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Cover-up,lies
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none
Israeli spies
Afghan war prep
Saudis, Bush
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Bush on 9/11
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Complete 911 Timeline

 
  

Project: Complete 911 Timeline

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Showing 1-100 of 356 events (use filters to narrow search):    next 100

December 26, 1979

       Soviet forces invade Afghanistan. They will withdraw in 1989 after a brutal 10-year war. It has been commonly believed that the invasion was unprovoked. But in a 1998 interview, Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's National Security Adviser, reveals that the CIA began destabilizing the pro-Soviet Afghan government six months earlier, in a deliberate attempt to get the Soviets to invade and have their own Vietnam-type costly war: “What is most important to the history of the world? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some stirred-up Moslems or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the cold war?” [Le Nouvel Observateur 1/98; Mirror 1/29/02] The US and Saudi Arabia give a huge amount of money (estimates range up to $40 billion total for the war) to support the mujaheddin guerrilla fighters opposing the Russians. Most of the money is managed by the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence agency. [Nation 2/15/99]
          

Mid-1980s

       Salem bin Laden, Osama's oldest brother, is allegedly involved in the Iran-Contra affair. Quoting a French intelligence report posted by Frontline (see October 1980), The New Yorker reports, “During the nineteen-eighties, when the Reagan Administration secretly arranged for an estimated thirty-four million dollars to be funneled through Saudi Arabia to the Contras, in Nicaragua, Salem bin Laden aided in this cause, according to French intelligence.” [New Yorker 11/5/01; Frontline 2001 (B)]
          

Mid 1980s (C)

       Controversial author Gerald Posner says ex-CIA officials claim that General Akhtar Abdul Rahman, ISI head from 1980 to 1987, regularly meets bin Laden in Peshawar, Pakistan. The ISI and bin Laden form a partnership that forces Afghan tribal warlords to pay a “tax” on the opium trade. By 1985, bin Laden and the ISI are splitting annual profits of up to $100 million a year.
          

Early 1980

       Osama bin Laden begins providing financial, organizational, and engineering aid for the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, with the advice and support of the Saudi royal family. [New Yorker, 11/5/01] Some believe he was hand-picked for the job by Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi Arabia's secret service. [Sunday Times, 8/25/02] Bin Laden has been considered a Turki protégé by some biographers. [New Yorker 11/5/01] The Pakistani ISI wanted a Saudi prince as a public demonstration of the commitment of the Saudi royal family and as a way to ensure royal funds for the anti-Soviet forces. The agency failed to get royalty, but bin Laden, with his family's influential ties, was good enough for the ISI. [Miami Herald 9/24/01]
          

Mid-1980s (B)

       The ISI starts a special cell of agents who use profits from heroin production for covert actions “at the insistence of the CIA.” “This cell promotes the cultivation of opium and the extraction of heroin in Pakistani territory as well as in the Afghan territory under mujaheddin control for being smuggled into the Soviet controlled areas, in order to turn the Soviet troops heroin addicts. After the withdrawal of the Soviet troops, the ISI's heroin cell started using its network of refineries and smugglers for smuggling heroin to the Western countries and using the money as a supplement to its legitimate economy. But for these heroin dollars, Pakistan's legitimate economy must have collapsed many years ago.” [Financial Times, Asian edition, 8/10/01] The ISI grows so powerful on this money, that Time magazine later states, “Even by the shadowy standards of spy agencies, the ISI is notorious. It is commonly branded ‘a state within the state,’ or Pakistan's ‘invisible government.’ ” [Time 5/6/02]
          

Early 1980

       Osama bin Laden begins providing financial, organizational, and engineering aid for the mujaheddin in Afghanistan, with the advice and support of the Saudi royal family. [New Yorker 11/5/01] Some, including Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” during the Clinton and Bush Jr. administrations, believe he was hand-picked for the job by Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi Arabia's secret service. [Sunday Times 8/25/02; New Yorker 11/5/01] The Pakistani ISI wanted a Saudi prince as a public demonstration of the commitment of the Saudi royal family and as a way to ensure royal funds for the anti-Soviet forces. The agency failed to get royalty, but bin Laden, with his family's influential ties, was good enough for the ISI. [Miami Herald 9/24/01] Clarke argues that the Saudis and other Muslim governments use the Afghan war in an attempt to get rid of their own misfits and troublemakers. This multinational force later coalesces into al-Qaeda (see August 11, 1988).
          

October 1980

      
Salem bin Laden with baby in 1975.
Salem bin Laden, Osama's oldest brother, is later described by a French secret intelligence report as one of the two closest friends of Saudi Arabia's King Fahd. As such, he often performs important missions for Saudi Arabia. The French report speculates that he is involved in secret Paris meetings between US and Iranian emissaries this month. Frontline, which published the French report, notes that such meetings have never been confirmed. Rumors of these meetings have been called the “October Surprise” and some have speculated Bush Sr. negotiated in these meetings a delay to the release of the US hostages in Iran, thus helping Ronald Reagan and Bush win the 1980 Presidential election. All of this is highly speculative, but if the French report is correct, it points to a long-standing connection of highly illegal behavior between the Bush and bin Laden families (see also Mid-1980s and 1988). [PBS Frontline 2001 (B)]
          

1982-1991

      
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar still controls part of Afghanistan.
Afghan opium production skyrockets from 250 tons in 1982 to 2,000 tons in 1991, coinciding with CIA support and funding of the mujaheddin. Alfred McCoy, a professor of Southeast Asian history at the University of Wisconsin, says US and Pakistani intelligence officials sanctioned the rebels' drug trafficking because of their fierce opposition to the Soviets: “If their local allies were involved in narcotics trafficking, it didn't trouble CIA. They were willing to keep working with people who were heavily involved in narcotics.” For instance, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a rebel leader who received about half of all the CIA's covert weapons, was known to be a major heroin trafficker. The director of the CIA in Afghanistan claims later to be oblivious about the drug trade: “We found out about it later on.” [Minneapolis Star-Tribune 9/30/01; Atlantic Monthly 5/96]
          

1984-1994

       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?
          

1984

       Bin Laden moves to Peshawar, a Pakistani town bordering Afghanistan, and is running a front organization for the mujaheddin known as Maktab al-Khidamar (MAK), funneling money, arms and fighters from the outside world into the Afghan war. [New Yorker, 1/24/00] “MAK was nurtured by Pakistan's state security services, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, or ISI, the CIA's primary conduit for conducting the covert war against Moscow's occupation.” [MSNBC, 8/24/98] He becomes closely tied to the warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and greatly strengthens Hekmatyar's opium smuggling operations. [Le Monde, 9/14/01] Hekmatyar had ties with bin Laden, the CIA and drug running, and has also been called “an ISI stooge and creation” by the Wall Street Journal. [Asia Times 11/15/01]
          

1985-1989

       Sheikh Abdullah Azzam, bin Laden's mentor, makes repeated trips to the US and other countries, building up his organization, Makhtab al-Khidimat (MAK), also known as the Services Office. Branches of the MAK open in over 30 US cities, as Muslim-Americans donate millions to support the Afghan war against the Soviet Union. Azzam is assassinated in a car bomb attack in late 1989. Some US intelligence officials believe bin Laden ordered the killing. Bin Laden soon takes over the MAK, which morphs into al-Qaeda. His followers soon take over MAK's offices in the US, and they become financial conduits for al-Qaeda terrorist operations.
          

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]
          

1986

       The CIA, ISI and bin Laden work together to build the Khost tunnel complex in Afghanistan. This will be a major target of bombing and fighting in the US defeat of the Taliban in 2001. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 9/23/01, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 9/23/01, The Hindu, 9/27/01, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, Ahmed Rashid, 3/01] It is reported before 9/11 that “bin Laden worked closely with Saudi, Pakistani and US intelligence services to recruit mujaheddin from many Muslim countries,” but this hasn't been reported much since. [UPI 6/14/01] A CIA spokesman will later claim, “For the record, you should know that the CIA never employed, paid, or maintained any relationship whatsoever with bin Laden.” [Ananova 10/31/01]
          

September 1986

       Worried that the Soviets are winning the war in Afghanistan, the US decides to train and arm the mujaheddin with Stinger missiles. The Soviets are forced to stop using the attack helicopters that were being used to devastating effect. Some claim the Stingers turn the tide of the war and lead directly to Soviet withdrawal (see February 15, 1989). Now the mujaheddin are better trained and armed than ever before.
          

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]
          

1988

       Prior to this year, George Bush Jr. is a failed oil man. Three times friends and investors have bailed him out to keep him from going bankrupt. But in this year, the same year his father becomes President, some Saudis buy a portion of his small company, Harken, which has never worked outside of Texas. Later in the year, Harken wins a contract in the Persian Gulf and starts doing well financially. These transactions seem so suspicious that the Wall Street Journal in 1991 states it “raises the question of … an effort to cozy up to a presidential son.” Two major investors in Bush's company during this time are Salem bin Laden, Osama bin Laden's oldest brother, and Khaled bin Mahfouz. [Salon, 11/19/01, Intelligence Newsletter, 3/2/00] Khaled bin Mahfouz is a Saudi banker with a 20 percent stake in BCCI, a bank that will go bankrupt a few years later in the biggest corruption scandal in banking history (see July 5, 1991).
          

August 11, 1988

       Bin Laden forms al-Qaeda this year (notes are later found showing a meeting led by bin Laden on this day discussing “the establishment of a new military group”). [AP 2/19/03 (B)]
          

August 12, 1988

       The first media report appears about Echelon, a high-tech global electronic surveillance network between the US, Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. Governments deny that Echelon exists, but whistleblowers expose it. They claim it's being abused in many ways, including to spy on politicians domestically. Echelon is capable of “near total interception of international commercial and satellite communications,”including taps into transoceanic cables, but it is “impossible for analysts to listen to all but a small fraction of the billions of telephone calls, and other signals which might contain ‘significant’information.”[New Statesman, 8/12/88] Understanding the information surveillance capabilities of Echelon is vital to determining what should have been known about 9/11.
          

1989-May 2000

       Nabil al-Marabh moves to Boston in 1989 and apparently lives there as a taxi driver and al-Qaeda sleeper agent for the next ten years. [New York Times, 9/18/01, Boston Herald, 9/19/01] In 1992 he learns to use weapons in an Afghan al-Qaeda training camp with a terrorist named Raed Hijazi. [Chicago Sun-Times, 9/5/02] He and Hijazi live together and drive taxis at the same company in Boston for several years. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/01] A mutual friend at the same taxi company is later killed participating in a 1999 al-Qaeda terrorist attack. [Boston Herald, 9/19/01] Hijazi helps plan the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), and then participates in a failed attempt to bomb a hotel in Jordan (see November 30, 1999). In May 1999, the FBI approaches al-Marabh looking for Hijazi, but al-Marabh lies and says he doesn't know Hijazi. [Washington Post, 9/4/02] Hijazi is arrested in Syria in October 2000 and imprisoned in Jordan for his bomb attempt there. [Toronto Sun, 10/16/01] He begins to cooperate with investigators and identifies al-Marabh as a US al-Qaeda operative. [New York Times, 9/18/01] Terrorist Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999) gives evidence helping to prove that al-Marabh sent money to Hijazi for the Jordan bombing. [Toronto Sun, 11/16/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] By February 1999, al-Marabh is driving taxis in Tampa, Florida while maintaining a cover of living in Boston. [Toronto Star, 10/26/01, ABC 7, 1/31/02] [New York Times, 9/18/01] He apparently lives in Tampa at least part time until February 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).
          

January 20, 1989

       George Bush Sr. is inaugurated as US president, replacing Ronald Reagan. He remains president until 1993 (see January 20, 1993). Many of the key members in his government later have important positions again when his son George Bush Jr. becomes president in 2001 (see January 21, 2001). For instance, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell later becomes Secretary of State, and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney later becomes Vice President.
          

February 15, 1989

       Soviet forces withdraw from Afghanistan. Afghan Communists retain control of Kabul, the capital, until April 1992. [Washington Post, 7/19/92] Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism official during the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations and the counterterrorism “tsar” by 911, later claims that the huge amount of aid the US provides to Afghanistan drops off drastically as soon as the Soviets withdraw, abandoning the country to civil war and chaos. The new powers in Afghanistan are tribal chiefs, the Pakistani ISI, and the Arab war veterans coalescing into al-Qaeda.
          

November 9, 1989

       The Berlin Wall begins to fall in East Germany, signifying the end of the Soviet Union as a superpower. Just six days later, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Colin Powell presents a new strategy document to President Bush Sr., proposing that the US shift from countering Soviet attempts at world dominance to ensuring US world dominance. Bush Sr. accepts this plan in a public speech, with slight modifications, on August 2, 1990, the same day Iraq begins invading Kuwait. In early 1992, Powell, counter to his usual public dove persona, tells Congress People that the US requires “sufficient power” to “deter any challenger from ever dreaming of challenging us on the world stage.” He says, “I want to be the bully on the block.”Powell's early ideas of global hegemony will be formalized by others in a 1992 policy document (see March 8, 1992) and finally realized as policy when Bush Jr. becomes president in 2001. [Harper's 10/02]
          

1990

      
A young Hani Hanjour.
Hani Hanjour enters the US, the first of the hijackers to do so. He takes an English course in Tucson, Arizona. [Time 9/24/01 (B); Cox News 10/15/01; New York Times 6/19/02] However, the FBI claims Hanjour first arrived on October 3, 1991. [Congressional Intelligence Committee 9/26/02]
          

July 1990

      
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]
          

August 1990-March 1991

       Iraq invades and conquers Kuwait in August 1990. Bin Laden, newly returned to Saudi Arabia (see ), offers the Saudi government the use of his thousands of mujaheddin fighters to defend the country in case Iraq attacks it. The Saudi government turns him down, and allows 300,000 US soldiers on Saudi soil instead. Bin Laden is incensed, and immediately goes from ally to enemy of the Saudis. After a slow buildup, the US invades Iraq in March 1991 and reestablishes Kuwait. [Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner, 9/03, pp. 40-41] Bin Laden soon leaves the country and starts his career as terrorist (see March 1991 and April 1991).
          

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]
          

1991-1997

       The Soviet Union collapses in 1991, creating many new nations in Central Asia. Major US oil companies, including ExxonMobil, Texaco, Unocal, BP Amoco, Shell and Enron, directly invest billions in these Central Asian nations, bribing heads of state to secure equity rights in the huge oil reserves in these regions. The oil companies commit to future direct investments in Kazakhstan of $35 billion. These companies face the problem however of having to pay exorbitant prices to Russia to use Russian pipelines to get the oil out. These oil fields have an estimated $6 trillion potential value. US companies own approximately 75% of the rights. [New Yorker, 7/9/01, Asia Times, 1/26/02] [FTW]
          

1991-1995

       According to a Dutch government report, the US military secretly breaks a United Nations arms embargo during the 1991-1995 Yugoslavia war by channeling arms through radical Muslim groups in an “Iran-Contra-style operation.” US, Turkish and Iranian intelligence groups work with radical Muslims in what the Dutch report calls the “Croatian pipeline.” Arms bought by Iran and Turkey and financed by Saudi Arabia are flown into Croatia. Mujaheddin fighters are also flown in. The US is “very closely involved” in the flagrant breach of the embargo, an embargo the US is in charge of monitoring. [Guardian, 4/22/02] Could bin Laden have had a secret deal with the US to jointly support the Bosnian Muslims, and in return the US didn't try to catch bin Laden? If so, did it last after 1995?
          

1991

       Future National Security Advisor Rice joins Chevron's board of directors, and works with Chevron until being picked as Bush's National Security Advisor in 2001. Chevron even names an oil tanker after her. Rice is hired for her expertise in Central Asia, and much of her job is spent arranging oil deals in the Central Asian region. Chevron also has massive investments there, which grow through the 1990s. [Salon 11/19/01]
          

March 1991

       As the Gulf War against Iraq ends (see August 1990-March 1991), the US does not withdraw all of its soldiers from Saudi Arabia, but stations some 15,000-20,000 there permanently. [Nation 2/15/99] President Bush Sr. falsely claims that all US troops have withdrawn. [Guardian, 12/21/01] Their presence isn't admitted until 1995, and there has never been an official explanation as to why they are there. The Nation postulates that they are there to prevent a coup. Saudi Arabia has an incredible array of high-tech weaponry, but may lack the expertise to use it and local soldiers may have conflicting loyalties. In 1998, bin Laden will release a statement: “For more than seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples.” [Nation 2/15/99]
          

April 1991

       Bin Laden, recently returned to Saudi Arabia (), is placed under house arrest for his opposition to the continued placing of US soldiers on Saudi soil (see August 1990-March 1991and March 1991). [Frontline 9/01] Controversial author Gerald Posner claims that a still classified US intelligence report describes a secret deal between bin Laden and Saudi intelligence minister Prince Turki al-Faisal at this time. Although bin Laden has suddenly turned in an enemy of the Saudi state, he is nonetheless too popular for his role with the mujaheddin in Afghanistan to be easily imprisoned or killed. Bin Laden is allowed to leave Saudi Arabia with his money and supporters, but the Saudi government will publicly disown him. Privately, the Saudis will continue to fund his supporters with the understanding that they will never be used against Saudi Arabia. The wrath of the fundamentalist movement is thus directed away from the vulnerable Saudis. [Why America Slept, by Gerald Posner, 9/03, pp. 40-42] Posner says the Saudis “effectively had [bin Laden] on their payroll since the start of the decade.” [Time, 8/31/03] This deal is reaffirmed in 1996 and 1998 (see 1996 (C), May 1996, June 1996 (B), and July 1998). Bin Laden first returns to Afghanistan. But after staying there a few months, he moves again, settling into Sudan with hundreds of ex-Mujaheddin supporters. [Frontline 9/01]
          

July 5, 1991

       The Bank of England shuts down the Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), the largest Muslim bank in the world. Based in Pakistan, this bank financed numerous Muslim terrorist organizations and laundered money generated by illicit drug trafficking and other illegal activities, including arms trafficking. Bin Laden and many other terrorists had accounts there. [Detroit News, 9/30/01] One money-laundering expert claims, “BCCI did dirty work for every major terrorist service in the world.” [Los Angeles Times, 1/20/02] American and British governments knew about all this yet kept the bank open for years. The ISI had major connections to the bank. But, as later State Department reports indicate, Pakistan remains a major drug trafficking and money-laundering center despite the bank's closing. [Detroit News 9/30/01] The Washington Post claims, “The CIA used BCCI to funnel millions of dollars to the fighters battling the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.” A French intelligence report later suggests the BCCI network has been largely rebuilt by bin Laden (see October 2001). [Washington Post, 2/17/02] The ruling family of Abu Dhabi, the dominant emirate in the United Arab Emirates, owned 77 percent of the bank. [Los Angeles Times 1/20/02] A network of drug, weapons and money laundering later develops between al-Qaeda, the Taliban, United Arab Emirates and Pakistan (see Mid-1996-October 2001). Is the ISI still connected to this ex-BCCI network? Is the CIA?
          

1992-1996

       Bin Laden is based in Sudan. With a personal fortune of around $250 million (estimates range from $50 to $800 million [Miami Herald, 9/24/01]), he begins plotting terrorist attacks against the US. The first attack kills two tourists in Yemen at the end of 1992 (see December 1992). [New Yorker, 1/24/00] The CIA learns of his involvement in that attack in 1993, also learns that year he is channeling money to Egyptian extremists. US intelligence also learns that by January 1994 he is financing at least three terrorist training camps in North Sudan. [New York Times 8/14/96; Frontline 9/01; Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03 (B)]
          

March 8, 1992

       The Defense Planning Guidance, “a blueprint for the department's spending priorities in the aftermath of the first Gulf War and the collapse of the Soviet Union,” is leaked to the New York Times. [New York Times, 3/8/92, Newsday, 3/16/03] The paper causes controversy, because it hadn't yet been “scrubbed” to replace candid language with euphemisms. [New York Times, 3/10/92, New York Times, 3/11/92, Observer, 4/7/02] The document argues that the US dominates the world as sole superpower, and to maintain that role it “must maintain the mechanisms for deterring potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” [New York Times, 3/8/92, New York Times, 3/8/92 (B)] As the Observer summarizes it, “America's friends are potential enemies. They must be in a state of dependence and seek solutions to their problems in Washington.” [Observer, 4/7/02] The document is mainly written by Paul Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby, who hold relatively low posts at the time, but under Bush Jr. become Deputy Defense Secretary and Vice President Cheney's Chief of Staff, respectively. [Newsday, 3/16/03] The document conspicuously avoids mention of collective security arrangements through the United Nations, instead suggesting the US “should expect future coalitions to be ad hoc assemblies, often not lasting beyond the crisis being confronted.” [New York Times, 3/8/92] It also calls for “punishing” or “threatening punishment” against regional aggressors before they act. Interests to be defended pre-emptively include “ access to vital raw materials, primarily Persian Gulf oil, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missiles, [and] threats to US citizens from terrorism.” [Harper's, 10/02] Senator Lincoln Chafee (R), later says, “It is my opinion that [Bush Jr.'s] plan for preemptive strikes was formed back at the end of the first Bush administration with that 1992 report.”[Newsday, 3/16/03] In response to the controversy, in May 1992 the US releases an updated version of the document that stresses the US will work with the United Nations and its allies (see also January 1993). [Washington Post 5/24/92; Harper's 10/02]
          

June 4, 1992

       It is reported that the FBI is investigating the connections between James Bath and George Bush Jr. Bath is Salem bin Laden's official representative in the US. “Documents indicate that the Saudis were using Bath and their huge financial resources to influence US policy,” since Bush Jr.'s father is president. Bush denies any connections to Saudi money. What became of this investigation is unclear. [Houston Chronicle 6/4/92]
          

September 1, 1992

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

December 1992

       A bomb explodes in a hotel in Aden, Yemen, killing two tourists. US soldiers had just left the hotel for Somalia. Intelligence agents suspect this may be the first terrorist attack against the US connected to bin Laden. [Miami Herald, 9/24/01] US intelligence concludes in April 1993 that “[Bin Laden's] almost certainly played a role.” [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03 (B)]
          

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 (B)

       Bin Laden buys a jet from the US military in Arizona (the Pentagon approved the transaction). This aircraft is later used to transport missiles from Pakistan that kill American Special Forces in Somalia. He also has some of his followers begin training as pilots in US flight schools. These initial flight trainings come to nothing when details are later revealed in a court case about Operation Bojinka (see January 6, 1995). [Sunday Herald 9/16/01]
          

1993 (C)

       An expert panel commissioned by the Pentagon 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]
          

January 1993

       In his last days in office as Defense Secretary, Dick Cheney releases a document called Defense Strategy for the 1990s. It reasserts the plans for US global domination outlined in an earlier Pentagon policy paper (see March 8, 1992). [Harper's, 10/02] But because of Clinton's presidential victory, the implementation of these plans will have to wait until Bush Jr. becomes president in 2001 and Cheney becomes vice president. However, Cheney and others will continue to refine this vision of global domination through the Project for the New American Century think tank while they wait to reassume political power (see June 3, 1997 and September 2000).
          

January 20, 1993

       Bill Clinton is inaugurated as president, replacing George Bush Sr. He remains president until 2001 (see January 21, 2001).
          

February 26, 1993

      
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]
          

June 1993-October 1994

       Saeed Sheikh, a brilliant British student at the London School of Economics, drops out of school and moves to his homeland of Pakistan to become a terrorist. Two months later, he begins training in Afghanistan at camps run by al-Qaeda and the Pakistani army. By mid-1994, he has become a terrorist instructor. In June 1994, he begins kidnapping Western tourists in India. In October 1994, he is captured after kidnapping three Britons and an American, and is put in a maximum-security prison (see November 1994-December 1999). The ISI pays for a lawyer to defend him. [Los Angeles Times, 2/9/02, Daily Mail, 7/16/02, Vanity Fair, 8/02] His supervisor for his terror work is an ISI officer named Ijaz Shah (see February 5, 2002). [Times of India, 3/12/02, Guardian, 7/16/02] Al-Qaeda and the ISI later rescue him from prison (see December 24-31, 1999) and he becomes a central figure in the financing of the 9/11 plot (see Early August 2001 (D)).
          

June 24, 1993

       Eight people are arrested, foiling a plot to bomb several New York landmarks. The targets were the United Nations building, 26 Federal Plaza, and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. The plotters are connected to Ramzi Yousef (see September 1, 1992, February 26, 1993, and January 6, 1995) and Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see July 1990). If the bombing planned for later in the year had been successful, thousands would have died. [Congressional Inquiry 7/24/03 (B)]
          

October 3-4, 1993

       Eighteen US soldiers are attacked and killed in Mogadishu, Somalia, in a spontaneous gun battle (later the subject of the movie Black Hawk Down). A 1998 US indictment charges bin Laden and his followers with training the attackers. [PBS Frontline 10/3/02 (C)] The link between bin Laden and the Somali killers of US soldiers appears to be Pakistani terrorist, Maulana Masood Azhar. [Los Angeles Times, 2/25/02] Azhar is associated with Pakistan's ISI (see December 24-31, 1999), and the US has not publicly complained that he is a free man in Pakistan (see December 14, 2002).
          

November 1993

      
The Dabhol power plant.
The Indian government gives approval for Enron's Dabhol power plant, located near Bombay on the west coast of India. Enron has invested $3 billion, the largest single foreign investment in India's history. Enron owns 65 percent of Dabhol. This liquefied natural gas powered plant is supposed to provide one-fifth of India's energy needs by 1997 [Asia Times, 1/18/01, Indian Express, 2/27/00] It is the largest gas-fired power plant in the world. Earlier in the year, the World Bank concludes that the plant is “not economically viable” and refuses to invest in it. [New York Times, 3/20/01] Enron apparently tries to make the plant financially viable by investing in gas fields in nearby Uzbekistan (see June 24, 1996), but it cannot get that gas to Dabhol without a gas pipeline through Afghanistan (see June 24, 1996 and June 1998 (B)). Construction of the plant is abandoned just before completion (see June 2001 (J)).
          

1994

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

Early 1994-January 1995

      
Mohammed in a 1998 FBI wanted poster, quite possibly digitally altered to show him without a beard.
9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed lives in the Philippines for a year, planning the Bojinka plot until the plot is exposed and he has to flee (see January 6, 1995). Police later say he lives a very expensive and non-religious lifestyle. He meets in karaoke bars and go-go clubs, dates go-go dancers, stays in four-star hotels, and takes scuba diving lessons. Once he rents a helicopter just to fly it past the window of a girlfriend's office in an attempt to impress her. This appears to be a pattern; for instance he has a big drinking party in 1998. [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/02] Officials believe his obvious access to large sums of money indicate that some larger network is backing him by this time. [Los Angeles Times 6/6/02] It has been suggested that Mohammed, a Pakistani, is able “to operate as he pleased in Pakistan” in the 1990s [Los Angeles Times, 6/24/02], and even is linked to the Pakistani ISI (see June 4, 2002). Could the ISI be backing him at this early date? His hedonistic time in the Philippines resembles reports of hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in the Philippines (see 1998-2000). Mohammed returns to the Philippines occasionally, even being spotted there after 9/11. [Knight Ridder, 9/9/02] He almost gets caught while visiting an old girlfriend there in 1999, and fails in a second plot to kill the Pope when the Pope cancels his visit to the Philippines that year. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/02, London Times, 11/10/02] Does Mohammed meet the hijackers in the Philippines?
          

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]
          

1994 (B)

       Coincidentally, three separate attacks this year involve hijacking airplanes to crash them into buildings. A disgruntled Federal Express worker tries to crash a DC-10 into a company building in Memphis but is overpowered by the crew. A lone pilot crashes a small plane onto the White House grounds, just missing the President's bedroom. An Air France flight is hijacked by a terrorist group linked to al-Qaeda, with the aim of crashing it into the Eiffel Tower, but French Special Forces storm the plane before it takes off. [New York Times, 10/3/01] The Eiffel Tower suicide plan is detailed in a Time magazine cover story.
          

March 1994

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

April 9, 1994

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

August 1994

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

September 1994

       Starting as Afghani exiles in Pakistan religious schools, the Taliban begin their conquest of Afghanistan. [MSNBC, 10/2/01] “The Taliban are widely alleged to be the creation of Pakistan's military intelligence [the ISI]. Experts say that explains the Taliban's swift military successes.” [CNN, 10/5/96] Richard Clarke, a counterterrorism official during the Reagan and Bush Sr. administrations and the counterterrorism “tsar” by 9/11, later claims that not only does the ISI create the Taliban, but they also facilitate connections between the Taliban and al-Qaeda to help the Taliban achieve victory. [ Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, p. 53] Less often reported is that the CIA worked with the ISI to create the Taliban. A long-time regional expert with extensive CIA ties says, “I warned them that we were creating a monster.” He adds that even years later, “The Taliban are not just recruits from ‘madrassas’ (Muslim theological schools) but are on the payroll of the ISI.” [Times of India, 3/7/01] The same claim is made on CNN in February 2002. [CNN, 2/27/02] The Wall Street Journal will state in November 2001: “Despite their clean chins and pressed uniforms, the ISI men are as deeply fundamentalist as any bearded fanatic; the ISI created the Taliban as their own instrument and still supports it.” [Asia Times 11/15/01]
          

November 1994-December 1999

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

December 12, 1994

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

December 14, 1994

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

1995

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

1995-2001

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

January 1995

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

January 6, 1995

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

January 20, 1995

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

February 1995

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

February 7, 1995

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

March 1995

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

March 1995-February 1996

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

Spring 1995

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

April 3, 1995

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

April 19, 1995

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

May 11, 1995

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

June 1995

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

July 1995

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

October 21, 1995

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

November 13, 1995

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

Late 1995

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

1996-December 2000

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

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]
          

1996 (D)

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

Early 1996-October 1998

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

1996

      
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).
          

Mid-1996-September 11, 2001

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

January 1996

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

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)]
          

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 (C)

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

March 1996

       The US pressures Sudan to do something about bin Laden, who is based in that country. According to some accounts, Sudan readily agrees, not wanting to be labeled a terrorist nation. Sudan's Minister of Defense engages in secret negotiations with the CIA in Washington. Sudan offers to extradite bin Laden to anywhere he might stand trial. Some accounts claim that Sudan offers bin Laden to the US, but the US decides not to take him because they don't have enough evidence at the time to charge him with a crime. [Village Voice, 10/31/01, Washington Post, 10/3/01] Richard Clarke, counterterrorism “tsar” for both Clinton and Bush Jr., calls this story a “fable” invented by the Sudanese and Americans friendly to Sudan. He points out that bin Laden “was an ideological blood brother, family friend, and benefactor” to Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi, so any offers to hand him over may have been disingenuous. [Against All Enemies, by Richard Clarke, 3/04, pp. 142-143] Saudi Arabia is discussed as a possibility, but the Saudi Arabian government doesn't want him, even though bin Laden has pledged to bring down the Saudi Arabian government. The 9/11 Commission later claims they find no evidence that Sudan offers bin Laden directly to the US, but they do find evidence that Saudi Arabia is discussed as an option. [9/11 Commission Report 3/24/04] US officials insist that bin Laden leave the country for anywhere but Somalia. One US intelligence source in the region later states: “We kidnap minor drug czars and bring them back in burlap bags. Somebody didn't want this to happen.” [Village Voice, 10/31/01, Washington Post, 10/3/01] Bin Laden leaves under pressure two months later (see May 18, 1996). CIA Director Tenet later denies Sudan made any offers to hand over bin Laden. [Senate Intelligence Committee 10/17/02]
          

April 1996 - March 1997

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

April 1996

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

May 1996

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

May 1996

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

May 18, 1996

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

June 1996 (B)

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

June 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 24, 1996

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

June 25, 1996

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

July 6 - 11 August, 1996

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

July 7, 1996

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

July 17, 1996

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

August 1996

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