the pair was “able to sign out planes. They did so on a number of occasions, often returning at 2:00 and 3:00 A.M. after logging four or five hours of flying time.” [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 15 ] The St. Petersburg Times reports that Atta and Alshehhi “would rent a plane from Huffman and be gone for days at a time, Pursell said. They could fly to 20 airports across the state and never be noticed.” [St. Petersburg Times, 3/30/2006]
A secret military intelligence unit called Able Danger, which is tasked with assembling information about al-Qaeda networks around the world, is shut down. Some accounts say the program is shut down in January, some say February, and some say March. [Norristown Times Herald, 6/19/2005; Times Herald (Norristown), 9/12/2005; US Congress, 9/21/2005] The unit has identified Mohamed Atta and three other 9/11 hijackers as members of an al-Qaeda cell operating in the United States (see January-February 2000). According to James D. Smith, a Pentagon contractor involved with the unit, the inspector general shuts down the operation “because of a claim that we were collecting information on US citizens,” and it is illegal for the military to do this. [WTOP Radio 103.5 (Washington), 9/1/2005] Others familiar with the unit later say it is closed down because it might have led to the exposure of another data mining project that was investigating US citizens allegedly illegally transferring sensitive US technology to the Chinese government. [WTOP Radio 103.5 (Washington), 9/1/2005] Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer blames the change in leadership brought by the new Bush administration. “Once the four star [General Schoomaker] went away, it was pretty much like the world closing around us [Schoomaker retired in November 2000, but returned as Army Chief of Staff in 2003]. There was no political will to continue this at that point in time. Plus, my direct leadership: Colonel [Jerry] York and General [Bob] Harding had moved on as well. Therefore, I had a new chain of command above me. They were very risk adverse. This [Able Danger] operation, as with other operations which were very high risk / high gain, some of which are still ongoing—seemed to not be appreciated by the incoming leadership.” [American Forces Press Service, 6/17/2003; Government Security News, 9/2005] For example, Shaffer will say that Col. Mary Moffitt, who replaces Col. Gerry York around this time (“spring 2001”), “dismantled the Defense [human intelligence] support to Able Danger just months before the 9-11 attacks… [and ] became focused on shutting down our support to Able Danger under the guise of ‘reorganization’ and in the end, disestablished Stratus Ivy [the unit Shaffer headed] and its cutting edge focus.” [US Congress, 2/15/2006 ]
Hani Hanjour, from a 2000 US visa application.
[Source: 9/11 Commission]In January 2001, the Arizona flight school JetTech alerts the FAA about hijacker Hani Hanjour. No one at the school suspects Hanjour of terrorist intent, but they tell the FAA he lacks both the English and flying skills necessary for the commercial pilot’s license he has already obtained. For instance, he had taken classes at the University of Arizona but failed his English classes with a 0.26 grade point average. A JetTech flight school manager “couldn’t believe he had a commercial license of any kind with the skills that he had.” A former employee says, “I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all.” They also note he is an exceptionally poor student who does not seem to care about passing his courses. [New York Times, 5/4/2002; CBS News, 5/10/2002] An FAA official named John Anthony actually sits next to Hanjour in class and observes his skills. He suggests the use of a translator to help Hanjour pass, but the flight school points out that goes “against the rules that require a pilot to be able to write and speak English fluently before they even get their license.” [Associated Press, 5/10/2002] The FAA verifies that Hanjour’s 1999 pilot’s license is legitimate (see April 15, 1999), but takes no other action. However, his license should have been rejected because it had already expired in late 1999 when he failed to take a manadatory medical test. [Associated Press, 9/15/2001; CBS News, 5/10/2002] An Arizona FAA inspector later says, “There should have been a stop right then and there.” He will claim that federal law would have required Hanjour to be re-examined. [Associated Press, 6/13/2002] In February, Hanjour begins advanced simulator training, “a far more complicated task than he had faced in earning a commercial license.” [New York Times, 6/19/2002] The flight school again alerts the FAA about this and gives a total of five alerts about Hanjour, but no further action on him is taken. The FBI is not told about Hanjour. [CBS News, 5/10/2002] Ironically, in July 2001, Arizona FBI agent Ken Williams will recommend in a memo that the FBI liaison with local flight schools and keep track of suspicious activity by Middle Eastern students (see July 10, 2001).
Ahmed Alnami in prayer. [Source: Spiegel TV]Eleven of the 9/11 hijackers stay in or pass through Britain, according to the British Home Secretary and top investigators. Most are in Britain between April and June, just passing through from Dubai, United Arab Emirates (see April 22-June 27, 2001). However, investigators suspect some stay in Britain for training and fundraising (see June 2001). The eleven are Satam Al Suqami, Waleed Alshehri, Majed Moqed, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, Hamza Alghamdi, Ahmed Alnami, Mohand Alshehri, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Wail Alshehri, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, and Saeed Alghamdi. Ahmed Alghamdi was one of several that should have been “instantly ‘red-flagged’ by British intelligence,” because of his links to Raed Hijazi, a suspected ally of bin Laden being held in Jordan on charges of conspiring to destroy holy sites. Apparently, the investigation concludes that other “muscle” hijackers and leaders like Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi did not pass through Britain at this time. [London Times, 9/26/2001; Washington Post, 9/27/2001; BBC, 9/28/2001; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 9/30/2001] However, police will investigate whether Atta visited Britain in 1999 and 2000, together with some Algerians. [Daily Telegraph, 9/30/2001] The London Times will also write, “Officials hope that the inquiries in Britain will disclose the true identities of the suicide team. Some are known to have arrived in Britain using false passports and fake identities that they kept for the hijack.” [London Times, 9/26/2001]
Entity Tags: Raed Hijazi, Saeed Alghamdi, Waleed Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, Wail Alshehri, Marwan Alshehhi, Satam Al Suqami, Hamza Alghamdi, Majed Moqed, Ahmed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Mohand Alshehri, Ahmed Alnami, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
[Source: FBI]FBI agent Robert Wright is continuing to protest and fight the cancellation of the Vulgar Betrayal investigation (see August 2000). In January 2001, he claims that his supervisor tells him, “I think it’s just better to let sleeping dogs lie.” FBI agent John Vincent backs up the allegation. [ABC News, 12/19/2002] In March 2001, Wright meets with the Chicago special agent-in-charge, who appears to be Kathleen McChesney, given that Wright calls this person “she” and McChesney held that position since January 1999. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 12/2001; Federal News Service, 6/2/2003] He tells her that “the international terrorism unit of the FBI is a complete joke.” Within three weeks, the FBI opens another disciplinary investigation on Wright, charging that he had supplied classified information to an assistant US attorney. Wright is later cleared of the charges. In 2002, Wright will claim, “This was a pathetic attempt… before the Sept. 11th attacks, to further silence me from going public about the FBI’s negligence and incompetence.” [CNN, 6/19/2003; New York Post, 7/14/2004] A lawyer speaking for Wright after 9/11 will blame Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division Michael Chertoff for refusing to take Wright’s concerns seriously before 9/11. Chertoff will later be promoted to head the Department of Homeland Security. [Fox News, 5/30/2002]
Following a wave of bombings in Indonesia and the Philippines in late 2000 (see December 24-30, 2000), regional intelligence services increase surveillance of al-Qaeda affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah (JI). Police find that a call claiming responsibility for the bombing was made from a phone registered to JI operative Fathur Rohman Al-Ghozi and trace calls from this phone to JI leader Hambali and one of his subordinates, Faiz abu Baker Bafana. Philippines authorities then keep al-Ghozi under surveillance for a year, before arresting him in January 2002. [Christian Science Monitor, 2/14/2002] Hambali is named in the media as a JI leader around this time (see January 24, 2001).
Brian Sheridan. [Source: PBS.org]Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke briefs Secretary of State Colin Powell about the al-Qaeda threat. He urges decisive and quick action against the organization. Powell meets with the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG)—made up of senior counterterrorism officials from many agencies—and sees to it that all members of the group agree al-Qaeda is a serious threat. For instance, Deputy Defense Secretary Brian Sheridan says to Powell, “Make al-Qaeda your number one priority.” [Clarke, 2004, pp. 227-30] Clarke will later note that he does not provide this briefing to President Bush because he is prevented from doing so. When Clarke resigns in 2003, he receives an effusive letter of praise from Bush for his service (see January 31, 2003). Clarke will later quote Bush (see March 28, 2004), telling NBC’s Tim Russert: “Let me read another line from the letter… ‘I will always have fond memories of our briefings for you on cybersecurity.’ Not on terrorism, Tim, because they didn’t allow me to brief him on terrorism.” [MSNBC, 3/28/2004]
Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” for the Clinton administration, briefs National Security Adviser Rice and her deputy, Steve Hadley, about al-Qaeda. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002] Outgoing National Security Adviser Sandy Berger makes an unusual appearance at the start of the meeting, saying to Rice, “I’m coming to this briefing to underscore how important I think this subject is.” He claims that he tells Rice during the transition between administrations, “I believe that the Bush administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject.” Clarke presents his plan to “roll back” al-Qaeda that he had given to the outgoing Clinton administration a couple of weeks earlier. [Time, 8/12/2002] He gets the impression that Rice has never heard the term al-Qaeda before. [Clarke, 2004, pp. 227-30; Guardian, 3/25/2004] Clarke is told at the meeting that he will keep his job but the position is being downgraded and he will no longer have direct access to the president (see January 3, 2001).
Nawaf Alhazmi (left) and Khallad bin Attash (right) are said to have been confused by an informer.
[Source: FBI]A CIA officer in Islamabad, Pakistan, known only as “Chris” shows a source known as “Omar,” who provides information on al-Qaeda, photographs of future 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi taken at the al-Qaeda Malaysia summit (see January 5-8, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 537; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 268-271 ] Omar has previously identified a photo of al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash (see November 22-December 16, 2000) and Chris has been told that bin Attash and Almihdhar might be the same person (see Mid-Late December 2000). Omar says that the photo of Alhazmi, who the CIA apparently does not recognize at this time, actually shows bin Attash. As Omar cannot identify Almihdhar, but says he can identify bin Attash, this indicates Almihdhar and bin Attash are not the same person. The identification causes the CIA to believe that bin Attash attended al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit. Although this belief is based on a mistaken identification, it is actually correct, as bin Attash was present at the summit—the CIA has photos of bin Attash there, but fails to show them to Omar. This identification is important because bin Attash is a known bin Laden operative connected to the USS Cole attack and East African embassy bombings. The CIA also knows that Almihdhar and Alhazmi were at the summit, so this could connect them to the Cole attack. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 268-271 ] An FBI official named Michael Dorris is also at the meeting. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 272 ; Soufan, 2011] However, Dorris does not learn of the identification of bin Attash by “Omar.” [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 270-274 ]
Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta makes a short trip to Spain and Germany. On January 4, 2001, he flies from Miami, Florida, to Madrid, Spain. He has allegedly been in the US since June 3, 2000, learning to fly in Florida with fellow 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. [Miami Herald, 9/22/2001] Spanish authorities will later say Atta meets Barakat Yarkas, head of a Spanish al-Qaeda cell, on the trip. After Yarkas is arrested in late 2001, an interview with him by a high court judge will indicate that “numerous lines to Sept. 11 principals passed through [him].” [Boston Globe, 8/4/2002] Atta also makes a brief visit to Hamburg, Germany, at this time. One college student acquiantance of his, an Egyptian named Nader el-Abd, will later recall seeing Atta at this time. “I asked him where he had been,” el-Abd will say. “He said he was looking for somewhere to do his PhD.” [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 133-134] Atta returns to the US on January 10 (see January 10, 2001). He will make a second trip to Spain in July of this year (see July 8-19, 2001).
Alain Chouet. [Source: La Repubblica]A five page summary French intelligence report dated on this day is entitled “Hijacking of an Airplane by Radical Islamists.” The report details tactical discussions since early 2000 between bin Laden, Chechen rebels, and the Taliban about a hijacking against US airlines (Early 2000 and October 2000). The plot considers hijacking a US airliner flying from Frankfurt to the US or hijacking a French or German airliner. The French intelligence comes from Uzbek spies who have infiltrated the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), a militant group based in Uzbekistan next door to Afghanistan and closely tied to bin Laden and the Taliban. Some of the spies ended up in al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. The French report makes clear that the information was independently verified from other sources, including satellite telephone intercepts and possibly spies recruited in France. [Le Monde (Paris), 4/15/2007; Associated Press, 4/16/2007; Le Monde (Paris), 4/17/2007] When this French report will be leaked to the press in 2007, French officials will insist that the information in it would have been forwarded to the CIA at the time. For instance, Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi, responsible at the time for communications between French and other foreign intelligence services, will say the information would have gone to Bill Murray, chief of the CIA Paris station. Lorenzi says, “That, typically, is the kind of information that would certainly have been forwarded to the CIA. It would even have been an error not to have done it.” [Le Monde (Paris), 4/15/2007] Alain Chouet, head of the French intelligence subdivision tracking terrorist movements, also says the information was certainly passed to the CIA. “We transmitted everything to our American counterparts, everything that could have posed a threat, and they did the same with us.” Chouet thinks it is possible the information was deliberate misdirection by al-Qaeda, because it does not mention multiple hijackings or suicide pilots. No CIA officials have gone on record saying that they received the warning. [Le Monde (Paris), 4/15/2007; Associated Press, 4/16/2007] However, the Chechens are likely connected to Chechen leader Ibn Khattab, who has a long history of collaboration with bin Laden (see 1986-March 19, 2002), and by April 2001 an FBI report says that Ibn Khattab and bin Laden are seriously planning an attack together, possibly against US interests (see Before April 13, 2001). In May 2001, President Bush will be given a warning entitled, “Terrorist Groups Said Cooperating on US Hostage Plot,” which could involve a hijacking to free al-Qaeda prisoners in the US (see May 23, 2001). The plot described by French intelligence is also designed to free al-Qaeda prisoners in the US, though this may just be coincidence as the terrorist groups in Bush’s warning have not been publicly named. [Le Monde (Paris), 4/17/2007]
A bipartisan commission chaired by former Senator Howard Baker (R-TN) and former Carter administration counsel Lloyd Cutler reports on the state of nuclear nonproliferation programs in Russia and its former Soviet client states. The report is bleak: it finds that Russia alone is in danger of becoming a “virtual ‘Home Depot’” of nuclear weapons and technology for terrorists seeking nuclear WMD. Russia has the equivalent of 80,000 nuclear weapons, mostly in fragments and in different locations, but all befitting the definition of “loose nukes.” “Imagine if such material were successfully stolen and sold to a terrorist like Osama bin Laden,” the report warns. Baker and Cutler recommend that the US triple its annual expenditure on its program to secure the weapons, from $1 billion to $3 billion. The threat of terrorists acquiring Russian nuclear technology is “the most urgent unmet national security threat to the United States today.” For various reasons, the report stirs little interest among the members of the incoming Bush administration. Many of the relevant programs, collectively known as cooperative threat reduction efforts, are run through the Pentagon, and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has no interest in them. Author J. Peter Scoblic will later point out that the very idea of “cooperative threat reduction” is at odds with the conservative “us-versus-them” ideology. “Paying our former enemy to secure its own weapons so that we will not be threated by them does not constitute a clear, military, zero-sum situation,” Scoblic will write. Indeed, some conservatives, led by House Representative Duncan Hunter (R-CA), mount an effort to scrap the programs entirely, arguing that they undermine US national security—by funding Russian efforts to secure and destroy so-called “loose nukes,” Hunter and his followers warn, the US is allowing Russia to spend more on its own weapons programs. The Bush administration will respond to the Baker-Cutler report by slashing funding for the cooperative threat reduction programs almost in half, and tripling funding for research into missile defense programs. Scoblic will write, “Rather than focusing on making it harder for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons, the administration was devoting its resources to building defenses against what an intelligence community assessment had determined would be the least likely means by which a nuclear attack would be carried out against the United States.” After the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration will request $20 billion in emergency funding for homeland security; as Scoblic will write, “[n]ot a dollar of it was allotted to security upgrades for loose Russian nuclear material, even though the danger had certainly been brought to the president’s attention.” The administration will continue to oppose funding increases for the programs in the future. [Secretary of Energy Advisory Board, Department of Energy, 1/10/2001 ; Scoblic, 2008, pp. 205-206]
Atta’s immigration record for his arrival on January 10, 2001, after alteration in early May. [Source: 9/11 Commission]The Miami Herald will report: “INS documents, matched against an FBI alert given to German police, show two men named Mohamed Atta [arrive] in Miami on January 10, each offering different destination addresses to INS agents, one in Nokomis, near Venice, the other at a Coral Springs condo. He (they?) is admitted, despite having overstayed his previous visa by a month. The double entry could be a paperwork error, or confusion over a visa extension. It could be Atta arrived in Miami, flew to another country like the Bahamas, and returned the same day. Or it could be that two men somehow cleared immigration with the same name using the same passport number.” [Miami Herald, 9/22/2001] Officials will later call this a bureaucratic snafu, and insist that only one Atta entered the US on this date. [Associated Press, 10/28/2001] In addition, while Atta arrives on a tourist visa, he tells immigration inspectors that he is taking flying lessons in the US, which requires an M-1 student visa. [Washington Post, 10/28/2001] The fact that he had overstayed his visa by over a month on a previous visit also does not cause a problem. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001] The INS will later defend its decision, but “immigration experts outside the agency dispute the INS position vigorously.” For instance, Stephen Yale-Loehr, co-author of a 20-volume treatise on immigration law, will assert: “They just don’t want to tell you they blew it. They should just admit they made a mistake.” [Washington Post, 10/28/2001]
The Predator drone. [Source: US military] (click image to enlarge)Even before President Bush’s official inauguration, Clinton holdover counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke pushes National Security Adviser Rice and other incoming Bush officials to resume Predator drone flights over Afghanistan (originally carried out in September and October 2000) in an attempt to find and assassinate bin Laden. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002; CBS News, 6/25/2003] On January 10, Rice is shown a video clip of bin Laden filmed by a Predator drone the year before. [Washington Post, 1/20/2002] Aware of an Air Force plan to arm the Predator, when Clarke outlines a series of steps to take against al-Qaeda on January 25 (see January 25, 2001), one suggestion is to go forward with new Predator drone reconnaissance missions in the spring and use an armed version when it is ready. [9/11 Commission, 3/24/2004] The original Air Force development plan calls for three years of Predator testing, but Clarke pushes so hard that a Hellfire missile is successfully test fired from a Predator on February 16, 2001. The armed Predator will be fully ready by early June 2001 (see Early June-September 10, 2001). [CBS News, 6/25/2003; New Yorker, 7/28/2003] However, Rice apparently approves the use of the Predator but only as part of a broader strategy against al-Qaeda. Since that strategy will still not be ready before 9/11, the Predator will not be put into use before 9/11. [Associated Press, 6/22/2003]
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