THE COMPLETE 9/11 TIMELINE, PART 1
By Paul Thompson
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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. I've made separate pages for each thread, in addition to webpages with all the threads together.
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.
For simplicity's sake I don't always use the full names and jobs of some of the major people or organizations in this story. For instance, every time I say "bin Laden," I mean the terrorist Osama bin Laden, not one of his family members. I have standardized the spellings of the Islamic names, even within quotes. Al-Qaeda, for instance, can be spelled many ways, and the person known as Saeed Sheikh has too many name variations and spelling variations to count.
CIA: US Central Intelligence Agency
DEA: US Drug Enforcement Administration
FAA: US Federal Aviation Administration
FDA: US Food and Drug Administration
FBI: US Federal Bureau of Investigations
FEMA: US Federal Emergency Management Agency
ISI: Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani intelligence agency
Mossad: The Israeli intelligence agency
NORAD: US North American Aerospace Defense Command
NSA: US National Security Agency
SEC: US Security and Exchange Commission
Taliban: The rulers of Afghanistan, 1996 - 2001
WTC: World Trade Center
USAMRIID: US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases
Ahmad: General Mahmud Ahmad, Director of the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence agency
Ashcroft: John Ashcroft, US Attorney General under Bush Jr.
Atta: Mohamed Atta, lead 9/11 hijacker
bin Laden: Osama bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda terrorist organization
Bush: George Bush Jr., US President since January, 2001
Cheney: Richard "Dick" Cheney, US Vice President under Bush Jr.
Clinton: Bill Clinton, US President before Bush Jr.
Mueller: Robert Mueller, Director of the FBI since July, 2001
Musharraf: General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan since 1999
Powell: Colin Powell, US Secretary of State under Bush Jr.
Rice: Condaleezza Rice, US National Security Advisor under Bush Jr.
Rumsfeld: Donald Rumsfeld, US Secretary of Defense
Saeed: Ahmad Omar Saeed Sheikh (and many variations thereof), ISI agent, al-Qaeda money man and supposed murderer of reporter Daniel Pearl
Tenet: George Tenet, Director of the CIA since 1997 under Clinton and remaining under Bush Jr.
There are many spellings and aliases - the names and spellings below are the versions preferred by the FBI. *= Some evidence suggests the identity of this person may be incorrect (see September 16-23, 2001).
American Airlines Flight 11
Waleed Alshehri, 22, from Saudi Arabia *
Wail Alshehri, 28, from Saudi Arabia, brother of Waleed Alshehri, had psychological problems *
Abdulaziz Alomari, 22, from Saudi Arabia *
Satam Al Suqami, 25, from Saudi Arabia
Mohamed Atta, 33, from Egypt (the likely pilot) *
United Airlines Flight 93
Saeed Alghamdi, 21, from Saudi Arabia (had flight training) *
Ahmed Alhaznawi, 20, from Saudi Arabia *
Ahmed Alnami, 23, from Saudi Arabia *
Ziad Jarrah, 26, from Lebanon (the likely pilot) *
United Airlines Flight 175
Ahmed Alghamdi, 22, from Saudi Arabia
Hamza Alghamdi, 20, from Saudi Arabia, brother of Ahmed Alghamdi *
Marwan Alshehhi, 23, from United Arab Emirates (the likely pilot) *
Mohand Alshehri, 22, from Saudi Arabia, possible cousin of Marwan Alshehhi and/or from the same extended family as Wail and Waleed Alshehri
Fayez Ahmed Banihammad (Alshehri), 24, from United Arab Emirates (had flight training)
American Airlines Flight 77
Khalid Almihdhar, 26, from Saudi Arabia (originally from Yemen, changed citizenship in 1996) *
Nawaf Alhazmi, 25, from Saudi Arabia
Salem Alhazmi, 20, from Saudi Arabia, brother of Nawaf Alhazmi *
Hani Hanjour, 29, from Saudi Arabia (the likely pilot)
Majed Moqed, 24, from Saudi Arabia *
December 26, 1979: Soviet
forces invade Afghanistan. They will withdraw in 1989 after a brutal 10-year
war. It has been commonly believed that the invasion was unprovoked. But
in a 1998 interview, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security
Adviser, reveals that the CIA began destabilizing the pro-Soviet Afghan government
six months earlier, in a deliberate attempt to get the Soviets to invade and
have their own Vietnam-type costly war: "What is most important to the
history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some
stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold
war?" [Le Nouvel Observateur,
1/29/02] The US and Saudi Arabia give a huge amount of money (estimates
range up to $40 billion total for the war) to support the mujaheddin guerrilla
fighters opposing the Russians.
Most of the money is managed by the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency. [Nation,
Early 1980: Osama bin Laden begins providing financial, organizational, and engineering aid for the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, with the advice and support of the Saudi royal family. [New Yorker, 11/5/01] Some believe he was hand-picked for the job by Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi Arabia's secret service. [Sunday Times, 8/25/02] Bin Laden has been considered a Turki protégé by some biographers. [New Yorker, 11/5/01] The Pakistani ISI wanted a Saudi prince as a public demonstration of the commitment of the Saudi royal family and as a way to ensure royal funds for the anti-Soviet forces. The agency failed to get royalty, but bin Laden, with his family's influential ties, was good enough for the ISI. [Miami Herald, 9/24/01]
October 1980: Salem bin Laden, Osama's oldest brother, is later described by a French secret intelligence report as one of the two closest friends of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd. As such, he often performs important missions for Saudi Arabia. The French report speculates that he is involved in secret Paris meetings between US and Iranian emissaries this month. Frontline, which published the French report, notes that such meetings have never been confirmed. Rumors of these meetings have been called the "October Surprise" and some have speculated Bush Sr. negotiated in these meetings a delay to the release of the US hostages in Iran, thus helping Ronald Reagan and Bush win the 1980 Presidential election. All of this is highly speculative, but if the French report is correct, it points to a long-standing connection of highly illegal behavior between the Bush and bin Laden families (see also Mid-1980s and 1988). [PBS Frontline, 2001]
1982-1991: Afghan opium production skyrockets from 250 tons in 1982 to 2,000 tons in 1991, coinciding with CIA support and funding of the mujaheddin. Alfred McCoy, a professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Wisconsin, says US and Pakistani intelligence officials sanctioned the rebels' drug trafficking because of their fierce opposition to the Soviets: "If their local allies were involved in narcotics trafficking, it didn't trouble CIA. They were willing to keep working with people who were heavily involved in narcotics." For instance, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a rebel leader who received about half of all the CIA's covert weapons, was known to be a major heroin trafficker. The director of the CIA in Afghanistan claims later to be oblivious about the drug trade: "We found out about it later on." [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 9/30/01, Atlantic Monthly, 5/96]
1984: Bin Laden moves to Peshawar, a Pakistani town bordering Afghanistan, and is running a front organization for the mujaheddin known as Maktab al-Khidamar (MAK), funneling money, arms and fighters from the outside world into the Afghan war. [New Yorker, 1/24/00] "MAK was nurtured by Pakistan's state security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the CIA's primary conduit for conducting the covert war against Moscow's occupation." [MSNBC, 8/24/98] He becomes closely tied to the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and greatly strengthens Hekmatyar's opium smuggling operations. [Le Monde, 9/14/01] Hekmatyar had ties with bin Laden, the CIA and drug running, and has also been called "an ISI stooge and creation" by the Wall Street Journal. [Asia Times, 11/15/01]
1984-1994: The US,
through USAID and the University of Nebraska, spends millions of dollars developing
and printing textbooks for Afghan schoolchildren. The textbooks are filled with
violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur
resistance to the Soviet occupation. For instance, children are taught to count
with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and land mines. Lacking any alternative,
millions of these textbooks are used long after 1994; the Taliban are still
using them in 2001. In 2002, the US started producing less violent versions
of the same books, which Bush says will have "respect for human dignity,
instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry." Bush fails
to mention who created those earlier books. [Washington
Post, 3/23/02, CBC,
5/6/02] Since the war with Russia ended in 1989,
why did the US keep promoting Islamic radicalism another five years?
Mid-1980s: Salem bin Laden, Osama's oldest brother, is allegedly involved in the Iran-Contra affair. Quoting a French intelligence report posted by Frontline (see October 1980), The New Yorker reports, "During the nineteen-eighties, when the Reagan Administration secretly arranged for an estimated thirty-four million dollars to be funneled through Saudi Arabia to the Contras, in Nicaragua, Salem bin Laden aided in this cause, according to French intelligence." [New Yorker, 11/5/01, Frontline, 2001]
Mid-1980s (B): The ISI starts a special cell of agents who use profits from heroin production for covert actions "at the insistence of the CIA." "This cell promotes the cultivation of opium and the extraction of heroin in Pakistani territory as well as in the Afghan territory under mujaheddin control for being smuggled into the Soviet controlled areas, in order to turn the Soviet troops heroin addicts. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the ISI's heroin cell started using its network of refineries and smugglers for smuggling heroin to the Western countries and using the money as a supplement to its legitimate economy. But for these heroin dollars, Pakistan's legitimate economy must have collapsed many years ago." [Financial Times, Asian edition, 8/10/01] The ISI grows so powerful on this money, that Time magazine later states, "Even by the shadowy standards of spy agencies, the ISI is notorious. It is commonly branded 'a state within the state,' or Pakistan's 'invisible government.'" [Time, 5/6/02]
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]
1986: The CIA, ISI and bin Laden work together to build the Khost tunnel complex in Afghanistan. This will be a major target of bombing and fighting in the US defeat of the Taliban in 2001. [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] It is reported before 9/11 that "bin Laden worked closely with Saudi, Pakistani and US intelligence services to recruit mujaheddin from many Muslim countries," but this hasn't been reported much since. [UPI, 6/14/01] A CIA spokesman will later claim, "For the record, you should know that the CIA never employed, paid, or maintained any relationship whatsoever with bin Laden." [Ananova, 10/31/01]
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: Prior to this year, George Bush Jr. is a failed oil man. Three times friends and investors have bailed him out to keep him from going bankrupt. But in this year, the same year his father becomes President, some Saudis buy a portion of his small company, Harken, which has never worked outside of Texas. Later in the year, Harken wins a contract in the Persian Gulf and starts doing well financially. These transactions seem so suspicious that the Wall Street Journal in 1991 states it "raises the question of ... an effort to cozy up to a presidential son." Two major investors in Bush's company during this time are Salem bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's oldest brother, and Khaled bin Mahfouz. [Salon, 11/19/01, Intelligence Newsletter, 3/2/00] Khaled bin Mahfouz is a Saudi banker with a 20 percent stake in BCCI, a bank that will go bankrupt a few years later in the biggest corruption scandal in banking history (see July 5, 1991). In 1999 bin Mahfouz will be placed under house arrest in Saudi Arabia for contributions he gave to welfare organizations closely linked to bin Laden (see April 1999). Bin Mahfouz's sister is married to Osama bin Laden (see also August 13, 1996, Early December 2001 (B), December 4, 2001 (B), and November 26, 2002). [Washington Post, 2/17/02] In late 2002, Ron Motley, the lead lawyer in a 9/11 Saudi suit (see August 15, 2002), threatens that Bush, now President, "may find himself being deposed" in court for these financial ties to bin Mahfouz. [Minneapolis Star Tribune, 8/16/02]
August 11, 1988: Bin Laden forms al-Qaeda this year (notes are later
found showing a meeting led by bin Laden on this day discussing "the establishment
of a new military group"). [AP,
August 12, 1988: The first media report appears about Echelon, a high-tech global electronic surveillance network between the US, Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Governments deny that Echelon exists, but whistleblowers expose it. They claim it's being abused in many ways, including to spy on politicians domestically. Echelon is capable of "near total interception of international commercial and satellite communications," including taps into transoceanic cables, but it is "impossible for analysts to listen to all but a small fraction of the billions of telephone calls, and other signals which might contain 'significant' information." [New Statesman, 8/12/88] Understanding the information surveillance capabilities of Echelon is vital to determining what should have been known about 9/11.
1989-May 2000: Nabil al-Marabh moves to Boston in 1989 and apparently lives there as a taxi driver and al-Qaeda sleeper agent for the next ten years. [New York Times, 9/18/01, Boston Herald, 9/19/01] In 1992 he learns to use weapons in an Afghan al-Qaeda training camp with a terrorist named Raed Hijazi. [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/5/02] He and Hijazi live together and drive taxis at the same company in Boston for several years. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/01] A mutual friend at the same taxi company is later killed participating in a 1999 al-Qaeda terrorist attack. [Boston Herald, 9/19/01] Hijazi helps plan the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), and then participates in a failed attempt to bomb a hotel in Jordan (see November 30, 1999). In May 1999, the FBI approaches al-Marabh looking for Hijazi, but al-Marabh lies and says he doesn't know Hijazi. [Washington Post, 9/4/02] Hijazi is arrested in Syria in October 2000 and imprisoned in Jordan for his bomb attempt there. [Toronto Sun, 10/16/01] He begins to cooperate with investigators and identifies al-Marabh as a US al-Qaeda operative. [New York Times, 9/18/01] Terrorist Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999) gives evidence helping to prove that al-Marabh sent money to Hijazi for the Jordan bombing. [Toronto Sun, 11/16/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] By February 1999, al-Marabh is driving taxis in Tampa, Florida while maintaining a cover of living in Boston. [Toronto Star, 10/26/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] [New York Times, 9/18/01] He apparently lives in Tampa at least part time until February 200; investigators later wonder if he is an advance man for the Florida-based hijackers. [New York Times, 9/18/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] Al-Marabh is living in Detroit by May 2000, though he maintains a Boston address until September 2000 (see May 30, 2000-September 11, 2001). [Boston Herald, 9/19/01] These connections with Hijazi lead to a US Customs investigation into al-Marabh in early 2001 that connects him with two of the 9/11 hijackers (see Spring 2001 (B)). Yet, despite all of these al-Qaeda connections and more, the US later decides there is no evidence that al-Marabh is a terrorist (see September 19, 2001-September 3, 2002).
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.
February 15, 1989: Soviet forces withdraw from Afghanistan. Afghan Communists retain control of Kabul, the capital, until April 1992. [Washington Post, 7/19/92]
November 9, 1989: The Berlin Wall begins to fall in East Germany, signifying the end of the Soviet Union as a superpower. Just six days later, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell presents a new strategy document to President Bush Sr., proposing that the US shift from countering Soviet attempts at world dominance to ensuring US world dominance. Bush Sr. accepts this plan in a public speech, with slight modifications, on August 2, 1990, the same day Iraq begins invading Kuwait. In early 1992, Powell, counter to his usual public dove persona, tells congresspeople that the US requires "sufficient power" to "deter any challenger from ever dreaming of challenging us on the world stage." He says, "I want to be the bully on the block." Powell's early ideas of global hegemony will be formalized by others in a 1992 policy document (see March 8, 1992) and finally realized as policy when Bush Jr. becomes president in 2001. [Harper's, 10/02]
1990: Hani Hanjour enters the US, the first of the hijackers to do so. He takes an English course in Tuscon, Arizona. [Time, 9/24/01, Cox News, 10/15/01, New York Times, 6/19/02] However, the FBI claims Hanjour first arrived on October 3, 1991. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02]
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]
1991: Future National Security Advisor Rice joins Chevron's board of directors, and works with Chevron until being picked as Bush's National Security Advisor in 2001. Chevron even names an oil tanker after her. Rice is hired for her expertise in Central Asia, and much of her job is spent arranging oil deals in the Central Asian region. Chevron also has massive investments there, which grow through the 1990s. [Salon, 11/19/01]
1991 (B): Bin Laden, having returned from Afghanistan to Saudi Arabia and the family business in 1989, moves to Sudan. With a personal fortune of around $250 million (estimates range from $50 to $800 million [Miami Herald, 9/24/01]), he begins plotting terrorist attacks against the US. [New Yorker, 1/24/00]
1991-1995: According to a Dutch government report, the US military secretly breaks a United Nations arms embargo during the 1991-1995 Yugoslavia war by channeling arms through radical Muslim groups in an "Iran-Contra-style operation." US, Turkish and Iranian intelligence groups work with radical Muslims in what the Dutch report calls the "Croatian pipeline." Arms bought by Iran and Turkey and financed by Saudi Arabia are flown into Croatia. Mujaheddin fighters are also flown in. The US is "very closely involved" in the flagrant breach of the embargo, an embargo the US is in charge of monitoring. [Guardian, 4/22/02] Could bin Laden have had a secret deal with the US to jointly support the Bosnian Muslims, and in return the US didn't try to catch bin Laden? If so, did it last after 1995?
1991-1997: The Soviet Union collapses in 1991, creating many new nations in Central Asia. Major US oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Texaco, Unocal, BP Amoco, Shell and Enron, directly invest billions in these Central Asian nations, bribing heads of state to secure equity rights in the huge oil reserves in these regions. The oil companies commit to future direct investments in Kazakhstan of $35 billion. These companies face the problem however of having to pay exorbitant prices to Russia to use Russian pipelines to get the oil out. These oil fields have an estimated $6 trillion potential value. US companies own approximately 75% of the rights. [New Yorker, 7/9/01, Asia Times, 1/26/02] FTW
March 1991: Did bin Laden ever truly break with the US and the CIA? The strongest motive that he did comes from this time, which is also roughly when al-Qaeda first starts targeting US interests. Although the Gulf War against Iraq just ended, the US does not withdraw all of its soldiers from Saudi Arabia, but stations some 15,000-20,000 there permanently. [Nation, 2/15/99] In 1991, President Bush Sr. falsely claims that all US troops have withdrawn. [Guardian, 12/21/01] Their presence isn't admitted until 1995, and there has never been an official explanation as to why they are there. The Nation postulates that they are there to prevent a coup. Saudi Arabia has an incredible array of high-tech weaponry, but may lack the expertise to use it and local soldiers may have conflicting loyalties. In 1998, bin Laden will release a statement: "For more than seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples." [Nation, 2/15/99]
July 5, 1991: The Bank of England shuts down the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the largest Muslim bank in the world. Based in Pakistan, this bank financed numerous Muslim terrorist organizations and laundered money generated by illicit drug trafficking and other illegal activities, including arms trafficking. Bin Laden and many other terrorists had accounts there. [Detroit News, 9/30/01] One money-laundering expert claims, "BCCI did dirty work for every major terrorist service in the world." [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02] American and British governments knew about all this yet kept the bank open for years. The ISI had major connections to the bank. But, as later State Department reports indicate, Pakistan remains a major drug trafficking and money-laundering center despite the bank's closing. [Detroit News, 9/30/01] The Washington Post claims, "The CIA used BCCI to funnel millions of dollars to the fighters battling the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan." A French intelligence report later suggests the BCCI network has been largely rebuilt by bin Laden (see October 2001). [Washington Post, 2/17/02] The ruling family of Abu Dhabi, the dominant emirate in the United Arab Emirates, owned 77 percent of the bank. [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02] A network of drug, weapons and money laundering later develops between al-Qaeda, the Taliban, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan (see Mid-1996-October 2001). Is the ISI still connected to this ex-BCCI network? Is the CIA?
March 8, 1992:
The Defense Planning Guidance, "a blueprint for the department's spending
priorities in the aftermath of the first Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet
Union," is leaked to the New York Times. [New
York Times, 3/8/92, Newsday,
3/16/03] The paper causes controversy, because it hadn't yet been "scrubbed"
to replace candid language with euphemisms. [New
York Times, 3/10/92, New York Times, 3/11/92,
The document argues that the US dominates the world as sole superpower, and
to maintain that role it "must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential
competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." [New
York Times, 3/8/92, New York Times, 3/8/92
(B)] As the Observer summarizes it, "America's friends are potential
enemies. They must be in a state of dependence and seek solutions to their problems
in Washington." [Observer,
4/7/02] The document is mainly written by Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby,
who hold relatively low posts at the time, but under Bush Jr. become Deputy
Defense Secretary and Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, respectively.
3/16/03] The document conspicuously avoids mention of collective security
arrangements through the United Nations, instead suggesting the US "should
expect future coalitions to be ad hoc assemblies, often not lasting beyond the
crisis being confronted." [New York Times,
3/8/92] It also calls for "punishing" or "threatening punishment"
against regional aggressors before they act. Interests to be defended pre-emptively
include "access to vital raw materials, primarily
Persian Gulf oil, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic
missiles, [and] threats to US citizens from terrorism." [Harper's,
10/02] Senator Lincoln Chafee (R), later says, "It is my opinion that
[Bush Jr.'s] plan for preemptive strikes was formed back at the end of the first
Bush administration with that 1992 report." [Newsday,
3/16/03] In response to the controversy, in May 1992 the US releases an
updated version of the document that stresses the US will work with the United
Nations and its allies (see also January
1993). [Washington Post, 5/24/92,
June 4, 1992: It is reported that the FBI is investigating the connections between James Bath and George Bush Jr. Bath is Salem bin Laden's official representative in the US. "Documents indicate that the Saudis were using Bath and their huge financial resources to influence US policy," since Bush Jr.'s father is president. Bush denies any connections to Saudi money. What became of this investigation is unclear. [Houston Chronicle, 6/4/92]
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]
December 1992: A bomb explodes in a hotel in Aden, Yemen, killing two tourists. US soldiers had just left the hotel for Somalia. Intelligence agents suspect this may be the first terrorist attack against the US connected to bin Laden. [Miami Herald, 9/24/01]
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 (B): Bin Laden buys a jet from the US military in Arizona (the Pentagon approved the transaction). This aircraft is later used to transport missiles from Pakistan that kill American special forces in Somalia. He also has some of his followers begin training as pilots in US flight schools. These initial flight trainings come to nothing when details are later revealed in a court case about Operation Bojinka (see January 6, 1995). [Sunday Herald, 9/16/01]
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 1993: In his last days in office as Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney releases a document called Defense Strategy for the 1990s. It reasserts the plans for US global domination outlined in an earlier Pentagon policy paper (see March 8, 1992). [Harper's, 10/02] But because of Clinton's presidential victory, the implementation of these plans will have to wait until Bush Jr. becomes president in 2001 and Cheney becomes vice president. However, Cheney and others will continue to refine this vision of global domination through the Project for the New American Century think tank while they wait to reassume political power (see June 3, 1997 and September 2000).
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]
June 1993-October 1994: Saeed Sheikh, a brilliant British student at the London School of Economics, drops out of school and moves to his homeland of Pakistan to become a terrorist. Two months later, he begins training in Afghanistan at camps run by al-Qaeda and the Pakistani army. By mid-1994, he has become a terrorist instructor. In June 1994, he begins kidnapping Western tourists in India. In October 1994, he is captured after kidnapping three Britons and an American, and is put in a maximum-security prison (see November 1994-December 1999). The ISI pays for a lawyer to defend him. [Los Angeles Times, 2/9/02, Daily Mail, 7/16/02, Vanity Fair, 8/02] His supervisor for his terror work is an ISI officer named Ijaz Shah (see February 5, 2002). [Times of India, 3/12/02, Guardian, 7/16/02] Al-Qaeda and the ISI later rescue him from prison (see December 24-31, 1999) and he becomes a central figure in the financing of the 9/11 plot (see Early August 2001 (D)).
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).
November 1993: The Indian government gives approval for Enron's Dabhol power plant, located near Bombay on the west coast of India. Enron has invested $3 billion, the largest single foreign investment in India's history. Enron owns 65 percent of Dabhol. This liquefied natural gas powered plant is supposed to provide one-fifth of India's energy needs by 1997 [Asia Times, 1/81/01, Indian Express, 2/27/00] It is the largest gas-fired power plant in the world. Earlier in the year, the World Bank concludes that the plant is "not economically viable" and refuses to invest in it. [New York Times, 3/20/01] Enron apparently tries to make the plant financially viable by investing in gas fields in nearby Uzbekistan (see June 24, 1996), but it cannot get that gas to Dabhol without a gas pipeline through Afghanistan (see June 24, 1996 and June 1998 (B)). Construction of the plant is abandoned just before completion (see June 2001 (J)).
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]
1994 (B): Coincidentally, three separate attacks this year involve hijacking airplanes to crash them into buildings. A disgruntled Federal Express worker tries to crash a DC-10 into a company building in Memphis but is overpowered by the crew. A lone pilot crashes a small plane onto the White House grounds, just missing the President's bedroom. An Air France flight is hijacked by a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda, with the aim of crashing it into the Eiffel Tower, but French Special Forces storm the plane before it takes off. [New York Times, 10/3/01]
Early 1994-January 1995: 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed lives in the Philippines for a year, planning the Bojinka plot until the plot is exposed and he has to flee (see January 6, 1995). Police later say he lives a very expensive and non-religious lifestyle. He meets in karaoke bars and go-go clubs, dates go-go dancers, stays in four-star hotels, and takes scuba diving lessons. Once he rents a helicopter just to fly it past the window of a girlfriend's office in an attempt to impress her. This appears to be a pattern; for instance he has a big drinking party in 1998. [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/02] Officials believe his obvious access to large sums of money indicate that some larger network is backing him by this time. [Los Angeles Times, 6/6/02] It has been suggested that Mohammed, a Pakistani, is able "to operate as he pleased in Pakistan" in the 1990s [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/02], and even is linked to the Pakistani ISI (see June 4, 2002). Could the ISI be backing him at this early date? His hedonistic time in the Philippines resembles reports of hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in the Philippines (see 1998-2000). Mohammed returns to the Philippines occasionally, even being spotted there after 9/11. [Knight Ridder, 9/9/02] He almost gets caught while visiting an old girlfriend there in 1999, and fails in a second plot to kill the Pope when the Pope cancels his visit to the Philippines that year. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02, London Times, 11/10/02] Does Mohammed meet the hijackers in the Philippines?
September 1994: Starting as Afghani exiles in Pakistan religious schools, the Taliban begin their conquest of Afghanistan. [MSNBC, 10/2/01] "The Taliban are widely alleged to be the creation of Pakistan's military intelligence [the ISI]. Experts say that explains the Taliban's swift military successes." [CNN, 10/5/96] Less often reported is that the CIA worked with the ISI to create the Taliban. A long-time regional expert with extensive CIA ties says: "I warned them that we were creating a monster." He adds that even years later, "The Taliban are not just recruits from 'madrassas' (Muslim theological schools) but are on the payroll of the ISI." [Times of India, 3/7/01] The same claim is made on CNN in February 2002. [CNN, 2/27/02] The Wall Street Journal will state in November 2001: "Despite their clean chins and pressed uniforms, the ISI men are as deeply fundamentalist as any bearded fanatic; the ISI created the Taliban as their own instrument and still supports it." [Asia Times, 11/15/01]
November 1994-December 1999: Saeed Sheikh is imprisoned in India for kidnapping Westerners (see June 1993-October 1994). While there, he meets another prisoner named Aftab Ansari. Ansari, an Indian gangster, will be released on bail near the end of 1999. [India Today, 2/25/02] Saeed also meets another prisoner named Asif Raza Khan, who also is released in 1999. [Rediff, 11/17/01] After Saeed is rescued from prison (see December 24-31, 1999), he works with Ansari and Khan to kidnap Indians and then uses some of the profits to fund the 9/11 attacks (see Early August 2001 (D)). [Frontline, 2/2/02, India Today, 2/14/02] Saeed also becomes good friends with prisoner Maulana Masood Azhar, a terrorist with al-Qaeda connections (see October 3-4, 1993). [Sunday Times, 4/21/02] Saeed will later commit further terrorist acts together with Azhar's group, Jaish-e-Mohammad (see for instance October 1, 2001 (D) and December 13, 2001). [Independent, 2/26/02]
December 12, 1994: Terrorist
Ramzi Yousef attempts a trial run of Operation Bojinka (see January
6, 1995), planting a small bomb on a Philippine Airlines flight to Tokyo
(he gets off on a stopover before the bomb is detonated). It explodes, killing
one man, and would have caused the plane to crash if not for what were described
as heroic efforts by the pilot. [Los
Angeles Times, 9/1/02, Senate
Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
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]
1995-2001: After the Taliban takes control of the area around Kandahar, Afghanistan (see September 1994), prominent Persian Gulf state officials and businessmen, including high-ranking UAE and Saudi government ministers such as Saudi intelligence minister Prince Turki al-Faisal (see July 1998), frequently secretly fly into Kandahar on state and private jets for hunting expeditions. While there, some develop ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda and give them money. Bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar would sometimes participate in these hunting trips. Former US and Afghan officials suspect that the dignitaries' outbound jets may also have smuggled out al-Qaeda and Taliban cargo, just as smuggling was rampant on other airplanes flying out of the country (see Mid-1996-October 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01]
January 6, 1995: Philippine investigators uncover an al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the Pope that would take place when he visits the Philippines one week later. While investigating that, they also uncover Operation Bojinka, planned by the same people: 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993) and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see Early 1994-January 1995). [Independent, 6/6/02, Los Angeles Times, 6/24/02, Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] FTW The plan is to explode 11 or 12 passenger planes over the Pacific Ocean simultaneously. [Agence France Presse, 12/8/01] If successful, up to 4,000 people would have been killed in planes flying to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, and New York. [Insight, 5/27/02] Operation Bojinka was scheduled to go forward just two weeks later on January 21. Apparently a plan was also found for a second phase of attacks. [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, p. 124, Insight, 5/27/02] According to an investigator, in this phase, planes would be hijacked and flown into "key structures in the United States. The World Trade Center, the White House, the Pentagon, the Transamerican Tower, and the Sears Tower were among the prominent structures that had been identified in the plans that we had decoded." [Village Voice, 9/26/01] One pilot, Abdul Hakim Murad, who learned to fly in US flight schools, confesses that his role was to crash a plane into the CIA headquarters as part of this phase of attacks. [Washington Post, 9/23/01] An interrogation report from 1995 states: "[Murad] will hijack said aircraft, control its cockpit and dive it at the CIA headquarters. There will be no bomb or any explosive that he will use in its execution. It is simply a suicidal mission that he is very much willing to execute." [Insight, 5/27/02] A Philippine investigator said on the day of 9/11: "It's Bojinka." He later says: "We told the Americans everything about Bojinka. Why didn't they pay attention?" [Washington Post, 9/23/01] In an interview after 9/11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will claim that the 9/11 attacks were a refinement and resurrection of Bojinka. [Australian, 9/9/02]
February 7, 1995: Terrorist Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 26, 1993 and January 6, 1995). The next day, as Yousef is flying over New York City on his way to a prison cell, an FBI agent says to Yousef, "You see the Trade Centers down there, they're still standing, aren't they?" Yousef responds, "They wouldn't be if I had enough money and enough explosives." [MSNBC, 9/23/01, The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, p. 135]
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]
March 1995-February 1996: A man named Ziad Jarrah rents an apartment in Brooklyn, New York. [Among the Heroes, Jere Longman, 2002, p. 90] The landlords later identify his photograph as being that of the 9/11 hijacker. A Brooklyn apartment lease bears Ziad Jarrah's name. [Boston Globe, 9/25/01] "Another man named Ihassan Jarrah lived with Ziad, drove a livery cab and paid the eight-hundred-dollar monthly rent. The men were quiet, well-mannered, said hello and good-bye. Ziad Jarrah carried a camera and told his landlords that he was a photographer. He would disappear for a few days on occasion, then reappear. Sometimes a woman who appeared to be a prostitute arrived with one of the men. 'Me and my brother used to crack jokes that they were terrorists,' said Jason Matos, a construction worker who lived in a basement there, and whose mother owned the house." [Among the Heroes, Jere Longman, 2002, p. 90] However, Ziad Jarrah is actually still in his home country of Lebanon at this time. He is studying in a Catholic school in Beirut, and is in frequent contact with the rest of his family. His parents drive him home to be with the family nearly every weekend, and they are in frequent contact by telephone as well. [Los Angeles Times, 10/23/01] Not until April 1996 does Jarrah leave Lebanon for the first time, to study in Germany. [Boston Globe, 9/25/01] His family believes that the New York lease proves that there were two Jarrahs. [CNN, 9/18/01] This is not the only example of their Jarrah being in two places at the same time - see Late November 2000-January 30, 2001. Could Jarrah have had a doppelganger?
Spring 1995: In the wake of the uncovering of the Operation Bojinka plot, a letter written by the terrorists who planned the failed 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993) is found on a computer disk in the Philippines. This letter warns that future attacks would be more precise and they would continue to target the WTC if their demands were not met. This letter was never sent, but its contents are revealed in 1998 congressional testimony. [Congressional Hearings, 2/24/98] The Manila, Philippines police chief also reports discovering a statement from bin Laden around this time that although they failed to blow up the WTC in 1993, "on the second attempt they would be successful." [AFP, 9/13/01] Why wasn't security at the WTC noticeably improved after these revelations, or later?
April 3, 1995: Time magazine's cover story reports on the potential for terrorists to kill thousands in highly destructive acts. Senator Sam Nunn outlines a scenario in which terrorists destroy the US Capitol Building by crashing a radio controlled airplane into it. "Its not far-fetched," he says. His idea was taken from Tom Clancy's book Debt of Honour published in August 1994. [Time, 4/3/95] High-ranking al-Qaeda leaders later claim that Flight 93's target was the Capitol Building. [Guardian, 9/9/02]
October 21, 1995: The oil company Unocal signs a contract with Turkmenistan to export $8 billion worth of natural gas through a $3 billion pipeline which would go from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. Political considerations and pressures allow Unocal to edge out a more experienced Argentinean company for the contract. Henry Kissinger, a Unocal consultant, calls it "the triumph of hope over experience." [Washington Post, 10/5/98]
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]
Late 1995: King Fahd of Saudi Arabia suffers a severe stroke. Afterwards, he is able to sit in a chair and open his eyes, but little more. The resulting lack of leadership begins a behind-the-scenes struggle for power and leads to increased corruption. The situation continues to this day. Crown Prince Abdullah has been urging his fellow princes to address the problem of corruption in the kingdom - so far unsuccessfully. A former White House adviser says: "The only reason Fahd's being kept alive is so Abdullah can't become king." [New Yorker, 10/16/01]
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).
1996 (C): The Saudi Arabian government starts paying huge amounts of money to al-Qaeda, becoming its largest financial backer. It also gives money to other extremist groups throughout Asia. This money vastly increases the capability of al-Qaeda. [New Yorker, 10/16/01] Saudis agree to continue sponsoring bin Laden's network (see also May 1996 and July 1998). Says one US official, "'96 is the key year... Bin Laden hooked up to all the bad guys - it's like the Grand Alliance - and had a capability for conducting large-scale operations." The Saudi regime, he says, had "gone to the dark side." Electronic intercepts by the NSA "depict a regime increasingly corrupt, alienated from the country's religious rank and file, and so weakened and frightened that it has brokered its future by channeling hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to protection money to fundamentalist groups that wish to overthrow it." US officials later privately complain "that the Bush Administration, like the Clinton Administration, is refusing to confront this reality, even in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks." [New Yorker, 10/16/01]
1996 (D): Having found a business card of a US flight school in the possession of Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad (see January 6, 1995), the FBI investigates the US flight schools Murad attended. [Washington Post, 9/23/01] He had trained at about 6 flight schools off and on, starting in 1990. Apparently they stop their investigation when they fail to find any other potential suspects (see May 18, 1998). [Insight, 5/27/02]
Thirteen of the hijackers disappeared for significant periods of time before
the end of 2000:
1) Nawaf Alhazmi: The CIA says he was in the Bosnia conflict in the mid-1990s [CIA Director Tenet Testimony, 6/18/02] He fought in Chechnya in 1996 [Observer, 9/23/01] and/or 1998. [Arab News, 9/20/01, ABC News, 1/9/02] He also visited Afghanistan before 1998 and swore loyalty to bin Laden. [CIA Director Tenet Testimony, 6/18/02]
2) Khalid Almihdhar: The CIA says he was in the Bosnia conflict in the mid-1990s [CIA Director Tenet Testimony, 6/18/02] His family claims he left to fight in Chechnya in 1997. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02]
3) Salem Alhazmi: spent time in Chechnya with his brother Nawaf Alhazmi. [ABC News, 1/9/02]
4) Ahmed Alhaznawi: left for Chechnya in 1999 [ABC News, 1/9/02], lost family contact in late 2000. [Arab News, 9/22/01]
5) Hamza Alghamdi: left for Chechnya in early 2000. [Independent, 9/27/01, [Washington Post, 9/25/01] Another report says he went there around January 2001. He called home several times until about June 2001, saying he was in Chechnya. [Arab News, 9/18/01]
6) Mohand Alshehri: went to fight in Chechnya in early 2000. [Arab News, 9/22/01]
7) Ahmed Alnami: left home in June 2000, called home once in June 2001 from an unnamed location. [Arab News, 9/19/01, Washington Post, 9/25/01]
8) Fayez Ahmed Banihammad: left home in July 2000 saying he wanted to participate in a holy war or do relief work. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/01, Washington Post, 9/25/01] He called his parents one time since. [Arab News, 9/18/01]
9) Ahmed Alghamdi: left his studies to fight in Chechnya in 2000, last seen by his family in December 2000. He last called his parents in July 2001 but didn't mention being in the US. [Arab News, 9/18/01, Arab News, 9/20/01]
10) Waleed Alshehri: disappeared with Wail Alshehri in December 2000, spoke of fighting in Chechnya. [Washington Post, 9/25/01, Arab News, 9/18/01]
11) Wail Alshehri: had psychological problems, went with his brother to Mecca to seek help and both disappeared, spoke of fighting in Chechnya. [Washington Post, 9/25/01]
12) Majed Moqed: last seen by a friend in 2000 in Saudi Arabia, who said, "he had a plan to visit the United States to learn English." [Arab News, 9/22/01]
Clearly there is a pattern: 11 appear likely to have fought in Chechnya, and two others are known to have gone missing. It's possible that others have similar histories, but it's hard to tell because "almost nothing [is] known about some." [New York Times, 9/21/01] Furthermore, a colleague claims hijackers Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah and would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh wanted to fight in Chechnya but were told in early 2000 that they were needed elsewhere. [Washington Post, 10/23/02, Reuters, 10/29/02] Reuters has reported: "Western diplomats play down any Chechen involvement by al-Qaeda." [Reuters, 10/24/02] The Chechnya connection to the 9/11 plot has been hardly discussed; could this be because of political implications with Russia? Many of the FBI hijackers photos appear to be incorrect (see September 16-23, 2001). Could some hijackers have died fighting in Chechnya and had their identities used by someone else? If so, it might not be the first time this technique was used: former CIA director James Woolsey claims bin Laden agents murdered 12 men during the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, stole their paperwork, then used their identities for later plots such as the WTC bombing in 1993. [MSNBC, 9/27/01]
January 1996: US intelligence gets information concerning a planned suicide attack by individuals connected with Shaykh Omar Adb al-Rahman and a key al-Qaeda operative. The plan is to fly from Afghanistan to the US and attack the White House. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
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 24, 1996: Uzbekistan signs a deal with Enron "that could lead to joint development of the Central Asian nation's potentially rich natural gas fields." [Houston Chronicle, 6/25/96] The $1.3 billion venture teams Enron with the state companies of Russian and Uzbekistan. [Houston Chronicle, 6/30/96] On July 8, 1996, the US government agrees to give $400 million to help Enron and an Uzbeki state company develop these natural gas fields. [Oil and Gas Journal, 7/8/96] However, the deal is later canceled when it becomes apparent a gas pipeline will not be built across Afghanistan, and there is no easy way to get the gas out of the region (see November 1993 and June 1998 (B)).
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-September 11, 2001: After fleeing Qatar (see January-May 1996), 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed travels the world and plans many terror acts. He is apparently involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998), the 2000 USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000) and other attacks. He previously was involved in the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993) and the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). [Time, 1/20/03] One US official says, "There is a clear operational link between him and the execution of most, if not all, of the al-Qaeda plots over the past five years." [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02] He lives in Prague, Czech Republic, through much of 1997. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] By 1999 he is living in Germany and visiting with the hijackers there (see 1999 (K)). [New York Times, 9/22/02] Using 60 aliases and as many passports, he travels through Europe, Africa, the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia and South America, personally setting up al-Qaeda cells. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02, Time, 1/20/03] The US announces a $2 million reward for his capture in 1998. [New York Times, 6/5/02] But supposedly, US investigators only learn of Mohammed's large role in al-Qaeda after 9/11. [Committee Findings, 12/11/02, Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02] However, one official says, "We have been after him for years, and to say that we weren't is just wrong. We had identified him as a major al-Qaeda operative before Sept. 11." [New York Times, 9/22/02] If reports are true that Mohammed is given protection by Pakistan (Early 1994-January 1995), and is possibly even an ISI agent (see June 4, 2002), doesn't that make Pakistan responsible for all of these terrorist acts?
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]
July 6-August 11, 1996: US officials identify crop-dusters and suicide flights as potential terrorist weapons that could threaten the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. They take steps to prevent any air attacks. Planes are banned from getting too close to Olympic events. During the games, Black Hawk helicopters and US Customs Service jets are deployed to intercept suspicious aircraft over the Olympic venues. Agents monitor crop-duster flights within hundreds of miles of downtown Atlanta. Law enforcement agents also fan out to regional airports throughout northern Georgia "to make sure nobody hijacked a small aircraft and tried to attack one of the venues," says Woody Johnson, the FBI agent in charge. [Chicago Tribune, 11/18/01]
July 7, 1996: The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli think tank, publishes a paper entitled "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." [Chicago Sun-Times, 3/6/03] The paper isn't much different from other Israeli right-wing papers at the time, except the authors: the lead writer is Richard Perle, now chairman of the Defense Policy Board in the US, and very influential with President Bush. Several of the other authors now hold key positions in Washington. The paper advises the new, right-wing Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy "based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism ..." The first step would be the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. A war with Iraq would destabilize the entire Middle East, allowing governments in Syria, Iran, Lebanon and other countries to be replaced. "Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them," the paper concludes. [Guardian, 9/3/02, see the original paper here] Perle will be instrumental is moving Bush's US policy towards war with Iraq (see September 17, 2001 (B)).
August 1996: Bin Laden issues a public fatwa, or religious decree, authorizing attacks on Western military targets in the Arabian Peninsula. In previous years bin Laden was thought by some to be more of a financier of terrorist attacks than a terrorist himself, but this erases all doubts. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
August 13, 1996: Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia come to agreement with state companies in Turkmenistan and Russia to to build a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan, the agreement is finalized the next year (see October 27, 1997). [Unocal website, 8/13/96] The Boston Herald later reports that, "The prime force behind Delta Oil appears to be Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi" (see November 22, 2002 (B)) and that his business interests are "enmeshed" with those of Khalid bin Mahfouz (see for instance 1988 and April 1999). Together and separately, al-Amoudi and bin Mahfouz have become "partners with US firms in a series of ambitious oil development and pipeline projects in central and south Asia." [Boston Herald, 12/10/01] The two are later included in a secret United Nations list of financiers funding al-Qaeda (see November 26, 2002).
September 5, 1996: Terrorist Ramzi Yousef and two other defendants, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, are convicted of crimes relating to Project Bojinka, a failed al-Qaeda plan Yousef devised that would have crashed 11 or 12 planes into buildings simultaneously (see January 1995). [CNN, 9/5/96] Many people, including some experts, have said that Yousef was convicted on September 11, 1996 (for instance, see [A Stunning Intelligence Failure, Paul Monk, 2002]), and this would explain why that date would be chosen in 2001, but that appears to be incorrect.
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])
September 27, 1996: The Taliban conquer Kabul [AP, 8/19/02], establishing control over much of Afghanistan. A surge in the Taliban's military successes at this time is later attributed to an increase in direct military assistance from Pakistan's ISI. [New York Times, 12/8/01] The oil company Unocal is hopeful that the Taliban will stabilize Afghanistan, and allow its pipeline plans to go forward. In fact, "preliminary agreement [on the pipeline] was reached between the [Taliban and Unocal] long before the fall of Kabul. ... Oil industry insiders say the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan is the main reason why Pakistan, a close political ally of America's, has been so supportive of the Taliban, and why America has quietly acquiesced in its conquest of Afghanistan." [Telegraph, 10/11/96]
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]
October 1996 (B): US intelligence learn of an Iranian plot to hijack a Japanese plane over Israel and crash it into Tel Aviv. While the plot was never carried out, it is one more example of intelligence agencies being aware that planes could be used as suicide weapons. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
October 11, 1996: The Telegraph publishes an interesting article about pipeline politics in Afghanistan. Some quotes: "Behind the tribal clashes that have scarred Afghanistan lies one of the great prizes of the 21st century, the fabulous energy reserves of Central Asia." "'The deposits are huge,' said a diplomat from the region. ‘Kazakhstan alone may have more oil than Saudi Arabia. Turkmenistan is already known to have the fifth largest gas reserves in the world.'" [Telegraph, 10/11/96]
Late 1996: After moving the base of his operations to Afghanistan, bin Laden quickly establishes and maintains a major role in the opium drug trade. The money from opium is vital to keep the Taliban in power and fund bin Laden's terrorist network. Yoseff Bodansky, director of the congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare and author of a 1999 biography on bin Laden, says bin Laden takes a 15 percent cut of the drug trade money in exchange for protecting smugglers and laundering their profits. [Star Tribune, 9/30/01] A different estimate has bin Laden taking a cut of up to 10 percent of Afghanistan's drug trade by early 1999. This would give him a yearly income of up to $1 billion out of $6.5 to $10 billion in drug profits seen within Afghanistan each year. [Financial Times, 11/28/01]
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]
1997 (B): It is later claimed that the special CIA paramilitary teams start entering Afghanistan in this year. [Washington Post, 11/18/01]
1997 (C): FBI headquarters is concerned that an unnamed terrorist group would possibly use an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for terrorist attacks. The FBI and CIA become aware that this group had purchased a UAV. At the time, the agencies believed that the only reason to use this UAV would be for either reconnaissance or attack. There was more concern about the possibility of an attack outside the United States, for example, by flying a UAV into a US Embassy or a visiting US delegation. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
1997 or 1998: The Spanish newspaper El Mundo later reports, "According to several professors at the Valencia School of Medicine, some of whom are forensic experts, [Atta] was a student there in 1997 or 1998. Although he used another name then, they remember his face among the students that attended anatomy classes." It is also suggested that "years before, as a student he went to Tarragona. That would explain his last visit to Salou [(see July 8-19, 2001)], where he could have made contact with dormant cells..." [El Mundo, 9/30/01] If this is true, it would contradict Atta's presence as a student in Hamburg, Germany during this entire period. But there are other accounts of Atta seemingly being in two places at once (see 1998-2000, September 1999, Late April-Mid-May 2000, and Spring 2000).
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]
March 1997: An investigation of al-Qaeda contacts in Hamburg by the Constitutional Protection Agency, Germany's domestic intelligence service, begins at least by this time (Germany won't give details). [New York Times, 1/18/03] Telephone intercepts show that a German investigation into Mohammed Haydar Zammar (see November 1, 1998-February 2001 and October 27, 2001) is taking place this month. It is later believed that Zammar, a German of Syrian origin, was a part of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/03] He supposedly later claims he recruited Atta and others into the cell. [Washington Post, 6/19/02] Zammar had been identified a decade earlier by German authorities as a militant. He also made a number of trips to and from Afghanistan. [New York Times, 1/18/03] German intelligence was aware that he was personally invited to Afghanistan by bin Laden. [FAZ, 2/2/03] Spanish investigators say Zammar was a longtime associate of Barakat Yarkas, the alleged boss of Madrid, Spain's al-Qaeda cell (see August 27, 2001). Yarkas had Zammar's phone number in his address book and Zammar visited Yarkas in Madrid. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/03] The investigation into Zammar is perhaps later dropped for lack of evidence, though it continues at least until September 1999 (see February 17, 1999). [AP, 6/22/02]
April 24, 1997: A package containing a petri dish mislabeled "anthracks" is received at the B'nai B'rith headquarters in Washington, DC. "The choice of B'nai B'rith probably was meant to suggest Arab terrorists, because the building had once been the target of an assault by Muslim gunmen." The dish did not contain anthrax but did contain bacillus cereus, a very close, non-toxic cousin of anthrax used by the US Defense Department. There are similarities to the later real anthrax attacks (see October 4, 2001), such as the misspelling "penacilin." In July 2002, B'nai B'rith claims the FBI still hasn't asked them about this hoax anthrax attack. [New York Times, 7/12/02]
June 3, 1997: The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neoconservative think tank formed in the spring of 1997, issues its statement of principles. PNAC's stated aims: "to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests," to achieve "a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad," "to increase defense spending significantly," to challenge "regimes hostile to US interests and values," and to "accept America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles." [PNAC Principles, 6/3/97] These principles matter because they are signed by a group who will become "a rollcall of today's Bush inner circle." [Guardian, 2/26/03] ABC's Ted Koppel will later say PNAC's ideas have "been called a secret blueprint for US global domination" (see also January 26, 1998, September 2000, August 21, 2001 (B)). [ABC News, 3/5/03 (B)]
August 1997: The CIA creates a secret task force to monitor Central Asia's politics and gauge its wealth. Covert CIA officers, some well-trained petroleum engineers, travel through southern Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to sniff out potential oil reserves. [Time, 5/4/98]
October 1997: Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (see December 26, 1979) publishes a book in which he portrays the Eurasian landmass as the key to world power, and Central Asia with its vast oil reserves as the key to domination of Eurasia. He states that for the US to maintain its global primacy, it must prevent any possible adversary from controlling that region. He notes that, "The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of American power has been much more ambivalent. The public supported Americas engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor." Furthermore, because of popular resistance to US military expansionism, his ambitious Central Asian strategy could not be implemented "except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat." [The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives, by Zbigniew Brzezinski, 10/97 (the link is to excerpts of the book from a From the Wilderness article)]
October 27, 1997: Halliburton, a company with future Vice President Cheney as CEO, announces a new agreement to provide technical services and drilling for Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia. The press release also mentions that "Halliburton has been providing a variety of services in Turkmenistan for the past five years." On the same day, a consortium to build a pipeline through Afghanistan is formed. It's called CentGas, and the two main partners are Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia. [Halliburton press release, 10/27/97, CentGas press release, 10/27/97]
November 26, 1997: An industry newsletter reports that Saudi Arabia has abandoned plans to have open bids on a $2 billion power plant near Mecca, deciding that the government will build it instead. What's interesting is that one of the bids was made by a consortium of Enron, the Saudi Binladen Group (run by Osama's family), and Italy's Ansaldo Energia. [Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections, 1/22/98]
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?
December 4, 1997: Representatives of the Taliban are invited guests to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. Future President Bush Jr. is Governor of Texas at the time. The Taliban appear to agree to a $2 billion pipeline deal, but will do the deal only if the US officially recognizes the Taliban regime. The Taliban meet with US officials, and the Telegraph reports that "the US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban's policies against women and children 'despicable,' appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract." A BBC regional correspondent says "the proposal to build a pipeline across Afghanistan is part of an international scramble to profit from developing the rich energy resources of the Caspian Sea." [BBC, 12/4/97, Telegraph, 12/14/97] FTW
December 14, 1997: It is reported that Unocal has hired the University of Nebraska to train 400 Afghani teachers, electricians, carpenters and pipefitters in anticipation of using them for their pipeline in Afghanistan. 150 students are already attending classes. [Telegraph, 12/14/97]
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 (B): It is later revealed by Uzbekistan that Uzbekistan and the US have been conducting joint covert operations against Afghanistan's Taliban regime and bin Laden since at least before this year. [Times of India, 10/14/01, Washington Post, 10/14/01]
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 New York 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 (D): A military report released this year describes a program called "Joint Vision 2010", a series of "analyses, wargames, studies, experiments, and exercises" which are "investigating new operational concepts, doctrines, and organizational approaches that will enable US forces to maintain full spectrum dominance of the battlespace well into the 21st century." "The Air Force has begun a series of wargames entitled Global Engagement at the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama." The same article mentions that the military is working on a "variety of new imaging and signals intelligence sensors, currently in advanced stages of development, deployed aboard the Global Hawk, DarkStar, and Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)..." [Department of Defense Annual Report, 1998] What is the relevance of this? It may be complete coincidence, but "Air Force spokesman Col. Ken McClellan said a man named Mohamed Atta -- which the FBI has identified as one of the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11 -- had once attended the International Officer's School at Maxwell/Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala." [Gannett News Service, 9/17/01] Global Hawk is a technology that enables pilotless flight and has been functioning since at least early 1997. [Department of Defense, 2/20/97] Some have claimed that Global Hawk technology was used to manipulate events on 9/11. Could Atta have taken part in wargames involving Global Hawk (see September 25, 2001)?
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]
1998 (G): Antoine Sfeir, a French Arab specialist, later claims that bin Laden was a CIA asset in the 1980s, and that the CIA maintains contact with bin Laden until this year. He says, "Those contacts didn't end after bin Laden moved to Afghanistan" (see May 18, 1996). He isn't surprised by reports of bin Laden meeting with the CIA in July 2001 (see July 12, 2001) because, "Until the last minute, CIA agents hoped bin Laden would return to US command, as was the case before 1998." [UPI, 11/1/01] The CIA denies ever having any kind of relationship with bin Laden (see 1986).
1998-2000: Hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi live periodically in the town of Mabalacat, Philippines. They stay in the Woodland Resort hotel and apparently learn to fly planes at a nearby flight school. Philippine and US investigators have looked into these visits but haven't confirmed the hijackers' presence there. Locals, however, are certain they saw them frequently partying, drinking alcohol, sleeping with local women, and consorting with many other, unknown Arabs (most of whom disappear shortly before 9/11). For instance, according to a former waitress at the hotel, Alshehhi throws a party in December 1999 with six or seven Arab friends: "They rented the open area by the swimming pool for 1,000 pesos. They drank Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey ... They came in big vehicles, and they had a lot of money. They all had girlfriends." Several employees recall Atta staying at the hotel during the summer of 1999, acting unfriendly and cheap. One hotel employee claims that most of the guests were Arab, and many took flying lessons at the nearby school. These witnesses claim the two used aliases, but the other Arabs referred to Atta as "Mohamed." [Manila Times, 10/2/01, International Herald Tribune, 10/5/01, AP, 9/28/01] Apparently, other hijackers and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed visit the Philippines during this time (see Early 1994-January 1995 and 2000-September 10, 2001). However, according to the official version of events, Atta and Alshehhi are in Hamburg, Germany during this time. Atta is still working on his thesis, which he completes in late 1999. [Australian Broadcasting Corp., 11/12/01]
January 26, 1998: The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative think tank, publishes a letter to President Clinton, urging war against Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein because he is a "hazard" to "a significant portion of the world's supply of oil." In a foretaste of what eventually actually happens, the letter calls for the US to go to war alone, attacks the United Nations, and says the US should not be "crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council." The letter is signed by many who will later lead the 2003 Iraq war. 10 of the 18 signatories later join the Bush Administration, including (future) Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Undersecretaries of State John Bolton and Paula Dobriansky, presidential adviser for the Middle East Elliott Abrams, and Bush's special Iraq envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (see also June 3, 1997, and September 2000). [Sunday Herald, 3/16/03, PNAC Letter, 1/26/98] Clinton does heavily bomb Iraq in late 1998, but the bombing doesn't last long and its long-term effect is the break off of United Nations weapons inspections. [New York Times, 3/22/03]
February 12, 1998: Unocal Vice President John J. Maresca - later to become a Special Ambassador to Afghanistan - testifies before the House of Representatives that until a single, unified, friendly government is in place in Afghanistan the trans-Afghani pipeline will not be built. He suggests that with a pipeline through Afghanistan, the Caspian basin could produce 20 percent of all the non-OPEC oil in the world by 2010. [House International Relations Committee testimony, 2/12/98] FTW
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] This is an expansion of an earlier fatwa issued in August 1996 (see August 1996).
Early 1998: Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador to the UN, meets Taliban officials in Kabul (all such meetings are technically illegal, because the US still officially recognizes the government the Taliban ousted as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan). US officials at the time call the oil and gas pipeline project a "fabulous opportunity" and are especially motivated by the "prospect of circumventing Iran, which offered another route for the pipeline." [Boston Globe, 9/20/01]
Spring 1998: Sources who know bin Laden later claim that bin Laden's mother has the first of two meetings with her son in Afghanistan. This trip was arranged by Prince Turki al-Faisal, then the head of Saudi intelligence. Turki was in charge of the "Afghanistan file" for Saudi Arabia, and had long-standing ties to bin Laden and the Taliban (see Early 1980). [New Yorker, 11/5/01]
April 1998: Osama Basnan, a Saudi living in California, later claims that he writes a letter at this time to Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Sultan and his wife, Princess Haifa bint Faisal, asking for financial help because his wife, Majeda Dweikat, needs thyroid surgery. The Saudi embassy sends Basnan $15,000 and pays the surgical bill. However, University of California at San Diego hospital records say Basnan's wife wasn't treated until April 2000. [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02] Basnan will later come under investigation for possibly using some of this money to support two of the 9/11 hijackers who arrive in San Diego at the end of 1999 (see November 1999 (B), September 22, 2001, November 22, 2002).
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)).
May 26, 1998: In a press conference from Afghanistan, bin Laden discusses "bringing the war home to America." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
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 1998 (B): Enron's agreement to develop natural gas with the government of Uzbekistan is not renewed (see June 24, 1996). Enron closes its office there. The reason for the "failure of Enron's flagship project" is an inability to get the natural gas out of the region. Uzbekistan's production is "well below capacity" and only 10 percent of its production is being exported, all to other countries in the region. The hope was to use a pipeline through Afghanistan, but "Uzbekistan is extremely concerned at the growing strength of the Taliban and its potential impact on stability in Uzbekistan, making any future cooperation on a pipeline project which benefits the Taliban unlikely." A $12 billion pipeline through China is being considered as one solution, but that wouldn't be completed until the end of the next decade at the earliest. [Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections, 10/12/98]
June 1998 (C): US intelligence obtains information from several sources that bin Laden is considering attacks in the US, including Washington and New York. This information is given to senior US officials in July 1998. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
June 1998 (D): An unknown Saudi benefactor pays a Saudi named Saad Al-Habeeb to buy a building in San Diego, California for a new Kurdish community mosque. However, the $545,000 needed will only be given on the condition that a Saudi named Omar al-Bayoumi be installed as the building's maintenance manager with a private office at the mosque. Al-Bayoumi is later suspected of giving financial assistance to two of the 9/11 hijackers (see November 1999 (B) and November 22, 2002). After taking the job, al-Bayoumi keeps an erratic schedule. The people in the mosque eventually begin a move to replace al-Bayoumi, but he moves to Britain in May or June 2001 before this can happen. [Newsweek, 11/24/02, Sunday Mercury, 10/21/01] Al-Bayoumi who "often gave parties and videotaped guests, was widely considered by Muslims [in San Diego] to be a Saudi government agent" (see Mid-January 2000). [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/14/02] "He was always watching [young Saudi college students], always checking up on them, literally following them around and then apparently reporting their activities back to Saudi Arabia," says Henry Bagadan, a Pakistani businessman who worships at the San Diego Islamic Center. [Newsweek, 11/24/02] An anonymous federal investigator states: "Al-Bayoumi came here, set everything up financially, set up the San Diego [terrorist] cell and set up the mosque." An international tax attorney notes that anyone handling business for a mosque or a church could set it up as a tax-exempt charitable organization "and it can easily be used for money laundering." [San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/27/01, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/22/02] Until 1994, al-Bayoumi worked for the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, headed by Prince Sultan, the father of US ambassador Prince Bandar. He told some people he received a monthly stipend from his former employer, a Saudi aviation company called Dallah Avco that has extensive ties to the same Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. He told others that he was a student or a pilot and even claimed to be receiving monthly payments from "family in India" (despite being Saudi), but the explanations didn't seem credible. [Newsweek, 11/22/02, Newsweek, 11/24/02, Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02, San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/27/01, Sunday Mercury, 10/21/01] The FBI is investigating possible ties between Dallah Avco and al-Qaeda, [Newsweek, 10/29/02] and Saleh Abdullah Kamel, the billionaire owner of the company, is on a secret United Nations list of terror financiers (see November 26, 2002).
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]
June 23, 1998: Future Vice President Cheney, working for the Halliburton energy company, states: "I can't think of a time when we've had a region emerge as suddenly to become as strategically significant as the Caspian. It's almost as if the opportunities have arisen overnight." The Caspian Sea is in Central Asia. [Cato Institute Library, Chicago Tribune, 8/10/00]
July 1998: According to documents exposed in a later lawsuit, a meeting takes place in Kandahar, Afghanistan, that leads to a secret deal between Saudi Arabia and the Taliban. Those present include Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi Arabian intelligence (see also Early 1980 and Spring 1998), Taliban leaders, senior officers from the ISI, and bin Laden. Saudi Arabia agrees to give the Taliban and Pakistan "several hundred millions" of dollars, and in return bin Laden promises no attacks against Saudi Arabia. The Saudis also agree to ensure that requests for the extradition of al-Qaeda members will be blocked and promise to block demands by other countries that bin Laden's Afghan training camps will be closed down. Saudi Arabia had previously given money to the Taliban and bribe money to bin Laden (see 1996 (C)), but this ups the ante. [Sunday Times, 8/25/02] A few weeks after the meeting, Prince Turki sends 400 new pickup trucks to Afghanistan. At least $200 million follow. [Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/23/01, New York Post, 8/25/02] Note that reports of this meeting seemingly contradict reports of a meeting the month before between Turki and the Taliban, in which the Taliban agreed to get rid of bin Laden (see June 1998).
July 7, 1998: Thieves snatch a passport from a car driven by a US tourist in Barcelona, Spain. The passport later finds its way into the hands of would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh. Bin al-Shibh allegedly uses the name on the passport in the summer of 2001 as he wires money to pay flight school tuition for Zacarias Moussaoui in Oklahoma. Investigators believe the movement of this passport shows connections between the 9/11 plotters in Germany and a support network in Spain, made up mostly by ethnic Syrians. "Investigators believe that the Syrians served as deep-cover mentors, recruiters, financiers and logistics providers for the hijackers - elite backup for an elite attack team" (see also 1998). [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/03] Atta twice travels to Spain, perhaps to make contact with members of this Spanish support team (see January 4, 2001 (B) and July 8-19, 2001).
August 1998: A German inquiry into Mounir El Motassadeq, an alleged member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell with Atta, begins by this time. Though Germany won't reveal details, documents show that by this month Motassadeq is under surveillance. "The trail soon [leads] to most of the main [Hamburg] participants" in 9/11. On August 29, 1998, surveillance records Motassadeq and Mohamed Haydar Zammar, who had already been identified by police as a suspected extremist (see March 1997), meet at the Hamburg home of Said Bahaji, who is also under surveillance that same year (Bahaji will soon move into an apartment with Atta and other al-Qaeda members, see November 1, 1998-February 2001). German police monitor several other meetings between the Motassadeq and Zammar in the following months. [New York Times, 1/18/03] Motassadeq is later put on trial in Germany for participation in the 9/11 attacks (see August 29, 2002).
August 1998 (B): A CIA intelligence report asserts that Arab terrorists are planning to fly a bomb-laden aircraft from a foreign country into the WTC. The FBI and the FAA don't take the threat seriously because of the state of aviation in that unnamed country. Later, other intelligence information connects this group to al-Qaeda. [New York Times, 9/18/02, Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] An FBI spokesman says the report "was not ignored, it was thoroughly investigated by numerous agencies" and found to be unrelated to al-Qaeda. [Washington Post, 9/19/02] The New York Times says the group is now believed to have "had ties to al-Qaeda." [New York Times, 9/18/02]
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 9, 1998: The Northern Alliance capital of Afghanistan, Mazar-i-Sharif, is conquered by the Taliban. Military support of Pakistan's ISI plays a large role; there is even an intercept of an ISI officer stating, "My boys and I are riding into Mazar-i-Sharif." [New York Times, 12/8/01] This victory gives the Taliban control of 90% of Afghanistan, including the entire pipeline route. CentGas, the consortium behind the gas pipeline that would run through Afghanistan, is now "ready to proceed. Its main partners are the American oil firm Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia, plus Hyundai of South Korea, two Japanese companies, a Pakistani conglomerate and the Turkmen government." However, the pipeline cannot be financed unless the government is officially recognized. "Diplomatic sources said the Taliban's offensive was well prepared and deliberately scheduled two months ahead of the next UN meeting" to decide if the Taliban should be recognized. [Telegraph, 8/13/98]
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]
Late August 1998: A captured member of the al-Qaeda cell that bombed the US embassy in Kenya tells an FBI agent about a conversation he had with his cell's leader. The leader told him that al-Qaeda was planning an attack on the US, but "Things are not ready yet. We don't have everything prepared." [USA Today, 8/29/02]
September 1998: US intelligence gives a memorandum to senior officials detailing al-Qaeda's infrastructure in the US. This includes the use of fronts for terrorist activities. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
September 1998 (B): US intelligence finds information that bin Ladens next operation could possibly involve crashing an aircraft loaded with explosives into a US airport. This information is provided to senior US officials. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Washington Post, 9/19/02]
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]
October-November 1998: US intelligence learns that al-Qaeda is trying to establish a terrorist cell within the US. There are indications they might be trying to recruit US citizens. In the next month, there is information that a cell is attempting to recruit a group of five to seven young men from the US to travel to the Middle East for training. This is part of a plan to strike a US domestic target. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
October 8, 1998: The FAA issues the first of three warnings to the nation's airports and airlines urging a ''high degree of vigilance'' against threats to US civil aviation from al-Qaeda. It specifically warns against a possible terrorist hijacking ''at a metropolitan airport in the Eastern United States.'' The information is based on statements made by bin Laden and other Islamic leaders and intelligence information following the US cruise missile attacks in August. All three warnings came in late 1998, well before 9/11. [Boston Globe, 5/26/02] This report contradicts numerous later statements by US officials that the US never had any pre-9/11 specific threats inside the US or involving hijackings (for instance, see September 12, 2001 or May 16, 2002).
Autumn 1998: US intelligence hears of a bin Laden plot involving aircraft in the New York and Washington areas. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, New York Times, 9/18/02] No more details are known - was this the 9/11 plot, or something else?
November 1998: US intelligence learns that a Turkish extremist group had planned a suicide attack. The conspirators, who were arrested, planned to crash an airplane packed with explosives into a famous tomb during a government ceremony. The Turkish press said the group had cooperated with bin Laden. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
November 1998 (B): Former President George Bush Sr. meets with the bin Laden family on behalf of the Carlyle Group. The meeting takes place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. This is one of two known meetings (see January 2000). [Sunday Herald, 10/7/01]
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. Before 9/11 it is 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 1, 1998: A US intelligence assessment: "[bin Laden] is actively planning against US targets... Multiple reports indicate [he] is keenly interested in striking the US on its own soil... al-Qaeda is recruiting operatives for attacks in the US but has not yet identified potential targets." Later in the month, a classified document signed by a senior US official states: "The intelligence community has strong indications that bin Laden intends to conduct or sponsor attacks inside the US." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Washington Post, 9/19/02]
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]
December 5, 1998: In the wake of the al-Qaeda US embassy attacks (see August 7, 1998), the US gives up on putting a pipeline through Afghanistan. Unocal announces its withdrawing from the CentGas pipeline consortium, and closing three of its four offices in Central Asia. A concern that Clinton will lose support among women voters for upholding the Taliban also plays a role in the cancellation. [New York Times, 12/5/98] FTW
December 21, 1998: In a Time magazine cover story entitled "The Hunt for Osama," it is reported intelligence sources "have evidence that bin Laden may be planning his boldest move yet - a strike on Washington or possibly New York City in an eye-for-an-eye retaliation. 'We've hit his headquarters, now he hits ours,' says a State Department aide." [Time, 12/21/98]
Late 1998: An al-Qaeda operative involved in the bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi is captured and interrogated by the FBI. The FBI learns of a safe house telephone number in Yemen, owned by bin Laden associate Ahmed Al-Hada, hijacker Khalid Almihdhar's father-in-law. [Newsweek, 6/2/02] US intelligence taps the phone line and learns the safe house is an al-Qaeda "logistics center" used by agents around the world to communicate with each other and plan attacks. [Newsweek, 6/2/02] It has been revealed that even bin Laden, from 1996 to 1998 (the two years he had a traced satellite phone), called the safe house dozens of times. [Sunday Times, 3/24/02, Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] In late 1999 the phone line will lead the CIA to an important al-Qaeda "summit" in Malaysia. [Newsweek, 6/2/02] It appears al-Qaeda was still using the phone line until a government raid in February 2002. [CBS News, 2/13/02] What else was learned from this phone and why didn't monitoring of this phone expose the 9/11 attack?
Late 1998 (B): During the investigation of the 1998 embassy bombings, FBI counter-terrorism expert John O'Neill finds a memo by al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef on a computer. The memo shows that bin Laden's group has a keen interest in and detailed knowledge of negotiations between the Taliban and the US over an oil and gas pipeline through Afghanistan. Atef's analysis suggests that the Taliban are not sincere in wanting a pipeline, but are dragging out negotiations to keep Western powers at bay. [Salon, 6/5/02]
Late 1998 (C): FBI counter-terrorism expert John O'Neill and his team investigating the 1998 embassy bombings are repeatedly frustrated by the Saudi government. Guillaume Dasquié, one of the authors of Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, later tells the Village Voice: "We uncovered incredible things... Investigators would arrive to find that key witnesses they were about to interrogate had been beheaded the day before." [Village Voice, 1/2/02, Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, released 11/11/01 (the link is an excerpt containing Chapter 1)]
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 (C): MI6, the British intelligence agency, gives a secret report to liaison staff at the US embassy in London. The reports states that al-Qaeda has plans to use "commercial aircraft" in "unconventional ways", "possibly as flying bombs." [Sunday Times, 6/9/02]
1999 (D): The CIA finds an abandoned airstrip in Afghanistan, and makes plans to use it to evacuate a captured bin Laden, take agents in and out, and similar purposes. It is speculated that this is the same airstrip occupied and used as a base of operations early in the later Afghan war. [Washington Post, 12/19/01]
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 (I): CIA Director Tenet later claims that in this year, the CIA establishes a network of agents throughout Afghanistan and other countries aimed at capturing bin Laden and his deputies. [UPI, 10/17/02] Tenet states that by 9/11, "a map would show that these collection programs and human networks were in place in such numbers to nearly cover Afghanistan. This array meant that, when the military campaign to topple the Taliban and destroy al-Qaeda began [in October 2001], we were able to support it with an enormous body of information and a large stable of assets." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02]
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 1999: A classified report discusses responses to an anthrax attack through the mail. The report, precipitated by a series of false anthrax mailings, is written by William Patrick, inventor of the US anthrax weaponization process, under a CIA contract. [New York Times, 12/3/01] The report was commissioned by Steven Hatfill, a good friend of Patrick. [Baltimore Sun, 6/27/02] The report describes what the US military could do and what a terrorist might be able to achieve. [New York Times, 12/3/01] The similarities between what the report predicted and the anthrax attacks that eventually happen after 9/11 are startling. The BBC later suggests the "possibility that there was a secret CIA project to investigate methods of sending anthrax through the mail which went madly out of control" and that the anthrax attacker knew of this study or took part in it. The CIA and William Patrick deny the existence of this report, even though copies have been leaked to the media. [BBC, 3/14/02, Baltimore Sun, 6/27/02]
February 1999 (B): There is another hoax anthrax attack. A handful of envelopes with almost identical messages are sent to a combination of media and government targets including The Washington Post, NBC's Atlanta office, a post office in Columbus, Georgia (next to Fort Benning, an Army base), and the Old Executive Office Building in Washington. The letters contained fake anthrax powder. "That's interesting because as of 1997, US bio-defense scientists were working basically only with wet anthrax, while by 1999 some had experimented with making powders." The New York Times later suggests that Steven Hatfill could have been behind this attack and the one in 1997 (see April 24, 1997). [New York Times, 7/12/02] Could there be a connection between this hoax and a classified CIA report about sending anthrax through the mail released the same month (see February 1999)?
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]
March 1999: US intelligence learns of plans by an al-Qaeda member who is also a US citizen, to fly a hang glider into the Egyptian Presidential Palace and then detonate the explosives he is carrying. The individual, who received hang glider training in the US, brings a hang glider back to Afghanistan, but various problems arise during the testing of the glider. This unnamed person is subsequently arrested and is in custody abroad. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
March 3, 1999: Andrew Krepinevich, Executive Director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, before the Senate Armed Services Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities: "There appears to be general agreement concerning the need to transform the US military into a significantly different kind of force from that which emerged victorious from the Cold and Gulf Wars. Yet this verbal support has not been translated into a defense program supporting transformation ... the "critical mass" needed to effect it has not yet been achieved. One may conclude that, in the absence of a strong external shock to the United States - a latter-day 'Pearl Harbor' of sorts - surmounting the barriers to transformation will likely prove a long, arduous process." [CSBA, 3/5/99] This comment echoes other strategists who wait for a second Pearl Harbor to fulfill their visions (see October 1997 and September 2000).
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).
April 1, 1999: Ziad Jarrah has an unofficial wedding with his girlfriend, Aisel Senguen. What's interesting is a photo apparently taken by Jarrah at the wedding, shown here. German intelligence found the photo several days after 9/11. An undercover agent was able to immediately identify 10 of the 18 men in the photo, as well as where it was taken: the prayer room of Hamburg's Al-Quds mosque. The informant was also able to identify which of them attended Mohamed Atta's study group. This informant knew even "seemingly trivial details" of some of the men, showing that "probably almost all members of the Hamburg terror cell" had been watched by German state intelligence since this time, if not before. The head of the state intelligence had previously maintained that they knew nothing of any of these men, and had no informant. [FAZ, 2/2/03]
Spring 1999: US intelligence learns of a planned bin Laden attack on a US government facility in Washington (which facility has not been made public). [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, New York Times, 9/18/02]
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]
June 1999: Enron announces an agreement to build a $140 million power plant in the Gaza Strip. One of the major financers for the project comes from the Saudi Binladin Group, a company owned by Osama's family. This is the second attempted project between these two companies. 90% complete, the construction is halted because of Palestinian - Israeli violence and then Enron's bankruptcy. [Washington Post, 3/2/02]
June 1999 (B): In testimony before the Senate
Select Committee on Intelligence and in a briefing to House Permanent Select
Committee on Intelligence staffers one month later, the chief of the CTC describes
reports that bin Laden and his associates are planning attacks in the US. [Senate
Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
July 1999-November 2000: Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi receives about $100,000 from an account in Sharjah, United Arab Emirates during this time. [Financial Times, 11/30/01, Newsweek, 12/2/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02] The money is apparently sent by Mohamed Yousef Mohamed Alqusaidi, believed to be Alshehhi's brother. Alqusaidi had been sending money to Alshehhi in Germany since at least March 1998. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02] It is not clear if this is money innocently sent by Alshehhi's rich Arab family or if it is money deliberately sent for terrorism. Much of the rest of the 9/11 funding also passes through Sharjah (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000, Early August 2001 (D) and September 8-11, 2001), a town at the center of illegal al-Qaeda business dealings (see Mid-1996-October 2001).
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]
Mid-June 1999: Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, plus would-be hijacker Ramzi Bin al-Shibh and associate Mounir El Motassadeq, hold a meeting in Amsterdam, Netherlands. All are living in Hamburg at the time, so it's not clear why they go to meet there, though it's speculated they are meeting someone. Motassadeq also goes to the town of Eindhoven, Netherlands, on three occasions, in early 1999, late 1999 and 2001. [AP, 9/13/02] On at least one occasion, Motassadeq receives cash provided by unnamed "Saudi financiers" that is meant to fund a new Eindhoven mosque. Investigators believe he uses the money to help pay for some 9/11 hijacker flying lessons. [Baltimore Sun, 9/2/02] Alshehhi also flies to Amsterdam from the US in the summer of 2001, but it isn't known why (see April 18, 2001).
July 4, 1999: With the chances of a pipeline deal with the Taliban looking increasingly unlikely, the US government finally issues an executive order prohibiting commercial transactions with the Taliban. [Executive Order, 7/4/99]
July 5, 1999: President Clinton signs an executive order freezing the assets of the Taliban in the US and prohibiting trade and other transactions between US citizens and the Taliban. Clinton blames the Taliban for harboring bin Laden. [CNN, 7/6/99]
July 14, 1999: US government informant Randy Glass records a conversation at a dinner attended by him, illegal arms dealers Diaa Mohsen and Mohammed Malik (see June 12, 2001), a former Egyptian judge named Shireen Shawky, and ISI agent Rajaa Gulum Abbas, held at a restaurant within view of the WTC. FBI agents pretending to be restaurant customers sit at nearby tables. [WPBF Channel 25, 8/5/02, MSNBC, 8/2/02] Abbas says he wants to buy a whole shipload of weapons stolen from the US military to give to bin Laden. [Cox News, 8/2/02] Abbas points to the WTC and says, "Those towers are coming down." This ISI agent later makes two other references to an attack on the WTC. [WPBF Channel 25, 8/5/02, Cox News, 8/2/02, Palm Beach Post, 10/17/02] Abbas also says, "Americans [are] the enemy," and, "We would have no problem with blowing up this entire restaurant because it is full of Americans." [MSNBC, 3/18/03] The meeting is secretly recorded, and parts are shown on television in 2003 (see also August 17, 1999). [MSNBC, 3/18/03 (B)]
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: BJ's Wholesale Club, a store in Hollywood, Florida, later tells the FBI that Atta may have held a BJ's membership card since at least this time ("more than two years"). Several cashiers at the store vaguely remember seeing Atta there. [Miami Herald, 9/18/01] According to the official story, Atta doesn't arrive in the US until June 3, 2000. [Miami Herald, 9/22/01]
September 1999 (B): Steven Hatfill, later suspected of being behind the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 4, 2001), ends his two-year contract working at USAMRIID. But his contact held little meaning after February, when he had started working full time somewhere else. [Weekly Standard, 9/16/02] It is later reported that the strain of anthrax used in the attacks could be no older than September 1999. [New York Times, 6/23/02] While at USAMRIID, Hatfill also worked on virology in a different building than where anthrax was studied, so the odds of Hatfill getting access to the type of anthrax used in the attacks at USAMRIID seems extremely small. [Weekly Standard, 9/16/02]
September 1999 (C): A report prepared for US intelligence entitled the "Sociology and Psychology of Terrorism" is completed. It states: "Al-Qaeda's expected retaliation for the US cruise missile attack ... could take several forms of terrorist attack in the nation's capital. Al-Qaeda could detonate a Chechen-type building-buster bomb at a federal building. Suicide bomber(s) belonging to al-Qaeda's Martyrdom Battalion could crash-land an aircraft packed with high explosives (C-4 and Semtex) into the Pentagon, the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), or the White House. Whatever form an attack may take, bin Laden will most likely retaliate in a spectacular way." The report is by the National Intelligence Council, which advises the President and US intelligence on emerging threats. [AP, 4/18/02, read the complete report on-line] The Bush administration later claims to have never heard of this report until May 2002, despite the fact that it had been publicly posted on the internet since 1999, and "widely shared within the government" according to the New York Times. [CNN, 5/18/02, New York Times, 5/18/02]
September 1999 (D): US intelligence obtains information that bin Laden and others are planning a terrorist act in the US, possibly against specific landmarks in California and New York City. The reliability of the source is unknown. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
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 15, 1999: The first phase of the US Commission on National Security/21st Century, co-chaired by former Senators Gary Hart (D) and Warren Rudman (R) is issued. It concludes: "America will be attacked by terrorists using weapons of mass destruction and Americans will lose their lives on American soil, possibly in large numbers" (see also January 31, 2001). [download the complete report here: USCNS Reports]
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: The ANSER Institute for Homeland Security is founded. This institute claims to be "leading the [homeland security] debate through executive-level education, public awareness programs, workshops for policy makers and online publications: a weekly newsletter and the Journal of Homeland Security, which features articles by senior government leaders and leading homeland security experts." As their webpage makes clear, the first mention of the phrase "homeland security" in a US context came only one month earlier. This institute, which has deep roots in the Air Force, has received tens of millions of government dollars in support. [Online Journal, 6/29/02] They talked about a "second Pearl Harbor" long before 9/11. Doesn't this institute indicate the Department of Homeland Security was planned long before 9/11? Their own website touts their role in the creation of this department, but the media has completely failed to cover the story. [Institute for Homeland Security website, Institute for Homeland Security website FAQ, and, though it's a partisan website, the only reporting on this has been at the Online Journal, 6/29/02]
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]
October 5, 1999: The highly respected Jane's Terrorism and Security Monitor reports that US intelligence is worried bin Laden is planning a major terrorist attack on US soil. They are said to be particularly concerned about some kind of attack on New York, and they have recommended stepped-up security at the New York Stock Exchange and the Federal Reserve. [NewsMax, 10/5/99]
October 12, 1999: General Musharraf becomes leader of Pakistan in a coup. One major reason for the coup is the ISI felt the previous ruler had to go "out of fear that he might buckle to American pressure and reverse Pakistan's policy [of supporting] the Taliban." [New York Times, 12/8/01] Shortly thereafter Musharraf replaces the leader of the ISI, Brig Imtiaz, because of his close ties to the previous leader. Imtiaz is arrested and convicted of "having assets disproportionate to his known sources of income." It comes out that he was keeping tens of millions of dollars earned from heroin smuggling in a Deutschebank account. This is interesting because insider trading just prior to 9/11 will later connect to a branch of Deutschebank recently run by "Buzzy" Krongard, now Executive Director of the CIA (see September 6-10, 2001). [Financial Times (Asian edition), 8/10/01] The new Director of the ISI is Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, a close ally of Musharraf who is instrumental in the success of the coup. [Guardian, 10/9/01] Mahmood will later be fired after suggestions that he helped fund the 9/11 attacks (see October 7, 2001 (B)).
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 1999 (B): As hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar enter the US for the first time (see November 1999), they are met at the Los Angeles International Airport by a Saudi man named Omar al-Bayoumi (see June 1998 (D)). Al-Bayoumi later claims that he didn't know Alhazmi and Almihdhar, but happens to overhear them speaking Arabic in the airport restaurant, introduces himself and begins helping them. He drives them to San Diego, arranges for them to live in an apartment a few doors away in the same apartment building, guarantees the lease and pays $1,550 in cash to cover the first two months rent. He also helps them open a bank account, obtain car insurance, get Social Security cards and call flight schools in Florida. [Newsweek, 11/24/02, Washington Post, 12/29/01, Sunday Mercury, 10/21/01] Alhazmi and Almihdhar may have reimbursed al-Bayoumi for the rent money later the same day. [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02] Al-Bayoumi is arrested after 9/11, but released after one week (see September 22, 2001). Some FBI officials later suggest that al-Bayoumi was an al-Qaeda agent, and the possibility that the Saudi government may have funded him creates headlines in November 2002 (see November 22, 2002). Note that there is some discrepancy as to when Alhazmi and Almihdhar first entered the US; most media report January 2000 (after an important al-Qaeda meeting that they attend in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000)), but some report November 1999 (for instance, Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02]). Since Alhazmi's name appears on a San Diego apartment lease in November 1999, it is hard to see how they could have arrived later than that. [Washington Post, 10/01]
November 3, 1999: The head of Australia's security services admits that the Echelon global surveillance system exists (see August 12, 1988); the US still denies its existence. The BBC describes Echelon's power as "astounding," and elaborates: "Every international telephone call, fax, e-mail, or radio transmission can be listened to by powerful computers capable of voice recognition. They home in on a long list of key words, or patterns of messages. They are looking for evidence of international crime, like terrorism." [BBC, 11/3/99]
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).
November 29, 1999: The United Nations Drug Control Programme has determined the ISI makes around $2.5 billion annually from the sale of illegal drugs. [Times of India, 11/29/99]
November 30, 1999: Jordanian officials successfully uncover an al-Qaeda plot to blow up the Radisson Hotel in Amman, Jordan and other sites on January 1, 2000 (see also 1989-May 2000). [PBS Frontline 10/3/02] A call between al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaydah and a suspected Jordanian terrorist exposes the plot. In the call, Zubaydah states, "The grooms are ready for the big wedding." [Seattle Times, 6/23/02] This call reflects an extremely poor code system, because the FBI already determined in the wake of the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998) that "wedding" was the al-Qaeda code word for bomb. [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, p. 214] Furthermore, it appears al-Qaeda fails to later change their code system, because the codename for the 9/11 attack is also "The Big Wedding." [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/02] US intelligence claims it failed to understand the code language for the 9/11 attacks.
Late November 1999: Investigators believe hijackers Atta, Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah and associates Ramzi bin al-Shibh and Said Bahaji (all members of the same Hamburg, Germany cell) arrive separately in Afghanistan around this time. They meet with bin Laden and train for several months. [CBS, 10/9/02, New York Times, 9/10/02] In a 2002 interview with Al Jazeera, bin al-Shibh says "We had a meeting attended by all four pilots including Nawaf Alhazmi, Atta's right-hand man." The Guardian interprets this to mean that Alhazmi flew Flight 77, not Hani Hanjour as popularly believed. [Guardian, 9/9/02]
December 1999: The CIA begins "persistent" efforts to recruit German businessman Mamoun Darkazanli (see September 24, 2001) as an informer. Darkazanli knows Atta and the other members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. In late 1998, German intelligence had begun an investigation into Darkazanli (see September 20, 1998). Agents occasionally followed him, but Darkazanli obviously noticed the trail on him at least once. More costly and time-consuming electronic surveillance is not done however, and by the end of 1999 the investigation has produced little of value. German law does not allow foreign governments to have informants in Germany. So, this month the CIA representative in Hamburg appears at the headquarters of the Hamburg state domestic intelligence agency, the LFV, responsible for tracking terrorists and domestic extremists. He tells them the CIA believes Darkazanli had knowledge of an unspecified terrorist plot and encourages that he be "turned" against his al-Qaeda comrades. A source later recalls he says, "Darkazanli knows a lot." Efforts to recruit him continue the next year (see Spring 2000). The CIA has not admitted this interest in Darkazanli. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/02]
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 4, 1999: Princess
Haifa bint Faisal, the wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi Ambassador to the US,
begins sending monthly cashier's checks of between $2,000 and $3,500 (accounts
differ) to Majeda Dweikat, the wife of Osama Basnan, a Saudi living in San Diego
(see April 1998). Accounts
also differ over when the checks were first sent (between November 1999 and
about March 2000, a Saudi government spokesman has stated December 4 [Fox
News, 11/23/02]). Basnan's wife signs many of the checks over to her friend
Manal Bajadr, the wife of Omar al-Bayoumi. [Washington
Times, 11/26/02, Newsweek, 11/22/02,
Newsweek, 11/24/02, Guardian,
11/25/02] Basnan's wife received some checks while she was living in Baltimore,
Maryland and Falls Church, Virginia. [Washington
Post, 11/24/02] Falls Church is located outside Washington and near CIA
headquarters. It is also where the World Assembly of Muslim Youth [WAMY] - a
suspected terrorist organization - is located. Abdullah bin Laden (Osama's brother)
was the US director of WAMY; he and his brother Omar lived in Falls Church at
the same time as four of the 9/11 hijackers (see 1996).
It is believed that al-Bayoumi helped 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid
Almihdhar settle in San Diego (see November
1999 (B)), and it is later suggested that the money from the wife of
the Saudi ambassador passes through these two as intermediaries and ultimately
ends up in the hands of the two hijackers (see November
22, 2002). The payments from Princess Haifa continue until May 2002
and may total $51,000, or as much as $73,000. [MSNBC,
11/23/02, MSNBC, 11/27/02]
While living in the San Diego area, al-Bayoumi and Basnan are heavily involved
in relocating and offering financial support to Saudi immigrants in the community.
[Los Angeles Times, 11/24/02] In late
2002, Al-Bayoumi tells an Arabic-language newspaper in London that he did not
pass any money along to the hijackers. [Washington
Times, 12/04/02] Basnan is also described as an al-Qaeda sympathizer who
called 9/11 "a wonderful, glorious day." [Newsweek,
11/22/02] However, Basnan has variously claimed to know al-Bayoumi, not
know him at all or to know him only vaguely, [Arab
News, 11/26/02, ABC,
11/25/02, MSNBC, 11/27/02]
but earlier reports say Basnan and his wife were "very good friends"
of al-Bayoumi and his wife. Both couples lived at the Parkwood Apartments at
the same time as the two hijackers; prior to that, the couples lived together
in a different apartment complex. Also, the two wives were arrested for shoplifting
together at a J. C. Penney in April 2001. [San
Diego Union-Tribune, 10/22/02]
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 (see also November 30, 1999 and January 3, 2000). 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 20, 1999: The BBC explains one reason why the Northern Alliance has been able to hold out for so long in its civil war against the Taliban in Afghanistan: "Iran has stirred up the fighting in order to make sure an international oil pipeline [goes] through its territory and not through Afghanistan." [BBC, 12/20/99] In the summer of 2001 Pakistan and India appear to be leaning towards putting a gas pipeline through Iran but this plan is apparently canceled after the 9/11 attacks (see June 27, 2001).
December 24-31, 1999: An Indian Airlines flight is hijacked and flown to Afghanistan where 155 passengers are held hostage for eight days. They are freed in return for the release of three militants held in Indian prisons. One of the hostages is killed. One of the men freed in the exchange is 9/11 paymaster Saeed Sheikh (see November 1994-December 1999). [BBC, 12/31/99] Another freed militant is terrorist leader Maulana Masood Azhar. Azhar emerges in Pakistan a few days later, and tells a crowd of 10,000, "I have come here because this is my duty to tell you that Muslims should not rest in peace until we have destroyed America and India." [AP, 1/5/00] He then tours Pakistan for weeks under the protection of the ISI. [Vanity Fair, 8/02] The ISI and Saeed helps Azhar form a new terrorist group called Jaish-e-Mohammad, and Azhar is soon plotting terrorist acts again (see October 1, 2001 (D) and December 13, 2001). [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02, Guardian, 7/16/02, Washington Post, 2/8/03]
Late 1999: Hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi report their passports missing, Ziad Jarrah reports his missing in February 2000. [Sun Sentinel, 9/28/01, Inside 9-11: What Really Happened, by Der Spiegel, 2/02, pp. 257-258] Alshehhi has a replacement issued on December 26, 1999. [London Times, 9/20/01] The common theory is that this was to cover up incriminating trips to Afghanistan and other places, but could this have been when they took on new identities?
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]
2000 (B): At some point during this year, an FBI internal memo states that a Middle Eastern nation has been trying to purchase a flight simulator in violation of US restrictions. FBI refuses to disclose the date or details. [Los Angeles Times, 5/30/02] FTW
2000 (C): During this year, there are 425 unknowns - pilots who didn't file or diverted from flight plans or used the wrong frequency. Fighters are scrambled in response 129 times. After 9/11, such scrambles go from about twice a week to three or four times a day. [Calgary Herald, 10/13/01] Between September 2000 and June 2001, fighters are scrambled 67 times. [AP, 8/13/02] General Ralph E. Eberhart, NORAD Commander in Chief, says that before 9/11, "Normally, our units fly 4-6 sorties a month in support of the NORAD air defense mission." [FNS, 10/25/01] Statistics on how many minutes fighters take to scramble before 9/11 apparently are not released.
2000-September 10, 2001: The names of four hijackers are later discovered in Philippines immigration records, according to Philippine Immigration Commissioner Andrea Domingo. However, it hasn't been confirmed if these are the hijackers, or just other Saudis with the same names. Abdulaziz Alomari visits the Philippines once in 2000, then again in February 2001, leaving on February 12. [AP, 9/19/01, Telegraph, 9/20/01, Philippines Daily Inquirer, 9/19/01] Ahmed Alghamdi visits Manila, Philippines more than 13 times in the two years before 9/11. He leaves the Philippines the day before the attacks. [Arizona Daily Star, 9/28/01, Telegraph, 9/20/01] Fayez Ahmed Banihammad visits the Philippines on October 17-19, 2000. [Arizona Daily Star, 9/28/01, Telegraph, 9/20/01] Saeed Alghamdi visits the Philippines on at least 15 occasions in 2001, entering as a tourist. The last visit ends on August 6, 2001. [Telegraph, 9/20/01] Hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi may also have been living in the Philippines (see 1998-2000), and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed occasionally stays there (see Early 1994-January 1995). When in the Philippines, it is possible the hijackers meet with associates of Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden's brother-in-law. Khalifa has been closely linked with the Philippines chapter of the International Islamic Relief Organization, which gets much of its money from the Saudi Arabian government and has lately been accused of being a front for al-Qaeda. Amongst other connections to terrorism, Khalifa helped fund the Islamic Army of Aden, a group that claimed responsibility for the bombing of the USS Cole. [Boston Herald, 10/14/01] Khalifa has been connected through phone calls to Hambali, a major terrorist who attended a planning meeting for the 9/11 attacks in Malaysia, also attended by two hijackers connected to the Islamic Army of Aden (see January 5-8, 2000). [PBS Frontline, 10/3/02, Cox News, 10/21/01] Nothing more has been heard to confirm or deny the hijackers' Philippines connections since these initial reports - are they being downplayed to hide embarrassing connections between the hijackers, bin Laden's family, and the Saudi government?
Early 2000: By the start of this year, the US has already begun "to quietly build influence" in Central Asia. The US has established significant military-to-military relationships with Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Kazakhstan. Soldiers from those countries have been trained by Americans. The militaries of all three have an ongoing relationship with the National Guard of a US state Kazakhstan with Arizona, Kyrgyzstan with Montana, Uzbekistan with Louisiana. The countries also participate in NATO's Partnership for Peace program. [Washington Post, 8/27/02]
January 2000: Former President George Bush Sr. meets with the bin Laden family on behalf of the Carlyle Group. He had also met with them in 1998 (see November 1998 (B)), but it's not known if he met with them after this. Bush denied this meeting took place until a thank you note was found confirming it. [Wall Street Journal, 9/27/01, Guardian, 10/31/01] FTW
January 2000 (B): A DEA government document later leaked to the press [DEA report, 6/01] suggests that a large Israeli spy ring starts penetrating the US from at least this time, if not earlier. This ring, which will later become popularly known as the "art student spy ring," is later shown to have strange connections to the events of 9/11. [Insight, 3/11/02]
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 1, 2000-September 11, 2001: After being released from prison (see December 24-31, 1999), Saeed Sheikh stays in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for several days and meets with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. He also meets with bin Laden, who is said to call Saeed "my special son." He then travels to Pakistan and is given a house by the ISI. [Vanity Fair, 8/02] He lives openly and opulently in Pakistan, even attending "swanky parties attended by senior Pakistani government officials." US authorities conclude he is an asset of the ISI. [Newsweek, 3/13/02] Amazingly, he is allowed to travel freely to Britain, and visits family there at least twice (see 1999 (J)). [Vanity Fair, 8/02] He works with Ijaz Shah, a former ISI official in charge of handling two terrorist groups (see February 5, 2002), Lieutenant-General Mohammad Aziz Khan, former deputy chief of the ISI in charge of relations with Jaish-e-Mohammad (see September 17-28, 2001 and October 7, 2001), and Brigadier Abdullah, a former ISI officer. He is well known to other senior ISI officers. He regularly travels to Afghanistan and helps train new terrorist recruits in training camps there. [New York Times, 2/25/02, National Post, 2/26/02, Guardian, 7/16/02, India Today, 2/25/02] Saeed helps train the 9/11 hijackers also, presumably in Afghanistan. [Telegraph, 9/30/01] He also helps al-Qaeda develop a secure web-based communications system, and there is even talk that he could one day succeed bin Laden. [Vanity Fair, 8/02, Telegraph, 7/16/02] He wires money to the 9/11 hijackers on at least one occasion (see Early August 2001 (D)) and possibly others (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000 and September 8-11, 2001). Presumably he sends the money from the United Arab Emirates during his many trips there. [Guardian, 2/9/02]
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?
Mid-January 2000: Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi who has been living in the US for several years (see June 1998 (D)), throws a welcoming party for future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in San Diego that introduces them to the local Muslim community. [Washington Post, 12/29/01] He also introduces hijacker Hani Hanjour to the community a short time later. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/14/02] One associate later says an al-Bayoumi party "was a big deal ... it meant that everyone accepted them without question." [San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/25/01] This was only a small part of his assistance to the three hijackers (see November 1999 (B)). Why was he so friendly and helpful? Many people in San Diego who knew him believe he was a Saudi government spy, reporting on the activities of Saudi-born college students. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/14/02, Newsweek, 11/22/02]
February 6, 2000: India's largest newsweekly reports that it appears a recent Mossad attempt to infiltrate al-Qaeda failed when they were stopped by Indian customs officials on their way to Bangladesh. These 11 men appeared to be from Afghanistan, but had Israeli passports. One expert states, "It is not unlikely for Mossad to recruit 11 Afghans in Iran and grant them Israeli citizenship to penetrate a network such as Bin Laden's. They would begin by infiltrating them into an Islamic radical group in an unlikely place like Bangladesh." [The Week, 2/6/00] If this shows that Mossad was trying to infiltrate al-Qaeda, did they make other attempts that succeeded, and if so, is this how they learned enough to know where to trail al-Qaeda in the US via the "art student spy ring"?
February 23, 2000: European Parliament hearings over Echelon, the global surveillance network, draw banner headlines across Europe. A report prepared for the European Parliament not only confirms that Echelon exists, but has found that Echelon had twice helped US companies gain an advantage over Europeans. The EU sets up a commission to determine if action should be taken against Britain for security breaches. [New York Times, 2/24/00] The US has denied and continues to deny the very existence of Echelon. But it exists, as Echelon partners Britain and Australia (see November 3, 1999) now admit. [BBC, 5/29/01]
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 2000 (B): US intelligence obtains information about the types of targets that bin Ladens network might strike. The Statue of Liberty is specially mentioned, as are skyscrapers, ports, airports, and nuclear power plants. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
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 17, 2000: Reports suggest bin Laden appears weak and gaunt at an important meeting of supporters. He may be very ill with liver ailments, and is seeking a kidney dialysis machine. [AP, 3/25/00] It is believed he gets the dialysis machine in early 2001. [London Times, 11/01/01] He is able to talk, walk with a cane, and hold meetings, but little else. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 3/16/00, Asiaweek, 3/24/00] If bin Laden had such medical trouble before 9/11, how could he stay alive on the run after 9/11?
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?
March 25, 2000: President Clinton visits Pakistan. It is later revealed that the US secret service believed that the ISI was so deeply infiltrated by terrorist organizations, that it begged Clinton to cancel his visit. Specifically, the US government determined that the ISI had long standing ties with al-Qaeda. When Clinton went ahead anyway, his security took extraordinary and unprecedented precautions. For instance, an empty Air Force One was flown into the country, and the president made the trip in a small unmarked plane. [New York Times, 10/29/01]
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 (B): Investigative reporter Bob Woodward later claims that special CIA paramilitary teams begin "working with tribes and warlords in southern Afghanistan" and help "create a significant new network in the region of the Taliban's greatest strength." [Washington Post, 11/18/01]
Spring 2000 (C): Sources who know bin Laden later claim that bin Laden's stepmother 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 2000: Spruce Whited, director of security for the Portland Public Library, later says Atta and possibly a second hijacker are regulars at the library and frequently use public Internet terminals at this time. He says four other employees recognize Atta as a library patron. "I remember seeing (Atta) in the spring of 2000,'' he says. "I have a vague memory of a second one who turned out to be (Atta's) cousin" (note: this is probably a reference to Marwan Alshehhi). Whited also says federal authorities have not inquired about the library sightings. [Boston Herald, 10/5/01, Portland Press Herald, 10/5/01] According to the official story, Atta doesn't arrive in the US until June 3, 2000. [Miami Herald, 9/22/01, Australian Broadcasting Corp. 11/12/01] Why does the FBI appear uninterested in these early sightings of Atta?
April 2000 (B): US intelligence learns about an alleged bin Laden plot to hijack a 747. The source is a "walk-in" to the FBIs Newark office who claims that he had been to a training camp in Pakistan where he learned hijacking techniques and received arms training. He also stated that he was supposed to meet five to six other individuals in the US who would also participate in the plot. They were instructed to use all necessary force to take over the plane because there would be pilots among the hijacking team. The plan was to fly the plane to Afghanistan, and if they would not make it there, that they were to blow up the plane. Although the individual passed an FBI polygraph, the FBI was never able to verify any aspect of his story or identify his contacts in the US. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
April 2000 (C): The US is given permission to greatly expand a military base in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar, and construction begins shortly thereafter. The justification for expanding, Al Adid, a billion-dollar base, is preparedness for renewed action against Iraq. [Los Angeles Times, 1/6/02] Dozens of other US military bases had sprung up in the region in the 1990s. [Village Voice, 11/13/02] Such facilities in Qatar later form the regional headquarters for the US attack on Iraq in 2003.
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]
April 19, 2000: USA Today states that "Israeli crime groups ... dominate distribution" of Ecstasy. [USA Today, 4/19/00] The DEA also states that most of the Ecstasy sold in the US is "controlled by organized crime figures in Western Europe, Russia and Israel." [UPI, 10/25/01] According to DEA documents, the Israeli "art student" spy ring" has been linked to several ongoing DEA [Ecstasy] investigations in Florida, California, Texas and New York now being closely coordinated by DEA headquarters." [Insight, 3/11/02] In addition to 9/11 connections explored later, was this spy ring meant to obstruct DEA prosecution of Israeli organized crime?
April-May 2000: Around this time hijacker Marwan Alshehhi boasts of planning an attack to a Hamburg librarian. He says, "There will be thousands of dead. You will think of me." He also specifically mentions the WTC. [AFP, 8/29/02, New York Times, 8/29/02] "You will see," Alshehhi adds. "In America something is going to happen. There will be many people killed." [New York Times, 9/10/02] This "demonstrates that the members of the Hamburg cell were not quite as careful to keep secret their plans as had previously been thought. And it appears to bury for good the theory that the pilots were informed of their targets only hours before they took off. Not least, though, Marwan Alshehhi's boast provides a key element for the reconstruction of the plot - a date by which the terrorists had decided on their target." [Guardian, 8/30/02]
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.
May 14, 2000: An inquiry is launched into the behavior of Bayer in an English trial of the anti-anthrax drug Cipro. The drug is tested on hundreds despite the company having conducted studies which showed its drug reacted badly with other drugs, seriously impairing its ability to kill bacteria. These results are kept secret. Nearly half of those operated on at one test center develop a variety of potentially life-threatening infections, data at other test centers is unknown. [Sunday Times, 5/14/00]
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 2000 (B): Around this time, a number of very suspicious web domains are registered. Here's the list: "attackamerica.com," "attackonamerica.com," "attackontwintowers.com," "august11horror.com," "august11terror.com," "horrorinamerica.com," "horrorinnewyork.com," "nycterroriststrike.com," "pearlharborinmanhattan.com," "terrorattack2001.com," "towerofhorror.com," "tradetowerstrike.com," "worldtradecenter929.com," "worldtradecenterbombs.com," "worldtradetowerattack.com," "worldtradetowerstrike.com," "wterroristattack2001.com." A counter-terrorism expert says: "It's unbelievable that [the registration company] would register these domain names" and "if they did make a comment to the FBI, it's unbelievable that the FBI didn't react to it." Several of the names mention 2001 and apparently there were no other websites mentioning other years. Registering a site requires a credit card, so presumably this story could provide leads, but it's unclear what leads the FBI got from this, if any. None of the sites were being actively used on 9/11. [Cybercast News Service, 9/19/01] All had expired around June 2001. [Cybercast News Service, 9/20/01] This story is later called an "urban legend," but the debunkers are later themselves criticized. [Insight, 3/11/02] Perhaps someone heard of the terror plot, thought to capitalize on it, and then thought better of it? Were the two specific dates mentioned, August 11 and September 29, preliminary target strike dates?
June 3, 2000: Atta supposedly arrives in the US for the first time, flying from Prague to Newark on a tourist visa issued May 18 in Berlin. [Miami Herald, 9/22/01, Australian Broadcasting Corp. 11/12/01] Yet there's evidence someone using Atta's name and appearance was in the US before this (see September 1999, Late April-Mid-May 2000, and April 2000).
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]
June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000: Someone using the aliases "Isam Mansour," "Mustafa Ahmed Al-Hisawi," "Mr. Ali" and "Hani (Fawaz Trdng)," sends a total of $109,910 to the 9/11 hijackers in a series of transfers between these dates. [MSNBC, 12/11/01, Newsweek, 12/2/01, New York Times, 12/10/01, Financial Times, 11/30/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02] The money is sent from Sharjah, a emirate in the United Arab Emirates that is a center for al-Qaeda's illegal financial dealings (see Mid-1996-October 2001). The identity of this money man "Mustafa Ahmed al-Hisawi" is in dispute (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002). It has been claimed that the name "Mustafa Ahmed" is an alias used by Saeed Sheikh, a known ISI and al-Qaeda agent who sends the hijackers money on other occasions (see Early August 2001 (D)). [CNN, 10/6/01] India claims ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed orders Saeed to send the hijackers the money at this time. [Frontline, 10/6/01, Daily Excelsior, 10/18/01] FBI Director Mueller's most recent theory is that this money is sent by the previously unheard of "Ali Abdul Aziz Ali." But of the four aliases used in the different transactions, Mueller connects this man only to three, and not to the alias "Mustafa Ahmed Al-Hisawi." [New York Times, 12/10/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02, AP, 9/26/02] It appears that most of the money is sent to an account shared by Marwan Alshehhi and Mohamed Atta, who would obtain money orders and distribute the money to the other hijackers. [CNN, 10/1/01, MSNBC, 12/11/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02] The New York Times later suggests that the amount passed from "Mustafa Ahmed" to the Florida bank accounts right until the day before the attack is around $325,000. The rest of the $500,000 - $600,000 they receive for US expenses comes from another, still unknown source. [New York Times, 7/10/02]
July 2000: In response to Western pressure, the Taliban ban poppy growing in Afghanistan. As a result, the opium yield drops dramatically in 2001, from 3,656 tons to 185 tons. Of that, 83 percent is from Northern Alliance controlled lands. However the effect isn't that great because there is a surplus in the West, and it is believed the Taliban have a large stockpile as well. [Guardian, 2/21/02, Reuters, 3/3/02, Observer, 11/25/01]
July 2000 (B): Atta and Marwan Alshehhi move to Venice, Florida, and enroll in pilot classes at Huffman Aviation. [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/16/01]
July 27, 2000: The FDA endorses the use of Bayer's Cipro drug to prevent inhalation anthrax. [Reuters, 7/28/00] Perhaps they hadn't been reading the Sunday Times recently (see May 14, 2000)? An official recommendation like this is highly unusual for the FDA. A 1997 Pentagon study of anthrax in rhesus monkeys showed that several other drugs were as effective as Cipro. The reason given for only recommending Cipro was the government wanted a weapon against anthrax should they come up against a strain resistant to drugs in the penicillin and tetracycline families of antibiotics. [New York Times, 10/21/01] The pharmaceutical industry spent $177 million on lobbying in 1999 and 2000 - more money than any other industry. The FDA has been accused of conflict of interest with companies including Bayer. [New York Times, 11/4/01]
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 2000: The neoconservative think-tank Project for the New American Century writes a "blueprint" for the "creation of a 'global Pax Americana'" (see also June 3, 1997). The document, entitled Rebuilding America's Defenses: Strategies, Forces and Resources for a New Century, was written for the Bush team even before the 2000 Presidential election. It was commissioned by future Vice President Cheney, future Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, future Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Florida Governor and President Bush's brother Jeb Bush, and future Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff Lewis Libby. The report calls itself a "blueprint for maintaining global US preeminence, precluding the rise of a great power rival, and shaping the international security order in line with American principles and interests." The plan shows Bush intended to take military control of Persian Gulf oil whether or not Saddam Hussein was in power and should retain control of the region even if there is no threat. It says: "The United States has for decades sought to play a more permanent role in Gulf regional security. While the unresolved conflict with Iraq provides the immediate justification, the need for a substantial American force presence in the Gulf transcends the issue of the regime of Saddam Hussein." The report calls for the control of space through a new "US Space Forces," the political control of the internet, the subversion of any growth in political power of even close allies, and advocates "regime change" in China, North Korea, Libya, Syria, Iran and other countries. It also mentions that "advanced forms of biological warfare that can 'target' specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool." A British Member of Parliament says of the report, "This is a blueprint for US world domination -- a new world order of their making. These are the thought processes of fantasist Americans who want to control the world" (see also Spring 2001 and April 2001 (D)). [Sunday Herald, 9/7/02, click here to download the think tank report] However, the report complains that these changes are likely to take a long time, "absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor." [Los Angeles Times, 1/12/03] In an NBC interview at about the same time, Vice Presidential candidate Cheney defends Bush Jr.'s position of maintaining Clinton's policy not to attack Iraq because the US should not act as though "we were an imperialist power, willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world, taking down governments." [Washington Post, 1/12/02] This report and the Project for the New American Century generally are mostly ignored until a few weeks before the start of the Iraq war (see February-March 20, 2003).
September 2000 (B): L'Houssaine Kherchtou arrives in the US to testify against other al-Qaeda agents. He reveals that from 1992 to 1995 he trained in Nairobi, Kenya to be a pilot for al-Qaeda. His training stopped when he left al-Qaeda in 1995. [State Department, 2/22/01]
September 2000 (C): A man named Mohamed Atta purchases a fake passport from the nonexistent "Republic of Conch." The FBI says it is investigating if this is the hijacker Mohamed Atta. [AP, 10/3/01] The "Republic of Conch" was created by some people in Key West, Florida, and they have made money by selling passports and flags. Some have repeatedly entered countries using the novelty passports, but it isn't known what passport Atta used on 9/11. [Miami Herald, 10/3/01] If the report is true, why would Atta have risked not getting on the plane when he had at least two other passports (one from Egypt, one from United Arab Emirates)?
September 2000 (D): US General Tommy Franks, who will later lead the Afghanistan war, tours Central Asia in an attempt to build military aid relationships with nations there, but finds no takers. Russia's power in the region appears to be on the upswing instead. Russian Defense Minister Igor Sergeyev writes, "The actions of Islamic extremists in Central Asia give Russia the chance to strengthen its position in the region." But shortly after 9/11, Russia and China agree to allow the US to establish temporary US military bases in Central Asia to prosecute the Afghanistan war. The bases become permanent, and the Guardian will write in early 2002, "Both countries increasingly have good reasons to regret their accommodating stand. Having pushed, cajoled and bribed its way into their Central Asian backyard, the US clearly has no intention of leaving any time soon." [Guardian, 1/10/02]
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 (J)).
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]
September 15-October 1, 2000: Olympics officials later reveal that "A fully loaded, fueled airliner crashing into the opening ceremony before a worldwide television audience at the Sydney Olympics was one of the greatest security fears for the Games." During the Olympics, Australia has six planes in the sky at all times ready to intercept any wayward aircraft. In fact, "IOC officials said the scenario of a plane crash during the opening ceremony was uppermost in their security planning at every Olympics since terrorists struck in Munich in 1972." Bin Laden was considered the number one threat. [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/20/01]
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]
October 24-26, 2000: Pentagon officials carry out a "detailed" emergency drill based upon the crashing of a hijacked airliner into the Pentagon. [MDW News Service, 11/3/00, Mirror, 5/24/02] The Pentagon is such an obvious target that, "For years, staff at the Pentagon joked that they worked at "Ground Zero", the spot at which an incoming nuclear missile aimed at America's defenses would explode. There is even a snack bar of that name in the central courtyard of the five-sided building, America's most obvious military bullseye." [Telegraph, 9/16/01] After 9/11, a Pentagon spokesman will claim: "The Pentagon was simply not aware that this aircraft was coming our way, and I doubt prior to Tuesday's event, anyone would have expected anything like that here." [Newsday, 9/23/01] FTW
Late November 2000-January 30, 2001: When Ziad Jarrah is questioned at Dubai, United Arab Emirates on January 30, 2001 (see January 30, 2001), he reveals that he has been in Pakistan and Afghanistan for the previous two months and five days, and that he is returning to Florida. [Chicago Tribune, 12/13/01] Investigators also later confirm that "Jarrah had spent at least three weeks in January 2001 at an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan." [CNN, 8/1/02] However, the Florida Flight Training Center where Jarrah has been studying for the previous six months, later says he is in school there until January 15, 2001. His family later reports he arrives in Lebanon to visit them on January 26, five days before he supposedly passes through Dubai. His father had just undergone open heart surgery, and Jarrah visits him every day in the hospital until after January 30. Pointing out this incident, his uncle Jamal Jarrah later asks, "How could he be in two places at one time?" [Among the Heroes, Jere Longman, 2002, p. 101-102] This is not the only example of Jarrah being in two places at the same time - see March 1995-February 1996. Could Jarrah have had a doppelganger? Also, compare these two photos the government says are of Jarrah. Though the faces are similar, note the different shapes of the heads - are these photos be of the same person?
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 19, 2000: The Washington Post reports that "the United States has quietly begun to align itself with those in the Russian government calling for military action against Afghanistan and has toyed with the idea of a new raid to wipe out Osama bin Laden. Until it backed off under local pressure, it went so far as to explore whether a Central Asian country would permit the use of its territory for such a purpose." Russia and the US are discussing "what kind of government should replace the Taliban. Thus, while claiming to oppose a military solution to the Afghan problem, the United States is now talking about the overthrow of a regime that controls nearly the entire country, in the hope it can be replaced with a hypothetical government that does not exist even on paper." [Washington Post, 12/19/00] It appears that all pre-9/11 plans to invade Afghanistan involve attacking from the north with Russia (see March 15, 2001, June 26, 2001 and July 21, 2001), but 9/11 allows the US to do it without Russian help.
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. [Knight-Ridder, 9/27/01]
2001 (C): Numerous witnesses later recall seeing hijackers Mohamed Atta and/or Marwan Alshehhi in Nabil al-Marabh's Toronto apartment building and photocopy shop at various times during this year. [Toronto Sun, 9/28/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] Al-Marabh has connections with other hijackers (see Spring 2001 (B)) and other al-Qaeda figures (see 1989-May 2000 and May 30, 2000-September 11, 2001). Some of the dozens of eyewitness accounts say Atta sporadically works in the photocopy shop. [Toronto Sun, 10/21/01] Partially completed fake IDs are found in the store, which is owned by al-Marabh's uncle, and at al-Marabh's apartment. [Toronto Sun, 9/28/01, Toronto Sun, 10/16/01] There is a large picture of bin Laden hanging in the store. [Toronto Sun, 10/21/01] "Forensic officers said there are similarities in the paper stock, laminates and ink seized from the downtown store and that which was used in identification left behind by the [9/11 hijackers]." [Toronto Sun, 10/16/01] US and Canadian police later determine that there is a flurry of phone calls and financial transactions between al-Marabh, Atta and Alshehhi days before the attacks. [Toronto Sun, 11/16/01] US intelligence also intercepts al-Marabh's associates making phone calls immediately praising the 9/11 attacks. [Ottawa Citizen, 10/29/01] Al-Marabh is said to head a Toronto al-Qaeda cell, and three members of his cell have been arrested. [Toronto Sun, 11/23/01] 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).
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 2001 (B): Hijackers Hamza Alghamdi and Mohand Alshehri rent a post office box in Delray Beach, Florida, according to the Washington Post. Yet FBI Director Mueller later claims they don't enter the country until May 28, 2001. [Washington Post, 9/30/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02]
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 4, 2001 (B): Atta flies from Miami, Florida to Madrid, Spain. He has been in the US since June 3, 2000, learning to fly in Florida with Marwan Alshehhi. [Miami Herald, 9/22/01] He returns to the US on January 10 (see January 10, 2001). He makes a second trip to Spain later that year (see July 8-19, 2001).
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. Numerous figures in Bush's administration have been directly employed in the oil industry, including Bush, Vice President Cheney and National Security Advisor Rice. It is later revealed that Cheney is still being paid up to $1 million a year in "deferred payments" from Halliburton, the oil company he headed. [Guardian, 3/12/03] Enron's ties also reach deep into the administration. [Washington Post, 1/18/02]
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 2001: At least six unconnected people later claim they recognize hijackers Satam Al Suqami and Salem Alhazmi living in San Antonio, Texas, until this month. The management of an apartment building says the two men abandoned their leases at about this time, and some apartment residents recognize them. However, all the witnesses say that Suqami was going by Alhazmi's name, and vice versa! [KENS 5 Eyewitness News, 10/1/01] One pilot shop employee recognizes Alhazmi as a frequent visitor to the store and interested in a 757 or 767 handbook, though he also says Alhazmi used Suqami's name. [KENS 5 Eyewitness News, 10/3/01] The apartment leasing agent also recalls a Ziad Jarrah who once lived there in June 2001 and looked the same as the hijacker. [San Antonio Express-News, 9/22/01, AP, 9/22/01] Local FBI confirm that a Salem Alhazmi attended the nearby Alpha Tango Flight School and lived in that apartment building, but they say he is a different Salem Alhazmi who is still alive and living in Saudi Arabia. [KENS 5 Eyewitness News, 10/4/01] However, that Salem Alhazmi (see September 16-23, 2001) says he's never been to the US and has proved to the authorities he didn't leave Saudi Arabia in the two years prior to 9/11. [Washington Post, 9/20/01] The FBI gave no explanation for Satam Al Suqami's presence. Neither hijacker is supposed to have arrived in the US before April, 2001 (see April 23-June 29, 2001). Is the FBI covering up sitings of hijackers that don't fit into their storyline? Why did they apparently switch names, and what does this say about the veracity of the names of other hijackers?
February 2001 (B): A former CIA anti-terror expert later claims that an allied intelligence agency sees "two of Osama's sisters apparently taking cash to an airport in Abu Dhabi [United Arab Emirates], where they are suspected of handing it to a member of bin Laden's al-Qaeda organization." This is cited as one of many incidents showing an "interconnectedness" between Osama bin Laden and the rest of his family. [New Yorker, 11/5/01]
February 2001 (C): Abdul Haq, a famous Afghan leader of the mujaheddin, convinces Robert McFarlane, National Security Adviser under President Reagan, that Haq and about 50 fellow commanders could lead a force to start a revolt against the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan. However, Haq wants to do this under the authority of Zahir Shah, the popular former king of Afghanistan, whom the US doesn't support. The CIA fails to give any support to this revolt idea. Says one CIA official to McFarlane a few months later, "We don't yet have our marching orders concerning US policy; it may be that we will end up dealing with the Taliban." Haq goes ahead with his plans without US support, and is later betrayed and killed (see Mid-August 2001 (B) and October 25, 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01 (B), Wall Street Journal, 11/2/01]
February-July 2001: A trial is held in New York City for four defendants charged with involvement in the 1998 US embassy bombings. All are ultimately convicted. Testimony reveals that two bin Laden operatives had received pilot training in Texas and Oklahoma and another had been asked to take lessons. One bin Laden aide becomes a government witness and gives the FBI detailed information about a pilot training scheme. This new information does not lead to any new FBI investigations into the matter. [Washington Post, 9/23/01]
February 7, 2001: CIA Director Tenet warns Congress in open testimony that bin Laden and his global network remains ''the most immediate and serious threat" to US interests. "Since 1998 bin Laden has declared that all US citizens are legitimate targets," he says, adding that bin Laden ''is capable of planning multiple attacks with little or no warning." [AP, 2/7/01, Sunday Herald, 9/23/01]
February 9, 2001: Vice President Cheney is briefed that it has been conclusively proven bin Laden was behind the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000). Bush has been in office a matter of days, when secret pipeline negotiations with the Taliban have begun. The new administration has already twice threatened the Taliban that the US would hold the Taliban responsible for any al-Qaeda attack. But, fearful of ending those negotiations, the US does not retaliate against either the Taliban or known bin Laden bases in Afghanistan in the manner Clinton did in 1998. [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
February 23, 2001: Zacarias Moussaoui flies to the US. He starts flight training in Norman, Oklahoma three days later. He trains there until May, but doesn't do well and drops out before getting a pilot's license. His visa expires on May 22, but he doesn't attempt to renew it or get another by briefly leaving the country. He stays in Norman, making arrangements to change flight schools and frequently exercising in a gym. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02, MSNBC, 12/11/01] According to US investigators, would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see November 20, 2002) said he met Moussaoui in Karachi (Pakistan) in June 2001. [Washington Post, 11/20/02] Moussaoui moves to a flight school in Minnesota in August (see August 13-15, 2001) and is arrested by the FBI a short time later (see August 15, 2001). [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02, MSNBC, 12/11/01]
February 26, 2001: Bin Laden attends the wedding of his son Mohammad in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Although bin Laden is supposedly long estranged from his family, bin Laden's stepmother, two brothers and sister are also said to have attended, according to the only journalist who was invited (see also Spring 1998 and Spring 2000 (C)). [Reuters, 3/1/01, Sunday Herald, 10/7/01]
March 2001: Supposedly, all 13 of the "muscle" hijackers (see April 23-July 29, 2001) record a farewell video before leaving training in Kandahar, Afghanistan around this time. [CBS, 10/9/02] A video of Ahmed Alhaznawi is shown by the Al Jazeera TV network in April 2002. In it, he pledges to give his life to "martyrdom" and swears to send a "bloodied message" to Americans by attacking them in their "heartland." [Guardian, 4/16/02] Compare a still frame of the video with an FBI photo of Alhaznawi. [CNN, 4/16/02] In September 2002, Al Jazeera also shows a similar farewell video of Abdulaziz Alomari made around the same time (see September 8-11, 2002). [AP, 9/9/02] Alomari states, "I am writing this with my full conscience and I am writing this in expectation of the end, which is near... God praise everybody who trained and helped me, namely the leader Sheik Osama bin Laden." [Washington Post, 9/11/02] Al-Jazeera also shows Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi and Saeed Alghamdi and Wail Alshehri in Kandahar studying maps and flight manuals. [Financial Times, 9/11/02] Does the making of these videos hint that many in Afghanistan may have had foreknowledge about the 9/11 attacks (see July 2001)?
March 2001 (B): The Italian government gives the US information about possible attacks based on apartment wiretaps in the Italian city of Milan. [Fox News, 5/17/02] Presumably, the information includes a discussion between two al-Qaeda agents talking about a "very, very secret" plan to forge documents "for the brothers who are going to the United States" (see January 24, 2001). The warning may also have mentioned a wiretap the previous August involving one of the same people that discussed a massive strike against the enemies of Islam involving aircraft (see August 12, 2000). Two months later, wiretaps of the same Milan cell also reveal a plot to attack a summit of world leaders (see May 2001).
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-August 2001: In March and August, Atta visits a small airport in South Florida and asks detailed questions about how to start and fly a crop-duster plane. People there easily recall him because he was so persistent. After explaining his abilities, Atta is told he is not skilled enough to fly a crop-duster. [Miami Herald, 9/24/01] Employees at South Florida Crop Care in Belle Glade, Florida later tell the FBI that Atta was among the men who in groups of two or three visited the crop dusting firm nearly every weekend for six or eight weeks before the attacks. Says employee James Lester: "I recognized him because he stayed on my feet all the time. I just about had to push him away from me." [AP, 9/15/01] Yet, according to US investigators, Atta and the other hijackers gave up on the crop-duster idea back in 2000. (see Late April-Mid-May 2000).
March 1, 2001: The Taliban begins blowing up two giant stone Buddhas of Bamiyan. They face great international condemnation in response, but no longer seem to be courting international recognition. Apparently even ISI efforts to dissuade them fail. [Time, 8/4/02, Time, 8/4/02]
March 4, 2001: Contradicting the later claim that no one could have envisioned the 9/11 attacks, a short-lived Fox TV program called The Lone Gunmen airs a pilot episode in which terrorists try to fly an airplane into the WTC. The heroes save the day and the airplane narrowly misses the building. There are no terrorists on board the aircraft; remote control technology is used to steer the plane. Ratings were good for the show, yet the eerie coincidence is barely mentioned after 9/11. Says one media columnist, "This seems to be collective amnesia of the highest order." [TV Guide, 6/21/02] The heroes also determine, "The terrorist group responsible was actually a faction of our own government. These malefactors were seeking to stimulate arms manufacturing in the lean years following the end of the Cold War by bringing down a plane in New York City and fomenting fears of terrorism." [Myers Report, 6/20/02]
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).
March 15, 2001: Jane's Intelligence Review reports that the US is working with India, Iran and Russia "in a concerted front against Afghanistan's Taliban regime." India is supplying the Northern Alliance with military equipment, advisers and helicopter technicians and both India and Russia are using bases in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for their operations (see December 19, 2000, June 26, 2001 and July 21, 2001). [Jane's Intelligence Review, 3/15/01]
Mid-March 2001: Hijackers Ahmed Alghamdi, Majed Moqed, Hani Hanjour, and Nawaf Alhazmi stay four days in the Fairfield Motor Inn, Fairfield, Connecticut. They meet with Eyad M. Alrababah, a Jordanian living in Bridgeport who has been charged with providing false identification to at least 50 illegal aliens. This meeting takes place about six weeks before the FBI says Moqed and Alghamdi enter the US. [AP, 3/6/02, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02]
March 23, 2001: The Office of National Drug Control Policy issues a National Security Alert describing "apparent attempts by Israeli nationals to learn about government personnel and office layouts." This later comes to light through a leaked Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) document called "Suspicious Activities Involving Israeli Art Students at DEA Facilities." A crackdown ensues and by June around 120 Israelis are apprehended. More are apprehended later. [Read the document here: DEA report, 6/01]
March 26, 2001: The Washington Post reports on a major improvements of the CIA's intelligence gathering capability "in recent years." A new program called Oasis uses "automated speech recognition" technology to turn audio feeds into formatted, searchable text. It can distinguish one voice from another and differentiates "speaker 1" from "speaker 2" in transcripts. Software called Fluent performs "cross lingual" searches, even translating difficult languages like Chinese and Japanese (apparently such software is much better than similar publicly available software) as well as automatically assessing their importance. There's also software that can turn a suspect's "life story into a three-dimensional diagram of linked phone calls, bank deposits and plane trips," and other software to efficiently and quickly process vast amounts of video, audio and written data. [Washington Post, 3/26/01] However, the government will later report that a number of messages about the 9/11 attacks, such as one stating "tomorrow is the zero hour" weren't translated until after 9/11 because analysts were "too swamped." [ABC News, 6/7/02] Doesn't that contradict the automated aspect of much translation?
Spring 2001: The Sydney Morning Herald later reports, "The months preceding September 11 [see] a shifting of the US military's focus ... Over several months beginning in April  a series of military and governmental policy documents [are] released that [seek] to legitimize the use of US military force in the pursuit of oil and gas." Michael Klare, an international security expert and author of Resource Wars, says the military has increasingly come to "define resource security as their primary mission." An article in the Army War College's journal by Jeffrey Record, a former staff member of the Senate armed services committee, argues for the legitimacy of "shooting in the Persian Gulf on behalf of lower gas prices." He also "advocate[s] the acceptability of presidential subterfuge in the promotion of a conflict" and "explicitly urge[s] painting over the US's actual reasons for warfare with a nobly high-minded veneer, seeing such as a necessity for mobilizing public support for a conflict." In April, Tommy Franks, the commander of US forces in the Persian Gulf/South Asia area, testifies to Congress in April that his command's key mission is "access to [the region's] energy resources." The next month US Central Command begins planning for war with Afghanistan, plans that are later used in the real war (see May 2001 (F)). [Sydney Morning Herald, 12/26/02] Other little noticed but influential documents reflect similar thinking (see September 2000 and April 2001 (D)).
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 (B): A source with terrorist connections speculates to US intelligence that "bin Laden would be interested in commercial pilots as potential terrorists." The source warns that the US should not focus only on embassy bombings, because terrorists are seeking spectacular and traumatic attacks, along the lines of the WTC bombing in 1993. Because the source was offering personal speculation and not hard information, the information is not disseminated widely. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, New York Times, 9/18/02]
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 2001 (D): A report commissioned by former US Secretary of State James Baker and the Council on Foreign Relations entitled "Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century" is submitted to Vice President Cheney this month. "The report is linked to a veritable who's who of US hawks, oilmen and corporate bigwigs." The report says the "central dilemma" for the US administration is that "the American people continue to demand plentiful and cheap energy without sacrifice or inconvenience." It warns that the US is running out of oil, with a painful end to cheap fuel already in sight. It argues that "the United States remains a prisoner of its energy dilemma," and that one of the "consequences" of this is a "need for military intervention" to secure its oil supply. It argues that Iraq needs to be overthrown so the US can control its oil. [Sunday Herald, 10/5/02, Sydney Morning Herald, 12/26/02] In what may be a reference to a pipeline through Afghanistan, the report suggests the US should "Investigate whether any changes to US policy would quickly facilitate higher exports of oil from the Caspian Basin region... the exports from some oil discoveries in the Caspian Basin could be hastened if a secure, economical export route could be identified swiftly" (see also September 2000 and Spring 2001). [Strategic Energy Policy Challenges For The 21st Century, 4/01] Could the Bush administration have let 9/11 happen to get access to Central Asian oil, and gain support for a war with Iraq, amongst other reasons?
April-May 2001: National Security Advisor Rice later says US intelligence sources start to learn of specific threats regarding al-Qaeda attacks against US targets or interests around this time. [CNN, 3/02, Reuters, 5/16/02] While its true that intelligence warnings were increasing at this time, what about the many specific warnings from before this (for instance, see March 2000 (B) and March 2001 (B))?
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 4, 2001: The BBC reports on advances in electronic surveillance. Echelon has become particularly effective against mobile phones, recording millions of calls simultaneously and checking them against a powerful search engine designed to pick out key words that might represent a security threat. Laser microphones pick up conversations from up to a kilometer away by monitoring window vibrations. If a bug is attached to a computer keyboard it is possible to monitor exactly what is being keyed in, because every key on a computer has a unique sound when depressed. [BBC, 4/4/01]
April 8, 2001: Supposedly, Atta flies from the US to Prague, Czech Republic, and meets with Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir al-Ani, an Iraqi spy. He returns on April 9 or 10. [New York Times, 10/27/01] But did he actually fly to Prague? A US official later states, "Neither we nor the Czechs nor anybody else has any information [Atta] was coming or going [to Prague] at that time." [Newsweek, 4/28/02] FBI Director Mueller states, "We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts," yet no evidence that he left the country was found. [Washington Post, 5/1/02] Investigators believe Atta was in Florida the whole time, and the Czech government eventually agrees. [BBC, 5/1/02, UPI, 10/20/02, New York Times, 10/21/02] But assuming al-Ani met with someone, could it be someone other than Atta, perhaps someone impersonating him? "After months of investigation, the Czechs [say] they [are] no longer certain that Atta was the person who met al-Ani, saying 'he may be different from Atta.'" [Washington Post, 5/1/02] "Some in Prague who knew the diplomat say he met with a used car salesman named Saleh from Nuremberg, Germany, who looked like Mr. Atta. 'He is a perfect double for Atta,' said a Syrian businessman who has lived in Prague for 35 years and says he knew the diplomat and the car salesman. 'I saw him several times with [al-Ani].' ... Czech intelligence officials offered still another theory: the Mohamed Atta who came to Prague last April was not the hijacker but a Pakistani of the same name. 'He didn't have the same identity card number,' an unidentified Interior Ministry official told the newspaper Mlada Fronta Dnes. 'There was a great difference in their ages, their nationalities didn't match, basically nothing it was someone else.'" [New York Times, 12/16/01] Could the use of an impersonator explain why some Czech officials remained convinced so long that Atta came to this meeting [AP, 12/17/01], while FBI investigators remained convinced that he never left Florida? [Washington Post, 5/1/02] See September 19, 2001-October 20, 2002 for the remarkable way coverage of this story has changed over time.
April 12-September 7, 2001: At least six hijackers get more than one Florida driver's license. They get the second license simply by filling out change of address forms. 1) Waleed Alshehri: first license May 4, duplicate May 5. 2) Marwan Alshehhi: first license, April 12, duplicate in June. 3) Ziad Jarrah: first license May 2, duplicate July 10. 4) Ahmed Alhaznawi: first license July 10, duplicate September 7. 5) Hamza Alghamdi: first license June 27, two duplicates, the second in August. 6) the sixth man with a Florida duplicate is not named. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/01] Additionally, some hijackers got licenses in multiple states. For instance, Nawaf Alhazmi had licenses from California, New York, and Florida at the same time, apparently all in the same name. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/01, Newsday, 9/21/01, Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/02] Why would they need duplicates of even the exact same license, unless it was, as an article put it, to "[allow] two or more people to use the same identity"? [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/01]
April 18, 2001: Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi flies from Miami, Florida, to Amsterdam, Netherlands. He returns on May 2. Investigators have not divulged where he went or what he did while in Europe. [Justice Department, 5/20/02] Could his trip be connected to other trips he and others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell take to get terrorist funding from the Dutch city of Eindhoven (see Mid-June 1999)?
April 18, 2001 (B): The FAA sends a warning to US airlines that Middle Eastern terrorists could try to hijack or blow up a US plane and that carriers should "demonstrate a high degree of alertness." The warning stems from the April 6, 2001, conviction of Ahmed Ressam over a failed plot to blow up Los Angeles International Airport during the millennium celebrations. This warning expires on July 31, 2001. [AP, 5/18/02] This is one of 15 general warnings issued to airlines between January and August (the airlines have been getting an average of more than one warning a month for a long time), but this one is slightly more specific. [CNN, 3/02, CNN, 5/17/02] As one newspaper later reports, "there were so many that airline officials grew numb to them." [St. Petersburg Times, 9/23/02] The Bush administration officials have said the threats were so vague that they did not require tighter security. [AP, 5/18/02]
April 23, 2001: A Global Hawk plane flies 22 hours from the US to Australia without pilot or passengers. A Global Hawk manager says, "The aircraft essentially flies itself, right from takeoff, right through to landing, and even taxiing off the runway" (see 1998 (D) and September 25, 2001). [ITN, 4/24/01]
April 23-June 29, 2001: The 13 hijackers
commonly known as the "muscle" first arrive in the US. The muscle
provides the brute force meant to control the hijacked passengers and protect
the pilots. [Washington
Post, 9/30/01] According to FBI Director Mueller, they all pass through
Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and their travel was probably coordinated from
abroad by Khalid Almihdhar. [Congressional
Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02] But some information
contradicts their official arrival dates:
April 23: Waleed Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami arrive in Orlando, Florida. Suqami in fact arrived before February 2001 (see February 2001). Alshehri was leasing a house near Washington in 1999 and 2000 with Ahmed Alghamdi (see 1999 (H)). He also lived with Ahmed Alghamdi in Florida for seven months in 1997. [Telegraph, 9/20/01] Alshehri appears quite Americanized in the summer of 2001, frequently talking with an apartment mate about football and baseball, even identifying himself a fan of the Florida Marlins baseball team. [AP, 9/21/01]
May 2: Majed Moqed and Ahmed Alghamdi arrive in Washington. Both actually arrived by mid-March 2001 (see Mid-March 2001). Ahmed Alghamdi was living with Waleed Alshehri near Washington until July 2000 (see 1999 (H)). He also lived with Waleed Alshehri in Florida for seven months in 1997. [Telegraph, 9/20/01]
May 28: Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alnami arrive in Miami, Florida. Both Mohand Alshehri and Hamza Alghamdi arrived by January 2001 (see January 2001 (B)).
June 8: Ahmed Alhaznawi and Wail Alshehri arrive in Miami, Florida.
June 27: Fayez Banihammad and Saeed Alghamdi arrive in Orlando, Florida.
June 29: Salem Alhazmi and Abdulaziz Alomari arrive in New York. Alhazmi in fact arrived before February 2001 (see February 2001).
After entering the US (perhaps reentering for some), the hijackers arriving at Miami and Orlando airports settle in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area along with Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah. The hijackers, arriving in New York and Virginia, settle in the Paterson, New Jersey, area along with Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02] Note that the FBI's early conclusion that 11 of these muscle men "did not know they were on a suicide mission," [Observer, 10/14/01] is contradicted by video confessions made by all of them in Afghanistan (see March 2001), and CIA Director Tenet later says they "probably were told little more than that they were headed for a suicide mission inside the United States." [CIA Director Tenet Testimony, 6/18/02] They didn't know the exact details of the 9/11 plot until shortly before the attack. [CBS, 10/9/02]
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 July (see July 8-19, 2001) 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 (B): US intelligence obtains information that al-Qaeda is planning to infiltrate the US from Canada and carry out a terrorist operation using high explosives. The report doesn't say exactly where inside the US, or when, or how an attack might occur. Two months later, the information is shared with the FBI, the INS, US Customs Service, and the State Department, and is included in "a closely held intelligence report for senior government officials in August 2001" (apparently a reference to Bush's well-reported briefing - see August 6, 2001). [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Washington Post, 9/19/02]
May 2001 (C): The Defense Department gains and
shares information indicating that seven people associated with bin Laden have
departed from various locations for Canada, Britain, and the US. This is
around the time that most of the 19 hijackers enter the US - could those be
some of the people referred to? The next month, the CIA learns that key
operatives in al-Qaeda are disappearing while others are preparing for martyrdom.
[Senate Intelligence Committee,
May 2001 (D): Secretary of State Powell gives $43 million in aid to Afghanistan's Taliban government, purportedly to assist hungry farmers who are starving since the destruction of their opium crop in January on orders of the Taliban. [Los Angeles Times, 5/22/01] FTW This follows $113 million given by the US in 2000 for humanitarian aid. [State Department Fact Sheet, 12/11/01]
May 2001 (E): Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a career covert operative and former Navy Seal, travels to India on a publicized tour while CIA Director Tenet makes a quiet visit to Pakistan to meet with President General Musharraf. Armitage has long and deep Pakistani intelligence connections (as well as a role in the Iran-Contra affair). It would be reasonable to assume that while in Islamabad, Tenet, in what was described as "an unusually long meeting," also meets with his Pakistani counterpart, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed (see October 7, 2001). A long-time regional expert with extensive CIA ties stated publicly: "The CIA still has close links with the ISI." [SAPRA, 5/22/01, Times of India, 3/7/01] FTW
May 2001 (F): General William Kernan, commander in chief of the Joint Forces Command, later mentions: "The details of Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan which fought the Taliban and al-Qaeda after the September 11 attacks, were largely taken from a scenario examined by Central Command in May 2001." [AFP, 7/23/02]
May 2001 (G): Vice President Cheney's national energy plan is publicly released. It calls for expanded oil and gas drilling on public land and easing regulatory barriers to building nuclear power plants. [AP, 12/9/02] There are several interesting points, little noticed at the time. It suggests that the US cannot depend exclusively on traditional sources of supply to provide the growing amount of oil that it needs. It will also have to obtain substantial supplies from new sources, such as the Caspian states, Russia, and Africa. It also notes that the US cannot rely on market forces alone to gain access to these added supplies, but will also require a significant effort on the part of government officials to overcome foreign resistance to the outward reach of American energy companies. [Japan Today, 4/30/02] The plan was largely decided through Cheney's secretive Energy Task Force. Both before and after this, Cheney and other Task Force officials meet with Enron executives, including a meeting a month and a half before Enron declares bankruptcy (see December 2, 2001). Two separate lawsuits are later filed to reveal details of how the government's energy policy was formed and if Enron or other players may have influenced it, but so far the Bush Administration has resisted all efforts to release these documents (see October 17, 2002 and February 7, 2003 (B)). [AP, 12/9/02] At the very least, it's known that Enron executives met with the Commerce Secretary about its troubled Dabhol power plant in 2001 (see November 1993). [New York Times, 2/21/02] If these documents are released, they could show what the government did to support Enron's Dabhol plant with an Afghanistan gas pipeline.
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 2001 (I): An Iranian in custody in New York City tells local police of a plot to attack the World Trade Center. No more details are known. [Fox News, 5/17/02]
May 2001 (J): US Medicine magazine later reports, "Though the Department of Defense had no capability in place to protect the Pentagon from an ersatz guided missile in the form of a hijacked 757 airliner, DoD [Department of Defense] medical personnel trained for exactly that scenario in May." The tri-Service DiLorenzo Health Care Clinic and the Air Force Flight Medicine Clinic train inside the Pentagon this month "to fine-tune their emergency preparedness." [US Medicine, 10/01]
May-July 2001: In a two month time period, the NSA reports "at least 33 communications indicating a possible, imminent terrorist attack." None of these reports provide any specific information on where, when, or how an attack might occur. These reports are widely disseminated to other intelligence agencies. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, MSNBC, 9/18/02] The NSA Director later claims that all of the warnings were red herrings. [NSA Director Congressional Testimony, 10/17/02]
May-August 2001: A number of the hijackers make at least six trips to Las Vegas. It's probable they met here after doing practice runs on cross-country flights. At least Atta, Alshehhi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Ziad Jarrah, Khalid Almihdhar and Hani Hanjour were involved. All of these "fundamentalist" Muslims drink alcohol, gamble, and frequent strip clubs. They even have strippers perform lap dances for them. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/4/01, Newsweek, 10/15/01]
May 6-September 6, 2001: The hijackers work out at various gyms, presumably getting in shape for the hijacking. Ziad Jarrah appears to have trained intensively from May to August, and Atta and Marwan Alshehhi also took exercising very seriously. [New York Times, 9/23/01, Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01] But these three are presumably pilots who would need the training the least. For instance, Jarrah's trainer says "If he wasn't one of the pilots, he would have done quite well in thwarting the passengers from attacking." [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01] Most of the rest appear to have only made token efforts, if at all. For instance, Hani Hanjour, Majed Moqed, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi work out for four days in early September. [AP, 9/21/01] Three others - Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri and Satam al-Suqami - "simply clustered around a small circuit of machines, never asking for help and, according to a trainer, never pushing any weights. 'You know, I don't actually remember them ever doing anything ... They would just stand around and watch people.'" [New York Times, 9/23/01] Those three also had a one month membership in Florida - it isn't known if they actually worked out then or not. [Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01] Since apparently all of the hijackers knew they were on a suicide mission (see March 2001), why weren't they preparing for it?
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) 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 16, 2001: US General Tommy Franks, later to head the US occupation of Afghanistan, visits the capital of Tajikistan. He says the Bush administration considers Tajikistan "a strategically significant country" and offers military aid. This follows a visit by a Department of Defense official earlier in the year and an earlier regional visit by Franks (see September 2000 (D)). The Guardian later asserts that by this time, "US Rangers were also training special troops in Kyrgyzstan. There were unconfirmed reports that Tajik and Uzbek special troops were training in Alaska and Montana." [Guardian, 9/26/01] FTW
May 23, 2001: Zalmay Khalilzad is appointed to a position on the National Security Council as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Gulf, Southwest Asia and Other Regional Issues. Khalilzad is a former official in the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations. During the Clinton years, he worked for Unocal. He is later appointed special envoy to Afghanistan (see January 1, 2002). [Independent, 1/10/02, State Department profile, 2001]
May 29, 2001: A European Union committee investigating the Echelon spy surveillance network advises all people using e-mail to encrypt their e-mails if they want to avoid being spied on by Echelon. Echelon can sift through up to 90% of all internet traffic, as well as monitor phone conversations, mobile phone calls, fax transmissions, net browsing history, satellite transmissions and so on. Even encryption may not help much - the BBC suggests that "it is likely that the intelligence agencies can crack open most commercially available encryption software." [BBC, 5/29/01, BBC, 5/29/01] Given all this data capture capability, isn't it likely they had the data to break the 9/11 plot? The question is were they able to sift through all their data? Certainly any leads connected to al-Qaeda must have had the highest analysis priority for years.
May 29, 2001 (B): The State Department issues a overseas caution connected to the conviction of defendants in bombing the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. That warning says that "Americans citizens abroad may be the target of a terrorist threat from extremist groups" with links to bin Laden. The warning is reissued on June 22. [CNN, 6/23/01]
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: German intelligence warns the CIA, Britain's MI6, and Israel's Mossad that Middle Eastern terrorists are planning to hijack commercial aircraft to use as weapons to attack "American and Israeli symbols, which stand out." A later article quotes unnamed German intelligence sources who state the information was coming from Echelon surveillance technology, and that British intelligence had access to the same warnings. However, there were other informational sources, including specific information and hints given to, but not reported by, Western and Near Eastern news media six months before 9/11. [Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 9/11/01, Washington Post, 9/14/01, Fox News, 5/17/02] FTW
June 2001 (B): US intelligence issues a terrorist threat advisory, warning US government agencies that there is a high probability of an imminent terrorist attack against US interests: "Sunni extremists associated with al-Qaeda are most likely to attempt spectacular attacks resulting in numerous casualties." The advisory mentions the Arabian Peninsula, Israel, and Italy as possible targets for an attack. Afterwards, intelligence information provided to senior US leaders continues to indicate that al-Qaeda expects near-term attacks to have dramatic consequences on governments or cause major casualties. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
June 2001 (C): The CIA provides senior US policy makers with a classified warning of a potential attack against US interests that is thought to be tied to Fourth of July celebrations in the US. [Sunday Herald, 9/23/01]
June 2001 (D): China, Russia, and four Central Asian countries create the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Its explicit purpose is to oppose US dominance, especially in Central Asia. [Guardian, 10/23/01] Russian defense minister Igor Sergeyev writes, "The actions of Islamic extremists in Central Asia give Russia the chance to strengthen its position in the region." [Guardian, 1/16/02] In March 2003, the Guardian will note that the new ring of US military bases built in the Afghan war (see January 2002 (D)) "has, in effect, destroyed the Shanghai Cooperation Organization which Russia and China had established in an attempt to develop a regional alternative to US power." [Guardian, 3/11/03]
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 (G): A 60-page internal memo on the Israeli "art student" spy ring is prepared by the DEA's Office of Security Programs. [Read the memo here: DEA report, 6/01] The memo is a compilation of dozens of field reports, and was meant only for the eyes of senior officials at the Justice Department (of which the DEA is adjunct), but it is leaked to the press around December 2001. The report connects the spies to efforts to foil investigations into Israeli organized crime activity involving the importation of the drug Ecstasy. The spies also appear to be snooping on top secret military bases. For instance, on April 30, 2001, an Air Force alert was issued from Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City concerning "possible intelligence collection being conducted by Israeli Art Students." Tinker AFB houses AWACS surveillance craft and Stealth bombers. By the time of the report, the US has "apprehended or expelled close to 120 Israeli nationals" but many remain at large. [Le Monde, 3/5/02, Salon, 5/7/02] An additional 20 or so Israeli spies are apprehended between June and 9/11. [Fox News, 12/12/01]
June 2001 (H): British investigators believe that at least five of the hijackers have a "vital planning meeting" held in a safe house in north London, Britain. [London Times, 9/26/01] Authorities suspect that Mustapha Labsi, an Algerian now in British custody, train the hijackers in this safe house, as well as previously training the hijackers in Afghanistan. [Telegraph, 9/30/01]
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 2001 (J): Enron's power plant in Dabhol, India, is shut down. The failure of the $3 billion plant, Enron's largest investment, contributes to Enron's bankruptcy later in the year (see December 2, 2001). Earlier in the year, India stopped paying its bill for the energy from the plant, because energy from the plant cost three times the usual rates. [New York Times, 3/20/01] Enron had hoped to feed the plant with cheap Central Asian gas, but this hope was dashed when a gas pipeline through Afghanistan was not completed (see June 1998 (B)). The larger part of the plant is still only 90 percent complete when construction stops at about this time. [New York Times, 3/20/01] It is known that Vice President Cheney lobbies the leader of India's main opposition party about the plant this month. [New York Times, 2/21/02] A lawsuit is in motion to get additional government documents released that could reveal what else the US did to support this plant (see October 17, 2002 and February 7, 2003 (B)). Enron may eventually restart the plant (see October 18, 2002).
June or July 2001: At least two witnesses from the Hamburg university where Atta had studied later claim Atta, Marwan Alshehhi and an unknown third person are seen in the ground-floor workshops of the architecture department at this time. They are seen on at least two occasions with a white, three foot scale model of the Pentagon. Between 60 and 80 slides of the Sears building in Chicago and the World Trade Center are found to be missing from the technical library after 9/11. [Sunday Times, 2/3/02]
Early June 2001: UPI reporters interview the reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar. He says the Taliban would like to resolve the bin Laden issue, so there can be "an easing and then lifting of UN sanctions that are strangling and killing the people of [Afghanistan]" (see November 14, 1999 and January 19, 2001). The reporters also note, "Saudi Arabia and the [United Arab Emirates] secretly fund the Taliban government by paying Pakistan for its logistical support to Afghanistan. Despite Pakistan's official denials, Taliban is entirely dependent on Pakistani aid. This was verified on the ground by UPI. Everything from bottled water to oil, gasoline and aviation fuel, and from telephone equipment to military supplies, comes from Pakistan." [UPI, 6/14/01]
June 1-2, 2001: A multi-agency planning exercise sponsored by NORAD (the North American Aerospace Defense Command, in charge of defending US airspace) involves the hypothetical scenario of a cruise missile launched by "a rogue (government) or somebody" from a barge off the East Coast. Bin Laden is pictured on the cover of the proposal for the exercise. [American Forces Press Service, 6/4/02] After 9/11, the government claims that this type of an attack was completely unexpected, and as a result it had only 14 fighters on standby to defend the entire US. [Newsday, 9/23/01]
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 (see
October 1998), 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 when they first become public a year later. 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]
June 13, 2001: Egyptian President Hasni Mubarak claims that Egyptian intelligence discovers a "communiqué from bin Laden saying he wanted to assassinate George W. Bush and other G8 heads of state during their summit in Italy." The communiqué specifically mentions this would be done via "an airplane stuffed with explosives." The US and Italy are sent urgent warnings of this and the attack is apparently aborted (see July 20-22, 2001). [New York Times, 9/26/01] Mubarak claims that Egyptian intelligence officials informed American intelligence officers between March and May 2001 that an Egyptian agent had penetrated the bin Laden organization. Presumably this explains how Egypt is able to give the US these warnings (see also Late July 2001 (D) and August 30, 2001). [New York Times, 6/4/02]
June 23, 2001: Reuters reports that "Followers of exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden are planning a major attack on US and Israeli interests in the next two weeks." The report is based on the impression of a reporter who interviewed bin Laden and some of his followers two days earlier. This reporter is quoted as saying: "There is a major state of mobilization among the Osama bin Laden forces. It seems that there is a race of who will strike first. Will it be the United States or Osama bin Laden?" [Reuters, 6/23/01]
Mid-June 2001: A two-hour video tape of al-Qaeda terrorists training at an Afghanistan camp appears in Kuwait and subsequently makes its way to the internet. The tape shows bin Laden making threats against the US and terrorists attacking targets bearing US emblems. [Sunday Herald, 9/23/01]
June 25, 2001: Hijacker Fayez Banihammad opens a bank account in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE), with 9/11 paymaster "Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi." That name is a likely alias for Saeed Sheikh, who is known to frequently visit Dubai in this time period (see January 1, 2000-September 11, 2001 and September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002). [MSNBC, 12/11/01] Banihammad flies to the US the next day (see April 23-June 29, 2001). Banihammad gives power of attorney to "al-Hawsawi" on July 18, and then "al-Hawsawi" sends Banihammad Visa and ATM cards in Florida. Banihammad uses the Visa card to buy his airplane ticket for 9/11. [Washington Post, 12/13/01, MSNBC, 12/11/01] The same pattern of events occurs for some other hijackers, though the timing is not fully known. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02] Visa cards are given to several other hijackers in Dubai. [London Times, 12/1/01] Other hijackers, including Hani Hanjour, Abdulaziz Alomari and Khalid Almihdhar, open foreign bank and credit card accounts in the UAE and in Saudi Arabia. Majed Moqed, Saeed Alghamdi, Hamza Alghamdi, Ahmed Alnami, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Wail Alshehri and possibly others purchase travelers checks in the UAE, presumably with funds given to them when they pass through Dubai. It is believed that "al-Hawsawi" is in Dubai every time the hijackers pass through. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02]
June 26, 2001: An Indian magazine reports more details of the cooperative efforts of the US, India, Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan and Iran against the Taliban regime: "India and Iran will 'facilitate' US and Russian plans for ‘limited military action' against the Taliban if the contemplated tough new economic sanctions don't bend Afghanistan's fundamentalist regime." Earlier in the month, Russian President Putin told a meeting of the Confederation of Independent States that military action against the Taliban may happen, possibly with Russian involvement using bases and forces from Uzbekistan and Tajikistan as well (see also December 19, 2000, March 15, 2001 and July 21, 2001). [IndiaReacts, 6/26/01] FTW
June 26, 2001 (B): The State Department issues a worldwide caution warning American citizens of possible attacks. [CNN, 3/02]
June 27, 2001: The Wall Street Journal reports that Pakistan and India are discussing jointly building a gas pipeline from Central Asian gas fields through Iran. This would circumvent the difficulties of building the pipeline through Afghanistan. [Wall Street Journal, 6/27/01] Iran has been secretly supporting the Northern Alliance to keep Afghanistan divided so no pipelines could be put through it (see December 20, 1999). Presumably the US government would be opposed to this, since much of its support for Afghanistan pipelines has been to prevent them from going through Iran (see Early 1998).
June 28, 2001: CIA Director Tenet writes an intelligence summary for National Security Adviser Rice: "It is highly likely that a significant al-Qaeda attack is in the near future, within several weeks." Rice will later claim that everyone was taken by complete surprise by the 9/11 attack (see May 16, 2002 (B)). [Washington Post, 5/17/02] This comes several days after a reporter visits bin Laden, and is given the impression that an attack will occur in the next two weeks. He isn't actually told that by anyone, but he is told by at least one bin Laden follower that "a severe blow is expected against USA and Israeli interests worldwide." [Pravda, 6/26/01]
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 (C): Congressman Porter Goss (R), Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, later says on the intelligence monitoring of terrorist groups: "the chatter level went way off the charts" around this time and stayed high until 9/11. Given his history as a CIA operative, presumably he was kept "in the know" to some extent. [Los Angeles Times, 5/18/02] A later Congressional report states: "Some individuals within the intelligence community have suggested that the increase in threat reporting was unprecedented, at least in terms of their own experience." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] Two counter-terrorism officials [later describe] the alerts of this summer as "the most urgent in decades." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
Summer 2001 (D): Egyptian investigators track down a close associate of bin Laden named Ahmed al-Khadir, wanted for bombing the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad in 1995. Egyptians surround the safe house in Pakistan where al-Khadir is hiding. They notify the ISI to help arrest him, and the ISI promises swift action. Instead, a car sent by the ISI filled with Taliban and having diplomatic plates arrives, grabs al-Khadir and drives him to safety in Afghanistan. Time magazine later brings up the incident to show the strong ties between the ISI and both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. [Time, 5/6/02]
Summer 2001 (E): Anonymous government sources later claim that Atta visits fellow hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, and Saudi citizen Omar al-Bayoumi (see June 1998 (D)). These same sources claim al-Bayoumi was identified after September 11 as an "advance man" for al-Qaeda. [Washington Times, 11/26/02] Other reports have suggested Atta visited Alhazmi and Almihdhar in San Diego (see September-December 2000), but it would strongly indicate al-Bayoumi was an advance man if Atta visited him in the company of the other two hijackers.
Summer 2001 (F): An Asia Times article published just prior to 9/11 claims that Crown Prince Abdullah, the defacto ruler of Saudi Arabia (see Late 1995), makes a clandestine visit to Pakistan around this time. After meeting with senior army officials, he visits Afghanistan with ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed (see October 7, 2001). They meet Taliban leader Mullah Omar and try to convince him that the US is likely to launch an attack on Afghanistan. They insist bin Laden be sent to Saudi Arabia, where he would be held in custody and not handed over to any third country. If bin Laden were to be tried in Saudi Arabia, Abdullah would help make sure he is acquitted. Mullah Omar apparently rejects the proposal. The article suggests that Abdullah is secretly a supporter of bin Laden and is trying to protect him from harm (see Late 1998 (F)). [Asia Times, 8/22/01] A similar meeting may also take place after 9/11 (see September 19, 2001 (B)).
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: The CIA hears an individual who had recently been in Afghanistan say, "Everyone is talking about an impending attack." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Washington Post, 9/19/02] The Telegraph later reports that "the idea of an attack on a skyscraper was discussed among [bin Laden's] supporters in Kabul." At some unspecified point before 9/11, a neighbor in Kabul saw diagrams showing a skyscraper attack in a house known as a "nerve center" for al-Qaeda activity. [Telegraph, 11/16/01] US soldiers will later find forged visas, altered passports, listings of Florida flight schools and registration papers for a flight simulator in al-Qaeda houses in Afghanistan. [New York Times, 12/6/01] Bin Laden bodyguard later claims that in May 2001 he hears bin Laden tell people in Afghanistan that the US would be hit with a terrorist attack, and thousands would die. [Guardian, 11/28/01] CIA Director Tenet later claims that the 9/11 plot was "in the heads of three or four people." [USA Today, 2/7/02] How many people in Afghanistan really knew of the 9/11 attack plans?
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]
Early July 2001: A briefing prepared for senior US government officials: "Based on a review of all-source reporting over the last five months, we believe that [bin Laden] will launch a significant terrorist attack against US and/or Israeli interests in the coming weeks. The attack will be spectacular and designed to inflict mass casualties against US facilities or interests. Attack preparations have been made. Attack will occur with little or no warning." As the weeks go by, intelligence information given to senior officials show that al-Qaeda continues to expect an imminent attack on US interests. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02, Washington Post, 9/19/02]
July 1, 2001: Senators Dianne Feinstein (D) and
Richard Shelby (R), both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, appear
on CNN's "Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer", and warn of potential attacks
by bin Laden. Says Feinstein: "One of the things that has begun to concern
me very much as to whether we really have our house in order, intelligence staff
have told me that there is a major probability of a terrorist incident within
the next three months." [CNN,
July 2, 2001: Indian sources claim that "bin Laden, who suffers from renal deficiency, has been periodically undergoing dialysis in a Peshawar military hospital with the knowledge and approval of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), if not of [Pakistani President] Musharraf himself." [SARPA, 7/2/01] While one might question the bias of an Indian newspaper on this issue, highly-respected intelligence newsletter Jane's later reports the story, and adds, "None of [these details] will be unfamiliar to US intelligence operatives who have been compiling extensive reports on these alleged activities." [Jane's Intelligence Digest, 9/20/01] CBS will later report bin Laden had emergency medical care in Pakistan the day before 9/11. [CBS News, 01/28/02] If these stories are true, it appears Pakistan could have captured bin Laden for the US at any time. The Jane's article adds, "it is becoming clear that both the Taliban and al-Qaeda would have found it difficult to have continued functioning - including the latter group's terrorist activities - without substantial aid and support from Islamabad [Pakistan]." [Jane's Intelligence Digest, 9/20/01]
July 2, 2001 (B): The FBI issues a warning of possible al-Qaeda attacks on law enforcement agencies, stating, "there are threats to be worried about overseas. While we cannot foresee attacks domestically, we cannot rule them out." [CNN, 3/02]
July 3, 2001: James Hatfield, author of an unflattering book on Bush called Fortunate Son, claims he has evidence al-Qaeda will try to assassinate Bush at the G8 Summit in Genoa, Italy (see July 20-22, 2001), possibly through a suicidal plane crash. This is the first public mention of the plot (see Mid-July 2001). Intelligence reports later confirm that such an attack was planned but aborted due to high security. What's unusual is that Hatfield adds: "German intelligence services have stated that bin Laden is covertly financing neo-Nazi skinhead groups throughout Europe to launch another terrorist attack at a high-profile American target." [Online Journal, 7/3/01] Two weeks later, Hatfield apparently commits suicide. However, there is widespread speculation that his death was payback for his revelation of Bush's cocaine use in the 1970s. [Salon, 7/20/01]
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 8-19, 2001: Atta travels to Spain again (see January 4, 2001 (B)). Three others cross the Atlantic with him but their names are not known, as they apparently use false identities. [El Mundo, 9/30/01] Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a member of his Hamburg terrorist cell, arrives in Spain on July 9, and stays until July 16. [New York Times, 5/1/02] Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi also comes to Spain at about the same time and leaves on July 17. [AP, 6/30/02] Alshehhi must have traveled under another name, because US immigration has no records of his departure or return. [Department of Justice, 5/20/02] Investigators believe Atta, Alshehhi and bin al-Shibh meet with at least three unknown others in a secret safe house near Tarragona. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02, AP, 6/30/02] It is theorized this meeting is when the final details of the 9/11 attacks are set. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] It is probable Atta meets with and is hosted by Barakat Yarkas and other Spanish al-Qaeda members (see August 27, 2001). [International Herald Tribune, 11/21/01] One of the unknowns at the meeting could be Yarkas's friend Mamoun Darkazanli, a German with connections to the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell (see Spring 2000). Darkazanli travels to Spain and meets with Yarkas during the time Atta is there. He travels with an unnamed Syrian Spanish suspect, who lived in Afghanistan and had access there to al-Qaeda leaders. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/03] The Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia later reports that Atta also meets with fellow hijackers Waleed Alshehri and Wail Alshehri on July 16. [AP, 9/27/01] Strangely enough, on July 16, Atta stayed in the same hotel in the town of Salou that had hosted FBI counter-terrorist expert John O'Neill a few days earlier, when he made a speech to other counter-terrorism experts on the need for greater international cooperation by police agencies to combat terrorism. Bin al-Shibh arrived in Salou on July 9, which means he would have been there when the counter-terrorist meeting took place. [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, p. 135] Did bin al-Shibh and/or Atta attend O'Neill's speech to learn from the enemy, or even secretly meet with O'Neill or some other counter-terrorist official?
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]
Mid-July 2001: US intelligence reports another spike in warnings (see June 13, 2001 for a previous warning) related to the July 20-22 G-8 summit in Genoa, Italy (see July 20-22, 2001). The reports include specific threats discovered by the head of Russia's Federal Bodyguard Service that al-Qaeda will try to kill Bush as he attends the summit. [CNN, 3/02] The reports are taken so seriously that Bush stays overnight on an aircraft carrier offshore, and other world leaders stay on a luxury ship. [CNN, 7/18/01] Two days before the summit begins, the BBC reports: "The huge force of officers and equipment which has been assembled to deal with unrest has been spurred on by a warning that supporters of Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden might attempt an air attack on some of the world leaders present." [BBC, 7/18/01]
Mid-July 2001 (B): John O'Neill, FBI counter-terrorism expert, privately discusses White House obstruction in his bin Laden investigation. O'Neill says:"The main obstacles to investigate Islamic terrorism were US oil corporate interests and the role played by Saudi Arabia in it." He adds:"All the answers, everything needed to dismantle Osama bin Laden's organization, can be found in Saudi Arabia." O'Neill also believes the White House is obstructing his investigation of bin Laden because they are still keeping the idea of a pipeline deal with the Taliban open. [CNN, 1/8/02, CNN, 1/9/02, Irish Times, 11/19/01, Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, released 11/11/01 (the link is an excerpt containing Chapter 1)]
July 16, 2001: British spy agencies send a report to British Prime Minister Tony Blair and other top officials warning that al-Qaeda is in "the final stages" of preparing a terrorist attack in the West. The prediction is "based on intelligence gleaned not just from MI6 and GCHQ but also from US agencies, including the CIA and the National Security Agency," which cooperate with the British. "The contents of the July 16 warning would have been passed to the Americans, Whitehall sources confirmed." The report states there is "an acute awareness" that the attack is "a very serious threat." [London Times, 6/14/02] This information could be from or in addition to a warning based on surveillance of al-Qaeda prisoner Khalid al-Fawwaz (see August 21, 2001). [Fox News, 5/17/02]
July 16, 2001 (B): A Village Voice reporter is told by a New York taxi driver, "You know, I am leaving the country and going home to Egypt sometime in late August or September. I have gotten e-mails from people I know saying that Osama bin Laden has planned big terrorist attacks for New York and Washington for that time. It will not be safe here then." He does in fact return to Egypt for that time period. The FBI isn't told about this lead until after 9/11. He is later interrogated by the FBI and released. He claims what he knew was known by many. [Village Voice, 9/25/02 (B)]
July 18, 2001: The FBI issues another warning to domestic law enforcement agencies about threats stemming from the convictions in the millennium bomb plot trial. The FAA also issues a warning, telling the airlines to "use the highest level of caution." [CNN, 3/02]
July 20-22, 2001: The G8 summit is held in Genoa, Italy. Acting on previous warnings that al-Qaeda would attempt to kill Bush and other leaders (see Mid-July 2001), Italy surrounds the summit with antiaircraft guns, keeps fighters in the air, and closes off local airspace to all planes. No attack occurs. US officials at the time state that the warnings were "unsubstantiated" but after 9/11 claim success in preventing an attack. Lying about Genoa keeps the public and the airlines uninformed about the seriousness of the current terrorist threat. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/01] FTW
July 21, 2001: Three American officials, Tom Simons (former US Ambassador to Pakistan), Karl Inderfurth (former Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs) and Lee Coldren (former State Department expert on South Asia) meet with Pakistani and Russian intelligence officers in a Berlin hotel. [Salon, 8/16/02] It is the third of a series of back-channel conferences called "brainstorming on Afghanistan." Taliban representatives sat in on previous meetings, but boycotted this one due to worsening tensions. However, the Pakistani ISI relays information from the meeting to the Taliban. [Guardian, 9/22/01] At the meeting, former US State Department official Lee Coldren passes on a message from Bush officials. He later says, "I think there was some discussion of the fact that the United States was so disgusted with the Taliban that they might be considering some military action." [Guardian, 9/26/01] Accounts vary, but former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Niaz Naik later says he is told by senior American officials at the meeting that military action to overthrow the Taliban in Afghanistan is planned to "take place before the snows started falling in Afghanistan, by the middle of October at the latest." The goal is to kill or capture both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar, topple the Taliban regime and install a transitional government of moderate Afghans in its place. Uzbekistan and Russia would also participate (see also December 19, 2000, March 15, 2001 and June 26, 2001). Naik also says "it was doubtful that Washington would drop its plan even if bin Laden were to be surrendered immediately by the Taliban." [BBC, 9/18/01] One specific threat made at this meeting is that the Taliban can choose between "carpets of bombs" - an invasion - or "carpets of gold" - the pipeline. [Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, Guillaume Dasquié and Jean-Charles Brisard, released 11/11/01 (the link is an excerpt containing Chapter 1)] Niaz Naik says Tom Simons made the "carpets" statement. Simons claims: "It's possible that a mischievous American participant, after several drinks, may have thought it smart to evoke gold carpets and carpet bombs. Even Americans can't resist the temptation to be mischievous." Naik and the American participants deny that the pipeline was an issue at the meeting. [Salon, 8/16/02] So then what was the "carpets of gold" phrase referring to? FTW
July 24, 2001: Larry Silverstein's $3.2 billion purchase of the WTC is finalized. [Ireizine, 7/26/01] It's the only time the WTC has ever changed hands. It was previously owned by the New York Port Authority, a bi-state government agency. [ICSC, 4/27/01] Silverstein may get $7 billion in insurance from the 9/11 destruction of the WTC towers. [Guardian, 10/24/01]
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,
"Ashcroft demonstrated an amazing lack of curiosity
when asked if he knew anything about the threat. 'Frankly, I don't,' he told
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."
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
July 31, 2001: The FAA issues another warning to US airlines, citing no specific targets but saying "terror groups are known to be planning and training for hijackings, and we ask you therefore to use caution." These alerts had expired by 9/11. Note that pilots and flight attendants later claim they were never told about warnings such as these. The airlines also disagree about the content of pre-9/11 warnings generally. For instance, American Airlines states these warnings were "extremely general in nature and did not identify a specific threat or recommend any specific security enhancements." The text of these warnings remain classified. [CNN, 3/02, Ananova, 5/17/02]
Late July 2001: The Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil learns that bin Laden is planning a "huge attack" on targets inside America. The attack is imminent, and will kill thousands. He learns this from Tahir Yildash, leader of the rebel Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is allied with al-Qaeda at the time. Muttawakil sends an emissary to pass this information on to the US consul general, and another US official, "possibly from the intelligence services," also attends the meeting. The message is not taken very seriously; one source blames this on "warning fatigue" from too many warnings. Also, supposedly the emissary was from the Foreign Ministry, but didn't say the message came from Muttawakil himself. The emissary then takes the message to the Kabul offices of UNSMA, the political wing of the UN. They also fail to take the warning seriously. [Independent, 9/7/02, Reuters, 9/7/02] Isn't it ironic the US destroyed the Taliban, who tried to warn them of the attacks? Click here for more on this topic.
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 (C): Argentina's Jewish community receives warnings of a major terrorist attack against either the United States, Argentina or France from "a foreign intelligence source." The warning was then relayed to the Argentine security authorities. It was agreed to keep the warning secret in order to avoid panic while reinforcing security at Jewish sites in the country. Says a Jewish leader, "It was a concrete warning that an attack of major proportion would take place, and it came from a reliable intelligence source. And I understand the Americans were told about it." Argentina has a large Jewish community that has been bombed in the past, and has been an area of al-Qaeda activity. [Forward, 5/31/02]
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?
Late summer 2001: Jordanian intelligence (the GID) makes a communications intercept deemed so important that King Abdullah's men relay it to Washington, probably through the CIA station in Amman. To make doubly sure the message gets through it is passed through an Arab intermediary to a German intelligence agent. The message states that a major attack, code named The Big Wedding, is planned inside the US and that aircraft will be used. "When it became clear that the information was embarrassing to Bush Administration officials and congressmen who at first denied that there had been any such warnings before September 11, senior Jordanian officials backed away from their earlier confirmations." Christian Science Monitor calls the story "confidently authenticated" even though Jordan has backed away from it. [International Herald Tribune, 5/21/02, Christian Science Monitor, 5/23/02] FTW
Late summer 2001 (B): US intelligence learns that an al-Qaeda operative is considering mounting terrorist operations in the US. There is no information on the timing or specific targets. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
Late summer 2001 (C): The Guardian later reports, "Reliable western military sources say a US contingency plan existed on paper by the end of the summer to attack Afghanistan from the north." [Guardian, 9/26/01]
August 2001: German newspaper Der Spiegel later reports that this month the US company Raytheon landed a 727 six times in a military base in New Mexico without any pilots on board. This was done to test equipment making future hijackings more difficult, by allowing ground control to take over the flying of a hijacked plane. [Der Spiegel, 10/28/01] Even though Der Spiegel got their information directly from Raytheon, most media reports after 9/11 suggest such technology is currently impossible. For instance, the Observer quotes an expert who says "the technology is pretty much there" but still untried. [Observer, 9/16/01] The New York Times reports on a Bush speech in which he mentioned that the government would give grants to research "new technology, probably far in the future, allowing air traffic controllers to land distressed planes by remote control." [New York Times, 9/28/01] In the wrong hands, couldn't such a technology have caused the 9/11 attacks, without needing any hijackers on the planes (see 1998 (D) and September 25, 2001)?
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 (C): The French magazine Maximale and the Moroccan newspaper al-Ittihad al-Ichtiraki later simultaneously report that a Moroccan agent named Hassan Dabou had penetrated al-Qaeda to the point of getting close to bin Laden by this time. Dabou claims he learns that bin Laden is "very disappointed" that the 1993 bombing had not toppled the WTC, and plans "large scale operations in New York in the summer or fall of 2001." Dabou is called to the US to report this information directly, and in so doing blows his cover, losing his ability to gather more intelligence. The International Herald Tribune later calls the story "not proved beyond a doubt" but intriguing, and asks the CIA to confirm or deny, which it has not done. [Agence France Presse, 11/22/01, International Herald Tribune, 5/21/02, London Times, 6/12/02] FTW
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 (E): The CIA issues a report warning the White House, Pentagon and Department of State that bin Laden is intent on launching a terrorist attack soon, possibly inside the US. [Sunday Herald, 9/23/01]
August 2001 (F): US intelligence learns of a plot to either bomb the US embassy in Nairobi from an airplane or crash an airplane into it. Two people who were reportedly acting on instructions from bin Laden met in October 2000 to discuss this plot. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
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 (H): Future anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill's high level Department of Defense security clearance is revoked. He is working at a private company at the time, but no explanation is given to his employers. [Baltimore Sun, 7/18/02]
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.
Early August 2001 (B): AP later reports that the "CIA had developed general information a month before the attacks that heightened concerns that bin Laden and his followers were increasingly determined to strike on US soil." A CIA official affirmed that: "There was something specific in early August that said to us that [bin Laden] was determined in striking on US soil." A major excuse given since 9/11 is that the Bush administration was focused on overseas attacks, and didn't expect a domestic attack (for instance see May 16, 2002). [AP, 10/3/01]
Early August 2001 (C): Britain gives the US another warning about an al-Qaeda attack. The previous British warning (see July 16, 2001) was vague as to method, but this warning specifies multiple airplane hijackings. This warning is included in Bush's briefing on August 6. [Sunday Herald, 5/19/02]
Early August 2001 (D): The ransom for a wealthy Indian shoe manufacturer, kidnapped in Calcutta, India, two weeks earlier, is paid to an Indian gangster named Aftab Ansari. Ansari is based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates and has ties to the ISI and Saeed Sheikh (see November 1994-December 1999). Ansari gives about $100,000 of the about $830,000 in ransom money to Saeed, who sends it to hijacker Mohamed Atta. [Los Angeles Times, 1/23/02, Independent, 1/24/02] A series of recovered e-mails shows the money is sent just after August 11. This appears to be one of a series of Indian kidnappings this gang carries out in 2001. [India Today, 2/14/02, Times of India, 2/14/02] Saeed provides training and weapons to the kidnappers in return for a percentage of the profits. [Frontline, 2/2/02, India Today, 2/25/02] Note that this appears to be an additional $100,000 sent by Saeed to Atta on top of the $100,000 he likely sent to Atta in 2000 (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000). If it's true ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed orders Saeed to send $100,000 to the hijackers, it isn't clear to which $100,000 that refers (see October 7, 2001).
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 1, 2001 (B): With
the approaching third anniversary of the US embassy bombings in Africa,
the FBI reissues a warning that overseas law enforcement
agencies could be targets. [CNN,
August 1, 2001 (C): A motel owner in Oklahoma City later claims that Zacarias Moussaoui and hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi all come to his motel on this day. Although the FBI has investigated this lead, they have not commented on it, and prosecutors have not attempted to use the incident as evidence in their case against Moussaoui. It is widely admitted the case against Moussaoui is not strong (for instance, Newsweek states: "there's nothing that shows Moussaoui ever had contact with any of the 9/11 hijackers" [Newsweek, 8/5/02]). The LA Weekly speculates the FBI may want to ignore this lead because it "could force the FBI to reopen its investigation of Middle Eastern connections to the 1995 Oklahoma City blast, because convicted bombers Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols reportedly stayed at the same motel, interacting with a group of Iraqis during the weeks before the bombing." [LA Weekly, 8/2/02]
August 1-2, 2001: Hijackers Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar meet Luis Martinez-Flores, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, in a 7-Eleven parking lot in Fall Church, Virginia. He is paid $100 cash to Martinez-Flores accompany the two to a local Department of Motor Vehicles office and signs forms attesting to their permanent residence in Virginia. Given new state identity cards, the cards are used the next day to get Virginia identity cards for between five and seven additional hijackers, including Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alghamdi, Majed Moqed, and Salem Alhazmi. [Arizona Daily Star, 9/28/01, Washington Post, 9/30/01, Wall Street Journal, 10/16/01]
August 2, 2001: Christina Rocca, the Director of Asian Affairs at the State Department, secretly meets the Taliban ambassador in Islamabad, apparently in a last ditch attempt to secure a pipeline deal. Rocca was previously in charge of contacts with Islamic guerrilla groups at the CIA, and oversaw the delivery of Stinger missiles to Afghan mujaheddin in the 1980s. [Irish Times, 11/19/01, Salon, 2/8/02, Bin Laden: The Forbidden Truth, Guillaume Dasquié and Jean-Charles Brisard, released 11/11/01 (the link is an excerpt containing Chapter 1)] FTW
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 6, 2001 (B): Richard Perle, head of the Defense Policy Board and foreign policy advisor to Bush, is asked about new challenges now that the Cold War is over. He cites three: "We're concerned about Saddam Hussein, we're concerned about the North Koreans, about some future Iranian government that may have the weapon they're now trying so hard to acquire..." [Australian Broadcasting Corp., 8/6/01] Note that these three nations are the same three named in Bush's famous January 2002 "axis of evil" speech (see January 29, 2002). [CNN, 1/29/02] High US officials are later talking about attacking all three, even though there are almost no connections between any of them and al-Qaeda. [Newsweek, 8/11/02] Meanwhile, bin Laden and most top leaders of al-Qaeda and the Taliban remain at large. Was the 9/11 attack an excuse for the US to go after its enemies?
August 6, 2001 (C): Inside trading based on advanced knowledge of the 9/11 attacks may have begun on this date, if not earlier. Investigators later discover a large number of put option purchases (a speculation that the stock will go down) at the Chicago Board Options Exchange bought on this date that expire on September 30 (see also September 6-10, 2001). These would have led to large profits. One analyst says, "From what I'm hearing, it's more than coincidence.'' [Reuters, 9/20/01]
August 8-15, 2001: At some point between these dates, Israel warns the US that an al-Qaeda attack is imminent. [Fox News, 5/17/02] Two high ranking agents from the Mossad come to Washington and warn the FBI and CIA that from 50 to 200 terrorists have slipped into the US and are planning "a major assault on the United States." They say indications point to a "large scale target", and that Americans would be "very vulnerable." They add there could be Iraqi connections to the al-Qaeda attack. [Telegraph, 9/16/01, Los Angeles Times, 9/20/01, Ottawa Citizen, 9/17/01] The Los Angeles Times later retracts the story after a CIA spokesman says, "There was no such warning. Allegations that there was are complete and utter nonsense." [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/01] In light of later revelations of a Mossad spy ring trailing numerous Muslim terrorists in the US, it is easy to see that Mossad would have known this info. Could this be later disinformation by the Mossad to spin the spy ring story and blame Iraq for 9/11, or it is another smoking gun showing extensive US foreknowledge?
August 11 or 12, 2001: US Navy Lt. Delmart "Mike" Vreeland, jailed in Toronto on fraud charges and claiming to be an officer in US Naval Intelligence, writes a note which may have contained details of the pending 9/11 attacks, and seals it an envelope which he gives to Canadian authorities. He claims to have been a courier delivering a sealed pouch, which he opened when its recipient failed to show up. The document he claims to have read, written in Russian, not only describes the attack but has the added comment: "Let one happen, stop the rest". This incident is fraught with controversy, as are the accounts of who Vreeland is and what he has done in the past. Read the documents linked here and decide. [Toronto Star, 10/23/01, external link to Toronto Superior Court Records] FTW He apparently later disappears. [Toronto Sun, 9/10/02]
August 13-15, 2001:
Zacarias Moussaoui trains at the Pan Am International Flight School in Minneapolis,
Minnesota, where he pays $8,300 ($1500 by credit card and the remainder
in cash) to use a Boeing 474 Model 400 aircraft simulator. After just one day
of training most of the staff is suspicious that he's a terrorist. They discuss
"how much fuel [is] on board a 747-400 and how much damage that could cause
if it hit[s] anything." They call the FBI
with their concerns later that day. [New
York Times, 2/8/02, Senate
Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] They are
1) In contrast to all the other students at this high-level flight school, he has no aviation background, little previous training and no pilot's license. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02]
2) He wants to fly a 747 not because he plans to be a pilot, but as an "ego boosting thing." [New York Times, 10/18/02] Yet within hours of his arrival, it is clear he "was not some affluent joy-rider." [New York Times, 2/8/02]
3) He is "extremely" interested in the operation of the plane's doors and control panel. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] He also is very keen on learning the protocol for communicating with the flight tower despite having no plans to actually become a pilot. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
4) He is evasive and belligerent when asked about his background. When an instructor, who notes from his records that Moussaoui is from France, attempts to greet him in French, Moussaoui appears not to understand, saying that he had spent very little time in France and that he is from the Middle East. The instructor considers it odd that Moussaoui did not specify the Middle Eastern country. [Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune, 12/21/01; Washington Post, 1/2/02]
5) He tells a flight instructor he is not a Muslim, but the instructor senses he is lying, badly, about it. [New Yorker, 9/30/02]
6) He says he would "love" to fly a simulated flight from London to New York, raising fears he has plans to hijack such a flight. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 10/17/02] His original e-mail to the flight school similarly stated he wanted to be good enough to fly from London to New York. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
7) He pays for thousands of dollars in expenses from a large wad of cash. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
8) He seemed to be trying to pack a large amount of training in a short period of time for no apparent reason. [New York Times, 2/8/02]
9) He mostly practices flying in the air, not taking off or landing (although note that reports claiming he didn't want to take off or land at all appear to be an exaggeration). [New York Times, 2/8/02, Slate, 5/21/02, Minneapolis St. Paul Star Tribune, 12/21/01, New York Times, 5/22/02]
Failing to get much initial interest from the FBI, the flight instructor tells the FBI agents, "Do you realize how serious this is? This man wants training on a 747. A 747 fully loaded with fuel could be used as a weapon!" [New York Times, 2/8/02]
August 14, 2001: Two apparent associates of Mohamed Atta's Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, Ismail Ben Mrabete and Ahmed Taleb, purchase tickets to fly to Pakistan on September 3, 2001. They are joined on that flight by cell member Said Bahaji. All three apparently then disappear into Afghanistan (see September 3-5, 2001). It is later discovered that Taleb had been in e-mail contact with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. [Chicago Tribune, 2/25/03] If these tickets were bought in anticipation of the 9/11 attacks, then this is the earliest indication of when at least the rough timing of 9/11 must have been planned by. Because this precedes the arrest of Moussaoui by one day (see August 15, 2001), it also suggests that that arrest didn't affect the timing of 9/11.
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 20, 2001: In a later interview, would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh claims that roughly around this day, he receives a coded e-mail about the 9/11 plot from Mohamed Atta. It reads, "The first term starts in three weeks.... There are 19 certificates for private studies and four exams." Bin al-Shibh learns the exact day of the attack on August 29 (see August 29, 2001 (C)). [Guardian, 9/9/02] Hijacker Hani Hanjour also makes surveillance test flights near the Pentagon and WTC around this time, showing the targets have been confirmed as well. [CBS, 10/9/02] Information in a notebook later found in Afghanistan suggests the 9/11 attack was planned for later, but was moved up at the last minute. [MSNBC, 1/30/02] The FBI later notices spikes in cell phone use between the hijackers just after the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui and just before the hijackers begin to buy tickets for the flights they would hijack (see August 24-29, 2001). [New York Times, 9/10/02] CIA Director Tenet has hinted that Zacarias Moussaoui's arrest a few days earlier (see August 15, 2001) may be connected to when the date of the attack was picked. [CIA, 6/18/02] On the other hand, some terrorists appear to have made plans to flee Germany in advance of the 9/11 attacks one day before Moussaoui's arrest (see August 14, 2001).
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 21, 2001 (B): Thomas Donnelly, Deputy Executive Director of the Project for the New American Century, an influential neoconservative think tank, explains to the Washington Post that the US should embrace its role as imperialist hegemons over the world. He says many important politicians privately agree with him. "There's not all that many people who will talk about it openly," he says. "It's discomforting to a lot of Americans. So they use code phrases like 'America is the sole superpower.'" He also says, "I think Americans have become used to running the world and would be very reluctant to give it up, if they realized there were a serious challenge to it." [Washington Post, 8/21/01] These types of policies are denounced in Bush's 2000 election, and it is frequently claimed that the Bush Administration only changes its mind toward a more aggressive policy after 9/11. But in this summer of 2001, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld's office "sponsored a study of ancient empires - Macedonia, Rome, the Mongols - to figure out how they maintained dominance." [New York Times, 3/5/03]
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 22, 2001 (C): The Asia Times reports that the US is engaged in "intense negotiations" with Pakistan for assistance in an operation to capture or kill bin Laden. But despite promised rewards, there is a "very strong lobby within the [Pakistani] army not to assist in any US moves to apprehend bin Laden." [Asia Times, 8/22/01]
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 Ahmed Shah 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 24-29, 2001: The hijackers book their flights for 9/11, using their apparent real names. Most pay using credit cards on the internet. [Miami Herald, 9/22/01] At least five tickets are one way only. [Los Angeles Times, 9/18/01] So 9/11 must have been the confirmed date of the attack by August 24, but other evidence suggests it could have been known earlier (see August 14, 2001). Why would they pay using credit cards in their real names? Or were the names we know them as actually stolen identities?
August 25, 2001: A supplemental Visa credit card on a "Mustafa Al-Hawsawi" bank account is issued in the name of Abdulrahman A. A. Al-Ghamdi, who the FBI says is an alias for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. The FBI believes this helps prove Mohammed is a superior to the 9/11 paymaster. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02, Houston Chronicle, 6/5/02] The identity of "Mustafa Al-Hawsawi" is highly contested, but may well be Saeed Sheikh (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002). Mohammed and Sheikh appear to work together in the kidnapping of reporter Daniel Pearl (see January 23, 2002).
August 27, 2001: Spanish police tape a series of cryptic, coded phone calls from a caller in Britain using the codename "Shakur" to Barakat Yarkas (also known as Abu Dahdah), the leader of a Spanish al-Qaeda cell presumably visited by Atta (see July 8-19, 2001). A Spanish judge claims that a call by Shakur on this day shows foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Shakur says that he is "giving classes" and that "in our classes, we have entered the field of aviation, and we have even cut the bird's throat." Another possible translation is: "We are even going to cut the eagle's throat," which would be a clearer metaphor for the US. [Observer, 11/25/01, Guardian, 2/14/02] In a Spanish indictment, the unknown Shakur is described as "a presumed member of the Sept. 11 suicide commandos." [International Herald Tribune, 11/21/01] The Spanish terrorist cell led by Yarkas was allegedly a hub of financing, recruitment and support services for al-Qaeda in Europe. Yarkas's phone number is later also found in the address book of Said Bahaji (see November 1, 1998-February 2001), and he had ties with Mohammed Haydar Zammar (see March 1997) and Mamoun Darkazanli (see Spring 2000) - all three are associates of Atta in Hamburg. [Los Angeles Times, 11/23/01] Yarkas also "reportedly met with bin Laden twice and was in close contact with" top deputy Muhammad Atef. [Washington Post, 11/19/01] On November 11, 2001, Yarkas and 10 other Spaniards are arrested and charged with al-Qaeda terrorist activity. [International Herald Tribune, 11/21/01]
August 27, 2001 (B): 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 28-30, 2001: Senator Bob Graham (D), Representative Porter Goss (R) and Senator John Kyl (R) travel to Pakistan and meet with President Musharraf. They reportedly discuss various security issues, including the possible extradition of bin Laden. They also meet with Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. Zaeef apparently tells them that the Taliban want to solve the issue of bin Laden through negotiations with the US. Pakistan says it wants to stay out of the bin Laden issue. All three are meeting with ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed in Washington at the time of the 9/11 attacks (see September 11, 2001 (H)). Mahmood gave $100,000 to hijacker Mohamed Atta (see October 7, 2001). [AFP, 8/28/01, Salon, 9/14/01] Since the ISI was funding the 9/11 hijackers, what else might have been discussed in these meetings?
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." The letter is forwarded to a Cayman government official 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] FTW Click here for more on this topic.
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]
August 29, 2001 (C): In a later interview, would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh claims that on this day Atta calls him in Germany from the US. Atta asks him what is "two sticks, a dash and a cake with a stick down?" The answer, which bin al-Shibh figures out, is 11-9 - the European and Arabic way of writing 9/11. [Knight-Ridder, 9/9/02, CBS, 10/9/02] So knowing the date of the attack, bin al-Shibh later claims that he orders active cells in Europe, the US, and elsewhere to evacuate (see also September 3-5, 2001). Presumably, had any government been tracking either some or all of these people, they also may have learned the date of the attacks.
August 29, 2001 (D): President Bush says: "We recognize its a dangerous world. I know this nation still has enemies, and we cannot expect them to be idle. And thats why security is my first responsibility. And I will not permit any course that leaves America undefended." [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02]
August 30, 2001: It is reported in Russia and Pakistan that the Taliban has named bin Laden commander of the Afghanistan army. [UPI, 8/30/01]
August 30-September 4, 2001: According to Egyptian President Hasni Mubarak, Egyptian intelligence warns American officials that bin Laden's network is in the advanced stages of executing a significant operation against an American target, probably within the US. [AP, 12/7/01, New York Times, 6/4/02] He says he learned this information from an agent working inside al-Qaeda. US officials deny receiving any such warning from Egypt. [ABC News, 6/4/02]
August 31, 2001: Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi Arabia's intelligence service for 24 years, is replaced. No explanation is given. He is replaced by Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz, his nephew and the king's brother, who has "no background in intelligence whatsoever." [AFP, 8/31/01, Seattle Times, 10/29/01, Wall Street Journal, 10/22/01] FTW The Wall Street Journal later reports, "The timing of Turki's removal - August 31 - and his Taliban connection raise the question: Did the Saudi regime know that bin Laden was planning his attack against the US? The current view among Saudi-watchers is probably not, but that the House of Saud might have heard rumors that something was planned, although they did not know what or when. (An interesting and possibly significant detail: Prince Sultan, the defense minister, had been due to visit Japan in early September, but canceled his trip for no apparent reason less than two days before his planned departure.)" [Wall Street Journal, 10/22/01] Turki is later sued for his role in 9/11 (see August 15, 2002) and appointed ambassador to Britain (see October 18, 2002).
Late August 2001 (B): In an interview with the London-based newspaper al-Quds al-Arabi, bin Laden boasts that he is planning a "very, very big" and "unprecedented" strike against the US. The interview is not publicly released until after 9/11, however, so its unclear if US intelligence was aware of this before 9/11. [Independent, 9/17/01, ABC News, 9/12/01]
Late August 2001 (C): A Telegraph article later claims that Iraq leader Saddam Hussein puts his troops on their highest military alert since the Gulf War. A CIA official states that there was nothing obvious to warrant this move: "He was clearly expecting a massive attack and it leads you to wonder why." Hussein apparently made a number of other moves at the time suggesting foreknowledge and the article strongly suggests Iraqi complicity in the 9/11 attacks. [Telegraph, 9/23/01] Iraq will later be sued by 9/11 victims' relatives on the grounds that they had 9/11 foreknowledge but didn't warn the US (see September 4, 2002). Given Rumsfeld's early efforts to blame Iraq (see September 11, 2001 (V)) could such stories be early propaganda to justify a US attack on Iraq? Perhaps Iraq knew what might happen on 9/11 and worried they would be targeted in response?
Late August 2001 (D): French intelligence gives a general terrorist warning to the US; apparently its contents echo an Israeli warning from earlier in the month (see Mid-August 2001). [Fox News, 5/17/02]
Early September 2001: The standard accounts place hijackers Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi on the East Coast without interruption in the weeks before the attacks. [New York Times, 11/6/01, CNN, 9/26/01, New York Times, 9/21/01, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/01, St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/01, AP, 9/21/01, Newsday, 9/23/01, Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02] However, neighbors at the San Diego apartment complex where the three lived are clear in their assertions that all three were there until days before 9/11. For instance, one article states, "Authorities believe Almihdhar, Hanjour and Alhazmi ... moved out a couple of days before the East Coast attacks." [San Diego Channel 10, 11/1/01] Ed Murray, a resident at the complex, said that all three "started moving out Saturday night -- and Sunday [September 9] they were gone." [San Diego Channel 10, 9/14/01, San Diego Channel 10, 9/20/01] This is the same day that Alhazmi is seen in an East Coast shopping mall. [CNN, 9/26/01] As with previous reports (see January 15-August 2000 and September-December 2000), neighbors also see them getting into strange cars late at night. A neighbor interviewed shortly after 9/11 said, "A week ago, I was coming home between 12 and 1 a.m. from a club. I saw a limo pick them up. It wasn't the first time. In this neighborhood you notice stuff like that. In the past couple of months, I have seen this happen at least two or three times." [Time, 9/24/01] Is one or the other account wrong, or could the identities of these hijackers have been used by more than one person simultaneously? If so, what happened to the ones that didn't board the hijacked planes? To add to the confusion, there have been reports that investigators think Almihdhar is still alive (see September 16-23, 2001) and the Chicago Tribune says of Alhazmi, Almihdhar and Hanjour: "The most basic of facts - the very names of the men - are uncertain. The FBI has said each used at least three aliases. 'It's not going to be a terrible surprise down the line if these are not their true names,' said Jeff Thurman, an FBI spokesman in San Diego." [Chicago Tribune, 9/30/01]
Early September 2001 (B): The NSA intercepts "multiple phone calls from Abu Zubaida, bin Laden's chief of operations, to the United States." The timing and information contained in these intercepted phone calls has not been disclosed. [ABC News, 2/18/02] Shouldn't the US government have been able to determine who was being called, and find those people?
Early September 2001 (C): According to British inside sources, "shortly before September 11," bin Laden contacts an associate thought to be in Pakistan. The conversation refers to an incident that will take place in the US on, or around 9/11, and discusses possible repercussions. In another conversation, bin Laden contacts an associate thought to be in Afghanistan. They discuss the scale and effect of a forthcoming operation; bin Laden praises his colleague for his part in the planning. Neither conversation specifically mentions the WTC or Pentagon, but investigators have no doubt the 9/11 attacks were being discussed. The British government has obliquely made reference to these intercepts: "There is evidence of a very specific nature relating to the guilt of bin Laden and his associates that is too sensitive to release." These intercepts haven't been made public in Blair's presentation of al-Qaeda's guilt (see October 4, 2001 (B)) because "releasing full details could compromise the source or method of the intercepts." [Sunday Times, 10/7/01]
Early September 2001 (D): An Iranian man known as Ali S. in a German jail waiting deportation repeatedly phones US law enforcement to warn of an imminent attack on the WTC in the week of September 9-15. He calls it "an attack that will change the world." After a month of badgering his prison guards, he is finally able to call the White House 14 times in the days before the attack. He then tries to send a fax to Bush, but is denied permission hours before the 9/11 attacks. German police later confirm the calls. Prosecutors later say Ali had no foreknowledge and his forebodings were just a strange coincidence. They say he is mentally unstable. Similar warnings also come from a Moroccan man being held in a Brazilian jail. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 9/13/01, Ottawa Citizen, 9/17/01, Ananova, 9/14/01, Sunday Herald, 9/16/01] FTW Click here for more on this topic.
Early September 2001 (E): One article later suggests that bin Laden moves his training bases in Afghanistan "in the days before the attacks." [Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/16/01] Given US satellite surveillance of such bases, shouldn't this have been a huge clue that a major attack was imminent?
Early September 2001 (F): A few days before 9/11, a Seattle security guard of Middle Eastern descent tells an East Coast friend on the phone that terrorists will soon attack the US. After 9/11 the friend tells the FBI, and passes a lie detector test. The security guard refuses to cooperate with the FBI or take a lie detector test. He isn't arrested - apparently the FBI determines that while he may have had 9/11 foreknowledge, he wasn't involved in the plot. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/12/01]
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]
Early September 2001 (H): A veteran detective with post-9/11 investigations later claims that rumors in New York City's Arab-American community about the 9/11 attacks are common in the days beforehand. The story "had been out on the street" and the number of leads turning up later is so "overwhelming" that it is difficult to tell who knows about the attacks from secondhand sources and who knows about it from someone who may have been a participant. After 9/11, tracking leads regarding Middle Eastern employees who didn't show up for work on 9/11 are "a serious and major priority." [Journal News, 10/11/01]
Early September 2001 (I): The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) later announces that they are investigating the trading of shares of 38 companies in the days just before 9/11. The San Francisco Chronicle states that the New York Stock Exchange sees "unusually heavy trading in airline and related stocks several days before the attacks." All of the 38 companies logically stood to lose from the attacks. They include parent companies of major airlines American, Continental, Delta, Northwest, Southwest, United and USAirways as well as cruise lines Carnival and Royal Caribbean, aircraft maker Boeing and defense contractor Lockheed Martin. The SEC is also looking into suspicious short selling of numerous insurance company stocks. [AP, 10/2/01, San Francisco Chronicle, 10/3/01]
Early September 2001 (J): There is a sharp increase in short selling of the stocks of American and United airlines on the New York Stock Exchange prior to 9/11. A short sell is a bet that a particular stock will drop. There is an increase of 40 percent of short selling over the previous month for these two airlines, compared to an 11 percent increase for other big airlines and one percent for the exchange overall. A significant profit was to be made: United stock dropped 43 percent and American dropped 39 percent the first day the market reopened after the attack (see also September 6-10, 2001). Short selling of Munich Re, the world's largest reinsurer, is also later noted by German investigators. Inquiries into short selling millions of Munich Re shares were made in France days before the attacks. [Reuters, 9/20/01, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/22/01] Munich Re stock plummets after the attacks, as they claim the attacks will cost them $2 billion. [Dow Jones Business News, 9/20/01] There is also suspicious trading activity involving reinsurers Swiss Reinsurance and AXA. These trades are especially curious because the insurance sector "was one of the brightest spots in a very difficult market" at this time. [Los Angeles Times, 9/19/01] There is also a short spike on Dutch airline KLM stock three to seven days before 9/11, reaching historically unprecedented levels. [USA Today, 9/26/01] Was another attack on a KLM airplane planned?
Early September 2001
(K): German central bank president Ernst Welteke says a study by his bank
indicates, "There are ever clearer signs that there were activities on
international financial markets that must have been carried out with the necessary
expert knowledge," not only in shares of heavily affected industries such
as airlines and insurance companies, but also in gold and oil. [Telegraph,
9/23/01] His researchers have found "almost irrefutable proof of insider
Herald, 9/24/01] "If you look at movements in markets before and after
the attack, it makes your brow furrow. But it is extremely difficult to really
verify it." Nevertheless, he believes that "in one or the other case
it will be possible to pinpoint the source." [Fox
News, 9/22/01] Welteke reports "a fundamentally inexplicable rise''
rise in oil prices before the attacks [Miami
Herald, 9/24/01] and then a further rise of 13% the day after the attacks.
Gold rises nonstop for days after the attacks. [Telegraph,
Early September 2001 (L): Numerous other overseas investigations into insider trading before 9/11 are later established. There are investigations in Belgium, France, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Monte Carlo, Cyprus and other countries. There are particularly strong suspicions British markets were manipulated. Italy is investigating suspicious share movements on the day of the attack, as well as the previous day. Japan as well is looking into trading of futures contracts. [Fox News, 9/22/01, CNN, 9/24/01, BBC, 9/18/01] The British conclude in a remarkable two weeks that their markets were not manipulated (see October 16, 2001). But over one year later, where are the results for all the other countries?
Early September 2001 (M): After 9/11 both the SEC and the Secret Service announce probes into an unusually high volume trade of five-year US Treasury note purchases around this time. These transactions included a single $5 billion trade. The Wall Street Journal explains: "Five-year Treasury notes are among the best investments in the event of a world crisis, especially one that hits the US. The notes are prized for their safety and their backing by the US government, and usually rally when investors flee riskier investments, such as stocks." The value of these notes has risen sharply since the events of September 11. The article also points out that with these notes, "tracks would be hard to spot." [Wall Street Journal, 10/2/01] How could bin Laden, whose fortune is estimated at roughly $250 million [Miami Herald, 9/24/01], have made a $5 billion trade?
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, 2001: Author Salman Rushdie, the target of death threats from radical Muslims for years, is banned by US authorities from taking internal US flights. He says the FAA told his publisher the reason was because it had "intelligence of something about to happen." One newspaper states, "The FAA confirmed that it stepped up security measures concerning Mr. Rushdie but refused to give a reason." [London Times, 9/27/01] Years before, Iran had issued a religious fatwa against Rushdie calling for his murder, so if Rushdie had been killed it would have been a major propaganda coup for the terrorists.
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: "On or around" this day, the Mossad give their "latest" warning to the US of a major, imminent terrorist attack, according to sources close to Mossad. One former Mossad agent says, "My understanding is that the warning was not specific. No target was identified. But it should have resulted in an increased state of security." US intelligence claims this never happened. [Sunday Mail, 9/16/01]
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] The FAA is also given the warning, but the FAA decides not to issue a security alert to the nation's airports. An FAA spokesman says, "He was in jail and there was no evidence he was connected to other people." [New York Post, 5/21/02] 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] Would the hijackers have been stopped at the airports if the FBI warning was as strong as the CIA warning? 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 4, 2001 (D): Zim-American Israeli Shipping Co. moves their North American headquarters from the 16th floor of the WTC to Norfolk, Virginia, one week before the 9/11 attacks. The Israeli government owns 49 percent of the company. [Virginian-Pilot, 9/4/01] Zim announced the move and its date six months earlier. [Virginian-Pilot, 4/3/01] More than 200 workers had just been moved out; about 10 are still in the building making final moving arrangements on 9/11, but escape alive. [Jerusalem Post, 9/13/01, Journal of Commerce, 10/18/01] The move leaves only one Israeli company, ClearForest, with 18 employees, in the WTC on 9/11. The four or five employees in the building at the time manage to escape. [Jerusalem Post, 9/13/01] One year later, a Zim ship is impounded attempting to ship Israeli military equipment to Iran; it is speculated that this is done with the knowledge of Israel. [AFP, 8/29/02 (B)] Given the Israeli government ties, the Odigo warning (see September 11, 2001 (C)), and the Israeli art student spy ring (see December 2000-April 2001), some have speculated that the move was more than just lucky.
September 4, 2001 (approx.): On approximately this date, a "weird love letter to Jennifer Lopez" is sent to The Sun, a tabloid with offices in Florida. "But inside the oddly-worded letter was what was described as a 'soapy, powdery substance' and in the pile of that a cheap Star of David charm." The letter was handled both by Ernesto Blanco, who contacted anthrax, and Bob Stevens, who died of anthrax. The letter was thrown away, so it's not known if it contained anthrax. [Newsweek, 10/8/01] Could the letter have been part of a pre-9/11 series of anthrax attacks reported by the New York Post (see before September 11, 2001)? The only specific target mentioned by the Post was Fox News Channel's Bill O'Reilly. [New York Post, 11/1/01] Bob Stevens was admitted to a hospital on October 2; the period between anthrax exposure and symptoms can be up to eight weeks. The anthrax attacks targeted media outlets, sending both real and hoax letters. Could this have been part of that series? Newsweek also reports a Middle Eastern intern working at the Sun that summer left a curious farewell e-mail. [Newsweek, 10/8/01]
September 4-11, 2001: ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed visits Washington for the second time (see April 4, 2000). On September 10, a Pakistani newspaper reports on his trip so far. It says his visit has "triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council" as well as meetings with CIA Director Tenet, unspecified officials at the White House and the Pentagon, and his "most important meeting" with Mark Grossman, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. The article suggests that "of course, Osama bin Laden" could be the focus of some discussions. Prophetically, the article adds, "What added interest to his visit is the history of such visits. Last time [his] predecessor was [in Washington], the domestic [Pakistani] politics turned topsy-turvy within days." [The News, 9/10/01] This is a reference to the Musharraf coup just after a ISI Director's visit (see October 12, 1999). Mahmood is meeting in Washington when the 9/11 attacks begin (see September 11, 2001 (H)), and extends his stay until September 16 (see September 11-16, 2001).
September 5, 2001: Sakher 'Rocky' Hammad, one of five men later convicted of fraudulently obtaining a Tennessee driver's license from a Memphis woman, later claims he was working on the sprinklers in the underground levels of the WTC on this day. When he was arrested, he had a photo ID pass for such work. This story might not mean much, but for the fact that Katherine Smith, the woman who helped him get the fake license, was killed in bizarre circumstances the day before testifying in the case (see February 10, 2002). [GoMemphis, 2/16/02] Some have suggested that bombs helped bring the WTC towers down - could Hammad have planted such bombs?
September 5, 2001 (B): Two men, believed to be Hani Hanjour and Majed Moqed, are captured on camera at an ATM in Maryland. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/01] A picture of this is later released, which appears to be the only picture released of any of the hijackers in the US, except for those on identification cards and some of Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari in Portland, Maine in the 24 hours before the 9/11 attacks. Are there no other pictures of any hijackers anywhere?
September 5-6, 2001: 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 5-8, 2001: Eighty members of a Joint Terrorism Task Force conduct a three-day raid of the offices of InfoCom Corporation, a Texas-based company that hosts about 500 mostly Arab web sites, including Al Jazeera, the Arab world's leading news channel. [Guardian, 9/10/01, Web Host Industry Review, 9/10/01] The Task Force includes agents from the FBI, Secret Service and Diplomatic Security, as well as tax inspectors, immigration officials, customs officials, department of commerce officials and computer experts. [Guardian, 9/10/01] The FBI declines to give a reason for the raid, [NewsFactor Network, 9/7/01] but a spokeswoman said it is not aimed at InfoCom's clients. [BBC, 9/7/01] The reasons for the raid "may never be known, because a judge ordered the warrant to be sealed." [Web Host Industry Review, 9/10/01] Three days after the initial raid, the Task Force is "still busy inside the building, reportedly copying every hard disc they could find." [Guardian, 9/10/01] InfoCom's offices are located in Richardson, a suburb of Dallas. Two charities in Richardson, The Global Relief Foundation Inc. and The Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, have been investigated for possible ties to Palestinian terrorist organizations. [Boston Herald, 12/11/01] Not only are InfoCom and Holy Land across the road from each other, they are intimately connected through two brothers: Ghassan and Bayan Elashi. [Guardian, 9/10/01] Ghassan Elashi is both the vice president of Infocom and chairman of Holy Land. [New York Times, 12/20/02] These two and others are later arrested on a variety of serious charges (see December 18, 2002 (B)). Approximately one week before 9/11, Bank One closes Holy Land's checking accounts totaling about $13 million, possibly because of an investigation begun by the New York State Attorney General. [Dallas Business Journal, 9/7/01] The US freezes Holy Land's assets two months later for suspected terrorist associations. Holy Land is represented by Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, a Washington, DC law firm with unusually close ties to the Bush White House (see December 4, 2001). [Washington Post, 12/17/01] Next to Richardson is another suburb called Garland, where a 5th grade boy may have had foreknowledge of 9/11 (see September 10, 2001). [Houston Chronicle, 9/19/01]
September 6, 2001: Antoinette DiLorenzo, teaching English to a class of Pakistani immigrants, asks a student gazing out the window, "What are you looking at?" The student points towards the WTC, and says: "Do you see those two buildings? They won't be standing there next week." At the time, nothing was thought of it, but on September 13 the FBI interviews all the people in the classroom and confirms the event. The FBI later places the boy's family under surveillance but apparently are unable to find a connection to the 9/11 plot. An MSNBC reporter later sets out to disprove this "urban myth," but to his surprise finds all the details of the story are confirmed. The fact that the family are recent immigrants from Pakistan might mean the information came from Pakistan. [MSNBC, 10/12/01] Supposedly, on November 9, 2001, the same student says there will be a plane crash on November 12. On that day, American Airlines Flight 587 crashes on takeoff from New York, killing 260 people. Investigators believe it was an accident. One official at the school says many Arab-American students have come forward with their own stories about having prior knowledge before 9/11: "Kids are telling us that the attacks didn't surprise them. This was a nicely protected little secret that circulated in the community around here." [Insight, 9/10/02]
September 6, 2001 (B): According to a later interview with would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh, a courier sent by bin al-Shibh tells bin Laden on this day when the 9/11 attacks will take place (see September 3-5, 2001). [Australian, 9/9/02] However, there are doubts about this interview (see April, June or August 2002).
September 6-10, 2001: Suspicious trading occurs on American and United, the two airlines used in the 9/11 attacks. "Between 6 and 7 September, The Chicago Board Options Exchange saw purchases of 4,744 put option contracts [a speculation that the stock will go down] in UAL versus 396 call options where a speculator bets on a price rising. Holders of the put options would have netted a profit of $5 million once the carrier's share price dived after September 11. On 10 September, more trading in Chicago saw the purchase of 4,516 put options in American Airlines, the other airline involved in the hijackings. This compares with a mere 748 call options in American purchased that day. Investigators cannot help but notice that no other airlines saw such trading in their put options." One analyst says: "I saw put-call numbers higher than I've ever seen in 10 years of following the markets, particularly the options markets." [Associated Press, 9/18/01, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/19/01] "To the embarrassment of investigators, it has also emerged that the firm used to buy many of the "put" options ... on United Airlines stock was headed until 1998 by "Buzzy" Krongard, now executive director of the CIA." Krongard was chairman of Alex Brown Inc., which was bought by Deutsche Bank. "His last post before resigning to take his senior role in the CIA was to head Bankers Trust Alex Brown's private client business, dealing with the accounts and investments of wealthy customers around the world." [Independent, 10/14/01] FTW Doesn't this hint that the CIA and some wealthy elites had 9/11 foreknowledge? Why didn't this cause a storm of media attention and further investigation?
September 6-10, 2001 (B): The Chicago Board Options Exchange sees suspicious trading on Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley, two of the largest WTC tenants. An average of 3,053 put options in Merrill Lynch are bought between September 6-10, compared to an average of 252 in the previous week. Merrill Lynch, another WTC tenant, see 12,215 put options bought between September 7-10, when the previous days had seen averages of 252 contracts a day. [Independent, 10/14/01] Dylan Ratigan of Bloomberg Business News: "This would be one of the most extraordinary coincidences in the history of mankind if it was a coincidence." [ABC News, 9/20/01] FTW
September 7, 2001: Father Jean-Marie Benjamin is told at a wedding in Todi, Italy of a plot to attack the US and Britain using hijacked airplanes as weapons. He isn't told time or place specifics. He immediately passes what he knows to a judge and several politicians. He states: "Although I am friendly with many Muslims, I wondered why they were telling me, specifically. I felt it my duty to inform the Italian government." Benjamin has been called "one of the West's most knowledgeable experts on the Muslim world." Two days after 9/11, he meets with the Italian Foreign Minister on this topic. He says he learned the attack on Britain failed at the last minute. [Zenit, 9/16/01] He has not revealed who told him this information, but could it have been a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Milan (see August 12, 2000 and January 24, 2001), which appears to have helped with the 9/11 attacks?
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 7, 2001 (D): One of the first and most frequently told stories about the hijackers is their visit to Shuckums, a sports bar in Hollywood, Florida on this day. What's particularly interesting about this story is how it has changed over time. In the original story, first reported on September 12 [AP, 9/12/01], Atta, Marwan Alshehhi and an unidentified man come into the restaurant already drunk. "They were wasted," says bartender Patricia Idrissi, who directs them to a nearby Chinese restaurant. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/13/01] Later they return and drink - Atta having five vodka and orange juices, and Alshehhi five rum and Cokes. [Time, 9/24/01] Says manager Tony Amos: "The guy Mohamed was drunk, his voice was slurred and he had a thick accent." Idrissi says they argue about the bill, and when she asks if there was a problem, "Mohamed said he worked for American Airlines and he could pay his bill." [AP, 9/12/01] This story was widely reported through much of September (for instance, see [New York Times, 9/13/01, Sunday Herald, 9/16/01, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/15/01, Miami Herald, 9/22/01, Newsweek, 9/17/01, Time, 9/24/01]). But starting on September 15, a second story appears. [Toronto Star, 9/15/01] It's the same as the first, except Atta is playing video games and drinking cranberry juice instead of vodka, and Alshehhi is the one who argues over the bill and pays. After some coexistence, the second story seems to have become predominant in later September (for instance, see [Washington Post, 9/16/01, Washington Post, 9/22/01, Los Angeles Times, 9/27/01, St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/01, Australian Broadcasting Corp., 11/12/01, Sunday Times, 2/3/02]). Given that at least three restaurant employees all said the same story in numerous interviews, why did that story change? Could the FBI have put pressure on the witnesses to change their story so that Atta's behavior was more in line with his extremely religious image?
September 8-11, 2001 (B): In the days before the attacks, some of the hijackers (including Waleed Alshehri and/or Wail Alshehri) apparently sleep with prostitutes in Boston hotel rooms, or try to. A driver working at an "escort service" used by the hijackers claims he regularly drove prostitutes to a relative of bin Laden about once a week until 9/11, when the relative disappeared. Bin Laden has several relatives in the Boston area, most or all of whom returned to Saudi Arabia right after 9/11. [Boston Herald, 10/10/01] Did the bin Laden relative recommended the service to the hijackers? On September 10, four other hijackers in Boston (Marwan Alshehhi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Mohand Alshehri, and Satam Al Suqami) call around to find prostitutes to sleep with on their last night alive, but in the end decline. Says one official, ''It was going to be really expensive and they couldn't come to a consensus on price, so that was the end of it... Either they thought it was too extravagant [over $400] or they didn't have enough money left.'' [Boston Globe, 10/10/01] Does this behavior make any sense if they thought they would die the next day?
September 8-11, 2001 (C): The hijackers send money to and receive money from a man in the United Arab Emirates who uses the aliases "Mustafa Ahmed," "Mustafa Ahmad," and "Ahamad Mustafa." [MSNBC, 12/11/01] This "Mustafa" transfers money to Mohamed Atta in Florida on September 8 and 9. He sends the money from a branch of the Al Ansari Exchange in Sharjah, UAE, a center of al-Qaeda financial dealings (see Mid-1996-October 2001). [Financial Times, 11/30/01] On September 9, three hijackers, Atta, Waleed Alshehri and Marwan Alshehhi, transfer about $15,000 back to "Mustafa"'s account. [Time, 10/1/01, Los Angeles Times, 10/20/01] Apparently the hijackers are returning money meant for the 9/11 attacks that they didn't use. "Mustafa" then transfers $40,000 to his Visa card and then, using a Saudi passport, flies from the UAE to Karachi, Pakistan, on 9/11. He makes six ATM withdrawals there two days later, then disappears into Pakistan (see September 11, 2001-January 2002). [MSNBC, 12/11/01] In early October 2001 it is reported that the financier "Mustafa Ahmed" is an alias used by Saeed Sheikh. [CNN, 10/6/01] It will later be reported that Saeed wired money to Atta the month before (see Early August 2001 (D)). These last-minute transfers are touted as the "smoking gun" proving al-Qaeda involvement in the 9/11 attacks, since Saeed is a known financial manager for bin Laden. [Guardian, 10/1/01] But since Saeed also works for the ISI, aren't these transfers equally a smoking gun of ISI involvement in the 9/11 attacks? The US media frequently reports a series of alternatives to Saeed as the one who sends this money (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002).
September 9, 2001: General Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, is assassinated by two al-Qaeda agents posing as Moroccan journalists. [Time, 8/4/02] A legendary mujaheddin commander and a brilliant tactician, Massoud had pledged to bring freedom and democracy to Afghanistan. The BBC says the next day, "General Massoud's death might well have meant the end of the [Northern] alliance" because there clearly was no figure with his skills and popularity to replace him. [BBC, 9/10/01, BBC, 9/10/01] "With Massoud out of the way, the Taliban and al-Qaeda would be rid of their most effective opponent and be in a stronger position to resist the American onslaught." [St. Petersburg Times, 9/9/02] It appears the assassination was supposed to happen earlier- the "journalists" waited for three weeks in Northern Alliance territory to meet Massoud. Finally on September 8, an aide says they "were so worried and excitable they were begging us." They were granted an interview after threatening to leave if the interview didn't happen in the next 24 hours. Meanwhile, the Taliban army (together with elements of the Pakistani army) had massed for an offensive against the Northern Alliance in the previous weeks, but the offensive began only hours after the assassination. Massoud was killed that day but Northern Alliance leaders pretended for several days that he was only injured in order to keep the army's morale up, and the army was able to stave off total defeat. The timing of the assassination and the actions of the Taliban army suggest that the 9/11 attacks were known to the Taliban leadership. [Time, 8/4/02] However, the assassins may have had other connections. Though it is not widely reported, the Northern Alliance release a statement the next day: "Ahmed Shah Massoud was the target of an assassination attempt organized by the Pakistani [intelligence service] ISI and Osama bin Laden." [Radio Free Europe, 9/10/01, Newsday, 9/15/01, Reuters, 10/4/01] More evidence that the ISI was aware of 9/11?
September 9, 2001 (B): Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R), who has long experience in Afghanistan and even fought with the mujaheddin there, later claims he immediately saw the assassination Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud (see September 9, 2001) as a sign that "something terrible was about to happen." He is only able to make an appointment to meet with top White House and National Security Council officials for 2:30 PM on 9/11. The events of that morning make the meeting moot. [Speech to the House of Representatives, 9/17/01]
September 9, 2001 (C): It is later reported that on this day, bin Laden calls his stepmother and says, "In two days, you're going to hear big news and you're not going to hear from me for a while." US officials later tell CNN that "in recent years they've been able to monitor some of bin Laden's telephone communications with his [step]mother. Bin Laden at the time was using a satellite telephone, and the signals were intercepted and sometimes recorded." [New York Times, 10/2/01] Stepmother Al-Khalifa bin Laden, who raised Osama bin Laden after his natural mother died, was apparently waiting in Damascus, Syria, to meet Osama there, so he called to cancel the meeting. [Sunday Herald, 10/7/01] They had met periodically in recent years (see Spring 1998, Spring 2000 (C) and February 26, 2001). Before 9/11, to impress important visitors, NSA analysts would occasionally play audio tapes of bin Laden talking to his stepmother. [Body of Secrets, James Bamford, 4/02, p. 410] The next day government officials say about the call, "I would view those reports with skepticism." [CNN, 10/2/01]
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 9, 2001 (F): A formal National Security Presidential Directive describing a "game plan to remove al-Qaeda from the face of the Earth" is placed on Bush's desk for his signature. The plan deals with all aspects of a war against al-Qaeda, ranging from diplomatic initiatives to military operations in Afghanistan. According to NBC News reporter Jim Miklaszewski, the "directive outlines essentially the same war plan ... put into action after the Sept. 11 attacks. The administration most likely was able to respond so quickly to the attacks because it simply had to pull the plans 'off the shelf.'" The plan includes an effort to persuade the Taliban to turn over bin Laden and a military invasion if it refuses. It was prepared through a process of consultation over many months, involving the Pentagon, CIA, State Department and other security and intelligence agencies. Bush was expected to sign the directive, but hadn't finished reviewing it by 9/11. [MSNBC, 5/16/02, Los Angeles Times, 5/18/02] FTW Sandy Berger, Clinton's National Security Advisor, has stated, "You show me one reporter, one commentator, one member of Congress who thought we should invade Afghanistan before September 11 and I'll buy you dinner in the best restaurant in New York City." [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, p. 219] In July 2002, British Prime Minister Tony Blair will state: "To be truthful about it, there was no way we could have got the public consent to have suddenly launched a campaign on Afghanistan but for what happened on September 11." [London Times, 7/17/02] How did Bush expect to get public support for his plan to invade and conquer Afghanistan if 9/11 didn't happen?
September 9, 2001 (G): FBI Director Mueller later states that on this day, "A telephonic message ... recovered from Atta's cellular telephone has Ziad Jarrah referring to Atta as 'boss.'" [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/26/02, Washington Post, 9/11/02] How else could the FBI know who was speaking to who and the exact words being spoken, unless the call was intercepted? And even if the importance of the call wasn't revealed until after 9/11, what does this say about data collection ability, and what else has been learned through such calls?
September 10, 2001:
A fifth grader in Dallas, Texas casually tells his teacher: "Tomorrow,
World War III will begin. It will begin in the United States, and the United
States will lose." The teacher reports the comment to the FBI, but doesn't
know if they acted on it. The student skips the next two days of school. The
event may be completely coincidental, but the newspaper that reports the story
also notes that two charities located in an adjacent suburb have been investigated
about raising money for Islamic terrorist organizations (see also September
5-8, 2001). [Houston
Chronicle, 9/19/01] The FBI investigates and decides
"no further investigation [is] warranted." [Houston
September 10, 2001 (B): An Army School of Advanced Military Studies issues a report written by elite US army officers, which is made public just prior to 9/11. The report gives the following description for the Mossad: "Wildcard. Ruthless and cunning. Has capability to target US forces and make it look like a Palestinian/Arab act." [Washington Times, 9/10/01] After 9/11 and revelations of a large Mossad spy ring operating mysteriously in the US, some suggest that the Mossad did in fact do just that on 9/11.
September 10, 2001 (C): In a speech to the Department of Defense, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld announces that the Department of Defense "cannot track $2.3 trillion in transactions." CBS later calculates that 25% of the yearly defense budget is unaccounted for, and quotes a long-time defense budget analyst: "[Their] numbers are pie in the sky. The books are cooked routinely year after year." Coverage of this rather shocking story is nearly nonexistent given the events of the next day. [Department of Defense speech, 9/10/01, CBS, 1/29/02]
September 10, 2001 (D): CBS later reports that on this day, bin Laden is admitted to a military hospital in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, for kidney dialysis treatment. Pakistani military forces guard bin Laden. They also move out all the regular staff in the urology department and send in a secret team to replace them. It is not known how long he stayed. [CBS News, 01/28/02] Why didn't Pakistan arrest bin laden at this time?
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 (G): A sixth-grade student of Middle Eastern descent in Jersey City, New Jersey, says something that alarms his teacher at Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. "Essentially, he warned her to stay away from lower Manhattan because something bad was going to happen," says Sgt. Edgar Martinez, deputy director of police services for the Jersey City Police Department. [Insight, 9/10/02] Note that others with possible 9/11 foreknowledge also lived in Jersey City (see June 12, 2001).
September 10, 2001 (H): The trading ratio on United Airlines is 25 times greater than normal at the Pacific Exchange. Pacific Exchange officials later decline to state if this abnormality is being investigated. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/19/01]
September 10, 2001 (I): According to CBS News, in the afternoon before the attack, "alarm bells were sounding over unusual trading in the US stock options market." It has been documented that the CIA, the Mossad and many other intelligence agencies monitor stock trading in real time using highly advanced programs such as Promis. Both the FBI and the Justice Department have confirmed the use of such programs for US intelligence gathering through at least this summer. This would confirm that CIA should have had additional advance warning of imminent attacks against American and United Airlines planes. [CBS, 9/19/01] There are even allegations that bin Laden was able to get a copy of Promis. [Fox News, 10/16/01] FTW
September 10, 2001 (J): Amr Elgindy orders his broker to liquidate his children's $300,000 trust account fearing a sudden crash in the market. He also tells his stock broker that the Dow Jones average, then at 9,600, will fall to below 3,000. Elgindy is arrested in San Diego in May 2002, along with FBI agents Jeffrey Royer and Lynn Wingate. Government prosecutors claim the FBI agents were using their FBI positions to feed him inside information on various corporations. They also questioned whether Elgindy had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. [New York Times, 5/23/02, London Times, 5/30/02, New York Times, 6/8/02] A report published in the San Diego Tribune however casts some doubt on the government's allegations. [San Diego Tribune 6/16/02]
September 10, 2001 (K):
In a major post-9/11 speech, British Prime Minister Tony Blair claims that "shortly
before September 11 bin Laden told associates that he had a major operation
against America under preparation, a range of people were warned to return back
to Afghanistan because of action on or around September 11." His claims
come from a British document of telephone intercepts and interrogations revealing
al-Qaeda orders to return to Afghanistan by September 10. [CNN
10/5/01] However, Blair may have the direction incorrect,
since would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh later claims that he was the one
who passed to bin Laden the date the attacks would happen and warned others
to evacuate (see September
3-5, 2001 and September 6, 2001).
September 10, 2001 (L): At least two messages in Arabic are intercepted by the NSA. One states "The match is about to begin" (bin Laden apparently uses football metaphors in many messages) and the other states "Tomorrow is zero hour." Later reports [Reuters, 9/9/02] translate the first message as "The match begins tomorrow." They were sent between someone in Saudi Arabia and someone in Afghanistan. The NSA claims that they weren't translated until September 12, and that even if they were translated in time, "they gave no clues that authorities could have acted on." [ABC News, 6/7/02, Reuters, 6/19/02] These turn out to be only two of about 30 pre-9/11 communications from suspected al-Qaeda operatives or other militants referring to an imminent event. An anonymous official says of these messages, including the "Tomorrow is zero hour" message, "You can't dismiss any of them, but it doesn't tell you tomorrow is the day." [Reuters, 9/9/02] There is a later attempt to explain them away by suggesting they refer to the killing of Afghani opposition leader Ahmed Shah Massoud the day before (see September 9, 2001). [Reuters, 10/17/02] Couldn't they at least have issued an urgent security warning?
September 10, 2001 (M): US officials later admit American agents had infiltrated al-Qaeda cells in the US, though how many and how long they had been in al-Qaeda remains a mystery. On this day, electronic intercepts connected to these undercover agents hear messages such as: "Watch the news" and "Tomorrow will be a great day for us." As to why this didn't lead to boosted security or warnings the next day, officials call these leads "needles in a haystack." What other leads may have come from this prior to this day are not revealed. [USA Today, 6/4/02] At least until February 2002, the official story was that the "CIA failed to penetrate al-Qaeda with a single agent." [ABC News, 2/18/02] FBI Director Mueller later claims "To this day we have found no one in the United States except the actual hijackers who knew of the plot" (see June 18, 2002) but what about the people in these penetrated cells giving these messages?
September 10, 2001 (N): Two days after 9/11, Newsweek reports: "The state of alert had been high during the past two weeks, and a particularly urgent warning may have been received the night before the attacks, causing some top Pentagon brass to cancel a trip. Why that same information was not available to the 266 people who died aboard the four hijacked commercial aircraft may become a hot topic on the Hill." [Newsweek, 9/13/01] Far from becoming a hot topic, the only additional media mention of this story is in the next issue of Newsweek: "a group of top Pentagon officials suddenly canceled travel plans for the next morning, apparently because of security concerns." [Newsweek, 9/17/01] FTW
September 10, 2001 (O): There is a possibility that FEMA's National Urban Search and Rescue Team arrived in New York the night before the attacks. FEMA member Tom Kennedy says in a CBS interview on September 13: "We're currently one of the first teams that was deployed to support the City of New York in this disaster. We arrived on late Monday night [September 10] and went right into action on Tuesday morning [September 11]." FEMA officials said Kennedy misstated his team's arrival date. [CBS, 9/13/01, link is to an audio file] The Boston Herald later says Kennedy's name is actually Tom Kenney, and his wife claims he merely confused the dates. [Boston Herald, 9/5/02] Even if true, perhaps they had other reasons to be in New York that day? When did FEMA in fact go into action?
September 10, 2001 (P): In a bar in Daytona Beach, Florida the night before the 9/11 attacks, three men make anti-American sentiments and talk of impending bloodshed. One says, "Wait 'til tomorrow. America is going to see bloodshed." These were not any of the hijackers, since they had all left Florida by this time. [MSNBC, 9/23/01, AP, 9/14/01] FBI Director Mueller later claims "To this day we have found no one in the United States except the actual hijackers who knew of the plot" (see June 18, 2002), but what of these three?
September 10, 2001 (Q): Eight hours prior to the attacks, San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown receives a warning from "my security people at the airport" advising him to be cautious in traveling. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/01] Later reports claim that this is because someone saw the State Department warning of September 7, which focused on the threat to military personnel in Asia (see September 7, 2001 (B)). He was scheduled to fly to New York the next morning. [San Francisco Chronicle 9/14/01, San Francisco Chronicle, 9/12/01, US State Department, 9/7/01] This story may well be a red herring, but there's been no investigation to provide a definitive answer.
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: In a story seemingly unreported anywhere else, the New York Post later claims that a series of hoax anthrax letters is sent out from Indianapolis, Indiana, at some point not long before 9/11. The FBI allowed the Post to see copies of these letters, which had handwriting and other features remarkably similar to the later letters containing real anthrax. [New York Post, 11/1/01]
Before September 11, 2001 (B):
A number of the hijackers appeared to drink alcohol heavily in bars and watch
strip shows - strange behavior for Muslim radicals. On September 10, three terrorists
spend $200 to $300 apiece on lap dances and drinks in the Pink Pony, a Daytona
Beach, Florida strip club. While the hijackers had left Florida by this time,
Atta is reported to have visited the same strip club, and these men appear to
have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see September
10, 2001 (P)). [Boston
Herald, 10/10/01] FBI agents have also
reportedly questioned the owners of Nardone's Go-Go Bar in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
Several of the terrorists spent time in nearby Paterson and Newark and reportedly
patronized the club, even on the weekend before 9/11. [Boston
Herald, 10/10/01, Wall Street
Journal, 10/16/01] Majed Moqed visits a porn shop and rents a porn video.
The major of Paterson, New Jersey says of the six hijackers who stayed there:
"Nobody ever saw them at mosques, but they liked the go-go clubs."
[Newsweek, 10/15/01] Nawaf
Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar often frequented Cheetah's, a nude bar in San Diego.
Angeles Times, 9/1/02] Hamza Alghamdi watched a porn video on September
10. [Wall Street Journal, 10/16/01]
University of Florida religion professor Richard Foltz states, "It is incomprehensible
that a person could drink and go to a strip bar one night, then kill themselves
the next day in the name of Islam... People who would kill themselves for their
faith would come from very strict Islamic ideology. Something here does not
add up." [Sun-Sentinel,
Before September 11, 2001 (C): 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): The British MI6 and the CIA later claim "technical intelligence" - believed to be intercepted telephone conversations and electronic bank transfers - implicates al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef in the 9/11 attacks. It is believed Atef is one of the top operational planners of the attacks. It has not been revealed when the calls and transfers were intercepted or translated, who Atef is communicating with, or what exactly is said. [Sunday Times, 10/7/01] Atef is later killed in a US bombing raid (see November 15, 2001 (B)).
September 11, 2001: Warren Buffett, possibly the second richest man on Earth [Salon, 8/31/99], schedules a morning charity event inside Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska. A number of CEOs who would otherwise have been in the WTC attend. Attendees had just arrived when the first WTC attack occurs. This base is the center of the nation's military defenses, and the same base that Bush will fly to later in the day. The timing, probable attendance, and location of the meeting is curious, to say the least, as is the total lack of any mention of the meeting anywhere, except for one aside by a business leader (Anne Tatlock, CEO and President of Fiduciary and Franklin) explaining why she survived the WTC attack. [San Francisco Business Times, 2/1/02]
September 11, 2001 (B): A small Florida newspaper will later report an extremely curious story. Around 6:00 a.m., a van occupied by men of Middle Eastern arrives at the hotel Bush is staying at. The men tell security guards they are reporters scheduled to conduct a poolside interview with Bush (who is getting ready to go on his morning jog). They ask for a Secret Service agent by name. Another Secret Service agent says that he doesn't know of that agent or the poolside interview, and the men are turned away. An FBI agent later calls the whole incident "very strange." [Longboat Observer, 9/26/01] Two days earlier in Afghanistan, Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud was assassinated by two terrorists posing as reporters. When their TV camera turned on, it blew up, killing Massoud and the two terrorists. [BBC, 9/10/01] Was this an attempt to kill Bush using the same method? Did the men think they had a Secret Service agent on the inside? Doesn't this make the fact that Bush continued to read a goat story after being told about the second WTC plane attack instead of being taken to a secure location seem even stranger?
September 11, 2001 (C): Two employees of Odigo, Inc., in Israel, receive warnings of an imminent attack in New York City around two hours before the first plane hits the WTC. Odigo, one of the world's largest instant messaging companies, has its headquarters two blocks from the WTC. The Odigo Research and Development offices where the warnings were received are located in Herzliyya, a suburb of Tel Aviv. Israeli security and the FBI were notified immediately after the 9/11 attacks began. The two employees claim not to know who sent the warnings. "Odigo service includes a feature called People Finder that allows users to seek out and contact others based on certain interests or demographics. [Alex] Diamandis [Odigo vice president of sales and marketing] said it was possible that the attack warning was broadcast to other Odigo members, but the company has not received reports of other recipients of the message." [Ha'aretz, 9/26/01, Washington Post, 9/27/01 (C)] FTW Odigo claims the warning did not specifically mention the WTC, but the company won't say what was specified, claiming, "Providing more details would only lead to more conjecture." [Washington Post, 9/28/01] Odigo gave the FBI the internet address of the message's sender so the name of the sender could be found. [Deutsche Presse-Agentur, 9/26/01] Two months later it is reported that the FBI is still investigating the matter, but there have been no reports since. [Courier Mail, 11/20/01] Could the message have been a mass e-mail sent to a large group? Could this be related to the "art student spy ring"? Did the original senders directly inform the FBI as well, and if not, why not?
September 11, 2001 (D): An advertisement for a "homeland security" event in 2002 will mention the following curious sentence: "On the morning of September 11th 2001, Mr. [John] Fulton and his team at the CIA were running a pre-planned simulation to explore the emergency response issues that would be created if a plane were to strike a building. Little did they know that the scenario would come true in a dramatic way that day." [National Law Enforcement Security Institute, 8/02] Fulton's team is part of the National Reconnaissance Office, which "operates many of the nation's spy satellites. It draws its personnel from the military and the CIA." The simulation was to start at 9:00 a.m., four miles from where one of the real hijacked planes took off. The government calls the simulation just a "bizarre coincidence." [AP, 8/21/02] The government has repeatedly claimed that no one imagined a plane deliberately crashing into a building (see May 16, 2002 (B)).
September 11, 2001 (E): Data recovery experts later looking at 32 hard drives salvaged from the 9/11 attacks discover a surge in credit card transactions from the WTC in the hours before and during the attacks. Unusually large sums of money were rushed through computers even as the disaster unfolded. Investigators say, "There is a suspicion that some people had advance knowledge of the approximate time of the plane crashes in order to move out amounts exceeding $100 million. They thought that the records of their transactions could not be traced after the main frames were destroyed." [Reuters, 12/19/01]
September 11, 2001 (F): The hijackers have an argument with a stranger right next to Marwan Alshehri's rental car parked in Boston's Logan Airport. Not long after the 9/11 attacks, the stranger reports this to authorities and the FBI discovers the car. [AP, 9/12/01] Inside is an Arabic language flight manual and other documents that contain a name on the passenger list of one of the flights, and the names of other suspects. The car also contains a pass giving access to restricted areas at the airport. [New York Times, 9/13/01, Sydney Morning Herald, 9/15/01] Were the hijackers drawing attention to themselves to make sure evidence in the car would be found?
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]