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The press reports that Terry Nichols, convicted on federal and state charges surrounding the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing (see December 23, 1997 and May 26, 2004), admitted to his involvement in the conspiracy to blow up the Murrah Federal Building during secret plea negotiations in 2003. Presumably these were the negotiations where prosecutors ultimately rejected an offer by Nichols’s lawyers for Nichols to plead “no content” to the 161 charges of first-degree murder in return for being spared the death penalty (see February 17, 2004). Nichols signed a statement acknowledging helping bomber Timothy McVeigh (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) construct the bomb, though he denied having any prior knowledge of the target (see April 11, 1995) or knowing any other co-conspirators (see May-September 1993, February - July 1994, August 1994, September 13, 1994, October 21 or 22, 1994, and December 16, 1994 and After). Prosecutors now say they never believed Nichols was being entirely truthful in his plea offer. [New York Times, 11/30/2004; The Oklahoman, 4/2009]
Surveillance photo of Muktar Ibrahim at a training camp in Britain. [Source: Metropolitan Police]In December 2004, Muktar Ibrahim is stopped at a London airport with two associates as the three of them are attempting to fly to Pakistan. Ibrahim is the head bomber in the failed 21/7 copycat London bombings (see July 21, 2005), and was monitored by British intelligence several times between May and August 2004 taking part in a training camp in Britain run by Islamist militants. He has an extensive criminal record, including convictions for theft, indecent assault on a minor, and attempted robbery. He had been arrested in October 2004 with the man known to be running the training camps, charged with a public order offense, and then released on bail (see May 2-August 2004). He and his two companions at the airport are stopped carrying warm weather combat-style clothing, $2,000 (£990) in cash, and a medical manual in which the treatment for bullet injuries is underlined. Ibrahim’s name is recognized by security personnel and his face is matched with photos from the training camp surveillance. The three men claim to be on the way to a wedding, but they can offer no explanation for the medical manual. Remarkably, Ibrahim is allowed to take his flight to Pakistan with his two associates, even though he is due to appear in court soon to be tried for his October arrest. In Pakistan, he will attend a training camp run by al-Qaeda linked militants (see December 2004-January 2005) and then he will come back to Britain and try to blow up a subway car full of passengers in late July 2005. There appears to be no further monitoring of him after he comes back from Pakistan. Shadow Home Secretary David Davis will later complain: “[T]he ringleader of the 21/7 plot was allowed to leave the country to train at a camp in Pakistan and return to plan and attempt the attack on 21/7. This was despite the fact that he was facing criminal charges for extremism.” [Independent, 7/10/2007; Independent, 7/10/2007]
Muktar Ibrahim. [Source: Metropolitan Police]Shehzad Tanweer, one of the suicide bombers in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), attends the same training camp in Pakistan at the same time as Muktar Ibrahim, the head bomber in the 21/7 bombings, a failed attempt to duplicate the 7/7 bombings two weeks later (see July 21, 2005). They both attend a camp in Manserah, in a remote area near the border of the disputed region of Kashmir, between December 2004 and January 2005. The camp is run by the Pakistani militant group Harkat ul-Mujahedeen. While there is no definitive proof the two men meet face to face, the strong likelihood of them interacting at the training camp suggests a link between the 7/7 and 21/7 bombers. [Independent, 7/10/2007] 7/7 bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan spends time in Pakistan with Tanweer during these months (see November 18, 2004-February 8, 2005), and he trains with an al-Qaeda operative linked to a Harkat ul-Mujahedeen splinter group. An associate named Waheed Ali will later testify he meets Khan and Tanweer at a Pakistan training camp around this time, but it is not specified if it is the Manserah camp or a different one (see July 23, 2005). [Guardian, 5/21/2008]
A treasure hunter suspected of being a CIA operative is discovered living in the US. In May 2002, US citizen Michael Meiring accidentally blew himself up in a Philippines hotel room, and ended up losing both of his legs. He was mysteriously whisked back to the US amidst media reports suggesting he was a CIA operative posing as a Muslim militant bomber (see May 16, 2002). On June 19, 2002, the chief of the Philippines’ National Bureau of Investigation vowed that Meiring would be brought back to the Philippines to face charges since he appeared to have returned to the US, and the Philippines and the US have an existing extradition treaty. [Minda News, 6/1/2003] On December 2, 2004, a Houston TV station will discover that Meiring is living in Houston, Texas. They examined court documents about him and learned that earlier in 2004 he changed his last name to Van De Meer. The Philippine government confirms that they issued an arrest warrant for Meiring and are still looking for him and an associate of his named Stephen Hughes, who is now said to be living in North Carolina. Counterterrorism expert Ron Hatchett asks, “How is he able to walk around freely within our society using the name that is on the arrest warrant for him?” Meiring is reached by phone in California. His only on the record comment to the reporter who discovered him is, “If this harms me in any way, you will find my power then, and you’ll find out who I am. But I will come for you. You harm me I will not let you off the hook.” [KHOU-TV, 12/2/2004; Filipino Reporter, 12/30/2004] In early 2005, it will be reported that Meiring may not get extradited back to the Philippines because the Philippine government cannot produce a picture of him. [Mindanao Times, 3/23/2005] However, previous media reports claimed that a picture ID of Meiring was found in his hotel room after the explosion there. The ID lists him as an officer in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a Muslim rebel militant group. [KHOU-TV, 12/2/2004] He appears to have ties to leaders of that group and other Philippine Muslim militant groups since 1992 (see 1992-1993). Since 2004, there have been no reports of Meiring being successfully extradited.
Daniel Levin, the outgoing chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC—see Late 2004-Early 2005), sends a memo to Deputy Attorney General James Comey. The memo will remain secret, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will learn that it provides legal advice on communications between defense attorneys and detainees in combatant status review tribunals. [ProPublica, 4/16/2009]
Security forces at the gate where attackers entered the US Consulate compound. [Source: Associated Press]Armed militants attack the US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Five workers at the consulate, none of them US citizens, are killed, and another thirteen are wounded. Four of the attackers die in a shootout as well after taking hostages. A group called Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula claims responsibility for the attack in an Internet posting [Washington Post, 12/7/2004; CNN, 12/7/2004]
The Daily Telegraph reports that “the search for [bin Laden] the world’s most wanted man has all but come to a halt because of Pakistan’s refusal to permit cross-border raids from Afghanistan, according to CIA officials.” Even spy missions by unmanned Predator drones need Pakistani military approval involving a lengthy chain of command that frequently causes delays. Most accounts have bin Laden still alive and living in the near-lawless Pakistan and Afghanistan border region. US officials believe bin Laden and his deputies are being hidden by sympathetic local tribesmen, who are continuing to fund his operations from opium sales. [Daily Telegraph, 12/14/2004]
An extremist arrested and interrogated in Saudi Arabia appears to disclose details of an operation that is strikingly similar to the 7/7 London bombings that will occur in mid-2005 (see July 7, 2005). However, the intelligence does not yield any results before the attacks, even though it is shared with the US and Britain. It will later be unclear whether the arrested man, known as Adel, provided a truthful account or was a fabricator who just happened to predict some details of the plot. Adel is arrested in Buraydah, Saudi Arabia, in late 2004 for using a fraudulent passport, and a memo on his interrogation dated December 14 of that year, which is sent to the CIA and British intelligence, seems to reveal details of a multifaceted operation. Some details match those of the actual attack: it is to be carried out by four people in London in the middle of 2005, some of them British citizens, and will include a location around “Edgewood Road” (one of the bombs will explode at Edgeware Road tube station). The target is said to be a subway station or a nightclub. However, Adel, who is said to know Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, also says the explosives will come from Bosnia and the plot will be coordinated by a Libyan businessman in London, who will help with safe houses and transport. In addition, one of the bombers is said to have tattoos on his fingers. The Saudis send Britain and the US a second report in February 2005, providing more details about the alleged bombers, who are supposed to be from different countries, although there are also apparently Caucasian British and Germans involved. The CIA checks a Syrian phone number mentioned in one of the memos, but finds nothing. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 400-2; Observer, 2/5/2006] After the bombings, Saudi ambassador to London Prince Turki will say in a statement, “There was certainly close liaison between the Saudi Arabian intelligence authorities and the British intelligence authorities some months ago, when information was passed to Britain about a heightened terrorist threat to London,” although it is unclear whether this statement refers to this warning, another Saudi warning about a possible attack in Britain (see April 2005 or Shortly Before), or both. [New Statesman, 11/1/2007] Interest in the detainee will be revived after the attack and even President Bush will become involved, but veteran reporter Bob Woodward, who examines the story in a 2006 book, will conclude that Adel is a fabricator. [Woodward, 2006, pp. 400-2] However, a Saudi security adviser will later say that he is “convinced” the information passed on was “directly linked” to the 7/7 bombings. [Observer, 2/5/2006]
The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) releases a report warning that the use of genetically modified plants—especially corn and soy—to produce drugs, vaccines, and industrial chemicals poses a grave risk to the world’s food supply. The report takes a close look at the current system for producing and distributing food- and feed- grade corn and soybeans and warns that there are a number of potential entry points where plant-produced chemicals might contaminate the food supply. According to the report’s authors, the US Department of Agriculture should “halt the outdoor production of genetically engineered pharma and industrial crops immediately until a system is put in place that can produce drugs and industrial substances without putting our food system and food industry at risk.” They also recommend that the USDA fund an effort to explore safer alternatives. The report was written by scientists at Iowa Sate University, University of Central Florida, University of California at Davis, University of Illinois, and University of Minnesota, and an agricultural management expert based in Hudson, Iowa. [Inter Press Service, 6/9/2004; Andow et al., 12/2004; Union of Concerned Scientists, 12/15/2004; Washington Times, 12/30/2004]
A new address by Osama bin Laden attacks the rulers of Saudi Arabia in even more strident terms than before. Professor Bruce Lawrence calls this speech “a blistering indictment of the House of Saud and the calamity it has historically represented for the [Arabian] peninsula.” Bin Laden says that the ruling Saudi family “has neglected the necessary conditions to maintain security, life, social harmony, and cohesion… Millions of people suffer every day from poverty and deprivation, while millions of riyals [the Saudi currency] flow into the bank accounts of the royals who wield executive power.” He also says the Al Saud family is “beyond the pale of Islam,” and defines the fight as “partly an internal regional struggle between global unbelief, with the apostates today under the leadership of America on one side, and the Islamic umma [community] and its brigades of mujaheddin, on the other.” He also complains of American influence over Saudi Arabia, and the depression in US interests of the price of oil, which apparently should be ”$100 [a barrel] at the very least.” In addition, he attacks other regional rulers, such as those in Jordan, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq, and Libya, and urges their violent overthrow. [Laden, 2005, pp. 245-275]
Navy Secretary Gordon England says that a second detainee reviewed by the Combatant Status Review Tribunal in Guantanamo has been determined not to be an enemy combatant. England does not reveal the man’s name, nationality, information on when or where he was captured, when he was transferred to Guantanamo, or why the tribunal decided to reverse his status. So far, the tribunal has reviewed the statuses of 507 prisoners and made decisions in 230 of the cases. Two hundred fifteen detainees have refused to cooperate. [Reuters, 12/20/2004]
The US Treasury Department and UN designate Adel Batterjee a global terrorist. Batterjee is connected to the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF). The Treasury Department says that Batterjee “has ranked as one of the world’s foremost terrorist financiers” by helping to fund al-Qaeda. It is not explained why the US waited until this time to list him, but counterterrorism expert Rita Katz suggests that the Saudi government may have changed their stance due to increased al-Qaeda activity in Saudi Arabia. “I think they needed Saudi support, and now it seems to be in place.” However, there is no report of Batterjee being arrested or having his funds frozen in Saudi Arabia. [US Department of the Treasury, 12/21/2004; Chicago Tribune, 12/22/2004]
Saad al-Fagih. [Source: PBS]The US and UN designate Saad al-Fagih a global terrorist, but Britain, where he lives, takes no effective action against him. Al-Fagih helped supply bin Laden with a satellite telephone used in the 1998 embassy bombings (see November 1996-Late August 1998). Britain seizes the assets of al-Fagih and his organization, the Movement for Islamic Reform in Arabia. [US Department of the Treasury, 12/21/2004; BBC, 12/24/2004] However, Saudi ambassador to Britain Prince Turki al-Faisal will later complain that the total seized is only ”£20 or something” (note: equivalent of about $39) and that the British government allows al-Fagih to continue to operate openly from London, despite being a specially designated global terrorist (see August 10, 2005). [London Times, 8/10/2005] Britain has long been suspected of harboring Islamic militants in return for them promising not to attack Britain (see August 22, 1998).
Classified US documents later found by reporters (see April 10, 2006) but dating from this time suggest that the Taliban is planning to attack US troops from bases inside Pakistan with the acquiescence or even support of elements within the Pakistani government. For instance, an August 2004 presentation accuses Pakistan of making “false and inaccurate reports of border incidents.” A document from early 2005 mentions that the US military is attempting to stop the flow of weapons to the Taliban from Pakistan and stop infiltration routes from Pakistan. Another document includes a US military commander commenting, “Pakistani border forces [should] cease assisting cross border insurgent activities.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/10/2006] Later in 2005, a report by Congress’ research arm will echo these concerns, stating, “Among the most serious sources of concern is the well-documented past involvement of some members of the Army’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) organization with al-Qaeda and the Taliban, and the possibility that some officers retain sympathies with both groups.” [Los Angeles Times, 4/14/2006]
In 2005, the CIA gives President Bush a secret slide show updating him on the hunt for bin Laden. Bush is taken aback by the small number of CIA case officers posted to Afghanistan and Pakistan. A former intelligence officer will later tell Newsweek that Bush asks, “Is that all there are?” In fact, the CIA had recently doubled the number of officers in the area, but many are inexperienced and raw recruits. Most veteran officers are involved in the Iraq war instead. [Newsweek, 8/28/2007] However, rather than increase the staff working on bin Laden in response to Bush’s complaint, later in the year the CIA will close Alec Station, the unit hunting bin Laden (see Late 2005).
Afghan intelligence allegedly concludes that Osama bin Laden is in Pakistan, but not in the tribal region. Shortly after bin Laden’s death (see May 2, 2011), Amrullah Saleh, who from 2004 to 2010 was head of the NDS (National Directorate of Security), Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, will claim that as early as 2004, and certainly by 2005, the NDS secretly concluded that Osama bin Laden was living somewhere in the heart of Pakistan instead of in the tribal region near the Afghan border where most people thought he was. Saleh claims this conclusion was based on “thousands of interrogation reports” and the assumption that bin Laden with his many wives would not stay in the mountainous wilderness for long. “I was pretty sure he was in the settled areas of Pakistan because in 2005 it was still very easy to infiltrate the tribal areas, and we had massive numbers of informants there. They could find any Arab but not bin Laden.” Saleh has not said if this conclusion was shared with the US and/or Pakistani governments at the time. [Guardian, 5/5/2011]
The second Chechen war has been ongoing since late September 1999 (see September 29, 1999). But around 2005, the intensity of the fighting lessens as Russia tightens its control over Chechnya. Tony Wood, a journalist who has written extensively about Chechnya, later estimates that in 2005 there are about 60,000 Russian soldiers in Chechnya, but this drops down to 8,000 in 2007. By 2008, independent analysts will say there are no more than 2,000 separatists still fighting. An average of two or three Russian soldiers are killed every week. One important reason for the decline in violence is that many rebel leaders have been killed. Most notably, Shamil Basayev, long-time leader of the Islamist faction of fighters, is killed in 2006 (see July 10, 2006). [Reuters, 8/4/2008] In 2004, Basayev reportedly led a number of attacks, culminating in September in the seizing of a public school in Beslan, a town in the neighboring region of North Ossetia. The Russian government soon attacked those holding the school, and over 300 people were killed, most of them children. The New York Times will later report, [T]he school siege became a turning point on many levels. Public sympathy for Chechen separatism, never broad in Russia and limited in the West, began to dry up.” [New York Times, 7/11/2006]
The US search for Osama bin Laden slows down for several years. According to an unnamed former Bush White House official speaking in 2011, “a little fatigue had set in” after a few years of mostly false leads. “We weren’t about to find him anytime soon. Publicly, we maintained a sense of urgency: ‘We’re looking as hard as we can.’ But the energy had gone out of the hunt. It had settled to no more than a second-tier issue. After all, those were the worst days of Iraq.” White House and CIA officials will later say that the war in Iraq and problems with Iran and North Korea took much attention from the search for bin Laden. Juan Zarate, President Bush’s deputy national security adviser for counterterrorism at this time, later says that few new leads emerge. “It was a very dark period.” [Washington Post, 5/6/2011] In December 2004, the Telegraph reported that the US search for bin Laden had essentially been abandoned (see December 14, 2004), and in late 2005, the CIA’s bin Laden unit is shut down (see Late 2005). There is a new push to get bin Laden, also in late 2005, but it has little effect (see Late 2005).
US intelligence learns through communications intercepts about a meeting of al-Qaeda leaders in Bajaur, in the remote border regions of Pakistan near Afghanistan (one account says the meeting is in nearby North Waziristan instead). Intelligence officials have an “80 percent confidence” that al-Qaeda’s second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri and/or other top al-Qaeda leaders are attending the meeting. One intelligence official involved in the operation says, “This was the best intelligence picture we had ever seen” about a high-value target. [New York Times, 7/8/2007; Newsweek, 8/28/2007; New York Times, 6/30/2008]
Size of US Force Grows - The original plan calls for cargo planes to carry 30 Navy Seals near the target, then they will use motorized hang gliders to come closer and capture or kill al-Zawahiri. The plan is enthusiastically endorsed by CIA Director Porter Goss and Joint Special Operations Commander Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal. But Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his assistant Stephen Cambone are uncertain. They increase the size of the force to 150 to take care of contingencies. [Newsweek, 8/28/2007] One senior intelligence official involved later says for effect, “The whole thing turned into the invasion of Pakistan.” [New York Times, 7/8/2007]
"Frenzied" Debate - But even as US special forces are boarding C-130 cargo planes in Afghanistan, there are “frenzied exchanges between officials at the Pentagon, Central Command, and the CIA about whether the mission was too risky.” Some CIA officials in Washington even try to give orders to execute the raid without informing US Ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker, who apparently is often opposed to such missions. [New York Times, 6/30/2008]
Rumsfeld Gives Up Without Asking - Having decided to increase the force, Rumsfeld then decides he couldn’t carry out such a large mission without Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s permission. But with the cargo planes circling and the team waiting for a green light, Rumsfeld decides that Musharraf would not approve. He cancels the mission without actually asking Musharraf about it. It is unclear whether President Bush is informed about the mission. The New York Times will later report that “some top intelligence officials and members of the military’s secret Special Operations units” are frustrated at the decision to cancel the operation, saying the US “missed a significant opportunity to try to capture senior members of al-Qaeda.” [New York Times, 7/8/2007] It is not clear why the US does not hit the meeting with a missile fired from a Predator drone instead, as they will do to kill an al-Qaeda leader inside Pakistan a couple of months later (see May 8, 2005).
Entity Tags: Stephen A. Cambone, US Special Forces, Porter J. Goss, Pervez Musharraf, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Ryan C. Crocker, Central Intelligence Agency, Navy Seals, Donald Rumsfeld, Stanley A. McChrystal
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, War in Afghanistan
PBS Frontline releases a chronology of events in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The original source of the chronology is a document given to freelance reporter Ben Fenwick by a disgruntled staff member on the defense team of convicted bomber Timothy McVeigh (see June 2, 1997 and June 11-13, 1997) who was unhappy with the way lead attorney Stephen Jones was handling the case (see August 14-27, 1997). In late March or early April of 1997, shortly before McVeigh’s trial began (see April 24, 1997), Fenwick brings the document to ABC News. The document is titled “Factual Chronology,” and details McVeigh’s movements and activities in the years, days, and months leading up to the bombing. Fenwick reportedly had the document in his possession for several months before approaching ABC with it. PBS Frontline producer Martin Smith, at the time an ABC News employee, saw the document. ABC produces two reports on McVeigh; those reports, along with an article Fenwick wrote for Playboy magazine, were the first to use the chronology as source material. Smith and co-producer Mark Atkinson will later produce a dual biography of McVeigh and co-conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and June 4, 1998) using the chronology. Of the document, Smith writes, “This 66-page chronology is extraordinary in that it correlates in great detail with everything I had learned about McVeigh and Nichols and provided a great deal of new detail on McVeigh’s movements and actions in the crucial days and hours leading up to the bombing.” Much of the material in the chronology came directly from McVeigh. Smith writes that the material comprises “a startling confession, outlining in considerable detail how McVeigh prepared and carried out the attack.” He notes that the chronology is “consistent with statements made by McVeigh during dozens of hours of interviews done with him by reporters Lou Michel and Dan Herbeck for their recent book, American Terrorist: Timothy McVeigh and the Oklahoma City Bombing.” The document is labeled as being from Jones’s law firm Jones, Wyatt, & Roberts, and is stamped, “CONFIDENTIAL AND PRIVILEGED MEMORANDUM; ATTORNEY WORK PRODUCT and ATTORNEY/CLIENT COMMUNICATION.” It is labeled as being routed to Jones from Amber McLaughlin and Bob Wyatt, and dated January 22, 1996. [PBS Frontline, 3/2005]
Entity Tags: Lou Michel, Amber McLaughlin, ABC News, Ben Fenwick, Dan Herbeck, Martin Smith, Terry Lynn Nichols, Mark Atkinson, Bob Wyatt, PBS Frontline, Stephen Jones, Timothy James McVeigh
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
By early 2005, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and CIA Director George Tenet have all resigned, leaving the Bush administration without any senior officials who have a close relationship with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Previously, these three officials had been pressing Musharraf to take stronger action against the al-Qaeda and Taliban safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal region. With them gone, President Bush is the one who is supposed to raise the issue in regular phone calls to Musharraf. But in June 2008, two former US officials will say that the conversations backfire. Instead of demanding more action from Musharraf, Bush repeatedly thanks him for his contributions to the war on terrorism, actually reducing the pressure on him. One former official who saw transcripts of the conversations says, “He never pounded his fist on the table and said, ‘Pervez, you have to do this.’” The Bush administration will deny it failed to sufficiently pressure Musharraf. [New York Times, 6/30/2008]
Details of an internal CIA report (see June-November 2004) investigating the CIA’s failure to stop the 9/11 attacks are leaked to the New York Times. The report by John Helgerson, the CIA’s inspector general, was completed in June 2004 but remains classified (see June-November 2004). It sharply criticizes former CIA Director George Tenet, as well as former Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt. It says these two and others failed to meet an acceptable standard of performance, and recommends that an internal review board review their conduct for possible disciplinary action. Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center at the time of 9/11, is also criticized. However, the New York Times notes that, “It is not clear whether either the agency or the White House has the appetite to reprimand Mr. Tenet, Mr. Pavitt or others.… particularly since President Bush awarded a Medal of Freedom to Mr. Tenet last month.” It is unclear if any reprimands will occur, or even if the final version of the report will point blame at specific individuals. [New York Times, 1/7/2005] In late October 2004, the new CIA Director, Porter Goss, had asked Helgerson to modify the report to avoid drawing conclusions about whether individual CIA officers should be held accountable. [New York Times, 11/2/2004] Helgerson “appears to have accepted [Goss’s] recommendation” and will defer any final judgments to a CIA Accountability Review Board. The final version of the report is said to be completed within weeks. [New York Times, 1/7/2005] However, months pass, and in October 2005, Goss will announce that he is not going to release the report, and also will not convene an accountability board to hold anyone responsible (see October 10, 2005), although an executive summary will be released in 2007 (see August 21, 2007).
A. B. “Buzzy” Krongard, the CIA’s recently departed Executive Director, says in an interview that the world may be better off if bin Laden remains at large. Krongard had been Executive Director, the CIA’s third most senior position, from 1998 until six weeks before this interview. He states, “You can make the argument that we’re better off with him [at large]. Because if something happens to bin Laden, you might find a lot of people vying for his position and demonstrating how macho they are by unleashing a stream of terror.” The London Times notes that, “Several US officials have privately admitted that it may be better to keep bin Laden pinned down on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan rather than make him a martyr or put him on trial.” However, Krongard is the only senior official to say so publicly, and this position completely contradicts the rhetoric of the Bush administration, which has consistently claimed that catching bin Laden remains a top priority. [London Times, 1/9/2005]
The US television news media virtually ignores the court-martial of Specialist Charles Graner, who is charged with abusing and torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib (see May 19, 2004-March 22, 2006 and January 16, 2005), according to author and media critic Frank Rich. “[I]f a story isn’t on TV in America, it’s MIA in the culture,” Rich will write. Much of the broadcast coverage is focused on stories about President Bush’s upcoming inauguration and on Britain’s Prince Harry, who had dressed up in Nazi regalia for a costume party. The network and cable news stations grant Graner’s trial only “brief, mechanical” summations “when it was broadcast at all.” The usual claims that television news only focuses on lurid, scandal-ridden news stories do not apply here, Rich writes: “It surely didn’t lack for drama; the Graner trial was Judgment at Nuremberg turned upside down.” Viewers do not learn of defense lawyer Guy Womack’s claim during his closing argument that “In Nuremberg, it was the government being prosecuted. We were going after the order-givers. Here the government is going after the order-takers.” Rich will later write that if the American public could not be exposed to fictional films about World War II (see November 11, 2004), then it “certainly… could not be exposed to real-life stories involving forced group masturbation, electric shock, rape committed with a phosphorescent stick, the burning of cigarettes in prisoners’ ears, involuntary enemas, and beatings that ended in death (see May 3-11, 2004). When one detainee witness at the Graner trial testified… that he had been forced to eat out of a toilet, his story was routinely cited in newspaper accounts but left unmentioned on network TV newscasts.” [Rich, 2006, pp. 155]
The National Intelligence Council, the center for midterm and long-term strategic thinking within the US intelligence community, issues a report concluding, “Iraq has replaced Afghanistan as the training ground for the next generation of ‘professionalized’ terrorists.” [Washington Post, 1/15/2005] In May, the CIA will report that Iraq may prove to be an even more effective training ground for Islamic extremists than Afghanistan was in al-Qaeda’s early days, because it is serving as a real-world laboratory for urban combat. [New York Times, 6/22/2005]
Army Specialist Charles Graner is sentenced to 10 years in prison. In a military court-martial, Graner was convicted of crimes related to the torture and abuse of prisoners in Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib prison (see October 2003), October 17-22, 2003), November 4-December 2, 2003, and (7:00 a.m.) November 4, 2003), including charges of battery, conspiracy, maltreatment of detainees, committing indecent acts, and dereliction of duty. Graner admitted some of his actions were criminal, and told jurors, “I didn’t enjoy what I did there” before he was found guilty. Asked if he felt remorse over his actions, Graner says simply: “There’s a war on. Bad things happen.” After Graner completes his sentence, he will be dishonorably discharged. He has forfeited all of his pay and benefits. Defense lawyer Guy Womack says that Graner and his six fellow Abu Ghraib guards also facing trials (see May 19, 2004-March 22, 2006) are being used as scapegoats by the Defense Department. Graner and his lawyers were unable to effectively discuss orders being handed down from superior officers during the trial, as the judge in the court-martial, Colonel James Pohl, refused to let witnesses say the names of officers who gave the orders or what orders might have been given, in effect constraining the trial to point to Graner and his colleagues as independent, “rogue” agents operating outside the chain of command. Graner did not testify during his trial, but during sentencing said that he had done what he was ordered to do by US intelligence agents, in order to “soften up” prisoners for interrogation. According to Graner, a lieutenant in his unit told him: “If [military intelligence] asks you to do this, it needs to be done. They’re in charge, follow their orders.” He believed the orders to torture and abuse prisoners were lawful, he claims. [Associated Press, 1/16/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 155] Author and media critic Frank Rich will later note that while the print media coverage of Graner’s trial is relatively extensive, the broadcast media virtually ignores it in favor of celebrating the inauguration of President Bush (see January 11-16, 2005). [Rich, 2006, pp. 155]
It is reported that radical London imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed is urging his followers to join the jihad (holy war). Bakri’s group, Al-Muhajiroun, disbanded in late 2004, and he has been effectively banned from preaching in mosques. However, he still communicates to his followers on a regular basis through the Internet. In recent live web broadcasts, he has condoned suicide attacks, pledged allegiance to Osama bin Laden, and told followers they are in a war with Britain. He has stated that new British anti-terrorist laws have violated the “covenant of security” under which Islamist radicals lived in Britain but only attacked targets overseas (see August 9, 2004). He states, “I believe the whole of Britain has become the Dar ul-Harb [land of war].” He adds that in such a condition, “The kuffar [nonbeliever] has no sanctity for their own life or property.” He stops short of calling for attacks on Britain, but he encourages one supporter to become a suicide bomber. [Evening Standard, 1/17/2005] Labour MP Andrew Dismore responds by saying: “With these words, [Bakri] may well be committing offenses under the Terrorism Act and other legislation. I will be raising this immediately with the home secretary and the Metropolitan Police.” [London Times, 1/17/2005] However, no action is taken against Bakri.
Attorney general nominee Alberto Gonzales turns in supplementary written answers to expand upon and clarify his testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee (see January 6, 2005 and January 6, 2005). Buried in the documents is what reporter Charlie Savage will call “an explosive new disclosure.” Gonzales reveals that the Bush administration had secretly decided that the Convention against Torture, an international treaty, only has force on domestic soil, where the US Constitution applies. Noncitizens held overseas have no rights under the treaty, Bush lawyers concluded. Legal scholars from all sides of the political continuum denounce the administration’s position. Judge Abraham Sofaer, who negotiated the treaty for the Reagan administration, will write a letter to Congress informing it that President Reagan had never intended the treaty’s prohibition on torture and brutal treatment to apply only on US soil. However, the Bush administration stands by its position. [Savage, 2007, pp. 213]
Pakistan’s military commander in the tribal regions, Lieutenant General Ali Jan Orakzai, says: “This impression that the Pakistani tribal areas are havens for terrorists is baseless. In my two and a half years of command I never got a single indication that [Osama] bin Laden was on our side of the border. He’s a big guy, hard to hide, and with 74,000 of my troops there it would have been very difficult for him to be hiding.” Orakzai commanded troops there from October 2001 until 2004. He adds that claims that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, is tipping off radical militants about Pakistani military movements are baseless. He even says that not a single Arab has been seen in the tribal region. [London Times, 1/22/2005] It is believed that Orakzai intensely hates the US and is sympathetic to the Taliban. Robert Grenier, CIA station chief in Pakistan at this time, will later suggest that Orakzai did not want to find the foreigners, so he conducted large, slow sweeps that allowed militants to easily get away (see Late 2002-Late 2003). Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will finally fire Orakzai in 2007 for his sympathies to militant groups (see July 19, 2007).
Dennis Mahon, a white supremacist in Catoosa, Oklahoma (see 1973 and After, August 1994 - March 1995, November 1994, and February 9, 1996 and After), tells Rebecca Williams he committed multiple terrorist bombings since the early 1980s. Mahon is not aware that Williams is an informant working for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATF), nor that Williams’s trailer, in which he makes his statements, is wired for both audio and video. Mahon is showing Williams an album of old pictures, his old Ku Klux Klan robe, and other memorabilia of his life in the white supremacist movement, when he tells Williams about the bombings he says he committed, many with his twin brother Daniel. The bombing targets included an abortion clinic, a Jewish community center, and the offices of IRS and immigration authorities. Mahon says he made his bombs with ammonium nitrate, fuel oil, and powdered sugar “for an extra bang,” and says he set the bombs off at 2 a.m. to avoid casualties but still send a message. Williams is one of the few informants to gain such access into what TPM Muckraker calls the “network of so-called ‘lone wolf’ extremists, a loose-knit group of racists and anti-government types who seem to always be looking for ways to start or win an ever-coming race war.” The same network produced “lone wolf” Timothy McVeigh, who killed 168 people in the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The BATF probe will result in investigations of the Mahons (see January 10, 2012 and After), as well as white supremacist leader Tom Metzger (see 1981 and After) and Missouri survivalist Robert Joos, who stockpiled weapons in caves on his farm near the Ozarks. On January 26, 2005, Williams moves into a rental trailer in the Catoosa trailer park and puts a Confederate flag sticker in her window. She is much younger than the 54-year-old Mahon and, according to TPM Muckraker, is both attractive and able to handle herself around dangerous males. (The BATF initially provides little background information on Williams to the media; later the media learns that her brother was a BATF informant who infiltrated a motorcycle gang, and that she became an informant for the money. She has formerly worked as, among other jobs, an exotic dancer.) The same day that she moves in, the Mahon brothers come over to introduce themselves. “I’m a girl and they’re guys and, you know, guys like to talk to pretty girls so they—we just started talking,” she later testifies. Williams will establish a friendship with the brothers that will last four years, most of it recorded by BATF cameras and microphones. Her pickup truck is wired, and she even has a microphone on her key chain. Within hours of meeting her, Dennis Mahon brags about the bombings he carried out, and Daniel Mahon speaks of drive-by shootings and car bombings. Daniel tells her: “We thought we were doing the right thing. We were just trying to send a message. When I would take someone’s car out, it wasn’t anger. It was a sense of duty. It is like a military operation. You plan for it, equip for it.” When Williams asks if they had ever sent package bombs, Dennis whispers, “In Tempe, Arizona, Godd_mn diversity officer, Scottsdale Police Department, had his fingers blown off.” He then backs away from his admission and says he showed “white cops how to do it.” Williams is flirtatious with the brothers, and mails them photographs of herself in a bikini with a grenade hanging from around her neck, and of her standing in front of a swastika flag. Williams’s investigation documents the Mahons’ close connection to Metzger, Joos, and other white supremacists; Joos will be convicted of multiple weapons charges, but Metzger will not be charged with any crime (see June 25, 2009). [TPM Muckraker, 1/10/2012; Associated Press, 1/26/2012]
British police investigate Mohammad Sidique Khan, who will be the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings later in the year (see July 7, 2005). In March 2004, Khan’s car had been in a crash and he had been loaned a courtesy car by an auto shop while it was being repaired. That same month, MI5 monitored Khan driving the loaned car with Omar Khyam, a key figure in the 2004 fertilizer bomb plot (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004 and February 2-March 23, 2004). On January 27, 2005, police take a statement from the manager of the auto shop. The manager says the car was loaned to a “Mr. S Khan,” and gives Khan’s mobile phone number and two addresses associated with him. MI5 had followed Khan to one of these addresses in February 2004 after Khan had met with Khyam and dropped him off at his residence (see February 2-March 23, 2004). Then, on February 3, 2005, an officer from Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism branch asks questions to the company which had insured Khan’s car. The officer learns Khan registered the car in his own name and the name of his mother-in-law. None of this information will be presented in the 2006 investigation into the 7/7 bombings by the government’s Intelligence and Security Committee. This also contradicts repeated assertions by government officials that Khan’s name was not known before the bombings. The Guardian will comment when this information comes to light in 2007: “The revelation suggests Khan was being investigated much nearer to the London bombings than has been officially admitted. The discovery that Khan was reinvestigated the following year appears to contradict claims from MI5 that inquiries about him came to an end in 2004 after it was decided that other terrorism suspects warranted more urgent investigation.” [Guardian, 5/3/2007] In early 2004, MI5 classified Khan a suspect worth investigating, but went after higher priority suspects first (see March 29, 2004 and After). It is unknown if any more action is taken on him before the July bombings.
Mohammad Sidique Khan passing through immigration control in Karachi, Pakistan, in February 2005. [Source: Public domain]British intelligence receives a report naming two people with extremist views who had traveled to Afghanistan. Apparently only their aliases are given, because the British intelligence agency MI5 tries and fails to discover who they are. Only after the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005) does it learn that one of them was Mohammad Sidique Khan, the head 7/7 suicide bomber. [Observer, 1/14/2007] Khan traveled to training camps in Pakistan several times, most recently from November 2004 to February 2005. He returned to Britain on the same flight as Shehzad Tanweer, another one of the 7/7 suicide bombers (see November 18, 2004-February 8, 2005).
After London’s Finsbury Park Mosque is handed back to its trustees, associates of radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri attempt to take it back. The mosque had been controlled by Abu Hamza and his associates from 1997 (see March 1997), but it was closed following a police raid in 2003 (see January 20, 2003). As the trustees were the mosque’s original administrators, when it is allowed to reopen by the authorities, they are given theoretical control of it. However, when the trustees enter the building, they are greeted by what authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will call a “reception committee” of around 40 men, led by “one of Abu Hamza’s well-known thugs.” Abu Hamnza’s men say they are taking the mosque back, but are forced to retreat by superior numbers, shouting they would rather see the mosque burn down than allow it to fall into the hands of bad Muslims. The trustees then post guards around the mosque. O’Neill and McGrory will comment, “Not for the first time in the troubled history of Finsbury Park, the Muslim community was left to combat the menace of Abu Hamza and his forces on their own, and to wonder when the authorities would make good their threat to deal with the preacher of hate.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 279]
A June 2005 Guantanamo file on a relatively low-level Taliban detainee allegedly mentions in passing a February 2005 meeting of militant leaders in Quetta, Pakistan. According to intelligence reports referred to in the file, Mullah Omar, top head of the Taliban, leads the meeting. Other high-level Taliban leaders such as Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani also attend. But most interestingly, representatives from the Pakistani government and the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, are at the meeting as well. In the meeting, “Mullah Omar [tells] the attendees that they should not cooperate with the new infidel government (in Afghanistan) and should keep attacking coalition forces.” The Guantanamo file mentioning the meeting will be leaked to the public in 2011. [Joint Task Force Guantanamo, 6/3/2005 ; Guardian, 4/25/2011]
A meeting of tribesmen in Wana, South Waziristan, May 2004. [Source: Kamran Wazir]The Pakistani government signs a little-noticed agreement with Baitullah Mahsud, the chieftain of the Mahsud tribe in South Waziristan. Waziristan is in the tribal region of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border, and numerous media accounts suggest that Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda leaders may be hiding out there. The deal, signed in the town of Sararogha and known as the Sararogha peace pact, prohibits forces in South Waziristan led by Abdullah Mahsud, another member of the same tribe as Baitullah Mahsud, from attacking the Pakistani army and giving shelter to foreign terrorists. However, it does not prevent these forces from attacking US troops across the border in Afghanistan. It also does not require these forces to surrender or register foreign terrorists in Waziristan. Abdullah Mahsud is a wanted fugitive in Pakistan and has pledged his loyalty to Taliban leader Mullah Omar. But as part of the deal his forces are even given some money to repay debts owed to al-Qaeda-linked foreign militants. As a result of this deal, the Pakistan army soon leaves South Waziristan entirely. A similar deal will be made with North Waziristan in September 2006 (see September 5, 2006). The area becomes a Taliban base to attack US and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan. The number of Taliban attacks there will rise from 1,600 in 2005 to more than 5,000 in 2006. [Asia Times, 5/4/2005; Levy and Scott-Clark, 2007, pp. 433] Abdullah Mahsud was held by the US in the Guantanamo prison from December 2001 to March 2004 (see March 2004). In July 2007, renewed fighting between the Pakistani army and tribal militants will cause the Waziristan truce to collapse (see July 11-Late July, 2007). He will blow himself up to avoid capture a few days after the truce ends. [New York Times, 7/25/2007] The CIA will later claim that Baitullah Mahsud was involved in the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. [Washington Post, 1/18/2008]
“A few months” before the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), journalist Ron Suskind interviews radical London imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed. Suskind had recently heard from a British intelligence official that Bakri “had helped [British domestic intelligence agency] MI5 on several of its investigations,” in Suskind’s words, and he asks Bakri about this. According to Suskind, Bakri looks flustered and says, “I’m upset you know this.” Asked why he helped the British, he replies: “Because I like it here. My family’s here. I like the health benefits.” In early 2007, Suskind calls Bakri on the phone. After the 7/7 bombings, Bakri moved from London to Lebanon (see August 6, 2005), but by the time Suskind reaches him, Bakri has moved again to Tripoli, Libya. Bakri admits that he misses Britain and his role there. He says that the British government misses him too, “whether they admit it or not.” He adds: “We were able to control the Muslim youth.… The radical preacher that allows a venting of a point of view is preventing violence. Now, many of us are gone or in jail, and we’ve been replaced by radical jihadis, who take the youth underground. You don’t see them until the day they vent with the bombs.” Suskind will later comment: “Bakri enjoyed his notoriety and was willing to pay for it with information he passed to the police.… It’s a fabric of subtle interlocking needs: the [British authorities] need be in a backchannel conversation with someone working the steam valve of Muslim anger; Bakri needs health insurance.” Bakri’s role as an informant will not be made public until Suskind mentions it in a book published in August 2008. Suskind will not make clear when Bakri’s collaboration with MI5 began or ended, or even if he was still collaborating when they spoke in early 2005. [Suskind, 2008, pp. 200-202] In 2002, Roland Jacquard, a French counterterrorism expert and government adviser, said that “every al-Qaeda operative recently arrested or identified in Europe had come into contact with Bakri at some time or other.” [Time, 5/27/2002]
By March 2005, senior officers in Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch conclude that Britain is likely to be attacked by “home-grown” terrorists. One senior officer predicts that an attack could be mounted by Britons with bombs in backpacks, who would blow themselves up on the London subway. This is exactly what will occur in July (see July 7, 2005). However, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency MI5 sharply disagrees. In June, an assessment made by a group of top counterterrorism officials will conclude that no group has the intention or capability of attacking within Britain (see Mid-June 2005). [Guardian, 5/13/2006]
The Joint Chiefs of Staff publish a classified draft document, the Doctrine for Joint Nuclear Operations, laying out the rationale for the US’s use of nuclear weapons. It includes the possibility that nuclear weapons could be used during preemptive assaults on nations (see January 10, 2003) or even non-national organizations such as al-Qaeda. The draft states that nuclear weapons can be used:
Against an adversary intending to use WMD against US, multinational, or allies’ forces or civilian populations;
In the event of an imminent attack by biological weapons that only nuclear weapons can safely destroy;
To attack deep, hardened bunkers containing chemical or biological weapons or the command and control infrastructure required for the adversary to execute a WMD attack against the United States or its allies;
To counter potentially overwhelming adversary conventional forces;
For rapid and favorable war termination on US terms;
To ensure the success of US and multinational operations.
In essence, the document gives a green light for the US military, as ordered by President Bush, to use nuclear weapons under almost any circumstances, against much less powerful adversaries. Author J. Peter Scoblic will write: “The Bush administration was blurring, if not erasing, the line between conventional and nuclear weapons and lowering the threshold at which the nation would go nuclear, proposing an array of tactical uses for weapons that were supposed to only be used in strategic conflicts. The Bush Pentagon was effectively acknowledging that the United States might use nuclear weapons first, against a nonnuclear state, before any hostilities had taken place.” The document actually replaced the term “nuclear war” with “conflict involving nuclear weapons” because the first phrase implies that both sides in a conflict were using nuclear weapons, and in all likelihood any nuclear weapons deployed under the conditions envisioned in the document would only be American. [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 180-181]
The Army decides not to prosecute unnamed soldiers for killing an Iraqi detainee and attempting to cover up the death. The soldiers were stationed at Forward Operating Base Rifles near Al Asad, Iraq. In January 2004, several soldiers assaulted an Iraqi detainee. One lifted the detainee up from the floor by placing a baton under his chin, fracturing the detainee’s hyoid bone and causing his death. The soldiers were charged with negligent homicide, and with additional charges of conspiracy and making false statements. Apparently, the soldiers receive nothing more than written letters of reprimand and counseling. The officer completing the Commander’s Report on the offense writes, “Soldier should not be titled for any offense.” The detainee’s name is not revealed to the public. [US Department of Defense, 3/5/2005 ; American Civil Liberties Union, 5/2/2006]
A scene of a US soldier aiming his weapon from the ‘Ramadi Madness’ videotapes. [Source: Miami New Times]The Palm Beach Post releases two undated videos from Iraq that the government had refused to release to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The videos, part of a set which will become known as the “Ramadi Madness” videos, were made by members of the West Palm Beach-based Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 124th Infantry Regiment, stationed in Ramadi in 2002 and 2003. The videos are divided into segments called, among other titles, “See Haj Run” and “Blood Clot,” and depict scenes of urban fighting and Iraqis being captured and detained by US forces. In 2006, the government will authenticate the videos as being genuine (see May 2, 2006). The videos combine to make an approximately 26-minute long “crude documentary,” according to the Post, “created by a couple of [Bravo Company] sergeants.” The films were examined by Army investigators, who eventually concluded that they showed “inappropriate behaviors” but nothing criminal. The Post describes the videotaped scenes as ranging “from routine to poignant to macabre.” One shows a US soldier moving the hand of a dead Iraqi truck driver to “make him say ‘Hi.’” Another shows two soldiers pretending to choke a third with a plastic handcuff. A snippet entitled “Haji Cat” shows soldiers feeding and cuddling a kitten, which they’ve named “Anthrax.” Another shows an injured Iraqi man being pulled from the sidewalk into a building by other Iraqis. A later video shows an Iraqi prisoner on the ground with his hands bound and an off-screen voice saying, “I don’t know what the [expletive] this guy did, but he is a bad guy”; another detainee is receiving medical treatment for a head wound and being told to “smile for the camera.” A small group of soldiers interrogates a detainee. One video shows a homemade bomb made with plastic explosives packed in a rusted oil can. The “Blood Clot” video shows a US soldier kicking a wounded Iraqi and explaining, “This [expletive] shot at me.” The video moves to a close-up of an Iraqi detainee’s gunshot wound, then shows a group of women being detained while an off-screen voice declares, “Bad women.” One of the more graphic videos is titled “Friends Don’t Let Friends Play with Explosives.” It begins with a camera shot of burned and dismembered corpses, with an off-screen voice saying, “There’s the crater,” and, “That’s what you get, [expletive].” A soldier points to human remains and pokes the remains across the ground with his foot. Voices are heard off-screen, saying, “Oh, that’s part of his skull,” “That’s where the guy got thrown against the wall,” and, “They were setting the explosive, and it blew up on them.” Finally, “That’s your brain on idiocy” is said as the camera focuses on another pile of remains. [Palm Beach Post, 3/13/2005; American Civil Liberties Union, 5/2/2006] The Army will not charge anyone over the actions depicted in the videotapes. [Associated Press, 3/4/2005]
On March 18, 2005, Mouhannad Almallah is arrested in Madrid, Spain. The next day, his brother Moutaz Almallah is arrested in Slough, near London. Both are accused of involvement in the 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). [Independent, 3/20/2005] The arrests come less than two weeks after it was widely reported that in 2004 police had found a sketch of the New York Grand Central Station terminal in an apartment where Mouhannad was living, leading to suspicions that he was involved in a planned attack on New York. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/2/2005] It appears that Moutaz was under surveillance in Spain for al-Qaeda links since 1995, and Mouhannad since 1998 (see November 1995). Mouhannad was arrested shortly after the Madrid bombings, but then released (see March 16, 2004). Moutaz will be extradited to Spain in March 2007, but he has yet to be put on trial. [Reuters, 3/8/2007] In 2007, Mouhannad will be sentenced to 12 years in prison for a role in the Madrid bombings (see October 31, 2007).
Dr. Michael Gelles, the head psychologist for the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), says that torture and coercion do not produce reliable information from prisoners. Gelles adds that many military and intelligence specialists share his view. Gelles warned of problems with torture and abuse at Guantanamo nearly three years ago (see Early December, 2002 and December 18, 2002). And he is frustrated that Bush administration officials have “dismissed” critics of coercive techniques as weaklings and “doves” who are too squeamish to do what is necessary to obtain information from terror suspects. In reality, Gelles says, many experienced interrogators are convinced that torture and coercion do more harm than good. Gelles has extensive experience with interrogations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Guantanamo, and notes that NCIS had interrogated Muslim terror suspects well before 9/11, including investigations into the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000) and the 1983 bombing of a Marine barracks in Lebanon (see April 18-October 23, 1983).
'Rapport-Building' - The best way to extract reliable intelligence from a Muslim extremist, Gelles says, is through “rapport-building”—by engaging the suspect in conversations that play on his cultural sensitivities. Similar techniques worked on Japanese soldiers during the height of battles during World War II (see July 17, 1943). Gelles says he and others have identified patterns of questioning that can elicit accurate information from Islamist radicals, but refuses to discuss them specifically. “We do not believe—not just myself, but others who have to remain unnamed—that coercive methods with this adversary are… effective,” he says. “If the goal is to get ‘information,’ then using coercive techniques may be effective. But if the goal is to get reliable and accurate information, looking at this adversary, rapport-building is the best approach.”
Conflict between Experts, Pentagon Civilians - Gelles describes a sharp division between interrogation specialists such as himself, and civilian policymakers at the Pentagon. Many government specialists, including fellow psychologists, intelligence analysts, linguists, and interrogators who have experience extracting information from captured Islamist militants, agree with Gelles that coercion is not effective, but top civilians in the Office of the Secretary of Defense disagree. Coercive interrogations try to “vacuum up all the information you can and figure out later” what is true and what is not, he says. This method jams the system with false and misleading data. Gelles compares it to “coercive tactics leading to false confessions” by suspects in police custody. Many at the Pentagon and elsewhere mistake “rapport-building” techniques for softness or weakness. Just because those interrogations are not humiliating or physically painful, Gelles says, the techniques are not necessarily “soft.” Telling a detainee that he is a reprehensible murderer of innocents is perfectly acceptable, Gelles says: “Being respectful doesn’t mean you don’t confront, clarify, and challenge the detainee when he gives the appearance of being deceptive.” On the other hand, coercive techniques induce detainees to say anything to make the pain and discomfort stop. “Why would you terrify them with a dog?” Gelles asks, referring to one technique of threatening detainees with police dogs. “So they’ll tell you anything to get the dog out of the room?” Referring to shackling prisoners in “stress positions” for hours on end, Gelles adds: “I know there is a school of thought that believes [stress positions] are effective. In my experience, I’ve never seen it be of any value.” Innocent suspects will confess to imagined crimes just to stop the abuse, Gelles says.
Other Harmful Consequences - Gelles also notes that coercive techniques undermine the possibility of building rapport with the prisoner to possibly gain information from him. And, he says, unless the prisoner is either killed in custody or detained for life, eventually he will be released to tell the world of his captivity, damaging America’s credibility and moral authority. [Boston Globe, 3/31/2005; Savage, 2007, pp. 217-218]
A top-secret British government memo warns that Britain’s involvement in the Iraq war means that Britain will be a likely al-Qaeda target “for many years to come.” The memo, written by the Joint Intelligence Committee, the senior intelligence body in Britain which issues threat assessments, is entitled International Terrorism: Impact of Iraq. It is approved by the heads of Britain’s main intelligence agencies, MI5 and MI6. The memo states: “There is a clear consensus within the [British] extremist community that Iraq is a legitimate jihad and should be supported. Iraq has re-energized and re-focused a wide range of networks in [Britain].… We judge that the conflict in Iraq has exacerbated the threat from international terrorism and will continue to have an impact in the long term. It has reinforced the determination of terrorists who were already committed to attacking the West and motivated others who were not.… Iraq is likely to be an important motivating factor for some time to come in the radicalization of British Muslims and for those extremists who view attacks against [Britain] as legitimate.” It also says that Iraq is being used as a “training ground and base” for terrorists, and that terrorists are freely moving between Iraq and Britain. The memo is written in April 2005, but will not be leaked to the press until April 2006. It is circulated to Prime Minister Tony Blair and other top British officials before the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005). But after those bombings, Blair will repeatedly contradict the memo’s conclusions in public statements, denying any link between the Iraq war and an increase in terrorist activity in Britain. Blair will say that an “evil ideology,” not the war, has motivated suicide bombers, and, “The people who are responsible for terrorist attacks are terrorists.” [Sunday Times (London), 4/2/2006]
An employee of the watchdog organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) finds an unclassified draft of a document on the Defense Department’s Web site. The document proposes holding suspected Iraqi insurgents without trial in the same way that suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda members have been imprisoned at Guantanamo and other US detention facilities. When HRW publicly denounces the proposal, the Defense Department takes down its entire electronic library of unclassified documents, including hundreds of unrelated papers and memos. When the Pentagon eventually restores the library to public view, many of the documents have been purged. [Savage, 2007, pp. 103-104]
British-Pakistani militant Rashid Rauf becomes “al-Qaeda’s director of European operations,” according to the Sunday Times. This apparently occurs some time around April 2005. Although Rauf soon becomes known to the authorities, the Times will say in 2009 that his real importance has been underestimated for some time. [Sunday Times (London), 4/12/2009] Perhaps the best-known plot Rauf will be involved in is a plan to bomb transatlantic airliners (see August 10, 2006).
The FBI searches the home that once belonged to convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see December 23, 1997 and May 26, 2004) and finds explosive materials related to the 1995 bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). The bureau acts on a tip that it missed evidence in its search a decade earlier (see 3:15 p.m. and After, April 21-22, 1995). Blasting caps and other explosive materials were concealed in a crawl space of the Herington, Kansas, home, buried under about a foot of rock, dirt, and gravel, an area not searched in the 1995 investigation. FBI agent Gary Johnson says, “[T]he information so far indicates the items have been there since prior to the Oklahoma City bombing.” Nichols’s lawyer, Brian Hermanson, says the discovery is either a hoax or evidence of a major failure by the FBI: “They were there often. It’s surprising. I would think they would have done their job and found everything that was there. But I’m still suspicious that it could be something planted there. The house was empty for several years.” [Associated Press, 4/2/2005] Reportedly, Nichols has admitted conspiring to build the bomb that destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City (see November 30, 2004).
Speaking at a forum on Middle East peace sponsored by The Week magazine, former US Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warns that if Iran succeeds in building nuclear weapons it could touch off an arms race that could lead to the end of civilization. “I do not believe that living in a world with 20 or 30 nuclear states is a situation that civilized life can support,” he says. [New York Daily News, 4/15/2005] But during the 1970s, Kissinger and other US officials had supported Iranian efforts to develop a nuclear energy program (see 1976 and April 22, 1975). At the time, they were not concerned about the potential for Iran to use the technology to develop nuclear weapons. Nor were they concerned about proliferation. Kissinger told the Washington Post in March that he did not “think the issue of proliferation came up.” [Washington Post, 3/27/2005]
A high-ranking Yemeni defector alleges that the highest ranks of Yemen’s military and security forces have long collaborated with radical militants in the country. The defector, Ahmed Abdullah al-Hasani, was head of Yemen’s navy at the time of the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000) and recently served as its ambassador to Syria. Al-Hasani claims that the perpetrators of the USS Cole attack “are well known by the regime and some are still officers in the national army.” The Yemeni government hindered the Cole investigation (see After October 12, 2000). Al-Hasani also says that Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, an army commander who is the half-brother of President Ali Abdallah Saleh and has links with radical militants (see 1980-1990 and May 21-July 7, 1994), was involved in a plot to kidnap Western tourists in 1998 (see December 26, 1998 and December 28-29, 1998). Al-Hasani arrived in Britain with his family, and is apparently debriefed by Western intelligence agencies. He claims to have fallen out with President Saleh over discrimination against southern Yemenis and fears he will be assassinated if he returns home. Yemeni authorities dismiss al-Hasani’s claims. “All these allegations are untrue and groundless,” says a government spokesman. “This man is making these allegations in order to legitimise and give significance to his claim of asylum.” [Sunday Times (London), 5/8/2005]
Jordanian journalist Fuad Hussein publishes a book that extensively quotes Saif al-Adel, who is believed to be al-Qaeda’s current military commander and possibly lives in Iran (see Spring 2002). Al-Adel claims: “Abu Musab [al-Zarqawi] and his Jordanian and Palestinian comrades opted to go to Iraq.… Our expectations of the situation indicated that the Americans would inevitably make a mistake and invade Iraq sooner or later. Such an invasion would aim at overthrowing the regime. Therefore, we should play an important role in the confrontation and resistance. Contrary to what the Americans frequently reiterated, al-Qaeda did not have any relationship with Saddam Hussein or his regime. We had to draw up a plan to enter Iraq through the north that was not under the control of [Hussein’s] regime. We would then spread south to the areas of our fraternal Sunni brothers. The fraternal brothers of the Ansar al-Islam expressed their willingness to offer assistance to help us achieve this goal.” [Bergen, 2006, pp. 120, 361-362] He says “the ultimate objective was to prompt” the US “to come out of its hole” and take direct military action in an Islamic country. “What we had wished for actually happened. It was crowned by the announcement of Bush Jr. of his crusade against Islam and Muslims everywhere.” [New York Times Magazine, 9/11/2005] Al-Adel seems to have served as a liaison between al-Qaeda and al-Zarqawi, and mentions elsewhere in the book that his goal was not “full allegiance” from al-Zarqawi’s group, but “coordination and cooperation” to achieve joint objectives. [Bergen, 2006, pp. 120, 353-354]
Abu Faraj al-Libbi. [Source: Pakistani Interior Ministry]Al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi is arrested in Mardan, Pakistan, near the town of Peshawar. He is captured by Pakistani forces with US assistance. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will later claim that he doesn’t even tell the US about al-Libbi’s capture until a few days after it happened (and the first media account comes out three days later), so apparently Pakistan interrogates him on their own for a few days. Al-Libbi is that turned over to the US and detained in a secret CIA prison (see September 2-3, 2006). [New York Times, 5/5/2005; Musharraf, 2006, pp. 209]
Some Call Al-Libbi High-Ranking Leader - In 2004, the Daily Telegraph claimed al-Libbi was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s “right hand man” and helped him plan the 9/11 attacks. After Mohammed was arrested in early 2003 (see February 29 or March 1, 2003), Al-Libbi allegedly took his place and became the third in command of al-Qaeda and the group’s operational leader. Furthermore, the Telegraph claims he was once Osama bin Laden’s personal assistant, helped plan two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (see December 14 and 25, 2003), and has been in contact with sleeper cells in the US and Britain. [Daily Telegraph, 9/19/2004] The same month, MSNBC made the same claims. They also called him al-Qaeda’s number three leader and operational commander. [MSNBC, 9/7/2004] President Bush hails al-Libbi’s capture as a “critical victory in the war on terror.” Bush also calls him a “top general” and “a major facilitator and chief planner for the al-Qaeda network.”
Al-Libbi Little Known to Media and Experts - But al-Libbi is little known at the time of his arrest and some experts and insiders question if he really is as important as the US claims. The London Times will report several days after his arrest, “[T]he backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI’s most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department ‘Rewards for Justice’ program.” One former close associate of Osama bin Laden now living in London laughs at al-Libbi’s supposed importance, saying, “What I remember of him is he used to make the coffee and do the photocopying.” Even a senior FBI official admits that his “influence and position have been overstated.” The Times comments, “Some believe [his] significance has been cynically hyped by two countries [the US and Pakistan] that want to distract attention from their lack of progress in capturing bin Laden, who has now been on the run for almost four years.” [London Times, 5/8/2005] However, later revelations, such as details on al-Libbi’s interrogation (see Shortly After May 2, 2005 and Late 2005), will provide more evidence that al-Libbi in fact was al-Qaeda’s operational leader. It is not known why the FBI did not have him on their most wanted list, if MSNBC and the Telegraph newspaper and other sources were already aware of his importance in 2004.
Steven Ekberg, an unemployed waiter living in Ocala, Florida, pleads guilty to violating the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act. Ekberg became known to the FBI when an anonymous caller made a 911 call claiming that Ekberg possessed an arsenal of firearms, including machine guns, and a box of poisons, including the biological toxin ricin. The caller said he once roomed with Ekberg, and heard him say that he would use the firearms and the toxins “if, like, the government ever, like, tried to screw him over.” The caller also noted that Ekberg was depressed, and was mixing prescription drugs with cocaine and alcohol. The FBI searched Ekberg’s residence and found a box containing a white powder that was later identified as ricin. They also found a number of incriminating documents, including a “recipe” for making ricin and a military manual on explosives and demolition, incendiaries, and guerrilla warfare, along with several assault weapons, including an Uzi and an AK-47. Ekberg also told agents he usually carried three firearms on his person and showed them a handgun strapped to his ankle. Agents found another handgun in his back pocket, along with cocaine inside a pill box. His mother, Theresa Ekberg, has told reporters: “Do I feel he’s a terrorist? No. There’s no sinister motive behind this.” Her son enjoys collecting “different and strange things,” she says. “That’s all.” FBI agent Chris Bonner says, “We do not feel Mr. Ekberg is associated with any terrorist organization or entity.” Ekberg later confesses to attempting to make ricin. His guilty plea results in a prison sentence of 26 months. [Orlando Sentinel, 1/14/2005; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2009]
Some time after he is captured in May 2005 (see May 2, 2005), al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi tells his CIA interrogators that he has never heard of Ibrahim Saeed Ahmed. CIA analysts already strongly suspect that Ahmed is a trusted courier working for Osama bin Laden, but they only know him by his main alias Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti.
Al-Libbi's False Claims - Al-Libbi tells his interrogators that he does not know who “al-Kuwaiti” is. Instead, he admits that when 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) was captured in 2003 and al-Libbi was chosen to replace him as al-Qaeda’s operational chief, he was told the news of his selection by a courier. But he says the courier was someone named Maulawi Abd al-Kahliq Jan. CIA analysts never find anyone using this name, and eventually they will conclude that al-Libbi made it up to protect Ahmed (see Late 2005). Later, the CIA will learn Ahmed’s real name, and this fact will eventually lead to bin Laden’s location (see Summer 2009 and July 2010).
False Claims Made While Tortured? - The interrogation techniques used on al-Libbi are unknown. However, days after his capture, the CIA pressures the Justice Department for new legal memorandums approving the use of very brutal methods. [Associated Press, 5/2/2011; New York Times, 5/3/2011]
The corpses of Sunni males begin appearing in Baghdad’s main morgue after reportedly being detained by men wearing police uniforms. The abductors are often seen driving Toyota Land Cruisers and armed with Glocks. A US official claims that police uniforms can be bought for a cheap price by non-governmental armed groups. But unexplained is how the attackers can afford Toyotas and Glocks, both of which are very expensive and usually only used by Western contractors and Iraqi government forces. Faik Baqr, director of the morgue, tells Knight Ridder that the bodies always look as if they were killed in a “methodical” fashion. The bodies are often tortured and mutilated with their eyes blindfolded.
They look as if they had been “whipped with a cord, subjected to electric shocks or beaten with a blunt object and shot to death, often with single bullets to their heads.” The torture markings are similar to those that have been found on the bodies of survivors rescued from Interior Ministry prisons by the human rights ministry. The morgue director also says that he has been receiving about 700 to 800 suspicious deaths a month ever since May, with 500 having firearm wounds. [Knight Ridder, 6/28/2005]
Newsweek prints an item in its “Periscope” section that reports an American guard at Guantanamo Bay flushed a detainee’s Koran down a toilet. According to the report, the US Southern Command intends to mount an investigation into the desecration, which violates US and international laws. The report sparks widespread rioting in Pakistan and Afghanistan that results in the deaths of at least 17 people. The Pentagon and the Bush administration immediately blame Newsweek for the riots and the deaths; Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, the senior commander of US forces in Afghanistan, says the report did not spark the Afghan rioting, as does Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Newsweek says the information came from an American official who remains unidentified. “We regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the US soldiers caught in its midst,” Mark Whitaker, Newsweek’s editor, writes in a subsequent article. Whitaker adds: “We’re not retracting anything. We don’t know what the ultimate facts are.” The Pentagon denies the report; spokesman Bryan Whitman says: “Newsweek hid behind anonymous sources, which by their own admission do not withstand scrutiny. Unfortunately, they cannot retract the damage they have done to this nation or those that were viciously attacked by those false allegations.” The report is “demonstrably false” and “irresponsible.” Whitman says the report has “had significant consequences that reverberated throughout Muslim communities around the world.” Senior Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita calls Whitaker’s note “very tepid and qualified.… They owe us all a lot more accountability than they took.” White House press secretary Scott McClellan says, “Our United States military personnel go out of their way to make sure that the Holy Koran is treated with care.” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says Newsweek is wrong to use “facts that have not been substantiated.” And Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld issues the admonishment, “[P]eople need to be careful what they say… just as people need to be careful what they do.” According to Whitaker, while the magazine tries to avoid using unnamed sources when it can, there are instances where sources will not speak to reporters unless their anonymity is guaranteed. The administration source has been reliable in the past, Whitaker says, and, moreover, the reporters of the story, Michael Isikoff and John Barry, received confirmation from both the source and a senior Pentagon official. Whitaker’s explanation notes that Newsweek has chosen not to publish previous reports of Koran desecration at Guantanamo because the sources are former detainees whom it considers unreliable. General Richard Myers, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says that guards and officials at Guantanamo have looked for documentation of the reported Koran-flushing and cannot find it. [New York Times, 5/16/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 164] The Pentagon will conclude that the Newsweek report is indeed responsible for the riots; Isikoff and Barry’s source for the story will back off on his original claim (see May 15, 2005). A month later, the Pentagon will confirm that at least five instances of Koran desecration at Guantanamo did indeed occur (see June 3, 2005).
Entity Tags: Richard B. Myers, John Barry, Hamid Karzai, Donald Rumsfeld, Bush administration (43), Bryan Whitman, Karl Eikenberry, Lawrence Di Rita, Mark Whitaker, Michael Isikoff, Scott McClellan, US Department of Defense, US Southern Command, Richard A. Boucher, Newsweek
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
The CIA launches a missile from a remotely piloted Predator drone and kills al-Qaeda leader Haitham al-Yemeni. He is killed in a village in northwest Pakistan near the Afghanistan border. He had been tracked since attending a meeting with other al-Qaeda leaders a few months earlier (see Early 2005). [ABC News, 5/13/2005; New York Times, 7/8/2007] US intelligence officials say they were hoping al-Yemeni would lead them to bin Laden, but after al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi was captured in early May 2005, they worried al-Yemeni would go into hiding and decided to kill him instead. Officials claim that al-Yemeni was going to replace al-Libbi as al-Qaeda’s operations leader. However, little is known about him (including his real name since al-Yemeni means “from Yemen”), and he is not listed in either the FBI or Pakistani “Most Wanted” list. There are no prior media mentions of his name and no publicly released photographs of him either. [Washington Post, 5/15/2005] One anonymous US intelligence source disputes claims that al-Yemeni was high-ranking. [CNN, 5/14/2005]
Excerpt from a diagram of a tracheotomy. [Source: Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine]Steven Bradbury, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel (OLC), issues a classified memo to John Rizzo, the senior deputy counsel for the CIA, the second of two memos issued on the same day by Bradbury to Rizzo (see May 10, 2005). This memo, a supplement to the first, considers interrogation techniques used in combination. Bradbury concludes, “Subject to the conditions and limitations set out here and in [the previous memo], we conclude that the authorized combined use of these specific techniques by adequately trained interrogators would not violate” US statutory law. The memo will not be released to the public for almost four years (see April 16, 2009).
Emergency Tracheotomy Procedures at Ready - The memo finds that, even though an earlier OLC memo had declared waterboarding to be a safe procedure (see August 1, 2002), a medical practicioner with a tracheotomy kit must be present to ensure the detainee is not injured or killed during the procedure. Bradbury writes: “[A] detainee could suffer spasms of the larynx that would prevent him from breathing even when the application of water is stopped and the detainee is returned to an upright position. In the event of such spasms, a qualified physician would immediately intervene to address the problem, and, if necessary, the intervening physician would perform a tracheotomy… we are informed that the necessary emergency medical equipment is always present—although not visible to the detainee—during any application of the waterboard.” In a heavily redacted section, the memo states: “In our limited experience, extensive use of the waterboard can introduce new risks. Most seriously, for reasons of physical fatigue or psychological resignation, the subject may simply give up, allowing excessive filling of the airways and loss of consciousness. An unresponsive subject should be righted immediately and the interrogator should deliver a sub-xyphoid thrust to expel the water. If this fails to restore normal breathing, aggressive medical intervention is required. Any subject who has reached this degree of compromise is not [REDACTED].” [Office of Legal Counsel, 5/10/2005 ]
'Last-Resort Procedure' - According to the Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine: “A tracheotomy is a surgical procedure in which a cut or opening is made in the windpipe (trachea). The surgeon inserts a tube into the opening to bypass an obstruction, allow air to get to the lungs, or remove secretions.… A tracheotomy is performed if enough air is not getting to the lungs, if the person cannot breathe without help, or is having problems with mucus and other secretions getting into the windpipe because of difficulty swallowing.… Doctors perform emergency tracheotomies as last-resort procedures. They are done only if the patient’s windpipe is obstructed and the situation is life-threatening.” [Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2009]
Steven Bradbury, the head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, issues a classified memo to John Rizzo, the senior deputy counsel for the CIA. The memo will remain classified for nearly four years (see April 16, 2009). It addresses, in the words of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), “whether CIA interrogation methods violate the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment standards under federal and international law.” Bradbury concludes that neither past nor present CIA interrogation methods violate such standards. [Office of Legal Counsel, 5/10/2005 ; American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 ]
CIA Techniques Not Torture, Bradbury Explains - Bradbury calls torture “abhorrent” and “universally repudiated,” and says the US will never condone it. Afterwards, he spends a great deal of effort explaining why the various techniques used by the CIA do not constitute torture. Bradbury goes into numerous details about varieties of “harsh interrogation techniques” that can be used on prisoners, often restating details from an August 2002 OLC memo (see August 1, 2002) and elaborating on those descriptions. One technique he details is forced nudity. “Detainees subject to sleep deprivation who are also subject to nudity as a separate interrogation technique will at times be nude and wearing a diaper,” he writes, and notes that the diaper is “for sanitary and health purposes of the detainee; it is not used for the purpose of humiliating the detainee and it is not considered to be an interrogation technique.… The detainee’s skin condition is monitored, and diapers are changed as needed so that the detainee does not remain in a soiled diaper.” He cites “walling,” a technique involving slamming a detainee into a “false wall,” and writes, “Depending on the extent of the detainee’s lack of cooperation, he may be walled one time during an interrogation session (one impact with the wall) or many times (perhaps 20 or 30 times) consecutively.” Other techniques Bradbury cites include waterboarding, “abdominal slaps,” and “water dousing.” For water dousing, Bradbury gives specific restrictions: “For example, in employing this technique:
“For water temperarure of 41°F, total duration of exposure may not exceed 20 minutes without drying and rewarming.
“For water temperarure of 50°F, total duration of exposure may not exceed 40 minutes without drying and rewarming.
“For water tempetarure of 59°F, total duration of exposure may not exceed 60 minutes without drying and rewarming.
“The minimum permissible temperature of the water used in water dousing is 41°F, though you have informed us that in practice the water temperature is generally not below 50°F, since tap water rather than refrigerated water is generally used.” [Office of Legal Counsel, 5/10/2005 ; CNN, 4/17/2009]
Waterboarding Used More Frequently than Authorized - Bradbury also notes that waterboarding is sometimes used more times than authorized or indicated. Referring to an as-yet-unreleased 2004 report by the CIA’s inspector general on torture and abuse of detainees, he writes: “The IG report noted that in some cases the waterboard was used with far greater frequency than initially indicated.… (‘[T]he waterboard technique… was different from the technique described in the DoJ [Department of Justice] opinion and used in the SERE training (see December 2001 and July 2002). The difference was the manner in which the detainee’s breathing was obstructed. At the SERE school and in the DoJ opinion, the subject’s airflow is disrupted by the firm application of a damp cloth over the air passages; the interrogator applies a small amount of water to the cloth in a controlled manner. By contrast, the [CIA] interrogator… applied large volumes of water to a cloth that covered the detainee’s mouth and nose. One of the psychologists/interrogators acknowledged that the agency’s use of the technique is different from that used in SERE training because it is ‘for real—and is more poignant and convincing.’)… The inspector general further reported that ‘OMS [the CIA’s Office of Medical Services] contends that the expertise of the SERE waterboard experience is so different from the subsequent agency usage as to make it almost irrelevant. Consequently, according to OMS, there was no a priori reason to believe that applying the waterboard with the frequency and intensity with which it was used by the psychologist/interrogators was either efficacious or medically safe.‘… We have carefully considered the IG report and discussed it with OMS personnel. As noted, OMS input has resulted in a number of changes in the application of the waterboard, including limits on frequency and cumulative use of the technique. Moreover, OMS personnel are carefully instructed in monitoring this technique and are personally present whenever it is used.… Indeed, although physician assistants can be present when other enhanced techniques are applied, ‘use of the waterboard requires the presence of the physician.’” [Office of Legal Counsel, 5/10/2005 ]
The Pentagon reports that an internal investigation shows no US guard at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility ever flushed a Koran down a toilet, as Newsweek recently reported. Furthermore, the rioting in Pakistan and Afghanistan that broke out after the report was released and claimed the lives of 17 people was directly sparked by the Newsweek report (see May 6-9, 2005). Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita informs Newsweek that its report is wrong. Newsweek reporter Michael Isikoff, the co-author of the report, goes back to his anonymous administration source to confirm the story. However, “the official, still speaking anonymously, could no longer be sure that these concerns had surfaced in the [US Southern Command] report [on prisoner abuse],” Newsweek writes. The story of the Koran being desecrated might have been in other reports, the source tells Isikoff. “Told of what the Newsweek source said, Di Rita explode[s],” the magazine writes. “‘How could he be credible now?’ Di Rita thunders.” National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley says the White House is “vigorously” investigating the report; if true, Hadley says, stern disciplinary action will be taken. Hadley adds that radical Islamic elements in Pakistan and Afghanistan are using the report as an excuse to incite violence. [New York Times, 5/16/2005] Three weeks later, the Pentagon will confirm that at least five instances of Koran desecration at Guantanamo did indeed occur (see June 3, 2005).
Maussili Kalaji. [Source: El Mundo]The Madrid newspaper El Mundo reveals some curious details about Spanish police officer Ayman Maussili Kalaji and the 2004 Madrid bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004):
Born in Syria, Kalaji belonged to the militant group Al Fatah and was also a Soviet intelligence agent. He moved to Spain in the early 1980s as a political refugee and eventually became a citizen and joined the national police by the late 1980s. He rose through the ranks and at some point he was the bodyguard to Baltasar Garzon, the Spanish judge presiding over trials of al-Qaeda-linked militants in Spain such as Barakat Yarkas.
In 1995, Kalaji sold an apartment to Moutaz Almallah. Almallah is considered a key link between the bombing cell and al-Qaeda operatives overseas. His apartment is said to be a nerve center for the plot. Kalaji admits to being in close contact with Almallah.
When a different apartment owned by Almallah was raided after the Madrid bombing, two documents were found with Kalaji’s name on it. One referenced the 1995 purchase, and the second was from 2001. This apartment, on Virgen de Coro street in Madrid, was a key hub of the Madrid bombers and was under surveillance for a full year leading up to the bombings (see January 17, 2003-Late March 2004).
Kalaji is also said to have been on friendly terms with Barakat Yarkas, the leader of the al-Qaeda cell in Madrid until his arrest in November 2001. Kalaji played a role in the arrest.
In 2001, Kalaji was investigated for credit card fraud.
For many years, Kalaji’s sister Lina Kalaji was in charge of translating the monitored telephone calls from Islamist cells in Spain. In 2002, she translated the intercepts of Serhane Abdelmajid Fakhet, considered one of the bombing masterminds (see 2002).
His ex-wife Marisol Kalaji is also a police officer and was the first on the scene to a van discovered the day of the bombings containing a cassette tape of the Koran. This is what first led investigators to believe the bombing was the work of Islamist and not Basque militants (see 10:50 a.m.-Afternoon, March 11, 2004).
He owns a cell phone store. The phones used to trigger the bombs were bought in a different store, but in Kalaji’s store the phones’ internal codes were reset so they could be used by other phone services.
He is said to go on leave not long after the bombings, due to all his curious connections. He also gives a statement to investigators regarding his role in changing the phone codes, but he is not charged for any crime. [El Mundo (Madrid), 5/17/2005; National Review, 5/18/2005; El Mundo (Madrid), 5/20/2005; El Mundo (Madrid), 8/22/2005] For days after El Mundo publishes its first story about Kalaji, a Spanish police commissioner will officially request Kalaji be arrested, but apparently he never is (see May 20, 2005). In August 2005, El Mundo will conclude that “it is becoming increasingly evident” that Kalaji played a “leading role” in the Madrid bombings. [El Mundo (Madrid), 8/22/2005] Almallah will be arrested in Britain in 2005 and extradited to stand trial in Spain in 2007 (see March 18-19, 2005). [London Times, 3/9/2007]
Spains’ Commissioner General of Police, Telesforo Rubio, recommends in a report that a Spanish police officer named Ayman Maussili Kalaji should be arrested for a role in the 2004 Madrid bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). The report, addressed to Juan del Olmo, the judge in charge of the bombers’ trial, comes three days after the Madrid newspaper El Mundo reported on Kalaji’s numerous links to some of the accused bombers, as well as the investigation itself (see May 16, 2005). The report requesting Kalaji’s arrest is leaked to El Mundo in July. The judge’s reply is unknown, but Kalaji is never arrested. Reportedly, the report claims that after the bombing, he gave the suspects warnings about the investigation. [El Mundo (Madrid), 7/29/2005] The report also notes that Kalaji has a background in electronics and is the most likely suspect to have soldered wires in cell phones to connect the vibrators with the bomb detonators. None of the arrested suspects have the expertise to solder the wires. The report concludes that although there is no proof he acted maliciously in adjusting the cell phones used in the bombings, there are many reasons to doubt that he did so naively. [El Mundo (Madrid), 8/22/2005] Kalaji will testify in the Madrid bombings trial in 2007, and it will be reported that he retired after being interrogated several days after the bombings. [El Mundo (Madrid), 3/21/2007]
The New York Times obtains a copy of a classified file of the Army criminal investigation into a number of detainee deaths at Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan. The report focuses on two Afghan detainees, Mullah Habibullah (see October 2004 and November 30-December 3, 2002) and a taxi driver known as Dilawar (see December 10, 2002), both of whom were in essence tortured to death; other detainees are also covered in the report. The Army report follows up on the official inquiry conducted in late 2004 (see October 2004).
Torture to Extract Information, Punish Detainees, and Alleviate Boredom - The Times writes: “Like a narrative counterpart to the digital images from Abu Ghraib, the Bagram file depicts young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse. The harsh treatment, which has resulted in criminal charges against seven soldiers, went well beyond the two deaths. In some instances, testimony shows, it was directed or carried out by interrogators to extract information. In others, it was punishment meted out by military police guards. Sometimes, the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom or cruelty, or both.” One female interrogator has what a colleague in a sworn statement calls a taste for humiliation; that interrogator is described as having stood on the neck of one prostrate detainee, and having kicked another detainee in the genitals. Another statement tells of a shackled prisoner being forced to kiss the boots of his interrogators. A third tells of a detainee forced to pick plastic bottle caps out of a drum mixed with excrement and water. Overall, the Army report concludes that many of the tactics used by interrogators and guards amounts to criminal assault. Pentagon spokesman Larry Di Rita says: “What we have learned through the course of all these investigations is that there were people who clearly violated anyone’s standard for humane treatment. We’re finding some cases that were not close calls.” Seven soldiers, all interrogators and guards of low rank, have been charged with crimes ranging from dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter; two others received reprimands, and 15 others named in the original report were cited as bearing probable criminal responsibility in the deaths. One of the interrogators charged with assaulting Dilawar, Sergeant Selena Salcedo, says: “The whole situation is unfair. It’s all going to come out when everything is said and done.”
Many Interrogators Redeployed to Iraq; Bagram Tactics Used at Abu Ghraib - The Army criminal investigation was conducted slowly. During the course of the investigation, many of the Bagram interrogators, including their operations officer, Captain Carolyn Wood, were redeployed to Iraq (see Mid-March 2003). Wood took charge of interrogations at Abu Ghraib prison and, according to Army inquiries, began using tactics “remarkably similar” to those employed at Bagram (see July 15, 2003 and (Early August 2003)). She received the Bronze Star for her actions (see January 22, 2003-May 8, 2003).
Serious Disparities between Investigative Results and Personnel Statements - In the aftermaths of the deaths, military officials made a number of unsupported claims. The deaths of both Dilawar and Habibullah were originally listed as due to natural causes even as military coroners ruled the deaths homicides. The American commander in Afghanistan at the time, Lieutenant General Daniel McNeill, said that he had no indication that the deaths were caused by abuses carried out by US soldiers; the methods used in the detainees’ interrogations were, McNeill said, “in accordance with what is generally accepted as interrogation techniques.”
Poorly Trained Interrogators - The report focuses on one group of poorly trained interrogators from the Army’s 519th Military Intelligence Brigade (see July 2002). After Bush’s decree that terror suspects have no rights under Geneva, the interrogators began pushing the envelope of acceptable interrogation techniques. They began employing “stress positions” that cause pain and suffering but not, presumably, actual injury. They began experimenting with longer and longer periods of sleep deprivation. One of the more popular methods is called in military jargon “Fear Up Harsh,” or as one soldier called it, “the screaming technique.” The technique is based on verbally and physically intimidating detainees, and often degenerates into screaming and throwing furniture. The noncommissioned officer in charge of the interrogators, Staff Sergeant Steven Loring, sometimes tried to curb his interrogators’ excesses, but, contradictorily, often refused to countenance “soft” interrogation techniques, and gave some of the most aggressive interrogators wide latitude. Sergeant James Leahy recalled, “We sometimes developed a rapport with detainees, and Sergeant Loring would sit us down and remind us that these were evil people and talk about 9/11 and they weren’t our friends and could not be trusted.” One of Loring’s favorites was Specialist Damien Corsetti, nicknamed “Monster,” a tall, bearded interrogator Loring jokingly nicknamed “the King of Torture.” One Saudi detainee told Army investigators that during one session, Corsetti pulled out his penis, shoved it in the Saudi’s face, and threatened to rape him. (The earlier investigation found cause to charge Corsetti with assault, maltreatment of a prisoner, and indecent acts; no charges were filed. Corsetti was fined and demoted for brutalizing a female prisoner at Abu Ghraib.) By August 2002, the 519th interrogators, joined by a group of reservists from a military police company, were routinely beating their prisoners, and particularly favored the “common peroneal strike,” a potentially disabling blow to the side of the leg just above the knee. The MPs later said that they never knew such physical brutality was not part of Army interrogation practices. “That was kind of like an accepted thing; you could knee somebody in the leg,” one of the MPs, Sergeant Thomas Curtis, later told investigators.
'Timmy' - Specialist Jeremy Callaway told investigators of one Afghan prisoner with apparently severe emotional and mental problems. The detainee would eat his own feces and mutilate himself with concertina wire. He quickly became a favorite target for some of the MPs, who would repeatedly knee him in the legs and, at least once, chained him with his arms straight up in the air. The MPs nicknamed him “Timmy” after an emotionally disturbed child in the “South Park” animated television show. According to Callaway, one of the guards who beat the prisoner also taught him to screech like the cartoon character. Eventually, “Timmy” was sent home. [New York Times, 5/20/2005]
Entity Tags: US Department of the Army, Jeremy Callaway, James Leahy, Dilawar, Daniel K. McNeill, Damien Corsetti, Carolyn A. Wood, Lawrence Di Rita, Mullah Habibullah, New York Times, Steven Loring, US Department of Defense, Selena Salcedo, Thomas Curtis
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives
Ali Soufan. [Source: CBS News]Ali Soufan resigns from the FBI. As an Arabic-speaking Muslim who joined the FBI long before 9/11 (see November 1997), Soufan has become one of the FBI’s best interrogators and experts on al-Qaeda. However, in a 2011 book, he will claim that he grew increasingly frustrated due to the CIA’s opposition to his work. “It was… clear that some high-level people at the time were specifically targeting me—I was told that by more than a few FBI executives and CIA colleagues,” he will write. “Ever since I had been interviewed by the 9/11 Commission, I was a marked man.” In 2004, Soufan gave information to the 9/11 Commission that made the CIA look bad. He will claim there were instances when the FBI wanted him to go overseas as part of an investigation but the CIA tried to prevent him from doing so. [Soufan, 2011, pp. 515-517, 522-523]
Steven Bradbury, the acting head of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, issues a classified memo. The contents and the recipient remain secret, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will later determine the memo deals with the use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” by the CIA. In early May, Bradbury determined that none of the CIA’s past or present interrogation methods violated either federal or international standards (see May 10, 2005). [American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 ]
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld gathers a group of senior subordinates and warns them to stay away from three senators—John McCain (R-AZ), John Warner (R-VA), and Lindsey Graham (R-SC)—who are drafting a bill to govern the handling of terrorism suspects (see December 30, 2005). A Pentagon official with direct knowledge of the meeting will later recall, “Rumsfeld made clear, emphatically, that the vice president had the lead on this issue.” Though Vice President Dick Cheney has, as he so often has done in the past, ensured that his bureaucratic fingerprints are not on the issue, he has already staked out a hardline position for the White House. This time, it came as a last-minute insert in a July 2005 “statement of administration policy” by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), where Nancy Dorn, Cheney’s former chief of legislative affairs, is deputy director. Cheney’s staff adds, without the required staff clearance, a paragraph to the OMB’s guidance for the 2006 defense appropriations bill (see July 21, 2005). Among those surprised by the position is Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England, who for a year has advocated that the US issue clear rules about detention and interrogation of terror suspects. England attempts to clarify the issue (see Late 2005). [Washington Post, 6/25/2007]
Former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA), one of the nation’s most respected defense experts, is critical of the Bush administration’s wholesale failure to work to help Russia secure its “loose nukes” (see January 10, 2001 and After and August 2002). “In measuring the adequacy of our response to today’s nuclear threats,” he says, “on a scale of one to ten, I would give us about a three.” Nunn adds that a recent summit between Presidents Bush and Putin moves the US “closer to a four.” [Scoblic, 2008, pp. 210]
The headquarters of Nasco, the Nigerian company owned by Ahmed Idris Nasreddin, are actually located on Ahmed Nasreddin Road. [Source: NBC News]News reports indicate Al Taqwa bankers are able to conduct business globally with few restrictions, despite being on global terrorist financier lists (see November 7, 2001). For instance, Al Taqwa director Ahmed Idris Nasreddin is running a conglomerate in Nigeria that makes a range of goods such as breakfast cereal and beauty products. An MSNBC investigation shows a clear and easily discovered paper trail connecting Nasreddin to the Nigeria companies, and a Nigerian government spokesman says, “He is well known. He is actually the major shareholder” in the conglomerate. But Nigerian officials claim the US has never raised objections or asked Nigeria to take action. In 2003, news reports tied Nasreddin to a prominent hotel in Milan, Italy. Financial records indicate he still owns the hotel. [MSNBC, 6/30/2005] Author Douglas Farah notes that the Geneva, Switzerland, branch of the International Islamic Charitable Organization (IICO) has two Al Taqwa figures as directors. Youssef al Qardawi was a major Al Taqwa investor, and Ghaleb Himmat was a director in the bank. Both are officially designated terrorist financiers. The IICO also operated as part of the SAAR network, which was raided in March 2002 (see March 20, 2002). The IICO’s vice president is Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen, who was a SAAR network official and also stayed in the same hotel as three of the 9/11 hijackers the night before the attacks (see September 10, 2001). Farah comments that these examples show “how ineffective and toothless the international sanctions regime has become. Those on the UN [terrorist financier] list continue to operate freely, presiding over businesses and charities that give them continued access to millions of dollars. The organizations that hire them are not penalized and, in the end, neither are the individuals.” [Farah, 11/7/2005]
Around early June 2005, US intelligence learns that Haroon Rashid Aswat is living in South Africa. An associate will later say that he had known Aswat there for about five months, and that Aswat was making money by selling religious CDs and DVDs. [Press Trust of India, 8/2/2005] The US wants Aswat for a role he allegedly played in trying to set up a militant training camp in Oregon in 1999 (see November 1999-Early 2000), although he has not been formally charged yet (see August 2002). US officials contact the South African government and ask if they can take him into custody. Aswat is a British citizen, so South Africa relays the request to Britain and British officials block the request. When the debate continues, he manages to leave the country. [CNN, 7/28/2005] An unnamed US official will tell the Telegraph: “The discussion was whether or not they would render him. He’s got [British] papers and they said you can’t render somebody with [British] papers.” British officials will complain that they would have cooperated had the US simply pursued a formal extradition request instead of pushing for a rendition. A senior US intelligence official will add, “Nobody is going to say there is a row or a rift but there was certainly dissatisfaction and exasperation here over the handling of this case.” [Daily Telegraph, 7/31/2005] He apparently returns to Britain and meets with and phones the suicide bombers of the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005 and Late June-July 7, 2005). He will be named the mastermind of those bombings in many newspapers. One counterterrorism expert will allege that Aswat also was an informant for British intelligence, and this would explain why the British were protecting him (see July 29, 2005).
Youssef Nada’s office in Lugano, Italy. [Source: Keystone]It is announced that Swiss prosecutors have suspended a three-year investigation into Al Taqwa Bank. The US and UN formally designated Al Taqwa and its founder Youssef Nada as terrorist financiers in November 2001 (see November 7, 2001). The suspension of the Swiss probe has no effect on those designations. Nada is self-acknowledged leader of the militant Muslim Brotherhood movement, but claims no ties to terrorism. [Newsweek, 6/22/2005] Swiss investigators say that the Bahamas government failed to share information about the important Al Taqwa branch based in that country. They claim that was the decisive factor in not bringing a case. Additionally, Al Taqwa’s Swiss financial records were all shipped to Saudi Arabia, and the Saudi government has not been cooperative in getting them back. [Swissinfo, 6/2/2005]
A Koran kept for detainees’ use at Guantanamo. The surgical mask is provided to keep the Koran off the floor, and the guards from touching the book. [Source: GlobalSecurity (.org)]The Pentagon confirms that at least five incidents of deliberate and accidental Koran desecration have occurred at Guantanamo Bay. The Pentagon and White House recently denied a Newsweek report of one such incident. Both lambasted the news magazine for printing the claim without what it called sufficent proof, and blamed Newsweek’s reporting for sparking lethal riots in Pakistan and Afghanistan (see May 6-9, 2005 and May 15, 2005). While the Pentagon and White House denunciations of the Newsweek report were timed to garner extensive media attention, the Pentagon report is released to the press and the public at 7:15 p.m. on a Friday, ensuring that it will not make Friday evening newscasts and, as author Frank Rich will later write, “be buried in the weekend papers.” (The Pentagon denies trying to downplay the report.) In the documented incidents, guards stepped on, kicked, and in one case urinated on Korans owned by the detainees. The urination incident is described as accidental—according to the report, a guard urinated near an outside air vent and his urine was caught in the airstream and carried into a prisoner’s cell. The detainee, who was also splashed, was given a fresh garment and a new Koran, and the guard was reprimanded. In another instance, guards throwing water balloons got detainees’ Korans wet. In a third instance, a two-word obscenity in English was written on the inside cover of a Koran, though the investigation could not determine whether a guard or a detainee wrote the phrase. In a fourth incident, an interrogator kicked a detainee’s Koran (see February 26, 2002-March 7, 2002). In a fifth incident, a contract interrogator stepped on a detainee’s Koran during questioning; the contractor is later fired for misconduct. Four other complaints of Koran desecration are not confirmed. “Mishandling a Koran at Guantanamo Bay is a rare occurrence,” says Brigadier General Jay Hood, commander of the Guantanamo Joint Task Force. “Mishandling of a Koran here is never condoned.” Hood says that no evidence of a Koran being flushed down a toilet, as Newsweek reported, has been found. Hood has already been caught in at least one misstatement; he claimed before the report that four of the five instances took place before January 2003, when written procedures covering handling of religious materials were implemented. The report says that four of those five incidents actually took place after January 2003. Captain Jeffrey Weir, a spokesman for the task force, says he cannot explain Hood’s contradictory statement. “Maybe he misspoke,” Weir says. “I’m not sure why he would have put it that way.” Pentagon spokesman Lawrence Di Rita says that the Hood report confirms that US guards handle the Koran with respect and dignity. “The Southern Command policy of Koran handling is serious, respectful, and appropriate,” he says. “The Hood inquiry would appear to affirm that policy.” [New York Times, 5/16/2005; Rich, 2006, pp. 166]
ABC News says it has obtained video footage of an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan. The video shows fighters conducting exercises with automatic weapons. The fighters are identified as coming from nine different countries in Africa and the Middle East. The video also shows the men taking part in an actual operation, attacking a remote army outpost. Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke comments, “Wiping out the training camps in Afghanistan was one of the reasons we went into Afghanistan. It was also one of the reasons we went into Iraq. And yet the whole time there were training camps in an ally, Pakistan.” The Pakistani government continues to deny there are such camps in Pakistan. [ABC News, 6/8/2005]
Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani’s appearance on Pakistani television, June 15, 2005. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani, a senior Taliban commander, gives an interview on Pakistani television, and says Osama bin Laden is in good health and Mullah Omar remains in direct command of the Taliban. [Reuters, 6/18/2005] Several days later, US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad will criticize Pakistan, pointing out that if a TV station could get in contact with a top Taliban leader, Pakistani intelligence should be able to find them too (see June 18, 2005).
British intelligence concludes that “at present there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack” inside Britain. The assessment is made by the Joint Terrorist Analysis Center, which is made up of about 100 top intelligence and law enforcement officials from Britain’s main intelligence agencies, as well as its Customs and police forces. The secret report is sent to various British government agencies, foreign governments, and corporations. As a result of the report, the British government lowers its formal threat assessment one level, from “severe defined” to “substantial.” “Substantial” is the fourth most serious threat level on a scale of one to seven. The report also states, “Events in Iraq are continuing to act as motivation and a focus of a range of terrorist related activity in [Britain].” After the 7/7 bombings about three weeks later (see July 7, 2005), British officials will deny that British involvement in the Iraq war served as a motivation for the 7/7 bombings. Senior British officials will not deny the report after its contents are leaked to the New York Times shortly after the 7/7 bombings, but will refuse to comment on it. One senior official will say that there was a sharp disagreement about lowering the threat level. [New York Times, 7/19/2005; London Times, 7/19/2005] In March 2005, senior officials from Scotland Yard came to opposite conclusions, and one official even predicted that Britons with bombs in backpacks would blow themselves up on the London subway (see March 2005).
A new video tape said to show al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri is broadcast on Al Jazeera. In the video, the first said to be from al-Zawahiri since February, he attacks the US and its influence in the Middle East, saying, “The removal of the Crusader and Jewish invaders won’t occur by peaceful demonstrations,” and, “Reform and expelling the invaders from the countries of Islam won’t happen except through fighting for God’s sake.” The video shows the man thought to be al-Zawahiri sitting before a plain backdrop with an automatic weapon leaned next to him. He wears a white turban and black and white robes. It is unclear how Al Jazeera obtains the tape. [Associated Press, 6/17/2005]
US ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad criticizes Pakistan’s failure to act against Taliban leaders living in Pakistan. Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani, a senior Taliban commander, recently gave an interview on Pakistani television in which he said Osama bin Laden is in good health and Mullah Omar remains in direct command of the Taliban (see June 15, 2005). Khalilzad further points out that Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi frequently gives interviews from the Pakistani city of Quetta, and asks, “If a TV station can get in touch with them, how can the intelligence service of a country, which has nuclear bombs and a lot of security and military forces, not find them?” [Reuters, 6/18/2005]
Asked if he has a good idea where Osama bin Laden is hiding, CIA Director Porter Goss replies: “I have an excellent idea of where he is. What’s the next question?” Although he doesn’t mention the country, Goss implies he is referring to Pakistan. He mentions the “very difficult question of dealing with sanctuaries in sovereign states,” which appears to be a diplomatic way of referring to the tribal region of Pakistan, where many believe bin Laden is located. [BBC, 6/20/2005] Vice President Dick Cheney will make a similar comment several days later (see June 23, 2005).
In the years since the US declared Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi a terrorism financier (see October 12, 2001), no criminal charges have been brought against him anywhere in the world. But on June 22, 2005, it is announced that Swiss prosecutors are pursuing a formal criminal case against him. The case focuses on a series of transactions made between February and August 1998 that were sent from one of al-Qadi’s companies to a firm owned by Saudi businessman Wael Hamza Julaidan. Julaidan reputedly associated with bin Laden in the 1980s. He was placed on US and UN terrorism financier lists in 2002. Over $1 million of the money in these transactions was sent to a Yemeni charity, but allegedly wound up funding al-Qaeda instead. Al-Qadi denies knowing that the money would go to al-Qaeda. [Newsweek, 6/22/2005] It is claimed that some of this money goes to support the 9/11 attacks. However, in December 2005, the Swiss apparently close the case. The Swiss court issues a statement, “Nothing in the file allows one to conclude with sufficient likelihood that Yassin al-Qadi knew or was able to know that the payments he made and for which he is implicated in the Swiss proceedings, could serve to specifically finance the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.” [Arab News, 12/25/2005]
Vice President Dick Cheney says about Osama bin Laden, “We’ve got a pretty good idea of a general area that he’s in, but I—I don’t have the street address.” [CNN, 6/23/2005] His comments come shortly after CIA Director Porter Goss’s comment that he has an “excellent idea” where bin Laden is (see June 19, 2005).
Asked on NBC’s Meet the Press if the US is “capturing, killing, or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day” than are being created, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld replies, “Tough to know. I don’t know the answer to the question.” [Meet the Press, 6/26/2005] Rumsfeld asked essentially the same question to his aides in a 2003 memo (see October 16, 2003). A US National Intelligence Estimate in 2006 will comment, “Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all-source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists… are increasing in both number and geographic distribution” (see April 2006). [Salon, 3/27/2008]
The French government secretly warns that Britain could be attacked by al-Qaeda. The Renseignements Généraux, or DCRG, France’s equivalent of Britain’s Special Branch, concludes in a report on the Pakistani community in France that Britain “remains threatened by plans decided at the highest level of al-Qaeda.… They will be put into action by operatives drawing on pro-jihad sympathies within the large Pakistani community in [Britain].” Three of the four suicide bombers in the 7/7 London bombings less than one month later (see July 7, 2005) will be Britons of Pakistani origin. The report is shared within the French government, but British and French officials will later refuse to confirm or deny if it is passed to the British government as well. This report comes about one week after the British government concluded that “at present there is not a group with both the current intent and the capability to attack” inside Britain, and lowered the general threat level (see Mid-June 2005). [Guardian, 8/9/2005]
Haroon Rashid Aswat. [Source: John Cobb]According to an article in the London Times, Haroon Rashid Aswat is the mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings. Aswat’s family comes from India, but he was born in the same West Yorkshire town as one of the 7/7 suicide bombers and has British citizenship. He is said to be a long-time al-Qaeda operative and also the right-hand man of radical London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri. He arrives in Britain about two weeks before the bombings from South Africa, where he was being monitored by British and US intelligence. He orchestrates the final planning for the bombing, visiting the towns of all the bombers as well as the bomb targets. “Intelligence sources” also will later claim that there are records of up to twenty calls between Aswat and two of the bombers, lead bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan and his friend Shehzad Tanweer, in the days before the bombings. A senior Pakistani security source will tell the Times, “We believe this man had a crucial part to play in what happened in London.” Khan telephones Aswat on the morning of the bombings. He flies out of Britain just hours before the bombings take place. Pakistani officials will also say that a total of eight men in Pakistan were in telephone contact with Khan and Tanweer, and that Khan, Tanweer, and Aswat were all at the same madrassa (religious boarding school) at the same time when Khan and Tanweer went to Pakistan for training in late 2004. [London Times, 7/21/2005] A later Sunday Times article will confirm that Aswat and some of the bombers talked on the phone. Some of the cell phones used by the bombers will be found and some data will be recovered from them, even though they are badly damaged. This will confirm that at least several calls were made from Aswat’s phone to the bombers in the days before the bombing. British investigators will not deny the phone calls took place, but will “caution that the calls may have been made to a phone linked to Aswat, rather than the man himself.” There is speculation that US intelligence may have been monitoring the calls (see Shortly Before July 7, 2005). [Sunday Times (London), 7/31/2005] It will later be alleged that Aswat is an informant for British intelligence. Furthermore, the imam he has worked for, Abu Hazma, is also a British informant (see Early 1997).
It will later be reported that Haroon Rashid Aswat, the possible mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), talks on the phone about 20 times with two of the suicide bombers involved in the attack in the days before the bombings (see Late June-July 7, 2005). The Sunday Times will later note, “It is likely that the American National Security Agency—which has a powerful eavesdropping network—was monitoring the calls.” British investigators will not deny the phone calls took place, but will “caution that the calls may have been made to a phone linked to Aswat, rather than the man himself.” [Sunday Times (London), 7/31/2005] A book about the Mossad by Gordon Thomas will later claim that the Mossad learns by the early afternoon of the day of the 7/7 bombings that the CIA has a “strong supposition” Aswat made a number of calls to the bombers in the days before the bombings. [Thomas, 2007, pp. 519] This would support the theory that the NSA was tracking the calls. US intelligence had discovered Aswat’s location several weeks before the bombings, but then supposedly lost track of him again (see Early June 2005). If these calls were tracked, it is not clear why action was not taken against the bombers.
Several hours after the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), the Associated Press reports: “British police told the Israeli Embassy in London minutes before Thursday’s explosions that they had received warnings of possible terror attacks in the city, a senior Israeli official said.… [Israeli Finance Minister and former Prime Minister] Benjamin Netanyahu had planned to attend an economic conference in a hotel over the subway stop where one of the blasts occurred, and the warning prompted him to stay in his hotel room instead, government officials said.… Just before the blasts, Scotland Yard called the security officer at the Israeli Embassy to say they had received warnings of possible attacks, the official said. He did not say whether British police made any link to the economic conference.” [Associated Press, 7/7/2005] Israeli Army radio also reports that “Scotland Yard had intelligence warnings of the attacks a short time before they occurred,” and “The Israeli Embassy in London was notified in advance, resulting in Finance Minister Binyamin Netanyahu remaining in his hotel room rather than make his way to the hotel adjacent to the site of the first explosion.” [IsraelNationalNews, 7/7/2005]
Israel Denies Reports - Several hours after that, Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom officially denies reports that Scotland Yard passed any advanced warning to Israel about the bombings, and British authorities deny they had any advanced warning at all. The Associated Press withdraws its earlier report and replaces it with one containing denials from Shalom and others about any warning. It states that Netanyahu was warned to stay in his hotel room, but the warning came shortly after the first bombing. [Stratfor, 7/7/2005; Associated Press, 7/7/2005]
Stratfor: Other Way Round - Later that same day, Stratfor, a respected private intelligence agency, notes the denials, but reports “Contrary to original claims that Israel was warned ‘minutes before’ the first attack, unconfirmed rumors in intelligence circles indicate that the Israeli government actually warned London of the attacks ‘a couple of days’ previous. Israel has apparently given other warnings about possible attacks that turned out to be aborted operations. The British government did not want to disrupt the G-8 summit in Gleneagles, Scotland, or call off visits by foreign dignitaries to London, hoping this would be another false alarm. The British government sat on this information for days and failed to respond.” [Stratfor, 7/7/2005]
Denial from Netanyahu - The next day, Netanyahu will call the report of his advanced warning “entirely false.” He says: “When the first bomb went off, we were departing our hotel. While we were on our way out, the security people said there was an explosion near the area I was scheduled to speak. They asked us to go back and stay put in our hotel.” [WorldNetDaily, 7/8/2005]
Call from Sharon - An Israeli newspaper also reports that “Shortly after the first explosion in London yesterday morning, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was scheduled to give a speech in the British capital, to inquire about his well-being and that of his entourage.” [Ha'aretz, 7/8/2005]
Warning Too Late - On July 11, the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag will report that the Mossad office in London received advance notice about 7/7 bombings, but only about six minutes before the first bombing. As a result, it was impossible to take any action to prevent the bombings. One Mossad source says, “They reached us too late for us to do something about it.” [Israel Insider, 7/11/2005]
Abdelkader Belliraj, a Belgian government informant leading a Moroccan militant group, allegedly helps foil an attack in Britain. Shortly after the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), Belgian intelligence gives the British government “very precise” information from Belliraj about a planned follow-up attack. Arrests are made and material is seized in Liverpool, but the incident is not reported in the media at the time. (Apparently this is a different plot to a largely unsuccessful copycat bomb plot two weeks after the 7/7 bombings (see July 21, 2005)). A Belgian newspaper will say the attacks could have killed dozens of people. Belliraj had developed links to al-Qaeda in 2001 while being paid by Belgian’s internal security service (see 2001). He will be arrested in Morocco in 2008 (see February 18, 2008). [Agence France-Presse, 3/15/2008]
The New York Times reports that since 9/11, Britain has arrested nearly 800 people under the Terrorism Act of 2000. But only 121 of them were charged with terrorism related crimes, and only 21 have been convicted. The Times comments, “critics have charged that [Britain’s] deep tradition of civil liberties and protection of political activists have made the country a haven for terrorists.” [New York Times, 7/10/2005]
Convicted Oklahoma City bombing conspirator Terry Nichols (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995, August 10, 1995, June 4, 1998, and May 26, 2004) has said that he believes his co-conspirator, Timothy McVeigh (see 7:14 a.m. June 11, 2001), was involved with a white supremacist compound in eastern Oklahoma, Elohim City (see (April 1) - April 18, 1995). Nichols’s statements to the FBI, a US congressman, and his family are now being reported by The Oklahoman. Representative Dana Rohrbacher (R-CA), who met with Nichols on June 27, 2005 at the federal prison in Florence, Colorado, says: “He said he was driving past it one time and Tim McVeigh knew everything about Elohim City, just told him all about it. And he said on a number of occasions… Tim McVeigh mentioned his friend, Andy the German, who lives at Elohim City.… So there was a strong indication that Tim McVeigh had much more than just a minor association with some of the people at Elohim City.” “Andy the German” is Andreas Strassmeir, a former German soldier who helped coordinate security at Elohim City (see 1973 and After). Strassmeir has admitted meeting McVeigh at a 1993 Tulsa gun show (see April 1993), but has said he never saw or spoke with him again. Strassmeir has denied any role in the bombing (see November 1994), as has Elohim City leader Robert Millar (see May 24, 1995). The FBI investigated Elohim City after discovering McVeigh called there two weeks before the bombing (see April 5, 1995), and ruled out the residents as suspects (see February 1995). The bureau never found conclusive proof that McVeigh ever visited there, though other sources found that McVeigh and Nichols had visited there in late 1993 (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994) and learned that McVeigh took part in paramilitary exercises there in late 1994 (see September 12, 1994 and After). For years, many have speculated that Strassmeir and other Elohim City residents may have played a part in the bombing; Rohrbacher says he is considering holding Congressional hearings on the possibility, and says he asked Nichols specifically about those theories. Former federal informant Carole Howe has claimed she saw McVeigh and Strassmeir together at Elohim City in July 1994, and has said Strassmeir talked about blowing up federal buildings in Oklahoma (see August 1994 - March 1995 and November 1994). Federal prosecutors did not believe Howe’s claims. [The Oklahoman, 7/10/2005] A precursor of the McVeigh-Nichols bomb plot was hatched in 1983 by Elohim City residents (see 1983). Some believe that Strassmeir may have been McVeigh’s alleged co-conspirator identified only as “John Doe No. 2” (see June 14, 1995), even though federal authorities have said that person was not involved with Nichols or McVeigh (see January 29, 1997). McVeigh told his friend Michael Fortier that he planned the Oklahoma City bombing with input from people at Elohim City (see December 1994). Less than two weeks before the bombing, McVeigh went to a strip club with people from Elohim City, including Strassmeir (see April 8, 1995).
Several weeks before the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), a Sunday Times reporter went undercover, posing as a new recruit in radical London imam Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed’s militant group Al-Muhajiroun. (Technically, the group disbanded the year before, but the Times reporter discovers the two new offshoots, the Saviour Sect and Al-Ghuraaba, are “Al-Muhajiroun in all but name” (see October 2004).) The reporter was accepted into the group, and for two months he attends private meetings of about 50 core followers usually led by Bakri. Shortly after the 7/7 bombings, Bakri publicly denounces the bombings, saying he is against the killing of innocents. But on July 9, the Times reporter hears Bakri tell his followers: “So, London under attack. Between us, for the past 48 hours I’m very happy.” He draws an analogy, saying: “The mosquito makes the lion suffer and makes him kill himself. If the mosquito goes up a lion’s nose then he will make him go mad. So don’t underestimate the power of the mosquito.” Several weeks later, in another private meeting, he praises the four 7/7 suicide bombers as the “fantastic four.” He tells his followers to “cover the land with our blood through martyrdom, martyrdom, martyrdom.” He reiterates that while he is against the killing of “innocents,” the victims of the 7/7 bombings were not innocent because they were not good Muslims. “They’re kuffar [non-believers]. They’re not people who are innocent. The people who are innocent are the people who are with us or those who are living under the Islamic state.” [Sunday Times (London), 8/7/2005]
The Bagram escapees, clockwise from top left: Muhammad Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani, Abdullah Hashimi, Omar al-Faruq, and Sheikh Abu Yahia al-Libi. [Source: Ahmad Masood / Reuters]Four al-Qaeda operatives escape the high-security US-controlled prison in Bagram, Afghanistan. The four men—Omar al-Faruq, Muhammad Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani, Abdullah Hashimi, and Sheikh Abu Yahia al-Libi (a.k.a. Mahmoud Ahmad Muhammad)—were all being held in a remote cell for troublesome prisoners. They allegedly pick the lock on their cell, take off their bright orange uniforms, walk through the prison under the cover of darkness, and then crawl over a faulty wall to where a getaway car is waiting for them. One US official later says: “It is embarrassing and amazing at the same time. It was a disaster.” [New York Times, 12/4/2005] The Independent will later comment: “The escape was so remarkable that serious doubts have been raised over whether it can possibly have happened the way it is described. At the very least, analysts have suggested, the four escapees must have had help on the inside, in order to know about the gap in the fence, and to find their way there so easily through a maze of buildings.” [Independent, 9/27/2006] Al-Faruq is considered an important al-Qaeda leader who served as a link between al-Qaeda and Jemaah Islamiyah in Southeast Asia until he was captured in 2002 (see June 5, 2002). Al-Kahtani is also considered an important al-Qaeda operative, but not on the same level as al-Faruq. Both of them were scheduled to be transported to Guantanamo.
Deliberately Let Go? - In late 2005, former Bagram prisoner Moazzam Begg will claim that he heard in Bagram that US intelligence officers had proposed staging an escape to release a detainee who would act as a double agent against al-Qaeda. US officials strongly deny that that happened with this escape.
US Hides Identities of Some Escapees - The US soon releases pictures of the four escapees, but strangely does not identify which escapees match which prisoners. Furthermore, as the New York Times will later note, “For reasons they have not explained, the military authorities gave different names for [al-Faruq and al-Kahtani] in announcing the escape.” [New York Times, 12/4/2005] The fact that al-Faruq was one of the escapees only comes out during a November 2005 US military trial of a sergeant who had been accused of mistreating him in 2002.
Fates of Escapees - Al-Faruq will later release a video on the Internet boasting of his role in the escape. He will be killed in Iraq in 2006 (see September 25, 2006). [New York Times, 9/26/2006] Al-Kahtani will be recaptured by US forces in Khost, Afghanistan, in December 2006. He is a Saudi and will be extradited to Saudi Arabia in May 2007. [Agence France-Presse, 5/7/2007] Sheikh Abu Yahia al-Libi will have what the New York Times later will call a “meteoric ascent within the leadership of al-Qaeda” in the three years after his escape. He will become very popular within Islamist militant circles for his propaganda videos. In 2008, Jarret Brachman, a former CIA analyst, will say of him: “He’s a warrior. He’s a poet. He’s a scholar. He’s a pundit. He’s a military commander. And he’s a very charismatic, young, brash rising star within [al-Qaeda], and I think he has become the heir apparent to Osama bin Laden in terms of taking over the entire global jihadist movement.” As of 2008, he and Abdullah Hashimi apparently remain free. [New York Times, 4/4/2008]
Haroon Rashid Aswat, the alleged mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (seee July 7, 2005), is reportedly arrested in Pakistan, but accounts conflict. For instance, on July 21, The Guardian reports that Aswat was arrested in the small town of Sargodha, near Lahore, on July 17. He is said to be found carrying a belt packed with explosives, a British passport, and lots of money. Pakistan’s Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao and Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed deny that the arrest took place. However, The Guardian reports, “Intelligence sources insisted, however, that Mr Aswat had been detained.” [Guardian, 7/21/2005] It is soon reported that Aswat has been arrested in the African country Zambia (see (July 21, 2005)), and news of his arrest in Pakistan fades away. Officials claim that the arrest was a case of mistaken identity and the person
“arrested was in fact a ceramics salesman from London with a similar name.” However, it is not explained how or why a ceramics salesman had a suicide vest, what his name was, or what happened to him. [Los Angeles Times, 7/28/2005; Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 7/31/2005] Yet as late as July 24, a “US law-enforcement official with knowledge of the case” continues to insist that Aswat had been arrested in Pakistan. [Seattle Times, 7/24/2005] Counterterrorism expert John Loftus will later claim that Aswat in fact has been an informant for the British intelligence agency MI6. He will point to Aswat’s arrest and then quick release in Pakistan as an example of how MI6 was attempting to protect Aswat even as other branches of the British government were trying to find him (see July 29, 2005). [Fox News, 7/29/2005]
One day after the failed 21/7 London bombings that attempted to duplicate the 7/7 bombings two weeks earlier (see July 21, 2005 and July 7, 2005), it is reported that Scotland Yard was tipped off about the bombings, but failed to stop them. An unnamed informant told police that there would be another round of bombings during the week, but could not name exactly where or when. Police chiefs correctly deduced it would probably take place on a Thursday, exactly two weeks after the 7/7 bombings. As a result, starting this morning, the London subway system is flooded with undercover armed police, as well as openly armed police. In some stations, such as Westminster, passengers are asked to take off backpacks and then line them up against walls, where sniffer dogs smell for possible explosives. One eyewitness will say: “I have never seen anything like that in London before, even after the July 7 bombings. There were at least eight officers, including several with machine guns, just at one underground station.” At 9:29 a.m., an armed unit races to Farringdon station and closes in on one suspected bomber, but apparently narrowly misses him. (The bombers will not attempt to detonate their bombs until about noon, and none of them will be at Farringdon station at the time.) Around the same time, about two hours before the bombers strike, Home Secretary Charles Clarke gives a confidential briefing to senior cabinet ministers, saying that another attack, possibly a copycat attack, is likely. However, no public warning is given. [Mirror, 7/22/2005] Although the bombers fail to cause mass death, it will later be determined that this was only because the explosives had not been prepared properly. It will not be explained how the bombers were able to get their bombs past the heightened security to stations in central London.
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) releases a “Statement of Administrative Policy” regarding the 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, the massive appropriations bill for the year. The document is given little attention in the media, but it wields great influence inside the government. Unknown to most OMB staffers, Vice President Dick Cheney’s lawyer David Addington has gone through OMB deputy director Nancy Dorn—herself a former Cheney staffer—to add a key paragraph to the document at the very last minute, without staff review. The paragraph says, in part, “The administration strongly opposes” any amendment to “regulate the detention, treatment, or trial of terrorists captured in the war on terror.” Addington’s paragraph is a pre-emptive strike at any such legislative attempt to modify or ease the polices towards detainees, especially in a following statement that reads, “[T]he president’s senior advisers would recommend that he veto” any such bill. The insertion is part of Cheney’s attempt to head off any possible legislation restricting the administration’s claimed power to hold anyone it chooses in indefinite detention (see Summer 2005). [Office of Management and Budget, 7/21/2005 ; Washington Post, 6/25/2007]
On July 28, the Los Angeles Times is the first to report that Haroon Rashid Aswat, the alleged mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), was arrested in the African country of Zambia about a week earlier. He is said to have been arrested while trying to enter Zambia from the neighboring country of Zimbabwe. Aswat is a British citizen but is wanted in the US on charges of setting up a training camp there. US and British officials vie to extradite him; Zambia soon announces they will extradite him to Britain. [Los Angeles Times, 7/28/2005; London Times, 7/29/2005]
Damage from one of the Sharm el-Sheikh bombs. [Source: National Geographic]The Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh is hit by three simultaneous suicide bombings. At least 88 are killed and over 150 are wounded. The town, located on the southern tip of the Sinai Peninsula, is popular with Westerners and many of the victims are from various European countries. The four star Ghazala Gardens hotel is directly hit, while the other two bombers are stopped at security checkpoints and forced to detonate themselves in areas without many tourists. [BBC, 7/23/2005; Scotsman, 7/26/2005] A previously unknown Egyptian group called Tawhid and Jihad takes credit for the attacks, saying they were done on orders from al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri. The Egyptian government received a warning about an imminent terror attack in the town several days in advance, but apparently mistakenly believed it would target casinos instead of hotels. [Scotsman, 7/27/2005]
The Telegraph reports that Pakistani officials believe Mohammad Sidique Khan, the lead suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005), spent much of his time during his trips to Pakistan with an al-Qaeda operative named Mohammed Yasin, a.k.a. Ustad Osama. Yasin is said to be an explosives specialist also linked to the Pakistani militant group Harkat ul-Jihad al-Islami (which in turn is related to the Harkat ul-Mujahedeen group). He is based in the training camps near the Afghan-Pakistani frontier and is reputed to be an expert at manufacturing “suicide jackets.” Yasin was included on a Pakistani government list of 70 “most wanted” terrorists in December 2003. [Dawn (Karachi), 12/31/2003; Sunday Telegraph, 7/23/2005]
The Los Angeles Times reports that Taliban forces are being trained in Pakistan’s tribal border region with support from Pakistan’s intelligence agency, the ISI. It is believed that the Pakistani ISI has made more sophisticated technology available to the Taliban in recent months, including the ability to construct and detonate bombs at long distance using cordless phones to transmit the detonation signals. Pakistan officially denies these charges. However, Lt. Sayed Anwar, acting head of Afghanistan’s counter-terrorism department, says: “Pakistan is lying. We have very correct reports from their areas. We have our intelligence agents inside Pakistan’s border as well.… They say they are friends of Americans, and yet they order these people to kill Americans.” Anwar said that intelligence agents operating in Pakistan and captured prisoners describe an extensive network of militant training camps in areas of the North Waziristan tribal region. He alleges there are at least seven camps there which are closed to outsiders and guarded by Pakistani troops. Zulfiqar Ali, a Pakistani journalist working for the Los Angeles Times, was able to sneak into one of the camps and saw armed militants, some as young as 13, undergoing ideological orientation and weapons training. Sources say at least 13 militant camps had been reactivated in the month of May. The camps are allegedly funded and supplied by the ISI. Lt. Naqibullah Nooristani, an operations commander for Afghan troops fighting with US soldiers, says the Taliban have been resurgent recently because they are receiving improved training and equipment in Pakistan. [Los Angeles Times, 7/28/2005]
John Loftus (right) is asked a question from an audience member while on Fox News on July 29, 2005. [Source: Fox News]In an interview on Fox News, counterterrorism expert John Loftus claims that Haroon Rashid Aswat, named in recent reports as the mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings earlier in the month (see July 7, 2005), is actually an agent of the British intelligence agency MI6. Loftus says: “[W]hat’s really embarrassing is that the entire British police are out chasing [Aswat], and one wing of the British government, MI6 or the British Secret Service, has been hiding him. And this has been a real source of contention between the CIA, the Justice Department, and Britain.… He’s a double agent.” The interviewer clarifies, “So he’s working for the Brits to try to give them information about al-Qaeda, but in reality he’s still an al-Qaeda operative.” Loftus replies: “Yeah. The CIA and the Israelis all accused MI6 of letting all these terrorists live in London not because they’re getting al-Qaeda information, but for appeasement. It was one of those you leave us alone, we leave you alone kind of things.” Loftus then explains that Aswat has been wanted by US prosecutors in Seattle since 2002 for attempting to help set up a training camp in Oregon (see November 1999-Early 2000). “[W]e’ve just learned that the headquarters of the US Justice Department ordered the Seattle prosecutors not to touch Aswat [because] apparently Aswat was working for British intelligence. Now Aswat’s boss, the one-armed [London imam Abu Hamza al-Masri], he gets indicted two years later. So the guy above him and below him get indicted, but not Aswat. Now there’s a split of opinion within US intelligence. Some people say that the British intelligence fibbed to us. They told us that Aswat was dead, and that’s why the New York group dropped the case. That’s not what most of the Justice Department thinks. They think that it was just again covering up for this very publicly affiliated guy with [the British militant group] Al-Muhajiroun. He was a British intelligence plant. So all of a sudden he disappears. He’s in South Africa. We think he’s dead; we don’t know he’s down there. Last month the South African Secret Service come across the guy. He’s alive.” The host asks: “Yeah, now the CIA says, oh he’s alive. Our CIA says OK let’s arrest him. But the Brits say no again?” Loftus replies: “The Brits say no. Now at this point, two weeks ago, the Brits know that the CIA wants to get a hold of Haroon. So what happens? He takes off again, goes right to London. He isn’t arrested when he lands, he isn’t arrested when he leaves. [Even though] he’s on the watch list. The only reason he could get away with that was if he was working for British intelligence. He was a wanted man.” Loftus finally explains that Aswat’s relationship with British intelligence began in the late 1990s with the war in Kosovo. The US, Britain, and radical Muslims were all on the same side, helping the Muslims in Kosovo fight the Serbians. Loftus says that Al-Muhajiroun was involved in recruiting British Muslims to fight in Kosovo, and Aswat was part of that effort. [Fox News, 7/29/2005] Two days after Loftus’s comments, the Sunday Times reports that senior British officials “deny ‘any knowledge’ that he might be an agent for either MI5 or MI6.” [Sunday Times (London), 7/31/2005]
Luai Sakra detained in Turkey. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Al-Qaeda operative Luai Sakra is arrested in Turkey. He is found with false travel documents and $120,000 in cash. He had about one ton of explosives (hydrogen peroxide) stored in an apartment and fled when some of the explosives blew out the apartment’s windows. Arrested at a nearby airport, a number of passports are found revealing his true identity despite the fact that he had extensive plastic surgery. He soon confesses to planning to load the explosives onto speed boats and crash them into Israeli cruise ships docking in Turkish ports. The attack would have taken place in just a few days, possibly on August 5, 2005. [BBC, 8/13/2005; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/15/2005; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/24/2005; Washington Post, 2/20/2006] Apparently, Turkish intelligence had learned something about the planned attacks and warned the Israeli government. The Israeli government then issued a public warning, which seems to have tipped off the plotters, and Sakra is one of the few who gets caught. A Turkish security official complains that the Israeli warning may have “spoiled all the operation and all the militants might escape.” [Journal of Turkish Weekly, 8/15/2005] Sakra, who has been alleged to be an informant for the CIA, Syria, and Turkey (see 2000), will then reportedly make a remarkable series of confessions to Turkish interrogators (see Early August 2005).
Around July 21, 2005, Haroon Rashid Aswat was arrested in Zambia, and the British government soon arranged to have him quickly extradited back to Britain, since he is a British citizen. Numerous press accounts have described Aswat at the mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005 and Late June-July 7, 2005). However, British authorities, who apparently have yet to question him, appear mysteriously uninterested in him. On July 31, the Sunday Times reports: “Scotland Yard sources say [Aswat] is not considered a priority in their criminal investigation into the July 7 and July 21 attacks. But senior [British] officials do not rule out the possibility there my be links to one or more of the bombers.” One unnamed official says, “I don’t think the evidence is conclusive either way.” Senior officials “also deny ‘any knowledge’ that he might be an agent for either MI5 or MI6.” [Sunday Times (London), 7/31/2005] The Times does not explain why officials would deny he worked for British intelligence, but on July 29, counterterrorism expert John Loftus claimed on Fox News that Aswat has had a long relationship with MI6 and they have tried to protect him from arrest (see July 29, 2005). [Fox News, 7/29/2005] On August 1, the Financial Times reports that British officials are seeking “to play down the role of Haroon Rashid Aswat… Zambian officials have agreed to extradite [him]… but British officials said they were no longer interested in interrogating him.” [Financial Times, 8/1/2005] It is not explained why officials are not at least interested in interrogating Aswat over his other suspected criminal activities. According to one article, by 2003, British officials had collected a large dossier on him and deemed him a “major terrorist threat” to Britain (see Early 2003), and in 2004 he was linked to a fertilizer bomb plot in Britain (see February 2004). Furthermore, while in custody in Zambia, he allegedly confessed to serving as Osama bin Laden’s bodyguard. [Sunday Times (London), 7/31/2005]
Luai Sakra shouting to passers-by while imprisoned in Turkey. [Source: Reuters]Al-Qaeda operative Luai Sakra, recently arrested in Turkey (see July 30, 2005), is interrogated for four days by police in Istanbul. He apparently freely confesses to involvement in a number of attacks and even shouts out confessions to reporters and passers-by from the window of his prison cell. [BBC, 8/13/2005]
He says, “I was one of the people who knew the perpetrators of September 11, and knew the time and plan before the attacks. I also participated in the preparations for the attacks to WTC and Pentagon. I provided money and passports.” He claims to know 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta. Sakra lived in Germany for about a year before the 9/11 attacks (see September 2000-July 24, 2001). [Zaman, 8/14/2005; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/24/2005] He also makes the claim that he helped some of the 9/11 hijackers near Bursa, Turkey, and will provide further details on this in 2007 (see Late 1999-2000). [Washington Post, 2/20/2006]
Sakra claims to have co-masterminded a series of suicide bombings in Istanbul in 2003 that killed 58 people (see November 15-20, 2003). “I gave the orders, but as far as the targets, Habib Aktas made the decisions.” [Journal of Turkish Weekly, 8/13/2005]
He claims to have fought for militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Fallujah, Iraq, in 2004. In 1999, Sakra worked with al-Zarqawi to start a new Afghan training camp for Syrians and Jordanians and the two of them became friends. Sakra boasts of participating in the execution of a kidnapped Turkish truck driver in August 2004. The driver was abducted from the laundry facility on a US base in Iraq and at one point Sakra worked in the laundry service there. [Journal of Turkish Weekly, 8/13/2005; BBC, 8/13/2005; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/24/2005] A US official says “We are taking very seriously reports that he was in Fallujah, and is linked with al-Zarqawi.” [United Press International, 8/17/2005] A captured aide to al-Zarqawi later confirms that Sakra was a key aide to al-Zarqawi in Fallujah beginning in March 2004 and that Sakra “provided coordinates for mortar attacks on US bases in Mosul, Samarra, Baghdad, and Anbar province.” [Washington Post, 2/20/2006]
Sakra’s lawyer also claims Sakra was a member of a gang that held Kenneth Bigley, a British contractor in Iraq, for three weeks and then murdered him in October 2004. [Guardian, 4/20/2006]
He claims to have had foreknowledge of the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005). He says he sent details about the attacks and who exactly took part in it to bin Laden via messenger some weeks afterwards. He also claims that he frequently communicated with bin Laden in person and by messenger. [Zaman, 8/15/2005]
He claims to have sent many operatives to the US, Britain, Egypt, Syria, and Algeria to take part in various operations. [Zaman, 8/15/2005]
He claims that the CIA, Syrian intelligence, and Turkish intelligence all wanted to employ him as an informant. The Turkish newspaper Zaman will conclude that Sakra likely did work for all three governments. “Sakra eventually became a triple agent for the secret services. Turkish security officials, interrogating a senior al-Qaeda figure for the first time, were thoroughly confused about what they discovered about al-Qaeda.” [Zaman, 8/14/2005] A Turkish security official will comment, “If during his trial, Sakra tells half of the information we heard from him, al-Qaeda’s real face will emerge. But what he has said so far has more to do about a formation permeated by secret services rather than the terror organization of al-Qaeda.” [Zaman, 8/15/2005]
When offered a chance to pray, he surprisingly replies, “I don’t pray and I like alcohol. Especially whiskey and wine.” [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/24/2005]
Der Spiegel reports, “Western investigators accept Sakra’s claims, by and large, since they coincide with known facts.” After talking to Sakra, Turkish officials suggest he may be one of the top five most important members of al-Qaeda. One security official says, “He had an intellect of a genius.” However, he also was found with medicine to treat manic-depression and exhibits manic-depressive behavior. [Zaman, 8/14/2005; Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/24/2005] Sakra will later be sentenced to life in prison (see March 21, 2006-February 16, 2007) for his self-confessed role in the 2003 Istanbul bombings (see November 15-20, 2003).
Shehzad Tanweer. [Source: Public domain]The Christian Science Monitor reports that police in Pakistan are carefully analyzing the cell phone records of the two 7/7 London bombers who trained there, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer. “While officials stress that it is a tedious process, it has already yielded the name of at least one significant suspect: Maulana Masood Azhar.” Azhar is leader of the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM), which has technically been banned twice by the Pakistani government but continues to operate (see November 2003). [Christian Science Monitor, 8/1/2005] Tanweer met a JEM leader during visits to Pakistan in 2003 and 2004, and also associated with a JEM recruiting agent (see Late 2003). Sources also say that Haroon Rashid Aswat, the alleged mastermind of the 7/7 bombings, has links to JEM as well as al-Qaeda. [Guardian, 7/21/2005] Azhar is questioned shortly after the 7/7 bombings, but then let go. [Dawn (Karachi), 7/16/2005] However, there are no apparent repercussions for Azhar or his group, despite well-documented links to al-Qaeda and other attacks. In 2006, it will be reported that Azhar is keeping a low profile, but living openly in the city of Karachi and editing a militant newspaper there. Also in 2006, it will be reported that Rashid Rauf, the leader of a failed transatlantic airplane bomb plot (see August 10, 2006), is related to Azhar through the marriage of their siblings. [New York Times, 12/17/2007]
A man thought to be al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri releases a new video mentioning the recent London bombings (see July 7, 2005) and threatening more attacks unless the West withdraws from Iraq. He calls the 9/11 attacks “initial clashes” and warns the US, “If you go on with the same policy of aggression against Muslims, you will see, with God’s will, what will make you forget the horrible things in Vietnam and Afghanistan.” Regarding the 7/7 bombings in Britain, the man thought to be al-Zawahiri does not directly take credit for them, but says, “Blair has brought to you destruction in central London, and he will bring more of that, God willing,” adding, “As to the nations of the crusader alliance, we have offered you a truce if you leave the land of Islam.” The tape, which is five minutes long, was left at an unspecified Al Jazeera office. This is reportedly the seventh video or audio tape released by al-Zawahiri since 9/11. He sits in front of a woven cloth that moves during the video, presumably with the wind, indicating the tape was made outdoors. [Fox News, 8/5/2005]
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