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Profile: US Customs Service

 
  

Positions that US Customs Service has held:



 

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US Customs Service actively participated in the following events:

 
  

Spring 2001: US Customs Investigate Two Hijackers Before 9/11      Complete 911 Timeline

       A US Customs Service investigation finds evidence that Nabil al-Marabh has funneled money to hijackers Ahmed Alghamdi and Satam Al Suqami. [ABC News, 1/31/02; Cox News Service, 10/16/01] By summer, Customs also uncovers a series of financial transactions between al-Marabh and al-Qaeda agent Raed Hijazi. [Associated Press, 11/17/01; New York Times, 9/21/01] An individual matching al-Marabh's description is even mentioned in a prominent New York Times story about al-Qaeda in January 2001. The article states, “In early 1997, [Raed] Hijazi moved to Boston, where he had a friend from his years in Afghanistan.” [New York Times, 1/15/01]
People and organizations involved: Raed Hijazi, US Customs Service, Satam Al Suqami, Ahmed Alghamdi, Nabil al-Marabh
          

May 2001: Report Warns of al-Qaeda Infiltration from Canada      Complete 911 Timeline

       US intelligence obtains information that al-Qaeda is planning to infiltrate the US from Canada and carry out an operation using high explosives. The report does not say exactly where, when, or how an attack might occur. Two months later, the information is shared with the FBI, the INS, the US Customs Service, and the State Department, and it will be shared with President Bush in August. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/18/02; Washington Post, 9/19/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, al-Qaeda, US Customs Service, US Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Immigration and Naturalization Service
          

June 12, 2001: Sting Operation Exposes al-Qaeda, ISI, and Drug Connections; Investigators Face Obstacles to Learn More      Complete 911 Timeline

      
Kevin Ingram, Randy Glass, and Diaa Mohsen in August 1999.
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 militants, 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 pay partially in heroin. One mentioned that the WTC would be destroyed. These ISI agents said some of their purchases would go to the Taliban in Afghanistan and/or militants associated with bin Laden. [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] 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 he is sentenced to 18 months in prison. [Associated Press, 12/1/01] Ingram was a former senior investment banker with Deutsche Bank, 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 did not 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 did not make the case a counterterrorism 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 Service, 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 Service, 8/2/02]
People and organizations involved: Mohammed Malik, Kevin Ingram, Diaa Mohsen, Walter Kapij, Operation Diamondback, Randy Glass, Osama bin Laden, World Trade Center, Taliban, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, US Customs Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

July 6, 2001: Clarke Briefs Senior Security Officials on al-Qaeda Threat      Complete 911 Timeline

       One day after heading a meeting on al-Qaeda with the Counterterrorism and Security Group, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke heads a similar meeting at the White House with senior security officials at the FAA, Immigration, Secret Service, Coast Guard, Customs, and other agencies. The CIA and FBI give briefings on the growing al-Qaeda threat. The CIA says al-Qaeda members “believe the upcoming attack will be ‘spectacular,’ qualitatively different from anything they have done to date.” [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] Then Clarke says, “You've just heard that CIA thinks al-Qaeda is planning a major attack on us. So do I. You heard CIA say it would probably be in Israel or Saudi Arabia. Maybe. But maybe it will be here. Just because there is no evidence that says that it will be here, does not mean it will be overseas. They may try to hit us at home. You have to assume that is what they are going to do. Cancel summer vacations, schedule overtime, have your terrorist reaction teams on alert to move fast. Tell me, tell each other, about anything unusual.” [Clarke, 2004, pp 236] Despite this and other warnings to the FBI, the FBI continues to inform state and local agencies that the chances of a terrorist attack is low (see Summer 2001).
People and organizations involved: Federal Aviation Administration, Secret Service, Counterterrorism and Security Group, al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, US Coast Guard, Richard A. Clarke, Immigration and Naturalization Service, US Customs Service
          

August 23, 2001: Alhazmi and Almihdhar Are Finally Added to Terrorist Watch List      Complete 911 Timeline

       Thanks to the request of an unnamed FBI analyst assigned to the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center, the CIA sends a cable to the State Department, INS, Customs Service, and FBI requesting that “bin Laden-related individuals” Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, and Salah Saeed Mohammed bin Yousaf (an alias for Khallad bin Attash) be put on the terrorism watch list. All four individuals had attended the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia. The cable mostly focuses on Almihdhar, briefly outlining his attendance at the Malaysia meeting and his subsequent travel to the US in January 2000 and July 2001. Since March 2000, if not earlier, the CIA has had good reason to believe Alhazmi and Almihdhar were al-Qaeda operatives living in the US, but apparently did nothing and told no other agency about it until now. The hijackers are not located in time, and both die in the 9/11 attacks. FBI agents later state that if they been told about Alhazmi and Almihdhar sooner, “There's no question we could have tied all 19 hijackers together” given the frequent contact between these two and the other hijackers. [Office of the Inspector General, 11/04; Newsweek, 6/2/02; 9/11 Commission Final Report, 7/22/2004, p. 538] However, in what the Washington Post calls a “critical omission,” the FAA, the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and the FBI's Financial Review Group are not notified. The two latter groups have the power to tap into private credit card and bank data, and claim they could have readily found Alhazmi and Almihdhar, given the frequency the two used credit cards. [Washington Post, 7/25/03 (C)] Furthermore, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke and his Counterterrorism and Security Group are not told about these two operatives before 9/11 either. [Newsweek, 3/24/04] 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; 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 9/20/02] The State Department places all four men on the watch list the next day. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] However, this watch list, named TIPOFF, checks their names only if they use international flights. There is another watch list barring suspected terrorists from flying domestically. On 9/11, it contains only 12 names, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other al-Qaeda figures, and some names are added as late as August 28, 2001. But none of these four men are added to this domestic list before 9/11.(see April 24, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 1/26/04]
People and organizations involved: Richard A. Clarke, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Tawifiq ("Khallad") bin Attash, Counterterrorism and Security Group, Federal Aviation Administration, US Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of State, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Khalid Almihdhar, TIPOFF, Nawaf Alhazmi, Federal Bureau of Investigation
          

November 25, 2002: Bush Creates Department of Homeland Security      Complete 911 Timeline

      
This Homeland Security department logo of an eye peeking through a keyhole was copyrighted but apparently not used.
President Bush signs legislation creating the Department of Homeland Security. Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge is promoted to Secretary of Homeland Security. The Department will consolidate nearly 170,000 workers from 22 agencies, including the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the federal security guards in airports, and the Customs Service. [New York Times, 11/26/02 (C); Los Angeles Times, 11/26/02] However, the FBI and CIA, the two most prominent anti-terrorism agencies, will not be part of Homeland Security. [New York Times, 11/20/02] The department wants to be active by March 1, 2003, but “it's going to take years to integrate all these different entities into an efficient and effective organization.” [New York Times, 11/20/02; Los Angeles Times, 11/26/02] Some 9/11 victims' relatives are angry over sections inserted into the legislation at the last minute. Airport screening companies will be protected from lawsuits filed by family members of 9/11 victims. Kristen Breitweiser, whose husband died in the WTC, says, “We were down there lobbying last week and trying to make the case that this will hurt us, but they did it anyway. It's just a slap in the face to the victims.” [New York Times, 11/26/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Tom Ridge, Department of Homeland Security, Secret Service, US Coast Guard, George W. Bush, US Customs Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Kristen Breitweiser, Relatives of September 11 Victims, Central Intelligence Agency
          

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