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Incompetence, bad luck, obstr. of justice

 
  

Project: Complete 911 Timeline

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Showing 1-100 of 367 events (use filters to narrow search):    next 100

1984-1994

       The US, through USAID and the University of Nebraska, spends millions of dollars developing and printing textbooks for Afghan schoolchildren. The textbooks are filled with violent images and militant Islamic teachings, part of covert attempts to spur resistance to the Soviet occupation. For instance, children are taught to count with illustrations showing tanks, missiles and land mines. Lacking any alternative, millions of these textbooks are used long after 1994; the Taliban are still using them in 2001. In 2002, the US started producing less violent versions of the same books, which Bush says will have “respect for human dignity, instead of indoctrinating students with fanaticism and bigotry.” Bush fails to mention who created those earlier books. [Washington Post, 3/23/02, CBC, 5/6/02] Since the war with Russia ended in 1989, why did the US keep promoting Islamic radicalism another five years?
          

March 1985

      
in 1989.
The US decides to escalate the war in Afghanistan. The CIA, British MI6 and the ISI agree to launch guerrilla attacks from Afghanistan into then Soviet-controlled Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, attacking military installations, factories and storage depots within Soviet territory until the end of the war. The CIA also begins supporting the ISI in recruiting radical Muslims from around the world to come to Pakistan and fight with the Afghan mujaheddin. The CIA gives subversive literature and Korans to the ISI, who carry them into the Soviet Union. Eventually, around 35,000 Muslim radicals from 43 Islamic countries will fight with the Afghan mujaheddin. Tens of thousands more will study in the hundreds of new madrassas funded by the ISI and CIA in Pakistan. Their main logistical base is in the Pakistani city of Peshawar. [Washington Post, 7/19/92, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/01, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/23/01, The Hindu, 9/27/01, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Ahmed Rashid, 3/01] In the late 1980s, Pakistan's President Benazir Bhutto, feeling the mujaheddin network has grown too strong, tells President George Bush Sr., “You are creating a Frankenstein.”But the warning goes unheeded. [Newsweek, 9/24/01] By 1993, the President of Pakistan tells Egyptian President Hasni Mubarak that Peshawar is under de facto control of the mujaheddin, and unsuccessfully asks for military help in reasserting Pakistani control over the city. Thousands of mujaheddin fighters return to their home countries after the war is over, and engage in countless acts of terrorism. One Western diplomat notes these thousands would never have been trained or united without US help, and says “The consequences for all of us are astronomical.” [Atlantic Monthly 5/96]
          

September 1987-March 1989

       Michael Springman, the head US consular official in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, later claims that he is “repeatedly told to issue visas to unqualified applicants.” He turns them down, but is repeatedly overruled by superiors. Springman loudly complains about the practice to numerous government offices, but no action is taken. He eventually is fired and the files he has kept on these applicants are destroyed. Springmann speculates that the issuing of visas to radical Islamic fighters continued until 9/11. He says he later learns that recruits from many countries fighting for bin Laden against Russia in Afghanistan were funneled through the Jeddah office to get visas to come to the US. They would then train for the Afghan war in the US. He says the Jeddah consulate was run by the CIA and staffed almost entirely by intelligence agents. Springmann suggests that this visa system may have continued until present day, and that the 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers getting their visas through Jeddah (see May 21, 2002 (C)) could have been a part of it (see also October 21, 2002 and October 23, 2002). [BBC 11/6/01; AP 7/17/02 (B); Fox News 7/18/02]
          

1989-May 2000

       Nabil al-Marabh moves to Boston in 1989 and apparently lives there as a taxi driver and al-Qaeda sleeper agent for the next ten years. [New York Times, 9/18/01, Boston Herald, 9/19/01] In 1992 he learns to use weapons in an Afghan al-Qaeda training camp with a terrorist named Raed Hijazi. [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/5/02] He and Hijazi live together and drive taxis at the same company in Boston for several years. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/01] A mutual friend at the same taxi company is later killed participating in a 1999 al-Qaeda terrorist attack. [Boston Herald, 9/19/01] Hijazi helps plan the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), and then participates in a failed attempt to bomb a hotel in Jordan (see November 30, 1999). In May 1999, the FBI approaches al-Marabh looking for Hijazi, but al-Marabh lies and says he doesn't know Hijazi. [Washington Post, 9/4/02] Hijazi is arrested in Syria in October 2000 and imprisoned in Jordan for his bomb attempt there. [Toronto Sun, 10/16/01] He begins to cooperate with investigators and identifies al-Marabh as a US al-Qaeda operative. [New York Times, 9/18/01] Terrorist Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999) gives evidence helping to prove that al-Marabh sent money to Hijazi for the Jordan bombing. [Toronto Sun, 11/16/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] By February 1999, al-Marabh is driving taxis in Tampa, Florida while maintaining a cover of living in Boston. [Toronto Star, 10/26/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] [New York Times, 9/18/01] He apparently lives in Tampa at least part time until February 2000; investigators later wonder if he is an advance man for the Florida-based hijackers. [New York Times, 9/18/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] Al-Marabh is living in Detroit by May 2000, though he maintains a Boston address until September 2000 (see May 30, 2000-September 11, 2001 ). [Boston Herald, 9/19/01] These connections with Hijazi lead to a US Customs investigation into al-Marabh in early 2001 that connects him with two of the 9/11 hijackers (see Spring 2001 (B)). Despite all of these al-Qaeda connections and more, the US later decides there is no evidence that al-Marabh is a terrorist and deports him to Syria (see September 19, 2001-September 3, 2002, Late 2002, and January 2004).
          

July 1990

      
Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman.
Despite being on a US terrorist watch list for three years, radical Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman enters the US on a “much-disputed” tourist visa issued by an undercover CIA agent. [Village Voice, 3/30/93, Atlantic Monthly, 5/96, 1000 Years for Revenge, by Peter Lance, 9/03, p. 42] Abdul-Rahman was heavily involved with the CIA and ISI efforts to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, and became famous traveling all over the world for five years recruiting new mujaheddin. But he never hid his prime goals, which were to overthrow the governments of the US and Egypt. [Atlantic Monthly, 5/96] He is “infamous throughout the Arab world for his alleged role in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar el-Sadat.” Abdul-Rahman immediately begins setting up a terrorist network in the US. [Village Voice, 3/30/93] He is known to have befriended bin Laden while in Afghanistan, and bin Laden secretly pays Abdul-Rahman's US living expenses. [Atlantic Monthly, 5/96, ABC News, 8/16/02] Abdul-Rahman's ties to the assassination of Rabbi Meir Kahane in later 1990 is ignored (see November 5, 1990). As one FBI agent says in 1993, he is “hands-off…. It was no accident that the sheikh got a visa and that he's still in the country. He's here under the banner of national security, the State Department, the NSA, and the CIA.” A very high-ranking Egyptian official says Abdul-Rahman continues to assist the CIA in recruiting new mujaheddin after moving to the US. This official says, “We begged America not to coddle the sheikh.” Egyptian intelligence warns the US that Abdul-Rahman is planning new terrorist attacks, and on November 12, 1992, terrorists connected to him machine-gun a busload of Western tourists in Egypt. But still he lives freely in New York City. [Village Voice, 3/30/93] He is finally arrested in 1993 and convicted for assisting in the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993). [Atlantic Monthly 5/96]
          

November 5, 1990

      
Rabbi Meir Kahane (left) and his assassin El Sayyid Nosair (right).
An Egyptian American named El Sayyid Nosair assassinates controversial right-wing Zionist leader Rabbi Meir Kahane. Kahane's organization, the Jewish Defense League, was linked to dozens of bombings and was ranked by the FBI as the most lethal domestic terrorist group in the US at the time. Nosair is captured after a police shoot-out. An FBI informant says he saw Nosair meeting with Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman a few days before the attack (see July 1990), and possessions indicating a wider plot with additional targets are found. [Village Voice, 3/30/93] Incredibly, files found in his possession which give details of a terrorist cell, mention al-Qaeda, and discuss the destruction of tall US buildings, are not translated until years later. [ABC News, 8/16/02] Instead, within 12 hours of the assassination, New York police declare the assassination was the work of a “lone gunman” and they stick with that story. In his trial, prosecutors choose not to introduce his incriminating possessions as evidence, nor is his confession even mentioned, and an apparent “open-and-shut case” ends with his acquittal. However, he is sentenced to 22 years on other lesser charges. [Village Voice, 3/30/93] Bin Laden contributes to Nosair's defense fund. Many of those involved in Kahane's assassination later plan the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993). As one FBI agent puts it, “The fact is that in 1990, myself and my detectives, we had in our office in handcuffs, the people who blew up the World Trade Center in '93. We were told to release them.” [ABC News 8/16/02]
          

September 1, 1992

       Terrorists Ahmad Ajaj and Ramzi Yousef enter the US together. Ajaj is arrested at Kennedy Airport in New York City. Ramzi Yousef is not arrested, and later masterminds the 1993 bombing of the WTC (see February 26, 1993). “The US government was pretty sure Ahmad Ajaj was a terrorist from the moment he stepped foot on US soil,”because his “suitcases were stuffed with fake passports, fake IDs and a cheat sheet on how to lie to US immigration inspectors,” plus “two handwritten notebooks filled with bomb recipes, six bomb-making manuals, four how-to videotapes concerning weaponry and an advanced guide to surveillance training.” However, Ajaj is only charged with passport fraud, and serves a six-month sentence. From prison, Ajaj frequently calls Ramzi Yousef and others in the WTC bombing plot, but no one monitors or translates the calls until long after the bombing. [Los Angeles Times 10/14/01] An Israeli newsweekly later reports that the Palestinian Ajaj may have been a mole for the Israeli Mossad. The Village Voice has suggested that Ajaj may have had “advance knowledge of the World Trade Center bombing, which he shared with Mossad, and that Mossad, for whatever reason, kept the secret to itself.” Ajaj was not just knowledgeable, but was involved in the planning of the bombing from his prison cell. [Village Voice, 8/3/93] Ajaj is released from prison three days after the WTC bombing, but is later rearrested and sentenced to more than 100 years in prison. [Los Angeles Times, 10/14/01] One of the manuals seized from Ajaj is horribly mistranslated for the trial. For instance, the title page is said to say “The Basic Rule,” published in 1982, when in fact the title says “Al-Qaeda” (which means “the base” in English), published in 1989. Investigators later complain that a proper translation could have shown an early connection between al-Qaeda and the WTC bombing. [New York Times 1/14/01]
          

1993

      
Ali Mohamed.
Canadian police arrest Ali Mohamed, a high ranking al-Qaeda figure. However, they release him when the FBI says he is a US agent. [Globe and Mail, 11/22/01] Mohamed, a former US Army sergeant, then will continue to work for al-Qaeda for a number of years. He trains bin Laden's personal bodyguards and trains a terrorist cell in Kenya that later blows up the US embassy there. Meanwhile, at least between 1993 and 1997 he tells secrets to the FBI about al-Qaeda's operations. He is arrested in late 1998 and subsequently convicted of his role in the 1998 US embassy bombing in Kenya. [CNN, 10/30/98, Independent, 11/1/98] Says a former Egyptian intelligence officer: “For five years he was moving back and forth between the US and Afghanistan. It's impossible the CIA thought he was going there as a tourist. If the CIA hadn't caught on to him, it should be dissolved and its budget used for something worthwhile.” [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/01] Was Mohamed really playing the FBI and CIA for fools, or was he a double agent inside al-Qaeda? If the latter, why couldn't the US kill bin Laden in the 1990s if the head of his personal security was secretly a US agent?
          

1993 (C)

       An expert panel commissioned by the Pentagon privately postulates that an airplane could be used as a missile to bomb national landmarks. But the panel doesn't publish this idea in its report, Terror 2000. [Washington Post 10/2/01] One of the authors of the report says. “We were told by the Department of Defense not to put it in… and I said, ‘It's unclassified, everything is available.’ And they said, ‘We don't want it released, because you can't handle a crisis before it becomes a crisis. And no one is going to believe you.’ ” [ABC News 2/20/02] However, in 1994 one of the panel's experts will write in Futurist magazine: “Targets such as the World Trade Center not only provide the requisite casualties but, because of their symbolic nature, provide more bang for the buck. In order to maximize their odds for success, terrorist groups will likely consider mounting multiple, simultaneous operations with the aim of overtaxing a government's ability to respond, as well as demonstrating their professionalism and reach.” [Washington Post 10/2/01]
          

February 26, 1993

      
Damage underground the WTC in 1993.
An attempt to blow up the WTC fails. Six people are killed in the misfired blast. Analysts later determine that had the terrorists not made a minor error in the placement of the bomb, both towers could have fallen and up to 50,000 people could have been killed. The attempt is organized by Ramzi Yousef, who has close ties to bin Laden. [Congressional Hearings 2/24/98] The New York Times later reports on Emad Salem, an undercover agent who ends up being the key government witness in the trial against the bomber. Salem testifies that the FBI knew about the attack beforehand and told him they would thwart it by substituting a harmless powder for the explosives. However, this plan was called off by an FBI supervisor, and the bombing was not stopped. [ [New York Times 10/28/93] ] Why did the FBI seemingly let the terrorists go ahead with the bombing? Others suspects are ineptly investigated before the bombing (see July 1990 and November 5, 1990). Several of the bombers were trained by the CIA to fight in the Afghan war, and the CIA later concludes in internal documents that it was “partly culpable” for this bombing attempt. [ [Independent 11/1/98] ] Ahmad Ajaj, an associate of Yousef, may have been a mole for the Israeli Mossad, and the Mossad may have had advanced knowledge of the bombing (see September 1, 1992). US officials later state that the overall mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, is a close relative of Ramzi Yousef, [Independent, 6/6/02] probably his uncle. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] One of the attackers even left a message found by investigators stating, “Next time, it will be very precise.” 9/11 can be seen as a completion of this failed attack. [AP 9/30/01]
          

1994

       Mohammed al-Khilewi, the First Secretary at the Saudi Mission to the United Nations, defects and seeks political asylum in the US. He brings with him 14,000 internal government documents depicting the Saudi royal family's corruption, human-rights abuses, and financial support for terrorists. He meets with two FBI agents and an Assistant US Attorney. “We gave them a sampling of the documents and put them on the table,” says his lawyer, “but the agents refused to accept them.” [New Yorker, 10/16/01] The documents include “details of the $7 billion the Saudis gave to [Iraq leader] Saddam Hussein for his nuclear program—the first attempt to build an Islamic Bomb.” But FBI agents were “ordered not to accept evidence of Saudi criminal activity, even on US soil.” [Best Democracy Money Can Buy]
          

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]
          

1995

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

March 1995

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

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.
          

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).
          

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).
          

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)]
          

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?
          

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]
          

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

       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 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 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)]
          

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]
          

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]
          

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

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

1997 (B)

       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)]
          

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]
          

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]
          

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?
          

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 (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

       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 (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)]
          

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]
          

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]
          

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)).
          

June 1998

      
Taliban leader Mullah Omar, blind in one eye.
Relations between Taliban head Mullah Omar and bin Laden grow tense, and Omar strikes a secret deal with the Saudis to expel bin Laden. Head of Saudi intelligence Prince Turki al-Faisal travels to Kandahar, Afghanistan and brokers the deal, but before it can be enacted, the US strikes Afghanistan in August, driving Omar and bin Laden back together. Prince Turki states that “the Taliban attitude changed 180 degrees,” and that Omar was “absolutely rude” to him when he visited again in September. [Guardian 11/5/01; London Times 8/3/02] Note that reports of this meeting seemingly contradict reports of a different secret meeting a month later (see July 1998). Was bin Laden charmed by luck, or might the embassy bombings and/or the US missile attacks in response have been timed to help keep him in Afghanistan?
          

August 24, 1998

       The New York Times reports that the training camps recently attacked by the US (see ) were actually built years before by the US and its allies. The US and Saudi Arabia gave the Afghans between $6 billion and $40 billion to fight the Soviets in the 1980s (see December 26, 1979). Many of the people targeted by the Clinton missile attacks were actually trained and equipped by the CIA years before. [New York Times 8/24/98]
          

September 1998-July 1999

      
Omar al-Bayoumi
The FBI conducts a counterterrorism inquiry on Omar al-Bayoumi, suspected al-Qaeda advance man and possible Saudi agent (see December 4, 1999, Early February 2000, and November 22, 2002). The FBI discovers he has been in contact with several people also under investigation. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] The FBI is given a tip that he was sent a suspicious package filled with wire from the Middle East, and that large numbers of Arab men routinely meet in his apartment. His landlord notices that he switches from driving a beat up old car to a new Mercedes. [Newsweek, 7/28/03] According to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, the FBI notes that al-Bayoumi has “access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia.” For instance, an FBI source identifies him as a person who has delivered about $500,000 from Saudi Arabia to buy a mosque (see June 1998 (D)). But the FBI closes the inquiry “for reasons that remain unclear.” [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03] Also in 1999, al-Bayoumi is working as an employee of the Saudi company Dallah Avco but apparently doing no work (see August 1994). Someone in the company tries to fire him and sends a note to the Saudi government about this, since the company is so closely tied to the government. But Mohammed Ahmed al-Salmi, the director general of civil aviation, replies that it is “extremely urgent” his job is renewed “as quickly as possible,” and so he keeps his job. [Wall Street Journal 8/11/03]
          

September 20, 1998

      
Mamdouh Mahmud Salim
Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, an al-Qaeda terrorist from the United Arab Emirates connected to the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998), is arrested near Munich, Germany. [PBS Newshour, 9/30/98] In retrospect, it appears he was making one of many visits to the al-Qaeda cells in Germany. [The Base, Jane Corbin, 8/02, p. 147] US investigators later call him bin Laden's “right hand man.” [New York Times 9/29/01] However, the FBI is unwilling to brief their German counterparts on what they know about Salim and al-Qaeda, despite learning much that could have been useful as part of their investigation into the US embassy bombings. By the end of the year, German investigators learn that Salim had a Hamburg bank account. [New York Times, 9/29/01] The cosignatory on the account is businessman Mamoun Darkazanli (see September 24, 2001), whose home number had been programmed into Salim's cell phone. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/02] US intelligence had first investigated Darkazanli in 1993, when a suspect was found with his telephone number. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] German authorities had begun to suspect Darkazanli of terrorist money laundering in 1996. Wadih El-Hage, a former personal secretary to bin Laden, is also arrested in the wake of the embassy bombings. El-Hage had created a number of shell companies as fronts for al-Qaeda terrorist activities, and one of these uses the address of Darkazanli's apartment. [Chicago Tribune, 11/17/02] Darkazanli's phone number and Deutschebank account number are also found in El-Hage's address book. [CNN, 10/16/01] The FBI also discovers Darkazanli had power of attorney over a bank account of Hajer, a person on al-Qaeda's supreme council. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] Based on these new connections, investigators ask a federal prosecutor for permission to open a formal investigation against Darkazanli. An investigation begins, at the insistence of the US, though Germany has claimed the request for the investigation was rejected (see December 1999). [AFP 10/28/01; New York Times 1/18/03] German investigators also learn of a connection between Salim and Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who is already identified by police as a suspected extremist (see March 1997). [AP 6/22/02; New York Times 1/18/03]
          

October 1998

      
FBI agents Vincent (left) and Wright (right)
FBI agents Robert Wright and John Vincent are tracking a terrorist cell in Chicago, but are told to simply follow suspects around town and file reports. The two agents believe some of the money used to finance the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998) leads back to Chicago and Saudi multimillionaire businessman Yassin al-Qadi (see also March 21, 2000, Late January 2001, October 12, 2001, August 15, 2002, August 25, 2002, , and December 5, 2002). Supervisors try, but temporarily fail, to halt the investigation into al-Qadi's possible terrorist connections. However, at this time, a supervisor prohibits Wright and Vincent from making any arrests connected to the bombings, or opening new criminal investigations. Even though they believe their case is growing stronger, in January 2001 Wright is told that the Chicago case is being closed and that “it's just better to let sleeping dogs lie”(see Late January 2001). Wright tells ABC: “Those dogs weren't sleeping, they were training, they were getting ready. … September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit. … Absolutely no doubt about that.” Chicago federal prosecutor Mark Flessner, also working on the case, says there “were powers bigger than I was in the Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let [the building of a criminal case] happen.” Wright will write an internal FBI memo slamming the FBI in June 2001 (see June 9, 2001, and also May 30, 2002and August 9, 2002 (C)). Al-Qadi is named in a March 2000 affidavit as a source of terrorist funds in Chicago. [ABC, 11/26/02, ABC, 12/19/02, ABC, 12/19/02 (B)] He is also on secret US and UN lists of major al-Qaeda financiers (see ). His charity, the Muwafaq Foundation, is allegedly an al-Qaeda front which transferred $820,000 to the Palestinian group Hamas through a Muslim foundation called the Quranic Literacy Institute; the date of the transfer has not been released. [CNN, 10/15/01 (B)] Al-Qadi says he shut down Muwafaq in 1996, but the charity has received money from the United Nations since then. [BBC 10/20/01; CNN 10/15/01 (B)]
          

October 1998 (B)

       Julie Sirrs, a military analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), travels to Afghanistan. Fluent in local languages and knowledgeable about the culture, she had made a previous undercover trip there in October 1997. She was surprised that the CIA wasn't interested in sending in agents after the failed missile attack on bin Laden in August 1998 (see August 20, 1998) so she returns at this time. Traveling undercover, she meets with Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud, who is later assassinated by the Taliban (see September 9, 2001). She sees a terrorist training center. Sirrs claims, “The Taliban's brutal regime was being kept in power significantly by bin Laden's money, plus the narcotics trade, while [Massoud's] resistance was surviving on a shoestring. With even a little aid to the Afghan resistance, we could have pushed the Taliban out of power. But there was great reluctance by the State Department and the CIA to undertake that.” She partly blames the interest of the US government and the oil company Unocal to see the Taliban achieve political stability so a pipeline could be built across the company. She claims, “Massoud told me he had proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul.” She also states, “The State Department didn't want to have anything to do with Afghan resistance, or even, politically, to reveal that there was any viable option to the Taliban.” After two weeks she returns with a treasure trove of maps, photographs, and interviews. [New York Observer 3/11/04; ABC News 2/18/02] By interviewing captured al-Qaeda operatives she learns that the official Afghanistan airline, Ariania Airlines, is being used to ferry weapons and drugs, and also learns that bin Laden goes hunting with “rich Saudis and top Taliban officials.” [Los Angeles Times 11/18/01 (B)] When she returns her material is confiscated and she is accused of being a spy. Says one senior colleague, “She had gotten the proper clearances to go, and she came back with valuable information,” but high level officials “were so intent on getting rid of her, the last thing they wanted to pay attention to was any information she had.” She is cleared of wrongdoing, but her security clearance is pulled. She eventually quits the DIA in frustration. [New York Observer 3/11/04; ABC News 2/18/02] She claims that the US intelligence on bin Laden and the Taliban relied too heavily on the ISI for its information. [ABC News 2/18/02 (B)]
          

November 1, 1998-February 2001

      
The Marienstrasse building.
Mohamed Atta and al-Qaeda terrorists Said Bahaji and Ramzi bin al-Shibh move into a four bedroom apartment at 54 Marienstrasse, in Hamburg, Germany, and stay there until February 2001 (Atta is already mainly living in the US well before this time). Investigators believe this move marks the formation of their Hamburg al-Qaeda terrorist cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/02, New York Times, 9/10/02] Up to six men at a time live at the apartment, including other al-Qaeda agents such as hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and cell member Zakariya Essabar. [New York Times, 9/15/01 (F)] During the 28 months Atta's name is on the apartment lease, 29 ethnically Middle Eastern or North African men register the apartment as their home address. From the very beginning, the apartment was officially under surveillance by German intelligence, because of investigations into businessman Mamoun Darkazanli that connect to Said Bahaji (see September 20, 1998 and December 1999). [Washington Post, 10/23/01] They also suspect connections between Bahaji and al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar (see March 1997 and February 17, 1999). [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] Germans monitor the apartment off and on for months, and also wiretap Mounir El Motassadeq (see August 1998), an associate of the apartment-mates who is later put on trial for assisting the 9/11 plot (see August 29, 2002), but they don't find any indication of suspicious activity. [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/02] Bahaji is directly monitored at least for part of 1998, but German officials have not disclosed when the probe began or ended. That investigation is dropped for lack of evidence. [AP, 6/22/02, Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] However, certainly investigators would have found evidence if they looked more thoroughly. For instance, Zammar, a talkative man who has trouble keeping secrets, is a frequent visitor to the many late night meetings there. [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/02, Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02, The Cell, John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell, 8/14/02, pp. 259-260] Another visitor later recalls Atta and others discussing attacking the US. [Knight Ridder, 9/9/02] 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is in Hamburg several times in 1999, and comes to the apartment (see 1999 (K)). But although there was a $2 million reward for Mohammed since 1998 (see Mid-1996-September 11, 2001), the US apparently fails to tell Germany what it knows about him. [New York Times, 11/4/02, Newsweek, 9/4/02] Hijacker Waleed Alshehri also apparently stays there “at times.” [Washington Post, 9/14/01, Washington Post, 9/16/01 (B)] The CIA also starts monitoring Atta while he is living at this apartment, and doesn't tell Germany of the surveillance (see January-May 2000). The German government originally claimed they knew little about the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell before 9/11, and said nothing directed them towards the Marienstrasse apartment, which is clearly incorrect. [Telegraph 11/24/01]
          

Late 1998-2000

       National Security Advisor Sandy Berger and Secretary of State Madeleine Albright repeatedly ask about having a “boots on the ground” option to kill bin Laden, using the elite Delta Force. Clinton also supports the idea, telling Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Henry Shelton, “You know, it would scare the [expletive] out of al-Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters into the middle of their camp.” But Shelton says he wants “nothing to do” with such an idea. He calls it naive, and ridicules it as “going Hollywood.” He says he would need a large force, not just a small team. [Washington Post, 12/19/01] US Central Command chief General Anthony Zinni is considered the chief opponent to the “boots on the ground” idea. [Washington Post, 10/2/02] Clinton orders “formal planning for a mission to capture the al-Qaeda leadership.” Reports are contradictory, but some claim Clinton was told such plans were drawn up when in fact they were not. [Time 8/4/02; Washington Post 10/2/02]
          

December 1998

       US intelligence learns that bin Laden is staying at a particular location in Afghanistan, and missile strikes are readied against him. However, principal advisors to President Clinton agree not to recommend a strike because of doubts about the intelligence and worries about collateral damage. In the wake of this, officials attempt to find alternatives to cruise missiles, such a precision strike aircraft. But US Central Command chief General Anthony Zinni is apparently opposed to deployment of these aircraft near Afghanistan, and they are not deployed (see also Late 1998-2000). [9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04 (B]
          

Late 1998 (F)

       The failed August 1998 US missile attack against bin Laden (see ) greatly elevates bin Laden's stature in the Muslim world. A US defense analyst later states, “I think that raid really helped elevate bin Laden's reputation in a big way, building him up in the Muslim world…. My sense is that because the attack was so limited and incompetent, we turned this guy into a folk hero.” [Washington Post 10/3/01 (C)] An Asia Times article published just prior to 9/11 suggests that because of the failed attack, “a very strong Muslim lobby emerge[s] to protect [bin Laden's] interests. This includes Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, as well as senior Pakistani generals. Prince Abdullah has good relations with bin Laden as both are disciples of slain Doctor Abdullah Azzam.” [Asia Times 8/22/01] In early 1999, Pakistani President Musharraf complains that by demonizing bin Laden, the US has turned him into a cult figure and hero. The US decides to play down the importance of bin Laden. [UPI 6/14/01]
          

Late 1998 (D)

       President Clinton signs a directive authorizing the CIA to plan an assassination of bin Laden. The CIA draw up detailed profiles of bin Laden's daily routines, where he sleeps, and his travel arrangements. The assassination never happens, supposedly because of inadequate intelligence. But, as one officer later says, “you can keep setting the bar higher and higher, so that nothing ever gets done.” An officer who helped draw up the plans later 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] ] The initial emphasis is on capturing bin Laden and only killing him if the capture attempt is unsuccessful. The military is unhappy about this, so Clinton signs several new directives before leaving office, each one authorizing the use of lethal force more clearly than the one before. [Washington Post 2/22/04 (B)]
          

Late 1998 (E)

       Intelligence agents learn that Mohammed Atef (also known as Abu Hafs)—head of Islamic Jihad and one of the top three leaders of al-Qaeda [ABC News, 11/17/01], is staying in a particular hotel room in Khartoum, Sudan. White House officials ask that Atef be killed or captured and interrogated. International capture operations of terrorists have become routine by the mid-1990s, but in this case both the Defense Department and the CIA are against it, although Atef doesn't even have bodyguards. The CIA puts the operation in the “too hard to do box,” according to one former official. The CIA says it's incapable of conducting such an operation in Sudan, but in the same year the CIA conducts another spy mission in the same city. [New York Times, 12/30/01 , Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, pp. 143-146] A plan is eventually made to seize him, but by then he has left the country. [New York Times, 12/30/01] Atef is considered a top planner of the 9/11 attacks (see Before September 11, 2001 (D)), and is later killed in a bombing raid (see November 15, 2001 (B)).
          

Late 1998-2000 (B)

       The US permanently stations two submarines in the Indian Ocean, ready to hit al-Qaeda with cruise missiles on short notice. Six to ten hours advance warning is now needed to review the decision, program the cruise missiles and have them reach their target. On at least three occasions, spies in Afghanistan report bin Laden's location with information suggesting he would remain there for some time. Each time, Clinton approves the strike. Each time, CIA Director Tenet says the information is not reliable enough and the attack cannot go forward. [Washington Post 12/19/01; New York Times 12/30/01] At some point in 2000 the submarines are withdrawn, apparently because the Navy wanted to use them for other purposes. So when the unmanned Predator spy plane flies over Afghanistan and identifies bin Laden (see August-October 2000), there is no way to capitalize on that opportunity. [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, pp. 220-221] The Bush Administration fails to resume the submarine patrol (see January 27, 2001). Lacking any way to attack bin Laden, military plans to strike at him are no longer updated after March 2001. [9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04 (B]
          

December 4, 1998

       CIA Director Tenet issues a “declaration of war” on al-Qaeda, in a memorandum circulated in the intelligence community. This is 10 months after bin Laden's fatwa on the US, which is called a “de facto declaration of war” by a senior US official in 1999 (see February 22, 1998). Tenet says, “We must now enter a new phase in our effort against bin Laden … each day we all acknowledge that retaliation is inevitable and that its scope may be far larger than we have previously experienced… We are at war… I want no resources or people spared in this efforts [sic], either inside CIA or the [larger intelligence] community.” Yet a Congressional joint committee later finds that few FBI agents had ever heard of the declaration. Tenet's fervor did not “reach the level in the field that is critical so [FBI agents] know what their priorities are.” And even as the counterterrorism budget continues to grow generally, there is no massive shift in budget or personnel until after 9/11. For example, the number of CIA personnel assigned to the Counter-Terrorism Center (CTC) stays roughly constant until 9/11 then nearly doubles from approximately 400 to approximately 800 in the wake of 9/11. The number of CTC analysts focusing on al-Qaeda rises from three in 1999 to five by 9/11. [New York Times 9/18/02; Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02]
          

1999 (B)

       The FBI creates its own unit to focus specifically on bin Laden, three years after the CIA created such a special unit. By 9/11, 17-19 people are working in this unit, out of over 11,000 FBI staff. [Senate Intelligence Committee 9/18/02] Why so late, and so few people?
          

Early 1999

       State Department counterterrorism coordinator Michael Sheehan writes a memo calling for a new approach in containing bin Laden. He urges a series of actions the US could take toward Pakistan, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen to persuade them to help isolate al-Qaeda. He calls Pakistan the key country and urges that terrorism be made the central issue with them. He advises the US to work will all these countries to curb money laundering. However, a former official says Sheehan's plan lands “with a resounding thud.” Pakistan continues to “feign cooperation but [does] little” about its support for the Taliban. [New York Times 10/29/01]
          

1999 (L)

       The FBI receive reports that a terrorist organization is planning to send students to the US for aviation training. The organization's name remains classified, but apparently it is a different organization than one mentioned in a very similar warning the year before (see After May 15, 1998). The purpose of this training is unknown, but the organization views the plan as “particularly important” and has reportedly approved open-ended funding for it. The Counterterrorism Section at FBI headquarters instructs 24 field offices to pay close attention to Islamic students from the target country engaged in aviation training. Ken Williams at the Phoenix FBI office will later write a memo on this very topic (see July 10, 2001), and his squad receives this notice. Williams, however, doesn't recall reading it. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry later concludes, “There is no indication that field offices conducted any investigation after receiving the communication.” [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03 (B)] However, an analyst at FBI headquarters conducts a study and determines that each year there are about 600 Middle Eastern students attending the slightly over 1,000 US flight schools. [New York Times, 5/4/02, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] In November 2000 a notice is sent out telling field offices that no information about the terrorist group recruiting students had been uncovered. Apparently Williams doesn't see this notice either. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03 (B)]
          

1999 (K)

       9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed “repeatedly” visits Mohamed Atta and others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [AP, 8/24/02] US and German officials say a number of sources place Mohammed at Atta's Hamburg apartment. It isn't clear when he visits or who he visits. [Los Angeles Times, 6/6/02, New York Times, 11/4/02] However, it would be logical that he at least visits Atta's housemate Ramzi bin al-Shibh, since investigators believe he is the “key contact between the pilots” and Mohammed. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/03] Mohammed is living in Germany at the time. [New York Times 9/22/02] German intelligence monitor the apartment in 1999 but apparently don't notice Mohammed (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). US investigators have been searching for Mohammed since 1996 (see January-May 1996), but apparently never tell the Germans what they know about him. [New York Times, 11/4/02] Even after 9/11, German investigators complain that US investigators don't tell them what they know about Mohammed living in Germany until they read it in the newspapers in June 2002. [New York Times 6/11/02]
          

Early 1999 (B)

       As the NSA continues to monitor an al-Qaeda safe house in Yemen owned by hijacker Khalid Almihdhar's father-in-law (see Late August 1998 (B)), they find references to Almihdhar and the hijacker brothers Salem and Nawaf Alhazmi. In early 1999 the NSA intercepts communications mentioning the full name “Nawaf Alhazmi.” More intercepts involving the names Nawaf, Salem, and Khalid together and alone are intercepted during 1999. However, this information is not shared with the CIA or FBI. As a result, as an important al-Qaeda meeting approaches in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000), the CIA doesn't know the last name of the “Nawaf” attending the meeting. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03; AP 9/25/02; NSA Director Congressional Testimony 10/17/02] In mid-January, after the Malaysian meeting is over, the CIA reports to the NSA what it has learned about Khalid Almihdhar, and asks the CIA for information about him. Some information about him is given back and some is not. The NSA still doesn't report Alhazmi's last name. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03] The NSA continues to monitor calls from these hijackers to this safe house after they move to the US (see Spring-Summer 2000).
          

1999 (F)

       A joint project run by the CIA and NSA slips into Afghanistan and places listening devices within range of al-Qaeda's tactical radios. [Washington Post 12/19/01] If all of al-Qaeda's communications was being monitored, why was bin Laden never captured or killed and apparently no hints of the 9/11 plot revealed?
          

1999 (J)

       The London Times later claims that British intelligence secretly offers 9/11 paymaster Saeed Sheikh, imprisoned in India (see November 1994-December 1999) for kidnapping Britons and Americans (see June 1993-October 1994), an amnesty and the ability to “live in London a free man”if he will reveal his links to al-Qaeda. He apparently refuses. [Daily Mail 7/16/02; London Times 7/16/02] Yet after he is rescued in a hostage swap deal (see December 24-31, 1999), the press reports that he, in fact, is freely able to return to Britain. [Press Trust of India, 1/3/00] He visits his parents there in 2000 and again in early 2001. [Vanity Fair, 8/02, BBC, 7/16/02 (B), Telegraph, 7/16/02] He is not charged with kidnapping until well after 9/11 (see November 2001-February 5, 2002). Those kidnapped by Saeed call the government's decision not to try him a “disgrace” and “scandalous.” [Press Trust of India 1/3/00] The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review later suggests that not only is Saeed closely tied to both the ISI and al-Qaeda, but may also have been working for the CIA: “There are many in Musharraf's government who believe that Saeed Sheikh's power comes not from the ISI, but from his connections with our own CIA. The theory is that … Saeed Sheikh was bought and paid for.” [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, 3/3/02] Did or does Saeed have some kind of deal with British or US intelligence?
          

1999 (H)

      
Hijackers Ahmed Alghamdi, left, and Waleed Alshehri, right.
Diane and John Albritton later say they call the CIA and police this year several times to report suspicious activity at a neighbor's home, but authorities fail to respond. [MSNBC, 9/23/01, New York Daily News, 9/15/01] Hijacker Waleed Alshehri is renting the house on Orrin Street in Vienna, Virginia at the time (three blocks from a CIA headquarters). [AP, 9/15/01 (B)] He makes his neighbors nervous. “There were always people coming and going,” said Diane Albritton. “Arabic people. Some of them never uttered a word; I don't know if they spoke English. But they looked very focused. We thought they might be dealing drugs, or illegal immigrants.” [New York Times, 9/15/01 (B)] Ahmed Alghamdi lived at the same address until July 2000. [Fox News, 6/6/02, World Net Daily, 9/14/01] Waleed Alshehri lived with Ahmed Alghamdi in Florida for seven months in 1997. [Telegraph, 9/20/01] Albritton says they observed a van parked outside the home at all hours of the day and night. A Middle-Eastern man appeared to be monitoring a scanner or radio inside the van. Another neighbor says, “We thought it was a drug house. All the cars parked on the street were new BMWs, new Mercedes. People were always walking around out front with cell phones.”There were frequent wild parties, numerous complaints to authorities, and even a police report about a woman shooting a gun into the air during a party. [World Net Daily 9/14/01] Other neighbors also called the police about the house. [AP, 9/14/01 (B)] “Critics say [the case] could have made a difference [in stopping 9/11] had it been handled differently.” Standard procedures require CIA to notify FBI of such domestic information. But FBI officials have not been able to find any record that the CIA shared the information. [Fox News 6/6/02] FBI Director Mueller has said “the hijackers did all they could to stay below our radar.” [Senate Judiciary Statement, 5/8/02] Does this sound like extremely religious “sleepers” successfully blending in?
          

1999

      
Zacarias Moussaoui passing through a London airport.
Zacarias Moussaoui, living in London, is observed by French intelligence making several trips to Pakistan and Afghanistan. French investigators later claim the British spy agency MI5 was alerted and requested to place Moussaoui under surveillance. The request appears to have been ignored. [Independent 12/11/01]
          

January 31, 1999

       German intelligence is tapping the telephone of al-Qaeda terrorist Mohammed Haydar Zammar (see March 1997 and September 21, 1999), and on this date Zammar gets a call from a “Marwan.” This is later found to be hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. Marwan talks about mundane things, like his studies in Bonn, Germany, and promises to come to Hamburg in a few months. German investigators trace the telephone number and determine the call came from a mobile phone registered in the United Arab Emirates. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03; Stern 8/13/03; Deutche Presse-Agenteur 8/13/03; New York Times 2/24/04] German intelligence passes this information to the CIA about one month later, but CIA apparently fails to capitalize on it (see March 1999).
          

February 17, 1999

      
Said Bahaji, computer expert for the Hamburg cell.
German intelligence is periodically tapping suspected al-Qaeda terrorist Mohammed Haydar Zammar's telephone (see March 1997, January 31, 1999, and September 21, 1999), and on this day investigators hear a caller being told Zammar is at a meeting with “Mohamed, Ramzi, and Said,” and could be reached at the phone number of the Marienstrasse apartment where all three of them live. This refers to Mohamed Atta, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Said Bahaji, all members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. But apparently the German police fail to grasp its importance of these names, even though Said Bahaji is also under investigation (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). [AP 6/22/02; New York Times 1/18/03] Atta's last name is given as well. Agents check the phone number and confirm the street address, but it isn't known what they make of the information. [Der Spiegel 2/3/03]
          

March 1999 B)

       German intelligence gives the CIA the first name of hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and his telephone number in the United Arab Emirates. The Germans learned the information from surveillance of suspected terrorists (see January 31, 1999). They tell Alshehhi has been in contact with suspected al-Qaeda members Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Mamoun Darkazanli (see September 20, 1998 and December 1999) . He is described as a United Arab Emirates student who has spent some time studying in Germany. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03; Stern 8/13/03; Deutche Presse-Agenteur 8/13/03; New York Times 2/24/04] The Germans consider this information “particularly valuable” and ask the CIA to track Alshehhi, but the CIA never responds until after the 9/11 attacks. The CIA decides at the time that this “Marwan” is probably an associate of bin Laden but never track him down. It is not clear why the CIA fails to act, or if they learn his last name before 9/11. [New York Times, 2/24/04] The Germans monitor others calls between Alshehhi and Zammar (see September 21, 1999), but it isn't clear if the CIA is also told of these or not.
          

Spring 1999 (B)

       Randy Glass is a con artist turned government informant participating in a sting called Operation Diamondback. [Palm Beach Post, 9/29/01] He discusses an illegal weapons deal with an Egyptian American named Mohamed el Amir. In wiretapped conversations, Mohamed discusses the need to get false papers to disguise a shipment of illegal weapons. His brother, Dr. Magdy el Amir, has been a wealthy neurologist in Jersey City for the past twenty years. Two other weapons dealers later convicted in a sting operation involving Glass also lived in Jersey City, and both el Amirs admit knowing one of them, Diaa Mohsen (see June 12, 2001). Mohsen has been paid at least once by Dr. el Amir. In 1998, Congressman Ben Gilman was given a foreign intelligence report suggesting that Dr. el Amir owns an HMO that is secretly funded by bin Laden, and that money is being skimmed from the HMO to fund terrorist activities. The state of New Jersey later buys the HMO and determines that $15 million were unaccounted for and much of that has been diverted into hard-to-trace offshore bank accounts. However, investigators working with Glass are never given the report about Dr. el Amir. Both el Amirs have not been charged with any crime. Mohamed now lives in Egypt and Magdy continues to practice medicine in New Jersey. Glass's sting, which began in late 1998, will uncover many interesting leads before ending in June 2001 (see also July 14, 1999, Early August 2001 and August 2, 2002). [MSNBC 8/2/02]
          

April 3-7, 1999

       Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, and Khalid Almihdhar obtains US visas through the US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] All three are already “al-Qaeda veterans” and battle-hardened killers (see 1996-December 2000). Almihdhar's visa is issued on April 7, and allows him multiple entries and exits to the US until April 6, 2000. [Stern, 8/13/03] Nawaf Alhazmi gets the same kind of visa; details about Salem are unknown. The CIA claims the hijackers then travel to Afghanistan to participate in “special training” with at least one other suicide bomber on a different mission. The training is led by Khallad bin Attash (see January 5-8, 2000). The US learns about Almihdhar's visa in January 2000 (see January 5, 2000). The Jeddah Consulate keeps in its records the fact that Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi obtain US visas several days before Almihdhar, but apparently these records are never searched before 9/11. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

May 1999

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

June 1999-March 2000

      
Anwar Al Aulaqi
The FBI conducts a counterterrorism inquiry into imam Anwar Al Aulaqi. >From about February 2000, he serves as the “spiritual leader” to several of the hijackers while they live in San Diego, and again in 2001 when he and they move to the East Coast (see March 2001 (D)). During the investigation, the FBI discovers he is in contact with a number of other people being investigated. For instance, in early 2000 he is visited by an associate of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990). But, as the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry later notes, the investigation is closed “despite the imam's contacts with other subjects of counterterrorism investigations and reports concerning the imam's connection to suspect organizations.” [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

June 7, 1999

       Bin Laden is added to FBI's “Ten Most Wanted”List. This is almost a year and a half after bin Laden's “declaration of war” against the US (see February 22, 1998) and about six months after the CIA's “declaration of war against al-Qaeda”(see December 4, 1998). It's also three years after an internal State Department document connecting bin Laden to financing and planning numerous terrorist attacks. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02 (C)]
          

June 8, 1999

      
Giuliani's emergency command center.
Mayor Rudy Giuliani opens a $13 million emergency command center on the 23rd floor of World Trade Center Building 7. [Newsday, 9/12/01] The center is intended to coordinate responses to various emergencies, including natural disasters like hurricanes or floods and also terrorist attacks. The 50,000 square foot center has reinforced, bulletproof and bomb-resistant walls, its own air supply and water tank, and three backup generators. This command center is to be staffed around the clock and is intended as a meeting place for city leaders in the event of an act of terrorism. [CNN, 6/7/99; ] The emergency command center is ridiculed as “Rudy's bunker.” [Time 12/31/01] Most controversial is the 6,000 gallon fuel tank. In 1998 and 1999, Fire Department officials warn that the fuel tank violates city fire codes and poses a hazard. According to one Fire Department memorandum, if the tank were to catch fire it could produce “disaster.” Building 7 is destroyed late in the day on 9/11; some suspect this tank helps explains why. [New York Times 12/20/01]
          

Summer 1999

       Around this time, US intelligence notes that a man in Hamburg, Germany named Mohammed Haydar Zammar is in direct contact with one of bin Laden's senior operational coordinators. Zammar is an al-Qaeda recruiter with links to Mohammed Atta and the rest of the Hamburg terror cell (see March 1997, January 31, 1999, February 17, 1999, and September 21, 1999). The US had noted Zammar's terror links on “numerous occasions” before 9/11. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03] But apparently the US does not share their information on Zammar with German intelligence. Instead, the Germans are given evidence from Turkey that Zammar is running a travel agency as a terror front in Hamburg. In 1998, they get information from Italy confirming he is a real terrorist. But his behavior is so suspicious, they've already started closely monitoring him. [Stern 8/13/03; Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

August 17, 1999

      
Randy Glass, center, shows Stinger missiles to Rajaa Gulum Abbas and others.
A group of illegal arms merchants, including an ISI agent with foreknowledge of 9/11, had met in a New York restaurant the month before (see July 14, 1999). This same group meets at this time in a West Palm Beach, Florida, warehouse, and is shown Stinger missiles as part of a sting operation. [South Florida Sun-Sentinel 3/20/03] US intelligence soon discovers connections between two in the group, Rajaa Gulum Abbas and Mohammed Malik, terrorist groups in Kashmir (where the ISI assists terrorists fighting against India), and the Taliban. Mohamed Malik suggests in this meeting that the Stingers will be used in Kashmir or Afghanistan. His colleague Diaa Mohsen also says Abbas has direct connections to “dignitaries” and bin Laden. Abbas also wants heavy water for a “dirty bomb” or other material to make a nuclear weapon. He says he will bring a Pakistani nuclear scientist to the US to inspect the material. [MSNBC 8/2/02; MSNBC 3/18/03] Government informant Randy Glass passes these warnings on before 9/11, but he claims, “The complaints were ordered sanitized by the highest levels of government” (see also Early August 2001). [WPBF Channel 25, 8/5/02] In June 2002, the US secretly indicts Abbas (see June 2002), but apparently they aren't trying very hard to find him: In August 2002, MSNBC is easily able to contact Abbas in Pakistan and speak to him by telephone. [MSNBC 8/2/02]
          

September 1999 (E)

       Agents from Oklahoma City FBI office visit the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma to investigate Ihab Ali, who has already been identified as bin Laden's former personal pilot. Ali attended the school in 1993 and is later named as an unindicted coconspirator in the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Kenya. [CNN 10/16/01; Boston Globe 9/18/01; Senate Intelligence Committee 10/17/02] When Ali was arrested in May 1999, he was working as a taxi driver in Orlando, Florida. Investigators discover recent ties between him and high ranking al-Qaeda leaders, and suspect he was a “sleeper” agent. [St. Petersburg Times 10/28/01] However, the agent visiting the school is not given most background details about him. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03 (B)] It's not known if these investigators are aware of a terrorist flight school warning given by the Oklahoma City FBI office in 1998 (see May 18, 1998). Hijackers Atta and Marwan Alshehhi later visit the Airman school in July 2000 but ultimately decide to train in Florida instead. [Boston Globe, 9/18/01] Al-Qaeda agent Zacarias Moussaoui takes flight lessons at Airman in 2001 (see February 23, 2001). One of the FBI agents sent to visit the school at this time visits it again in August 2001 asking about Moussaoui, but he fails to make a connection between the two visits (see August 23, 2001 (E)).
          

September 21, 1999

       German intelligence is periodically tapping suspected al-Qaeda terrorist Mohammed Haydar Zammar's telephone (see also March 1997 and February 17, 1999), and on this day investigators hear Zammar call hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. Officials initially claim that the call also mentions hijacker Mohamed Atta, but only his first name. [Telegraph 11/24/01; New York Times 1/18/03] But in fact, his full name, “Mohammed Atta Al Amir,” is mentioned in this call and in another recorded call. [FAZ, 2/2/03] Alshehhi makes veiled references to plans to travel to Afghanistan. He also hands the phone over to Said Bahaji (another member of the Hamburg cell under investigation at the time November 1, 1998-February 2001), so he can talk to Zammar. [Stern, 8/13/03] German investigators still don't know Alshehhi's full name, but they recognize this Marwan also called Zammar earlier in the year, and they told the CIA about that call (see January 31, 1999). Alshehhi, living in the United Arab Emirates at the time, calls Zammar frequently. German intelligence asks the United Arab Emirates to identify the number and the caller, but the request is not answered. [Der Spiegel 2/3/03]
          

October 1999 (C)

       Worried about intercepts showing a growing likelihood of al-Qaeda attacks around the millennium (see December 31, 1999-January 1, 2000), the CIA steps up ties with Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban. The CIA sends a team of agents to his headquarters in a remote part of northern Afghanistan, asking for his help to capture or kill bin Laden. Massoud complains that the US is too focused on bin Laden, and isn't interested in the root problems of Taliban, Saudi and Pakistani support for terrorism that is propping him up. He agrees to help nonetheless, and the CIA gives him more aid in return. But the US is officially neutral in the Afghan civil war and the agents are prohibited from giving any aid that would “fundamentally alter the Afghan battlefield.” [Washington Post 2/23/04] DIA agent Julie Sirrs (see October 1998 (B)), newly retired, is at Massoud's headquarters at the same time as the CIA team. She gathers valuable intelligence from captured al-Qaeda soldiers while the CIA agents stay in their guesthouse. She publishes much of what she learned on this trip and other trips in the summer of 2001. [Washington Post 2/28/04]
          

October 1999 (B)

       The CIA readies an operation to capture or kill bin Laden, secretly training and equipping approximately 60 commandos from the ISI. Pakistan supposedly agrees to this plan in return for the lifting of economic sanctions and more economic aid. The plan is ready to go by this month, but it is aborted because on October 12, General Musharraf takes control of Pakistan in a coup (see October 12, 1999). Musharraf refuses to continue the operation despite the promise of substantial rewards. [Washington Post 10/3/01 (C)] Some US officials later say the CIA was tricked, because the ISI just feigned to cooperate as a stalling tactic, and never intended to get bin Laden. [New York Times 10/29/01]
          

November 14, 1999

       United Nations sanctions against Afghanistan take effect. The sanctions freeze Taliban assets and impose an air embargo on Ariana airlines in an effort to force the Taliban to hand over bin Laden. [BBC 2/6/00] However, Ariana keeps its illegal trade network flying (see Mid-1996-October 2001), and is grounded in early 2001 only when additional sanctions against Ariana take effect (see January 19, 2001).
          

December 1999

       The CIA begins “persistent” efforts to recruit German businessman Mamoun Darkazanli (see September 24, 2001) as an informer. Darkazanli knows Atta and the other members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. US and German intelligence had previously opened investigations into Darkazanli (see September 20, 1998). Agents occasionally followed him, but Darkazanli obviously noticed the trail on him at least once. More costly and time-consuming electronic surveillance is not done however, and by the end of 1999 the investigation has produced little of value. German law does not allow foreign governments to have informants in Germany. So this month, Thomas Volz, the undercover CIA representative in Hamburg appears at the headquarters of the Hamburg state domestic intelligence agency, the LFV, responsible for tracking terrorists and domestic extremists. He tells them the CIA believes Darkazanli had knowledge of an unspecified terrorist plot and encourages that he be “turned” against his al-Qaeda comrades. A source later recalls he says, “Darkazanli knows a lot.” Efforts to recruit him continue the next year (see Spring 2000). The CIA has not admitted this interest in Darkazanli. [Chicago Tribune 11/17/02; Stern 8/13/03]
          

Late 1999 (B)

       Former Saudi Intelligence Minister Prince Turki al Faisal later claims that his intelligence agency tells the CIA that hijacker Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi have been put on a Saudi terror watch list. Turki says, “What we told [the CIA] was these people were on our watch list from previous activities of al-Qaeda, in both the [1998] embassy bombings and attempts to smuggle arms into the kingdom in 1997.” However, the CIA strongly denies any such warning. [AP, 10/16/03] Turki admits no documents concerning this were sent to the US, but claims the information was passed via word of mouth. [Salon 10/18/03] The US doesn't put these two on their watch list until August 2001 (see August 23, 2001 (C)).
          

Early December 1999

       The CIA learns from the Jordanian government about an al-Qaeda millennium bombing plot (see November 30, 1999). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke is told of this, and he implements a plan to neutralize the threat. [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, p. 205, p. 211] The plan, approved by President Clinton, focuses on harassing and disrupting al-Qaeda members throughout the world. The FBI is put on heightened alert, counterterrorism teams are dispatched overseas, a formal ultimatum is given to the Taliban to keep al-Qaeda under control, and friendly intelligence agencies are asked to help. There are Cabinet-level meetings nearly every day dealing with terrorism. [Washington Post, 4/20/00, AP, 6/28/02] All US embassies, military bases, police departments, and other agencies are given a warning to be look out for signs of an al-Qaeda millennium attack. One alert border agent responds by arresting terrorist Ahmed Ressam, which leads to the unraveling of several bombing plots (see December 14, 1999 and December 14-31, 1999). No terror attacks occur (see December 31, 1999-January 1, 2000). However, Clarke claims the FBI generally remains unhelpful. For example, around this time the FBI says there are no web sites in the US soliciting volunteers for training in Afghanistan or money for terrorist front groups. Clarke has a private citizen check to see if this is true, and within days he is given a long list of such web sites. The FBI and Justice Department apparently fail to do anything with the information. [Newsweek 3/31/04 (B)]
          

December 11, 1999

       The CIA's counterterrorism center sends a cable reminding all personnel about various reporting obligations. The cable clearly states that it is important to share information so terrorists can be placed on watch lists The US keeps a number of watch lists; the most important one is known as TIPOFF, with about 61,000 names of suspected terrorists by 9/11. [Los Angeles Times, 9/22/02, Knight Ridder, 1/27/04] The list is checked whenever someone enters or leaves the US. “The threshold for adding a name to TIPOFF is low,” and even a “reasonable suspicion” that a person is connected with a terrorist group, warrants being added to the database. [Congressional Inquiry 9/20/02] Within a month, two future hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, are identified (see January 5, 2000 and January 8, 2000), but the cable's instructions are not followed for them. The CIA initially tells the 9/11 Congressional inquiry that no such guidelines existed, and CIA Director Tenet fails to mention the cable in his testimony. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03 (B); New York Times 5/15/03]
          

December 14-31, 1999

      
Ahmed Ressam.
In the wake of the arrest of Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999), FBI investigators work frantically to uncover more millennium plots before they are likely to take place at the end of the year. Documents found with Ressam lead to co-conspirators in New York, then Boston and Seattle. Enough people are arrested to prevent any attacks(see December 31, 1999-January 1, 2000). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later says, “I think a lot of the FBI leadership for the first time realized that…there probably were al-Qaeda people in the United States. They realized that only after they looked at the results of the investigation of the millennium bombing plot.” [PBS Frontline 10/3/02] Yet Clinton's National Security Adviser Sandy Berger says, “Until the very end of our time in office, the view we received from the [FBI] was that al-Qaeda had limited capacity to operate in the US and any presence here was under surveillance.” No analysis is done before 9/11 to investigate just how big that presence might be. [Washington Post 9/20/02]
          

December 31, 1999-January 1, 2000

       The CIA expects five to 15 attacks against American targets around the world over the New Year's weekend, but none occur. [Time 8/4/02] A heightened state of alert helps stop some attacks (see November 30, 1999, Early December 1999, December 14, 1999, and December 14-31, 1999), while an attack on a naval ship in Yemen fails through sheer luck (see January 3, 2000).
          

2000

       The BKA, the German counterpart to the FBI, prepares an extensive report on al-Qaeda's connections in Germany. The BKA warns that “unknown structures” are preparing to stage attacks abroad. However, the German federal prosecutor's office rejects a proposed follow-up investigation. One of the persons named in the BKA report supposedly had contacts with the Hamburg terror group, containing hijackers Atta, Alshehhi and others. [Berliner Zeitung 9/24/01]
          

January 1, 2000-September 11, 2001

      
Saeed Sheikh, partying in the year 2000.
After being released from prison (see December 24-31, 1999), Saeed Sheikh stays in Kandahar, Afghanistan, for several days and meets with Taliban leader Mullah Omar. He also meets with bin Laden, who is said to call Saeed “my special son.”He then travels to Pakistan and is given a house by the ISI. [Vanity Fair, 8/02] He lives openly and opulently in Pakistan, even attending “swanky parties attended by senior Pakistani government officials.” US authorities conclude he is an asset of the ISI. [Newsweek 3/13/02] Amazingly, he is allowed to travel freely to Britain, and visits family there at least twice (see 1999 (J)). [Vanity Fair 8/02] He works with Ijaz Shah, a former ISI official in charge of handling two terrorist groups (see February 5, 2002), Lieutenant-General Mohammad Aziz Khan, former deputy chief of the ISI in charge of relations with Jaish-e-Mohammad (see September 17-18 and 28, 2001 and October 7, 2001), and Brigadier Abdullah, a former ISI officer. He is well known to other senior ISI officers. He regularly travels to Afghanistan and helps train new terrorist recruits in training camps there. [New York Times, 2/25/02, National Post, 2/26/02, Guardian, 7/16/02, India Today, 2/25/02] Saeed helps train the 9/11 hijackers also, presumably in Afghanistan. [Telegraph, 9/30/01] He also helps al-Qaeda develop a secure web-based communications system, and there is even talk that he could one day succeed bin Laden. [Vanity Fair, 8/02, Telegraph, 7/16/02] He wires money to the 9/11 hijackers on at least one occasion (see Early August 2001 (D)) and possibly others (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000 and September 8-11, 2001 (B)). Presumably he sends the money from the United Arab Emirates during his many trips there. [Guardian 2/9/02]
          

January-May 2000

       9/11 hijacker Atta is put under surveillance by the CIA while living in Germany. [AFP, 9/22/01, Focus, 9/24/01, Berliner Zeitung, 9/24/01] He is “reportedly observed buying large quantities of chemicals in Frankfurt, apparently for the production of explosives [and/or] for biological warfare.” “The US agents reported to have trailed Atta are said to have failed to inform the German authorities about their investigation,” even as the Germans are investigating many of his associates (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). “The disclosure that Atta was being trailed by police long before 11 September raises the question why the attacks could not have been prevented with the man's arrest.”[Observer, 9/30/01] A German newspaper adds that Atta was still able to get a visa into the US on May 18. The surveillance stopped when he left for the US at the start of June (see June 3, 2000). But “experts believe that the suspect remained under surveillance in the United States.” [Berliner Zeitung, 9/24/01] A German intelligence official also states, “We can no longer exclude the possibility that the Americans wanted to keep an eye on Atta after his entry in the USA.” [Focus, 9/24/01] This correlates with a Newsweek claim that US officials knew Atta was a “known [associate] of Islamic terrorists well before [9/11].” [Newsweek 9/20/01] However, a Congressional inquiry later reports that the US “intelligence community possessed no intelligence or law enforcement information linking 16 of the 19 hijackers [including Atta] to terrorism or terrorist groups.” [Senate Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] Did the fact that the CIA started monitoring Atta in January 2000 have any connection to roommate Ramzi bin al-Shibh's participation in an al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia, that the CIA had ordered monitored that same month (see January 5-8, 2000)?
          

January 5, 2000

       Hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi travel to an important al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia. Almihdhar leaves from a safe house in Yemen, and is watched. Agents from eight CIA offices and six friendly foreign intelligence services are all asked to help track him, in the hopes he will lead them to bigger al-Qaeda figures. [Stern, 8/13/03] On his way to Malaysia, a friendly intelligence service secretly makes copies of his passport as he is passing through an airport and immediately reports this to the CIA. So by the time he reaches Malaysia, the CIA knows his full name, and the fact that he has a multiple entry visa to the US good from April 1999 to April 2000 (see April 3-7, 1999). Nawaf Alhazmi meanwhile is in Pakistan and arrives in Malaysia on the same day. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03] Even though the CIA now knows Almihdhar has a year long visa to the US and presumably plans to travel there, they don't place him on a terror watch list, despite recent and clear guidelines on the importance of doing so (see December 11, 1999). The FBI also is not informed a known terrorist has a valid US visa. The FBI is merely told, “The operation is still going on. Until now, many suspicious activities were watched. But no evidence was found that indicated a coming attack or criminal acts.” The FBI also should watch list Almihdhar merely from his description as a “terrorist operative,” but they fail to do so. [Stern 8/13/03; Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

January 5-8, 2000

      
Attendees of the Malaysian meeting. From left to right top row: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Left to right bottom row: Hambali, Yazid Sufaat, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh. No pictures of bin Atash or Fahad al-Quso are available, th
About a dozen of bin Laden's trusted followers hold a secret, “top-level al-Qaeda summit” in the city of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. [CNN, 8/30/02, San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/27/02] Plans for the October 2000 bombing of the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000) and the 9/11 attacks are discussed. [USA Today, 2/12/02, CNN, 8/30/02] At the request of the CIA, the Malaysian secret service monitors the meeting and then passes the information on to the US (see January 6-9, 2000). Attendees of the meeting include:
  1. Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and
  2. Khalid Almihdhar. The CIA and FBI will later miss many opportunities to foil the 9/11 plot through these two hijackers and the knowledge of their presence at this meeting. The CIA already knows many details about these two by the time the meeting begins (see December 1999 (B) and January 5, 2000).
  3. Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a top al-Qaeda leader and the alleged “mastermind” of the 9/11 attacks. The US had known Mohammed was a major terrorist since the exposure of Operation Bojinka in 1995 (see January 6, 1995 and January-May 1996), and knew what he looked like, as can be seen from a 1998 wanted poster (see Mid-1996-September 11, 2001). US officials have stated that they only realized the meeting was important in the summer of 2001, but the presence of Mohammed should have proved the meeting's importance. [Los Angeles Times 2/2/02] The possible presence of Mohammed at this meeting is highly disputed. In 2003, one terrorism expert testifies before the 9/11 9/11 Commission that he has access to transcripts of Mohammed's interrogations since his capture, and that Mohammed admits leading this meeting. [Newsweek, 7/9/03, New York Post, 7/10/03] Many media reports identify him there as well (for instance, [Independent, 6/6/02, CNN, 8/30/02, CNN, 11/7/02, CBC, 10/29/03]). However, US officials deny the claim. Says Newsweek, “Mohammed's presence would make the intelligence failure of the CIA even greater. It would mean the agency literally watched as the 9-11 scheme was hatched—and had photographs of the attack's mastermind … doing the plotting.” [Newsweek, 7/9/03]
  4. An Indonesian terrorist known as Hambali. He was the main financier of Operation Bojinka. [CNN 8/30/02; CNN 3/14/02] Philippine intelligence officials learned of Hambali's importance in 1995, but didn't track him down or share information about him. [CNN 3/14/02]
  5. Yazid Sufaat, a Malaysian man who owned the condominium where the meeting was held. [New York Times 1/31/02; Newsweek 6/2/02] A possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through Sufaat's presence at this meeting is later missed (see September-October 2000). Sufaat travels to Afghanistan in June 2001, and is arrested by Malaysian authorities when he returns to Malaysia in late 2001. [Australian, 12/24/02]
  6. Fahad al-Quso, a top al-Qaeda operative. [Newsweek 9/20/01] Al-Quso is arrested by Yemeni authorities in late 2000, but the FBI is not given a chance to interrogate him before 9/11 (see Early December 2000). He escapes from prison in 2003. [CNN 5/15/03]
  7. Tawifiq bin Attash, better known by his alias “Khallad.” Bin Attash, a “trusted member of bin Laden's inner circle,” was in charge of bin Laden's bodyguards, and served as bin Laden's personal intermediary at least for the USS Cole attack. [Newsweek 9/20/01] He is also thought to be the “mastermind” of that attack. A possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through bin Attash's presence at this meeting is later missed (see January 4, 2001). Bin Attash had been previously arrested in Yemen for suspected terror ties, but let go. [Contemporary Southeast Asia 12/1/02] He is captured in Pakistan by the US in April 2003. [New York Times 5/1/03]
  8. Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who investigators believe wanted to be the twentieth hijacker. His presence at the meeting may not have been realized until after 9/11, despite a picture of him next to bin Attash, and even video footage of him. [Washington Post, 7/14/02, Time, 9/15/02, Die Zeit, 10/1/02, Newsweek, 11/26/01, CNN, 11/7/02] German police have credit card receipts indicating bin al-Shibh is in Malaysia at the same time. [Los Angeles Times 9/1/02] Anonymous Malaysian officials claim he is there, but US officials deny it. [AP, 9/20/02] One account says he is recognized at the time of the meeting, which makes it hard to understand why is wasn't tracked back to Germany and the Hamburg cell with Mohamed Atta and other hijackers. [Der Spiegel, 10/1/02] Another possibility to expose the 9/11 plot through bin al-Shibh's presence at this meeting is later missed (see June 10, 2000). It appears bin al-Shibh and Almihdhar are directly involved in the attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000) [Newsweek, 9/4/02, Washington Post, 7/14/02, Guardian, 10/15/01], so better surveillance or follow-up from this meeting could have prevented that attack as well.
  9. Some documents purport to show that an al-Qaeda agent of Iraqi nationality, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, is also at the meeting. [Newsweek, 10/7/02, Australian, 12/24/02] But his presence at the meeting is uncertain. [AP, 10/2/02]
  10. Very few accounts mention it, but there is the possibility that another hijacker, Salem Alhazmi, also attends the meeting. [Australian, 12/24/02] US intelligence intercepts from before the meeting show that he at least had plans to attend. [Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03]
  11. (and more?) Unnamed members of the Egyptian based Islamic Jihad are also known to have been at the meeting. [Cox News, 10/21/01] Islamic Jihad had merged with al-Qaeda in February 1998. [ABC News, 11/17/01]

          

January 6-9, 2000

       The Malaysian secret service is monitoring an important al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000), and begins passing what it knows to the CIA even before the meeting is over. Media accounts are consistent that the terrorists at the meeting are photographed and even videotaped, but there is no wiretapping or other recording of their conversations. [Newsweek, 6/2/02, Ottawa Citizen, 9/17/01, Observer, 10/7/01, CNN, 3/14/02, New Yorker, 1/14/02, CBC, 10/29/03, Stern, 8/13/03] However, Malaysian officials aren't informed what to look for, and focus more on monitoring the local Malaysian and Indonesian hosts who serve as drivers than the visitors attending the meeting. [AP 9/20/02] Authorities find out what hotel Khalid Almihdhar is staying at and he and his associates are photographed there [Newsweek, 9/20/01, Observer, 10/7/01], as well as coming and going from the condo where the meeting is held. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02] On January 6, the CIA office in Malaysia begins passing details of the meeting to the CIA's Counter Terrorism Center (CTC). Cofer Black, head of the CTC, orders that he be continually informed about the meeting, and CIA Director Tenet is frequently informed as well. [Stern, 8/13/03] The 9/11 9/11 Commission later reports that “the top officials in the US government” are also advised about this meeting around this time, but it does not mention exactly who these officials are. [New York Times 1/27/04] (Note that the fact that top officials are advised at the time contradict early reports claiming US intelligence had no idea the meeting was important until August 2001 (see for instance [Cox News, 10/21/01].)) On January 7, Khalid Almihdhar and others go shopping, giving Malaysian security ample opportunity to collect information about them. They spend hours at internet cafes, and after they leave Malaysian intelligence searches the hard drives of the computers they used. [Australian 12/24/02; Stern 8/13/03] But no photos or video from any this surveillance has been publicly released, and details are few. It is known that some photos show Khallad bin Attash with Almihdhar, some show Fahad al-Quso next to Almihdhar, and that some photos are of bin al-Shibh. By January 9, all the data and footage the Malaysians have collected are in the hands of the CIA. [Stern 8/13/03; Newsweek 9/20/01]
          

January 8, 2000

       The al-Qaeda terror summit in Malaysia ends (see January 5-8, 2000) and the participants leave. Hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi fly to Bangkok, Thailand, traveling under their real names. Al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash also travels with them and the three sit side by side in the airplane, but bin Attash travels under the false name Salah Said. [AP, 9/20/02, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] The CIA knows that a “Nawaf” has attended the meeting, but doesn't know his last name. Shortly afterwards, the CIA is told of this airplane flight, and the fact that the person sitting next to Almihdhar on the plane is named “Nawaf Alhazmi.” But neither Alhazmi nor Almihdhar are placed on a terror watch list. The CIA still fails to tell the FBI that Almihdhar has a valid US visa, and fails to give them Alhazmi's last name. [Stern, 8/13/03, Congressional Inquiry, 7/24/03] The CIA tries but fails to find them in Thailand (see January 8-15, 2000).
          

January 8-15, 2000

       Hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi stay in Thailand. The CIA is trying to find Almihdhar since they know his full name and the fact that he's just come from an important al-Qaeda meeting (see January 5-8, 2000, January 6-9, 2000, and January 8, 2000). For six weeks they look for him in Thailand. But the search is unsuccessful, because, as one official puts it, “when they arrived we were unable to mobilize what we needed to mobilize.” Nevertheless, in February, the CIA rejects a request from foreign authorities to give assistance. The CIA gives up the search in early March when an unnamed foreign government tells the CIA that Nawaf Alhazmi has already flown to the US (see January 15-early February, 2000 and March 5, 2000). [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03]
          

January 15, 2000

       Shortly after the al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia, hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar fly from Bangkok, Thailand, to Los Angeles, California. [MSNBC 12/11/01] The CIA tracks Alhazmi, but apparently doesn't realize Almihdhar is also on the plane. The US keeps a watch list database known as TIPOFF, with over 80,000 names of suspected terrorists as of late 2002. [Los Angeles Times, 9/22/02] The list is checked whenever someone enters or leaves the US. “The threshold for adding a name to TIPOFF is low,” and even a “reasonable suspicion” that a person is connected with a terrorist group, warrants being added to the database. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] Almihdhar and Alhazmi are important enough to have been mentioned to the CIA Director several times this month, but are not added to the watch list. [Congressional Intelligence Committee, 9/20/02] Furthermore, “astonishingly, the CIA … [didn't] notify the FBI, which could have covertly tracked them to find out their mission.” [Newsweek 6/2/02]
          

March 2000

       An FBI agent, reportedly angry over a glitch in an e-mail tracking program that has somehow mixed innocent non-targeted e-mails with those belonging to al-Qaeda, supposedly accidentally destroys all of the FBI's Denver-based intercepts of bin Laden's colleagues in a terrorist investigation. The tracking program is called Carnivore. But the story sounds dubious, and is flatly contradicted in the same article: “A Justice Department official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Tuesday night that the e-mails were not destroyed.” [AP, 5/28/02] [FTW]
          
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