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none
Israeli spies
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Day of 911

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Bush on 9/11
Flight AA 11
Flight UA 93
Flight UA 175
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Complete 911 Timeline

 
  

Project: Complete 911 Timeline

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Showing 51-150 of 1602 events (use filters to narrow search):    previous 100    next 100

1994 (C)

       The Phoenix FBI office uncovers startling evidence connecting Arizona to radical Muslim terrorists. The office videotapes two men trying to recruit a Phoenix FBI informant to be a suicide bomber. One of the men is linked to terrorist leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990). [Los Angeles Times, 5/26/02, New York Times, 6/19/02] In 1998, the office's international terrorism squad investigates a possible Middle Eastern extremist taking flight lessons at a Phoenix airport. By 1990, Arizona has become one of the main centers in the US for radical Muslims and remains so. But terrorism remains a low priority for the office. Meanwhile, hijacker Hani Hanjour moves to Arizona for the first time around 1990 (see 1990) and spends much of the next decade in the state. The FBI apparently remains oblivious about Hanjour, though one FBI informant claims that by 1998 they “knew everything about the guy” (see 1998 (F)). [New York Times 6/19/02] FBI agent Ken Williams later investigates the possibility of terrorists learning to fly aircraft (see April 17, 2000 and July 10, 2001), but he has no easy way to query a central FBI database about similar cases. As a result of this and other FBI communication problems, he remains unaware of most US intelligence reports about the potential use of airplanes as weapons, as well as other, specific FBI warnings about terrorists training at US flight schools (see May 18, 1998, After May 15, 1998, 1999 (L), and September 1999 (E)). [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

March 1994

       The FBI creates the Radical Fundamentalist Unit to investigate international radical fundamentalism, including al-Qaeda. In 1999, the Usama Bin Laden Unit is created to look more specifically in al-Qaeda. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

April 9, 1994

       The Saudi government revokes bin Laden's citizenship and moves to freeze his assets in Saudi Arabia because of his support for Muslim fundamentalist movements. [New York Times 4/10/94, Frontline, 9/01] But apparently this is only a public front; privately they continue to support him as part of a secret deal made in 1991 (see April 1991).
          

August 1994

       A Saudi named Omar al-Bayoumi arrives in San Diego. He will later become well known for his suspicious connections to both some 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi government (see December 4, 1999, Early February 2000, and November 22, 2002). Acquaintances in San Diego long suspect he is a Saudi government spy, reporting on the activities of Saudi-born college students. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/14/02, Newsweek, 11/22/02, San Diego Magazine, 9/03] Says one witness, “He was always watching [young Saudi college students], always checking up on them, literally following them around and then apparently reporting their activities back to Saudi Arabia.” [Newsweek, 11/24/02] Just prior to moving to the US, he worked for the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, headed by Prince Sultan (see August 2001 (G), August 31, 2001, and August 15, 2002). His salary in this job is approved by Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official whose son Saud al-Rashid is strongly suspected of al-Qaeda ties (see August 15, 2002 (E)). [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] Once in San Diego, al-Bayoumi tells people that he's a student, or a pilot, and even claims to be receiving monthly payments from “family in India” (despite being Saudi). But these explanations didn't seem credible and he is none of those things. [Sunday Mercury, 10/21/01, Wall Street Journal, 8/11/03] In fact, as he tells some people, he receives a monthly stipend from a Saudi aviation company called Dallah Avco that has extensive ties to the same Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02, Newsweek, 11/24/02] From early 1995 until 2002 he is paid about $3000 a month for a project in Saudi Arabia even though he's living in the US. According the New York Times, Congressional officials believe he is a “ghost employee” doing no actual work. The classified section of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report (see July 24, 2003) notes that his payments increase significantly just after he comes into contact with two hijackers in early 2000. [New York Times, 8/2/03] The FBI is investigating possible ties between Dallah Avco and al-Qaeda. [Newsweek, 10/29/02] The firm's owner, Saudi billionaire Saleh Abdullah Kamel, has denied the accusation. [Newsweek, 7/28/03] Kamel is on a secret United Nations list of terror financiers (see ). According to leaks from the still-classified section of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report, al-Bayoumi also receives a monthly government stipend that increases sharply just after he comes into contact with two hijackers in early 2000 (see Spring 2000 (D)). A few years later, al-Bayoumi gets an additional ghost job (see June 1998 (D)), is investigated by the FBI, and also is saved from losing his Dallah Avco job by the Saudi government (see September 1998-July 1999).
          

September 1994

       Starting as Afghani exiles in Pakistan religious schools, the Taliban begin their conquest of Afghanistan. [MSNBC, 10/2/01] “The Taliban are widely alleged to be the creation of Pakistan's military intelligence [the ISI]. Experts say that explains the Taliban's swift military successes.” [CNN, 10/5/96] Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism official during the Reagan and Bush Sr. 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. [ Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, p. 53] Less often reported is that the CIA worked with the ISI to create the Taliban. A long-time regional expert with extensive CIA ties says, “I warned them that we were creating a monster.” He adds that even years later, “The Taliban are not just recruits from ‘madrassas’ (Muslim theological schools) but are on the payroll of the ISI.” [Times of India, 3/7/01] The same claim is made on CNN in February 2002. [CNN, 2/27/02] The Wall Street Journal will state in November 2001: “Despite their clean chins and pressed uniforms, the ISI men are as deeply fundamentalist as any bearded fanatic; the ISI created the Taliban as their own instrument and still supports it.” [Asia Times 11/15/01]
          

November 1994-December 1999

      
Saeed in an Indian hospital shortly after being arrested in 1994. He was shot while being captured.
Saeed Sheikh is imprisoned in India for kidnapping Westerners (see June 1993-October 1994). While there, he meets another prisoner named Aftab Ansari. Ansari, an Indian gangster, will be released on bail near the end of 1999. [India Today, 2/25/02] Saeed also meets another prisoner named Asif Raza Khan, who also is released in 1999. [Rediff, 11/17/01] After Saeed is rescued from prison (see December 24-31, 1999), he works with Ansari and Khan to kidnap Indians and then uses some of the profits to fund the 9/11 attacks (see Early August 2001 (D)). [Frontline, 2/2/02, India Today, 2/14/02] Saeed also becomes good friends with prisoner Maulana Masood Azhar, a terrorist with al-Qaeda connections (see October 3-4, 1993). [Sunday Times, 4/21/02] Saeed will later commit further terrorist acts together with Azhar's group, Jaish-e-Mohammad (see for instance October 1, 2001 (D) and December 13, 2001 (C)). [Independent 2/26/02]
          

December 12, 1994

       Terrorist Ramzi Yousef attempts a trial run of Operation Bojinka (see January 6, 1995), planting a small bomb on a Philippine Airlines flight to Tokyo (he gets off on a stopover before the bomb is detonated). It explodes, killing one man, and would have caused the plane to crash if not for what were described as heroic efforts by the pilot. [Los Angeles Times 9/1/02; Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02]
          

December 14, 1994

       Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law to bin Laden, is arrested in the US. Khalifa had financed the Abu Sayyaf terror group in the Philippines and had recently been sentenced to death in Jordan for funding a group that staged a series of bombings in that country. The FBI finds and quickly translates literature in his luggage advocating training in assassination, explosives, and weapons, bombing churches, and murdering Catholic priests. At the time, he is not only linked to funding bin Laden's terrorism efforts, but also has ties to terrorist Ramzi Yousef and other Operation Bojinka plotters. Bin Laden could be connected to many terrorist activities through Khalifa's connections. However, Secretary of State Warren Christopher argues that Khalifa should be released to Jordan. He finally is sent to Jordan in May 1995, where his conviction has already been overturned. In a later retrial there, a witness recants and Khalifa is set free. Says one expert working at the CIA's Counterterrorism center at the time, “I remember people at the CIA who were ripshit at the time. Not even speaking in retrospect, but contemporaneous with what the intelligence community knew about bin Laden, Khalifa's deportation was unreal.” [1000 Years for Revenge, by Peter Lance, 9/03, pp. 233-235, New York Times, 5/2/02 (B), San Francisco Chronicle, 4/18/95,
          

1995

       For the first time, though not the last, the government of Sudan offers the US all of its files on bin Laden and al-Qaeda. The US turns down the offer. Bin Laden had been living in Sudan since 1991, because there were no visa requirements to live there. Sudan was monitoring him, collecting a “vast intelligence database on Osama bin Laden and more than 200 leading members of his al-Qaeda terrorist network… [The US was] offered thick files, with photographs and detailed biographies of many of his principal cadres, and vital information about al-Qaeda's financial interests in many parts of the globe.” After 9/11, a US agent who has seen the files on bin Laden's men in Khartoum says some were “an inch and a half thick.” [Guardian 9/30/01]
          

1995-2001

       After the Taliban takes control of the area around Kandahar, Afghanistan (see September 1994), prominent Persian Gulf state officials and businessmen, including high-ranking United Arab Emirates and Saudi government ministers, such as Saudi intelligence minister Prince Turki al-Faisal (see July 1998), frequently secretly fly into Kandahar on state and private jets for hunting expeditions (see also February 1999 (D)). [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01] General Wayne Downing, Bush's former national director for combating terrorism, says: “They would go out and see Osama, spend some time with him, talk with him, you know, live out in the tents, eat the simple food, engage in falconing, some other pursuits, ride horses.” [MSNBC, 9/5/03] While there, some develop ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda and give them money. Both bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Omar sometimes participate in these hunting trips. Former US and Afghan officials suspect that the dignitaries' outbound jets may also have smuggled out al-Qaeda and Taliban cargo, just as smuggling was rampant on other airplanes flying out of the country (see Mid-1996-October 2001). [Los Angeles Times 11/18/01]
          

January 1995

       President Clinton issues an executive order making it a felony to raise or transfer funds to designated terrorist groups or their front organizations.
          

January 6, 1995

      
A 1998 CNN map of likely flights to be hijacked in one version of Operation Bojinka.
Philippine investigators uncover an al-Qaeda plot to assassinate the Pope that would take place when he visits the Philippines one week later. While investigating that, they also uncover Operation Bojinka, planned by the same people: 1993 WTC bomber Ramzi Yousef (see February 26, 1993) and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (see Early 1994-January 1995). [Independent, 6/6/02, Los Angeles Times, 6/24/02, Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] The plan is to explode 11 or 12 passenger planes over the Pacific Ocean. [Agence France Presse, 12/8/01] If successful, up to 4,000 people would have been killed in planes flying to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Honolulu, and New York. [Insight, 5/27/02] All the bombs would be planted at about the same time, but some would be timed to go off weeks or even months later. Presumably worldwide air travel could be interrupted for months. [1000 Years for Revenge, by Peter Lance, 9/03, pp. 260-261] Operation Bojinka was scheduled to go forward just two weeks later on January 21. A plan is also found for a second phase of attacks (see January 20, 1995 and February 1995). [Insight 5/27/02]
          

January 20, 1995

       It comes to light that terrorist Ramzi Yousef, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and their fellow plotters were actually planning three different terror attacks when they were foiled in early 1995 (see January 6, 1995). One was the assassination of the Pope, the second was Operation Bojinka, a plot to explode about a dozen passenger planes at once, and the third, unnamed plot was to crash about a dozen passenger planes into prominent US buildings. This third plot is often confused with Bojinka, but it is in fact a separate though related plot. [1000 Years for Revenge, by Peter Lance, 9/03, p. 259] Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza learns about this third plot through the examination of recently captured Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad. On January 20, Mendoza writes a memo about Murad's latest confession, saying, “With regards to their plan to dive-crash a commercial aircraft at the CIA headquarters, subject alleged that the idea of doing same came out during his casual conversation with [Ramzi Yousef] and there is no specific plan yet for its execution. What the subject [has] in his mind is that he will board any American commercial aircraft pretending to be an ordinary passenger. Then he will hijack said aircraft, control its cockpit and dive it at the CIA headquarters. There will be no bomb or any explosive that he will use in its execution. It is simply a suicidal mission that he is very much willing to execute.” [1000 Years for Revenge, by Peter Lance, 9/03, pp. 277-278, Insight, 5/27/02] Murad had been trained to fly in the US, and the word spreads both before and after 9/11 that Murad wanted to fly a plane into the CIA as part of the original Bojinka plot (see for instance, [Washington Post, 9/23/01]). However, Murad makes further confessions later that reveal all of the little-known third plot (see February 1995).
          

February 1995

       As the Philippines investigator Colonel Mendoza continues to interrogate Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad (see January 20, 1995), details of a post-Bojinka “third plot” emerge (see January 6, 1995). Author Peter Lance calls this plot “a virtual blueprint of the 9/11 attacks.” Murad reveals a plan to hijack commercial airliners at some point after the effect of Bojinka dies down. Murad himself had been training in the US for this plot. He names targets of the buildings that would be attacked: CIA headquarters, the Pentagon, an unidentified nuclear power plant, the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco, the Sear Tower, and the World Trade Center. Murad continues to reveal more information about this plot until he is handed over to the FBI in April (see May 11, 1995). [1000 Years for Revenge, by Peter Lance, 9/03, pp. 278-280] He also identifies approximately 10 other men who met him at the flight schools or were getting similar training. They came from Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Pakistan. Apparently none of these pilots match the names of any of the 9/11 hijackers. However, he also gives information pointing to the terrorist Hambali through a front company named Konsonjaya. Hambali later hosts an important al-Qaeda meeting attended by two of the 9/11 hijackers (see January 5-8, 2000). [AP, 3/5/02 (B)] Colonel Mendoza even makes a flow chart connecting many key players together, including bin Laden, bin Laden's brother-in-law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Ramzi Yousef, and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (named as Salem Ali a.k.a. Mohmad). [1000 Years for Revenge, by Peter Lance, 9/03, pp. 303-304] Philippine authorities later claim they turn over all of this information to US authorities, but the US fails to follow up on any of it (see May 11, 1995). Khalifa is in US custody and released the same month the US is given this information about him (see December 14, 1994).
          

February 7, 1995

      
Ramzi Yousef.
Terrorist Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 26, 1993 and January 6, 1995). 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is staying in the same building at the time, and brazenly gives an interview to Time magazine as “Khalid Sheikh,” describing Yousef's capture. [1000 Years for Revenge, by Peter Lance, 9/03, pp. 328] Yousef had recruited Istaique Parker to implement a limited version of Operation Bojinka (see January 6, 1995). Parker would put bombs on board two flights bound from Bangkok to the US. Parker got cold feet and turned Yousef in instead. [1000 Years for Revenge, by Peter Lance, 9/03, pp. 284-285] The next day, as Yousef is flying over New York City on his way to a prison cell, an FBI agent says to Yousef, “You see the Trade Centers down there, they're still standing, aren't they?” Yousef responds, “They wouldn't be if I had enough money and enough explosives.” [MSNBC, 9/23/01, The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, p. 135] Yousef also soon admits to ties with Wali Khan Shah, who fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan, and Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, one of bin Laden's brothers-in-law, who is being held by the US at the time. Despite this confession, Khalifa is let go a few months later (see December 14, 1994). But although Yousef talks freely, he makes no direct mention of bin Laden, or the “third plot” - a planned second wave of Operation Bojinka that closely parallels the later 9/11 plot (see February 1995).
          

March 1995

       Belgian investigators find a CD-ROM of an al-Qaeda terrorist manual and begin translating it a few months later. Versions of the manual circulate widely and are seized by the police all over Europe. A former CIA official claims the CIA does not obtain a copy of the manual until the end of 1999: “The truth is, they missed for years the largest terrorist guide ever written.” He blames CIA reluctance to scrutinize its support for the anti-Soviet jihad in the 1980s (see December 26, 1979 and March 1985). The CIA claims that the manual isn't that important, and that it had copies for years in any case (see also September 1, 1992). [New York Times 1/14/01; CBS 2/20/02]
          

March 1995-February 1996

       A man named Ziad Jarrah rents an apartment in Brooklyn, New York. [Among the Heroes, Jere Longman, 2002, p. 90] The landlords later identify his photograph as being that of the 9/11 hijacker. A Brooklyn apartment lease bears Ziad Jarrah's name. [Boston Globe, 9/25/01] “Another man named Ihassan Jarrah lived with Ziad, drove a livery cab and paid the eight-hundred-dollar monthly rent. The men were quiet, well-mannered, said hello and good-bye. Ziad Jarrah carried a camera and told his landlords that he was a photographer. He would disappear for a few days on occasion, then reappear. Sometimes a woman who appeared to be a prostitute arrived with one of the men. ‘Me and my brother used to crack jokes that they were terrorists,’ said Jason Matos, a construction worker who lived in a basement there, and whose mother owned the house.” However, Ziad Jarrah is actually still in his home country of Lebanon at this time. He is studying in a Catholic school in Beirut, and is in frequent contact with the rest of his family. His parents drive him home to be with the family nearly every weekend, and they are in frequent contact by telephone as well. [Los Angeles Times, 10/23/01] Not until April 1996 does Jarrah leave Lebanon for the first time, to study in Germany. [Boston Globe, 9/25/01] His family believes that the New York lease proves that there were two Jarrahs. [CNN, 9/18/01 (B)] This is not the only example of their Jarrah being in two places at the same time—see Late November 2000-January 30, 2001. Could Jarrah have had a doppelganger?
          

Spring 1995

       In the wake of the uncovering of the Operation Bojinka plot, a letter written by the terrorists who planned the failed 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993) is found on a computer disk in the Philippines. This letter warns that future attacks would be more precise and they would continue to target the WTC if their demands were not met. This letter was never sent, but its contents are revealed in 1998 congressional testimony. [Congressional Hearings, 2/24/98] The Manila, Philippines police chief also reports discovering a statement from bin Laden around this time that although they failed to blow up the WTC in 1993, “on the second attempt they would be successful.” [AFP, 9/13/01] Why wasn't security at the WTC noticeably improved after these revelations, or later?
          

April 3, 1995

       Time magazine's cover story reports on the potential for terrorists to kill thousands in highly destructive acts. Senator Sam Nunn outlines a scenario in which terrorists destroy the US Capitol Building by crashing a radio controlled airplane into it. “Its not far-fetched,” he says. His idea was taken from Tom Clancy's book Debt of Honorpublished in August 1994. [Time, 4/3/95] High-ranking al-Qaeda leaders later claim that Flight 93's target was the Capitol Building. [Guardian 9/9/02]
          

April 19, 1995

       The Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City is bombed. US citizen Timothy McVeigh is convicted of the bombing, but some maintain there is a Middle Eastern connection with the bombing. For instance, Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” during the Clinton and Bush Jr. administrations, says the possibility is intriguing and he has been unable to disprove it. [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, p. 127] The bombing leads to a surge in concern about terrorism,. The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act is devised and becomes law as a result of such concern. However, many anti-terrorism provisions Clinton seeks are not approved by the Republican-controlled Congress. Politicians agree with the National Rifle Association that proposed restrictions on bomb making infringe on the right to bear arms.
          

May 11, 1995

       FBI agents, having held Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad for about a month, write a memo containing what they've learned from interrogating him. The memo contains many interesting revelations, including the mention that Ramzi Yousef, a mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), “wanted to return to the United States in the future to bomb the World Trade Center a second time.” However, this memo does not contain a word about the “third plot” - the plan to fly about six hijacked airplanes into prominent US buildings - even though Murad had recently fully confessed this plot to Philippines investigators (see February 1995). These Philippine investigators claim they turned over all tapes, transcripts, and reports about Murad's confessions of the plot to the US at the same time they handed over Murad. It has not been explained why this plot is not mentioned in the FBI's summary of Murad's interrogation. [1000 Years for Revenge, by Peter Lance, 9/03, pp. 280-282] After 9/11, a Philippine investigator refers to this third plot when he says of the 9/11 attacks, “It's Bojinka…. We told the Americans everything about Bojinka. Why didn't they pay attention?” [Washington Post, 9/23/01] In an interview after 9/11, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed will claim that the 9/11 attacks were a refinement and resurrection of this plot. [Australian 9/9/02]
          

June 1995

      
Hassan al-Turabi
There is a failed assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. The CIA concludes bin Laden authorized the operation. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] Evidence suggests that the government of Sudan and Hassan al-Turabi, Sudan's leader, know where bin Laden is living and helped to support the plot. The United Nations Security Council places sanctions on Sudan as a result. The US examines options for attacking bin Laden and/or Turabi's facilities in the Sudanese capitol. The options developed by the US military are rejected for being unstealthy and a de facto war on Sudan. In the ensuing months, there are reports of Egyptian covert operations against bin Laden and an Egyptian military build-up on the Sudanese border. These factors influence bin Laden's decision to move to Afghanistan in 1996 (see May 18, 1996).
          

July 1995

       A US National Intelligence Estimate concludes that the most likely threat would come from emerging “transient” terrorist groupings that are more fluid and multinational than older organizations and state-sponsored surrogates. This “new terrorist phenomenon” is made up of loose affiliations of Islamist extremists violently angry at the US. Lacking strong organization, they get weapons, money, and support from an assortment of governments, factions, and individual benefactors. [9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04] The estimate warns that terrorists are intent on striking specific targets inside the US, especially landmark buildings in Washington and New York. In 1997, the intelligence estimate is updated with bin Laden mentioned on the first page as an emerging threat and points out he might be interested in attacks inside the US. However, this new estimate is only two sentences long and lacks any strategic analysis on how to address the threat. [Associated Press 04/16/04]
          

October 21, 1995

       The oil company Unocal signs a contract with Turkmenistan to export $8 billion worth of natural gas through a $3 billion pipeline which would go from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan. Political considerations and pressures allow Unocal to edge out a more experienced Argentinean company for the contract. Henry Kissinger, a Unocal consultant, calls it “the triumph of hope over experience.” [Washington Post 10/5/98]
          

November 13, 1995

       Two truck bombs kill five Americans and two Indians in a US-operated Saudi National Guard training center in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Al-Qaeda is blamed for the attacks. [AP, 8/19/02] The attack changes US investigators' views of bin Laden from terrorist financier to terrorist leader. [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, p. 150] The facility attacked is owned by the Vinnell Corporation, thought by some experts to be a CIA front. [London Times 5/14/03]
          

Late 1995

       /> King Fahd of Saudi Arabia suffers a severe stroke. Afterwards, he is able to sit in a chair and open his eyes, but little more. The resulting lack of leadership begins a behind-the-scenes struggle for power and leads to increased corruption. The situation continues to this day. Crown Prince Abdullah has been urging his fellow princes to address the problem of corruption in the kingdom—so far unsuccessfully. A former White House adviser says: “The only reason Fahd's being kept alive is so Abdullah can't become king.” [New Yorker 10/16/01]
          

January 1996

       US intelligence gets information concerning a planned suicide attack by individuals connected with Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990) and a key al-Qaeda operative. The plan is to fly from Afghanistan to the US and attack the White House. [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02]
          

Mid-1996-October 2001

       In 1996, Ariana Airlines, the national airline of Afghanistan, is essentially taken over by al-Qaeda and becomes the transportation for an illegal trade network. Passenger flights become few and erratic; instead the airline begins flying drugs, weapons, gold and personnel mostly between Afghanistan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan. The Emirate of Sharjah, in the UAE, becomes a hub for al-Qaeda drug and arms smuggling. Typically “large quantities of drugs” would be flown from Kandahar, Afghanistan, to Sharjah, and large quantities of weapons would be flown back to Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times, 11/18/01] About three to four flights a day would run the route. Many weapons come from Victor Bout, a notorious Russian arms dealer based in Sharjah (see October 1996). [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02] Afghan taxes on opium production would be paid in gold, and then the gold bullion would be flown to Dubai, UAE, and laundered into cash. [Washington Post, 2/17/02] Taliban officials regularly provide terrorists with false papers identifying them as Ariana employees so they can move freely around the world. A former National Security Council official later claims the US is well aware at the time that al-Qaeda agents regularly fly on Ariana, but the US fails to act for several years. The US does press the UAE for tighter banking controls, but moves “delicately, not wanting to offend an ally in an already complicated relationship,” and little changes by 9/11. [Los Angeles Times 11/18/01] Much of the money for the 9/11 hijackers flows though these Sharjah channels (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000 and September 8-11, 2001 (B)). Could the 9/11 attacks have been stopped if the US pressed harder to shut down the Sharjah al-Qaeda money channels? There also are reports suggesting that Ariana Airlines might have been used to train Islamic militants as pilots (see October 1, 2001 (C)). The illegal behavior of Ariana helps cause the United Nations to impose sanctions against Afghanistan in 1999 (see November 14, 1999), but the sanctions lack teeth and don't stop the airline. A second round of sanctions finally stops foreign Ariana flights. But Ariana charter flights and other charter services keep the illegal network running (see January 19, 2001). Ariana and the network is finally largely destroyed in the October 2001 US bombing of Afghanistan. [Los Angeles Times 11/18/01]
          

Early 1996

       The CIA's Counterterrorism Center creates a special unit to focus specifically on bin Laden. About 10-15 individuals are assigned to the unit initially. This grows to about 35-40 by 9/11. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/18/02] The unit is set up “largely because of evidence linking him to the 1993 bombing of the WTC.” [Washington Post, 10/3/01 (C)] By early 1997, the unit realizes that bin Laden was not just a financier but an organizer of terrorist activity. It knows that al-Qaeda has a military committee planning operations against US interests worldwide. Although this information is disseminated in many reports, the unit's sense of alarm about bin Laden isn't widely shared or understood within the intelligence and policy communities. Employees in the unit feel their zeal attracts ridicule from their peers. [9/11 Commission 3/24/04 (C)]
          

1996

      
Anas al-Liby.
Al-Muqatila, a Libyan group that is actually the cover name of an al-Qaeda terrorist cell, tries to kill Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi. Al-Qadhafi survives, but several terrorists and innocent bystanders are killed. [Dawn 10/30/02] According to David Shayler, a member of the British intelligence agency MI5, and Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, authors of the controversial book The Forbidden Truth, the related British intelligence agency MI6 pays al-Qaeda the equivalent of $160,000 to help fund this assassination attempt. Shayler later goes to prison for revealing this information and the British press is banned from discussing the case. [New York Times, 8/5/98, Observer, 11/10/02] Well after the failed attempt, the British continue to support al-Muqatila—for instance, the group publishes a newsletter from a London office. [The Forbidden Truth, by Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, 5/02 edition, pp. 97-98] Anas al-Liby, a member of the Libyan al-Qaeda cell, is given political asylum in Britain and lives there until May 2000. He is now on the US's most wanted list, with a $25 million reward for his capture. [Observer, 11/10/02] The Forbidden Truth claims that even in 1998 Britain and the US aren't very interested in capturing bin Laden because of his assistance in plots like these (see April 15, 1998). The British government later attempts to censor their role in this assassination attempt (see November 5, 2002).
          

1996 (D)

       Having found a business card of a US flight school in the possession of Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad (see January 6, 1995), the FBI investigates the US flight schools Murad attended. [Washington Post, 9/23/01] He had trained at about 6 flight schools off and on, starting in 1990. Apparently the FBI stops their investigation when they fail to find any other potential suspects (see May 18, 1998). [Insight, 5/27/02] However, Murad had confessed to Philippine authorities the names of about ten other al-Qaeda operatives learning to fly in the US, and this information was given to the US. The US fails to follow up on it before 9/11 (see February 1995 and May 11, 1995).
          

Early 1996-October 1998

       In early 1996, a friend gives bin Laden a satellite phone. The phone is used by both bin Laden and his military commander Muhammad Atef to direct al-Qaeda's operations. But its use is discontinued two months after a US missile strike against his camps (see ), when an unnamed senior official boasts that the US can track his movements through the use of the phone. [Sunday Times 3/24/02; Senator Shelby Congressional Inquiry Report 12/11/02] Records show “Britain was at the heart of the terrorist's planning for his worldwide campaign of murder and destruction,” since 260 calls were made to 27 phone numbers in Britain. The other countries called were Yemen (over 200 calls), Sudan (131), Iran (106), Azerbaijan (67), Pakistan (59), Saudi Arabia (57), a ship in the Indian Ocean (13), US (6), Italy (6), Malaysia (4) and Senegal (2). “The most surprising omission is Iraq, with not a single call recorded.” [Sunday Times 3/24/02] Why weren't these calls used more aggressively to target bin Laden and the people he called?
          

1996-December 2000

       Thirteen of the hijackers disappear for significant periods of time before the end of 2000:
  1. Nawaf Alhazmi: The CIA says he first travels to Afghanistan in 1993 as a teenager. In 1995, he travels with Khalid Almihdhar to Bosnia and fights against the Serbs. Sometime before 1998 he returns to Afghanistan and swears loyalty to bin Laden. He fights there against the Northern Alliance. He returns to Saudi Arabia in early 1999 and shares information about the 1998 US embassy bombings. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03, CIA Director Tenet Testimony, 6/18/02] He fights in Chechnya in or 1998 [Observer, 9/23/01, ABC News, 1/9/02]
  2. Khalid Almihdhar: CIA Director calls him, like Nawaf Alhazmi, an “al-Qaeda veteran.” He fights in Bosnia with Alhazmi in 1995. He makes his first visit to the Afghanistan training camps in early 1996. He swears loyalty to bin Laden in Afghanistan in 1998. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03, CIA Director Tenet Testimony, 6/18/02] His family claims he fights in Chechnya in 1997. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02]
  3. Salem Alhazmi: Spends time in Chechnya with his brother Nawaf Alhazmi. [ABC News, 1/9/02] He also possibly fights with his brother in Afghanistan. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
  4. Ahmed Alhaznawi: left for Chechnya in 1999 [ABC News, 1/9/02], lost family contact in late 2000. [Arab News, 9/22/01]
  5. Hamza Alghamdi: left for Chechnya in early 2000. [Independent, 9/27/01, [Washington Post, 9/25/01] Another report says he went there around January 2001. He called home several times until about June 2001, saying he was in Chechnya. [Arab News, 9/18/01]
  6. Mohand Alshehri: went to fight in Chechnya in early 2000. [Arab News, 9/22/01]
  7. Ahmed Alnami: left home in June 2000, called home once in June 2001 from an unnamed location. [Arab News, 9/19/01, Washington Post, 9/25/01]
  8. Fayez Ahmed Banihammad: left home in July 2000 saying he wanted to participate in a holy war or do relief work. [St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/01, Washington Post, 9/25/01] He called his parents one time since. [Arab News, 9/18/01]
  9. Ahmed Alghamdi: left his studies to fight in Chechnya in 2000, last seen by his family in December 2000. He last called his parents in July 2001 but didn't mention being in the US. [Arab News, 9/18/01, Arab News, 9/20/01]
  10. Waleed Alshehri: disappeared with Wail Alshehri in December 2000, spoke of fighting in Chechnya. [Washington Post, 9/25/01, Arab News, 9/18/01]
  11. Wail Alshehri: had psychological problems, went with his brother to Mecca to seek help and both disappeared, spoke of fighting in Chechnya. [Washington Post, 9/25/01]
  12. Majed Moqed: last seen by a friend in 2000 in Saudi Arabia, who said, “he had a plan to visit the United States to learn English.” [Arab News, 9/22/01]
Clearly there is a pattern: 11 appear likely to have fought in Chechnya, and two others are known to have gone missing. It's possible that others have similar histories, but it's hard to tell because “almost nothing [is] known about some.” [New York Times, 9/21/01] Furthermore, a colleague claims hijackers Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah and would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh wanted to fight in Chechnya but were told in early 2000 that they were needed elsewhere. [Washington Post 10/23/02; Reuters 10/29/02]
Reuters has reported: “Western diplomats play down any Chechen involvement by al-Qaeda.” [Reuters, 10/24/02] The Chechnya connection to the 9/11 plot has been hardly discussed; could this be because of political implications with Russia? Many of the FBI hijackers photos appear to be incorrect (see September 16-23, 2001). Could some hijackers have died fighting in Chechnya and had their identities used by someone else? If so, it might not be the first time this technique was used: former CIA director James Woolsey claims bin Laden agents murdered 12 men during the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, stole their paperwork, then used their identities for later plots such as the WTC bombing in 1993. [MSNBC 9/27/01]
          

January-May 1996

      
Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, from a 1998 FBI wanted poster.
In the months after uncovering Operation Bojinka in the Philippines (see January 6, 1995), nearly all of its major planners, including Ramzi Yousef, are found and arrested. The one exception is 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. He flees to Qatar in the Persian Gulf, where he lives openly using his real name, enjoying the patronage of Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani, Qatar's Interior Minister and a member of the royal family. [ABC News, 2/7/03] In January 1996, he is indicted in the US for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing, and in the same month the US determines his location in Qatar. FBI Director Louis Freeh sends a letter to the Qatari government asking for permission to send a team after him. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02] One of Freeh's diplomatic notes states that Mohammed was involved in a conspiracy to “bomb US airliners” and is believed to be “in the process of manufacturing an explosive device.” [New Yorker, 5/27/02] Qatar confirms that Mohammed is there and is making an explosive, but they delay in handing him over. After waiting several months, a high level meeting takes place in Washington to consider a commando raid to seize him. But the raid is deemed too risky, and another letter is sent to the Qatari government instead. One person at the meeting later states, “If we had gone in and nabbed this guy, or just cut his head off, the Qatari government would not have complained a bit. Everyone around the table for their own reasons refused to go after someone who fundamentally threatened American interests….” [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02] Around May 1996, Mohammed's patron Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani makes sure that Mohammed and four others are given blank passports and a chance to escape. Qatar's police chief later says the other men include Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef, al-Qaeda's number two and number three leaders respectively (see also Late 1998 (E)). [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02, ABC News, 2/7/03] In late 1997 former CIA agent Robert Baer learns how the Qataris helped Mohammed escape and passes the information to the CIA, but they appear uninterested (see December 1997). Bin Laden twice visits al-Thani in Qatar. [New York Times, 6/8/02, ABC News, 2/7/03] Does the US miss a chance to catch bin Laden by not caring about al-Thani? After leaving Qatar, Mohammed takes part in many terrorist acts (see Mid-1996-September 11, 2001).
          

Mid-1996-September 11, 2001

       After fleeing Qatar (see January-May 1996), 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed travels the world and plans many terror acts. He is apparently involved in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998), the 2000 USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000) and other attacks. He previously was involved in the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993) and the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). [Time, 1/20/03] One US official says, “There is a clear operational link between him and the execution of most, if not all, of the al-Qaeda plots over the past five years.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02] He lives in Prague, Czech Republic, through much of 1997. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] By 1999 he is living in Germany and visiting with the hijackers there (see 1999 (K)). [New York Times, 9/22/02] Using 60 aliases and as many passports, he travels through Europe, Africa, the Persian Gulf, Southeast Asia and South America, personally setting up al-Qaeda cells. [Los Angeles Times, 12/22/02, Time, 1/20/03] In the midst of all this activity, in early 1998, Mohammed is publicly named as a major terrorist and a $2 million reward for his capture is announced by the US, but there is no major public manhunt for him, and his activities are not impeded (see January 8, 1998). If reports are true that Mohammed is given protection by Pakistan (Early 1994-January 1995), and is possibly even an ISI agent (see June 4, 2002), doesn't that make Pakistan responsible for all of these terrorist acts?
          

1996 (C)

       The Saudi Arabian government increases its payments to al-Qaeda first started in 1991 (see April 1991), becoming its largest financial backer. It also gives money to other extremist groups throughout Asia. This money vastly increases al-Qaeda's capabilities. [New Yorker, 10/16/01] Presumably two meetings in early summer bring about the change (see also May 1996and June 1996 (B)). Says one US official, “'96 is the key year… Bin Laden hooked up to all the bad guys—it's like the Grand Alliance—and had a capability for conducting large-scale operations.” The Saudi regime, he says, had “gone to the dark side.” Electronic intercepts by the NSA “depict a regime increasingly corrupt, alienated from the country's religious rank and file, and so weakened and frightened that it has brokered its future by channeling hundreds of millions of dollars in what amounts to protection money to fundamentalist groups that wish to overthrow it.” US officials later privately complain “that the Bush Administration, like the Clinton Administration, is refusing to confront this reality, even in the aftermath of the September 11th terrorist attacks.” [New Yorker 10/16/01]
          

March 1996

       The US pressures Sudan to do something about bin Laden, who is based in that country. According to some accounts, Sudan readily agrees, not wanting to be labeled a terrorist nation. Sudan's Minister of Defense engages in secret negotiations with the CIA in Washington. Sudan offers to extradite bin Laden to anywhere he might stand trial. Some accounts claim that Sudan offers bin Laden to the US, but the US decides not to take him because they don't have enough evidence at the time to charge him with a crime. [Village Voice, 10/31/01, Washington Post, 10/3/01] Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” for both Clinton and Bush Jr., 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. [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, pp. 142-143] Saudi Arabia is discussed as a possibility, but the Saudi Arabian government doesn't want him, even though bin Laden has pledged to bring down the Saudi Arabian government. The 9/11 Commission later claims they find no evidence that Sudan offers bin Laden directly to the US, but they do find evidence that Saudi Arabia is discussed as an option. [9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04] 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] Bin Laden leaves under pressure two months later (see May 18, 1996). CIA Director Tenet later denies Sudan made any offers to hand over bin Laden. [Senate Intelligence Committee 10/17/02]
          

April 1996 - March 1997

       Ramzi Yousef, mastermind along with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed of the first WTC bombing and Operation Bojinka (see February 26, 1993 and January 6, 1995), is in a maximum security prison, sentenced to hundreds of years of prison time for his terror plots. However, he can communicate to Gregory Scarpa Jr., a mob figure in the cell next to his. The FBI sets up a sting operation with Scarpa's cooperation to learn more of what and who Yousef knows. Scarpa is given a telephone, and allows Yousef to use it. But Yousef uses the sting operation for his own ends, communicating with terrorists on the outside in code language without giving away their identities. He attempts to find passports to get co-conspirators into the US, and there is some discussion about imminent attacks on US passenger jets. Realizing the scheme has backfired, the FBI terminates the telephone sting in late 1996, but Yousef manages to keep communicating with the outside world for several more months.
          

April 1996

       In continuing negotiations between the US and Sudan, the US again rejects Sudan's offer to turn over voluminous files about bin Laden and al-Qaeda (see 1995). Another American involved in the secret negotiations later says that the US could have used Sudan's offer to keep an eye on bin Laden, but that the efforts were blocked by another arm of the federal government. “I've never seen a brick wall like that before. Somebody let this slip up,” he says. “We could have dismantled his operations and put a cage on top. It was not a matter of arresting bin Laden but of access to information. That's the story, and that's what could have prevented September 11. I knew it would come back to haunt us.” [Village Voice, 10/31/01, Washington Post, 10/3/01] Around this time Sudan also offers their al-Qaeda intelligence to MI6, the British intelligence agency, and are also rebuffed. Sudan makes a standing offer: “If someone from MI6 comes to us and declares himself, the next day he can be in [the capital city] Khartoum.” A Sudanese government source later adds, “We have been saying this for years.” The offer is not taken up until after 9/11. [Guardian 9/30/01]
          

May 1996

      
The Hotel Royale Monceau.
French intelligence secretly monitors a meeting of Saudi billionaires at the Hotel Royale Monceau in Paris this month with the financial representative of al-Qaeda. “The Saudis, including a key Saudi prince joined by Muslim and non-Muslim gun traffickers, [meet] to determine who would pay how much to Osama. This [is] not so much an act of support but of protection—a payoff to keep the mad bomber away from Saudi Arabia.” [ Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03] Participants also agree that bin Laden should be rewarded for promoting Wahhabism, the Saudi variant of Islam, in Chechnya, Kashmir, Bosnia, and other places. [CBC 10/29/03 (C)] This extends a secret deal first made between the Saudi government and bin Laden in 1991 (see April 1991, and also 1996 (C), June 1996 (B), July 1998). The 9/11 victims' relatives also site the “nonpublished French intelligence report” of this meeting in their lawsuit against important Saudis. [Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 8/16/02] According to French terrorism expert Jean-Charles Brisard and/or reporter Greg Palast, there are about 20 people at the meeting, including:
  1. Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi Intelligence Minister (who apparently is the unnamed “key Saudi prince” mentioned by Palast). [CBC, 10/29/03 (C)]
  2. Saudi billionaire Khalid bin Mahfouz. [CBC, 10/29/03 (C)] Representatives of Mahfouz say this is not true and that Mahfouz has never attended any meeting with any representatives of al-Qaeda. Mahfouz has begun libel proceedings against Mr. Brisard, claiming his allegations are unfounded and defamatory. [Kendall Freeman, 5/13/04]
  3. Saudi Sheikh Abdullah Bakhsh. Bakhsh also saved Bush Jr.'s Harken Oil from bankruptcy around 1990. [Santa Fe New Mexican, 3/20/03, Democracy Now, 3/4/03; CBC, 10/29/03 (C)]
  4. The notorious Saudi billionaire Adnan Khashoggi.
    Adnan Khashoggi.
    [Santa Fe New Mexican, 3/20/03, Democracy Now, 3/4/03] In a somewhat tongue-in-cheek manner, Slate has claimed that Khashoggi is a “shadowy international arms merchant” who is “connected to every scandal of the past 40 years.” Amongst other things, he was a major investor in BCCI and a key player in the Iran-Contra affair. [Slate, 12/4/00, Slate, 11/14/01, Slate, 3/12/03]
  5. An unnamed brother of Osama bin Laden. [CBC, 10/29/03 (C)]
  6. An unnamed representative from the Saudi Defense Ministry. [CBC, 10/29/03 (C)]
Palast, noting that the French monitored the meeting, asks, “Since US intelligence was thus likely informed, the question becomes why didn't the government immediately move against the Saudis?” [ Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03] An apparent follow-up meeting occurs in 1998 (see July 1998).
          

May 1996

       According to later declassified government documents, Assistant Secretary of State Robin Rafel speaks to the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister about Afghanistan. She says, US government “now hopes that peace in the region will facilitate US business interests like the proposed Unocal gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan to Pakistan.” [A/S Raphel Consultations with Deputy FM Chernyshev National Security Archive May 13 1996]
          

May 18, 1996

       Sudan expels bin Laden at the request of the US and Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden and al-Qaeda then move to Afghanistan, taking all of their money, resources and personnel. Bin Laden flies there in a C-130 transport plane with an entourage of about 150 men, women and children. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] The US knows in advance that bin Laden is going to Afghanistan, but does nothing to stop him. Elfatih Erwa, who, Sudan's minister of state for defense at the time, later says in an interview: “We warned [the US]. In Sudan, bin Laden and his money were under our control. But we knew that if he went to Afghanistan no one could control him. The US didn't care; they just didn't want him in Somalia. It's crazy.” [Village Voice 10/31/01; Washington Post 10/3/01]
          

June 1996

       Jamal al-Fadl, an al-Qaeda operative from al-Qaeda's first meeting in the late 1980s until 1995, tells the US everything he knows about al-Qaeda. “Before al-Fadl's debriefings, US intelligence had amassed thick files on bin Laden and his associates and contacts. But they'd had no idea how the many pieces fit together. ‘Al-Fadl was the Rosetta Stone,’ an official says. ‘After al-Fadl, everything fell into place.’ ” [The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/02, pp. 154-165] By late 1996, based largely on al-Fadl's information, the CIA finally concludes bin Laden is more of a terrorist than just a terrorist financier. They also learn the term “al-Qaeda” for the first time. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03 (B)] Yet the US will not take “bin Laden or al-Qaeda all that seriously” until after the bombing of US embassies in Africa in 1998. It takes two years two turn al-Fadl's information into the first US indictment of bin Laden (see June 8, 1998). [New York Times, 09/30/01 (B), Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B), Frontline, 9/01] One person al-Fadl describes in detail is Wali Khan Shah, one of the plotters of Operation Bojinka. US intelligence learns that Shah had al-Qaeda ties. Author Peter Lance notes US intelligence should have concluded that Shah's fellow Bojinka plotter Khalid Shaikh Mohammed also has al-Qaeda ties. But there is no new effort to find Mohammed, and he later goes on to mastermind the 9/11 attacks.
          

June 1996 (B)

       Controversial author Gerald Posner claims that bin Laden and al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida meet with senior members of Pakistan's military, including Mushaf Ali Mir, who becomes chief of Pakistan's air force in 2000. Bin Laden had moved to Afghanistan the month before, and the Pakistanis offer bin Laden protection if he allies with the Taliban. The alliance proves successful, and bin Laden calls it “blessed by the Saudis,” who are already giving money to both the Taliban and al-Qaeda. [Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner, 9/03, pp. 105-106, Time, 8/31/03] Perhaps not coincidentally, this meetings comes only one month after a deal reaffirming Saudi support for al-Qaeda (see May 1996). Bin Laden is initially based in Jalalabad, which is free of Taliban control, but after the deal he moves his base to Kandahar, which is the center of Taliban power. [Asia Times 9/17/03]
          

June 24, 1996

      
This map shows how Enron planned to connect its gas fields in Turkmenistan to its Dabhol power plant. The pipelines in blue are preexisting; the rest needed to be built.
Uzbekistan signs a deal with Enron “that could lead to joint development of the Central Asian nation's potentially rich natural gas fields.” [Houston Chronicle, 6/25/96] The $1.3 billion venture teams Enron with the state companies of Russian and Uzbekistan. [Houston Chronicle, 6/30/96] On July 8, 1996, the US government agrees to give $400 million to help Enron and an Uzbeki state company develop these natural gas fields. [Oil and Gas Journal, 7/8/96] However, the deal is later canceled when it becomes apparent a gas pipeline will not be built across Afghanistan, and there is no easy way to get the gas out of the region (see November 1993 and June 1998 (B)).
          

June 25, 1996

      
Bombing of the Khobar Towers.
Explosions destroy the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, killing 19 American soldiers and wounding 500. [CNN 6/26/96] Saudi officials later interrogate the suspects, declare them guilty, and execute them—without letting the FBI talk to them. [PBS Frontline, 2001, Irish Times, 11/19/01] Saudis blame Hezbollah, the Iranian-influenced group, but US investigators still believe bin Laden was somehow involved. [Seattle Times, 10/29/01] Bin Laden admits instigating the attacks in a 1998 interview. [Miami Herald, 9/24/01] Ironically, the bin Laden family is later awarded the contract to rebuild the installation. [New Yorker 11/5/01] In 1997, Canada catches one of the Khobar Tower attackers and extradites him to the US. But in 1999, he is shipped back to Saudi Arabia before he can reveal what he knows about al-Qaeda and the Saudis. One anonymous insider calls it, “Clinton's parting kiss to the Saudis.” [Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast 2/03] In June 2001, a US grand jury indicts 13 Saudis for the bombing. According to the indictment, Iran and Hezbollah are both involved in the attack. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03 (B)]
          

July 6 - 11 August, 1996

       US officials identify crop-dusters and suicide flights as potential terrorist weapons that could threaten the Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. They take steps to prevent any air attacks. Planes are banned from getting too close to Olympic events. During the games, Black Hawk helicopters and US Customs Service jets are deployed to intercept suspicious aircraft over the Olympic venues. Agents monitor crop-duster flights within hundreds of miles of downtown Atlanta. Armed fighter jets are placed on standby at local air bases. Flights to Atlanta get special passenger screening. Law enforcement agents also fan out to regional airports throughout northern Georgia “to make sure nobody hijacked a small aircraft and tried to attack one of the venues,” says Woody Johnson, the FBI agent in charge. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke uses this same security blanket approach to other events, referring to them as “Atlanta Rules.” [Chicago Tribune 11/18/01; Wall Street Journal 4/1/04]
          

July 7, 1996

      
Richard Perle, popularly nicknamed “The Prince ofDarkness.”
The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, an Israeli think tank, publishes a paper entitled “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm.” [Chicago Sun-Times, 3/6/03] The paper isn't much different from other Israeli right-wing papers at the time, except the authors: the lead writer is Richard Perle, now chairman of the Defense Policy Board in the US, and very influential with President Bush. Several of the other authors now hold key positions in Washington. The paper advises the new, right-wing Israeli leader Binyamin Netanyahu to make a complete break with the past by adopting a strategy “based on an entirely new intellectual foundation, one that restores strategic initiative and provides the nation the room to engage every possible energy on rebuilding Zionism … ” The first step would be the removal of Saddam Hussein in Iraq. A war with Iraq would destabilize the entire Middle East, allowing governments in Syria, Iran, Lebanon and other countries to be replaced. “Israel will not only contain its foes; it will transcend them,” the paper concludes. [Guardian, 9/3/02, see the original paper at The Institute for Advanced Strategic and Political Studies, 7/8/96] Perle will be instrumental is moving Bush's US policy towards war with Iraq (see September 17, 2001 (B)).
          

July 17, 1996

       TWA Flight 800 crashes off the coast of Long Island, New York, killing the 230 people on board. The cause of the crash is debated for a long time afterwards, and terrorism is considered a possibility. With this accident in mind, in September 1996 President Clinton requests, and Congress approves, over $1 billion in counterterrorism-related funding.
          

August 1996

       Bin Laden issues a public fatwa, or religious decree, authorizing attacks on Western military targets in the Arabian Peninsula. In previous years bin Laden was thought by some to be more of a financier of terrorist attacks than a terrorist himself, but this erases all doubts. [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02]
          

August 13, 1996

      
Route of the planned gas pipeline, and other existing pipelines.
Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia come to agreement with state companies in Turkmenistan and Russia to build a natural gas pipeline from Turkmenistan to Pakistan via Afghanistan, the agreement is finalized the next year (see October 27, 1997). [Unocal website 8/13/96] The Boston Herald later reports that, “The prime force behind Delta Oil appears to be Mohammed Hussein al-Amoudi”(see ) and that his business interests are “enmeshed” with those of Khalid bin Mahfouz (see for instance 1988). (However, a bin Mafouz family spokesperson denies that bin Mahfouzor Nimir ever had an ownership interest in the company. [Fortune, 3/17/03]) Together and separately, al-Amoudi and bin Mahfouz have reportedly become “partners with US firms in a series of ambitious oil development and pipeline projects in central and south Asia.” [Boston Herald, 12/10/01] Al-Amoudi and Mahfouz are later included in a list of financiers funding al-Qaeda (see ) put together by French investigator Jean-Charles Brisard. However, representatives of Mahfouz deny that Mahfouz has ever attended any meeting with any representatives of al-Qaeda. Mahfouz has begun libel proceedings against Mr. Brisard, claiming these allegations are unfounded and defamatory. [Kendall Freeman 5/13/2004]
          

September 5, 1996

       Terrorist Ramzi Yousef and two other defendants, Abdul Hakim Murad and Wali Khan Amin Shah, are convicted of crimes relating to Project Bojinka, a failed al-Qaeda plan Yousef devised that would have crashed 11 or 12 planes into buildings simultaneously (see January 6, 1995). [CNN, 9/5/96] Many people, including some experts, have said that Yousef was convicted on September 11, 1996 (for instance, see [A Stunning Intelligence Failure Paul Monk, 2002]), and this would explain why that date would be chosen in 2001, but that appears to be incorrect. In the nearly 6,000 page transcript of the three month Bojinka trial, there isn't a single mention of the “third plot” follow up to Bojinka that closely paralleled the 9/11 plot. Interrogations by Philippine investigator Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza had exposed the details of this plot quite clearly (see February 1995). But not only is Mendoza not called to testify, he name isn't even mentioned in the trial, not even by his assistant, who does testify. Author Peter Lance notes, “The FBI seemed to be going out of its way to avoid even a hint of the plot that was ultimately carried out on 9/11.”
          

September 11, 1996

      
WAMY logo.
An FBI investigation into two relatives of bin Laden, begun in February 1996, is closed. The FBI wanted to learn more about Abdullah bin Laden, “because of his relationship with the World Assembly of Muslim Youth [WAMY]—a suspected terrorist organization.” [Guardian, 11/7/01] Abdullah was the US director of WAMY and lived with his brother Omar in Falls Church, Virginia, a town just outside Washington. The coding on the document, marked secret, indicates the case involved espionage, murder, and national security. WAMY has its offices at 5613 Leesburg Pike. Remarkably, it is later determined that four of the 9/11 hijackers lived at 5913 Leesburg Pike at the same time the two bin Laden brothers were there. WAMY has not been put on a list of terrorist organizations in the US, but it has been banned in Pakistan. [BBC Newsnight, 11/6/01, Guardian, 11/7/01, see related leaked documents here ] The Indian and Philippine governments have also cited WAMY for funding terrorism. “WAMY was involved in terrorist-support activity,” says a security official who served under George W. Bush. “There's no doubt about it.” [Vanity Fair, 10/03] A high-placed intelligence official tells the Guardian: “There were always constraints on investigating the Saudis. There were particular investigations that were effectively killed.”[Guardian, 11/7/01] An unnamed US source says to the BBC, “There is a hidden agenda at the very highest levels of our government.” [BBC Newsnight 11/6/01] The Bosnian government later says a charity with Abdullah bin Laden on its board had channeled money to Chechen guerrillas (see also September 20, 2002 (C)), something that “is only possible because the Clinton CIA gave the wink and nod to WAMY and other groups who were aiding Bosnian guerrillas when they were fighting Serbia, a US-approved enemy.” The investigation into WAMY is only restarted two days after 9/11, around the same time these bin Ladens leave the US (see September 14-19, 2001). [ Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03Best Democracy Money Can Buy, by Greg Palast, 2/03] (Note that this Abdullah bin Laden is possibly bin Laden's cousin, not brother, and is apparently not the same as the Abdullah bin Laden who serves as the bin Laden family spokesman. [Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Greg Palast 2/03]
          

September 11, 1996 (B)

       The Egyptian government issues an arrest warrant for bin Laden, the first in the world (see also April 15, 1998).
          

September 27, 1996

       The Taliban conquer Kabul [AP, 8/19/02], establishing control over much of Afghanistan. A surge in the Taliban's military successes at this time is later attributed to an increase in direct military assistance from Pakistan's ISI. [New York Times 12/8/01] The oil company Unocal is hopeful that the Taliban will stabilize Afghanistan and allow its pipeline plans to go forward. In fact, “preliminary agreement [on the pipeline] was reached between the [Taliban and Unocal] long before the fall of Kabul…. Oil industry insiders say the dream of securing a pipeline across Afghanistan is the main reason why Pakistan, a close political ally of America's, has been so supportive of the Taliban, and why America has quietly acquiesced in its conquest of Afghanistan.” [Telegraph 10/11/96] The 9/11 Commission later concludes that some State Department diplomats are willing to “give the Taliban a chance” because it might be able to bring stability to Afghanistan, which would allow a Unocal oil pipeline to be built through the country. [9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04]
          

October 1996 (B)

       US intelligence learn of an Iranian plot to hijack a Japanese plane over Israel and crash it into Tel Aviv. While the plot was never carried out, it is one more example of intelligence agencies being aware that planes could be used as suicide weapons. [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02]
          

October 1996

      
Victor Bout, taken from a passport photo.
Since 1992, Russian arms merchant Victor Bout has been selling weapons to Afghanistan's Northern Alliance, but this month he switches sides and begins selling weapons to the Taliban and al-Qaeda instead (see also Mid-1996-October 2001). [Guardian, 4/17/02, Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02, Los Angeles Times, 5/17/02] The deal comes immediately after the Taliban captures Kabul and gains the upper hand in Afghanistan's civil war (see September 27, 1996). Bout formerly worked for the Russian KGB, and operates the world's largest private weapons transport network. Based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bout operates freely there until well after 9/11. The US becomes aware of Bout's widespread illegal weapons trading in Africa in 1995, and of his ties to the Taliban in 1996, but they fail to take effective action against him for years. [Los Angeles Times, 5/17/02] US pressure on the UAE in November 2000 to close down Bout's operations there is ignored. Press reports calling him “the merchant of death” also fail to pressure the UAE (for instance, [Financial Times, 6/10/00, Guardian, 12/23/00]). After President Bush is elected, it appears the US gives up trying to get Bout, until after 9/11. [Washington Post 2/26/02; Guardian 4/17/02] In one trade in 1996, Bout's company delivers at least 40 tons of Russian weapons to the Taliban, earning about $50 million. [Guardian 2/16/02] Two intelligence agencies later confirm that Bout trades with the Taliban “on behalf of the Pakistan government.” In late 2000, several Ukrainians sell 150 to 200 T-55 and T-62 tanks to the Taliban in a deal conducted by the ISI, and Bout helps fly the tanks to Afghanistan. [Montreal Gazette 2/5/02] Bout moves to Russia in 2002. He is seemingly protected from prosecution by the Russian government, which in early 2002 claimed, “There are no grounds for believing that this Russian citizen has committed illegal acts.” [Guardian 4/17/02] The Guardian suggests that Bout may have worked with the CIA when he traded with the Northern Alliance, and this fact may be hampering current international efforts to catch him. [Guardian 4/17/02]
          

October 11, 1996

       The Telegraph publishes an interesting article about pipeline politics in Afghanistan. Some quotes: “Behind the tribal clashes that have scarred Afghanistan lies one of the great prizes of the 21st century, the fabulous energy reserves of Central Asia.” “ ‘The deposits are huge,’ said a diplomat from the region. ‘Kazakhstan alone may have more oil than Saudi Arabia. Turkmenistan is already known to have the fifth largest gas reserves in the world.’ ” [Telegraph 10/11/96]
          

Late 1996

       After moving the base of his operations to Afghanistan, bin Laden quickly establishes and maintains a major role in the opium drug trade. The money from opium is vital to keep the Taliban in power and fund bin Laden's terrorist network. Yoseff Bodansky, director of the congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare and author of a 1999 biography on bin Laden, says bin Laden takes a 15 percent cut of the drug trade money in exchange for protecting smugglers and laundering their profits. [Star Tribune, 9/30/01] A different estimate has bin Laden taking a cut of up to 10 percent of Afghanistan's drug trade by early 1999. This would give him a yearly income of up to $1 billion out of $6.5 to $10 billion in drug profits seen within Afghanistan each year. [Financial Times 11/28/01]
          

1997

       While the State Department listed bin Laden as a financier of terror in its 1996 survey of terrorism, al-Qaeda is not included on the 1997 official US list of terrorist organizations subject to various sanctions. They are finally listed in 1998. [New York Times 12/30/01]
          

1997-July 2001

       Hijacker Hani Hanjour begins associating with an unnamed individual who is later mentioned in FBI agent Ken Williams' famous flight school memo (see July 10, 2001). Hanjour and this person train at flight schools in Arizona. Several flight instructors later note the two were associates and may have carpooled together. They are known to share the same airplane on one occasion in 1999, and are at the school together on other occasions. This individual leaves the US in April 2000. In May 2001, the FBI attempts to investigate this person, but after finding out the person is out of the country the decision is made to not open a formal investigation. The name of this person is not placed on a watch list, so the FBI is unaware that the person returns in June and stays in the US for another month. By this time, this person is an experienced flight instructor who is certified to fly Boeing 737s. The FBI speculates the person may return to evaluate Hanjour's flying skills or provide final training before 9/11. There is considerable circumstantial evidence placing this person near Hanjour during this month. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

1997 (B)

       Special CIA paramilitary teams start entering Afghanistan in this year. [Washington Post, 11/18/01] Around 1998 there is 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 are close to bin Laden. This problem is not fixed in succeeding years. [Washington Post 2/22/04; 9/11 Commission 3/24/04 (C)]
          

1997 (C)

       FBI headquarters is concerned that an unnamed terrorist group would possibly use an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for terrorist attacks. The FBI and CIA become aware that this group had purchased a UAV. At the time, the agencies believed that the only reason to use this UAV would be for either reconnaissance or attack. There was more concern about the possibility of an attack outside the United States, for example, by flying a UAV into a US Embassy or a visiting US delegation. [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02]
          

1997 or 1998

       The Spanish newspaper El Mundo later reports, “According to several professors at the Valencia School of Medicine, some of whom are forensic experts, [Atta] was a student there in 1997 or 1998. Although he used another name then, they remember his face among the students that attended anatomy classes.” It is also suggested that “years before, as a student he went to Tarragona. That would explain his last visit to Salou [(see July 8-19, 2001)], where he could have made contact with dormant cells… ” [El Mundo 9/30/01] If this is true, it would contradict Atta's presence as a student in Hamburg, Germany during this entire period. But there are other accounts of Atta seemingly being in two places at once (see 1998-2000, September 1999, Late April-Mid-May 2000, and Spring 2000).
          

January 20, 1997

       Bill Clinton is re-inaugurated as President. An extensive set of security measures to prevent airplanes as weapons crashing into the inauguration is used. These measures, first used in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and thus referred to as the “Atlanta Rules” (see July 6-August 11, 1996), includes the closing of nearby airspace, intercept helicopters, the basing of armed fighters nearby, and more. This plan will later be used for the 1999 North Atlantic Treaty Organization's 50th anniversary celebration in Washington, the 2000 Republican convention in Philadelphia, the 2000 Democratic convention in New York, and the Bush Jr. inauguration in 2001 (see January 21, 2001). [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, pp. 110-111, Wall Street Journal, 4/1/04] At some point near the end of the Clinton administration, the Secret Service and Customs Service agree to create a permanent air defense unit to protect Washington. However, these agencies are part of the Treasury Department, and the leadership there refuses to fund the idea. The permanent unit is not created until after 9/11. [Wall Street Journal 4/1/04]
          

February 12, 1997

       The White House Commission on Aviation Safety and Security, led by Vice President Gore, issues its final report. [Gore Commission 2/12/97] But the report has little practical effect: “Federal bureaucracy and airline lobbying slowed and weakened a set of safety improvements recommended by a presidential commission—including one that a top airline industry official now says might have prevented the Sept. 11 terror attacks.” [Los Angeles Times 10/6/01]
          

March 1997

      
Mohammed Haydar Zammar.
An investigation of al-Qaeda contacts in Hamburg by the Constitutional Protection Agency, Germany's domestic intelligence service, begins at least by this time (Germany won't give details) . [New York Times, 1/18/03] Telephone intercepts show that a German investigation into Mohammed Haydar Zammar (see November 1, 1998-February 2001 and October 27, 2001) is taking place this month. It is later believed that Zammar, a German of Syrian origin, is a part of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/14/03] He supposedly later claims he recruited Atta and others into the cell. [Washington Post, 6/19/02] A decade earlier, Germany authorities already identified Zammar as a militant. [New York Times, 1/18/03] From 1995-2000, he makes frequent trips to Afghanistan. [New York Times, 1/18/03, Stern, 8/13/03] German intelligence is aware that he was personally invited to Afghanistan by bin Laden. [FAZ, 2/2/03] Spanish investigators later say Zammar is a longtime associate of Barakat Yarkas, the alleged boss of the al-Qaeda cell in Madrid, Spain (see August 27, 2001). In 1998, Germany is given more evidence of his terror ties, and surveillance intensifies. He is periodically trailed, and all his calls are recorded (see Summer 1999). [Stern, 8/13/03] It's not clear if or when the investigation ends, but it continues until at least September 1999 (see September 21, 1999). [AP 6/22/02]
          

April 24, 1997

       A package containing a petri dish mislabeled “anthracks” is received at the B'nai B'rith headquarters in Washington, DC. “The choice of B'nai B'rith probably was meant to suggest Arab terrorists, because the building had once been the target of an assault by Muslim gunmen.” The dish did not contain anthrax but did contain bacillus cereus, a very close, non-toxic cousin of anthrax used by the US Defense Department. There are similarities to the later real anthrax attacks (see October 4, 2001), such as the misspelling “penacilin”. In July 2002, B'nai B'rith claims the FBI still hasn't asked them about this hoax anthrax attack. [New York Times 7/12/02]
          

May 26, 1997

       The Saudi government extends formal recognition of the Taliban government of Afghanistan. They are the first country to do so. Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates also eventually recognize the Taliban, and these three are still the ones officially recognizing them on 9/11. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] The Saudi Arabian and Pakistani governments are later suspected of involvement in 9/11, and the United Arab Emirates is the financial conduit for many of the money transfers in the operation.
          

June 3, 1997

      
William Kristol, one of the founders and leaders of PNAC.
The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), a neoconservative think tank formed in the spring of 1997, issues its statement of principles. PNAC's stated aims: “to shape a new century favorable to American principles and interests,” to achieve “a foreign policy that boldly and purposefully promotes American principles abroad,” “to increase defense spending significantly,” to challenge “regimes hostile to US interests and values,” and to “accept America's unique role in preserving and extending an international order friendly to our security, our prosperity, and our principles.” [PNAC Principles, 6/3/97] These principles matter because they are signed by a group who will become “a roll call of today's Bush inner circle.” [Guardian, 2/26/03] ABC's Ted Koppel will later say PNAC's ideas have “been called a secret blueprint for US global domination” (see also January 26, 1998, September 2000, August 21, 2001 (B)). [ABC News 3/5/03 (B)]
          

August 1997

       The CIA creates a secret task force to monitor Central Asia's politics and gauge its wealth. Covert CIA officers, some well-trained petroleum engineers, travel through southern Russia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan to sniff out potential oil reserves. [Time 5/4/98]
          

October 1997

      
Zbigniew Brzezinski.
Former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski (see December 26, 1979) publishes a book in which he portrays the Eurasian landmass as the key to world power, and Central Asia with its vast oil reserves as the key to domination of Eurasia. He states that for the US to maintain its global primacy, it must prevent any possible adversary from controlling that region. He notes that, “The attitude of the American public toward the external projection of American power has been much more ambivalent. The public supported America's engagement in World War II largely because of the shock effect of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.” Furthermore, because of popular resistance to US military expansionism, his ambitious Central Asian strategy could not be implemented “except in the circumstance of a truly massive and widely perceived direct external threat.” [The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy and its Geostrategic Imperatives]
          

October 27, 1997

       Halliburton, a company with future Vice President Cheney as CEO, announces a new agreement to provide technical services and drilling for Turkmenistan, a country in Central Asia. The press release also mentions that “Halliburton has been providing a variety of services in Turkmenistan for the past five years.” On the same day, a consortium to build a pipeline through Afghanistan is formed. It's called CentGas, and the two main partners are Unocal and Delta Oil of Saudi Arabia. [Halliburton press release 10/27/97; CentGas press release 10/27/97]
          

November 26, 1997

       An industry newsletter reports that Saudi Arabia has abandoned plans to have open bids on a $2 billion power plant near Mecca, deciding that the government will build it instead. What's interesting is that one of the bids was made by a consortium of Enron, the Saudi Binladen Group (run by Osama's family),and Italy's Ansaldo Energia. [Alexander's Gas and Oil Connections 1/22/98]
          

December 1997

      
Abdallah al-Thani
CIA agent Robert Baer (see also August 2001 (G) and January 23, 2002), newly retired from the CIA and working as a terrorism consultant, meets a former police chief from the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar. He learns how 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was sheltered from the FBI by the Qatari Interior Minister Abdallah bin Khalid al-Thani (see January-May 1996). He passes this information to the CIA in early 1998, but the CIA takes no action against Qatar's al-Qaeda patrons. The ex-police chief also tells him that Mohammed is a key aide to bin Laden, and that based on Qatari intelligence, Mohammed “is going to hijack some planes.” He passes this information to the CIA as well, but again the CIA doesn't seem interested, even when he tries again after 9/11. [UPI 9/30/02; Vanity Fair 2/02; See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism Robert Baer 2/02 pp. 270-271] Baer also tries to interest reporter Daniel Pearl in a story about Mohammed before 9/11, but Pearl is still working on it when he gets kidnapped and murdered (see December 24, 2001-January 23, 2002). [UPI 9/30/02] The ex-police chief later disappears, presumably kidnapped by Qatar. It has been speculated that the CIA turned on the source to protect its relationship with the Qatari government. [ Breakdown: How America's Intelligence Failures Led to September 11, Bill Gertz, pp. 55-58Breakdown: How America's Intelligence Failures Led to September 11, Bill Gertz, pp. 55-58] It appears bin Laden visits Abdallah al-Thani in Qatar between the years 1996 and 2000. [ABC News, 2/7/03] Al-Thani continues to support al-Qaeda, providing Qatari passports and more than $1 million in funds. Even after 9/11, Mohammed is provided shelter in Qatar for two weeks in late 2001. [New York Times, 2/6/03] Yet the US still has not frozen al-Thani's assets or taken other action. Could the US have captured bin Laden if they paid more attention to Robert Baer's information?
          

December 4, 1997

       Representatives of the Taliban are invited guests to the Texas headquarters of Unocal to negotiate their support for the pipeline. Future President Bush Jr. is Governor of Texas at the time. The Taliban appear to agree to a $2 billion pipeline deal, but will do the deal only if the US officially recognizes the Taliban regime. The Taliban meet with US officials, and the Telegraph reports that “the US government, which in the past has branded the Taliban's policies against women and children ‘despicable,’ appears anxious to please the fundamentalists to clinch the lucrative pipeline contract.” A BBC regional correspondent says “the proposal to build a pipeline across Afghanistan is part of an international scramble to profit from developing the rich energy resources of the Caspian Sea.” [BBC, 12/4/97, Telegraph, 12/14/97] [FTW]
          

December 14, 1997

       It is reported that Unocal has hired the University of Nebraska to train 400 Afghani teachers, electricians, carpenters and pipefitters in anticipation of using them for their pipeline in Afghanistan. 150 students are already attending classes. [Telegraph 12/14/97]
          

1998 (D)

       A military report released this year describes a program called “Joint Vision 2010”, a series of “analyses, wargames, studies, experiments, and exercises” which are “investigating new operational concepts, doctrines, and organizational approaches that will enable US forces to maintain full spectrum dominance of the battlespace well into the 21st century.” “The Air Force has begun a series of wargames entitled Global Engagement at the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.” The same article mentions that the military is working on a “variety of new imaging and signals intelligence sensors, currently in advanced stages of development, deployed aboard the Global Hawk, DarkStar, and Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)… ” [Department of Defense Annual Report, 1998] What is the relevance of this? It may be complete coincidence, but “Air Force spokesman Col. Ken McClellan said a man named Mohamed Atta—which the FBI has identified as one of the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11—had once attended the International Officer's School at Maxwell/Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.” [Gannett News Service, 9/17/01] Global Hawk is a technology that enables pilotless flight and has been functioning since at least early 1997. [Department of Defense, 2/20/97] Some have claimed that Global Hawk technology was used to manipulate events on 9/11. Could Atta have taken part in wargames involving Global Hawk (see September 25, 2001)?
          

Mid-August 1998

       President Clinton signs a Memorandum of Notification authorizing the CIA to plan an assassination of bin Laden. The CIA draw up detailed profiles of bin Laden's daily routines, where he sleeps, and his travel arrangements. The assassination never happens, supposedly because of inadequate intelligence. But, as one officer later says, “you can keep setting the bar higher and higher, so that nothing ever gets done.” An officer who helped draw up the plans says, “We were ready to move” but “we were not allowed to do it because of this stubborn policy of risk avoidance… It is a disgrace.” [Philadelphia Inquirer 9/16/01] Additional memorandums quickly follow that authorize the assassination of less than ten other al-Qaeda leaders, and authorize the shooting down of private aircraft containing bin Laden. [Washington Post, 12/19/01] “These directives [lead] to nothing.” [New Yorker 7/28/03]
          

Early 1998

       Bill Richardson, the US Ambassador to the UN, meets Taliban officials in Kabul (all such meetings are technically illegal, because the US still officially recognizes the government the Taliban ousted as the legitimate rulers of Afghanistan). US officials at the time call the oil and gas pipeline project a “fabulous opportunity” and are especially motivated by the “prospect of circumventing Iran, which offered another route for the pipeline.” [Boston Globe 9/20/01]
          

1998 (G)

       Antoine Sfeir, a French Arab specialist, later claims that bin Laden was a CIA asset in the 1980s, and that the CIA maintains contact with bin Laden until this year. He says, “Those contacts didn't end after bin Laden moved to Afghanistan”(see May 18, 1996). He isn't surprised by reports of bin Laden meeting with the CIA in July 2001 (see July 12, 2001) because, “Until the last minute, CIA agents hoped bin Laden would return to US command, as was the case before 1998.” [UPI, 11/1/01] The CIA denies ever having any kind of relationship with bin Laden (see 1986).
          

1998-2000

       Hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi live periodically in the town of Mabalacat, Philippines. They stay in the Woodland Resort hotel and apparently learn to fly planes at a nearby flight school. Philippine and US investigators have looked into these visits but haven't confirmed the hijackers' presence there. Locals, however, are certain they saw them frequently partying, drinking alcohol, sleeping with local women, and consorting with many other, unknown Arabs (most of whom disappear shortly before 9/11). For instance, according to a former waitress at the hotel, Alshehhi throws a party in December 1999 with six or seven Arab friends: “They rented the open area by the swimming pool for 1,000 pesos. They drank Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey … They came in big vehicles, and they had a lot of money. They all had girlfriends.” Several employees recall Atta staying at the hotel during the summer of 1999, acting unfriendly and cheap. One hotel employee claims that most of the guests were Arab, and many took flying lessons at the nearby school. These witnesses claim the two used aliases, but the other Arabs referred to Atta as “Mohamed.” [Manila Times, 10/2/01, International Herald Tribune, 10/5/01, AP, 9/28/01] Apparently, other hijackers and 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed visit the Philippines during this time (see Early 1994-January 1995and 2000-September 10, 2001). However, according to the official version of events, Atta and Alshehhi are in Hamburg, Germany during this time. Atta is still working on his thesis, which he completes in late 1999. [Australian Broadcasting Corp. 11/12/01]
          

1998 (B)

       It is later revealed by Uzbekistan that Uzbekistan and the US have been conducting joint covert operations against Afghanistan's Taliban regime and bin Laden since at least before this year. [Times of India 10/14/01; Washington Post 10/14/01]
          

1998 (H)

       Hendropriyono, the Indonesian chief of intelligence, claims in 2003 that, “We had intelligence predicting the September 11 attacks three years before it happened but nobody believed us.” He says Indonesian intelligence agents identify bin Laden as the leader of the group plotting the attack and that the US disregards the warning, but otherwise offers no additional details. The Associated Press notes, “Indonesia's intelligence services are not renowned for their accuracy.” [AP 7/9/03 (C)]
          

Mid-August 1998-January 2001

       Within days of the US embassy bombings (see August 8, 1998), the US permanently stations two submarines in the Indian Ocean, ready to hit al-Qaeda with cruise missiles on short notice. Missile are fired from these subs later in the month in a failed attempt to assassinate bin Laden (see August 20, 1998). Six to ten hours advance warning is now needed to review the decision, program the cruise missiles and have them reach their target. On at least three other occasions, spies in Afghanistan report bin Laden's location with information suggesting he would remain there for some time. Each time, Clinton approves the strike. Each time, CIA Director Tenet says the information is not reliable enough and the attack cannot go forward. [Washington Post, 12/19/01, New York Times, 12/30/01] The submarines are removed shortly after President Bush takes office (see ).
          

1998

       According to later closed session congressional testimony by the heads of the CIA, FBI and NSA, al-Qaeda begins planning the 9/11 attacks in this year. [USA Today, 6/18/02] In a June 2002 interview, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed also says the planning for the attacks begin at this time. [AP, 9/8/02] But it appears the targeting of the WTC and pilot training began even earlier. An al-Qaeda operative in Spain will later be found with videos filmed in 1997 of major US structures (including “innumerable takes from all distances and angles” of the WTC). There are numerous connections between Spain and the 9/11 hijackers, including an important meeting there in July 2001 (see July 8-19, 2001). [AP, 7/17/02] Hijacker Waleed Alshehri was living in Florida since 1995, started training for his commercial pilot training degree in 1996, and got his license in 1997. [Sunday Herald 9/16/01; Boston Globe 9/14/01] So the attack was probably planned even earlier, but the earlier it was planned, the worse the US looks for not catching it.
          

1998 (C)

       In response to the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am 747 over Scotland, the FAA creates “red teams” —small, secretive teams traveling to airports and attempting to foil their security systems. “In 1998, the red team completed extensive testing of screening checkpoints at a large number of domestic airports… ” “We were successful in getting major weapons — guns and bombs— through screening checkpoints with relative ease, at least 85 percent of the time in most cases. At one airport, we had a 97 percent success rate in breaching the screening checkpoint.” “The individuals who occupied the highest seats of authority in FAA were fully aware of this highly vulnerable state of aviation security and did nothing.” [New York Times, 2/27/02] In 1999, the New York Port Authority and major airlines at Boston's Logan Airport—used twice on 9/11— “were fined a total of $178,000 for at least 136 security violations over the previous two years. In the majority of incidents, screeners hired by the airlines for checkpoints in terminals routinely failed to detect test items, such as pipe bombs and guns.” [AP, 9/12/01 (C)] Did the terrorists know which airports were most vulnerable, and take advantage of that knowledge?
          

1998 (F)

      
Aukai Collins
An American Muslim named Aukai Collins later says he reports to the FBI about hijacker Hani Hanjour for six months this year. [AP, 5/24/02] The FBI later acknowledges they paid Collins to monitor the Islamic and Arab communities in Phoenix between 1996 and 1999. [AP, 5/24/02, ABC News, 5/23/02] Collins claims that he is a casual acquaintance of hijacker Hani Hanjour while Hanjour is taking flying lessons. [AP, 5/24/02] Collins sees nothing suspicious about Hanjour as an individual, but he tells the FBI about him because Hanjour appears to be part of a larger, organized group of Arabs taking flying lessons. [Fox News 5/24/02] He says the FBI “knew everything about the guy,” including his exact address, phone number and even what car he drove. The FBI denies Collins told them anything about Hanjour, and denies knowing about Hanjour before 9/11. [ABC News 5/23/02] Collins later calls Hanjour a “hanky panky” hijacker: “He wasn't even moderately religious, let alone fanatically religious. And I knew for a fact that he wasn't part of al-Qaeda or any other Islamic organization; he couldn't even spell jihad in Arabic.” [My Jihad: The True Story of an American Mujahid's Amazing Journey from Usama Bin Laden's Training Camps to Counterterrorism with the FBI and CIA Aukai Collins 6/02 p. 248]
          

1998 (E)

       A son of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, the al-Qaeda leader convicted in 1995 of conspiring to blow up tunnels and other New York City landmarks, is heard to say that the best way to free his father from a US prison might be to hijack an American plane and exchange the hostages. This is supposedly the most recent concrete hijacking report Bush hears in his August 2001 briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US”(see August 6, 2001). [Washington Post 5/18/02 (B)]
          

January 26, 1998

      
PNAC logo.
The Project for the New American Century (PNAC), an influential neoconservative think tank, publishes a letter to President Clinton, urging war against Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein because he is a “hazard” to “a significant portion of the world's supply of oil.” In a foretaste of what eventually actually happens, the letter calls for the US to go to war alone, attacks the United Nations, and says the US should not be “crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.” The letter is signed by many who will later lead the 2003 Iraq war. 10 of the 18 signatories later join the Bush Administration, including (future) Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, Assistant Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Undersecretaries of State John Bolton and Paula Dobriansky, presidential adviser for the Middle East Elliott Abrams, and Bush's special Iraq envoy Zalmay Khalilzad (see also June 3, 1997, and September 2000). [Sunday Herald, 3/16/03, PNAC Letter, 1/26/98] Clinton does heavily bomb Iraq in late 1998, but the bombing doesn't last long and its long-term effect is the break off of United Nations weapons inspections. [New York Times 3/22/03]
          

February 12, 1998

       Unocal Vice President John J. Maresca—later to become a Special Ambassador to Afghanistan—testifies before the House of Representatives that until a single, unified, friendly government is in place in Afghanistan the trans-Afghani pipeline will not be built. He suggests that with a pipeline through Afghanistan, the Caspian basin could produce 20 percent of all the non-OPEC oil in the world by 2010. [House International Relations Committee testimony, 2/12/98] [FTW]
          

February 22, 1998

       Bin Laden issues a fatwa, declaring it the religious duty of all Muslims “to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military … in any country in which it is possible.” [PBS Frontline, 2001, Sunday Herald, 9/16/01, complete text of the fatwa from al-Quds al-Arabi, 2/23/98] This is an expansion of an earlier fatwa issued in August 1996 (see August 1996).
          

April 1998

       Osama Basnan, a Saudi living in California, later claims that he writes a letter at this time to Saudi Arabian Prince Bandar bin Sultan and his wife, Princess Haifa bint Faisal, asking for financial help because his wife needs thyroid surgery. The Saudi embassy sends Basnan $15,000 and pays the surgical bill. However, University of California at San Diego hospital records say Basnan's wife, Majeda Dweikat, isn't treated until April 2000. [Los Angeles Times 11/24/02] Basnan will later come under investigation for possibly using some of this money to support two of the 9/11 hijackers who arrive in San Diego (see December 4, 1999 and November 22, 2002). Prior to this time, the FBI had several chances to investigate Basnan, but failed to do so. In 1992 they received information suggesting a connection between him and a terror group later associated with bin Laden. In 1993, they received reports that Basnan hosted a party for terrorist leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990) the year before, but again they failed to investigate. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] According to one US official, at a party shortly after 9/11, Basnan “celebrate[s] the heroes of September 11” and talks about “what a wonderful, glorious day it had been.” [Newsweek 12/24/02; San Diego Magazine 9/03]
          

Spring 1998

       Sources who know bin Laden later claim that bin Laden's mother has the first of two meetings with her son in Afghanistan. This trip was arranged by Prince Turki al-Faisal, then the head of Saudi intelligence. Turki was in charge of the “Afghanistan file” for Saudi Arabia, and had long-standing ties to bin Laden and the Taliban (see Early 1980). [New Yorker 11/5/01]
          

April 15, 1998

      
Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi.
The first Interpol (international police) arrest warrant for bin Laden is issued by, of all countries, Libya. [Observer 11/10/02] According to Jean-Charles Brisard and Guillaume Dasquié, authors of the controversial book The Forbidden Truth, British and US intelligence agencies play down the arrest warrant, and have the public version of the warrant stripped of important information, such as the summary of charges and the fact that Libya requested the warrant. At this point, no Western country has yet issued a warrant for bin Laden, even though he publicly called for attacks on Western targets beginning in 1996 (see August 1996). The arrest warrant is issued for the murder in 1994 of two German anti-terrorism agents. Supposedly, Britain and the US aren't interested in catching bin Laden at this time due to his involvement with Britain in attempts to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Mu'ammar al-Qadhafi (see 1996 and November 5, 2002).
          

May 1998

       The FBI issues a strategic, five-year plan that designates national and economic security, including counterterrorism, as its top priority for the first time. However, it is later determined that neither personnel nor resources are shifted accordingly. FBI counterterrorism spending remains constant from this point until 9/11. Only about 6 percent of the FBI's agent work force is assigned to counterterrorism on 9/11 (see also Before September 11, 2001 (D)). [9/11 Commission Report 4/13/04; New York Times 4/18/04]
          

After May 15, 1998

       At some point in 1998 after an Oklahoma City FBI office warning about possible terrorists training at US flight schools (see May 18, 1998), the FBI receives reports that a terrorist organization might be planning to bring students to the US for flight training. [New York Daily News, 9/25/02] The FBI is aware that people connected to this unnamed organization had performed surveillance and security tests at airports in the US and had made comments suggesting an intention to target civil aviation. Apparently this warning is not shared with other FBI offices or the FAA, and a connection with the Oklahoma warning is not made; a similar warning follows in 1999 (see 1999 (L)). [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03 (B)]
          

May 18, 1998

       An FBI pilot sends his supervisor in the Oklahoma City FBI office a memo warning that he has observed “large numbers of Middle Eastern males receiving flight training at Oklahoma airports in recent months.” The memo, titled “Weapons of Mass Destruction,” further states this “may be related to planned terrorist activity” and speculates that “light planes would be an ideal means of spreading chemicals or biological agents.” The memo doesn't call for an investigation, and none is done. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B), NewsOK, 5/29/02, see the memo here] The memo is “sent to the bureau's Weapons of Mass Destruction unit and forgotten.” [New York Daily News 9/25/02] In 1999 it is learned that an al-Qaeda agent had studied flight training in Norman, Oklahoma (see September 1999 (E)). Hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi briefly visit the same school in 2000; Zacarias Moussaoui does study at the school in 2001 (see February 23, 2001 and August 23, 2001 (E)).
          

May 22, 1998

       President Clinton creates the new post of National Coordinator for Counterterrorism. He names Richard Clarke for the job, and Clarke soon becomes known as the counterterrorism “tsar.” [Washington Post, 4/20/00] This is outlined in a new presidential directive on counterterrorism that also outlines goals in fighting terrorism and attempts to strengthen interagency coordination of the terrorism issue. [9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04 (D)]
          

May 26, 1998

       In a press conference from Afghanistan, bin Laden discusses “bringing the war home to America.” [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02] He indicates the results of his jihad will be “visible” within weeks. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03 (B)]
          
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