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Context of 'September 1985: Ali Mohamed Moves to US; CIA Role Is Disputed'

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Egyptian militants open fire on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Egyptian militants open fire on Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. [Source: Public domain]Ali Mohamed is a major in the Egyptian army. He is highly educated, speaking several languages and possessing two bachelor’s degrees and a master’s degree. In 1981 he was taking part in a special program for foreign officers at the US Army Special Forces school at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, while soldiers with radical Islamic beliefs from his Egyptian army unit assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. He is forced to quit in early 1984 on suspicions of becoming too religious. He approaches the CIA in Egypt and volunteers to be a spy. The CIA accepts, and he makes contact in Germany with a branch of Hezbollah, the Middle Eastern militant group. The CIA has claimed that Mohamed secretly tells Hezbollah members that he is working with the CIA, but the CIA quickly discovers this. The CIA supposedly suspects he wanted to help Hezbollah spy on the CIA and cuts off all further ties with him and tries to stop him from coming to the US. [New York Times, 12/1/1998; San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4/2001; Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2001] But there will be claims that Mohamed then will come to the US through a secret CIA program. If true, this would cast doubt on the CIA’s account of their interaction with Mohamed (see September 1985).

Entity Tags: Hezbollah, Ali Mohamed, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Al Mohamed, pictured in a US army video.Al Mohamed, pictured in a US army video. [Source: US Army]The CIA claims to have put Ali Mohamed on a terrorist watch list to prevent him from coming to the US (see 1984). Somehow, Mohamed gets a US visa anyway. After learning that he has been given a visa, the CIA supposedly issues a warning to other Federal agencies that a suspicious character might be traveling to the US. Mohamed is able to move to the US nonetheless. [New York Times, 12/1/1998; San Francisco Chronicle, 11/4/2001] The State Department will not explain how he is able to move to the US despite such warnings. [New York Times, 12/1/1998] In 1995, after Mohamed’s name publicly surfaces at the trial of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, the Boston Globe will report that Mohamed had been admitted to the US under a special visa program controlled by the CIA’s clandestine service. This will contradict the CIA’s later claims of disassociating themselves from Mohamed and attempting to stop him from entering the US. [Boston Globe, 2/3/1995; New York Times, 10/30/1998] Mohamed befriends an American woman he meets on the airplane flight to the US. They get married less than two months later, and he moves to her residence in Santa Clara, California. The marriage will help him to become a US citizen in 1989. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/21/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Ali Mohamed, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Ali Mohamed’s house in Santa Clara, California.Ali Mohamed’s house in Santa Clara, California. [Source: Peter Lance]At some point during Ali Mohamed’s US military service, possibly towards the end of his service, he expresses a great interest in being used as an intelligence operative, and asks his military superiors to be introduced to a CIA representative. The request is granted. the CIA representative who meets him appears to have no knowledge of the CIA’s previous contact with him (see 1984; September 1985). The outcome of this meeting is unknown. However, after he leaves the military and moves to Santa Clara, California, his new friends and neighbors take it for granted that Mohamed is helping the CIA support the mujaheddin fighting the Soviets in Afghanistan. He doesn’t tell them that he is working for the CIA, but does say that he worked for the CIA before, and hopes to work for them again. A neighbor who knew Mohamed and his wife well will say, “Everyone in the community knew he was working as a liaison between the CIA and the Afghan cause, and everyone was sympathetic.” [New York Times, 12/1/1998; Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2001]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Ali Mohamed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

One of the Calverton surveillance photographs introduced as evidence in court (note that some faces have been blurred out).One of the Calverton surveillance photographs introduced as evidence in court (note that some faces have been blurred out). [Source: National Geographic]FBI agents photograph Islamic radicals shooting weapons at the Calverton Shooting Range on Long Island, New York. The radicals are secretly monitored as they shoot AK-47 assault rifles, semiautomatic handguns, and revolvers for four successive weekends. The use of weapons such as AK-47’s is illegal in the US, but this shooting range is known to be unusually permissive. Ali Mohamed is apparently not at the range but has been training the five men there: El Sayyid Nosair, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammed Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, and Clement Rodney Hampton-El. Nosair will assassinate Rabbi Meir Kahane one year later (see November 5, 1990) and the others, except Hampton-El, will be convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), while Hampton-El will be convicted for a role in the “Landmarks” bombing plot (see June 24, 1993). Some FBI agents have been assigned to watch some Middle Eastern men who are frequenting the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn. Each weekend, Mohamed’s trainees drive from Al-Kifah to the shooting range and a small FBI surveillance team follows them. The FBI has been given a tip that some Palestinians at Al-Kifah are planning violence targeting Atlantic City casinos. By August, the casino plot will have failed to materialize and the surveillance, including that at the shooting range, will have come to an end. Author Peter Lance will later comment that the reason why the FBI failed to follow up the shooting sessions is a “great unanswered question.” [Lance, 2003, pp. 29-33; New York Times, 10/5/2003]

Entity Tags: Mahmud Abouhalima, Peter Lance, Mohammed Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, El Sayyid Nosair, Calverton Shooting Range, Ali Mohamed, Al-Kifah Refugee Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Ali Mohamed’s US passport, issued in 1989.Ali Mohamed’s US passport, issued in 1989. [Source: US Justice Department] (click image to enlarge)Ali Mohamed is honorably discharged from the US Army with commendations in his file, including one for “patriotism, valor, fidelity, and professional excellence.” He remains in the Army Reserves for the next five years. [New York Times, 12/1/1998; Raleigh News and Observer, 10/21/2001] A US citizen by this time, he will spend much of his time after his discharge in Santa Clara, California, where his wife still resides. He will try but fail to get a job as an FBI interpreter, will work as a security guard, and will run a computer consulting firm out of his home. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/21/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of the Army, Ali Mohamed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

1990: Ali Mohamed Becomes Informant for FBI

Ali Mohamed, an al-Qaeda operative recently discharged from the US army (see November 1989), becomes an informant for the FBI. He applies to be an translator at FBI offices in Charlotte, North Carolina, and San Francisco, and is turned down. However, the San Francisco office hires him to be an informant to help expose a local document forging conspiracy that possibly involves members of Hamas. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 144] Mohamed will continue to have connections with the FBI for much of the rest of the 1990s while also running an al-Qaeda cell in California.

Entity Tags: Ali Mohamed, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In July 1990, the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, was mysteriously able to enter the US and remain there despite being a well known public figure and being on a watch list for three years (see July 1990).
bullet In late October 1990, he travels to London, so he is out of the US when one of his followers assassinates the Zionist rabbi Meir Kahane on November 5, 1990 (see November 5, 1990). He returns to the US in mid-November under the name “Omar Ahmed Rahman” and again has no trouble getting back in despite still being on the watch list. [Washington Post, 7/13/1993]
bullet The State Department revokes his US visa on November 17 after the FBI informs it that he is in the US. [New York Times, 12/16/1990]
bullet In December 1990, Abdul-Rahman leaves the US again to attend an Islamic conference in Copenhagen, Denmark. He returns nine days later and again has no trouble reentering, despite not even having a US visa at this point. [Washington Post, 7/13/1993]
bullet On December 16, 1990, the New York Times publishes an article titled, “Islamic Leader on US Terrorist List Is in Brooklyn,” which makes his presence in the US publicly known. The Immigration and Nationalization Service (INS) is said to be investigating why he has not been deported already. [New York Times, 12/16/1990]
bullet Yet in April 1991, the INS approves his application for permanent residence.
bullet He then leaves the US again in June 1991 to go on the religious hajj to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and returns on July 31, 1991. INS officials identify him coming in, but let him in anyway. [New York Times, 4/24/1993; Washington Post, 7/13/1993]
bullet In June 1992, his application for political asylum will be turned down and his permanent residence visa revoked. But INS hearings on his asylum bid are repeatedly delayed and still have not taken place when the WTC is bombed in February 1993 (see February 26, 1993). [Lance, 2003, pp. 105-106]
bullet Abdul-Rahman then goes to Canada around October 1992 and returns to the US yet again. The US and Canada claim to have no documentation on his travel there, but numerous witnesses in Canada see him pray and lecture there. Representative Charles Schumer (D-NY) says, “Here they spent all this time trying to get him out. He goes to Canada and gives them the perfect reason to exclude him and they don’t.”
bullet After the WTC bombing, the US could detain him pending his deportation hearing but chooses not to, saying it would be too costly to pay for his medical bills. [New York Times, 4/24/1993]
Abdul-Rahman will be involved in the follow up “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993) before finally being arrested later in 1993. It will later be alleged that he was protected by the CIA. In 1995, the New York Times will comment that the link between Abdul-Rahman and the CIA “is a tie that remains muddy.” [New York Times, 10/2/1995]

Entity Tags: US Department of State, Meir Kahane, US Immigration and Naturalization Service, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Charles Schumer, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Double agent Ali Mohamed, who became an informant for the FBI in 1990 (see 1990), apparently works as an FBI informant again, obtaining intelligence on some suspects at a San Jose, California, mosque. But he is never polygraphed, even though this is standard procedure. Retired FBI agent Joseph O’Brien will later complain, “One of the most unbelievable aspects of the Ali Mohamed story is that the Bureau could be dealing with this guy and they didn’t” polygraph him. “The first thing you do with any kind of asset or informant is you polygraph him and if the relationship continues, you make him submit to continued polygraphs down the line.” FBI agent John Zent becomes Mohamed’s handler. [Lance, 2006, pp. 95-96] Apparently Mohamed will be given a polygraph test in 1993 and will fail it (see May 1993).

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ali Mohamed, Joseph O’Brien, John Zent

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Clement Rodney Hampton-El, one of the 1993 “Landmarks” bombers (see June 24, 1993), is summoned to the Saudi Embassy in Washington and told that wealthy Saudis are sponsoring fighters in Bosnia. Hampton-El has longstanding links to the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), which is closely tied to the Saudi government (see October 12, 2001). He is given $150,000 to recruit and train people in the US to fight in Bosnia. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 121-122] He starts a militant training camp in Pennsylvania that same month (see December 1992-Early February 1993) and gets $150,000 overseas from a bin Laden linked charity front (it is not known if this is the same $150,000 or additional money) (see Late 1992-Early 1993). The Saudi embassy also introduces him to a radical imam named Bilal Philips. Philips, a Canadian citizen and author on Islamic topics, has been employed by the Saudi government since early 1991 to proselytize among US soldiers stationed in Saudi Arabia (see March-September 1991). Philips gives Hampton-El a list of likely candidates who are ex-US soldiers that Philips recently helped convert to Islam. [Schindler, 2007, pp. 121-122] That same month, 14 ex-US soldiers go to Bosnia to fight and train there (see December 1992-June 1993). They are led by double agent Ali Mohamed, who, like Hampton-El, is closely tied to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in New York.

Entity Tags: Bilal Philips, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, Saudi Embassy (US)

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohammed Abouhalima.Mohammed Abouhalima. [Source: Corbis]Siddig Siddig Ali, Abdo Mohammed Haggag, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, Mohammed Abouhalima, and others train at a militant training camp in New Bloomfield, Pennsylvania, with weapons and ammunition provided by Yahya and Clement Rodney Hampton-El (see February 21, 1995). Abouhalima will later be convicted for a role in the 1993 WTC bombing, as will his brother (see February 26, 1993) while the others mentioned will be convicted for roles in the related “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). [USA v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel-Rahman et al, 7/13/1995, pp. 9] Yahya is the chief instructor, as he is an ex-US Marine who served two tours in Vietnam and teaches at a martial arts academy. Siddig Ali will later say of Yahya, “[H]e’s decorated and has a lot of medals… [and he was] a great trainer…” The training even includes mock nighttime assaults on a nearby electric power substation. [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 73] An FBI informant named Garrett Wilson helps lead the FBI to the camp, and the FBI monitors it for two days, January 16 and 17, but the monitoring team is mysteriously pulled away before the end of the second day (see January 16-17, 1993). In a wiretapped conversation with an FBI informant (most likely Wilson), Siddig Ali says regarding the camp, “Our goal is that these people get extensive and very, very, very good training, so that we can get started at anyplace where jihad (holy war) is needed… And after they receive their training, they go to Bosnia… And whoever survives, I mean, could come and [instruct] somewhere else, or Egypt, or any other place, etc…” [Kohlmann, 2004, pp. 73] Hampton-El makes trips to Europe to pick up money from the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) charity front to fund the camp (see Late 1992-Early 1993). TWRA is funneling huge amounts of weapons into Bosnia in violation of a UN embargo but with the tacit approval of the US (see Mid-1991-1996).

Entity Tags: Siddig Siddig Ali, Mohammed Abouhalima, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, Garrett Wilson, Abdo Mohammed Haggag, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, Third World Relief Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Clement Rodney Hampton-El.Clement Rodney Hampton-El. [Source: Jolie Stahl]FBI investigators begin monitoring Clement Rodney Hampton-El’s house in New York as they close in on the militants involved in the “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). They listen in on a call from Hampton-El’s right-hand man, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, as he is in Vienna, Austria, picking up money from the Third World Relief Agency (TWRA) for the militants in the US tied to the Landmarks plot. Over the next few months, Yahya is tracked as he makes several trips from the US to Vienna, picking up about $100,000. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 113] Hampton-El had also been in Vienna earlier in the year, picking up more money from TWRA for the plotters (see Late 1992-Early 1993). TWRA is funneling a huge amount of weapons to Muslim Bosnia in violation of a UN embargo but with the tacit approval of the US government (see Mid-1991-1996). It also has ties to radical militants like bin Laden and Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. The Washington Post will later report that, “Intelligence agencies say they have tapes of telephone calls by Abdul-Rahman to [TWRA’s] office.” The “Landmarks” bombers are closely associated with Abdul-Rahman and will be convicted along with him. [Washington Post, 9/22/1996] A secret 1996 CIA report will state that “according to a foreign government service” Elfatih Hassanein, the head of TWRA, “supports US Muslim extremists in Bosnia.” [Central Intelligence Agency, 1/1996] But apparently the US does not go after TWRA for its ties to the “Landmarks” plotters and the connection will not be publicized for years.

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, Elfatih Hassanein, Third World Relief Agency

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

In the wake of the 1993 WTC bombing (see February 26, 1993), Emad Salem is rehired as an FBI informant. Because Salem has the confidence of the group around the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul-Rahman connected to the bombing, the FBI is so desperate to hire him back that they pay him over $1 million to return. It takes time for Salem to fully regain confidences, but on April 23, 1993, Siddig Siddig Ali approaches Salem and asks him to participate in a series of bombings that he is planning. Siddig Ali explains that he wants to simultaneously bomb four landmarks in New York City: the Lincoln and Holland tunnel, the United Nations headquarters, and the New York FBI office. This will later be known as the “Landmarks” plot. Siddig Ali later tells Salem that he has friends in the Sudanese Embassy who had approved the plan and are willing to help with diplomatic license plates and credentials. Wearing a wire, over the next weeks Salem meets and records others participating in the plot. Many of them, including Siddig Ali, attended a training camp the FBI briefly monitored back in January 1993 (see January 16-17, 1993). [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 113-114] The FBI will expand its surveillance of the plotters and roll up the plot a couple of months later (see June 24, 1993). The US will later eject two Sudanese diplomats, Siraj Yousif and Ahmed Yousif Mohamed, for suspicions of involvement in the plot. Both are said to be intelligence agents posing as diplomats. Later in 1993, the US also places Sudan on a list of terrorist countries. [New York Times, 8/18/1993; New York Times, 4/11/1996]

Entity Tags: Ahmed Yousif Mohamed, Siraj Yousif, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Emad Salem, Siddig Siddig Ali

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Informant Emad Salem, pictured bent over in a green shirt, enables the FBI to take surveillance footage like this of the plotters making a bomb.Informant Emad Salem, pictured bent over in a green shirt, enables the FBI to take surveillance footage like this of the plotters making a bomb. [Source: National Geographic]Eight people are arrested, foiling a plot to bomb several New York City landmarks. The targets were the United Nations building, 26 Federal Plaza, and the Lincoln and Holland tunnels. This is known as the “Landmarks” or “Day of Terror” plot. The plotters are connected to Ramzi Yousef and the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. If the bombing, planned for later in the year, had been successful, thousands would have died. An FBI informant named Emad Salem had infiltrated the group, gathering information that leads to arrests of the plotters (see April 23, 1993). [US Congress, 7/24/2003] Abdul-Rahman will eventually be sentenced to life in prison for a role in the plot. Nine others will be given long prison terms, including Ibrahim El-Gabrowny and Clement Rodney Hampton-El. [New York Times, 1/18/1996] Siddig Siddig Ali, who was possibly the main force behind the plot (see April 23, 1993), will eventually be sentenced to only 11 years in prison because he agreed to provide evidence on the other suspects [New York Times, 10/16/1999]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Siddig Siddig Ali, Ibrahim El-Gabrowny, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, Emad Salem, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

The “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, is arrested in Brooklyn after a long stand off. The “Landmarks” plot was rolled up on June 24, 1993, and many of Abdul-Rahman’s close associates were arrested on that day (see June 24, 1993). But Abdul-Rahman moved to the Abu Bakr mosque and stayed there. His presence in a mosque and the many supporters that gathered to surround it makes his arrest difficult. But after long negotiations, on July 3, 1993, he is arrested on immigration charges and taken to prison. [New York Times, 7/3/1993] He will later be charged with a role in the “Landmarks” plot and eventually sentenced to life in prison. [New York Times, 1/18/1996]

Entity Tags: Abu Bakr Mosque, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

At some point not long after Ali Mohamed is interviewed by the FBI in the autumn of 1993, the US government begins tracking his movements and monitoring his phone calls. Eventually, this surveillance will lead US investigators to the al-Qaeda cell in Nairobi, Kenya (see Late 1994). It is not clear which governmental agency does this. Meanwhile, he continues to have periodic contact with the FBI. They are especially interested in what he knows about bin Laden, as bin Laden’s importance becomes increasingly evident. [New York Times, 12/1/1998]

Entity Tags: Ali Mohamed, Osama bin Laden, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Andrew McCarthy.Andrew McCarthy. [Source: Front Page Magazine]In December 1994, defense attorney Roger Stavis is preparing to defend his client El Sayyid Nosair in the upcoming landmarks trial. He discovers the top secret US military training manuals found in Nosair’s house and begins investigating Ali Mohamed, the US soldier (and double agent) who stole the manuals and gave them to Nosair. Stavis wants to defend Nosair on the basis that since Nosair was trained by Mohamed, who worked for the CIA and US military, the US government should share culpability for Nosair’s crimes. He writes up a subpoena for Mohamed. Stravis later recalls, “I wanted him. And I tried everything to find him.” But Mohamed has disappeared and not even his wife in California knows where he is. However, US intelligence is secretly monitoring him (see Autumn 1993) and they know he is in Kenya. An FBI agent calls him there and tells him to come back to be interviewed. Mohamed immediately returns to the US and on December 9 he is interviewed by FBI agent Harlan Bell and Assistant US Attorney Andrew McCarthy, one of the prosecutors for the upcoming trial (see December 9, 1994). Mohamed stays in touch after the interview, for instance talking to McCarthy on the phone on December 22. But when the trial starts on January 30, 1995, Stavis is told that Mohamed cannot be found and never responded to the subpoena. In 1999, Ibrahim El-Gabrowny, Nosair’s cousin, will find himself in a jail cell next to Mohamed. El-Gabrowny will later allege that he asked why Mohamed never showed up in court to support Nosair. Mohamed supposedly responds that he did get the subpoena, but that McCarthy advised him to ignore it and not testify and that McCarthy would cover up for him. Had Mohamed testified, McCarthy would have had a more difficult time getting a conviction, and the revelations of Mohamed’s ties to the CIA, FBI, and US military would have been highly embarrassing. Author Peter Lance will later note also that had Mohamed testified in the high profile trial, he would have become too well known to continue working as an informant and double agent. [Lance, 2006, pp. 171-178]

Entity Tags: Roger Stavis, Peter Lance, Harlan Bell, Ali Mohamed, Andrew McCarthy, Ibrahim El-Gabrowny, El Sayyid Nosair, Khaled Abu el-Dahab

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Prosecutors in the “Landmarks” bombing trial want to speak with Ali Mohamed. FBI agents, working through an intermediary, track him to an al-Qaeda safe house in Nairobi. Mohamed will later testify in US court: “In late 1994, I received a call from an FBI agent who wanted to speak to me about the upcoming trial of United States vs. Abdul Rahman. I flew back to the United States, spoke to the FBI, but didn’t disclose everything that I knew.” [Washington File, 5/15/2001; Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2001; 9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] FBI agent Harlan Bell conducts the interview in the presence of Assistant US Attorney Andrew McCarthy, a prosecutor for the upcoming trial. Mohamed tells them that he is working in Kenya in the scuba diving business, when in fact he is helping the al-Qaeda cell there. He also says he went to Pakistan in 1991 to help Osama bin Laden move from Afghanistan to Sudan (see Summer 1991). Despite admitting this tie to bin Laden, there will apparently be no repercussions for Mohamed, aside from his name appearing on the trial’s unindicted co-consipirators list (see February 1995). [Lance, 2006, pp. 173-174] He will not appear at the trial, and it will be alleged that McCarthy told him to ignore a subpoena and not testify (see December 1994-January 1995). Mohamed will recall that after the interview, “I reported on my meeting with the FBI to [al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef] and was told not to return to Nairobi.” [Washington File, 5/15/2001]

Entity Tags: Mohammed Atef, Osama bin Laden, Harlan Bell, Andrew McCarthy, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ali Mohamed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Mohammed Jamal Khalifa.Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. [Source: CBS News]Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law to bin Laden, is arrested in the US. He is held for visa fraud, but he is believed to be a major terrorist. His arrest takes place at a Holiday Inn in Morgan Hill, California. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] That is only about 20 miles from Santa Clara, where double agent Ali Mohamed is running an al-Qaeda cell (see 1987-1998). Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later say of Khalifa and Mohamed, “It seems to me that they were probably in contact. I’m basing that only intuitively on the fact that they were in the same area, they were close to bin Laden, and they would’ve had an incentive to stay together.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 167] According to one account, Khalifa is arrested on behalf of the government of Jordan, because he is on trial there. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] Another account claims that Philippine authorities “tipped off Federal authorities on Khalifa’s movements.” [Filipino Reporter, 4/27/1995] He is traveling on a Saudi passport. He’d flown into the US from London on December 1 and has papers indicating he would be heading back to the Philippines. [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159] It has been claimed that the CIA helped him get his US visa (see December 1, 1994). There are many reasons for US authorities to suspect Khalifa is a major terrorist figure:
bullet He is arrested with Mohammed Loay Bayazid, one of the dozen or so original members of al-Qaeda. Bayazid had attempted to purchase nuclear material for bin Laden the year before (see December 16, 1994).
bullet Philippine investigators had recently completed a secret report on terrorist funding. The report focuses on Khalifa, and says his activities in the Philippines strongly link with Muslim extremist movements in Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Russia, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Romania, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Albania, the Netherlands, and Morocco. It calls a charity which Khalifa runs a “pipeline through which funding for the local extremists is being coursed.” Perhaps not coincidentally, the report was released just one day before Khalifa’s arrest in the US (see December 15, 1994).
bullet His possessions, which are quickly examined and translated, include a handwritten manual in Arabic detailing how to set up a terrorist curriculum at a school in the Philippines, giving lessons in bomb-making and assassination. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001]
bullet Khalifa’s business card was discovered in a search of the New York City residence of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman in 1993 (see August 1993).
bullet He is an unindicted coconspirator in the “Landmarks” bombings plot, which would have killed thousands in New York City. The trial is getting underway at this time. Abdul-Rahman will be convicted and sentenced to over 300 years in prison (see June 24, 1993).
bullet A State Department cable from days after his arrest states Khalifa is a “known financier of terrorist operations and an officer of an Islamic NGO in the Philippines that is a known Hamas front.”
bullet An alias is found in his personal organizer that was also used in a bomb-making manual brought into the US by Ahmad Ajaj, Ramzi Yousef’s travel partner, when the two of them came to the US to implement the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see September 1, 1992).
bullet Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah’s phone number is found in Khalifa’s possessions. The Bojinka plot, if successful, also would have killed thousands (see January 6, 1995). [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159]
bullet A number in Pakistan that Ramzi Yousef had used to call the Philippines is found as well. Author Peter Lance will later note that such numbers “should have led the FBI directly to Ramzi Yousef, the world’s most wanted man” at the time. [Lance, 2006, pp. 160]
However, despite this wealth of highly incriminating material, within weeks of his arrest the US will decide to deport him to Jordan (see January 5, 1995). Over the next four months, even more of his links to terrorist activity will be discovered (see Late December 1994-April 1995). But Khalifa will be deported anyway (see April 26-May 3, 1995), and then soon freed in Jordan (see July 19, 1995).

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Steven Emerson, US Department of State, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Philippines, Ahmad Ajaj, Peter Lance, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, Ali Mohamed, Osama bin Laden, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Jordan, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Sections of the unindicted co-consiprator list for the “Landmarks” plot trial. Osama bin Laden is 95 and Ali Mohamed is 109.Sections of the unindicted co-consiprator list for the “Landmarks” plot trial. Osama bin Laden is 95 and Ali Mohamed is 109. [Source: National Geographic]In February 1995, the US government files a confidential court document listing bin Laden and scores of other people as possible co-conspirators in the 1993 New York City “Landmarks” plot (see June 24, 1993). Ali Mohamed’s name is on the list, confirming that investigators are aware of his involvement in al-Qaeda operations. Yet he continues to live openly in California. Mohamed obtains the document, though it is not clear how he obtained it. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 472] US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald will later state that when Mohamed’s California residence is finally searched in 1998 (see August 24, 1998), investigators discover “a sensitive sealed document from the trial of Sheik Omar Abdul Rahman with notations indicating that [he sent it] to the head of the Kenyan al-Qaeda cell for delivery to bin Laden. I shudder to think of the people who may read this statement and where it may be found some day.” [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] A later government indictment will say that Mohamed sent the list to Wadih El-Hage in Kenya who was told to hand deliver it to bin Laden in Afghanistan. [Washington Post, 8/1/1999] If that is not enough to prove Mohamed’s duplicity, when El-Sayyid Nosair is defended in this trial, Nosair’s lawyers will expose more evidence about Mohamed. They argue that Nosair’s activities were part of a US-sponsored covert operation to train and arm the mujaheddin. They argue that Mohamed was the key link in this operation, and present evidence and witnesses showing how Mohamed trained the bomb plotters in 1989 (see July 1989). They mention the classified military manuals that Mohamed stole and gave the group (see November 5, 1990). Mohamed’s name and role in these activities come out publicly during the trial, and the Washington Post reports in 1998 that after hearing this testimony,“the FBI began to focus on Mohamed as a potential terrorism suspect.” Yet both US intelligence and al-Qaeda apparently continue to work with him. [New York Times, 10/30/1998; New York Times, 10/31/1998]

Entity Tags: Wadih El-Hage, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, Osama bin Laden, United States, Ali Mohamed, Omar Abdul-Rahman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

A Boston Globe article publicly exposes Ali Mohamed, calling him “a shadowy individual described by defense attorneys as a key figure in the largest terrorism trial in US history.” The trial is the prosecution of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman and others for the 1993 “Landmarks” bombing plot (see June 24, 1993). The Globe article notes that Mohamed was in the US Special Forces and connects him to both Abdul-Rahman’s radical militant group and the CIA. A senior US official claims that Mohamed’s “presence in the country is the result of an action initiated by [the CIA].” The article further states, “Senior officials say Mohamed, who is of Egyptian origin, benefited from a little known visa-waiver program that allows the CIA and other security agencies to bring valuable agents into the country, bypassing the usual immigration formalities. Intelligence sources say that waivers are controlled by the CIA’s Department of Operations, the clandestine side of the agency, and have been used ‘sparingly’ in recent years. Waivers are generally used to bring into the country people who have served the agency in sensitive positions overseas. They come here, an intelligence officer said, because they fear for their lives, have been promised asylum in return for cooperation, or need to be debriefed after an operation.” According to the article, “Mohamed dropped out of sight several years ago, and his whereabouts remain unknown.” But in fact, the FBI interviewed him three months earlier and remains aware of his whereabouts (see December 9, 1994). Mohamed will continue to work with al-Qaeda despite this exposure. [Boston Globe, 2/3/1995]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ali Mohamed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Defense counsel for El Sayyid Nosair, one of the militants accused in the “Landmarks” bomb plot (see June 24, 1993) along with the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, applies for a missing witness instruction for double agent Ali Mohamed. The counsel, Roger Stavis, believes that it would benefit his client to have Mohamed testify, because Mohamed worked for militants connected to Abdul-Rahman as well as the FBI (see 1990), CIA (see 1984), and US army (see 1986). Therefore, Stavis might be able to use Nosair’s connection with Mohamed to convince the jury that Nosair was acting on the instructions of an agent of the US government. Stavis has been attempting to contact Mohamed with no success for some time, although the prosecution is in contact with him where he lives in California (see December 1994-January 1995). Under federal law, a trial judge can give a missing witness instruction if one party at a trial wants a witness to testify but cannot find him, whereas the other party can find him but does not seem to want him to testify. Based on such an instruction, the jury can then decide that the party that could find him, but did not get him to testify, did so deliberately because it thought the testimony would be damaging to it. Author Peter Lance will later comment that, given the circumstances, “Stavis had every right to expect that jury charge,” but Judge Michael Mukasey merely responds, “I don’t think a missing witness charge on that gentleman is warranted and I am not going to give one.” Lance will comment that by failing to grant the missing witness instruction, Mukasey helps “bury the significance” of Mohamed, and conceal his role in Islamic militancy from the public. [Lance, 2006, pp. 208; Raw Story, 9/25/2007] President Bush will later appoint Mukasey to be the US attorney general (see November 8, 2007).

Entity Tags: Michael Mukasey, El Sayyid Nosair, Peter Lance, Roger Stavis, Ali Mohamed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card, recovered from the Pentagon crash site.Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card, recovered from the Pentagon crash site. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division] (click image to enlarge)Khalid Almihdhar obtains a fake USA ID card from forger Mohamed el-Atriss. Abdulaziz Alomari also obtains fake ID, an international driver’s license, from el-Atriss, and some of the other hijackers may do as well. [National Public Radio, 8/20/2002; New York Times, 6/25/2003; Lance, 2006, pp. 372-3; Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] USA ID cards are not issued by governmental organizations, as are passports and driver’s licenses, for example. They are marketed by the manufacturer as being suitable for frequent customers to small businesses, such as VIP diners at a restaurant, gym members, and visitors to a check cashing store. [Usaidsystems (.com), 7/1/2007] El-Atriss, who is called seven times by Hani Hanjour and also by another unknown hijacker, is an associate of Waleed al-Noor, a co-conspirator in the 1993 ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot (see June 24, 1993), and will be sentenced to six months in jail after 9/11 despite being of assistance to the FBI (see Before September 11, 2001, September 13, 2001-Mid 2002, and November 2002-June 2003). [Associated Press, 7/3/2003; Lance, 2006, pp. 372-3; Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] An image of Almihdhar’s card, which gives his address as a hotel where he stayed for two nights after returning to the US a few days before, will be reproduced in the 9/11 Commission’s Terrorism Travel Monograph, but the Commission will fail to point out it was a fake. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 192 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 52 pdf file] Five other hijackers obtain USA ID cards around this time: Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Majed Moqed, and Ahmed Alghamdi. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 27-29, 31-32, 34-44 pdf file] Almihdhar’s card is similar to some of these hijackers’ USA ID cards, indicating they may also be fake, although this is not certain. Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card contains the same hotel address and the same expiry date as Almihdhar’s card. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Salem Alhazmi’s card contains the same expiry date, indicating it was issued at a time Salem Alhazmi was out of the country (see April 23-June 29, 2001). In addition, the serial numbers are similar: the number of Salem Alhazmi’s card, which was supposedly issued on July 1 or 2, is 3408826-A, whereas the number of Almihdhar’s card, which the 9/11 Commission says was issued eight or nine days later, is 3408825-A. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 192 pdf file; Time, 8/29/2005] The fake document for Alomari is purchased from el-Atriss’ All Service Plus business in Paterson, New Jersey, by fellow hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi. [CBS News, 7/31/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 61 pdf file; Bergen Record, 9/11/2006]

Entity Tags: Khalid Almihdhar, Abdulaziz Alomari, Majed Moqed, Mohamed el-Atriss, Salem Alhazmi, Ahmed Alghamdi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Hani Hanjour

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Sphinx Trading sign.The Sphinx Trading sign. [Source: National Geographic]Some of the 9/11 hijackers rent mailboxes from a company called Sphinx Trading, which was also used by ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdul-Rahman and at least one of his associates. The mailboxes are located in Jersey City, New Jersey, four doors down from the mosque where Abdul-Rahman was imam in the early 1990s. El Sayyid Nosair, who assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane and was linked to the Islamic militant cell Abdul-Rahman headed (see November 5, 1990 and December 7, 1991), also had a mailbox there before he was arrested in 1990. Sphinx Trading is owned by Waleed al-Noor, who was named an unindicted co-conspirator at the ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot trial (see June 24, 1993). The hijackers will later obtain fake IDs from al-Noor’s partner, Mohamed el-Atriss. The names of the hijackers who had mailboxes there are never given, but in the summer of 2001 el-Atriss interacts with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour (see (July-August 2001)), at least. [New York Times, 6/25/2003; Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003; Lance, 2006, pp. 372-4; Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] An FBI agent will later comment: “The fact that this location was where Almihdhar, in particular, got his bogus credentials, is not only shocking, it makes me angry. The [Joint Terrorist Task Force] in the [New York Office] had this location back in 1991. In the mid-90s they listed al-Noor, the coowner, as a coconspirator, unindicted in the plot to blow up bridges and tunnels. And now we find out that this is the precise location where the most visible of all the hijackers in the US got his ID? Incredible. All the Bureau’s New York Office had to do was sit on that place over the years and they would have broken right into the 9/11 plot.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 373]

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, El Sayyid Nosair, Waleed al-Noor, Sphinx Trading, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Nawaf Alhazmi, Mohamed el-Atriss, Khalid Almihdhar, Abdulaziz Alomari

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Senator Russell Feingold (D-WI), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, breaches the rule of secrecy in revealing information about classified briefings to object to what he says are mischaracterizations of his and other Congressional lawmakers’ support for the administration’s use of “enhanced interrogation techniques” against terror suspects. In a statement on the floor of the Senate opposing the nomination of Judge Michael Mukasey to become Attorney General (see November 8, 2007), Feingold says, “Last week the White House press secretary again implied the members of Congress who have been briefed in the CIA’s interrogation program have approved it or consented to it. That is not the case. I have vigorously opposed the program and continue to do so. The program is of highly questionable legality, it is inconsistent with our values as a nation, and it does not make our nation any safer. In fact, I believe it may have the effect of exposing Americans, including other US personnel, to greater risk.” Feingold and other lawmakers are bound not to reveal the nature of such classified briefings, or even that they participated in them. Feingold reveals his own participation in some of the briefings because he believes that the administration is taking advantage of that secrecy restriction to “spin” the issue as regards the members’ reactions and levels of support. Feingold continues, “I have detailed the reasons for my strong objections to the CIA’s program in classified correspondence sent very shortly after I was first briefed on it (see May 1-10, 2007). More recently I’ve stated my opposition publicly, although I am prohibited by classification rules from providing further details about my concerns in a public setting.” Feingold calls one of the most notorious techniques employed by the CIA, waterboarding, “barbaric,” notes that it “has been used by some of the most evil regimes in history” and “has been considered torture in this country for over a century,” and asks, “If Judge Mukasey won’t say the simple truth—that this barbaric practice is torture—how can we count on him to stand up to the White House on other issues?” [US Senate, 11/7/2007; Washington Post, 12/9/2007]

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Bush administration (43), Senate Judiciary Committee, Russell D. Feingold, Michael Mukasey

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Michael Mukasey.Michael Mukasey. [Source: US Department of Justice]After two months of controversy, and a round of sporadically contentious Senate confirmation hearings, former judge Michael Mukasey narrowly wins the Senate’s approval to become the next attorney general, by an almost-party line 53-40 vote. Musakey replaces Alberto Gonzales, who resigned under fire in September 2007. Many Democrats vote against Mukasey because of his refusal to categorize the interrogation technique of waterboarding as torture, and his refusal to say that he would oppose President Bush’s insistence on eavesdropping on US citizens. Some Democrats took comfort in Mukasey’s characterization of waterboarding as “repugnant,” but others were not pleased by his refusal to say that the practice constitutes torture. Two key Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee, Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) refused to block Mukasey from going to the Senate for a confirmation vote. Both indicated that they reluctantly supported Mukasey’s nomination because the Justice Department needs an immediate infusion of leadership—Schumer called the department “adrift and rudderless” and in need of “a strong and independent leader”—and they feared if Mukasey was not confirmed, President Bush would put someone worse in the position as an interim appointment. [CNN, 11/8/2007] Schumer says he eventually decided to vote for Mukasey after the judge said “if Congress passed further legislation in this area, the president would have no legal authority to ignore it and Judge Mukasey would enforce it.” But Schumer’s colleague, Ted Kennedy (D-MA), is unimpressed. “Enforcing the law is the job of the attorney general,” Kennedy says. “It’s a prerequisite—not a virtue that enhances a nominee’s qualifications.” Ben Cardin (D-MD) wonders just how far, and how specifically, Congress will have to go to outlaw torture. He asks, “Are we going to have to outlaw the rack because there’s a question whether the rack is torture in this country?” [National Public Radio, 11/7/2007] Arlen Specter (R-PA), the committee’s ranking Republican, calls Mukasey “ethical, honest [and] not an intimate of the president.” [CNN, 11/8/2007] Mukasey is quietly sworn in only hours after winning the Senate vote. [National Public Radio, 11/9/2007] All four Democratic senators running for president—Hillary Clinton (D-NY), Barack Obama (D-IL), Joseph Biden (D-DE), and Christopher Dodd (D-CT)—have said they oppose Mukasey’s nomination. Obama calls Mukasey’s refusal to label waterboarding as torture “appalling,” and notes that Mukasey’s belief that the president “enjoys an unwritten right to secretly ignore any law or abridge our constitutional freedoms simply by invoking national security” disqualify him for the position. The other candidates make similar statements. [Fox News, 10/30/2007] However, none of them actually show up to cast their vote for or against Mukasey. John McCain (R-AZ), another senator running for president, also does not vote. [Associated Press, 11/8/2007] Three days after Mukasey’s confirmation, the New York Times writes a blistering editorial excoriating both the Bush administration and the compliant Senate Democrats for allowing Mukasey to become attorney general (see November 11, 2007).

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Senate Judiciary Committee, Michael Mukasey, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, George W. Bush, Dianne Feinstein, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Alberto R. Gonzales, Geneva Conventions, Arlen Specter, Charles Schumer, Ben Cardin, New York Times

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties

In a blistering editorial, the New York Times lambasts both the Bush administration and the Democratic leadership in the Senate for allowing Michael Mukasey, the new attorney general, to slide through the confirmation process with so little challenge (see November 8, 2007). The only thing left in the Senate’s traditional responsibility of “advice and consent” is the “consent” part, the editors write. The editorial continues: “Once upon a time, the confirmation of major presidential appointments played out on several levels—starting, of course, with politics. It was assumed that a president would choose like-minded people as cabinet members and for other jobs requiring Senate approval. There was a presumption that he should be allowed his choices, all other things being equal. Before George W. Bush’s presidency, those other things actually counted. Was the nominee truly qualified, with a professional background worthy of the job? Would he discharge his duties fairly and honorably, upholding his oath to protect the Constitution? Even though [he or] she answers to the president, would the nominee represent all Americans? Would he or she respect the power of Congress to supervise the executive branch, and the power of the courts to enforce the rule of law? In less than seven years, Mr. Bush has managed to boil that list down to its least common denominator: the president should get his choices.” The Times observes that in the first six years of Bush’s rule, he had an enthusiastically compliant set of Republican allies in Congress, but during that time, minority Democrats “did almost nothing… to demand better nominees than Mr. Bush was sending up. And now that they have attained the majority, they are not doing any better.” The editors focus particularly on two issues: Mukasey’s refusal to answer straightforward questions on whether waterboarding is torture, and the Democrats’ refusal to filibuster the Senate vote. The Times notes that Mukasey passed confirmation with a 53-40 vote. Democrats have made what the Times calls “excuses for their sorry record” on a host of issues, and first and foremost is the justification that it takes 60 votes to break a filibuster. “So why did Mr. Mukasey get by with only 53 votes?” the Times asks. “Given the success the Republicans have had in blocking action when the Democrats cannot muster 60 votes, the main culprit appears to be the Democratic leadership, which seems uninterested in or incapable of standing up to Mr. Bush.” The editors do not accept the rationale of Mukasey supporters like Charles Schumer (D-NY), who argued that by not confirming Mukasey, the path would be clear for Bush to make an interim appointment of someone far more extreme. The Times calls this line of argument “cozy rationalization,” and by Mukasey’s refusal to answer questions about his position on waterboarding, he has already aligned himself with the extremist wing of the administration. For the record, the Times notes, “Waterboarding is specifically banned by the Army Field Manual, and it is plainly illegal under the federal Anti-Torture Act, federal assault statutes, the Detainee Treatment Act (see December 30, 2005), the Convention Against Torture (see October 21, 1994), and the Geneva Conventions.” Therefore, “[i]t is hard to see how any nominee worthy of the position of attorney general could fail to answer ‘yes.’” The Times speculates that Mukasey was not permitted to answer the question by the White House because a “no” answer “might subject federal officials who carried out Mr. Bush’s orders to abuse and torture prisoners after the 9/11 attacks: the right answer could have exposed them to criminal sanctions.” All in all, the Times is appalled by “the Senate giving the job of attorney general, chief law enforcement officer in the world’s oldest democracy, to a man who does not even have the integrity to take a stand against torture.” [New York Times, 11/11/2007]

Entity Tags: Michael Mukasey, New York Times, Geneva Conventions, Bush administration (43), Charles Schumer, George W. Bush, Convention Against Torture, Detainee Treatment Act

Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties

The story of the Pentagon’s propaganda operation—using military analysts in media outlets to promote the administration’s policies in Iraq (see April 20, 2008 and Early 2002 and Beyond)—is going remarkably unreported in those selfsame media outlets. Political bloggers are keeping the story alive, and Democratic congressmen are beginning to call for investigations (see April 28, 2008 and May 6, 2008)), but remarkably little about the operation has appeared either in the mainstream press or on broadcast news shows. One such lawmaker, Senator John Kerry (D-MA), says that he “decided to push this issue hard because ever since the New York Times expose appeared, the silence has been deafening.” Kerry says there needs to be a “thorough investigation” into government contracts and “whether Americans’ tax dollars were being used to cultivate talking heads to sell the administration’s Iraq policy.” But unlike the pre-Internet paradigm, this story may not be so quick to disappear. Tom Rosenstiel, the director of the Project for Excellence in Journalism, says, “We are in a time when stories can have a second life.” Political bloggers on the Internet, who keep chipping away at stories long after they have disappeared from the headlines, can give stories another chance, says Rosenstiel, citing the example of bloggers reviving the story of the US attorney firings in 2007 (see November 8, 2007). Rosenstiel says that his organization tracked the mainstream media for a week after the Times story was printed. Out of around 1,300 news stories, only two touched on the Pentagon analysts report, and both of those were on PBS’s Newshour (see April 24, 2008). Independent television analyst Andrew Tyndall says it would be too much to expect for any broadcast news outlets to engage in the story over the airwaves, as they almost never do what he calls “self-criticism stories,” but, he says, “this is really the sort of thing that all of the networks should have addressed online.” Virtually the only mainstream response from the broadcast news has been a short piece from NBC anchorman Brian Williams, who responded on his blog ten days after the Times story ran, and generally extolled the virtues of the analysts with whom he had worked (see April 29, 2008). Former CBS editorial director Dick Meyer, who oversaw CBS’s “Public Eye” blog before it was discontinued due to cutbacks, says that would have been the perfect place to examine the story. “This controversy about military analysts would have been right in our ballpark,” says Meyer, who now works for National Public Radio. “It’s irresponsible for a modern news organization to not have some kind of readers’ advocate, some kind of public editor function,” he says. [Politico, 5/8/2008]

Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Brian Williams, Andrew Tyndall, CBS News, Project for Excellence in Journalism, Dick Meyer, New York Times, John Kerry, Tom Rosenstiel, Public Broadcasting System

Timeline Tags: US Military, Iraq under US Occupation, Domestic Propaganda

John Yoo, the former Bush administration legal adviser who authored numerous opinions on the legality of torture, detentions without legal representation, and warrantless wiretapping (see November 6-10, 2001, December 28, 2001, January 9, 2002, August 1, 2002, and August 1, 2002, among others), writes an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal opposing the Obama administration’s intent to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (see January 20, 2009 and January 22, 2009)) and restrict the CIA’s ability to torture detainees (see January 22, 2009). Yoo, now a law professor and a member of the neoconservative American Enterprise Institute, writes that while President Obama’s decision “will please his base” and ease the objections to the Bush “imperial presidency,” it will “also seriously handicap our intelligence agencies from preventing future terrorist attacks.” Yoo writes that the Obama decisions mark a return “to the failed law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism that prevailed before Sept. 11, 2001.” Yoo recommends that Obama stay with what he calls “the Bush system” of handling terror suspects. Yoo fails to note that the US law enforcement system prevented, among others, the “millennium bombing” plot (see December 14, 1999), the plot to bomb New York City’s Lincoln and Holland Tunnels (see June 24, 1993), and Operation Bojinka (see January 6, 1995).
Obama Needs to be Able to Torture Prisoners Just as Bush Did, Yoo Declares - And by eschewing torture, Obama is giving up any chance on forcing information from “the most valuable sources of intelligence on al-Qaeda” currently in American custody. The Bush administration policies prevented subsequent terrorist attacks on the US, Yoo contends, and Obama will need the same widespread latitude to interrogate and torture prisoners that Bush employed: “What is needed are the tools to gain vital intelligence, which is why, under President George W. Bush, the CIA could hold and interrogate high-value al-Qaeda leaders. On the advice of his intelligence advisers, the president could have authorized coercive interrogation methods like those used by Israel and Great Britain in their antiterrorism campaigns. (He could even authorize waterboarding, which he did three times in the years after 9/11.)” It is noteworthy that Yoo refused to confirm that Bush ordered waterboarding of suspects during his previous Congressional hearings (see June 26, 2008).
Interrogations Must be 'Polite' - According to Yoo, in forcing the CIA and other US interrogators to follow the procedures outlined in the Army Field Manual, they can no longer use “coercive techniques, threats and promises, and the good-cop bad-cop routines used in police stations throughout America.… His new order amounts to requiring—on penalty of prosecution—that CIA interrogators be polite. Coercive measures are unwisely banned with no exceptions, regardless of the danger confronting the country.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/29/2009] Yoo is incorrect in this assertion. The Army Field Manual explicitly countenances many of the “coercive techniques, threats and promises, and the good-cop bad-cop routines” Yoo says it bans. Further, the Field Manual says nothing about requiring interrogators to be “polite.” [Army, 9/2006] And actual field interrogators such as the Army’s Matthew Alexander have repeatedly said that torturing prisoners is ineffective and counterproductive, while building relationships and treating prisoners with dignity during interrogations produces usable, reliable intelligence (see November 30, 2008).
Shutting Down Military Commissions - Obama’s order to stay all military commission trials and to review the case of “enemy combatant” Ali Saleh al-Marri (see June 23, 2003) is also mistaken, Yoo writes. Yoo fears that Obama will shut down the military commissions in their entirety and instead transfer detainees charged with terrorist acts into the US civilian court system. He also objects to Obama’s apparent intent to declare terrorists to be prisoners of war under the Geneva Conventions, instead of following the Bush precedent of classifying terrorists “like pirates, illegal combatants who do not fight on behalf of a nation and refuse to obey the laws of war.” To allow terror suspects to have rights under Geneva and the US legal system, Yoo asserts, will stop any possibility of obtaining information from those suspects. Instead, those suspects will begin using the legal system to their own advantage—refusing to talk, insisting on legal representation and speedy trials instead of cooperating with their interrogators. “Our soldiers and agents in the field will have to run more risks as they must secure physical evidence at the point of capture and maintain a chain of custody that will stand up to the standards of a civilian court,” Yoo writes. [Wall Street Journal, 1/29/2009] In reality, the Supreme Court’s ruling in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld (see June 30, 2006), as well as the Detainee Treatment Act (see December 15, 2005) and the Military Commissions Act (see October 17, 2006), all mandate that detainees must be handled according to the Geneva Conventions.
Risk to Americans - Another effect of transferring detainees into the civilian justice system, Yoo claims, is to allow “our enemies to obtain intelligence on us.” Defense lawyers will insist on revealing US intelligence—information and methods—in open court, and will no doubt force prosecutors to accept plea bargains “rather than risk disclosure of intelligence secrets.”
Obama 'Open[ed] the Door to Further Terrorist Acts on US Soil' - Obama said in his inaugural speech that the US must “reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.” Yoo calls that statement “naive,” and writes, “That high-flying rhetoric means that we must give al-Qaeda—a hardened enemy committed to our destruction—the same rights as garden-variety criminals at the cost of losing critical intelligence about real, future threats.” By making his choices, Yoo writes, “Mr. Obama may have opened the door to further terrorist acts on US soil by shattering some of the nation’s most critical defenses.” [Wall Street Journal, 1/29/2009]

Entity Tags: John C. Yoo, Barack Obama, American Enterprise Institute, Wall Street Journal, Obama administration

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties


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