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President Bush signs the Patriot Act into law. [Source: White House]President Bush signs the USA Patriot Act (see October 2, 2001) into law. The act’s provisions include:
1) Non-citizens can be detained and deported if they provide “assistance” for lawful activities of any group the government chooses to call a terrorist organization. Under this provision the secretary of state can designate any group that has ever engaged in violent activity as a terrorist organization. Representative Patsy Mink (D-HI) notes that in theory supporters of Greenpeace could now be convicted for supporting terrorism. [San Francisco Chronicle, 11/12/2001]
2) Immigrants can be detained indefinitely, even if they are found not to have any links to terrorism. They can be detained indefinitely for immigration violations or if the attorney general decides their activities pose a danger to national security. They need never be given a trial or even a hearing on their status. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8/2002]
3) Internet service providers can be ordered to reveal the websites and e-mail addresses that a suspect has communicated to or visited. The FBI need only inform a judge that the information is relevant to an investigation. [Village Voice, 11/26/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8/2002]
4) The act “lays the foundation for a domestic intelligence-gathering system of unprecedented scale and technological prowess.” [Washington Post, 11/4/2001] It allows the government to access confidential credit reports, school records, and other records, without consent or notification. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8/2002] All of this information can now be given to the CIA, in violation of the CIA’s mandate prohibiting it from spying within the US. [Village Voice, 11/26/2001]
5) Financial institutions are encouraged to disclose possible violations of law or “suspicious activities” by any client. The institution is prohibited from notifying the person involved that it made such a report. The term “suspicious” is not defined, so it is up to the financial institutions to determine when to send such a report.
6) Federal agents can easily obtain warrants to review a library patron’s reading and computer habits (see January 2002). [Village Voice, 2/22/2002] Section 215 allows the FBI to ask the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) for an order to obtain documents relating to counterterrorism investigations without meeting the usual standard of legal “probable cause” that a crime may have been committed. Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI—see October 9, 2001) says that Section 215 can allow the FBI to “go on a fishing expedition and collect information on virtually anyone.” Librarians will make Section 215 the centerpiece of their objections to the Patriot Act, arguing that the government can now “sweep up vast amounts of information about people who are not suspected of a crime.” In 2005, one librarian will say, “It reminds me of the Red Scare of the 1950s.” However, some FBI officials find it easier to use provisions of Section 505, which expands the usage of so-called “national security letters” (see November 28, 2001). [Roberts, 2008, pp. 39-40]
7) The government can refuse to reveal how evidence is collected against a suspected terrorist defendant. [Tampa Tribune, 4/6/2003]
Passes with No Public Debate - The law passes without public debate. [Village Voice, 11/9/2001; Village Voice, 11/26/2001] Even though it ultimately took six weeks to pass the law, there were no hearings or congressional debates. [Salon, 3/24/2003] Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA) says: “This was the least democratic process for debating questions fundamental to democracy I have ever seen. A bill drafted by a handful of people in secret, subject to no committee process, comes before us immune from amendment” (see October 2-4, 2001 and October 24, 2001). [Village Voice, 11/9/2001] Only 66 congresspeople, and one senator, Feingold, vote against it. Few in Congress are able to read summaries, let alone the fine print, before voting on it. [Los Angeles Times, 10/30/2001] Feingold says, “The new law goes into a lot of areas that have nothing to do with terrorism and have a lot to do with the government and the FBI having a wish list of things they want to do.” [Village Voice, 11/9/2001] Supporters of the act point out that some of its provisions will expire in four years, but in fact most provisions will not expire. [Chicago Tribune, 11/1/2001]
Mounting Opposition - One year later, criticism of the law will grow. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8/2002] Dozens of cities will later pass resolutions criticizing the Patriot Act (see January 12, 2003).
A senior NSA official, having learned of the NSA’s post-9/11 domestic surveillance program and believing it to be illegal, takes his concerns to a staff member of the House Intelligence Committee. In a 2012 interview for Democracy Now!, William Binney, a former NSA technical director who served in the NSA for 36 years, will say that some of his staff had been recruited to work on the new program and told him of some of the things that were being done, which he believed were illegal. Binney will tell co-host Juan Gonzalez: “I immediately went to the Intelligence Committee, because… the intelligence committees were formed to have oversight over the intelligence community to make sure they didn’t monitor US citizens.… And the member of the staff that I went to went to Porter Goss, who was chairman of that committee at the time, and he referred her to General Hayden for any further. When it was the job of that committee to do the oversight on all this domestic spying, they weren’t doing it.” Soon after this, Binney retires from the NSA, due to his belief the NSA is violating the Constitution (see October 31, 2001). [Democracy Now!, 4/20/2012]
Melek Can Dickerson begins working for the FBI as a Turkish translator with top security clearance. She joins Sibel Edmonds and Kevin Taskasen (see September 20, 2001 and Early October 2001, respectively) as the FBI’s only Turkish translators. The FBI hired Dickerson without verifying that the information she provided on her application was correct. Had the bureau done this they would have learned that she spent two years working as an intern for the American-Turkish Council (ATC), a group that is being investigated by the FBI’s own counterintelligence unit and whose phone calls she will be listening in on as an FBI translator. [Anti-War (.com), 7/1/2004] On her application, Dickerson failed to disclose that she had worked for the organization. She also hid her tie to the group when she was interviewed as part of her background security check. [Vanity Fair, 9/2005] According to Sibel Edmonds, it’s not clear that Dickerson’s background check was ever completed. [Anti-War (.com), 7/1/2004]
Concerned that NSA post-9/11 surveillance operations violated the US Constitution, a senior NSA official reports on the program to House Intelligence Committee staff (see Before October 31, 2001), then retires. William Binney, a crypto-mathematician, had served in the NSA for 36 years. In 1997 he was made technical director of the World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, a 6000-employee unit that focused on signals intelligence (SIGINT) reporting and analysis. In the last part of his NSA career, Binney focused on dealing with the NSA’s problem of information overload, co-founding the Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center (SARC) and leading a 20-member team to develop a data-mining and analysis program called ThinThread. This program made it possible to “correlate data from financial transactions, travel records, Web searches, GPS equipment, and any other ‘attributes’ that an analyst might find useful,” and “could chart relationships among people in real time.” Unlike the NSA’s existing centralized data processing systems, ThinThread was able to identify useful or useless data as it was collected, reducing the overload problem. However, though it targeted foreign communications, ThinThread also intercepted those of Americans, and “continued documenting signals when a trail crossed into the US.” Binney incorporated measures to protect privacy, but NSA lawyers still considered the program too invasive, according to a 2011 article by Jane Mayer based on interviews with Binney and another NSA whistleblower, Thomas Drake. In 1999, NSA Director General Michael Hayden decided to fund a rival program, Trailblazer, which would be developed by defense contractors (see Late 1999). Trailblazer will be abandoned in 2006 as unworkable, after costing $1.2 billion (see January 2006). [New Yorker, 5/23/2011; Wired News, 2/15/2012; Democracy Now!, 4/20/2012] In 2002, three NSA whistleblowers—Edward Loomis, J. Kirk Wiebe, and Binney—will ask the Pentagon to investigate the NSA for wasting “millions and millions of dollars” on Trailblazer. [Nation, 3/26/2013]
Post-9/11 NSA Surveillance Expansion - Binney will tell Mayer that, after the 9/11 attacks, his people began coming to him, saying things like: “They’re getting billing records on US citizens! They’re putting pen registers [call logs] on everyone in the country!” James Bamford will interview Binney in 2012 and write, “At the outset the program recorded 320 million calls a day, [Binney] says, which represented about 73 to 80 percent of the total volume of the agency’s worldwide intercepts.” Binney has not been personally “read in” to this domestic surveillance program, but some members of his SARC team have, as their knowledge of ThinThread code was needed to set it up. Binney became convinced elements of ThinThread were being used, but without privacy protections, meaning US persons could be targeted. Soon after learning these things, Binney takes his concerns to the House Intelligence Committee (see Before October 31, 2001), and retires on October 31. He will tell Mayer, “I couldn’t be an accessory to subverting the Constitution.” Other sources support Binney’s account of this NSA data-mining and monitoring program (see After September 11, 2001, October 11, 2001, After September 11, 2001, Late September, 2001, and October 2001). However, the claim that NSA domestic surveillance was initiated only after, and in response to, 9/11 is contradicted by information indicating that domestic monitoring programs and activities were established and conducted prior to 9/11 (see Late 1999, February 27, 2000, December 2000, February 2001, February 2001, Spring 2001, and July 2001). [New Yorker, 5/23/2011; Wired News, 2/15/2012; Democracy Now!, 4/20/2012]
ThinThread 'Would Likely Have Prevented 9/11' - Despite ThinThread’s capacity to collect actionable intelligence, Hayden vetoed the idea of deploying the system three weeks before 9/11, in August 2001. According to the Loomis, Wiebe, and Binney, this decision “left the NSA without a system to analyze the trillions of bits of foreign SIGINT flowing over the Internet at warp speed, as ThinThread could do.” During the summer of 2001, when “the system was blinking red,” according to CIA Director George Tenet, the NSA “failed to detect critical phone and e-mail communications that could have tipped US intelligence to al-Qaeda’s plans to attack.” [Nation, 3/26/2013]
Entity Tags: Edward Loomis, World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group, J. Kirk Wiebe, William Binney, Thomas Drake, House Intelligence Committee, James Bamford, Trailblazer, Jane Mayer, National Security Agency, Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center, Michael Hayden, Thinthread
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Dennis Saccher, the FBI’s special agent in charge of Turkish counter-intelligence, develops suspicions about Melek Can Dickerson, a translator in his department who has lost information on several wiretaps and who he believes has forged signatures on certain documents. He reports his concerns to the FBI headquarters and his boss, Supervisory Special Agent Tom Frields. [Anti-War (.com), 8/22/2005]
FBI translator Melek Can Dickerson recommends in a proposal to supervisor Mike Feghali that the Bureau’s Turkish language department adopt a new system for assigning translation tasks. Instead of the current system that randomly distributes assignments to translators, she suggests that each translator be permanently responsible for certain targets. Included with her proposal is a list of recommended assignments for each of the department’s translators. Under the proposed arrangement, she would be assigned to the phone lines of the American-Turkish Council (ATC) along with three other “high-value” diplomatic targets. Dickerson formerly worked for the ATC as an intern and is currently a personal friend of at least one of those high-value targets. She discusses her proposal alone with Feghali in his office for most of the afternoon. The following day, Feghali sends an email announcing that he has decided to adopt the new system proposed by Dickerson. [Vanity Fair, 9/2005] As a result of the new arrangement, Dickerson, a mere “monitor,” has exclusive access to her targets’ wiretapped communications. (An FBI translator is either a “linguist” or a “monitor” for any given language. Linguists are more qualified and consequently have broader roles. For example, while linguists can to do verbatim translations, monitors may only produce summaries. [Anti-War (.com), 7/1/2004] ) From this point on, none of the recorded conversations for these targets will be reviewed by an official department linguist, or any other translator for that matter. [Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
Recently hired FBI translator Melek Can Dickerson (see (Late October 2001)) begins marking as “not pertinent” wiretapped conversations that concern certain high-value surveillance targets working at the American-Turkish Council (ATC). As it later emerges, Dickerson previously worked as an intern for the ATC and maintains ongoing relationships with at least two individuals under investigation. [Washington Post, 6/19/2002; New York Observer, 1/22/2004; Vanity Fair, 9/2005] She also manages to obtain, and prevent from being translated, assignments designated for co-worker Sibel Edmonds. These wiretaps, which she marks as being completed by Edmonds, concern the same targeted persons. [New York Observer, 1/22/2004]
The FBI alerts InfraGard members (see 1996-2008) of a potential terrorist threat to bridges in California. Officials of Enron are also notified. However, the FBI does not immediately notify California governor Gray Davis, who learns of the threat from his brother, Barry Davis, an employee of the financial firm Morgan Stanley. Davis’s press secretary, Steve Maviglio, later recalls: “[Governor Davis] said his brother talked to him before the FBI. And the governor got a lot of grief for releasing the information. In his defense, he said, ‘I was on the phone with my brother, who is an investment banker. And if he knows, why shouldn’t the public know?‘… You’d think an elected official would be the first to know, not the last.” [Progressive, 2/7/2008]
The Justice Department announces that it has put 1,182 people into secret custody since 9/11. Most all of them are from the Middle East or South Asia. [New York Times, 8/3/2002] After this it stops releasing new numbers, but human rights groups believe the total number could be as high as 2,000. [Independent, 2/26/2002] Apparently this is roughly the peak for secret arrests, and eventually most of the prisoners are released, and none are charged with any terrorist acts (see July 3, 2002; December 11, 2002). Their names will still not have been revealed (see August 2, 2002).
After issuing several terror alerts that came to nothing (see October 11-29, 2001 and October 29, 2001), Attorney General John Ashcroft declares victory in overcoming the threat: “[T]he home front has witnessed the opening battle in the war against terrorism, and America has emerged victorious.” He claims that “two periods of extremely high threat have passed” without incident. But in 2006, author Frank Rich will note that this assessment is based solely on Ashcroft’s word, since no evidence of actual threats will ever be advanced. [Rich, 2006, pp. 36-37]
Asif Kasi. [Source: New York Times / Jessica Kourkounis]The FBI investigates three Pakistani-born city officials in Chester, Pennsylvania, for possible roles in the recent anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001). The three are Asif Kazi, an accountant in the city’s finance department, Dr. Irshad Shaikh, the city’s health commissioner, and his brother Dr. Masood Shaikh, who runs the city’s lead-abatement program. Kazi is in his city hall office when FBI agents burst in and interrogate him. He is questioned for hours about an unknown liquid he had been seen carrying out of his house. In fact, the dishwasher had broken down and he was bailing out his kitchen. Meanwhile, agents with drawn guns knock down the front door to his house while his wife is cooking in the kitchen. Dozens of boxes are carried out of the house. Agents in bioprotection suits also search the Shaikh brothers’ house and carry away their computers. None of the three ever had any connection to anthrax and none of them are arrested. The searches are national news for several days, severely damaging their reputations. Three days after the raid, an FBI agent tells the Washington Post that the raid did not pan out. The FBI learns that a disgruntled employee had called in a bogus tip. But the FBI never publicly clears them. [Washington Post, 11/15/2001; Newsweek, 8/4/2002; New York Times, 8/9/2008] Even a year later, an FBI spokesperson says the raids are still “a pending matter.” [Associated Press, 9/5/2002] Trouble for the three men will continue. The Shaikh brothers’ applications for US citizenship is blocked, their visas run out, and they both eventually have to leave the US. Kazi is already a US citizen, but he is put on a no-fly watch list. He is searched and interrogated for a couple of hours every time he travels in or out of the US. His name will finally be taken off the list in 2007. [New York Times, 8/9/2008]
The National Security Agency begins sending data—consisting of telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, and names—to the FBI that was obtained through surveillance of international communications originating within the US (see After September 11, 2001 and October 2001). The NSA sends so much data, in fact, that hundreds of agents are needed to investigate the thousands of tips per month that the data is generating. However, virtually all of this information leads to dead ends and/or innocent people. FBI officials repeatedly complain that the unfiltered information is bogging down the bureau: according to over a dozen current and former law enforcement and counterterrorism officials, the flood of tips provide them and their colleagues with very few real leads against terrorism suspect. Instead, the NSA data diverts agents from more productive work. Some FBI officials view the NSA data as pointless and likely illegal intrusions on citizens’ privacy. Initially, FBI director Robert Mueller asks senior administration officials “whether the program had a proper legal foundation,” but eventually defers to Justice Department legal opinions. One former FBI agent will later recall, “We’d chase a number, find it’s a schoolteacher with no indication they’ve ever been involved in international terrorism—case closed. After you get a thousand numbers and not one is turning up anything, you get some frustration.” A former senior prosecutor will add, “It affected the FBI in the sense that they had to devote so many resources to tracking every single one of these leads, and, in my experience, they were all dry leads. A trained investigator never would have devoted the resources to take those leads to the next level, but after 9/11, you had to.” Former NSA director Bobby Ray Inman says that the problem between the FBI and the NSA may stem in part from their very different approaches. Signals intelligence, the technical term for the NSA’s communications intercepts, rarely produces “the complete information you’re going to get from a document or a witness” in a traditional FBI investigation, he says. And many FBI officials are uncomfortable with the NSA’s domestic operations, since by law the NSA is precluded from operating inside US borders except under very specific circumstances. [New York Times, 1/17/2006]
Shortly after the October 2001 anthrax attacks (see October 5-November 21, 2001), suspicions focus on USAMRIID, the US Army’s top biological laboratory, as one of the few places where people would have the skills to make the anthrax. In December 2001, one USAMRIID scientist raises the issue of possible anthrax contamination in the lab. Another USAMRIID scientist, Bruce Ivins, takes it upon himself to investigate. He discovers traces of anthrax near his desk, which is away from the lab facilities where he and others work with anthrax and other dangerous substances. He swabs the area clean and decontaminates it. Then he delays filing a report about this for three months. The FBI is suspicious of this, and begins to consider Ivins as a possible suspect. But in sworn statements to the Army in May 2002, Ivins says he avoided filing a report because he did not want to cause an uproar in the facility with people worrying that they were contaminated. He also suggests that a sloppy lab technician could have spread anthrax from secured work spaces to unsecured ones including the desk area. The Army finishes a 300-plus page report that same month. The report concludes the anthrax contamination was accidental and not potentially deadly, and no discipline is recommended against anyone. But after Ivins’s death in 2008, the unnamed officer who wrote the report will say: “Of course I think [Ivins’s cleaning of the area] was a cover-up.… He was trying to clean up the material” used in the anthrax letters. The report is made available to the FBI, but it is unknown if the FBI makes use of it at the time. By this time, the FBI is more interested in investigating former USAMRIID scientist Steven Hatfill and they put aside their concerns about Ivins. Instead, Ivins remains deeply involved in assisting the FBI’s anthrax investigation (see April 2002). [ABC News, 8/1/2008; Los Angeles Times, 8/15/2008]
Matthew Edmonds sitting in the kitchen where he and his wife Sibel claim their encounter with the Dickersons took place. [Source: Canal+]FBI translator Sibel Edmonds receives a call from co-worker Melek Can Dickerson, whom she barely knows. Dickerson says she and her husband Major Douglas Dickerson are in the area and would like to stop by for a visit. [Vanity Fair, 9/2005] Douglas is a US Air Force major who procures weapons from the US for various Central Asian and Middle Eastern governments. [Anti-War (.com), 8/15/2005] “I’m in the area with my husband and I’d love you to meet him. Is it OK if we come by?” Edmonds recalls Dickerson saying. When the couple arrives, Douglas Dickerson encourages Edmonds and her husband Matthew Edmonds to join the American-Turkish Council (ATC) and the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA). Joining the organizations would get them tied in with a network of high-level people, including officials at the Turkish Embassy. When Sibel’s husband Michael suggests that there are probably strict eligibility requirements for becoming a member of this organization, Douglas says to Sibel, “All you have to do is tell them who you work for and what you do and you will get in very quickly.” Sibel attempts to steer the conversation toward another topic. As part of her job at the FBI, some of the wiretapped conversations she translates involve the very same people the Dickersons are describing as “high-level friends.” She is concerned that the ultimate goal of the Dickersons’ offer is to get Sibel involved in espionage and to help shield those groups from FBI surveillance. [Washington Post, 6/19/2002; CBS News, 10/25/2002; New York Observer, 1/22/2004; Vanity Fair, 9/2005] Major Dickerson brings up the name of a wealthy Turkish man living in nearby McLean, Virginia, who is involved with the ATC and has access to US military information. Sibel Edmonds is surprised because she recognizes his name from an investigation she is working on and knows that he is the target of an FBI counterintelligence operation. The Dickersons intimate that they are so close to this man that they shop for him and his wife. [Sperry, 2005, pp. 163] “They wanted to sell me for the information I could provide,” she later explains in an interview. They promised her she would receive enough to “live a very comfortable life wherever we wanted. We would never have to work again.” [Anti-War (.com), 7/1/2004]
FBI contract linguist Sibel Edmonds informs supervisor Mike Feghali—first orally and later in writing—about her recent encounter with the Dickersons on December 2 (see December 2, 2001) and describes their self-acknowledged links to the American-Turkish Council (ATC), the Assembly of Turkish American Associations (ATAA), and certain high-level Turkish Embassy officials, all of which are targets of FBI wiretaps. Edmonds also alleges, either on this day or some time afterwards, that Dickerson has also leaked information to people under investigation and that she has even tried to stop Edmonds and another translator from listening to their wiretapped conversations. [Petition for a writ of certiorari. Sibel Edmonds v. Department of Justice, et all., 8/4/2005, pp. 2 ; Government Executive, 8/8/2005; Vanity Fair, 9/2005] Feghali tells her not to worry and says he will immediately file a report with the security department. [Anti-War (.com), 7/1/2004; Vanity Fair, 9/2005] (The security department will later tell Edmonds it received no such report [Anti-War (.com), 7/1/2004; Boston Globe, 7/5/2004] .) He then changes the subject. “Now, Sibel, I understand you’ve been taking on a lot of coursework at your university. Why not take advantage of our workplace opportunities?” he asks. When Edmonds asks Feghali what he means, he explains that she could come to the office on Saturday and Sunday to do her school work on the clock, adding another $700 or so to her weekly earnings. On another occasion, one of her supervisors (possibly Feghali) offers to make her next trip to Turkey “TDY” (paid travel). All she would have to do is “stop off in some liaison office in Ankara a couple times, make my little appearance, and suddenly all my flights, hotels, and expenses would be paid for by the FBI,” she will recall in a 2004 interview. Edmonds will add, “I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.” [Anti-War (.com), 7/1/2004]
It is reported that in the wake of 9/11, Attorney General John Ashcroft has prevented the FBI from investigating gun-purchase records to discover if any of the hundreds arrested or suspected since 9/11 had bought any guns. The White House supports him, saying they have no intention of changing the law to clarify the FBI’s ability to search gun-purchase records. [CNN, 12/6/2001; New York Times, 12/6/2001] A spokesman for The International Association of Chiefs of Police, the largest group of law enforcement executives in the US, says, “This is absurd and unconscionable. The decision has no rational basis in public safety. It sounds to me like it was made for narrow political reasons based on a right-to-bear-arms mentality.” [New York Times, 12/6/2001] There were reports that the 9/11 hijackers on at least Flight 11 and Flight 93 used guns in the hijacking (see (8:20 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:27 a.m. September 11, 2001).
Tom Ridge, Director of Homeland Security, warns that terrorist strikes “could happen within the next few weeks.” Ridge states that “the quantity and level of threats… have reached a threshold where we should once again place the public on general alert.” He describes the terrorists as “shadow soldiers… a shadow enemy.” [MotherJones, 12/3/2001] Richard Reid does attempt to blow up an airplane with a shoe-bomb later in the month (see December 22, 2001).
Two stills from Carl Cameron’s Fox News report on potential Israeli spying in the US. [Source: Fox News]Fox News reports: “Investigators within the DEA, INS, and FBI have all told Fox News that to pursue or even suggest Israeli spying… is considered career suicide.… A highly placed investigator says there are ‘tie-ins’ between the spy ring and 9/11. However, when asked for details, he flatly refuses to describe them, saying, ‘evidence linking these Israelis to 9/11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It’s classified information.’” The report also reveals that Amdocs, an Israeli company, is recording virtually every phone call in the US and could be passing information on to the Israeli government (similar claims were first raised in 2000 [Insight, 5/29/2000] ). Fox News suggests that the position of this company might impede the 9/11 investigation. [Fox News, 12/12/2001]
Richard Reid’s shoe bomb.
[Source: NEFA Foundation]British citizen Richard Reid is arrested for trying to blow up a Miami-bound jet using explosives hidden in his shoe. [Associated Press, 8/19/2002] Reid fails in his attempt to destroy the American Airlines jet because he is unable to detonate the explosives—he cannot get the fuse to light using matches, despite using up six of them before he is overpowered by the stewards and passengers. Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will comment, “Had Reid used a cheap disposable plastic cigarette lighter to ignite the fuse of his bomb, rather than a match that did not burn for long enough, forensic experts are sure there was enough plastic explosive in his boot to puncture the fuselage of Flight 63 and bring down the aircraft.” [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 215-217, 236] The attack is supposed to be one of two simultaneous attacks, but Reid’s partner, Saajit Badat, backs out shortly before the bombing (see (December 14, 2001)). Reid will later plead guilty to all charges, and declare himself a follower of Osama bin Laden. [CBS News, 10/4/2002] He may have ties to Pakistan. [Washington Post, 3/31/2002] It is later believed that Reid and others in the shoe bomb plot reported directly to 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM). [CNN, 1/30/2003] It has been suggested that KSM has ties to the ISI, and that Reid is a follower of Ali Gilani, a religious leader believed to be working with the ISI (see January 6, 2002).
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld makes a public announcement that he is planning to move Taliban and al-Qaeda suspects to the Guantanamo Bay Naval Station. The number of people in US custody and destined for Guantanamo is allegedly small. According to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, they number eight individuals aboard the USS Peleliu and 37 at a US base near Kandahar airport. [Dawn (Karachi), 12/28/2001] Troops, earlier stationed at nearby Camp Rhino, where John Walker Lindh was detained, are being transferred to Guantanamo. [GlobalSecurity (.org), 1/15/2005] The reason for choosing Guantanamo for detaining suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban members is unclear. Rumsfeld says: “I would characterize Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as the least worst place we could have selected. Its disadvantages seem to be modest relative to the alternatives.” [Dawn (Karachi), 12/28/2001] Rumsfeld does not inform reporters of the legal opinion about to be released by the Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) that he feels makes Guantanamo uniquely qualified to serve as a prisoner for terror suspects
(see December 28, 2001). According to the OLC opinion, Guantanamo is outside the US itself, so US courts have no jurisdiction to oversee conditions or activities there. It is also not on soil controlled by any other court system. And, unlike other facilities considered for housing terror suspects (see January 11, 2002), Guantanamo is not on the soil of a friendly government with which the US has lease and status of force agreements, but rather on the soil of a hostile Communist government whose predecessor had signed a perpetual lease with the US. The base, therefore, is, according to the OLC, under the sole jurisdiction of the US military and its commander in chief, and not subject to any judicial or legislative review. In 2007, author and reporter Charlie Savage will write, “Guantanamo was chosen because it was the best place to set up a law-free zone.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 145]
Jesselyn Radack. [Source: Whistleblower (.org)]Justice Department legal ethics adviser Jesselyn Radack is subjected to intensive harassment and scrutiny by her employer after she consulted with a Criminal Division lawyer over the John Walker Lindh (“American Taliban”) case (see December 7, 2001).
Suddenly Fired - After Radack contradicts the department’s story on Lindh and his supposed failure to request legal counsel, she is suddenly fired when an unscheduled performance evaluation gives her poor ratings. Less than a year before, her performance evaluation had earned her a promotion and a merit bonus.
Leaks E-Mails to Reporter, Lindh Case Derailed - When she learns that the Justice Department has failed to turn over a number of e-mails concerning Lindh to a federal judge as requested, Radack turns over the e-mails to reporter Michael Isikoff of Newsweek. “I wasn’t in my mind saying, ‘Gee, I want to be a whistle-blower,’” she will later say. “I was just trying to correct the wrong, just trying to set something straight.” The resulting article prompts questions about the Justice Department’s honesty in discussing the Lindh case, and prompts a surprising turn of events: the department announces that it will end the Lindh case rather than hold an evidence-suppression hearing that would have probed the facts surrounding his interrogations. The government drops the worst of the charges against Lindh, and he pleads guilty to lesser charges (see July 15, 2002) and October 4, 2002).
Unspecified Allegations of 'Criminal' Behavior, Secret Reports Alleging Unfitness - As for Radack, even though the e-mails she released are not classified and she has broken no laws in making them public, the Bush administration wanted that information kept secret. She loses her job at a private law firm after the administration informs the firm that she is a “criminal” who cannot be trusted. She is subjected to a yearlong criminal investigation by the Justice Department; no charges are ever filed. “My attorneys asked what I was being investigated for and never got an answer,” Radack will later say. “There is no law against leaking. This was nonclassified stuff. I think they were just trying to get me to slip into making a false statement. Beyond that, it never seemed like they were really going to bring charges. This was just to harass me.” The administration files a secret report with the bar associations in the states she is licensed to practice law, alleging that she is unfit to practice law and recommending “discipline” against her. Because the report is secret, Radack finds it difficult to challenge the unspecified charges. (Most of the complaints against her will eventually be dismissed.)
No-Fly List - And Radack is placed on the administration’s “no-fly” list, ostensibly reserved for suspected terrorists and other criminals, forcing her to endure intensive and invasive searches every time she attempts to board an airplane.
Making an Example - In 2007, reporter and author Charlie Savage will note that Radack gained no protection from the various whistleblower protection laws on the books, mostly because those laws have no enforcement mechanisms and rely “on the willingness of high-ranking executive branch officials to obey a statute.” Savage will observe: “The whistleblower laws did nothing to help Radack when the Bush-Cheney administration decided to make an example of her, sending a clear warning to other officials who might be inclined to bring secret executive branch wrongdoing to light. And Radack would not be the last.” [Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, 6/2003; Savage, 2007, pp. 107-110]
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]
Three of the men convicted for the World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993)—Mohammed Salameh, Mahmud Abouhalima, and Nidal Ayyad—are allowed to write about 90 letters from inside the Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado, encouraging fellow extremists around the world. Some of the letters are sent to Morocco and some to a militant cell in Spain. In one, addressed to cell leader Mohamed Achraf, who will be arrested in late 2004 for attempting to blow up the National Justice Building in Madrid (see July-October 18, 2004), Salameh writes, “Oh, God, make us live with happiness. Make us die as martyrs. May we be united on the day of judgment.” Other recipients have links to the 2004 Madrid train bombings (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). One of Salameh’s letters, in which he calls Osama bin Laden “the hero of my generation,” is published in a newspaper in July 2002, but this does not result in any new security attempts to stop other letters. The letters urge readers to “terminate the infidels” because “Muslims don’t have any option other than jihad.” Former prosecutor Andrew McCarthy wonders, “He was exhorting acts of terrorism and helping recruit would-be terrorists for the jihad from inside an American prison.” Terrorism specialist Hedieth Mirahmadi says the letters would have been especially useful for recruitment because the convicted bombers have “a power that the average person or the average imam in a mosque doesn’t have.” Attorney General Alberto Gonzales will later comment, “I was surprised. Didn’t seem to make any sense to me and I’m sure the average American would have to wonder, ‘How could this happen?’” Staff at the prison noticed the letters were unmonitored and complained in 2003, but it apparently took management several months to impose a tighter regime. [MSNBC, 3/1/2005; MSNBC, 3/9/2005]
While most US military and intelligence professionals dismiss the Iraq-Niger uranium deal as sheer fabrications that have been repeatedly discredited (see Between Late 2000 and September 11, 2001, October 15, 2001, October 18, 2001, November 20, 2001, February 5, 2002, March 1, 2002, Late April or Early May 2002-June 2002, and Late June 2002), neoconservatives in the Pentagon keep the reports alive. They “delighted in telling people, ‘You don’t understand your own data,’” former DIA analyst Patrick Lang will later recall. “‘We know that Saddam [Hussein] is evil and deceptive, and if you see this piece of data, to say just because it is not well supported it’s not true, is politically naive.’” [Unger, 2007, pp. 239]
Sometime in early 2002, President Bush signs a secret executive order authorizing the National Security Agency (NSA) to wiretap phone conversations and read e-mails to and from US citizens. The order extends an operation set into motion at least as early as October 2001 to begin wiretapping US citizens’ phones in a response to the 9/11 attacks. When the program is revealed by the US media in late 2005 (see December 15, 2005), Bush and his officials will say the program is completely legal, though it ignores the requirements of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) that requires the government to obtain court-issued warrants to mount surveillance against US citizens. They will insist that only those suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda are monitored, and only when those individuals make or receive international communications. [New York Times, 12/15/2005; Washington Post, 12/22/2005; Newsweek, 12/22/2008] Bush’s order authorizes the NSA to monitor international telephone conversations and international e-mails of hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of US citizens without court warrants, in an effort to track what officials call “dirty numbers” linked to al-Qaeda. When the program is finally revealed by the New York Times over three years later (see December 15, 2005), officials will say that the NSA still seeks warrants to monitor domestic communications. But there is little evidence of this (see, for example, Spring 2001). The presidential order is a radical shift in US surveillance and intelligence-gathering policies, and a major realignment for the NSA, which is mandated to only conduct surveillance abroad. Some officials believe that the NSA’s domestic eavesdropping crosses constitutional limits on legal searches. “This is really a sea change,” a former senior official who specializes in national security law will say in December 2005. “It’s almost a mainstay of this country that the NSA only does foreign searches.” [New York Times, 12/15/2005] Some sources indicate that NSA domestic surveillance activities, such as data-mining, the use of information concerning US persons intercepted in foreign call monitoring, and possibly direct surveillance of US persons, took place prior to 9/11 (see Late 1999, February 27, 2000, December 2000, February 2001, February 2001, Spring 2001, and July 2001).
Soon after leaving his office of mayor of New York City, Rudolph Giuliani opens a consulting company, Giuliani Partners, specializing in security issues. According to a 2007 report, it will earn more than $100 million over the next five years, making Giuliani a wealthy man. Giuliani selects several long-time associates as business partners, including Michael D. Hess, a former corporation counsel for the city of New York and now the senior managing partner of the firm. (Hess was rescued from WTC7 before its collapse.) Giuliani also hires his former police commissioner, Bernard Kerik, despite warnings that Kerik has ties to organized crime figures. Kerik will later be convicted of tax fraud. Some of the firm’s clients will prove controversial. Seisint Inc., a data-mining software company, was advised by Giuliani Partners on how to do business with the federal and state governments. In 2003, press reports will reveal that Seisint’s founder, Hank Asher, is a confessed cocaine smuggler and that Giuliani had touted the company in public speeches without disclosing his financial relationship with Asher. Giuliani also joins a Texas law firm named Blackwell & Patterson, which is then renamed Blackwell & Giuliani. Blackwell is involved in the litigation surrounding both the 2000 and 2004 elections, which were marred by allegations of voting irregularities and fraud. Giuliani’s business deals will prove to be a source of controversy and criticism during his 2007-08 presidential bid. [Washington Post, 5/13/2007; Vanity Fair, 1/1/2008]
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]
The Justice Department’s Patrick Philbin sends a classified memo to Attorney General John Ashcroft. The memo’s contents will not be divulged, but the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will later learn that it regards Ashcroft’s review of the Terrorist Surveillance Program (TSP—see March 2002). [American Civil Liberties Union [PDF], 1/28/2009 ] The memo contains a legal review by Ashcroft of President Bush’s order authorizing the TSP, the Bush administration’s name for its warrantless wiretapping program. The review is requested before one of the 45-day reauthorizations by the president as required by law. [ProPublica, 4/16/2009]
An aerial shot of Camp X-Ray. [Source: Public domain]The US prison camp at Guantanamo receives its first 20 prisoners from the Afghan battlefield. [Reuters, 1/11/2002] The prisoners are flown on a C-141 Starlifter cargo plane, escorted during the final leg of the journey by a Navy assault helicopter and a naval patrol boat. The prisoners, hooded, shackled, wearing blackout goggles and orange jumpsuits, and possibly drugged, are escorted one by one off the plane by scores of Marines in full battle gear. They are interred in what reporter Charlie Savage will later call “kennel-like outdoor cages” in the makeshift containment facility dubbed Camp X-Ray. [Guardian, 1/11/2002; Savage, 2007, pp. 142-143]
Leaked Photos of Transfer Cause International Outcry - Pictures of prisoners being transferred in conditions clearly in violation of international law are later leaked, prompting an outcry. But rather than investigating the inhumane transfer, the Pentagon will begin investigating how the pictures were leaked. [Associated Press, 11/9/2002]
Guantanamo Chosen to Keep Prisoners out of US Jurisdiction - The prisoners are sent to this base—leased by Cuba to the US—because it is on foreign territory and therefore beyond the jurisdiction of US law (see December 28, 2001). [Globe and Mail, 9/5/2002] It was once a coaling station used by the US Navy, and in recent years had been used by Coast Guard helicopters searching for drug runners and refugees trying to make it across the Florida Straits to US soil. In 1998, the Clinton administration had briefly considered and then rejected a plan to bring some prisoners from Kosovo to Guantanamo. Guantanamo was chosen as an interim prison for Afghanis who survived the uprising at Mazar-e Sharif prison (see 11:25 a.m. November 25, 2001) by an interagency working group (see Shortly Before September 23, 2001), who considered and rejected facilities in Germany and other European countries. Group leader Pierre-Richard Prosper will later recall: “We looked at our military bases in Europe and ruled that out because (a), we’d have to get approval from a European government, and (b), we’d have to deal with the European Court of Human Rights and we didn’t know how they’d react. We didn’t want to lose control over it and have it become a European process because it was on European soil. And so we kept looking around and around, and basically someone said, ‘What about Guantanamo?’” The base may well have not been the final choice of Prosper’s group; it was still researching a Clinton-era attempt to house Haitian and Cuban refugees there that had been challenged in court when Rumsfeld unilaterally made the decision to begin transferring prisoners to the naval base. [Savage, 2007, pp. 143-144]
No Geneva Convention Strictures Apply to 'Unlawful Combatants' - Rumsfeld, acting on the advice of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, publicly declares the detainees “unlawful combatants” and thereby not entitled to the rights of the Geneva Conventions. “Unlawful combatants do not have any rights under the Geneva Convention,” Rumsfeld says. Though, according to Rumsfeld, the government will “for the most part treat them in a manner that is reasonably consistent with the Geneva Conventions, to the extent they are appropriate.” [Reuters, 1/11/2002] There is no reason to feel sorry for these detainees, says Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He states, “These are people who would gnaw through hydraulic lines at the back of a C-17 to bring it down.” [New York Times, 6/21/2004]
British Officials: 'Scandalous' - Senior British officials privately call the treatment of prisoners “scandalous,” and one calls the refusal to follow the Geneva Convention “not benchmarks of a civilized society.” [Guardian, 6/13/2002]
Entity Tags: US Department of the Navy, United States, US Department of Defense, Pierre-Richard Prosper, Richard B. Myers, Clinton administration, Donald Rumsfeld, Charlie Savage, Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Office of Legal Counsel (DOJ), Geneva Conventions
Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline, Civil Liberties
Dennis Saccher, the FBI’s special agent in charge of Turkish counter-intelligence, invites FBI translator Sibel Edmonds into his office and shares with her his concern that Edmonds’ co-worker, Melek Can Dickerson, is protecting surveillance targets at the American-Turkish Council (ATC). He shows her several translations of wiretapped conversations that Dickerson either marked as “not pertinent,” or for which she provided only a brief summary indicating that the conversations were not important. When Edmonds tells Saccher that her department, at the request of Dickerson, no longer assigns translation tasks randomly and that certain targets, including the ATC, have been permanently attached to Dickerson, Saccher is shocked. “It sounds like espionage to me,” he suggests. At Saccher’s request, Edmonds and Kevin Taskasen, another translator, re-translate some of the conversations Dickerson had marked as “not pertinent.” They agree to schedule a meeting with supervisor Mike Feghali on February 1 (see February 1, 2002). [Washington Post, 6/19/2002; Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
FBI contract linguist Sibel Edmonds re-translates 17 of the “hundreds” of wiretapped conversations that had been originally translated or reviewed by co-worker Melek Can Dickerson. [Anti-War (.com), 8/15/2005] She discovers that Dickerson marked as “not pertinent” every single file that included a reference to surveillance targets connected to the Turkish organizations with whom she had ties (see (November 2001)). One of those targets is a Turkish intelligence officer, who is a personal friend of Dickerson. Edmonds learns from the wiretaps that the officer had spies inside the US State Department and Pentagon seeking access to US military and intelligence secrets. [CBS, 10/27/2002] The wiretaps also reveal that the group is involved in arms and drug smuggling and is tied into a complex network of governmental and private figures in several countries. [United Press International, 11/15/2005] Additionally, Edmonds identifies hundreds of other instances where Dickerson’s work obstructed investigations. For example, she learns from one conversation that a US State Department staffer agreed to accept $7,000 in cash from certain individuals in the American-Turkish Council (ATC) in exchange for information. One wiretapped call discussed a payment to a Pentagon official, who seemed to be involved in weapons-procurement negotiations, while another suggested that Turkish doctoral students had been placed at US research institutions in order to obtain information about black market nuclear weapons. Edmonds also hears discussions about the laundering of drug smuggling profits, the selling of classified military technologies, and a scheme to secretly give Republican Congressman Dennis Hastert tens of thousands of dollars in exchange for political favors and information. She becomes convinced that the American-Turkish Council (ATC) is being used as a front for criminal activity. [Anti-War (.com), 7/1/2004; Anti-War (.com), 8/15/2005; Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
Attorney General John Ashcroft warns that suicide attacks “might be expected because of confidential information” the US government has received. He further warns, in regards to the five most wanted terrorists, that “These men could be anywhere in the world” and “may be trained and prepared to commit future suicide terrorist acts.” [NBC, 1/17/2002]
At some point during Sibel Edmonds’ effort to report her concerns about potentially major security breaches in the FBI’s translation department (see, e.g., December 2, 2001), she is told by a superior in the counterintelligence squad: “I’ll bet you’ve never worked in government before. We do things differently. We don’t name names, and we usually sweep the dirt under the carpet.” [New York Observer, 1/22/2004] On another occasion, an assistant special agent allegedly tells her: “Do you realize what you are saying here in your allegations? Are you telling me that our security people are not doing their jobs? Is that what you’re telling me? If you insist on this investigation, I’ll make sure in no time it will turn around and become an investigation about you.” [CBS News, 10/25/2002]
Before their scheduled meeting with FBI supervisor Mike Feghali, translators Sibel Edmonds and Kevin Taskasen meet with FBI field agent Dennis Saccher to discuss how they will present their findings to Feghali on efforts by translator Melek Can Dickerson to protect certain surveillance targets. After the short pre-meeting, they take an elevator and run into Feghali who—unaware that the two translators had just met with Saccher—tells them that Saccher can’t make the meeting because “he’s been sent out somewhere in the field.” Saccher later tells Edmonds that he had been told the meeting was postponed. After the meeting, Saccher’s superiors order him off the case and, in an unprecedented move, prohibit him from obtaining copies of Edmond’s translations, even though he is the one in charge of Turkish counter-intelligence. He chooses not to resist, citing his concern that he might be assigned “to some fucked-up office in the land of tornadoes.” [Vanity Fair, 9/2005] In a 2005 interview, Edmonds will assert that the efforts to bury her allegations did not originate in the FBI, but rather “came directly from the Department of State.” According to Edmonds, the State Department was concerned that her findings might jeopardize high-level criminal operations involving certain US allies. [Anti-War (.com), 8/15/2005]
FBI contract translator Sibel Edmonds is reassigned to the windowless office of translation-department supervisor Stephanie Bryan. Bryan instructs Edmonds to write a confidential memo explaining her allegations and gives her permission to write it at home. She turns in the memo on February 11. [Associated Press, 1/14/2005; Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
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 ]
FBI translator Sibel Edmonds submits a confidential memo (see Between February 1, 2002 and February 11, 2002) alleging that co-translator Melek Can Dickerson shielded Turkish officials from an FBI investigation by failing to translate important wiretapped conversations. Edmonds’ supervisor, Stephanie Bryan, passes the memo onto supervisory special agent Tom Frields. But Frields says he will not look at the memo until after Dickerson and supervisor Mike Feghali have reviewed and commented on it. Shortly after submitting the memo, Edmonds is informed that she is being investigated by the bureau’s security department because she wrote the memo on a home computer, even though she had received explicit permission to do so (see Between February 1, 2002 and February 11, 2002). Before leaving the office, Dickerson allegedly comes over to her and says, “Why are you doing this, Sibel? Why don’t you just drop it? You know there could be serious consequences. Why put your family in Turkey in danger over this?” [New York Observer, 1/22/2004; Vanity Fair, 9/2005] The following day, three FBI agents come to the home of Sibel and Matthew Edmonds and seize their computer. [Associated Press, 1/14/2005; Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
Mike Feghali, the supervisor of the FBI’s translations center, writes in a memo to his superiors that “there was no basis” for Sibel Edmonds’s allegations (see Afternoon February 12, 2002) that FBI translator Melek Can Dickerson had shielded Turkish officials from FBI investigation by failing to provide field agents with accurate transcripts of wiretapped conversations. [Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
Sibel Edmonds takes her complaints and allegations to supervisory special agent Tom Frields, who encourages her to let the matter rest. When she indicates that she will do no such thing, Frields warns her that if she has disclosed any classified information to anyone she could be arrested. [Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
The House Committee on Science holds a hearing on the investigation into the collapse of the World Trade Center on 9/11. Witnesses from industry, academia, and government testify on the collapses and the subsequent efforts to find out how and why they occurred. The hearings charter points out several problems that have severely hampered investigations. It says, “Early confusion over who was in charge of the [WTC collapse] site and the lack of authority of investigators to impound pieces of steel for examination before they were recycled led to the loss of important pieces of evidence that were destroyed early during the search and rescue effort.… Some of the critical pieces of steel—including the suspension trusses from the top of the towers and the internal support columns—were gone before the first BPAT [Building Performance Assessment Team] team member ever reached the site” (see September 12-October 2001). Furthermore, “The building owners, designers and insurers, prevented independent researchers from gaining access—and delayed the BPAT team in gaining access—to pertinent building documents largely because of liability concerns.” Regarding the decision to rapidly recycle the WTC steel, US Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY) says, “I do believe that conspiracy theorists are going to have a field day with this,” and says this loss of important physical evidence “is not only unfortunate, it is borderline criminal.” In his statement before the committee, Glenn Corbett, a science professor at John Jay College, claims that the “lack of significant amounts of steel for examination will make it difficult, if not impossible, to make a definitive statement as to the cause and chronology of the collapse.” He also complains, “[W]e are staffing the BPAT with part-time engineers and scientists on a shoestring budget.” [US Congress, 3/6/2002; Associated Press, 3/7/2002]
Matthew Edmonds. [Source: Canal+]Sibel Edmonds meets with James Caruso, the FBI’s deputy assistant director for counterterrorism and counter-intelligence, to discuss her allegations against co-worker Melek Can Dickerson (see Afternoon February 12, 2002). Caruso takes no notes and asks no questions as Edmonds tells him her story. After the meeting, she has lunch with her husband at the Capital Grille. As the Edmondses look over their menus, two men arrive in an FBI-issue SUV and sit down at an adjacent table. “They just sat and stared at Sibel,” Matthew Edmonds later recalls in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine. “They didn’t eat or drink—just sat, staring at Sibel, the whole time we were there.” [Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
FBI translator Sibel Edmonds writes letters to the Justice Department’s internal affairs division, known as the Office of Professional Responsibility, and its office of inspector general, describing her allegations against co-worker Melek Can Dickerson (see Afternoon February 12, 2002). Edmonds also sends faxes alleging possible national security breaches to the Senate Intelligence Committee and Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Patrick Leahy (D-VT), both of whom sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee. [Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
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]
The color coded Security Advisory System. [Source: White House]Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge announces the implementation of the Homeland Security Advisory System. He describes it as a method “to measure and evaluate terrorist threats and communicate them to the public in a timely manner.” He states that it “empowers government and citizens to take actions to address the threat. It is a system that is equal to the threat.” [White House Office of the Press Secretary, 3/12/2002]
US Customs Agents carry out boxes of evidence from SAAR network businesses on March 20, 2002. [Source: Mike Theiler/ Getty Images]Scores of federal agents raid 14 entities in a cluster of more than 100 homes, charities, think tanks, and businesses in Herndon, Virginia, a town just outside of Washington with a large Muslim population. No arrests are made and no organizations are shut down, but over 500 boxes of files and computer files are confiscated, filling seven trucks. This group of interlocking entities is widely known as the SAAR network (it is also sometimes called the Safa Group). SAAR stands for Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, a Saudi banker and billionaire who largely funded the group beginning in the early 1980s (see July 29, 1983). He is said to be close to the Saudi ruling family and is on the Golden Chain, a list of early al-Qaeda supporters (see 1988-1989). [New York Times, 3/21/2002; Farah, 2004, pp. 152; Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004] The name and address of Salah al-Rajhi, Suleiman’s brother, was discovered in 1998 in the telephone book of Wadih El-Hage (see September 15, 1998). El-Hage was bin Laden’s personal secretary and was convicted of a role in the 1998 US embassy bombings. [New York Times, 3/25/2002] The raids are said to be primarily led by David Kane, a Customs agent working with a Customs investigation started just after 9/11 code-named Operation Greenquest. Many of the organizations are located at an office building at 555 Grove Street in Herndon. Kane writes in an affidavit for the raid that many organizations based there are “paper organizations” which “dissolve and are replaced by other organizations under the control of the same group of individuals.” [New York Times, 3/21/2002; Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004] Investigators appear to be primarily interested in the connections between the SAAR network and the Al Taqwa Bank, a Swiss bank closed after 9/11 on suspicions of funding al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups (see November 7, 2001). They are also interested in connections between both SAAR and Al Taqwa and the Muslim Brotherhood (see December 1982). According to author Douglas Farah, “US officials [later say] they had tracked about $20 million from [SAAR] entities flowing through Nada’s Bank al Taqwa, but said the total could be much higher. The ties between Nada and [SAAR] leaders were many and long-standing, as were their ties to other [Muslim] Brotherhood leaders.… For a time, Suleiman Abdel Aziz al-Rajhi, the SAAR Foundation founder, worked for Nada” at Al Taqwa’s Liechtenstein branch. [New York Times, 3/25/2002; Farah, 2004, pp. 154-155] Organizations and individuals targeted by the raid include:
Yaqub Mirza. He is the director of virtually all of the organizations targeted in the raid. The Wall Street Journal claims, “US officials privately say Mr. Mirza and his associates also have connections to al-Qaeda and to other entities officially listed by the US as sponsors of terrorism.” [Wall Street Journal, 4/18/2002; Wall Street Journal, 12/6/2002]
The SAAR Foundation or the Safa Trust, an umbrella group for the SAAR network. The SAAR Foundation had recently disbanded and reformed as the Safa Trust. [New York Times, 3/21/2002; Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2002; Washington Post, 10/7/2002]
Hisham Al-Talib, who served as an officer of the SAAR Foundation and Safa Trust, had previously been an officer of firms run by Youssef Nada. Nada is one of the main owners of the Al Taqwa Bank. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2002]
Mar-Jac Poultry Inc., an Islamic chicken processor with operations in rural Georgia. [Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004]
Jamal Barzinji. An officer of Mar-Jac and other organizations targeted in the raid, he had previously been involved with Nada’s companies. [Wall Street Journal, 3/22/2002]
The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO). [New York Times, 3/21/2002]
The Muslim World League. It is considered to be a parent organization for the IIRO. [New York Times, 3/21/2002]
International Institute for Islamic Thought (IIRT). The IIRT had been under investigation since at least 1998. [New York Times, 3/21/2002]
Tarik Hamdi, an employee at IIRT. His home is also raided. He carried a battery for a satellite phone to Afghanistan in early 1998, and the battery was used for Osama bin Laden’s phone (see May 28, 1998). [New York Times, 3/21/2002]
Abdurahman Alamoudi, a top Muslim lobbyist who formerly worked for one of the SAAR organizations. His nearby home is raided. The search yields a memo on large transactions involving Hamas, operations against the Israelis, and the notation “Met Mousa Abu Marzouk in Jordan.” Marzouk is a Hamas leader believed to be involved in fundraising for Hamas in the US for many years (see July 5, 1995-May 1997). Alamoudi is alleged to be a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood. [Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004]
Samir Salah, an Egyptian-born president of the Piedmont Trading Corporation, which is part of the SAAR network. He is also a former director and treasurer of the Al Taqwa Bank’s important Bahamas branch. Additionally, he was a founder of a Bosnian charity reportedly connected to a plot to blow up the US embassy in Bosnia. [New York Times, 3/25/2002]
Ibrahim Hassabella. He is a shareholder of the SAAR Foundation and also a former secretary of the Al Taqwa Bank. [New York Times, 3/25/2002] Investigators will later find that much of SAAR’s money seemed to disappear into offshore bank accounts. For instance, in 1998, SAAR claimed to have moved $9 million to a charity based in the tax haven of the Isle of Man, but investigators will find no evidence the charity existed. One US official involved in the probe will say of SAAR, “Looking at their finances is like looking into a black hole.” [Washington Post, 10/7/2002] In 2003, it will be reported that US investigators are looking into reports that the director of the SAAR foundation for most of the 1990s stayed in the same hotel as three of the 9/11 hijackers the night before the 9/11 attacks (see September 10, 2001). Some US investigators had looked into the SAAR network in the mid-1990s, but the FBI blocked the investigation’s progress (see 1995-1998).
Entity Tags: Operation Greenquest, Muslim World League, Muslim Brotherhood, SAAR Foundation, Samir Salah, Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi, Mousa Abu Marzouk, US Customs Service, Tarik Hamdi, Jamal Barzinji, International Institute for Islamic Thought, International Islamic Relief Organization, Abdurahman Alamoudi, Al Taqwa Bank, Mar-Jac Poultry Inc., David Kane, Hisham Al-Talib, Hamas, Yacub Mirza, Ibrahim Hassabella
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
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]
When al-Qaeda logistics manager Abu Zubaida is arrested in late March 2002 (see March 28, 2002), his computer is searched. According to the Washington Post: “When agents found Zubaida’s laptop computer, a senior law enforcement source said, they discovered that the vast majority of people he had been communicating with were being monitored under FISA warrants or international spying efforts. ‘Finally, we got some comfort’ that surveillance efforts were working, said a government official familiar with Zubaida’s arrest.” The fact some of his contacts are monitored under FISA warrants indicates that they are in the US, as FISA warrants are only used for US targets (see 1978). The monitoring of Abu Zubaida’s communications began in the mid-1990s, at the latest (see (Mid-1996) and October 1998 and After), and continued after 9/11 (see October 8, 2001). [Washington Post, 2/9/2006] Some will later suggest that Zubaida may have had mental problems (see Shortly After March 28, 2002), but this apparently did not stop him from being a key al-Qaeda contact point. FBI agent Dan Coleman, an expert on al-Qaeda, will later say that the FBI “all knew he was crazy, and they knew he was always on the damn phone.” [Washington Post, 12/18/2007] Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, says of Zubaida shortly after Zubaida’s capture, “He was the guy that had the direct contact with prominent al-Qaeda cell leaders abroad, and he knew where they all were. He would have been the guy co-ordinating new attacks.” [Observer, 4/7/2002]
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
Early in April, two Istanbul policemen knock on the door of Sibel Edmonds’ sister’s neighbor inquiring about the sister’s whereabouts. They say it concerns an “intelligence matter” and they leave a note, which reads, “For an important issue your deposition/interrogation is required. If you do not report to the station within 5 days, between 09:00 and 17:00, as is required by Turkish law CMK.132, you will be taken/arrested by force.” [Vanity Fair, 9/2005]
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is overthrown in a military coup. However, the coup collapses after two days, and Chavez returns to power. [BBC, 4/14/2002] Otto J. Reich, the US’s assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, is in contact with Chavez’s successor on the very day he takes over. The Bush administration claims Reich was pleading with him not to dissolve the National Assembly. [New York Times, 4/17/2002]
Mohammed Zouaydi. [Source: Agence France-Presse]Spanish authorities arrest Syrian-born Spanish businessman Mohammed Galeb Kalaje Zouaydi, alleging that he is a key al-Qaeda financier. [Chicago Tribune, 5/6/2002] An accountant, Zouaydi is considered to be the “big financier” behind the al-Qaeda network in Europe, according to French investigator Jean-Charles Brisard. From 1996 to 2001, Zouaydi lived in Saudi Arabia and funneled money into a series of companies set up to accept donations. (The source of the donations is unknown.) Around $1 million was then forwarded to al-Qaeda agents throughout Europe, especially to Germany. Mohamed Atta’s Hamburg apartment telephone number was saved in the cell phone memory of one of Zouaydi’s associates. [Agence France-Presse, 9/20/2002] Zouaydi also allegedly sent money to Mamoun Darkazanli, a Syrian-born businessman who has admitted knowing Atta and others in the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. Before 9/11, Spanish intelligence monitored Darkazanli several times as he traveled to Spain and met with Zouaydi and others (see August 1998-September 11, 2001). [Chicago Tribune, 5/6/2002] One of Zouaydi’s employees in Spain visited the WTC in 1997. While there, he extensively videotaped the buildings. Perhaps only coincidentally, while in Saudi Arabia, Zouaydi “was an accountant for the al-Faisal branch of the Saudi royal family, including Prince Mohammed al-Faisal al-Saud and Prince Turki al-Faisal.” [Agence France-Presse, 9/20/2002] Al-Faisal al-Saud also has a large financial stake in a Sudanese bank allegedly co-founded by and closely linked to Osama bin Laden (see September 24, 2001 and After).
Camp X-Ray prisoners. Their detention cages can be seen on the right. Pictures like this provoked an outrage about their treatment. [Source: Shane T. McCoy/ Associated Press]In Guantanamo, the 300 detainees (see April 28, 2002) being held in at Camp X-Ray are transferred to Camp Delta. Although cells at Camp Delta are even smaller than at Camp X-Ray (8 ft x 6 ft, 8 inches compared to 8 ft x 8 ft), [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] the cells are now equipped with a flush toilet, a sink with running water and a metal bed frame. “There is indoor plumbing, exercise areas are better controlled, and detainees are out of the sun more,” Brig. Gen. Rick Baccus, the commander of Military Police at Guantanamo says. [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] The new facility also has the advantage of being more secure. “We’ve a much more secure facility to house them in Camp Delta. For instance, the guards don’t have to escort them to the bathroom all the time and those types of things. That’s a great improvement in terms of how the guards have to deal with them on a daily basis.” [American Forces Press Service, 1/14/2003] Recreation time goes up from 5 minutes a day at Camp X-Ray to 15 minutes at Camp Delta. [Mirror, 3/12/2004] Use of Camp X-ray does not end. An undated Pentagon memo shows the camp is still used for isolation purposes between December 2002 and January 15, 2003. [US Department of Defense, 1/2003 ] Still, according to a Pentagon adviser, around the middle of 2002, some high-security prisoners will enjoy their recreation time strapped into heavy, straitjacket-like clothing, with their arms tied behind them, goggles over their eyes and their heads hooded. Describing what he was told by a Pentagon official, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh writes in the Guardian of London: “The restraints forced [these prisoners] to move, if he chose to move, on his knees, bent over at a 45-degree angle. Most prisoners just sat and suffered in the heat.” [Guardian, 9/13/2004] The Camp Delta facility was built by Brown & Root, a Halliburton subsidiary, which was awarded the contract even though it was estimated military engineers could do the job for about half the price. [New York Times, 7/13/2002]
USAMRIID. [Source: Public domain]After extensive testing, the DNA sequence of the anthrax sent through the US mail in 2001 is deciphered, and it strongly supports suspicions that the bacteria originally came from USAMRIID, the US Army’s biological laboratory at Fort Detrick, Maryland. Furthermore, analysis of genetic drift determines that the attacker’s anthrax was not separated from the source anthrax at USAMRIID for many generations. It suggests that USAMRIID or USAMRIID samples given to Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and/or Porton Downs in Britain are the most likely sources of the anthrax used in the attacks. [New Scientist, 5/2/2002]
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]
The Bush administration issues a remarkable series of terror warnings that many believe are politically motivated. Vice President Cheney warns it is “not a matter of if, but when” al-Qaeda will next attack the US. [CNN, 5/20/2002] Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge says the same thing. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld says terrorists will “inevitably” obtain weapons of mass destruction (see May 21, 2002). FBI Director Mueller says more suicide bombings are “inevitable.” [Washington Post, 5/22/2002] Authorities also issue separate warnings that al-Qaeda militants might target apartment buildings nationwide, banks, rail and transit systems, the Statue of Liberty, and the Brooklyn Bridge. USA Today titles an article, “Some Question Motives Behind Series of Alerts.” [USA Today, 5/24/2002] David Martin, CBS’s national security correspondent, says, “Right now they’re putting out all these warnings to change the subject from what was known prior to September 11 to what is known now.” It had been revealed the week before that Bush received a briefing in August 2001 entitled, “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001). [Washington Post, 5/27/2002] Remarkably, even Press Secretary Ari Fleischer says the alerts were issued “as a result of all the controversy that took place last week.” [Washington Times, 5/22/2002; Village Voice, 5/23/2002] A retired CIA official reveals that the administration “made a political decision” to make any threat public, even those deemed to be hoaxes. In response to the alleged threat to New York, the former head of the FBI bureau there states that “there really isn’t any hard information.” [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ] Time notes, “Though uncorroborated and vague, the terror alerts were a political godsend for an administration trying to fend off a bruising bipartisan inquiry into its handling of the terrorist chatter last summer. After the wave of warnings, the Democratic clamor for an investigation into the government’s mistakes subsided.” [Time, 5/27/2002]
[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]
A blurry image of the chart Rep. Curt Weldon presented to the Heritage Foundation in 2002.
[Source: Heritage Foundation]During a speech before the Heritage Foundation, Representative Curt Weldon (R-PA) unfurls a chart, which, his comments suggest, was produced by Able Danger. He says it is “the unclassified chart that was done by the Special Forces Command briefing center one year before 9/11. It is the complete architecture of al-Qaeda and pan-Islamic extremism. It gives all the linkages.” However, he does not mention Mohamed Atta or any other 9/11 hijackers during the speech. Video footage of the speech shows the chart, but the picture quality is too poor to determine whether Atta is on it. [NewsMax, 8/29/2005] Weldon later claims to have given up his only copy of the chart showing Atta’s face in late 2001 (see September 25, 2001). [Time, 8/29/2005] In September 2005, Weldon will refer to the chart shown in this 2002 speech and suggest it may not have been the same chart that contained Atta’s face. He also says he cannot find the chart used in the speech anymore. [Office of Congressman Curt Weldon, 9/17/2005]
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]
A man named Mohammed Saeed is stabbed to death in Birmingham, England. The police seek two subjects for questioning about the murder. One of them is Rashid Rauf, who will later be involved in a plot to blow up transatlantic airliners (see August 10, 2006). Rauf is currently studying at Portsmouth University, but leaves there without graduating and travels to Pakistan, in an apparent attempt to avoid the police. In Pakistan, Rauf marries into the family of Maulana Masood Azhar, founder of the militant organization Jaish-e-Mohammed. Azhar is well known in Britain, and Rauf’s association with him raises his standing with potential British radicals. [BBC, 11/22/2008]
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]
[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).
Several members of Congress submit a list of 50 questions to Attorney General Ashcroft, asking him how the Patriot Act is being implemented (see October 26, 2001). [New York Times, 7/14/2002] For instance, they ask, “How many times has the department requested records from libraries, bookstores and newspapers? How many roving wiretaps has the department requested?” Ashcroft refuses to answer many of the questions, even though he is legally required to do so. [San Francisco Chronicle, 9/8/2002] Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick J. Leahy (D-VT) fails to receive any response to dozens of letters he writes to Ashcroft, and other senators complain of a complete stonewall from Ashcroft. [Washington Post, 8/21/2002] In March 2003, senators continue to complain that Ashcroft still has not provided the oversight information about the Patriot Act that he is required to give by law. [ABC News, 3/12/2003]
Both the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry and the 9/11 Commission examine the NSA’s intercepts of various calls made by the hijackers to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen (see Early 2000-Summer 2001). The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry refers to several of the calls and gives an idea of the content of some of them. But it does not mention those made by Nawaf Alhazmi and possibly other hijackers from the US after the USS Cole bombing, which are only disclosed later in the media (see Mid-October 2000-Summer 2001 and March 15, 2004 and After). However, this section of the Inquiry report is heavily redacted so most details remain unknown. It states that, although the NSA intercepted the calls and disseminated dispatches about some of them, the NSA did not realize the hijackers were in the US at the time the calls were made. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. xii, 11-12, 143-146, 155-157 ] The 9/11 Commission Report contains a briefer section on the intercepts and deals with those which led to the surveillance of the al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000). In addition, it mentions that Almihdhar called his wife from San Diego in the spring of 2000, but fails to mention that his wife lived at an al-Qaeda communications hub and that the calls were intercepted by the NSA (see Spring-Summer 2000). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 181, 222] The Los Angeles Times comments: “The [9/11 Congressional Inquiry] and the Sept. 11 commission that came after it referred indirectly to the calls from Yemen to San Diego. But neither report discloses what the NSA gleaned from the calls, or why they were never disclosed to the FBI.” [Los Angeles Times, 12/21/2005] The publication of the 9/11 Commission report and revelations about domestic surveillance by the NSA will lead to increased media interest in and revelations about the intercepts starting from 2004 (see March 15, 2004 and After).
The Justice Department announces that only 74 of the 752 people detained on immigration charges after 9/11 are still in US custody. By December, only six of them will remain in custody (see December 11, 2002). Hundreds more were detained on other charges or as material witnesses, but no numbers pertaining to them have been released. 611 were subject to secret hearings. Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), who had requested the figures, says, “It took the Justice Department more than three months to produce a partial response to my letter.” But the answers raise “a number of additional questions, including why closed hearings were necessary for so many people.” Though many were held for months, “the vast majority were never charged with anything other than overstaying a visa.” [New York Times, 7/11/2002] All the deportation hearings for these people have been held in secret as well. Some say the government is cloaking its activities out of embarrassment, because none of these people have turned out to have any ties to terrorism. [New York Times, 7/11/2002; Detroit Free Press, 7/18/2002]
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).
The Sixth US Court of Appeals in Cincinnati unanimously rejects the Bush administration’s claim for blanket secrecy regarding immigration court proceedings (see September 21, 2001). In a 3-0 ruling, the court rules in Detroit Free Press v. Ashcroft that the administration’s secret deportation-hearing policy goes too far in restricting the public’s right to know what the government is doing. Selectively closing individual deportation hearings for national security reasons might be justifiable, the court rules, but the government cannot simply sequester all such hearings. Appeals court judge Damon Keith, a Carter appointee, writes: “In an area such as immigration, where the government has nearly unlimited authority… the press and the public serve as perhaps the only check on abusive government practices.… The executive branch seeks to uproot people’s lives, outside the public eye and behind a closed door. Democracies die behind closed doors. The First Amendment, through a free press, protects the people’s right to know that their government acts fairly, lawfully, and accurately in deportation proceedings. When the government begins closing doors, it selectively controls information rightly belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation. The Framers of the First Amendment did not trust any government to separate the true from the false for us. They protected us against secret government.” Keith is well known for his widely cited ruling of 30 years before against a government program of warrantless wiretapping (see June 19, 1972). [Savage, 2007, pp. 95] Another appeals court will rule in favor of the Bush administration in a separate lawsuit on the same issue (see October 2, 2002).
As Bush administration lawyers warn that Vice President Cheney and his Pentagon allies are setting the government up for defeat in the courts with their hardline advice on interrogation techniques (see Late 2001-Early 2002, January 25, 2002, April 2002 and After, and August 1, 2002) and indefinite detentions (see After September 11, 2001 and December 2001-January 2002), one of the uneasiest of Justice Department lawyers is Solicitor General Theodore Olson. Cheney and Olson have similar views on the expansion of presidential powers, but his job in the administration is to win court cases. Olson is not sure that Cheney’s legal arguments are tenable. Olson is particularly worried about two pending cases, those of US citizens Jose Padilla (see June 10, 2002) and Yaser Esam Hamdi (see December 2001 and August 16, 2002). Both have been declared enemy combatants and denied access to lawyers. Olson warns that federal courts will not go along with that provision, but he finds himself opposed by CIA and Pentagon officials. When Olson and other lawyers propose that Padilla and Hamdi be granted lawyers, Cheney’s chief lawyer, David Addington, beats back their proposal because, says deputy White House counsel Timothy Flanigan, “that was the position of his client, the vice president.” The issue comes to a head in the West Wing office of Alberto Gonzales, the White House’s chief legal counsel. Four officials with direct knowledge of the meeting later recall the chain of events. Olson has the support of associate White House counsel Bradford Berenson, a former law clerk to Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy. Berenson says that Kennedy, the Court’s swing vote, will never accept absolute presidential authority to declare a US citizen an enemy and lock him away without benefit of counsel. Another former Kennedy law clerk, White House lawyer Brett Kavanaugh, had made the same argument earlier. Addington, representing Cheney in the meeting, accuses Berenson of surrendering presidential authority on what he calls a fool’s prophecy about the Court; Berenson retorts by accusing Addington of “know-nothingness.” Gonzales listens quietly as the Justice Department and his own staff line up against Addington. He finally makes a decision: in favor of Cheney and Addington. [Washington Post, 6/25/2007]
Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Brett Kavanaugh, Bradford Berenson, Alberto R. Gonzales, Central Intelligence Agency, Theodore (“Ted”) Olson, David S. Addington, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, US Department of Justice, Jose Padilla, Yaser Esam Hamdi, Timothy E. Flanigan
Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties
Mike German. [Source: Publicity photo]FBI agent Mike German is assigned to a counterterrorism case involving international militant groups. Apparently a domestic militia group in Tampa, Florida is considering allying with a major, unnamed militant Islamic organization. He becomes concerned that the investigation will fail due to “grave violations of FBI policy and possibly even grave violations of the law.” He complains to the Justice Department’s inspector general, claiming that FBI managers have falsified records, failed to properly handle evidence, falsely discredited witnesses, and failed to adhere to laws and regulations about electronic surveillance. German also sends his complaints directly to FBI Director Robert Mueller. But Mueller does not respond. Some time after German submits his complaints, he is removed from the case. “The phone just stopped ringing, and I became a persona non grata. Because I wouldn’t let this go away, I became the problem.… My entire career has been ruined, all because I thought I was doing the right thing here.” Frustrated with the bureau’s continuing mismanagement, he will retire from the FBI in 2004. [New York Times, 8/2/2004; Government Executive, 1/26/2005] German will later be exonerated in a 2005 Justice Department report investigating his charges (see December 3, 2005).
The government raises the National Alert Level to orange, the second highest level possible. This is the first time such an alert has been raised since 9/11. The government temporarily closes for public business about two dozen US diplomatic posts worldwide. Officials say there is no specific known threat against targets in the US. [Washington Post, 9/10/2002] President Bush personally makes the announcement while Vice President Cheney flees to a “secure location.” Attorney General John Ashcroft warns that the threat targets “transportation and energy sectors.” No specific details on the nature or targets of the threat are supplied. The heightened terror alert coincides with the president’s address to the nation from Ellis Island on the first anniversary of 9/11 (see September 11, 2002 and Before). [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ]
Ali al Timini. [Source: Fox News]Shortly after 9/11, the FBI begins to suspect that Anwar al-Awlaki, an imam to several of the 9/11 hijackers, may have had some connection to the 9/11 plot. They interview him repeatedly, but cannot find enough evidence to charge him, and he cannot be deported since he is a US citizen. Investigators discover he had been arrested more than once for soliciting prostitutes. They learn he is consorting with prostitutes in Virginia, and contemplate jailing him on an obscure law against transporting prostitutes across state lines. However, this plan collapses when he leaves the US unexpectedly in March 2002. [US News and World Report, 6/13/2004] But on October 10, 2002, he makes a surprise return to the US. His name is on a terrorist watch list and he is detained when his plane lands in New York City. Customs agents notify the FBI, but they are told that his name was taken off the watch list just the day before. He is released after only three hours. It has not been explained why he name was taken off the list. Throughout 2002, al-Awlaki is also the subject of an active Customs investigation into money laundering called Operation Greenquest, but he is not arrested for this either, or for the earlier contemplated prostitution charges. [WorldNetDaily, 8/16/2003] At the time, the FBI is fighting Greenquest, and Customs officials will later accuse the FBI of sabotaging Greenquest investigations (see After March 20, 2002-Early 2003). While in the US, al-Awlaki visits the Fairfax, Virginia, home of Ali al Timimi, the leader of a nearby Islamic center. According to a later court filing, al-Awlaki attempts to get al Timimi to discuss the recruitment of young Muslims for militant causes, but al Timimi does not show interest. Al Timimi will later be sentenced to life in prison in the US for inciting young Muslims to fight in Afghanistan shortly after 9/11. [Washington Post, 2/27/2008] Al-Awlaki then leaves the US again. The FBI will later admit they were “very interested” in al-Awlaki and yet failed to stop him from leaving the country. One FBI source says, “We don’t know how he got out.” [US News and World Report, 6/13/2004] He will allegedly take part in other militant attacks (see September 15, 2006). By 2008, US intelligence will conclude that he is linked to al-Qaeda (see February 27, 2008).
The Third US Court of Appeals in Philadelphia rules 2-1 to uphold the Bush administration’s claim of blanket secrecy regarding immigration deportation hearings (see September 21, 2001). The ruling directly contradicts a ruling by the Sixth Appeals Court on the same issue (see August 26, 2002). Chief Judge Edward Becker, a Reagan appointee, rules that if a president or his top advisers decide that blanket closure of immigration deportation hearings is needed to protect national security, then the courts should defer to their judgment. “We are quite hesitant to conduct a judicial inquiry into the credibility of these security concerns, as national security is an area where courts have traditionally extended great deference to executive expertise.” Usually when two appellate courts conflict in their rulings, the Supreme Court settles the issue. However, the Bush administration does not appeal the loss in the other case, as the 9/11-related immigration sweeps are already concluded. In 2007, author Charlie Savage will write, “As a result, even though four of the six appeals court judges who reviewed the… directive rejected it as unconstitutional, the administration managed to create a precedent for a presidential power to impose blanket secrecy over immigration hearings that stands in forty-six states—everywhere except the Sixth Circuit’s Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio, and Tennessee.” [Savage, 2007, pp. 95-96]
San Diego FBI agent Steven Butler reportedly gives “explosive” testimony to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. Butler, recently retired, has been unable to speak to the media, but he was the handler for Abdussattar Shaikh, an FBI informant who rented a room to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. Butler claims he might have uncovered the 9/11 plot if the CIA had provided the FBI with more information earlier about Alhazmi and Almihdhar. [US News and World Report, 12/1/2002] He says, “It would have made a huge difference.” He suggests they would have quickly found the two hijackers because they were “very, very close.… We would have immediately opened… investigations. We would have given them the full court press. We would… have done everything—physical surveillance, technical surveillance, and other assets.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003 ; San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/25/2003] Butler discloses that he had been monitoring a flow of Saudi Arabian money that wound up in the hands of two of the 9/11 hijackers, but his supervisors failed to take any action on the warnings. It is not known when Butler started investigating the money flow, or when he warned his supervisors. [US News and World Report, 12/1/2002] The FBI had tried to prevent Butler from testifying, but was unsuccessful. [Washington Post, 10/11/2002] Following Butler’s testimony, Staff Director Eleanor Hill “detail[s] his statements in a memo to the Justice Department.” The Justice Department will decline comment on the matter, saying Butler’s testimony is classified. [US News and World Report, 12/1/2002] This testimony doesn’t stop the US government from deporting Basnan to Saudi Arabia several weeks later. [Washington Post, 11/24/2002]
A group of militants thought to be linked to Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hezb-e-Islami organisation are captured in Pakistan. One man arrested is Gul Rahman, who will later freeze to death at a CIA-controlled prison in Afghanistan (see November 20, 2002). Another is Ghairat Baheer, a doctor and Hekmatyar’s son-in-law. Hekmatyar was a CIA ally during the Soviet-Afghan war (see (1986)), but is now linked to al-Qaeda. According to Baheer, Rahman had driven from Peshawar, Pakistan, in the northwest frontier to Islamabad for a medical checkup. He is staying with Baheer, an old friend, when US agents and Pakistani security forces storm the house and take both men, two guards, and a cook into custody. [Associated Press, 3/28/2010]
Two detainees, Gul Rahman and Ghairat Baheer, are transferred from Pakistan to the CIA-controlled Salt Pit black site in Afghanistan. Baheer will say that he was separated from Rahman about a week after they were captured (see October 29, 2002) and they were both moved to the prison, so presumably they are transferred there together. [Associated Press, 3/28/2010] Rahman will later die at the prison (see November 20, 2002).
Two months after the September 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency report (see September 2002)—which found there was no conclusive evidence Iraq has chemical weapons—another secret document titled, “Iraq’s Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapon and Missile Program: Progress, Prospects, and Potential Vulnerabilities,” is completed. It also says in very clear terms that there is no solid proof that Iraq has chemical weapons. One passage from the report says, “No reliable information indicates whether Iraq is producing and stockpiling chemical weapons or where the country has or will establish its chemical agent production facility.” [US Department of Defense, n.d.; US News and World Report, 6/13/2003]
Mohammed Asghar [Source: CBC]A member of a document-forging and smuggling ring is arrested in Canada in late October 2002. The suspect, Michael Hamdani, tells authorities about a cell of 19 terrorists seeking false passports from a Pakistani smuggling ring in order to gain entry to the US, with five successfully infiltrating the country via Canada on Christmas Eve. [ABC News, 1/6/2003] He tells the FBI that he had been offered a large sum of money to assist with the smuggling of the five men into the US. He admits that he was part of the smuggling and counterfeit document ring; officials also believe that Hamdani has links to terrorist groups. [Washington Post, 1/3/2003] As a result, on December 27, 2002, the FBI issues an all-points bulletin that launches a massive effort by law enforcement officials who fear terrorist attacks over the holiday period. The bulletin is approved by President Bush, who says publicly, “We need to know why they have been smuggled into the country and what they’re doing in the country.” The FBI posts pictures of five of the men on its website, warning that the provided names and ages could be fictitious. They also raid six locations in Brooklyn and Queens. These pictures lead to numerous calls and sightings of the men from around the country. [ABC News, 1/6/2003] During the course of the investigation, an unsubstantiated report surfaces; the FBI learns from a Middle East source that terrorists are planning eight diversionary explosions in New York harbor on New Year’s Eve, to be followed by one large-scale genuine attack. The target is identified as the US Secret Service office in Manhattan. The New York Police Department alerts the US Coast Guard, which closes the harbor to pleasure craft and scrambles a 100-person Maritime Safety and Security Team. This team patrols the harbor with boats mounted with heavy machine guns and carrying tactical officers armed with automatic weapons. No other evidence ever emerges to support the FBI’s source. [Time, 1/5/2003] The man pictured as Mustafa Khan Owasi in one of the FBI photos is found a few days later in Pakistan. [ABC News, 1/6/2003] He says he had once tried to get a false visa in order to travel to Britain, but had been caught in the United Arab Emirates and returned to his home in Lahore, Pakistan. His real name is Mohammed Asghar and he works as a jeweler. He says he suspects the forgers that he provided his information to in order to receive the false visa may have used his identity to create papers for someone else. Investigators begin to doubt the veracity of Hamdani’s claims. [CBC News, 1/2/2003] US experts also find that the polygraph exam of Hamdani administered by Canadian authorities was seriously flawed. The assumption that this polygraph exam was accurate was one of the main motives in issuing the alert. Officials also fail to find any link between Hamdani and al-Qaeda, or any other radical militant organization. No links are discovered between the identities in the passports and extremist groups. [ABC News, 1/6/2003] The FBI realizes that the infiltration story had been fabricated by Hamdani and retracts the terror alert on New Year’s Day. [Time, 1/5/2003] The retraction of the terror alert leads to criticism of the FBI. Michael Greenberger, a former Justice Department official who heads the University of Maryland’s Center for Health and Homeland Security, says, “There is going to be a sort of ‘crying wolf’ scenario… When they put these out, there should be a more thorough explanation to the American public about what they’re doing.” The FBI defends its handling of the situation, saying that it reacted appropriately to the possibility of a real threat and noting that some of Hamdani’s information on the smuggling ring was accurate and led to ten (non-terrorism related) arrests. [Washington Post, 1/8/2003] Hamdani was already facing fraud charges in Canada after the raid that led to his arrest discovered fake passports, Pakistani driving licenses, immigration documents, and counterfeit traveler’s checks. He also had outstanding fraud warrants from the FBI in New York and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. The FBI believes that Hamdani fabricated the story to avoid extradition to Canada. [ABC News, 1/6/2003] One investigator says, “You wouldn’t trust him as far as you could throw him.” [Time, 1/5/2003]
Joe Webber. [Source: US Customs]Joe Webber, running the Houston office of the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, starts investigating a man believed to be raising money for Islamic militants. The suspect is in direct contact with people who are known to be associated with Osama bin Laden. Webber has good cooperation with the local FBI office, federal prosecutors in Houston, and Justice Department officials in Washington. However, he claims that FBI headquarters officials tell him point blank that he will not be allowed to conduct his investigation. After many months of delays from the FBI, friends from within the bureau tell him that headquarters will not allow the investigation to proceed because it is being run by Customs and not by the FBI. Webber is so upset that he eventually becomes a whistleblower. Sen. Charles Grassley and other politicians support his case and say there are other instances where the FBI impedes investigations because of turf battles. Asked if the FBI would put a turf battle above national security, Webber says, “That’s absolutely my impression. You would think, in a post-9/11 environment, that an event like that wouldn’t occur. But it did.” [MSNBC, 6/3/2005]
The US State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs awards DynCorp International a sole-sourced (no competitive bidding) $22 million contract to “re-establish police, justice, and prison functions in post conflict Iraq.” The contract will be bid out to competitors after one year. The contract raises a few eyebrows. The Reston, Virginia-based company has donated more than $160,000 to the Republican Party and its employees have been involved in a number of serious scandals. [Insight Magazine, 4/11/2003; New York Times, 10/4/2003] In Bosnia, for example, employees of the company were accused of operating a sex-slave ring of young women, keeping under-aged girls as concubines, and videotaping a DynCorp supervisor having sex with two girls. Although they were fired from their jobs, they were never prosecuted. [Los Angeles Times, 4/14/2002; New York Times, 10/13/2002; Insight Magazine, 4/11/2003] One of the whistle-blowers, Ben Johnston, told Congress in April 2002: “DynCorp employees were living off post and owning these children and these women and girls as slaves. Well, that makes all Americans look bad. I believe DynCorp is the worst diplomat our country could ever want overseas.” [New York Times, 10/13/2002] In Ecuador, DynCorp has been accused of allowing herbicides applied in Colombia to drift across the border killing legitimate crops, causing illness, and killing children. [New York Times, 10/13/2002] Commenting on the contract, an unnamed congressional aid tells Insight Magazine: “There are some strange things about how this contract was issued. [B]ecause why would CSC use an offshore subsidiary? Is it so they won’t have to pay taxes on this money? Also, why wasn’t this contract put up for bid? Why was DynCorp the chosen recipient?” [New York Times, 10/13/2002]
A Brookings Institution study concludes that in his first two years in office, “[President] Bush vetoed several specific (and relatively cost-effective) measures proposed by Congress that would have addressed critical national vulnerabilities. As a result, the country remains more vulnerable than it should be today.” [Carter, 2004, pp. 14]
Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) conducts a survey of the cities and towns in New York State. Of those polled, 70 percent have not received any money at all from the federal government for their emergency crews and first responders—the nation’s front line of defense against terrorist attacks (see Early 2004). New York City police officials asked for $900 million in preparedness funds, and received $84 million—less than a tenth of what was requested. When the preparedness funds are studied on a per capita basis, the disparities are striking, and suspect. New York City, bastion of liberal Democrats (and the target of two of the four 9/11 hijacked jetliners) received $5.87 per person in funds—49th out of 50 major US cities. The city receiving the highest payout is New Haven, Connecticut ($77.82 per person), home of Yale University and the alma mater of three generations of Bushes. Key cities in Florida, where Jeb Bush is governor, also do well, with Miami receiving $52.82 per person, Orlando receiving $47.14, and Tampa receiving $30.57 per person. A harbor on Martha’s Vineyard, where many Republican and Democratic lawmakers vacation, received almost a million dollars in security funding; the harbormaster said, “Quite honestly, I don’t know what we’re going to do [with it], but you don’t turn down grant money.” [Carter, 2004, pp. 21]
Alleged ricin ingredients. [Source: BBC]Home Secretary David Blunkett and Health Secretary John Reid issue a joint statement claiming “traces of ricin” and castor beans capable of making “one lethal dose” were found in a raid on a flat in Wood Green, north London, which also resulted in several arrests (see January 5, 2003). The joint statement says “ricin is a toxic material which if ingested or inhaled can be fatal… our primary concern is the safety of the public.” Prime Minister Tony Blair says the discovery highlights the perils of weapons of mass destruction, adding: “The arrests which were made show this danger is present and real and with us now. Its potential is huge.” Dr. Pat Troop, the government’s deputy chief medical officer, issues a statement with police confirming that materials seized “tested positive for the presence of ricin poison.” A small number of easily obtainable castor beans are found. But the same day, chemical weapons experts at the Defense Science and Technology Laboratory at Porton Down in Wiltshire discover in more accurate tests that the initial positive result for ricin was false: there was no ricin in the flat. But this finding will not be released publicly for two years. [Independent, 4/17/2005] Dr. Martin Pearce, head of the Biological Weapons Identification Group, confirms that there was no ricin in the flat. This report is also suppressed. [Guardian, 4/15/2004] The Ministry of Defence later confirms that the results of the Porton Down test are not released to police and ministers until March 20, 2003, one day after war in Iraq begins. [BBC, 9/15/2005] It appears that there was the intention to create ricin, based on evidence discovered in other raids, but not the technical know-how to actually do so (see January 20, 2003 and January 5, 2003).
Radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri preaches for the first time outside Finsbury Park mosque, which was raided and closed by police at the start of the week (see January 20, 2003). His supporters have been alerted and come to listen to him at the Friday prayer ceremony, which is also attended by two dozen policemen and a number of journalists. Abu Hamza calls the police “agents of Satan,” while Muslim leaders who have refused to join him are “monkeys in three-piece suits, stupid people, they are just a joke.” Demonstrators hold up signs saying, “British government, you will pay,” and proclaiming that Prime Minister Tony Blair has declared “war” on British Muslims. These rallies continue every Friday for over a year, until Abu Hamza is finally arrested. The police ignore complaints from local residents, saying there are public order reasons for stewarding them and blocking off traffic. The cost to the police between January 2003 and November 2004 is £874,387 (about $1,500,000). Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens will defend this cost, although critics will say it is a waste of the taxpayers’ money and Abu Hamza should be in jail. After prayers, Abu Hamza’s minders bring out a chair, and the cleric then sits in it to hear requests from individual worshippers. The sessions are videotaped by the police, who also monitor the crowd. If a person tries to hide his identity, the police follow him and photograph him when he drops his guard. The loss of the mosque hampers Abu Hamza’s operations, depriving him of its privacy and security, as well as the flow of potential recruits. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 267-268, 278-279]
The US Army War College’s Strategic Studies Institute produces a report assessing the challenges the US will probably face in post-Hussein Iraq. According to the report:
“Ethnic, tribal, and religious schisms could produce civil war or fracture the state after Saddam is deposed.”
Iraq reconstruction will require “a considerable commitment of American resources.”
The “longer US presence is maintained, the more likely violent resistance will develop.”
Political parties will likely form along ethnic, tribal, and religious lines. Free elections among these parties may actually “increase divisions rather than mitigate them.”
Armed militias may emerge.
Islamic radicals could move in and conduct suicide bombings in an effort to turn Iraqis against the US occupation
Revenue from oil production will be insufficient to fund reconstruction.
The occupation force will find it “exceptionally challenging” to provide Iraqis with electricity, water, food, and security.
The paper lists 135 postinvasion tasks that the US would need to perform, including securing the borders, establishing local governments, protecting religious, historical, and cultural sites, establishing police systems, restoring and maintaining power systems, operating hospitals, reorganizing Iraq’s military and security forces, and disarming militia groups.
The reports says the US should not abolish the Iraqi army.
About a thousand copies of the report are distributed to various government officials and offices, including to members of Congress. While Central Command reportedly appreciates the report, there is no feedback from the Pentagon’s civilian leadership. [Strategic Studies Institute, 2/2003 ; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 197-198; Salon, 6/8/2006]
When the secretary of homeland security and the attorney general announce that the national terror level is being raised from yellow to orange (see February 7-13, 2003), InfraGard members are specifically mentioned. InfraGuard is a program in which private companies work with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security, which provides these companies with information not available to the public (see 1996-2008). In their listing of “additional steps” that federal agencies are taking to “increase their protective measures,” one of those steps is to “provide alert information to InfraGard program.” [Progressive, 2/7/2008]
The government raises the threat level to orange. The announcement is made by Attorney General John Ashcroft, Homeland Security Secretary Ridge, and FBI Director Mueller. CIA Director George Tenet calls the threat “the most specific we have seen” since 9/11 and says al-Qaeda may use a “radiological dispersal device, as well as poisons and chemicals.” Ashcroft states that “this decision for an increased threat condition designation is based on specific intelligence received and analyzed by the full intelligence community. This information has been corroborated by multiple intelligence sources.” [CNN, 2/7/2003] Ashcroft further claims that they have “evidence that terrorists would attack American hotels and apartment buildings.” [ABC News, 2/13/2007] A detailed plan is described to authorities by a captured terror suspect. This source cited a plot involving a Virginia- or Detroit-based al-Qaeda cell that had developed a method of carrying dirty bombs encased in shoes, suitcases, or laptops through airport scanners. The informant specifies government buildings and Christian or clerical centers as possible targets. [ABC News, 2/13/2007] Three days later, Fire Administrator David Paulison advises Americans to stock up on plastic sheeting and duct tape to protect themselves against radiological or biological attack. This causes a brief buying panic. [MSNBC, 6/4/2007] Batteries of Stinger anti-aircraft missiles are set up around Washington and the capital’s skies are patrolled by F-16 fighter jets and helicopters. [BBC, 2/14/2003] The threat is debunked on February 13, when the main source is finally given an FBI polygraph and fails it. Two senior law enforcement officials in Washington and New York state that a key piece of information leading to the terror alerts was fabricated. The claim made by a captured al-Qaeda member regarding a “dirty bomb” threat to Washington, New York, or Florida had proven to be a product of his imagination. Vincent Cannistraro, former head of the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center, says the intelligence turned out “to be fabricated and therefore the reason for a lot of the alarm, particularly in Washington this week, has been dissipated after they found out that this information was not true.” But threat levels remain stuck on orange for two more weeks. [ABC News, 2/13/2007] Bush administration officials do admit that the captured terror suspect lied, but add that this suspect was not the only source taken into consideration. Ridge says that there is “no need to start sealing the doors and windows.” Bush says that the warning, although based on evidence fabricated by an alleged terrorist, is a “stark reminder of the era that we’re in, that we’re at war and the war goes on.” [BBC, 2/14/2003] The alert followed less than forty-eight hours after Colin Powell’s famous speech to the United Nations in which he falsely accused Saddam Hussein of harboring al-Qaeda and training terrorists in the use of chemical weapons (see February 5, 2003). [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ] Anti-war demonstrations also continue to take place world-wide. [MSNBC, 6/4/2007]
The UN High Commissioner for human rights in Bosnia, Madeleine Rees, demands that colleagues involved in the sex trade in Bosnia, including some UN officials, international peacekeepers, and police, be stripped of their immunity and prosecuted. She accuses Jacques Paul Klein, the former head of the UN mission in Bosnia, of not taking UN complicity in the country’s increasing sex trade seriously enough. There has been a recent upsurge in the trafficking of women in Bosnia, with reports documenting women as young as 12 years old being kidnapped from their homes in eastern Europe and being forced into prostitution by organized criminal gangs. The demand for young women in Bosnia began in the mid-1990s with the arrival of tens of thousands of male UN personnel. Some UN personnel and international aid workers have been linked to prostitution rings in the area. Rees says private contractors such as DynCorp are major contributors to the problem. She goes on to explain how foreign nationals enjoy immunity from punishment, and how no one is prosecuted if a brothel is raided and UN police are found inside. Jan Oskar Solnes, a spokesman for the European Union Police Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina, responding to Rees comments, says: “It’s correct we have diplomatic immunity, but I imagine any incident [of sexual misconduct] would be a personal rather than professional matter.” Kirsten Haupt, a spokeswoman for the United Nations Liaison Office (UNLO) in Bosnia, says, “All cases have been thoroughly investigated. We have sent a number of officers home. There is absolutely no toleration of a ‘boys will be boys’ attitude here.” Also, an unnamed spokesman for DynCorp says, “We do not make it a practice to comment on opinions… However, we are familiar with previous public statements Ms. Rees has made about involuntary servitude and DynCorp continues to share her concerns for women held against their will in Bosnia, just as we condemn all human rights abuses anywhere in the world.” [Scotsman, 2/9/2003]
General Shinseki testifying before the Senate, February 2003. [Source: Representational Pictures]General Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, tells the Senate Armed Services Committee that “something on the order of several hundred thousand soldiers” will be needed to secure post-invasion Iraq. “We’re talking about post-hostilities control over a piece of geography that’s fairly significant, with the kinds of ethnic tensions that could lead to other problems. And so it takes a significant ground-force presence to maintain a safe and secure environment, to ensure that people are fed, that water is distributed, all the normal responsibilities that go along with administering a situation like this.” [Associated Press, 3/25/2003; New York Times, 1/12/2007] For his estimate, Shinseki will be publicly derided by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy Paul Wolfowitz (see February 27, 2003). [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]
Wayne Wright, a State Department Iraq analyst and one of the government’s most knowledgeable experts on Middle East affairs, authors a classified report on the likelihood that a US invasion will bring democracy to Iraq. He writes the report on his own initiative believing that it is necessary “to sit down and do some clearheaded thinking about an issue that was emerging.” Citing Middle East polling data, the report argues that Middle Eastern civil societies are far more anti-Western than their respective governments. Invading the country would likely result in severe sectarian-based civil unrest that would hamper efforts to build a democracy in the country. In the event that the US does succeed in establishing a democracy, the Iraqi people would probably elect leaders who are antipathetic toward the US and Israel, and sympathetic toward militant Islamism. The report, titled “Iraq, the Middle East and Change: No Dominoes,”, is distributed throughout the US intelligence community and is also sent to the White House. [Los Angeles Times, 3/14/2003; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 192]
Lawyers Wilson Brown and Jeff Almeida file a request with the Supreme Court, asking it to reconsider its landmark 1953 case, US v Reynolds (see March 9, 1953). The lawyers are representing several family members who lost fathers (and, in one case, a husband) in the airplane crash that led to the original case (see October 6, 1948). The lawyers note that the government’s original claim that the accident reports could not be released due to the inclusion of “military secrets” (see July 26, 1950) is false, as the accident reports have been declassified and examined for such secrets (see February 2000). “Indeed,” the lawyers write, “they are no more than accounts of a flight that, due to the Air Force’s negligence, went tragically awry. In telling the Court otherwise, the Air Force lied. In reliance upon that lie, the Court deprived the widows [the three original plaintiffs] of their judgments. It is for this Court, through issuance of a writ of error coram nobis and in exercise of its inherent power to remedy fraud, to put things right… United States v. Reynolds stands as a classic ‘fraud on the court,’ one that is most remarkable because it succeeded in tainting a decision of our nation’s highest tribunal.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 249-251] On July 26, 2002, one of the plaintiffs, Judy Palya Loether, wrote in an e-mail to Brown: ”US v Reynolds has come to be a landmark case that is used by the government when it claims that documents cannot be turned over to the courts because of national security. Yet this very case is now proven, in my mind, to be based on a lie that did injury to 3 widows and 5 little children (see February 2000)… It allowed the government an area of no checks and balances (see December 11, 1951). How many times has the government used this decision, not to protect national security, but for its own purposes?” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 237-238]
Appearing before the House Budget Committee, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz publicly contradicts General Eric Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, for saying that it will take “several hundred thousand soldiers” to successfully occupy Iraq (see February 25, 2003).
Greeted as Liberators - Wolfowitz says: “We can’t be sure that the Iraqi people will welcome us as liberators, although based on what Iraqi-Americans told me in Detroit a week ago, many of them—most of them with families in Iraq—I am reasonably certain that they will greet us as liberators, and that will help us to keep requirements down. In short, we don’t know what the requirement will be, but we can say with reasonable confidence that the notion of hundreds of thousands of American troops is way off the mark.” Wolfowitz says there’s no “record in Iraq of ethnic militias fighting one another.” [CNN, 2/28/2003; Isikoff and Corn, 2006, pp. 194] He restates the opinions of the top civilians at the Pentagon that it will take somewhere around 100,000 troops to secure postwar Iraq. Wolfowitz’s statement is echoed by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who says, “The idea that it would take several hundred thousand US forces I think is far off the mark.” Neither Rumsfeld nor Wolfowitz mention Shinseki by name, but the connection is clear. A spokesman for Shinseki, Colonel Joe Curtin, says that Shinseki stands by his judgment. “He was asked a question and he responded with his best military judgment,” says Curtin. [New York Times, 2/28/2003] Shinseki will retire shortly after the contretemps with Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz (see June 13, 2003).
Iraqi Reconstruction Chief's Opinion - Reflecting on Shinseki’s public humilation, Iraqi reconstruction chief Jay Garner (see January 2003) will say, “When Shinseki said, Hey, it’s going to take 300,000 or 400,000 soldiers, they crucified him. They called me up the day after that, Wolfowitz and Rumsfeld. They called me the next day and they said, Did you see what Shinseki said? And I said yes. And they said, Well, that can’t be possible. And I said, Well, let me give you the only piece of empirical data I have. In 1991 [during the Gulf War], I owned 5 percent of the real estate in Iraq, and I had 22,000 trigger pullers. And on any day I never had enough. So you can take 5 percent—you can take 22,000 and multiply that by 20. Hey, here’s probably the ballpark, and I didn’t have Baghdad. And they said, Thank you very much. So I got up and left.” Garner’s estimate would require some 440,000 troops in Iraq. [Vanity Fair, 2/2009]
An article in the New Republic claims that “President Bush has repeatedly stifled efforts to strengthen domestic safeguards against further terrorist attacks. As a consequence, homeland security remains perilously deficient.” The article cites numerous examples to support this contention, and comments: “Bush’s record on homeland security ought to be considered a scandal. Yet, not only is it not a scandal, it’s not even a story, having largely failed to register with the public, the media, or even the political elite.” It points out numerous examples where the administration has opposed the spending of more money to protect against an attack and argues: “The White House appears to grasp that Bush’s standing on national security issues, especially after September 11, is so unassailable that he does not need to shore it up. Instead, the administration seems to view his wartime popularity as a massive bank of political capital from which they can withdraw and spend on other, unrelated causes. In the short run, this strategy is a political boon for Bush and his party. But, in the long run, it divides and weakens the nation against its external threats.” [New Republic, 3/3/2003] Here are some of the examples of evidence supporting this article’s arguments pointed out in this and subsequent articles:
Airports are said to be unacceptably vulnerable to terrorism. [Associated Press, 6/8/2004]
Terrorist watch lists remain unconsolidated. [United Press International, 4/30/2003]
Basic background checks on air security personnel remain undone. [Time, 7/8/2003]
The Treasury Department has assigned five times as many agents to investigate Cuban embargo violations as it has to track al-Qaeda’s finances. [Associated Press, 4/30/2004]
The White House has spurned a request for 80 more investigators to track and disrupt the global financial networks of US-designated terrorist groups. [New York Times, 4/4/2004]
Cases involving “international terrorism” have been fizzling out in US courts. [Los Angeles Times, 12/9/2003]
Experts have concluded that the Iraq War has diverted resources from the war on terrorism and made the US less secure. [MSNBC, 7/29/2003; Salon, 7/31/2003]
Investigations have shown that most chemical plants across the US remain dangerously vulnerable to a guerilla-style attack. Some plants have virtually no security at all, often not even locked gates. Explosions at some of these plants could kill more than a million people. Yet the Bush administration has so far successfully opposed strengthening security regulations, apparently at the behest of chemical industry lobbyists. [New Republic, 3/3/2003; New Jersey Star-Ledger, 1/28/2005]
There has been a huge increase in government spending to train and respond to terrorist attacks, but Time magazine reports that the geographical spread of “funding appears to be almost inversely proportional to risk.” [Time, 3/21/2004]
Several high-profile studies have concluded that despite its frequent “bear any burden” rhetoric, the Bush administration has grossly underfunded domestic security. [New Republic, 3/3/2003; New York Times, 7/25/2003]
Community-based “first responders” lack basic equipment, including protective clothing and radios. [New Republic, 3/3/2003; New York Times, 7/25/2003]
Spending on computer upgrades, airport security, more customs agents, port security, border controls, chemical plant security, bioweapon vaccinations, and much more, is far below needed levels and often below Promised levels. [New Republic, 3/3/2003]
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) raises the national threat level to orange, or “high.” DHS director Tom Ridge tells Americans, not for the first time (see February 7-13, 2003), to stock up on duct tape and plastic sheeting as protection against biological and/or radiological attacks. [Unger, 2007, pp. 293] The duct tape and plastic sheeting recommendations have become something of a national joke by this point, with Saturday Night Live comedians riffing on the topic and a Tom Ridge impersonator performing while wrapped in plastic sheeting for Ridge and President Bush at a recent Gridiron dinner. Late-night talk show host Jay Leno recently said after having Ridge on his show: “When problems seem overwhelming, simplistic solutions always seem funny. Duct tape and plastic sheeting? When the threat level goes down, it’ll be downgraded to Scotch tape and two Ziploc bags.” On a more serious note, David Ropeik of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis says: “Ridge and the department need to come up with a better way of saying, ‘Be afraid.’ They say, ‘Be alert,’ and then out of the other side of their mouth they say, ‘Go about your normal lives.’ To most of us, those messages don’t mesh. They also need to be more specific. When the threat level goes from yellow to orange, tell us what we can do besides being more alert.” Gary Hart, the former Democratic senator who helped compile the report that eventually led to the creation of the department (see January 31, 2001), says: “The idea of using duct tape to protect yourself would resonate only if people could see the government taking action to protect you. But because the government has done so little against terrorism at home, it sounded as if they were saying, ‘You’re on your own.’” Ridge may have gotten the last laugh on Leno’s show, when Leno asked sardonically: “I’m sitting at home in my underpants watching the game and, boop, we’re in yellow. What do I do now?” Ridge replied, “Change shorts.” [New York Times, 3/17/2003]
On March 17, 2003, the National Alert Level is raised to orange. The FBI warns of terror strikes directed by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein or “allied or sympathetic terrorist organizations, most notably the al-Qaeda network.” This warning clearly attempts to establish a connection between Saddam Hussein and the terrorist activities of al-Qaeda. Interestingly, this third orange alert comes three days before President Bush invades Iraq, opening what he calls the “central front of the War on Terror.” The attack claim is debunked by future CIA director Porter Goss, then the chair of the House intelligence committee. He states that there is no intelligence which suggests a new attack. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 ] The next day, the Arizona National Guard is alerted and sent to an Arizona nuclear plant because “an attack by al-Qaeda agents [is] imminent.” No attack materializes. [News Hounds, 10/9/2004]
Wilson Brown, who has filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking that it reconsider its landmark 1953 US v Reynolds case (see March 9, 1953), receives an e-mail from Alison Massagli of the White House’s Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Massagli, who learned of the petition from an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer, wants a copy of Brown’s petition. Brown notices that Massagli sent a copy of the e-mail to Catherine Lotrionete of the National Security Council. Brown is pleased that the case has garnered some attention. He e-mails the plaintiffs he is representing, saying, “I thought you would find it interesting that at least one arm of the Executive Branch is interested in our case.” [Siegel, 2008, pp. 257]
Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz tells a BBC news correspondent “Until the regime is gone it’s going to be very hard to do anything. Even in cities that are liberated. I think when the people of Basra no longer feel the threat of that regime, you are going to see an explosion of joy and relief.” [BBC, 3/25/2003]
President Bush signs an amendment to Executive Order 12958, giving government agencies broad new powers to reclassify documents already released to the public and having them removed from the public stacks of the National Archives. Archivist Allen Weinstein later estimates that some 25,000 documents and records will be removed from public access due to Bush’s decision. The reclassification program will eventually be shut down. Weinstein will later observe: “More than one of three documents removed from the open shelves and barred to researchers should not have been tampered with. That practice, which undermined the National Archives’ basic mission to preserve the authenticity of files under our stewardship must never be repeated.” The order also makes it much easier to initially classify a document or a record, resulting in over 15 million newly classified documents by the end of 2004. [Savage, 2007, pp. 162-163] A second, separate amendment to the order gives Vice President Cheney the power to unilaterally classify and declassify information (see March 25, 2003).
President Bush signs an executive order delaying the public release of millions of government documents, citing the need to more thoroughly review them first. The government faced an April 17 deadline for declassifying millions of documents at least 25 years old. [Reuters, 3/26/2003] The order countermands a 1995 executive order by then-President Bill Clinton, who mandated that government documents over 25 years old be automatically declassified unless there was “significant doubt” as to whether their release would damage national security. [New York Times, 3/21/2003] The order also treats all material sent to American officials from foreign governments, no matter how routine, as subject to classification. It expands the ability of the CIA to shield documents from declassification, giving the director the right to unilaterally block any declassification of agency documents. And for the first time, it gives the vice president the power to classify information. The New York Times says, “Offering that power to Vice President Dick Cheney, who has shown indifference to the public’s right to know what is going on inside the executive branch, seems a particularly worrying development.” [New York Times, 3/21/2003; New York Times, 3/28/2003] Historian Anna Nelson says of the decision: “This is in context with the way this administration has done the whole bit on secrecy. They have left a skeletal process.” But Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists is less harsh in his assessment, saying, “One might have expected a more aggressive, pro-secrecy policy than this draft.” Tom Blanton of the private National Security Archive says the provision to classify information from foreign governments is far too broad: “Making all foreign government information presumptively classified means we’re lowering our openness standard to the lowest common denominator of our ostensible allies.” [New York Times, 3/21/2003]
The Baghdad Museum is evacuated and locked by its curators, who anticipate Baghdad being overrun by American troops within the next few hours. The last three on the grounds are the director, Dr. Jaber Khalil; the director of the State Board of Antiquities, Donny George; and the curator in charge of the museum’s collections, Dr. Nawala al-Mutawalli. They are forced to flee the grounds because Iraqi militiamen have sought cover around the museum, and they fear a firefight. The entire area is under US control by April 9; by April 10, the Army has left the area without posting guards. George pleads for the Army to return to prevent looting, but is ignored. Much of the looting that ravages the museum’s collection takes place on April 12 (see April 13, 2003). The international outcry against the looting is so fierce that the Army will begin posting guards on April 16. [United Press International, 6/23/2003]
Following the model of Hamas and Hezbollah, various Shiite Islamist factions exploit the lack of security and basic services in post-invasion Iraq by policing neighborhoods and providing social services to the impoverished Shiite population. Moqtada Al-Sadr’s organization, for example, sets up administrative offices around the country and pays the salaries of civil servants. The Supreme Council for Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) turns its militia members into aid workers that distribute food and set up clinics. [New York Times, 4/23/2003; Christian Science Monitor, 6/9/2003]
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