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Profile: Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was a participant or observer in the following events:
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The FBI and Defense Department begin paying ChoicePoint, a private data-collection company, for access to its data-searching system. Neither agency is legally permitted to keep database records on US citizens, but they are effectively able to circumvent this law by contracting the task to ChoicePoint. Both agencies have steadily expanded their relationship with the company. Exactly what kind of data is being accessed and the legality of doing so remain murky. [Government Executive, 11/11/2005]
In Los Angeles, local CIA and FBI stations increase efforts to obtain intelligence from the local Iranian exile community. According to officials, Iranian businessmen and expatriates who travel frequently between the States and Iran are viewed as potential sources of intelligence on Iran’s internal opposition and the country’s nuclear program. Iranian-Americans interviewed by the Los Angeles Times in 2005 will acknowledge having supplied the CIA and FBI with information. [Los Angeles Times, 3/20/2005]
Ali Soufan, an experienced FBI interrogator with an extensive knowledge of both Arab culture and al-Qaeda (see Late December 1999, Late October-Late November 2000, November 11, 2000, Early December 2000, and Late March through Early June, 2002), goes to Guantanamo to conduct training on non-coercive interrogation methods for the interrogators stationed there. Soufan says that not only are these methods the most effective, but they are critical to maintaining the US image in the Middle East and elsewhere. “The whole world is watching what we do here,” Soufan says. “We’re going to win or lose this war depending on how we do this.” According to Robert McFadden, a US naval criminal investigator who worked with Soufan on the USS Cole investigation, the interrogators from law enforcement nod in agreement, while the military intelligence officers just sit and look at Soufan “with blank stares.” McFadden will later recall: “It’s like they were thinking, ‘This is bullcrap.’ Their attitude was, ‘You guys are cops; we don’t have time for this.’” [Newsweek, 4/25/2009]
By early 2002, Syria emerges as one of the CIA’s most effective intelligence sources on al-Qaeda. Syria is one of seven countries on a State Department list of sponsors of terrorism. It has been on that list since 1979, mostly because of its support for Hezbollah combating Israel. But Syria is also an opponent of the Muslim Brotherhood, and al-Qaeda has many connections to the Muslim Brotherhood, especially its Syrian branch. According to journalist Seymour Hersh in New Yorker magazine, “The Syrians had compiled hundreds of files on al-Qaeda, including dossiers on the men who participated—and others who wanted to participate—in the September 11th attacks. Syria also penetrated al-Qaeda cells throughout the Middle East and in Arab exile communities throughout Europe.” It appears Syrian intelligence may even have penetrated the Hamburg cell tied to the 9/11 plot, as hijacker Mohamed Atta and other cell members, such as Mohammed Haydar Zammar, occasionally worked at a German firm called Tatex Trading, which was infiltrated by Syrian intelligence (see September 10, 2002-June 2003). For a time, the Syrians give much of what they know to the CIA and FBI. A former State Department official says, “Up through January of 2003, the cooperation was top-notch. Then we were going to do Iraq, and some people in the [Bush] administration got heavy-handed. They wanted Syria to get involved in operational stuff having nothing to do with al-Qaeda and everything to do with Iraq. It was something Washington wanted from the Syrians, and they didn’t want to do it.” Hersh reports, “The collapse of the liaison relationship has left many CIA operatives especially frustrated. ‘The guys are unbelievably pissed that we’re blowing this away,’ a former high-level intelligence official told me. ‘There was a great channel… The Syrians were a lot more willing to help us, but they’—[Defense Secretary] Rumsfeld and his colleagues—“want to go in [Syria after the Iraq war].’” [New Yorker, 7/18/2003]
Claire Fraser-Liggett. [Source: University of Maryland]In late 2001, the FBI decides to try to decode the entire DNA sequence of the anthrax genome in an attempt to generate new leads for its anthrax attacks investigation. There are about five million units in the genome. The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR), a leader in decoding microbe genomes, is given this task. TIGR director Claire Fraser-Liggett forms a small team of scientists. By early 2002, this TIGR team completes the genome. Then they compare the anthrax used in the letter sent to the Sun tabloid to a sample of the same strain, the Ames strain, maintained at Porton Down, the British biological weapons facility. The team finds several differences between the samples, raising the possibility that they could learn exactly which laboratory the anthrax used in the attacks came from. The team then looks at the original Ames strain, taken from a dead cow in Texas in 1981, to attempt to see how the anthrax in the letter evolved from the original. By late 2002, this task is finished but investigators are disappointed to learn that there are almost no noticeable differences between the original Ames strain and the anthrax used in the attacks. [New York Times, 8/20/2008]
In late December 1999, Rita Katz, working with the Investigative Project on Terrorism, gave a presentation in the White House to members of the National Security Council (NSC) about a suspected al-Qaeda sleeper cell based in Anaheim, California (see December 25, 1999). The NSC forwarded the information her team gleaned from public sources to the FBI. Katz later repeatedly asked a contact she had with the NSC named Peter what happened to the lead she gave them. Peter replied that he assumed the FBI was just sitting on the material. [Katz, 2003, pp. 180] Around January 2002, Katz is contacted by an FBI agent in California who is looking for investigative leads on al-Qaeda in California. Katz forwards him all her information she gave in her White House presentation back in 1999. According to Katz, the agent looks over the material and says it is “very strong… I want to go all the way with this investigation.” Then the agent registers his investigation with the FBI so other agents with leads could contact him. A few days later, he calls Katz and says that he has been taken off the case because it falls into the jurisdiction of the FBI’s Anaheim office. Apparently that office does nothing with the lead. In 1999, Katz suggested the cell included Khalil Deek, arrested in late 1999 for involvement in a millennium bomb plot in Jordan (see December 11, 1999), his brother Tawfiq Deek, Hisham Diab, and Khalid Ashour. [Katz, 2003, pp. 186-187] ABC News will later report that Diab continued to live in Anaheim until June 2001, when he apparently moved to Afghanistan to stay with top al-Qaeda leaders. [ABC News, 12/23/2004] Khalil Deek is mysteriously released in Jordan around the same time (see May 2001); it will later be alleged that he was a mole for the Jordanian government (see Shortly After December 11, 1999). By late 1999, Ashour had requested asylum in the US. Katz will later note that he “could have been easily located, investigated, and if necessary, denied asylum and deported.” But as of 2003, Katz claims Ashour still lives in the US. [Katz, 2003, pp. 187] Tawfiq Deek apparently continues to live in Anaheim as well, where he works for the state’s Department of Toxic Substance Control as a chemical engineer. He denies all terrorism ties, though he confirms that he was an active member of the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), which the FBI has called a Hamas front group. [LA Weekly, 9/15/2005] Another associate of the above group, Adam Gadahn, will emerge in Afghanistan in 2004 as a prominent al-Qaeda spokesman (see Spring 2004).
Steven Hatfill, later to emerge as a suspect of the anthrax attacks, is interviewed by FBI investigators for the first time. He is then given a lie-detector test as part of a wide-ranging FBI review of the scientific community. Hatfill is later told he gave satisfactory answers on the test. The FBI returns for a two-hour interview in March. [Washington Post, 8/11/2002]
The FBI finally begins subpoenaing laboratories that worked with the Ames strain of anthrax used in the attacks. But when the labs start to send their samples, they are told to wait another month because a new storage room for the sample needs to be built. The Hartford Courant reports, “The FBI’s delay in requesting the samples - and the government’s lack of readiness to receive them - is part of a pattern.” Other examples include taking seven months to begin testing mailboxes surrounding Princeton, New Jersey, where the anthrax letters were postmarked (see December 2001-Early August 2002), and nearly a year to go back into the American Media building in Boca Raton, Florida, to hunt for the source of anthrax that killed the first victim there. [Hartford Courant, 9/7/2002]
In the first months after 9/11, the FBI is generally in charge of captured al-Qaeda detainees and the assumption is that these detainees will be sent to the US for criminal prosecutions. However, beginning in January 2002, this policy begins to change. The highest ranking al-Qaeda detainee in US custody at the time, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, is transfered from FBI to CIA custody and then flown to Egypt to be tortured by the Egyptian government (see January 2002 and After).
]]). Also in January, the CIA, not the FBI, begins secretly flying detainees to the US-controlled prison in Guantanamo, Cuba (see January 14, 2002-2005).
Journalist James Risen will later comment, “By choosing the CIA over the FBI, [President] Bush was rejecting the law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism that had been favored during the Clinton era. Bush had decided that al-Qaeda was a national security threat, not a law enforcement problem, and he did not want al-Qaeda operatives brought back to face trial in the United States, where they would come under the strict rules of the American legal system.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 28] This change of policy culminates in the arrest of Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). The Washington Post will later report, “In March 2002, Abu Zubaida was captured, and the interrogation debate between the CIA and FBI began anew. This time, when FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III decided to withhold FBI involvement, it was a signal that the tug of war was over. ‘Once the CIA was given the green light… they had the lead role,’ said a senior FBI counterterrorism official.” [Washington Post, 6/27/2004] The CIA decides that Guantanamo is too public and involves too many US agencies to hold important al-Qaeda detainees. By the time Zubaida is captured the CIA has already set up a secret prison in Thailand, and Zubaida is flown there just days after his capture (see March 2002). Risen will comment, “The CIA wanted secret locations where it could have complete control over the interrogations and debriefings, free from the prying eyes of the international media, free from monitoring by human rights groups, and most important, far from the jurisdiction of the American legal system.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 29-30]
Michael Edward Smith, a well-dressed young man wearing sunglasses and surgical gloves, sits in a parked car across from the Sherith Israel Congregation synagogue in Nashville, Tennessee. Smith has an AR-15 assault rifle, and plans on shooting someone either entering or exiting the building. A passing motorist sees Smith and his rifle and calls the police. When police confront Smith outside his apartment, he refuses to surrender, and manages to break away to his car, where he proceeds to flee down Interstate 65 while holding a gun to his own head. The chase ends in a parking lot outside a pharmacy, where the police find the AR-15, a handgun, ammunition, and surgical gloves in Smith’s car. After learning of the incident, Deborah Lauter of the Anti-Defamation League tells reporters: “The sight of a man pointing an assault rifle at a synagogue is chilling. We are thankful to the person who reported the incident and to law enforcement for their swift actions in apprehending the suspect.” Smith, a member of the violent, neo-Nazi National Alliance (see 1970-1974), has been influenced by two books, both published by Alliance founder William Pierce: The Turner Diaries, which tells of a genocidal race war in a near-future America (see 1978), and Hunter, a novel depicting a lone assassin gunning down Jews and African-Americans (see 1988). Three days later, he is charged with multiple felonies after divulging his ties to the National Alliance and the existence of a small arsenal in his apartment, in a storage facility, and buried on his parents’ land in the country. Authorities find, among other items: an anti-tank rocket; eight firearms, including a sniper rifle; 13 grenades; 13 pipe bombs; over 2,000 rounds of armor-piercing ammunition; smoke bombs; dynamite fuses; and two duffel bags filled with chemicals. They also find copies of both novels and other materials from the Alliance and the Ku Klux Klan, to which he also admits membership. The FBI classifies Smith as a “domestic terrorist.” James Cavanaugh of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) says: “Basically, we’ve got hand grenades, we’ve got assault rifles, and we’ve got a mind full of hate and a recipe for disaster.… Anybody who would stockpile that stuff is certainly on the precipice of using them.” Smith readily admits his admiration for the fictional main chacter of Hunter, Oscar Yeager, who in the first scene of the book assassinates an interracial couple from a vantage point inside his car. And, he says, the National Alliance and the KKK gave him training in “how to make and how to use explosives, [and gave him] sniper and combat training.” Smith tells questioners that he “dislike[s] Jews.” Local activists later tell the FBI that Smith took part in a November 2001 National Alliance rally outside the Israeli embassy in Washington, DC. Authorities later find an email from Smith stating Jews “perhaps” should be “stuffed head first into an oven.” [Center for New Community, 8/2002 ; Anti-Defamation League, 5/27/2003; Southern Poverty Law Center, 6/2005] Smith will later plead guilty to four weapons-related offenses. [Anti-Defamation League, 5/27/2003]
Entity Tags: National Alliance, James Cavanaugh, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Deborah Lauter, Ku Klux Klan, Michael Edward Smith, US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, Sherith Israel Congregation, William Luther Pierce
Timeline Tags: US Domestic Terrorism
The FBI has asked Pakistan for permission to question Maulana Masood Azhar, the leader of Jaish-e-Mohammed, according to reports. Pakistan arrested him on December 25, 2001, after US pressure to do so. One Pakistani official says, “The Americans are aware Azhar met bin Laden often, and are convinced he can give important information about bin Laden’s present whereabouts and even the September 11 attacks.” But the “primary reason” for US interest is the link between Azhar and Saeed Sheikh. They hope to learn about Saeed’s involvement in financing the 9/11 attacks. Whether Pakistan gives permission to question Azhar is unclear. Four days later, the US officially asks Pakistan for help in finding and extraditing Saeed. [Gulf News, 1/5/2002]
White House counsel Alberto Gonzales issues a letter stating that the administration’s refusal to turn over documents about possible FBI malfeasance to Dan Burton (R-IN), the chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, is consistent with long-standing Justice Department policy. Gonzales’s assertion will be disputed by the Committee, based on an assessment by law Professor Charles Tiefer of the University of Baltimore (see December 13, 2001). [Dean, 2004, pp. 87]
Egyptian national Abdallah Higazy (see December 17, 2001), who has falsely confessed to owning a transceiver that may connect him to the 9/11 plot in order to save his family from being tortured (see December 27, 2001), is charged with making false statements connected to the 9/11 attacks. Higazy has given three different versions of how he obtained the radio; the FBI is sure he is lying about not being complicit in the plot. Three days after Higazy is charged, an airline pilot from Ohio claims the suspect transceiver as his own, and unknowingly vindicates Higazy. Higazy is released two days later, and a hotel security guard is eventually charged with lying to the FBI about the location of the radio. Higazy’s lawyer, Jonathan Abady, later says: “What if that pilot had not walked into the Millennium Hotel? We know that Mr. Higazy could have spent the rest of his life in prison.” In 2007, Higazy will say that he chose to confess to the ownership of the suspect transceiver because he knew the FBI could have his family turned over to Egyptian intelligence agents for torture. “I knew I couldn’t prove my innocence, and I knew my family was in danger,” he will recall. “If I say this device is mine, I’m screwed and my family is going to be safe. If I say this device is not mine, I’m screwed and my family’s in danger. And [FBI] Agent [Michael] Templeton made it quite clear that ‘cooperate’ had to mean saying something else other than this device is not mine.” Higazy’s subsequent lawsuit against the hotel (prompted by a hotel employee lying to the FBI about him) will eventually be settled out of court; his suit against the FBI will still be pending in October 2007 (see October 18, 2007). [Washington Post, 10/25/2007]
Barbara Hatch Rosenberg. [Source: Public domain]In February 2002, Dr. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg claims in a public speech at Princeton University that she knows the identity of the killer behind the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). Rosenberg is a professor of molecular biology at the State University of New York at Purchase, and a biological arms control expert. She states: “There are a number of insiders—government insiders—who know people in the anthrax field who have a common suspect. The FBI has questioned that person more than once… so it looks as though the FBI is taking that person very seriously.” She also claims that the FBI is not that interested in going after this suspect because “[t]his guy knows too much, and knows things the US isn’t very anxious to publicize” (see February 8, 2002). In June 2002, she puts out a paper that details her theory about this suspect. She states that “a number of inside experts (at least five that I know about) gave the FBI the name of one specific person as the most likely suspect.” That same month, she presents her ideas to Senators Tom Daschle and Patrick Leahy, both of whom had been targeted in the anthrax attacks. She also is invited to brief the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Senate Intelligence Committee (see June 24, 2002). Immediately after this, the FBI searches Hatfill’s home while reporters watch, putting him in the public eye as a possible suspect (see June 25, 2002). Rosenberg later denies ever mentioning Hatfill by name. However, one reporter later claims that Rosenberg had specifically given Hatfill’s name as the lead suspect. Furthermore, the description of her suspect exactly matches Hatfill. Hatfill will later blame Rosenberg for the FBI’s interest in him. He will say: “She’s crazy. She caused it.” [Washington City Paper, 7/25/2003] In 2008, Hatfill will be officially cleared of any involvement in the anthrax attacks (see August 8, 2008).
Don Foster. [Source: Al Novak]October 12, 2001, the FBI contracted Don Foster to help with the newly formed anthrax attacks investigation. Foster is a professor of English literature at Vassar College who has been advising the FBI and other government agencies for years due to his expertise in writing analysis. He has sometimes correctly guessed the identities of anonymous authors by analyzing their word usage, not their handwriting styles. By studying news reports of hoax anthrax letters, Foster begins to get interested in Steven Hatfill as a potential suspect. Hatfill had appeared as an expert on biological attacks in some articles dating back to 1998, and he has a curious history while living in Zimbabwe and South Africa in the late 1970s and early 1980s, a time when the racist white government of Zimbabwe (then known as Rhodesia) possibly launched an anthrax attack on their own black citizens. Foster will write in 2003, “When I lined up Hatfill’s known movements with the postmark locations of reported biothreats, those hoax anthrax attacks appeared to trail him like a vapor cloud.” Around February 2002, Foster suggests Hatfill’s name to FBI headquarters as a candidate suspect. But he is told that Hatfill has a good alibi. A month later, he puts forward Hatfill’s name again but is told that people in the Defense Department, State Department, and the CIA have vouched for Hatfill. William Patrick, one of the most respected bioterrorism experts, is Hatfill’s mentor and also vouches for him (see Early March 2002). In April 2002, Foster meets with Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a professor and biological arms control expert, who has been publicly putting forth theories on who she thinks is behind the anthrax attacks (see February-June 2002). He learns that she has independently come to the same conclusion, that Hatfill should be the prime suspect. Foster will later write that the FBI was “prodded publicly by Rosenberg and privately by myself” to investigate Hatfill more closely. Foster will apparently be eased out of the FBI’s anthrax investigation when he requests some documents to analyze and the FBI does not show them to him. He will write an article in Vanity Fair in 2003 that will strongly imply Hatfill could be behind the anthrax attacks. [Vanity Fair, 9/15/2003]
Sheikh Sheikh photographed while in secret custody in February 2002. [Source: CNN]Pakistani police, with the help of the FBI, determine Saeed Sheikh is behind the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl, but are unable to find him. They round up about ten of his relatives and threaten to harm them unless he turns himself in. Saeed Sheikh does turn himself in, but to Ijaz Shah, his former ISI boss. [Boston Globe, 2/7/2002; Vanity Fair, 8/2002] The ISI holds Saeed for a week, but fails to tell Pakistani police or anyone else that they have him. This “missing week” is the cause of much speculation. The ISI never tells Pakistani police any details about this week. [Newsweek, 3/11/2002] Saeed also later refuses to discuss the week or his connection to the ISI, only saying, “I will not discuss this subject. I do not want my family to be killed.” He adds, “I know people in the government and they know me and my work.” [Newsweek, 3/13/2002; Vanity Fair, 8/2002] It is suggested Saeed is held for this week to make sure that Pearl would be killed. Saeed later says that during this week he got a coded message from the kidnappers that Pearl had been murdered. Also, the time might have been spent working out a deal with the ISI over what Saeed would tell police and the public. [Newsweek, 3/11/2002] Several others with both extensive ISI and al-Qaeda ties wanted for the kidnapping are arrested around this time. [Washington Post, 2/23/2002; London Times, 2/25/2002] One of these men, Khalid Khawaja, “has never hidden his links with Osama bin Laden. At one time he used to fly Osama’s personal plane.” [Pakistan News Service (Newark, CA), 2/11/2002]
Accused al-Qaeda sleeper agent Ali Saleh Kahlah al-Marri (see December 12, 2001) is charged with one count of credit card fraud. He has already been arrested on a material witness warrant pertaining to the investigation of the 9/11 attacks; since January, he has been in detention in New York City, where most of the investigations are centered. [Bradley Scout, 3/29/2002] According to the FBI, phone records link al-Marri with a phone number in the United Arab Emirates that was used by 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and one of his associates, Ramzi bin Al-Shibh. Al-Marri’s lawyer, Richard Jasper, says there is no evidence linking al-Marri to the phone calls by Atta and bin al-Shibh, al-Marri merely attempted three phone calls to the same number. “Attempted—I don’t know what that means, do you?” Jasper says. “It’s the thinnest of inferences, actually. If you read the affidavit carefully there’s no direct or indirect evidence he made the calls. How do we know there wasn’t some kind of mistaken call or some flaw in recovering the numbers?” Al-Marri has family members in the UAE. [Chicago Sun-Times, 3/21/2002]
Salon exposes details about the FBI’s anthrax investigation. The FBI appears to be casting a very wide net, for instance approaching all 40,000 members of the American Society of Microbiologists and putting out flyers all over New Jersey asking for information. Yet nearly all the evidence so far suggests that the Ames strain of anthrax used in the attacks was only given to about 20 laboratories in the US, and most likely only four US laboratories have the capability for “weaponizing” dry anthrax. Two of these labs are the US Army’s USAMRIID in Fort Detrick, Maryland, or the US Army’s Dugway Proving Ground in Utah. There are probably less than 50 scientists in the US with the necessary skills. Meanwhile, the FBI has not yet subpoenaed employee records of the few labs that used the strain of anthrax used in the attacks. Numerous anthrax experts express puzzlement. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a professor and biological arms control expert, believes the FBI is dragging its heels for political reasons. She is convinced the FBI knows who mailed the anthrax letters, but is not arresting him, because he has been involved in secret biological weapons research that the US does not want revealed. “This guy knows too much, and knows things the US isn’t very anxious to publicize. Therefore, they don’t want to get too close.” It will later turn out that she is referring to anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill (see February-June 2002). [Salon, 2/8/2002]
Katherine Smith is killed one day before her scheduled appearance in court on charges that she helped five Islamic men get illegal drivers licenses. According to witnesses, she veered into a utility pole when a fire erupted in her car. She was burned beyond recognition. The FBI will later determine that gasoline was poured on her clothing before she died in the fire and find that arson was the cause of death. [Associated Press, 2/15/2002] A suicide note is found, but prosecutors will say they are looking for murder suspects. Smith was being investigated by the FBI; the five Islamic men she allegedly helped will later plead guilty to charges of fraud. One of these men, Sakhera Hammad, was found with a pass in his wallet giving access to the the basement of the World Trade Center, dated September 5, 2001. [Go Memphis, 2/12/2002; Associated Press, 2/13/2002; Reuters, 2/15/2002; Commercial Appeal (Memphis), 2/21/2002] Hammad claims he was a plumber and worked on the WTC’s sprinkler system on September 5. His father, Peter Hansen, provides a letter that he says he obtained from his son’s employer, Sergei Denko, president of Denko Mechanical. Denko says Hammad had been working for his company in the basement garage area of the North Tower of the WTC. [New York Times, 2/18/2002] Shown a photocopy of the pass that gave Hammad access to the lower basement of the North Tower, New York Port Authority officials will say it looks authentic, but they cannot be certain without seeing the original. Authorities said Hammad told them that he is plumber, and he and his cousin were in the tower to work on the sprinkler system. New York authorities have no record of a plumber’s license for either cousin. [St. Petersburg Times, 2/17/2002] One of the five Islamic men, Khaled Odtllah, drove from New York City to Memphis on September 11. Tennessee is one of only four US states that doesn’t require a Social Security card to get a driver’s license. A prosecutor accuses each of the five men of attempting to acquire a “completely false and untraceable identity.” [Associated Press, 2/12/2002; Associated Press, 2/15/2002] One month later, the coroner who examines Smith’s body will be targeted by a bomb, which is defused. Then in June the coroner will be attacked, bound with barbed wire, and left with a bomb tied to his body, but he survives. [Commercial Appeal (Memphis), 3/14/2002]
Attorney General John Ashcroft says “I want to encourage…all Americans everywhere to be on the highest state of alert.” The FBI warns of a threat from Yemeni or Saudi Arabian terrorists who may be planning an imminent attack. [CNN, 2/12/2002] It is later revealed that the threat hadn’t been corroborated by other US intelligence agencies. In addition, the threat actually indicated a more likely attack in Yemen. This announcement was made the same day that Enron CEO Kenneth Lay appeared before Congress. A week earlier, the White House had been ordered to refrain from destroying any documentation related to Enron. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ]
Faisal al-Salmi, a Saudi man who knew 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour, is convicted of making false statements to the FBI. Al-Salmi, 34, trained at the same Arizona flight school as Hanjour where they both used the flight simulator (see Summer 2001). Al-Salmi denied knowing Hanjour but, according to investigators, they spoke several times and were seen together in the summer of 2001. He is not accused of being involved in the 9/11 plot. Al-Salmi will later receive a six-month sentence. [Associated Press, 10/13/2001; Time, 10/28/2001; Arizona Daily Wildcat, 2/14/2002; New York Times, 2/16/2002; CNN, 4/20/2002; Arizona Daily Star, 7/24/2004]
Anthrax under magnification. [Source: T. W. Geisbert / USAMRIID]Scientist Bruce Ivins submits a sample of the anthrax he has been using to FBI investigators. Ivins works at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory, and is helping with the anthrax investigation even though the FBI has reason to believe the anthrax could have come from USAMRIID (see Mid-October 2001 and Winter 2001). Ivins is using a variety of the Ames anthrax strain known as RMR-1029. A subpoena dated February 22, 2002 is issued to Ivins and other scientists, telling them to submit samples of their anthrax. Ivins submits his sample on February 27, apparently before he receives the subpoena. He is the only scientist to submit a sample before getting the subpoena. He had been discussing with investigators what kind of protocol to use for the samples, so he is familiar with the desire for the samples and how to submit them, but he does not completely the protocol with his sample. The FBI will soon destroy the sample he submits because it has not been prepared using the protocol, which is necessary for it to be used as valid evidence in trial. In April 2002, Ivins will submit a second anthrax sample. Around 2004, scientists will discover some unique genetic markers to the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks and will start comparing that anthrax to other anthrax. No match will be found between Ivins’s April 2002 sample and the anthrax used in the attacks. However, Paul Keim, a biologist at Northern Arizona University and an expert at distinguishing various strains of anthrax, keeps duplicates of all the anthrax samples sent to the FBI. In early 2007, it will be discovered that he still has a copy of Ivins’s February 2002 sample. A match will be discovered between that RMR-1029 sample and the sample from the attacks (see Early 2007). However, at least 100 scientists had access to this sample (see Late 2005-2006). [US Department of Justice, 8/18/2008; New York Times, 8/20/2008]
Beginning at least by this time, some political activists begin noticing they are being subjected to extra surveillance and security checks when flying in the US. Numerous government agencies later admit they are using a “no fly” list that bans certain people from flying. The government says about 1,000 names are on the list. It is also admitted that there is a second list that subjects anyone on it to increased security every time they fly. A number of agencies, including the CIA, FBI, INS, and State Department, admit that they have added names to such lists, but no agency admits controlling the list. There are no guidelines to determine who gets on the lists and no procedures for getting off a list if someone is wrongfully on it. Airport security personnel note that the lists seem to be netting mostly priests, elderly nuns, Green Party campaign operatives, left-wing journalists, right-wing activists, and people affiliated with Arab or Arab-American groups. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/27/2002; Salon, 11/15/2002]
An al-Qaeda operations leader gives American al-Qaeda member Jose Padilla (see September-October 2000) an assignment: target high-rise buildings in the US that use natural gas. Padilla and al-Qaeda leaders consider buildings in Florida, Washington, DC, and New York City as potential targets. Though al-Qaeda leaders consider Padilla an incompetent (see Mid-April 2002), they give him $15,000 to begin putting together a plan. [Associated Press, 6/2004] Instead, Padilla will be captured by FBI agents as he comes into Chicago (see May 8, 2002).
FBI agents John Vincent (left), and Robert Wright (right) appear on ABC News. [Source: ABC News]In early March 2002, New York Times reporter Judith Miller hears that FBI agent Robert Wright is complaining about the FBI’s mishandling of the Vulgar Betrayal investigation. Miller submits a list of written questions to Wright about his allegations. She also submits a similar list to FBI agent John Vincent, who also worked on Vulgar Betrayal and shares many of Wright’s views. Wright and Vincent quickly reply, but the FBI does not allow Miller to read their answers. Meanwhile, Miller contacts some other FBI officials to hear their side of the issue. She is allowed to speak to them. Because Miller is unable to hear from Wright or Vincent, she decides not to write the story. In December 2002, the Justice Department will hear an appeal from Wright and rule that no classified information was contained in the answers to Miller’s questions. But as of the end of 2005, all of Wright and Vincent’s answers still have not been released by the FBI. [Robert G. Wright, Jr., v. Federal Bureau of Investigation, 5/16/2005]
William Patrick. [Source: Public domain]William Patrick is interviewed by the FBI in relation to the anthrax attacks. He is the inventor of the US anthrax weaponization process. He retired from decades of government employment in 1986, but continues with private consulting work. Patrick is surprised that the FBI did not interview him earlier. He is also a former superior to Steven Hatfill, who is emerging as the FBI’s prime suspect around this time (see February 1999). [BBC, 3/14/2002] Additionally, Hatfill is considered Patrick’s main protege. One bioterrorism expert says their close relationship is “like father and son.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2003] After passing a lie detector test, the FBI invites Patrick to join the inner circle of technical advisers to the anthrax investigation. [Baltimore Sun, 6/27/2002] Later in 2002, the FBI searches Patrick’s house with bloodhounds, but apparently fail to gain any leads. [Washington Post, 9/14/2003] It is later noted that “many of the experts the FBI has turned to for help are also, almost by definition, potential suspects. That has put FBI agents in the uncomfortable position of having to subject their scientist-consultants to polygraph tests, and then, afterward, ask those same experts to help analyze evidence.” [Hartford Courant, 9/7/2002]
The US intelligence community begins monitoring Lawrence Wright, a journalist and author who writes on counterterrorism. In addition to his articles for the New Yorker, in 2006 Wright publishes The Looming Tower, an account of the run-up to 9/11 which discloses the names of mid-level officials who performed badly. [Wright, 2006; New Yorker, 1/21/2008] Apparently, the surveillance begins when Wright calls a relative of al-Qaeda deputy leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. The relative, an architect in Cairo, had asked Wright if he knew whether all of al-Zawahiri’s children were dead after Wright published a profile of al-Zawahiri in the New Yorker. A source with the FBI (wrongly) told Wright that they were and that the information was not secret, so Wright passes the news on to the architect over the telephone. An intelligence community source will tell Wright that he later reads a transcript of this call. Wright will later say that he is surprised by this, because he thinks his part of the call should be anonimized under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act as he is a US citizen. Before the publication of his book in 2006, Wright is visited at his home by FBI officials on the local Joint Terrorism Task Force. The officials ask him about calls he makes to a solicitor in Britain who is representing Islamist radicals Wright interviews for his book. During the visit, the FBI agents express the belief that it is Wright’s daughter who made the calls. It is unclear to Wright why they think this, as none of the home phones is in her name. Wright is troubled by this and around late 2007 will ask Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell about it. McConnell will say that the call to the architect “shoud be” monitored and that Wright’s identity would have been deleted originally, as it could only be made available to the intelligence community after a legitimate request for it. “So here’s what I think—I’m guessing,” McConnell will say. “You called a bad guy, the system listened, tried to sort it out, and they did an intel report because it had foreign intelligence value. That’s our mission.” McConnell adds that the FBI would have to have had probable cause and a warrant to tap his phone and that he does not know how Wright’s daughter’s name could have come up. [New Yorker, 1/21/2008]
The CIA sends a one-and-a-half-page cable to the White House, the FBI, the Justice Department, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Defense Intelligence Agency, with news that a CIA source sent to Niger has failed to find any evidence to back claims that Iraq sought uranium from that country (see February 21, 2002-March 4, 2002). The cable contains an initial report of the source’s findings in Niger. [Knight Ridder, 6/12/2003; ABC News, 6/12/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003; Washington Post, 6/13/2003; BBC, 7/8/2003; BBC, 7/8/2003; US Congress, 7/7/2004] The agency rates the quality of the information in the report as “good,” with a rating of 3 out of 5. [CounterPunch, 11/9/2005]
Caveats and Denials - The report does not name the CIA source or indicate that the person is a former ambassador. Instead it describes the source as “a contact with excellent access who does not have an established reporting record” and notes that the Nigeriens with whom he spoke “knew their remarks could reach the US government and may have intended to influence as well as inform.” A later Senate report on the US’s pre-war intelligence on Iraq will state: “The intelligence report indicated that former Nigerien Prime Minister Ibrahim Mayaki was unaware of any contracts that had been signed between Niger and any rogue states for the sale of yellowcake while he was prime minister (1997-1999) or foreign minister (1996-1997). Mayaki said that if there had been any such contract during his tenure, he would have been aware of it.” Mayaki, according to the report, also acknowledged a June 1999 visit (see June 1999) by a businessman who arranged a meeting between Mayaki and an Iraqi delegation to discuss “expanding commercial relations” between Niger and Iraq. The intelligence report says that Mayaki interpreted “expanding commercial relations” to mean that the delegation wanted to discuss purchasing uranium. The meeting did take place, but according to the report, “Mayaki let the matter drop due to UN sanctions on Iraq.” The intelligence report also says that Niger’s former Minister for Energy and Mines, Mai Manga, told Wilson that there have been no sales outside of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) channels since the mid-1980s. Mai Manga is also reported to have described how the French mining consortium controls Nigerien uranium mining and keeps the uranium very tightly controlled from the time it is mined until the time it is loaded onto ships in Benin for transportation overseas. Manga said he believed it would be difficult, if not impossible, to arrange a special clandestine shipment of uranium to a country like Iraq. [US Congress, 7/7/2004]
White House: Report Left Out Details, Considered Unimportant - Bush administration officials will say in June 2003 that the report left out important details, such as the trip’s conclusions. And consequently, the Washington Post will report in June 2003, “It was not considered unusual or very important and not passed on to Condoleezza Rice, the president’s national security adviser, or other senior White House officials.” [Washington Post, 6/12/2003 ; Washington Post, 6/13/2003; Knight Ridder, 6/13/2003]
CIA Source Doubts White House Claims - But the CIA source who made the journey, former ambassador Joseph Wilson, will find this explanation hard to believe. “Though I did not file a written report [he provided an oral briefing (see March 4-5, 2002)], there should be at least four documents in United States government archives confirming my mission,” he will later explain. “The documents should include the ambassador’s report of my debriefing in Niamey, a separate report written by the embassy staff, a CIA report summing up my trip, and a specific answer from the agency to the office of the vice president (this may have been delivered orally). While I have not seen any of these reports, I have spent enough time in government to know that this is standard operating procedure.” [New York Times, 7/6/2003]
Senior CIA Case Officer Backs Up Source - In 2007, Wilson’s wife, senior CIA case officer Valerie Plame Wilson, will write of the report (see March 4-5, 2002) that if standard protocol has been followed, the report is distributed to “all the government departments that have intelligence components, such as the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), the National Security Agency (NSA), the Pentagon, and the overseas military commands. All of us had every reason to believe that their finished report would indeed be sent to the vice president’s office as part of the established protocol.” According to Plame Wilson, who read the report when it was completed (see (March 6, 2002)), much of the report focuses on “Niger’s strict, private, and government controls on mining consortia to ensure that no yellowcake went missing between the uranium mines and the marketplace.” She will write in 2007 that her husband’s report “corroborated and reinforced what was already known.” Both she and her husband assume that the allegations are sufficiently disproven and will not be heard of again. [Wilson, 2007, pp. 112-114]
Little New Information - According to intelligence analysts later interviewed by Congressional investigators, the intelligence community does not believe the trip has contributed any significant information to what is already known about the issue, aside from the details of the 1999 Iraqi delegation. [US Congress, 7/7/2004]
Entity Tags: Condoleezza Rice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ibrahim Mayaki, Defense Intelligence Agency, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of Justice, Mai Manga, Bush administration (43), Valerie Plame Wilson, Joint Chiefs of Staff, Joseph C. Wilson
Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, Niger Uranium and Plame Outing
Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge admits that the FBI has failed to find a single al-Qaeda cell operating in the US. He suspects there are active cells, but cannot explain why none have been caught. [London Times, 3/11/2002] Seemingly obvious al-Qaeda cells, such as Nabil al-Marabh’s Boston cell (see June 27, 2004) and Ali Mohamed’s Santa Clara, California, cell (see Mid-1990s), appear to have escaped detection or public mention. The FBI will issue a report in 2005 that again will claim that no sleeper cells can be found in the US (see February 2005). On September 12, 2001, the New York Times reported, “Authorities said they had also identified accomplices in several cities who had helped plan and execute Tuesday’s attacks. Officials said they knew who these people were and important biographical details about many of them.” [New York Times, 9/13/2001]
Days after FBI agent Robert Wright renewed efforts to make his disputes with the FBI public (see Early March 2002), the Associated Press releases a story that seems designed to counter Wright’s upcoming claims that the FBI has let large numbers of Hamas operatives live and fundraise openly in the US. The article says the FBI is conducting a “broad financial assault” against an “elaborate network of businesses and charities supporting Hamas” in the US. Further, “FBI terrorist tracking units monitoring, intercepting, and disrupting financial transactions from US supporters to Hamas overseas are moving closer to building criminal cases against some of the players.” The article notes that the FBI’s current efforts are based on Wright’s pre-9/11 work in Chicago. The article also says, “Information developed during and after [Wright’s] Chicago case has resulted in the execution of several national security warrants permitting electronic intercepts of key suspects here and overseas… In several instances, the FBI and other US agencies have decided to forgo arrests or indictments and instead have secretly disrupted Hamas activities so that agents could continue to monitor suspects and the flow of their money, officials said.” [Associated Press, 3/15/2002] Presumably, if any of the Hamas operatives were not suspicious that they were under surveillance before reading this article, they would be after reading it.
FBI translator Melek Can Dickerson has been accused by co-worker Sibel Edmonds of shielding certain individuals from FBI surveillance. On this date Dickerson undergoes a polygraph test and passes. But the questions she is asked are reportedly vague and unspecific. “The polygraph unit chief admitted that questions directly on point could have been asked but were not,” one official is quoted in a report that is later released by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General. [Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
[Source: White House]Serious tensions develop between the FBI and Operation Greenquest investigators in the wake of the Greenquest raid on the SAAR network in March 2002 (see After March 20, 2002). The Customs Department launched Greenquest, an investigation into the financing of al-Qaeda and similar groups, weeks after 9/11. In June 2002, the Washington Post will headline an article, “Infighting Slows Hunt for Hidden al-Qaeda Assets.” [Washington Post, 6/18/2002]
FBI Wants Control of Greenquest - With the creation of the new Department of Homeland Security (see November 25, 2002), the FBI and its parent agency the Justice Department are given a chance to gain total control over Operation Greenquest. Newsweek reports, “Internally, FBI officials have derided Greenquest agents as a bunch of ‘cowboys’ whose actions have undermined more important, long-range FBI investigations into terrorist financing.” Meanwhile: “The FBI-Justice move, pushed by [Justice Department] Criminal Division chief Michael Chertoff and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, has enraged Homeland Security officials.… They accuse the [FBI] of sabotaging Greenquest investigations—by failing to turn over critical information to their agents—and trying to obscure a decade-long record of lethargy in which FBI offices failed to aggressively pursue terror-finance cases. ‘They [the FBI] won’t share anything with us,’ [says] a Homeland Security official. ‘Then they go to the White House and they accuse us of not sharing. If they can’t take it over, they want to kill it.’”
Derails Greenquest's Investigation into Firm with Terrorist Ties - This battle has a large effect on the investigation into Ptech, a Boston-based computer company with ties to suspected terrorist financiers. When Ptech whistleblowers approach the FBI, the FBI “apparently [does] little or nothing in response” (see Shortly After October 12, 2001 and May-December 5, 2002). Then Greenquest launches an investigation in Ptech, which culminates in a raid on the Ptech offices in December 2002 (see December 5, 2002). “After getting wind of the Greenquest probe, the FBI stepped in and unsuccessfully tried to take control of the case. The result, sources say, has been something of a train wreck.” [Newsweek, 4/9/2003]
Greenquest Based on Single FBI Agent's Investigations - Greenquest appears to have been heavily based on the pre-9/11 investigations of FBI agent Robert Wright. The New York Post will report in 2004: “After 9/11, Wright’s work was picked up by David Kane of the US Customs Service, who raided companies owned by [Yassin] al-Qadi, leading to al-Qadi’s designation as a ‘global terrorist’ and to money-laundering indictments of companies in Northern Virginia linked to al-Qadi and Soliman Biheiri (another Wright investigatee). The [Greenquest] indictments rely heavily on Wright’s work.” [New York Post, 7/14/2004]
FBI Will Win Battle for Greenquest - The FBI will eventually win the battle with Homeland Security and Customs, and Greenquest will cease to exist at the end of June 2003 (see May 13-June 30, 2003). [Newsweek, 4/9/2003]
Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz is said to have given the Operation Greenquest investigators some of the information that led to the March 2002 SAAR network raid (see March 20, 2002). She will later write that in the months after that raid, “The CIA was investigating me and the SAAR investigators from Greenquest and Customs. The CIA and the FBI investigated everyone who had anything to do with the SAAR investigation. White vans and SUV’s with dark windows appeared near all the homes of the SAAR investigators. All agents, some of whom were very experienced with surveillance, knew they were being followed. So was I. I felt that I was being followed everywhere and watched at home, in the supermarket, on the way to work… and for what?… The Customs agents were questioned. So were their supervisors. So was the US attorney on the SAAR case.… Risking criticism for being unfoundedly paranoid, I must convey my theory about the investigation and CIA’s involvement in it, I don’t know for certain what’s the deal with the CIA investigating the SAAR investigators, but it sure feels as if someone up in that agency doesn’t like the idea that the Saudi Arabian boat is rocked. The [SAAR raid] had taken place already—the CIA couldn’t change that—but investigating and giving the people behind the raids a hard time is a most efficient way of making sure the SAAR investigation stops there.” [Katz, 2003, pp. 42] The internal governmental battle against Greenquest will continue until Greenquest will be shut down in 2003 (see After March 20, 2002-Early 2003).
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. [Vanity Fair, 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.” [New York Observer, 1/22/2004]
The house in Faisalabad, Pakistan, where Abu Zubaida is arrested. [Source: New York Times]Al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is captured in Faisalabad, Pakistan. He is the first al-Qaeda leader considered highly important to be captured or killed after 9/11.
Zubaida Injured during Raid - A joint team from the FBI, the CIA, and the ISI, Pakistan’s intelligence agency, raids the house where Zubaida is staying. Around 3 a.m., the team breaks into the house. Zubaida and three others wake up and rush to the rooftop. Zubaida and the others jump to a neighbor’s roof where they are grabbed by local police who are providing back-up for the capture operation. One of Zubaida’s associates manages to grab a gun from one of the police and starts firing it. A shoot-out ensues. The associate is killed, several police are wounded, and Zubaida is shot three times, in the leg, stomach, and groin. He survives. About a dozen other suspected al-Qaeda operatives are captured in the house, and more are captured in other raids that take place nearby at the same time. [New York Times, 4/14/2002; Suskind, 2006, pp. 84-89] US intelligence had slowly been closing in on Zubaida’s location for weeks, but accounts differ as to exactly how he was found (see February-March 28, 2002). He had surgically altered his appearance and was using an alias, so it takes a few days to completely confirm his identity. [New York Times, 9/10/2006]
Link to Pakistani Militant Group - A later US State Department report will mention that the building Zubaida is captured in is actually a Lashkar-e-Toiba safehouse. Lashkar-e-Toiba is a Pakistani militant group with many links to al-Qaeda, and it appears to have played a key role in helping al-Qaeda operatives escape US forces in Afghanistan and find refuge in Pakistan (see Late 2001-Early 2002). [US Department of State, 4/30/2008]
Rendition - Not long after his arrest, Zubaida is interrogated by a CIA agent while he is recovering in a local hospital (see Shortly After March 28, 2002). He then is rendered to a secret CIA prison, where he is interrogated and tortured (see Mid-May 2002 and After). Throughout his detention, members of the National Security Council and other senior Bush administration officials are briefed about Zubaida’s captivity and treatment. [Senate Intelligence Committee, 4/22/2009 ]
Is Zubaida a High-Ranking Al-Qaeda Leader? - Shortly after the arrest, the New York Times reports that “Zubaida is believed by American intelligence to be the operations director for al-Qaeda and the highest-ranking figure of that group to be captured since the Sept. 11 attacks.” [New York Times, 4/14/2002] But it will later come out that while Zubaida was an important radical Islamist, his importance was probably overstated (see Shortly After March 28, 2002).
Tortured While in US Custody - Once Zubaida has sufficiently recovered from his injuries, he is taken to a secret CIA prison in Thailand for more interrogation. [Observer, 6/13/2004; New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009] One unnamed CIA official will later say: “He received the finest medical attention on the planet. We got him in very good health, so we could start to torture him.” [Suskind, 2006, pp. 94-96, 100] Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly vows that Zubaida will not be tortured, but it will later come out that he was (see Mid-May 2002 and After and April - June 2002). [New York Times, 4/14/2002]
FBI senior interrogator and al-Qaeda expert Ali Soufan, in conjunction with FBI agent Steve Gaudin, interrogate suspected al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002) using traditional non-coercive interrogation methods, while Zubaida is under guard in a secret CIA prison in Thailand. A CIA interrogation team is expected but has not yet arrived, so Soufan and Gaudin who have been nursing his wounds are initially leading his questioning using its typical rapport-building techniques. “We kept him alive,” Soufan will later recall. “It wasn’t easy, he couldn’t drink, he had a fever. I was holding ice to his lips.” At the beginning, Zubaida denies even his identity, calling himself “Daoud;” Soufan, who has pored over the FBI’s files on Zubaida, stuns him by calling him “Hani,” the nickname his mother called him. Soufan and Gaudin, with CIA officials present, elicit what he will later call “important actionable intelligence” from Zubaida. To help get him to talk, the agents bring in a box of audiotapes and claim they contain recordings of his phone conversations. He begins to confess.
Zubaida Reveals KSM Is 9/11 Mastermind - Zubaida tells Soufan that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and confirms that Mohammed’s alias is “Mukhtar,” a vital fact US intelligence discovered shortly before 9/11 (see August 28, 2001). Soufan shows Zubaida a sheaf of pictures of terror suspects; Zubaida points at Mohammed’s photo and says, “That’s Mukhtar… the one behind 9/11” (see April 2002). Zubaida also tells Soufan about American al-Qaeda operative Jose Padilla (see March 2002 and Mid-April 2002). In 2009, Soufan will write of his interrogations of Zubaida (see April 22, 2009): “This experience fit what I had found throughout my counterterrorism career: traditional interrogation techniques are successful in identifying operatives, uncovering plots and saving lives.” When the CIA begins subjecting Zubaida to “enhanced interrogation tactics” (see Mid-April 2002), Soufan will note that they learn nothing from using those tactics “that wasn’t, or couldn’t have been, gained from regular tactics. In addition, I saw that using these alternative methods on other terrorists backfired on more than a few occasions… The short sightedness behind the use of these techniques ignored the unreliability of the methods, the nature of the threat, the mentality and modus operandi of the terrorists, and due process.” [Vanity Fair, 7/17/2007; Mayer, 2008, pp. 155; New York Times, 4/22/2009; Newsweek, 4/25/2009]
Standing Up to the CIA - The CIA interrogation team members, which includes several private contractors, want to begin using “harsh interrogation tactics” on Zubaida almost as soon as they arrive. The techniques they have in mind include nakedness, exposure to freezing temperatures, and loud music. Soufan objects. He yells at one contractor (whom other sources will later identify as psychologist James Mitchell—see Late 2001-Mid-March 2002, January 2002 and After and Between Mid-April and Mid-May 2002), telling him that what he is doing is wrong, ineffective, and an offense to American values. “I asked [the contractor] if he’d ever interrogated anyone, and he said no,” Soufan will later say. But, Mitchell retorts that his inexperience does not matter. “Science is science,” he says. “This is a behavioral issue.” Instead, Mitchell says, Soufan is the inexperienced one. As Soufan will later recall, “He told me he’s a psychologist and he knows how the human mind works.” During the interrogation process, Soufan finds a dark wooden “confinement box” that the contractor has built for Zubaida. Soufan will later recall that it looked “like a coffin.” (Other sources later say that Mitchell had the box constructed for a “mock burial.”) An enraged Soufan calls Pasquale D’Amuro, the FBI assistant director for counterterrorism. “I swear to God,” he shouts, “I’m going to arrest these guys!” Soufan challenges one CIA official over the agency’s legal authority to torture Zubaida, saying, “We’re the United States of America, and we don’t do that kind of thing.” But the official counters with the assertion that the agency has received approval from the “highest levels” in Washington to use such techniques. The official even shows Soufan a document that the official claims was approved by White House counsel Alberto Gonzales. It is unclear what document the official is referring to.
Ordered Home - In Washington, D’Amuro is disturbed by Soufan’s reports, and tells FBI director Robert Mueller, “Someday, people are going to be sitting in front of green felt tables having to testify about all of this.” Mueller orders Soufan and then Gaudin to return to the US, and later forbids the FBI from taking part in CIA interrogations (see May 13, 2004). [New York Times, 9/10/2006; Newsweek, 4/25/2009]
Disputed Claims of Effectiveness - The New York Times will later note that officials aligned with the FBI tend to think the FBI’s techniques were effective while officials aligned with the CIA tend to think the CIA’s techniques were more effective. [New York Times, 9/10/2006] In 2007, former CIA officer John Kiriakou will make the opposite claim, that FBI techniques were slow and ineffective and CIA techniques were immediately effective. However, Kiriakou led the team that captured Zubaida in Pakistan and does not appear to have traveled with him to Thailand (see December 10, 2007). [ABC News, 12/10/2007; ABC News, 12/10/2007 ]
Press Investigation Finds that FBI Interrogations Effective - In 2007, Vanity Fair will conclude a 10 month investigation comprising 70 interviews, and conclude that the FBI techniques were effective. The writers will later note, “America learned the truth of how 9/11 was organized because a detainee had come to trust his captors after they treated him humanely.” CIA Director George Tenet reportedly is infuriated that the FBI and not the CIA obtained the information and he demands that the CIA team get there immediately. But once the CIA team arrives, they immediately put a stop to the rapport building techniques and instead begin implementing a controversial “psychic demolition” using legally questionable interrogation techniques. Zubaida immediately stops cooperating (see Mid-April 2002). [Vanity Fair, 7/17/2007]
Entity Tags: Steve Gaudin, Vanity Fair, Robert S. Mueller III, James Elmer Mitchell, Jose Padilla, Abu Zubaida, Ali Soufan, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet, John Kiriakou, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Pasquale D’Amuro
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline
Ramzi bin al-Shibh. [Source: FBI]It is originally reported that Al Jazeera reporter Yosri Fouda interviews 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and 9/11 associate Ramzi Bin al-Shibh at a secret location in Karachi, Pakistan, in either June [London Times, 9/8/2002] or August. [Guardian, 9/9/2002] Details and audio footage of the interview come out between September 8 and 12, 2002. The video footage of the interview al-Qaeda promised to hand over is never given to Al Jazeera. [Associated Press, 9/8/2002] Both figures claim the 9/11 attacks were originally going to target nuclear reactors, but “decided against it for fear it would go out of control.” Interviewer Fouda is struck that KSM and bin al-Shibh remember only the hijackers’ code names, and have trouble remembering their real names. [Australian, 9/9/2002] KSM, who calls himself the head of al-Qaeda’s military committee and refers to bin al-Shibh as the coordinator of the “Holy Tuesday” operation, reportedly acknowledges “[a]nd, yes, we did it.” [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 38] These interviews “are the first full admission by senior figures from bin Laden’s network that they carried out the September 11 attacks.” [London Times, 9/8/2002] Some, however, call Fouda’s claims into doubt. For example, the Financial Times states: “Analysts cited the crude editing of [Fouda’s interview] tapes and the timing of the broadcasts as reasons to be suspicious about their authenticity. Dia Rashwan, an expert on Islamist movements at the Al-Ahram Centre for Strategic Studies in Cairo, said: ‘I have very serious doubts [about the authenticity of this tape]. It could have been a script written by the FBI.’” [Financial Times, 9/11/2002] KSM is later variously reported to be arrested in June 2002, killed or arrested in September 2002, and then arrested in March 2003. After this last arrest report, for the first time Fouda claims this interview took place in April, placing it safely before the first reports of KSM’s capture. [Guardian, 3/4/2003; CTV Television, 3/6/2003] Bin al-Shibh also gets captured several days after Fouda’s interview is broadcast, and some reports say he is captured because this interview allows his voice to be identified. [Observer, 9/15/2002; CBS News, 10/9/2002] As a result, Fouda has been accused of betraying al-Qaeda, and now fears for his life. [Independent, 9/17/2002] As the Washington Post states, “Now Al Jazeera is also subject to rumors of a conspiracy.” [Washington Post, 9/15/2002] Yet after being so reviled by al-Qaeda supporters, Fouda is later given a cassette said to be a bin Laden speech. [MSNBC, 11/18/2002] US officials believe the voice on that cassette is “almost certainly” bin Laden, but one of the world’s leading voice-recognition institutes said it is 95 percent certain the tape is a forgery. [BBC, 11/18/2002; BBC, 11/29/2002] It will later be revealed that details of the interview were told to the CIA in mid-June 2002, which directly resulted in bin al-Shibh’s arrest a few months later (see June 14, 2002 and Shortly After).
ABC News will later report that the FBI begins suspecting scientist Bruce Ivins for the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001) in early 2002. The FBI first begins to suspect Ivins in April when it is discovered he had failed to quickly report anthrax had been found near his desk, away from the laboratory area where he usually works with anthrax. Ivins claims he did not report the leak in a timely manner because he did not want to cause an uproar (see December 2001-May 2002). One of Ivins’s colleagues will later confirm that Ivins knew he had been under suspicion for years, and hired a criminal defense lawyer not long after the attacks. However, the FBI is already focusing their suspicions on a different scientist, Steven Hatfill (see February-June 2002), and largely dismisses concerns about Ivins. Ivins had passed a polygraph test (see Winter 2001), and directly assists the FBI with the anthrax investigation (see Mid-October 2001). Not only does he help analyze the anthrax letters, but he participates in strategy meetings on how to find the person responsible. [ABC News, 8/1/2008] Court documents will later claim that Ivins also repeatedly offers the FBI names of colleagues at USAMRIID who might be potential suspects in the attacks. In a 2007 search of his house, the FBI will find an e-mail from 2002 in which he names two fellow scientists and gives 11 reasons for their possible guilt. He sent the email from a personal account to his Army account, but it is not known if he sent it to anyone else. The FBI will later claim he was attempting to mislead the investigation. [New York Times, 8/7/2008; Wall Street Journal, 8/7/2008] Brad Garrett, a former FBI agent involved in the anthrax investigation, will later say, “If he in fact was the correct person, he was actually put in charge of analyzing the evidence of his own crime.” [ABC News, 8/1/2008]
In February 2002, scientist Bruce Ivins submitted a sample of the anthrax he has been using to FBI investigators, but it was destroyed because it was not submitted according to strict protocols. As a result, he is asked to submit a second sample in April 2002, and does. Ivins works at USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory, and is helping with the anthrax investigation even as the FBI has reason to believe the anthrax could have come from USAMRIID (see Mid-October 2001 and Winter 2001). Ivins is using a variety of the Ames anthrax strain known as RMR-1029. Around early 2004, scientists will discover some unique genetic markers to the anthrax used in the 2001 attacks and will start comparing that anthrax to other anthrax. No match will be found between Ivins’s April 2002 sample and the anthrax used in the attacks. As a result of this discrepancy, the FBI will raid Ivins’s lab in July 2004 and seize more samples of RMR-1029 (see July 16, 2004). Additionally, Paul Keim, a biologist at Northern Arizona University and an expert at distinguishing various strains of anthrax, keeps duplicates of all the anthrax samples sent to the FBI. In early 2007, it will be discovered that he still has a copy of Ivins’s February 2002 sample. A match will be discovered between that RMR-1029 sample and the sample from the attacks (see Early 2007). However, at least 100 scientists had access to this sample (see Late 2005-2006). [New York Times, 8/20/2008] It remains unknown if Ivins altered the sample he submitted. Keim will later say that the genetic markers found in other samples of RMR-1029 should have been found in Ivins’s sample. He will note that “the FBI is implying he did it on purpose.” However, he will say that “Ivins may simply have failed to collect a representative sample.” [Philadelphia Inquirer, 9/1/2008] In an August 2008 press briefing (see August 18, 2008), a government official will be asked if the sample submitted was not RMR-1029. The official will reply, “I don’t want to speculate that far.” [US Department of Justice, 8/18/2008]
FBI agents are able to get prisoner Abu Zubaida to confess that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) is the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks. Zubaida, captured in Pakistan in March 2002 (see March 28, 2002), is considered a high-ranking prisoner, although there is controversy over just how important he was to al-Qaeda (see Shortly After March 28, 2002). FBI agents Ali Soufan and Steve Gaudin have been interrogating Zubaida using traditional non-coercive interrogation methods, while he is being held in a secret CIA prison in Thailand (see Late March through Early June, 2002). A CIA interrogation team is expected but has not yet arrived. Soufan shows Zubaida a sheaf of pictures of high priority suspects; Zubaida points at KSM’s photo and says, “That’s Mukhtar… the one behind 9/11.” Shortly before 9/11, US intelligence had learned that the alias “Mukhtar” was frequently used by KSM (see August 28, 2001), but this is important confirmation. The more stunning revelation is that KSM is “the one behind 9/11.” [Mayer, 2008, pp. 155; New York Times, 4/22/2009; Newsweek, 4/25/2009] Zubaida proceeds to lay out more details of the 9/11 plot, although exactly what and how much he says is unknown. [Vanity Fair, 7/17/2007] It is unclear how much US intelligence knew about KSM’s role in the 9/11 attacks prior to this, although at least some was known (see (December 2001)).
Captured al-Qaeda operative Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002), after recovering somewhat from three gunshot wounds inflicted during his capture, is transferred to a secret CIA prison in Thailand, presumably the revamped Vietnam War-era base in Udorn. [Weiner, 2007, pp. 297; Washington Post, 4/22/2009] In late 2006, after being transferred to Guantanamo, Zubaida will tell representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross the story of his interrogation in Thailand (see October 6 - December 14, 2006). Zubaida becomes what CIA interrogator John Kiriakou will later call “a test case for an evolving new role… in which the agency was to act as jailer and interrogator of terrorism suspects” (see September 17, 2001).
New Tactics To Be Used - Officials from the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) program are involved in Zubaida’s interrogations. SERE officials have prepared a program of so-called “harsh interrogation methods,” many of which are classified as torture under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture (see December 2001 and July 2002). A 2009 Senate report (see April 21, 2009) will find: “At some point in the first six months of 2002, JPRA [the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency] assisted with the preparation of a [redacted name], sent to interrogate a high-level al-Qaeda operative.” Further investigation will prove that the person whose name will be redacted is, indeed, Zubaida. According to a June 20, 2002 memo, the SERE officials’ participation in the Zubaida interrogation is “training.” JPRA psychologist Bruce Jessen, one of the authors of the JPRA torture methodology (see January 2002 and After), suggests that “exploitation strategies” be used against Zubaida. Jessen’s collaborator on the torture proposal, James Mitchell, is present for Zubaida’s torture; Mitchell plays a central role in the decision to use what the CIA calls an “increased pressure phase” against Zubaida. [Washington Post, 4/22/2009]
First Weeks Shackled and Sleep-Deprived - Zubaida will begin his narrative after his initial, and successful, interrogation by FBI agents (see Late March through Early June, 2002). He spends the first weeks of his captivity shackled to a chair, denied solid food, and kept awake. In Zubaida’s words: “I woke up, naked, strapped to a bed, in a very white room. The room measured approximately [13 feet by 13 feet]. The room had three solid walls, with the fourth wall consisting of metal bars separating it from a larger room. I am not sure how long I remained in the bed. After some time, I think it was several days, but can’t remember exactly, I was transferred to a chair where I was kept, shackled by [the] hands and feet for what I think was the next two to three weeks. During this time I developed blisters on the underside of my legs due to the constant sitting. I was only allowed to get up from the chair to go [to] the toilet, which consisted of a bucket. Water for cleaning myself was provided in a plastic bottle. I was given no solid food during the first two or three weeks, while sitting on the chair. I was only given Ensure [a nutrient supplement] and water to drink. At first the Ensure made me vomit, but this became less with time. The cell and room were air-conditioned and were very cold. Very loud, shouting type music was constantly playing. It kept repeating about every 15 minutes, 24 hours a day. Sometimes the music stopped and was replaced by a loud hissing or crackling noise. The guards were American, but wore masks to conceal their faces. My interrogators did not wear masks. During this first two to three week period I was questioned for about one to two hours each day. American interrogators would come to the room and speak to me through the bars of the cell. During the questioning the music was switched off, but was then put back on again afterwards. I could not sleep at all for the first two to three weeks. If I started to fall asleep one of the guards would come and spray water in my face.” In 2009, author Mark Danner will write: “One can translate these procedures into terms of art: ‘Change of Scenery Down.’ ‘Removal of Clothing.’ ‘Use of Stress Positions.’ ‘Dietary Manipulation.’ ‘Environmental Manipulation.’ ‘Sleep Adjustment.’ ‘Isolation.’ ‘Sleep Deprivation.’ ‘Use of Noise to Induce Stress.’ All these terms and many others can be found, for example, in documents associated with the debate about interrogation and ‘counter-resistance’ carried on by Pentagon and Justice Department officials beginning in 2002. Here, however, we find a different standard: the [proposed regulations say], for example, that ‘Sleep Deprivation’ is ‘not to exceed four days in succession,’ that ‘Dietary Manipulation’ should include ‘no intended deprivation of food or water,’ that ‘removal of clothing,” while ‘creating a feeling of helplessness and dependence,’ must be ‘monitored to ensure the environmental conditions are such that this technique does not injure the detainee.’ Here we are in a different place.”
CIA Team Moves In - The first weeks of Zubaida’s captivity are maintained by a small team of FBI agents and interrogators, but soon a team from the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center takes over. As Kiriakou will later recall: “We had these trained interrogators who were sent to his location to use the enhanced techniques as necessary to get him to open up, and to report some threat information.… These enhanced techniques included everything from what was called an attention shake, where you grab the person by their lapels and shake them, all the way up to the other end, which is waterboarding.” After the initial period of captivity, Zubaida is allowed to sleep with less interruption, stretched out naked and shackled on the bare floor. He is also given solid food for the first time in weeks—rice. A female doctor examines him and asks why he is still naked; he is, he will recall, “provided with orange clothes to wear.” The clothes only last a day, though: “[G]uards came into my cell,” Zubaida will recall. “They told me to stand up and raise my arms above my head. They then cut the clothes off of me so that I was again naked and put me back on the chair for several days. I tried to sleep on the chair, but was again kept awake by the guards spraying water in my face.”
Alternating Harsh and Lenient Treatments - For the next few weeks, Zubaida’s treatment veers from abusive to almost lenient. Mostly he is kept naked and confined to his cell, often suffering from intense cold in the frigid air-conditioned environment. One official later tells the ICRC that often he “seemed to turn blue.” Clothing is provided, then taken away. Zubaida will tell ICRC officials: “When my interrogators had the impression that I was cooperating and providing the information they required, the clothes were given back to me. When they felt I was being less cooperative the clothes were again removed and I was again put back on the chair.” For a time he is given a mattress to sleep on; sometimes he is “allowed some tissue paper to use when going to toilet on the bucket.” A month goes by with no interrogations. He will recall: “My cell was still very cold and the loud music no longer played but there was a constant loud hissing or crackling noise, which played 24 hours a day. I tried to block out the noise by putting tissue in my ears.” Then, “about two and half or three months after I arrived in this place, the interrogation began again, but with more intensity than before.” Danner will write that he isn’t sure if the wild swings in procedures are intentional, meant to keep Zubaida off-guard, or, as he will write, “resulted from disputes about strategy among the interrogators, who were relying on a hastily assembled ‘alternative set of procedures’ that had been improvised from various sources, including scientists and psychiatrists within the intelligence community, experts from other, ‘friendly’ governments, and consultants who had worked with the US military and now ‘reverse-engineered’ the resistance training taught to American elite forces to help them withstand interrogation after capture.” Danner notes that some CIA documents going back to the 1960s advocate subjecting the captive to sensory deprivation and disorientation, and instilling feelings of guilt, shame, and helplessness. The old CIA documents say that captives should be kept in a state of “debility-dependence-dread.” [New York Review of Books, 3/15/2009]
Justice Department's 'Ticking Bomb' Scenario - The August 2002 “golden shield” memo from the Justice Department (see August 1, 2002) will use what is often called the “ticking bomg scenario”—the supposition that a terror attack is imminent and only torture can extract time-critical information from a terrorist detainee to give US officials a chance to stop the attack—to justify Zubaida’s torture. According to CIA reports, Zubaida has information regarding “terrorist networks in the United States” and “plans to conduct attacks within the United States or against our interests overseas.” But Brent Mickum, who later becomes one of Zubaida’s attorneys, will say that he believes the Justice Department memo retroactively approved coercive tactics that had already been used. “If torture occurred before the memo was written, it’s not worth the paper it’s written on, and the writing of the memo is potentially criminal,” Mickum will note. [Washington Post, 4/22/2009]
Interrogations Continue in June - Sometime in June, Zubaida will once again be interrogated (see June 2002).
Entity Tags: Mark Danner, John Kiriakou, James Elmer Mitchell, Bruce Jessen, Al-Qaeda, Abu Zubaida, Bush administration (43), Central Intelligence Agency, Convention Against Torture, George Brent Mickum, Geneva Conventions, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, International Committee of the Red Cross
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline
Binyam Mohamed, a young British Muslim detained by Pakistani authorities while attempting to fly to London (see September 2001 - April 9, 2002), remains in Pakistani custody for two weeks before he is interrogated by an American FBI agent calling himself “Chuck.”
Denied Lawyer - Mohamed asks for a lawyer and Chuck replies, according to Mohamed: “The law’s changed. There are no lawyers. Either you’re going to answer me the easy way or I get the information I need another way.” Like other American intelligence and law enforcement agents, Chuck wants information about possible radioactive bombs or weapons in the hands of Islamist militants. “Every interrogator would ask questions about it,” a former CIA officer will later say.
Spoof Website - Mohamed unwittingly sets off alarms when he mentions having seen a spoof website with instructions on how to build a nuclear device—the instructions say that one can refine bomb-grade uranium by whirling a bucket around one’s head. In 2009, Mohamed will recall: “I mentioned the website to Chuck. It was obviously a joke: it never crossed my mind that anyone would take it seriously. But that’s when he started getting all excited.” Chuck begins accusing Mohamed of being in league with Osama bin Laden to construct a nuclear weapon: “Towards the end of April he began telling me about this A-bomb I was supposed to be building, and he started on about Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants, showing me pictures and making out I must have known them.”
Harsh Methods - “He started asking me about operations and what type I had been trained for,” Mohamed will add. It is during this time that Mohamed is subjected to harsh, abusive interrogation methods: “For at least 10 days I was deprived of sleep. Sometimes the Pakistanis chained me from the top of the gate to the cell by my wrists from the end of one interrogation to the start of the next for about 22 hours. If I shouted, sometimes I would be allowed to use a toilet. Other times, they wouldn’t let me go and I would p_ss myself. They had a thick wooden stick, like a kind of paddle, which they used to beat me while I was chained. They’d beat me for a few minutes, then stop, then start again. They also carried out a mock execution. A guard put a gun to my head and said he was going to pull the trigger. They were saying, ‘This is what the Americans want us to do.’” [Daily Mail, 3/8/2009]
Around mid-April 2002, the CIA begins using aggressive interrogation techniques on al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. A new CIA team led by psychologist James Elmer Mitchell arrives and takes control of Zubaida’s interrogation from the FBI (see Mid-April 2002). This team soon begins using techniques commonly described as torture, such as waterboarding (see April - June 2002, May 2002-2003 and Mid-May 2002 and After). Journalist James Risen will write in a 2006 book: “The assertions that the CIA’s tactics stopped short of torture were undercut by the fact that the FBI decided that the tactics were so severe that the bureau wanted no part of them, and FBI agents were ordered to stay away from the CIA-run interrogations. FBI agents did briefly see Abu Zubaida in custody, and at least one agent came away convinced that Zubaida was being tortured, according to an FBI source.” [Risen, 2006, pp. 32] Newsweek will similarly report in 2007 that Zubaida’s interrogation “sparked an internal battle within the US intelligence community after FBI agents angrily protested the aggressive methods that were used. In addition to waterboarding, Zubaida was subjected to sleep deprivation and bombarded with blaring rock music by the Red Hot Chili Peppers. One agent was so offended he threatened to arrest the CIA interrogators, according to two former government officials directly familiar with the dispute.” [Newsweek, 12/12/2007] The FBI completely withdraws its personnel, wanting to avoid legal entanglements with the dubious methods. The CIA then is able to use even more aggressive methods on Zubaida (see Mid-May 2002 and After). [New York Times, 9/10/2006] The CIA torture of Zubaida produces a raft of almost useless information (see Mid-April 2002 and June 2002). Zubaida, already mentally unstable (see Shortly After March 28, 2002), says yes to every question asked of him: if al-Qaeda is planning on bombing shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, and water systems. After each “confession,” the CIA cables Washington with the “intelligence,” and much of it is given to President Bush. White House officials will use Zubaida’s dubious admissions to issue many groundless terror warnings and alerts. [Savage, 2007, pp. 220]
Not long after being captured, al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida identifies Jose Padilla as an al-Qaeda operative to his FBI interrogators (see Late March through Early June, 2002). Padilla is a US citizen, and US intelligence has been monitoring him and some of his associates in Florida for nearly a decade already (see (October 1993-November 2001)). However, the New York Times will allege in 2006: “But Mr. Zubaida dismissed Mr. Padilla as a maladroit extremist whose hope to construct a dirty bomb, using conventional explosives to disperse radioactive materials, was far-fetched. He told his questioners that Mr. Padilla was ignorant on the subject of nuclear physics and believed he could separate plutonium from nuclear material by rapidly swinging over his head a bucket filled with fissionable material” (see Early 2002). [New York Times, 9/10/2006] The US arrests Padilla a short time later, when he returns to the US from an overseas trip on May 8 (see May 8, 2002). One month later, Attorney General John Ashcroft will reveal Padilla’s arrest in a widely publicized announcement, and will further allege that Padilla was actively plotting to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” inside the US (see June 10, 2002). However, it appears Zubaida may have been correct that Padilla was wildly overhyped. The US will later drop charges that Padilla was making a “dirty bomb,” planning any attack in the US, and was a member of al-Qaeda. [Knight Ridder, 11/23/2005] Journalist Ron Suskind will comment in 2006, “Padilla turned out to not be nearly as valuable as advertised at the start, though, and I think that’s been shown in the ensuing years.” [Salon, 9/7/2006]
The FBI allows relatives of passengers on Flight 93 to listen to the 31-minutes of tape from the plane’s cockpit voice recorder and see a written transcript of the recording. About 70 relatives do so. They are allowed to take notes, but not to make recordings because the tape might be used in the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui. [CNN, 4/19/2002; Guardian, 4/19/2002; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/21/2002] The San Francisco Chronicle responds: “Is there even a dollop of logic in that explanation? It’s like saying we can’t watch video of the planes crashing into the World Trade Center because that video might be used in a trial.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/3/2002] Much of the tape is reportedly unintelligible. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “the voices were muddled and the ambient noise of the wind rushing by the speeding plane often made it impossible to distinguish individuals, even when they were yelling.” [Daily Telegraph, 4/20/2002; Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 4/21/2002] New York Times reporter Jere Longman writes the book Among The Heroes based in part on interviews with relatives who hear the cockpit voice recording, along with several government officials and investigators. The recording reveals new details of the passengers’ struggle on board Flight 93, but the government still has not officially stated if it believes they took over the plane or not. [Washington Post, 4/19/2002; MSNBC, 7/30/2002; Daily Telegraph, 7/31/2002]
FBI Director Mueller states: “In our investigation, we have not uncovered a single piece of paper either here in the United States or in the treasure trove of information that has turned up in Afghanistan and elsewhere that mentioned any aspect of the September 11 plot.” He also claims that the attackers used “extraordinary secrecy” and “investigators have found no computers, laptops, hard drives or other storage media that may have been used by the hijackers, who hid their communications by using hundreds of pay phones and cell phones, coupled with hard-to-trace prepaid calling cards.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 4/19/2002; Los Angeles Times, 4/22/2002] However, before 9/11, CIA Director Tenet told the Senate that al-Qaeda is “embracing the opportunities offered by recent leaps in information technology” [US Congress, 3/21/2000] ; the FBI broke the al-Qaeda computer encryption before February 2001 [United Press International, 2/13/2001] ; witnesses report seeing the hijackers use computers for e-mail at public libraries in Florida and Maine [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/16/2001; Boston Herald, 10/5/2001] ; in October 2001 there were many reports that hundreds of e-mails discussing the 9/11 plot had been found (see October 2001); Moussaoui’s laptop was found to contain important information (see (Late July-Early August, 2002)), and so on.
Prince Bandar and President Bush meet at Bush’s ranch in August, 2002. [Source: Associated Press]Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, is due to arrive in Houston, Texas, to meet with President Bush at his ranch in nearby Crawford, Texas. Abdullah’s entourage is so large that it fills eight airplanes. As these planes land, US intelligence learns that one person on the flight manifests is wanted by US law enforcement, and two more are on a terrorist watch list. An informed source will later claim that the FBI is ready to “storm the plane and pull those guys off.” However, the State Department fears an international incident. An interagency conflict erupts over what to do. The Wall Street Journal will report in 2003, “Details about what happened to the three men in the end are not entirely clear, and no one at [the State Department] was willing to provide any facts about the incident. What is clear, though, is that the three didn’t get anywhere near Crawford, but were also spared the ‘embarrassment’ of arrest. And the House of Saud was spared an ‘international incident.’” [Wall Street Journal, 10/13/2003] The next day, Osama Basnan, an alleged associate of 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, reports his passport stolen to Houston police. [Newsweek, 11/24/2002] This confirms that Basnan is in Houston on the same day that Crown Prince Abdullah, Prince Saud al-Faisal, and Saudi US Ambassador Prince Bandar meet with President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Powell, and National Security Adviser Rice at Bush’s Crawford ranch. [US-Saudi Arabian Business Council, 4/25/2002] While in Texas, it is believed that Basnan “met with a high Saudi prince who has responsibilities for intelligence matters and is known to bring suitcases full of cash into the United States.” [Newsweek, 11/24/2002; Guardian, 11/25/2002] The still-classified section of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry is said to discuss the possibility of Basnan meeting this figure at this time. [Associated Press, 8/2/2003] It is unknown if Basnan and/or the Saudi prince he allegedly meets have any connection to the three figures wanted by the FBI, or even if one or both of them could have been among the wanted figures. Basnan will be arrested in the US for visa fraud in August 2002, and then deported two months later (see August 22-November 2002).
Entity Tags: Osama Basnan, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Nawaf Alhazmi, Saud al-Faisal, US Department of State, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Condoleezza Rice, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Bandar bin Sultan, Colin Powell, George W. Bush, Khalid Almihdhar
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
In a 2007 book, CIA Director George Tenet will say of the alleged meeting between hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi agent in Prague, “We devoted an extraordinary effort to the issue but could never find any convincing evidence that the visit had happened.… By May of 2002, FBI and CIA analysts voiced increasing skepticism that these meetings had taken place. The case for the meetings continued to weaken from that time forward.” [Tenet, 2007] But Tenet will not publicly say the CIA is “increasingly skeptical” about the meeting until July 2004, long after the start of the Iraq war and after the 9/11 Commission publicly confirmed that the meeting did not take place (see April 28, 2002 and June 16, 2004).
[Source: Michael Kane]In October 2001, Ptech insiders attempted to warn the FBI that suspected terrorist financier Yassin al-Qadi had funded Ptech (see Shortly After October 12, 2001). Then Indira Singh, an employee at JP Morgan Chase bank, develops her own suspicions about Ptech after her bank assigned her to investigate Ptech for a potential business deal. In May 2002, she speaks with the FBI about her concerns. Weeks later, she learns the FBI still has not told any other government agencies about the potential Ptech security threat. She later will recall, “the language, the kind of language law enforcement, counterterrorism, and the FBI agents themselves were using basically indicated to me that absolutely no investigation was going on, that it was totally at a standstill, at which point my hair stood on end.” She contacts a Boston CBS television station, WBZ-TV, and a reporter for the station named Joe Bergantino begins investigating Ptech. [Boston Globe, 12/7/2002; National Public Radio, 12/8/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002] Around the same time, a former government official with contacts in the Bush administration tells officials at the National Security Council about the Ptech allegations. By late August, Operation Greenquest then opens its own Ptech investigation. The FBI then tries “to muscle its way back into the probe once it [becomes] clear that [Greenquest is] taking the case seriously.”
[Newsweek, 12/6/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002] Beginning in late November, US agents begin calling Ptech officials and asking them if they have ties to money laundering, thus tipping them off. Ptech will also be notified when a December raid will be occurring before it happens.
[Associated Press, 1/3/2003] WBZ-TV prepared a story on Ptech, but withheld it from the public for more than three months after receiving “calls from federal law enforcement agencies, some at the highest levels.” The station claims the government launched its Ptech probe in August 2002, after they “got wind of our investigation” and “asked us to hold the story so they could come out and do their raid and look like they’re ahead of the game.”
[Boston Globe, 12/7/2002; WBZ 4 (Boston), 12/9/2002]
FBI agent Robert Wright, feeling that he had been gagged by FBI superiors (see September 11, 2001-October 2001), files a formal complaint in early 2002 with the Inspector General’s Office (IGO) of the Justice Department. The IGO probes agency wrongdoing and mistakes. However, the IGO turns him away. On May 5, 2002, the IGO writes that “Mr. Wright raises serious charges concerning the FBI’s handling of a criminal matter relating to suspected terrorists,” but the IGO does “not have the resources to conduct an investigation of [the] anticipated size and scope.” Instead, the IGO recommends Wright to refer his complaints to Congress. The IGO had previously conducted large-scale investigations, for instance looking into the FBI’s alleged mishandling of evidence in the trial of convicted Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. David Schippers, one of Wright’s lawyers, scoffs at the IGO’s explanation: “The truth is, they don’t want to investigate FBI dereliction of duty.” The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will interview Wright in late 2002. [LA Weekly, 8/9/2002] However, neither his name, nor Yassin al-Qadi’s name, nor any details about the Vulgar Betrayal investigation will appear in the Inquiry’s heavily censored 2003 final report. He will not be interviewed by the 9/11 Commission, and neither his name, nor Yassin al-Qadi’s name, nor any details about the Vulgar Betrayal investigation will appear in the 9/11 Commission Final Report in 2004. Supposedly, the FBI “stalled Wright’s appearance before the 9/11 Commission until it was too late for him to appear before its public hearings.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; US Congress, 7/24/2003; DebbieSchlussel (.com), 7/14/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004]
A Fox News report on the Oak Harbor truck incident. [Source: Fox News]A moving truck is pulled over for speeding in the middle of the night in Oak Harbor, Washington, near the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station. The base is the home of the advanced electronic warfare Prowler jets. A bomb-sniffing dog detects explosives on one of the men and inside the truck. High-tech equipment is then used to confirm the presence of TNT on the gearshift and RDX plastic explosive on the steering wheel. Both men turn out to be Israeli (one with an altered passport) and in the country illegally. [Fox News, 5/13/2002] However, the FBI later clears the two men, saying both the dog and the tests just detected false positives from “residue left by a cigarette lighter.” [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 5/14/2002; Jerusalem Post, 5/14/2002] The “art student spy ring” frequently uses moving vans as cover, and has been caught spying on the most top secret military bases. [Salon, 5/7/2002] In a possibly related story, the Seattle FBI office that handled this case will be broken into a few weeks later, and even a room containing evidence will be penetrated. [Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7/29/2002]
FBI Director Robert Mueller states, “[T]here was nothing the agency could have done to anticipate and prevent the [9/11] attacks.” [US Congress, 9/18/2002]
FBI Special Agent Robert Wright sues the FBI for violating his First Amendment rights, the regulation governing the FBI’s prepublication review policies and procedures, and the Administrative Procedure Act, by failing to clear for publication his book manuscript, two complaints he’d submitted to the Department of Justice Office of the Inspector General (OIG), and his answers to questions posed by New York Times reporter Judy Miller. In October 2001, pursuant to the FBI’s prepublication review policy and his employment agreement, Wright submitted to the FBI a 500-page single-spaced manuscript titled “Fatal Betrayals of the Intelligence Mission.” Generally, agencies are required to complete review within 30 days, barring extenuating circumstances. In early January 2002, the FBI responded, stating that 18 percent of the manuscript contained “classified information; information containing sensitive investigative material and information protected by the Privacy Act.” Wright edited his manuscript to address these concerns and resubmitted it with three binders documenting public sources for the many factual claims, including affidavits and other court documents from his investigations. On November 13, 2001, Wright submitted his two OIG complaints to the FBI’s Office of Public and Congressional Affairs (OPCA) for prepublication review. OPCA responded on January 7, 2002, “taking issue with only 4 percent of the first document and 6 percent of the second.” On January 18, 2002, Wright resubmitted his manuscript with edits. After not receiving clearance to publish or any further response from the FBI, Wright sues in federal court on May 9, 2002. [New York Times, 5/12/2002; Memorandum Opinion: Wright, v. FBI, 7/31/2006] In a May 30, 2002 press conference, Wright will say he began writing the book in August 1999, and adds: “The manuscript outlines the FBI’s intentional, at times, failure, to pursue the terrorists and thereby prevent terrorist attacks. Ironically, I completed the text of the manuscript two days after the September 11th attack. On September 10th, I had all but the last three pages completed.” He will also say that his motive for writing the book was to “[expose] the bureau’s dereliction of duty in the terrorism arena,” that he is “seeking a thorough review and complete ‘house cleaning’ to identify and fix the FBI’s problems,” and that “as a nation we must work together in seeking to regain the confidence level we once had in the FBI to achieve its vital mission of protecting the safety and welfare of its citizens at home and abroad.” [Judicial Watch, 5/30/2002]
A US filmmaker is able to penetrate al-Qaeda and Taliban strongholds in Pakistan. John Christopher Turner is a US citizen from Missouri, but he lived in Pashtun tribal areas and fought with the mujaheddin against the Soviets in neighboring Afghanistan in the 1980s, speaks fluent Pashto, converted to Islam, and has a long beard. As a result, traveling under the protection of a clan chief, he is able to penetrate the province of Baluchistan in the far west of Pakistan. Turner will later tell the Washington Post that Baluchistan “is where the Taliban and al-Qaeda are comfortably living right now. There’s nobody trying to run them off. In fact, they’re honored guests.… I probably went to ten hornets’ nests, and there were always two or three al-Qaeda in supervisory positions—overseeing, I’d say; the last thing you can do is boss a Pashtun. But obviously they were conduits for money.” He claims to have seen hundreds of Taliban living openly in Baluchistan, with a smaller number of al-Qaeda who are using posing as charity workers. He also runs into al-Qaeda operatives elsewhere. “There are madrassas [Islamic schools] right outside Karachi that are full of al-Qaeda. You go to any madrassa and the al-Qaeda are out there.” He claims to have long philosophical discussions with al-Qaeda figures, and shoots extensive video footage of the militants he meets. US officials say they find Turner’s account credible. ISI agents followed Turner to the vicinity of al-Qaeda safe houses in north Karachi. Turner is extensively interrogated by the FBI after returning from Baluchistan, and they also watch the video footage from his trip. He is put on a plane back to the US. The documentary Turner is planning about his Pakistan trip apparently is never made, as there are no subsequent references to it. [Washington Post, 8/4/2002]
US citizen Michael Meiring is suspected of being a CIA operative after injuring himself in an explosion in his own hotel room. Meiring claimed a grenade was thrown into his room, but a Philippine government investigation determined the center of the blast came from an assembled bomb kept in a metal box owned by Meiring. Hotel employees said Meiring told them for weeks not to touch the box while cleaning the room. Additionally, an ID card with his picture on it found in his room lists him as an officer in the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), a Muslim rebel militant group. [KHOU-TV, 12/2/2004] One hour after the bombing in his room, a bomb explodes in a marketplace in the same region, injuring four people. [Agence France-Presse, 5/16/2002] In the two months prior to this explosion in his room, there were several other other explosions in the same region, killing 37 people and injuring 170 more. [Minda News, 5/30/2003] In 2003, a group of Philippine soldiers will mutiny, in part because they believe these bombings were done with the secret approval of the Philippine government, and not done by rebel groups as the government claims (see July 27-28, 2003). A number of Philippine officials speculate Meiring may have been a CIA agent. Those who knew him said that he referred to himself as a CIA agent, but said it stood for “Christ In Action.” He had frequently visited the Philippines for at least ten years. [Minda News, 5/30/2003] He claimed to be a treasure hunter, and had a company called Parousia International Trading (in Christian theology, Parousia is a term for the second coming of Christ). He also had ties to right wing extremists in the US (see 1992-1993). He was said to be very well connected in the Philippines, being visited in his hotel room prior to the explosion by congressmen, a governor, and military officials. He was also connected to militants in the MNLF, Abu Sayyaf, and other groups. He was said to have met with top leaders of these militant groups starting in 1992 (see 1992-1993). One source who knew him said that earlier in the year he had predicted a series of bombings and that his predictions “always came true.” [Minda News, 5/31/2003] Meiring was already a major suspect in the production and distribution of counterfeit US Treasury bills. Over the last few years, billions of dollars worth of fake US Treasury bills were confiscated in the region. [Time, 2/26/2001; BusinessWorld, 5/27/2002] Four days after the explosion, FBI agents take him out of the hospital where he was recovering from severe burns and amputations. According to the Philippine Immigration Deputy Commissioner, agents of the US National Security Council then take him to the capital of Manila. The Financial Times will later report that he returns to the US and is handed over to the CIA. [Manila Times, 5/30/2002; Financial Times, 7/12/2002; Guardian, 8/15/2003] The Guardian will later comment, “Local officials have demanded that Meiring return to face charges, to little effect. BusinessWorld, a leading Philippine newspaper, has published articles openly accusing Meiring of being a CIA agent involved in covert operations ‘to justify the [recent] stationing of American troops and bases in Mindanao.’ The Meiring affair has never been reported in the US press.” [Guardian, 8/15/2003] In 2004, a Houston TV station will trace Meiring back to the US, where he still lives, despite the Philippine government wanting him to be extradited to face a variety of charges related to the explosion (see December 2, 2004).
[Source: FBI]A CD-ROM containing a picture of a young Saudi man named Saud al-Rashid is seized in an al-Qaeda safe house in Karachi, Pakistan. The CD also contains the pictures of three 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Abdulaziz Alomari, placed in the same folder with the picture of al-Rashid. The pictures are all passport photos or pages of entry and exit stamps from the same passports. All the computer files of the pictures were saved in May 2001. A senior US official says that investigators “were able to take this piece of information and it showed clear signals or lines that [al-Rashid] was connected to 9/11.” Media reports in 2002 say that the raid takes place on August 15, but an FBI report made public years later will show the raid took place on May 16 but the importance of the CD-ROM’s contents was not discovered until August 15. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010]
Al-Rashid Escapes Dragnet - On August 21, six days after the files on the CD-ROM are discovered, the US will issue a worldwide dragnet to find al-Rashid. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] But they are unable to catch him because a few days later, he flees from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and turns himself in to the Saudi authorities. The Saudis apparently will not try him for any crime or allow the FBI to interview him. [CNN, 8/26/2002; CNN, 8/31/2002]
Al-Rashid's Background - Al-Rashid was in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001, where he met 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi “once or twice” in a guest house. [New York Times, 7/29/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526] Although detainees identify him as a candidate 9/11 hijacker, he claims not to have met Osama bin Laden or Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), or even to have heard of al-Qaeda. Under interrogation, KSM will say al-Rashid was headstrong and immature and dropped out of the plot after returning to Saudi Arabia for a visa, either due to second thoughts or the influence of his family. However, doubts will be raised about the reliability of KSM’s statements under interrogation (see August 6, 2007). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526] Intriguingly, al-Rashid’s father is Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official who paid a salary to Omar al-Bayoumi, an associate of both Almihdhar and Alhazmi who is later suspected of being a Saudi agent. [New York Times, 7/29/2003]
Passport Clue - Also intriguingly, the pictures from Saeed Alghamdi’s and Khalid Almihdhar’s passports show the passports were issued at “Holy Capital.” This may be an indicator placed by the Saudi government to show that the passport holders are radicals. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010]
Other Evidence? - Florida FBI agent Tom Yowell will later mention to the 9/11 Commission that he remembers some other 9/11-related evidence captured in a May 2002 Karachi raid, including mention of the address of a Virginia post office box (see February 19-20, 2001 and April 3-4, 2001 and around) and videos of the 9/11 hijackers. But which hijackers were videotaped, and where and when, is not mentioned. [9/11 Commission, 12/4/2003 ]
Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, Omar al-Bayoumi, Tom Yowell, Hamid al-Rashid, Saud al-Rashid, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alhaznawi
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) turns down the Justice Department’s bid for sweeping new powers to monitor and wiretap US citizens. FISC judges rule that the government has misused the law and misled the court dozens of times. The court finds that Justice Department and FBI officials supplied false or misleading information to the court in over 75 applications for search warrants and wiretaps, including one signed by then-FBI director Louis Freeh. While the court does not find that the misrepresentations were deliberate, it does rule that not only were erroneous statements made, but important information was omitted from some FISA applications. The judges found so many inaccuracies and errors in FBI agent Michael Resnick’s affidavits that they bar him from ever appearing before the court again. The court cites “the troubling number of inaccurate FBI affidavits in so many FISA applications,” and says, “In virtually every instance, the government’s misstatements and omissions in FISA applications and violations of the Court’s orders involved information sharing and unauthorized disseminations to criminal investigators and prosecutors.” The court is also unhappy with the Justice Department’s failure to answer for these errors and omissions, writing, “How these misrepresentations occurred remains unexplained to the court.” The court finds that in light of such impropriety, the new procedures proposed by Attorney General John Ashcroft in March would give prosecutors too much control over counterintelligence investigations, and would allow the government to misuse intelligence information for criminal cases. The ruling is a severe blow to Ashcroft’s attempts since the 9/11 attacks to allow investigators working in terrorism and espionage to share more information with criminal investigators. (These limitations were put in place after the Church Commission’s findings of massive fraud and misuse of domestic surveillance programs during the 1950s, 60s, and 70s. See April, 1976, January 29, 1976, and December 21, 1974). The Justice Department says of the decision, “We believe the court’s action unnecessarily narrowed the Patriot Act and limited our ability to fully utilize the authority Congress gave us.” Interestingly, the Justice Department also opposed the public release of FISC’s decision not to grant the requested powers. Stewart Baker, former general counsel of the NSA, calls the opinion “a public rebuke. The message is you need better quality control. The judges want to ensure they have information they can rely on implicitly.” Bush officials have complained since the 9/11 attacks that FISA requirements hamper the ability of law enforcement and intelligence agents to track terrorist suspects, including alleged hijacking conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui (see August 16, 2001). Those requirements mandate that agents must show probable cause that the subject of a search or wiretap is an agent of a foreign government or terrorist group, and, because FISA standards for obtaining warrants is far lower than for ordinary criminal warrants, mandate strict limits on the distribution of information secured from such investigations. The FBI searched Moussaoui’s laptop computer and other belongings without a FISA warrant because some officials did not believe they could adequately show the court that Moussaoui had any connections to a foreign government or terrorist group. In its ruling, FISC suggests that if the Justice Department finds FISA too restrictive, they should ask Congress to update the law. Many senators on the Judiciary Committee say they are willing to enact such reforms, but have complained of resistance from Ashcroft and a lack of cooperation from the Bush administration. [Washington Post, 8/23/2002] In November 2002, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court of Review will overturn the FISC decision and give the Justice Department what it asked for (see November 18, 2002).
Entity Tags: Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Charles Grassley, US Department of Justice, Stewart Baker, Zacarias Moussaoui, National Security Agency, John Ashcroft, Church Commission, USA Patriot Act, Louis J. Freeh, Michael Resnick
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
[Source: Publicity photo]Minnesota FBI agent Coleen Rowley, upset with what she considers lying from FBI Director Robert Mueller and others in the FBI about the handling of the Zacarias Moussaoui case, releases a long memo she wrote about the case two weeks before 9/11. [Time, 5/21/2002] Rowley also applies for whistleblower protection. Time magazine calls the memo a “colossal indictment of our chief law enforcement agency’s neglect,” and says it “raises serious doubts about whether the FBI is capable of protecting the public—and whether it still deserves the public’s trust.” [Time, 5/27/2002] Three days after 9/11, Mueller made statements such as, “There were no warning signs that I’m aware of that would indicate this type of operation in the country.” Rowley and other Minnesota FBI agents had “immediately sought to reach [Mueller’s] office through an assortment of higher-level FBI [headquarters] contacts, in order to quickly make [him] aware of the background of the Moussaoui investigation and forewarn [him] so that [his] public statements could be accordingly modified.” Yet Mueller continued to make similar comments, including in a Senate hearing on May 8, 2002. [Time, 5/21/2002; New York Times, 5/31/2002] Finally, after Rowley’s memo becomes public, Mueller states, “I cannot say for sure that there wasn’t a possibility we could have come across some lead that would have led us to the hijackers.” He also admits, “I have made mistakes occasionally in my public comments based on information or a lack of information that I subsequently got.” [New York Times, 5/31/2002] Time magazine will later name Rowley as one of three “Persons of the Year” for 2002, along with fellow whistleblowers Cynthia Cooper of WorldCom and Sherron Watkins of Enron. [Time, 12/22/2002; Time, 12/22/2002]
Walid Arkeh. [Source: Orlando Sentinel / Bureau of Prisons]Walid Arkeh, a prisoner in Florida, is interviewed by a group of FBI agents in New York City. The agents seek information regarding the 1988 US embassy bombings and are there to interview him about information he learned from three al-Qaeda prisoners he had befriended. During the interview, Arkeh claims that, in August 2001, he told the FBI that al-Qaeda was likely to attack the WTC and other targets soon, but he was dismissed (see August 21, 2001). After 9/11, his warning still was not taken seriously by the local FBI. The New York FBI agents are stunned. One says to him: “Let me tell you something. If you know what happened in New York, we are all in deep sh_t. We are in deep trouble.” Arkeh tells the agents that these prisoners hinted that the WTC would be attacked, and targets in Washington were mentioned as well. However, they did not tell him a date or that airplanes would be used. The New York FBI later will inform him that they find his information credible. [Orlando Sentinel, 10/30/2002] Arkeh is later deported to Jordan despite a Responsible Cooperators Program promising visas to those who provided important information to US-designated terrorist groups. (It is unclear whether any one ever has been given a reward through this program.) [Orlando Sentinel, 11/10/2002; Orlando Sentinel, 1/11/2003; Orlando Sentinel, 3/12/2003]
A New York Times column by Nicholas Kristof says it’s time to “light a fire under the FBI in its investigation of the anthrax case. Experts in the bioterror field are already buzzing about a handful of individuals who had the ability, access, and motive to send the anthrax.” [New York Times, 5/24/2002] Similarly, the Guardian suggests that the FBI investigation is moving deliberately slow because the federal authorities have something to hide, stating “there is surely a point after which incompetence becomes an insufficient explanation for failure.” [Guardian, 5/21/2002]
Journalist Seymour Hersh writes in the New Yorker, “In a recent conversation, a senior FBI official acknowledged that there had been ‘no breakthrough’ inside the government, in terms of establishing how the September 11th suicide teams were organized and how they operated.” The recent war in Afghanistan “has yet to produce significant information about the planning and execution of the attacks. US forces are known to have captured thousands of pages of documents and computer hard drives from al-Qaeda redoubts, but so far none of this material—which remains highly classified—has enabled the Justice Department to broaden its understanding of how the attack occurred, or even to bring an indictment of a conspirator.” [New Yorker, 5/27/2002] It has never been made clear if, how, and/or when the FBI subsequently made a breakthrough in understanding the 9/11 plot.
Attorney General Ashcroft relaxes decades-old rules limiting government agents from monitoring domestic religious and political groups. Now, FBI agents can attend political rallies or religious meetings without evidence of a crime or advance approval from superiors. The new rules also permit the FBI to broadly search or monitor the internet for evidence of criminal activity without having any tips or leads that a specific criminal act has been committed. [Philadelphia Inquirer, 5/31/2002]
Robert Wright tears up as he apologizes to 9/11 victims’ relatives in his 2002 press conference. [Source: Getty Images]FBI agent Robert Wright holds a press conference. He makes a statement that has been preapproved by the FBI. As one account puts it, “Robert Wright’s story is difficult to piece together because he is on government orders to remain silent.… [T]his is in distinct contrast to the free speech and whistle-blower protections offered to Colleen Rowley, general counsel in the FBI Minneapolis office, who got her story out before the agency could silence her. Wright, a 12-year bureau veteran, has followed proper channels” but has been frustrated by limitations on what he is allowed to say (see September 11, 2001-October 2001). “The best he could do [is a] press conference in Washington, D.C., where he [tells] curious reporters that he [has] a whopper of a tale to tell, if only he could.” Wright says that FBI bureaucrats “intentionally and repeatedly thwarted [his] attempts to launch a more comprehensive investigation to identify and neutralize terrorists.” He also claims, “FBI management failed to take seriously the threat of terrorism in the US.” [Fox News, 5/30/2002; Federal News Service, 5/30/2002; LA Weekly, 8/2/2002] Larry Klayman, a lawyer representing Wright, says at the conference that he believes one reason Wright’s investigations were blocked “is because these monies were going through some very powerful US banks with some very powerful interests in the United States. These banks knew or had reason to know that these monies were laundered by terrorists. And there are very significant potential conflicts of interests in both the Clinton and Bush Administrations—with the country primarily responsible for funding these charities, mainly Saudi Arabia. We have both Clinton and Bush, and in particular this Bush Administration, who is as tight with Saudi Arabia as you can get.” He also says, “Corruption is knowing when something is not being done, knowing when the American people are being left unprotected and when you make a decision not to do something to protect the American people… And you effectively allow 9/11 to occur. That is the ultimate form of government corruption—dereliction of duty. That’s subject in the military to prosecution, to court martial…. Frankly, if not treason.” [Federal News Service, 5/30/2002]
Steven Hatfill, the FBI’s prime suspect in the anthrax attacks at the time, has an unnamed Malaysian-born girlfriend that he has been involved with for several years. According to a complaint by Hatfill’s lawyer, in the summer of 2002 the FBI shows up at her Pacific Northerwest condominium with a search warrant and tells her that Hatfill has “killed five people.” They reportedly tear her home apart, leaving it “look[ing] like a war zone.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2003] These tactics will closely parallel how the FBI will pressure relatives of anthrax attacks suspect Bruce Ivins several years later. In early 2007, FBI agents will reportedly confront Ivins’s wife and son in public and ask his wife, “Do you know he killed people” (see March 2008)?
According to an FBI official interviewed by author James Bamford, a CIA officer lies to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry about the sharing of information concerning 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. The FBI official will say that the CIA officer, from the Directorate of Intelligence, originally claims she physically brought information about Almihdhar to FBI headquarters in Washington. However, the FBI then checks the visitors logs and finds that she was not in the building at the time in question. According to the FBI official, “Then she said she gave it to somebody else, she said, ‘I may have faxed it down—I don’t remember.’” The CIA officer’s name and the information said to have been communicated to FBI headquarters in this instance are not known. [Bamford, 2004, pp. 224-5]
Scientists working with the FBI’s anthrax attacks investigation determine that the anthrax used in the attacks was relatively new. A series of nuclear weapons tests in the US in the 1950s left traces of carbon-14. Every year, the quantity of carbon-14 diminishes at a predictable rate. So, by “calculating the ratio of carbon-14 to the normal kind in residue of plants eaten by the cow from which the [anthrax] was made,” investigators learn that the anthrax had been grown within the last two years. The anthrax is no more than two years older than when it was sent, which would mean the anthrax cannot be older than roughly September 1999. [New York Times, 6/23/2002; New York Times, 8/5/2008]
In May 2002, the CIA began using new torture techniques on captured al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see Mid-May 2002 and After), and by June senior CIA officials prepare a preliminary report to determine whether Zubaida’s confessions are accurate or not. According to author Gerald Posner, they “found nothing that could definitively prove Zubaida a liar. And they had uncovered some minor corroborating evidence about the times and places of the meetings he had mentioned, which meant he could be telling the truth.” [Posner, 2003, pp. 192] Vanity Fair will later comment that the “CIA would go on to claim credit for breaking Zubaida, and celebrate [James] Mitchell”—the psychologist who devised the torture techniques used on Zubaida by the CIA (see Late 2001-Mid-March 2002, January 2002 and After, and Mid-April 2002)—“as a psychological wizard who held the key to getting hardened terrorists to talk. Word soon spread that Mitchell and [his business partner Bruce] Jessen had been awarded a medal by the CIA for their advanced interrogation techniques. While the claim is impossible to confirm, what matters is that others believed it. The reputed success of the tactics was ‘absolutely in the ether,’ says one Pentagon civilian who worked on detainee policy.” [Vanity Fair, 7/17/2007]
Much Intelligence Comes from His Possessions and FBI Interrogations - However, the reliability of Zubaida’s confessions remains controversial years later, and several factors complicate accessing their impact. For one, it appears that some of his most important confessions took place a month earlier when the FBI was interrogating him using rapport building instead of torture (see Late March through Early June, 2002). What the New York Times calls his two most notable confessions—that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was the 9/11 mastermind and giving up the name of Jose Padilla, a militant living in the US—appear to come from this earlier period, although some accounts conflict. [New York Times, 6/27/2004; Suskind, 2006, pp. 116-117; New York Times, 9/10/2006; Vanity Fair, 7/17/2007] Furthermore, it is often not clear what was obtained from Zubaida’s confessions and what was obtained from his possessions. Journalist Ron Suskind will later write: “The phone numbers, computers, CDs, and e-mail address seized at Zubaida’s apartment now—a month after his capture—began to show a yield.… These higher-quality inputs were entered into big Cray supercomputers at NSA; many then formed the roots of a surveillance tree—truck to branches to limbs and buds.” [Suskind, 2006, pp. 116-117] So while it is said that information from Zubaida helped lead to the capture of al-Qaeda figures such as Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Omar al-Faruq, and Ahmed Muhammad al-Darbi, it is unclear where this information came from exactly. [Washington Post, 6/27/2004] Additionally, it is not even clear if he provided such leads. For instance, it has been reported that the main break that led to bin al-Shibh’s capture had nothing to do with Zubaida (see June 14, 2002 and Shortly After). [Salon, 9/7/2006]
Zubaida Describes Vague and Unverifiable Plots - By most accounts, Zubaida’s confessions under torture around this time are frustratingly vague. He describes many planned attacks, such as al-Qaeda attacks on US shopping malls, banks, supermarkets, water systems, nuclear plants, apartment buildings, the Brooklyn Bridge, the Statue of Liberty, and more. Red alerts are sounded and thousands of law enforcement personnel are activated each time, but the warnings are too vague to lead to any arrests. Suskind will later comment that Zubaida’s information was “maybe nonsense, maybe not. There was almost no way to tell.” [Suskind, 2006, pp. 115-116, 121] But Suskind will later say more definitively: “[Zubaida] said, as people will, anything to make the pain stop. And we essentially followed every word and various uniformed public servants of the United States went running all over the country to various places that Zubaydah said were targets, and were not. Ultimately, we tortured an insane man and ran screaming at every word he uttered.” [Salon, 9/7/2006] Posner claims that Zubaida provided “false information intended to misdirect his captors.” For instance, “He caused the New York police to deploy massive manpower to guard the Brooklyn Bridge at the end of May , after he told his interrogators that al-Qaeda had a plan to destroy ‘the bridge in the Godzilla movie.’” [Posner, 2003, pp. 191]
Link between Iraq, al-Qaeda - Perhaps the most important claims Zubaida makes, at least from the viewpoint of Bush administration officials, are his allegations of an operational relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda. Some of Zubaida’s claims will later be leaked by administration officials, particularly his assertion that Osama bin Laden’s ally Abu Musab al-Zarqawi was working directly with Saddam Hussein to destabilize the autonomous Kurdish regime in northern Iraq (see December 2001-Mid-2002, October 2, 2002, and January 28, 2003). A former Pentagon analyst will later say: “I first saw the reports soon after Abu Zubaida’s capture. There was a lot of stuff about the nuts and bolts of al-Qaeda’s supposed relationship with the Iraqi Intelligence Service. The intelligence community was lapping this up, and so was the administration, obviously. Abu Zubaida was saying Iraq and al-Qaeda had an operational relationship. It was everything the administration hoped it would be.” Another Pentagon analyst will recall: “As soon as I learned that the reports had come from torture, once my anger had subsided I understood the damage it had done. I was so angry, knowing that the higher-ups in the administration knew he was tortured, and that the information he was giving up was tainted by the torture, and that it became one reason to attack Iraq.” [Vanity Fair, 12/16/2008]
Zubaida Appears to Be Feeding Interrogators' Expectations - Dan Coleman, the FBI’s top al-Qaeda expert at the time who was able to analyze all the evidence from Zubaida, will later claim that the CIA “got nothing useful from the guy.” [Congressional Quarterly, 12/14/2007] Coleman will say: “The CIA wants everything in five minutes. It’s not possible, and it’s not productive. What you get in that circumstance are captives and captors playing to each other’s expectations, playing roles, essentially, that gives you a lot of garbage information and nothing you can use.” [Suskind, 2006, pp. 114] Given his low position in the jihadist hierachy, Coleman will add, Zubaida “would not have known that if it was true. But you can lead people down a course and make them say anything.” [Vanity Fair, 12/16/2008] Counterterrorism “tsar” General Wayne Downing is apparently intimately involved in Zubaida’s interrogation and will later recall: “[Zubaida] and some of the others are very clever guys. At times I felt we were in a classic counter-interrogation class: They were telling us what they think we already knew. Then, what they thought we wanted to know. As they did that, they fabricated and weaved in threads that went nowhere. But, even with these ploys, we still get valuable information and they are off the street, unable to plot and coordinate future attacks.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002] In legal papers to prepare for a military tribunal hearing in 2007, Zubaida himself will assert that he told his interrogators whatever they wanted to hear to make the torture stop. [Washington Post, 12/18/2007]
Entity Tags: Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Central Intelligence Agency, Abu Zubaida, Bruce Jessen, Ahmed Muhammad al-Darbi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Dan Coleman, Jose Padilla, Wayne Downing, Omar al-Faruq, James Elmer Mitchell, Ramzi bin al-Shibh
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline
Former FBI Deputy Director Weldon Kennedy states: “Even in the [Zacarias] Moussaoui case, there’s lots of uproar over the fact that the—there was a failure to obtain a warrant to search his computer. Well, the facts now are that warrant was ultimately obtained. The computer was searched and guess what? There was nothing significant on there pertaining to 9/11.”
[CNN, 6/3/2002] Three days later, the Washington Post reports: “Amid the latest revelations about FBI and CIA lapses prior to the September 11 attacks, congressional investigators say it is now clear that the evidence that lay unexamined in Zacarias Moussaoui’s possession was even more valuable than previously believed. A notebook and correspondence of Moussaoui’s not only appears to link him to the main hijacking cell in Hamburg, Germany, but also to an al-Qaeda associate in Malaysia whose activities were monitored by the CIA more than a year before the terror attacks on New York and Washington.”
[Washington Post, 6/6/2002] Slate magazine later gives Kennedy the “Whopper of the Week” award for his comment. [Slate, 6/7/2002]
FBI agents monitor the activities of 30-40 individuals participating in an anti-logging protest during the annual meeting of the North American Wholesale Lumber Association in Colorado Springs. Local agents record the names and license plate numbers of about 30 people and add this information to the bureau’s domestic terrorism files. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 6/25/2002 ; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 11/9/2005 ] When the FBI’s surveillance of protesters is revealed in late 2005, ACLU legal director Mark Silverstein will tell the Kansas City Star, “This kind of surveillance of First Amendment activities has serious consequences. Law-abiding Americans may be reluctant to speak out when doing so means that their names will wind up in an FBI file.” However FBI Special Agent Monique Kelso, the spokeswoman for the agency in Colorado, insists that the bureau had valid reasons for monitoring the group. “We do not open cases or monitor cases just based purely on protests,” she says. “It’s our job to protect American civil rights. We don’t surveil cases just to do that. We have credible information.” [Kansas City Star, 12/9/2005]
For the first time, Bush concedes that his intelligence agencies had problems: “In terms of whether or not the FBI and the CIA were communicating properly, I think it is clear that they weren’t.” [London Times, 6/5/2002] However, in an address to the nation three days later, President Bush still maintains, “Based on everything I’ve seen, I do not believe anyone could have prevented the horror of September the 11th.” [Sydney Morning Herald, 6/8/2002] Days earlier, Newsweek reported that the FBI had prepared a detailed chart showing how agents could have uncovered the 9/11 plot if the CIA had told them what it knew about the hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar sooner. (FBI Director Mueller denies the existence of such a chart. [Washington Post, 6/3/2002] ) One FBI official says, “There’s no question we could have tied all 19 hijackers together.” [Newsweek, 6/2/2002] Attorney General Ashcroft also says it is unlikely better intelligence could have stopped the attacks. [Washington Post, 6/3/2002]
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee, just hours before the testimony of FBI agent Coleen Rowley, whose accusations of FBI malfeasance before the 9/11 attacks have sparked Congressional interest (see June 6, 2002). Mueller promises the committee that Rowley will not be punished for speaking out, and admits that Rowley is correct in some of her assessments, including her insistence that the bureau change to meet the threats posed by loosely organized terrorist groups. “When we looked back, we saw things that we should have done better and things that we should have done differently, but we also saw things that were done well and things that we should do more,” Mueller tells the assembled lawmakers. [CNN, 6/6/2002] Some senators take Mueller’s assessments even farther. Herbert Kohl (D-WI) says, “Had the FBI been totally alert and had the FBI used its current capabilities to the best of its ability, there was at least a very good chance that the terrorist plot could have been uncovered.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/7/2002]
Refuses to Answer Questions about Presidential Discussions - Committee member Joe Biden (D-DE) repeatedly asks Mueller whether President Bush consulted with him before the 2001 reorganization of the nation’s domestic security apparatus under the Homeland Security rubric (see September 20, 2001). Mueller refuses to discuss his conversations with Bush. “There is no executive privilege here,” Biden says. “I’m asking you whether you were consulted. I think this is ridiculous.” Law enforcement officials later confirm that both Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft were consulted as part of planning for the reorganization.
'Antiquated' Computer System - Democratic senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) questions Mueller about the antiquated computer system used by the FBI (Rowley herself will testify that her agents could not search FBI files for information pertaining to their inquiry into so-called “20th hijacker” Zacarias Moussaoui—see August 21, 2001 and August 23-27, 2001). Mueller confirms that Rowley and agents working with her could not search for terms such as “flight school,” but instead were limited to single-word searches such as “flight” or “school,” which produced masses of irrelevant results. Schumer calls the FBI system “almost laughable,” and adds, “It just makes my jaw drop to think that on 9/11 or on 9/10 the kind of technology that is available to most school kids, and certainly every small business in this country, wasn’t available to the FBI.” Mueller says it will take two or three years to upgrade the FBI’s computers. “I think we are way behind the curve,” he says.
Criticism of Civil Liberties Reductions - Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA) criticizes Mueller for his decision, in conjunction with Attorney General John Ashcroft, to loosen restrictions on the FBI that limit the bureau’s ability to investigate and monitor citizen dissidents and organizations. “In particular, I’m troubled by the visa-holder-registration policy announced yesterday,” he says, referring to a Justice Department plan to require that about 100,000 foreigners in the United States be fingerprinted by the government. “Your agency is expending valuable time and resources to recruit these US citizens in our Arab and Muslim communities. And at the same time, the Justice Department is photographing, fingerprinting and registering their law-abiding siblings, cousins, visiting the United States.” [New York Times, 6/7/2002] “What impact do you think these policies will have on the Arab and Muslim communities in the US if you’re holding job fairs in the morning and fingerprinting them in the afternoon?” Kennedy asks. Mueller responds that the FBI will be careful not to step on anyone’s constitutional rights: “I still believe that we have to protect the freedoms that we have in this country that are guaranteed by the Constitution, or all the work we do to protect it will be at naught.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/7/2002]
Entity Tags: Charles Schumer, John Ashcroft, Coleen Rowley, Herbert Kohl, Edward M. (“Ted”) Kennedy, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of Justice, Joseph Biden, Robert S. Mueller III, Senate Judiciary Committee, Zacarias Moussaoui
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
FBI agent Coleen Rowley, the whistleblower who wrote a stinging memo questioning the bureau’s handling of the Zacarias Moussaoui case (see May 21, 2002), testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee. Her memo, in which she accused FBI Director Robert Mueller of participating in what she called “a delicate and subtle shading/skewing of facts… at the highest levels of FBI management,” has become a focus of Congressional probes into what many lawmakers perceive as a systemic failure of intelligence gathering preceding the 9/11 attacks. Rowley calls the FBI a bureaucracy rife with “risk aversion,” “roadblocks” to investigations, and “endless, needless paperwork.” Rowley says she is concerned that the FBI has moved towards even more bureaucracy and micromanagement in the months following the attacks. [CNN, 6/6/2002; BBC, 6/6/2002; Senate Judiciary Committee, 6/6/2002] “Seven to nine layers” of management “is really ridiculous,” she says. “We need a way to get around the roadblocks.” But Rowley is more sympathetic to Mueller in her testimony than in her memo, and praises him for appearing willing to consider some of the new ideas and approaches that she says need to be implemented. [New York Times, 6/7/2002; Los Angeles Times, 6/7/2002] In his own testimony before the same committee just hours before Rowley speaks, Mueller promises that Rowley will not be punished for speaking out, and admits that some of Rowley’s assessments are correct (see June 6, 2002). [CNN, 6/6/2002] The questioning and commentary by the committee members varies somewhat by party affiliation, with Democrats such as Charles Schumer (D-NY) repeatedly praising Rowley “for performing a national service in coming forward,” but even committee Republicans such as Arlen Specter (R-PA) and Jeff Sessions (R-AL) engage in criticizing the FBI. [New York Times, 6/7/2002] Charles Grassley (R-IA) calls Rowley “a patriotic American who had the courage to put truth first and raise critical but important questions about how the FBI handled a terrorist case before the attacks, and about the FBI’s cultural problems.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/7/2002]
[Source: Florida Department of Motor Vehicles]Attorney General John Ashcroft announces the arrest of Abdullah al-Mujahir, a.k.a. Jose Padilla. He claims that Padilla was part of an al-Qaeda plot to detonate a radioactive “dirty bomb” in a US city, and supposedly Padilla was scouting bomb targets when arrested. Padilla, a US citizen, is being held as an “enemy combatant,” allowing him to be held indefinitely. [Guardian, 6/11/2002; PBS, 6/11/2002] But almost immediately, doubts grow about this story. The London Times says that it is “beyond dispute” that the timing of the announcement of his arrest was “politically inspired.” Padilla was actually arrested a month earlier, on May 8. [London Times, 6/13/2002] It is widely believed that Ashcroft made the arrest announcement “only to divert attention from Intelligence Committee inquiries into the FBI and CIA handling of 9/11.” [Village Voice, 6/12/2002; Independent, 6/12/2002; BBC, 6/13/2002; Washington Post, 6/13/2003] Four days earlier, Coleen Rowley testified before Congress. The FBI whistleblower stated her belief that the attacks of Sept. 11 could have been prevented had the FBI flight-school warnings been made available to the agents investigating Zacharias Moussaoui. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ] Bush soon privately chastises Ashcroft for overstating claims about Padilla. [Guardian, 8/15/2002] The government attorneys apparently could not get an indictment out of a New York grand jury and, rather than let him go, made Padilla an enemy combatant. [Village Voice, 6/12/2002] It later comes out that the FBI found no evidence that he was preparing a dirty bomb attack and little evidence to suggest he had any support from al-Qaeda, or any ties to al-Qaeda cells in the US. Yet the Justice Department maintains that its view of Padilla “remains unchanged,” and that he is a “serious and continuing threat.” [Guardian, 8/15/2002] Because Padilla is a US citizen, he cannot be tried in a military court. So apparently he will simply be held indefinitely. It is pointed out that any American could be declared an enemy combatant and never tried or have that status questioned. [San Francisco Chronicle, 6/11/2002; Washington Post, 6/11/2002] The Washington Post says, “If that’s the case, nobody’s constitutional rights are safe.” [Washington Post, 6/11/2002] Despite the evidence that Padilla’s case is grossly overstated, the government won’t allow him access to a lawyer (see December 4, 2002; March 11, 2003).
In a lengthy unclassified hearing held by the Senate Judiciary Committee, FBI officials confirm translator Sibel Edmond’s allegations that co-worker Melek Can Dickerson had either mistranslated or incorrectly marked “not pertinent” hundreds of wiretapped telephone conversations involving certain surveillance targets with whom she had become friends (see (November 2001)). They also acknowledge that she had attempted to take control over all translation assignments involving those targets (see November 2001 or December 2001). The targets worked at the American-Turkish Council (ATC), where Dickerson was an intern before taking her job at the FBI. The FBI confirms also that Dickerson had failed to disclose this information on her application (see also (Late October 2001)), but nonetheless attributes her failure to translate these wiretaps to lack of training. [Leahy and Grassley, 6/19/2002; Washington Post, 6/19/2002; United Press International, 1/24/2005; Vanity Fair, 9/2005] One of the participants of the hearing will later tell the New York Observer that the session was tense. “None of the FBI officials’ answers washed, and they could tell we didn’t believe them.” He remembers that one of the Congressional investigators told the officials, “You basically admitted almost all that Sibel alleged, yet you say there’s no problem here. What’s wrong with this picture?” [New York Observer, 1/22/2004]
FBI Director Robert Mueller testifies before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. His testimony will be made public in September 2002. [Associated Press, 9/26/2002]
Mueller Says Hijackers Operated Alone - Mueller claims that with the possible exception of Zacarias Moussaoui, “[t]o this day we have found no one in the United States except the actual hijackers who knew of the [9/11] plot and we have found nothing they did while in the United States that triggered a specific response about them.” He also claims, “As far as we know, they contacted no known terrorist sympathizers in the United States.” [US Congress, 9/26/2002]
Mueller Contradicted by 9/11 Inquiry - The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will conclude near the end of 2002 that some hijackers had contact inside the US with individuals known to the FBI, and the hijackers “were not as isolated during their time in the United States as has been previously suggested.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/12/2002]
Mueller Contradicted by FBI Report - Also, a classified FBI report from November 2001 asserted that the hijackers had a “web of contacts” in the US and abroad who “were known from [Osama bin Laden]-related activities or training” (see November 2001). [Sperry, 2005, pp. 67-68]
Muller: 'No Slip-Ups' - Mueller also claims: “While here, the hijackers effectively operated without suspicion, triggering nothing that alerted law enforcement and doing nothing that exposed them to domestic coverage.… There were no slip-ups. Discipline never broke down. They gave no hint to those around them what they were about.” [US Congress, 9/26/2002]
Internal FBI documents show that Thomas Kelley, in charge of matters relating to the FBI in the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, blocked an inquiry into the FBI’s role in Waco. For instance, an internal FBI memo from December 2000 states that Kelley “continued to thwart and obstruct” the Waco investigation to the point that a special counsel was forced to send a team to search FBI headquarters for documents Kelley refused to turn over. [Washington Post, 6/22/2002]
Arthur Friedlander. [Source: Defense Department / Larry Otsby]The New York Times reports that the FBI is investigating the possibility that the anthrax used in the 2001 anthrax attacks was smuggled out of USAMRIID, the US Army’s top bioweapons laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Arthur Friedlander, a senior USAMRIID scientist, says that researchers at USAMRIID use wet anthrax only and have no idea how to make dry powders (the anthrax used in the attacks was a dry powder). But FBI agents are questioning USAMRIID scientists about the possibility that someone could smuggle out some of the anthrax and refine it elsewhere. Luann Battersby, a microbiologist who worked at USAMRIID from 1990 to 1998, says FBI agents interviewed her for three hours on June 12 about the smuggling theory. She says: “I said it was extremely easy to do.… A quarter-million micro-organisms fit in the period at the end of a sentence. It doesn’t take any great strategy to take this stuff out.” [New York Times, 6/23/2002]
A curious Congressional briefing takes place on June 24, 2002. Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, a professor and biological arms control expert, has been publicly hinting that she knows who is behind the 2001 anthrax attacks. She has been describing a profile that perfectly matches Steven Hatfill without actually naming him or giving any other name (see February-June 2002). On this day, she takes part in a closed door meeting with congressional staffers from the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss her theories. Van Harp, the head of the FBI’s anthrax investigation, Robert Roth, a top manager of the investigation, and other FBI officials also attend the meeting. Rosenberg lays out her theories but fails to name her sources or give any hard evidence. At one point, Harp asks her in frustration: “Do you know who did this? Do you know?” She say she does not. Harp has a private conversation with Rosenberg after the meeting. [Washington Post, 9/14/2003] It is unknown what is said, but the next day, the FBI searches Hatfill’s apartment and tips off the media to the search, beginning a public focus on Hatfill as the FBI’s main suspect (see June 25, 2002).
Brad Garrett. [Source: ABC News]The FBI search the home of a scientist who worked at USAMRIID, the US Army’s biological laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland. [Associated Press, 6/25/2002] This scientist remains anonymous in most stories, but some name him as Steven Hatfill. The search comes just one day after professor Barbara Hatch Rosenberg briefed a senate committee and FBI officials on her theory that Hatfill was responsible for the anthrax attacks (see February-June 2002 and June 24, 2002). The FBI announces that the search found nothing and Hatfill is not a suspect. In the wake of all these stories, one microbiologist states, “Their intent was clearly to put [Hatfill’s] name in the public eye. The only question is why.” [Hartford Courant, 6/27/2002]
Media Tip Off - The media is tipped off in advance to the search. Even as Hatfill is signing a search authorization, news helicopters are already seen flying towards his apartment. Within minutes, droves of reporters arrive. FBI agent Robert Roth, who is part of the search, will later admit in court that “probably several hundred” people knew in advance about the search. Hatfill will continue to cooperate with the FBI.
Tip Off Called Inappropriate - But FBI agent Brad Garrett, also involved in the search, will later comment, “I wouldn’t have spoken to us after that [media tip off].” Asked if it was appropriate to tip off the media beforehand, he will reply, “Absolutely not.…. [I]t’s clearly not appropriate or even responsible to do that in reference to the person you are searching. He’s not been charged. He has not gone to court.” Additionally, it could forewarn “people you are coming to search” and tip off accomplices. [Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008]
An FBI agent checking a dumpster near Steven Hatfill’s apartment. [Source: WUSA]In July 2002, anthrax attacks suspect Steven Hatfill is put under 24-hour surveillance. The surveillance comes after bloodhounds allegedly link Hatfill to the anthrax letters at some point in July. (This bloodhound evidence will be quickly debunked by the media, but apparently this does not dissuade the FBI (see August 4, 2002)). [Vanity Fair, 9/15/2003] The surveillance is quite open and obvious at times. In December 2002, Hatfill alleges that a virtual caravan of unmarked vans and cars are keeping him under constant surveillance, following him on errands and to restaurants, and driving past his house with a video camera pointed out the window. He also believes that his telephone is being wiretapped. [United Press International, 12/23/2002] In May 2003, Hatfill walks up to one of the agents following him attempts to videotape him. The agent drives into Hatfill and runs over his foot. Remarkably, the driver is not punished but Hatfill gets a five-dollar ticket for “walking to create a hazard.” Mike Hayes, a retired 20-year FBI agent specializing in surveillance, says to a reporter regarding the FBI’s behavior with Hatfill, “What you’re describing—really obvious surveillance—doesn’t make a lot of sense.” [Baltimore Sun, 5/20/2003] Shortly after the incident, USA Today reports, “FBI officials believe they can’t risk the embarrassment of losing track of Hatfill, even for a few hours, and then being confronted with more anthrax attacks.” Privately, Hatfill’s lawyer suggests that Hatfill could be outfitted with a satellite-guided tracking device and allow an FBI agent to stay with him at all times, but the FBI rejects the offer. [Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008] The surveillance continues until late 2003 and is very intermittent after that. [Baltimore Sun, 7/21/2004] The FBI will later admit that this type of open surveillance of a suspect is against FBI guidelines. However, when the FBI’s focus turns to Bruce Ivins in 2007, they will use the same technique on him (see Autumn 2007-July 29, 2008).
Zacarias Moussaoui indicates that he is willing to disclose information to the US authorities, but his overtures are rejected by the FBI and the Justice Department. After learning of Moussaoui’s offer, Minneapolis FBI counsel Coleen Rowley contacts assistants to FBI director Robert Mueller and to Justice Department manager Michael Chertoff. She says she is worried about Moussaoui’s research into cropdusting and wind patterns, and that the information he could provide may prove useful averting a second strike by al-Qaeda. Rowley will later comment: “But by that time Moussaoui had been charged with the death penalty and I deduced that [attorney general John] Ashcroft would not allow any potential for bargaining leverage to be injected into the case.” [Huffington Post, 5/2/2007]
CIA attorneys meet with White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, the Justice Department’s head of its criminal division, Michael Chertoff, and aides and lawyers from the National Security Council, Justice Department, and FBI. The meeting provides participants with an overview of the proposed interrogation plan for captured Islamist militant Abu Zubaida (see Mid-May, 2002). [Senate Intelligence Committee, 4/22/2009 ] The CIA has already begun torturing Zubaida (see April - June 2002, Mid-May, 2002, Mid-May 2002 and After, Mid-May 2002 and After, and June 2002).
More questions emerge in British newspapers about the conviction of Saeed Sheikh for reporter Daniel Pearl’s murder in the days immediately after the verdict. Pakistani police have secretly arrested two men who many believe are the real masterminds of Pearl’s murder, and official confirmation of these crucial arrests could have ended Saeed’s trial. [Guardian, 7/18/2002] On May 16, Pearl’s body was found and identified, but the FBI does not officially release the DNA results because official confirmation of the body would also have meant a new trial. [Independent, 7/16/2002] Pakistani officials admit they waited to release the results until after the verdict. [Guardian, 7/18/2002] After the trial ends, Pakistani officials admit that the key testimony of a taxi driver is doubtful. The “taxi driver” turns out to be a head constable policeman. [Guardian, 7/18/2002] One of the co-defendants turns out to be working for the Special Branch. [Independent, 7/21/2002] According to Pakistani law, the trial needed to be completed in a week, but in fact it took three months. The trial judge and the venue were changed three times. [BBC, 7/16/2002] The trial was held in a bunker underneath a prison, and no reporters were allowed to attend. When all the appeals are done, it is doubtful that Saeed will be extradited to the US, “because Mr. Sheikh might tell the Americans about the links between al-Qaeda and Pakistan’s own intelligence organization.” [Independent, 7/16/2002] Meanwhile, at least seven more suspects remain at large. All have ties to the ISI, and as one investigator remarks, “It seems inconceivable that there isn’t someone in the ISI who knows where they’re hiding.” [Time, 5/6/2002]
FBI Executive Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Dale Watson says he thinks Osama bin Laden is “probably” dead. According to the BBC, this is “thought to be the first time a senior US law enforcement official has publicly offered an opinion on whether bin Laden… is dead or alive.” “Is [bin Laden] alive or is he dead?” Watson says at a law enforcement conference in Washington, DC. “I am not really sure of the answer.… I personally think he is probably not with us anymore but I have no evidence to support that.” The BBC will add that “Watson’s comments suggest that the FBI, at least, has no firsthand information that confirms bin Laden is still alive.” However, other US officials tell the Associated Press they are surprised by Watson’s remarks, as the US administration’s official position remains that it does not know where bin Laden is, or whether he is still alive. [BBC, 7/18/2002]
An editorial in an Indian newspaper wonders why the US is still not interrogating Saeed Sheikh, recently convicted of murdering Daniel Pearl. Saeed was briefly interrogated by the FBI in February, but they were unable to ask about his links to al-Qaeda, and no known US contact has taken place since. [Independent, 7/16/2002; Indian Express, 7/19/2002] The editorial suggests that if the US pressures its close ally Pakistan to allow Saeed to be interrogated in his Pakistani prison, they could learn more about his financing of the 9/11 attacks and the criminal underworld that Saeed was connected to. Also, US attempts to find al-Qaeda cells in Pakistan could be strongly boosted with new information. [Indian Express, 7/19/2002]
Although US authorities are aware that Zacarias Moussaoui has one e-mail account and recover e-mails from it, he now says that he has another two, but the FBI is unable to find any trace of them (see August 17-November 11, 2001 and After). E-mails sent from the first address, firstname.lastname@example.org, have been recovered and will be produced at his trial. However, the other two addresses, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, were not uncovered by the FBI’s post-9/11 investigation and US authorities only learn of them from a statement made at this time by Moussaoui, who says the e-mails could provide him with an alibi and that he accessed the accounts from various computers, including his laptop, one at a Kinko’s outlet, and one at the University of Oklahoma. However, Microsoft, which operates Hotmail, says it is unable to locate any records of the accounts and that they do not exist. As the accounts have been inactive for over a year and all data for a hotmail account is deleted after 90 days of inactivity, no e-mails can be retrieved. Had the FBI asked Microsoft about the addresses within the 90-day period, they may have found information about the e-mails, but they did not do so because they did not know about them—the FBI decided not to interview Moussaoui after 9/11 (see September 11-12, 2001 and Early July 2002). The hard drives at the Kinko’s outlet had been wiped by the time the FBI arrived in September 2001 and no record of Moussaoui’s computer use there is found. Moussaoui had a receipt for the Kinko’s outlet with him when he was arrested, so the FBI might have been able to examine the Kinko’s computers before the hard drives were wiped if they had acted more promptly (see August 17-November 11, 2001 and After). [Wired News, 8/30/2002; internetnews (.com), 8/30/2002; CNN, 9/4/2002; CNN, 12/31/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006]
In an article titled, “Anthrax: the Noose Widens,” Time magazine reports, “Despite recent claims by some in the bioterrorism community that the investigation should be homing in on one particular American bioweapons expert, the FBI appears to be moving in the opposite direction. US government officials say the investigation is still ranging far and wide and that the FBI has not ruled out a foreign connection.” [Time, 7/21/2002] The unnamed expert is a clear reference to Steven Hatfill. The FBI will name him a “person of interest” in the investigation days later (see August 1, 2002).
US attorney for New Jersey Christopher Christie opposed a raid on an associate of the 9/11 hijackers. [Source: Public domain]Both the FBI and the US attorney’s office for New Jersey are highly critical of a raid by the Passaic County sheriff’s office on the business of Mohamed el-Atriss, who supplied the 9/11 hijackers with false IDs (see (July-August 2001) and July 31, 2002). El-Atriss is later arrested and will plead guilty to selling fake IDs (see November 2002-June 2003). According to the sheriff, when US attorney for New Jersey Christopher Christie learns the sheriff intends to hold a news conference about the raid, he tells the sheriff that “he [will] be arrested and the US attorney [will] come down and shut down the Sheriff’s Department.” However, a spokesman for Christie will deny this. [Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003] The FBI also hammers the sheriff in the media after the arrest, calling the raid, in which officers were accompanied by several press representatives, a “shameful media grab” and saying that the sheriff killed an FBI investigation. The Bergen County Record will point out that this is unusual, as “the feds don’t make a habit of lambasting other law enforcement officials publicly or of confirming the existence of secret investigations.” [Bergen Record, 8/7/2002] Federal officials then tell the sheriff’s department not to proceed with any investigations related to el-Atriss until they get clearance from the FBI. [Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003] El-Atriss cooperated with the FBI after 9/11 and promised to “keep his eyes and ears open” for other terrorists (see September 13, 2001-Mid 2002).
Former FBI translator Sibel Edmonds hires attorney David Colapinto of the Washington firm Kohn, Kohn and Calapinto, who sues the FBI under the Freedom of Information Act for full disclosure of all documents related to her allegations against Melek Can Dickerson (see December 4, 2001 and Afternoon February 12, 2002) and her dismissal from the FBI (see March 22, 2002). [Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
The FBI names Steven Hatfill as a “person of interest” in the anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001), the first person to be so named. The same day, the FBI conductis a second search of his house after tipping the media off in advance (see August 1, 2002). [Associated Press, 8/1/2002; London Times, 8/2/2002] CBS News initially reports: “Federal law enforcement sources told CBS News that Dr. Steven Hatfill was ‘the chief guy we’re looking at’ in the probe. The sources were careful not to use the word suspect, but said they were ‘zeroing in on this guy’ and that he is ‘the focus of the investigation.’” But later in the day their story is changed and that text is removed. Instead, Hatfill is referred to as “a bio-defense scientist on the FBI’s radar screen for months who’s now emerged as a central figure in the anthrax investigation.” [CBS News, 8/1/2002] On the same day, Barbara Hatch Rosenberg, one of the world’s top anthrax specialists, is interviewed by FBI agents who ask her whether a team of government scientists could be trying to frame Hatfill. Rosenberg has been very publicly critical of the FBI investigation. [Washington Times, 8/3/2002] She actually appears to be a key figure in getting the FBI to focus on Hatfill in the first place (see February-June 2002). Newsweek follows with a lengthy article purporting to detail the entire anthrax investigation, but it focuses entirely on Hatfill and fails to mention others involved in suspicious activities. [Newsweek, 8/4/2002] The Washington Post does a similar story focusing on Hatfill only, and even claims the US biowarfare program ended decades ago, despite revelations in late 2001 that it is still continuing. [Washington Post, 8/4/2002] Attorney General John Ashcroft calls Hatfill a “person of interest” on August 6. [Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008]
A Justice Department grants administrator sends an e-mail to Louisiana State University’s biomedical research and training center, telling it to “immediately cease and desist” from employing researcher and 2001 anthrax attacks suspect Steven Hatfill on department-funded programs. The next day Hatfill is placed on administrative leave. [CNN, 9/5/2002; Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008] On September 4, he is fired. [Associated Press, 9/4/2002] A day after that, the person who hired him is fired as well. [Associated Press, 9/5/2002] The LSU center relies on funding from the Justice Department for 97 percent of its money. [Weekly Standard, 9/16/2002] The New York Times will later report that “several senior law enforcement officials expressed embarrassment over the e-mail incident, saying the domestic preparedness office acted improperly because Mr. Hatfill has never been charged with any wrongdoing and has not been [officially] identified as a suspect.” [New York Times, 9/5/2002] Attorney General John Ashcroft and five FBI officials will later testify that they knew of no other instance in which the government had forced an investigative target out of a non-governmental job. [Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008]
A television film crew at Steven Hatfill’s apartment on August 1, 2002. [Source: Alex Wong / Getty Images]The FBI conducts a second search of Steven Hatfill’s apartment on the same day he is officially named a “person of interest” in the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). FBI agents are seen investigating his trash. [Associated Press, 8/1/2002; London Times, 8/2/2002] As with the first search of his apartment in June (see June 25, 2002), the media is tipped off in advance. An FBI agent involved in the search, Brad Garrett, will later say, “Obviously, someone told them we were going to do that search.” FBI agent Robert Roth, also part of the search, will call the tip offs “just ridiculous.” The fact that the search is made with a court issued warrant is also leaked to the media, implying that Hatfill is no longer cooperating with investigators when in fact he still is. [Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008]
After the FBI publicly names Steven Hatfill as a “person of interest” in the anthrax investigation on August 1, 2002 (see August 1, 2002), FBI leaders become increasingly fixated on him and fail to follow up on other leads. One anonymous FBI agent involved in the case will later say: “They exhausted a tremendous amount of time and energy on him… I’m still convinced that whatever seemed interesting or worth pursuing was just basically nullified in the months or year following when ‘person of interest’ came out about Hatfill.” Other possibilities are neglected because it is assumed in the FBI that “sooner or later they’ll have this guy nailed.” Another anonymous FBI investigator will say: “Particular management people felt, ‘He is the right guy. If we only put this amount of energy into him, we’ll get to the end of the rainbow.’ Did it take energy away? It had to have. Because you can’t pull up another hundred agents and say, ‘You go work these leads [that] these guys can’t because they’re just focused on Hatfill.’” The Los Angeles Times will later comment, “The preoccupation with Hatfill persisted for years, long after investigators failed to turn up any evidence linking him to the mailings.” [Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008]
Senator Richard Shelby.
[Source: US Senate]The Washington Post reveals that FBI agents have questioned nearly all 37 senators and congresspeople making up the 9/1 Congressional Inquiry about 9/11-related information leaks. In particular, in June 2002 the media reported that the day before 9/11 the NSA intercepted the messages “The match is about to begin” and “Tomorrow is zero hour”(see September 10, 2001). The FBI has asked the members to submit to lie detector tests but most have refused. Congresspeople express “grave concern” for this historically unprecedented move. A law professor states: “Now the FBI can open dossiers on every member and staffer and develop full information on them. It creates a great chilling effect on those who would be critical of the FBI.” [Washington Post, 8/2/2002] Senator John McCain (R-AZ) suggests that “the constitutional separation of powers is being violated in spirit if not in the letter. ‘What you have here is an organization compiling dossiers on people who are investigating the same organization. The administration bitterly complains about some leaks out of a committee, but meanwhile leaks abound about secret war plans for fighting a war against Saddam Hussein. What’s that about? There’s a bit of a contradiction here, if not a double standard.’” [Washington Post, 8/3/2002] Later the search for the source of the leak intensifies to unprecedented levels as the FBI asks 17 senators to turn over phone records, appointment calendars, and schedules that would reveal their possible contact with reporters. [Washington Post, 8/24/2002] Most, if not all, turn over the records, even as some complain that the request breaches the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches. One senator says the FBI is “trying to put a damper on our activities and I think they will be successful.” [Associated Press, 8/29/2002] In January 2004, it will be reported that the probe is focusing on Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL). He will not be charged with any crime relating to the leak. [Washington Post, 1/22/2004] In November 2005, the Senate Ethics Committee will announce it has dropped a probe of Shelby, citing insufficient evidence. [Reuters, 11/13/2005] Inquiry co-chair Sen. Bob Graham (D-FL) will write in a book in late 2004 that, at the time, he guessed “the leak was intended to sabotage [the inquiry’s] efforts. I am not by nature a conspiracy theorist, but the fact that we were hit with this disclosure at the moment we began to make things uncomfortable for the Bush administration has stuck with me. Over a year later, I asked [inquiry co-chair] Congressman [Porter] Goss (R-FL) whether he thought we had been set up. Nodding, he replied, ‘I often wonder that myself.’” [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 140] Author Philip Shenon will observe that this tactic of intimidation worked, as “Members of the joint committee and their staffs were frightened into silence about the investigation.” [Shenon, 2008, pp. 55]
On June 25, 2002, and again on August 1, 2002, the FBI conducts searches of Steven Hatfill’s apartment, and the media is tipped off in advance. Some FBI agents are upset at the lax security allowing the leaks (see June 25, 2002 and August 1, 2002). At some point after the second search, an unnamed FBI official recommends a criminal probe of the leaks with mandatory polygraph tests. However, according to later court testimony by FBI agent Robert Roth, FBI Director Robert Mueller opposes the idea. Mueller says: “I don’t want to do that.… It’s bad for morale to go after these people.” Apparently, no action is taken and the leaks continue. [Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008] In at least one media leak in August 2002, it will later be found that one of the leakers was Van Harp, the head of the FBI’s anthrax investigation (see August 4, 2002).
Roscoe Howard Jr. [Source: Associated Press]Newsweek reports that bloodhounds have recently been used in the search for the killer in the 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). Supposedly, the dogs were presented with “scent packs” lifted from anthrax-tainted letters mailed the year before, even though the letters had long since been decontaminated. The dogs reportedly showed no reaction wherever they were sent, except when taken to the apartment of anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill, where the dogs reportedly become agitated and go “crazy.” It is said they showed similar reactions at the apartment of Hatfill’s girlfriend and a Denny’s restaurant in Louisiana where Hatfill had eaten the day before. [Newsweek, 8/4/2002] However, three days later, the Baltimore Sun reports that managers at all 12 of the Denny’s in Louisiana say they have not been visited by federal agents with bloodhounds. Furthermore, three veteran bloodhound handlers are interviewed and say they are skeptical that any useful scent could have remained on the letters after so much time, as well as after the decontamination. Former officer and bloodhound handler Weldon Wood says, “Anything is possible. But is it feasible, after this length of time and what the letters have been through? I would doubt it.” The Sun suggests, “the possibility exists that the story was a leak calculated to put pressure on Hatfill.” [Baltimore Sun, 8/8/2002] Investigators will later conclude that the dogs’ excitement is useless as evidence. Van Harp, the FBI official in charge of the anthrax investigation, and Roscoe Howard Jr., the US attorney for Washington, DC, will later admit they leaked the bloodhound story to Newsweek. [Los Angeles Times, 6/29/2008]
It is reported on ABC World News Tonight that Steven Hatfill is “known as a person who has worked around anthrax experts, although the FBI concedes he could not himself make anthrax, does not have what they call ‘the bench skills’ to make it.” Hatfill is the FBI’s only publicly named suspect in the 2001 anthrax attacks at this time (see October 5-November 21, 2001 and August 1, 2002). [ABC News, 8/11/2002] But despite this, the FBI will continue to focus on Hatfill for years and apparently will not even consider the possibility of accomplices.
Hatfill holding a press conference on August 11, 2002. [Source: Associated Press / Rick Bowner]Anthrax suspect Steven Hatfill defends himself in a public speech and Washington Post interview. He claims that he is being set up as the “fall guy” for the anthrax attacks. He says his life “has been completely and utterly destroyed,” and he has twice lost a job due to the allegations. His lawyer also accuses the FBI of leaking documents to the press and conducting searches of Hatfill’s residence in a highly visible way when a more discreet method could have been arranged. [Washington Post, 8/11/2002; Fox News, 8/12/2002]
The FBI claims the anthrax letters were sent from the middle mailbox of these three mailboxes on Nassau Street, Princeton. [Source: Jill Becker / The New York Times]The Times of Trenton, a Trenton, New Jersey, newspaper, reports that there are doubts about the FBI’s recent claim that the mailbox where the anthrax letters were sent has been found (see December 2001-Early August 2002). The newspaper reports, “[I]nvestigators say it is impossible at this point, and might never be determined, whether the Nassau Street mailbox was a point of origin for one of the letters or if it became contaminated through contact with other mail or equipment containing traces of anthrax.” FBI agent Ken Shuey, in charge of the FBI’s temporary field office based in Trenton, says, [W]e can’t say with certainty where the letters entered the mail system until we have some other corroboration or someone confesses.” The difficulty is that the mailbox served two purposes: members of the public could drop letters in it, but it was also used to hold sorted mail for letter carriers to deliver. The mailbox is the only one out of about 650 mailboxes in the area to test positive for anthrax, but there seems to be no way to tell if the anthrax was from letters placed directly into it or cross-contamination by letters from other nearby mailboxes that were passing through it. State Health Commissioner Clifton Lacy says he suspects cross-contamination is to blame for the anthrax detection. FBI spokesperson Bill Evanina says: “We have no idea. It could be something that was placed in the box or it could be cross-contamination. It is way, way too early to tell.” [Times of Trenton, 8/14/2002] Other newspapers fail to report on the cross-contamination problem and, as of September 2008, the FBI has yet to make public information explaining any solution to the problem.
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