INCOMPETENCE, BAD LUCK, AND/OR OBSTRUCTION OF JUSTICE
By Paul Thompson
The key to abbreviations and other explanations can be found on the main timeline page.
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Part 1: 1979 - 2000
Part 2: Jan. 2001 - 9/11
Part 3: Day of 9/11
Part 4: 9/11 - Dec. 2001
Part 5: Jan. 2002 - present
|Day of 9/11
Bush on 9/11
This story is so complicated and long, I've tried to break it into threads of different colors to make it easier to digest, as well as the main page, the page for the day of September 11, and the abridged timeline.
Central Asian oil, Enron and the Afghanistan pipelines.
For a separate page of these entries only, click
Information that should have shown what kind of attack al-Qaeda would make. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
US preparing for a war with Afghanistan before 9/11, increasing control of Asia before and since. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Incompetence, bad luck, and/or obstruction of justice. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Suggestions of advanced knowledge that an attack would take place on or around 9/11. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Cover-up, lies, and/or contradictions. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Israeli "art student" spy ring, Israeli foreknowledge evidence. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Anthrax attacks and microbiologist deaths. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Pakistani ISI and/or opium drug connections. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Bin Laden family, Saudi Arabia corruption and support of terrorists, connections to Bush. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
Erosion of civil liberties and erection of a police state. For a separate page of these entries only, click here.
March 1985: The US decides to escalate the war in Afghanistan. The CIA, British MI6 and the ISI agree to launch guerrilla attacks from Afghanistan into then Soviet-controlled Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, attacking military installations, factories and storage depots within Soviet territory until the end of the war. The CIA also begins supporting the ISI in recruiting radical Muslims from around the world to come to Pakistan and fight with the Afghan mujaheddin. The CIA gives subversive literature and Korans to the ISI, who carry them into the Soviet Union. Eventually, around 35,000 Muslim radicals from 43 Islamic countries will fight with the Afghan mujaheddin. Tens of thousands more will study in the hundreds of new madrassas funded by the ISI and CIA in Pakistan. Their main logistical base is in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. [Washington Post, 7/19/92, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/01, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/23/01, The Hindu, 9/27/01, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Ahmed Rashid, 3/01] In the late 1980s, Pakistan's President Benazir Bhutto, feeling the mujaheddin network has grown too strong, tells President George Bush Sr., "You are creating a Frankenstein." But the warning goes unheeded. [Newsweek, 9/24/01] By 1993, the President of Pakistan tells Egyptian President Hasni Mubarak that Peshawar is under de facto control of the mujaheddin, and unsuccessfully asks for military help in reasserting Pakistani control over the city. Thousands of mujaheddin fighters return to their home countries after the war is over, and engage in countless acts of terrorism. One Western diplomat notes these thousands would never have been trained or united without US help, and says "The consequences for all of us are astronomical." [Atlantic Monthly, 5/96]
September 1987-March 1989: Michael Springmann, the head US consular official in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, later claims that he is "repeatedly told to issue visas to unqualified applicants." He turns them down, but is repeatedly overruled by superiors. Springmann loudly complains about the practice to numerous government offices, but no action is taken. He eventually is fired and the files he has kept on these applicants are destroyed. Springmann speculates that the issuing of visas to radical Islamic fighters continued until 9/11. He says he later learns that recruits from many countries fighting for bin Laden against Russia in Afghanistan were funneled through the Jeddah office to get visas to come to the US. They would then train for the Afghan war in the US. He says the Jeddah consulate was run by the CIA and staffed almost entirely by intelligence agents. Springmann suggests that this visa system may have continued until present day, and that the 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers getting their visas through Jeddah (see May 21, 2002 (C)) could have been a part of it (see also October 21, 2002 and October 23, 2002). [BBC, 11/6/01, AP, 7/17/02, Fox News, 7/18/02]
1988: Bin Laden forms al-Qaeda this year (some versions claim 1989). [Forbes, 10/18/01]
January 20, 1989: George Bush Sr. is inaugurated as US president, replacing Ronald Reagan. He remains president until 1993 (see January 20, 1993). Many of the key members in his government later have important positions again when his son George Bush Jr. becomes president in 2001 (see January 21, 2001). For instance, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell later becomes Secretary of State, and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney later becomes Vice President.
July 1990: Despite being on a terrorist watch list, radical Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman enters the US on a "much-disputed" tourist visa issued by an undercover CIA agent. [Village Voice, 3/30/93, Atlantic Monthly, 5/96] Abdul-Rahman was heavily involved with the CIA and ISI efforts to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, and became famous traveling all over the world for five years recruiting new mujaheddin. But he never hid his prime goals, which were to overthrow the governments of the US and Egypt. [Atlantic Monthly, 5/96] He is "infamous throughout the Arab world for his alleged role in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat." Abdul-Rahman immediately begins setting up a terrorist network in the US. [Village Voice, 3/30/93] He is known to have befriended bin Laden while in Afghanistan, and bin Laden secretly pays Abdul-Rahman's US living expenses. [Atlantic Monthly, 5/96, ABC News, 8/16/02] Abdul-Rahman's ties to the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane in later 1990 is ignored (see November 5, 1990). As one FBI agent says in 1993, he is "hands-off.... It was no accident that the sheikh got a visa and that he's still in the country. He's here under the banner of national security, the State Department, the NSA, and the CIA." A very high-ranking Egyptian official says Abdul-Rahman continues to assist the CIA in recruiting new mujaheddin after moving to the US. This official says, "We begged America not to coddle the sheikh." Egyptian intelligence warns the US that Abdul-Rahman is planning new terrorist attacks, and on November 12, 1992, terrorists connected to him machine-gun a busload of Western tourists in Egypt. But still he lives freely in New York City. [Village Voice, 3/30/93] He is finally arrested in 1993 and convicted for assisting in the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993). [Atlantic Monthly, 5/96]
November 5, 1990: An Egyptian American named El Sayyid Nosair assassinates controversial right-wing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane's organization, the Jewish Defense League, was linked to dozens of bombings and was ranked by the FBI as the most lethal domestic terrorist group in the US at the time. Nosair is captured after a police shoot-out. An FBI informant says he saw Nosair meeting with Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman a few days before the attack (see July 1990), and possessions indicating a wider plot with additional targets are found. [Village Voice, 3/30/93] Incredibly, files found in his possession which give details of a terrorist cell, mention al-Qaeda, and discuss the destruction of tall US buildings, are not translated until years later. [ABC News, 8/16/02] Instead, within 12 hours of the assassination, New York police declare the assassination was the work of a "lone gunman" and they stick with that story. In his trial, prosecutors choose not to introduce his incriminating possessions as evidence, nor is his confession even mentioned, and an apparent "open-and-shut case" ends with his acquittal. However, he is sentenced to 22 years on other lesser charges. [Village Voice, 3/30/93] Bin Laden contributes to Nosair's defense fund. Many of those involved in Kahane's assassination later plan the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993). As one FBI agent puts it, "The fact is that in 1990, myself and my detectives, we had in our office in handcuffs, the people who blew up the World Trade Center in '93. We were told to release them." [ABC News, 8/16/02]
September 1, 1992: Terrorists Ahmad Ajaj and Ramzi Yousef enter the US together. Ajaj is arrested at Kennedy Airport in New York City. Ramzi Yousef is not arrested, and later masterminds the 1993 bombing of the WTC (see February 26, 1993). "The US government was pretty sure Ahmad Ajaj was a terrorist from the moment he stepped foot on US soil," because his "suitcases were stuffed with fake passports, fake IDs and a cheat sheet on how to lie to US immigration inspectors," plus "two handwritten notebooks filled with bomb recipes, six bomb-making manuals, four how-to videotapes concerning weaponry and an advanced guide to surveillance training." However, Ajaj is only charged with passport fraud, and serves a six-month sentence. From prison, Ajaj frequently calls Ramzi Yousef and others in the WTC bombing plot, but no one monitors or translates the calls until long after the bombing. [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/01] An Israeli newsweekly later reports that the Palestinian Ajaj may have been a mole for the Israeli Mossad. The Village Voice has suggested that Ajaj may have had "advance knowledge of the World Trade Center bombing, which he shared with Mossad, and that Mossad, for whatever reason, kept the secret to itself." Ajaj was not just knowledgeable, but was involved in the planning of the bombing from his prison cell. [Village Voice, 8/3/93] Ajaj is released from prison three days after the WTC bombing, but is later rearrested and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/01] One of the manuals seized from Ajaj is horribly mistranslated for the trial. For instance, the title page is said to say "The Basic Rule," published in 1982, when in fact the title says "Al-Qaeda" (which means "the base" in English), published in 1989. Investigators later complain that a proper translation could have shown an early connection between al-Qaeda and the WTC bombing. [New York Times, 1/14/01]
1993: Canadian police arrest Ali Mohamed, a high ranking al-Qaeda figure. However, they release him when the FBI says he is a US agent. [Globe and Mail, 11/22/01] Mohamed, a former US Army sergeant, then will continue to work for al-Qaeda for a number of years. He trains bin Laden's personal bodyguards and trains a terrorist cell in Kenya that later blows up the US embassy there. Meanwhile, at least between 1993 and 1997 he tells secrets to the FBI about al-Qaeda's operations. He is arrested in late 1998 and subsequently convicted of his role in the 1998 US embassy bombing in Kenya. [CNN, 10/30/98, Independent, 11/1/98] Says a former Egyptian intelligence officer: "For five years he was moving back and forth between the US and Afghanistan. It's impossible the CIA thought he was going there as a tourist. If the CIA hadn't caught on to him, it should be dissolved and its budget used for something worthwhile." [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/01] Was Mohamed really playing the FBI and CIA for fools, or was he a double agent inside al-Qaeda? If the latter, why couldn't the US kill bin Laden in the 1990s if the head of his personal security was secretly a US agent?
1993 (C): An expert panel commissioned by the Pentagon postulates that an airplane could be used as a missile to bomb national landmarks. But the panel doesn't publish this idea in its report, Terror 2000. [Washington Post, 10/2/01] One of the authors of the report says. "We were told by the Department of Defense not to put it in... and I said, 'It's unclassified, everything is available.' And they said, 'We don't want it released, because you can't handle a crisis before it becomes a crisis. And no one is going to believe you.'" [ABC News, 2/20/02] However, in 1994 one of the panel's experts will write in Futurist magazine: "Targets such as the World Trade Center not only provide the requisite casualties but, because of their symbolic nature, provide more bang for the buck. In order to maximize their odds for success, terrorist groups will likely consider mounting multiple, simultaneous operations with the aim of overtaxing a government's ability to respond, as well as demonstrating their professionalism and reach." [Washington Post, 10/2/01]
January 20, 1993: Bill Clinton is inaugurated
as president, replacing George Bush Sr. He remains president until 2001 (see
January 21, 2001).
February 26, 1993: An attempt to blow up the WTC fails. Six people are killed in the misfired blast. Analysts later determine that had the terrorists not made a minor error in the placement of the bomb, both towers could have fallen and up to 50,000 people could have been killed. The attempt is organized by Ramzi Yousef, who has close ties to bin Laden. [Congressional Hearings, 2/24/98] The New York Times later reports on Emad Salem, an undercover agent who ends up being the key government witness in the trial against the bomber. Salem testifies that the FBI knew about the attack beforehand and told him they would thwart it by substituting a harmless powder for the explosives. However, this plan was called off by an FBI supervisor, and the bombing was not stopped. [New York Times, 10/28/93] Why did the FBI seemingly let the terrorists go ahead with the bombing? Others suspects are ineptly investigated before the bombing (see July 1990 and November 5, 1990). Several of the bombers were trained by the CIA to fight in the Afghan war, and the CIA later concludes in internal documents that it was "partly culpable" for this bombing attempt. [Independent, 11/1/98] Ahmad Ajaj, an associate of Yousef, may have been a mole for the Israeli Mossad, and the Mossad may have had advanced knowledge of the bombing (see September 1, 1992). US officials later state that the overall mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, is a close relative of Ramzi Yousef, [Independent, 6/6/02] probably his uncle. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] One of the attackers even left a message found by investigators stating, "Next time, it will be very precise." 9/11 can be seen as a completion of this failed attack. [AP, 9/30/01]
October 3-4, 1993: Eighteen US soldiers are attacked and killed in Mogadishu, Somalia, in a spontaneous gun battle (later the subject of the movie Black Hawk Down). A 1998 US indictment charges bin Laden and his followers with training the attackers. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02] The link between bin Laden and the Somali killers of US soldiers appears to be Pakistani terrorist Maulana Masood Azhar. [Los Angeles Times, 2/25/02] Azhar is associated with Pakistan's ISI (see December 24-31, 1999), and the US has not publicly complained that he is a free man in Pakistan (see December 14, 2002).
1994: Mohammed al-Khilewi, the First Secretary at the Saudi Mission to the United Nations, defects and seeks political asylum in the US. He brings with him 14,000 internal government documents depicting the Saudi royal family's corruption, human-rights abuses, and financial support for terrorists. He meets with two FBI agents and an Assistant US Attorney. "We gave them a sampling of the documents and put them on the table," says his lawyer, "but the agents refused to accept them." [New Yorker, 10/16/01] The documents include "details of the $7 billion the Saudis gave to [Iraq leader] Saddam Hussein for his nuclear program -- the first attempt to build an Islamic Bomb." But FBI agents were "ordered not to accept evidence of Saudi criminal activity, even on US soil." [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03]
1995: For the first time, though not the last, the government of Sudan offers the US all of its files on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The US turns down the offer. Bin Laden had been living in Sudan since 1991, because there were no visa requirements to live there. Sudan was monitoring him, collecting a "vast intelligence database on Osama bin Laden and more than 200 leading members of his al-Qaeda terrorist network... [The US was] offered thick files, with photographs and detailed biographies of many of his principal cadres, and vital information about al-Qaeda's financial interests in many parts of the globe." After 9/11, a US agent who has seen the files on bin Laden's men in Khartoum says some were "an inch and a half thick." [Guardian, 9/30/01]
March 1995: Belgian investigators find a CD-ROM of an al-Qaeda terrorist manual and begin translating it a few months later. Versions of the manual circulate widely and are seized by the police all over Europe. A former CIA official claims the CIA does not obtain a copy of the manual until the end of 1999: "The truth is, they missed for years the largest terrorist guide ever written." He blames CIA reluctance to scrutinize its support for the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s (see December 26, 1979 and March 1985). The CIA claims that the manual isn't that important, and that it had copies for years in any case (see also September 1, 1992). [New York Times, 1/14/01, CBS, 2/20/02]
November 13, 1995: Two truck bombs kill five Americans and two Indians in a US-operated Saudi National Guard training center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda is blamed for the attacks. [AP, 8/19/02] The attack changes US investigators' views of bin Laden from terrorist financier to terrorist leader. [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, p. 150]
1996: Al-Muqatila, a Libyan group that is actually the cover name of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell, tries to kill Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. Al-Qadhafi survives, but several terrorists and innocent bystanders are killed. [Dawn, 10/30/02] According to David Shayler, a member of the British intelligence agency MI5, and Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, authors of the controversial book The Forbidden Truth, the related British intelligence agency MI6 pays al-Qaeda the equivalent of $160,000 to help fund this assassination attempt. Shayler later goes to prison for revealing this information and the British press is banned from discussing the case. [New York Times, 8/5/98, Observer, 11/10/02] Well after the failed attempt, the British continue to support al-Muqatila - for instance, the group publishes a newsletter from a London office. [The Forbidden Truth, by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, 5/02 edition, pp. 97-98] Anas al-Liby, a member of the Libyan al-Qaeda cell, is given political asylum in Britain and lives there until May 2000. He is now on the US's most wanted list, with a $25 million reward for his capture. [Observer, 11/10/02] The Forbidden Truth claims that even in 1998 Britain and the US aren't very interested in capturing bin Laden because of his assistance in plots like these (see April 15, 1998). The British government later attempts to censor their role in this assassination attempt (see November 5, 2002).
January-May 1996: In the months after uncovering Operation Bojinka in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995), nearly all of its major planners, including Ramzi Yousef, are found and arrested. The one exception is 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He flees to Qatar in the Persian Gulf, where he lives openly using his real name, enjoying the patronage of Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar's Interior Minister and a member of the royal family. [ABC News, 2/7/03] In January 1996, he is indicted in the US for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing, and in the same month the US determines his location in Qatar. FBI Director Louis Freeh sends a letter to the Qatari government asking for permission to send a team after him. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02] One of Freeh's diplomatic notes states that Mohammed was involved in a conspiracy to "bomb US airliners" and is believed to be "in the process of manufacturing an explosive device." [New Yorker, 5/27/02] Qatar confirms that Mohammed is there and is making an explosive, but they delay in handing him over. After waiting several months, a high level meeting takes place in Washington to consider a commando raid to seize him. But the raid is deemed too risky, and another letter is sent to the Qatari government instead. One person at the meeting later states, "If we had gone in and nabbed this guy, or just cut his head off, the Qatari government would not have complained a bit. Everyone around the table for their own reasons refused to go after someone who fundamentally threatened American interests...." [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02] Around May 1996, Mohammed's patron Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani makes sure that Mohammed and four others are given blank passports and a chance to escape. Qatar's police chief later says the other men include Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef, al-Qaeda's number two and number three leaders respectively (see also Late 1998 (E)). [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02, ABC News, 2/7/03] In late 1997 former CIA agent Robert Baer learns how the Qataris helped Mohammed escape and passes the information to the CIA, but they appear uninterested (see December 1997). Bin Laden twice visits al-Thani in Qatar. [New York Times, 6/8/02, ABC News, 2/7/03] Does the US miss a chance to catch bin Laden by not caring about al-Thani? After leaving Qatar, Mohammed takes part in many terrorist acts (see Mid-1996-September 11, 2001).
Early 1996: The CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center creates a special unit to focus specifically on bin Laden. About 10-15 individuals are assigned to the unit initially. This grows to about 35-40 by 9/11. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] The unit is set up "largely because of evidence linking him to the 1993 bombing of the WTC." [Washington Post, 10/3/01 (C)]
Early 1996-October 1998: In early 1996, a friend gives bin Laden a satellite phone. The phone is used by both bin Laden and his military commander Muhammad Atef to direct al-Qaeda's operations. But its use is discontinued two months after a US missile strike against his camps (see August 20, 1998), when an unnamed senior official boasts that the US can track his movements through the use of the phone. [Sunday Times, 3/24/02, Senator Shelby Congressional Inquiry Report, 12/11/02] Records show "Britain was at the heart of the terrorist's planning for his worldwide campaign of murder and destruction," since 260 calls were made to 27 phone numbers in Britain. The other countries called were Yemen (over 200 calls), Sudan (131), Iran (106), Azerbaijan (67), Pakistan (59), Saudi Arabia (57), a ship in the Indian Ocean (13), US (6), Italy (6), Malaysia (4) and Senegal (2). "The most surprising omission is Iraq, with not a single call recorded." [Sunday Times, 3/24/02] Why weren't these calls used more aggressively to target bin Laden and the people he called?
March 1996: The US pressures Sudan to do something about bin Laden, who is based in that country. Sudan readily agrees, not wanting to be labeled a terrorist nation. Sudan's Minister of Defense engages in secret negotiations with the CIA in Washington. Sudan offers to extradite bin Laden to anywhere he might stand trial. The US decides not to take him because they apparently don't have enough evidence at the time to charge him with a crime. Saudi Arabia is discussed as a possibility, but the Saudi Arabian government doesn't want him, even though bin Laden has pledged to bring down the Saudi Arabian government. US officials turn down the offer, but insist that bin Laden leave the country for anywhere but Somalia. One US intelligence source in the region later states: "We kidnap minor drug czars and bring them back in burlap bags. Somebody didn't want this to happen." [Village Voice, 10/31/01, Washington Post, 10/3/01] Bin Laden leaves under pressure two months later (see May 18, 1996). CIA Director Tenet later denies Sudan made any offers to hand over bin Laden. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02]
April 1996: In continuing negotiations between the US and Sudan, the US again rejects Sudan's offer to turn over voluminous files about bin Laden and al-Qaeda (see 1995). Another American involved in the secret negotiations later says that the US could have used Sudan's offer to keep an eye on bin Laden, but that the efforts were blocked by another arm of the federal government. "I've never seen a brick wall like that before. Somebody let this slip up," he says. "We could have dismantled his operations and put a cage on top. It was not a matter of arresting bin Laden but of access to information. That's the story, and that's what could have prevented September 11. I knew it would come back to haunt us." [Village Voice, 10/31/01, Washington Post, 10/3/01] Around this time Sudan also offers their al-Qaeda intelligence to MI6, the British intelligence agency, and are also rebuffed. Sudan makes a standing offer: "If someone from MI6 comes to us and declares himself, the next day he can be in [the capital city] Khartoum." A Sudanese government source later adds, "We have been saying this for years." The offer is not taken up until after 9/11. [Guardian, 9/30/01]
May 1996: Reporter Greg Palast later claims that there is a meeting of Saudi billionaires at the Hotel Royale Monceau in Paris this month with the financial representative of al-Qaeda. "The Saudis, including a key Saudi prince joined by Muslim and non-Muslim gun traffickers, [meet] to determine who would pay how much to Osama. This [is] not so much an act of support but of protection -- a payoff to keep the mad bomber away from Saudi Arabia" (see also 1996 (C)). [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03] The 9/11 victims' relatives also site a "nonpublished French intelligence report" of this meeting in their lawsuit against important Saudis. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 8/16/02] Palast claims that the Saudi Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh attends the meeting. Bakhsh also saved Bush Jr.'s Harken Oil from bankruptcy around 1990. The notorious Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi also attends the meeting. [Santa Fe New Mexican, 3/20/03, Democracy Now, 3/4/03] In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, Slate has claimed that Khashoggi is a "shadowy international arms merchant" who is "connected to every scandal of the past 40 years." Amongst other things, he was a major investor in BCCI and a key player in the Iran-Contra affair. [Slate, 12/4/00, Slate, 11/14/01, Slate, 3/12/03] Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz also apparently attends the meeting (though it could be a later meeting with Khashoggi in 1998). [Business Post, 10/7/01] Palast, noting that the French monitored the meeting, asks, "Since US intelligence was thus likely informed, the question becomes why didn't the government immediately move against the Saudis?" [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03] An apparent follow-up meeting occurs in 1998 (see July 1998).
May 18, 1996: Sudan expels bin Laden at the request of the US and Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda then move to Afghanistan, taking all of their money, resources and personnel. Bin Laden flies there in a C-130 transport plane with an entourage of about 150 men, women and children. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] The US knows in advance that bin Laden is going to Afghanistan, but does nothing to stop him. Elfatih Erwa, who, Sudan's minister of state for defense at the time, later says in an interview: "We warned [the US]. In Sudan, bin Laden and his money were under our control. But we knew that if he went to Afghanistan no one could control him. The US didn't care; they just didn't want him in Somalia. It's crazy." [Village Voice, 10/31/01, Washington Post, 10/3/01]
June 1996: Jamal al-Fadl, an al-Qaeda operative from al-Qaeda's first meeting in the late 1980s until 1995, tells the US everything he knows about al-Qaeda. "Before al-Fadl's debriefings, US intelligence had amassed thick files on bin Laden and his associates and contacts. But they'd had no idea how the many pieces fit together. 'Al-Fadl was the Rosetta Stone,' an official says. 'After al-Fadl, everything fell into place.'" [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, pp. 154-165] Yet the US will not take "bin Laden or al-Qaeda all that seriously" until after the bombing of US embassies in Africa in 1998. [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, pp. 213]
June 25, 1996: Explosions destroy the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American soldiers and wounding 500. [CNN, 6/26/96] Saudi officials later interrogate the suspects, declare them guilty, and execute them - without letting the FBI talk to them. [PBS Frontline, 2001, Irish Times, 11/19/01] Saudis blame the Hezbollah, the Iranian-influenced group, but US investigators still believe bin Laden was somehow involved (in June 2001 a US grand jury indicted 13 Saudis for the bombing). [Seattle Times, 10/29/01] Bin Laden admitted instigating the attacks in a 1998 interview. [Miami Herald, 9/24/01] Ironically, the bin Laden family is later awarded the contract to rebuild the installation. [New Yorker, 11/5/01] In 1997, Canada catches one of the Khobar Tower attackers and extradites him to the US. But in 1999, he is shipped back to Saudi Arabia before he can reveal what he knows about al-Qaeda and the Saudis. One anonymous insider calls it, "Clinton's parting kiss to the Saudis." [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03]
Mid-1996-October 2001: In 1996, Ariana Airlines, the national airline of Afghanistan, is essentially taken over by al-Qaeda and becomes the transportation for an illegal trade network. Passenger flights become few and erratic; instead the airline begins flying drugs, weapons, gold and personnel mostly between Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan. The Emirate of Sharjah, in the UAE, becomes a hub for al-Qaeda drug and arms smuggling. Typically "large quantities of drugs" would be flown from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to Sharjah, and large quantities of weapons would be flown back to Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01] About three to four flights a day would run the route. Many weapons come from Victor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer based in Sharjah (see October 1996). [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02] Afghan taxes on opium production would be paid in gold, and then the gold bullion would be flown to Dubai, UAE, and laundered into cash. [Washington Post, 2/17/02] Taliban officials regularly provide terrorists with false papers identifying them as Ariana employees so they can move freely around the world. A former National Security Council official later claims the US is well aware at the time that al-Qaeda agents regularly fly on Ariana, but the US fails to act for several years. The US does press the UAE for tighter banking controls, but moves "delicately, not wanting to offend an ally in an already complicated relationship," and little changes by 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01] Much of the money for the 9/11 hijackers flows though these Sharjah channels (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000 and September 8-11, 2001 (C)). Could the 9/11 attacks have been stopped if the US pressed harder to shut down the Sharjah al-Qaeda money channels? There also are reports suggesting that Ariana Airlines might have been used to train Islamic militants as pilots (see October 1, 2001 (C)). The illegal behavior of Ariana helps cause the United Nations to impose sanctions against Afghanistan in 1999 (see November 14, 1999), but the sanctions lack teeth and don't stop the airline. A second round of sanctions finally stops foreign Ariana flights. But Ariana charter flights and other charter services keep the illegal network running (see January 19, 2001). Ariana and the network is finally largely destroyed in the October 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01]
September 11, 1996: An FBI investigation into two relatives of bin Laden, begun in February 1996, is closed. The FBI wanted to learn more about Abdullah bin Laden, "because of his relationship with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth [WAMY] - a suspected terrorist organization." [Guardian, 11/7/01] Abdullah was the US director of WAMY and lived with his brother Omar in Falls Church, Virginia, a town just outside Washington. The coding on the document, marked secret, indicates the case involved espionage, murder, and national security. WAMY has its offices at 5613 Leesburg Pike. Remarkably, it is later determined that four of the 9/11 hijackers lived at 5913 Leesburg Pike at the same time the two bin Laden brothers were there. WAMY has not been put on a list of terrorist organizations in the US, but it has been banned in Pakistan. A high-placed intelligence official tells the Guardian: "There were always constraints on investigating the Saudis. There were particular investigations that were effectively killed." An unnamed US source says to the BBC, "There is a hidden agenda at the very highest levels of our government." [BBC Newsnight, 11/6/01, Guardian, 11/7/01, see related leaked documents here] The Bosnian government later says a charity with Abdullah bin Laden on its board had channeled money to Chechen guerrillas (see also September 20, 2002 (C)), something that "is only possible because the Clinton CIA gave the wink and nod to WAMY and other groups who were aiding Bosnian guerrillas when they were fighting Serbia, a US-approved enemy." The investigation into WAMY is only restarted two days after 9/11, and after the bin Laden brothers have left the US. [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03] (Note that this Abdullah bin Laden is possibly bin Laden's cousin, not brother, and is apparently not the same as the Abdullah bin Laden who serves as the bin Laden family spokesman. [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03])
October 1996: Since 1992, Russian arms merchant Victor Bout has been selling weapons to Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, but this month he switches sides and begins selling weapons to the Taliban and al-Qaeda instead (see also Mid-1996-October 2001). [Guardian, 4/17/02, Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02, Los Angeles Times, 5/17/02] The deal comes immediately after the Taliban captures Kabul and gains the upper hand in Afghanistan's civil war (see September 27, 1996). Bout formerly worked for the Russian KGB, and operates the world's largest private weapons transport network. Based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bout operates freely there until well after 9/11. The US becomes aware of Bout's widespread illegal weapons trading in Africa in 1995, and of his ties to the Taliban in 1996, but they fail to take effective action against him for years. [Los Angeles Times, 5/17/02] US pressure on the UAE in November 2000 to close down Bout's operations there is ignored. Press reports calling him "the merchant of death" also fail to pressure the UAE (for instance, [Financial Times, 6/10/00, Guardian, 12/23/00]). After President Bush is elected, it appears the US gives up trying to get Bout, until after 9/11. [Washington Post, 2/26/02, Guardian, 4/17/02] In one trade in 1996, Bout's company delivers at least 40 tons of Russian weapons to the Taliban, earning about $50 million. [Guardian, 2/16/02] Two intelligence agencies later confirm that Bout trades with the Taliban "on behalf of the Pakistan government." In late 2000, several Ukrainians sell 150 to 200 T-55 and T-62 tanks to the Taliban in a deal conducted by the ISI, and Bout helps fly the tanks to Afghanistan. [Montreal Gazette, 2/5/02] Bout moves to Russia in 2002. He is seemingly protected from prosecution by the Russian government, which in early 2002 claimed, "There are no grounds for believing that this Russian citizen has committed illegal acts." [Guardian, 4/17/02] The Guardian suggests that Bout may have worked with the CIA when he traded with the Northern Alliance, and this fact may be hampering current international efforts to catch him. [Guardian, 4/17/02]
1997: While the State Department listed bin Laden as a financier of terror in its 1996 survey of terrorism, al-Qaeda is not included on the 1997 official US list of terrorist organizations subject to various sanctions. They are finally listed in 1998. [New York Times, 12/30/01]
February 12, 1997: The White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, led by Vice President Gore, issues its final report. [Gore Commission, 2/12/97] But the report has little practical effect: "Federal bureaucracy and airline lobbying slowed and weakened a set of safety improvements recommended by a presidential commission - including one that a top airline industry official now says might have prevented the Sept. 11 terror attacks." [Los Angeles Times, 10/6/01]
December 1997: CIA agent Robert Baer (see also August 2001 (G) and January 23, 2002), newly retired from the CIA and working as a terrorism consultant, meets a former police chief from the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. He learns how 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was sheltered from the FBI by the Qatari Interior Minister Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani (see January-May 1996). He passes this information to the CIA in early 1998, but the CIA takes no action against Qatar's al-Qaeda patrons. The ex-police chief also tells him that Mohammed is a key aide to bin Laden, and that based on Qatari intelligence, Mohammed "is going to hijack some planes." He passes this information to the CIA as well, but again the CIA doesn't seem interested, even when he tries again after 9/11. [UPI, 9/30/02, Vanity Fair, 2/02, See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, Robert Baer, 2/02, pp. 270-271] Baer also tries to interest reporter Daniel Pearl in a story about Mohammed before 9/11, but Pearl is still working on it when he gets kidnapped and murdered (see December 24, 2001-January 23, 2002). [UPI, 9/30/02] The ex-police chief later disappears, presumably kidnapped by Qatar. It has been speculated that the CIA turned on the source to protect its relationship with the Qatari government. [Breakdown: How America's Intelligence Failures Led to September 11, Bill Gertz, pp. 55-58] It appears bin Laden visits Abdallah al-Thani in Qatar between the years 1996 and 2000. [ABC News, 2/7/03] Al-Thani continues to support al-Qaeda, providing Qatari passports and more than $1 million in funds. Even after 9/11, Mohammed is provided shelter in Qatar for two weeks in late 2001. [New York Times, 2/6/03] Yet the US still has not frozen al-Thani's assets or taken other action. Could the US have captured bin Laden if they paid more attention to Robert Baer's information?
1998: According to later closed session congressional testimony by the heads of the CIA, FBI and NSA, al-Qaeda begins planning the 9/11 attacks in this year. [USA Today, 6/18/02] In a June 2002 interview, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed also says the planning for the attacks begin at this time. [AP, 9/8/02] But it appears the targeting of the WTC and pilot training began even earlier. An al-Qaeda operative in Spain will later be found with videos filmed in 1997 of major US structures (including "innumerable takes from all distances and angles" of the WTC). There are numerous connections between Spain and the 9/11 hijackers, including an important meeting there in July 2001 (see July 8-19, 2001). [AP, 7/17/02] Hijacker Waleed Alshehri was living in Florida since 1995, started training for his commercial pilot training degree in 1996, and got his license in 1997. [Sunday Herald, 9/16/01, Boston Globe, 9/14/01] So the attack was probably planned even earlier, but the earlier it was planned, the worse the US looks for not catching it.
1998 (C): In response to the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am 747 over Scotland, the FAA creates "red teams" - small, secretive teams traveling to airports and attempting to foil their security systems. "In 1998, the red team completed extensive testing of screening checkpoints at a large number of domestic airports... We were successful in getting major weapons guns and bombs through screening checkpoints with relative ease, at least 85 percent of the time in most cases. At one airport, we had a 97 percent success rate in breaching the screening checkpoint." "The individuals who occupied the highest seats of authority in FAA were fully aware of this highly vulnerable state of aviation security and did nothing." [New York Times, 2/27/02] In 1999, the Port Authority and major airlines at Boston's Logan Airport - used twice on 9/11 - "were fined a total of $178,000 for at least 136 security violations over the previous two years. In the majority of incidents, screeners hired by the airlines for checkpoints in terminals routinely failed to detect test items, such as pipe bombs and guns." [AP, 9/12/01] Did the terrorists know which airports were most vulnerable, and take advantage of that knowledge?
1998 (E): A son of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the al-Qaeda leader convicted in 1995 of conspiring to blow up tunnels and other New York City landmarks, is heard to say that the best way to free his father from a US prison might be to hijack an American plane and exchange the hostages. This is supposedly the most recent concrete hijacking report Bush hears in his August 2001 briefing titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US" (see August 6, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/17/02]
1998 (F): An American Muslim named Aukai Collins later says he was an FBI informant between 1996 and 1999, informing on the Muslim community in Phoenix, Arizona. For six months in 1998, he is a casual acquaintance of hijacker Hani Hanjour while Hanjour is taking flying lessons. [AP, 5/24/02] Collins sees nothing suspicious about Hanjour as an individual, but he tells the FBI about him because Hanjour appears to be part of a larger, organized group of Arabs taking flying lessons. [Fox News, 5/24/02] He says the FBI "knew everything about the guy," including his exact address, phone number and even what car he drove. The FBI denies Collins told them anything about Hanjour, and denies knowing about Hanjour before 9/11, though they acknowledge that they paid Collins to monitor the Islamic and Arab communities in Phoenix. [ABC News, 5/23/02] Collins later calls Hanjour a "hanky panky" hijacker: "He wasn't even moderately religious, let alone fanatically religious. And I knew for a fact that he wasn't part of al-Qaeda or any other Islamic organization; he couldn't even spell jihad in Arabic." [My Jihad: The True Story of an American Mujahid's Amazing Journey from Usama Bin Laden's Training Camps to Counterterrorism with the FBI and CIA, Aukai Collins, 6/02, p. 248]
February 22, 1998: Bin Laden issues a fatwa, declaring it the religious duty of all Muslims "to kill the Americans and their allies - civilians and military ... in any country in which it is possible." [PBS Frontline, 2001, Sunday Herald, 9/16/01, complete text of the fatwa from al-Quds al-Arabi, 2/23/98]
April 15, 1998: The first Interpol (international police) arrest warrant for bin Laden is issued by, of all countries, Libya. [Observer, 11/10/02] According to Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, authors of the controversial book The Forbidden Truth, British and US intelligence agencies play down the arrest warrant, and have the public version of the warrant stripped of important information, such as the summary of charges and the fact that Libya requested the warrant. At this point, no Western country has yet issued a warrant for bin Laden, even though he publicly called for attacks on Western targets beginning in 1996 (see 1996). The arrest warrant is issued for the murder in 1994 of two German anti-terrorism agents. Supposedly, Britain and the US aren't interested in catching bin Laden at this time due to his involvement with Britain in attempts to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi (see November 1996 and November 5, 2002). [The Forbidden Truth, by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, 5/02 edition, pp. 97-98]
May 18, 1998: An Oklahoma newspaper later reports that the FBI office in Oklahoma City sends a memo on this day warning that "large numbers of Middle Eastern males" are getting flight training in Oklahoma and could be planning terrorist attacks. [AP, 9/26/01, CNN, 9/18/01] This remarkable story seems to have been reported only by one Oklahoma daily. [NewsOK, 5/29/02, see the memo here] It appears this warning was not followed up. In 1999 it is learned that an al-Qaeda agent had studied flight training at the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma. Hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi consider studying at the same school in 2000; Zacarias Moussaoui does study at the school in 2001 (see September 1999 (E)).
June 1998: Relations between Taliban head Mullah Omar and bin Laden grow tense, and Omar strikes a secret deal with the Saudis to expel bin Laden. Head of Saudi intelligence Prince Turki al-Faisal travels to Kandahar, Afghanistan and brokers the deal, but before it can be enacted, the US strikes Afghanistan in August, driving Omar and bin Laden back together. Prince Turki states that "the Taliban attitude changed 180 degrees," and that Omar was "absolutely rude" to him when he visited again in September. [Guardian, 11/5/01, London Times, 8/3/02] Note that reports of this meeting seemingly contradict reports of a different secret meeting a month later (see July 1998). Was bin Laden charmed by luck, or might the embassy bombings and/or the US missile attacks in response have been timed to help keep him in Afghanistan?
June 8, 1998: A US grand jury issues a sealed indictment charging bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders with conspiracy to attack the US. The indictment is publicly released on November 4, 1998. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02]
August 7, 1998: Terrorists bomb the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The bomb in Nairobi, Kenya kills 213 people, including 12 US nationals, and injures more than 4,500. The bomb in Dar es Salaam kills 11 and injures 85. The attack is blamed on al-Qaeda. [PBS Frontline, 2001]
August 20, 1998: The US fires 66 missiles at six training camps in Afghanistan and 13 missiles at a pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan in retaliation for the US embassy bombings. [Washington Post, 10/3/01 (C)] The US makes clear the attacks are aimed at terrorists "not supported by any state'' despite obvious evidence to the contrary in Afghanistan. About 30 people are killed in the attacks, but no important al-Qaeda figures. [Observer, 8/23/98, New Yorker, 1/24/00] Suspected terrorist financiers Khalid bin Mahfouz (see April 1999) and Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi (see November 22, 2002 (B)) appear to have been the main investors in the Sudanese factory. However, "subsequent lab tests and court actions leave little doubt the El Shifa plant was producing only human and veterinary drugs." [Ottawa Citizen, 9/29/01] The US later unfreezes the bank accounts of the nominal factory owner and takes other actions indicating guilt, but admits no wrongdoing. It is later learned that of the six camps targeted in Afghanistan, only four were hit, and of those only one had connections to bin Laden. Two of the camps belong to the ISI, and five ISI officers and some twenty trainees are killed. Clinton says on TV that the missiles were aimed at a "gathering of key terrorist leaders", which turns out to have taken place a month earlier, in Pakistan. [Observer, 8/23/98, New Yorker, 1/24/00] Was intelligence really that bad, or was Clinton set up by his own intelligence agencies to fail, so he wouldn't try to attack bin Laden in the future, and thus deprive them of a war on terrorism?
August 24, 1998: The New York Times reports that the training camps recently attacked by the US (see August 20, 1998) were actually built years before by the US and its allies. The US and Saudi Arabia gave the Afghans between $6 billion and $40 billion to fight the Soviets in the 1980s (see December 26, 1979). Many of the people targeted by the Clinton missile attacks were actually trained and equipped by the CIA years before. [New York Times, 8/24/98]
September 20, 1998: Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, an al-Qaeda terrorist from the United Arab Emirates connected to the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998), is arrested near Munich, Germany. [PBS Newshour, 9/30/98] In retrospect, it appears he was making one of many visits to the al-Qaeda cells in Germany. [The Base, Jane Corbin, 8/02, p. 147] US investigators later call him bin Laden's "right hand man." [New York Times, 9/29/01] However, the FBI is unwilling to brief their German counterparts on what they know about Salim and al-Qaeda, despite learning much that could have been useful as part of their investigation into the US embassy bombings. [The Base, Jane Corbin, 8/02, pp. 148-149] By the end of the year, German investigators learn that Salim had a Hamburg bank account. [New York Times, 9/29/01] The cosignatory on the account is businessman Mamoun Darkazanli (see September 24, 2001), whose home number had been programmed into Salim's cell phone. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/02] German authorities had begun to suspect Darkazanli of terrorist money laundering in 1996. Wadih El-Hage, a former personal secretary to bin Laden, is also arrested in the wake of the embassy bombings. El-Hage had created a number of shell companies as fronts for al-Qaeda terrorist activities, and one of these uses the address of Darkazanli's apartment. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/02] Darkazanli's phone number and Deutschebank account number are also found in El-Hage's address book. [CNN, 10/16/01] Based on these new connections, investigators ask a federal prosecutor for permission to open a formal investigation against Darkazanli. An investigation begins, at the insistence of the US, though Germany has claimed the request for the investigation was rejected (see December 1999). [AFP, 10/28/01, [New York Times, 1/18/03] German investigators also learn of a connection between Salim and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who is already identified by police as a suspected extremist (see March 1997). [AP, 6/22/02, New York Times, 1/18/03]
October 1998: FBI agents Robert Wright and John Vincent are tracking a terrorist cell in Chicago, but are told to simply follow suspects around town and file reports. The two agents believe some of the money used to finance the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998) leads back to Chicago and Saudi multimillionaire businessman Yassin al-Qadi (see also March 21, 2000 and October 12, 2002). Supervisors try, but temporarily fail, to halt the investigation into al-Qadi's possible terrorist connections. However, at this time, a supervisor prohibits Wright and Vincent from making any arrests connected to the bombings, or opening new criminal investigations. Even though they believe their case is growing stronger, in January 2001 Wright is told that the Chicago case is being closed and that "it's just better to let sleeping dogs lie" (see Late January 2001). Wright tells ABC: "Those dogs weren't sleeping, they were training, they were getting ready. ... September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit. ... Absolutely no doubt about that." Chicago federal prosecutor Mark Flessner, also working on the case, says there "were powers bigger than I was in the Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let [the building of a criminal case] happen." Wright will write an internal FBI memo slamming the FBI in June 2001 (see June 9, 2001, and also May 30, 2002 and August 9, 2002 (C)). Al-Qadi is named in a March 2000 affidavit as a source of terrorist funds in Chicago. [ABC, 11/26/02, ABC, 12/19/02, ABC, 12/19/02 (B)] He is also on secret US and UN lists of major al-Qaeda financiers (see November 26, 2002). His charity, the Muwafaq Foundation, is allegedly an al-Qaeda front which transferred $820,000 to the Palestinian group Hamas through a Muslim foundation called the Quranic Literacy Institute; the date of the transfer has not been released. [CNN, 10/15/01] Al-Qadi says he shut down Muwafaq in 1996, but the charity has received money from the United Nations since then. [BBC, 10/20/01, CNN, 10/15/01]
November 1, 1998-February 2001: Mohamed Atta and al-Qaeda terrorists Said Bahaji and Ramzi bin al-Shibh move into a four bedroom apartment at 54 Marienstrasse, in Hamburg, Germany and stay there until February 2001 (Atta is already mainly living in the US well before this time). Investigators believe this move marks the formation of their Hamburg al-Qaeda terrorist cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/02, New York Times, 9/10/02] Up to six men at a time live at the apartment, including other al-Qaeda agents such as hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and cell member Zakariya Essabar. [New York Times, 9/15/01] During the 28 months Atta's name is on the apartment lease, 29 ethnically Middle Eastern or North African men register the apartment as their home address. [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/14/02, p. 256] From the very beginning, the apartment was officially under surveillance by German intelligence, because of investigations into businessman Mamoun Darkazanli that connect to Said Bahaji (see September 20, 1998 and December 1999). [Washington Post, 10/23/01] They also suspect connections between Bahaji and al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar (see March 1997 and February 17, 1999). [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] Germans surveil the apartment off and on for months, and also wiretap Mounir El Motassadeq (see August 1998), an associate of the apartment-mates who is later put on trial for assisting the 9/11 plot (see August 29, 2002), but they don't find any indication of suspicious activity. [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/02] Bahaji is directly surveilled at least for part of 1998, but German officials have not disclosed when the probe began or ended. That investigation is dropped for lack of evidence. [AP, 6/22/02, Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] However, certainly investigators would have found evidence if they looked more thoroughly. For instance, Zammar, a talkative man who has trouble keeping secrets, is a frequent visitor to the many late night meetings there. [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/02, Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02, The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/14/02, pp. 259-260] Another visitor later recalls Atta and others discussing attacking the US. [Knight Ridder, 9/9/02] 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is in Hamburg several times in 1999, and comes to the apartment (see 1999 (K)). But although there was a $2 million reward for Mohammed since 1998 (see Mid-1996-September 11, 2001), the US apparently fails to tell Germany what it knows about him. [New York Times, 11/4/02, Newsweek, 9/4/02] Hijacker Waleed Alshehri also apparently stays there "at times." [Washington Post, 9/14/01, Washington Post, 9/16/01] The CIA also starts monitoring Atta while he is living at this apartment, and doesn't tell Germany of the surveillance (see January-May 2000). The German government originally claimed they knew little about the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell before 9/11, and said nothing directed them towards the Marienstrasse apartment, which is clearly incorrect. [Telegraph, 11/24/01]
November 4, 1998: The US formally charges bin Laden with the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and announce a record $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest. [PBS Frontline, 2001] Shortly thereafter, bin Laden allocates $9 million in reward money for each assassination of four top intelligence agency officers. It is later learned that the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, FBI Director and CIA Director are the targets. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, MSNBC, 9/18/02]
December 4, 1998: CIA Director Tenet issues a "declaration of war" on al-Qaeda, in a memorandum circulated in the intelligence community. This is 10 months after bin Laden's fatwa on the US, which is called a "de facto declaration of war" by a senior US official in 1999 (see February 22, 1998). Tenet says, "We must now enter a new phase in our effort against bin Laden ... each day we all acknowledge that retaliation is inevitable and that its scope may be far larger than we have previously experienced... We are at war... I want no resources or people spared in this efforts [sic], either inside CIA or the [larger intelligence] community." Yet a Congressional joint committee later finds that few FBI agents had ever heard of the declaration. Tenet's fervor did not "reach the level in the field that is critical so [FBI agents] know what their priorities are." And even as the counterterrorism budget continues to grow generally, there is no massive shift in budget or personnel until after 9/11. For example, the number of CIA personnel assigned to the Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC) stays roughly constant until 9/11 then nearly doubles from approximately 400 to approximately 800 in the wake of 9/11. The number of CTC analysts focusing on al-Qaeda rises from three in 1999 to five by 9/11. [New York Times, 9/18/02, Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
Late 1998 (D): President Clinton signs a directive authorizing the CIA to plan an assassination of bin Laden. The CIA draw up detailed profiles of bin Laden's daily routines, where he sleeps, and his travel arrangements. The assassination never happens, supposedly because of inadequate intelligence. But, as one officer later says, "you can keep setting the bar higher and higher, so that nothing ever gets done." An officer who helped draw up the plans says, "We were ready to move" but "we were not allowed to do it because of this stubborn policy of risk avoidance... It is a disgrace." [Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/16/01]
Late 1998 (E): Intelligence agents learn that Mohammed Atef (also known as Abu Hafs) - head of Islamic Jihad and one of the top three leaders of al-Qaeda [ABC News, 11/17/01], is staying in a particular hotel room in Khartoum, Sudan. White House officials ask that Atef be killed or captured and interrogated. The CIA puts the operation in the "too hard to do box," according to one former official. A plan is eventually made to seize him, but by then he has left the country. [New York Times, 12/30/01] Atef is considered a top planner of the 9/11 attacks (see Before September 11, 2001 (D)), and is later killed in a bombing raid (see November 15, 2001 (B)).
Late 1998 (F): The failed August 1998 US missile attack against bin Laden (see August 20, 1998) greatly elevates bin Laden's stature in the Muslim world. A US defense analyst later states, "I think that raid really helped elevate bin Laden's reputation in a big way, building him up in the Muslim world.... My sense is that because the attack was so limited and incompetent, we turned this guy into a folk hero." [Washington Post, 10/3/01] An Asia Times article published just prior to 9/11 suggests that because of the failed attack, "a very strong Muslim lobby emerge[s] to protect [bin Laden's] interests. This includes Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, as well as senior Pakistani generals. Prince Abdullah has good relations with bin Laden as both are disciples of slain Doctor Abdullah Azzam." [Asia Times, 8/22/01] In early 1999, Pakistani President Musharraf complains that by demonizing bin Laden, the US has turned him into a cult figure and hero. The US decides to play down the importance of bin Laden. [UPI, 6/14/01]
Late 1998-January 2001: The US permanently stations two submarines in the Indian Ocean, ready to hit al-Qaeda with cruise missiles on short notice. Six to ten hours advance warning is now needed to review the decision, program the cruise missiles and have them reach their target. On at least three occasions, spies in Afghanistan report bin Laden's location with information suggesting he would remain there for some time. Each time, Clinton approves the strike. Each time, CIA Director Tenet says the information is not reliable enough and the attack cannot go forward. [Washington Post, 12/19/01, New York Times, 12/30/01] The submarines are removed shortly after President Bush takes office (see Late January 2001 (B)).
1999: Zacarias Moussaoui, living in London, is observed by French intelligence making several trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan. French investigators later claim the British spy agency MI5 was alerted and requested to place Moussaoui under surveillance. The request appears to have been ignored. [Independent, 12/11/01]
1999 (B): The FBI creates its own unit to focus specifically on bin Laden, three years after the CIA created such a special unit. By 9/11, 17-19 people are working in this unit, out of over 11,000 FBI staff. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] Why so late, and so few people?
1999 (F): A joint project run by the CIA and NSA slips into Afghanistan and places listening devices within range of al-Qaeda's tactical radios. [Washington Post, 12/19/01] If all of al-Qaeda's communications was being monitored, why was bin Laden never captured or killed and apparently no hints of the 9/11 plot revealed?
1999 (G): Secretary of State Madeleine Albright repeatedly asks about having a "boots on the ground" option to kill bin Laden, using the elite Delta Force. Joint Chiefs of Staff head Shelton says he wants "nothing to do" with such an idea. He calls it naive, and ridicules it as "going Hollywood." [Washington Post, 12/19/01] Nonetheless, plans to have Delta Force members swoop into Afghanistan and grab bin Laden are eventually drawn up, but never used. [Time, 8/4/02]
1999 (H): Diane and John Albritton later say they call the CIA and police this year several times to report suspicious activity at a neighbor's home, but authorities fail to respond. [MSNBC, 9/23/01, New York Daily News, 9/15/01] Hijacker Waleed Alshehri is renting the house on Orrin Street in Vienna, Virginia at the time (three blocks from a CIA headquarters). [AP, 9/15/01] He makes his neighbors nervous. "There were always people coming and going," said Diane Albritton. "Arabic people. Some of them never uttered a word; I don't know if they spoke English. But they looked very focused. We thought they might be dealing drugs, or illegal immigrants." [New York Times, 9/15/01] Ahmed Alghamdi lived at the same address until July 2000. [Fox News, 6/6/02, World Net Daily, 9/14/01] Waleed Alshehri lived with Ahmed Alghamdi in Florida for seven months in 1997. [Telegraph, 9/20/01] Albritton says they observed a van parked outside the home at all hours of the day and night. A Middle-Eastern man appeared to be monitoring a scanner or radio inside the van. Another neighbor says, "We thought it was a drug house. All the cars parked on the street were new BMWs, new Mercedes. People were always walking around out front with cellphones." There were frequent wild parties, numerous complaints to authorities, and even a police report about a woman shooting a gun into the air during a party. [World Net Daily, 9/14/01, note that this is a highly partisan publication] Other neighbors also called the police about the house. [AP, 9/14/01] "Critics say [the case] could have made a difference [in stopping 9/11] had it been handled differently." Standard procedures require CIA to notify FBI of such domestic information. But FBI officials have not been able to find any record that the CIA shared the information. [Fox News, 6/6/02] FBI Director Mueller has said "the hijackers did all they could to stay below our radar." [Senate Judiciary Statement, 5/8/02] Does this sound like extremely religious "sleepers" successfully blending in?
1999 (J): The London Times later claims that British intelligence secretly offers 9/11 paymaster Saeed Sheikh, imprisoned in India (see November 1994-December 1999) for kidnapping Britons and Americans (see June 1993-October 1994), an amnesty and the ability to "live in London a free man" if he will reveal his links to al-Qaeda. He apparently refuses. [Daily Mail, 7/16/02, London Times, 7/16/02] Yet after he is rescued in a hostage swap deal (see December 24-31, 1999), the press reports that he, in fact, is freely able to return to Britain. [Press Trust of India, 1/3/00] He visits his parents there in 2000 and again in early 2001. [Vanity Fair, 8/02, BBC, 7/16/02, Telegraph, 7/16/02] He is not charged with kidnapping until well after 9/11 (see November 2001-February 5, 2002). Those kidnapped by Saeed call the government's decision not to try him a "disgrace" and "scandalous." [Press Trust of India, 1/3/00] The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review later suggests that not only is Saeed closely tied to both the ISI and al-Qaeda, but may also have been working for the CIA: "There are many in Musharraf's government who believe that Saeed Sheikh's power comes not from the ISI, but from his connections with our own CIA. The theory is that ... Saeed Sheikh was bought and paid for." [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] Did or does Saeed have some kind of deal with British or US intelligence?
1999 (K): 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed "repeatedly" visits Mohamed Atta and others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [AP, 8/24/02] US and German officials say a number of sources place Mohammed at Atta's Hamburg apartment. It isn't clear when he visits or who he visits. [Los Angeles Times, 6/6/02, New York Times, 11/4/02] However, it would be logical that he at least visits Atta's housemate Ramzi bin al-Shibh, since investigators believe he is the "key contact between the pilots" and Mohammed. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/03] Mohammed is living in Germany at the time. [New York Times, 9/22/02] German intelligence surveil the apartment in 1999 but apparently don't notice Mohammed (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). US investigators have been searching for Mohammed since 1996 (see January-May 1996), but apparently never tell the Germans what they know about him. [New York Times, 11/4/02] Even after 9/11, German investigators complain that US investigators don't tell them what they know about Mohammed living in Germany until they read it in the newspapers in June 2002. [New York Times, 6/11/02]
Early 1999: State Department counterterrorism coordinator Michael Sheehan writes a memo calling for a new approach in containing bin Laden. He urges a series of actions the US could take toward Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen to persuade them to help isolate al-Qaeda. He calls Pakistan the key country and urges that terrorism be made the central issue with them. He advises the US to work will all these countries to curb money laundering. However, a former official says Sheehan's plan lands "with a resounding thud." Pakistan continues to "feign cooperation but [does] little" about its support for the Taliban. [New York Times, 10/29/01]
February 17, 1999: German intelligence is periodically tapping suspected al-Qaeda terrorist Mohammed Haydar Zammar's telephone (see March 1997 and September 21, 1999), and on this day investigators hear a caller being told Zammar is at a meeting with "Mohamed, Ramzi and Said," and could be reached at the phone number of the Marienstrasse apartment where all three of them live. This refers to Mohamed Atta, Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Said Bahaji. But apparently the German police fail to grasp its importance of these names, even though Said Bahaji is also under investigation (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). [AP, 6/22/02, New York Times, 1/18/03] Atta's last name is given as well. Agents check the phone number and confirm the street address, but it isn't known what they make of the information. [Der Spiegel, 2/3/03]
Spring 1999 (B): Randy Glass is a con artist turned government informant participating in a sting called Operation Diamondback. [Palm Beach Post, 9/29/01] He discusses an illegal weapons deal with an Egyptian American named Mohamed el Amir. In wiretapped conversations, Mohamed discusses the need to get false papers to disguise a shipment of illegal weapons. His brother, Dr. Magdy el Amir, has been a wealthy neurologist in Jersey City for the past twenty years. Two other weapons dealers later convicted in a sting operation involving Glass also lived in Jersey City, and both el Amirs admit knowing one of them, Diaa Mohsen (see June 12, 2001). Mohsen has been paid at least once by Dr. el Amir. In 1998, Congressman Ben Gilman was given a foreign intelligence report suggesting that Dr. el Amir owns an HMO that is secretly funded by bin Laden, and that money is being skimmed from the HMO to fund terrorist activities. The state of New Jersey later buys the HMO and determines that $15 million were unaccounted for and much of that has been diverted into hard-to-trace offshore bank accounts. However, investigators working with Glass are never given the report about Dr. el Amir. Both el Amirs have not been charged with any crime. Mohamed now lives in Egypt and Magdy continues to practice medicine in New Jersey. Glass's sting, which began in late 1998, will uncover many interesting leads before ending in June 2001 (see also July 14, 1999, Early August 2001 and August 2, 2002). [MSNBC, 8/2/02]
April 1999: A Saudi government audit shows that five of Saudi Arabia's billionaires have been giving tens of millions of dollars to al-Qaeda. The audit shows that these businessmen transferred money from the National Commercial Bank to accounts of Islamic charities in London and banks in New York that serve as fronts for bin Laden. $3 million was diverted from a Saudi pension fund. [USA Today, 10/29/99] $2 billion of the bank's $21 billion is also found to be missing. The only action taken is that Khalid bin Mahfouz, founder of National Commercial Bank, Saudi Arabia's biggest bank, is placed under house arrest and majority control in the bank is bought out by the Saudi government. [Ottawa Citizen, 9/29/01] The Saudi government won't allow US officials to talk to bin Mahfouz, despite asking "at a very senior level." [Washington Post, 2/17/02] By 9/11, he is in a hospital and technically no longer under house arrest. The US has not frozen the accounts of bin Mahfouz, and he continues to engage in major oil deals with US corporations (see Early December 2001 (B)). Forbes Magazine claims his family fortune is worth more than $4 billion. [Boston Herald, 10/14/01, Boston Herald, 12/10/01] Bin Mahfouz had invested in George Bush Jr.'s businesses starting in 1988 (see 1988). He is later sued for his role in funding terrorism (see August 15, 2002).
June 7, 1999: Bin Laden is added to FBI's "Ten Most Wanted" List. This is almost a year and a half after bin Laden's "declaration of war" against the US (see February 22, 1998) and about six months after the CIA's "declaration of war against al-Qaeda (see December 4, 1998). It's also three years after an internal State Department document connecting bin Laden to financing and planning numerous terrorist attacks. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02]
August 17, 1999: A group of illegal arms merchants, including an ISI agent with foreknowledge of 9/11, had met in a New York restaurant the month before (see July 14, 1999). This same group meets at this time in a West Palm Beach, Florida, warehouse, and is shown Stinger missiles as part of a sting operation. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 3/20/03] US intelligence soon discovers connections between two in the group, Rajaa Gulum Abbas and Mohammed Malik, terrorist groups in Kashmir (where the ISI assists terrorists fighting against India), and the Taliban. Mohamed Malik suggests in this meeting that the Stingers will be used in Kashmir or Afghanistan. His colleague Diaa Mohsen also says Abbas has direct connections to "dignitaries" and bin Laden. Abbas also wants heavy water for a "dirty bomb" or other material to make a nuclear weapon. He says he will bring a Pakistani nuclear scientist to the US to inspect the material. [MSNBC, 8/2/02, MSNBC, 3/18/03] Government informant Randy Glass passes these warnings on before 9/11, but he claims, "The complaints were ordered sanitized by the highest levels of government" (see also Early August 2001). [WPBF Channel 25, 8/5/02] In June 2002, the US secretly indicts Abbas (see June 2002), but apparently they aren't trying very hard to find him: In August 2002, MSNBC is easily able to contact Abbas in Pakistan and speak to him by telephone. [MSNBC, 8/2/02]
September 1999 (E): FBI agents visit the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma to investigate Ihab Ali, who attended the school in 1993 and was named as an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Kenya. [CNN, 10/16/01, Boston Globe, 9/18/01, Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] It's not known if those investigators were aware of a flight school warning given by the Oklahoma FBI in 1998 (see May 18, 1998). Hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi later visit Airman in July 2000 but ultimately decide to train in Florida instead. [Boston Globe, 9/18/01] Zacarias Moussaoui takes flight lessons at Airman in 2001 (see February 23, 2001).
September 21, 1999: German intelligence is periodically tapping suspected al-Qaeda terrorist Mohammed Haydar Zammar's telephone (see also March 1997 and February 17, 1999), and on this day investigators hear Zammar call hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. Officials initially claim that the call also mentions hijacker Mohamed Atta, but only his first name. [Telegraph, 11/24/01, New York Times, 1/18/03] But in fact, his full name, "Mohammed Atta Al Amir," is mentioned in this call and in another recorded call. [FAZ, 2/2/03] Alshehhi, living in the United Arab Emirates at the time, calls Zammar frequently. German intelligence asks the United Arab Emirates to identify the number and the caller, but the request is not answered. [Der Spiegel, 2/3/03]
October 1999 (B): The CIA readies an operation to capture or kill bin Laden, secretly training and equipping approximately 60 commandos from the ISI. Pakistan supposedly agrees to this plan in return for the lifting of economic sanctions and more economic aid. The plan is ready to go by this month, but it is aborted because on October 12, General Musharraf takes control of Pakistan in a coup (see October 12, 1999). Musharraf refuses to continue the operation despite the promise of substantial rewards. [Washington Post, 10/3/01] Some US officials later say the CIA was tricked, because the ISI just feigned to cooperate as a stalling tactic, and never intended to get bin Laden. [New York Times, 10/29/01]
November 1999: Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar enter the US and begin living in San Diego [Washington Post, 9/30/01, San Diego Channel 10, 10/5/01, Newsweek, 6/2/02] (some reports have them in the US even earlier [Wall Street Journal, 9/17/01, Las Vegas Review Journal, 10/26/01]). Alhazmi's name is on an apartment lease beginning in November 1999. [Washington Post, 10/01] However, FBI Director Mueller has stated the two first arrived on January 15, 2000 after an important meeting in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000), and many news reports concur. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/27/02] It has been reported however, that shortly before 9/11 the CIA determined the two were in Los Angeles around Jan 1, 2000, before the meeting. [AP, 9/21/02 (B)] In early 1999, the NSA intercepted communications mentioning the name Nawaf Alhazmi. [AP, 9/25/02] The NSA Director later states that by the time of the Malaysia meeting, the hijackers Nawaf, his brother Salem and Almihdhar were all to al-Qaeda, "in our sights," known to be associated with al-Qaeda "and we shared this information with the (intelligence) community." [Copley News, 10/17/02, NSA Director Congressional Testimony, 10/17/02] Shouldn't all three have been put on a terrorist watch list even before two of them first arrived in the US in November 1999?
November 14, 1999: United Nations sanctions against Afghanistan take effect. The sanctions freeze Taliban assets and impose an air embargo on Ariana airlines in an effort to force the Taliban to hand over bin Laden. [BBC, 2/6/00] However, Ariana keeps its illegal trade network flying (see Mid-1996-October 2001), and is grounded in early 2001 only when additional sanctions against Ariana take effect (see January 19, 2001).
December 1999 (B): A Yemeni safe house telephone monitored by the FBI and CIA (see Late 1998), reveals that there will be an important al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia in January 2000, and that hijacker Khalid Almihdhar and an associate named Nawaf (hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi) will attend. [Newsweek, 6/2/02, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] During the next month, the CIA learns that Nawaf's last name is Alhazmi. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02, New York Times, 9/21/02] On Almihdhar's way to Malaysia the CIA learns he has a multiple-entry visa for the US good until April 6, 2000 (apparently Alhazmi gets the same type of visa at the same time, but US intelligence does not learn this until later [Copley News, 10/17/02]). [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02, New York Times, 9/21/02] Through the safe house connection the CIA knows Almihdhar is tied to al-Qaeda, and they know he can enter and leave the US at will, but they don't attempt to find him. Had they tried, they would have learned he was already living in the US (see November 1999).
December 14, 1999: Al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Ressam is arrested in Port Angeles, Washington, attempting to enter the US with components of explosive devices. 130 pounds of bomb-making chemicals and detonator components are found inside his rental car. He subsequently admits he planned to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on December 31, 1999. [New York Times, 12/30/01] This would have been part of a wave of attacks against US targets over the New Year's weekend. He is later connected to al-Qaeda and convicted, but he still hasn't been formally sentenced. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, PBS Frontline 10/3/02]
December 14-31, 1999: In the wake of the arrest of Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999), FBI investigators work frantically to uncover more millennium plots before they are likely to take place at the end of the year. Documents found with Ressam lead to coconspirators in New York, then Boston and Seattle. Enough people are arrested to prevent any attacks. National Security Council Chief of Counterterrorism Richard Clarke later says, "I think a lot of the FBI leadership for the first time realized that ... there probably were al-Qaeda people in the United States. They realized that only after they looked at the results of the investigation of the millennium bombing plot." [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02] Yet Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger says, "Until the very end of our time in office, the view we received from the [FBI] was that al-Qaeda had limited capacity to operate in the US and any presence here was under surveillance." No analysis is done before 9/11 to investigate just how big that presence might be. [Washington Post, 9/20/02]
December 31, 1999-January 1, 2000: The CIA expected five to 15 attacks against American targets around the world over the New Year's weekend, but none occur. [Time, 8/4/02] Since late 1999, there was intelligence that targets in Washington and New York would be attacked at this time. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] It's not clear who they warned or when, but if US intelligence thought terrorists were capable of so many simultaneous attacks then why (as was claimed after 9/11) have only a total of 14 fighters been at a state of highest readiness to defend the entire US since 1997?
2000: The BKA, the German counterpart to the FBI, prepares an extensive report on al-Qaeda's connections in Germany. The BKA warns that "unknown structures" are preparing to stage attacks abroad. However, the German federal prosecutor's office rejects a proposed follow-up investigation. One of the persons named in the BKA report supposedly had contacts with the Hamburg terror group, containing hijackers Atta, Alshehhi and others. [Berliner Zeitung, 9/24/01]
January-May 2000: 9/11 hijacker Atta is put under surveillance by the CIA while living in Germany. [AFP, 9/22/01, Focus, 9/24/01, Berliner Zeitung, 9/24/01] He is "reportedly observed buying large quantities of chemicals in Frankfurt, apparently for the production of explosives [and/or] for biological warfare. The US agents reported to have trailed Atta are said to have failed to inform the German authorities about their investigation," even as the Germans are investigating many of his associates (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). "The disclosure that Atta was being trailed by police long before 11 September raises the question why the attacks could not have been prevented with the man's arrest." [Observer, 9/30/01] A German newspaper adds that Atta was still able to get a visa into the US on May 18. The surveillance stopped when he left for the US at the start of June (see June 3, 2000). But "experts believe that the suspect remained under surveillance in the United States." [Berliner Zeitung, 9/24/01] A German intelligence official also states, "We can no longer exclude the possibility that the Americans wanted to keep an eye on Atta after his entry in the USA." [Focus, 9/24/01] This correlates with a Newsweek claim that US officials knew Atta was a "known [associate] of Islamic terrorists well before [9/11]." [Newsweek, 9/20/01] However, a Congressional inquiry later reports that the US "intelligence community possessed no intelligence or law enforcement information linking 16 of the 19 hijackers [including Atta] to terrorism or terrorist groups." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] Did the fact that the CIA started monitoring Atta in January 2000 have any connection to roommate Ramzi bin al-Shibh's participation in an al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia, that the CIA had ordered surveilled that same month (see January 5-8, 2000)?
January 3, 2000: An al-Qaeda attack on USS The Sullivans in Yemen's Aden harbor fails when their boat filled with explosives sinks. The attack remains undiscovered, and a duplication of the attack by the same people later successfully hits the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000). [PBS Frontline 10/3/02]
5-8, 2000: About a dozen of bin Laden's trusted
followers hold a secret, "top-level al-Qaeda summit" in the city of
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. [CNN,
Diego Union-Tribune, 9/27/02] Plans for the October 2000 bombing of the
USS Cole (see October 12, 2000)
and the 9/11 attacks are discussed. [USA
Today, 2/12/02, CNN,
8/30/02] At the request of the CIA, the Malaysian secret service follows,
photographs, and even videotapes these men, and then passes the information
on to the US. However, the meeting is not wiretapped. [Newsweek,
6/2/02, Ottawa Citizen, 9/17/01,
Yorker, 1/14/02] Attendees of the meeting include:
1 and 2) Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. The CIA and FBI will later miss many opportunities to foil the 9/11 plot through these two hijackers and the knowledge of their presence at this meeting.
3) Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a top al-Qaeda leader and the alleged "mastermind" of the 9/11 attacks. [Independent, 6/6/02, CNN, 8/30/02] The US had known Mohammed was a major terrorist since the exposure of Operation Bojinka in 1995 (see January 6, 1995 and January-May 1996), and knew what he looked like, as can be seen from a 1998 wanted poster (see Mid-1996-September 11, 2001). US officials have stated that they only realized the meeting was important in the summer of 2001, but the presence of Mohammed should have proved the meeting's importance. [Los Angeles Times, 2/2/02]
4) An Indonesian terrorist known as Hambali. He was the main financier of Operation Bojinka. [CNN, 8/30/02, CNN, 3/14/02] Philippine intelligence officials learned of Hambali's importance in 1995, but didn't track him down or share information about him. [CNN, 3/14/02]
5) Yazid Sufaat, a Malaysian man who owned the condominium where the meeting was held. [Newsweek, 6/2/02, Newsweek, 6/2/02] A possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through Sufaat's presence at this meeting is later missed (see September-October 2000).
6) Fahad al-Quso, a top al-Qaeda operative. [Newsweek, 9/20/01] A possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through al-Quso's presence at this meeting is later missed (see Early December 2000).
7) Tawifiq bin Atash, better known by his alias "Khallad." Bin Atash, a "trusted member of bin Ladens inner circle," was in charge of bin Laden's bodyguards, and served as bin Laden's personal intermediary at least for the USS Cole attack. [Newsweek, 9/20/01] A possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through bin Atash's presence at this meeting is later missed (see January 4, 2001).
8) Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who investigators believe was supposed to be the 20th hijacker, except he couldn't get a US visa. His presence at the meeting may not have been realized until after 9/11, despite a picture of him next to bin Atash, and even video footage of him. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02, Time, 9/15/02 Die Zeit, 10/1/02, Newsweek, 11/26/01] One account says he was recognized at the time of the meeting, which makes it hard to understand why he wasn't tracked back to Germany. [Der Spiegel, 10/1/02] Another possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through bin al-Shibh's presence at this meeting is later missed (see June 10, 2000). It appears bin al-Shibh and Almihdhar were directly involved in the attack on the USS Cole [Newsweek, 9/4/02, Washington Post, 7/14/02, Guardian, 10/15/01], so better surveillance or follow-up from this meeting should have prevented that attack as well.
9 and more?) Unnamed members of the Egyptian based Islamic Jihad were also known to have been at the meeting. [Cox News, 10/21/01] Islamic Jihad had merged with al-Qaeda in February 1998. [ABC News, 11/17/01]
January 15, 2000: Shortly after the al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia, hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar fly from Bangkok, Thailand, to Los Angeles, California. [MSNBC, 12/11/01] The CIA tracks Alhazmi, but apparently doesn't realize Almihdhar is also on the plane. The US keeps a watch list database known as TIPOFF, with over 80,000 names of suspected terrorists as of late 2002. [Los Angeles Times, 9/22/02] The list is checked whenever someone enters or leaves the US. "The threshold for adding a name to TIPOFF is low," and even a "reasonable suspicion" that a person is connected with a terrorist group, warrants being added to the database. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] Almihdhar and Alhazmi are important enough to have been mentioned to the CIA Director several times this month, but are not added to the watch list. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] Furthermore, "astonishingly, the CIA ... [didn't] notify the FBI, which could have covertly tracked them to find out their mission." [Newsweek, 6/2/02]
January 15-August 2000: Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar return to their apartment in San Diego, and live there openly. Hijacker Hani Hanjour joins them as a roommate in February 2000. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/21/01, San Diego Channel 10, 9/18/01] They use their real names on their rental agreement, [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] driver's licenses, Social Security cards and credit cards, [Newsweek, 6/2/02] car purchase, and bank account. Alhazmi is even listed in the 2000-2001 San Diego phone book. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/01, Newsweek, 6/2/02] Neighbors notice odd behavior: they have no furniture, they are constantly using cell phones on the balcony, constantly playing flight simulator games, keep to themselves, and strange cars and limousines pick them up for short rides in the middle of the night. [Washington Post, 9/30/01, Time, 9/24/01] Who were they meeting in these late night car rides, and for what purpose?
March 2000: An FBI agent, reportedly angry over a glitch in an e-mail tracking program that has somehow mixed innocent non-targeted e-mails with those belonging to al-Qaeda, supposedly accidentally destroys all of the FBI's Denver-based intercepts of bin Laden's colleagues in a terrorist investigation. The tracking program is called Carnivore. But the story sounds dubious, and is flatly contradicted in the same article: "A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday night that the e-mails were not destroyed." [AP, 5/28/02] FTW
March 5, 2000: An unnamed nation tells the CIA that hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi had flown from the January meeting in Malaysia to Los Angeles (see January 5-8, 2000). [New York Times, 10/17/02] This confirms what the CIA already knows. [CNN, 3/02] The CIA also learns that hijacker Khalid Almihdhar arrived in the US on the same flight. [Michael Rolince Testimony, 9/20/02] Yet again, CIA fails to put their names on a watch list, and fails to alert the FBI so they can be tracked. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] CIA Director Tenet later claims that "Nobody read that cable in the March timeframe." [New York Times, 10/17/02] Yet the Congressional inquiry report states that the day after the cable was received, "another overseas CIA station noted, in a cable to the bin Laden unit at CIA headquarters, that it had 'read with interest' the March cable, 'particularly the information that a member of this group traveled to the US...'" [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02]
March 21, 2000: FBI agent Robert Wright (see also October 1998 and June 9, 2001), having been accused of tarnishing the reputation of fellow agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz, makes a formal internal complaint about Abdel-Hafiz. FBI agent Barry Carmody seconds Wright's complaint. Wright and Carmody accuse Abdel-Hafiz, a Muslim, of hindering investigations by openly refusing to record other Muslims. The FBI was investigating if BMI Inc., a New Jersey based company with connections to Saudi financier Yassin al-Qadi (see October 12, 2002), had helped fund the 1998 US embassy bombings. [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/02, ABC News, 12/19/02] Federal prosecutor Mark Flessner and other FBI agents back up the allegations against Abdel-Hafiz. [ABC News, 12/19/02] Carmody also claims that Abdel-Hafiz hurt an inquiry into the possible terrorist ties of fired University of South Florida Professor Sami Al-Arian by refusing to record a conversation with the professor in 1998. [Tampa Tribune, 3/4/03] Complaints to superiors and headquarters about this never get a response. [Fox News, 3/6/03] Furthermore, "Far from being reprimanded, Abdel-Hafiz [is] promoted to one of the FBI's most important anti-terrorism posts, the American Embassy in Saudi Arabia, to handle investigations for the FBI in that Muslim country." [ABC News, 12/19/02] Abdel-Hafiz is finally suspended in February 2003 after his scandal is widely reported in the press. [Tampa Tribune, 3/4/03] Bill O'Reilly of Fox News claims that on March 4, 2003, the FBI threatens to fire Wright if he speaks publicly about this, one hour before Wright is scheduled to appear on Fox News. [Fox News, 3/4/03] Is Abdel-Hafiz promoted to a sensitive Saudi post because he won't ask hard questions there?
Spring 2000: German investigators finally agree to the CIA's idea of recruiting businessman Mamoun Darkazanli as an informer (see December 1999 and September 24, 2001). An agent of the LFV, the Hamburg state intelligence agency, casually approaches Darkazanli and asks him whether he is interested in becoming a spy. Darkazanli replies that he is just a businessman who knows nothing about al-Qaeda or terrorism. The Germans inform the local CIA representative that the approach failed. The CIA agent refuses to admit defeat. But when German agents ask for more information to show Darkazanli they know of his terrorist ties, the CIA fails to give any information. As it happened, at the end of January 2000, Darkazanli had just met with terrorist Barakat Yarkas in Madrid, Spain. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/02] Darkazanli is a long-time friend and business partner of Yarkas, the most prominent al-Qaeda agent in Spain. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/03] The meeting included other suspected al-Qaeda figures, and was monitored by Spanish police. If the CIA was aware of the Madrid meeting, they don't tell the Germans. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/02] The CIA had also begun surveillance of Atta in January 2000, but they keep all knowledge of that investigation secret from the Germans (see January-May 2000). A second LFV attempt to recruit Darkazanli also fails. The CIA then attempts to work with federal German intelligence officials in Berlin to "turn" Darkazanli. Results of that effort aren't known. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/02]
Spring 2000 (C): Sources who know bin Laden later claim that bin Laden's mother has a second meeting with her son Osama in Afghanistan (see Spring 1998). The trip is approved by the Saudi royal family. The Saudis pass the message to him that "'they wouldn't crack down on his followers in Saudi Arabia' as long as he set his sights on targets outside the desert kingdom." In late 1999, the Saudi government had told the CIA about the upcoming trip, and suggested placing a homing beacon on her luggage. This doesn't happen - Saudis later claim they weren't taken seriously, and Americans claim they never received specific information on her travel plans. [New Yorker, 11/5/01, Washington Post, 12/19/01]
Spring 2000 (D): Hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, while living in San Diego, contacts a "terrorist facility" in the Middle East that is under US surveillance (see January 15-August 2000). Intelligence agencies are aware of the call but don't understand its significance. [Los Angeles Times, 12/12/02, St. Petersburg Times, 12/12/02] Apparently his location is not known from the call, and some but not all of the information about the call is reported to other intelligence agencies. The name of the terrorist facility or organization has not been released. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 12/11/01] Could it be the safe house in Yemen that Almihdhar may have already called a few months earlier (see December 1999 (B))?
April 4, 2000: ISI Director and "leading Taliban supporter" Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed visits Washington. In a message meant for both Pakistan and the Taliban, US officials tell him that al-Qaeda has killed Americans and "people who support those people will be treated as our enemies." However, no actual action, military or otherwise, is taken against either the Taliban or Pakistan. [Washington Post, 12/19/01]
Late April-Mid-May 2000:
Atta reportedly has a very strange meeting with Johnelle Bryant of the US Department
of Agriculture (incidentally, one month before the official story claims he
arrived in the US for the first time). According to Bryant, in the meeting Atta
does all of the following:
1) He initially refuses to speak with one who is "but a female."
2) He asks her for a loan of $650,000 to buy and modify a crop-dusting plane.
3) He mentions that he wants to "build a chemical tank that would fit inside the aircraft and take up every available square inch of the aircraft except for where the pilot would be sitting."
4) He uses his real name even as she takes notes, and makes sure she spells it correctly.
5) He says he has just arrived from Afghanistan.
6) He tells about his travel plans to Spain and Germany.
7) He expresses an interest in visiting New York.
8) He asks her about security at the WTC and other US landmarks.
9) He discusses al-Qaeda and its need for American membership.
10) He tells her bin Laden "would someday be known as the world's greatest leader."
11) He asks to buy the aerial photograph of Washington hanging on her Florida office wall, throwing increasingly large "wads of cash" at her when she refuses to sell it. [ABC News, 6/6/02]
12) After Bryant points out one of the buildings in the Washington photograph as her former place of employment, he asks her, "How would you like it if somebody flew an airplane into your friends' building?" [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/14/02, p. 270]
13) He asks her, "What would prevent [me] from going behind [your] desk and cutting [your] throat and making off with the millions of dollars" in the safe behind her.
14) He asks, "How would America like it if another country destroyed [Washington] and some of the monuments in it like the cities in [my] country had been destroyed?" (Atta supposedly comes from Egypt - what cities have been destroyed there in recent decades?)
15) He gets "very agitated" when he isn't given the money in cash on the spot.
Atta later tries to get the loan again from the same woman, this time "slightly disguised" by wearing glasses. Three other terrorists also attempt to get the same loan from Bryant, but all of them fail. Bryant turns them down because they don't meet the loan requirements, and fails to notify anyone about these strange encounters until after 9/11. Government officials not only confirm the account and say that Bryant passed a lie detector test, but elaborate that the account jibes with other information they have received from interrogating prisoners. Supposedly, failing to get the loan, the terrorists switched plans from using crop dusters to hijacking aircraft. [ABC News, 6/6/02, London Times, 6/8/02] Compare Atta's meeting with FBI Director Mueller's later testimony about the hijackers: "There were no slip-ups. Discipline never broke down. They gave no hint to those around them what they were about." [CNN, 9/28/02] Why would the terrorists have been depending on such a loan in the first place instead of just spending some of bin Laden's millions to buy the plane? Were the terrorists comically inept, and the US just as inept for not catching them, or is the story government propaganda? Could Atta (or someone impersonating him) have been trying to make himself conspicuous as part of a trail of false evidence? Why didn't Bryant report someone who threatened her with violence, and threatened terrorist acts?
May 2000: The CIA and FBI sends a joint investigative team to Sudan to investigate if that country is a sponsor of terrorism. It determines that it is not, but the US doesn't take Sudan off its official list of terrorist states. Sudan offers again (see 1995 and April 1996) to hand over their voluminous files on al-Qaeda, and the offer is again turned down. [Guardian, 9/30/01]
May 22, 2000: In March 2000, Germany's internal intelligence service places Mounir El Motassadeq and Said Bahaji on a border patrol watch list. The two are members of al-Qaeda's Hamburg cell with Mohamed Atta and others. Their international arrivals and departures are to be reported immediately. On this day, Motassadeq flies to Istanbul, Turkey, and from there goes to an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the border patrol only notes his destination of Istanbul. Bahaji doesn't travel, and when he finally does shortly before 9/11, it isn't noted (see September 3-5, 2001). [Der Spiegel, 2/3/03]
May 30, 2000-September 11, 2001: Nabil al-Marabh, an apparent al-Qaeda sleeper agent (see 1989-May 2000), stabs his Detroit roommate in the knee during an argument on May 30, 2000. He pleads guilty in December 2000 to assault and battery with a dangerous weapon. [Boston Herald, 9/20/01] He is given a six-month suspended sentence. But he fails to show up for probation and his deportation order is not carried out. An arrest warrant is issued for him in March 2001. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/01, Ottawa Citizen, 10/29/01] He lives in Detroit with an al-Qaeda agent named Yousef Hmimssa (see September 17, 2001 (D)). [Boston Herald, 9/20/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] He receives five driver's licenses in Michigan over a period of 13 months in addition to carrying driver's licenses for Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida and Ontario, Canada. [Toronto Star, 10/26/01] On September 11, 2000, he obtains a Michigan license permitting him to drive semi-trucks containing hazardous materials, including explosives and caustic materials. He is still unsuccessfully trying to find a tractor-trailer driving job one month before 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] In early 2001 he mostly lives in Toronto, Canada, with Hassan Almrei, a man running some al-Qaeda front businesses. [ABC 7, 1/31/02] Many witnesses see al-Marabh with two 9/11 hijackers at his uncle's Toronto photocopy store (see 2001 (C)). On June 27, 2001, al-Marabh is arrested while trying to enter the US from Canada in the back of a tractor-trailer, carrying a false Canadian passport and citizenship card. [St. Catherines Standard, 9/28/01, St. Catherines Standard, 10/2/01] He had been illegally crossing the US-Canadian border for years. [Ottawa Citizen, 10/29/01] Despite suspicions that he is connected to al-Qaeda, the US immediately deports him to Canada. [New York Times, 7/13/02] He spends two weeks in a Canadian prison, where he boasts to other prisoners that he is in contact with the FBI. He is ordered to live with his uncle in Toronto. These prisoners are puzzled that the FBI doesn't try to interview them about al-Marabh after 9/11. But al-Marabh fails to show up for a deportation hearing in August and a court date in September. [St. Catherines Standard, 10/2/01] "Had Canadian security agents investigated Mr. al-Marabh when they had the chance back in June, when he was jailed by immigration authorities, they may have discovered any number of his worldwide links to convicted and suspected terrorists, including two of the [9/11 hijackers]." [Ottawa Citizen, 10/29/01] Despite all of these al-Qaeda connections and more, the US later decides al-Marabh is not a terrorist (see September 19, 2001-September 3, 2002).
June 2000: Atta and other hijackers begin to open bank accounts in Florida. At least 35 accounts are opened, 14 of them at SunTrust Bank. All are opened with fake social security numbers (some with randomly made up numbers), yet none of the accounts are checked or questioned by the banks. [New York Times, 7/10/02] One transfer from the United Arab Emirates three months later totaling $69,985 prompts the bank to make a "suspicious transaction report" to the US Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. This is not followed up (see also June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000). [Financial Times, 11/29/01]
June 10, 2000: Hijacker Khalid Almihdhar flies from San Diego to Frankfurt, Germany. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] Authorities later believe that Almihdhar visits Ramzi bin al-Shibh and bin al-Shibh's roommate Atta and other al-Qaeda members in bin al-Shibh's terrorist cell. But since the CIA fails to notify Germany about their suspicions of either Almihdhar or bin al-Shibh, both of whom were seen attending the al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000), German police fail to surveil them and a chance to uncover the 9/11 plot is missed. [Die Zeit, 10/1/02] Note that FBI Director Mueller and the Congressional inquiry into 9/11 claim that Almihdhar doesn't return to the US for over a year, despite obvious evidence to the contrary, even the claims of a landlord who lived with him for six weeks (see September-December 2000) [Wall Street Journal, 9/17/01], presumably because there are no INS records of his reentry. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02, [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02]
August-September 2000: An unmanned spy plane called the Predator begins flying over Afghanistan, showing incomparably detailed real-time video and photographs of the movements of what appears to be bin Laden and his aides. Clinton is impressed by a two-minute video of bin Laden crossing a street heading toward a mosque. Bin Laden is surrounded by a team of a dozen armed men creating a professional forward security perimeter as he moves. The Predator had been used since 1996 in the Balkans, but its use is stopped in Afghanistan after a few trials when a Predator crashes. The White House presses ahead with a program to arm the Predator with a missile, but the effort is slowed by bureaucratic infighting between the Pentagon and the CIA over who would pay for the craft and who would have ultimate authority over its use. Officials say the dispute is not resolved until after 9/11. [New York Times, 12/30/01, Washington Post, 12/19/01] However, it is later reported that by May 2001, the Predator "proved ... that it could find and kill individuals." [Washington Post, 3/13/03] On September 15, 2001, CIA Director Tenet tells Bush, "The unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft that was now armed with Hellfire missiles had been operating for more than a year out of Uzbekistan to provide real-time video of Afghanistan." [Washington Post, 1/29/02] So someone is lying or mistaken about when the Predator was used and when it was armed.
August 12, 2000: Italian intelligence successfully wiretap the al-Qaeda terrorist cell in Milan, Italy from late 1999 until summer 2001. [Boston Globe, 8/4/02] In a wiretapped conversation from this day, suspected Yemeni terrorist Abdulsalam Ali Abdulrahman tells wanted Egyptian terrorist Es Sayed about a massive strike against the enemies of Islam involving aircraft and the sky, a blow that "will be written about in all the newspapers of the world. This will be one of those strikes that will never be forgotten.... This is a terrifying thing. This is a thing that will spread from south to north, from east to west: The person who came up with this program is a madman from a madhouse, a madman but a genius." In another conversation, Abdulrahman tells Es Sayed: "I'm studying airplanes. I hope, God willing, that I can bring you a window or a piece of an airplane the next time we see each other." The comment is followed by laughter. Beginning in October 2000, FBI experts helped Italian police analyze the intercepts and warnings. Neither Italy nor the FBI understands their meaning until after 9/11, but apparently Italians understand enough to give the US an attack warning in March 2001 (see March 2001 (B)). [Los Angeles Times, 5/29/02, Guardian, 5/30/02, Washington Post, 5/31/02] FTW The Milan cell "is believed to have created a cottage industry in supplying false passports and other bogus documents." [Boston Globe, 8/4/02] If the hijackers were using false identities (see also January 24, 2001), could Abdulrahman, current whereabouts unknown, actually have been one of the 9/11 hijackers?
September-October 2000: Zacarias Moussaoui visits Malaysia twice, and stays at the very same condominium where the January al-Qaeda meeting was held (see January 5-8, 2000). [CNN, 8/30/02, Los Angeles Times, 2/2/02, Washington Post, 2/3/02] After that meeting, Malaysian intelligence keeps watch on the condominium at the request of the CIA. But the CIA stops the surveillance before Moussaoui arrives, spoiling a chance to expose the 9/11 plot by monitoring Moussaoui's later travels. The Malaysians later say they were surprised by the CIA's lack of interest. "We couldn't fathom it, really," Rais Yatim, Malaysia’s Legal Affairs minister, told Newsweek. "There was no show of concern." [Newsweek, 6/2/02] While Moussaoui is in Malaysia, Yazid Sufaat, the owner of the condominium, signs letters falsely identifying Moussaoui as a representative of his wife's company. [Reuters, 9/20/02, Washington Post, 2/3/02] When Moussaoui is later arrested in the US about one month before the 9/11 attacks, this letter in his possession could have led investigators back to the condominium and the connections with the January 2000 meeting attended by two of the hijackers (see January 5-8, 2000). [USA Today, 1/30/02] Moussaoui's belongings also contained phone numbers that could have linked him to Ramzi bin al-Shibh (and his roommate Atta), another participant in the Malaysian meeting. [Associated Press, 12/12/01] But the papers aren't examined until after the 9/11 attack (see September 11, 2001).
September-December 2000: Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar move to the house of Abdussattar Shaikh in San Diego. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/16/01] Almihdhar leaves at the beginning of October to go overseas; Alhazmi stays till December. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/01, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/16/01] Shaikh, a local Muslim leader, is later revealed to be a "tested" undercover "asset" working with the local FBI. Supposedly, he never told the FBI the hijackers' names. But the FBI concedes that a San Diego case agent appears to have been at least aware that Saudi visitors were renting rooms in the informants house, and on one occasion the case agent called the informant and was told he couldn't talk because "Khalid" was in the room. Newsweek says the connection between these two and the informant "has stunned some top counterterrorism officials." [Newsweek, 9/9/02] Neighbors claim that Atta is a frequent visitor, and Hani Hanjour visits as well. [Chicago Tribune, 9/30/01, AP, 9/29/01, Las Vegas Review Journal, 10/26/01, San Diego Channel 10, 9/27/01, San Diego Channel 10, 10/11/01] But Shaikh denies Atta's visits, the FBI never mentions them, and the media appears to have forgotten about them. [AP, 9/29/01] Echoing reports from their first apartment (see January 15-August 2000), neighbors witness strange late night visits with Alhazmi and Almihdhar. [AP, 9/16/01] For instance, one neighbor says, "There was always a series of cars driving up to the house late at night. Sometimes they were nice cars. Sometimes they had darkened windows. They'd stay about 10 minutes." [Time, 9/24/01]
October 12, 2000: The USS Cole is bombed in the Aden, Yemen harbor by al-Qaeda terrorists. 17 US soldiers are killed. [ABC News, 10/13/00] The Prime Minister of Yemen at the time later claims that hijacker "Khalid Almihdhar was one of the Cole perpetrators, involved in preparations. He was in Yemen at the time and stayed after the Cole bombing for a while, then he left." [Guardian, 10/15/01] John O'Neill and his team of 200 hundred FBI investigators enter Yemen two days later, but are unable to accomplish much due to restrictions placed on them, and tensions with US Ambassador Barbara Bodine. All but about 50 investigators are forced to leave by the end of October. Even though O'Neill's boss visits and finds that Bodine is O'Neill's "only detractor," O'Neill and much of his team is forced to leave in November, and the investigation stalls without his personal relationships to top Yemeni officials. [New Yorker, 1/14/02, Sunday Times, 2/3/02, The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/14/02, p. 237] Increased security threats forces the reduced FBI team still in Yemen to withdraw altogether in June 2001. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02] The Sunday Times later notes, "The failure in Yemen may have blocked off lines of investigation that could have led directly to the terrorists preparing for September 11." [Sunday Times, 2/3/02]
After October 12, 2000: Officials later claim that a secret attempt to kill bin Laden takes place during this month, but is unsuccessful. [New York Times, 12/30/01]
December 2000-April 2001: According to later German reports, "a whole horde of Israeli counter-terror investigators, posing as students, [follow] the trails of Arab terrorists and their cells in the United States ... In the town of Hollywood, Florida, they [identify] ... Atta and Marwan Alshehhi as possible terrorists. Agents [live] in the vicinity of the apartment of the two seemingly normal flight school students, observing them around the clock." Supposedly, around April, the Israeli agents are discovered and deported, terminating the investigation. [Der Spiegel, 10/1/02] However, 80 additional agents are apprehended between June and December 2001 [Fox News, 12/12/01] and even more have been uncovered since (see May 7, 2002). Did the surveillance of Atta and others in fact end in April? Other reports have implied the story and connection (see March 5, 2002). Supposedly, the Mossad waits until late August 2001 before informing the CIA what it learns, and the CIA doesn't take the warning seriously (see August 23, 2001).
Early December 2000: Terrorist Fahad al-Quso is arrested by the government of Yemen. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02, PBS Frontline, 10/3/02] In addition to being involved in the USS Cole bombing, al-Quso was at the January 2000 Malaysian meeting with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (see January 5-8, 2000). FBI head investigator John O'Neill feels al-Quso is holding back important information and wants him interrogated. But O'Neill had been kicked out of Yemen by his superiors a week or two before, and without his influential presence the Yemeni government won't allow an interrogation. Al-Quso is finally interrogated days after 9/11, and admits to meeting with Alhazmi and Almihdhar in January 2000. One investigator calls the missed opportunity of exposing the 9/11 plot through al-Quso's connections "mind-boggling." [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02] There are pictures from the Malaysian meeting of al-Quso next to hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, but the CIA doesn't share the pictures with the FBI. [Newsweek, 9/20/01]
December 20, 2000: Counter-terrorism expert Richard Clarke submits a plan to "roll back" al-Qaeda in response to the USS Cole bombing. The main component is a dramatic increase in covert action in Afghanistan to "eliminate the sanctuary" for bin Laden there. However, since there are only a few weeks left before the Bush administration takes over, it is decided to defer the decision to the new administration. However, one month later, the plan is rejected and no action is taken (see January 25, 2001). Russia's President Putin later claims he "tried to egg on the previous Clinton administration - without success - to act militarily against the whole Taliban regime: 'Washington's reaction at the time really amazed me. They shrugged their shoulders and said matter-of-factly: "We can't do anything because the Taliban does not want to turn him over."'" [Guardian, 9/22/01]
December 26, 2000: Hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, while still learning to fly in Florida, stall a small plane on a Miami International Airport runway. Unable to start the plane, they simply walk away. Flight controllers have to guide the waiting passenger airliners around the stalled aircraft until it is towed away 35 minutes later. They weren't supposed to be using that airport in the first place. The FAA threatens to investigate the two students and the flight school they are attending. The flight school sends records to the FAA, but no more is heard of the investigation. [New York Times, 10/17/01] "Students do stupid things during their flight course, but this is quite stupid," says the owner of the flight school. Nothing was wrong with the plane. [CNN, 10/17/01] Why did the investigation stop? Did the two ditch the plane intentionally to later lead investigators on a false trail?
2001: At some point during the year, Julie Sirrs, a Defense Intelligence Agency agent, travels twice to Afghanistan. She claims DIA officials knew in advance about both trips. Sirrs sees a terrorist training center, and meets with Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, who is later assassinated by the Taliban (see September 9, 2001). On her second trip she returns with what she later claims is a treasure trove of information, including evidence that bin Laden is planning to assassinate Massoud. However, upon returning, a security officer meets her flight and confiscates her material. The DIA and the FBI investigate her. She says no higher-ups want to hear what she had learned in Afghanistan. Ultimately, Sirrs' security clearance is pulled. She eventually quits the DIA in frustration. [ABC News, 2/18/02] She claims that the US intelligence on bin Laden and the Taliban relied too heavily on the ISI for its information. [ABC News, 2/18/02 (B)]
2001 (B): The US (known) yearly counter-terrorism
budget planned for 2001 is $12.8 billion, compared to $2 billion ten years earlier.
January 2001: An Arizona flight school alerts the FAA that hijacker Hani Hanjour lacks the English and flying skills necessary for the commercial pilot's license he has. The flight school manager: "I couldn't believe he had a commercial license of any kind with the skills that he had." An FAA official actually sits next to Hanjour in class to observe his skills. This official offers a translator to help Hanjour pass, but the flight school points out that "that went against the rules that require a pilot to be able to write and speak English fluently before they even get their license." [AP, 5/10/02] FAA "records show [Hanjour] obtained a commercial pilot's license in April 1999, but how and where he did so remains a lingering question that FAA officials refuse to discuss." [Cape Cod Times, 10/21/01] Did Hanjour get his original license illegally?
January-June 2001: 11 of the 9/11 hijackers stay in or pass through Britain, according to the British Home Secretary and top investigators. Most come between April and June, just passing through from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. But investigators suspect some stay in Britain for training and fundraising (see June 2001 (H)). Not all 11 names are given, but one can deduce from the press accounts that Ahmed Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, and Saeed Alghamdi were definitely in Britain. Ahmed Alghamdi was one of several that should have been "instantly 'red-flagged' by British intelligence," because of his links to Raed Hijazi, a suspected ally of bin Laden being held in Jordan on charges of conspiring to destroy holy sites (see Spring 2001 (B)). Two of the following three also were in Britain: Wail Alshehri, Fayez Banihammad, and Abdulaziz Alomari. All or almost all appear to be the "muscle" (see April 23-June 29, 2001) and specific leaders like Atta and Alshehhi are ruled out as having passed through. [London Times, 9/26/01, Washington Post, 9/27/01, BBC, 9/28/01, Sunday Herald, 9/30/01] However, police are investigating if Mohamed Atta visited Britain in 1999 and 2000 together with some Algerians. [Telegraph, 9/30/01] The London Times also writes, "Officials hope that the inquiries in Britain will disclose the true identities of the suicide team. Some are known to have arrived in Britain using false passports and fake identities that they kept for the hijack." This contradicts assertions by FBI Director Mueller that all the hijackers used their own, real names (see September 16-23, 2001).
January 4, 2001: The FBI's investigation into the USS Cole bombing learns that terrorist Khallad bin Atash had been a principal planner of the bombing [AP, 9/21/02], and that two other participants in the bombing had delivered money to bin Atash at the time of the January 2000 meeting in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000). The FBI shares this information with the CIA, and when CIA analysts reexamine pictures from the Malaysian meeting to learn more about this, they find a picture of him standing next to hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02, Newsweek, 6/2/02] The CIA is aware that Almihdhar entered the US a year earlier, yet they don't attempt to find him. CNN later notes that at this point the CIA at least "could have put Alhazmi and Almihdhar and all others who attended the meeting in Malaysia on a watch list to be kept out of this country. It was not done." [CNN, 6/4/02] More incredibly, even bin Atash is not placed on the watch list at this time, despite being labeled as the principal planner of the Cole bombing. [Los Angeles Times, 9/22/02]
January 10, 2001: "INS documents, matched against an FBI alert given to German police, show two men named Mohamed Atta [arrive] in Miami on Jan. 10, each offering different destination addresses to INS agents, one in Nokomis, near Venice, the other at a Coral Springs condo. He was admitted, despite having overstayed his previous visa by a month. The double entry could be a paperwork error, confusion over a visa extension. It could be Atta arrived in Miami, flew to another country like the Bahamas and returned the same day. Or it could be that two men somehow cleared immigration with the same name using the same passport number." [Miami Herald, 9/22/01] Officials later call this a bureaucratic snafu, and insist only one Atta entered the US on this date. [AP, 10/28/01] If this was just a bureaucratic snafu and the same entry processed twice, then why are different destination addresses given in each case? Could someone else posing as Atta have entered the US on this day? Also, Atta arrives on a tourist visa yet tells immigration inspectors that he is taking flying lessons in the US, which requires a M-1 student visa. [Washington Post, 10/28/01] The fact that he had overstayed his visa over a month on a previous visit also doesn't cause a problem. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/01] The INS later defends its decision, but "immigration experts outside the agency dispute the INS position vigorously." For instance Stephen Yale-Loehr, co-author of a 20-volume treatise on immigration law:"They just don't want to tell you they blew it. They should just admit they made a mistake." [Washington Post, 10/28/01]
January 11-18, 2001: Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi flies from the US to Casablanca, Morocco and back, for reasons unknown. He is able to reenter the US without trouble, despite having overstayed his previous visa by about five weeks. [Department of Justice, 5/20/02, Los Angeles Times, 9/27/01]
January 19, 2001: New United Nations sanctions against Afghanistan take effect, adding to those from 1999 (see November 14, 1999). The sanctions limit travel by senior Taliban authorities, freeze bin Laden's and the Taliban's assets, and order the closure of Ariana Airlines offices abroad. The sanctions also impose an arms embargo against the Taliban, but not against Northern Alliance forces battling the Taliban. [AP, 12/19/00] But this doesn't stop the illegal trade network the Taliban is secretly running through Ariana (see Mid-1996-October 2001). Two companies, Air Cess and Flying Dolphin, take over most of Ariana's traffic. Air Cess is owned by the Russian arms dealer Victor Bout, and Flying Dolphin is owned by the UAE's former ambassador to the US, who is also an associate of Bout (see October 1996). In late 2000, despite UN reports linking Flying Dolphin to arms smuggling, the United Nations gives Flying Dolphin permission to take over Ariana's closed routes, which it does until the new sanctions take effect. Bout's operations are still functioning and he has not been arrested. [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02, Montreal Gazette, 2/5/02] Ariana is essentially destroyed in the October 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01]
January 21, 2001: George Bush Jr. is inaugurated as the 43rd US President, replacing Clinton. The only major figure to permanently remain in office is CIA Director Tenet, appointed in 1997 and reputedly a long time friend of Bush Sr. FBI Director Louis Freeh stays on until June 2001.
January 24, 2001: On this day, Italian intelligence hear another interesting wiretapped conversation (see also August 12, 2000), this one between terrorists Es Sayed and Ben Soltane Adel, two member's of al-Qaeda's Milan cell. Adel asks, in reference to fake documents, "Will these work for the brothers who are going to the United States?" Sayed responds angrily, saying "Don't ever say those words again, not even joking!" "If it's necessary ... whatever place we may be, come up and talk in my ear, because these are very important things. You must know ... that this plan is very, very secret, as if you were protecting the security of the state." This is only one of many clues found from the Italian wiretaps and passed on to US intelligence in March 2001 (see March 2001 (B)). But they apparently are not properly understood until after 9/11. The Spanish government claims to have uncovered 9/11 clues from wiretaps as well (see August 27, 2001), and a priest was told of the 9/11 plot at an Italian wedding (see September 7, 2001), suggesting a surprising number of people in Europe may have had foreknowledge of 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 5/29/02] Adel is later arrested and convicted of belonging to a terrorist cell and Es Sayed fled to Afghanistan in July 2001. [Guardian, 5/30/02]
January 25, 2001: Richard Clarke, National Security Council Chief of Counterterrorism and holdover from the Clinton administration, submits a proposal to the new administration for an attack on al-Qaeda in revenge of the USS Cole bombing. In the wake of that bombing, Bush stated on the campaign trail: "I hope that we can gather enough intelligence to figure out who did the act and take the necessary action ... there must be a consequence." According to the Washington Post: "Clarke argued that the camps were can't-miss targets, and they mattered. The facilities amounted to conveyor belts for al-Qaeda's human capital, with raw recruits arriving and trained fighters departing – either for front lines against the Northern Alliance, the Afghan rebel coalition, or against American interests somewhere else. The US government had whole libraries of images filmed over Tarnak Qila and its sister camp, Garmabat Ghar, 19 miles farther west. Why watch al-Qaeda train several thousand men a year and then chase them around the world when they left?" [Washington Post, 1/20/02] Clarke also warns that al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the US are a "major threat." Two days later, the US confirms the link between al-Qaeda and the USS Cole bombing. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02] No retaliation is taken on these camps until after 9/11. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]
January 30, 2001: Hijacker Ziad Jarrah is questioned for several hours at the Dubai International Airport, United Arab Emirates, at the request of the CIA for "suspected involvement in terrorist activities," then let go. This is according to United Arab Emirates, US and European officials, but the CIA denies the story. The CIA notified local officials that he would be arriving from Pakistan on his way back to Europe, and they wanted to know where he had been in Afghanistan and how long he had been there. US officials were informed of the results of the interrogation before Jarrah left the airport. Jarrah had already been in the US for six months learning to fly. "UAE and European intelligence sources told CNN that the questioning of Jarrah fits a pattern of a CIA operation begun in 1999 to track suspected al-Qaeda operatives who were traveling through the United Arab Emirates." He was then permitted to leave, eventually going to the US. [CNN, 8/1/02] Why the US would flag him now but not when he entered the US or after is unclear (see September 9, 2001).
January 31, 2001: The final report of the US Commission on National Security/21st Century, co-chaired by former Senators Gary Hart (D), and Warren Rudman (R) is issued (see also September 15, 1999). The bipartisan report was put together in 1998 by then-President Bill Clinton and then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich. The report has 50 recommendations on how to combat terrorism in the US, but all of them are ignored by the Bush Administration. Instead, the White House announces in May that it will have Vice President Cheney study the potential problem of domestic terrorism, despite the fact that this commission had just studied the issue for 2 1/2 years. According to Senator Hart, Congress was taking the commission's suggestions seriously, but then, "Frankly, the White House shut it down... The president said 'Please wait, we're going to turn this over to the vice president'... And so Congress moved on to other things, like tax cuts and the issue of the day." Interestingly, both this commission and the Bush Administration were already assuming a new cabinet level National Homeland Security Agency would be enacted eventually even as the general public remained unaware of the term and the concept. [Salon, 9/12/01, download the complete report here: USCNS Reports]
Late January 2001: The BBC later reports, "After the elections, [US intelligence] agencies [are] told to 'back off' investigating the Bin Ladens and Saudi royals, and that anger[s] agents." This follows previous orders to abandon an investigation of bin Laden relatives (see September 11, 1996), and difficulties in investigating Saudi royalty. [BBC, 11/6/01] FTW An unnamed "top-level CIA operative" says there is a "major policy shift" at the National Security Agency at this time. Osama bin Laden could still be investigated, but agents could not look too closely at how he got his money. [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03] Presumably one such investigation canceled is an investigation by the Chicago FBI into ties between Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi and the US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998) and other terrorist acts, because during this month an FBI agent is told that the case is being closed and that "it's just better to let sleeping dogs lie" (see October 1998). Reporter Greg Palast notes that President Clinton was already hindering investigations by protecting Saudi interests. But, as he puts it, "Where Clinton said, 'Go slow,' Bush policymakers said, 'No go.' The difference is between closing one eye and closing them both." [Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03]
Late January 2001 (B): Even as US intelligence is given conclusive evidence that al-Qaeda is behind the USS Cole bombing (see January 25, 2001), the new Bush administration discontinues the covert deployment of cruise missile submarines and gunships on six-hour alert near Afghanistan's borders that had begun under President Clinton (see Late 1998-January 2001). The standby force gave Clinton the option of an immediate strike against targets in al-Qaeda's top leadership. The discontinuation makes a possible assassination of bin Laden much more difficult. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]
February 9, 2001 (B): US officials claim significant progress in defeating bin Laden's financial network, despite significant difficulties. It is claimed that, "bin Laden's financial and operational networks has been 'completely mapped' in secret documents shared by the State Department, CIA and Treasury Department, with much of the mapping completed in detail by mid-1997." [UPI 2/9/01] Reporter Greg Palast later notes that when the US freezes the assets of terrorist organizations in late September 2001 (see September 24, 2001), US investigators likely knew much about the finances of those organizations but took no action before 9/11. [Santa Fe New Mexican, 3/20/03]
February 13, 2001: UPI reporter Richard Sale, while covering a trial of bin Laden's al-Qaeda followers, reports that the NSA has broken bin Laden's encrypted communications. US officials say "codes were broken." [UPI, 2/13/01] Presumably al-Qaeda changes its security after this time, but also the US government officials later claim that the planning for the 9/11 attack began in 1998 if not earlier (see also 1998). [New York Times, 10/14/01] FTW
March 2001 (C): Taliban envoy Rahmatullah Hashimi meets with reporters, middle-ranking State Department bureaucrats and private Afghanistan experts in Washington. He carries a gift carpet and a letter from Afghan leader Mullah Omar for President Bush. He discusses turning bin Laden over, but the US wants to be handed bin Laden and the Taliban want to turn him over to some third country. A CIA official later says: "We never heard what they were trying to say." "We had no common language. Ours was, 'Give up bin Laden.' They were saying, 'Do something to help us give him up.' ... I have no doubts they wanted to get rid of him. He was a pain in the neck." Others claim the Taliban were never sincere. About 20 more meetings on giving up bin Laden take place up till 9/11, all fruitless. [Washington Post, 10/29/01] Hashimi also proposes that the Taliban would hold bin Laden in one location long enough for the US to locate and destroy him. However, this offer is refused. This is according to Laila Helms, daughter of former CIA director Richard Helms, who is doing public relations for the Taliban at the time (while interesting this came out before 9/11, one must be skeptical if the offer was made since her job was public relations for the Taliban). [Village Voice, 6/6/01]
March 7, 2001: The Russian Permanent Mission at the United Nations secretly submits "an unprecedentedly detailed report" to the UN Security Council about bin Laden, his whereabouts, details of his al-Qaeda network, Afghan drug running, and Taliban connections in Pakistan. The report provides "a listing of all bin Laden's bases, his government contacts and foreign advisors," and enough information to potentially kill him. The US fails to act. Alex Standish, the editor of the highly respected Jane's Intelligence Review, concludes that the attacks of 9/11 were less of an American intelligence failure and more the result of "a political decision not to act against bin Laden." [Jane's Intelligence Review, 10/5/01]
March 8, 2001: The United Nations and the European Union direct their members to freeze the assets of some al-Qaeda leaders, including Sa'd Al-Sharif, bin Laden's brother-in-law and the head of his finances, but the US does not do so (see UN list). Their assets are finally frozen by the US after 9/11 (see October 12, 2001). [Guardian, 10/13/01] The US for a time claims that Sa'd Al-Sharif helped fund the 9/11 attacks, but the situation is highly confused and his role is doubtful (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002).
Spring 2001 (B): A US Customs Service investigation finds evidence that Nabil al-Marabh (see 1989-May 2000, May 30, 2000-September 11, 2001 and 2001 (C)) has funneled money to hijackers Ahmed Alghamdi and Satam Al Suqami. [Cox News, 10/16/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] By summer, Customs uncovers a series of financial transactions between al-Marabh and al-Qaeda agent Raed Hijazi. [New York Times, 9/21/01, AP, 11/17/01] It is later reported that "some of the 11 hijackers who passed through" Britain in spring 2001 on their way to the US (see April 23-June 29, 2001) "should have been instantly 'red-flagged' by British intelligence. One was Ahmed Alghamdi" because of his connection to Raed Hijazi (see January-June 2001). [Sunday Herald, 9/30/01] Presumably another would be Satam Al Suqami. If they should have been flagged by Britain in spring 2001 because of a US investigation, isn't it likely that they should have been flagged by the US as well? Despite all of these al-Qaeda connections and more, the US later decides al-Marabh is not a terrorist (see September 19, 2001-September 3, 2002). A Congressional 9/11 inquiry later concludes that US intelligence "possessed no intelligence or law enforcement information" before 9/11 on any of the hijackers except for Khalid Almihdhar and Salem and Nawaf Alhazmi. The inquiry suggests the other hijackers may have been selected "because they did not have previously established ties to terrorist organizations." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] This seems to completely ignore all evidence of the Customs investigation.
April 2001 (C): Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, has been trying to get aid from the US, but his people are only allowed to meet with low level US officials. In an attempt to get his message across, he addresses the European Parliament: "If President Bush doesn't help us, these terrorists will damage the US and Europe very soon." [Time, 8/4/02]
April 1, 2001: Hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi is stopped by an Oklahoma policeman for speeding. His license is run through a computer to check if there is a warrant for his arrest. There is none, so he is given a ticket and sent on his way. The CIA has known Alhazmi is a terrorist and possibly living in the US since March 2000 (see March 5, 2000), but has failed to share this knowledge with other agency. [Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/02, Newsweek, 6/2/02] He also has been in the country illegally since January 2001, but this also doesn't raise any flags. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02]
April 26, 2001: Atta is stopped at a random inspection near Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and given a citation for having no driver's license. He fails to show up for his May 28 court hearing a warrant is issued for his arrest on June 4. After this, he flies all over the US using his real name, and even flies to Spain and back in June and is never stopped or questioned. The police never try to find him. [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/01, Australian Broadcasting Corp., 11/12/01]
May 2001: Around this time, intercepts from Afghanistan warn that al-Qaeda could attack an American target in late June or on the July 4 holiday. However, The White House's Counterterrorism Security Group does not meet to discuss this prospect. This group also fails to meet after intelligence analysts overhear conversations from an al-Qaeda cell in Milan suggesting that bin Laden's agents might be plotting to kill Bush at the European summit in Genoa, Italy, in late July (see July 20-22, 2001). In fact, the group hardly meets at all. By comparison, the Counterterrorism Security Group met two or three times a week between 1998 and 2000 under Clinton. [New York Times, 12/30/01]
May 2001 (H): The US introduces the "Visa Express" program in Saudi Arabia, which allows any Saudi Arabian to obtain visas through his or her travel agent instead of appearing at a consulate in person. An official later states, "The issuing officer has no idea whether the person applying for the visa is actually the person in the documents and application." [US News and World Report, 12/12/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] At the time, warnings of an attack against the US led by the Saudi Osama bin Laden are higher than they had ever been before - "off the charts" as one senator later puts it. [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/02, Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] A terrorism conference had recently concluded that Saudi Arabia was one of four top nationalities in al-Qaeda. [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 5/19/02] Five hijackers - Khalid Almihdhar, Abdulaziz Alomari, Salem Alhazmi, Saeed Alghamdi, and Fayez Ahmed Banihammad - use Visa Express over the next month to enter the US. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] The widely criticized program is finally canceled in July 2002 (see July 19, 2002).
May 8, 2001: Bush entrusts Cheney to head the new Office of National Preparedness, a part of FEMA. This office is supposed to oversee a "national effort" to coordinate all federal programs for responding to domestic attacks. Cheney says to the press, "One of our biggest threats as a nation" may include "a terrorist organization overseas. We need to look at this whole area, oftentimes referred to as homeland defense." [New York Times, 7/8/02] Could the reason that the Counterterrorism Security Group almost never met under Bush (see May 2001 (approx.)) be because Cheney was leading counter-terrorism efforts through this group in the extreme secrecy he is well known for? Could this extremely obscure Office of National Preparedness actually have planned the 9/11 attacks or obstructed efforts to stop them? If its mission was to stop domestic terrorist attacks, it clearly failed.
May 31, 2001: The Wall Street Journal summarizes tens of thousands of pages of evidence disclosed in a recently concluded trial of al-Qaeda terrorists. They are called "a riveting view onto the shadowy world of al-Qaeda." The documents reveal numerous connections between al-Qaeda and specific front companies and charities. They even detail a "tightly organized system of cells in an array of American cities, including Brooklyn, N.Y.; Orlando, Fla.; Dallas; Santa Clara, Calif.; Columbia, Mo., and Herndon, Va." The 9/11 hijackers had ties to many of these same cities and charities. [Wall Street Journal, 5/31/01] Why was so little done in response?
June 2001 (E): Three Middle Eastern men are detained for snapping reconnaissance photos of 26 Federal Plaza, the location of FBI offices in New York City. They are questioned by the FBI and let go. Days later the confiscated film is developed, and it shows photos of security checkpoints, police posts and surveillance cameras at 26 Federal Plaza, two federal courthouses and the federal building at 290 Broadway. It is now believed they were al-Qaeda agents and possibly connected to the 9/11 attacks. A terrorism expert questions why the pictures weren't developed immediately, and detailed intelligence checks conducted. [New York Post, 9/16/01]
June 2001 (F): The US considers aiding Ahmed Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance movement. As one counter-terrorism official put it, "You keep [al-Qaeda terrorists] on the front lines in Afghanistan. Hopefully you're killing them in the process, and they're not leaving Afghanistan to plot terrorist operations." A former US special envoy to the Afghan resistance visits Massoud this month. Massoud gives him "all the intelligence he had on al-Qaeda" in the hopes of getting some support in return. But he gets nothing more than token amounts, and his organization isn't even given "legitimate resistance movement" status. [Time, 8/4/02] Did the US not want to support Massoud because he might have been too independent of US policy?
June 2001 (I): US intelligence learns that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is interested in "sending terrorists to the United States" and planning to assist their activities once they arrive. The 9/11 Congressional inquiry says the significance of this is not understood at the time, and data collection efforts are not subsequently "targeted on information about [Mohammed] that might have helped understand al-Qaeda's plans and intentions." [Committee Findings, 12/11/02, Los Angeles Times, 12/12/02, USA Today, 12/12/02] The FBI has a $2 million reward for Mohammed at the time (see Mid-1996-September 11, 2001). That summer, the NSA intercepts phone calls between Mohammed and Mohamed Atta, but apparently fails to pay attention (see Summer 2001), and on September 10, 2001, the US monitors a call from Atta to Mohammed in which Atta gets final approval for the 9/11 attacks, but this also doesn't lead to action (see September 10, 2001 (F)). In mid-2002, it is reported that "officials believe that given the warning signals available to the FBI in the summer of 2001, investigators correctly concentrated on the [USS] Cole investigation, rather than turning their attention to the possibility of a domestic attack." [New York Times, 6/9/02]
June 3, 2001: This is one of only two dates that Bush's national security leadership meets formally to discuss terrorism. This group, made up of the National Security Adviser, CIA Director, Defense Secretary, Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and others, met around 100 times before 9/11 to discuss a variety of topics, but apparently rarely terrorism. In wake of these reports, the White House "aggressively defended the level of attention, given only scattered hints of al-Qaeda activity." This lack of discussion stands in sharp contrast to the Clinton administration and public comments by the Bush administration. For instance, in January 2001 Clinton National Security Adviser Sandy Berger told his replacement Rice: "I believe that the Bush Administration will spend more time on terrorism generally, and on al-Qaeda specifically, than any other subject." [Time, 8/4/02] Bush said in February 2001: "I will put a high priority on detecting and responding to terrorism on our soil." A few weeks earlier, Tenet had told Congress, "The threat from terrorism is real, it is immediate, and it is evolving." [AP, 6/28/02]
June 4, 2001: At some point in 2000, three men claiming to be Afghans but using Pakistani passports enter the Cayman Islands, possibly illegally. [Miami Herald, 9/20/01] In late 2000, Cayman and British investigators begin a yearlong probe of these men which lasts until 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01] They are overheard discussing hijacking attacks in New York City. On this day, they are taken into custody, questioned and released some time later. This information is forwarded to US intelligence. [Fox News, 5/17/02] In late August, a letter to a Cayman radio station will allege these same men are agents of bin Laden "organizing a major terrorist act against the US via an airline or airlines" (see August 29, 2001).
June 9, 2001: Robert
Wright, an FBI agent who spent ten years investigating terrorist funding, writes
a memo that slams the FBI. He states, "Knowing what I know, I can confidently
say that until the investigative responsibilities for terrorism are transferred
from the FBI, I will not feel safe... The FBI has proven for the past decade
it cannot identify and prevent acts of terrorism against the United States and
its citizens at home and abroad. Even worse, there is virtually no effort on
the part of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit to neutralize known and suspected
international terrorists living in the United States." [Cybercast
News Service, 5/30/02] He claims "FBI was merely gathering intelligence
so they would know who to arrest when a terrorist attack occurred" rather
than actually trying to stop the attacks. [UPI,
5/30/02] Wright's shocking allegations are largely
ignored. He is asked on CNN's Crossfire, one of the few outlets to cover the
story at all, "Mr. Wright, your charges against the FBI are really more
disturbing, more serious, than [Coleen] Rowley's (see August
28, 2001). Why is it, do you think,
that you have been ignored by the media, ignored by the congressional committees,
and no attention has been paid to your allegations?" The Village Voice
says the problem is partly because he went to the FBI and asked permission to
speak publicly instead of going straight to the media as Rowley did. The FBI
put severe limits on what details Wright can divulge. He is now suing them (see
also May 30, 2002). [Village
June 11, 2001: FBI agents from the New York office and Washington headquarters meet with CIA officials to discuss the USS Cole investigation. The FBI agents are shown photographs from the Malaysia meeting, including pictures of hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, but are not given copies (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 4, 2001). "The FBI agents recognized the men from the Cole investigation, but when they asked the CIA what they knew about the men, they were told that they didn't have clearance to share that information. It ended up in a shouting match." [ABC News, 8/16/02] A CIA official later admits that he knew more about Alhazmi and Almihdhar that he was willing to tell the FBI. The FBI agents don't receive the information they want about these two until after 9/11. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] Two days after this meeting, Almihdhar has no trouble getting a new multiple reentry US visa. [US News and World Report, 12/12/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] CIA Director Tenet later claims, "Almihdhar was not who they were talking about in this meeting." When Senator Carl Levin (D) reads the following to Tenet, "The CIA analyst who attended the New York meeting acknowledged to the joint inquiry staff that he had seen the information regarding Almihdhar's US visa and Alhazmi's travel to the United States but he stated that he would not share information outside of the CIA unless he had authority to do so," Tenet claims that he talked to the same analyst and was told something completely different. [New York Times, 10/17/02]
June 12, 2001: Operation Diamondback, a sting operation uncovering an attempt to buy weapons illegally for the Taliban, bin Laden, and others, ends with a number of arrests. An Egyptian named Diaa Mohsen and a Pakistani named Mohammed Malik are arrested and accused of attempting to buy Stinger missiles, nuclear weapon components, and other sophisticated military weaponry for the Pakistani ISI. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8/23/01, Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B)] Malik appears to have had links to important Pakistani officials and Kashmiri terrorists, and Mohsen claims a connection to a man "who is very connected to the Taliban" and funded by bin Laden. [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B), MSNBC, 8/2/02] Some other ISI agents came to Florida on several occasions to negotiate, but they escaped being arrested. They wanted to partially pay in heroin. One mentioned that the WTC would be destroyed (see July 14, 1999 and Early August 2001). These ISI agents said some of their purchases would go to the Taliban in Afghanistan and/or terrorists associated with bin Laden. [New York Times, 6/16/01, Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B), MSNBC, 8/2/02] Both Malik and Mohsen lived in Jersey City, New Jersey. [Jersey Journal, 6/20/01] A number of the people held by the US after 9/11, including possible al-Qaeda members Syed Gul Mohammad Shah and Mohammed Azmath (see September 11, 2001 (K)) are from the same Jersey City neighborhood. [New York Post, 9/23/01] Mohsen pleads guilty after 9/11, "But remarkably, even though [he was] apparently willing to supply America's enemies with sophisticated weapons, even nuclear weapons technology, Mohsen was sentenced to just 30 months in prison." [MSNBC, 8/2/02] Malik's case appears to have been dropped, and reporters find him working in a store in Florida less than a year after the trial ended. [MSNBC, 8/2/02] Malik's court files remain completely sealed, and in Mohsen's court case, prosecutors "removed references to Pakistan from public filings because of diplomatic concerns." [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B)] Also arrested are Kevin Ingram and Walter Kapij. Ingram pleads guilty to laundering $350,000 and is sentenced to 18 months in prison. [AP, 12/1/01] Ingram was a former senior investment banker with Deutschebank, but resigned in January 1999 after his division suffered costly losses. [Jersey Journal, 6/20/01] Walter Kapij, a pilot with a minor role in the plot, is given the longest sentence, 33 months in prison. [Palm Beach Post, 1/12/02] Informant Randy Glass plays a key role in the sting, and has thirteen felony fraud charges against him reduced as a result, serving only seven months in prison. Federal agents involved in the case later express puzzlement that Washington higher-ups didn't make the case a higher priority, pointing out that bin Laden could have gotten a nuclear bomb if the deal was for real. Agents on the case complain that the FBI didn't make the case a counter-terrorism matter, which would have improved bureaucratic backing and opened access to FBI information and US intelligence from around the world. [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B), MSNBC, 8/2/02] Federal agents frequently couldn't get prosecutors to approve wiretaps. [Cox News, 8/2/02] Glass says, "Wouldn't you think that there should have been a wire tap on Diaa [Mohsen]'s phone and Malik's phone?" [WPBF Channel 25, 8/5/02] An FBI supervisor in Miami refused to front money for the sting, forcing agents to use money from US Customs and even Glass's own money to help keep the sting going. [Cox News, 8/2/02]
Late June 2001: White House National Coordinator for Counterterrorism, Richard Clarke, gives a direct warning to the FAA to increase security measures in light of an impending terrorist attack. The FAA refuses to take such measures. [New Yorker, 1/14/02]
Summer 2001: Around this time, the NSA intercepts telephone conversations between 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Mohamed Atta, but apparently does not share the information with any other agencies. The FBI has a $2 million reward for Mohammed at the time (see Mid-1996-September 11, 2001), while Atta is in charge of operations inside the US. [Knight Ridder, 6/6/02, Independent, 6/6/02] US intelligence learned in June 2001 that Mohammed was interested in sending terrorists to the US and supporting them there (see June 2001 (I)). Yet supposedly, the NSA either fails to translate these messages in a timely fashion or fails to understand the significance of what was translated. [Knight Ridder Newspapers, 6/6/02] FTW While the contents of these discussions have never been released, doesn't it seem highly likely they were discussing 9/11 plans? Would the NSA fail to translate or properly analyze messages from one of the most wanted terrorists?
Summer 2001 (B): A confidential informant tells an FBI field office agent that he has been invited to a commando training course at a camp operated by al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The information is passed up to FBI headquarters, which rejects the idea of infiltrating the camp. An "asset validation" of the informant, a routine but critical exercise to determine whether information from the source was reliable, is also not done. The FBI later has no comment on the story. [US News and World Report, 6/10/02]
Summer 2001 (G): Supposedly, since 1997 there are only fourteen fighter planes on active alert to defend the continental US. But in the months before 9/11, rather than increase the number, the Pentagon was planning to reduce the number still further. Just after 9/11, the Los Angeles Times reported, "While defense officials say a decision had not yet been made, a reduction in air defenses had been gaining currency in recent months among task forces assigned by [Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld to put together recommendations for a reassessment of the military." By comparison, in the Cold War atmosphere of the 1950s, the US had thousands of fighters on alert throughout the US. [Los Angeles Times, 9/15/01 (B)] Also during this time, FAA officials try to dispense with "primary" radars altogether, so that if a plane were to turn its transponder off, no radar could see it. NORAD rejects the proposal. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02]
July 2001 (B): India gives the US general intelligence on possible terror attacks; details are not known. US government officials later confirm that Indian intelligence had information "that two Islamist radicals with ties to Osama bin Laden were discussing an attack on the White House," but apparently this particular information is not given to the US until two days after 9/11. [Fox News, 5/17/02]
July 4-14, 2001: Bin Laden, America's most wanted criminal with a $5 million bounty on his head, supposedly receives lifesaving treatment for renal failure from American surgeon specialist Dr. Callaway at the American hospital in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He is possibly accompanied by Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri (who is said to be bin Laden's personal physician, al-Qaeda's second-in-command, and leader of Egypt's Islamic Jihad), plus several bodyguards. Callaway supposedly treated bin Laden in 1996 and 1998, also in Dubai. Callaway later refuses to answer any questions on this matter. [Le Figaro, 10/31/01, Agence France-Presse, 11/1/01, London Times, 11/01/01] During his stay, bin Laden is visited by "several members of his family and Saudi personalities," including Prince Turki al Faisal, then head of Saudi intelligence, as well as two CIA officers (see also July 12, 2001). [Guardian, 11/1/01] FTW The explosive story is widely reported in Europe, but barely at all in the US (possibly only by UPI [UPI, 11/1/01]).
July 5, 2001: Counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke leads a meeting of the Counterterrorism Security Group, attended by officials from a dozen federal agencies, to discuss intelligence regarding terrorism threats and potential attacks on US installations overseas. He states, "Something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it's going to happen soon." One who attended the meeting later calls the evidence that "something spectacular" is being planned by al-Qaeda "very gripping." [Time, 8/4/02] Clarke directs every counter-terrorist office to cancel vacations, defer nonvital travel, put off scheduled exercises and place domestic rapid-response teams on much shorter alert. By early August, all of these emergency measures are no longer in effect. [CNN, 3/02, Washington Post, 5/17/02]
July 10, 2001: Phoenix, Arizona FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum warning about suspicious activities involving a group of Middle Eastern men taking flight training lessons in Arizona. The memorandum specifically suggests that bin Laden's followers might be trying to infiltrate the civil-aviation system as pilots, security guards or other personnel, and recommends a national program to track suspicious flight-school students. The memo is sent to the counterterrorism division at FBI headquarters in Washington and to two field offices, including the counterterrorism section in New York, which has had extensive experience in al-Qaeda investigations. The memo is ignored in all three places, not passed on to others, and no action is taken. [New York Times, 5/20/02, Fortune, 5/22/02] Williams mentioned 10 flight students as particularly suspicious, but the list didn't include hijacker Hani Hanjour, who was training in Arizona at the time and drew suspicion from others (see January 2001). However, the prime target of the list was Bandar Alhazmi, another Saudi who had roomed and trained with Hanjour off and on for several years (and has been missing since 9/11). Had Alhazmi been investigated, Hanjour might have been discovered as well (see also December 2001). [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/24/02, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02, Washington Post, 9/10/02] Vice President Cheney states in May 2002 that the memo should never be released to the media or public. [CNN, 5/20/02] FTW
July 12, 2001: While in Dubai, United Arab Emirates to receive lifesaving medical treatment (see July 4-14, 2001), Bin Laden supposedly meets with CIA agent Larry Mitchell in the Dubai hospital on this day, and possibly others. Mitchell reportedly lives in Dubai as an Arab specialist under the cover of being a consular agent. The CIA, the Dubai hospital and even bin Laden deny the story. Le Figaro and Radio France International stand by it. [Le Figaro, 10/31/01, Radio France International, 11/1/01, Reuters, 11/10/01] The Guardian claims that the two news organizations that broke the story, Le Figaro and Radio France International, got their information from French intelligence, "which is keen to reveal the ambiguous role of the CIA, and to restrain Washington from extending the war to Iraq and elsewhere." The Guardian adds that during his stay bin Laden is also visited by a second CIA officer. [Guardian, 11/1/01] On July 15, Larry Mitchell supposedly returns to CIA headquarters to report on his meeting with bin Laden. [Radio France International, 11/1/01] If this meeting did happen, then does it show the US was not serious about wanting bin Laden dead?
July 13, 2001: With the threat of a new terrorist
attack on the rise, the CIA has agents reexamine records in the search for new
leads. A CIA cable is rediscovered showing that Khallad bin Atash had attended
the January 2000 meeting in Malaysia (see January
5-8, 2000 and January
4, 2001). The CIA official who finds it immediately e-mails the CIA's
Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC), saying bin Atash "is a major league killer,
who orchestrated the Cole attack and possibly the Africa bombings." Yet
bin Atash is still not put on a terrorist watch list. An FBI analyst assigned
to the CTC is given the task to review all other CIA cables about the Malaysian
meeting. It takes this analyst until August 21 - over five weeks later - to
determine that two attendees of the meeting, hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid
Almihdhar, had entered the US on January 15, 2000, and that Almihdhar had reentered
the US on July 4, 2001. [Congressional
Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02]
July 26, 2001: CBS News reports that Attorney General Ashcroft has stopped flying commercial airlines due to a threat assessment, but "neither the FBI nor the Justice Department ... would identify [to CBS] what the threat was, when it was detected or who made it." [CBS, 7/26/01] FTW "Ashcroft demonstrated an amazing lack of curiosity when asked if he knew anything about the threat. 'Frankly, I don't,' he told reporters." [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/02] It is later reported that he stopped flying in July based on threat assessments made on May 8 and June 19. In May 2002 its claimed the threat assessment had nothing to do with al-Qaeda, but Ashcroft walked out of his office rather than answer questions about it. [AP, 5/16/02] The San Francisco Chronicle concludes, "The FBI obviously knew something was in the wind ... The FBI did advise Ashcroft to stay off commercial aircraft. The rest of us just had to take our chances." [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/02] CBS's Dan Rather later says of this warning: "Why wasn't it shared with the public at large?" [Washington Post, 5/27/02]
Late July 2001 (B): David Schippers, noted conservative Chicago lawyer and the House Judiciary Committee's chief investigator in the Clinton impeachment trial, claims two days after 9/11 that he had tried to warn federal authorities about plans to strike buildings in lower Manhattan. Schippers says, "I was trying to get people to listen to me because I had heard that the terrorists had set up a three-pronged attack:" an American airplane, the bombing of a federal building in the heartland and a massive attack in lower Manhattan, He tries contacting Attorney General John Ashcroft, the White House, and even the House managers with whom he had worked, but nobody returns his phone calls. "People thought I was crazy. What I was doing was I was calling everybody I knew telling them that this has happened," he says. "I'm telling you the more I see of the stuff that's coming out, if the FBI had even been awake they would have seen it." He also claims to know of ignored warnings about the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and evidence that Middle Easterners were connected with that attack. [Indianapolis Star, 5/18/02] Other mainstream sources have apparently shied away from Schipper's story, but he has added details in an interview on the partisan Alex Jones Show. He claims that it is FBI agents in Chicago and Minnesota who first contact him and tell him that a terrorist attack is going to occur in lower Manhattan. A group of these agents now want to testify about what they know, but want legal protection from government retribution. [Alex Jones Show, 10/10/01]
Late July 2001 (D): CBS later has a brief mention in a long story on another topic: "Just days after Atta return[s] to the US from Spain, Egyptian intelligence in Cairo says it received a report from one of its operatives in Afghanistan that 20 al-Qaeda members had slipped into the US and four of them had received flight training on Cessnas. To the Egyptians, pilots of small planes didn't sound terribly alarming, but they [pass] on the message to the CIA anyway, fully expecting Washington to request information. The request never [comes]." [CBS, 10/9/02] This appears to be one of several accurate Egyptian warnings based on informants (see June 13, 2001 and August 30, 2001). Could Egypt have known the names of some or all of the hijackers? Given FBI agent Ken Williams' memo about flight schools a short time before (see July 10, 2001), shouldn't the US have investigated this closely instead of completely ignoring it?
August 2001 (B): At least six 9/11 hijackers, including all of those that boarded Flight 77, live in Laurel, Maryland from about this time. They reportedly include Hani Hanjour, Majed Moqed, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi (though also see Early September 2001). Laurel, Maryland is home to a Muslim cleric named Moataz Al-Hallak who teaches at a local Islamic school and has been linked to bin Laden. He has testified three times before a grand jury investigating bin Laden. NSA expert James Bamford later states, "the terrorist cell that eventually took over the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon ended up living, working, planning and developing all their activities in Laurel, Maryland, which happens to be the home of the NSA. So they were actually living alongside NSA employees as they were plotting all these things." [Washington Post, 9/19/01, BBC, 6/21/02]
August 2001 (D): Russian President Putin warns the US that suicide pilots are training for attacks on US targets. [Fox News, 5/17/02] The head of Russian intelligence also later states, "We had clearly warned them" on several occasions, but they "did not pay the necessary attention." [Agence France-Presse, 9/16/01] A Russian newspaper on September 12, 2001 claims that "Russian Intelligence agents know the organizers and executors of these terrorist attacks. More than that, Moscow warned Washington about preparation to these actions a couple of weeks before they happened." Interestingly, the article claims that at least two of the terrorists were Muslim radicals from Uzbekistan. [Izvestia, 9/12/01, (the story currently on the Izvestia web site has been edited to delete a key paragraph, the link is to a translation of the original article from From the Wilderness)] FTW
August 2001 (G): Former CIA agent Robert Baer (see December 1997 and January 23, 2002) is advising a prince in a Persian Gulf royal family, when a military associate of this prince passes information to him about a "spectacular terrorist operation" that will take place shortly. He is also given a computer record of around 600 secret al-Qaeda operatives in Saudi Arabia and Yemen. The list includes 10 names that will be placed on the FBI's most wanted terrorists list after 9/11. He is also given evidence that a Saudi merchant family had funded the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), and that the Yemeni government is covering up information related to that bombing. At the military officer's request, he offers all this information to the Saudi Arabian government. But an aide to the Saudi defense minister, Prince Sultan, refuses to look at the list or to pass the names on (Sultan is later sued for his complicity in the 9/11 plot, see August 15, 2002). Baer also passes the information on to a senior CIA official and the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center, but there is no response or action. Large sections of Baer's book are blacked out, having been censored by the CIA. [Financial Times, 1/12/02, See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism, Robert Baer, 2/02, pp. 270-271, Breakdown: How America's Intelligence Failures Led to September 11, Bill Gertz, pp. 55-58]
August 2001 (I): The US receives intelligence that bin Laden's right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is receiving medical treatment at a clinic in San'a, Yemen. However, the Bush administration rejects a plan to capture him, as officials are not 100 percent sure the patient is al-Zawahiri. Officials later regret the missed opportunity. [ABC News, 2/20/02]
August-October 2001: British intelligence asks India for legal assistance in catching Saeed Sheikh sometime during August 2001. Saeed has been openly living in Pakistan since 1999 and has even traveled to Britain at least twice during that time (see January 1, 2000-September 11, 2001), despite having kidnapped Britons and Americans (see June 1993-October 1994). [London Times, 4/21/02, Vanity Fair, 8/02] According to the Indian media, informants in Germany tell the internal security service there that Saeed helped fund hijacker Mohamed Atta (see Early August 2001 (D)). [Frontline, 10/6/01] On September 23, it is revealed that the British have asked India for help in finding Saeed, but it isn't explained why. [London Times, 9/23/01] His role in training the hijackers and financing the 9/11 attacks soon becomes public knowledge, though some elements are disputed (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002). [Telegraph, 9/30/01, CNN, 10/6/01, CNN, 10/8/01] The Gulf News claims that the US freezes the assets of Pakistani terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad on October 12, 2001 because it has established links between Saeed Sheikh and 9/11 (see October 12, 2001). [Gulf News, 10/11/01] However, in October, an Indian magazine notes, "Curiously, there seems to have been little international pressure on Pakistan to hand [Saeed] over" [Frontline, 10/6/01], and the US doesn't formally ask Pakistan for help to find Saeed until January 2002 (see November 2001-January 2002).
Early August 2001: Randy Glass, a former con artist turned government informant, later claims that he contacts the staff of Senator Bob Graham and Representative Robert Wexler at this time and warns them of a plan to attack the WTC, but his warnings are ignored. [Palm Beach Post, 10/17/02] Glass also tells the media at this time that his recently concluded informant work has "far greater ramifications than have so far been revealed," and "potentially, thousands of lives [are] at risk." [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 8/7/01] Glass was a key informant in a sting operation involving ISI agents trying to illegally purchase sophisticated US military weaponry in return for cash and heroin (see June 12, 2001). He claims that in 1999, one ISI agent named Rajaa Gulum Abbas pointed to the WTC and said, "Those towers are coming down" (see July 14, 1999). [Palm Beach Post, 10/17/02] Most details remain sealed, but Glass points out that his sentencing document dated June 15, 2001, lists threats against the World Trade Center and Americans. [WPBF Channel 25, 8/5/02] Florida State Senator Ron Klein, who had dealings with Glass before 9/11, says he is surprised it took so many months for the US to listen to Glass: "Shame on us." [Palm Beach Post, 10/17/02] Senator Graham acknowledges that his office had contact with Glass before 9/11, and was told about a WTC attack: "I was concerned about that and a dozen other pieces of information which emanated from the summer of 2001." But Graham later says he personally was unaware of Glass's information until after 9/11. [Palm Beach Post, 10/17/02] In October 2002, Glass testifies under oath before a private session of the Congressional 9/11 inquiry. He states, "I told [the inquiry] I have specific evidence, and I can document it." [Palm Beach Post, 10/17/02] This testimony and most evidence still has not been made public.
August 1, 2001: Actor James Woods, flying first class on an airplane, notices four Arabic-looking men, the only other people in the first class section. He concludes they are terrorists, acting very strangely (for instance, only talking in whispers). [Boston Globe, 11/23/01] He tells a stewardess, "I think this plane is going to be hijacked" adding, "I know how serious it is to say this." He conveys his worries to the pilots and is assured that the cockpit would be locked. [New Yorker, 5/27/02] The flight staff later notifies the FAA about these suspicious individuals. Though the government won't say, it is highly unlikely that any action is taken regarding the flight staff's worries. [New Yorker, 5/27/02] Woods isn't interviewed by the FBI about this until after 9/11. Woods says the FBI believes that all four men did take part in the 9/11 attacks, and the flight he was on was a practice flight for them. [O'Reilly Factor, 2/14/02] Woods believes one was Khalid Almihdhar and another was Hamza Alghamdi. [New Yorker, 5/27/02] The FBI later reports that this may have been one of a dozen test run flights starting as early as January. Flight attendants and passengers on other flights later recall men looking like the hijackers who took pictures of the cockpit aboard flights and/or took notes. [AP, 5/29/02] Given the number of test flights, did others alert authorities before 9/11? The FBI hasn't been able to find any evidence of hijackers on the flight manifest for Woods' flight. [New Yorker, 5/27/02] Were the hijackers using false identities?
August 4-30, 2001: President Bush spends most of August 2001 at his Crawford, Texas, ranch, nearly setting a record for the longest presidential vacation. While it is billed a "working vacation," ABC reports Bush is doing "nothing much" aside from his regular daily intelligence briefings. [ABC, 8/3/01, Washington Post, 8/7/01, Salon, 8/29/01] One such unusually long briefing at the start of his trip is a warning that bin Laden is planning to attack in the US, but Bush spends the rest of that day fishing (see August 6, 2001). By the end of his trip, Bush has spent 42 percent of his presidency at vacation spots or en route. [Washington Post, 8/7/01] At the time, a poll shows that 55 percent of Americans say Bush is taking too much time off. [USA Today, 8/7/01]
August 6, 2001: President Bush receives classified intelligence briefings at his Crawford, Texas ranch indicating that bin Laden might be planning to hijack commercial airliners. The memo read to him is titled "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US", and the entire memo focuses on the possibility of terrorist attacks inside the US. National Security Advisor Rice later claims the memo was "fuzzy and thin" and only 1 and a half pages long (his normal daily security briefings run two or three pages) but other accounts state it was 11 pages long. [Newsweek, 5/27/02, New York Times, 5/15/02, Die Zeit, 10/1/02] The contents have never been made public. However, a Congressional report later describes what is likely this memo (they call it "a closely held intelligence report for senior government officials" presented in early August 2001): it mentions "that members of al-Qaeda, including some US citizens, had resided in or traveled to the US for years and that the group apparently maintained a support structure here. The report cited uncorroborated information obtained in 1998 that Osama bin Laden wanted to hijack airplanes to gain the release of US-held extremists; FBI judgments about patterns of activity consistent with preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks and the number of bin Laden-related investigations underway; as well as information acquired in May 2001 that indicated a group of bin Laden supporters was planning attacks in the US with explosives." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] Incredibly, the New York Times later reports that Bush "broke off from work early and spent most of the day fishing" (see also August 4-30, 2001). [New York Times, 5/25/02] FTW The existence of this memo is kept secret until May 2002 (see May 15, 2002). Could the exact timing of this memo be related to the British warning from a few days before (see Early August 2001 (C))?
August 15, 2001: Based on the concerns of flight school staff (see August 13-15, 2001), Zacarias Moussaoui is arrested and detained in Minnesota on the excuse of an immigration violation. [Time, 5/27/02, some reports say the 16th because the arrest happened late at night] The FBI confiscates his possessions, including a computer laptop, but don't have a search warrant to search through them. But when arresting him they note he possesses two knives, fighting gloves and shin guards, and had prepared "through physical training for violent confrontation." An FBI interview of him adds more concerns. For example, he is supposedly in the US working as a "marketing consultant" for a computer company, but is unable to provide any details of his employment. Nor can he convincingly explain his $32,000 bank balance. [MSNBC, 12/11/01, Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] An FBI report states that when asked about his trips to Pakistan, the gateway to Afghanistan, "the questioning caused him to become extremely agitated, and he refused to discuss the matter further." The report also notes "Moussaoui was extremely evasive in many of his answers." [CNN, 9/28/02] His roommate is interviewed on the same day, and tells agents that Moussaoui believes it is "acceptable to kill civilians who harm Muslims," that Moussaoui approves of Muslims who die as "martyrs", and says Moussaoui might be willing to act on his beliefs. [Washington Post, 5/24/02] But Minnesota FBI agents quickly become frustrated at the lack of interest in the case from higher ups. [New York Times, 2/8/02] For instance, on August 21 they e-mail FBI headquarters saying it's "imperative" that the Secret Service be warned of the danger a plot involving Moussaoui might pose to the President's safety. But no such warning is ever sent. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02, New York Times, 10/18/02] (Also note that there is another report [Boston Herald, 9/14/01] of a terrorist arrest that sounds almost the same as the Moussaoui story. The only differences are that this unnamed man was arrested in Boston, not Minnesota, and was called Algerian instead of French, though it notes he had a French passport. It is very possible this is a slightly garbled, early version of the same Moussaoui case.)
Mid-August 2001 (B): Abdul Haq, a famous Afghan leader of the mujaheddin, returns to Peshawar, Pakistan, from the US. Having failed to gain US support (see February 2001 (C)), except for that of some private individuals such as former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane, Haq begins organizing subversive operations in Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01 (B), Wall Street Journal, 11/2/01] He is later killed entering Afghanistan in October 2001, after his position is betrayed to the Taliban by the ISI (see October 25, 2001).
August 16, 2001: The FAA issues a warning to airlines concerning disguised weapons. According to later testimony by National Security Advisor Rice, the FAA is concerned about reports that the terrorists have made breakthroughs in disguising weapons as cell phones, key chains and pens (if this is true, why are all of these items still allowed on planes after 9/11, yet fingernail scissors and tweezers are not?). [CNN, 3/02, Reuters, 5/16/02] However, the major airlines later deny receiving such notification. For instance, a Delta spokesperson states: "We were not aware of any warnings or notifications of any specific threats." [Fox News, 5/16/02]
August 19, 2001: The New York Times reports that counter-terrorism expert John O'Neill is under investigation for an incident involving a missing briefcase. [New York Times, 8/19/01] In July 2000, he misplaced a briefcase containing important classified information, but it was found a couple of hours later still unlocked and untouched. Why such a trivial issue would come up over a year later and be published in the New York Times seemed entirely due to politics. Says the New Yorker, "The leak seemed to be timed to destroy O'Neill's chance of being confirmed for [an] NSC job," and force him into retirement. A high-ranking colleague says the leak was "somebody being pretty vicious to John." [New Yorker, 1/14/02] John O'Neill suspects the article was orchestrated by his enemy Tom Pickard, then interim director of the FBI. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02] The New Yorker later speculates that with the retirement of FBI Director Freeh in June, it appears O'Neill lost his friends in high places, and the new FBI Director wanted him replaced with a Bush ally. [New Yorker, 1/14/02] O'Neill quits a few days later (see August 22, 2001 (B)).
August 21, 2001: Walid Arkeh, a Jordanian serving time in a Florida prison, is interviewed by FBI agents after warning the government of an impending terrorist attack. He had been in a British jail from September 2000 to July 2001, and while there had befriended three inmates, Khalid al-Fawwaz, Adel Abdel Bary and Ibrahim Eidarous. US prosecutors charge that "the three men ran a London storefront that served as a cover for al-Qaeda operations and acted as a conduit for communications between bin Laden and his network." [Orlando Sentinel, 10/30/02] Al-Fawwaz was bin Laden's press agent in London, and bin Laden had called him over 200 times before al-Fawwaz was arrested in 1998. [Financial Times, 11/29/01, Sunday Times, 3/24/02] The other two had worked in the same office as al-Fawwaz. All three have been indicted as co-conspirators with bin Laden in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998). Arkeh tells the FBI that he had learned from these three that "something big was going to happen in New York City," and that they had called the 1993 attack on the WTC "unfinished business." Tampa FBI agents determine that he had associated with these al-Qaeda agents, but nonetheless they don't believe him. According to Arkeh, one agent responds to his "something big" warning by saying: "Is that all you have? That's old news." The agents fail to learn more from him. On September 9, concerned that time is running out, a fellow prisoner tried to arrange a meeting, but nothing happens before 9/11. The Tampa FBI agents have a second interview with him hours after the 9/11 attacks, but even long after 9/11 they claim he cannot be believed. On January 6, 2002, the Tampa FBI issued a statement: "The information [was] vetted to FBI New York, the Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Tampa Division and the United States Attorney for the Middle District of Florida. All agreed the information provided by this individual was vague and unsubstantiated... Mr. Arkeh did not provide information that had any bearing on the FBI preventing September 11." [Orlando Sentinel, 1/6/02, Orlando Sentinel, 10/30/02] However, a different group of FBI agents interviews him later and finds his information is credible (see May 21-22, 2002). Click here for more on this topic.
August 22, 2001: The French give the FBI information requested about Zacarias Moussaoui. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] The French say Moussaoui has ties with radical Islamic groups and recruits men to fight in Chechnya. They believe he spent time in Afghanistan (see 1999). He had been on a French watch list for several years, preventing him from entering France. A French justice official later says "the government gave the FBI 'everything we had" on Moussaoui, "enough to make you want to check this guy out every way you can. Anyone paying attention would have seen he was not only operational in the militant Islamist world but had some autonomy and authority as well." [Time, 5/27/02] A senior French investigator later says "Even a neophyte working in some remote corner of Florida, would have understood the threat based on what was sent." [Time, 8/4/02] The French Interior Minister also emphasizes, "We did not hold back any information." [ABC News, 9/5/02] But senior officials at FBI headquarters still maintain that the information "was too sketchy to justify a search warrant for his computer." [Time, 8/4/02]
August 22, 2001 (B): Counter-terrorism expert John O'Neill quits the FBI. He says it's partly because of the recent power play against him (see August 19, 2001), but also because of repeated obstruction of his investigations into al-Qaeda. [New Yorker, 1/14/02] In his last act, he signs papers ordering FBI investigators back to Yemen to resume the USS Cole investigation, now that Barbara Bodine is leaving as Ambassador (they arrive a couple days before 9/11) (see October 12, 2000). He never hears the CIA warning about hijackers Alhazmi and Almihdhar sent out just one day later. Because he fell out of favor a few months earlier, he also is never told about Ken Williams' flight school memo (see July 10, 2001), nor about the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 16, 2001) [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02], nor is he at a June meeting when the CIA revealed some of what it knew about Alhazmi and Almihdhar (see June 11, 2001). [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02] The FBI New York office is eventually warned of Walid Arkeh's warning that the WTC would be attacked, but presumably not in time for O'Neill to hear it (see August 21, 2001). One can only wonder what the government's "most committed tracker of Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network of terrorists" [New Yorker, 1/14/02] could have accomplished if he was aware of these things.
August 23, 2001: According to German newspapers, the Mossad gives the CIA a list of terrorists living in the US and say that they appear to be planning to carry out an attack in the near future. It is unknown if these are the 19 9/11 hijackers or if the number is a coincidence. However, four names on the list are known and are names of the 9/11 hijackers: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Marwan Alshehhi, and Mohamed Atta. [Die Zeit, 10/1/02, Der Spiegel, 10/1/02, BBC, 10/2/02, Haaretz, 10/3/02] The Mossad appears to have learned about this through its "art student" spy ring (see for instance, March 5, 2002). Yet apparently this warning and list are not treated as particularly urgent by the CIA and also not passed on to the FBI. It's not clear if this warning influenced the adding of Alhazmi and Almihdhar to a terrorism watch list on this same day, and if so, why only those two. [Der Spiegel, 10/1/02] Israel has denied that there were any Mossad agents in the US. [Haaretz, 10/3/02] The US has denied knowing about Atta before 9/11, despite other media reports to the contrary (see January-May 2000).
August 23, 2001 (B): John O'Neill begins his new job as head of security at the WTC. [New Yorker, 1/14/02] A friend says to him, "Well, that will be an easy job. They're not going to bomb that place again." O'Neill replies, "Well actually they've always wanted to finish that job. I think they're going to try again." On September 10 he moves into his new office on the 34th floor of the North Tower. That night, he tells colleague Jerry Hauer, "We're due for something big. I don't like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan" (a probable reference to the assassination of Afghan leader General Massoud the day before (see September 9, 2001)). O'Neill is killed the next day in the 9/11 attack. [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02]
August 23, 2001 (C): The CIA sends a cable to the State Department, INS, Customs Service, and FBI requesting that future hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar be put on the terrorism watch list. Since March 2000, if not earlier, the CIA had good reason to believe these two were al-Qaeda terrorists living in the US, but did nothing and told no other agency about it until now (see March 5, 2000). They are not be found in time, and both die in the 9/11 attacks. FBI agents later state that if they been told about Almihdhar and Alhazmi sooner, "There's no question we could have tied all 19 hijackers together" given the frequent contact between these two and the other hijackers. [Newsweek, 6/2/02] The CIA also requests that Khallad bin Atash be added to the watch list - eight months after he was known to have been the main planner of the Cole bombing. One other attendee of the Malaysian meeting (see January 5-8, 2000) is also included, but that name remains confidential (could it be Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11?). [New York Times, 9/21/02] The CIA later claims the request was labeled "immediate," the second most urgent category (the highest is reserved for things like declarations of war). [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01] The FBI denies that it was marked "immediate" and other agencies treated the request as a routine matter. [Los Angeles Times, 10/18/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02]
August 23, 2001 (D): The FBI begins a search for hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in response to the CIA cable about them. The FBI later claims that they responded aggressively. An internal review after 9/11 found that "everything was done that could have been done" to find them. [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01] However, even aside from a failed attempt to start a criminal investigation (see August 28, 2001) the search is halfhearted at best. As the Wall Street Journal later explains, the search "consisted of little more than entering their names in a nationwide law enforcement database that would have triggered red flags if they were taken into custody for some other reason." [Wall Street Journal, 9/17/01] A speeding ticket issued to Alhazmi the previous April is not detected. [Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/02]; nor is a recorded interaction between Alhazmi and local police in Fairfax, Virginia in May that could have led investigators to Alhazmi's East Coast apartment. [San Diego Union-Tribune,9/27/02] Even though the two were known to have entered the US through Los Angeles, drivers’ license records in California are not checked. The FBI also fails to check national credit card or bank account databases, and car registration. All of these would had positive results. Alhazmi's name was even in the 2000-2001 San Diego phone book, listing the address where he and Almihdhar may have been living off and on until about September 9, 2001 (see Early September 2001). [Newsweek, 6/2/02, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/01, Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01]
August 23, 2001 (E): Two FBI agents in the Oklahoma City Field Office visit Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, to learn about Zacarias Moussaoui's recent training there (see February 23, 2001). One of these agents had visited the same school in September 1999, to learn more about Ihab Ali, who trained there in 1993 and has been identified as bin Laden's personal pilot (see September 1999). Apparently this agent forgets the connection when he visits the school to look into Moussaoui; he later says he should have connected the two cases. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02, Boston Globe, 9/18/01] The Oklahoma City office should also have recalled a memo that had come from its office in 1998 warning that "large numbers of Middle Eastern males" were receiving flight training in Oklahoma and could be planning terrorist attacks (see May 18, 1998).
August 23-27, 2001: In the wake of the French intelligence report on Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 22, 2001), FBI agents in Minnesota are "in a frenzy" and "absolutely convinced he [is] planning to do something with a plane." One agent writes notes speculating Moussaoui might "fly something into the World Trade Center." [Newsweek, 5/20/02] Minnesota FBI agents become "desperate to search the computer lap top" and "conduct a more thorough search of his personal effects," especially since Moussaoui acted as if he was hiding something important in the laptop when arrested. [Time, 5/21/02, Time, 5/27/02] FTW They decide to apply for a search warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). "FISA allows the FBI to carry out wiretaps and searches that would otherwise be unconstitutional" because "the goal is to gather intelligence, not evidence." [Washington Post, 11/4/01] Standards to get a warrant through FISA are so low that out of 10,000 requests over more than 20 years, not a single one was turned down. When the FBI didn't have a strong enough case, it appears it simply lied to FISA. In May 2002, the FISA court complained that the FBI had lied in at least 75 warrant cases during the Clinton administration, once even by the FBI Director. [New York Times, 8/27/02] However, as FBI agent Coleen Rowley later puts it, FBI headquarters "almost inexplicably, throw[s] up roadblocks" and undermines their efforts. Headquarters personnel bring up "almost ridiculous questions in their apparent efforts to undermine the probable cause." One Minneapolis agent's e-mail says FBI headquarters is "setting this up for failure." That turns out to be correct (see August 28, 2001). [Time, 5/21/02, Time, 5/27/02]
August 24, 2001: Frustrated with lack of response from FBI headquarters about Zacarias Moussaoui, the Minnesota FBI contact an FBI agent working with the CIA's Counter-Terrorism Center, and asks the CIA for help. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] On this day, the CIA sends messages to stations and bases overseas requesting information about Moussaoui. The message says that the FBI is investigating Moussaoui for possible involvement in the planning of a terrorist attack and mentions his efforts to obtain flight training. It also suggests he might be "involved in a larger plot to target airlines traveling from Europe to the US." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] It calls him a "suspect 747 airline attacker" and a "suspect airline suicide hijacker" - showing that the form of the 9/11 attack isn't a surprise, at least to the CIA. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] FBI headquarters responds by chastising the Minnesota FBI for notifying the CIA without approval. [Time, 5/21/02]
August 24, 2001 (B): Hijacker Khalid Almihdhar buys his 9/11 plane ticket on-line using a credit card; Nawaf Alhazmi does the same the next day. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02] Both men had been put on a terrorist watch list on August 23. Procedures are in place for law enforcement agencies to share watch list information with airlines and airports and such sharing is common, but the FAA and the airlines are not notified, so the purchases raise no red flags. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01] An official later states that had the FAA been properly warned, "they should have been picked up in the reservation process." [Washington Post, 10/2/02]
August 27, 2001: An agent at the FBI headquarters' Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) tells the FBI Minnesota office supervisor that the supervisor is getting people "spun up" over Moussaoui. The supervisor replies that he is trying to get people at FBI headquarters "spun up" because he is trying to make sure that Moussaoui does "not take control of a plane and fly it into the World Trade Center." He later alleges the headquarters agent replies, "[T]hat's not going to happen. We don't know he's a terrorist. You don't have enough to show he is a terrorist. You have a guy interested in this type of aircraft - that is it." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] Three weeks earlier, Dave Frasca, the head of the RFU unit, had received Ken Williams' memo expressing concern about terrorists training in US flight schools (see July 10, 2001) and he also knew all about the Moussaoui case, but he apparently wasn't "spun up" enough to connect the two cases. [Time, 5/27/02] Neither he nor anyone else at FBI headquarters who saw Williams's memo informed anyone at the FBI Minnesota office about it before 9/11. [Time, 5/21/02]
August 28, 2001: A report is sent to the FBI's New York office recommending that an investigation be launched "to determine if [Khalid] Almihdhar is still in the United States." The New York office tries to convince FBI headquarters to open a criminal investigation, but are immediately turned down. The reason given is a "wall" between criminal and intelligence work - Almihdhar could not be tied to the Cole investigation without the inclusion of sensitive intelligence information. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] So instead of a criminal case, the New York office opens an "intelligence case", excluding all the "criminal case" investigators from the search. [FBI Agent Testimony, 9/20/02] One FBI agent expresses his frustration in an e-mail the next day, saying, "Whatever has happened to this - someday someone will die - and wall or not - the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain 'problems.' Let's hope the [FBI's] National Security Law Unit will stand behind their decisions then, especially since the biggest threat to us now, UBL [Usama bin Laden], is getting the most 'protection."' [New York Times, 9/21/02, FBI Agent Testimony, 9/20/02]
August 28, 2001 (B): The FBI contacts the State Department and the INS to find out hijacker Khalid Almihdhar's visa status. However neither agency is asked "to assist in locating the individuals, nor was any other information provided [that] would have indicated either a high priority or imminent danger." An INS official later states, "if [the INS] had been asked to locate the two suspected terrorists ... in late August on an urgent, emergency basis, it would have been able to run those names through its extensive database system and might have been able to locate them." The State Department says "it might have been able to locate the two suspected terrorists if it had been asked to do so." [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02]
August 28, 2001 (C): Hijacker Atta is able to buy his flight ticket, despite being wanted by police for driving without a license (see April 26, 2001) and violating visa regulations. He should have been wanted for sabotaging a stalled aircraft (see December 26, 2000) as well, [Australian Broadcasting Corp., 11/12/01]
August 28, 2001 (D): A previously mentioned unnamed RFU agent (see August 27, 2001 (B)) edits the Minnesota FBI's request for a FISA search warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui's possessions. Minnesota is trying to prove that Moussaoui is connected to al-Qaeda through a rebel group in Chechnya, but the RFU agent removes information connecting the Chechnya rebels to al-Qaeda. Not surprisingly, the FBI Deputy General Counsel who receives the edited request decides on this day that there isn't enough connection to al-Qaeda to allow an application for a search warrant through FISA, so FISA is never even asked. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] According to a later memo written by Minneapolis FBI legal officer Coleen Rowley (see an edited version of the memo here: Time, 5/21/02), FBI headquarters is to blame for not getting the FISA warrant because of this rewrite of the request. She says "I feel that certain facts ... have, up to now, been omitted, downplayed, glossed over and/or mis-characterized in an effort to avoid or minimize personal and/or institutional embarrassment on the part of the FBI and/or perhaps even for improper political reasons." She asks, "Why would an FBI agent deliberately sabotage a case?" The superiors acted so strangely that some agents in the Minneapolis office openly joked that these higher-ups "had to be spies or moles ... working for Osama bin Laden." Failing to approve the warrant through FISA, FBI headquarters also refuses to contact the Justice Department to try and get a search warrant through ordinary means. Rowley and others are unable to search Moussaoui's computer until after the 9/11 attacks. Rowley later notes that the headquarters agents who blocked the Minnesota FBI were promoted after 9/11 (see December 4, 2002). [Sydney Morning Herald, 5/28/02, Time, 5/21/02] FTW
August 29, 2001: Three men from either Pakistan or Afghanistan living in the Cayman Islands are briefly arrested in June 2001 for discussing hijacking attacks in New York City (see June 4, 2001). On this day, a Cayman Islands radio station receives an unsigned letter claiming these same three men are agents of bin Laden. The anonymous author warns that they "are organizing a major terrorist act against the US via an airline or airlines" (see the letter here and a Cayman government statement). The letter is forwarded to a Cayman government official on September 6, but no action is taken until after 9/11 and it isn't known when the US is informed. Many criminals and/or businesses use the Cayman Islands as a safe, no tax, no questions asked haven to keep their money. The author of the letter meets with the FBI shortly after 9/11, and claims his information was a "premonition of sorts." The three men are later arrested. Its unclear what has happened to them since their arrest. [Miami Herald, 9/20/01, Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01, MSNBC, 9/23/01, MSNBC, 9/23/01] FTW
August 29, 2001 (B): The FBI learns that when hijacker Khalid Almihdhar arrived in the US on July 4, 2001, he indicated that he would be staying at a Marriott hotel in New York City. By September 5, an investigation of all New York area Marriot hotels turn up nothing. The FBI office in Los Angeles receives a request on 9/11 to check Sheraton Hotels in Los Angeles, because that where Almihdhar said he would be staying when he entered the country over a year and a half earlier. The search turns up nothing. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02, Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] The San Diego FBI office isn't notified about the search until September 12, and even then they are only provided with "sketchy" information. [Los Angeles Times, 9/16/01]
Late August 2001: French authorities tell US officials that the French-born Moussaoui is a suspected Islamic extremist and may have traveled to Afghanistan. These warnings are ignored, and Minneapolis FBI agents are still unable to get a warrant to search Moussaoui's laptop computer. [Time, 5/21/02, Washington Post, 5/24/02] A senior French investigator later tells Time magazine that the US was "given 'everything they needed' to understand that Moussaoui was associated with Islamic terrorist groups. 'Even a neophyte,' says this source, 'working in some remote corner of Florida, would have understood the threat based on what was sent.'" [Time, 8/4/02] The French Interior Minister also emphasizes, "We did not hold back any information." [ABC News, 9/5/02] But the FBI until present maintain that the information "was too sketchy to justify a search warrant for his computer." [Time, 8/4/02]
Early September 2001 (G): Shortly before 9/11, people attending a New York mosque are warned to stay out of lower Manhattan on 9/11. The FBI's Joint Terrorist Task Force interviews dozens of members of the mosque, who confirm the story. The mosque leadership denies any advanced knowledge and the case apparently remains unsolved. [New York Daily News, 10/12/01]
September 1, 2001 (approx.): Fox News later reports that, around this date, American Airlines sends out an internal memo warning its employees to be on the lookout for impostors after one of its crews had uniforms and ID badges stolen in Rome, Italy in April. [Reuters, 9/14/01, Boston Globe, 9/18/01] Why is there a five month delay before giving this warning? It is later reported that two of the hijackers on Flight 11 use these stolen ID's to board the plane. [Sunday Herald, 9/16/01] On 9/11, a man is arrested with three Yemen passports (all using different names) and two Lufthansa crew uniforms. [Chicago Sun Times, 9/22/01] It is also claimed that when Atta takes a flight from Portland, Maine to Boston on the morning of 9/11, his bags don't make the transfer to his hijacked flight, and remain in Boston. Later, airline uniforms are found inside. [Boston Globe, 9/18/01] Boston's Logan Airport had been repeatedly fined for failing to run background checks on their employees, and many other serious violations. [CNN, 10/12/01] Did the hijackers use inside connections or disguises like pilots uniforms to bypass security?
September 3-5, 2001: Members of Atta's Hamburg terrorist cell leave Germany for Pakistan. Said Bahaji flies out of Hamburg on September 3. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/03] German intelligence already had Bahaji under surveillance, and German border guards were under orders to report if he left the country. For some reason, they fail to note his departure (see also May 22, 2000). [FAZ, 2/2/03] German agents later discover two other passengers on the same flight traveling with false passports who stay in the same room with Bahaji when they arrive in Karachi, Pakistan. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] Investigators now believe his flight companions are Ismail Ben Mrabete and Ahmed Taleb, both Algerians in their late 40s (see August 14, 2001). Three more associates - Mohammed Belfatmi, an Algerian extremist from the Tarragona region of Spain, and two brothers with the last name Joya - also travel on the same plane. All of these people still remain unaccounted for. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/03] Ramzi bin al-Shibh flies out of Germany on September 5 and stays in Spain a few days before presumably heading for Pakistan. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] Had these people been under investigation, it should have raised red flags, since communications ordering many al-Qaeda operatives back to Afghanistan by September 10 had been intercepted (see September 10, 2001 (K)). At least Bahaji had been under German investigation previously (see November 1, 1998-February 2001).
September 4, 2001 (B): FBI headquarters dispatches a message to the entire US intelligence community about the Zacarias Moussaoui investigation. According to a later Congressional inquiry, the message notes "that Moussaoui was being held in custody but [it doesn't] describe any particular threat that the FBI thought he posed, for example, whether he might be connected to a larger plot. [It also does] not recommend that the addressees take any action or look for any additional indicators of a terrorist attack, nor [does] it provide any analysis of a possible hijacking threat or provide any specific warnings." [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/24/02] This is in sharp contrast to an internal CIA warning sent out earlier based on even less information (see August 24, 2001), which stated Moussaoui might be "involved in a larger plot to target airlines traveling from Europe to the US." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] It turns out that prior to this point terrorist Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999) had started cooperating with investigators. He had trained with Moussaoui in Afghanistan and willingly shared this information after 9/11. The FBI dispatch, with its notable lack of urgency and details, failed to prompt the agents in Seattle holding Ressam to ask him about Moussaoui. Had the connection between these two been learned before 9/11, presumably the search warrant for Moussaoui would have been approved and the 9/11 plot might have unraveled. [Sunday Times, 2/3/02]
September 4, 2001 (C): Bush's Cabinet-rank advisers have their second ever meeting on terrorism (see June 3, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/17/02] Back in January, terrorism "czar" Richard Clarke had proposed an ambitious plan to "roll back" al-Qaeda's operations around the world. The plan was strengthened and finally approved at this meeting. It no longer plans a "roll back" of al-Qaeda but aims to "eliminate" it altogether. The plan calls for significant support to the Northern Alliance, the last remaining resistance to the Taliban in Afghanistan. At the same time, the US military would launch air strikes on training camps and special-operations missions in Afghanistan. In the words of a senior Bush Administration official, the proposals amounted to "everything we've done since 9/11." The plan was awaiting Bush's signature on 9/11. Clinton's limited missile attack in 1998 faced a lot of controversy - this new ambitious plan would have faced much more opposition had it not been for 9/11. [Time, 8/4/02] A senior Bush administration official dismisses the allegations: "This idea that there was somehow a kind of -- some sort of full-blown plan for going after al-Qaeda is just incorrect." [CNN, 8/5/02]
September 5-6, 2001 (B): French and US intelligence officials hold meetings in Paris on combating terrorism. The French newspaper Le Monde claims that the French try again to warn their US counterparts about Moussaoui, "but the American delegation ... paid no attention ... basically concluding that they were going to take no one's advice, and that an attack on American soil was inconceivable." The US participants also say Moussaoui's case is in the hands of the immigration authorities and is not a matter for the FBI. [Independent, 12/11/01, Village Voice, 5/28/02] The FBI arranges to deport Moussaoui to France on September 17, so the French can search his belongings and tell the FBI the results. Due to the 9/11 attacks, the deportation never happens. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02]
September 7, 2001 (B): The State Department issues a little noticed warning, alerting against an attack by al-Qaeda. But the warning focuses on a threat to American citizens overseas, and particularly focuses on threats to US military personnel in Asia. [US State Department, 9/7/01] Such warnings are issued periodically and are usually so vague few pay attention to them, which is why most airlines and officials claim to never have seen this until after 9/11. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/14/01]
September 7, 2001 (C): Bush's plan to visit a Sarasota, Florida elementary school on September 11 is publicly announced. According to a later news article, numerous eyewitnesses see hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in Sarasota later that evening. They appear to have stayed at a Holiday Inn very close to the place Bush will later stay. [Longboat Observer, 11/21/01] Another news report suggests that there may have been an assassination attempt on Bush in Sarasota two hours before the 9/11 attacks (see September 11, 2001 (B)) - could these two have been planning that attack?
September 8-11, 2001: "Several days" before 9/11 and through 9/11, NORAD is conducting a semiannual exercise called Vigilant Guardian. NORAD is thus fully staffed and alert, and senior officers are manning stations throughout the US. The entire chain of command is in place and ready when the first hijacking is reported. An article later says, "In retrospect, the exercise would prove to be a serendipitous enabler of a rapid military response to terrorist attacks on Sept. 11." [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] Since NORAD was in peak form, isn't the incredible slowness of its response times on 9/11 (see [Miami Herald, 9/14/01, Slate, 1/16/02]) even more inexplicable?
September 9, 2001 (D): Donald Rumsfeld threatens to urge a veto if the Senate proceeds with a plan to divert $600 million from missile defense to counter-terrorism. [Time, 8/4/02]
September 9, 2001 (E): Hijacker Ziad Jarrah is stopped in Maryland for speeding, ticketed and released. No red flags show up when his name is run through the computer by the state police. However, he already had been questioned in United Arab Emirates at the request of the CIA for "suspected involvement in terrorist activities" (see January 30, 2001). Baltimore's mayor has criticized the CIA for not informing them that Jarrah was on the CIA's watch list. [Chicago Tribune, 12/14/01, AP, 12/14/01] The CIA calls the whole story "flatly untrue." [CNN, 8/1/02]
September 10, 2001 (E): Attorney General Ashcroft rejects a proposed $58 million increase in financing for the bureau's counter-terrorism programs. On the same day, he sends a request for budget increases to the White House. It covers 68 programs, but none of them relate to counter-terrorism. He also sends a memorandum to his heads of departments, stating his seven priorities - none of them relating to counter-terrorism. This is more than a little strange, since Ashcroft stopped flying public airplanes in July due to terrorist threats (see July 26, 2001) and he told a Senate committee in May that counter-terrorism was his "highest priority." [New York Times, 6/1/02, Guardian, 5/21/02] Was he starving current departments for funds, with an eye to creating a new Homeland Security Department?
September 10, 2001 (F): Mohamed Atta calls Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the operational planner of the 9/11 attacks, in Afghanistan. Mohammed gives final approval to Atta to launch the attacks. This call is monitored and translated by the US, though it isn't known how quickly that takes, and the specifics of the conversation haven't been released. [Independent, 9/15/02] The NSA had been intercepting calls between Mohammed and Atta for the past several months (see Summer 2001), and US intelligence had learned Mohammed was interested in sending terrorists to the US and supporting them there (see June 2001 (I)). Shouldn't Atta's location have been determined from these calls with a high-profile terrorist (just as bin Laden's location was determined in 1998 from his phone use (Early 1996-October 1998))?
September 10, 2001 (R): Just prior to 9/11, the CIA and FBI don't have enough staff working on al-Qaeda. 17-19 people are working in the FBI's special unit focusing on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] The FBI has a $4.3 billion anti-terrorism budget, but of its 27,000 employees, just 153 are devoted to terrorism analysis. [Sydney Morning Herald, 6/8/02] The FBI's "analytic expertise had been 'gutted' by transfers to operational units" and only one strategic analyst is assigned full time to al-Qaeda. The FBI office in New York is very aware of the threat from bin Laden, but many branch offices remain largely unaware. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] A senior FBI official later tells Congress that there are fewer FBI agents assigned to counter-terrorism on this day than in August 1998, when the US embassy bombings in Africa made bin Laden a household name. [New York Times, 9/22/02] The CIA has about 35-40 people assigned to their special Bin Laden unit. It has five strategic analysts working full time on al-Qaeda. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] The CIA and FBI later say some of these figures are misleading. [New York Times, 9/18/02] "Individuals in both the CIA and FBI units... reported being seriously overwhelmed by the volume of information and workload prior to September 11, 2001." Despite numerous warnings that planes could be used as weapons, such a possibility was never studied, and a Congressional report later blames lack of staff as a major reason for this. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] Senator Patrick Leahy (D) also notes: "Between the Department of Justice and the FBI, they had a whole task force working on finding a couple of houses of prostitution in New Orleans. They had one on al-Qaeda." [CBS, 9/25/02]
September 10, 2001 (S): Senator Dianne Feinstein (D), who with Senator Jon Kyl (R) has sent a copy of draft legislation on counterterrorism and national defense to Vice President Cheneys office on July 20, but is told by Cheneys top aide on this day "that it might be another six months before he would be able to review the material." [Newsweek, 5/27/02]
September 10, 2001 (T): The number of US air marshals (specially trained, plainclothes armed federal agents deployed on airliners) shrinks from about 2,000 during the Cold War to 32 by this date. None of the 32 are deployed on domestic flights. The number is later increased to about 2,000, but it would take about 120,000 marshals at a cost of $10 billion a year to protect all daily flights to, from or within the US. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/02]
before September 11, 2001: Though the NSA specializes in intercepting communications, the CIA and FBI intercept as well. After 9/11, CIA and FBI officials discover messages with phrases like, "There is a big thing coming," "They're going to pay the price" and "We're ready to go." Supposedly, most or all of these intercepted messages were not analyzed until after 9/11. [Newsweek, 9/24/01] Does this mean that some of the hijackers or their assistants were under FBI or CIA surveillance before 9/11?
before September 11, 2001 (D): Atta's whole family in Cairo, Egypt is under surveillance by the Egyptian secret service. The family is monitored on several occasions over an unspecified period. "Shortly before" the 9/11 attack, a conversation between Atta and his father is recorded in which Atta talks about a visit to Afghanistan. This information is not passed on to the FBI until after 9/11. Presumably Egyptian intelligence was concerned about ties to militant groups like the Muslim Brotherhood, and they now claim that during stays in Cairo, Atta wanted to establish contacts with militant Islamic fundamentalists. [Financial Times, 11/23/01, AFP, 11/22/01]
September 11, 2001 (G): The 9/11 attack: four planes are hijacked, two crash into the WTC, one into the Pentagon, and one crashes into the Pennsylvania countryside. At least 3,000 people are killed. A more detailed timeline focusing on the hours of this attack appears on a separate page. According to officials, the entire US is defended by only 14 fighters (two planes each in seven military bases). [Dallas Morning News, 9/16/01] And "they no longer included any bases close to two obvious terrorist targets - Washington, DC, and New York City." A defense official says: "I don't think any of us envisioned an internal air threat by big aircraft. I don't know of anybody that ever thought through that." [Newsday, 9/23/01]
September 11, 2001 (J): Zacarias Moussaoui watches the 9/11 attack on TV inside a prison, where he is being held on immigration charges. He cheers the attacks. [BBC, 12/12/01] Within an hour of the attacks, the Minnesota FBI uses a memo written to FBI headquarters shortly after Moussaoui's arrest to ask permission from a judge for the search warrant they have been desperately seeking. Even after the attacks, FBI headquarters is still attempting to block the search of Moussaoui's computer, characterizing the WTC attacks as a mere coincidence with suspicions about Moussaoui (the person still trying to block the search is later promoted). [Time, 5/21/02] However, a federal judge approves the warrant that afternoon. [New Yorker, 9/30/02] Minnesota FBI agent Coleen Rowley notes that this very memo was previously deemed insufficient by FBI headquarters to get a search warrant, and the fact that they are immediately granted one when finally allowed to ask shows "the missing piece of probable cause was only the [FBI headquarters'] failure to appreciate that such an event could occur." [Time, 5/21/02] The search uncovers information suggesting Moussaoui may have been planning an attack using crop dusters, but it doesn't turn up any direct connection to the 9/11 hijackers. However, they find some German telephone numbers and the name "Ahad Sabet." The numbers allow them to determine the name is an alias for Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Atta's former roommate, and they find he wired Moussaoui money. They also find a document connecting Moussaoui with the Malaysian Yazid Sufaat, a lead that could have led to hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi (see September-October 2000). [New Yorker, 9/30/02, MSNBC, 12/11/01] Rowley later suggests that if they would had received the search warrant sooner, "There is at least some chance that ... may have limited the Sept. 11th attacks and resulting loss of life." [Time, 5/27/02]
September 13-19, 2001: Members of bin Laden's family and important Saudis are "driven or flown under FBI supervision to a secret assembly point in Texas and then to Washington from where they left the country on a private charter plane when airports reopened three days after the attacks." The flights to Texas and Washington occur before the national air ban is lifted. [New York Times, 9/30/01] The Tampa Tribune reports that on September 13, a Lear jet takes off from Tampa, Florida, carrying a Saudi Arabian prince, the son of the Saudi defense minister Prince Sultan (see August 2001 (G), August 31, 2001, August 15, 2002), as well as the son of a Saudi army commander, and flies to Lexington, Kentucky, where the Saudis own racehorses. They then fly a private 747 out of the country. Multiple 747s with Arabic lettering on their sides are already there, suggesting another secret assembly point. The Tampa flight left from a private Raytheon hangar. [Tampa Tribune, 10/5/01] (Raytheon's name keeps coming up in relation to 9/11 (for instance, see September 25, 2001).) Prince Bandar, Saudi ambassador to the US, helps move the bin Laden family out of the US. [London Times, 11/25/02] Ron Motley, the lead lawyer in a 9/11 lawsuit against many Saudis, points to the flights during the air ban as evidence that Saudis are "protected by the Bush administration" because of "oil." [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/16/02] There have been conflicting reports as to whether the FBI interviewed these people before they left the country. Osama bin Laden's half brother, Abdullah bin Laden, stated that even a month after 9/11 his only contact with the FBI was a brief phone call. [Boston Globe, 9/21/01, New Yorker, 11/5/01] The existence of these flights during the air travel ban is now usually referred to as an urban legend. [Snopes, 3/19/02]
September 17, 2001: Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R), who claims to have made many secret trips into Afghanistan and even fought with the mujaheddin, describes to Congress a missed opportunity to capture bin Laden. He claims that "a few years ago," he was contacted by someone he knew and trusted from the 1980s Afghan war, who claimed he could pinpoint bin Laden's location. Rohrabacher passed this information to the CIA, but found the informant wasn't contacted. After some weeks, Rohrabacher used his influence to set up a meeting with agents in the CIA, NSA and FBI. Yet even then the informant wasn't contacted, until weeks later in a "disinterested" way. Rohrabacher concludes "that our intelligence services knew about the location of bin Laden several times but were not permitted to attack him... because of decisions made by people higher up." [Speech to the House of Representatives, 9/17/01]
September 19, 2001-September 3, 2002: Nabil al-Marabh is arrested on September 19, 2001 at an Illinois convenience store. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/01] He has an extensive history of criminal behavior and al-Qaeda connections (see 1989-May 2000, May 30, 2000-September 11, 2001, 2001 (C) and September 17, 2001 (D)), and was even being investigated for connections with two 9/11 hijackers before 9/11 (see Spring 2001 (B)). In early 2002, Canadian authorities call him "a senior al-Qaeda planner and money man who may have played a direct role in the Sept. 11 attacks." [Toronto Sun, 1/13/02] FBI investigators claim al-Marabh helped the hijackers get false IDs, and helped launder money for al-Qaeda. [ABC 7, 1/31/02] But the Canadian investigation is closed down by the end of 2001, supposedly due to a lack of funding. [Toronto Sun, 1/13/02] The US also decides not to charge al-Marabh on any terrorism related charge. Instead, on September 3, 2002, Nabil al-Marabh pleads guilty to illegally entering the US, and is sentenced to 8 months in prison. [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/5/02] Federal prosecutors then drop a warrant against him, clearing him to be deported to Syria. [AP, 1/29/03] Canada also isn't attempting to extradite al-Marabh for jumping bail in July 2001. [Southam Newspapers, 8/16/02] Federal prosecutors claim that "at this time" there is no evidence "of any involvement by [al-Marabh] in any terrorist organization," even though he has admitted to getting weapons training in Afghanistan. [Washington Post, 9/4/02] The judge says he cannot say "in good conscience" that he approves of the plea bargain worked out between the prosecution and defense, but he seems unable to stop it. He says, "Something about this case makes me feel uncomfortable. I just don't have a lot of information." The judge has a number of unanswered questions, such as how al-Marabh had $22,000 in cash and $25,000 worth of amber jewels on his possession when he was arrested, despite holding only a sporadic series of low-paying jobs. "These are the things that kind of bother me. It's kind of unusual, isn't it?" says the judge. [National Post, 9/4/02] The media fails to bring up all the previously reported connections between al-Marabh and al-Qaeda. It is instead suggested he is a victim of civil rights discrimination. [Toronto Star, 9/9/02] Are the US and Canada letting an important terrorist go free? Could this have to do with his boasts before 9/11 of ties to the FBI (see May 30, 2000-September 11, 2001)?
September 21, 2001 (B): Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot living in Britain, is arrested and accused of helping to train four of the hijackers. An FBI source says, "We believe he is by far the biggest find we have had so far. He is of crucial importance to us." [Las Vegas Review Journal, 9/29/01] However, in April 2002 a judge dismisses all charges against him. Raissi later says he will sue the British and American governments unless he is given a "widely publicized apology" for his months in prison and the assumption of "guilty until proven innocent." [Reuters, 8/14/02] US officials originally said, "They had video of him with Hani Hanjour, who allegedly piloted the plane that crashed into the Pentagon; records of phone conversations between the two men; evidence that they had flown a training plane together; and evidence that Raissi had met several of the hijackers in Las Vegas. It turned out, the British court found, that the video showed Raissi with his cousin, not Mr. Hanjour, that Raissi had mistakenly filled in his air training logbook and had never flown with Hanjour, and that Raissi and the hijackers were not in Las Vegas at the same time. The US authorities never presented any phone records showing conversations between Raissi and Hanjour. ... It appears that in this case the US authorities handed over all the information they had...." [Christian Science Monitor, 3/27/02] Did the US fabricate or exaggerate evidence in an attempt to get a conviction, and if so, what does this say about other facts about the hijackers and their associates?
September 21, 2001 (E): Congress approves a $15 billion federal aid package for the battered US airline industry, and sets up a government fund to compensate 9/11 victims' relatives. [Los Angeles Times, 9/22/01] But relatives are only allowed to sue terrorists, and if they sue anyone else, they are not entitled to any compensation money (see also August 23, 2002). The law also limits the airlines' liability to the limits of their insurance coverage - around $1.5 billion per plane. [Los Angeles Times, 1/17/02] Nevertheless, many later sue important Saudi Arabians (see August 15, 2002) and the Port Authority, owner of the WTC (see September 10, 2002).
September 21 or 22, 2001: Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi citizen studying at Aston University Business School in Birmingham, Britain, is taken into custody by British authorities working with the FBI. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/27/01, Washington Post, 12/29/01] It has been claimed al-Bayoumi befriended hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in San Diego, California and helped them socially and financially (see November 1999 (B)) until moving to Britain two months before 9/11. [MSNBC, 11/27/02] During a search of al-Bayoumi's apartment (which includes ripping up the floorboards), the FBI finds the names and phone numbers of two employees of the Saudi embassy's Islamic Affairs Department. [Newsweek, 11/24/02] "There was a link there," a Justice Department official says, adding that the FBI interviewed the employees and "that was the end of that, in October or November of 2001." The official adds: "I don't know why he had those names." Nail al-Jubeir, chief spokesman for the Saudi embassy in Washington, says al-Bayoumi "called [the numbers] constantly." [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02] At the time of the questioning, the FBI strongly suspects al-Bayoumi has financial connections to the Saudi royal family and may have given some of that money to the hijackers (see November 22, 2002). However, the FBI accepts his story that he met Alhazmi and Almihdhar by coincidence and he is "released after a week without charge." [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02, Newsweek, 11/24/02] British intelligence officials are frustrated that the FBI failed to give them information that would have enabled them to keep al-Bayoumi in custody longer then the seven days allowed under British anti-terrorism laws. [San Diego Channel 10, 10/25/01] Even FBI officials in San Diego appear to have not been told of al-Bayoumi's arrest by FBI officials in Britain until after he is released. British officials anonymously suggest al-Bayoumi must have turned informant because "giving financial aid to terrorists is a very serious offense and there is no way [the FBI] would have let him go scot-free." [Sunday Mercury, 10/21/01] A San Diego FBI agent later secretly testifies that supervisors have failed to act on evidence connecting to a Saudi money trail (see October 9, 2002). Could this be part of what he is referring to? Al-Bayoumi returns to his studies at Aston and is still there two months later, and yet still is not rearrested. [Washington Post, 12/29/01] Another report says al-Bayoumi is living in Britain as of October 2002, [Newsweek, 10/29/02] but he disappears by the time he reenters the news a month later (see November 22, 2002). Al-Bayoumi's quick release is in sharp contrast to that of hundreds of US Muslims who are held anonymously for many months after 9/11 despite having no connections to terrorism of any kind (see October 20, 2001).
Late September 2001: Sibel Edmonds is hired as a Middle Eastern languages translator for the FBI. As she later tells CBS's 60 Minutes, she immediately encounters a pattern of deliberate failure in her translation department. Her boss says, "Let the documents pile up so we can show it and say that we need more translators and expand the department." She claims that if she wasn't slowing down enough, her supervisor would delete her work. Meanwhile, FBI agents working on the 9/11 investigation would call and ask for urgently needed translations. Senator Charles Grassley (R) says of her charges, "Shes credible and the reason I feel shes very credible is because people within the FBI have corroborated a lot of her story." He points out that the speed of such translation might make the difference between a terrorist bombing succeeding or failing. [CBS, 10/25/02, New York Post, 10/26/02] In January 2002, FBI officials tell government auditors that translator shortages have resulted in "the accumulation of thousands of hours of audio tapes and pages" of untranslated material. [Washington Post, 6/19/02] Edmonds has a whistleblower lawsuit against the FBI for these and other charges (see March 22, 2002).
Late September-Early October 2001: According to a later Mirror article, leaders of Pakistan's two Islamic parties negotiate bin Laden's extradition to Pakistan to stand trial for the 9/11 attacks. Bin Laden would be held under house arrest in Peshawar and would face an international tribunal, which would decide whether to try him or hand him over to the US. According to reports in Pakistan (and the Telegraph), this plan has both bin Laden's approval and that of Taliban leader Mullah Omar. However, the plan is vetoed by Pakistan's president Musharraf who says he "could not guarantee bin Laden's safety." But it appears the US did not want the deal: a US official later says that "casting our objectives too narrowly" risked "a premature collapse of the international effort [to overthrow the Taliban] if by some lucky chance Mr. bin Laden was captured." [Mirror, 7/8/02]
October 2001-September 2002: Nine Army linguists, including six trained to speak Arabic, are dismissed from the military's Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, because they are gay. At the same time, the military claims it is facing a critical shortage of translators and interpreters for the war on terrorism (see September 10, 2001 (L) for an example of an Arabic translation that could have prevented the 9/11 attacks). [AP, 11/14/02] The Miami Herald comments: "The message is unmistakable: We find gay people more frightening than Osama bin Laden, whose stated goal is our destruction." [Miami Herald, 11/22/02]
October 10-11, 2001: The FBI allows the original batch of the Ames strain of anthrax to be destroyed, making tracing the anthrax type more difficult. Suspicions that the anthrax used in the letters was the Ames strain are confirmed on October 17. [New York Times, 11/9/01, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/01] What possible excuse can the FBI have for allowing this destruction, especially when the Ames strain was already suspected?
October 12, 2001: The US freezes the assets of 39 additional individuals and organizations connected to terrorism (see also September 24, 2001). Five of the names are al-Qaeda leaders on a list the United Nations published in March 8, 2001, with a recommendation that all nations freeze their assets (see March 8, 2001). Other countries froze assets of those on that list, but the US did not. "Members of Congress want to know why treasury officials charged with disrupting the finances of terrorists did not follow their lead." [AP, 10/12/01, Guardian, 10/13/01] The most detailed case is laid out against Saudi multimillionaire businessman Yassin al-Qadi (see December 5, 2002 and November 26, 2002). [Chicago Tribune, 10/14/01, Chicago Tribune, 10/29/01] Al-Qadi is "horrified and shocked" and offers to open his financial books to US investigators. [Chicago Tribune, 10/16/01] A US official claims a 1998 audit of Saudi Arabia's National Commercial Bank shows al-Qadi's Muwafaq Foundation funneled $3 million to bin Laden (see April 1999). [Chicago Tribune, 10/29/01] There have been several accusations that al-Qadi laundered money to fund Hamas [Chicago Tribune, 10/16/01, Chicago Tribune, 10/29/01], and an investigation into his al-Qaeda connections was canceled by higher-ups in the FBI in 1998 (see October 1998). Saudi Arabia also later freezes al-Qadi's accounts, an action the Saudis have taken against only three people, but he has yet to be charged or arrested by the Saudis or the US. [Newsweek, 12/6/02]
October 18, 2001: Canada overrides Bayer's patent for Cipro and orders a million tablets of a generic version from another company. The US says it is not considering a similar move. Patent lawyers and politicians state that adjusting Bayer's patent to allow other companies to produce Cipro is perfectly legal and necessary. [New York Times, 10/19/01] The New York Times notes that the White House seems "so avidly to be siding with the rights of drug companies to make profits rather than with consumers worried about their access to the antibiotic Cipro," and points out huge recent contributions by Bayer to Republicans. [New York Times, 10/21/01]
October 19, 2001: US Special Forces begin ground attacks in Afghanistan. [MSNBC, 11/01] However, during the Afghanistan war, US ground soldiers are mainly employed as observers, liaisons, and spotters for air power to assist the Northern Alliance - not as direct combatants. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02]
October 20, 2001: The New York Times reports that, although 830 people have been arrested in the 9/11 terrorism investigation (a number that eventually reaches between 1,200 and 2,000 (see November 5, 2001 (B)), there is no evidence that anyone now in custody was a conspirator in the 9/11 attacks. Furthermore, "none of the nearly 100 people still being sought by the [FBI] is seen as a major suspect." Of all the people arrested, only four, Zacarias Moussaoui, Ayub Ali Khan, Mohammed Azmath, and Nabil al-Marabh, are likely connected to al-Qaeda. [New York Times, 10/21/01] Three of those are later cleared of ties to al-Qaeda. After being kept in solitary confinement for more than eight months without seeing a judge or being assigned a lawyer, al-Marabh pleads guilty to the minor charge of entering the United States illegally (see September 19, 2001-September 3, 2002). [CBC, 8/27/02, Washington Post, 6/12/02] On September 12, 2002, after a year in solitary confinement and four months before he was able to contact a lawyer, Mohammed Azmath pleads guilty to one count of credit card fraud, and is released with time served. Ayub Ali Khan, whose real name is apparently Syed Gul Mohammad Shah, is given a longer sentence for credit card fraud, but is released and deported by the end of 2002 (see September 11, 2001 (K)). [Village Voice, 9/25/02, New York Times, 12/31/02] By December 2002, only 6 are known to still be in custody, and none have been charged with any terrorist acts (see December 11, 2002 (D)). On September 24, 2001, Newsweek reported that "the FBI has privately estimated that more than 1,000 individuals - most of them foreign nationals - with suspected terrorist ties are currently living in the United States." [Newsweek, 9/24/01] With the exception of Moussaoui, who was arrested before 9/11, it appears not one person of the 1,200 arrested has been connected to al-Qaeda. What happened to the 1,000 or more terrorists?
October 24, 2001: The House of Representatives passes the final version of the Patriot Act and other previously unpopular Bush projects: Alaska oil drilling, $25 billion in tax cuts for corporations, taps into Social Security funds and cuts in education. [CNN, 10/25/01] Republican Congressman Ron Paul states: "It's my understanding the bill wasn't printed before the vote - at least I couldn't get it. They played all kinds of games, kept the House in session all night, and it was a very complicated bill. Maybe a handful of staffers actually read it, but the bill definitely was not available to members before the vote." It is later found that only two copies of the bill were made available in the hours before its passage, and most House members admit they voted for the Act without actually reading it first. [Insight, 11/9/01] Two days later, the Senate passes the final version of the Patriot Act. Anthrax targets Senators Daschle and Leahy now support the bill. Bush signs it into law the same day (see October 26, 2001). [Fox News, 10/26/01] Were the anthrax attacks a deliberate plot to help pass the Patriot Act, and whip up public support?
October 25, 2001: Abdul Haq, a leader of the Afghani resistance to the Taliban, is killed. Four days earlier, he had secretly entered Afghanistan with a small force to try and raise rebellion (see also February 2001 (C) and Mid-August 2001 (B)), but was spotted by Taliban forces and surrounded. He called a supporter in the US, and then former National Security Adviser Robert McFarlane called the CIA and asked for immediate assistance to help rescue Haq. A battle lasting up to twelve hours ensues. Haq's force is underarmed, since the CIA failed to provide him with weapons. [Sydney Morning Herald, 10/29/01] The CIA refuses to send in a helicopter to rescue him, saying the terrain is too rough. Haq's group claims they are next to a hilltop once used as a helicopter landing point. [Observer, 10/28/01, Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01 (B)] An unmanned surveillance aircraft eventually attacks a group of Taliban, but five hours after Haq has been captured. He is then executed by the Taliban. [Wall Street Journal, 11/2/01] Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA director of counter-terrorism, and others suggest that Haq's position was betrayed to the Taliban by the ISI. Haq was already an enemy of the ISI, who may have killed his family. [Village Voice, 10/26/01, USA Today, 10/31/01, Toronto Star, 11/5/01, Knight Ridder, 11/3/01] Haq "seemed the ideal candidate to lead an opposition alliance into Afghanistan to oust the ruling Taliban." [Observer, 10/28/01] Was Haq betrayed by the ISI and even the CIA because he was not pliable enough to be controlled?
November 2001-February 5, 2002: A US grand jury secretly indicts Saeed Sheikh for his role in the 1994 kidnapping of an American (see June 1993-October 1994). The indictment is revealed in late February 2002. The US later claims it begins asking Pakistan for help in finding Saeed in late November. [AP, 2/26/02, Newsweek, 3/13/02] However, it is not until January 9, 2002 that Wendy Chamberlin, the US ambassador to Pakistan, officially asks the Pakistani government for help in arresting and extraditing Saeed. [AP, 2/24/02, CNN, 2/24/02, Los Angeles Times, 2/25/02] Saeed is seen partying with Pakistani government officials well into January 2002 (see January 1, 2000-September 11, 2001 and September 11, 2001-January 2002). The Los Angeles Times later notes that Saeed "move[s] about Pakistan without apparent impediments from authorities" up until February 5, when he is identified as a suspect in the Daniel Pearl kidnapping" (see February 5, 2002). [Los Angeles Times, 2/13/02] The London Times says, "It is inconceivable that the Pakistani authorities did not know where he was" before then. [London Times, 4/21/02] Why did the British become interested in Saeed shortly before 9/11 (see August-October 2001), and why was so little done to catch him afterward?
Early November 2001: It is later reported that many locals in Afghanistan witness a remarkable escape of al-Qaeda forces from Kabul around this time. One local businessman says: "We don't understand how they weren't all killed the night before because they came in a convoy of at least 1,000 cars and trucks. It was a very dark night, but it must have been easy for the American pilots to see the headlights. The main road was jammed from eight in the evening until three in the morning." This convoy was thought to have contained al-Qaeda's top officials. [London Times, 7/22/02] With all of the satellite imagery and intense focus on the Kabul area at the time, how could such a force have escaped the city unobserved by the US?
Early November 2001 (B): Starting in late October, US intelligence reports begin noting that al-Qaeda fighters and leaders are moving into and around the Afghanistan city of Jalalabad. By early November, bin Laden is there. Knight-Ridder newspapers report: "American intelligence analysts concluded that bin Laden and his retreating fighters were preparing to flee across the border. But the US Central Command, which was running the war, made no move to block their escape. 'It was obvious from at least early November that this area was to be the base for an exodus into Pakistan,' said one intelligence official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. 'All of this was known, and frankly we were amazed that nothing was done to prepare for it.'" The vast majority of leaders and fighters are eventually able to escape into Pakistan. [Knight-Ridder, 10/20/02]
November 9, 2001: The Taliban abandon the strategic northern Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif, allowing the Northern Alliance to take control. [AP, 8/19/02] The rest of Northern Afghanistan is abandoned by the Taliban in the next few days, except the city of Kunduz, to which most of the Taliban flee. Kunduz falls on November 25, but not before most of the thousands of fighters there are airlifted out (see Mid-November-November 25, 2001). [New Yorker, 1/21/02]
November 13, 2001: Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, falls to the Northern Alliance. The Taliban abandon the rest of the country over the next few weeks. [BBC, 11/13/01] As the New Yorker reports, "The initial American aim in Afghanistan had been not to eliminate the Taliban's presence there entirely but to undermine the regime and al-Qaeda while leaving intact so-called moderate Taliban elements that would play a role in a new postwar government. This would insure that Pakistan would not end up with a regime on its border dominated by the Northern Alliance." The surprisingly quick fall of Kabul ruins this plan. [New Yorker, 1/21/02]
November 14, 2001: The Northern Alliance capture the Afghan city of Jalalabad. [Sydney Morning Herald, 11/14/01] That night, a convoy of 1,000 or more al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters escape from Jalalabad and reach the fortress of Tora Bora after hours of driving and then walking. Bin Laden is believed to be with them, riding in one of "several hundred cars" in the convoy. The US bombs the nearby Jalalabad airport, but apparently not the convoy. [Knight-Ridder, 10/20/02, Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02] As with an earlier convoy (see Early November 2001), how could the US not notice this target, especially given intense focus in the area at the time?
November 14-November 25, 2001: At the request of the Pakistani government, the US secretly allows rescue flights into the besieged Taliban stronghold of Kunduz, in Northern Afghanistan, to save Pakistanis fighting for the Taliban and bring them back to Pakistan. Pakistan's President "Musharraf won American support for the airlift by warning that the humiliation of losing hundreds - and perhaps thousands - of Pakistani Army men and intelligence operatives would jeopardize his political survival." [New Yorker, 1/21/02] Dozens of senior Pakistani military officers, including two generals, are flown out. [Now with Bill Moyers, 2/21/03] In addition, it is reported that the Pakistani government assists 50 trucks of foreign fighters to escape the town. [New York Times, 11/24/01] Many news articles at the time suggest an airlift is occurring (for instance, [Independent, 11/16/01, New York Times, 11/24/01, BBC, 11/26/01, Independent, 11/26/01, Guardian, 11/27/01, MSNBC, 11/29/01]), but a media controversy and wide coverage fails to develop. The US and Pakistani governments deny the existence of the airlift. [State Department, 11/16/01, New Yorker, 1/21/02] On December 2, when asked to assure that the US didn't allow such an airlift, Rumsfeld says, "Oh, you can be certain of that. We have not seen a single - to my knowledge, we have not seen a single airplane or helicopter go into Afghanistan in recent days or weeks and extract people and take them out of Afghanistan to any country, let alone Pakistan." [MSNBC, 12/2/01] Reporter Seymour Hersh believes that Rumsfeld must have given approval for the airlift. [Now with Bill Moyers, 2/21/03] But New Yorker magazine reports, "What was supposed to be a limited evacuation apparently slipped out of control and, as an unintended consequence, an unknown number of Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters managed to join in the exodus." A CIA analyst says, "Many of the people they spirited away were in the Taliban leadership" who Pakistan wanted for future political negotiations. US intelligence was "supposed to have access to them, but it didn't happen," he says. According to Indian intelligence, airlifts grow particularly intense in the last three days before the city falls on November 25. Of the 8,000 remaining al-Qaeda, Pakistani, and Taliban, about 5,000 are airlifted out and 3,000 surrender. [New Yorker, 1/21/02] Hersh later claims that "maybe even some of Bin Laden's immediate family were flown out on the those evacuations." [Now with Bill Moyers, 2/21/03] Was the escape of al-Qaeda deliberate so the war against terrorism wouldn't end too soon?
Mid-November 2001: Ismail Khan, governor of Herat province and one of Afghanistan's most successful militia leaders, later claims that his troops and other Northern Alliance fighters held back at the request of the US from sweeping into Kandahar at this time. The reasoning was that the US didn't want the non-Pashtun Northern Alliance to conquer Pashtun areas. But Khan maintains "we could have captured all the Taliban and the al-Qaeda groups. We could have arrested Osama bin Laden with all of his supporters." [USA Today, 1/2/02] British newspapers at the time report bin Laden is surrounded in a 30-mile area, but the conquest of Kandahar takes weeks without the Northern Alliance and bin Laden slips away. [CNN, 11/18/01] Did the US not want the Northern Alliance to conquer this area in the hopes that a moderate version of the Taliban could remain in power (see November 13, 2001)?
November 16, 2001 (B): According to Newsweek, approximately 600 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters escape Afghanistan on this day. Many senior leaders are in the group. They had walked a long trek from bombing in the Tora Bora region. There are two main routes out of the Tora Bora cave complex to Pakistan. The US bombed only one route, so the 600 escaped unattacked using the other route. Hundreds continue to use the escape route for weeks, generally unbothered by US bombing or Pakistani border guards (see Early December 2001). US officials later privately admit they lost a golden opportunity to close a trap. [Newsweek, 8/11/02] On the same day, the media reports that the US is studying routes bin Laden might use to escape Tora Bora [Los Angeles Times, 11/16/01], but the one escape route isn't closed, and apparently bin Laden and others escape into Pakistan using this route weeks later (see Early December 2001). High-ranking British officers will later privately complain that "American commanders had vetoed a proposal to guard the high-altitude trails, arguing that the risks of a firefight, in deep snow, gusting winds and low-slung clouds, were too high." [New York Times, 9/30/02]
November 21, 2001 (C): The remains of all but one of the people on board Flight 77, including the hijackers, are identified. But the identities of the hijackers have still not been confirmed through their remains. [Washington Post, 11/21/01, Mercury, 1/11/02] Over a year later, the FBI still has not given DNA profiles to medical examiners so the hijacker remains can be identified (see Late February 2003). Strangely, the official story states there was a giant fireball on impact that not only destroyed the airplane but actually vaporized the metal. A rescue worker states: "The only way you could tell that an aircraft was inside was that we saw pieces of the nose gear. The devastation was horrific." [NFPA Journal, 11/1/01] Yet remains of every passenger but one was found?
November 25, 2001: US troops land near the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, Afghanistan. [AP, 8/19/02] Apparently, as the noose tightens around Kandahar, new Afghanistan head Hamid Karzai makes a deal with the Taliban, giving them a general amnesty in return for surrender of the city. Taliban's leader Mullah Omar is allowed to escape "with dignity" as part of the deal. But the US says it won't abide by the deal and Karzai then says he won't let Omar go free after all. Taliban forces begin surrendering on December 7. [Sydney Morning Herald, 12/8/01] But Omar does escape.
November 28, 2001: A US Special Forces soldier stationed in Fayetteville, North Carolina later (anonymously) claims that the US has bin Laden pinned in a certain Tora Bora cave on this day, but fails to act. Special Forces soldiers sit by waiting for orders and watch two helicopters fly into the area where bin Laden was believed to be, load up passengers, and fly toward Pakistan. No other soldiers have come forward to corroborate the story, but bin Laden is widely believed to have been in the Tora Bora area at the time. [Fayetteville Observer, 8/2/02] Newsweek separately reports that many locals "claim that mysterious black helicopters swept in, flying low over the mountains at night, and scooped up al-Qaeda's top leaders." [Newsweek, 8/11/02] More incompetence, or a pattern of letting bin Laden escape? Perhaps just coincidentally, on the same day this story is reported, the media also reports a recent spate of strange deaths at the same military base in Fayetteville. Five soldiers and their wives have all died since June 2002 in apparent murder-suicides. At least three were Special Forces soldiers recently returned from Afghanistan. [Independent, 8/2/02] Could it be these soldiers knew too much about escapes and/or human rights atrocities?
2001: James Hauswirth, a retired Phoenix, Arizona FBI agent, writes a letter
to FBI Director Mueller, criticizing the priorities at the Phoenix FBI office.
"[Counter-terrorism] has always been the lowest priority
in the division; it still is the lowest priority in the division," even
though Arizona had been one of the first hubs for radical Muslim groups in the
US. The Phoenix FBI began investigating Muslim terrorists in 1994. A
number of the 9/11 hijackers lived or pass through Arizona, starting with Hani
Hanjour in 1990 (see 1990).
Hauswirth particularly criticizes that "[Ken] Williams,
regarded as the best terrorism agent in the office, had to interrupt his pre-Sept.
11 investigation of Middle Eastern flight students in order to spend six months
on a high-profile arson case. ... 'He fought it. ... Why take your best terrorism
investigator and put him on an arson case? He didn't have a choice.'" Williams
briefly began investigating Middle Eastern students at an Arizona flight school
in early 2000, but a series of difficulties including the arson case, prevented
him from continuing on that case until June 2001. A month later he wrote
a now-famous memo suggesting that terrorists might be training at US flight
schools (see July 10, 2001).
York Times, 6/19/02, Los Angeles Times,
Early December 2001: The Telegraph later reports on the battle for Tora Bora around this time: "In retrospect, and with the benefit of dozens of accounts from the participants, the battle for Tora Bora looks more like a grand charade." Eyewitnesses express shock that the US pinned in Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, thought to contain many high leaders, on three sides only, leaving the route to Pakistan open. An intelligence chief in Afghanistan's new government says: "The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it. And there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters had the Americans acted decisively. Al-Qaeda escaped right out from under their feet." [Telegraph, 2/23/02] It is believed up to 2,000 were in the area when the battle began. The vast majority successfully flee, and only 21 al-Qaeda fighters are captured in the end. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02] The US relies on local forces "whose loyalty and enthusiasm were suspect from the start" to do most of the fighting. [Knight-Ridder, 10/20/02] Some of the local commanders drafted to help the US had ties to bin Laden going back to the 1980s. [New York Times, 9/30/02] These forces actually help al-Qaeda escape. An Afghan intelligence officer says he is astounded that Pentagon planners didn't consider the most obvious exit routes and put down light US infantry to block them. It is later widely believed that bin Laden escapes along one of these routes on November 30 or December 1, walking out with about four loyal followers. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02, Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02] Al-Qaeda's number two leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, also escapes the area. [Knight-Ridder, 10/20/02] Is this part of a pattern of incompetence, or did the US want bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda leaders to escape?
Early December 2001 (C): Al-Qaeda leader Abu Qatada disappears, despite being under surveillance in Britain. He has been "described by some justice officials as the spiritual leader and possible puppet master of al-Qaeda's European networks." [Time, 7/7/02] Qatada had already been sentenced to death in abstentia in Jordan, and is wanted at the time by the US, Spain, France, and Algeria as well. [Guardian, 2/14/02] In October 2001, it was strongly suggested in the media that Qatada would soon be arrested for his known roles in al-Qaeda plots, but he was not. [London Times, 10/21/01] In November, while Qatada was still living openly in Britain, a Spanish judge expressed disbelief that Qatada hadn't been arrested already. Qatada has been connected to a Spanish al-Qaeda cell that may have met with Atta (see July 8-19, 2001). [Observer, 11/25/01] Time magazine will later claim that just before new anti-terrorism laws go into effect in Britain, Abu Qatada and his family are secretly moved to a safe house by the British government, where he is lodged, fed, and clothed by the government. "The deal is that Abu Qatada is deprived of contact with extremists in London and Europe but can't be arrested or expelled because no one officially knows where he is," says a source, whose claims were corroborated by French authorities. The British are doing this to avoid a "hot potato" trial. [Time, 7/7/02] A British official says, "We wouldn't give an awful lot of credence [to the story]." [Guardian, 7/8/02] Some French officials tell the press that Qatada was allowed to disappear because he is actually a British intelligence agent. [Observer, 2/24/02] Qatada is later arrested on October 23, 2002, in London. [London Times, 10/25/02] Was he on the run until his arrest or did the British secretly hold him until they were ready for a trial?
December 6, 2001: In the wake of 9/11, Attorney General Ashcroft has prevented the FBI from investigating gun-purchase records to discover if any of the hundreds arrested or suspected had bought any guns. The White House supports him, saying they have no intention of changing the law to clarify the FBI's ability to search gun-purchase records. [CNN, 12/6/01, Guardian, 5/21/02] What about reports that a gun was possibly used on Flight 11 (see September 11, 2001 (X)) or Flight 93 (see March 27, 2002)?
December 17, 2001: Northern Alliance forces declare that the battle of Tora Bora, with a ground assault begun on December 5, has been won. However, in retrospect, the battle is considered a failure because most of the enemy escapes (see Early December 2001). The Afghan war ends with the elimination of the last major pocket of Taliban/al-Qaeda resistance. [Christian Science Monitor, 3/4/02]
December 24, 2001: The Guardian reports many in Afghanistan intelligence say former top Taliban officials are living openly in villas in Afghanistan and Pakistan. At least four top leaders who had been caught have been simply released. One intelligence source claims to know the exact location of many, and says they could be rounded up within hours. A former Taliban minister now working with the Northern Alliance also claims, "Some are living in luxury in fine houses, they are not hiding in holes. They could be in jail by tonight if the political will existed." The US claims it is working hard to find and catch these leaders. [Guardian, 12/24/01] Yet even a year later no more leaders have been caught in Afghanistan.
January 2002 (B): The FBI finally begins subpoenaing laboratories that worked with the Ames strain of anthrax used in the attacks. But when the labs start to send their samples, they are told to wait another month because a new storage room for the sample needs to be built. "The FBI's delay in requesting the samples - and the government's lack of readiness to receive them - is part of a pattern." Other examples include taking six months to begin testing mailboxes surrounding Trenton, New Jersey, where the anthrax letters were postmarked, and nearly a year to go back into the American Media building in Boca Raton, Florida, to hunt for the source of anthrax that killed the first victim there. [Hartford Courant, 9/7/02]
January 6, 2002: The US locates former Taliban head Mullah Omar and 1,500 of his soldiers in the remote village of Baghran, Afghanistan. After a six-day siege and surrounded by US helicopters and troops, Omar and four bodyguards supposedly escape the dragnet in a daring chase on motorcycles over dirt roads. His soldiers are also set free in return for giving up their weapons, in a deal brokered by local leaders. Yet it remains unclear if Omar was ever in the village in the first place. [Observer, 1/6/02]
January 12, 2002:
Pakistan President Musharraf makes "a forceful speech... condemning Islamic
Post, 3/28/02] Around this time, he also arrests
about 2000 people he calls extremists. He is hailed in the Western media as
redirecting the ISI to support the US agenda. Yet, by the end of the month at
least 800 of the arrested are set free [Washington
Post, 3/28/02] including "most of their firebrand leaders." [Time,
5/6/02] Within one year, "almost all" of
those arrested have been quietly released. Even the most prominent leaders,
such as Maulana Masood Azhar (see December
14, 2002), have been released. Their terrorist organizations are running
again, often under new names. [Washington
February 25, 2002: Time reports that the second highest Taliban official in US custody, Mullah Haji Abdul Samat Khaksar, has been waiting for months for the CIA to talk to him. Even two weeks after Time informed US officials that Khaksar wanted to talk, no one has properly interviewed him. He says he has useful information, and may be able to help locate former Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Time notes that "he claims to have information about al-Qaeda links to the ISI." [Time, 2/25/02] "The little that Khaksar has divulged to an American general and his intelligence aide - is tantalizing." "He says that the ISI agents are still mixed up with the Taliban and al-Qaeda," and that all three have formed a new group to get the US out of Afghanistan. He also says that "the ISI recently assassinated an Afghan in Paktika province who knew the full extent of ISI's collaboration with al-Qaeda." [Time, 2/19/02] Did the US not want to hear from Khaksar because of his embarrassing information about the ISI?
March 1, 2002: An article in Vanity Fair suggests the ISI is still deeply involved in the drug trade in Central Asia. It estimates that Pakistan has a parallel drug economy worth $15 billion a year. Pakistan's official economy is worth about $60 billion. The article notes that the US has not tied its billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan to assurances that Pakistan will stop its involvement in drugs. [Vanity Fair, 3/1/02]
March 24, 2002: The Sunday Times reports that records of bin Laden's satellite phone calls indicate that before 9/11 he and his most senior lieutenants made over 260 calls from their base in Afghanistan to 27 numbers in Britain (see Early 1996-October 1998). They included calls to suspected terrorist agents, sympathizers and companies. If it was known who bin Laden was calling, why weren't those people watched and tracked? It appears British intelligence still doesn't know why bin Laden called certain numbers. Bin Laden's main British contact, Khaled al-Fawwaz, was called over 200 times. [Sunday Times, 3/24/02, Sunday Herald, 5/19/02] Although al Fawwaz was put in prison before 9/11, he told a fellow prisoner about a planned attack on 9/11 (see August 21, 2001).
April 1, 2002: "American officials have quietly abandoned their hopes to reduce Afghanistan's opium production substantially this year and are now bracing for a harvest large enough to inundate the world's heroin and opium markets with cheap drugs." They want to see the new Afghan government make at least a token effort to destroy some opium, but it appears they're not doing even that. Afghan leader Hamid Karzai had announced a total ban on opium cultivation, processing, and trafficking, but it appears to be a total sham. The new harvest is so large, it could be "enough opium to stockpile for two or two and a half more years." [New York Times, 4/1/02] Starting this month, Karzai's government offers farmers $500 for every acre of poppies they destroy, but farmers can earn as much as $6,400 per acre for the crop. The program is eventually canceled when it runs out of money to pay farmers. [AP, 3/27/03] If the US wants to ban opium, why doesn't it fund this program?
May 21-22, 2002: Walid Arkeh is a prisoner in Florida who claims to have told the FBI in August 2001 that al-Qaeda was likely to attack the WTC and other targets soon. At the time, his information was dismissed (see August 21, 2001). After 9/11, his warning is still not taken seriously by the local FBI, but on May 21 he is interviewed by a different group of FBI agents in New York City. They being asking him what three al-Qaeda prisoners he befriended had told him of the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998). When Arkeh mentions he has information about 9/11 that he told the FBI before 9/11, the agents are stunned. One says to him: "Let me tell you something. If you know what happened in New York, we are all in deep shit. We are in deep trouble." He tells them that these prisoners hinted that the WTC would be attacked, and targets in Washington were mentioned as well. However, they did not tell him a date or that airplanes would be used. The New York FBI later informs him that they found his information credible. [Orlando Sentinel, 10/30/02] Near the end of his prison sentence for dealing in stolen property and slapping his child, it appears Arkeh will be deported to Jordan despite a Responsible Cooperators Program promising visas to those who provided important terrorist information. It is unclear if even one person has been given rewards through this program. [Orlando Sentinel, 11/10/02, Orlando Sentinel, 1/11/03]
May 22, 2002: At least half of the 48 Muslim radicals linked to terrorist plots in the US since 1993 manipulated or violated immigration laws to enter this country and then stay here. Even when the terrorists did little to hide violations of visa requirements or other laws, INS officials failed to enforce the laws or to deport the offenders. The terrorists used a variety of methods. At the time they committed their crimes, 12 of the 48 were illegal immigrants. At least five others had lived in the US illegally, and four others had committed significant immigration violations. Others were here legally but should have been rejected for visas because they fit US immigration profiles of people who are likely to overstay their visas. [USA Today, 5/22/02] Experts later strongly suggest that the visa applications for all 15 of the Saudi Arabian 9/11 hijackers should have been rejected due to numerous irregularities (see October 23, 2002).
May 27, 2002: The New Yorker reports that a senior FBI official acknowledges there has been "no breakthrough" in establishing how the 9/11 suicide teams were organized and how they operated. Additionally, none of the thousands of pages of documents and computer hard drives captured in Afghanistan has enabled investigators to broaden their understanding of how the attack occurred, or even to bring an indictment of a conspirator. [New Yorker, 5/27/02]
May 30, 2002: FBI Agent Robert Wright announces he is suing the FBI over a publishing ban. He has written a book but the FBI won't allow him to show it to anyone. He delivers a tearful press conference at the National Press Club describing his lawsuit against the FBI for deliberately curtailing investigations that might have prevented the 9/11 attacks. Unfortunately he has been ordered to not reveal specifics publicly. [Fox News, 5/30/02] Wright claims the FBI shut down his 1998 criminal probe into alleged terrorist-training camps in Chicago and Kansas City. He uses words like "prevented," "thwarted," "obstructed," "threatened," "intimidated," and "retaliation" to describe the actions of his superiors in blocking his attempts to shut off money flows to al-Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist groups. He also alleges that for years the US was training Hamas terrorists to make car bombs to use against Israel, one of the US's closest allies. [LA Weekly, 8/2/02] FTW
Late May 2002: A memo written by a Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams in July 2001 (see July 10, 2001), which warned that Middle Eastern terrorists might be training at US flight schools, is finally received by the FAA - weeks after it was recounted in news reports. [Washington Post, 10/2/02]
July 16-21, 2002: More questions emerge in British newspapers about the conviction of Saeed Sheikh for reporter Daniel Pearl's murder in the days immediately after the verdict (see July 15, 2002). Pakistani police have secretly arrested two men who are the real masterminds of Pearl's murder, and official confirmation of these crucial arrests could have ended Saeed's trial. [Guardian, 7/18/02] On May 16, Pearl's body was found and identified, but the FBI doesn't officially release the DNA results because official confirmation of the body would also have meant a new trial. [Independent, 7/16/02] Pakistani officials admit they waited to release the results until after the verdict. [Guardian, 7/18/02] After the trial ends, Pakistani officials admit that the key testimony of a taxi driver is doubtful. The "taxi driver" turns out to be a head constable policeman. [Guardian, 7/18/02] One of the codefendants turns out to be working for the Special Branch. [Independent, 7/21/02] The law states the trial needs to finish in a week, but in fact it took three months. The trial judge and the venue were changed three times. [BBC, 7/16/02] The trial was held in a bunker underneath a prison, and no reporters were allowed to attend. When all the appeals are done, it is doubtful that Saeed will be extradited to the US, "because Mr. Sheikh might tell the Americans about the links between al-Qaeda and Pakistan's own intelligence organization." [Independent, 7/16/02] Meanwhile, at least seven more suspects remain at large. All have ties to the ISI, and as one investigator remarks, "It seems inconceivable that there isn't someone in the ISI who knows where they're hiding." [Time, 5/6/02] Why is the US complicit in such a sham trial?
July 19, 2002: Faced with growing criticism of its Visa Express program (see May 2001 (H)), the State Department early in July 2002 decides merely to change the name of the program. When that fails to satisfy critics, the program is abandoned altogether on July 19. The Visa Express program allowed anyone in Saudi Arabia to apply for US visas through their travel agents instead of having to show up at a consulate in person. [Washington Post, 7/11/02] Mary Ryan, the head of the State Department's consular service that was responsible for letting most of the hijackers into the US, is also forced to retire. It has been pointed out that Ryan deceived Congress by testifying that "there was nothing State could have done to prevent the terrorists from obtaining visas" (see October 21, 2002 and October 23, 2002). However, after all this, Ryan and the other authors of the Visa Express program are given "outstanding performance" awards of $15,000 each. The reporter who wrote most of the stories critical of Visa Express is briefly detained and pressured by the State Department. [Washington Times, 10/23/02, Philadelphia Daily News, 12/30/02]
July 22, 2002: Defense Secretary Rumsfeld issues a secret directive to Special Operations forces allowing them to "capture terrorists for interrogation or, if necessary, to kill them" anywhere in the world. [New Yorker, 12/16/02] Bush already issued a presidential finding authorizing the killing of terrorist leaders, but this increases such efforts. [New York Times, 12/15/02] However, Bush has not rescinded a presidential executive order dating from the 1970s that bans all assassinations, claiming that terrorists are military combatants. "Many past and present military and intelligence officials have expressed alarm" at the legality, wisdom, ethics, and effectiveness of the assassination program. Apparently much of the leadership of Special Operations is against it, worrying about the blowback effect. In February 2002, a Predator missile targeting someone intelligent agents thought was bin Laden hit its target, but killed three innocent Afghan farmers instead. [New Yorker, 12/16/02] The first successful assassination takes place in November (see November 3, 2002).
July 26, 2002: ABC News reports that an Alabama urban-warfare training camp primarily used by law-enforcement authorities may also have been used to help Islamic militants prepare for terror attacks. US and British authorities don't know how many militant recruits may have come through "Ground Zero USA" camp, which displays bullet-riddled police cars and a school bus with mannequin targets. Before 9/11, an al-Qaeda supporter had a web site recruiting militant Muslims that touted the camp. [South China Morning Post, 7/26/02] How is it so many terrorists seemed to train in the US so easily, and even within clear view of US law enforcement?
Late July 2002: US Special Forces apprehend Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani, a top general and one of the six most-wanted Taliban, in Kandahar. He is flown to a detention center north of Kabul for interrogation, but is released a few weeks later and escapes to Pakistan. Contradicting the statements of many soldiers in Kandahar, the Defense Intelligence Agency says it "has no knowledge that Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani was ever in US custody in Afghanistan. Given Osmani's high profile and our interest in detaining him, misidentification by experienced personnel is unlikely." [Washington Times, 12/18/02] The incident is one of many examples of the US failing to capture top al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan (see Early November 2001, Mid-November-November 25, 2001, November 16, 2001, November 28, 2001, and Early December 2001).
August 2, 2002: MSNBC airs recordings that informant Randy Glass made of arms dealers and Pakistani ISI agents attempting to buy nuclear material and other illegal weapons for bin Laden (see also August 17, 1999 and Early August 2001). [MSNBC, 8/2/02] Meanwhile, it is reported that federal investigators are reexamining the arms smuggling case involving Glass "to determine whether agents of the Pakistani government tried to buy missiles and nuclear weapons components in the United States last year for use by terrorists or Pakistan's military." [Washington Post, 8/2/02 (B)] Two such ISI agents, Rajaa Gulum Abbas and Abdul Malik, are already secretly indicted by this time (see June 2002). But Glass still says, "The government knows about those involved in my case who were never charged, never deported, who actively took part in bringing terrorists into our country to meet with me and undercover agents." [Cox News, 8/2/02] One such person may be a former Egyptian judge named Shireen Shawky, who was interested in buying weapons for the Taliban and attended a meeting in which ISI agent Rajaa Gulum Abbas said the WTC would be destroyed (see July 14, 1999). [WPBF Channel 25, 8/5/02, MSNBC, 8/2/02] Others not charged may include Mohamed el Amir and Dr. Magdy el Amir (see Spring 1999 (B)).
August 22, 2002: Osama Basnan, an alleged associate of 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, and his wife are arrested for visa fraud. [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02, MSNBC, 11/23/02] One report says he was arrested for allegedly having links to Omar al-Bayoumi (see November 1999 (B)). [Arab News, 11/26/02] On October 22, Basnan and his wife, Majeda Dweikat, admit they used false immigration documents to stay in the US. [San Diego Channel 10, 10/22/02] Possible financial connections between Basnan and al-Bayoumi, Almidhar and Alhazmi, and the Saudi royal family are known to the Congressional Inquiry Panel (as well as the FBI and CIA) at this time (see November 22, 2002), but Basnan is deported to Saudi Arabia on November 17, 2002. His wife is deported to Jordan the same day. [Washington Post, 11/24/02] Less than a week after the deportations, new media reports make Basnan an internationally-known wanted man (see November 22, 2002). Why was Basnan let go, when authorities knew of these new revelations about him since at least early October (see October 9, 2002)?
August 25, 2002: Former CIA agent Bob Baer says the US collects virtually no intelligence about Saudi Arabia nor are they given any intelligence collected by the Saudis. He says this is because there are implicit orders from the White House: "Do not collect information on Saudi Arabia because we're going to risk annoying the royal family." In the same show, despite being on a US terrorist list since October 2001 (see October 12, 2001), Saudi millionaire Yassin al-Qadi says, "I'm living my life here in Saudi Arabia without any problem" because he is being protected by the Saudi government. Al-Qadi admits to giving bin Laden money for his "humanitarian" work, but says this is different from bin Laden's terrorist work. Presented with this information, the US Treasury Department only says that the US "is pleased with and appreciates the actions taken by the Saudis" in the war on terror. The Saudi government still has not given US intelligence permission to talk to any family members of the hijackers, even though some US journalists have had limited contact with a few. [MSNBC, 8/25/02]
August 28, 2002 (B): "A global campaign to block al-Qaeda's access to money has stalled, enabling the terrorist network to obtain a fresh infusion of tens of millions of dollars and putting it in a position to finance future attacks, according to a draft UN report." In the months immediately following 9/11, more than $112 million in assets was frozen. Since then, only $10 million more has been frozen, and most of the original money has been unfrozen due to lack of evidence. Private donations to the group, estimated at $16 million a year, are believed to "continue, largely unabated." The US and other governments are not sharing information about suspected terrorists, and known terrorists are not being put on suspected terrorist lists. [Washington Post, 8/29/02]
August 30, 2002: The official story about fighter response on 9/11 significantly changes. Previously it was explained that fighters over Washington left to track Flight 93. But in a book released in this month, the pilots said they were given no such order. [Among the Heroes, Jere Longman, 8/02, p. 76, 222] This new account states that after the Pentagon crash, "two F-16's that happened to be on a training mission near Detroit" were sent to intercept Flight 93. But supposedly, they didn't have any weapons since they were on a training mission. US Air Force Col. Robert Marr, commander of the Northeast Air Defense Sector, in Rome, New York, says, "we're going to put them as close to that airplane as we could, in view of the cockpit and convince that guy in that airplane that he needs to land," and if that fails, ram the fighters into the plane. [ABC News, 8/30/02] Supposedly, the question of ramming turned out to be moot, because these fighters were still about 40 miles away when the plane crashed. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] If the story is true, it suggests an incredible level of incompetence. Minutes after the second WTC crash at 9:03, military base commanders from all over the US were calling NORAD and volunteering to scramble planes. For instance, the commander at Syracuse, New York said he could get a plane in the air armed with cannon in ten minutes. Yet none of these planes were put in the air until after the last hijacked plane had crashed over an hour later. [Aviation Week and Space Technology, 6/3/02] The idea that the US sent planes after Flight 93 with no weapons is as absurd and contradicts previous accounts. For instance, Cheney has explained how he and Bush agreed to sent fighters to shoot down Flight 93, and repeatedly confirmed that order. [Washington Post, 1/27/02] Were Bush and Cheney given the wrong information or is someone rewriting this story?
September 5, 2002: Based on the recent interrogations of terrorist Zacarias Moussaoui's al-Qaeda associates, including his alleged handler, French intelligence believes Moussaoui was not part of the 9/11 attacks, but was being readied for a second wave of attacks. Says one French official: "Moussaoui was going to be a foot soldier in a second wave of attacks that was supposed to culminate in early 2002 with simultaneous bombings against US embassies in Europe, the Middle East and Asia, as well as several hijackings in the United States." However, the US has charged him with being the "20th hijacker" who planned to be on Flight 77 in the 9/11 attack. [ABC News, 9/5/02] Other accounts suggest he wasn't meant to the 20th hijacker (for instance, see September 30, 2002). Why doesn't the US prosecute Moussaoui on other charges?
September 10, 2002: Right before a one-year deadline, the Port Authority, the government body that owns the WTC complex, is sued by five insurance companies, one utility and 700 relatives of the WTC victims. The insurance companies and utility are suing because of safety violations connected to the installation of diesel fuel tanks in 1999 that many blame for the collapse of WTC Building 7. [Dow Jones News, 9/10/02] The relatives' lawsuit is much more encompassing, and even blames the Port Authority for the Flight 93 hijacking (the Port Authority owns Newark airport, where the flight originated). The relatives' lawsuit is likely to lie dormant for at least six months as evidence is collected. Relatives are also considering suing the airlines, security companies and other entities. [Newsweek, 9/13/02]
September 18, 2002 (B): Two relatives of 9/11 victims testify before the Congressional 9/11 inquiry. Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband Ronald died at the WTC, asks how the FBI was so quickly able to assemble information on the hijackers (see August 13, 2002 (B)). She cites a The New York Times article stating that agents descended on flight schools within hours of the attacks. "How did the FBI know where to go a few hours after the attacks?" she asks. "Were any of the hijackers already under surveillance?" [MSNBC, 9/18/02] She adds, "Our intelligence agencies suffered an utter collapse in their duties and responsibilities leading up to and on September 11th. But their negligence does not stand alone. Agencies like the Port Authority, the City of NY, the FAA, the INS, the Secret Service, NORAD, the Air Force, and the airlines also failed our nation that morning." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] Stephen Push states, "If the intelligence community had been doing its job, my wife, Lisa Raines, would be alive today." He cites the governments failure to place Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi on a terrorist watch list until long after they were photographed meeting with alleged al-Qaeda operatives in Malaysia. [MSNBC, 9/18/02]
October 6, 2002: Newsweek reports that the US has dropped hundreds of thousands of leaflets across Afghanistan offering $25 million for the capture of Taliban leader Mullah Omar and bin Laden. However, the picture of Omar is actually that of an Afghan villager named Mulvi Hafizullah, who is now afraid to leave his house for fear of being killed for the reward money. [Newsweek, 10/6/02]
October 9, 2002: San Diego FBI agent Steven Butler reportedly gives "explosive" testimony to the 9/11 inquiry. Butler, recently retired, has been unable to speak to the media, but accounts of his testimony say he was the agent who managed Abdussattar Shaikh, an FBI informant who rented a room to hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (see September-December 2000). Butler claims he might have uncovered a hint of the 9/11 plot if the CIA had provided the FBI with more information earlier about Alhazmi and Almihdhar. [New York Times, 11/23/02] Butler discloses that he had been monitoring a flow of Saudi Arabian money that wound up in the hands of two of the 9/11 hijackers, but his supervisors failed to take any action on the warnings. It is not known when Butler started investigating the money flow, or warned his supervisors. Some details of this Saudi money trail will cause headlines in November 2002 (see November 22, 2002). The FBI unsuccessfully tried to prevent Butler from testifying (see October 5, 2002). Despite the knowledge about the Saudi money trail involving Osama Basnan and Omar al-Bayoumi revealed at this time, Basnan is nonetheless deported to Saudi Arabia the next month, where he disappears (see August 22, 2002), and al-Bayoumi, who is living in Britain, disappears as well (see September 22, 2001).
October 21, 2002: The General Accounting Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, releases a report asserting that at least 13 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were never interviewed by US consular officials before being granted visas to enter the US. This contradicts previous assurances from the State Department that 12 of the hijackers had been interviewed. It also found that, for 15 hijackers whose applications could be found, none had filled in the documents properly. Records for four other hijackers, including Atta, could not be checked because they were accidentally destroyed (see October 23, 2002). [Washington Post, 10/22/02] The State Department maintains that visa procedures were properly followed. In December 2002, Senators Jon Kyl (R) and Pat Roberts (R) state in a report that "if State Department personnel had merely followed the law and not granted nonimmigrant visas to 15 of the 19 hijackers in Saudi Arabia ... 9/11 would not have happened." [AP, 12/18/02]
October 23, 2002: Visa applications for the 15 Saudi Arabian hijackers are made public, and six separate experts agree: "All of them should have been denied entry [into the US]." Joel Mowbray, who first breaks the story for the conservative National Review, says he is shocked by what he saw: "I really was expecting al-Qaeda to have trained their operatives well, to beat the system. They didn't have to beat the system, the system was rigged in their favor from the get-go." A former US consular officer says the visas show a pattern of criminal negligence. Some examples: "Abdulaziz Alomari claimed to be a student but didn't name a school; claimed to be married but didn't name a spouse; under nationality and gender, he didn't list anything." "Khalid Almihdhar ... simply listed 'Hotel' as his US destination no name, no city, no state but no problem getting a visa." Only one actually gave a US destination, and one stated his destination as "no." Only Hani Hanjour had a slight delay in acquiring his visa. His first application was flagged because he wrote he wanted to visit for three years when the legal limit is two. When he returned two weeks later, he simply changed the form to read "one year" and was accepted. The experts agree that even allowing for chance, incompetence and human error, the odds were that only a few should have been approved (see October 21, 2002). [New York Post, 10/9/02, ABC News, 10/23/02] Could Michael Springman, a former visa official at the same US consulate where the 15 hijackers got their visas, be correct that the US is purposely letting terrorists get visas (see 1987-1989)? Click here to see visa applications for Hani Hanjour 1, 2 and 3, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, and Abdulaziz Alomari, all taken from the National Review. [National Review, 10/9/02]
October 25, 2002: "[German authorities] say they're not getting the cooperation they need from the authorities in the USA, and they're worried that a political dispute between Washington and Berlin is hampering their ability to protect the public... In Hamburg, the police say that breakdown in communications between the US and German governments has also led to a dramatic reduction in the amount of investigative help they're getting from the USA." The Bush administration has not spoken to the German government since it won reelection four months earlier while openly opposing Bush's planned war on Iraq. Germans say existing prosecutions of 9/11 suspects are now threatened by the information breakdown. [PBS Newshour, 10/25/02] For instance, the Germans helped capture terrorist Mohamed Heidar Zammar (see October 27, 2001) and turned him over to a third country, yet now they're learning very little from his interrogations, even though he has admitted to being involved in a plot to attack a consulate in Germany. A US State Department official denies there is any problem, aside from a few "bumps in the road." [New York Times, 11/4/02]
October 28, 2002: Four prisoners are freed from Guantanamo Bay, the first of the 600 or so prisoners there to be released (see January 11, 2002 and April 30, 2002 (B)). The four, mostly elderly Afghan men, are released because they were determined not to be involved in al-Qaeda and posed no security threat. [BBC, 10/29/02] 19 more are released in March 2003. [BBC, 3/24/03] The prisoners are supposedly being kept there to be interrogated about what they know of al-Qaeda and the Taliban. But it is reported that virtually none of the prisoners in Guantanamo have any useful information. One US official says, "[Guantanamo] is a dead end" for fresh intelligence information. According to the Washington Post, "Officials realize many of them had little intelligence value to begin with...." [Washington Post, 10/29/02] US officials privately concede that "perhaps as many as 100 other captives" are innocent of any connections to al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but most of these still have not been released. Furthermore, not a single prisoner has been brought before a US military tribunal. Apparently this is to hide "a sorry fact: the US mostly netted Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters of only low to middling importance, bagging few of the real bad guys." [Time, 10/27/02] At least 59 were deemed to have no intelligence even before being sent to Cuba, but were nonetheless sent there, apparently because of bureaucratic inertia. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02 (B)]
November 22, 2002: Newsweek reports that 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi may have received money from Saudi Arabia's royal family through two Saudis, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan (see November 1999 (B) and December 4, 1999), based on information leaked from the Congressional 9/11 inquiry last month (see October 9, 2002). [Newsweek, 11/22/02, MSNBC, 11/23/02, Washington Post, 11/24/02, New York Times, 11/23/02] Al-Bayoumi's whereabouts are unknown; Basnan was deported to Saudi Arabia on November 17 (see August 22, 2002 and September 22, 2001). Saudi officials and Princess Haifa immediately deny any terrorist connections. [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02] Newsweek reports that while the money trail "could be perfectly innocent ... it is nonetheless intriguing - and could ultimately expose the Saudi government to some of the blame for 9/11 ..." Newsweek reports that Senate Intelligence Committee chairman Bob Graham (D) says, "'This one stinks of people using classified information' for political purposes." [Newsweek, 11/22/02] Some Saudi newspapers which usually reflect government thinking claim the leak is blackmail to pressure Saudi Arabia into supporting war with Iraq. [MSNBC, 11/25/02] Senior government officials claim the FBI and CIA failed to aggressively pursue leads that might have linked the two hijackers to Saudi Arabia. This has caused a bitter dispute between FBI and CIA officials and the intelligence panel investigating the 9/11 attacks (see December 11, 2002 (B)). [New York Times, 11/23/02]A number of senators, including Richard Shelby (R), John McCain (R), Mitch O'Connell (R), Joe Lieberman (D), Bob Graham (D), Joe Biden (D) and Charles Schumer (D) express concern about the Bush administration's action (or non-action) regarding the Saudi royal family and its possible role in funding terrorists. [New York Times, 11/25/02, Reuters, 11/24/02] Lieberman says, "I think it's time for the president to blow the whistle and remember what he said after September 11 - you're either with us or you're with the terrorists." [ABC, 11/25/02]
December 4, 2002: Marion (Spike) Bowman, head of the FBI's National Security Law Unit and the person who refused to seek a special warrant for a search of Zacarias Moussaoui's belongings before the 9/11 attacks (see August 23-27, 2001 and August 28, 2001 (D)) is among nine recipients of bureau awards for "exceptional performance." FBI Director Mueller says the honorees "are strongly linked to our counter-terrorism efforts" and "have gone out on a limb to improve our administrative practices [and] our legal tools." The awards include cash bonuses of up to 35% of each recipient's base salary. The award came shortly after a 9/11 Congressional inquiry report that said Bowman's unit gave Minneapolis FBI agents "inexcusably confused and inaccurate information" that was ''patently false'." [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 12/22/02] Bowman's unit also blocked an urgent request by FBI agents to begin searching for Khalid Almihdhar after his name was put on a watch list (see August 29, 2001). In early 2000, the FBI acknowledged serious blunders in surveillance Bowman's unit conducted during sensitive terrorism and espionage investigations, including agents who illegally videotaped suspects, intercepted e-mails without court permission, and recorded the wrong phone conversations. [AP, 1/10/03] Mueller also promotes Pasquale D'Amuro, the FBI's counter-terrorism chief in New York City before 9/11, to the bureau's top counterterrorism post. A former Justice Department official says Mueller has "promoted the exact same people who have presided over the ... failure." [Time, 12/30/02]
December 5, 2002: Federal agents search the offices of Ptech, Inc., a computer software company in Quincy, Massachusetts, looking for evidence of links to bin Laden. A senior Ptech official confirms that Yassin al-Qadi, one of 12 Saudi businessmen on a secret CIA list suspected of funneling millions of dollars to al-Qaeda, was an investor in the company, beginning in 1994 (see October 1998 and November 26, 2002). [Newsweek, 12/6/02, WBZ4, 12/9/02] Some of Ptech's customers include the White House, Congress, Army, Navy, Air Force, NATO, FAA, FBI and the IRS. [Boston Globe, 12/7/02] A former FBI counter-terrorism official states, "For someone like [al-Qadi] to be involved in a capacity, in an organization, a company that has access to classified information, that has access to government open or classified computer systems, would be of grave concern." Yacub Mirza - "a senior official of major radical Islamic organizations that have been linked by the US government to terrorism" - has recently been on Ptech's board of directors. Hussein Ibrahim, the Vice President and Chief Scientist of Ptech, was vice chairman of a now defunct investment group called BMI. An FBI affidavit names BMI as a conduit to launder money from al-Qadi to Hamas terrorists. [WBZ4, 12/9/02] The search into Ptech is part of Operation Green Quest, which has served 114 search warrants in the past 14 months involving suspected terrorist financing. Fifty arrests have been made and $27.4 million seized. [Forbes, 12/6/02] Al-Qadi's assets were frozen by the FBI in October 2001 (see October 12, 2001). [Arab News, 9/26/02] That same month, a number of Ptech employees told the Boston FBI that Ptech was financially backed by al-Qadi, but the FBI did little more than take their statements. A high level government source claims the FBI did not convey the information to a treasury department investigation of al-Qadi, and none of the government agencies using Ptech software were warned. Indira Singh, a second whistleblower, spoke with the FBI in June 2002 and was "shocked" and "frustrated" when she learned the agency had done nothing. [Boston Globe 12/7/02, WBZ4, 12/9/02] Beginning in mid-June 2002, WBZ-TV Boston had prepared an lengthy investigative report on Ptech, but withheld it for more than three months after receiving "calls from federal law enforcement agencies, some at the highest levels." The station claims the government launched its Ptech probe in August 2002, after they "got wind of our investigation" and "asked us to hold the story so they could come out and do their raid and look like they're ahead of the game." [Boston Globe, 12/7/02 (B) , WBZ4, 12/9/02]
December 9, 2002: US commanders have rejected as too risky many special operations missions to attack Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan. After Army Green Beret A-Teams received good intelligence on the whereabouts of former Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, commanders turned down the missions as too dangerous. Soldiers traced the timidity to an incident in June 2002 called Operation Full Throttle, which resulted in the death of 34 civilians. [Washington Times, 12/9/02]
December 11, 2002 (B): A Senate Select Committee
on Intelligence investigating the performance of government agencies before
the 9/11 attacks releases its final report. A 450-page report was written, but
only nine pages of findings and 15 pages of recommendations are released, and
those have blacked out sections. It is unclear if any more will be released.
[Los Angeles Times, 12/12/02] The committee
accuses the Bush administration of refusing to declassify information about
possible Saudi Arabian financial links to US-based terrorists,
criticizes the FBI for not adapting into a domestic intelligence bureau after
the attacks and says the CIA lacked an effective system for holding its officials
accountable for their actions. Asked if 9/11 could have been prevented, Senator
Bob Graham (D), the committee chairman, gives "a conditional yes."
Graham says the Bush
administration has given Americans an "incomplete and distorted picture"
of the foreign assistance the hijackers may have received." [ABC,
12/10/02] Graham further says, "There are many more findings to be
disclosed" that Americans would find "more than interesting,"
and he and others express frustration that information that should be released
is being kept classified by the Bush administration. [St.
Petersburg Times, 12/12/02] Sen. Richard Shelby
(R), the vice chairman, singles out six people as having "failed in significant
ways to ensure that this country was as prepared as it could have been":
CIA Director Tenet; Tenet's predecessor, John Deutch; former FBI Director Louis
Freeh; NSA Director Michael Hayden; Hayden's predecessor, Lt. Gen. Kenneth Minihan;
and former Deputy Director Barbara McNamara. [Washington
Post, 12/11/02; Committee
Findings, 12/11/02, Committee
Recommendations, 12/11/02] Shelby says that Tenet should resign. "There
have been more failures on his watch as far as massive intelligence failures
than any CIA director in history. Yet he's still there. It's inexplicable to
Newshour, 12/11/02] "A list of 19 recommendations consists largely
of recycled proposals and tepid calls for further study of thorny issues members
themselves could not resolve." [Los
Angeles Times, 12/12/02]
December 12, 2002: The vast majority of the more than 900 people the federal government acknowledges detaining after the 9/11 attacks have been deported, released or convicted of minor crimes unrelated to terrorism, according to government documents (see October 20, 2001). An undisclosed number - most likely in the dozens - are or were held as material witnesses. The Justice Department reports that only six of the 765 people arrested for immigration violations are still held by the INS. An additional 134 people were charged with criminal offenses, with 99 found guilty through pleas or trials. [Chicago Sun-Times, 12/12/02] MSNBC reports that of the "more than 800 people" rounded up since 9/11, "only 10 have been linked in any way to the hijackings" and "probably will turn out to be innocent." [Newsweek, 10/29/02]
December 13, 2002: Henry Kissinger resigns as head of the new 9/11 investigation (see November 27, 2002). [AP, 12/13/02, ABC, 12/13/02, copy of resignation letter] Two days earlier, the Bush Administration argued that Kissinger was not required to disclose his private business clients. [New York Times, 12/12/02] However, the Congressional Research Service insists that he does, and Kissinger resigns rather than reveal his clients. [MSNBC, 12/13/02, Seattle Times, 12/14/02] It is reported that Kissinger is (or has been) a consultant for Unocal, the oil corporation, and was involved in plans to build pipelines through Afghanistan (see October 21, 1995, and August 9, 1998). [Washington Post, 10/5/98, Salon, 12/3/02] Kissinger claimed he did no current work for any oil companies or Mideast clients, but several corporations with heavy investments in Saudi Arabia, such as ABB Group, a Swiss-Swedish engineering firm, and Boeing Corp., pay him consulting fees of at least $250,000 a year. A Boeing spokesman said its "long-standing" relationship with Kissinger involved advice on deals in East Asia, not Saudi Arabia. Boeing sold $7.2 billion worth of aircraft to Saudi Arabia in 1995. [Newsweek, 12/15/02] In a surprising break from usual procedures regarding high-profile presidential appointments, White House lawyers never vetted Kissinger for conflicts of interest. [Newsweek, 12/15/02] The Washington Post says that after the resignations of Kissinger and Mitchell, the commission "has lost time" and "is in disarray, which is no small trick given that it has yet to meet." [Washington Post, 12/14/02]
December 14, 2002: A Pakistani court ruling frees Maulana Masood Azhar, leader of the terrorist group Jaish-e-Mohammad, from prison. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/16/02] Two weeks later, he is freed from house arrest. He was held for exactly one year without charge, the maximum allowed in Pakistan. [AP, 12/29/02] He was arrested shortly after an attack on the Indian Parliament that was blamed on his terrorist group (see December 13, 2001). In 1999 he and Saeed Sheikh were rescued by al-Qaeda from an Indian prison (see December 24-31, 1999), and he has ties to al-Qaeda and possibly the 9/11 attacks (see January 5, 2002). Pakistan frees several other top terrorist leaders in the same month. It is believed they are doing this so these terrorists can fight in a secret proxy war with India over Kashmir. US officials have remained silent about the release of Azhar and others Pakistani terrorist leaders. [Christian Science Monitor, 12/16/02] The US froze the funds of Jaish-e-Mohammad in October 2001 (see October 12, 2001), but the group simply changed its name to al-Furqan, and the US has not frozen the funds of the "new" group. [Financial Times, 2/8/03, Washington Post, 2/8/03]
December 19, 2002: European security chiefs still regard Britain as a safe haven for al-Qaeda units. Since September 11 Britain has had only three minor prosecutions for terrorist offenses, all for being members of groups that are banned in the country. A senior French security source says that Britains record since the attacks is abysmal. [London Times, 12/19/02] Reportedly, hundreds of British recruits trained in al-Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. The French are furious for Britain's lax treatment of terrorism suspects, including key al-Qaeda leader Abu Qatada (see Early December 2001 (C)). [Observer, 2/24/02]
January 22, 2003 (C): The FBI conducts a very public search of a Miami, Florida, house belonging to Mohammed Almasri and his Saudi family. Having lived in Miami since July 2000, on September 9, 2001 they said they were returning to Saudi Arabia, hurriedly put their luggage in a van, and sped away, according to neighbors. A son named Turki Almasri was enrolled at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Florida, where hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi also studied. [Washington Post, 1/23/03, Palm Beach Post, 1/23/03] Neighbors repeatedly called the FBI after 9/11 to report their suspicions, but the FBI only began to search the house in October 2002. The house had remained abandoned, but not sold, since they left just before 9/11. [Washington Post, 1/23/03, Palm Beach Post, 1/22/03, Palm Beach Post, 1/23/03, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1/22/03] The FBI returned for more thorough searches in January 2003, with some agents dressed in white biohazard suits. [Washington Post, 1/23/03] US Representative Robert Wexler (D), later says, "This scenario is screaming out one question: Where was the FBI for 15 months?" The FBI determines there is no terrorism connection, and apologizes to the family. [UPI, 1/24/03] An editorial notes the "ineptitude" of the FBI in not reaching family members over the telephone, as reporters were easily able to do. [Palm Beach Post, 2/1/03]
February 26, 2003: Coleen Rowley, the FBI whistleblower who was proclaimed Time magazine's Person of the Year in 2002, sends another public letter to FBI Director Mueller (see also August 28, 2001 (D) and May 21, 2002). She believes the FBI is not prepared for new terrorist attacks likely to result from the upcoming Iraq war. She also says counter-terrorism cases are being mishandled. She claims the FBI and the Justice Department have not questioned captured al-Qaeda suspects Zacarias Moussaoui and Richard Reid about their al-Qaeda contacts, choosing instead to focus entirely on prosecution. She writes, "Lack of follow-through with regard to Moussaoui and Reid gives a hollow ring to our 'top priority' - i.e. preventing another terrorist attack. Moussaoui almost certainly would know of other al-Qaeda contacts, possibly in the US, and would also be able to alert us to the motive behind his and Mohammed Atta's interest in crop-dusting." Moussaoui's lawyer also says the government has not attempted to talk to Moussaoui since 9/11. [New York Times, 3/5/03 (C), New York Times, 3/6/03 (B)]
Late February 2003: Medical examiners match human remains to the DNA of two of the hijackers that flew on Flights 11 and/or 175 into the WTC. The names of the two hijackers are not released. The FBI gave the examiners DNA profiles of all ten hijackers on those flights a few weeks earlier. Genetic profiles of five hijackers from Flight 77 and the four from Flight 83 that did not match any of the passengers' profiles have been given to the FBI, but the FBI has not given any DNA profiles with which to match them. [CNN, 2/27/03]
March 27, 2003: It is reported that "most members" of the 9/11 Independent Commission still have not received security clearances. [Washington Post, 3/27/03] For instance, Slade Gorton, picked in December 2002, is a former senator with a long background in intelligence issues. Fellow commissioner Lee Hamilton says, "It's kind of astounding that someone like Senator Gorton can't get immediate clearance. It's a matter we are concerned about." The commission is said to be at a "standstill" because of the security clearance issue, and cannot even read the classified findings of the previous 9/11 Congressional inquiry. [Seattle Times, 3/12/03] Already Hamilton has said that, "We will be short of time. It will be very difficult" to meet the deadline of May 2004, when the commission must complete its investigation. [UPI, 2/6/03] Are the security clearances being delayed to thwart the commission?
March 28, 2003: An article highlights conflicts of interest amongst the commissioners on the 9/11 Independent Commission. It had been previously reported that many of the commissioners had ties to the airline industry (see December 16, 2002 (B)), but a number have other ties. "At least three of the 10 commissioners serve as directors of international financial or consulting firms, five work for law firms that represent airlines and three have ties to the US military or defense contractors, according to personal financial disclosures they were required to submit." Bryan Doyle, project manager for the watchdog group Aviation Integrity Project says, "It is simply a failure on the part of the people making the selections to consider the talented pool of non-conflicted individuals." Commission chairman Thomas Kean says that members are expected to steer clear of discussions that might present even the appearance of a conflict. [AP, 3/28/03] It remains to see what will happen in practice.