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Context of 'June 23, 2011: Cell Phone Data Suggests Militant Group with ISI Ties Might Have Helped with Bin Laden’s Abbottabad Hideout'

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FBI reward notice for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.FBI reward notice for Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. [Source: FBI]Islamic militant Ramzi Yousef is sentenced to 240 years for his role in the 1993 WTC bombing. At the same time, prosecutors unseal an indictment against Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) for participating with Yousef in the 1995 Operation Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995). In unsealing this, US Attorney Mary Jo White calls KSM a “major player” and says he is believed to be a relative of Yousef. (Walsh 1/9/1998) The US announces a $2 million reward for his capture in 1998 and wanted posters with his picture are distributed. (Risen 6/5/2002) This contradicts the FBI’s claim after 9/11 that they did not realize he was a major terrorist before 9/11. (US Congress 12/11/2002) For instance, a senior FBI official later says, “He was under everybody’s radar. We don’t know how he did it. We wish we knew.… He’s the guy nobody ever heard of.” (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002) However, another official says, “We have been after him for years, and to say that we weren’t is just wrong. We had identified him as a major al-Qaeda operative before September 11.” (Risen 9/22/2002) Yet strangely, despite knowing KSM is a major al-Qaeda operations planner and putting out a large reward for his capture at this time, there is no worldwide public manhunt for him as there successfully was for his nephew Ramzi Yousef. KSM’s name remains obscure and he isn’t even put on the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list until one month after 9/11. (Lance 2003, pp. 327-30)

The New Woman All Women Health Care Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama, is bombed by anti-abortion activist Eric Rudolph. The bomb, hidden in a flowerpot, kills police officer Robert Sanderson and critically injures nurse Emily Lyons. Rudolph, who flees the scene and hides successfully for years in the wilds of western North Carolina, is also responsible for the fatal 1996 bombing during the Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia (see July 27, 1996 and After), and several other bombings, including other Atlanta abortion clinics (see January 16, 1997 and October 14, 1998) and an Atlanta lesbian bar (see February 21, 1997). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/14/1998; Kushner 2003, pp. 40; CNN 5/31/2003; CNN 12/11/2003) Rudolph lives in Murphy, North Carolina, a small town in the mountainous western part of the state. Over Christmas, he purchased materials from the local Wal-Mart to assist in his fashioning of the bomb. Rudolph was dissatisfied with the results of his earlier bombings, and instead of relying on an alarm clock to act as a timer as he did with his previous bombs, modifies a model airplane remote control to use as a detonator. Before dawn, he places the bomb inside a pot beside the front door of the clinic and places plastic flowers on top of it. He watches from a hill about a block away; when he sees Sanderson bend down to examine the flowerpot, he detonates the bomb. A witness sees Rudolph walking away from the explosion, and, later explaining that he found it suspicious when everyone else was running towards it, watches as Rudolph gets into his pickup truck and drives away. The witness writes down Rudolph’s license plate number—KND 1117—and alerts police. The FBI will soon identify Rudolph with the bombing, and will quickly tie him to his other three attacks. (Freeman 8/24/2006)
Opposed to Abortion, Government - Family members will later say that Rudolph is not only opposed to abortion, but to all forms of government in general; his sister-in-law will tell CNN that Rudolph’s immediate family is “against… any form of government or the form of government that we have in our country today.” Evidence shows Rudolph is an active member of the extremist anti-abortion group Army of God (see 1982 and Early 1980s) and the Christian Identity movement (see 1960s and After), a militant, racist and anti-Semitic organization that believes whites are God’s chosen people. He will be described by future Attorney General John Ashcroft as “the most notorious American fugitive on the FBI’s ‘Most Wanted’ list.” (CNN 12/11/2003)
Will Plead Guilty - Rudolph will later plead guilty to the bombing, and other crimes, in lieu of being sentenced to death (see April 14, 2005). He will justify the bombing in an essay from prison, writing that Jesus would condone “militant action in defense of the innocent.” He will also reveal the location of a large cache of explosives, apparently gathered for future bombing attacks. (Extremist Groups: Information for Students 1/1/2006; Associated Press 5/31/2009)
No Remorse for Sanderson's Death - Of Sanderson’s death, he will write: “Despite the fact that he may have been a good guy, he volunteered to work at a place that murders 50 people a week. He chose to wield a weapon in defense of these murderers… and that makes him just as culpable.… I have no regrets or remorse for my actions that day in January, and consider what happened morally justified.” (Freeman 8/24/2006)

A photocopy of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed’s Comoros passport in Sudan’s intelligence files.A photocopy of Fazul Abdullah Mohammed’s Comoros passport in Sudan’s intelligence files. [Source: Richard Miniter]Gutbi al-Mahdi, head of Sudan’s intelligence agency, sends a letter to David Williams, an FBI station chief. It reads, “I would like to express my sincere desire to start contacts and cooperation between our service and the FBI. I would like to take this opportunity with pleasure to invite you to visit our country. Otherwise, we could meet somewhere else.” Apparently the FBI is very eager to accept the offer and gain access to Sudan’s files on bin Laden and his associates. The US had been offered the files before (see March 8, 1996-April 1996; April 5, 1997), but the US position was that Sudan’s offers were not serious since Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi was ideologically close to bin Laden. But al-Turabi has lost power to moderates by this time, and in fact he is placed under arrest in 1998. There is a political battle between US agencies over the Sudanese offer, and in the end the State Department forbids any contact with al-Mahdi. On June 24, 1998, Williams is obliged to reply, “I am not currently in a position to accept your kind invitation.” Al-Madhi later will complain, “If they had taken up my offer in February 1998, they could have prevented the [US embassy] bombings.” Tim Carney, US ambassador to Sudan until 1997, will say, “The US failed to reciprocate Sudan’s willingness to engage us on serious questions of terrorism. We can speculate that this failure had serious implications - at the least for what happened at the US Embassies in 1998. In any case, the US lost access to a mine of material on bin Laden and his organization.” One of the plotters in the bombings is Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), who is living in Sudan but making trips to Kenya to participate in the bombing preparations. Sudan has files on him and continues to monitor him. Sudan also has files on Saif al-Adel, another embassy bomber who has yet to be captured. Sudan also has files on Wadih El-Hage and Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, both of whom have contact with members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell (see September 16, 1998; Late 1998; 1993). Salim even attends the same small Hamburg mosque as 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. Vanity Fair magazine will suggest that if al-Madhi’s offer had been properly followed up, both the embassy bombings and the 9/11 attacks could have been foiled. (Rose 1/2002) It is later revealed that the US was wiretapping bin Laden in Sudan on their own (see Early 1990s).

Osama bin Laden (right), Mohammed Atef (center), and an unidentified militant at the press conference publicizing the expanded fatwa in May 1998. Ayman al-Zawahiri is out of the picture, sitting on the other side of bin Laden.Osama bin Laden (right), Mohammed Atef (center), and an unidentified militant at the press conference publicizing the expanded fatwa in May 1998. Ayman al-Zawahiri is out of the picture, sitting on the other side of bin Laden. [Source: BBC]Osama bin Laden issues a fatwa (religious edict), declaring it the religious duty of all Muslims “to kill the Americans and their allies—civilians and military… in any country in which it is possible.” (Al-Quds al-Arabi (London) 2/23/1998; PBS Frontline 2001; Mackay 9/16/2001) This is an expansion of an earlier fatwa issued in August 1996, which called for attacks in the Arabian Peninsula only (see August 1996). Ayman al-Zawahiri, the head of the Egyptian militant group Islamic Jihad, is one of many militant leaders who sign the fatwa. This reveals to the public an alliance between al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad that has long been in effect. According to journalist Lawrence Wright, the fatwa was actually mostly written by al-Zawahiri the month before, even though it is released in bin Laden’s name only. (Some members of Islamic Jihad are upset by it and quit the group.) (Wright 2006, pp. 259-261) Also signing the fatwa are representatives from militant groups in Afghanistan, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Yemen, Eritrea, Djibouti, Kenya, Pakistan, Bosnia, Croatia, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, the Philippines, Tajikistan, Chechnya, Bangladesh, Kashmir, Azerbaijan, and Palestine. All these representatives call themselves allied to the “International Islamic Front for Jihad Against Jews and Crusaders” (the name al-Qaeda has not been widely popularized yet). New York magazine will note, “The [fatwa gives] the West its first glimpse of the worldwide conspiracy that [is] beginning to form.” (Wright 9/9/2002) The fatwa is published by Khalid al-Fawwaz, who runs bin Laden’s European headquarters in London, and its publication is preceded by what authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory term a “barrage of calls” from bin Laden’s monitored satellite phone to al-Fawwaz. However, this does not motivate British authorities to take any action against al-Fawwaz. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 111) In March 1998, 40 Afghan clerics issue a fatwa calling for a jihad against the US. A group of Pakistani clerics issues a similar fatwa in April. These fatwas give much more religious authority to bin Laden’s fatwa. It is suspected that bin Laden “discreetly prompted these two bodies to issue the ordinances.” (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 62-63) Bin Laden then will hold a press conference in May 1998 to publicize the fatwa (see May 26, 1998).

While at the radical Finsbury Park mosque in London, future shoe bomber Richard Reid, at this time an angry young Muslim, meets an Algerian named Djamel Beghal, known as a top militant Islamist. Beghal’s task at Finsbury Park, run by British intelligence informer Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997), is that of a “talent spotter”—he tells impressionable young men about jihad in places like Algeria and gets them to talk about their frustrations. If Beghal thinks a person has the potential to do more than just talk, he can arrange for the person to travel to a training camp in Afghanistan. Reid travels to Afghanistan after being selected by Beghal, although he will later fail to carry out his suicide mission (see December 22, 2001). (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 225)

“Just months before” the US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), Kenyan intelligence warns the CIA about an imminent plot to attack the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. Paul Muite, a prominent lawyer and legislator in Kenya, later says he was told the CIA showed the Kenyan warning to the Mossad, who was dismissive about its reliability. The CIA then chose to ignore it. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 206)

Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi.Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi. [Source: European Community]The first Interpol (international police) arrest warrant for bin Laden is issued—by Libya. (Bright 11/10/2002) According to the authors of the controversial book The Forbidden Truth, British and US intelligence agencies play down the arrest warrant, and have the public version of the warrant stripped of important information, such as the summary of charges and the fact that Libya requested the warrant. The arrest warrant is issued for the 1994 murder of two German intelligence agents in Libya by the al-Qaeda affiliate in Libya, al-Muqatila (see March 10, 1994). Allegedly, the warrant is downplayed and virtually ignored because of the hostility of Britain towards the Libyan government. British intelligence collaborated with al-Muqatila in an attempt to assassinate Libyan leader Colonel Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi in 1996 (see 1996). (Brisard and Dasquie 2002, pp. 97-98)

When Saudi authorities foil a plot by al-Qaeda manager Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri to smuggle missiles into the kingdom (see 1997), CIA director George Tenet becomes so concerned they are withholding information about the plot from the US that he flies to Saudi Arabia to meet Interior Minister Prince Nayef. Tenet is concerned because he believes that the four antitank missiles smuggled in from Yemen by al-Nashiri, head of al-Qaeda operations in the Arabian peninsula, may be intended for an assassination attempt on Vice President Albert Gore, who is to visit Saudi Arabia shortly. Tenet and another CIA manager are unhappy about the information being withheld and Tenet flies to Riyadh “to underscore the importance of sharing such information.” Tenet obtains “a comprehensive report on the entire Sagger missile episode” from Interior Minister Prince Nayef by making a not-so-veiled threat about negative publicity for Saudi Arabia in the US press. (Tenet 2007, pp. 105-6) It will later be reported that the militants’ plan is apparently to use the armor-piercing missiles to attack the armored limousines of members of the Saudi royal family. (Tyler 12/23/2002) There are no reports of the planned attack being carried out, so it appears to fail due to the confiscation of the missiles. However, al-Nashiri will later be identified as a facilitator of the East African embassy bombings (see August 22-25 1998) and will attend a summit of al-Qaeda operatives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which is monitored by local authorities and the CIA (see January 5-8, 2000).

US intelligence resumes monitoring the al-Qaeda cell in Kenya, and continues to listen in all the way through the US embassy attacks that the cell implements in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). US intelligence had begun wiretapping five phones used by the cell by late 1996, including the phones of cell leader Wadih El-Hage and two phones belonging to Mercy International, a charity believed to have been used as a front by the Kenya cell. The monitoring stopped in October 1997, though it is not clear why. The New York Times will report that “after a break, [monitoring] began again in May 1998, just months before the bombing and precisely during the time the government now asserts the attack was being planned.” It is not known what caused the monitoring to resume nor has it been explained how the cell was able to succeed in the embassy attacks while being monitored. (Weiser 1/13/2001)

Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer), a high-ranking al-Qaeda leader, visits Bosnia for unknown reasons and connects with a charity suspected of financing bin Laden’s organization. Salim was one of the founders of al-Qaeda and will be arrested in Germany later in the year (see September 16, 1998) and charged in connection with the 1998 embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Records show that the Bosnia branch of the US-based Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) sponsored Salim’s visa, reserved him an apartment, and identified him as one of its directors. A BIF mole in Bosnian intelligence is able to tip off Salim that investigators are onto him, so he is not caught (see September 1996-June 2000). Intelligence officials will question BIF officers about Salim’s trip in early 2000, but the reason for the trip remains a mystery. (Frantz 6/14/2002)

India, which has refused to sign the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) banning nuclear testing (see September 10, 1996), shocks the world by testing five nuclear devices over the course of three days. The largest is a 42-kiloton thermonuclear device. (Federation of American Scientists 12/18/2007) India’s rival Pakistan will conduct its own nuclear tests two weeks later (see May 28, 1998). Indian political scientist and nuclear critic Kanti Bajpai will later say: “Whatever Indians say officially, there is a status attached to the bomb. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council are all nuclear powers.” (Keller 5/4/2003)

Top: Bin Laden, surrounded by security, walking to the press conference. Bottom: the three journalists attending the press conference sit next to bin Laden.Top: Bin Laden, surrounded by security, walking to the press conference. Bottom: the three journalists attending the press conference sit next to bin Laden. [Source: CNN]Bin Laden discusses “bringing the war home to America,” in a press conference from Khost, Afghanistan. (US Congress 9/18/2002) Bin Laden holds his first and only press conference to help publicize the fatwa he published several months before. Referring to the group that signed the fatwa, he says, “By God’s grace, we have formed with many other Islamic groups and organizations in the Islamic world a front called the International Islamic Front to do jihad against the crusaders and Jews.” He adds later, “And by God’s grace, the men… are going to have a successful result in killing Americans and getting rid of them.” (Robertson 8/20/2002) He also indicates the results of his jihad will be “visible” within weeks. (US Congress 7/24/2003) Two US embassies will be bombed in August (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Bin Laden sits next to Ayman al-Zawahiri and Mohammed Atef during the press conference. Two Pakistani journalists and one Chinese journalist attends. But event never gets wide exposure because no independent videotaping is allowed (however, in 2002 CNN will obtain video footage of the press conference seized after the US conquered Afghanistan in late 2001). Pakistani journalist Ismail Khan attends and will later recall, “We were given a few instructions, you know, on how to photograph and only take a picture of Osama and the two leaders who were going to sit close by him. Nobody else.” Two sons of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman attend and distribute what they claim is the will or fatwa of their father (see May 1998), who has been sentenced to life in prison in the US. Journalist Peter Bergen will later comment that the significance of the sons’ presence at the press conference “can’t be underestimated” because it allows bin Laden to benefit from Abdul-Rahman’s high reputation amongst radical militants. Bergen also later says the press conference is a pivotal moment for al-Qaeda. “They’re going public. They’re saying, ‘We’re having this war against the United States.’” (Robertson 8/20/2002) The specific comment by bin Laden about “bringing the war home to America” will be mentioned in the August 2001 memo given to President Bush entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001).

Pakistan’s first nuclear  test take place underground but shakes the mountains above it.Pakistan’s first nuclear test take place underground but shakes the mountains above it. [Source: Associated Press]Pakistan conducts a successful nuclear test. Former Clinton administration official Karl Inderfurth later notes that concerns about an Indian-Pakistani conflict, or even nuclear confrontation, compete with efforts to press Pakistan on terrorism. (US Congress 7/24/2003) Pakistan actually built its first nuclear weapon in 1987 but kept it a secret and did not test it until this time for political reasons (see 1987). In announcing the tests, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif declares, “Today, we have settled the score.” (Keller 5/4/2003)

Pakistan conducts the sixth and last of a series of nuclear bomb tests that started two days earlier (see May 28, 1998). Samples taken by US aircraft over the site indicate that the test may have involved plutonium, whereas uranium bombs were used for the other five. After the US learns that the tests are witnessed by Kang Thae Yun, a North Korean involved in that country’s proliferation network (see Early June 1998), and other North Korean officials, it will speculate that the final test was performed by Pakistan for North Korea, which is better known for its plutonium bomb program. Authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark will comment, “In terms of nuclear readiness, this placed North Korea far ahead of where the CIA had thought it was, since [North Korea] had yet to conduct any hot tests of its own.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 278)

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is almost caught in Brazil. Apparently, the Malaysian government discovers that KSM is in the country using an alias and an Egyptian passport, and that he has obtained a Brazilian visa. So on June 25, 1998, the US asks Brazil to help capture him. A former US official will later say, “We were fairly convinced… that he was there” in the town of Foz de Iguazu, a criminal haven that he had visited at least once before (see December 1995). (McDermott, Meyer, and McDonnell 12/22/2002; Hall 3/13/2003) However, KSM gets away. Time magazine reporter Tim McGirk will later claim, “They almost nailed him in Brazil. They knew that he’d left from Malaysia to Brazil….” (Block 3/3/2003) “He had supposedly gone there to promote Konsonjaya, a Malaysian company that secretly funded Muslim rebels in Southeast Asia.” (Gunaratna 6/1/2005) Konsonjaya was the front company used for the Bojinka plot in 1995 (see January 6, 1995 and June 1994), and it supposedly dealt in Sudanese honey and palm oil. (Fineman and Paddock 2/7/2002; Bokhari et al. 2/15/2003) The Telegraph, in an apparent reference to Konsonjaya, will later report that KSM “acted as financier and coordinator, through another [Malaysian company] which traded Sudanese honey. He traveled widely, including at least one trip to Brazil….” (Booth 3/2/2003) The honey distribution business had a base in Karachi, Pakistan, and employed KSM’s nephew Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (a.k.a. Ammar al-Baluchi). (US Department of Defense 4/12/2007, pp. 17 pdf file) It is remarkable that KSM would be connected to this company in 1998, considering that the company’s records were introduced as evidence in a public trial of some Bojinka plotters in 1996. (Fineman and Paddock 2/7/2002)

A US grand jury issues a sealed indictment, charging bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders with conspiracy to attack the United States. (PBS Frontline 10/3/2002) The grand jury began preparing the indictment in January 1998 (see January 1998). It is largely based on information from Jamal al-Fadl, a former al-Qaeda operative (see June 1996-April 1997). (PBS Frontline 2001; Risen 9/30/2001; US Congress 7/24/2003) This secret indictment will be superseded by a public one issued in November 1998 (see November 4, 1998). (PBS Frontline 10/3/2002)

FBI agent Robert Wright, apparently frustrated that his Vulgar Betrayal investigation is not allowed to criminally charge Hamas operative Mohammad Salah and Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi, gets a court order to seize $1.4 million in bank accounts and the Chicago house Salah owns. Wright says in the suit that the money is linked directly to al-Qadi and would be destined for terrorist activities. Wright uses a civil forfeiture law that had been frequently used to seize properties and funds of drug dealers or gangsters, but had never been used for accused terrorists. Salah had living in Chicago since his release from an Israeli prison in November 1997. A highly detailed affidavit tracks wire transfers from the US and Switzerland to specific Hamas attacks in Israel. Al-Qadi’s money was deposited in bank accounts controlled by Salah, who is called an important courier and financial agent for Hamas. Then Salah invested the money in BMI Inc., a real estate investment firm with ties to many suspected terrorism financiers (see 1986-October 1999). Some of the money is eventually withdrawn by Salah, brought to the West Bank, and given to Hamas operatives there (see 1989-January 1993). Salah denies the charges and says all the transfers were for charitable causes. Al-Qadi also claims innocence. (Johsnton 6/14/1998; Horrock 5/30/2002; Guidera and Simpson 12/6/2002) However, a federal judge agrees to the defendants’ request for a stay order, and the suit is said to “languish” in a Chicago federal court. The funds remain frozen and Salah continues to live in his house. (Cohen et al. 9/25/2001) During the summer of 2001, the government will negotiate with Salah to settle the civil case, according to court records. (Lighty and Cohen 8/22/2004) The Justice Department will even move ahead with plans to return $1.4 million that Wright had seized from al-Qadi. But the transfer will be set for October 2001, “and the 9/11 attacks came first, prompting wiser minds at Justice to quash the move.” (Schlussel 7/14/2004) But also, in 2000, the parents of a US teenager said to have been killed by a Hamas attack in Israel will sue Salah and others for damaged based on this investigation, and they will win the suit in 2004 (see May 12, 2000-December 9, 2004). The US government will finally arrest Salah in 2004, and will charge him for many of the same offenses described in this 1998 case (see August 20, 2004). As of the end of 2005, al-Qadi has not been charged of any crime.

On May 26, 1998, Osama bin Laden said at a press conference that there would be “good news” in coming weeks (see May 26, 1998). On June 12, the State Department issues a public warning, stating, “We take those threats seriously and the United States is increasing security at many US government facilities in the Middle East and Asia.” Notably, the State Department does not mention increasing security in Africa. Two US embassies will be bombed there in August 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). There are no other public warnings given before the embassy bombings. (Bergen 2001, pp. 110)

In February 2000, CIA Director George Tenet testifies to Congress, “Since July 1998, working with foreign governments worldwide, we have helped to render more than two dozen terrorists to justice. More than half were associates of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization.” Renditions are a policy of grabbing a suspect off the street of one country and taken the person to another where he was wanted for a crime or questioning without going through the normal legal and diplomatic procedures. (Associated Press 12/27/2005) The CIA had a policy of rendering Islamic Jihad suspects to Egypt since 1995 (see Summer 1995). In July 1998, the CIA discovered a laptop containing organizational charts and locations of al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad operatives, so presumably these renditions are a direct result of that intelligence find (see Late August 1998).

Congressional conservatives receive a second “alternative assessment” of the nuclear threat facing the US that is far more to their liking than previous assessments (see December 23, 1996). A second “Team B” panel (see November 1976), the Commission to Assess the Ballistic Missile Threat to the United States, led by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and made up of neoconservatives such as Paul Wolfowitz and Stephen Cambone, finds that, contrary to earlier findings, the US faces a growing threat from rogue nations such as Iran, Iraq, and North Korea, who can, the panel finds, inflict “major destruction on the US within about five years of a decision.” This threat is “broader, more mature, and evolving more rapidly” than previously believed. The Rumsfeld report also implies that either Iran or North Korea, or perhaps both, have already made the decision to strike the US with nuclear weapons. Although Pakistan has recently tested nuclear weapons (see May 28, 1998), it is not on the list. Unfortunately for the integrity and believability of the report, its methodology is flawed in the same manner as the previous “Team B” reports (see November 1976); according to author J. Peter Scoblic, the report “assume[s] the worst about potential US enemies without actual evidence to support those assumptions.” Defense analyst John Pike is also displeased with the methodology of the report. Pike will later write: “Rather than basing policy on intelligence estimates of what will probably happen politically and economically and what the bad guys really want, it’s basing policy on that which is not physically impossible. This is really an extraordinary epistemological conceit, which is applied to no other realm of national policy, and if manifest in a single human being would be diagnosed as paranoia.” (Levy and Scott-Clark 10/13/2007; Scoblic 2008, pp. 172-173) Iran, Iraq, and North Korea will be dubbed the “Axis of Evil” by George W. Bush in his 2002 State of the Union speech (see January 29, 2002).

The British intelligence service MI6 and Moroccan intelligence approach al-Qaeda operative L’Houssaine Kherchtou in an attempt to recruit him. Kherchtou is disillusioned with al-Qaeda and has been under surveillance by the Moroccans for some time. The results of the first meeting are not known, but after it Kherchtou returns to Nairobi, Kenya, where he had helped with a plot to bomb the US embassy and provided his apartment to other conspirators (see Late 1993-Late 1994), and makes contact with other cell members again in early August. He apparently does not know the precise details of the operation, but when the attack happens (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), he realizes who did it. MI6 is aware that he is in Kenya and he is detained at the airport by local authorities and turned over to them. MI6 debriefs him about the embassy bombings, but this information is not immediately shared with the FBI (see Shortly After August 7, 1998), which later takes him into custody (see Summer 2000). (Vest 6/19/2005)

Khalid al-Fawwaz.Khalid al-Fawwaz. [Source: CNN]The NSA is monitoring phone calls between bin Laden in Afghanistan and Khalid al-Fawwaz in London, yet no action is taken after al-Fawwaz is given advanced notice of the African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Al-Fawwaz, together with Ibrahim Eidarous and Adel Abdel Bary, are operating as bin Laden’s de facto international media office in London, and the NSA has listened in for two years as bin Laden called them over 200 times (see November 1996-Late August 1998). On July 29, 1998, al-Fawwaz is called from Afghanistan and told that more satellite minutes are needed because many calls are expected in the next few days. Al-Fawwaz calls a contact in the US and rush orders 400 more minutes for bin Laden’s phone. A flurry of calls on bin Laden’s phone ensues, though what is said has not been publicly revealed. (Morris 9/20/2001) On August 7 at around 4:45 a.m., about three hours before the bombings take place, a fax taking credit for the bombings is sent to a shop near al-Fawwaz’s office. The fingerprints of his associates Eidarous and Abdel Bary are later found on the fax. They fax a copy of this to the media from a post office shortly after the bombings and their fingerprints are found on that fax as well. (Seattle Post-Intelligencer 7/13/1999; O'Neill 9/19/2001) Canadian intelligence is monitoring an operative named Mahmoud Jaballah who is serving as a communication relay between operatives in Baku and London. He is monitored talking to people both in Baku and London just before the fax is sent from Baku to London (see August 5-7, 1998). The NSA has also been monitoring the operatives in Baku (see November 1996-Late August 1998). It is not clear why the Canadians or the NSA fail to warn about the bombings based on these monitored phone calls. Before 9/11, bin Laden’s phone calls were regularly translated and analyzed in less an hour or so. It has not been explained why this surge of phone calls before the embassy bombings did not result in any new attack warnings. The three men will be arrested shortly after the embassy bombings (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998).

US intelligence is reportedly monitoring a “very important source” in Khartoum, Sudan, during the time of the August 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). An unnamed US official working in Sudan at the time will later tell this to journalist Jonathan Randal. This official will claim the US is intercepting telephone communications between this source and al-Qaeda at least during 1998. The name of the source has not been revealed, but this person is considered so important that after the embassy bombings the US will consider killing the source in retaliation. However, a different target is chosen because the source either knows nothing about the bombings or at least does not mention them in intercepted conversations. (Randal 2005, pp. 152) It is not known when this surveillance ends or what happens to the source.

Sayyid Iskandar Suliman. This picture is from a poor photocopy of his passport found in Sudanese intelligence files.Sayyid Iskandar Suliman. This picture is from a poor photocopy of his passport found in Sudanese intelligence files. [Source: Public domain via Richard Miniter]On August 4, 1998, Sudanese immigration suspects two men, Sayyid Nazir Abbass and Sayyid Iskandar Suliman, arriving in Sudan, apparently due to something in their Pakistani passports. They attempt to rent an apartment overlooking the US embassy. Three days later, US embassies are bombed in Kenya and Tanzania (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Within hours, Sudanese officials arrest Abbass and Suliman. The two of them had just come from Kenya, and one of them quickly admits to staying in the same hotel in Kenya as some of the embassy bombers. Sudanese intelligence believes they are al-Qaeda operatives involved in the bombings. (Rose 9/30/2001; Rose 1/2002; Randal 2005, pp. 132-135) The US embassy in Sudan has been shut down for several years. But around August 14, a Sudanese intelligence official contacts an intermediary and former White House employee named Janet McElligott and gives her a vague message that Sudan is holding important suspects and the FBI should send a team immediately to see if they want to take custody of them. (Randal 2005, pp. 132-135) The FBI wants the two men, but on August 17, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright forbids their extradition. The US has decided to bomb a factory in Sudan in retaliation for the embassy bombings instead of cooperating with Sudan. But FBI agent John O’Neill is not yet aware of Albright’s decision, and word of the Sudanese offer reaches him on August 19. He wants immediate approval to arrest the two suspects and flies to Washington that evening to discuss the issue with counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke. But Clarke tells O’Neill to speak to Attorney General Janet Reno. Later that night, O’Neill talks to Reno and she tells him that the decision to retaliate against Sudan instead has already been made. Mere hours later, the US attack a factory in Sudan with cruise missiles (see August 20, 1998). Within days, it becomes apparent that the factory had no link to al-Qaeda (see September 23, 1998), and no link between the bombings and the Sudanese government will emerge (although Sudan harbored bin Laden until 1996). (Randal 2005, pp. 132-138) The Sudanese will continue to hold the two men in hopes to make a deal with the US. But the US is not interested, so after two weeks they are send to Pakistan and set free there (see August 20-September 2, 1998).

The Islamic Jihad, a militant group that has joined forces with al-Qaeda, issues a statement threatening to retaliate against the US for its involvement rounding up an Islamic Jihad cell in Albania (see Summer 1998). It is believed Ayman al-Zawahiri wrote the statement, which says, “We wish to inform the Americans… of preparations for a response which we hope they read with care, because we shall write it with the help of God in the language they understand.” The bombing of two US embassies in Africa follows two days later (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). (Feyerick 1/2001; Wright 2006, pp. 269)

Usama al-Kini, a.k.a. Fahid Muhammad Ally Msalam.Usama al-Kini, a.k.a. Fahid Muhammad Ally Msalam. [Source: FBI]Most of the al-Qaeda operatives involved in the African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998) leave the country the night before the bombings. Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah and Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani fly from Nairobi to Karachi, Pakistan, on one flight. Usama al-Kini (a.k.a. Fahid Muhammad Ally Msalam), Mohammed Saddiq Odeh, and five unnamed bombers fly from Nairobi to Karachi with a stopover in Dubai on another flight. Some use false passports, but others, such as Abdullah, travel in their real name. Two others, Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan and Mustafa Fadhil, flew to Pakistan on August 2. Odeh is arrested at 5:30 a.m., Kenya time, while going through customs in Karachi, but the others on his flight are not (see 5:30 a.m., August 7, 1998). Two suicide bombers are killed in the bombings. The only operatives who remain in East Africa after the bombings are Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul), who volunteered to clean up the evidence in Kenya, and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, who volunteered to do the same in Tanzania, plus Mohamed al-Owhali, one of the suicide bombers in Kenya who unexpectedly ran away at the last minute and survived with only minor injuries. (United Press International 1/2/2001; United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 38 5/2/2001) Given the extent to which US intelligence was monitoring the members of the Kenyan cell (see April 1996 and May 1998), and even reportedly had multiple informants in the cell (see Before August 7, 1998), it is unclear how the US missed the departure of nearly every suspect from Kenya.

In his 1999 book The New Jackals, journalist Simon Reeve will claim, “The CIA… had informants working within the East Africa cell, but they apparently failed to warn of bin Laden’s plans” to bomb the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Reeve says this information comes from a current unnamed CIA official. (Reeve 1999, pp. 199, 220) Reeve is referring to the cell led by Wadih El-Hage and Fazul Abdullah Mohammed (a.k.a. Haroun Fazul). US intelligence had been aware of the cell and monitoring it since at least April 1996 (see April 1996). One of the informants mentioned above might be Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed (see November 1997), but it is unknown who the other or others could be. Reeve will also claim that US moles within al-Qaeda provide information leading to multiple arrests after the bombings (see Late 1998).

At approximately 5:30 in the morning, Kenya time, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh is arrested at the airport in Karachi, Pakistan. Odeh is one of the bombers in the embassy bombings which take place four hours later in Kenya and Tanzania (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). (United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 38 5/2/2001)
Odeh Stopped Because of Alert Inspector or CIA? - He had flown out of Nairobi, Kenya, the night before, with his plane stopping in Dubai on the way to Pakistan (see August 6-7, 1998). According to some accounts, an inspector notices that Odeh’s passport picture has a beard, while Odeh does not have a beard and looks different. Furthermore, Odeh is unable to look the inspector in the eyes. But according to UPI, he is stopped because he had been identified by the CIA. In any case, over the next hours, he is handed over to intelligence officers and makes a full confession. He admits that he is a member of al-Qaeda, led by bin Laden, and that he is the head of the al-Qaeda cell in Kenya. He even gives the address of the villa where the bomb was built and the names of the other bombers. (Bergen 2001, pp. 116; United Press International 1/2/2001; Milton 4/3/2001; Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 213)
False or Mistaken Account by CIA Officer - CIA officer Gary Berntsen heads the CIA’s emergency deployment team to Tanzania in the immediate wake of the bombings. He will improbably claim in a 2005 book that the US at first primarily suspects Hezbollah. According to him, it is only on August 15 when a CIA officer in Karachi happens to notice an article saying that an Arab traveling on a false passport was arrested in Karachi near the time of the bombings. This is discovered to be Odeh, who is transferred to US custody. Only then does al-Qaeda’s involvement become clear. Perhaps to support this timeline, Berntsen also falsely claims that another bomber, Mohamed al-Owhali, is arrested on August 15 when in fact he is arrested three days earlier. (United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 38 5/2/2001; Berntsen and Pezzullo 2005)
Odeh's Confession and Other Al-Qaeda Evidence Kept Secret for Days - Publicly, the US does not link any evidence from the bombing to al-Qaeda until August 17, when Odeh’s confession is finally mentioned in front page news stories. Even then, the story is based on accounts from Pakistani officials and US officials say they cannot confirm it. (Constable and Khan 8/17/1998) In fact, there is a wealth of information immediately tying al-Qaeda to the bombings that is kept secret, including wiretaps of many of the bombers (see April 1996 and May 1998), informants in the cell (see Before August 7, 1998), and even a statement of responsibility that was intercepted hours before the bombings had occurred (see August 5-7, 1998).

Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right).Bombings of the Nairobi, Kenya, US embassy (left), and the Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, US embassy (right). [Source: Associated Press]Two US embassies in Africa are bombed within minutes of each other. At 10:35 a.m., local time, a suicide car bomb attack in Nairobi, Kenya, kills 213 people, including 12 US nationals, and injures more than 4,500. Mohamed al-Owhali and someone known only as Azzam are the suicide bombers, but al-Owhali runs away at the last minute and survives. Four minutes later, a suicide car bomb attack in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, kills 11 and injures 85. Hamden Khalif Allah Awad is the suicide bomber there. The attacks will be blamed on al-Qaeda. (PBS Frontline 2001; United States of America v. Usama Bin Laden, et al., Day 38 5/2/2001) The Tanzania death toll is low because, remarkably, the attack takes place on a national holiday so the US embassy there is closed. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 195) The attack shows al-Qaeda has a capability for simultaneous attacks. The Tanzania bombing appears to have been a late addition, as one of the arrested bombers will allegedly tell US agents that it was added to the plot only about 10 days in advance. (United State of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 14 3/7/2001) A third attack against the US embassy in Uganda does not take place due to a last-minute delay (see August 7, 1998). (Associated Press 9/25/1998) August 7, 1998, is the eighth anniversary of the arrival of US troops in Saudi Arabia and some people will speculate that this is the reason for the date of the bombings. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. 46) In the 2002 book The Cell, reporters John Miller, Michael Stone, and Chris Mitchell will write: “What has become clear with time is that facets of the East Africa plot had been known beforehand to the FBI, the CIA, the State Department, and to Israeli and Kenyan intelligence services.… [N]o one can seriously argue that the horrors of August 7, 1998, couldn’t have been prevented.” They will also comment, “Inexplicable as the intelligence failure was, more baffling still was that al-Qaeda correctly presumed that a major attack could be carried out by a cell that US agents had already uncovered.” (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 195, 206) After 9/11, it will come to light that three of the alleged hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi, had some involvement in the bombings (see October 4, 2001, Late 1999, and 1993-1999) and that the US intelligence community was aware of this involvement by late 1999 (see December 15-31, 1999), if not before.

In November 1997, an Egyptian named Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed walked into the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, and told CIA officers of a group planning to blow up the embassy (see November 1997). His warning would turn out to be a startlingly accurate description of the 1998 US embassy bombing in Nairobi (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Ahmed apparently is involved in the bombing of the US embassy in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, that takes place the same day the Nairobi embassy is bombed. One day after the attacks, Ahmed contacts the British embassy and offers to help. He is overheard saying, “I told them everything I knew.” He also tells the British that it was “not the first time” he had cooperated with Western officials, and that he had been doing so “since last year.” (Bonner and Risen 10/23/1998; Risen and Weiser 1/9/1999) CIA officer Gary Berntsen will later reveal that he meets Ahmed as Ahmed is being kicked out of an allied government’s embassy. Berntsen then interviews Ahmed, and while the account of the interview is almost completely censored, Ahmed apparently gives information that leads to the arrest of one of the embassy bombers in Pakistan on August 15. This is the crucial break that allows the US to conclusively determine al-Qaeda’s role in the bombings and arrest some of the other bombers. (Berntsen and Pezzullo 2005, pp. 22-25) The US does not ask for Ahmed’s extradition, and he is charged for the Tanzania bombing in that country. The New York Times will report, “Several non-American diplomats in the region [speculate] that the United States is allowing the Tanzanians to try Mr. Ahmed because they fear his trial in America might bring to light his dealings with American authorities and other Western intelligence services.” (Bonner and Risen 10/23/1998; Risen and Weiser 1/9/1999) In March 2000, Tanzania will announce that all charges against Ahmed have been dropped and he is being deported. No reason will be given. (New York Times 3/20/2000)

Two days after the US embassy bombings in Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), the FBI interview double agent Ali Mohamed over the telephone. Mohamed is living openly in California. He says al-Qaeda is behind the bombings and that he knows who the perpetrators are, but he won’t give their names to the FBI. He also tries to downplay his involvement in the bombings, saying that he lived in Kenya in 1994 and ran front companies for bin Laden there, but when he was shown a file containing a plan to attack the US embassy in Kenya, he “discouraged” the cell members from carrying out the attack. A week later, prosecutors subpoena Mohamed to testify before a grand jury hearing in New York to be held in September. Author Peter Lance will later comment, “Considering that Mohamed had told [US Attorney Patrick] Fitzgerald at their dinner meeting in the fall of 1997 (see October 1997) that he had fake passports and the means to leave the country quickly, it’s mind-boggling how long it took the Feds to search his home…” They do not arrive at his house until August 24 (see August 24, 1998). On August 27, he again tells the FBI on the phone that he knows who the bombers are but again refuses to name names. He will not be arrested until September 10 (see September 10, 1998). (Weiser 1/13/2001; Lance 2006, pp. 296)

Mohamed al-Owhali is arrested and immediately begins confessing his role in the recent al-Qaeda bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya. He reveals to the FBI what an FBI agent will later call “blue-chip” information. (Hirschkorn 1/19/2001) He reveals to prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and others that when he was told by a handler in Afghanistan that he would take part in an operation in Kenya, he insisted “I want to attack inside the US” instead. But his handler tells him that the Kenya attack is important because it will keep the US distracted while the real attack is being prepared. Al-Owhali futher explains to his interrogators, “We have a plan to attack the US, but we’re not ready yet. We need to hit you outside the country in a couple of places so you won’t see what is going on inside. The big attack is coming. There’s nothing you can do to stop it.” (Locy, Johnson, and Willing 8/29/2002; Wright 2006, pp. 278-279) Presumably, al-Owhali is also the suspect at this time who “inform[s] the FBI that an extensive network of al-Qaeda ‘sleeper agents’ currently exists in the US.” It is known that counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke passes on this information to Condoleezza Rice when she begins her position as National Security Adviser in January 2001 (see January 25, 2001), but other details about this warning are not known. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 260) Al-Owhali also reveals the telephone number of a key al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen (see Late August 1998) and warns that an al-Qaeda attack is Yemen is being planned (see Mid-August 1998). (Hirschkorn 1/19/2001)

Double agent Ali Mohamed is living openly in Sacramento, California. His computer and telephone are being monitored by the FBI (see October 1997-September 10, 1998). On August 9, two days after the African embassy bombings, he told the FBI on the telephone that he knows who the bombers are but he will not reveal their names (see August 9, 1998). On August 12, one of the bombers, Mohamed al-Owhali, is secretly arrested in Kenya and immediately begins confessing what he knows (see August 12-25, 1998). Somehow al-Qaeda operative Anas al-Liby learns about al-Owhali’s arrest, even though al-Liby is living in Britain, and later that month he calls Mohamed. The call is monitored and FBI agent Jack Cloonan will later recall, “Anas says to [Mohamed], ‘Do you know that brother [al-Owhali]? ‘Cause if you do, get the f_ck out of there.” Mohamed makes plans to escape the US, but strangely he decides to respond to a subpoena and testify in New York City before he goes. He will be arrested there on September 10, just after testifying (see September 10, 1998). (Lance 2006, pp. 297-298) Remarkably, even though al-Liby worked with Mohamed and others on the embassy bomb plot in Kenya (see Late 1993-Late 1994), he is not arrested and continues to live in Britain. His residence there will not be raided until May 2000, and by that time he will be gone (see May 2000). It will later be alleged that al-Liby is protected because he worked with British intelligence on a plot to kill Libyan leader Colonel Mu’ammar al-Qadhafi (see 1996).

Mohamed al-Owhali is arrested and immediately begins confessing to FBI investigators his role in the recent al-Qaeda bombing of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). In addition to revealing the existence of an al-Qaeda network in the US planning an attack there (August 12-25, 1998) and also revealing the phone number of a key al-Qaeda communications hub in Yemen (see Late August 1998), it appears he also reveals al-Qaeda plans for an attack in Yemen. In October 2000, Al-Qaeda operatives bombed the USS Cole in a port in Yemen (see October 12, 2000). In January 2001, in coverage of al-Owhali’s trial for his role in the embassy bombings, a court document mentions that during his interrogation he mentioned “a possible attack in Yemen.” (Hirschkorn 1/19/2001) However, one newspaper notes, “It could not be learned how the authorities followed up on the information or how detailed it was.” (Weiser 1/18/2001) It will later be revealed that al-Owhali identified the two leaders of the Cole bombing as participants in the planning for the US embassy bombings. (Hirschkorn 10/16/2001)

In 1998, President Clinton faces a growing scandal about his sexual relationship with aide Monica Lewinsky, and even faces the possibility of impeachment over the matter. He is publicly interrogated about the scandal on August 17, 1998. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will later claim that he worries Clinton might let the timing of the scandal get in the way of acting on new intelligence to hit Osama bin Laden with a missile strike in retaliation for the recent African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). But Clarke is reassured when Clinton tells his advisers, “Do you all recommend that we strike on the 20th? Fine. Do not give me political advice or personal advice about the timing. That’s my problem. Let me worry about that.” (Clarke 2004, pp. 185-186) Defense Secretary William Cohen also warns Clinton that he will be criticized for changing the subject from the Lewinsky scandal. (Benjamin and Simon 2005, pp. 358)
Criticism from Politicians - Clinton gives the go-ahead for the missile strike on August 20th anyway (see August 20, 1998) and is immediately widely criticized for it. In late 1997, there was a popular movie called “Wag the Dog,” based on a fictional president who creates an artificial crisis in order to distract the public from a domestic scandal. Republicans are particularly critical and seize upon a comparison to the movie. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) initially supports the missile strike, but later criticizes it as mere “pinpricks.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 117) Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) says, “The president was considering doing something presidential to try to focus attention away from his personal problems.” (Benjamin and Simon 2005, pp. 358-359) Sen. Daniel Coats (R-IN) says, “I just hope and pray the decision that was made was made on the basis of sound judgment, and made for the right reasons, and not made because it was necessary to save the president’s job.” (Purdum 8/4/2004)
Media Criticism - The media is also very critical, despite a lack of any evidence that Clinton deliberately timed the missile strike as a distraction. Television networks repeatedly show clips of the “Wag the Dog” movie after the missile strike. New Yorker journalist Seymour Hersh reports, “Some reporters questioned whether the president had used military force to distract the nation’s attention from the Lewinsky scandal.” (Benjamin and Simon 2005, pp. 358-359)
9/11 Commission Commentary - The 9/11 Commission will later conclude, “The failure of the strikes, the ‘wag the dog’ slur, the intense partisanship of the period, and the [fact that one of the missile targets probably had no connection to bin Laden (see September 23, 1998)] likely had a cumulative effect on future decisions about the use of force against bin Laden.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 118)

Through its own monitoring of Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone, the CIA determines that he intends to travel to a training camp in Khost, in eastern Afghanistan. The CIA has to use its own equipment to do this because of a dispute with the NSA, which refused to provide it with full details of its intercepts of bin Laden’s calls (see December 1996). Although the CIA can only get half of what the NSA gets, shortly after the attacks on US embassies in East Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), it determines that bin Laden will travel to Khost the next day. On that day, the US launches several missile strikes, one of which is against Khost (see August 20, 1998), but bin Laden does not travel there, evading the missiles. Some will later claim that bin Laden changes his mind on the way there for no particular reason, but there will also be allegations that the Pakistani ISI warned him of the upcoming attack (see July 1999). (Wright 2006, pp. 283)

Around the time of a US missile strike against al-Qaeda leaders (see August 20, 1998), Ayman al-Zawahiri uses Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone to speak to Rahimullah Yusufzai, a leading Pakistani reporter for the BBC and the Karachi-based News. During the call, Al-Zawahiri denies al-Qaeda is responsible for attacks on two US embassies in East Africa, which killed over 200 people (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998): “Mr. bin Laden has a message. He says, ‘I have not bombed the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. I have declared jihad, but I was not involved.’” Although bin Laden’s trial for the embassy bombings in Afghanistan, arranged by the Taliban, collapses when the US fails to provide sufficient evidence of his involvement (see (October 25-November 20, 1998)), bin Laden is generally thought to have known of and authorized the two attacks. (Wright 2006, pp. 279, 283)

After he is arrested for the Nairobi embassy bombing (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), Mohamed al-Owhali is questioned by local Kenyan law enforcement and the FBI, and discloses important information (see August 4-25, 1998). When he is shown photographs of al-Qaeda operatives, one of the people he identifies is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (a.k.a. Bilal), a cousin of another Nairobi bomber. Al-Nashiri is an al-Qaeda leader who helped al-Owhali obtain a false passport in Yemen when al-Owhali stayed at an al-Qaeda safe house in April-May 1998. It is unclear where the FBI obtained the photo of al-Nashiri, although US intelligence was previously informed of al-Nashiri’s involvement in a plot to smuggle anti-tank missiles into Saudi Arabia (see 1997). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/9/1998, pp. 16 pdf file; United State of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., Day 14 3/7/2001; Burke 2004, pp. 174; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 152-3)

After being asked by Taliban leader Mullah Omar (see August 22, 1998), the US sends the Taliban a cable about bin Laden’s activities. The cable states, “We have detailed and solid evidence that Osama bin Laden has been engaged and is still engaged in planning, organizing, and funding acts of international terror.” However, the sections on the various plots in which bin Laden is supposed to have been involved are brief and do not include supporting evidence. For example, the Yemen bombing in 1992 (see December 29, 1992) is described in a single sentence: “Bin Laden and his network conspired to kill US servicemen in Yemen who were on their way to participate in the humanitarian mission ‘Operation Restore Hope’ in Somalia in 1992.” (US Department of State 8/23/1998 pdf file) Afghanistan’s supreme court will later acquit bin Laden of his involvement in the 1998 embassy bombings (see (October 25-November 20, 1998)) because of the US’s refusal to provide the court with the requested evidence.

Two days after the US embassy bombings in Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), double agent Ali Mohamed told the FBI over the telephone that he knows who the perpetrators are, but he won’t reveal their names (see August 9, 1998). Mohamed is living openly in Sacramento, California, but is not arrested. A week later, he received a subpoena ordering him to testify before a grand jury hearing in New York to be held in September. On August 24, a ten-person team of federal agents secretly search Mohamed’s apartment. They copy computer files and photograph documents. His computer has been bugged since October 1997, but agents nonetheless clone his hard drives. They also copy his CD-Roms and floppy disks and photocopy documents. Then they try to hide any trace that they have been in his apartment. They discover a false passport and a number of training documents. One file, created in May 1998, discusses security measures for terrorist cells and specifically mentions his links to al-Qaeda. They even find documents from the Nairobi al-Qaeda cell and training manuals. (Williams and McCormick 9/21/2001; Sullivan and Neff 10/21/2001; Waldman 11/26/2001; Lance 2006, pp. 296) However, he will still not be arrested until September 10 (see September 10, 1998).

Al-Qaeda’s communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen.Al-Qaeda’s communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen. [Source: PBS NOVA]The investigation of the East Africa embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998) led to the discovery of the phone number of an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen (see August 4-25, 1998). The hub is run by an al-Qaeda veteran named Ahmed al-Hada, who is helped by his son Samir and is related to many other al-Qaeda operatives in Yemen and elsewhere. He is also the father in law of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, whose wife, Hoda al-Hada, lives at the hub with their children. (Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002; Schrom 10/1/2002; Myers 7/21/2004; Suskind 2006, pp. 94; Wright 2006, pp. 277, 309, 343, 378) Several of Ahmed al-Hada’s relatives die fighting for al-Qaeda before 9/11, a fact known to US intelligence. (Meyer 12/21/2005; al-Haj 2/15/2006) The NSA may already be aware of the phone number, as they have been intercepting Osama bin Laden’s communications for some time (see November 1996-Late August 1998) and, according to Newsweek, “some” of bin Laden’s 221 calls to Yemen are to this phone number. (Hosenball and Klaidman 2/18/2002; Fielding and Gadhery 3/24/2002; O'Connor 9/5/2006) The US intelligence community now begins a joint effort to monitor the number. The NSA and CIA jointly plant bugs inside the house, tap the phones, and monitor visitors with spy satellites. (Wigmore 6/9/2002; Wright 2006, pp. 343; Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file) US intelligence also learns that the communications hub is an al-Qaeda “logistics center,” used by agents around the world to communicate with each other and plan attacks. (Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002) The joint effort enables the FBI to map al-Qaeda’s global organization (see Late 1998-Early 2002) and at least three of the hijackers use the number, enabling the NSA to intercept their communications and find out about an important al-Qaeda meeting in Malaysia (see December 29, 1999 and January 5-8, 2000 and Early 2000-Summer 2001). It appears al-Qaeda continues to use this phone line until Samir al-Hada dies resisting arrest in early 2002 (see February 13, 2002).

Mohamed al-Owhali, one of the bombers of the US embassy in Nairobi, Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), is rendered from Kenya to the US. Al-Owhali was arrested in Nairobi after the bombing and gave up information to local authorities and the FBI about it (see August 4-25, 1998 and August 22-25 1998). He will be tried in the US and sentenced to life in prison (see October 21, 2001). (Grey 2007, pp. 129, 246)

Following the African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), CIA managers ask Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, what it most needs to improve the agency’s capabilities against al-Qaeda. Alec Station chief Michael Scheuer will later say that he raises “our dire need for verbatim reports derived from electronic collection.” This is a reference to his desire to get verbatim transcripts of calls to and from al-Qaeda’s operations hub in Yemen, in particular ones between it and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. The NSA has the transcripts, but is refusing to provide them to the CIA, and the two agencies have been at loggerheads over the issue for nearly two years. Alec Station needs the transcripts, not the summaries the NSA provides, because the operatives talk in code on the phone and this code cannot be cracked based on the summaries, only using the transcripts (see February 1996-May 1998, December 1996, After December 1996, and After December 1996). Other senior CIA officers have similar trouble getting transcripts from the NSA. Higher officials order the NSA to comply, and they do, but only for less than 12 requests. Then the system returns to the way it was, with NSA only sharing summaries. (Atlantic Monthly 12/2004) The reason for the change back is unclear, although bin Laden stops using his satellite phone around this time (see Late August 1998).

9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) lived in the Philippines for much of 1994 and took part in the failed Bojinka plot to assassinate Pope John Paul II and crash a dozen airplanes (see January 6, 1995). In the years after this, he makes repeated visits to the Philippines, as well as neighboring Malaysia. (McDermott 9/1/2002) KSM returns to the Philippines in September 1998 and stays to organize the assassination of Pope John Paul II, who is due to visit the country in January 1999. KSM is seen at a nightclub in Manila in early 1999. (Gunaratna 2003, pp. xxv) But the Pope’s visit is canceled; it isn’t known if the cancellation is due to security concerns or not. That same year, the FBI alerts Philippine intelligence that KSM has returned to that country to visit an old girlfriend. However, he disappears before agents arrive to arrest him. Further details on how he was traced there or how he got away have not been made public. (McDermott 9/1/2002; Fielding 11/10/2002) KSM will continue to return to the Philippines occasionally. There are even “credible reports” that he is seen there in the summer of 2002. (McDermott 9/1/2002; Rubin and Dorgan 9/9/2002)

Patrick FitzgeraldPatrick Fitzgerald [Source: Publicity photo]Ali Mohamed is finally arrested after testifying at a grand jury hearing. The arrest is officially kept secret, but the media will report it one month later. (Weiser 10/30/1998) Patrick Fitzgerald is on the prosecutor team that subpoenaed Mohamed to appear, but apparently he and the other prosecutors know very little about Mohamed. Fitzgerald blames this on a legal “wall” between intelligence gathering and criminal prosecution. He later will relate what happened on the day Mohamed testified: “Ali Mohamed lied in that grand jury proceeding and left the courthouse to go to his hotel, followed by FBI agents, but not under arrest. He had imminent plans to fly to Egypt. It was believed [by the prosecutors] at the time that Mohamed lied and that he was involved with the al-Qaeda network but Mohamed had not by then been tied to the [embassy] bombings. The decision had to be made at that moment whether to charge Mohamed with false statements. If not, Mohamed would leave the country. That difficult decision had to be made without knowing or reviewing the intelligence information on the other side of the ‘wall.’ It was ultimately decided to arrest Mohamed that night in his hotel room [and he was arrested]. [The prosecution] team got lucky but we never should have had to rely on luck. The prosecution team later obtained access to the intelligence information, including documents obtained from an earlier search of Mohamed’s home by the intelligence team on the other side of ‘the wall.’ Those documents included direct written communications with al-Qaeda members and a library of al-Qaeda training materials that would have made the decision far less difficult. (We could only obtain that access after the arrest with the specific permission of the Attorney General of the United States, based upon the fact that we had obligations to provide the defendant with discovery materials and because the intelligence investigation of Mohamed had effectively ended.)… Mohamed [later] stated that had he not been arrested on that day in September 1998, he had intended to travel to Afghanistan to rejoin Osama bin Laden. Thus, while the right decision to arrest was made partly in the dark, the ‘wall’ could easily have caused a different decision that September evening that would have allowed a key player in the al-Qaeda network to escape justice for the embassy bombing in Kenya and rejoin Osama bin Laden in a cave in Afghanistan, instead of going to federal prison.” (US Congress 10/21/2003) Mohamed’s associate Khaled Abu el-Dahab, now living in Egypt, wil hear of Mohamed’s arrest and attempt to leave the country, but will be arrested in October 1998. He will be put on trial there and sentenced to 15 years in prison (see 1999). (Williams 11/21/2001)

Wadih El Hage.Wadih El Hage. [Source: FBI]On September 15, 1998, Wadih El-Hage is arrested in the US after appearing before a US grand jury. A US citizen, he had been bin Laden’s personal secretary. He will later be convicted for a role in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). (Weiser 9/18/1998)

Mamdouh Mahmud Salim.Mamdouh Mahmud Salim. [Source: FBI]Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer), an al-Qaeda operative from the United Arab Emirates connected to the 1998 East African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), is arrested at a used car dealership near Munich, Germany. He is arrested by a special commando unit of German police, with CIA agents directing them nearby. The German government has no idea who Salim is, and the US only notified Germany about the planned arrest five hours in advance. (PBS 9/30/1998; Cziesche et al. 12/12/2005) The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will later say that Salim was Osama bin Laden’s “right hand man,” and “head of bin Laden’s computer operations and weapons procurement.” He is also “the most senior-level bin Laden operative arrested” up until this time. (Tagliabue and Bonner 9/29/2001; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 pdf file) Author Lawrence Wright will later note that bin Laden and Salim worked together in Afghanistan in the 1980s, “forging such powerful bonds that no one could get between them.” Salim was also one of the founding members of al-Qaeda (see August 11-20, 1988) and bin Laden’s personal imam (i.e., preacher). (Wright 2006, pp. 131, 170) Starting in 1995, Salim had been making frequent visits to Germany. Mamoun Darkazanli, who lives in Hamburg and associates with Mohamed Atta’s al-Qaeda cell, had signing powers over Salim’s bank account. Both men attended Al-Quds mosque, the same Hamburg mosque as future 9/11 hijackers Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi attend. (Rose 1/2002) The FBI learns much from Salim about al-Qaeda, and this information could be useful to the US embassy bombings investigation. However, the FBI is unwilling to brief its German counterparts on what it knows about Salim and al-Qaeda. (Tagliabue and Bonner 9/29/2001)

The arrest of al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer) points US and German investigators to Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the al-Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany, with a few of the future 9/11 hijackers. Salim is arrested on September 16, 1998, in Munich, Germany (see September 16, 1998). He is believed to be al-Qaeda’s financial chief, and is one of al-Qaeda’s founding members (see August 11-20, 1988). After Salim’s arrest, both German and US intelligence investigate his contacts in Germany and discover a link to Zammar. Zammar is already being investigated and monitored by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence service (see March 1997-Early 2000). (Cziesche et al. 12/12/2005) Presumably, the link between Zammar and Salim should increase the urgency of the German investigation. It is unknown when US intelligence begins monitoring Zammar, but the US will discover important links between Zammar and al-Qaeda in the summer of 1999 (see Summer 1999). US and German investigators also discover a link between Salim and Mamoun Darkazanli, a Hamburg associate of Zammar’s, and they monitor him as well (see Late 1998).

Khalid al-Fawwaz, Osama bin Laden’s de facto press secretary, is arrested in London on September 23, 1998. He is arrested with six other suspects, presumably including Ibrahim Eidarous and Adel Abdel Bary. The three of them effectively run the Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC), a bin Laden front in London. Al-Fawwaz is arrested again on September 27 at the request of the US, which issues an extradition warrant for him the same day. On July 12, 1999, Eidarous and Bary are arrested again, as the US issues extradition warrants for them as well. All three are charged in the US for roles in the 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Apparently, none of them are released before being arrested on the new charges (see July 12, 1999). Presumably, the other three who were originally arrested are released. (Weiser 9/29/1998; Rohde 7/13/1999) It is not clear why the three were not arrested earlier, or why they were not charged in Britain. They had been monitored in London for years. Bin Laden called them over 200 hundred times from 1996 to 1998, and they are alleged to have been involved in many plots (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998). For instance, the three received a fax from al-Qaeda operatives taking credit for the embassy bombings hours before the bombings actually took place and passed it on to media outlets (see July 29-August 7, 1998). In 1996, the US requested that Britain should arrest al-Fawwaz, Eidarous, and Bary, but the British decided there wasn’t enough evidence. (Soufan 2011, pp. 98)

US and German intelligence apparently are concerned about an al-Qaeda related attack in Hamburg, Germany. The only public hint of this comes from an interrogation of Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer), a high-ranking al-Qaeda leader who was arrested in Munich, Germany, on September 16, 1998 (see September 16, 1998). According to a court transcript, some time later in September, German investigators ask Salim, “Did you ever hear of an attack planned against the American Consulate in Hamburg?” Salim says he knows nothing about it. Investigators apparently think Salim may have a connection to Hamburg because he opened a bank account there in 1995 (see 1995-September 16, 1998). The transcript is a US court document, so US intelligence must be aware of this as well. (Neuffer 10/6/2001) It is unknown how concern about an attack in Hamburg affects surveillance of Islamist militants there, if intelligence officials are indeed concerned.

Mark Flessner.
Mark Flessner. Two months after the US embassy bombings in Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), FBI agent Robert Wright and his Vulgar Betrayal investigation discover evidence they think ties Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi to the bombings. Since 1997, Wright had been investigating a suspected terrorist cell in Chicago that was connected to fundraising for Hamas. They discovered what they considered to be clear proof that al-Qadi and other people they were already investigating had helped fund the embassy bombings. Wright asks FBI headquarters for permission to open an investigation into this money trail at this time, but the permission is not granted. Wright will later recall, “The supervisor who was there from headquarters was right straight across from me and started yelling at me: ‘You will not open criminal investigations. I forbid any of you. You will not open criminal investigations against any of these intelligence subjects.’” Instead, they are told to merely follow the suspects and file reports, but make no arrests. Federal prosecutor Mark Flessner, working with the Vulgar Betrayal investigation, later will claim that a strong criminal case was building against al-Qadi and his associates. “There were powers bigger than I was in the Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let [the building of a criminal case] happen. And it didn’t happen.… I think there were very serious mistakes made. And I think, it perhaps cost, it cost people their lives ultimately.” (Ross and Walker 12/19/2002) Flessner later will speculate that Saudi influence may have played a role. ABC News will report in 2002, “According to US officials, al-Qadi [has] close personal and business connections with the Saudi royal family.” (ABC News 11/26/2002) Wright later will allege that FBI headquarters even attempted to shut down the Vulgar Betrayal investigation altogether at this time. He says, “They wanted to kill it.” (Ross and Walker 12/19/2002) However, he will claim, “Fortunately an assistant special agent in Chicago interceded to prevent FBI headquarters from closing Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” (Federal News Service 6/2/2003) He claims that a new supervisor will write in late 1998, “Agent Wright has spearheaded this effort despite embarrassing lack of investigative resources available to the case, such as computers, financial analysis software, and a team of financial analysts. Although far from being concluded, the success of this investigation so far has been entirely due to the foresight and perseverance of Agent Wright.” (Federal News Service 5/30/2002) When the story of this interference in the alleged al-Qadi-embassy bombings connection will be reported in late 2002, Wright will conclude, “September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit. No doubt about that. Absolutely no doubt about that. You can’t know the things I know and not go public.” He will remain prohibited from telling all he knows, merely hinting, “There’s so much more. God, there’s so much more. A lot more.” (Ross and Walker 12/19/2002)

The FBI announces that it is charging anti-abortion activist Eric Robert Rudolph with the 1996 bombing of Atlanta’s Centennial Olympic Park as well as with the 1997 bombing of an Atlanta abortion clinic (see January 16, 1997) and an Atlanta nightclub (see February 21, 1997). Rudolph has been a fugitive from law enforcement authorities since his January 1998 bombing of an Alabama clinic (see January 29, 1998), for which he has already been charged. “We are going to keep searching until we find him,” says Attorney General Janet Reno. The current complaint against Rudolph cites five counts of malicious use of an explosive in violation of federal law. FBI Director Louis Freeh calls Rudolph a domestic terrorist. The FBI has Rudolph on its Most Wanted list. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/14/1998) The charges will be formalized, and new charges added, in November 2000, when grand juries hand down additional indictments. (CNN 5/31/2003) Rudolph will be captured after almost five years of living as a fugitive (see May 31, 2003).

After the Taliban is warned that bin Laden has been accused of involvement in the recent 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), it initiates judicial proceedings against him. But when the US fails to provide Afghanistan’s supreme court with sufficient evidence, bin Laden is acquitted. (Associated Press 11/20/1998) The Taliban has already received some claims regarding bin Laden’s involvement in terrorism from the US (see August 23, 1998), but these are insufficient and more evidence is requested. Originally, there is no cut-off date for supplying evidence, but when the US does nothing, the Taliban leaders become frustrated and announce a time limit on the inquiry: “If anyone has any evidence of bin Laden’s involvement in cases of terrorism, subversion, sabotage, or any other acts, they should get it to the court before November 20. If by then there is nothing, we will close the case and in our eyes he will be acquitted.” In a November 10 cable the US embassy in Pakistan, which also handles Afghan affairs, comments: “The Taliban appear to many observers not to be totally unreasonable in their demand that the US provide them evidence on bin Laden.” (US Embassy (Islamabad) 11/10/1998 pdf file) The US then sends the Taliban a video of an interview bin Laden gave CNN in 1997, a transcript of his ABC 1998 interview, and a copy of his US indictment for the embassy bombings. (US Department of State 11/11/1998 pdf file) The inquiry is headed by the country’s chief justice, Noor Mohamed Saqib. After the evidence is found not to be enough and bin Laden is set free, Saqib comments: “It is their shame that they have been silent. America is wrong about bin Laden… Anything that happens now anywhere in the world they blame Osama, but the reality is in the proof and they have not given us any. It’s over and America has not presented any evidence. Without any evidence, bin Laden is a man without sin… he is a free man.” (Associated Press 11/20/1998) However, the State Department says that it did not “endorse, support, or request” the sharia court trial, but simply wanted bin Laden extradited. A White House spokesperson says, “Without commenting on the rigor of the Taliban judicial system, it is clear that Mr. bin Laden is a proven threat to US national interests.” (US Department of State 11/11/1998 pdf file; Associated Press 11/20/1998) The Taliban’s leadership is not satisfied with the outcome of the trial and will subsequently ask the US for help in getting rid of bin Laden (see November 28, 1998).

US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announcing the indictment of Osama bin Laden.US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announcing the indictment of Osama bin Laden. [Source: Henny Ray Abrams/ Agence France-Presse/ Getty Images]The US publicly indicts bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, and others for the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Bin Laden had been secretly indicted on different charges earlier in the year in June (see June 8, 1998). Record $5 million rewards are announced for information leading to his arrest and the arrest of Mohammed Atef. (PBS Frontline 2001) Shortly thereafter, bin Laden allocates $9 million in reward money for the assassinations of four US government officials in response to the reward on him. A year later, it is learned that the secretary of state, defense secretary, FBI director, and CIA director are the targets. (US Congress 9/18/2002; Miklaszewski 9/18/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file)

Senior Taliban spokesman Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil meets diplomats from the US embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, to examine new ways of resolving the problem of Osama bin Laden’s presence in Afghanistan after judicial proceedings against him collapse there (see (October 25-November 20, 1998)). Ahmed expresses his opinion that Taliban leaders are caught between “a rock and a hard place” since, if they expel bin Laden without cause they will have internal problems and, if they do not, they will have external ones due to the US. Ahmed suggests that the Saudis have a key to the solution. Afghan and Saudi religious scholars could convene a joint meeting and issue a ruling that bin Laden had acted illegally, for example by holding a news conference when he was under a communication ban. He could then be expelled without this causing internal unrest in Afghanistan and the problem would be resolved “in minutes, not hours.” The US would be happy if bin Laden were expelled to Saudi Arabia or Egypt, but the Saudis apparently do not favor a joint meeting and the proposal is not acted upon. (US Department of State 11/28/1998 pdf file)

William Wechsler.William Wechsler. [Source: CAP]Shortly after the US embassy bombings in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), the US launches a new interagency effort to track bin Laden’s finances. There had been a previous interagency effort in 1995 but it had fizzled (see October 21, 1995). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke sets up a task force. He orders it to find out how much money bin Laden has, where it comes from, how it is distributed, and to stop it. Clarke appoints William Wechsler, a National Security Council staff member, to head the task force. The task force begins an investigation of bin Laden’s finances (see Late 1998). Clarke later writes that he and Wechsler “quickly [come] to the conclusion that the [US government] departments [are] generally doing a lousy job of tracking and disrupting international criminals’ financial networks and had done little or nothing against terrorist financing.” (Weiner and Johnston 9/20/2001; Clarke 2004, pp. 190-191) Clarke will later claim there was only limited effort from within the US government to fight bin Laden’s financial network. He will assert that within weeks of setting up the interagency effort, it was determined that only one person in the US government, a lowly Treasury Department official, appeared to have any expertise about the hawala system, an informal and paperless money transfer system used by al-Qaeda that is popular with Muslim populations worldwide (see 1993-September 11, 2001). Clarke will later write that the “CIA knew little about the [hawala] system, but set about learning. FBI knew even less, and set about doing nothing.” The FBI claims there are no hawalas in the US, but Wechsler finds several in New York City using a simple Internet search. Clarke will say, “Despite our repeated requests over the following years, nobody from the FBI ever could answer even our most basic questions about the number, location, and activities of major hawalas in the US—much less taken action.” The efforts of other departments are not much better. The one Treasury official with some expertise about hawalas is eventually let go before 9/11. (Clarke 2004, pp. 192-193) Efforts to pressure governments overseas also meet with little success (see August 20, 1998-1999).

Nawaz Sharif meeting with US Defense Secretary William Cohen at the Pentagon on December 3, 1998.Nawaz Sharif meeting with US Defense Secretary William Cohen at the Pentagon on December 3, 1998. [Source: US Department of Defense]Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif comes to Washington to meet with President Clinton and other top Clinton administration officials. The number one issue for Clinton is Pakistan’s nuclear program, since Pakistan had recently illegally developed and exploded a nuclear weapon (see May 28, 1998). The second most important issue is Pakistan’s economy; the US wants Pakistan to support free trade agreements. The third most important issue is terrorism and Pakistan’s support for bin Laden. Author Steve Coll will later note, “When Clinton himself met with Pakistani leaders, his agenda list always had several items, and bin Laden never was at the top. Afghanistan’s war fell even further down.” Sharif proposes to Clinton that the CIA train a secret Pakistani commando team to capture bin Laden. The US and Pakistan go ahead with this plan, even though most US officials involved in the decision believe it has almost no chance for success. They figure there is also little risk or cost involved, and it can help build ties between American and Pakistani intelligence. The plan will later come to nothing (see October 1999). (Coll 2004, pp. 441-444)

Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli.Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli. [Source: Public domain]On December 4, 1998, an item in President Clinton’s Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) is titled, “Bin Laden Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks.” The PDB says “Bin Laden and is allies are preparing for attacks in the US, including an aircraft hijacking to obtain the release of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Muhammad Sadiq ‘Awda. One source quoted a senior member of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (IG) saying that, as of late October, the IG had completed planning for an operation in the US on behalf of bin Laden, but that the operation was on hold. A senior bin Laden operative from Saudi Arabia was to visit IG counterparts in the US soon thereafter to discuss options-perhaps including an aircraft hijacking.” The same source says bin Laden may implement plans to hijack US aircraft before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on December 20 and that two members of the operational team had evaded security checks in a recent trial run at a New York airport. A possible different source says that in late September, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, brother of the assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and described in the PDB as an IG leader, was planning to hijack a US airliner during the “next couple of weeks” to free Abdul-Rahman and other prisoners. The PDB also says that “some members of the bin Laden network have received hijack training, according to various sources, but no group directly tied to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization has ever carried out an aircraft hijacking. Bin Laden could be weighing other types of operations against US aircraft.” The PDB mentions other bin Laden related threats, including recent reports that the IG has obtained surface-to-air missiles and intends to move them from Yemen to Saudi Arabia to shoot down aircraft. (Schmidt 7/18/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 128-130) The private intelligence group Stratfor will later say that, in addition to his ties with IG, Islambouli worked with bin Laden in the Maktab al-Khidamat charity front in Pakistan and is believed to have lived in Afghanistan in the 1990s as “part of the group of key Egyptian advisers surrounding bin Laden.” Islambouli will formally join with al-Qaeda in 2006. (Burton 8/10/2006) In early 1998, the CIA ignored information from a recently retired CIA agent that claimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was in a terrorist cell with Islambouli, both were experts on plane hijackings, and were planning to hijack planes (see Early 1998). Perhaps not coincidentally, on this same day, CIA Director George Tenet issues a “declaration of war” against al-Qaeda in a memo to the US intelligence community (see December 4, 1998). Also on this day, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke holds a meeting of his interagency Counterterrorism and Security Group (CSG) to discuss the threat. The group agrees that New York City airports should go on a maximum security alert that weekend and security should be boosted at other East Coast airports. The FBI, FAA, and New York City Police Department get versions of the PDB report. Later in December and again in January 1999 the source says the hijacking has been postponed because two operatives have been arrested in Washington or New York. But the FBI is unable to find any information to support the threat nor is it able to verify any arrests similar to what the source described, and the source remains mysterious. The high alert in New York airports is canceled by the end of January. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 128-130) This PDB will be mentioned in President Bush’s famous August 6, 2001 PDB, but mentions that US officials “have not been able to corroborate” the plot (see August 6, 2001).

In a Time magazine cover story entitled “The Hunt for Osama,” it is reported that intelligence sources “have evidence that bin Laden may be planning his boldest move yet—a strike on Washington or possibly New York City in an eye-for-an-eye retaliation. ‘We’ve hit his headquarters, now he hits ours,’ says a State Department aide.” (Waller 12/21/1998)

In an interview for Time magazine held on this date, Osama bin Laden is asked whether he was responsible for the August 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). He replies, “If the instigation for jihad against the Jews and the Americans in order to liberate [Islamic shrines in Mecca and Medina] is considered a crime, then let history be a witness that I am a criminal. Our job is to instigate and, by the grace of God, we did that—and certain people responded to this instigation.… I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America.” He admits knowing certain people accused of being behind the bombing, such as Wadih El-Hage and Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, but denies they had any connection to the bombings. (Yusufzai 1/11/1999; Globe and Mail 10/5/2001)

President Bill Clinton signs a memorandum of notification authorizing the CIA to kill Osama bin Laden. The memo is sent to Clinton by National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, apparently at the request of CIA Director George Tenet, who has discussed the memo with Berger and seems to have given it his blessing. The highly classified memo concerns operations by a group of CIA tribal assets in Afghanistan who are monitoring bin Laden. Their task had previously been to capture bin Laden and they had been banned from assassinating him, but these rules are now changed and a kill operation is authorized. The memo makes it very clear that “the president [is] telling the tribal leaders they could kill bin Laden.” 9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow will later recall the memo tells the tribal leaders: “you may conduct an operation to kill him,” adding, “There were no euphemisms in the language.” Although the CIA is still legally prevented from assassinating people, Clinton administration lawyers now say that bin Laden is an imminent danger to the US, so he can be killed as a part of pre-emptive self-defense. Despite his role in drafting the memo, Tenet and his deputies will later claim to the 9/11 Commission that Clinton never issued such clear authorization (see Before January 14, 2004). However, the order to assassinate bin Laden is garbled within the CIA and the CIA’s bin Laden unit appears not to receive it (see December 26, 1998 and After). (Coll 2/22/2004; Shenon 2008, pp. 357-8)

Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, leader of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Army of Aden (see Early 2000 and October 12, 2000), telephones Abu Hamza al-Masri, a London-based imam and informer for the British security services (see Early 1997). Six operatives sent by Abu Hamza to Yemen for training had become involved in a bomb plot, but were arrested four days ago (see December 23, 1998). Almihdhar makes two calls to Abu Hamza, and tells him of the capture of the operatives, who include Abu Hamza’s stepson and former bodyguard. The two men apparently come up with a plan to capture some Western tourists, and Abu Hamza purchases more airtime worth £500 (about $800) for Almihdhar’s satellite phone. After the tourists are captured the next day (see December 28-29, 1998), Almihdhar will immediately telephone Abu Hamza and, according to one of the tourists’ drivers, say, “We’ve got the goods that were ordered, 16 cartons marked Britain and America.” This is not the only telephone contact between the two men, and authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will add, “What was apparent from the first hours of the hostage crisis was that the short-tempered [Almihdhar] needed the advice and reassurance of his spokesman in North London.” The calls are intercepted by the Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s wiretapping agency, using a base in Cyprus. Although the communications cannot be used in court under British law, they are useful to the intelligence services in determining what is going on between Almihdhar and Abu Hamza. However, the intercepts are also shared with the FBI, which will later indicate it may use them in a US prosecution of Abu Hamza stemming from the fact that two of the kidnap victims are American nationals. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 156-157, 161, 180)

Radical imam and British intelligence informer Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997) defends the kidnapping of Western hostages in Yemen by the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA—see December 28-29, 1998) in the British media. The IAA is an al-Qaeda affiliate (see Early 2000 and October 12, 2000) and Abu Hamza acts as its press officer. Although it is unusual for radical Islamists to appear on television in Britain at this time, Abu Hamza does not shy away from the publicity. Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will even call him a “publicity junkie,” and comment on his television appearances: “[Abu Hamza] tried to defend the indefensible by appearing on television and supporting the gunmen holding innocent Western hostages in the desert. Much of what he had to say in his strangled English about ‘jihad’ and martyrdom baffled his armchair British audience, most of who at the time had never heard of al-Qaeda.… He would stab his hook at the camera lens as he issued his bloodcurdling threats against politicians who did not heed his advice. His language was provocative, his demeanour threatening, but he had achieved one ambition—people in Britain suddenly knew the name of Abu Hamza.” His appearances do not go down well with the media, and, in O’Neill and McGrory’s words, he is “vilified .. after he admitted that he was the press officer for the kidnappers from the pompously named Islamc Army of Aden and Abyan.” Abu Hamza will later admit that this is the biggest mistake he ever makes. According to O’Neill and McGrory: “He [loses] friends and credibility, and [becomes] a marked man by the security authorities in Britain. But his standing with young British extremists [is] boosted.” (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 158-159, 172-173)

Charles Key.Charles Key. [Source: Oklahoma City Sentinel]An Oklahoma County grand jury investigating alternative theories about the Oklahoma City bombing (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995 and June 30, 1997) wraps up without naming any new suspects aside from convicted bombing conspirators Timothy McVeigh (see June 11-13, 1997) and Terry Nichols (see June 4, 1998). After hearing 117 witnesses and weathering criticism that its work gave legitimacy to wild conspiracy theories surrounding the blast, the grand jury reports: “We cannot affirmatively state that absolutely no one else was involved in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building. However, we have not been presented with or uncovered information sufficient to indict any additional conspirators.” (District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma 12/30/1998; Thomas 12/31/1998; The Oklahoman 4/2009)
Findings - The jury reviewed documentation of a number of “warning” telephone calls to federal and local law enforcement agencies, and determined that none of them warned of a bombing attack against the Murrah Building, or any other attack. One such call came a week before the blast, a 911 call from an Oklahoma City restaurant that warned the operator of an upcoming bombing. The caller gave no more details. Police quickly looked into the call and determined it came from a mental patient who lived in a nearby care facility. The jury also investigated the numerous claims of sightings of a possible third bomber, “John Doe No. 2,” and determined that the information given by the witnesses was so disparate and general that nothing useful could be concluded. The jury reports that the sightings were most likely of Todd Bunting, an Army private who had no connection to McVeigh or the bombing (see January 29, 1997). “The similarity of… Todd Bunting to the composite of John Doe No. 2 [is] remarkable, particularly when you take into account Bunting’s tattoo of a Playboy bunny on his upper left arm and the fact that he was wearing a black T-shirt and a Carolina Panthers ball cap when he was at Elliott’s Body Shop,” the report states. Witness statements of “John Doe No. 2” fleeing the scene of the bombing in a “brown pickup truck” were erroneous, the report finds. A brown pickup truck did leave the area shortly before the bombing, driven by an employee of the Journal Record Building near the Murrah Building. The driver left the building shortly before the bombing after being informed that her child was ill. The jury finds no evidence that the bombing was orchestrated by the federal government, or that any agency knew about the bombing in advance. (District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma 12/30/1998; Pankratz 1/9/1999)
Journalist Indicted for Jury Tampering - The jury does bring an indictment against investigative journalist David Hoffman, who will plead guilty to jury tampering, admitting that he sent one of the alternate grand jurors a letter copy of a book on conspiracy theories about the bombing. In a sealed indictment, the jury cited Hoffman for “improper and perhaps illegal attempts to exert influence on the outcome of our investigation.” Hoffman will be given a suspended sentence and 200 hours of community service. Hoffman will later call the indictment “a sham charge by a corrupt government designed to silence me,” and will write a book, The Oklahoma City Bombing and the Politics of Terror, which says the government falsely accused McVeigh and Nichols of the crime, concealing the involvement of others, perhaps members of neo-Nazi groups with which McVeigh was involved (see October 12, 1993 - January 1994 and (April 1) - April 18, 1995). (Thomas 12/31/1998; Vidal 9/2001; Lukeford (.net) 11/25/2002)
Report Denounced - Former Oklahoma State Representative Charles R. Key (R-Oklahoma City), who helped convene the grand jury, immediately denounces the findings. (Southern Poverty Law Center 6/2001) Key has insisted that McVeigh and Nichols had unplumbed connections with Islamist terrorists (see Late 1992-Early 1993 and Late 1994, November 5, 1994 - Early January 1995, and 10:00 a.m. April 19, 1995 and After), and has insisted that what he calls “revisionist news reports” by the mainstream media have failed to show Islamist connections to the bombing. He has even implied that government officials were complicit in the bombing. (Charles Key 3/12/1997) The grand jury reports, “We can state with assurance that we do not believe that the federal government had prior knowledge that this horrible terrorist attack was going to happen.” The jury findings are “a ditto of what the federal government presented in the McVeigh trial,” Key states. “It had huge, gaping holes.” Glenn Wilburn, who lost two grandchildren in the bombing, died in 1997 before the jury returned its findings. Key has set up a private non-profit group, the Oklahoma Bombing Investigation Committee, which also gathered information about possible witnesses and submitted their names to the grand jury and urged Congress not to let the federal investigation drop. Key says that group will issue a final report of its own that “will read quite differently than this report today.” (District Court of Oklahoma County, State of Oklahoma 12/30/1998; Thomas 12/31/1998)

During the investigation of the August 7, 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), FBI counterterrorism expert John O’Neill finds a memo by al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef on a computer. The memo shows that bin Laden’s group has a keen interest in and detailed knowledge of negotiations between the Taliban and the US over an oil and gas pipeline through Afghanistan. Atef’s analysis suggests that the Taliban are not sincere in wanting a pipeline, but are dragging out negotiations to keep Western powers at bay. (Brisard 6/5/2002)

A group of Abu Sayyaf militants photographed on July 16, 2000.A group of Abu Sayyaf militants photographed on July 16, 2000. [Source: Associated Press]In the book “Dollars for Terror” published this year, investigative journalist Richard Labeviere claims that the Philippine drug trade is worth billions of dollars a year and that Muslim militants connected to al-Qaeda have a role in it. “Admittedly, the Islamists do not control all of these flows, but the Abu Sayyaf group plays a big part. Its mercenaries look after the protection of transport and the shipping of cargoes via jungle airports in the [southern Philippines.] By the same air channels, and also by sea, weapons are delivered for the group’s combat unit. This supply chain is managed by Pakistani intermediaries who are trained directly in the Afghan camps around Peshawar” in Pakistan. He does not give his source for this information. (Labeviere 1999, pp. 365) Perhaps not coincidentally, a Pakistani believed to be connected to the drug trade is suspected of helping to fund the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995), which was planned in the Philippines with the help of the Abu Sayyaf (see December 1994-April 1995). Victor Bout, the world’s biggest illegal arms dealer, is said to use his network to ship weaponry to the Abu Sayyaf, though details have not been reported. Bout’s network also delivers weapons to the Taliban (see Mid-1996-October 2001). (McNeil 2/27/2002; Abuza 9/1/2005 pdf file) There are many reports on the Abu Sayyaf’s involvement with illegal drugs. For instance, in 2002 a Philippine newspaper will note that the region dominated by Abu Sayyaf has become such a notorious drug center that it is sometimes nicknamed “Little Colombia.” (Sicat 3/13/2002)

Hashim Salamat.Hashim Salamat. [Source: BBC]Western intelligence monitors a series of phone calls in which bin Laden asks the leader of a Philippine militant group to set up more training camps that al-Qaeda can use. Bin Laden is said to call Hashim Salamat, the leader of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). There are reports that al-Qaeda started funding and using MILF training camps in 1995. But apparently bin Laden successfully asks for more camps because the movement of militants into Afghanistan has grown increasingly difficult since the African embassy bombings in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). (Goodenough 9/19/2002; Ressa 10/28/2002; Garrido 10/30/2003) The same month, Salamat claims in a BBC interview that the MILF has received money from bin Laden, but says that it has only been for humanitarian purposes. (Neilan 2/11/1999; Garrido 10/30/2003)

A classified Philippine military report claims bin Laden is funding Muslim militants in the Philippines through known charity fronts. Some of the charities include World Alliance of Muslim Youth (WAMY), the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), and the Islamic Wisdom Worldwide Mission (IWWM). WAMY has been under investigation for ties militant groups in a number of countries, including the US (see February-September 11, 1996). The other two organizations are said to be connected to Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law. All the charities are accused of passing money on to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a militant group in the southern Philippines. (New Straits Times 2/15/1999) Between this time and 9/11, the leader of the Abu Sayyaf militant group will say in an interview that “the primary purpose of the IIRO is to help groups like us.” (Vitug 10/22/2001) Also in February 1999, the head of the MILF admits to getting funds from bin Laden, but says they are for humanitarian purposes only (see February 1999). The charities remain open after the report. In 2002, Mohammed Amin al-Ghafari, the head of the IWWM, will be arrested and deported. It will come out that he was arrested and then let go in 1995 after being strongly suspected of involvement in the Bojinka plot (see June 1994). He also had protectors in the police and military who are IWWM directors. In 2002, one of them will admit to having helped prevent his deportation (see October 8-November 8, 2002). The US will not officially accuse the IIRO’s Philippine branch of funding al-Qaeda until 2006 (see August 3, 2006).

9/11 Hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi receives a new passport in Saudi Arabia. According to the 9/11 Commission, the passport contains an “indicator of extremism” that is “associated with al-Qaeda.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 9 pdf file) According to author James Bamford, this is a “secret coded indicator, placed there by the Saudi government, warning of a possible terrorist affiliation.” (Bamford 2008) Presumably, this indicator is placed there because Alhazmi is on the Saudi government watch list at this point due to his radical ties (see Late 1999). The Saudi government will reportedly use this indicator to track Alhazmi and other Saudi hijackers before 9/11 “with precision” (see November 2, 2007).

Nabil al-Marabh will claim in a 2002 statement that in May 1999, the FBI approaches him in Boston, looking for Raed Hijazi. Al-Marabh will say he lied and said he did not know Hijazi, even though he knew him well. Hijazi apparently has not been involved in any violent crime yet, but will participate in a failed attempt to bomb a hotel in Jordan (see November 30, 1999) and will help plan the USS Cole bombing in October 2000 (see October 12, 2000). (Fainaru 9/4/2002) In August 1999 FBI agents again visit al-Marabh’s Boston apartment to ask him about another man. Al-Marabh’s wife will later recall that the first name of this man is Ahmed. (Zernike 10/14/2001) He is from Jordan and had lived in their apartment for two months. (Wilgoren and Miller 9/21/2001) Around the same time, the Boston FBI is looking for another associate of al-Marabh’s, Mohamad Kamal Elzahabi (see 1997 and 1999). They work at the same taxi company and fought together in Afghanistan.

Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar’s US visas.Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar’s US visas. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, and Khalid Almihdhar obtain US visas through the US Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (US Congress 7/24/2003) Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi are already “al-Qaeda veterans” and battle-hardened killers. Almihdhar’s visa is issued on April 7, and he can thereafter leave and return to the US multiple times until April 6, 2000. (Laabs 8/13/2003) Nawaf Alhazmi gets the same kind of visa; details about Salem are unknown. All three men have indicators in their passports marking them as Islamist radicals (see March 21, 1999, April 4, 1999, and April 6, 1999). These indicators are used to track them by the Saudi authorities, but are apparently not noticed by US officials. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 9, 33 pdf file) The CIA claims the hijackers then travel to Afghanistan to participate in “special training” with at least one other suicide bomber on a different mission. The training is led by Khallad bin Attash, who applies for a US visa on April 3 from Yemen, but fails to get one (see April 3, 1999). The CIA will learn about Almihdhar’s visa in January 2000 (see January 2-5, 2000). The Jeddah Consulate records the fact that Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi obtain US visas a couple of days before Almihdhar, but apparently these records are never searched before 9/11. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file)

9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi leave Saudi Arabia after obtaining new passports and US visas there (see March 21, 1999, April 4, 1999, April 6, 1999, and April 3-7, 1999). According to the 9/11 Commission, their passports contain an “indicator of extremism” that is “associated with al-Qaeda.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 9, 33 pdf file) According to author James Bamford, the indicator is a “secret coded indicator, placed there by the Saudi government, warning of a possible terrorist affiliation.” (Bamford 2008, pp. 58-59) The Saudi government reportedly uses this indicator to track some of the Saudi hijackers before 9/11 “with precision” (see November 2, 2007). Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi apparently return to Afghanistan to discuss an attack on the US. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 155) Salem Alhazmi’s destination is unknown. He will be reported to be in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000) and Afghanistan (see Summer 2000) the next year. Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi are placed on the Saudi terrorist watch list later this year (see Late 1999).

9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar receives a new passport from Saudi Arabia. According to the 9/11 Commission, the passport contains an “indicator of extremism” that is “associated with al-Qaeda.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 9, 33 pdf file) According to author James Bamford, this is a “secret coded indicator, placed there by the Saudi government, warning of a possible terrorist affiliation.” (Bamford 2008, pp. 58-59) Presumably, this indicator is placed there because Almihdhar is on the Saudi government watch list at this point due to his radical ties (see Late 1999). The Saudi government will reportedly use this indicator to track Almihdhar and other Saudi hijackers before 9/11 “with precision” (see November 2, 2007).

A 2005 US indictment will reveal that two employees for a pro-Israeli lobbying group had somehow obtained classified US information about al-Qaeda and was passing it on to Israeli officials. The two employees are Steven Rosen and Keith Weissman; both work for AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee) until 2004. On April 13, 1999, Rosen gives Rafi Barak, the former deputy chief of mission at the Israeli embassy in Washington, what he calls a codeword-protected “extremely sensitive piece of intelligence” about terrorist activities in Central Asia. On June 11, 1999, Weissman tells Barak about a classified FBI report on the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing, which has been blamed on al-Qaeda and/or Iran (see June 25, 1996). In retrospect, FBI officials will determine that some, but not all, of this classified information comes from Larry Franklin, a Defense Department analyst on Iran known to be in favor of a tougher US policy regarding Iran (see 2000-2001). It is not known how or why US surveillance of Rosen and Weissman began. (National Public Radio 8/4/2005; Eastern District of Virginia 8/4/2005 pdf file; Guttman 8/15/2005; Guttman 8/17/2005)
Connection to Earlier Investigation? - However, there may be a connection to an earlier investigation. In 1997 and 1998, the FBI monitored Naor Gilon, an official at the Israeli embassy in Washington, as part of an investigation into whether a US intelligence official was illegally giving US spy plane film and other secret material to the Mossad. (Drogin and Miller 9/3/2004)
Accusations Spark Further Investigation - The US will later accuse Rosen and Weissman of passing classified information given to them by Franklin to Gilon. In any case, the investigation will continue and grow. National Public Radio will later note that from 1999 to 2004, “Franklin, Rosen, and Weissman had regular discussions about the Middle East and about al-Qaeda with a variety of contacts,” sometimes illegally sharing highly classified information. Franklin will plead guilty to sharing classified information in 2005 (see October 5, 2005) while Rosen and Weissman are expected to be tried in 2007 or thereafter. (National Public Radio 8/4/2005)

Ihab Ali Nawawi.Ihab Ali Nawawi. [Source: FBI]Ihab Ali Nawawi is arrested in Orlando, Florida. He is considered an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa. Nawawi’s family moved from Egypt to the US in the late 1970’s and he graduated from an Orlando high school. He fought in Afghanistan in the 1980’s and helped bin Laden move to Sudan in 1991. Nawawi received a commercial pilot’s license from Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma, in 1993. He crashed an airplane owned by bin Laden in 1995 on a runway in Khartoum, Sudan (see Early 1993). He lived in Sudan until 1996 when he moved back to Orlando. Nawawi’s role in al-Qaeda is revealed days after the 1998 US embassy bombings in Africa when Ali Mohamed’s residence in California is raided. A letter from Nawawi is discovered asking Mohamed to give his “best regards to your friend Osama”(see August 24, 1998). Nawawi’s connection to the embassy bombings were possibly discovered months earlier, because there were a series of phone calls in 1997 between an Orlando telephone owned by Nawawi’s sister and an al-Qaeda safe house in Nairobi, Kenya. Many telephone numbers connected to that house were being monitored by US intelligence at the time. Given his obvious al-Qaeda ties, it is not clear why agents waited until May 1999 before arresting Nawawi. He is questioned in front of a grand jury, but prosecutors say he is lying and he refuses to talk anymore. FBI agents will visit the Airman Flight School in September 1999 to enquire about his attendance there (see September 1999). He will remain jailed and in September 2000 is finally charged for contempt and perjury. In October 2001, the St. Petersburg Times will report, “There are signs that Ali’s resolve might now be weakening. Court records indicate that Ali’s lawyers seemed to reach an understanding with the government in March [2001]. Since that time, all documents in the case have been filed under seal.” (Murphy 10/28/2001) In May 2002, three full years after his arrest, the New York Times will report that “Nawawi remains in federal custody even now, although he has not been charged with conspiring in the embassy bombing.” (Shenon 5/18/2002) As of the end of 2005, there appears to be no further news on what has happened to Nawawi, and no sign of any trial. When Nawawi is arrested, he is working as a taxi driver. At this time Al-Qaeda operative Nabil al-Marabh is working as a taxi driver about 80 miles away in Tampa, Florida, and while the similarity is intriguing, there is no known reported connection between the two men (see February 1999-February 2000). (Murphy 10/28/2001)

It has been widely assumed in media reports that US intelligence did not connect al-Qaeda leader Hambali to the Bojinka plot (see January 6, 1995) before 9/11. However, the 9/11 Commission will mention in a footnote, “Hambali also was one of the founders of Konsonjaya, a Malaysian company run by close associate of Wali Khan [Amin Shah]. FBI report, Manila air investigation, May 23, 1999.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 489) The Christian Science Monitor will later note, “Konsonjaya was not just supplying money. It also coordinating the Bojinka plotters” (see June 1994). (Murphy 2/14/2002) In the spring of 1995, Philippine Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza gave the US a chart he made of the Bojinka plotters, and Konsonjaya was centrally featured in it (see Spring 1995). He later said, “It was sort of their nerve center.” (Murphy 2/14/2002) Shortly after Ramzi Yousef’s Manila apartment was broken into, documents found there connected Konsonjaya with the “Ladin International” company in Sudan, an obvious bin Laden front. An FBI memo at the time noted the connection. (Lance 2003, pp. 303) Hambali’s photograph was also found on Yousef’s computer. (Pereira 2/2/2002) In 1996, the company’s records were introduced as evidence in a public trial of some Bojinka plotters, and in 1998, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was nearly caught in Brazil while using Konsonjaya as his business cover (see June 1998). So it’s not clear why it took the FBI four years to learn about Hambali, but that still means they were aware of who he was prior to the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia attended by Hambali and two 9/11 hijackers (see January 5-8, 2000). But apparently the connection will not be made.

In early 1999, al-Qaeda operative Khallad bin Attash is sent to Yemen to help al-Qaeda leader Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri obtain explosives to bomb a ship, and also to get a US visa so he can travel to the US to take part in an operation there. Three 9/11 hijackers get a US visa around this time (see April 3-7, 1999), but bin Attash has more trouble, apparently because he is Yemeni and the others are Saudi. While there, bin Attash is arrested by Yemeni authorities. Bin Laden finds out about the arrest and is concerned that bin Attash might reveal the ship bombing and US operations while under interrogation. Bin Laden contacts a Yemeni official and makes a deal, offering not to attack Yemen if the Yemeni government does not confront him and releases bin Attash in the summer of 1999. Both sides agree to the deal and bin Attash returns to Afghanistan without revealing either plot. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 155-156) There is other evidence Yemeni officials will help al-Nashiri, as his ship attack plot eventually targets the USS Cole while stationed in Yemen (see April 2000 and After October 12, 2000).

CIA Director George Tenet tells a closed session of Congress, “We have seen numerous reports that bin Laden and his associates are planning terrorist attacks against US officials and facilities in a variety of locations, including in the US.” (Coll 2004, pp. 454) However, six months later and after a well-publicized attempted al-Qaeda attack on the Los Angeles airport (see December 14, 1999), he will not mention in an open session that bin Laden has the capability to stage attacks inside the US (see February 2, 2000).

A large group of Islamic Jihad operatives are sentenced in Cairo in what becomes known as the “Trial of the Albanian Returnees.” Various disclosures are made at the trial about the way Islamic Jihad operated and how it provided support to al-Qaeda by forging travel documents, transferring money, and arranging communications. One of the revelations is that al-Qaeda has a key communication hub in Yemen. Despite this revelation (see Late 1998-Early 2002), al-Qaeda will continue to use it through 2001 (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). The defendants were arrested not only in Egypt, but also in Albania, Bulgaria, Azerbaijan, and the United Arab Emirates. In 1995, the CIA arranged a deal with Egypt to capture Islamic Jihad operatives around the world and send them to Egypt to be tortured and prosecuted (see Summer 1995). Eighty-seven of the defendants are convicted and ten are sentenced to death, including al-Zawahiri, who is tried in absentia. (Sachs 11/21/2001) One of the convicted is Khaled Abu el-Dahab, who was operating a sleeper cell in California with double agent Ali Mohamed throughout the 1990’s (see 1987-1998). El-Dahab is sentenced to fifteen years in prison (see September 10, 1998). There are credible reports that many of the defendants confessed after being tortured in Egypt and Albania. (Sachs 11/21/2001; Wright 2006, pp. 269) The trial nearly eradicates the remnants of Islamic Jihad in Egypt and, according to some of the defendants, leaves only about forty members outside of Egypt. Al-Zawahiri and the other remaining members end up allying even closer to al-Qaeda. The two organizations will formally merge in early 2001 (see June 2001). (Wright 2006, pp. 336)

Nawaz SharifNawaz Sharif [Source: Publicity photo]In early May 1999, the Pakistani army, at the instigation of Gen. Pervez Musharraf, seizes a strategic height called Kargil in the Indian province of Kashmir. This creates a grave crisis between Pakistan in India. By early July, the CIA picks up intelligence that Pakistan is preparing to launch nuclear missiles against India if necessary. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif comes to the US on July 4 to meet with President Clinton about this. Clinton is livid and yells at Sharif for breaking promises, not only about Kashmir but also about failing to help with bin Laden. According to notes taken at the meeting, Clinton says he had “asked repeatedly for Pakistani help to bring Osama bin Laden to justice… [Sharif] promised often to do so but had done nothing. Instead, the ISI worked with bin Laden and the Taliban to foment terrorists.” Clinton threatens to release a statement calling worldwide attention to Pakistan’s support for terrorists. He adds, “You’ve put me in the middle today, set the US up to fail, and I won’t let it happen. Pakistani is messing with nuclear war.” Sharif backs down and immediately withdraws his troops from Kargil, ending the crisis. But as a result, Sharif becomes deeply unpopular in Pakistan. A few months later he will be ousted in a coup by Musharraf (see October 12, 1999), the general who started the crisis in the first place. (Coll 2004, pp. 476-478)

The FBI is told that three arrested Islamist militants working for Osama bin Laden are about to be released from prison in the UK. But the FBI works quickly and prevents their release. Khalid al-Fawwaz, Ibrahim Eidarous, and Adel Abdel Bary had been arrested in London on September 23, 1998, not long after the US embassy bombings in Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). Al-Fawwaz is an al-Qaeda operative while Eidarous and Bary are Islamic Jihad operatives, but all three of them ran the Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC), a bin Laden front in London (see September 23, 1998-July 12, 1999). The three of them had been arrested for a role in the embassy bombings, but in July 1999, a British judge says there is not enough evidence to keep them imprisoned. FBI agents Ali Soufan, Dan Coleman, Jack Cloonan, and US attorneys Patrick Fitzgerald and Ken Karas work quickly and put together a request to have the three men extradited to the US to stand trial there. (The US already had requested al-Fawwaz’s extradition shortly after his arrest in September (see September 23, 1998-July 12, 1999).) As a result, the three men are rearrested on July 12, 1999, apparently without ever being released, and a long battle to extradite them begins. (Rohde 7/13/1999; Soufan 2011, pp. 97-104)

The NSA intercepts more calls involving an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen (see Early 1999 and Summer 1999). The names of Khaled, who turns out to be 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, and others are mentioned in the calls. However, the NSA reportedly does not think the intelligence gleaned from the calls is important and does not disseminate it. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 156 pdf file) However, the FBI regarded the hub as a key element in al-Qaeda’s communications network and after 9/11 a senior US counterterrorism official will say, “The NSA was well aware of how hot the number was… and how it was a logistical hub for al-Qaeda.” Several plots are stopped based on information obtained from listening to calls to and from the hub (see Late 1998-Early 2002). (Meyer 12/21/2005)

The CIA drafts a new plan to combat al-Qaeda. The document, entitled “The Plan,” has several elements:
bullet Continue with the CIA’s rendition program, which had begun some time previously (see Summer 1995);
bullet Continue with disruption operations against al-Qaeda;
bullet Hire and train better officers with counterterrorism skills;
bullet Recruit more assets and try to penetrate al-Qaeda’s ranks;
bullet Close gaps in the collection of signals and imagery intelligence;
bullet Increase contacts with the Northern Alliance (see Summer 1999). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 142)

A CIA officer whose first name is “Albert” drafts a series of incorrect cables about a plan by Islamist militants to carry out attacks in Jordan around the millennium (see December 15-31, 1999). One cable alleges that the group of terrorists, some of whom are al-Qaeda operatives, is backed by Iran. Ali Soufan, an FBI agent working against the plotters in Jordan, sends a series of parallel cables back to Washington, and his and Albert’s superiors notice the discrepancies. An investigation into who is correct ensues, and Soufan is proved right. In all, 12 cables drafted by Albert have to be withdrawn. Soufan will say that Albert’s problem was that he had a “tendency to jump to conclusions without facts.” The link to Iran was because some of the plotters had trained in the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon, an area controlled by Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran. (Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file; Soufan 2011, pp. 138-139) After 9/11, Albert will be involved in the rendition of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi to Egypt, where he falsely confesses to a link between al-Qaeda and Iraq (see January 2002 and After).

Yassir al-Sirri speaking to the media in London in 2003.Yassir al-Sirri speaking to the media in London in 2003. [Source: Hossam el-Hamalawy]The Egyptian government posts a list of its 14 most wanted terrorists; half of them are believed to be living in Britain. The list is published on an Egyptian government website and Al-Sharq al-Awsat, a popular Arabic international newspaper based in London. It includes many members of Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian militant group that has essentially merged with al-Qaeda by this time. Names on the list include:
bullet Ayman al-Zawahiri. He is the top leader of Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda’s number two leader. He was sentenced to death in absentia in Egypt, and the US has a $5 million bounty on him by this time.
bullet Thirwat Salah Shehata. He is another high-ranking Islamic Jihad leader. He was sentenced to death twice in Egypt.
bullet Adel Abdel Bary. He was granted asylum in Britain despite being sentenced to death in Egypt, and ran the Islamic Jihad office in London. But he was arrested there in 1998 and is fighting deportation to the US on charges of involvement in the al-Qaeda African embassy bombings.
bullet Adel Abdel-Quddus, an Islamic Jihad leader. He received a death sentence in connection with an assassination attempt in 1993. He was granted asylum in Austria.
bullet Ayub Usama Saddiq Ali, another Islamic Jihad leader. He was sentenced to death on murder charges in Egypt. He moved to Germany and is granted asylum there in October 1999. 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah will call him twice, once in November 1999 and once in August 2001 (see November 7, 1999 and August 4, 2001).
bullet Ahmed Refai Taha, head of the Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, the Egyptian militant group formerly led by the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. In September 2000, al-Qaeda will publish a video of Osama bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and Taha threatening revenge if the Blind Sheikh is not released (see September 21, 2000). Taha was sentenced to death in Egypt.
bullet Mustafa Hamza, leader of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, and an al-Qaeda leader as well. He was sentenced to death three times in Egypt. He is believed to have led an assassination attempt of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in 1995 (see June 26, 1995).
bullet Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, brother of the assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and an Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya leader. He also was sentenced to death in Egypt, and is believed to be hiding in Afghanistan with bin Laden.
bullet Ahmed Hussein Ugayzah, sentenced to life imprisonment in Egypt. He was an aide to al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan, but he had a falling out with him and joined the Vanguards of Conquest, an Islamic Jihad splinter group.
bullet Yassir al-Sirri. He was sentenced to death in Egypt in 1994 for a role in an attempted assassination attempt in 1993. But he moved to Britain and was granted asylum. (Al-Sharq al-Awsat 10/2/1999; Moussa 10/18/2001) Shortly after 9/11, the Guardian will report that seven of the men on the list live in London, but it is not mentioned which of the seven live there. (Travis 9/28/2001) There appear to have been no arrests of any of the above figures in Britain after the publication of the list.

Video footage of Said Bahaji’s wedding in October 1999. Clockwise from top left: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, Mamoun Darkazanli, Ziad Jarrah, and Marwan Alshehhi.Video footage of Said Bahaji’s wedding in October 1999. Clockwise from top left: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, Mamoun Darkazanli, Ziad Jarrah, and Marwan Alshehhi. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Mamoun Darkazanli, along with most of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, attends the wedding of Said Bahaji. Bahaji is one of future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta’s roommates and is believed to be a core member of the cell. The wedding takes place at the Al-Quds mosque in Hamburg. A videotape of the wedding will be discovered by German investigators shortly after 9/11, and eventually more than 20 men will be identified from the video. Other attendees include: Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Mounir El Motassadeq, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, and Abdelghani Mzoudi. (Bernstein et al. 9/10/2002; CBS News 5/7/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 345, 561; Zeman et al. 11/2004) Zammar is Bahaji’s best man in the wedding. (Erlanger 6/20/2002)
Speeches and Songs Promise Martyrdom - The video first shows Bahaji’s nuptial ceremony, followed by a series of radical militant speeches. Bin al-Shibh gives a particularly fiery speech. He says: “It is now as if we were in school, in Arabic lessons. At the end, we have a test. Some will pass this test, [others] will not.” He quotes a poem, saying that when Israel flies its flag over Jerusalem, “how can you bear these humiliations?… When the tyrants attack you, you will then be a wave of fire and blood.” The group then sings songs in Arabic celebrating violent holy war and martyrdom. One song includes the lyrics: “Our squads have been revolutionized.… Against the heresy, like a volcano, like hurricane and fire, we follow the voice of your call.… We will be aglow with readiness for action. We will crush the throne of the oppressor.” Another song celebrates martyrdom and promises many virgins in paradise for martyrs. (Zeman et al. 11/2004)
Video Shows the 9/11 Plot Is in Motion - The New York Times will later report, “The presence of all of these men at the wedding of Mr. Bahaji has led investigators to believe that the plan to attack the United States had essentially been formed by then.” (Bernstein et al. 9/10/2002)

The US deports Hani El-Sayegh, a Saudi National who is a suspect in the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing (see June 25, 1996), back to Saudi Arabia. (Grey 2007, pp. 247) The deportation is approved by a US judge. (Vise 10/29/2000)
History - In 1996, el-Sayegh, who had been living in Iran, moved to Kuwait. He later went to Canada, where he cut a deal with American officials that called for him to plead guilty in an unrelated plot against Americans in Saudi Arabia that was never carried out. In 1997, Canada expelled el-Sayegh for suspected terrorist activity. Attorney General Janet Reno allowed him into the United States solely for prosecution under the pact. But after arriving, he said he had not understood the accord, knew nothing about the Khobar attack, and was out of Saudi Arabia when the bombing occurred. Despite this, the Saudis suspected him of being present at the bombing and his brother was held in connection with it, and allegedly tortured in a Saudi jail. (New York Times 10/12/1999)
Agreement - The deportation follows an agreement between FBI Director Louis Freeh and Prince Naif, Saudi Arabia’s interior minister. Under the agreement, el-Sayagh is returned to Saudi Arabia, and, according to officials familiar with the arrangement, FBI agents will be allowed to watch his interrogation through a one-way mirror and submit questions to his Saudi inquisitors. Washington Post journalist David Vine will comment, “Such practices are sharply at odds with Freeh’s oft-stated message about the FBI’s need to respect human dignity and the tenets of democracy while fighting crime.” Although FBI officials will say a year later they have not seen any indication that el-Sayegh has been tortured, Vine will add, “But agents say privately that when entering a foreign culture to do police work they do not have control over how prisoners are treated and must tread lightly.” (Vise 10/29/2000)
Khobar Towers Attack Could Have Been Prosecuted in US - The Khobar Towers attacks may have been in Saudi Arabia, but were against US nationals, so suspects can be prosecuted in the US. Tony Karon of Time magazine will express surprise at the deportation: “Run that one by again: The United States doesn’t want to try a man suspected of a bomb attack that killed Americans—and they’re sending him home?!” However, the Justice Department apparently thinks there is not enough evidence to try him in the US, and, according to Time correspondent William Dowell, “Clearly, there’s a lower standard of proof in Saudi courts,” so, “It may be easier for Washington if the Saudis handle the trial—and the execution, which would likely follow.”
Possible Geopolitical Motive - According to Karon, an alternative explanation is that geopolitics may be behind the decision: “Sending el-Sayegh… back to Saudi Arabia could solve another touchy problem for Washington.” This is because President Clinton said the US would retaliate against any government that was involved in the attacks, and an Iranian hand is suspected in the bombing. However, according to Time Middle East bureau chief Scott Macleod: “the attack occurred before the election of President Khatami, who has clearly demonstrated a commitment to end state terrorism and normalize Iran’s relations with the rest of the world. Given Washington’s desire to strengthen his reformist government against its hard-line opponents, the US would be unlikely to take military action against Iran unless there were fresh acts of terrorism.” (Karon 10/5/1999)

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. [Source: Government of Pakistan]Gen. Pervez Musharraf becomes leader of Pakistan in a coup, ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. One major reason for the coup is the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency) felt Sharif had to go “out of fear that he might buckle to American pressure and reverse Pakistan’s policy [of supporting] the Taliban.” (Frantz 12/8/2001) Shortly thereafter, Musharraf replaces the leader of the ISI, Brig Imtiaz, because of his close ties to the previous leader. Imtiaz is arrested and convicted of “having assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.” It is later revealed that he was keeping tens of millions of dollars earned from heroin smuggling in a Deutsche Bank account. (Raman 8/10/2001) Lieutenant General Mahmood Ahmed, a close ally of Musharraf, is instrumental in the success of the coup. Ahmed actually secured the capital and detained Sharif, but then honored the chain of command and stepped aside so Musharraf, as head of the military, could take over. Ahmed is rewarded by being made the new director of the ISI. (Harding 10/9/2001; Coll 2004, pp. 504-505)

The government of Yemen says that it has executed Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate group the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA), for his part in a kidnapping and murder plot (see December 28-29, 1998). However, the execution is not public and his body is not returned to his family. This leads Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading supporter of the IAA, to speculate that Almihdhar is still alive in prison. Yemeni journalist Bashraheel Bashraheel will also comment: “The execution would have sparked a civil war.… The tribal leaders know [Almihdhar] is still alive and have been bribed to persuade their followers not to rebel.” (Quin 2005, pp. 126, 157-8, 187) It will later be suggested that Almihdhar is a distant relative of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. (Risen and Bonner 12/7/2001)

The Washington Post refers to hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar when it later reports, “In November 1999, two Saudi Arabian men moved into a ground-floor apartment at the Parkwood Apartments, a town house complex near a busy commercial strip in San Diego.” (Goldstein 9/30/2001) Alhazmi’s name is on the apartment lease beginning in November 1999. (Washington Post 10/2001) The Los Angeles Times similarly notes, “A man by [the name Alhazmi] moved to the Parkwood Apartments in San Diego in 1999, according to manager Holly Ratchford.” (Schrader and Richter 9/15/2001) Some reports even have them visiting the US as early as 1996. (Mollenkamp et al. 9/17/2001; Puit and Kalil 10/26/2001) However, FBI Director Mueller has stated the two hijackers did not arrive in the US until the middle of January 2000, after attending an important al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000). While some news reports mention that the hijackers first arrive in late 1999 (McDermott 9/1/2002; Serrano, McManus, and Krikorian 11/24/2002) , over time, mentions of the lease beginning in 1999 will slowly fade from media accounts.

In a court case in Canada, Arafat El-Asahi, the Canadian director of both the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and the Muslim World League, says in sworn testimony: “The Muslim World League, which is the mother of IIRO, is a fully government funded organization. In other words, I work for the Government of Saudi Arabia. I am an employee of that government. Second, the IIRO is the relief branch of that organization which means that we are controlled in all our activities and plans by the Government of Saudi Arabia. Keep that in mind, please… I am paid by my organization which is funded by the [Saudi] government.… The [IIRO] office, like any other office in the world, here or in the Muslim World League, has to abide by the policy of the Government of Saudi Arabia. If anybody deviates from that, he would be fired.” (US Congress, Senate, Committee on Governmental Affairs 7/31/2003; Kaplan, Ekman, and Latif 12/15/2003) There is considerable evidence that both the IIRO and the Muslim World League have repeatedly helped fund al-Qaeda. For instance, in 1993 Osama bin Laden told an associate that the Muslim World League was one of his three most important charity fronts (see 1993), and it will later be reported that just after 9/11 the US decides not to list both the Muslim World League as terrorist charity fronts in order not to embarrass the Saudi government (see October 12, 2001).

Ahmed Alnami.Ahmed Alnami. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alnami receives a new passport in Saudi Arabia. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 43 pdf file) According to the 9/11 Commission, the passport may contain an “indicator of extremism” that is “associated with al-Qaeda.” However, although it is certain some of the other hijackers have such indicators in their passports, it is not certain that Alnami does. The commission will merely say that there “is reason to believe” his passport may contain such indicator and note that it was “issued in the same Saudi passport office” that issued passports with the indicator to some of the other hijackers. In addition, Alnami obtains two passports before 9/11 (see also April 21, 2001), and it is not clear whether the commission thinks both of the passports have the indicator, or just one of them. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 564; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 9, 33 pdf file) According to author James Bamford, the indicator is a “secret coded indicator, placed there by the Saudi government, warning of a possible terrorist affiliation.” (Bamford 2008, pp. 58-59) The Saudi government reportedly uses this indicator to track some of the Saudi hijackers before 9/11 “with precision” (see November 2, 2007).

Abu Bara al-Taizi.Abu Bara al-Taizi. [Source: Defense Department]A group of al-Qaeda operatives receives advanced training at the Mes Aynak camp in Afghanistan. The large group includes 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar (see November/December 1999), al-Qaeda commander Khallad bin Attash, would-be 9/11 hijacker Abu Bara al-Taizi (a.k.a. Zohair Mohammed Said), USS Cole bomber Ibrahim al-Thawar (a.k.a. Nibras), an operative who leads a series of suicide bombings in Riyadh in 2003, and another who is involved against the 2002 attack against a ship called the Limburg (see October 6, 2002). According to statements by detainees, the course focuses on physical fitness, firearms, close quarters combat, shooting from a motorcycle, and night operations. Osama bin Laden and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) apparently visit the camp during the course. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 157; Office of the Director of National Intelligence 9/6/2006, pp. 12 pdf file) Candidate hijacker Abderraouf Jdey, a Canadian passport holder, may also be present at this training course. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 527) Also, in early December, KSM gives special hijacking training to Alhazmi, bin Attash, and al-Taizi (see Early December 1999).

Mohamed Atta filmed in Afghanistan in January 2000.Mohamed Atta filmed in Afghanistan in January 2000. [Source: London Times]Hamburg cell members Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and possibly Said Bahaji travel to Afghanistan via Turkey and Karachi, Pakistan. They travel along a route often used by one of their associates, al-Qaeda recruiter Mohammed Haydar Zammar, to send potential operatives to Afghanistan for training. Turkish intelligence is aware of the route and informed German intelligence of it in 1996, leading to an investigation of Zammar (see 1996). However, it is unclear whether German or Turkish intelligence register the Hamburg cell members’ travel and how and whether they disseminate and act on this information. Jarrah is reportedly noticed by an intelligence service in the United Arab Emirates on his return journey from Afghanistan (see January 30, 2000). (Bernstein et al. 9/10/2002; CBS News 10/9/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 167; McDermott 2005, pp. 89)

Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi intelligence minister until shortly before 9/11 (see August 31, 2001), will later claim that around this time its external intelligence agency tells the CIA that hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar have been put on a Saudi terror watch list. The Saudis have been tracking the two men, as well as Nawaf’s brother Salem, for some time (see March 21, 1999, April 4, 1999, April 6, 1999, and After Early April 1999). Saeed Badeeb, Turki’s chief analyst, and Nawaf Obaid, a security consultant to the Saudi government, support Turki’s account though Turki himself will later back away from it after becoming Saudi ambassador to the US (see August 21, 2005). In 2003, Prince Turki will say, “What we told [the CIA] was these people were on our watch list from previous activities of al-Qaeda, in both the [1998] embassy bombings and attempts to smuggle arms into the kingdom in 1997,” (see 1997 and October 4, 2001). However, the CIA strongly denies any such warning, although it begins following Almihdhar and Alhazmi around this time (see January 2-5, 2000 and January 5-8, 2000). (Solomon 10/16/2003; Follman 10/18/2003; Wright 2006, pp. 310-311, 448) The US will not put Almihdhar and Alhazmi on its watch list until August 2001 (see August 23, 2001).

Khalil Deek.Khalil Deek. [Source: Tawfiq Deek]Khalil Deek is arrested by police in Peshawar, Pakistan, and immediately extradited to Jordan. The Jordanian government requested the arrest after tying Deek to a millennium plot to blow up hotels in Jordan that had been broken up a few days ago (see November 30, 1999). (Schou 6/15/2006) Deek is a naturalized US citizen who has been part of a California al-Qaeda sleeper cell for most of the 1990s. He had been investigated by US authorities since the late 1980s (see Late 1980s, March 1993-1996, and December 14-25, 1999) but was never arrested. Deek’s computer is confiscated when he is arrested, and computer files reveal the targets of the Jordanian plot. (Cooley 2002, pp. 33) According to contemporary press accounts, Deek, who was running a computer repair shop in Peshawar, Pakistan, had helped encrypt al-Qaeda’s Internet communications and smuggled recruits to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Some reports identify him as a former mujaheddin fighter, a US Army veteran, and a close associate of Osama bin Laden. Articles also claim he worked closely with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida on the Jordanian plot and other things (see May 2000, Late 1980s, and 1998-December 11, 1999). (Schou 6/15/2006) CNN says Deek “is believed to be the mastermind” of the Jordanian plot. (CNN 12/17/1999) But, unlike the rest of the defendants in the Jordanian case, Deek is transferred from a maximum-security prison to a minimum-security one. He alone is not charged. He will be released in May 2001 (see May 2001). (Schou 6/15/2006) It will later be alleged that Deek was a Jordanian intelligence mole (see Shortly After December 11, 1999).

Diana Dean.Diana Dean. [Source: Seattle Times]Al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam is arrested in Port Angeles, Washington, attempting to enter the US with components of explosive devices. One hundred and thirty pounds of bomb-making chemicals and detonator components are found inside his rental car. He subsequently admits he planned to bomb Los Angeles International Airport on December 31, 1999. (Miller, Gerth, and van Natta 12/30/2001) Alert border patrol agent Diana Dean stops him; she and other agents nationwide had been warned recently to look for suspicious activity. Ressam’s bombing would have been part of a wave of attacks against US targets over the New Year’s weekend (see December 15-31, 1999). He is later connected to al-Qaeda and convicted. (US Congress 9/18/2002; Gilmore and Wiser 10/3/2002)

From left to right: Mokhtar Haouari, Abdelmajid Dahoumane, Abdel Ghani Meskini. The picture of Meskini is from an ATM camera.From left to right: Mokhtar Haouari, Abdelmajid Dahoumane, Abdel Ghani Meskini. The picture of Meskini is from an ATM camera. [Source: Public domain, public domain, and Seattle Times]In the wake of the arrest of Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999), FBI investigators work frantically to uncover more millennium plots before the end of the year. US authorities also make a number of arrests.
bullet A telephone number found in Ressam’s pocket leads to Abdel Ghani Meskini, an Algerian living in New York City who had gone to Seattle to meet Ressam. Meskini is monitored and arrested in New York on December 30.
bullet One of Ressam’s credit cards leads to the arrest of Mokhtar Haouari, an Algerian living in Montreal, Canada. Meskini later cooperates with US investigators and is never charged, while Haouari will be sentenced to 24 years in prison. (Calabresi 2/7/2000; Hirschkorn and Feyerick 1/16/2002; Wright 2006, pp. 298)
bullet Another Algerian associate of Ressam’s, Abdelmajid Dahoumane, escapes to Afghanistan, but will eventually be caught by the Algerian government and convicted in Algeria. (PBS Frontline 10/25/2001)
bullet Investigators believe that Mohamedou Ould Slahi, an al-Qaeda operative whose cousin is a top al-Qaeda leader, went to Canada to give the go-ahead for Ressam’s attack. Slahi is arrested several times overseas, but never charged (see January-April 2000). (CNN 3/6/2002)
bullet Khalid Deek, a US citizen, is arrested around this time for masterminding another al-Qaeda millennnium plot (see December 11, 1999). But counterterrorism expert Rita Katz will later say Deek was a suspected mastermind of Ressam’s Los Angeles airport plot, too. (Campbell and Brown 9/12/2005) Deek’s name and phone number is found in Ressam’s telephone book. Ressam knew Deek from bin Laden training camps in Afghanistan. Both of them, like most of Ressam’s group, have links to the GIA, an Algerian militant group associated with al-Qaeda. (Newsweek (International) 3/13/2000)
Others escape the US after hearing media reports of Ressam’s arrest. However, enough people are caught to stop additional millennium attacks. Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later says, “I think a lot of the FBI leadership for the first time realized that… there probably were al-Qaeda people in the United States. They realized that only after they looked at the results of the investigation of the millennium bombing plot.” (Gilmore and Wiser 10/3/2002) Yet Clinton’s National Security Adviser Sandy Berger later claims that the FBI will still repeatedly assure the Clinton White House until Clinton leaves office that al-Qaeda lacks the ability to launch a domestic strike (see 2000).

Some attendees of the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000), arrive early. Al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash had lost a leg while fighting in Afghanistan in 1997. In early December 1999, he was in Afghanistan with Abu Bara al-Taizi (a.k.a. Zohair Mohammed Said) and others, attending a hijacking training course (see Late 1999 and Early December 1999). Bin Attash and al-Taizi have been selected by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to be hijackers for a planned Asian portion of the 9/11 plot (which will later be cancelled).
Surgery for Bin Attash's Leg - Bin Attash goes early to an al-Qaeda summit where hijacking plans will be discussed, in order to have prosthetic surgery for his leg. Al-Taizi goes with him. Malaysian security is said to be lax for Islamist militants, and Malaysia does not require a visa for citizens of many Middle Eastern countries. There is a clinic in Kuala Lumpur called Endolite, and other wounded militants have said they successfully concealed the origins of their combat wounds when receiving treatment there. Bin Attash got a prosthetic leg in Malaysia not long after losing his leg in 1997, but he is coming back to get a better one. He apparently gets the money for the prosthesis from his father, Osama bin Laden, and another al-Qaeda figure.
Link with Hambali - When bin Attash and al-Taizi arrive in Kuala Lumpur, they contact Hambali, the top al-Qaeda leader in Southeast Asia. Hambali picks them up at the airport and takes them to his home. Then he takes them to the Endolite clinic. Bin Attash and al-Taizi stay at or near the clinic for about 10 to 14 days. Bin Attash then takes about four flights in Southeast Asia to learn about security for the hijacking plan (see December 31, 1999-January 2, 2000), while al-Taizi apparently stays in Kuala Lumpur. According to Hambali’s later Guantanamo prison file, bin Attash and al-Taizi also investigate the security of US aircraft carriers in the region.
Others Arrive - On January 3, with bin Attash back from his flights, the two of them move to Yazid Sufaat’s condominium where the al-Qaeda summit will be held. Future 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi arrives there the next day. 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar arrives the day after that, and other attendees are arriving as well, allowing the summit to begin (see January 5-8, 2000). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 158-159; US Department of Defense 12/6/2006; US Department of Defense 10/25/2008; US Department of Defense 10/30/2008) Note that this information is based on prisoner interrogations, which can be highly unreliable. However, it should be noted that the accounts of bin Attash, Hambali, and al-Taizi appear to largely match.

The FBI misses a chance to learn about Zacarias Moussaoui after a raid in Dublin, Ireland. On December 14, 1999, Ahmed Ressam was arrested trying to smuggle explosives into the US (see December 14, 1999). On December 21, Irish police arrest Hamid Aich and several other North African immigrants living in Dublin. (Rashbaum 1/22/2000) During the arrests, police seize a large amount of documents relating to citizenship applications, identities, credit cards, and airplane tickets. A diagram of an electrical switch that could be used for a bomb is found that is identical to a diagram found in Ressam’s apartment in Vancouver, Canada. (Cusack 7/31/2002) The suspects are released about a day later, but, “Within days, authorities in Ireland and the United States began to realize that they might have missed a chance to learn more about a terrorist network.” (Rashbaum 1/22/2000) It is discovered that Aich lived with Ressam in Montreal, and then later lived with him in Vancouver. Investigators conclude there has been an al-Qaeda cell in Dublin since the early 1990s, when the charity Mercy International opened an office there (this charity has several known al-Qaeda connections by this time (see 1988-Spring 1995 and Late 1996-August 20, 1998) and also an alleged CIA connection (see 1989 and After)). The cell is mainly involved in providing travel and identity documents for other cells committing violent acts. Investigators also connect Aich to the Islamic Jihad. But the US and Canada do not seek Aich’s extradition, and instead have the Irish police keep him under surveillance. He will escape from Ireland shortly before 9/11 (see June 3, 2001-July 24, 2001). (Rashbaum 1/22/2000; Cusack 7/31/2002) Apparently, many of the documents seized in the raid will only be closely examined after 9/11. Documents will show that in 1999 and 2000, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, a top al-Qaeda financier, worked with the Dublin cell to finance Moussaoui’s international travel. Aich made travel arrangements and possibly provided fake identification for Moussaoui. (Cameron 7/30/2002; Cusack 7/31/2002) Presumably, had these links been discovered after the 1999 raid instead of after 9/11, events could have gone very differently when Moussaoui was arrested in the US in August 2001 (see August 16, 2001).

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