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Context of 'December 2001-Spring 2002: Pakistani Government Allows Al-Qaeda and Taliban to Regroup in Pakistan’s Tribal Region'

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In the early 1990s, future Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is an up-and-coming military general, who is in charge of military operations. He is a pupil of Hamid Gul, director of the ISI in the late 1980s and a long-time and open supporter of Osama bin Laden. Around 1993, he approaches Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto with a special plan to undermine Indian forces in the province of Kashmir, disputed between India and Pakistan. As Bhutto will later recall, “He told me he wanted to ‘unleash the forces of fundamentalism’ to ramp up the war” against India in Kashmir. Bhutto gives Musharraf the go-ahead, as she had lost power once before by opposing the Pakistani military and ISI, and “Second time around I did not want to rock the boat.” Musharraf approaches several Islamic organizations and commits them to supply volunteers who could be trained to fight as guerrillas in Kashmir. One group he works with is Markaz Dawa Al Irshad (MDI), founded several years before by followers of bin Laden. The MDI already has a military wing known as Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT). Musharraf is allowed to use LeT’s fighters for his purposes in Kashmir and elsewhere. Other groups effectively created by Musharraf include Harkat ul-Ansar, later known as Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (see Early 1993). In the following months, the level of violence in Kashmir grows as the militias begin sending their fighters there. Around the same time, Musharraf sees early successes of the Taliban (see Spring-Autumn 1994), and along with Interior Minister Nasrullah Babar, begins secretly supporting them and supplying them. The two policies go hand-in-hand, because the militant groups begin training their fighters in parts of Afghanistan controlled by the Taliban. The Pakistani policy of tacitly supporting these militias and the Taliban will continue until Musharraf takes power in a coup in 1999 (see October 12, 1999), and beyond. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 239-243)

The Indian government grows concerned about a new Pakistani policy of funding and supporting Islamist militias in Pakistan so these militants can fight the Indian army in the disputed region of Kashmir. Since these groups are not officially part of the Pakistani government, Pakistan has some plausible deniability about the violence they are involved in. An Indian joint intelligence committee determines that the Pakistani government is spending around $7 million a month to fund these proxy fighters. They present a file of evidence to the US, warning that Muslim fundamentalists are being infiltrated into Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir and that Gen. Pervez Musharraf (who will later take power in a coup) is behind the new policy (see 1993-1994). They ask the US to consider where these fighters will go after Kashmir. Naresh Chandra, Indian ambassador to the US at the time, will later recall: “The US was not interested. I was shouting and no one in the State Department or elsewhere could have cared less.” Pakistan continues its tacit support for these groups through 9/11. The US will decline to list Pakistan as an official sponsor of terrorism despite growing evidence over the years that the Pakistani government is supporting these militants attacking India. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 241)

Mullah Omar.Mullah Omar. [Source: US Rewards for Justice]By early 1994, many people in Afghanistan have become fed up with widespread corruption and violence between warlords fighting for power. The Taliban starts as a small militia force near the town of Kandahar. It is led by Mullah Omar, a former mujaheddin fighter who preaches and teaches in a small remote village. Feeding on discontent, the Taliban’s popularity rapidly grows. (Coll 2004, pp. 285) The Pakistani ISI takes an interest in their success. Journalist Steve Coll will later comment, “There was a meeting at ISI headquarters with some of the early leaders of the Taliban—not Mullah Omar, but some of his aides—and the ISI chief in the late autumn of 1994.” (Coll 10/3/2006) The ISI floods them with weapons and new recruits taken from religious schools in Pakistan and soon effectively dominates the group (see October 1994 and Autumn 1994-Spring 1995). (Gannon 2005, pp. 37-39) Before long, as Coll put is, the Taliban becomes “an asset of the ISI.” (Coll 10/3/2006) Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a future president of Pakistan, is also an early supporter of the Taliban (see 1993-1994).

Rescue workers removing bodies from the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad.Rescue workers removing bodies from the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad. [Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]The Islamic Jihad blows up the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. Two cars filled with explosives crash through the embassy gates, killing the bombers and sixteen others. Ayman al-Zawahiri will later write in a book, “The bomb left the embassy’s ruined building as an eloquent and clear message.” Islamic Jihad is already closely tied to al-Qaeda by this time. (Wright 9/9/2002) The Egyptian government had recently dispatched up to 100 government agents to London with the task of eliminating militants opposed to the Egyptian government. The Independent will later report, “Sources in Cairo said that several of the dead embassy officials were working under cover as diplomats to help the Pakistani authorities track down” militants. In the wake of the attack, plans to send more Egyptian government agents to Pakistan to hunt militants in that region are scuttled. (Fisk 12/6/1995) Some of the money for the bombing operation was apparently raised by al-Zawahiri on a fundraising trip to the US (see Late 1994 or 1995). One suspect, a Canadian citizen named Ahmed Said Khadr, will be arrested in Pakistan a short time after the bombings. He will soon be released at the request of the Canadian prime minister, but will later be revealed to be a founding member of al-Qaeda (see January 1996-September 10, 2001).

International Islamic Relief Organization logo.
International Islamic Relief Organization logo. [Source: International Islamic Relief Organization]The CIA creates a report for the State Department detailing support for terrorism from prominent Islamic charities. The report, completed just as the Bosnian war is winding down, focuses on charity fronts that have helped the mujaheddin in Bosnia. It concludes that of more than 50 Islamic nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) in existence, “available information indicates that approximately one-third… support terrorist groups or employ individuals who are suspected of having terrorist connections.” The report notes that most of the offices of NGOs active in Bosnia are located in Zagreb, Sarajevo, Zenica, and Tuzla. There are coordination councils there organizing the work of the charity fronts. The report notes that some charities may be “backed by powerful interest groups,” including governments. “We continue to have evidence that even high ranking members of the collecting or monitoring agencies in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Pakistan - such as the Saudi High Commission - are involved in illicit activities, including support for terrorists.” The Wall Street Journal will later comment, “Disclosure of the report may raise new questions about whether enough was done to cut off support for terrorism before the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001… and about possible involvement in terrorism by Saudi Arabian officials.” (Central Intelligence Agency 1/1996; Simpson 5/9/2003) The below list of organizations paraphrases or quotes the report, except for informational asides in parentheses.
bullet The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). “The IIRO is affiliated with the Muslim World League, a major international organization largely financed by the government of Saudi Arabia.” The IIRO has funded Hamas, Algerian radicals, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (a.k.a. the Islamic Group, an Egyptian radical militant group led by Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman), Ramzi Yousef, and six militant training camps in Afghanistan. “The former head of the IIRO office in the Philippines, Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, has been linked to Manila-based plots to target the Pope and US airlines; his brother-in-law is Osama bin Laden.”
bullet Al Haramain Islamic Foundation. It has connections to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and helps support the mujaheddin battalion in Zenica. Their offices have been connected to smuggling, drug running, and prostitution.
bullet Human Concern International, headquartered in Canada. Its Swedish branch is said to be smuggling weapons to Bosnia. It is claimed “the entire Peshawar office is made up of [Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya] members.” The head of its Pakistan office (Ahmed Said Khadr) was arrested recently for a role in the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Pakistan (see November 19, 1995). (It will later be discovered that Khadr is a founder and major leader of al-Qaeda (see Summer 2001 and January 1996-September 10, 2001).)
bullet Third World Relief Agency (TWRA). Headquartered in Sudan, it has ties to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya. “The regional director of the organization, Elfatih Hassanein, is the most influential [charity] official in Bosnia. He is a major arms supplier to the government, according to clandestine and press reporting, and was forced to relocate his office from Zagreb in 1994 after his weapons smuggling operations were exposed. According to a foreign government service, Hassanein supports US Muslim extremists in Bosnia.” One TWRA employee alleged to also be a member of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya carried out a suicide car bombing in Rijeka, Croatia (see October 20, 1995).
bullet The Islamic African Relief Agency (IARA). Based in Sudan, it has offices in 30 countries. It is said to be controlled by Sudan’s ruling party and gives weapons to the Bosnian military in concert with the TWRA. (The US government will give the IARA $4 million in aid in 1998 (see February 19, 2000).)
bullet Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) (the report refers to it by an alternate name, Lajnat al-Birr al-Islamiyya (LBI)). It supports mujaheddin in Bosnia. It mentions “one Zagreb employee, identified as Syrian-born US citizen Abu Mahmud,” as involved in a kidnapping in Pakistan (see July 4, 1995). (Central Intelligence Agency 1/1996) (This is a known alias (Abu Mahmoud al Suri) for Enaam Arnaout, the head of BIF’s US office.) (USA v. Enaam M. Arnaout 10/6/2003, pp. 37 pdf file) This person “matches the description… of a man who was allegedly involved in the kidnapping of six Westerners in Kashmir in July 1995, and who left Pakistan in early October for Bosnia via the United States.”
bullet Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK), a.k.a. Al-Kifah. This group has ties to Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, and possibly Hezbollah. Both the former director of its Zagreb office [Kamer Eddine Kherbane] and his deputy [Hassan Hakim] were senior members of Algerian extremist groups. Its main office in Peshawar, Pakistan, funds at least nine training camps in Afghanistan. “The press has reported that some employees of MAK’s New York branch were involved in the World Trade Center bombing [in 1993].” (Indeed, the New York branch, known as the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, is closely linked to the WTC bombing and the CIA used it as a conduit to send money to Afghanistan (see January 24, 1994).
bullet Muwafaq Foundation. Registered in Britain but based in Sudan, it has many offices in Bosnia. It has ties to Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya and “helps fund the Egyptian Mujahedin Battalion in Bosnia” and “at least one training camp in Afghanistan” (see 1991-1995).
bullet Qatar Charitable Society, based in Qatar. It has possible ties to Hamas and Algerian militants. A staff member in Qatar is known to be a Hamas operative who has been monitored discussing militant operations. (An al-Qaeda defector will later reveal that in 1993 he was told this was one of al-Qaeda’s three most important charity fronts (see 1993)).
bullet Red Crescent (Iran branch). Linked to the Iranian government, it is “Often used by the Iranian [intelligence agency] as cover for intelligence officers, agents, and arms shipments.”
bullet Saudi High Commission. “The official Saudi government organization for collecting and disbursing humanitarian aid.” Some members possibly have ties to Hamas and Algerian militants (see 1996 and After).
bullet Other organizations mentioned are the Foundation for Human Rights, Liberties, and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) (a.k.a. the International Humanitarian Relief Organization), Kuwait Joint Relief Committee (KJRC), the Islamic World Committee, and Human Appeal International. (Central Intelligence Agency 1/1996)
After 9/11, former National Security Council official Daniel Benjamin will say that the NSC repeatedly questioned the CIA with inquiries about charity fronts. “We knew there was a big problem between [charities] and militants. The CIA report “suggests they were on the job, and, frankly, they were on the job.” (Simpson 5/9/2003) However, very little action is taken on the information before 9/11. None of the groups mentioned will be shut down or have their assets seized.

Ahmed Said Khadr in a hospital bed during his hunger strike, being visited by journalists.Ahmed Said Khadr in a hospital bed during his hunger strike, being visited by journalists. [Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]In late 1995, Ahmed Said Khadr is arrested in Pakistan for a suspected role in the November 1995 bombing of the Egyptian embassy in that country (see November 19, 1995). Khadr was born an Egyptian and became a Canadian citizen, and is an employee of Human Concern International (HCI), a Canadian-based charity. (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 276-277)
Smuggling During the Afghan War - The Canadian government was already aware of Khadr’s militant ties before the bombing. In the late 1980s, a federal Canadian official was asked by a diplomat in Pakistan about Khadr. The official did not know who that was, so the diplomat explained that Khadr was involved in smuggling Saudi money into Afghanistan while using HCI as a cover. This person further said that, “For months, the Afghan scene in Islamabad buzzed with this and other information” about Khadr. This was passed on to other parts of the Canadian government, but no action was taken. (Bell 9/6/2002)
Khadr Released Due to Hunger Strike - After his late 1995 arrest, Khadr begins a hunger strike from within a Pakistani prison. In January 1996, Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien visits Pakistan and, in response to popular pressure caused by the hunger strike, asks the Pakistani government to release him. Khadr is released several months later. He returns to Canada and stops working with HCI, but starts a new charity called Health and Education Project International. (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 276-277)
HCI Linked to Al-Qaeda - A January 1996 CIA report claims that the entire Peshawar, Pakistan, HCI branch that Khadr heads is staffed by Islamist militants and that its Swedish branch is smuggling weapons to Bosnia (see January 1996). In a June 1996 interview with an Egyptian weekly, Osama bin Laden surprisingly identifies HCI as a significant supporter of al-Qaeda. (Emerson 2006, pp. 398, 423)
Monitoring Khadr's Associates - Also around 1996, the Canadian intelligence agency CSIS begins monitoring several suspected radical militants living in Canada. The CSIS will later call one of them, Mahmoud Jaballah, an “established contact” of Khadr. (Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2/22/2008 pdf file) Another, Mohamed Zeki Mahjoub, will also be called a contact of Khadr. (Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2/22/2008 pdf file) The CSIS has yet to reveal details of when such contacts are made, except in the case of Mohamed Harkat. It will be mentioned that in March 1997 Harkat is recorded saying that he is about to meet Khadr in Ottawa, Canada. (Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2/22/2008 pdf file)
Wanted Again in Pakistan - On September 5, 1998, the Globe and Mail will report that Khadr is wanted in Pakistan again for his role in the Egyptian embassy bombing. A Pakistani official says that Khadr is living in Afghanistan, has contacts with Osama bin Laden, and is using his charity as a cover for smuggling and banking transactions. The executive director of HCI tells the newspaper that Khadr was last seen in Ottawa, Canada, about three months earlier, and, “We do learn once in a while that he was in Pakistan or Canada or moving back and forth.” (Stackhouse 9/5/1998)
Listed by UN - In January 2001, the United Nations places Khadr on a list of those who support terrorism associated with bin Laden. (Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2/22/2008 pdf file)
But despite all this, there is no evidence the Canadian government attempts to arrest or even indict him before 9/11. (The Egyptian government does pressure the Pakistani ISI to capture him in the summer of 2001 (Summer 2001).) Khadr will be killed in Pakistan in October 2003. It will eventually emerge that he was a founding member of al-Qaeda and an important leader of that group (see October 2, 2003).

During Michael Scheuer’s time as head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit Alec Station from 1996 to 1999 (see February 1996 and June 1999), the unit has conflicts with other parts of the US intelligence community. Scheuer has an angry and dogmatic style that sometimes alienates people.
Conflict with Counterterrorism 'Tsar' Clarke - Scheuer and Richard Clarke, the US counterterrorism “tsar,” do not get along, even though both are among the first people in government to take the Osama bin Laden threat seriously. Clarke can also be abrasive. One former CIA insider will later say, “I can say that, among individuals that I tend to trust, Clarke was regarded as more serious about terrorism in the 1990s than just about anybody else in the US government, but he was a truly painful individual to work with.” Clarke will later similarly criticize Scheuer, saying: “Throwing tantrums and everything doesn’t help.… [You shouldn’t be] so dysfunctional within your agency that you’re making it harder to get something done.” And Scheuer will later criticize Clarke, saying: “[He] was an interferer of the first level, in terms of talking about things that he knew nothing about and killing them.… He was always playing the FBI off against us or us against the NSA.”
Conflict with the FBI - The bin Laden unit does not get along with some FBI agents assigned to it as well. From the very start, some FBI officials, including bin Laden expert John O’Neill, resist cooperating with the unit. CIA official John MacGaffin will later claim, “O’Neill just fought it and fought it [cooperating with Alec Station].” O’Neill and Scheuer “were at each other’s throats.” On one occasion an FBI agent at the bin Laden unit is caught hiding CIA files inside his shirt to take them back to O’Neill. Scheuer will also claim that the FBI rarely follows up leads the bin Laden unit sends it. Furthermore, the FBI never shares information. “I bet we sent 700 or 800 requests for information to the FBI, and we never got an answer to any of them,” Scheuer says.
Conflicts with CIA Higher-Ups - The bin Laden unit also has conflicts with others within the CIA, including powerful superiors. An incident in 1996 leads to a breakdown of trust between Scheuer and his superiors (see 1996). John MacGaffin, who is a top CIA official for clandestine operations at the time, will later say of Scheuer, “He’s a good guy, [but] he’s an angry guy.”
Situation Improves after Scheuer - In June 1999, Richard Blee replaces Scheuer as head of the bin Laden unit, and he will stay involved in the bin Laden issue until after 9/11 (see December 9, 2001). Vanity Fair will later comment that Blee “was just as heated up over bin Laden as Scheuer had been, but obviously less likely to cause the kind of friction that would discomfit the [CIA director].” (Zeman et al. 11/2004)

Beginning in 1998, if not before, Uzbekistan and the CIA secretly create a joint counterterrorist strike force, funded and trained by the CIA. This force conducts joint covert operations against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. (Times of India 10/14/2001; Ricks and Glasser 10/14/2001; Zeman et al. 11/2004) In February 1999, radical Muslims fail in an attempt to assassinate Islam Karimov, the leader of Uzbekistan, leading to a crackdown on Uzbek militants. CIA counterterrorism head Cofer Black and bin Laden unit chief Richard Blee see this as an opportunity to increase co-operation with Uzbekistan, and fly to the Uzbek capital of Tashkent to seal an agreement with Karimov. One hope is that a strike force will be established to snatch Osama bin Laden or one of his lieutenants. Karimov also allows CIA transit and helicopter operations at Uzbek air bases, as well as the installation of CIA and NSA monitoring equipment to intercept Taliban and al-Qaeda communications. The CIA is pleased with the new allies, thinking them better than Pakistan’s ISI, but at the White House some National Security Council members are skeptical. One will comment, “Uzbek motivations were highly suspect to say the least.” There are also worries about Uzbek corruption, human rights abuses, and scandal. (Coll 2004, pp. 456-460)

Michael Scheuer.
Michael Scheuer. [Source: Publicity photo]CIA Director George Tenet removes Michael Scheuer as head of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit. Scheuer had headed the unit since its inception in 1996 (see February 1996), and was known as a strong advocate for more government action against bin Laden. The full name of the new head of the unit has not been released and little is known about his performance. (Zeman et al. 11/2004) Deputy Director of Operations Jack Downing tells Scheuer he is being fired because he is “mentally burned out” and because of a recent disagreement with the FBI over whether the deputy chief of Alex Station, who was detailed to the CIA from the FBI, could release information to the FBI without Scheuer’s approval. Downing tells Scheuer he was in the right, but that the criticism of his subordinate “should not have been put on paper”, and the FBI’s management is angry with him. Downing says he will get a medal and a monetary award, but should tell his subordinates he has resigned. Scheuer refuses to lie to his officers, signs a memo saying he will not accept a monetary award, and tells Downing “where he should store the medal.” (Scheuer 2005, pp. 263-4; Wright 2006, pp. 313) According to author Steve Coll, Scheuer’s CIA colleagues “could not be sure exactly [why Scheuer left] but among at least a few of them a believe settled in that [he] had been exiled, in effect, for becoming too passionate about the bin Laden threat…” In particular, he was angry about two recent missed opportunities (see 1997-May 29, 1998 and February 11, 1999) to assassinate bin Laden. (Coll 2004, pp. 449-450) Scheuer will write in 2004 that, “On moving to a new position, I forwarded a long memorandum to the Agency’s senior-most officers—some are still serving—describing an array of fixable problems that were plaguing America’s attack on bin Laden, ones that the bin Laden unit had encountered but failed to remedy between and among [US intelligence agencies]… The problems outlined in the memorandum stood in the way of attacking bin Laden to the most effective extent possible; many remain today.” Problems include poor cooperation between agencies and a lack of experienced staff working on the bin Laden issue. Scheuer never receives a response to his memo. (Atlantic Monthly 12/2004)

The State Department legally declares al-Qaeda a foreign terrorist organization that is threatening to the US. Previously, it had been illegal in the US to support bin Laden as an individual; now it is illegal to support any part of his organization. (US Congress 7/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 3/24/2004) The State Department had announced its first list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations in autumn 1997. Surprisingly, neither bin Laden nor al-Qaeda were included (see Autumn 1997). (Coll 2004)

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)

Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood.Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. [Source: BBC]Two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists create a charity to help the Taliban. The scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, had both retired the year before after long and distinguished careers, and had both become radical Islamists. They set up a charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), purporting to conduct relief work in Afghanistan, including helping to guide the Taliban on scientific matters. A number of pro-Taliban Pakistani generals and business leaders are on the board of directors, including Hamid Gul, a former director of the ISI. But not long after setting up an office in Kabul, the two scientists meet with Mullah Omar and Osama bin Laden, and discuss weapons development. During a later visit, Mahmood provides one of bin Laden’s associates with information on how to construct a nuclear weapon. (Frantz and Collins 2007, pp. 264-265; Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 310-311) The two scientists will have a more extensive meeting with bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in August 2001, and will discuss how al-Qaeda can make a radioactive weapon (see Mid-August 2001). Shortly before 9/11, the CIA will learn of this meeting (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001), and also learn that UTN offered to sell a nuclear weapon to Libya, but the CIA will take no effective action against the group (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). In late 2001, the Wall Street Journal will report that “One Pakistani military analyst said it was inconceivable that a nuclear scientist would travel to Afghanistan without getting clearance from Pakistani officials and being debriefed each time. Pakistan maintains a strict watch on many of its nuclear scientists, using a special arm of the Army’s general headquarters to monitor them even after retirement.” Furthermore, a former ISI colonel says the ISI “was always aware of UTN’s activities and had encouraged Dr. Mahmoud’s Afghanistan trips. He said the ISI learned last year that Dr. Mahmoud had recently discussed nuclear matters with Mr. bin Laden, and Dr. Mahmoud agreed not to do so again.” (Pearl 12/24/2001) The US will finally freeze UTN’s assets in December 2001 (see Early October-December 2001).

Barbara Bodine at a press conference days after the bombing of the USS Cole.Barbara Bodine at a press conference days after the bombing of the USS Cole. [Source: Reuters]The first FBI agents enter Yemen two days after the bombing of the USS Cole in an attempt to discover who was responsible. However, the main part of the team initially gets stuck in Germany because they do not have permission to enter Yemen and they are then unable to accomplish much due to restrictions placed on them and tensions between lead investigator John O’Neill and US Ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine. All but about 50 investigators are forced to leave by the end of October. O’Neill’s boss Barry Mawn visits to assess the situation. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 237; Wright 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London) 2/3/2002; Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file) Mawn will later comment, “It became clear [Bodine] simply hated his guts.” After a ten day investigation, he concludes O’Neill is doing a fine job, tells Bodine that she is O’Neill’s “only detractor,” and refuses her request to recall him. (Wright 2006, pp. 32) But O’Neill and much of his team are pressured to leave by late November and Bodine will not give him permission to return any time after that. The investigation stalls without his personal relationships to top Yemeni officials. (Miller, Stone, and Mitchell 2002, pp. 237; Wright 1/14/2002; Sunday Times (London) 2/3/2002) Increased security threats force the reduced FBI team still in Yemen to withdraw altogether in June 2001. (PBS Frontline 10/3/2002) The prime minister of Yemen at the time later claims (see Early October 2001) that hijacker “Khalid Almihdhar was one of the Cole perpetrators, involved in preparations. He was in Yemen at the time and stayed after the Cole bombing for a while, then he left.” The Sunday Times later notes, “The failure in Yemen may have blocked off lines of investigation that could have led directly to the terrorists preparing for September 11.” (Sunday Times (London) 2/3/2002)

Britain officially bans al-Qaeda and 20 other alleged terrorist groups, including the Pakistani militant groups Lashkar-e-Toiba, Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, and Jaish-e-Mohammed. (Rashid 2008, pp. 414) Britain is behind the US on al-Qaeda, as the US officially declared al-Qaeda a foreign terrorist organization in 1999 (see October 8, 1999). However, the US will not declare Harkat ul-Mujahedeen a terrorist organization until September 25, 2001, Lashkar-e-Toiba until December 20, 2001, and Jaish-e-Mohammed until December 26, 2001 (see December 20, 2001).

Hafiz Mohammed Saeed.Hafiz Mohammed Saeed. [Source: BBC]In April 2001, the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT) holds its annual public meeting in Pakistan. Pakistani nuclear scientist A. Q. Khan attends the meeting as an honored guest. Accompanying Khan at the podium is Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, another Pakistani nuclear scientist who had met with Osama bin Laden the year before (see 2000). He will meet with bin Laden again shortly before 9/11 and advise him on how to build a “dirty bomb” (see Mid-August 2001). (Kapisthalam 6/4/2004) French journalist Bernard Henri-Levy, the author of a book about Pakistani militant Saeed Sheikh, will later claim in the Wall Street Journal that Khan was a secret member of LeT. (Henri-Levy 2/17/2004) The US will ban LeT after 9/11 because of its involvement in a string of attacks against India (see December 20, 2001). LeT is considered linked to al-Qaeda, and bin Laden addressed the annual LeT meeting by phone in some past years. Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the founder and leader of LeT, has publicly declared that Pakistan should share its nuclear technology with other Islamic nations, a position also advocated by Khan. In 2002, he will claim that people loyal to his organization “control two nuclear missiles.” (Kapisthalam 6/4/2004)

Two Yemeni men are detained after guards see them taking photos at 26 Federal Plaza in New York City. They are questioned by INS agents and let go. A few days later, their confiscated film is developed, showing photos of security checkpoints, police posts, and surveillance cameras of federal buildings, including the FBI’s counterterrorism office. The two men are later interviewed by the FBI and determined not to be a threat. However, they had taken the pictures on behalf of a third person said to be living in Indiana. By the time the FBI looks for him, he has fled the country and his documentation is found to be based on a false alias. In 2004, the identity of the third man reportedly still will be unknown. The famous briefing given to President George W. Bush on August 6, 2001 (see August 6, 2001), will mention the incident, warning that the FBI is investigating “suspicious activity in this country consistent with the preparations for hijackings or other types of attacks, including recent surveillance of federal buildings in New York.” When Bush’s August 6 briefing will be released in 2004, a White House fact sheet will fail to mention the still missing third man. (Guart 7/1/2001; Stevenson 9/16/2001; Pincus and Eggen 5/16/2004) In 2004, it will be reported that Dhiren Barot (a.k.a. Issa al-Hindi or Issa al-Britani), an alleged al-Qaeda operative in British custody, was sent to the US in early 2001 by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed to case potential targets in New York City. He headed a three-man team that surveyed the New York Stock Exchange and other buildings. While there are obvious similarities between the two Yemeni man with an unknown boss and Barot with two helpers, it is not known if the two cases are related. (Jehl and Rashbaum 8/7/2004)

Ahmed Said Khadr.Ahmed Said Khadr. [Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]The Pakistani ISI allows an al-Qaeda leader to escape arrest. Egyptian investigators are looking for Ahmed Said Khadr, because he is wanted for funding the bombing of the Egyptian embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, in 1995 (see November 19, 1995). (McGirk 5/6/2002; Bell 10/14/2003) Khadr, a Canadian citizen, had been arrested in Pakistan shortly after the bombing but was then let go after a hunger strike and an appeal by the Canadian government. He runs the Pakistan office of a Canadian charity called Human Concern International. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 4/20/2006) A 1996 CIA report that referred to Khadr called this a charity front that funds radical militants (see January 1996). Khadr’s name appeared on a list of top al-Qaeda suspects issued by the United Nations in 1999. (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 3/3/2004) Egyptians surround the safe house in Pakistan where Khadr is hiding. They notify the ISI to help arrest him, and ISI Director Mahmood Ahmed promises swift action. Instead, a car sent by the ISI filled with Taliban and having diplomatic plates arrives, grabs Khadr, and drives him to safety in Afghanistan. Time magazine will later comment: “It was no surprise to foreign spooks that the ISI let [him] escape from Peshawar. He knew too much, they say, about the ISI’s alleged ties with al-Qaeda.” (McGirk 5/6/2002) Khadr will be killed in an October 2003 shootout with the Pakistani Army (see October 2, 2003). After his death, a sympathetic jihadist group will refer to him as a “founding member” of al-Qaeda. (Bell 10/14/2003; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 4/20/2006)

Margaret Gillespie.Margaret Gillespie. [Source: Doug Dreyer / Associated Press]The FBI and the CIA hold a meeting to discuss the investigation into the USS Cole bombing and a possible connection between it and al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit (see January 5-8, 2000). However, the CIA and FBI headquarters refuse to share all they know, and agents investigating the Cole bombing become angry over this.
Attendees - The meeting, which lasts between two and four hours, is attended by CIA officer Clark Shannon, FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi, an FBI agent loaned to the CIA named Margaret Gillespie, FBI agent Steve Bongardt, FBI agent Russell Fincher, and Assistant US Attorney David Kelley.
Purpose - Although there is no agenda for the meeting and Corsi will later say it is a brainstorming session, author Lawrence Wright will say that one of the reasons for the meeting is that CIA officer Tom Wilshire, an associate of Shannon’s, “want[ed] to know… what the FBI knew” about al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit. (ABC News 8/16/2002; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 289-294 pdf file; Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file) FBI agent Ali Soufan will also say that he later learned that Wilshire “was fishing to see if the FBI knew anything about the men in the photos.” (Soufan 2011, pp. 243)
Photos Shown - Initially, Bongardt and Fincher brief Shannon on progress in the Cole investigation. Corsi then shows the two Cole investigators three photographs taken at al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit in 2000 (see January 5-8, 2000), showing future 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, and another man, and Shannon asks if the agents recognize Fahad al-Quso, who is thought to have attended the Malaysia summit and has been interviewed by the FBI. However, one of the photos shows Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and a tree, and the CIA has already recognized Almihdhar and Alhazmi, so it is unclear how the Cole investigators are supposed to recognize al-Quso in the photo. Corsi received the photographs from Wilshire, but Wilshire did not provide her with all the relevant information about them (see Late May, 2001).
Questions Asked - Bongardt and Fincher ask who is in the pictures, why were taken, and whether there are other photos of the meeting. Shannon refuses to say, but Corsi eventually admits one of the men is named Khalid Almihdhar. As a name alone is not sufficient reason to start an investigation, Bongardt asks for a date of birth or other details that will allow him to know which Khalid Almihdhar in the world is being discussed, but Shannon refuses to provide them. Shannon admits that Almihdhar was traveling on a Saudi passport and then leaves the meeting. Lawrence Wright will say that providing a date of birth is “standard procedure—the first thing most investigators would do.” Realizing that the photos pertain to the Cole investigation, Bongardt and Fincher become angry at the lack of information being provided and the meeting descends into a “shouting match.” (ABC News 8/16/2002; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 289-294 pdf file; Wright 7/10/2006 pdf file)
What Shannon Knew - Shannon will later admit that at this time he knew Almihdhar had a US visa, that Alhazmi had traveled to the US in 2000, that al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash had been recognized in one of the photos, and that Alhazmi was known to be an experienced operative. However, he does not tell any of this to any FBI agents, as he apparently thinks he does not have the authority. He does not let them keep copies of the photos either and will give conflicting accounts of the meeting after 9/11 (see Between September 12, 2001 and October 17, 2002). (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 289-292 pdf file)
Corsi Withholds Information - Corsi has NSA information saying Almihdhar and Alhazmi attended the Malaysia meeting, but apparently believes that the Cole agents cannot be told more because of restrictions on sharing intelligence with criminal agents (see July 19, 1995). However, one of the Cole agents present is an intelligence agent, so the information can be communicated to him immediately without Corsi obtaining permission from the NSA and/or Justice Department. In addition, the NSA sent the information to the FBI’s New York field office, where the Cole investigators are based, in 1999 (see December 1999-January 2000). Furthermore, when she asks the NSA’s permission to share the information 10 weeks later, the NSA approves the request on the same day (see August 27-28, 2001). She does not share the information at this time, but promises Bongardt and Fincher to try to do so later. The Cole agents will not receive more information for months. (US Congress 9/20/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 269, 537)
Almihdhar Gets New Visa - Two days after this meeting, Almihdhar has no trouble getting a new, multiple reentry US visa (see May 2001 and June 13, 2001). (Pound 12/12/2001; US Congress 9/20/2002)

Following a meeting at which FBI agents investigating the attack on the USS Cole were shown pictures of operatives who attended al-Qaeda’s Malaysia summit, including 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, but were not given all the relevant information (see June 11, 2001), deputy head of the investigation Steve Bongardt continues to ask for the material, but FBI headquarters fails to provide it. Bongardt apparently has “heated telephone conversations and e-mail exchanges” with FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi over the passage of the information. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 291, 294 pdf file) Bongardt will tell the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, “I’ve had several conversations with the analyst [Corsi] after that, because we would talk on other matters, and almost every time I would ask her, ‘What’s the story with the Almihdhar information, when is it going to get passed, do we have anything yet, when is it going to get passed,’ and each time I was told that the information had not been passed yet. And the sense I got from here, based on our conversations, was that she was trying as hard as she could to get the information passed or at least the ability to tell us about the information.” (US Congress 9/20/2002) But in fact Corsi does not appear to take any steps towards having the information passed to the Cole investigators for two and a half months after the meeting. Part of the relevant information is from a wiretap on Almihdhar’s phone (see Shortly Before December 29, 1999) and, due to measures related to the “wall,” the NSA general counsel has to approve its passage to criminal agents. Corsi finally asks the NSA to approve passage of the information on August 27; the NSA immediately agrees, but Corsi continues to withhold the information from Bongardt (see August 27-28, 2001). The other part of the information consists of photos of the two hijackers in Malaysia with other extremists (see January 5-8, 2000). Corsi will later say she “probably” has follow up conversations about passing the photographs with the two CIA officers, Tom Wilshire and Clark Shannon, who gave them to her (see Late May, 2001), but these alleged conversations do not result in the photos being passed to Bongardt, even though Wilshire will later say that, as far as he was concerned at this point, they could be distributed through the FBI. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 294 pdf file) After Corsi is told that Almihdhar is in the US (see August 21-22, 2001), this information is made available to intelligence investigators at the FBI (see August 28, 2001), but not to the team investigating the Cole bombing (see August 28, 2001).

FBI agent Ken Williams.FBI agent Ken Williams. [Source: FBI]Phoenix, Arizona, FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum warning about suspicious activities involving a group of Middle Eastern men taking flight training lessons in Arizona. The memo is titled: “Zakaria Mustapha Soubra; IT-OTHER (Islamic Army of the Caucasus),” because it focuses on Zakaria Soubra, a Lebanese flight student in Prescott, Arizona, and his connection with a terror group in Chechnya that has ties to al-Qaeda. It is subtitled: “Osama bin Laden and Al-Muhjiroun supporters attending civil aviation universities/colleges in Arizona.” (Behar 5/22/2002; House 7/24/2003) Williams’ memo is based on an investigation of Sorba that Williams had begun in 2000 (see April 2000), but he had trouble pursuing because of the low priority the Arizona FBI office gave terror investigations (see April 2000-June 2001). Additionally, Williams had been alerted to suspicions about radical militants and aircraft at least three other times (see October 1996; 1998; November 1999-August 2001). In the memo, Williams does the following:
bullet Names nine other suspect students from Pakistan, India, Kenya, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. (Schrom 10/1/2002) Hijacker Hani Hanjour, attending flight school in Arizona in early 2001 and probably continuing into the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001), is not one of the students, but, as explained below, it seems two of the students know him. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file; Smith 7/25/2003)
bullet Notes that he interviewed some of these students, and heard some of them make hostile comments about the US. Additionally, he noticed that they were suspiciously well informed about security measures at US airports. (Schrom 10/1/2002)
bullet Notes an increasing, “inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” taking flight lessons in Arizona. (Schrom 10/1/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file)
bullet Suspects that some of the ten people he has investigated are connected to al-Qaeda. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file) One person on the list, Ghassan al Sharbi, will be arrested in Pakistan in March 2002 with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). Al Sharbi attended a flight school in Prescott, Arizona. He also apparently attended the training camps in Afghanistan and swore loyalty to bin Laden in the summer of 2001. He apparently knows Hani Hanjour in Arizona (see October 1996-Late April 1999). He also is the roommate of Soubra, the main target of the memo. (Krikorian 1/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 521)
bullet Discovers that one of them was communicating through an intermediary with Abu Zubaida. This apparently is a reference to Hamed al Sulami, who had been telephoning a Saudi imam known to be Zubaida’s spiritual advisor. Al Sulami is an acquaintance of Hanjour in Arizona (see October 1996-Late April 1999). (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 520-521, 529)
bullet Discusses connections between several of the students and a radical group called Al-Muhajiroun. (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002) This group supported bin Laden, and issued a fatwa, or call to arms, that included airports on a list of acceptable terror targets. (Solomon 5/22/2002) Soubra, the main focus of the memo, is a member of Al-Muhajiroun and an outspoken radical. He met with Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of Al-Muhajiroun in Britain, and started an Arizona chapter of the organization. After 9/11, some US officials will suspect that Soubra has ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. He will be held two years, then deported to Lebanon in 2004. (Connell 10/28/2001; Krikorian 1/24/2003; Wagner 5/2/2004; Sherman 11/2004) Though Williams doesn’t include it in his memo, in the summer of 1998, Bakri publicized a fax sent by bin Laden to him that listed al-Qaeda’s four objectives in fighting the US. The first objective was “bring down their airliners.” (see Summer 1998). (Connell 10/28/2001)
bullet Warns of a possible “effort by Osama bin Laden to send students to the US to attend civil aviation universities and colleges” (Behar 5/22/2002) , so they can later hijack aircraft. (Schrom 10/1/2002)
bullet Recommends that the “FBI should accumulate a listing of civil aviation universities and colleges around the country. FBI field offices with these types of schools in their area should establish appropriate liaison. FBI [headquarters] should discuss this matter with other elements of the US intelligence community and task the community for any information that supports Phoenix’s suspicions.” (House 7/24/2003) (The FBI has already done this, but because of poor FBI communications, Williams is not aware of the report.)
bullet Recommends that the FBI ask the State Department to provide visa data on flight school students from Middle Eastern countries, which will facilitate FBI tracking efforts. (Risen 5/4/2002)
The memo is addressed to the following FBI Agents:
bullet Dave Frasca, chief of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters;
bullet Elizabeth Harvey Matson, Mark Connor and Fred Stremmel, Intelligence Operations Specialists in the RFU;
bullet Rod Middleton, acting chief of the Usama bin Laden Unit (UBLU);
bullet Jennifer Maitner, an Intelligence Operations Specialist in the UBLU;
bullet Jack Cloonan, an agent on the New York FBI’s bin Laden unit, the I-49 squad; (see January 1996 and Spring 2000).
bullet Michael S. Butsch, an agent on another New York FBI squad dealing with other Sunni terrorists. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 7/10/2001 pdf file; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file)
However, the memo is not uploaded into the FBI’s information system until the end of the month and is apparently not received by all these people (see July 27, 2001 and after). Williams also shares some concerns with the CIA (see (July 27, 2001)). (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002) One anonymous government official who has seen the memo says, “This was as actionable a memo as could have been written by anyone.” (Insight 5/27/2002) However, the memo is merely marked “routine,” rather than “urgent.” It is generally ignored, not shared with other FBI offices, and the recommendations are not taken. One colleague in New York replies at the time that the memo is “speculative and not very significant.” (Schrom 10/1/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 pdf file) Williams is unaware of many FBI investigations and leads that could have given weight to his memo. Authorities later claim that Williams was only pursuing a hunch, but one familiar with classified information says, “This was not a vague hunch. He was doing a case on these guys.” (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002)

FBI headquarters.FBI headquarters. [Source: GlobeXplorer]FBI headquarters receives the Phoenix Memo, but does not act on it. The memo was drafted by Arizona FBI agent Ken Williams and warns that a large number of Islamic extremists are learning to fly in the US. It is dated 17 days earlier, but is not uploaded until this date (see July 10, 2001). Although the memo is addressed to eight specific agents, it is apparently not received by all of them. The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General will later say that the memo was not delivered directly to the addressees, but uploaded to a central dispatching point, from where it was assigned to Radical Fundamentalist Unit agent Elizabeth Matson on July 30. Before sending the memo, Williams called both Matson and her colleague Fred Stremmel to talk to them about it. Matson pulls up the memo, which has “routine” precedence, and prints and reads it. However, she thinks it should go to the bin Laden unit. A week later she discusses the matter with bin Laden unit agent Jennifer Maitner and they agree that Maitner will do some research and then they will talk again. Matson will later tell the Office of Inspector General she may have mentioned the memo to her superior, but is not sure. Her superior will say he was not consulted. Maitner discusses the memo with bin Laden unit chief Rod Middleton and also sends it to the FBI’s Portland, Oregon, field office, which was previously interested in one of the men named in the memo. However, she does not do anything else with it before 9/11, apparently due to her high workload. The FBI will later acknowledge the memo did not receive the sufficient or timely analysis that it deserved. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 65-77, 80 pdf file) The memo is also seen by the FBI’s New York field office (see July 27, 2001 or Shortly After), another RFU agent researching the Moussaoui case (see August 22, 2001) and possibly the CIA’s bin Laden unit (see (July 27, 2001)).

Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Muttawakil.Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Muttawakil. [Source: Reuters]Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil learns that bin Laden is planning a “huge attack” on targets inside America. The attack is imminent, and will kill thousands. He learns this from Tahir Yuldashev, top leader of the rebel Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), which is allied with al-Qaeda at the time. Yuldashev apparently is worried that a large al-Qaeda attack will lead to a US attack on Afghanistan, which would threaten the IMU’s safe haven there. Muttawakil sends an emissary to pass this information on to the US consul general, and another US official, “possibly from the intelligence services,” also attends the meeting. The message is not taken very seriously; one source blames this on “warning fatigue” from too many warnings. In addition, the emissary supposedly is from the Foreign Ministry, but did not say the message came from Muttawakil himself. The emissary then takes the message to the Kabul offices of UNSMA, the political wing of the UN. They also fail to take the warning seriously. (Clark 9/7/2002; Reuters 9/7/2002)

Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood.Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood. [Source: Public domain]Two retired Pakistani nuclear scientists meet with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri at a campfire in a compound near Kandahar, Afghanistan. The more prominent scientist, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood, worked with A. Q. Khan for two decades before having a falling out with him in the early 1990s (however, he was seen with Khan earlier in 2001 (see April 2001)). A highly regarded scientist, he also became an advocate of the Taliban and published a pamphlet predicting that “by 2002 millions may die through mass destruction weapons… terrorist attack, and suicide.” He was forced to retire in 1999 after publicly advocating sharing nuclear technology with other Islamic countries. The other scientist, Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, also retired in 1999 after a long career. In 2000, the two men set up a charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, purporting to conduct relief work in Afghanistan (see 2000). Bin Laden allegedly tells the scientists that he has made great headway in advancing the apocalypse predicted by Mahmood. He claims that he has acquired highly enriched uranium from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) and wants their help to turn it into a bomb. The scientists reply that while they could help with the science of fissile materials, they are not weapons designers. They are also asked with other Pakistani weapons experts could be approached for help. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 310-311) They spend two or three days at the compound and discuss how the material could be used to create a so-called dirty bomb, in which radioactive material is blown up using conventional explosives to spread radiation. But the discussion apparently ends inconclusively when bin Laden, al-Zawahiri, and others depart abruptly for the mountains. Before leaving, bin Laden says that something great is going to happen soon and Muslims around the world will join them in holy war. (Frantz and Collins 2007, pp. 264-265) Both US intelligence and Pakistani ISI learn about this meeting prior to the 9/11 attacks, but neither group will take any effective action as a result (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001 and Between Mid-August and September 10, 2001).

The FBI Minneapolis field office wishes to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings, which will later be found to contain enough information to potentially stop 9/11 (see August 16, 2001). To do so it must get the approval of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters. However, the RFU throws obstacles in the warrant request’s path:
bullet RFU chief Dave Frasca stops the Minneapolis office from pursuing a criminal warrant (see August 21, 2001);
bullet When French authorities say that Moussaoui is connected to the Chechen rebels, RFU agent Mike Maltbie insists that the FBI representative in Paris go through all telephone directories in France to see how many Zacarias Moussaouis live there (see August 22, 2001);
bullet Maltbie stops Minneapolis from informing the Justice Department’s Criminal Division about the case (see August 22, 2001);
bullet When RFU agent Rita Flack, who is working on the Moussaoui case, reads the Phoenix memo suggesting that bin Laden is sending pilots to the US for training, she apparently does not tell her colleagues about it, even though it was addressed to several of them, including Frasca (see July 10, 2001 and August 22, 2001);
bullet The RFU does not provide the relevant documentation to attorneys consulted about the request. In particular, Flack does not tell them about the Phoenix Memo, even though one of the attorneys will later say she asked Flack if anyone is sending radical Islamists to the US to learn to fly (see August 22-28, 2001);
bullet When Minneapolis learns Moussaoui apparently wants to go on jihad, Frasca is not concerned and says jihad does not necessarily mean holy war. However, a top Justice Department attorney will later say “he would have tied bells and whistles” to this comment in a request for a search warrant had he known this (see August 17, 2001 and August 29, 2001);
bullet Maltbie tells the Minneapolis office that getting a warrant will “take a few months” (see August 24, 2001). He also tells Minneapolis, “We know what’s going on. You will not question us.” (see August 27, 2001);
bullet Maltbie weakens the warrant request by editing it and removing a statement by a CIA officer that Chechen rebel leader Ibn Khattab was closely connected to Osama bin Laden, despite there being intelligence linking that leader to bin Laden (see August 28, 2001);
bullet In a key meeting with an attorney about the request, Maltbie and Flack, who are submitting the warrant, are adamant that it is not sufficiently supported (see August 28, 2001);
bullet Frasca opposes a plan to put an undercover officer in the jail cell with Moussaoui to find out more information about his connections to Islamic militants (August 29, 2001 and Shortly After);
bullet The RFU does not want a Minneapolis agent to accompany Moussaoui when he is deported (see (August 30-September 10, 2001));
bullet The RFU does not re-consider getting a criminal search warrant after a decision is taken not to seek a warrant under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (see After August 28, 2001);
bullet Frasca and Maltbie are said to oppose a search warrant after 9/11 (see September 11, 2001).
It is unclear why the RFU opposes the warrant so strongly. The Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General will later criticize the RFU staff, but will conclude that they did not intentionally sabotage the warrant application. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 101-222 pdf file) A 2004 book by independent researcher Mike Ruppert will speculate that Frasca is actually a CIA agent. Ruppert suggests that the CIA placed Frasca in the FBI to prevent CIA operations from being compromised by FBI investigations. But he does not provide any direct evidence of ties between Frasca and the CIA (see October 1, 2004). The Minneapolis agents will offer a different interpretation of RFU actions. Coleen Rowley will say, “I feel that certain facts… have, up to now, been omitted, downplayed, glossed over and/or mischaracterized in an effort to avoid or minimize personal and/or institutional embarrassment on the part of the FBI and/or perhaps even for improper political reasons.” She asks, “Why would an FBI agent deliberately sabotage a case? The superiors acted so strangely that some agents in the Minneapolis office openly joked that these higher-ups ‘had to be spies or moles… working for Osama bin Laden.’… Our best real guess, however, is that, in most cases avoidance of all ‘unnecessary’ actions/decisions by FBI [headquarters] managers… has, in recent years, been seen as the safest FBI career course. Numerous high-ranking FBI officials who have made decisions or have taken actions which, in hindsight, turned out to be mistaken or just turned out badly… have seen their careers plummet and end. This has in turn resulted in a climate of fear which has chilled aggressive FBI law enforcement action/decisions.” (Time 5/21/2002) Minneapolis FBI agent Harry Samit will agree with explanation, telling the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General that the RFU is guilty of “obstructionism, criminal negligence, and careerism.” (Sniffen 3/20/2006) Samit will also say that Maltbie even told him he was acting this way to “preserve the existence of his advancement potential” in the FBI. (Riley 3/21/2006)

Khalid Almihdhar.Khalid Almihdhar. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]It is unclear if Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, briefs CIA leaders on information that 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar is in the US. Margaret Gillespie, an FBI analyst detailed to the station, discovers that Almihdhar is in the US on August 21, immediately informs the FBI (see August 21-22, 2001), and places Almihdhar, hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, and two more associates on the TIPOFF watch list the next day (see August 23, 2001). The CIA also forwards information about al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash to the FBI on August 30 (see August 30, 2001).
No Information on Briefings - There is no indication that Richard Blee, the CIA manager responsible for Alec Station, or anyone at Alec Station informs the CIA’s leadership, the White House, or Richard Clarke’s Counterterrorism Security Group (see August 23, 2001) of Almihdhar’s presence in the US and the clear implications of this presence. For example, no such briefing will be mentioned in the 9/11 Commission Report, although the report will mention that CIA Director George Tenet is briefed about Zacarias Moussaoui around the same time, and it does discuss the circulation of the information about Almihdhar at the FBI in detail. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 268-277) The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will not mention any such briefing, although it will discuss how the FBI handles the information. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 151-4 pdf file) No such briefing will be mentioned in a 2007 book by Tenet, although the book will mention a briefing Tenet receives about Moussaoui. (Tenet 2007, pp. 158-160, 200) The Justice Department inspector general’s report will discuss the FBI’s handling of the information in detail. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 297-313 pdf file) However, the full CIA inspector general’s report about 9/11 will not be made public, and its executive summary will not mention any such briefing. (Central Intelligence Agency 6/2005, pp. 15-16 pdf file)
Alec Station Aware of Threat and Almihdhar - Alec Station, the CIA, and the US intelligence community in general are highly aware that preparations for a large al-Qaeda attack are in the final stages (see Shortly After July 5, 2001, June 28, 2001, and June 28, 2001). Blee is, in fact, the lead briefer within the government about the threats, and has briefed not only his superiors at the CIA, but also National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice (see May 30, 2001 and June 28, 2001). He has also recently expressed the belief that the attack will be in the US (see Late July 2001) and has apparently received a series of e-mails in which his former deputy told him Almihdhar may well be involved in the forthcoming attack (see July 5, 2001, July 13, 2001, and July 23, 2001). The information that Almihdhar is in the US therefore confirms Blee’s belief that the attack will be in the US, but it appears Alec Station fails to pass this information on.

The CIA cable watchlisting Alhazmi, Almihdhar, and two others (the sections mentioning Shakir and bin Attash are blacked out).The CIA cable watchlisting Alhazmi, Almihdhar, and two others (the sections mentioning Shakir and bin Attash are blacked out). [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)Thanks to the request of Margaret Gillespie, an FBI analyst assigned to the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, the CIA sends a cable to the State Department, INS, Customs Service, and FBI requesting that “bin Laden-related individuals” Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, and Salah Saeed Mohammed bin Yousaf (an alias for Khallad bin Attash) be put on the terrorism watch list. All four individuals had attended the January 2000 al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000). The cable mostly focuses on Almihdhar, briefly outlining his attendance at the Malaysia summit and his subsequent travel to the US in January 2000 and July 2001. Since March 2000, if not earlier, the CIA has had good reason to believe Alhazmi and Almihdhar were al-Qaeda operatives living in the US, but apparently did nothing and told no other agency about it until now. The hijackers are not located in time, and both die in the 9/11 attacks. FBI agents later state that if they been told about Alhazmi and Almihdhar sooner, “There’s no question we could have tied all 19 hijackers together” given the frequent contact between these two and the other hijackers. (Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 538; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 32-36, 302) However, in what the Washington Post calls a “critical omission,” the FAA, the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, and the FBI’s Financial Review Group are not notified. The two latter organizations have the power to tap into private credit card and bank data, and claim they could have readily found Alhazmi and Almihdhar, given the frequency the two used credit cards. (Smith 7/25/2003) Furthermore, counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke and his Counterterrorism Security Group are not told about these two operatives before 9/11 either. (Isikoff and Hosenball 3/24/2004) The CIA later claims the request was labeled “immediate,” the second most urgent category (the highest is reserved for things like declarations of war). (Drogin, Lichtblua, and Krikorian 10/28/2001) The FBI denies that it was marked “immediate” and other agencies treated the request as a routine matter. (Drogin, Lichtblau, and Krikorian 10/18/2001; US Congress 9/20/2002) The State Department places all four men on the watch list the next day. (US Congress 7/24/2003 pdf file) However, this watch list, named TIPOFF, checks their names only if they use international flights. There is another watch list barring suspected terrorists from flying domestically. On 9/11, it contains only 12 names, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and other al-Qaeda figures, and some names are added as late as August 28, 2001. But none of these four men are added to this domestic list before 9/11.(see April 24, 2000). (9/11 Commission 1/26/2004)

The NSA’s representative to the FBI asks the NSA for permission to pass intelligence information about 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi to FBI criminal agents investigating the bombing of the USS Cole and permission is granted the same day, but FBI headquarters does not forward this information to the Cole investigators. The request is made on behalf of FBI headquarters agent Dina Corsi, but Corsi does not want the agents to launch a criminal investigation to find Almihdhar in the US—she believes the information will be useful to them because of Almihdhar’s connection to the Cole bombing. The information identifies Almihdhar as an “Islamic extremist” and says that he traveled to Kuala Lumpur, where he met an associate named Nawaf (see January 5-8, 2000). This links Almihdhar to the Cole bombing because the FBI thinks one of the bombers, Fahad al-Quso, may have traveled to Kuala Lumpur at the same time as Almihdhar. Although the 9/11 Commission will say that Corsi “had permission to share the information” with the Cole investigators, she apparently does not do so, even though it is clear from conversations they have around this time that they want it (see August 28, 2001, and August 28, 2001, August 28-29, 2001, and August 29, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 271, 539; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 276-7, 283, 286, 294, 304 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 pdf file)

Mike Maltbie and Rita Flack of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) forward a request for a warrant to search Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings (see August 21, 2001) to National Security Law Unit chief Spike Bowman. The request was submitted by the Minneapolis field office (see August 22-28, 2001), which has been trying to obtain a warrant for some time. Earlier in the day, Maltbie edited the request, removing information connecting Moussaoui to al-Qaeda through a rebel group in Chechnya (see August 28, 2001). RFU chief Dave Frasca was to attend the meeting, but is called away at the last minute. According to Bowman, who is already very familiar with the facts in this case, Maltbie is adamant that there is not enough evidence to issue the warrant. Bowman agrees, saying that the evidence fails to implicate Moussaoui as an agent of a foreign power. The FBI thus abandons the effort to obtain a FISA warrant and begins planning his deportation (see (August 30-September 10, 2001)). (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 164-6, 168 pdf file; US Department of Justice 3/1/2006 pdf file)

Steve Bongardt, an FBI criminal agent investigating the bombing of the USS Cole, receives an e-mail from FBI headquarters asking the FBI’s New York office to start looking for future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar under an intelligence investigation, but is forced to delete it following an argument with headquarters. The e-mail was not addressed to Bongardt, but forwarded to him by a supervisor, possibly in error. However, Bongardt calls Dina Corsi, the headquarters agent who wrote the e-mail, and expresses his surprise at the information contained in it, saying: “Dina, you got to be kidding me! Almihdhar is in the country?” He tells her the search should be conducted as a criminal investigation, not an intelligence investigation. Corsi incorrectly replies that the “wall” prevents the search from being carried out by criminal agents (see Early 1980s and July 19, 1995), as the investigation requires intelligence from the NSA that criminal agents cannot have, and she forces Bongardt to delete the e-mail from his computer (see August 29, 2001). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 271; US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 304 pdf file; Wright 2006, pp. 353)

FBI headquarters agents Dina Corsi and Rod Middleton contact Justice Department lawyer Sherry Sabol to ask her opinion on the search for 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, but Sabol will later say that Corsi misrepresents her advice to other agents. Corsi contacts Sabol, an attorney at the national security law unit, to ask her about legal restrictions on the search for Almihdhar, because of an argument she has had with New York agent Steve Bongardt about whether the search should be an intelligence or criminal investigation (see August 28, 2001 and August 28, 2001). Corsi will later tell Bongardt that Sabol told her that the information needed for the investigation cannot be passed on to criminal agents at the FBI, only intelligence agents, and that if Almihdhar is located, a criminal agent cannot be present at an interview. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 307-8 pdf file) Corsi’s understanding of the issue is wrong, and the “wall,” which restricted the passage of some intelligence information to criminal agents at the FBI, does not prevent the information in question being shared with criminal agents (see August 29, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will comment that Corsi “appears to have misunderstood the complex rules that could apply to the situation.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 271) In addition, Sabol will later insist that her advice was very different than what Corsi claims it is. She will deny saying a criminal agent could not interview Almihdhar, arguing that she would not have given such inaccurate advice. She will also say the caveat on the intelligence information from the NSA would not have stopped criminal agents getting involved and, in any case, the NSA would have waived the caveat if asked. (Note: the NSA did so at Corsi’s request just one day earlier (see August 27-28, 2001), but presumably Corsi does not tell Sabol this.) (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 271) Larry Parkinson, the FBI’s general counsel at this time, will later say there was no legal bar to a criminal agent being present at an interview and that he would be shocked if Sabol had actually told Corsi this. (9/11 Commission 2/24/2004) Furthermore, Corsi apparently does not tell Sabol that Almihdhar is in the US illegally. The illegal entry is a crime and means criminal FBI agents can search for him (see August 29, 2001).

Robert Fuller, a rookie FBI agent at the bureau’s New York field office, contacts Dina Corsi, an agent in the bin Laden unit at FBI headquarters, about the search for Khalid Almihdhar. Fuller, who has been tasked to look for Almihdhar in the US, proposes that the FBI try to obtain additional data on Almihdhar, such as a credit card number from Saudi Airlines, with which Almihdhar flew to the US (see July 4, 2001). However, according to Fuller, Corsi tells him that it would not be prudent to do so. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 65 pdf file) As a result, Fuller does not do the credit check (see September 4-5, 2001). It is not known why Corsi advises this.

According to a 2007 book by former CIA Director George Tenet, shortly before 9/11, the CIA learns that a Pakistani charity front has been helping al-Qaeda acquire weapons of mass destruction. The charity, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), was founded in 2000 by two prominent nuclear scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed (see 2000). UTN allegedly is conducting charitable projects in Afghanistan, but a friendly intelligence service tells the CIA that UTN is really helping al-Qaeda build weapons, especially nuclear weapons. Tenet will claim that he presses “all of our contacts worldwide to find out anything we could about the people and organizations with WMD that might be wiling to share expertise with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.” Ben Bonk, deputy chief of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC), meets with Musa Kusa, head of Libya’s intelligence service, and Kusa tells him that Libya had contact with UTN. “Yes, they tried to sell us a nuclear weapon. Of course, we turned them down.” According to Tenet, this confirms other information from a different intelligence agency that UTN approached Libya with an offer to provide WMD expertise. The CIA then informs the Pakistani government of this, and Pakistan brings in seven board members of UTN for questioning. But according to Tenet, “The investigation was ill-fated from the get-go” and the UTN officials “were not properly isolated and questioned.” (Tenet 2007, pp. 262-263) Also shortly before 9/11, the CIA also learns that the two nuclear scientists who founded UTN had recently met with Osama bin Laden and advised him on how to make a nuclear weapon (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001). But despite all this the US takes no other action against UTN before 9/11, not even freezing the assets of the charity until December 2001 (see Early October-December 2001).

Abdullah Omar Naseef.Abdullah Omar Naseef. [Source: Public domain]As the US is preparing its first post-9/11 list of supporters of al-Qaeda in order to freeze assets, the Rabita Trust is slated to be included on the list. The Rabita Trust was founded in 1988 by Dr. Abdullah Omar Naseef, the secretary-general of the Muslim World League (MWL) in the 1980s. It is considered a popular Islamic charity in Pakistan and is linked to the MWL, which is closely tied to the Saudi government. Wael Hamza Julaidan, one of the founders of al-Qaeda, has been director general of the Rabita Trust since 2000 (see September 6, 2002), and there is evidence it has been funding Islamic militants in the disputed region of Kashmir between Pakistan and India. However, politically connected Pakistanis, including Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, are on the Rabita Trust’s board of directors. The US gives Musharraf about 48 hours to quit the board, and threatens to withdraw US aid from Pakistan if he does not. However, he refuses. The charity is kept off the first US list on September 24, 2001 (see September 24, 2001). But it is added to a second list on October 12, 2001 (see October 12, 2001), even though Musharraf apparently does not quit the board first. Julaidan will be listed a year later (see September 6, 2002). (Bruce 10/4/2001; Thomas 10/8/2001; Hilzenrath and Mintz 10/14/2001; Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 100-101) But the Rabita Trust simply changes its name to the Aid Organization of the Ulama and continues functioning. The US does not take further action against it. (Burr and Collins 2006, pp. 100-101) It is unclear what Musharraf may have known about the charity’s militant ties, if anything. However, in the early 1990s, Musharraf was behind an effort by the Pakistani army to fund militants fighting in Kashmir (see 1993-1994).

Veteran CIA officer Gary Schroen and his team of CIA operatives known as “Jawbreaker” is helicoptered into the Panjshir Valley of northeastern Afghanistan. This area, about 70 miles north of Kabul, is controlled by the Northern Alliance. The team of about 10 operatives carries communications equipment so they can directly communicate with CIA headquarters back in the US. Schroen also carries a suitcase containing $3 million in non-sequential $100 bills. That same evening, Schroen meets with Muhammed Arif Sawari, known as Engineer Aref, head of the Northern Alliance’s intelligence service. He gives Aref $500,000 and promises much more money and support soon. The Jawbreaker team will remain the only US forces on the ground in Afghanistan until about the middle of October. (Woodward 11/18/2002) Before the Jawbreaker team deploys, J. Cofer Black, the CIA’s Washington coordinator for Jawbreaker, gave the men instructions that author Jeremy Scahill will later call “direct and macabre.” Black told the men: “I don’t want bin Laden and his thugs captured, I want them dead.… They must be killed. I want to see photos of their heads on pikes. I want bin Laden’s head shipped back in a box filled with dry ice. I want to be able to show bin Laden’s head to the president. I promised him I would do that” (see September 19, 2001). Schroen will later say it was the first time in his career he had been ordered to assassinate an enemy rather than attempt a capture. (Scahill 8/20/2009)

Ummah Tameer-e-Nau’s headquarters in Kabul.Ummah Tameer-e-Nau’s headquarters in Kabul. [Source: CBC]In early October 2001, Secretary of State Colin Powell visits Pakistan and discusses the security of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. He offers US technical assistance to improve the security of Pakistan’s nukes, but Pakistan rejects the offer. Powell also says that the CIA learned of a secret meeting held in mid-August 2001 between two Pakistani nuclear scientists and al-Qaeda leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri (see Mid-August 2001). As a result of US pressure, Pakistan arrests the two scientists, Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood and Chaudiri Abdul Majeed, on October 23. The Pakistani ISI secretly detains them for four weeks, but concludes that they are harmless and releases them. (Tenet 2007, pp. 264-268; Frantz and Collins 2007, pp. 269-271) In mid-November, after the Taliban is routed from Kabul (see November 13, 2001), the CIA takes over the headquarters there of Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), a charity founded by the two scientists. In addition to charity material, they find numerous documents and pieces of equipment to help build WMD, including plans for conducting an anthrax attack. (Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 322) As a result, on December 1, CIA Director George Tenet, Rolf Mowatt-Larssen, head of the CIA Counterterrorist Center’s WMD branch, and a CIA analyst named Kevin make an emergency trip to Pakistan to discuss the issue. Accompanied by Wendy Chamberlin, the US ambassador to Pakistan, Tenet meets with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and urges him to take stronger action against the two scientists and their UTN charity. Musharraf reluctantly agrees, and the two men are rearrested. According to a 2007 book by Tenet, after being tested by a team of US polygraph experts and questioned by US officials, “Mahmood confirmed all we had heard about the August 2001 meeting with Osama bin Laden, and even provided a hand-drawn rough bomb design that he had shared with al-Qaeda leaders.” During the meeting, an unnamed senior al-Qaeda leader showed Mahmood a cannister that may have contained some kind of nuclear material. This leader shared ideas about building a simple firing system for a nuclear “dirty bomb” using commercially available supplies. (Tenet 2007, pp. 264-268; Frantz and Collins 2007, pp. 269-271) However, on December 13, the two scientists are quietly released again. The US does not officially freeze UTN’s assets until December 20, and Pakistan apparently follows suit a short time later (see December 20, 2001). (Pearl 12/24/2001; Frantz and Collins 2007, pp. 271)

Ali Jan Orakzai.Ali Jan Orakzai. [Source: Associated Press]Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf appoints a general sympathetic to the Taliban to seal off the Afghanistan border as US forces close in on al-Qaeda and Taliban militants on the other side. Ali Jan Orakzai is appointed on October 8, 2001, a day Musharraf responded to US pressure and fired some Islamist extremist officers, only to replace them with other Islamist extremist officers (see October 8, 2001). Orakzai, a friend and close adviser to Musharraf, will generally be known as someone who hates the US and sympathizes with the Taliban (see Late 2002-Late 2003). His instructions are to send troops to Pakistan’s tribal region next to Afghanistan to catch fleeing terrorists. On October 11, Pakistani helicopters will begin dropping soldiers in mountainous regions where no Pakistani soldiers had been to before. By December 2001, Orakzai will position more than 30,000 soldiers in the region. (Lamb 1/22/2005) However, when he ends his command of troops in the region in 2004, he will claim that his forces never even saw one Arab there (see January 22, 2005). Musharraf will finally fire him in 2007 for his ineffectiveness and militant sympathies (see July 19, 2007).

Gary Bernsten.Gary Bernsten. [Source: CNN]Veteran CIA agent Gary Berntsen leads a CIA undercover team, codenamed Jawbreaker, to capture or kill bin Laden in Afghanistan (see September 26, 2001). In a 2005 book, also called Jawbreaker, Berntsen will describe how his team monitored multiple intelligence reports tracking bin Laden on a path through Jalalabad to Tora Bora (see November 13, 2001). He will claim that at the start of December 2001, one of his Arabic-speaking CIA agents finds a radio on a dead al-Qaeda fighter during a battle in the Tora Bora region. This agent hears bin Laden repeatedly attempt to rally his troops. On the same radio, that agent and another CIA agent who speaks Arabic hear bin Laden apologizing to his troops for getting them trapped and killed by US aerial bombing. Based on this information, Berntsen makes a formal request for 800 US troops to be deployed along the Pakistani border to prevent bin Laden’s escape. The request is not granted. Berntsen’s lawyer later claims, “Gary coordinated most of the boots on the ground. We knew where bin Laden was within a very circumscribed area. It was full of caves and tunnels but we could have bombed them or searched them one by one. The Pentagon failed to deploy sufficient troops to seal them off.” Although the area is heavily bombed, bin Laden is able to escape (see Mid-December 2001). (Berntsen and Pezzullo 2005, pp. 43-64; Baxter 8/14/2005; MSNBC 12/29/2005; Spiegel 1/3/2006) A Knight Ridder investigative report will later conclude, “While more than 1,200 US Marines [sit] at an abandoned air base in the desert 80 miles away, Franks and other commanders [rely] on three Afghan warlords and a small number of American, British, and Australian special forces to stop al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters from escaping across the mountains into Pakistan.” Military and intelligence officials warn Franks that the two main Afghan commanders cannot be trusted. This turns out to be correct, as the warlords accept bribes from al-Qaeda leaders to let them escape. (Knight Ridder 10/30/2004) In 2005, Berntsen will call himself a supporter of Bush and will say he approves of how CIA Director Porter Goss is running the CIA, but he will nonetheless sue the CIA for what he claims is excessive censorship of his book. (Baxter 8/14/2005; MSNBC 12/29/2005)

According to author Ron Suskind, some time in November the US makes a deal with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan will seal off the passages to Pakistan from the Tora Bora region in Afghanistan where Taliban and al-Qaeda forces are expected to gather. In return, the US will give Pakistan nearly a billion dollars in new economic aid. Pakistan will fail to effectively seal the border in the next month (see December 10, 2001) and almost the entire force in Tora Bora will escape into Pakistan. (Suskind 2006, pp. 58)

Northern Alliance forces entering Kabul. One holds a poster of recently assassinated Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud.Northern Alliance forces entering Kabul. One holds a poster of recently assassinated Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. [Source: Getty Images] (click image to enlarge)Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, falls to the Northern Alliance. The Taliban will abandon the rest of the country over the next few weeks. (BBC 11/13/2001) The US and Pakistan did not want the Northern Alliance to conquer Kabul for ethnic and strategic regions. But after a change in US bombing tactics, the Taliban front line unexpectedly and suddenly collapsed, making this conquest all but inevitable (see October-Early November 2001). It is later reported that the US paid about $70 million in bribes to get dozens of Taliban leaders to surrender or change sides. This is credited with assisting the sudden collapse of Taliban forces. (Bushell 2/7/2002; Woodward 11/18/2002)

A US airstrike in the Tora Bora region.A US airstrike in the Tora Bora region. [Source: Gary Bernsten]Heavy US bombing of Tora Bora, the Taliban and al-Qaeda mountainous stronghold near the Pakistani border, begins. A large convoy containing bin Laden and other al-Qaeda leaders arrived in Tora Bora about three day earlier. The son of a tribal elder later recalls, “At first, we thought that the US military was trying to frighten the Arabs out, since they were only bombing from one side.” Rather than send in US ground forces in large numbers, the US chooses to supply two local warlords and have their fighters do most of the fighting while heavy bombing continues. Within days, a small number of US special forces are brought in to assist the local warlords. One of the warlords chosen, Haji Zaman Ghamsharik, was actually living in exile in France and has to be flown to Afghanistan. He is “known to many as a ruthless player in the regional smuggling business.” Between 1,500 to 2,000 of bin Laden’s fighters are in Tora Bora when the battle begins. (Smucker 3/4/2002; Brown 10/20/2002) There are two main mountain passes out of Tora Bora and into Pakistan. From the beginning on this day, eyewitnesses report that the US bombs only one pass. (Nordland, Yousafzai, and Dehghanpisheh 8/11/2002) The fighting and bombing will continue through early December (see December 5-17, 2001) while bin Laden and most of his forces escape via the other pass (see November 28-30, 2001).

Two radical Muslims involved in a shoe bombing plot, Richard Reid and Saajit Badat, travel to Pakistan and Afghanistan to meet an al-Qaeda bomb maker named Midhat Mursi (a.k.a. Abu Khabab al-Masri). Mursi has been working on a plan to get enough plastic explosive to puncture a plane’s fuselage into a shoe and thinks he has finally succeeded. It is unclear where the explosives the two men later obtain for the plot come from. At his trial, Reid will claim that he obtains the explosives from a neo-Nazi group and then rigs a bomb he tries to detonate on an airliner himself. However, the prosecution will point out that a hair and a palm print found on the mechanism are not his. If the two men do obtain the explosives directly from Mursi, it is unclear how they manage to transport them back to Britain, to which they return on December 5. (O'Neill and McGrory 2006, pp. 230-231) The war is raging in Afghanistan at this time (see November 26, 2001), but this does not seem to hinder them.

US troops are set to land near the Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, Afghanistan (see November 26, 2001). (Kugler 8/19/2002) Apparently, as the noose tightens around Kandahar, Hamid Karzai, the new leader of Afghanistan, makes a deal with the Taliban. He gives them a general amnesty in return for surrender of the city. Taliban’s leader Mullah Omar is allowed to escape “with dignity” as part of the deal. However, the US says it will not abide by the deal and Karzai then says he will not let Omar go free after all. Taliban forces begin surrendering on December 7. (Baker 12/8/2001) Omar escapes.

US Marines landing near Kandahar on December 10, 2001.US Marines landing near Kandahar on December 10, 2001. [Source: Earnie Grafton / Agence France-Presse]A force of about 1,200 US marines settles in the countryside around Kandahar, Afghanistan. This will make up nearly the entire US force actually on the ground in the country during the war to remove the Taliban from power. Over the previous week, CIA Deputy Counter Terrorism Center Director Hank Crumpton had been in contact with Gen. Tommy Franks and other military leaders at CENTCOM, arguing that “the back door was open” in Tora Bora and the troops should go there instead. But Franks responded that the momentum of the CIA’s effort to corner bin Laden could be lost waiting for the troops to arrive. (Suskind 2006, pp. 58) The marines will end up being largely unused in the Kandahar region while bin Laden will escape from Tora Bora. In 2005, Gary Berntsen, who was in charge of an on-the-ground CIA team trying to find bin Laden, will claim that Franks “was either badly misinformed by his own people or blinded by the fog of war. I’d made it clear in my reports that our Afghan allies were hardly anxious to get at al-Qaeda in Tora Bora.” (Spiegel 1/3/2006) The Afghan allies the US relies on to find bin Laden will actually help him escape (see Mid-November 2001-Mid-December 2001).

Bin Laden made his last known public appearance on November 25, 2001, giving a speech in the village of Milawa, Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border (see November 25, 2001). According to later interviews with many locals in the area, it is believed he and four loyalists cross the Pakistan border between November 28 and 30. (Smucker 2/23/2002; Smucker 3/4/2002) According to another account, bin Laden crosses the border at this time by helicopter instead (see November 28, 2001). His voice continues to be heard until December 10 on short wave radio transmissions in the Tora Bora enclave he had proportedly left. According to later interviews with loyalists, he calls from Pakistan to Tora Bora to urge his followers to keep fighting. But according to some eyewitness accounts, bin Laden is still in Tora Bora to make the radio transmissions, then leaves with about 30 followers by horseback. (Smucker 3/4/2002; Nordland, Yousafzai, and Dehghanpisheh 8/11/2002)

Hank Crumpton.Hank Crumpton. [Source: State Department]According to author Ron Suskind, CIA Deputy Counter Terrorism Center Director Hank Crumpton briefs President Bush and Vice President Cheney about the looming battle in the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan, where about 1,000 al-Qaeda and Taliban are settling in. He points out the region is very mountainous, with many tunnels and escape routes. Bush asks about the passages to Pakistan that the Pakistani government has agreed to block (see November 2001). Using a map, Crumpton shows “the area on the Pakistani side of the line [is] a lawless, tribal region that [Pakistan has] little control over. In any event, satellite images showed that [Pakistan’s] promised troops hadn’t arrived, and seemed unlikely to appear soon.” Crumpton adds that the Afghan forces in the region allied to the US are “tired and cold and, many of them are far from home.” They were battered from fighting in the south against Taliban forces, and “they’re just not invested in getting bin Laden.” He tells Bush that “we’re going to lose our prey if we’re not careful” and strongly recommends the US marines being sent to Kandahar (see November 26, 2001) get immediately redirected to Tora Bora instead. Cheney says nothing. Bush presses Crumpton for more information. “How bad off are these Afghani forces, really? Are they up to the job?” Crumpton replies, “Definitely not, Mr. President. Definitely not.” However, the Pentagon is not voicing the same concerns to Bush. The marines are not redirected to seal off the passes. (Suskind 2006, pp. 58-59)

The mountains of Waziristan.The mountains of Waziristan. [Source: BBC] (click image to enlarge)In December 2001, al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in Afghanistan are defeated in the battle of Tora Bora, and the survivors generally flee across the border into Pakistan’s tribal region. Many flee into the region of South Waziristan, since it is directly adjacent to Tora Bora and there are no Pakistani government forces guarding the border there (see December 10, 2001). In March 2002, several hundred more militants flee from Afghanistan into South Waziristan after Operation Anaconda (see March 2-13, 2002). They rebuild their central command there, particularly in a remote part of South Waziristan known as the Shakai valley. (Mazetti and Rohde 6/30/2008) Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later describe South Waziristan: “With its high mountains, steep slopes, deep ravines littered with broken rock and shale, and its thick forests, it was an ideal hideout. Many of its valleys were virtually inaccessible, except along steep winding paths that required the agility of mountain climbers, and were easy to defend.” (Rashid 2008, pp. 148, 268) In the spring of 2002, US intelligence begins reporting that large numbers of foreigners are hiding in South Waziristan and neighboring North Waziristan. But Gen. Ali Jan Orakzai, the commander of Pakistani forces in the area containing Waziristan, is skeptical. Born in the tribal region, Orakzai is said to be Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf’s close friend and main adviser on the region. Even in 2008, he will tell the New York Times that he considered the US warnings about al-Qaeda to be mere “guesswork” and that his soldiers “found nothing.” Former US intelligence officials will agree that nothing is found, because they say that Orakzai’s military forces only enter the region in large, slow-moving sweeps that are easily avoided by militants. Robert Grenier, CIA station chief in Pakistan at the time, will later suggest that Orakzai did not want to find the foreigners as this could have caused trouble, including a tribal uprising. Grenier will say, “Orakzai and others didn’t want to believe [the foreigners were there] because it would have been an inconvenient fact.” (Mazetti and Rohde 6/30/2008)

US Special Forces unloading equipment in the Tora Bora region.US Special Forces unloading equipment in the Tora Bora region. [Source: Banded Artists Productions] (click image to enlarge)Around December 5, 2001, about three-dozen US special forces position themselves at strategic spots in the Tora Bora region to observe the fighting. Using hand-held laser target designators, they “paint” targets to bomb. Immediately the US bombing becomes more accurate. With this improved system in place, the ground battle for Tora Bora begins in earnest. However, as the Christian Science Monitor later notes, “The battle was joined, but anything approaching a ‘siege’ of Tora Bora never materialized.” No other US troops take part, and US-allied afghans fight unenthusiastically and sometimes even fight for the other side (see Mid-November 2001-Mid-December 2001). (Smucker 3/4/2002) The Tora Bora battle will end with a victory for the US-allied forces by December 17, 2001 (see December 17, 2001). However, the Daily Telegraph will later report, “In retrospect, and with the benefit of dozens of accounts from the participants, the battle for Tora Bora looks more like a grand charade.” Eyewitnesses express shock that the US pinned in Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, thought to contain many high leaders, on three sides only, leaving the route to Pakistan open. An intelligence chief in Afghanistan’s new government says, “The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it. In addition, there were plenty of landing areas for helicopters had the Americans acted decisively. Al-Qaeda escaped right out from under their feet.” (Smucker 2/23/2002)

British special forces soldiers from the Special Air Service (SAS) and the Special Boat Service (SBS) pursue Osama bin Laden as he flees the battle of Tora Bora (see November 16, 2001 and December 5-17, 2001). According to author Michael Smith, at one point they are “20 minutes” behind bin Laden, but they are “pulled off to allow US troops to go in for the kill.” However, it takes hours for the Americans to arrive, by which time bin Laden has escaped. (Smith 2/12/2007)

Gary Berntsen on an airplane, date and location unknown.Gary Berntsen on an airplane, date and location unknown. [Source: National Geographic]Richard Blee, head of the Sunni Extremist Group at the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center and a former head of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, is made chief of the CIA’s new station in Kabul. Blee replaces Gary Berntsen, who had effectively led the CIA’s war effort against the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. Berntsen is unhappy with being replaced, saying: “It felt as though someone had just thrown a bucket of cold water in my face. I couldn’t believe they were doing this in the middle of the most important battle of the war.” The battle of Tora Bora begins around this time and, although the US thinks it has Osama bin Laden cornered there, he somehow manages to escape (see November 16, 2001, November 26, 2001 and Early December 2001).
Replacement Decision Is Not Well Received - Berntsen’s staff members are also unhappy with the decision, and slap their hands over their heads and groan when they find out about it. They tell Berntsen, “No disrespect to Rich, but when you leave, we leave.” Berntsen will attribute Blee’s selection to his closeness to CIA Director George Tenet and Deputy Director of Operations James Pavitt, and will also hint that Blee strongly desired the job. (Berntsen and Pezzullo 2005, pp. 296-7, 306) Berntsen pushed hard for US troops to be deployed to catch bin Laden (see Late October-Early December 2001), but it is not known whether Blee is in favor of using US troops or not. Blee will also instigate the transfer of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi from the FBI to Egypt shortly after arriving; this is the first such transfer of a major figure after 9/11 (see Shortly After December 19, 2001).
Blee's Replacement - Blee is apparently replaced as chief of the Sunni Extremist Group by someone known only as Hendrik V. (see (Between Summer and Winter 2001)). Hendrik V. will later be replaced by an official known as “Marty M.” before March 2003. (Tenet 2007, pp. 232, 251) That is almost certainly Marty Martin, someone said to lead the search for bin Laden from 2002 to 2004 (see (Shortly After October 29, 2004)).

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf had promised to seal off the Pakistani side of the border near the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan in return for considerable US economic aid (see November 2001). But Musharraf spent two weeks negotiating with tribal chieftains on the border before starting the deployment. Around December 10, two brigades begin to take up positions along the border. (Smucker 3/4/2002; Nordland, Yousafzai, and Dehghanpisheh 8/11/2002) However, Pakistan does not seal several important parts of the border. The regions of North and South Waziristan, Dir, Chitral, and Balochistan have no Pakistani army presence whatsoever. Bin Laden and many other al-Qaeda leaders likely escape into Waziristan, where they begin to rebuild al-Qaeda (see December 2001-Spring 2002). The CIA intercepts communications between Pakistani officers warning not to harass any foreign fighters entering Waziristan. Several US officers will later tell Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid that they suspect Pakistan deliberately failed to guard these regions in order to allow the fighters to escape. (Rashid 2008, pp. 148) On December 11, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld says of this border region, “It’s a long border. It’s a very complicated area to try to seal, and there’s just simply no way you can put a perfect cork in the bottle.” (Smucker 3/4/2002) But armed gunmen storm the Indian Parliament on December 13, and a group based in Pakistan and allied with al-Qaeda is blamed (see December 13, 2001). Tensions suddenly rise between India and Pakistan, and Musharraf halts troop deployments to the Afghan border. The border near Tora Bora still is not adequately guarded by Pakistan when the battle of Tora Bora ends on December 17. Less than 100 stragglers entering Pakistan around December 19 are captured by Pakistani forces, but a number of these subsequently escape. (Nordland, Yousafzai, and Dehghanpisheh 8/11/2002)

A terrorist lies dead near the entrance to the Indian Parliament building.A terrorist lies dead near the entrance to the Indian Parliament building. [Source: R. V. Moorthy]The Indian Parliament building in New Delhi is attacked by Islamic militants. Fourteen people, including the five attackers, are killed. India blames the Pakistani militant groups Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba for the attacks. Twelve days later, Maulana Masood Azhar, head of Jaish-e-Mohammed, is arrested by Pakistan and his group is banned. He is freed one year later. (France-Presse 12/25/2001; Baldauf 12/16/2002) The Parliament attack leads to talk of war, even nuclear war, between Pakistan and India, until Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf cracks down on militant groups in early January. (Bedi 12/28/2001; Pearl 1/3/2002; McCarthy 5/25/2002) As a result of the rising tensions, Pakistani troop deployments near the Tora Bora region of Afghanistan are halted, allowing many al-Qaeda and Taliban to escape into Pakistan (see December 10, 2001). It appears that Saeed Sheikh and Aftab Ansari, working with the ISI, were also involved in the attacks. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 3/3/2002; Anson 8/2002)

US bombing in Tora Bora, December 14, 2001.US bombing in Tora Bora, December 14, 2001. [Source: Romeo / Gacad Agence France-Presse]According to author Ron Suskind, on this date bin Laden makes a broadcast on his shortwave radio from somewhere within Tora Bora, Afghanistan. He praises his “most loyal fighters” still fighting in Tora Bora and says “forgive me” for drawing them into a defeat. He says the battle will continue “on new fronts.” Then he leads a prayer and leaves Tora Bora. Suskind says, “With a small band, he escaped on horseback toward the north. The group, according to internal CIA reports, took a northerly route to the province of Nangarhar—past the Khyber Pass, and the city of Jalalabad—and into the province of Konar. That day and the next, much of the remaining al-Qaeda force of about 800 soldiers moved to the south toward Pakistan.” (Suskind 2006, pp. 74-75 Sources: Ron Suskind) A radio had been captured by US allied forces some days earlier, allowing the US to listen in to bin Laden’s communications (see Late October-Early December 2001). In another account, a professional guide and former Taliban official later claims to have led bin Laden and a group of about 30 at this time on a four day trip into Pakistan and then back into a different part of Afghanistan. (Nordland, Yousafzai, and Dehghanpisheh 8/11/2002) Still other accounts have bin Laden heading south into Pakistan at this time instead (see Mid-December 2001). An article in the British Daily Telegraph entitled “Bin Laden’s voice heard on radio in Tora Bora” will appear the very next day, detailing some of these communications. (Wastell 12/16/2001)

A videotape obtained by the CIA shows bin Laden at the end of the Tora Bora battle. He is walking on a trail either in Afghanistan and heading toward Pakistan, or already in Pakistan. Bin Laden is seen instructing his party how to dig holes in the ground to lie undetected at night. A US bomb explodes in the distance. Referring to where the bomb was dropped, he says, “We were there last night.” The existence of this videotape will not be reported until late 2006. (Priest and Tyson 9/10/2006) In September 2005, the New York Times will report that, “On or about Dec. 16, 2001, according to American intelligence estimates, bin Laden left Tora Bora for the last time, accompanied by bodyguards and aides.… Bin Laden and his men are believed to have journeyed on horseback directly south toward Pakistan.” (Weaver 9/11/2005) Other accounts have him heading north into other parts of Afghanistan around this time instead (see December 15, 2001).

The Red Fort in Delhi, India, shortly after being attacked in 2000.The Red Fort in Delhi, India, shortly after being attacked in 2000. [Source: BBC]The US officially blocks the assets of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), a Pakistani militant group, and Ummah Tameer-e-Nau (UTN), a Pakistani charity front. (White House 12/20/2001) LeT has frequently attacked targets in India with the tacit support of the Pakistani government. For instance, LeT took credit for an attack on the Red Fort in Delhi in 2000 that killed three people. (BBC 3/17/2006) But the US fails to mention Pakistani government support for LeT, particularly long-time support by Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who is now president of Pakistan (see 1993-1994). The Pakistani government officially bans LeT one month later. But the group changes its name to Jamaat-ud-Dawa and continues operating, though less openly than before. It is said to be closely linked to al-Qaeda. The US action comes just days after LeT was implicated in an attack on the Indian parliament (see December 13, 2001). (Kapisthalam 6/4/2004) India will blame the group for major attacks in 2003 and 2005 that each kill about 60 people. (BBC 3/17/2006) UTN was founded by Pakistani nuclear scientists (see 2000). The CIA was aware before 9/11 that UTN had proposed selling a nuclear weapon to Libya (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001), and that two UTN scientists met with Osama bin Laden (see Shortly Before September 11, 2001), so it is not known why the US waited until now to act against it.

Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl writes stories about the ISI that will lead to his kidnapping and murder (see January 31, 2002).
bullet On December 24, 2001, he reports about ties between the ISI and a Pakistani organization, Ummah Tameer-e-Nau, that was working on giving bin Laden nuclear secrets before 9/11 (see 2000 and Mid-August 2001). (Pearl 12/24/2001)
bullet A few days later, he reports that the ISI-supported militant organization Jaish-e-Mohammed still has its office running and bank accounts working, even though President Pervez Musharraf claims to have banned the group. The Jaish-i-Mohammed is connected to the Al Rashid Trust, one of the first entities whose assets were frozen by the US after 9/11 and through which funding may have passed on its way to the hijackers in the US (see Early August 2001 and September 24, 2001). “If [Pearl] hadn’t been on the ISI’s radarscope before, he was now.” (Pearl 12/31/2001; McCarthy 7/16/2002; Anson 8/2002)
bullet He begins investigating links between shoe bomber Richard Reid and Pakistani militants, and comes across connections to the ISI and a mysterious religious group called Al-Fuqra. (Anderson and Baker 2/23/2002)
bullet He also may be looking into the US training and backing of the ISI. (Iqbal 3/25/2002)
bullet He is writing another story on Dawood Ibrahim, a powerful Islamic militant and gangster protected by the ISI, and other Pakistani organized crime figures. (Fineman 2/4/2002; Anson 8/2002)
bullet Former CIA agent Robert Baer later claims to be working with Pearl on an investigation of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. (Waterman 4/9/2004) It is later suggested that Mohammed masterminds both Reid’s shoe bomb attempt and the Pearl kidnapping, and has connections to Pakistani gangsters and the ISI, so some of these explanations could fit together. (Shahzad 10/30/2002; Ressa 1/30/2003; Waterman 4/9/2004) Kidnapper Saeed will later say of Pearl, “Because of his hyperactivity he caught our interest.” (News (Islamabad) 2/15/2002) Pearl is kidnapped on January 23, 2002, and his murder is confirmed on February 22, 2002. (Steiger 2/22/2002)

Osama bin Laden making his “Nineteen Students” speech.Osama bin Laden making his “Nineteen Students” speech. [Source: Al Jazeera]Osama bin Laden makes a new video statement about 9/11, again denying the US has enough evidence against him to warrant an attack on Afghanistan (see September 16, 2001 and September 28, 2001), which he calls “a vicious campaign based on mere suspicion.” However, in what Professor Bruce Lawrence calls “his most extended and passionate celebration of the hijackers of 9/11,” he praises the 19 who carried out “the blessed strikes against global unbelief and its leader America.” He says of the hijackers, “It was not nineteen Arab states that did this deed. It was not Arab armies or ministries who humbled the oppressor who harms us in Palestine and elsewhere. It was nineteen post-secondary school students—I beg Allah almighty to accept them—who shook America’s throne, struck its economy right in the heart, and dealt the biggest military power a mighty blow, by the grace of Allah Almighty.” He continues by saying that the hijackers “are the people who have given up everything for the sake of ‘There is no Allah but Allah.’” He also criticizes Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and suggests that Israel is trying to expand its borders to Medina, currently in Saudi Arabia. Bin Laden also attacks the sanctions against Iraq, which he notes have resulted in “the murder of over a million children.” (Laden 2005, pp. 145-157) Bin Laden’s left arm appears to be injured in the video, fueling speculation he was wounded in the battle for Afghanistan (CNN 7/23/2002) No new videotapes of Bin Laden speaking are released for nearly three years after this (see October 29, 2004). (BBC 10/30/2004)

Al-Qaeda forces have been driven out of Afghanistan but regroup in the tribal border region of Pakistan called South Waziristan (see December 2001-Spring 2002). However, the Pakistani government is strict about preventing US forces from crossing the border in pursuit of bin Laden or any other al-Qaeda figures. According to author James Risen, “Green Berets who served in southeastern Afghanistan say that there have been a series of tense confrontations—and even firefights—between American and Pakistani forces along the border. Both sides have largely covered up the incidents.” (Risen 2006, pp. 181) There is no sign later of a significant change in policy, although minor skirmishes persist. For part of 2002 and into 2003, some US special forces are allowed into the region, but only by traveling with the Pakistani army, and this arrangement does not last for long (see 2002-Early 2003).

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf makes “a forceful speech… condemning Islamic extremism.” (Hoagland 3/28/2002) He is essentially forced to make the speech in response to intense international pressure, as incursions by Islamist militants backed by Pakistan into the disputed region of Kashmir have brought Pakistan and India to the brink of nuclear war. For instance, on January 6, President Bush says publicly, “I think it’s very important for President Musharraf to make a clear statement to the world that he intends to crack down on terror. And I believe if he does that… it’ll provide relief… on a situation that’s still serious.” The US even gives Musharraf a list of points to cover in the speech, and he says everything the US wants him to say. In the speech, Musharraf says: “Pakistan has been made a soft state where the supremacy of law is questioned. This situation cannot be tolerated any longer.… Pakistan rejects and condemns terrorism in all its forms and manifestations. Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity anywhere in the world.… No organization will be allowed to indulge in terrorism in the name of Kashmir.” He specifically denounces violent jihad for the first time. However, he does not renounce Pakistan’s claims to Kashmir, saying, “Kashmir runs in our blood.” He announces a ban on five militant groups, and more than a thousand militants are arrested after the speech. The speech does cool tensions with India temporarily. But within several months it is clear that the attacks in Kashmir are continuing and most of the arrested militants have been released (see Shortly After January 12-March 2002). Pakistan and India come close to nuclear war again by May 2002. (Rashid 2008, pp. 116-118, 146)

On January 12, 2002, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf gives a speech denouncing violent Islamist militancy for the first time. He is essentially forced to give the speech after militants supported by Pakistan launched attacks in the disputed region of Kashmir, bringing India and Pakistan close to the brink of nuclear war. He also bans five militant groups (see January 12, 2002). (Rashid 2008, pp. 116-118) Shortly after the speech, Pakistan arrests about 3,000 suspected militants. Musharraf is hailed in the Western media as redirecting the ISI to support the US agenda. But by the end of the month, at least 800 of the arrested are set free, including most of their leaders. Not a single one of the arrested militants is charged with any terrorist offense. (Hoagland 3/28/2002; McGirk 5/6/2002; Rashid 2008, pp. 155) A US diplomat based in Pakistan will later say: “By March it was clear to us that Musharraf was not going to implement his promises [given in the speech]. All the arrested militants were freed, and the military had no intention of imposing any curbs on their activities.” The US State Department attempts to pressure Musharraf to keep the promises he made in the speech. However, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and the US Defense Department is reluctant to pressure him, fearing that Pakistan will stop cooperating in capturing al-Qaeda leaders. Rumsfeld is apparently not concerned by the strong links between Pakistani militant groups and al-Qaeda. (Rashid 2008, pp. 118) Within one year, “almost all” of those arrested have been quietly released. Even the most prominent leaders, such as Maulana Masood Azhar, have been released. Their banned militant organizations are running again, most under new names. (Lancaster and Khan 2/8/2003)

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf meets with President Bush in Washington, DC. Bush lavishly praises Musharraf, saying: “President Musharraf is a leader with great courage and vision.… I am proud to call him my friend.” Since 9/11, Pakistan has received $600 million in emergency aid, $500 million for supporting US forces, a moratorium on paying back its debt to the US, and the US has canceled economic sanctions against it. Bush announces the US will now cancel $1 billion of Pakistan’s US debt, reschedule the remaining $1.8 billion, and give $100 million for education reform. (Rashid 2008, pp. 148-149) The month before, Musharraf denounced terrorism in a public speech (see January 12, 2002). But by the start of February, it is already clear that the militant groups Musharraf banned just after the speech have resumed operations under new names with the encouragement of the Pakistani ISI. (Rashid 2008, pp. 147) Furthermore, CIA communications intercepts indicate the Pakistani army deliberately left portions of the border with Afghanistan unguarded, allowing Osama bin Laden and thousands of other al-Qaeda operatives to flee into Pakistan (see December 10, 2001). The Pakistani army still has not moved into the regions where al-Qaeda is regrouping (see Late May 2002), and will not allow US troops to enter these regions either (see Early 2002 and After).

US troops investigate two dead bodies on March 17, 2002, as Operation Anaconda comes to a close.US troops investigate two dead bodies on March 17, 2002, as Operation Anaconda comes to a close. [Source: Joe Raedle/ Reuters]The US launches Operation Anaconda, a major offensive in Shah-i-Kot valley, near the town of Gardez, Afghanistan. About 2,000 US and allied soldiers attack a Taliban and al-Qaeda stronghold in the valley. The goal is to surround and cut off the Taliban and al-Qaeda from being able to retreat into Pakistan. Officially, the operation is hailed as an easy victory. For instance, Gen. Tommy Franks calls the operation “an unqualified and absolute success.” (Krushelnycky 3/20/2002) A Pentagon spokesperson calls the operation “a great success,” and says that of the hundreds or even thousands of enemy fighters trapped in the valley,“less than 100 escaped.” (Bearak 3/14/2002) Up to 800 Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters are reported killed. (Bearak 3/14/2002)
Unexpected Resistance - However, other accounts paint a different picture. The operation runs into unexpected resistance from the start, and eight US soldiers and a small number of allied Afghan fighters are killed in the first few days. The London Times later notes, “what was to have been a two-day operation stretched to 12.” Australian special forces troops who took part later say the operation was botched. “They blamed much of the problem on inadequate US air power, poor intelligence, and faulty technology.” (Krushelnycky 3/20/2002; Maynard 6/18/2002)
Militants Able to Escape - It appears that, as in Tora Bora, Afghan warlord armies supervised by a small number of US special forces, were given the key task of cutting off escape routes. At least one of the warlords involved had tricked the US military earlier in the war. “Although [Afghan] commanders insisted from the start of the campaign that the slopes were surrounded, [one Afghan commander] admitted that there had been at least one escape route” left open. The Guardian notes that “US troops spent weeks planning the attack on Shah-i-Kot, training and arming Afghan soldiers to prevent a repeat of the battle at Tora Bora,” but nonetheless, “nearly all the Taliban and al-Qaeda fighters appeared to have fled the area.” (Baker and Vogel 3/4/2002; McCarthy 3/15/2002) Most flee across the border into Pakistan (see December 2001-Spring 2002). The New York Times even reported that “some participants… said the Taliban had more or less come and gone as they pleased, visiting villagers in nearby towns.” (Bearak 3/14/2002) One captured Taliban soldier who fought in the battle later claims that bin Laden made a brief personal appearance to rally his troops. (Nordland, Yousafzai, and Dehghanpisheh 8/11/2002) Only about 20 prisoners are captured and fewer than 20 bodies are found. (Bearak 3/14/2002; Burns 3/18/2002) After retreating, the Taliban and al-Qaeda will change strategies and no longer attempt to congregate in Afghanistan in large numbers.

FBI translator Sibel Edmonds is called to the office of Stephanie Bryan, the supervisor of the Bureau’s translation department. While waiting she sees Mike Feghali, who, according to Edmonds, “tap[s] his watch and say[s], ‘In less than an hour you will be fired, you whore.’” A few minutes later, she meets with supervisory special agent Tom Frields who dismisses her on grounds that she violated security procedures. (Rose 9/2005) An agent then escorts her out of the building and tells her: “We will be watching you and listening to you. If you dare to consult an attorney who is not approved by the FBI, or if you take this issue outside the FBI to the Senate, the next time I see you, it will be in jail.” (Sheehy 1/22/2004)

In the wake of the defeat of al-Qaeda and the Taliban at Tora Bora, Afghanistan, many of them flee into the tribal region of Waziristan, just across the Pakistani border (see December 2001-Spring 2002). These tribal regions normally have no Pakistani military presence, and the Pakistani army left the border near Waziristan unguarded (see December 10, 2001). (Rashid 2008, pp. 148, 268) In early May, the US begins applying pressure on Pakistan to act. On anonymous Defense Department official tells the Washington Post, “We know where there is a large concentration of al-Qaeda.” He notes there are several hundred in one Waziristan border town alone. A senior US offical says, “We are trying to encourage, wheedle, coerce, urge the Pakistanis to move more aggressively” against the Waziristan safe haven, but have not been having much progress. (Ricks and Khan 5/12/2002) Pakistan finally moves army units into Waziristan in late May 2002, but even then the 8,000 troops remain in the administrative capital of Wana and do not attempt to seal the border with Afghanistan. (Rashid 2008, pp. 148, 268)

In June 2002, US military officers in Bagram, Afghanistan, tell Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid that up to 3,500 al-Qaeda-linked militants are hiding out in the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan (see December 2001-Spring 2002). They say they cannot understand why the Pakistani ISI is turning a blind eye to them. Some Pakistani army units moved into the area in May, but they only patrol the administrative capitol of Wana. At the time, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is claiming he has no troops to spare for the tribal region due to tensions with India. (Rashid 2008, pp. 268) Pakistan will not allow US troops to enter the tribal regions (see Early 2002 and After).

Since its defeat in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in late 2001, thousands of al-Qaeda-linked militants have been regrouping in the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan (see December 2001-Spring 2002). The Pakistani army finally entered Waziristan in May 2002 (see Late May 2002), but the army remains in the administrative capital of Wana, leaving al-Qaeda free to operate in the countryside. Emboldened, al-Qaeda begins setting up small mobile training camps in South Waziristan by August 2002. (Rashid 2008, pp. 148)

A man claiming to be Osama bin Laden calls for the overthrow of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in a message made public on this day. The man calls on “my Pakistani Muslim brothers… to get rid of the shameful Musharraf.” (Rashid 2008, pp. 230, 436) Despite this, Musharraf makes no serious attempt to disrupt an al-Qaeda safe haven in Pakistan’s tribal region where most al-Qaeda leaders are believed to be hiding, and in fact elements of the Pakistani government continue to assist al-Qaeda there (see Late 2002-Late 2003). Musharraf will finally take some action against al-Qaeda’s presence in Pakistan after two failed assassination attempts against him in late 2003 (see December 14 and 25, 2003).

An Afghan detainee dies of hypothermia while being brutalized by CIA interrogators at a secret prison north of Kabul code-named the “Salt Pit” (see After October 2001). The detainee, whose name is Gul Rahman, is considered uncooperative (see November 2002). (Priest 3/3/2005; Ross and Esposito 11/18/2005; Goldman and Gannon 3/28/2010) He had originally been arrested in Pakistan, and then brought to Afghanistan. (Johnson, Markon, and Tate 9/19/2009) An inexperienced junior CIA case officer named Matthew Zirbel, who is in charge of the Salt Pit, orders Rahman to be stripped semi-naked, chained to the concrete floor, and left overnight without blankets. (Priest 3/3/2005; Ross and Esposito 11/18/2005; Mahoney and Johnson 10/9/2009, pp. 29 pdf file) The incident will later be confirmed by four government officials. Afghan guards paid by the CIA and working under agency supervision take Rahman to an abandoned warehouse, drag him around on the concrete floor, causing bruising and lacerations, before chaining him in his cell. When night falls, the temperature plummets. Rahman is found in the morning, frozen to death. A CIA medic quickly autopsies him and states that “hypothermia” is the cause of death, and guards bury the body in an unmarked, unacknowledged cemetery used by Afghan forces. The man’s family is not notified, and his remains are never returned for a proper burial. The man is not listed on any registry of captives, not even as a so-called “ghost detainee.” One government official says simply, “He just disappeared from the face of the earth.” Zirbel will later be promoted. (Priest 3/3/2005; Ross and Esposito 11/18/2005) Zirbel’s supervisor, the CIA chief of station in Afghanistan known only as Paul P., will go on to play a role in incidents of detainee abuse in Iraq, although details about this are unknown. (Johnson, Markon, and Tate 9/19/2009; Horton 3/28/2010) Colleagues later describe Zirbel as “bright… eager, [and] full of energy,” and say that he was placed in charge of the facility because “there were not enough senior-level volunteers,” according to one senior intelligence officer. “It’s not a job just anyone would want. More senior people said, ‘I don’t want to do that.’ There was a real notable absence of high-ranking people” in Afghanistan. Moreover, the officer will add: “[T]he CIA did not have a deep cadre of people who knew how to run prisons. It was a new discipline. There’s a lot of room to get in trouble.” The CIA will brief the chairmen and vice chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees on the death, but at least one official will say the briefing is incomplete. Senator John D. Rockefeller (D-WV), the ranking minority member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will ask the committee chairman, Pat Roberts (R-KS), to investigate Rahman’s death, but Roberts will refuse. No one is sure if Rahman had any real connection to al-Qaeda or the Taliban. “He was probably associated with people who were associated with al-Qaeda,” one US government official will say. (Priest 3/3/2005; Ross and Esposito 11/18/2005)

The CIA officer known only as Paul P., who was chief of station in Afghanistan at the time a subordinate caused a detainee to freeze to death, is promoted multiple times. The death occurred in late November 2002, when an officer named Matthew Zirbel had the detainee, Gul Rahman, doused in water and left with few clothes in the cold at the Salt Pit prison (see November 20, 2002). The station chief was involved in the death and an investigation by the CIA’s inspector general will examine his actions. Nevertheless, according to former officials speaking in 2010, Paul P. “has been promoted at least three times.” (Goldman and Gannon 3/28/2010) The officer will be referred to as “Mr. P” in a post by Harper’s journalist Scott Horton. Horton refers to the Zirbel as “Mr. Z,” indicating that Paul P.‘s real surname may actually begin with the letter P, although this is not certain. (Horton 3/28/2010) His first name will be revealed by the Associated Press in 2011. (Goldman and Apuzzo 2/9/2011) Richard Blee had been appointed station chief in Afghanistan in December 2001 (see December 9, 2001), but would appear to have left the position by this time.

Pakistan’s tribal region, shown in various colors, while the rest of Pakistan is in green. FATA stands for Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the bureaucratic name for the area.Pakistan’s tribal region, shown in various colors, while the rest of Pakistan is in green. FATA stands for Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the bureaucratic name for the area. [Source: Public domain via Wikipedia]Thousands of al-Qaeda-linked militants have been regrouping in the Pakistan tribal region of South Waziristan (see Late May 2002 and June 2002). By late 2002, these forces begin regularly attacking US outposts, also known as firebases, just across the border in Afghanistan. In December 2002, the US is forced to abandon the Lawara firebase after phosphorus rockets fired on the base burn US Special Forces vehicles. US military officials begin to complain that the Pakistani government’s Frontier Corps is not only turning a blind eye to these attacks, but is actually helping al-Qaeda forces cross the border and providing covering fire for their attacks. US forces are not allowed to pursue al-Qaeda forces across the Pakistan border (see Early 2002 and After). In January 2003, US commander Lieutenant General Dan McNeill publicly speaks out about the situation despite orders from his superiors not to. He says, “US forces acknowledge the internationally recognized boundaries of Afghanistan, but may pursue attackers who attempted to escape into Pakistan to evade capture or retaliation.” Around the same time, the US media begins to report that the Pakistani government is allowing militants to attack US positions across the border (see December 2002-February 2003). Pakistan comes under increasing pressure to do something, but takes no action. Confident of their position, militants begin killing tribal elders who they suspect are not loyal to them, further cementing their control and causing many to flee. Some fleeing locals claim that the Pakistani ISI is frequently meeting with al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders there, such as Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani, and apparently supporting them. (Rashid 2008, pp. 440) The Pakistani army commander in the region, Lieutenant General Ali Jan Orakzai, is considered a close friend of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. It is believed he intensely hates the US and NATO, and has sympathy for the Taliban. He will later call them a “national liberation movement.” (Rashid 2008, pp. 277, 384) The Pakistani army will finally launch its first limited attack against al-Qaeda in October 2003 (see October 2, 2003).

FBI Director Robert Mueller personally awards Marion (Spike) Bowman with a presidential citation and cash bonus of approximately 25 percent of his salary. (Tapper 3/3/2003) Bowman, head of the FBI’s national security law unit and the person who refused to seek a special warrant for a search of Zacarias Moussaoui’s belongings before the 9/11 attacks (see August 28, 2001), is among nine recipients of bureau awards for “exceptional performance.” The award comes shortly after a 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report saying Bowman’s unit gave Minneapolis FBI agents “inexcusably confused and inaccurate information” that was “patently false.” (Grow 12/22/2002) Bowman’s unit was also involved in the failure to locate 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi after their names were put on a watch list (see August 28-29, 2001). In early 2000, the FBI acknowledged serious blunders in surveillance Bowman’s unit conducted during sensitive terrorism and espionage investigations, including agents who illegally videotaped suspects, intercepted e-mails without court permission, and recorded the wrong phone conversations. (Bridis 1/10/2003) As Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and others have pointed out, not only has no one in government been fired or punished for 9/11, but several others have been promoted: (Tapper 3/3/2003)
bullet Richard Blee, chief of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit, was made chief of the CIA’s new Kabul station in December 2001 (see December 9, 2001), where he aggressively expanded the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program (see Shortly After December 19, 2001). Blee was the government’s main briefer on al-Qaeda threats in the summer of 2001, but failed to mention that one of the 9/11 hijackers was in the US (see August 22-September 10, 2001).
bullet In addition to Blee, the CIA also promoted his former director for operations at Alec Station, a woman who took the unit’s number two position. This was despite the fact that the unit failed to put the two suspected terrorists on the watch list (see August 23, 2001). “The leaders were promoted even though some people in the intelligence community and in Congress say the counterterrorism unit they ran bore some responsibility for waiting until August 2001 to put the suspect pair on the interagency watch list.” CIA Director George Tenet has failed to fulfill a promise given to Congress in late 2002 that he would name the CIA officials responsible for 9/11 failures. (Gerth 5/15/2003)
bullet Pasquale D’Amuro, the FBI’s counterterrorism chief in New York City before 9/11, was promoted to the bureau’s top counterterrorism post. (Ratnesar and Burger 12/30/2002)
bullet FBI Supervisory Special Agent Michael Maltbie, who removed information from the Minnesota FBI’s application to get the search warrant for Moussaoui, was promoted to field supervisor and goes on to head the Joint Terrorism Task Force at the FBI’s Cleveland office. (Tapper 3/3/2003; Riley 3/21/2006)
bullet David Frasca, head of the FBI’s Radical Fundamentalist Unit, is “still at headquarters,” Grassley notes. (Tapper 3/3/2003) The Phoenix memo, which was addressed to Frasca, was received by his unit and warned that al-Qaeda terrorists could be using flight schools inside the US (see July 10, 2001 and July 27, 2001 and after). Two weeks later Zacarias Moussaoui was arrested while training to fly a 747, but Frasca’s unit was unhelpful when local FBI agents wanted to search his belongings—a step that could have prevented 9/11 (see August 16, 2001 and August 20-September 11, 2001). “The Phoenix memo was buried; the Moussaoui warrant request was denied.” (Ratnesar and Weisskopf 5/27/2002) Even after 9/11, Frasca continued to “[throw] up roadblocks” in the Moussaoui case. (Lewis 5/27/2002)
bullet Dina Corsi, an intelligence operations specialist in the FBI’s bin Laden unit in the run-up to 9/11, later became a supervisory intelligence analyst. (US Department of Justice 11/2004, pp. 279-280 pdf file; CNN 7/22/2005) Corsi repeatedly hampered the investigation of Almihdhar and Alhazmi in the summer of 2001 (see June 11, 2001, June 12-September 11, 2001, Before August 22, 2001, August 27-28, 2001, August 28, 2001, August 28-29, 2001, and (September 5, 2001)).
bullet President Bush later names Barbara Bodine the director of Central Iraq shortly after the US conquest of Iraq. Many in government are upset about the appointment because of her blocking of the USS Cole investigation, which some say could have uncovered the 9/11 plot (see October 14-Late November, 2000). She did not apologize or admit she was wrong. (Sepe 4/10/2003) However, she is fired after about a month, apparently for doing a poor job.
bullet An FBI official who tolerates penetration of the translation department by Turkish spies and encourages slow translations just after 9/11 was promoted (see March 22, 2002). (CBS News 10/25/2002)

9/11 Commission executive director Philip Zelikow appoints Michael Hurley—a 20-year CIA officer still actively employed—to lead the Commission’s investigation of counterterrorism policy prior to 9/11. This team will be responsible for reviewing the performance of the CIA and NSC (see Around February 2003). Hurley and his team will also be responsible for examining the pre-9/11 conduct of former CIA bin Laden unit manager Rich Blee, even though Hurley presumably served under Blee in Afghanistan after 9/11. Following the 9/11 attacks, Blee was made Kabul station chief (see December 9, 2001) and Hurley served three tours in Afghanistan. According to his biography at the 9/11 Public Discourse Project, “[Hurley] was one of the agency’s lead coordinators on the ground of Operation Anaconda, the largest battle against al-Qaeda in the campaign in Afghanistan” (see March 2-13, 2002). The biography also states: “From 1998-1999, and again in 2000, he was detailed to the National Security Council, where he was director for the Balkans, and advised the national security adviser and the president on Balkans policy. Over the past decade he has been a leader in US interventions in troubled areas: Kosovo (1999-2000); Bosnia (1995-1996); and Haiti (during the US intervention, 1994-1995). Michael Hurley has held a range of management positions at CIA headquarters and served multiple tours of duty in western Europe.” (9/11 Public Discourse Project 8/8/2008) Author Philip Shenon will describe Hurley as “a battle-hardened spy on loan to the Commission from the CIA.” Besides Hurley, other staffers on the counterterrorism review team are Warren Bass, a “terrorism researcher at the Council for Foreign Relations in New York” who will “focus on the NSC,” and Alexis Albion, a “doctoral candidate in intelligence studies at Harvard” who will be “the central researcher on the CIA.” (Shenon 2008, pp. 87)

Anthony Garcia (left) and Omar Khyam (right) facing the camera, in Pakistan in 2003. Both will be sentenced to life in prison for the fertilizer bomb plot.Anthony Garcia (left) and Omar Khyam (right) facing the camera, in Pakistan in 2003. Both will be sentenced to life in prison for the fertilizer bomb plot. [Source: Corbis]In the summer of 2003, a group of young Pakistani-Briton men rent a room in a hostel in Lahore, Pakistan. The group is very noisy at night, talking and playing music, which draws complaints from neighbors. One neighbor will later tell the Times of London that it was obvious they were violent militants: “We knew what they were doing and we were afraid at those boys being here, but we couldn’t do anything about it.” The neighbors finally call the police after hearing a series of late night explosions coming from their room. The group tells police that a propane gas cylinder had exploded. But the police do not believe it and begin a surveillance operation.
Investigation - Investigators learn the group recently traveled to Malakand, a very mountainous region of Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan. It is known that al-Qaeda maintains training camps there. Members of the group are also seen making regular visits to an office complex in Lahore where Al-Muhajiroun and other militant groups rent space. Most of the group members are linked to Al-Muhajiroun back in Britain. One member of the group is Omar Khyam, who is a key figure in a fertilizer bomb plot in Britain that will be foiled by British intelligence in March 2004 (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004). Another member is Mohammad Sidique Khan, the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005). Yet another member is Mohammed Junaid Babar, an al-Qaeda operative living in Britain who is important enough to attend a key al-Qaeda summit in 2004 (see March 2004).
Return Home - Khan returns to Britain in August 2003 and Khyam returns one month later (Khyam is already under surveillance in Britain). It is unknown when Babar returns exactly, but in early April 2004 he flies from Britain to the US, is arrested, and begins telling all he knows about his associates in return for a reduced sentence (see April 10, 2004). He only knows Khyam by his alias “Ausman” and Khan by his alias “Ibrahim,” and it is unknown just how much he reveals about their training together in Pakistan.
Warnings - But the Pakistani ISI will later claim that they twice gave warnings to British intelligence about the monitored group in Lahore. Apparently the ISI decided the group was not a threat in Pakistan but was planning a bombing in Britain. A high-ranking ISI official will later claim: “There is no question that 7/7 could have and should have been stopped. British agencies did not follow some of the information we gave to them.” (McGrory et al. 5/1/2007)
Surveillance - If the ISI does not in fact warn British intelligence, then it is likely the British have at least some awareness of this group in Lahore attending training camps through another source. British intelligence has been closely monitoring Mohammed Quayyum Khan, who is believed to be a key al-Qaeda operative living in Britain and sending funds and militant recruits to Pakistan (see March 2003 and After). Quayyum remains in phone contact with Khayam in Pakistan. He also is monitored as he talks on the phone with Salahuddin Amin, a member of the fertilizer bomb plot who lives in Pakistan. (BBC 5/25/2007)

A man thought to be al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri calls for the overthrow of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in an audio cassette made public on this day. The man calls on Pakistanis to “unite and cooperate to topple this traitor and install a sincere leadership that would defend Islam and Muslims.” (Rashid 2008, pp. 230, 436) There will be two apparently al-Qaeda-linked assassination attempts against Musharraf in December 2003 (see December 14 and 25, 2003).

A Pakistani attack helicopter fires at Ahmed Said Khadr’s safe house.A Pakistani attack helicopter fires at Ahmed Said Khadr’s safe house. [Source: Canadian Broadcasting Corporation]Al-Qaeda leader Ahmed Said Khadr is killed in a shootout with the Pakistani army. The police received reports that senior members of al-Qaeda were hiding in South Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s tribal region near Afghanistan. The army attacks their safe house. After several hours of shooting, eight people in the safe house are killed and 18 are taken prisoner. One of the killed is later identified as Khadr. He is a long time Canadian citizen who ran a Canadian charity front called Human Concern International. After his death, a sympathetic jihadist group will refer to him as a “founding member” of al-Qaeda. (Bell 10/14/2003; Canadian Broadcasting Corporation 4/20/2006) In fact, thousands of al-Qaeda-linked militants have been hiding out in South Waziristan since early 2002, with the assistance of some in the Pakistani government (see Late 2002-Late 2003). The attack comes as Pakistan is under increasing international pressure to do something about the al-Qaeda safe haven, and takes place just days before Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage is due to visit Pakistan. Pakistani journalist Ahmed Rashid will later comment, “Buying time by carrying out an attack just before the visit of a senior US official became a pattern for [Pakistan].” (Rashid 2008, pp. 270)

Nancy Powell.Nancy Powell. [Source: US Embassy in Nepal]The US Ambassador to Pakistan Nancy Powell publicly complains that Pakistani militant groups linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban have reconstituted themselves. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf banned the groups in January 2002 (see Shortly After January 12-March 2002). Powell says, “These banned groups are re-establishing themselves with new names.” Several days later, Musharraf bans the groups again. Between November 15 and 20, six groups are banned, including Jamiat ul-Ansar (formerly Harkat ul-Mujahedeen) and Khuddam ul-Islam (formerly Jaish-e-Mohammed). Notably, Jamaat al-Dawa (the renamed Lashkar-e-Toiba) is not rebanned. (Rashid 2008, pp. 230, 436) Powell’s comments simply state what has been well known for a long time. For instance, the Washington Post reported in February 2003 that the organizations were active again after changing their names. (Lancaster and Khan 2/8/2003)

President Musharraf’s car damaged in one of the  assassination attempts.President Musharraf’s car damaged in one of the assassination attempts. [Source: Mian Khursheed / Reuters]On December 14, 2003, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf survives an assassination attempt when a powerful bomb goes off 30 seconds after his highly-guarded convoy crosses a bridge in Rawalpindi, Pakistan. The heavily guarded bridge is just a mile from Musharraf’s house, yet militants were able to spend severals days tying explosives to the pylons below it. His life is saved by a jamming device in his car given to him by the FBI, which temporarily jams all telephone signals and thus delays the explosion. On December 25, 2003, two suicide bombers launch another attempt to assassinate Musharraf, driving car bombs into his convoy a short distance from the location of the previous attack. Their car bombs fail to kill him and he escapes with only a cracked windscreen on his car, but 16 others nearby are killed.
Investigation - The identities of the two suicide bombers are soon discovered. One is Mohammed Jamil, a member of the Jaish-e-Mohammed (JEM) militant group who fought with the Taliban. The other is Hazir Sultan, who also fought with the Taliban. The memory chip from Jamil’s phone is found in the debris, and it is discovered he talked to a policeman who told him the timing of Musharraf’s convoy. Only a handful of military officers knew the route and timing of Musharraf’s travels and which of several identical cars he would be using at any given time, suggesting that elements within the military were involved in the attacks. Investigators also discover that the explosives used in the attacks came from an al-Qaeda camp in the Pakistani tribal area of South Waziristan. (Rashid 2008, pp. 230-232)
Militant Leaders against Musharraf - Osama bin Laden apparently called for Musharraf’s overthrow in October 2002 (see October 9, 2002), and Ayman al-Zawahiri apparently did the same in September 2003 (see September 28, 2003). In the months prior to the assassination attempts, Maulana Masood Azhar, head of JEM, gave a speech at a prominent mosque calling for Musharraf’s assassination. (Hasan 7/27/2007)
Limited Crackdown - Musharraf responds by reshuffling positions in the military high command. More than 150 military and security personnel will eventually be arrested and interrogated. Twelve suspects are eventually found guilty and sentenced to death for roles in the attacks; at least six are military officers. It is believed the suicide bombers and these officers were recruited and trained by Amjad Farooqi, a JEM leader also closely linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban. Al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi, said to be Farooqi’s superior, is also allegedly involved. A massive manhunt for Farooqi and al-Libbi will ensue. Farooqi will eventually be killed in September 2004 (see September 27, 2004) and al-Libbi captured in May 2005 and taken into US custody (see May 2, 2005). However, Musharraf’s response is relatively restrained. He avoids calls to launch a crackdown on the entire Islamist militant movement in Pakistan. He does not ban any militant groups, nor does he arrest militant leaders, not even Azhar, the head of JEM who had publicly called for his assassination. (JEM had been banned in Pakistan for a second time the month before (see November 2003).) He does allow the Pakistani Army to attack the safe haven of South Waziristan several months later, but only after the US gives him an ultimatum, essentially forcing him to do so (see March 18- April 24, 2004). (BBC 9/27/2004; Rashid 2008, pp. 230-232)

In early 2004, the head of the CIA station in Kabul, Afghanistan, known only as “Peter,” reports a revival of al-Qaeda and Taliban forces near the border of Pakistan. He proposes a spring intelligence push in the Pakistani tribal regions of South Waziristan and Kunar. Since 2002, al-Qaeda has mainly been regrouping in Waziristan, and many speculate that Osama bin Laden may be hiding there (see August 2002). Peter estimates that 24 field officers and five station officers would be needed for the new push. However, CIA headquarters replies that it does not have the resources to make the surge, presumably due to commitments in Iraq. Peter is rotated out of his post a short time later. (Gellman and Linzer 10/22/2004)

Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil.Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil. [Source: Public domain]The Los Angeles Times reports that Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, leader of the Pakistani militant group Harkat ul-Mujahedeen (HUM), is living and operating openly in Pakistan. He lives with his family in the city of Rawalpindi and urges his followers to fight the US. Khalil was a signatory to Osama bin Laden’s February 1998 fatwa [religious edict] that encouraged attacks on Americans and Jews anywhere in the world (see February 22, 1998). In late 1998, Khalil said, “We will hit back at [the Americans] everywhere in the world, wherever we find them. We have started a holy war against the US and they will hardly find a tree to take shelter beneath it.” The Pakistani government banned HUM in January 2002 (see Shortly After January 12-March 2002), but the group simply changed its name to Jamiat ul-Ansar and continued to operate. Then it was banned again in November 2003 (see November 2003). The Times reports that HUM is openly defying the most recent ban. HUM publishes a monthly magazine that urges volunteers to fight the US in Afghanistan and Iraq. In a recent issue published since the most recent ban, Khalil calls on followers to “sacrifice our life, property and heart” in order to help create one Muslim nation that will control the whole world. The magazine continues to appear on newsstands in Pakistan and gives announcements for upcoming HUM meetings and events, despite the group supposedly being banned.
Government Takes No Action - The Pakistani government claims not to know where Khalil is, even though his magazine publishes his contact information (Times reporters attempting to find him for an interview were detained and roughed up by his supporters.) Government officials also claim that Khalil and HUM are doing nothing illegal, even though HUM’s magazine makes clear fund-raising appeals in each issue, and Pakistani law clearly specifies that banned groups are not allowed to fund-raise. Officials also say that they don’t know where the leaders of other banned militant groups like Jaish-e-Mohammed and Lashkar-e-Toiba are, but these leaders make frequent public appearances and documents obtain by the Times show the ISI intelligence agency is closely monitoring them. Militant leader Maulana Masood Azhar has not been arrested even though his group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, was recently implicated in the attempted assassination of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (see December 14 and 25, 2003). (Watson and Zaidi 1/25/2004)
Link to California Suspect - In 2005, a Pakistani immigrant to the US named Umer Hayat will be arrested in California on terrorism charges. He will allegedly confess to having toured training camps in Pakistan run by Khalil, who is a family friend. He will only serve a short time for making false statements to the FBI, but his son Hamid Hayat will be sentenced to 24 years in prison on similar charges (see June 3, 2005). (Tempest, Krikorian, and Romney 6/9/2005)

A surveillance photo of Momin Khawaja (in grey sweater) and unidentified man on February 20, 2004.A surveillance photo of Momin Khawaja (in grey sweater) and unidentified man on February 20, 2004. [Source: Public domain via the Globe and Mail]According to a joint Canadian and British report sent to Pakistani authorities in September 2005, Mohammed Junaid Babar, Momin Khawaja, and Haroon Rashid Aswat meet in London in February 2004. Babar and Khawaja are both members of a British fertilizer bomb plot (see Early 2003-April 6, 2004), but Khawaja is living in Canada and making occasional trips to Britain to meet the other plotters there, and Babar is based in Pakistan and also occasionally coming to Britain. By this time, the British intelligence agency MI5 has learned of the plot and is intensely monitoring all the major plotters, including Khawaja. US intelligence has apparently been monitoring Babar since late 2001 (see Early November 2001-April 10, 2004), and Newsweek will state he is definitely being monitored by February 2004 (see March 2004). (Ahmed 9/7/2005; Freeze 7/4/2008) Newsweek will later confirm, “Aswat is believed to have had connections to some of the suspects in the fertilizer plot,” and his name is given to the US as part of a list of people suspected of involvement in the plot. (Isikoff and Hosenball 7/20/2005; Hirsh, Hosenball, and Peraino 7/25/2005) He is the most interesting figure in this meeting. The US has wanted him since at least 2002 for his role in attempting to set up a militant training camp in Oregon (see November 1999-Early 2000). It will later be widely reported that he is the mastermind of the 7/7 London bombings (see July 7, 2005) and may even simultaneously be an informant for British intelligence. Babar, Khawaja, and other major figures in the fertilizer plot will be arrested at the end of March 2004 (see March 29, 2004 and After and April 10, 2004), but Aswat curiously is not arrested, even though British intelligence had compiled a large dossier on him and considered him a “major terrorist threat” by 2003 (see Early 2003).

In March 2004, al-Qaeda apparently holds what Time magazine calls a “terrorist summit” in the Pakistani tribal region of Waziristan. Time says the meeting is a “gathering of terrorism’s elite” who come from all over the world to attend. Attendees include:
bullet Dhiren Barot, an al-Qaeda leader living in Britain.
bullet Adnan Shukrijumah, an Arab Guyanese bombmaker and commercial pilot who apparently met 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and has been on public wanted lists since 2003.
bullet Mohammed Junaid Babar, a Pakistani-American living in Britain. He arrives with money and supplies.
bullet Abu Faraj al-Libbi, al-Qaeda leader living somewhere in Pakistan.
bullet Two other unnamed attendees are believed to have surveilled targets in New York City and elsewhere with Barot in 2001 (see May 30, 2001). (Shannon and McGirk 8/8/2004; Franco 7/21/2005)
Other attendees have not been named. The meeting is said to be a “subject of obsession for authorities” in the US and Pakistan. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says, “The personalities involved, the operations, the fact that a major explosives expert came here and went back, all this was extremely significant.” Officials worry that it may have been a planning meeting for a major attack in the West. (Shannon and McGirk 8/8/2004) Babar is arrested one month later in the US and immediately agrees to become an informant and reveal all he knows (see April 10, 2004). But US intelligence had been monitoring Babar since late 2001 (see Early November 2001-April 10, 2004), and Newsweek will later claim that “Babar was tracked flying off [in early 2004] to South Waziristan in Pakistan, where he attended [the] terror summit…” It is unknown if the summit itself is monitored, however. (Isikoff and Hosenball 1/24/2005) Regardless on when the US learned about it, no known additional pressure on Pakistan to do something about al-Qaeda in Waziristan results. In fact, in late April the Pakistani government ends one month of fighting with militants in Waziristan and signs a peace treaty with them (see April 24-June 18, 2004).

Tahir Yuldashev.Tahir Yuldashev. [Source: Corbis Reuters]In mid-March 2004, Secretary of State Colin Powell visits Pakistan. He reportedly gives Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf an ultimatum: either Pakistan attacks the al-Qaeda safe haven in the South Waziristan tribal region, or the US will. On March 16, hundreds of Frontier Corps soldiers surround a compound in the village of Kalosha, a few miles from the capital of South Waziristan. Apparently, they are looking for Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), an al-Qaeda-linked militant group based in nearby Uzbekistan. But the poorly trained Frontier Corps local militia have walked into a trap, and are badly defeated by about 2,000 al-Qaeda, Taliban, and IMU militants who greatly outnumber them. Yuldashev escapes.
Escalation - Ali Jan Orakzai, the regional commander of the Pakistani army, immediately rushes in eight thousand regular troops in an effort to save the situation. For the next two weeks, heavy fighting rages in South Waziristan. Helicopter gunships, fighter bombers, and heavy artillery are brought in to help defeat the militants, but the militants have heavy weapons as well and command the heights in extremely difficult mountainous terrain. (Rashid 2008, pp. 270-271)
Al-Zawahiri Supposedly Surrounded - On March 18, Musharraf boasts on CNN that a “high-value target” has been surrounded, and suggests that it could be al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri. He claims that 200 well-armed al-Qaeda fighters are protecting him. (CNN 3/18/2004; FOX News 3/18/2004) On March 19, Pakistani officials say that al-Zawahiri has escaped the South Waziristan village where he was supposedly surrounded. (Interactive Investor 3/19/2004) In all likelihood, al-Zawahiri was never there, but was used as an excuse to justify the debacle.
Al-Qaeda Victorious - Heavy fighting continues for the next several weeks. Musharraf eventually orders local commanders to strike a deal with the militants to end the fighting. The fighting finally ends on April 24, when the Pakistani government signs an agreement with the militants, pardoning their leaders. The government claims that 46 of its soldiers were killed, while 63 militants were killed and another 166 were captured. But privately, army officers admit that their losses were close to 200 soldiers killed. US officials monitoring the fighting will later admit that the army attack was a disaster, resulting from poor planning and a near total lack of coordination. Pakistani journalist and regional expert Ahmed Rashid will later comment: “But there were deeper suspicions. The ISI had held meetings with the militants and possessed detailed information about the enemy’s numbers and armaments, but this intelligence did not seem to have been conveyed to the Frontier Corps. Western officers in [Afghanistan and Pakistan] wondered if the failed attack was due to a lack of coordination or was deliberate.” Orakzai, the army commander in charge of the offensive, reportedly intensely hates the US and has sympathy for the Taliban (see Late 2002-Late 2003). But there is no internal inquiry, even though many soldiers deserted or refused to fire on the militants. Nek Mohammed, a native local militant leader, emerges as a hero (see April 24-June 18, 2004). (PBS Frontline 10/3/2006; Rashid 2008, pp. 270-271)

Mohammed Junaid Babar.Mohammed Junaid Babar. [Source: CBS News]On April 10, 20004 a Pakistani-American al-Qaeda operative named Mohammed Junaid Babar is arrested by federal agents in Long Island City, New York. Babar has just flown to the US from Britain four days earlier, after a group of his associates were arrested for planning a fertilizer bomb plot (see March 2003 and After). Babar begins cooperating with the authorities almost immediately. He confesses to:
bullet Participating in the bomb plot.
bullet Meeting senior al-Qaeda leaders in the Pakistani tribal region.
bullet Buying supplies, including night-vision goggles, for al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
bullet Passing funds to al-Qaeda from supporters in Britain.
bullet Setting up a militant training camp in Pakistan.
bullet Arranging lodging and transportation for recruits attending his camp.
Babar’s arrest is not immediately made public. On June 3, he secretly pleads guilty to charges of supporting a terrorist organization. His arrest is made public on June 11. He faces up to 70 years in prison, but will have his sentenced greatly reduced in return for fully cooperating and testifying against others. Babar grew up in the US, but went to Pakistan shortly after 9/11 to fight with al-Qaeda. He was interviewed on television there several weeks after 9/11 proudly proclaiming his desire to kill Americans, and as a result was put on a US watch list and monitored. He spent the next years traveling between Pakistan and Britain, and was even monitored heading to a secret al-Qaeda summit in Pakistan in March 2004 (see Early November 2001-April 10, 2004 and March 2004). (Arena 6/11/2004; Meyer, Krikorian, and Rempel 9/3/2004)

In early April 2004, an al-Qaeda operative named Mohammed Junaid Babar is arrested in the US and tells the FBI all he knows about his militant associates and activities in return for a lighter sentence (see March 2004). Babar knows the head suicide bomber in the 7/7 London bombings, Mohammad Sidique Khan. In fact, he and Khan attended an al-Qaeda training camp together in the summer of 2003 (see July-September 2003). However, Babar only knows Khan by his alias “Ibrahim,” as operatives usually use an alias for security purposes. There are conflicting accounts as to what the British intelligence agency MI5 tells the FBI about Khan and what the FBI tells MI5 about him, and why knowledge of him does not stop the 7/7 bombings.
"Trouble" and "Should Be Checked Out" - According to the Independent, Babar tells the FBI some time before the 7/7 bombings that “Ibrahim” is “trouble” and “should be checked out.” He knows that “Ibrahim” has learned how to use weapons and explosives in a training camp and had plans to return to Pakistan to attend another training camp. (Independent 4/30/2007)
Khan in Database - According to Newsweek, at some point before the 7/7 bombings, British officials send US intelligence agencies a database on about 2,000 people identified as contacts to a group of men arrested in March 2004 as part of a fertilizer bomb plot in Britain. The main plotters were arrested just days before Babar was, and he knows all of them. US officials later tell Newsweek that this database contains “sketchy” information about Khan and another 7/7 bombing suspect. (Hosenball 6/21/2006)
Not Recognized in Photos - The London Times reports that a batch of surveillance photos are sent to the US to be viewed by Babar. But MI5 judges the quality of the two pictures they have of Khan (a black and white closed-circuit television image and a covertly taken color photo) too poor to be included. However, Scotland Yard does send pictures of Khan, and Babar fails to recognize him. (McGrory et al. 5/1/2007)
Recognized in Photos - However, an Associated Press story claims that Babar does recognize Khan “from a blurred surveillance photograph” and also warns that Khan has sought meetings with al-Qaeda leaders. (Stringer 4/30/2007)
Photos Kept from Inquiry - It emerges that an official investigation into the 7/7 bombings by the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) was only shown one surveillance photo of Khan. However, MI5 in fact had at least six photos of him. (Daily Mail 5/2/2007)
Photo Identification Still Unresolved - In 2008, Babar will mention in court that he did tell the FBI about “Ibrahim” roughly a year before the July 2005 7/7 bombings. He told the FBI in detail how “Ibrahim” attended a training camp in Pakistan, and even appeared in a video promoting jihad in Britain with his face covered. However, Babar does not mention identifying him (or failing to identify him) in a photograph before the 7/7 bombings. (Brown 4/19/2008) Khan and Babar were also monitored meeting with each other in England in 2003 (see 2003).

Nek Mohammed in front of a microphone during the signing of the peace accord on April 24, 2004. Nek Mohammed in front of a microphone during the signing of the peace accord on April 24, 2004. [Source: Tariq Mahmood / Agence France-Presse / Getty Images]A Pakistani army offensive against the al-Qaeda safe haven in the tribal region of South Waziristan ends in victory for al-Qaeda and associated militants (see March 18- April 24, 2004). On April 24, 2004, the Pakistani army signs an agreement with the local militants. They are pardoned and given money to pay the debts they claim they owe to al-Qaeda. One young local militant, Nek Mohammed, emerges as a hero for his fighting against the army offensive. Army commander General Safdar Hussein travels to South Waziristan and signs the agreement with Mohammed in front of a large crowd. One Pakistani politician will later tell PBS Frontline: “It was really shocking to see the Pakistan army entering into agreement with al-Qaeda operatives. It was for the first time after September 11th that any state was not only entering into negotiation with al-Qaeda but establishing peace with their help, which is really amazing.” But the agreement quickly breaks down, as Mohammed publicly vows to fight against the US in Afghanistan. The Pakistani army goes on the offensive, blockading the main town of Wana and preventing goods from entering the region. Pakistan also makes a secret deal with the US, allowing them to attack certain targets in Pakistan with missiles fired from Predator drones. On June 18, Mohammed is killed by a missile fired from a Predator after his location was determined from his use of a satellite phone. (PBS Frontline 10/3/2006; Rashid 2008, pp. 272-274)

Since being defeated in Tora Bora, Afghanistan, in late 2001, al-Qaeda has made a safe haven in the Pakistani tribal region of South Waziristan (see December 10, 2001 and Late May 2002). But in April 2004, the Pakistani army begins attacking militants there (see March 18- April 24, 2004 and April 24-June 18, 2004). The army is defeated, but rapidly increases its troops in South Waziristan from less than 10,000 militia soldiers based only in the main town before the fighting began to 80,000 throughout the region. As a result, most of the al-Qaeda militants simply move from South Waziristan to North Waziristan. There is no similar increase in troop strength in North Waziristan, so al-Qaeda is able to reestablish a safe haven there. (Rashid 2008, pp. 274) In February 2005, the army will strike a deal with the remaining militants in South Waziristan and withdraw all its troops from there, allowing al-Qaeda to reestablish themselves there as well (see February 7, 2005).

Amjad Farooqi.Amjad Farooqi. [Source: Associated Press]Amjad Farooqi, a leader of al-Qaeda and the Pakistani militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed, is allegedly shot and killed in Nawabshah, Pakistan, a town 170 miles north of Karachi. Farooqi had been indicted for the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl in 2002 (see January 31, 2002), and was said to have been a mastermind of the two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in December 2003 (see December 14 and 25, 2003). Farooqi is also believed to have taken part in the hijacking of an Indian airliner in late 1999 (see December 24-31, 1999). He is said to be close to al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi. Farooqi was allegedly tracked by his mobile home to a hideout, which was then surrounded by police. He and two associates were killed after a two-hour gun battle, while three others were arrested. A senior Pakistani official says, “Farooqi’s elimination is a crushing blow to the al-Qaeda network in Pakistan because he was the man who had been providing al-Qaeda terrorists with the manpower to carry out attacks.” (Khan 9/27/2004)
Staged Death? - However, the Asia Times reported in June 2004 that Farooqi had been secretly arrested already and that Musharraf was saving him for a politically opportune time. (Shahzad 6/5/2004) After the announcement of his death, the Asia Times further report that its sources believe Farooqi indeed was killed, but his death was staged and he had been arrested months before. It is claimed that Pakistani authorities wanted him dead to close investigations into the murder of Daniel Pearl and the assassination attempts against Musharraf. In both cases, there are unanswered questions about the links between al-Qaeda and forces within the Pakistani government. Furthermore, some say the 1999 Indian airline hijacking he was said to have been a part of was planned by al-Qaeda-linked militants working with the Pakistani ISI (see December 24-31, 1999).
Allegedly Overhyped - The Asia Times further claims that while Farooqi was involved in Pearl’s death and the Musharraf assassinations, he was not the “super villain” he was made out to be in the months before his death. They also portray him as a stand-alone operator who worked with al-Qaeda and a number of Pakistani militant groups, but did not directly belong to any one group. (Shahzad 9/28/2004; Shahzad 9/29/2004)
Questions Unanswered - One senior Pakistani law-enforcement official says after the announcement of his death, “It was very important to catch Amjad Farooqi alive. Farooqi was the key link between the foot soldiers and those who ordered the murder [of Musharraf].” Another says, “Amjad Farooqi is now dead with the most important secret and we still don’t know for sure the real identity of the Pakistani or al-Qaeda or any other foreign elements who had launched Farooqi into action to remove General Musharraf from the scene.” (Raman 9/30/2004)

In the 2004 presidential campaign, Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry accuses the Bush administration of allowing bin Laden to escape Afghanistan in late 2001 by not sending enough US troops to contain him when he was trapped in the Tora Bora region. The New York Times publishes an op-ed by Gen. Tommy Franks, the former head of US Central Command. Franks writes, “On more than one occasion, Senator Kerry has referred to the fight at Tora Bora in Afghanistan during late 2001 as a missed opportunity for America. He claims that our forces had Osama bin Laden cornered and allowed him to escape. How did it happen? According to Mr. Kerry, we ‘outsourced’ the job to Afghan warlords. As commander of the allied forces in the Middle East, I was responsible for the operation at Tora Bora, and I can tell you that the senator’s understanding of events doesn’t square with reality.… We don’t know to this day whether Mr. bin Laden was at Tora Bora in December 2001. Some intelligence sources said he was; others indicated he was in Pakistan at the time; still others suggested he was in Kashmir. Tora Bora was teeming with Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives, many of whom were killed or captured, but Mr. bin Laden was never within our grasp.” Franks is a vocal supporter of Bush’s reelection. (Franks 10/19/2004) Shortly after Franks’ comments, four Knight Ridder reporters who had been at Tora Bora during the battle revisit the issue. They discover that “Franks and other top officials ignored warnings from their own and allied military and intelligence officers that the combination of precision bombing, special operations forces, and Afghan forces that had driven the Taliban from northern Afghanistan might not work in the heartland of the country’s dominant Pashtun tribe.” (Knight Ridder 10/30/2004) Author Peter Bergen asserts, “There is plenty of evidence that bin Laden was at Tora Bora, and no evidence indicating that he was anywhere else at the time.” Bergen cites after-action US intelligence reports and interviews with US counterterrorism officials that express confidence bin Laden was at Tora Bora. He notes that bin Laden discussed his presence at the Tora Bora battle in a audio message released in 2003. (Bergen 10/28/2004) In 2005, Gary Berntsen, who was in charge of an on-the-ground CIA team trying to find bin Laden (see September 26, 2001), will claim that he gave Franks definitive evidence that bin Laden was trapped in Tora Bora (see Late October-Early December 2001). (Spiegel 1/3/2006) In 2006, former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will comment, “Yes, we know [bin Laden] absolutely was there.… And yes, he did escape. And Gen. Franks and the president can deny it until the cows come home, but they made a mistake. They did let him go away.” (Clarke 6/20/2006) In late 2006, it will be reported that the CIA possesses a video showing bin Laden walking out of Afghanistan at the end of the Tora Bora battle. It has not been reported if the CIA was aware of this video in 2004 or not (see Mid-December 2001).

Bin Laden makes his Towers of Lebanon speech.Bin Laden makes his Towers of Lebanon speech. [Source: Al-Jazeera]Four days before the presidential election in the US, Osama bin Laden releases a new video in which he addresses the US people and alludes to his role in 9/11. The tape was handed to an employee at Al Jazeera’s bureau in Islamabad, Pakistan, on the day it was broadcast. (MSNBC 10/30/2004)
Bin Laden Had Idea of 'Destroying Towers in America' - In his strongest admission yet that he was involved in planning 9/11, bin Laden says, “Allah knows that the plan of striking the towers had not occurred to us, but the idea came to me when things went just too far with the American-Israeli alliance’s oppression and atrocities against our people in Palestine and Lebanon.” After likening the US and Israel to “a crocodile devouring a child,” he continues, “As I looked at those destroyed towers in Lebanon, it occurred to me to punish the oppressor in kind by destroying towers in America, so that it would have a taste of its own medicine and would be prevented from killing our women and children.” He attempts to isolate the US from other Western countries, pointing out that “security is one of the pillars of human life” and that al-Qaeda has not attacked Sweden, for example, because Sweden has not attacked the Middle East. “If the US leaves Muslims alone, they will leave it alone.”
Criticizes Bush's Inaction on 9/11 - Bin Laden is critical of President Bush and his inaction on 9/11, saying: “It did not occur to us that the commander in chief of the American armed forces would leave fifty thousand of his citizens in the two towers to face this great horror on their own, just when they needed him most. It seems that a little girl’s story about a goat and its butting was more important than dealing with airplanes and their butting into skyscrapers.” He comments that the Bush administration favors certain corporations and has mismanaged public funds: “To some analysts and diplomats, it seems as if we and the White House are on the same team shooting at the United States’ own goal, despite our different intentions.” He concludes: “I say unto you in truth that your security lies not in the hands of Kerry, Bush, or al-Qaeda. It lies in your own hands, and whichever state does not encroach on our security thereby ensures its own. Allah is our master; you have none. Peace be upon those who follow true guidance.” (Laden 2005, pp. 237-244)
Speech Will Benefit Bush - Despite the criticism of Bush in the speech, most commentators think it will actually help Bush get reelected. For example, Time magazine correspondent Karen Tumulty says: “I find it hard to find any way that this helps John Kerry. What we’ve seen over and over and over again is that when terrorism is the topic, and when people are reminded of 9/11, Bush’s numbers go up.” (CNN 10/29/2004) The CIA also concludes this is what bin Laden intended (see October 29, 2004). And on this evening, an aide brings up the new bin Laden video tape to Bush’s senior adviser Karl Rove, who is with the president in Ohio, campaigning for the election. “This has the feel of something,” Rove says slowly, “that’s not gonna hurt us at all.” (Draper 2007, pp. 263)

Roughly around 2004, the CIA suspects that Osama bin Laden has moved from the mountains of Pakistan or Afghanistan to an urban area in Pakistan. Marty Martin leads the CIA’s hunt for bin Laden from 2002 to 2004. After bin Laden’s death in 2011, he will say: “We could see from his videos what his circumstances were. In the immediate years [after bin Laden’s escape from Tora Bora in late 2001] he looked battle fatigued and on the run. He didn’t look healthy. We knew he was moving. But where? We simply didn’t know. Then, he gained weight and looked healthy. I told my analysts, ‘He’s gone urban, moved somewhere stable and safe.’” (Cole 5/19/2011) The only publicly known video of bin Laden after December 2001 is one released in October 2004, so Martin presumably is referring to that (see December 26, 2001 and October 29, 2004).

President Bush awards Tenet the Medal of Freedom.President Bush awards Tenet the Medal of Freedom. [Source: Associated Press]President Bush gives the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former CIA Director George Tenet, former Iraq war leader General Tommy Franks, and former Iraq functionary Paul Bremer. The Medal of Freedom is the highest honor the president can bestow. Bush comments, “This honor goes to three men who have played pivotal roles in great events and whose efforts have made our country more secure and advanced the cause of human liberty.” (Associated Press 12/14/2001; Gerhart 12/14/2004) However, the awards will come in for some criticism, as Tenet, CIA director on 9/11, wrongly believed Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (see December 21, 2002), Bremer disbanded the Iraqi army (see May 23, 2003), and Franks, responsible for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, failed to assign enough troops to the hunt for Osama bin Laden, thereby enabling him to escape (see Late October-Early December 2001). (Cohen 12/14/2001) John McLaughlin, Tenet’s deputy director, will later say that Tenet “wishes he could give that damn medal back.” (Shenon and Mazzetti 10/2/2006) White House press secretary Scott McClellan will later write that this “well-intentioned gesture designed to create positive impressions of the war seemed to backfire.” Instead of holding these three accountable for their role in the deepening Iraq crisis, Bush hails them as heroes. McClellan will observe: “Wasn’t this supposed to be an administration that prided itself on results and believed in responsibility and accountability? If so, why the rush to hand out medals to people who had helped organize what was now looking like a badly botched, ill-conceived war?” (McClellan 2008, pp. 250-251) David Wade, a spokesman for Senator John Kerry (D-MA), says, “My hunch is that George Bush wasn’t using the same standard when honoring Tenet and Bremer that was applied to previous honorees.” Previous recipients include human rights advocate Mother Teresa, civil rights icon Rosa Parks, and Pope John Paul II. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) says he “would have reached a different conclusion” on Tenet. “I don’t think [he] served the president or the nation well.” (Associated Press 12/14/2001) Reporter Steve Coll will later comment: “I presume that for President Bush, it was a signal that he wasn’t making Tenet a scapegoat. It would be the natural thing to do, right? You’ve seen this episode of ‘I, Claudius.’ You know, you put the knife in one side and the medal on the other side, and that’s politics.” And author James Bamford will say: “Tenet [retired], and kept his mouth shut about all the things that went on, about what kind of influence [Vice President Dick] Cheney might have had. They still have a CIA, but all the power is now with his team over at the Pentagon. They’re gathering more power every day in terms of intelligence. So largely, Cheney won.” (Kirk 6/20/2006) Author and media critic Frank Rich will later write: “The three medals were given to the men who had lost Osama bin Laden (General Tommy Franks), botched the Iraq occupation (Paul Bremer), and called prewar intelligence on Saddam’s WMDs a ‘slam dunk’ (George Tenet). That the bestowing of an exalted reward for high achievement on such incompetents incited little laughter was a measure of how much the administration, buoyed by reelection, still maintained control of its embattled but not yet dismantled triumphalist wartime narrative.” (Rich 2006, pp. 158)

Pakistan’s military commander in the tribal regions, Lieutenant General Ali Jan Orakzai, says: “This impression that the Pakistani tribal areas are havens for terrorists is baseless. In my two and a half years of command I never got a single indication that [Osama] bin Laden was on our side of the border. He’s a big guy, hard to hide, and with 74,000 of my troops there it would have been very difficult for him to be hiding.” Orakzai commanded troops there from October 2001 until 2004. He adds that claims that the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, is tipping off radical militants about Pakistani military movements are baseless. He even says that not a single Arab has been seen in the tribal region. (Lamb 1/22/2005) It is believed that Orakzai intensely hates the US and is sympathetic to the Taliban. Robert Grenier, CIA station chief in Pakistan at this time, will later suggest that Orakzai did not want to find the foreigners, so he conducted large, slow sweeps that allowed militants to easily get away (see Late 2002-Late 2003). Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will finally fire Orakzai in 2007 for his sympathies to militant groups (see July 19, 2007).

A meeting of tribesmen in Wana, South Waziristan, May 2004.A meeting of tribesmen in Wana, South Waziristan, May 2004. [Source: Kamran Wazir]The Pakistani government signs a little-noticed agreement with Baitullah Mahsud, the chieftain of the Mahsud tribe in South Waziristan. Waziristan is in the tribal region of Pakistan near the Afghanistan border, and numerous media accounts suggest that Osama bin Laden and other top al-Qaeda leaders may be hiding out there. The deal, signed in the town of Sararogha and known as the Sararogha peace pact, prohibits forces in South Waziristan led by Abdullah Mahsud, another member of the same tribe as Baitullah Mahsud, from attacking the Pakistani army and giving shelter to foreign terrorists. However, it does not prevent these forces from attacking US troops across the border in Afghanistan. It also does not require these forces to surrender or register foreign terrorists in Waziristan. Abdullah Mahsud is a wanted fugitive in Pakistan and has pledged his loyalty to Taliban leader Mullah Omar. But as part of the deal his forces are even given some money to repay debts owed to al-Qaeda-linked foreign militants. As a result of this deal, the Pakistan army soon leaves South Waziristan entirely. A similar deal will be made with North Waziristan in September 2006 (see September 5, 2006). The area becomes a Taliban base to attack US and NATO troops across the border in Afghanistan. The number of Taliban attacks there will rise from 1,600 in 2005 to more than 5,000 in 2006. (Mir 5/4/2005; Levy and Scott-Clark 2007, pp. 433) Abdullah Mahsud was held by the US in the Guantanamo prison from December 2001 to March 2004 (see March 2004). In July 2007, renewed fighting between the Pakistani army and tribal militants will cause the Waziristan truce to collapse (see July 11-Late July, 2007). He will blow himself up to avoid capture a few days after the truce ends. (Masood 7/25/2007) The CIA will later claim that Baitullah Mahsud was involved in the assassination of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. (Warrick 1/18/2008)

Abu Faraj al-Libbi.Abu Faraj al-Libbi. [Source: Pakistani Interior Ministry]Al-Qaeda leader Abu Faraj al-Libbi is arrested in Mardan, Pakistan, near the town of Peshawar. He is captured by Pakistani forces with US assistance. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will later claim that he doesn’t even tell the US about al-Libbi’s capture until a few days after it happened (and the first media account comes out three days later), so apparently Pakistan interrogates him on their own for a few days. Al-Libbi is that turned over to the US and detained in a secret CIA prison (see September 2-3, 2006). (Sengupta 5/5/2005; Musharraf 2006, pp. 209)
Some Call Al-Libbi High-Ranking Leader - In 2004, the Daily Telegraph claimed al-Libbi was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s “right hand man” and helped him plan the 9/11 attacks. After Mohammed was arrested in early 2003 (see February 29 or March 1, 2003), Al-Libbi allegedly took his place and became the third in command of al-Qaeda and the group’s operational leader. Furthermore, the Telegraph claims he was once Osama bin Laden’s personal assistant, helped plan two assassination attempts against Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf (see December 14 and 25, 2003), and has been in contact with sleeper cells in the US and Britain. (Ansari 9/19/2004) The same month, MSNBC made the same claims. They also called him al-Qaeda’s number three leader and operational commander. (Windrem 9/7/2004) President Bush hails al-Libbi’s capture as a “critical victory in the war on terror.” Bush also calls him a “top general” and “a major facilitator and chief planner for the al-Qaeda network.”
Al-Libbi Little Known to Media and Experts - But al-Libbi is little known at the time of his arrest and some experts and insiders question if he really is as important as the US claims. The London Times will report several days after his arrest, “[T]he backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI’s most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department ‘Rewards for Justice’ program.” One former close associate of Osama bin Laden now living in London laughs at al-Libbi’s supposed importance, saying, “What I remember of him is he used to make the coffee and do the photocopying.” Even a senior FBI official admits that his “influence and position have been overstated.” The Times comments, “Some believe [his] significance has been cynically hyped by two countries [the US and Pakistan] that want to distract attention from their lack of progress in capturing bin Laden, who has now been on the run for almost four years.” (Lamb and Islamabad 5/8/2005) However, later revelations, such as details on al-Libbi’s interrogation (see Shortly After May 2, 2005 and Late 2005), will provide more evidence that al-Libbi in fact was al-Qaeda’s operational leader. It is not known why the FBI did not have him on their most wanted list, if MSNBC and the Telegraph newspaper and other sources were already aware of his importance in 2004.

Over the course of 2006, the Taliban and al-Qaeda are able to increase their control over the Pakistani tribal regions where both groups are based. More than 120 tribal elders who oppose them are executed during the year. Al-Qaeda feels so secure that its media production arm, As-Sahab, greatly increases its output, releasing 58 audio and videotapes, which is three times as many as in 2005. Militant groups are particularly secure in the region of Waziristan. The Pakistani government made a deal with militants in South Waziristan in 2005 (see February 7, 2005), which still holds, and makes a similar deal with militants in North Waziristan in September 2006 (see September 5, 2006). (Rashid 2008, pp. 278)

The US intelligence community completes a new National Intelligence Estimate (NIE), entitled “Trends in Global Terrorism: Implications for the United States.” It concludes, “Although we cannot measure the extent of the spread with precision, a large body of all-source reporting indicates that activists identifying themselves as jihadists, although still a small percentage of Muslims, are increasing in both number and geographic distribution. If this trend continues, threats to US interests at home and abroad will become more diverse, leading to increasing attacks worldwide.” It lists four factors “fueling the jihadist movement”:
bullet “Entrenched grievances, such as corruption, injustice, and fear of Western domination, leading to anger, humiliation, and a sense of powerlessness.”
bullet The Iraq war. “The Iraq conflict has become the cause célèbre for jihadists, breeding a deep resentment of US involvement in the Muslim world and cultivating support for the global jihadist movement.”
bullet “The slow pace of real and sustained economic, social, and political reforms in many Muslim majority nations.”
bullet The “pervasive anti-US sentiment among most Muslims.” (Danner 3/27/2008) It also concludes that al-Qaeda’s operations have been disrupted and its leadership is “seriously damaged.” This assessment will be reversed in the next NIE on terrorism, completed one year later (see July 18, 2007). (DeYoung and Pincus 7/18/2007)

A new video thought to be from al-Qaeda second-in-command Ayman al-Zawahiri praises the insurgency in Iraq. He describes militant leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi as a “beloved brother” and says, “I have lived with him up close and have seen nothing but good from him.” However, the video was apparently made some time previously, in November 2005, and the man thought to be al-Zawahiri says it was made to mark the fourth anniversary of the battle of Tora Bora (see November 16, 2001). By November 2005, al-Zarqawi had had some sort of relationship with al-Qaeda for about a year (see October 17, 2004), but this relationship will end upon his death in mid-June (see June 8, 2006). (BBC 4/13/2006)

Around the summer of 2006, the CIA sends up to 50 additional case officers to Pakistan and Afghanistan as part of a renewed effort to find al-Qaeda’s top leaders. This is said to be a dramatic increase in the number of CIA case officers permanently stationed in those countries. All of the newly arrived personnel are given the primary task of finding Osama bin Laden and his second in command Ayman al-Zawahiri. Some former CIA officials will say this new push comes after the White House pushed the CIA to step up the effort to find bin Laden. Mid-term US Congressional elections are being held in November 2006. However, the CIA will deny any pressure from the White House and say it was “driven solely by operational considerations.” But the renewed effort results in no significant leads on the whereabouts of bin Laden or al-Zawahiri. US intelligence officials will largely blame this on the peace treaty signed between the Pakistani government and Islamist militants in North Waziristan in early September 2006 (see September 5, 2006). As part of the treaty, the Pakistani army withdraws ten of thousands of troops from Waziristan and other tribal border regions where the hunt for al-Qaeda leaders has been focused. A senior US intelligence official will later comment: “Everything was undermined by the so-called peace agreement in North Waziristan. Of all the things that work against us in the global war on terror, that’s the most damaging development. The one thing al-Qaeda needs to plan an attack is a relatively safe place to operate.” The Los Angeles Times will comment, “The pullback took significant pressure off al-Qaeda leaders and the tribal groups protecting them.” (Miller 5/20/2007)

In June 2006, the US, NATO, and Afghanistan’s intelligence agency compile a secret report on the Taliban. The report is discussed on July 9 at a private meeting of officials from Western countries and Afghanistan, chaired by Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The report goes further than any previous report in describing the Pakistani government’s involvement in supporting the Taliban. It states, “ISI operatives reportedly pay a significant number of Taliban living/ operating in both Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight.… A large number of those fighting are doing so under duress as a result of pressure from the ISI. The insurgency cannot survive without its sanctuary in Pakistan, which provides freedom of movement, communications for command and control, and a secure environment for collaboration with foreign extremist groups. The sanctuary of Pakistan provides a seemingly endless supply of potential new recruits for the insurgency.” The report also states that at least four of the Taliban’s top leaders are living in Pakistan. But despite the US involvement in creating the report, US diplomacy generally remains in denial about Pakistan’s double dealing. President Bush not only fails to successfully pressure Pakistan on the issue, but even continues to praise Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The report is not leaked to the press at the time. (Rashid 2008, pp. 367-368) In September 2006, when Pakistan announces a deal with militants in the tribal region of Waziristan, the heart of al-Qaeda’s safe haven, Bush publicly supports the deal (see September 5, 2006 and September 7, 2006).

By autumn 2006, al-Qaeda’s central leadership based in Pakistan’s tribal region near the border of Afghanistan appears to be short on funds. But a peace treaty signed between the Pakistani government and Islamist militants in the tribal region of North Waziristan in early September 2006 (see September 5, 2006) gives al-Qaeda’s leaders breathing room and allows them to receive money from new sources abroad. US intelligence determines that al-Qaeda in Pakistan is increasingly funded by the Iraq war. Operatives in Iraq are raising considerable sums from donations to the anti-US insurgency there, as well as criminal activity such as kidnappings for ransom common in the chaos of the Iraq war zone. Al-Qaeda’s central command had previously sent money outward to Iraq and elsewhere. A senior US counterterrorism official will say in 2007, “Iraq is a big moneymaker for them.” The Pakistani peace deal with militants results in tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers withdrawing from the tribal regions. This in turn allows militants to move between Pakistan and Iraq much easier than before. This official will say there are “lots of indications they can move people in and out easier,” and that operatives from Iraq often bring money. “A year ago we were saying they were having serious money problems. That seems to have eased up.” It is also believed that Taliban forces in Afghanistan are now being taught by al-Qaeda operatives experienced with fighting US forces in Iraq. (Miller 5/20/2007)

The government of Pakistan signs an agreement known as the Waziristan Accord with rebels in the tribal area of Pakistan near the border of Afghanistan known as Waziristan. This is the area where the Taliban and al-Qaeda have a strong influence and many believe al-Qaeda’s top leaders Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri are hiding there. The accord effectively puts an end to fighting between the Pakistani army and the rebels. Details of the accord are published in a Pakistani newspaper the next day. The main points include:
bullet The Pakistani government agrees to stop attacks in Waziristan.
bullet Militants are to cease cross-border movement into and out of Afghanistan.
bullet Foreign jihadists will have to leave Pakistan, but “those who cannot leave will be allowed to live peacefully, respecting the law of the land and the agreement.”
bullet Area check-points and border patrols will be manned by a tribal force and the Pakistan army will withdraw from control points.
bullet No parallel administration will be established in the area, but Pakistan law will remain in force.
bullet Tribal leaders will ensure that no one attacks government personnel or damages state property.
bullet The Pakistani government will release captured militants and will pay compensation for property damage and the deaths of innocent civilians. (Gul 9/6/2006) The deal is negotiated and signed by Gen. Ali Jan Orakzai, who had become the governor of the nearby North-West Frontier Province some months earlier. Orakzai, a close friend of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, is known to hate the US and NATO and admire militant groups such as the Taliban (see Late 2002-Late 2003). (Mazetti and Rohde 6/30/2008) Two days later, President Bush publicly supports the deal (see September 7, 2006). The Wall Street Journal comments that Musharraf decided to approve the deal in order to take care of “an even bigger security problem: a growing rebellion in the resource-rich province of Baluchistan.” He does not have the forces to deal with widespread violence in both regions. (Hussain and Wonacott 9/8/2006)
A similar deal was made with South Waziristan in February 2005 (see February 7, 2005). The agreement will soon be seen as a big success for al-Qaeda and the Taliban. In July 2007, the Washington Post will report that senior US intelligence officials attribute “the resurgence of bin Laden’s organization almost entirely to its protected safe haven among tribal groups in North Waziristan…” (see July 18, 2007). The same month, the Bush administration will publicly call the accord a failure as it collapses amidst an all out fight between the government and militants in Pakistan (see July 11-Late July, 2007). (DeYoung and Pincus 7/18/2007)

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