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Before 9/11

Warning Signs (228)
Foreign Intelligence Warnings (27)
Insider Trading (36)
Counterterrorism Before 9/11 (181)
Able Danger (39)
Military Exercises (38)
Hunt for bin Laden
Pipeline Politics (54)

Al-Qaeda Members

Al-Qaeda in Germany (42)
Alhazmi and Almihdhar (74)
Other 9/11 Hijackers (48)
Marwan Alshehhi (21)
Mohamed Atta (37)
Ziad Jarrah (9)
Hani Hanjour (15)
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (33)
Zacarias Moussaoui (40)
Nabil al-Marabh (10)

Geopolitics and 9/11

Pakistani ISI (126)
Randy Glass (7)
Sibel Edmonds (6)
Saeed Sheikh (3)
Mahmood Ahmed (3)
Drugs (21)
Saudi Arabia and the bin Laden Family (110)
Bin Laden Family (33)
Israel (33)
Iraq (49)
US Dominance (34)

Day of 9/11

All day of 9/11 events (401)
Flight AA 11 (62)
Flight UA 175 (49)
Flight AA 77 (70)
Flight UA 93 (105)
George Bush (66)
Dick Cheney (24)
Donald Rumsfeld (24)
Richard Clarke (22)

The Post-9/11 World

Afghanistan (49)
Investigations (166)
9/11 Congressional Inquiry (0)
9/11 Commission (0)
Other 9/11 Investigations (0)
Other events (79)
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Complete 911 Timeline: The hunt for bin Laden

 
  

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September 1994: ISI Creates the Taliban, Helps Them Begin Afghanistan Conquest

       Starting as Afghan 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], which, according to experts, explains the Taliban's swift military successes.” [CNN, 10/5/96] Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism official during the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and the counterterrorism “tsar” by 9/11, later claims that not only does the ISI create the Taliban, but they also facilitate connections between the Taliban and al-Qaeda to help the Taliban achieve victory. [Clarke, 2004, pp 53] An edition of 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 support it.” [Asia Times, 11/15/01] ISI support of the Taliban is backed by the CIA. A long-time regional expert with extensive CIA ties later 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]
People and organizations involved: Richard A. Clarke, Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Taliban
          

Late 1995: Bin Laden Said to Consider Asylum in Britain

       Osama bin Laden is said to be unhappy with his exile in Sudan, where authorities are making noises about expelling him. Consequently, he requests asylum in Britain. Several of his brothers and other relatives, who are members of the bin Laden construction empire, own properties in London. He has already transferred some of his personal fortune to London, to help his followers set up terror cells in Britain and across Europe. Bin Laden employs Khalid al-Fawwaz, a Saudi businessman described as his “de facto ambassador” in Britain, to assess his chances of moving there. British Home Secretary Michael Howard later says, “In truth, I knew little about him, but we picked up information that bin Laden was very interested in coming to Britain. It was apparently a serious request.” After Home Office officials investigate bin Laden, Howard issues an immediate order banning him under Britain's immigration laws. [London Times, 9/29/05] bin Laden ends up going to Afghanistan instead in 1996 (see May 18, 1996).
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Khalid al-Fawwaz
          

Early 1996-October 1998: US Tracks bin Laden's Satellite Phone Calls

       During this period, bin Laden and Mohammed Atef, his military commander, use a satellite phone provided by a friend to direct al-Qaeda's operations. Its use is discontinued two months after a US missile strike against bin Laden's camps on 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] Records show “Britain was at the heart of the terrorist's planning for his worldwide campaign of murder and destruction.” 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), the 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]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atef
          

March 1996: US, Sudan Squabble over bin Laden's Fate

       The US pressures Sudan to do something about bin Laden, who is currently based in that country. According to some accounts, Sudan readily agrees, not wanting to be labeled a terrorist nation. Sudan's defense minister engages in secret negotiations with the CIA in Washington. Sudan offers to extradite bin Laden to anywhere he might stand trial. Some accounts claim that Sudan offers bin Laden to the US, but the US decides not to take him because they do not have enough evidence at the time to charge him with a crime [Washington Post, 10/3/01; Village Voice, 10/31/01] Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” for both Clinton and George W. Bush, calls this story a “fable” invented by the Sudanese and Americans friendly to Sudan. He points out that bin Laden “was an ideological blood brother, family friend, and benefactor” to Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi, so any offers to hand him over may have been disingenuous. [Clarke, 2004, pp 142-43] (CIA Director Tenet later denies that Sudan made any “direct offers to hand over bin Laden.” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02] ) The US reportedly asks Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan to accept bin Laden into custody, but is refused by all three governments. [Coll, 2004, pp 323] The 9/11 Commission later claims it finds no evidence that Sudan offers bin Laden directly to the US, but it does find evidence that Saudi Arabia is discussed as an option. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/23/04] US officials 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]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Richard A. Clarke, George Tenet, Hassan al-Turabi, Central Intelligence Agency, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Sudan, United States
          

May 18, 1996: Sudan Expels bin Laden; US Fails to Stop His Flight to Afghanistan

       After Sudan asks bin Laden to leave the country, he moves to Afghanistan. He departs along with many other al-Qaeda members, plus much money and resources. Bin Laden flies to Afghanistan in a C-130 transport plane with an entourage of about 150 men, women, and children, stopping in Doha, Qatar, to refuel, where governmental officials greet him warmly. [Coll, 2004, pp 325; 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, 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.” [Washington Post, 10/3/01; Village Voice, 10/31/01]
People and organizations involved: Elfatih Erwa, al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Somalia, Sudan
          

Mid-1996-October 2001: Ariana Airlines Becomes Transport Arm of al-Qaeda

      
Victor Bout.
In 1996, al-Qaeda assumes control of Ariana Airlines, Afghanistan's national airline, for use in its illegal trade network. Passenger flights become few and erratic, as planes are used to fly drugs, weapons, gold, and personnel, primarily 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” are flown from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to Sharjah, and large quantities of weapons are flown back to Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01] About three to four flights run the route each day. Many weapons come from Victor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer based in Sharjah. [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02] Afghan taxes on opium production are paid in gold, and then the gold bullion is flown to Dubai, UAE, and laundered into cash. [Washington Post, 2/17/02] Taliban officials regularly provide militants with false papers identifying them as Ariana Airlines 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 Airlines, 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, UAE, channels. There also are reports suggesting that Ariana Airlines might have been used to train Islamic militants as pilots. The illegal use of Ariana Airlines helps convince the United Nations to impose sanctions against Afghanistan in 1999, but the sanctions lack teeth and do not stop the airline. A second round of sanctions finally stops foreign Ariana Airlines flights, but its charter flights and other charter services keep the illegal network running. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Ariana Airlines, Victor Bout, United Nations, United Arab Emirates, Taliban
          

1997: CIA Re-opens Afghanistan Operations

       Special CIA paramilitary teams enter Afghanistan again in 1997. [Washington Post, 11/18/01] (The CIA's anti-Soviet covert operations officially ended in January 1992. [Coll, 2004, pp 233] ) Around 1998 there will be a push to recruit more agents capable of operating or traveling in Afghanistan. Many locals are recruited, including some Taliban military leaders. However, apparently none is close to bin Laden. This problem is not fixed in succeeding years. [Washington Post, 2/22/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (C)]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Central Intelligence Agency
          

May 26, 1997: Taliban Government Is Officially Recognized by Saudis

       The Saudi government becomes the first country to extend formal recognition of the Taliban government of Afghanistan. Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates will follow suit. On 9/11, these three countries are the only countries that officially recognize the Taliban. [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Saudi Arabia, Taliban, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan
          

1998: US and Uzbekistan Conduct Joint Operations Against Taliban

       Beginning in 1998, if not before, Uzbekistan and the US conduct joint covert operations against Afghanistan's Taliban regime and bin Laden. [Times of India, 10/14/01; Washington Post, 10/14/01]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Osama bin Laden, Uzbekistan, United States
          

June 1998: US Develops Plan to Capture bin Laden

       In 1997 and early 1998, the US had developed a plan to capture bin Laden in Afghanistan. A CIA-owned aircraft was stationed in a nearby country, ready to land on a remote landing strip long enough to pick him up. However, problems with having to hold bin Laden too long in Afghanistan made the operation unlikely. The plan morphs into using a team of Afghan informants to kidnap bin Laden from inside his heavily defended farm. In this month, the plan is given to CIA Director Tenet for approval, but he rejects it without showing it to President Clinton. It is thought unlikely to succeed and the Afghan allies are considered unreliable. [Clarke, 2004, pp 220-21; Washington Post, 2/22/04] It is later speculated that the airstrip used for these purposes is occupied and used as a base of operations early in the post-9/11 Afghan war. [Washington Post, 12/19/01]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Osama bin Laden, George Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency
          

August 7, 1998: Al-Qaeda Bombs US Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania

      
Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right).
Two US embassies in Africa are bombed almost simultaneously. The attack in Nairobi, Kenya, kills 213 people, including 12 US nationals, and injures more than 4,500. The attack in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, kills 11 and injures 85. The attack is blamed on al-Qaeda. [PBS Frontline, 2001] The attack shows al-Qaeda has a capability for simultaneous attacks. A third attack against the US embassy in Uganda fails. [Associated Press, 9/25/98]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda
          

Mid-August 1998: Clinton Authorizes Assassination of bin Laden

       President Clinton signs a Memorandum of Notification, which authorizes the CIA to plan the capture of bin Laden using force. The CIA draws 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. However, 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] Additional memoranda quickly follow that authorize the assassination of up to ten other al-Qaeda leaders, and authorize the shooting down of private aircraft containing bin Laden. [Washington Post, 12/19/01] However, “These directives [lead] to nothing.” [New Yorker, 7/28/03]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton
          

Mid-August 1998-2000: US Submarines Ready to Attack bin Laden

       Within days of the US African embassy bombings, the US permanently stations two submarines, reportedly in the Indian Ocean, ready to hit al-Qaeda with cruise missiles on short notice. Missiles are fired from these subs later in the month in a failed attempt to assassinate bin Laden. Six to ten hours' advance warning is now needed to review the decision, program the cruise missiles, and have them reach their target. However, in every rare opportunity when the possibility of attacking bin Laden occurs, CIA Director Tenet says the information is not reliable enough and the attack cannot go forward. [New York Times, 12/30/01; Washington Post, 12/19/01] At some point in 2000, the submarines are withdrawn, apparently because the Navy wants to use them for other purposes. Therefore, when the unmanned Predator spy plane flies over Afghanistan in late 2000 and identifies bin Laden, there is no way to capitalize on that opportunity. [Clarke, 2004, pp 220-21] The Bush administration fails to resume the submarine patrol. Lacking any means to attack bin Laden, military plans to strike at him are no longer updated after March 2001. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (B)]
People and organizations involved: George Tenet, al-Qaeda, Clinton administration, Bush administration, Osama bin Laden
          

August 20, 1998: ISI Alerts the Taliban to Incoming Missiles Targeting Their Shared Training Camps

       The US missile strike on Afghanistan on this day inadvertently reveals connections between al-Qaeda and the ISI. Two of the four camps in Afghanistan hit had strong connections to the ISI, and five ISI officers and some twenty trainees are killed. The US also loses the element of surprise. General Joseph Ralston, the vice-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was purposely scheduled to eat dinner with General Jehangir Karamat, the Pakistani Army's chief of staff, in Islamabad, Pakistan the night of the missile strike. At one point during the dinner, Ralston looks at his watch and announces that in ten minutes about sixty cruise missiles will be entering Pakistan's airspace on their way to Afghanistan. This is done to make sure the missiles wouldn't be misidentified and shot down. [New Yorker, 1/24/00] But this carefully timed ploy is not successful. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke claims he was promised by the Navy that it would fire their missiles from below the ocean surface. However, in fact, many destroyers fired their missiles from the surface. [Clarke, 2004, pp 188-89] He adds, “not only did they use surface ships—they brought additional ones in, because every captain wants to be able to say he fired the cruise missile.” [New Yorker, 7/28/03] As a result, the ISI (or bin Laden sympathizers within) had many hours to alert bin Laden. Clarke says he believes that “if the [ISI] wanted to capture bin Laden or tell us where he was, they could have done so with little effort. They did not cooperate with us because ISI saw al-Qaeda as helpful in pressuring India, particularly in Kashmir.” [Clarke, 2004, pp 188-89] In 1999 the US will intercept communications suggesting that Hamid Gul, ISI Director in the early 1990's, played a role in forewarning the Taliban about the missile strike which may even had predated the firing of the cruise missiles (see July 1999).
People and organizations involved: Jehangir Karamat, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Osama bin Laden, Richard A. Clarke, Joseph Ralston, Hamid Gul, al-Qaeda, Taliban
          

August 20, 1998: US Fires on al-Qaeda's Afghan Training Camps, Sudanese Facility

      
El Shifa Plant in Sudan.
The US fires 66 missiles at six al-Qaeda 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 insists the attacks are aimed at terrorists “not supported by any state,” despite obvious evidence to the contrary. The Sudanese factory is hit in the middle of the night when it is unoccupied. About 30 people are killed in the Afghanistan attacks, but no important al-Qaeda figures die. [Observer, 8/23/98; New Yorker, 1/24/00]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Clinton administration
          

August 24, 1998: Bombed Training Camps Were Built by US and Allies

      
A satellite image of the Zhawar Kili training camp in Afghanistan, taken shortly before it was hit by a US missile strike in August, 1998.
The New York Times reports that the training camps recently attacked by the US in Afghanistan were built by the US and its allies, years before. 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 missile attacks were trained and equipped by the CIA years before. [New York Times, 8/24/98]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Soviet Union, United States, Saudi Arabia
          

August 27, 1998: Delenda Plan to Combat al-Qaeda Is Prepared

       Following the cruise missile attack on al-Qaeda targets on August 20 (see August 20, 1998), immediate plans are made for follow up attacks to make sure bin Laden is killed. However, on this day, Defense Secretary William Cohen is advised that available targets are not promising. Some question the use of expensive missiles to hit very primitive training camps, and there is the concern that if bin Laden is not killed, his stature will only grow further. As discussions continue, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke prepares a plan he calls “Delenda,” which means “to destroy” in Latin. His idea is to have regular, small strikes in Afghanistan whenever the intelligence warrants it. The plan is rejected. Counterterrorism officials in the Defense Secretary's office independently create a similar plan, but it too is rejected. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (B)] The Delenda Plan also calls for diplomacy against the Taliban, covert action focused in Afghanistan, and financial measures to freeze bin Laden-related funds. These aspects are not formally adopted, but they guide future efforts. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
People and organizations involved: Military Industrial Corporation, William S. Cohen, Richard A. Clarke, Taliban, al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden
          

September 23, 1998: US Administration Officials Confirm No Direct bin Laden Link to Sudanese Factory

       Senior Clinton administration officials admit they had no evidence directly linking bin Laden to the Al Shifa factory at the time of retaliatory strikes on August 20. However, intelligence officials assert that they found financial transactions between bin Laden and the Military Industrial Corporation—a company run by the Sudan's government. [New York Times, 9/23/98; PBS Frontline, 2001] A soil sample is said to show that the pharmaceutical factory was producing chemical weapons, but many doubts about the sample later arise. [New Yorker, 10/12/98; New York Times, 9/21/98] The US later unfreezes the bank accounts of the nominal factory owner and takes other conciliatory actions, 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 definitive connections to bin Laden. Clinton declares that the missiles were aimed at a “gathering of key terrorist leaders,” but it is later revealed that the referenced meeting took place a month earlier, in Pakistan. [Observer, 8/23/98; New Yorker, 1/24/00]
People and organizations involved: Clinton administration, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Osama bin Laden, Military Industrial Corporation
          

October 1998: Military Analyst Goes Where Spies Fail to Go, but Her Efforts Are Rejected

      
Julie Sirrs.
Julie Sirrs, a military analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), travels to Afghanistan. Fluent in local languages and knowledgeable about the culture, she had made a previous undercover trip there in October 1997. She is surprised that the CIA was not interested in sending in agents after the failed missile attack on bin Laden in August 1998, so she returns at this time. Traveling undercover, she meets with Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. She sees a terrorist training center in Taliban-controlled territory. Sirrs claims, “The Taliban's brutal regime was being kept in power significantly by bin Laden's money, plus the narcotics trade, while [Massoud's] resistance was surviving on a shoestring. With even a little aid to the Afghan resistance, we could have pushed the Taliban out of power. But there was great reluctance by the State Department and the CIA to undertake that.” She partly blames the interest of the US government and the oil company Unocal to see the Taliban achieve political stability to enable a trans-Afghanistan pipeline (see May 1996) (see September 27, 1996). She claims, “Massoud told me he had proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul.” She also states, “The State Department didn't want to have anything to do with Afghan resistance, or even, politically, to reveal that there was any viable option to the Taliban.” After two weeks, she returns with a treasure trove of maps, photographs, and interviews. [ABC News, 2/18/02; New York Observer, 3/11/04] By interviewing captured al-Qaeda operatives, she learns that the official Afghanistan airline, Ariana Airlines, is being used to ferry weapons and drugs, and learns that bin Laden goes hunting with “rich Saudis and top Taliban officials” (see Mid-1996-October 2001) (see 1995-2001). [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01 (B)] When she returns from Afghanistan, her material is confiscated and she is accused of being a spy. Says one senior colleague, “She had gotten the proper clearances to go, and she came back with valuable information,” but high level officials “were so intent on getting rid of her, the last thing they wanted to pay attention to was any information she had.” She is cleared of wrongdoing, but her security clearance is pulled. She eventually quits the DIA in frustration. [New York Observer, 3/11/04; ABC News, 2/18/02] She claims that US intelligence on bin Laden and the Taliban relied too heavily on the ISI for its information. [ABC News, 2/18/02 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Defense Intelligence Agency, Julie Sirrs, Osama bin Laden, Northern Alliance, Ariana Airlines, Unocal, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of State, Taliban, al-Qaeda, Ahmed Shah Massoud
          

December 1998: US Locates bin Laden; Declines to Strike

       US intelligence learns that bin Laden is staying at a particular location in Afghanistan, and missile strikes are readied against him. However, principal advisers to President Clinton agree not to recommend a strike because of doubts about the intelligence and worries about collateral damage. In the wake of this incident, officials attempt to find alternatives to cruise missiles, such a precision strike aircraft. However, US Central Command Chief General Anthony Zinni is apparently opposed to deployment of these aircraft near Afghanistan, and they are not deployed. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Anthony Zinni, Clinton administration
          

Late 1998: Taliban Stall Pipeline Negotiations to Keep Western Powers at Bay

       During the investigation of the August 7, 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998), FBI counterterrorism 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]
People and organizations involved: John O'Neill, Mohammed Atef, United States, al-Qaeda, Taliban
          

Late 1998-2000: US Administration Officials Seek Ground-Based Plan to Kill bin Laden

      
Henry Shelton.
National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright repeatedly seek consideration of a “boots on the ground” option to kill bin Laden, using the elite Delta Force. Clinton also supports the idea, telling Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Henry Shelton, “You know, it would scare the sh_t out of al-Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters into the middle of their camp.” However, Shelton says he wants “nothing to do” with such an idea. He calls it naive, and ridicules it as “going Hollywood.” He says he would need a large force, not just a small team. [Washington Post, 12/19/01] US Central Command chief General Anthony Zinni is considered the chief opponent to the “boots on the ground” idea. [Washington Post, 10/2/02] Clinton orders “formal planning for a mission to capture the al-Qaeda leadership.” Reports are contradictory, but some claim Clinton was told such plans were drawn up when in fact they were not. [Washington Post, 10/2/02; Time, 8/4/02] In any event, no such plans are implemented.
People and organizations involved: Henry H. Shelton, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Madeleine Albright, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Delta Force, Sandy Berger, Anthony Zinni
          

Late 1998: Clinton Signs More Directives Authorizing CIA to Plan bin Laden Assassination

       President Clinton signs additional, more explicit directives authorizing the CIA to plan the assassination of bin Laden. The initial emphasis is on capturing bin Laden and only killing him if the capture attempt is unsuccessful. The military is unhappy about this, so Clinton continues to sign additional directives before leaving office, each one authorizing the use of lethal force more clearly than the one before. [Washington Post, 2/22/04 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, Osama bin Laden
          

Late 1998: Failed Missile Attack Said to Increase bin Laden's Stature in Muslim World

       According to reports, the failed US missile attack against bin Laden on 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 (C)] 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. Crown Prince Abdullah has good relations with bin Laden as both are disciples of slain Sheikh Abdullah Azzam (see 1985-1989).” [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 hero. The US decides to play down the importance of bin Laden. [UPI, 6/14/01]
People and organizations involved: Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Pervez Musharraf
          

1999: CIA Purportedly Establishes Network of Agents Throughout Afghanistan, Central Asia

       CIA Director Tenet later claims that in this year, the CIA establishes a network of local agents throughout Afghanistan and other countries aimed at capturing bin Laden and his deputies. [UPI, 10/17/02 Sources: George Tenet] 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 means that, when the military campaign to topple the Taliban and destroy al-Qaeda [begins in October 2001], we [are] able to support it with an enormous body of information and a large stable of assets.” [9/11 Congressional Inquiry, 10/17/02]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, George Tenet, Taliban
          

1999: Joint CIA-NSA Project Taps into al-Qaeda's Tactical Radios

       A joint project team 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]
People and organizations involved: National Security Agency, al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency
          

February 1999: Bin Laden Missile Strike Called Off for Fear of Hitting Persian Gulf Royalty

       Intelligence reports foresee the presence of bin Laden at a desert hunting camp in Afghanistan for about a week. Information on his presence appears reliable, so preparations are made to target his location with cruise missiles. However, intelligence also puts an official aircraft of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and members of the royal family from that country in the same location. Bin Laden is hunting with the Emirati royals, as he did with leaders from the UAE and Saudi Arabia on other occasions (see 1995-2001). Policy makers are concerned that a strike might kill a prince or other senior officials, so the strike never happens. A top UAE official at the time denies that high-level officials are there, but evidence subsequently confirms their presence. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (B)]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden
          

May 1999: US Intelligence Provides bin Laden's Location; CIA Fails to Strike

       US intelligence obtains detailed reporting on where bin Laden is located for five consecutive nights. CIA Director Tenet decides against acting three times, because of concerns about collateral damage and worries about the veracity of the single source of information. Frustration mounts. One CIA official writes to a colleague in the field, “having a chance to get [bin Laden] three times in 36 hours and foregoing the chance each time has made me a bit angry...” There is one more opportunity to strike bin Laden in July 1999, but after that there is apparently no intelligence good enough to justify considering a strike. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, George Tenet
          

July 1999: Ex-ISI Head Is Providing Taliban Information on US Missile Launches

      
Hamid Gul.
The US gains information that former ISI head Hamid Gul contacts Taliban leaders at this time and advises them that the US is not planning to attack Afghanistan to get bin Laden. He assures them that he will provide them three or four hours warning of any future US missile launch, as he did “last time.” Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later suggests Gul gave al-Qaeda warning about the missile strike in August 1998. [New Yorker, 7/28/03]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Hamid Gul, al-Qaeda, Richard A. Clarke
          

October 1999: CIA Considers Increased Aid to Northern Alliance

      
Ahmed Shah Massoud.
Worried about intercepts showing a growing likelihood of al-Qaeda attacks around the millennium, the CIA steps up ties with Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban. The CIA sends a team of agents to his headquarters in a remote part of northern Afghanistan, seeking his help to capture or kill bin Laden. Massoud complains that the US is too focused on bin Laden, and isn't interested in the root problems of Taliban, Saudi, and Pakistani support for terrorism that is propping him up. He agrees to help nonetheless, and the CIA gives him more aid in return. However, the US is officially neutral in the Afghan civil war and the agents are prohibited from giving any aid that would “fundamentally alter the Afghan battlefield.” [Washington Post, 2/23/04] DIA agent Julie Sirrs, newly retired, is at Massoud's headquarters at the same time as the CIA team. She gathers valuable intelligence from captured al-Qaeda soldiers while the CIA agents stay in their guesthouse. She publishes much of what she learned on this trip and other trips in the summer of 2001. [Washington Post, 2/28/04]
People and organizations involved: Julie Sirrs, Northern Alliance, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, al-Qaeda, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Taliban
          

October 1999: Joint US-ISI Operation to Kill Osama Falters

       The CIA readies an operation to capture or kill bin Laden, secretly training and equipping approximately 60 commandos from the Pakistani 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. Musharraf refuses to continue the operation despite the promise of substantial rewards. [Washington Post, 10/3/01 (C)] Some US officials later say the CIA was tricked, that the ISI just feigned to cooperate as a stalling tactic, and never intended to get bin Laden. [New York Times, 10/29/01]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pervez Musharraf
          

November 14, 1999: Limited UN Sanctions on Afghanistan

       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, until stricter sanctions ground it in 2001.
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Osama bin Laden, Ariana Airlines, United Nations
          

Spring 2000: CIA Paramilitary Teams Begin Working with Anti-Taliban Forces

       Around this time, 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]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Taliban
          

Spring 2000: Saudi Suggestion to Track bin Laden's Stepmother in Planned Meeting with Bin Laden Is Rejected

       Sources who know Osama bin Laden later claim that his stepmother, Al-Khalifa bin Laden, has a second meeting with her stepson in Afghanistan (her first visit took place in the spring of 1998 (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 does not 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]
People and organizations involved: Al-Khalifa bin Laden, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, Saudi Binladin Group
          

July 2000: Potential Informant Ignored by Australian and US Authorities

      
Jack Roche.
Jack Roche, an Australian Caucasian Muslim, tries to inform on al-Qaeda for Australia or the US, but is ignored. In April, Roche returned from a trip to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Malaysia, where he took an explosives training course and met with bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and other top al-Qaeda leaders. In Pakistan, Mohammed discussed attacking US jets in Australia and gave Roche money to start an al-Qaeda cell in Australia. Roche also met Hambali in Malaysia and was given more money there. Early this month, he tries to call the US embassy in Australia, but they ignore him. He then tries to contact The Australian intelligence agency several times, but they too ignore him. In September 2000, his housemate also tries to contact Australian intelligence about what he has learned from Roche but his call is ignored as well. Australian Prime Minister John Howard later acknowledges that authorities made a “very serious mistake” in ignoring Roche, though he also downplays the importance of Roche's information. Roche is later sentenced to nine years in prison for conspiring with al-Qaeda to blow up an Israeli embassy. [BBC, 6/1/04; Los Angeles Times, 6/7/04]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Nurjaman Riduan Isamuddin, al-Qaeda, John Howard, Jack Roche, Mohammed Atef
          

September-October 2000: Predator Flights over Afghanistan Are Initiated Then Halted

      
Footage from a Predator drone apparently shows bin Laden surrounded by security.
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. It flies successfully over Afghanistan 16 times. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04] President 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 has been used since 1996, in the Balkans and Iraq. One Predator crashes on takeoff and another is chased by a fighter, but it apparently identifies bin Laden on three occasions. Its use is stopped in Afghanistan after a few trials, mostly because seasonal winds are picking up. It is agreed to resume the flights in the spring, but the Predator fails to fly over Afghanistan again until after 9/11. [Clarke, 2004, pp 220-21; Washington Post, 12/19/01] On September 15, 2001, CIA Director Tenet apparently inaccurately tells President 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]
People and organizations involved: William Jefferson ("Bill") Clinton, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, George Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency
          

Late Autumn 2000: CIA Support for Massoud Weakens

       Covert CIA support for Ahmed Shah Massoud, the Northern Alliance guerrilla leader fighting the Taliban, is minimal and fraying. In the wake of the USS Cole bombing, the CIA develops a plan where the US would increase support for Massoud if he produces strong intelligence about bin Laden's whereabouts. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke outlines this CIA proposal to National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, but Berger rejects it. Aid to Massoud continues to languish under the new Bush administration, until Clarke's proposal (slightly modified) is tentatively approved a week before 9/11. [Washington Post, 2/23/04]
People and organizations involved: Sandy Berger, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Bush administration, Central Intelligence Agency, Richard A. Clarke, Osama bin Laden
          

October 12, 2000: USS Cole Bombed by al-Qaeda Militants; Investigation Thwarted

      
Damage to the USS Cole.
The USS Cole is bombed in the Aden, Yemen, harbor by al-Qaeda militants. Seventeen US soldiers are killed. [ABC News, 10/13/00]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, USS Cole
          

November 2000: Taliban Allegedly Offers to Hand bin Laden to US Officials

      
Kabir Mohabbat.
In 1999, Kabir Mohabbat, an Afghan-American businessman, had initiated conversations about bin Laden between the US government and the Taliban. According to Mohabbat, the Taliban were ready to hand bin Laden over to a third country, or the International Court of Justice, in exchange for having the US-led sanctions against Afghanistan lifted. (Elmar Brok, a German member of the European Parliament, later confirms that he helps Mohabbat make contact with the US government in 1999.) The initial talks lead to a secret meeting this month between Taliban ministers and US officials in a Frankfurt hotel. Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil reportedly says in the meeting, “You can have him whenever the Americans are ready. Name us a country and we will extradite him.” However, after this face-to-face meeting, further discussions are never held because, Brok believes, a “political decision” has been made by US officials not to continue the negotiations. He does not clarify when he believes such a decision was made. [Reuters, 6/5/04 Sources: Elmar Brok]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Kabir Mohabbat, Ahmed
          

November 7, 2000: Plans to Target bin Laden Delayed Pending 2000 Election

       In the wake of the USS Cole bombing, National Security Adviser Sandy Berger meets with Defense Secretary William Cohen to discuss a new approach to targeting bin Laden. Berger says, “We've been hit many times, and we'll be hit again. Yet we have no option beyond cruise missiles.” He once again brings up the idea of a “boots on the ground” option—a Delta Force special operation to get bin Laden. A plan is drawn up but the order to execute it is never given. Cohen and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Henry Shelton oppose the plan. By December 21, the CIA reports that it strongly suspects that al-Qaeda was behind the bombing, but fails to definitively make that conclusion. That makes such an attack politically difficult. Says a former senior Clinton aide, “If we had done anything, say, two weeks before the election, we'd be accused of helping [presidential candidate] Al Gore.” [Time, 8/4/02; 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Al Gore, Sandy Berger, Henry H. Shelton, Central Intelligence Agency, William S. Cohen
          

December 2000: Pentagon Develops Plan to Attack al-Qaeda

       After the attack on the USS Cole, the military not only draws up plans to directly target bin Laden (see November 7, 2000), but also comes up with a larger plan looking at alternatives to assassination. Lt. Gen. Gregory Newbold, the director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, prepared a plan to incorporate military, economic, diplomatic, and political activities to pressure the Taliban to expel bin Laden. A “Phased Campaign Concept” calls for wider-ranging mlitary strikes against the Taliban and other targets, but doesn't include contingency plans for an invasion of Afghanistan. The concept is briefed to Deputy National Security Adviser Donald Kerrick and other officials in December 2000, but it is never acted on. The military makes no similar plans after Bush's inauguration, and the CIA's invasion plans are mostly relied upon when the US invades Afghanistan in October 2001. [New York Times, 4/4/04 (B); 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Gregory Newbold, Donald Kerrick
          

December 2000: CIA Develops Plan to Increase Support to Massoud, Strike bin Laden

       The CIA's Counter Terrorism Center develops a plan to strike at bin Laden in Afghanistan called the “Blue Sky Memo.” It recommends increased support to anti-Taliban groups and especially a major effort to back Ahmed Shah Massoud's Northern Alliance, to tie down al-Qaeda personnel before they leave Afghanistan. No action is taken in the last few weeks of the Clinton administration; the CIA presses the ideas unsuccessfully early in the new Bush administration. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (C)] The National Security Council counterterrorism staff also prepares a strategy paper, incorporating ideas from the Blue Sky Memo. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]
People and organizations involved: National Security Council, Ahmed Shah Massoud, al-Qaeda, Bush administration, Central Intelligence Agency, Northern Alliance, Osama bin Laden, Clinton administration
          

December 2000: Incoming Bush Administration Briefed on Terrorism Threat; Apparently Ignores Recommendations

       CIA Director Tenet and other top CIA officials brief President-elect Bush, Vice President-elect Cheney, future National Security Adviser Rice, and other incoming national security officials on al-Qaeda and covert action programs in Afghanistan. Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt recalls conveying that bin Laden is one of the gravest threats to the country. Bush asks whether killing bin Laden would end the problem. Pavitt says he answers that killing bin Laden would have an impact but not stop the threat. The CIA recommends the most important action to combat al-Qaeda is to arm the Predator drone and use it over Afghanistan. [Reuters, 3/24/04 (B); 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04] However, while the drone is soon armed, Bush never gives the order to use it in Afghanistan until after 9/11 (see September 4, 2001).
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Osama bin Laden, Central Intelligence Agency, James Pavitt, al-Qaeda, George Tenet
          

December 19, 2000: US Seeks Taliban Overthrow; Considers Russia-US Invasion of Afghanistan

       The Washington Post reports, “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.
People and organizations involved: Russia, Taliban, Osama bin Laden, United States
          

December 20, 2000: Clarke Plan to Neutralize al-Qaeda Deferred Pending Administration Transition

       Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke submits a plan to “roll back” al-Qaeda over a period of three to five years until it is ineffectual. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] The main component is a dramatic increase in covert aid to the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan to first tie down the terrorists and then “eliminate the sanctuary” for bin Laden. Financial support for terrorist activities will be systematically attacked, nations fighting al-Qaeda will be given aid to defeat them, and the US will plan for direct military and covert action in Afghanistan. The plan will cost several hundred million dollars. However, since there are only a few weeks left before the Bush administration takes over, it is decided to defer the decision until the new administration is in place. One senior Clinton official later says, “We would be handing [the Bush administration] a war when they took office on January 20. That wasn't going to happen.” However, the plan is rejected by the Bush administration and no action is taken (see January 25, 2001). According to one senior Bush administration official, the proposal amounts to “everything we've done since 9/11.” [Time, 8/4/02] Russia's President Vladimir 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]
People and organizations involved: Northern Alliance, Bush administration, Clinton administration, al-Qaeda, Richard A. Clarke, Vladimir Putin, Osama bin Laden
          

Early 2001: Taliban Disinformation Project Is Cancelled

       The heads of the US military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, have become frustrated by the lack of CIA disinformation operations to create dissent among the Taliban, and at the very end of the Clinton administration, they begin to develop a Taliban disinformation project of their own, which is to go into effect in 2001. When they are briefed, the Defense Department's new leaders kill the project. According to Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Henry Shelton, “[Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld and Deputy [Defense] Secretary Paul Wolfowitz were against the Joint Staff having the lead on this.” They consider this a distraction from their core military missions. As far as Rumsfeld is concerned, “This terrorism thing was out there, but it didn't happen today, so maybe it belongs lower on the list ... so it gets defused over a long period of time.” [Los Angeles Times, 3/30/04]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Hugh Shelton, Paul Wolfowitz, Donald Rumsfeld, US Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, Clinton administration
          

January 10, 2001-September 4, 2001: Armed Predator Drone Is Readied, but Unused

      
A Predator drone.
Even before President Bush's official inauguration, Clinton holdover counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke pushes National Security Adviser Rice and other incoming Bush officials to resume Predator drone flights over Afghanistan (originally carried out in September and October 2000) in an attempt to find and assassinate bin Laden. [CBS News, 6/25/03; Washington Post, 1/20/02] On January 10, Rice is shown a video clip of bin Laden filmed by a Predator drone the year before. [Washington Post, 1/20/02] Clarke learns of an Air Force plan to arm the Predator. The original plan calls for three years of testing, but Clarke pushes so hard that the armed Predator is ready in three months. [New Yorker, 7/28/03] A Hellfire missile is successfully test fired from a Predator on February 16, 2001. [CBS News, 6/25/03] In early June, a duplicate of the brick house where bin Laden is believed to be living in Kandahar, Afghanistan, is built in Nevada, and destroyed by a Predator missile. The test shows that the missile fired from miles away would have killed anyone in the building, and one participant calls this the long sought after “holy grail” that could kill bin Laden within minutes of finding him. [Washington Post, 1/20/02] Clarke repeatedly advocates using the Predator, armed or unarmed. However, bureaucratic infighting between the CIA and the Air Force over who would pay for it and take responsibility delays its use. Clarke later says, “Every time we were ready to use it, the CIA would change its mind.” [New Yorker, 7/28/03] Rice and Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley decide to delay reconnaissance flights until the armed version is ready. In July 2001, Hadley directs the military to have armed Predators ready to deploy no later than September 1. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] The issue comes to a head in early September, but even then, a decision to use the Predator is delayed [New Yorker, 7/28/03]
People and organizations involved: Central Intelligence Agency, Richard A. Clarke, Stephen Hadley, Condoleezza Rice, Osama bin Laden, George W. Bush
          

January 25, 2001: Clarke Presents Plan to Roll Back al-Qaeda, but Response Is Delayed

      
Richard Clarke.
Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke submits a proposal to National Security Adviser Rice and “urgently” asks for a Cabinet-level meeting on the al-Qaeda threat. [Clarke, 2004, pp 230-31] He forwards his December 2000 strategy paper and a copy of his 1998 “Delenda Plan” (see August 27, 1998). He lays out a proposed agenda for urgent action:
Approve covert assistance to Ahmed Shah Massoud's Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]

Significantly increase funding for CIA counterterrorism activity. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]

Respond to the USS Cole bombing with an attack on al-Qaeda. (The link between al-Qaeda and that bombing had been assumed for months and is confirmed in the media two days later.) According to the Washington Post, “Clarke argue[s] that the camps [are] can't-miss targets, and they [matter]. The facilities [amount] 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?” No retaliation is taken on these camps until after 9/11. [Washington Post, 1/20/02]

Go forward with new Predator drone reconnaissance missions in the spring and use an armed version when it is ready. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]

Step up the fight against terrorist fundraising. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)]

Be aware that al-Qaeda sleeper cells in the US are not just a potential threat, but are a “major threat in being.” Additionally, more attacks have almost certainly been set in motion. [Washington Post, 1/20/02; PBS Frontline, 10/3/02]
Rice's response to Clarke's proposal is that the Cabinet will not address the issue until it has been “framed” at the deputy secretary level. However, this initial deputy meeting is not given high priority and it does not take place until April 2001. [Clarke, 2004, pp 230-31] Henry Shelton, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman until 9/11, says, “The squeaky wheel was Dick Clarke, but he wasn't at the top of their priority list, so the lights went out for a few months. Dick did a pretty good job because he's abrasive as hell, but given the [bureaucratic] level he was at” there was no progress. [Benjamin and Simon, 2002, pp 335-36; Los Angeles Times, 3/30/04] Some counterterrorism officials think the new administration responds slowly simply because Clarke's proposal originally came from the Clinton administration. [Time, 8/4/02] For instance, Thomas Maertenson, on the National Security Council in both the Clinton and Bush administrations, says, “They really believed their campaign rhetoric about the Clinton administration. So anything [that administration] did was bad, and the Bushies were not going to repeat it.” [New York Times, 3/24/04; Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 3/25/04]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, Richard A. Clarke, Northern Alliance, al-Qaeda, Thomas Maertenson, Central Intelligence Agency, Henry H. Shelton, Clinton administration, Bush administration, Taliban, Ahmed Shah Massoud
          

February 2001: US Fails to Back Plan to Overthrow Taliban

       Abdul Haq, a famous Afghan leader of the mujahedeen, convinces Robert McFarlane, National Security Adviser under President Ronald 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 does not support. The CIA fails to give any support to Haq. 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 killed in October (see October 25, 2001). [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/01 (B); Wall Street Journal, 11/2/01]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Abdul Haq, Central Intelligence Agency, Zahir Shah, Robert C. McFarlane
          

March 2001: US and Taliban Discuss Handing over bin Laden

       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 until 9/11, all fruitless. [Washington Post, 10/29/01] Allegedly, Hashimi also proposes that the Taliban would hold bin Laden in one location long enough for the US to locate and kill him. However, this offer is refused. This report, however, comes from Laila Helms, daughter of former CIA director Richard Helms. While it's interesting that this information came out before 9/11, one must be skeptical, since Helms' job was public relations for the Taliban. [Village Voice, 6/6/01]
People and organizations involved: Rahmatullah Hashimi, Laila Helms, Osama bin Laden, Taliban, Mullah Omar, George W. Bush
          

March 1, 2001: Taliban Blow Up Giant Buddha Statues, Disregard International Opinion

       The Taliban begins blowing up two giant stone Buddhas of Bamiyan (ancient statues carved into an Afghan mountainside, which are considered priceless treasures). 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]
People and organizations involved: Taliban
          

March 7, 2001: Russia Submits Report on bin Laden to UN Security Council, US Fails to Act

       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 advisers,” and enough information to potentially locate and 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 than the result of “a political decision not to act against bin Laden.” [Jane's Intelligence Review, 10/5/01]
People and organizations involved: al-Qaeda, Russia, Osama bin Laden, United Nations
          

March 7, 2001: Plan to Fight al-Qaeda Considered, but with Little Urgency

       Deputy National Security Adviser Steve Hadley chairs an informal meeting of some counterparts from other agencies to discuss al-Qaeda. They begin a broad review of the government's approach to al-Qaeda and Afghanistan. According to the New York Times, the approach is “two-pronged and included a crisis warning effort to deal with immediate threats and longer-range planning by senior officials to put into place a comprehensive strategy to eradicate al-Qaeda.” Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke again pushes for immediate decisions on assisting Ahmed Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance in Afghanistan. Hadley suggests dealing with this as part of the broad review. Clarke supports a larger program, but he warns that delay risks the Alliance's defeat. Clarke also advocates using the armed Predator drone. However, despite an increasing number of alarming warnings following this meeting, there is little follow-up. “By June, a draft of a presidential directive authorizing an ambitious covert action plan is circulating through the upper echelons of the administration, but there seem[s] little urgency about putting the plan into effect.” [New York Times, 4/4/04; 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D); 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04; New York Times, 3/24/04 (D)]
People and organizations involved: Stephen Hadley, Richard A. Clarke, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Northern Alliance, al-Qaeda
          

March 8, 2001: US Declines to Freeze al-Qaeda's Assets Despite Call from UN and EU

       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 until after 9/11. [Guardian, 10/13/01 (B)] For a time, the US 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).
People and organizations involved: Sa'd Al-Sharif, United Nations, European Union
          

March 15, 2001: India, Iran, Russia, and US Work in Concert to Remove Taliban

       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 operation. [Jane's Intelligence Review, 3/15/01]
People and organizations involved: Russia, Tajikistan, Northern Alliance, Taliban, India, Iran, Uzbekistan
          

April 6, 2001: Rebel Leader Warns Europe and US About Imminent Al-Qaeda Attacks

      
Ahmed Shah Massoud speaking before European Parliament.
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.” [Dawn, 4/7/01; Time, 8/4/02] Massoud also meets privately with some CIA officials while in Europe. He tells them that his guerrilla war against the Taliban is faltering and unless the US gives a significant amount of aid, the Taliban will conquer all of Afghanistan. No more aid is forthcoming. [Washington Post, 2/23/04]
People and organizations involved: Northern Alliance, George W. Bush, Central Intelligence Agency, Taliban, Ahmed Shah Massoud
          

May 2001: US Military Drafts Scenario for Afghan Operation

       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.” [Agence France-Presse, 7/23/02] This seems to contradict other accounts suggesting the military made no Afghanistan invasion plans or preparations after Bush took office (see December 2000).
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush, al-Qaeda, William Kernan, Taliban
          

May 2001: US Gives Taliban Millions

       Secretary of State Powell announces that the US is granting $43 million in aid to the Taliban government, purportedly to assist hungry farmers who are starving since the destruction of their opium crop occurred in January on orders of the Taliban. [Los Angeles Times, 5/22/01] This follows $113 million given by the US in 2000 for humanitarian aid. [State Department Fact Sheet, 12/11/01] A Newsday editorial notes that the Taliban “are a decidedly odd choice for an outright gift ... Why are we sending these people money—so much that Washington is, in effect, the biggest donor of aid to the Taliban regime?” [Newsday, 5/29/01]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Colin Powell
          

May-June 2001: Muslim Convert Inadvertently Learns of 9/11 Plot

      
John Walker Lindh.
John Walker Lindh, a young Caucasian man from California who has converted to Islam, travels to Peshawar, Pakistan, in an attempt to fight for Islamic causes. He had been studying the Koran for about six months elsewhere in Pakistan, but otherwise had no particularly special training, qualifications, or connections. Within days, he is accepted into al-Qaeda and sent to the al Faruq training camp in Afghanistan. Seven other US citizens are already training there. He inadvertently learns details of the 9/11 attacks. In June, he is told by an instructor that “bin Laden had sent forth some fifty people to carry out twenty suicide terrorist operations against the United States and Israel.” He learns that the 9/11 plot is to consist of five attacks, not the four that actually occur. The other fifteen operations are to take place later. He is asked if he wants to participate in a suicide mission, but declines. [Mahoney, 2003, pp 162, 216; Bamford, 2004, pp 234-36] Author James Bamford comments, “The decision to keep CIA employees at arm's length from [al-Qaeda] was a serious mistake. At the same moment the CIA was convinced al-Qaeda was impenetrable, a number of American citizens were secretly joining al-Qaeda in Afghanistan—and being welcomed with open arms.” [Bamford, 2004, pp 161]
People and organizations involved: John Walker Lindh, Osama bin Laden, James Bamford, al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency
          

Summer 2001: FBI Neglects Chance to Infiltrate al-Qaeda Training Camp

       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]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, al-Qaeda
          

Early June 2001: Taliban Leader Claims Interest in Resolving bin Laden Issue

       Reclusive Taliban leader Mullah Omar 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].” [UPI, 6/14/01]
People and organizations involved: Mullah Omar, Osama bin Laden
          

June 2001: US Still Fails to Aid Taliban Resistance

       The US considers substantially aiding Ahmed Shah Massoud and his Northern Alliance. As one counterterrorism 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 [has] on al-Qaeda” in the hopes of getting some support in return. However, he gets nothing more than token amounts and his organization isn't even given “legitimate resistance movement” status. [Time, 8/4/02]
People and organizations involved: Ahmed Shah Massoud, al-Qaeda, United States, Northern Alliance
          

June 26, 2001: US, Russia, and Regional Powers Cooperate to Oust Taliban

       An Indian magazine reports more details of the cooperative efforts of the US, India, Russia, Tajikistan, 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 Vladimir 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. [IndiaReacts, 6/26/01]
People and organizations involved: India, Iran, Vladimir Putin, Bob Kerry, Russia, Tajikistan, Taliban
          

Late Summer 2001: US Contingency Plans to Attack Afghanistan

       According to a later Guardian report, “reliable western military sources say a US contingency plan exist[s] on paper by the end of the summer to attack Afghanistan from the north.” [Guardian, 9/26/01]
          

July 21, 2001: US Official Threatens Possible Military Action Against Taliban by October if Pipeline Is Not Pursued

      
Niaz Naik.
Three former American officials, Tom Simons (former US Ambassador to Pakistan), Karl Inderfurth (former Deputy 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] This 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, 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. 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. [Brisard, Dasquie and Madsen, 2002, pp 43] Naik contends that 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 other American participants deny that the pipeline was an issue at the meeting. [Salon, 8/16/02]
People and organizations involved: Tom Simons, Bush administration, Taliban, Niaz Naik, Osama bin Laden, Russia, Karl Inderfurth, Lee Coldren, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Uzbekistan, Mullah Omar
          

Mid-August 2001: Afghan Leader Organizes Taliban Resistance Without US Support

       Abdul Haq, a famous Afghan leader of the mujahedeen, returns to Peshawar, Pakistan, from the US. Having failed to gain US support, 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 reportedly betrayed to the Taliban by the ISI.
People and organizations involved: Abdul Haq, Taliban, Robert C. McFarlane, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence
          

August 30, 2001: Osama Reportedly Named Commander of Afghanistan Army

       It is reported in Russia and Pakistan that the Taliban has named bin Laden commander of the Afghanistan army. [UPI, 8/30/01]
People and organizations involved: Osama bin Laden, Taliban
          

September 4, 2001: Debate Heats Up over Predator Drone; Decision Again Delayed

       Attendees to an important cabinet-level meeting on terrorism have a heated debate over what to do with the Predator drone. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke has been repeatedly pushing for the use of the Predator over Afghanistan (in either armed or unarmed versions), and he again argues for its immediate use. Everyone agrees that the armed Predator capability is needed, but there are disputes over who will manage and/or pay for it. CIA Director Tenet says his agency will operate the armed Predator “over my dead body.” [Washington Post, 10/2/02] Clarke recalls, “The Air Force said it wasn't their job to fly planes to collect intelligence. No one around the table seemed to have a can-do attitude. Everyone seemed to have an excuse.” [New Yorker, 7/28/03] National Security Adviser Rice concludes that the armed Predator is not ready (even though it had been proven in tests during the summer), but she also presses Tenet to reconsider his opposition to immediately resume reconnaissance flights, suspended since September the year before. After the meeting, Tenet agrees to proceed with such flights. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D); 9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (C)] The armed Predator is activated just days after 9/11, showing that it was ready to be used after all. [Associated Press, 6/25/03]
People and organizations involved: George Tenet, Richard A. Clarke, Condoleezza Rice
          

September 4, 2001: Cabinet-Rank Advisers Discuss Terrorism, Approve Revised Version of Clarke's Eight Month-Old-Plan

       President Bush's cabinet-rank advisers discuss terrorism for the second of only two times before 9/11. [Washington Post, 5/17/02] National Security Adviser Rice chairs the meeting; neither President Bush nor Vice President Cheney attends. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later says that in this meeting, he and CIA Director Tenet speak passionately about the al-Qaeda threat. No one disagrees that the threat is serious. Secretary of State Powell outlines a plan to put pressure on Pakistan to stop supporting al-Qaeda. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld appears to be more interested in Iraq. The only debate is over whether to fly the armed Predator drone over Afghanistan to attack al-Qaeda. [Clarke, 2004, pp 237-38] Clarke's earlier plans to “roll back” al-Qaeda have been discussed and honed in many meetings and are now presented as a formal National Security Presidential Directive. The directive is “apparently” approved, though the process of turning it into official policy is still not done. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] There is later disagreement over just how different the directive presented is from Clarke's earlier plans. For instance, some claim the directive aims not just to “roll back” al-Qaeda, but also to “eliminate” it altogether. [Time, 8/4/02] However, Clarke notes that even though he wanted to use the word “eliminate,” the approved directive merely aims to “significantly erode” al-Qaeda. The word “eliminate” is only added after 9/11. [Washington Post, 3/25/04 (B)] The Washington Post notes that the directive approved on this day “did not differ substantially from Clinton's policy.” [Washington Post, 3/27/04] Time magazine later comments, “The fight against terrorism was one of the casualties of the transition, as Washington spent eight months going over and over a document whose outline had long been clear.” [Time, 8/4/02] The primary change from Clarke's original draft is that the approved plan calls for more direct financial and logistical support to the Northern Alliance and other anti-Taliban groups. The plan also calls for drafting plans for possible US military involvement, “but those differences were largely theoretical; administration officials told the [9/11 Commission's] investigators that the plan's overall timeline was at least three years, and it did not include firm deadlines, military plans, or significant funding at the time of the September 11, 2001, attacks.” [Washington Post, 3/27/04; Reuters, 4/2/04]
People and organizations involved: Taliban, Central Intelligence Agency, Colin Powell, al-Qaeda, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, Richard ("Dick") Cheney, Northern Alliance, Richard A. Clarke, George W. Bush
          

September 9, 2001: Northern Alliance Leader Massoud Is Assassinated in Anticipation of 9/11 Attack

       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 mujahedeen 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 (B)] “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 did not 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 pretend for several days that Massoud was only injured in order to keep the Northern Alliance army's morale up, and they are 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] Though it is not widely reported, the Northern Alliance releases 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] This suggests that the ISI may also have had prior knowledge of the attack plans.
People and organizations involved: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Northern Alliance, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Taliban, Ahmed Shah Massoud
          

September 10, 2001: Deputies Still Putting Final Touches on Three-Year Plan to Stop al-Qaeda

       Another deputies meeting further considers policy toward Afghanistan and Pakistan, and makes further revisions to the National Security Presidential Directive regarding al-Qaeda. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (D)] By the end of the meeting, a formal, three-phase strategy is agreed upon. An envoy is to go to Afghanistan and give the Taliban another chance to expel bin Laden. If this fails, more pressure will be put on the Taliban, including more support for the Northern Alliance and other groups. If the Taliban still refuse to change, the US will try to overthrow the Taliban through more direct action. The time-frame for this strategy is about three years. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04] CIA Director Tenet is formally tasked to draw up new authorities for the covert action program envisioned, and request funding to implement it. [9/11 Commission Report, 3/24/04 (C)] The directive is then to be sent to National Security Adviser Rice for approval. President Bush is apparently aware of the directive and prepared to sign it (though he hasn't attended any of the meetings about it), but he does not sign it until October. [MSNBC, 5/16/02; Los Angeles Times, 5/18/02; Washington Post, 4/1/04]
People and organizations involved: George Tenet, Condoleezza Rice, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden, al-Qaeda, Taliban, Northern Alliance
          

Before September 11, 2001: Congressman Says US Intelligence Not Interested in Informant Who Could Pinpoint bin Laden's Location

       Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R), who claims to have made many secret trips into Afghanistan and to have fought with the mujahedeen, later describes to Congress a missed opportunity to capture bin Laden. He claims that “a few years” before 9/11, he is contacted by someone he knows and trusts from the 1980s Afghan war, who claims he could pinpoint bin Laden's location. Rohrabacher passes this information to the CIA, but the informant isn't contacted. After some weeks, Rohrabacher uses his influence to set up a meeting with agents in the CIA, NSA, and FBI. Yet even then, the informant is not contacted, until weeks later, and then only in a “disinterested” way. Rohrabacher concludes, “that our intelligence services knew about the location of bin Laden several times but were not permitted to attack him ... because of decisions made by people higher up.” [Speech to the House of Representatives, 9/17/01]
People and organizations involved: Federal Bureau of Investigation, National Security Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, Dana Rohrabacher, US Congress
          

July 16, 2002: Blair Claims Attack on Afghanistan Only Possible After 9/11

       British Prime Minister Tony Blair states, “We knew about al-Qaeda for a long time. They were committing terrorist acts, they were planning, they were organizing. Everybody knew, we all knew, that Afghanistan was a failed state living on drugs and terror. We did not act. ... 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] In a book released one month later, Clinton's former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger will similarly state, “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.” [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp 219]
People and organizations involved: Tony Blair, al-Qaeda, Sandy Berger
          


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