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Pre September 11Edit

Late 1990s: CIA Director Tenet Has Direct, Private Channels to Saudi Leaders Edit

George Tenet, appointed as CIA director in 1997, develops close personal relationships with top Saudi officials, especially Prince Bandar Wikipedia, the Saudi ambassador to the US. Tenet develops a habit of meeting with Bandar at his home near Washington about once a month. But CIA officers handling Saudi issues complain that Tenet doesn’t tell them what he discusses with Bandar. Often they are only able to learn about Tenet’s deals with the Saudis later and through Saudi contacts, not from their own boss. Tenet also makes one of his closest aides the chief of the CIA station in Saudi Arabia. This aide often communicates directly with Tenet, avoiding the usual chain of command. Apparently as a favor to the Saudis, CIA analysts are discouraged from writing reports raising questions about the Saudi relationship to Islamic extremists. [1]

1993: CIA Declares Bin Laden Significant Financial Backer of Islamic Militants Edit

In 2007, former CIA Director George Tenet will write, “As early as 1993, [the CIA] had declared bin Laden to be a significant financier backer of Islamic terrorist movements. We knew he was funding paramilitary training of Arab religious militants in such far-flung places as Bosnia, Egypt, Kashmir, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, and Yemen” (see July-August 1993).[2]

Mid-1990s: CIA Sets Up Fronts to Penetrate Nuclear Smuggling Ring Using Unconventional Tactics Edit

The CIA sets up a number of front companies with the intention of penetrating the nuclear proliferation ring founded by Pakistani scientist A. Q. Khan. One of the companies is Brewster Jennings & Associates[3], which will be used as cover by Valerie Plame Wilson, a CIA officer outed in 2003. The precise way in which the CIA attempts to penetrate the network is not known. [4][SUNDAY TIMES (LONDON), 1/27/2008] Former CIA Director George Tenet will hint at the methods used in a 2007 book:

The small unit working this effort recognized that it would be impossible to penetrate proliferation networks using conventional intelligence gathering tactics. Security considerations do not permit me to describe the techniques we used. Patiently, we put ourselves in a position to come in contact with individuals and organizations that we believed were part of the overall proliferation problem.”[5] [TENET, 2007, PP. 283]

March-May 1996: US, Sudan Squabble over Bin Laden’s Fate Edit

US demands for Sudan to hand over its extensive files about bin Laden [see 1] escalate into demands to hand over bin Laden himself. Bin Laden has been living in Sudan since 1991, at a time when the Sudanese government’s ideology was similar to his.

But after the US put Sudan on its list of terrorism sponsors and began economic sanctions in 1993, Sudan began to change. In 1994, it handed the notorious terrorist “Carlos the Jackal” to France. In March 1996, Sudan’s defense minister goes to Washington and engages in secret negotiations over bin Laden. Sudan offers to extradite bin Laden to anywhere he might stand trial. Some accounts claim that Sudan offers to hand bin Laden directly to the US, but the US decides not to take him because they do not have enough evidence at the time to charge him with a crime. [6][WASHINGTON POST, 10/3/2001; VILLAGE VOICE, 10/31/2001; VANITY FAIR, 1/2002]

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later will call this story a “fable” invented by the Sudanese and Americans friendly to Sudan. He will point out that bin Laden “was an ideological blood brother, family friend, and benefactor” to Sudanese leader Hassan al-Turabi, so any offers to hand him over may have been disingenuous.[7] [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 142-43]

CIA Director George Tenet later will deny that Sudan made any offers to hand over bin Laden directly to the US. [8][US CONGRESS, 10/17/2002] The US reportedly asks Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan to accept bin Laden into custody, but is refused by all three governments. [9][COLL, 2004, PP. 323]

The 9/11 Commission later will claim it finds no evidence that Sudan offers bin Laden directly to the US, but it does find evidence that Saudi Arabia was discussed as an option. [10][9/11 COMMISSION, 3/23/2004] US officials insist that bin Laden leave Sudan for anywhere but Somalia. One US intelligence source in the region later will state: “We kidnap minor drug czars and bring them back in burlap bags. Somebody didn’t want this to happen.” [11][WASHINGTON POST, 10/3/2001; VILLAGE VOICE, 10/31/2001] On May 18, 1996, bin Laden flies to Afghanistan, and the US does not try to stop him [see 2]

Late 1996: CIA Definitively Confirms Bin Laden Is Not Just Financier, but US Is Slow to Act Edit

By late 1996, the CIA definitively confirms that Osama bin Laden is more of a leader of militants worldwide than just a financier of them. [US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003] CIA Director George Tenet will later comment, “By 1996 we knew that bin Laden was more than a financier. An al-Qaeda defector [Jamal al-Fadl] told us that [bin Laden] was the head of a worldwide terrorist organization with a board of directors that would include the likes of Ayman al-Zawahiri and that he wanted to strike the United States on our soil” (see June 1996-April 1997). [TENET, 2007, PP. 102] Yet the US will not take “bin Laden or al-Qaeda all that seriously” until after the bombing of US embassies in Africa in 1998. [MILLER, STONE, AND MITCHELL, 2002, PP. 213] Dan Coleman, the FBI’s top al-Qaeda expert, helps interrogate al-Fadl in 1996 and 1997 (see June 1996-April 1997), and Coleman comes to the conclusion that the US is facing a profound new threat. But according to journalist Robert Wright, Coleman’s reports “met with little response outside a small circle of prosecutors and a few people in the [CIA and FBI] who took an interest…” Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, is interested, as is John O’Neill, who heads the New York FBI office that specializes in bin Laden cases. But O’Neill and Scheuer hate each other and do not cooperate. [WRIGHT, 2006] Al-Fadl’s information will not turn into the first US indictment of bin Laden until June 1998 (see June 8, 1998).

1997: CIA Deems Saudi Intelligence ‘Hostile Service’ Regarding Al-Qaeda Edit

The CIA’s bin Laden unit Alec Station sends a memo to CIA Director George Tenet warning him that the Saudi intelligence service should be considered a “hostile service” with regard to al-Qaeda. This means that, at the very least, they could not be trusted. In subsequent years leading up to 9/11, US intelligence will gather intelligence confirming this assessment and even suggesting direct ties between some in Saudi intelligence and al-Qaeda. For instance, according to a top Jordanian official, at some point before 9/11 the Saudis ask Jordan intelligence to conduct a review of the Saudi intelligence agency and then provide it with a set of recommendations for improvement. Jordanians are shocked to find Osama bin Laden screen savers on some of the office computers. Additionally, the CIA will note that in some instances after sharing communications intercepts of al-Qaeda operatives with the Saudis, the suspects would sometimes change communication methods, suggesting the possibility that they had been tipped off by Saudi intelligence. [RISEN, 2006, PP. 183-184]

1997: CIA Establishes Renditions Branch, Helps with Up to 70 Renditions Before 9/11 Edit

A Renditions Branch is established at the CIA’s Counterterrorist Center. Its job is to find militant leaders and then assist their abduction. The US government has been rendering suspects for four years (see 1993), and the CIA has had a dedicated program for this since the summer of 1995 (see Summer 1995). [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 276] Although some specific rendition operations are known (see Summer 1998, July 1998-February 2000, and Late August 1998), the total before 9/11 is not. Estimates vary, but generally fall into a similar range:

Citing a public statement by CIA Director George Tenet, 9/11 commission deputy executive director Chris Kojm will say “70 terrorists were rendered and brought to justice before 9/11;” 
Shortly after this, Tenet himself will confirm there were “over 70” renditions; [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004] 
Tenet will also say “many dozen” suspects were rendered before 9/11; [CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, 3/24/2004] 
The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will say that the Branch is involved in “several dozen” renditions before 9/11; [US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003, PP. 728 ] 
Michael Scheuer, a CIA manager responsible for operations against Osama bin Laden, will say that between 1995 and May 1999 “[t]he operations that I was in charge of concerned approximately 40 people…” [COUNTERPUNCH, 7/1/2006]

1997-May 29, 1998: US Creates Plan to Capture Bin Laden, but CIA Director Tenet Cancels It Edit

Imagery of bin Laden’s Tarnak Farms compound prepared for the aborted operation. [Source: CBC] In 1997 and early 1998, the US develops a plan to capture Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. A CIA-owned aircraft is stationed in a nearby country, ready to land on a remote landing strip long enough to pick him up. However, problems with having to hold bin Laden too long in Afghanistan make the operation unlikely. The plan morphs into using a team of Afghan informants to kidnap bin Laden from inside his heavily defended Tarnak Farm complex. Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit, calls the plan “the perfect operation.” Gary Schroen, the lead CIA officer in the field, agrees, and gives it about a 40 percent chance of succeeding. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 220-221; WASHINGTON POST, 2/22/2004; VANITY FAIR, 11/2004] The Pentagon also reviews the plan, finding it well crafted. In addition, there is “plausible denialability,” as the US could easily distance itself from the raid. Scheuer will comment, “It was the perfect capture operation becauase even if it went completely wrong and people got killed, there was no evidence of a US hand.” [SHENON, 2008, PP. 192] However, higher-ups at the CIA are skeptical of the plan and worry that innocent civilians might die. The plan is given to CIA Director George Tenet for approval, but he rejects it without showing it to President Clinton. He considers it unlikely to succeed and decides the Afghan allies are too unreliable. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 220-221; WASHINGTON POST, 2/22/2004; VANITY FAIR, 11/2004] Additionally, earlier in May 1998, the Saudis promised to try to bribe the Taliban and try bin Laden themselves, and apparently Tenet preferred this plan (see May 1998). Scheuer is furious. After 9/11 he will complain, “We had more intelligence against this man and organization than we ever had on any other group we ever called a terrorist group, and definitive and widely varied [intelligence] across all the ends, and I could not understand why they didn’t take the chance.” [VANITY FAIR, 11/2004] There will be later speculation that the airstrip used for these purposes is occupied and will be used as a base of operations early in the post-9/11 Afghan war. [WASHINGTON POST, 12/19/2001]

After July 1997: CIA Obtains Domestic Call and Financial Information to Support ‘Black Ops’ Edit

Some time after he is appointed CIA Director, but before 9/11, George Tenet negotiates a series of agreements with telecommunications and financial institutions “to get access to certain telephone, Internet, and financial records related to ‘black’ intelligence operations.” The arrangements are made personally by the companies’ CEOs and Tenet, who plays “the patriot card” to get the information. The arrangement involves the CIA’s National Resources Division, which has at least a dozen offices in the US. The Division’s main aim is to recruit people in the US to spy abroad. However, in this case the Division makes arrangements so that other intelligence agencies, such as the NSA, can access the information and records the CEOs agree to provide. [WOODWARD, 2006, PP. 323-5] There is a history of co-operation between the CIA’s National Resources Division and the NSA. For example, Monte Overacre, a CIA officer assigned to the Division’s San Diego office in the early 1990s, said that he worked with the NSA there, obtaining information about foreign telecommunications programs and passing it on to the Technology Management Office, a joint venture between the two agencies. [MOTHER JONES, 1/1998] One US official will say that the arrangements only give the CIA access to the companies’ passive databanks. However, reporter Bob Woodward will say that the programme raises “serious civil liberties questions and also demonstrate[d] that the laws had not kept pace with the technology.” [WOODWARD, 2006, PP. 324-5] There will be an interagency argument about the program after 9/11 (see (2003 and After)). Entity Tags: CIA Technology Management Office, CIA National Resources Division, National Security Agency, Monte Overacre, Central Intelligence Agency, Bob Woodward, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties

September 18, 1997: CIA Gives Awards to 50 Former Officers to Mark Anniversary The CIA celebrates its 50th anniversary with a ceremony at its headquarters in Langley, Virginia. Director George Tenet awards special medallions to 50 past and present staff for their outstanding contributions to postwar American intelligence. One of the 50 is David Blee, a former head of the agency’s Soviet division (see 1971) and counterintelligence (see 1978), whose citation says the award is for “creating a professional counterintelligence discipline.” [GUARDIAN, 8/22/2000] In total, Blee earns two CIA Distinguished Intelligence Medals, the National Intelligence Distinguished Service Medal, and the National Security Medal for his work at the agency. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 8/18/2000] Entity Tags: David Blee, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency Timeline Tags: Misc Entries

April-May 1998: CIA’s Bin Laden Unit Almost Disbanded The CIA’s bin Laden unit, first created in early 1996 (see February 1996), is ordered disbanded. It is unclear who gave the order. The unit appears to have been the most vocal section of the US government pushing for action against bin Laden. Apparently CIA Director George Tenet is unaware of the plans to disband the unit. He intervenes in mid-May and preserves the unit. Michael Scheuer, the head of the unit, later will comment that by doing so, Tenet “dodged the bullet of having to explain to the American people why the [CIA] thought bin Laden was so little of a threat that it had destroyed the bin Laden unit weeks before two US embassies were demolished.” Scheuer also will comment, “the on-again, off-again signals about the unit’s future status made for confusion, distraction, and much job-hunting in the last few weeks” before the embassy attacks. [ATLANTIC MONTHLY, 12/2004] Entity Tags: Michael Scheuer, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet, Alec Station Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Late April 1998 and Shortly After: Tenet Unhappy over Saudi Information Sharing, Suggests Al-Qaeda Leader Wants to Assassinate Vice President When Saudi authorities foil a plot by al-Qaeda manager Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri to smuggle missiles into the kingdom (see 1997), CIA director George Tenet becomes so concerned they are withholding information about the plot from the US that he flies to Saudi Arabia to meet Interior Minister Prince Nayef. Tenet is concerned because he believes that the four antitank missiles smuggled in from Yemen by al-Nashiri, head of al-Qaeda operations in the Arabian peninsula, may be intended for an assassination attempt on Vice President Albert Gore, who is to visit Saudi Arabia shortly. Tenet and another CIA manager are unhappy about the information being withheld and Tenet flies to Riyadh “to underscore the importance of sharing such information.” Tenet obtains “a comprehensive report on the entire Sagger missile episode” from Interior Minister Prince Nayef by making a not-so-veiled threat about negative publicity for Saudi Arabia in the US press. [TENET, 2007, PP. 105-6] It will later be reported that the militants’ plan is apparently to use the armor-piercing missiles to attack the armored limousines of members of the Saudi royal family. [NEW YORK TIMES, 12/23/2002] There are no reports of the planned attack being carried out, so it appears to fail due to the confiscation of the missiles. However, al-Nashiri will later be identified as a facilitator of the East African embassy bombings (see August 22-25 1998) and will attend a summit of al-Qaeda operatives in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, which is monitored by local authorities and the CIA (see January 5-8, 2000). Entity Tags: Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Saudi Arabia, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Nayef bin Abdul-Aziz Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

May 1998: CIA Director Prefers Saudi Plan to Bribe Taliban over Direct Action against Bin Laden According to author James Risen, CIA Director George Tenet and other top CIA officials travel to Saudi Arabia to meet with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of the country. Tenet wants Abdullah to address the problem of bin Laden. He requests that bin Laden not be given to the US to be put on trial but that he be given to the Saudis instead. Abdullah agrees as long as it can be a secret arrangement. Tenet sends a memo to National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, recommending that the CIA allow the Saudis to essentially bribe the Taliban to turn him over. Around the same time, Tenet cancels the CIA’s own operation to get bin Laden (see 1997-May 29, 1998). [RISEN, 2006, PP. 183-184] That same month, Wyche Fowler, the US ambassador to Saudi Arabia, tells Berger to let the Saudis take the lead against bin Laden. [SCHEUER, 2008, PP. 274] Prince Turki al-Faisal, the head of Saudi intelligence, does go to Afghanistan in June and/or July of 1998 to make a secret deal, though with whom he meets and what is agreed upon is highly disputed (see June 1998 and July 1998). But it becomes clear after the failed US missile attack on bin Laden in August 1998 (see August 20, 1998) that the Taliban has no intention of turning bin Laden over to anyone. Risen later comments, “By then, the CIA’s capture plan was dead, and the CIA had no other serious alternatives in the works.… It is possible that the crown prince’s offer of assistance simply provided Tenet and other top CIA officials an easy way out of a covert action plan that they had come to believe represented far too big of a gamble.” [RISEN, 2006, PP. 183-184] Entity Tags: Turki al-Faisal, Wyche Fowler, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet, Sandy Berger, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, James Risen Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

May 1998-May 1999: Ten Opportunities to Strike Bin Laden in One Year Michael Scheuer, head of the CIA’s bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999, later will claim that in a one-year period starting in May 1998, the CIA gives the US government “about ten chances to capture bin Laden or kill him with military means. In all instances, the decision was made that the ‘intelligence was not good enough.’ This assertion cannot be debated publicly without compromising sources and methods. What can be said, however, is that in all these cases there was more concern expressed by senior bureaucrats and policymakers about how international opinion would react to a US action than there was concern about what might happen to Americans if they failed to act. Indeed, on one occasion these senior leaders decided it was more important to avoid hitting a structure near bin Laden’s location with shrapnel, than it was to protect Americans.” He will later list six of the attempts in a book:

May 1998: a plan to capture bin Laden at his compound south of Kandahar, canceled at the last minute (see 1997-May 29, 1998). 
September 1998: a capture opportunity north of Kandahar, presumably by Afghan tribals working for the CIA (see September-October 1998). 
December 1998: canceled US missile strike on the governor’s palace in Kandahar (see December 18-20, 1998). 
February 1999: Military attack opportunity on governor’s residence in Herat (see February 1999). 
February 1999: Multiple military attack opportunities at a hunting camp near Kandahar attended by United Arab Emirates royals (see February 11, 1999). 
May 1999: Military attack opportunities on five consecutive nights in Kandahar (see May 1999). 
Also in late August 1998, there is one failed attempt to kill bin Laden.(see August 20, 1998) [ATLANTIC MONTHLY, 12/2004; SCHEUER, 2008, PP. 284] 

Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke later will strongly disagree with Scheuer’s assessment, claiming that the intelligence needed for such an attack on bin Laden was never very good. But he will also point out that the National Security Council and White House never killed any of the operations Scheuer wanted. It was always CIA Director George Tenet and other top CIA leaders who rejected the proposals. Scheuer will agree that it was always Tenet who turned down the operations. [VANITY FAIR, 11/2004] Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Michael Scheuer, George J. Tenet, Alec Station, Central Intelligence Agency, Clinton administration, National Security Council, Richard A. Clarke Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

July 1998-February 2000: CIA Renders Over Two Dozen Islamic Militant Operatives In February 2000, CIA Director George Tenet testifies to Congress, “Since July 1998, working with foreign governments worldwide, we have helped to render more than two dozen terrorists to justice. More than half were associates of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization.” Renditions are a policy of grabbing a suspect off the street of one country and taken the person to another where he was wanted for a crime or questioning without going through the normal legal and diplomatic procedures. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 12/27/2005] The CIA had a policy of rendering Islamic Jihad suspects to Egypt since 1995 (see Summer 1995). In July 1998, the CIA discovered a laptop containing organizational charts and locations of al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad operatives, so presumably these renditions are a direct result of that intelligence find (see Late August 1998). Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Islamic Jihad Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

Mid-August 1998-2000: US Submarines Ready to Attack Bin Laden Within days of the US African embassy bombings, the US permanently stations two submarines, reportedly in the Indian Ocean, ready to hit al-Qaeda with cruise missiles on short notice. Missiles are fired from these subs later in the month in a failed attempt to assassinate bin Laden. Six to ten hours’ advance warning is now needed to review the decision, program the cruise missiles, and have them reach their target. However, in every rare opportunity when the possibility of attacking bin Laden occurs, CIA Director Tenet says the information is not reliable enough and the attack cannot go forward. [WASHINGTON POST, 12/19/2001; NEW YORK TIMES, 12/30/2001] At some point in 2000, the submarines are withdrawn, apparently because the Navy wants to use them for other purposes. Therefore, when the unmanned Predator spy plane flies over Afghanistan in late 2000 and identifies bin Laden, there is no way to capitalize on that opportunity. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 220-21] The Bush administration fails to resume the submarine patrol. Lacking any means to attack bin Laden, military plans to strike at him are no longer updated after March 2001. [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004] Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Bush administration, Al-Qaeda, Clinton administration, Osama bin Laden Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

November 4, 1998: US Issues Public Indictment of Bin Laden, Others for Embassy Bombings

US Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald announcing the indictment of Osama bin Laden. [Source: Henny Ray Abrams/ Agence France-Presse/ Getty Images] The US publicly indicts bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, and others for the US embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania. Bin Laden had been secretly indicted on different charges earlier in the year in June (see June 8, 1998). Record $5 million rewards are announced for information leading to his arrest and the arrest of Mohammed Atef. [PBS FRONTLINE, 2001] Shortly thereafter, bin Laden allocates $9 million in reward money for the assassinations of four US government officials in response to the reward on him. A year later, it is learned that the secretary of state, defense secretary, FBI director, and CIA director are the targets. [US CONGRESS, 9/18/2002; MSNBC, 9/18/2002; US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003 ] Entity Tags: William S. Cohen, United States, Osama bin Laden, Mohammed Atef, Louis J. Freeh, George J. Tenet, Madeleine Albright Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

December 4, 1998: CIA Director Issues Ineffective Declaration of War on Al-Qaeda CIA Director Tenet issues a “declaration of war” on al-Qaeda, in a memorandum circulated in the intelligence community. This is ten months after bin Laden’s fatwa on the US (see February 22, 1998), which is called a “de facto declaration of war” by a senior US official in 1999. Tenet says, “We must now enter a new phase in our effort against bin Laden.… each day we all acknowledge that retaliation is inevitable and that its scope may be far larger than we have previously experienced.… We are at war.… I want no resources or people spared in this efforts [sic], either inside CIA or the [larger intelligence] community.” Yet a Congressional joint committee later finds that few FBI agents ever hear of the declaration. Tenet’s fervor does not “reach the level in the field that is critical so [FBI agents] know what their priorities are.” In addition, even as the counterterrorism budget continues to grow generally, there is no massive shift in budget or personnel until after 9/11. For example, the number of CIA personnel assigned to the Counterterrorist Center (CTC) stays roughly constant until 9/11, then nearly doubles from approximately 400 to approximately 800 in the wake of 9/11. The number of CTC analysts focusing on al-Qaeda rises from three in 1999 to five by 9/11. [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/18/2002; US CONGRESS, 9/18/2002] Perhaps not coincidentally, on the same day Tenet issues his declaration, President Clinton is given a briefing entitled “Bin Laden Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks” and US intelligence scrambles to respond to this threat (see December 4, 1998). Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Counterterrorist Center, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

After December 4, 1998: Following CIA Director Tenet’s Declaration of War, His Deputy Chairs Single Meeting; No Strategic Plan Drafted Following a declaration of war on al-Qaeda issued by CIA Director George Tenet (see December 4, 1998), little happens at the CIA. The CIA’s inspector general will later find that “neither [Tenet] nor [his deputy John McLaughlin] followed up these warnings and admonitions by creating a documented, comprehensive plan to guide the counterterrorism effort at the Intelligence Community level.” However, McLaughlin does chair a single meeting in response to the declaration of war. Although the meetings continue, McLaughlin stops attending, leaving them to the CIA’s No. 3. The meetings are attended by “few if any officers” from other agencies and soon stop discussing strategic aspects of the fight against al-Qaeda. There is no other effort, at the CIA or elsewhere in the intelligence community, to create a strategic plan to combat al-Qaeda at this time or at any other time before 9/11. [CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, 6/2005, PP. VIII ] Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, John E. McLaughlin, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

1999: CIA Builds Network of Informants throughout Afghanistan, Central Asia CIA already has a network of local agents in Afghanistan by this time (see 1997). However, in this year there is a serious effort to increase the network throughout Afghanistan and other countries for the purpose of capturing bin Laden and his deputies. [UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, 10/17/2002] Many are put on the CIA’s payroll, including some Taliban military leaders. Many veterans of the Soviet war in the 1980s who worked with the CIA then are recruited again. All of these recuitments are kept secret from Pakistani intelligence because of their support of the Taliban and al-Qaeda. [COLL, 2004, PP. 491-492] CIA Director George Tenet will later state that by 9/11, “a map would show that these collection programs and human networks were in place in such numbers to nearly cover Afghanistan. This array means that, when the military campaign to topple the Taliban and destroy al-Qaeda [begins in October 2001], we [are] able to support it with an enormous body of information and a large stable of assets.” [US CONGRESS, 10/17/2002] However, apparently none of these sources are close enough to bin Laden to know about his movements in advance. [COLL, 2004, PP. 491-492] Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden, Taliban, George J. Tenet, Al-Qaeda Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

1999-2001: Clinton Awards Victimized Former Analyst $1 Million in Compensation, but He Never Receives It Richard Barlow, a former intelligence analyst who was repeatedly fired for correctly claiming that Pakistan had a nuclear weapons program (see 1981-1982, August 1987-1988 and August 4, 1989), is awarded a total of $1 million by President Bill Clinton in compensation for the treatment he received. However, Barlow does not receive the money, as the settlement has to be ratified by Congress. When it runs into procedural problems, it is moved to the Court of Federal Claims to be reviewed. After Clinton is replaced by George W. Bush, CIA Director George Tenet and NSA Director Michael Hayden assert the government’s “state secrets privilege” (see March 9, 1953) over Barlow’s entire legal claim, causing it to collapse due to lack of evidence. [GUARDIAN, 10/13/2007] Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Richard Barlow, National Security Agency, Michael Hayden, Court of Federal Claims, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

May 1999: US Intelligence Provides bin Laden’s Location; CIA Fails to Strike US intelligence obtains detailed reporting on where bin Laden is located for five consecutive nights. CIA Director Tenet decides against acting three times, because of concerns about collateral damage and worries about the veracity of the single source of information. Frustration mounts. Mike Scheuer, head of the CIA’s Bin Laden Unit, writes to a colleague in the field, “having a chance to get [bin Laden] three times in 36 hours and foregoing the chance each time has made me a bit angry…” [COLL, 2004, PP. 450; 9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 140] An unnamed senior military officer later complains, “This was in our strike zone. It was a fat pitch, a home run.” However, that month, the US mistakenly bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, Yugoslavia, due to outdated intelligence. It is speculated Tenet was wary of making another mistake. [ATLANTIC MONTHLY, 12/2004] There is one more opportunity to strike bin Laden in July 1999, but after that there is apparently no intelligence good enough to justify considering a strike. [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004] Entity Tags: Michael Scheuer, Alec Station, Central Intelligence Agency, George J. Tenet, Osama bin Laden Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

June 1999: CIA Fires Bin Laden Unit Chief, But He Refuses to Resign from Agency

Michael Scheuer. [Source: Publicity photo] CIA Director George Tenet removes Michael Scheuer as head of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit. Scheuer had headed the unit since its inception in 1996, and was known as a strong advocate for more government action against bin Laden. The full name of the new head of the unit has not been released and little is known about his performance. [VANITY FAIR, 11/2004] Deputy Director of Operations Jack Downing tells Scheuer he is being fired because he is “mentally burned out” and because of a recent disagreement with the FBI over whether the deputy chief of Alex Station, who was detailed to the CIA from the FBI, could release information to the FBI without Scheuer’s approval. Downing tells Scheuer he was in the right, but that the criticism of his subordinate “should not have been put on paper”, and the FBI’s management is angry with him. Downing says he will get a medal and a monetary award, but should tell his subordinates he has resigned. Scheuer refuses to lie to his officers, signs a memo saying he will not accept a monetary award, and tells Downing “where he should store the medal.” [SCHEUER, 2005, PP. 263-4; WRIGHT, 2006, PP. 313] According to author Steve Coll, Scheuer’s CIA colleagues “could not be sure exactly [why Scheuer left] but among at least a few of them a believe settled in that [he] had been exiled, in effect, for becoming too passionate about the bin Laden threat…” In particular, he was angry about two recent missed opportunities (see 1997-May 29, 1998 and February 11, 1999) to assassinate bin Laden. [COLL, 2004, PP. 449-450] Scheuer will write in 2004 that, “On moving to a new position, I forwarded a long memorandum to the Agency’s senior-most officers—some are still serving—describing an array of fixable problems that were plaguing America’s attack on bin Laden, ones that the bin Laden unit had encountered but failed to remedy between and among [US intelligence agencies]… The problems outlined in the memorandum stood in the way of attacking bin Laden to the most effective extent possible; many remain today.” Problems include poor cooperation between agencies and a lack of experienced staff working on the bin Laden issue. Scheuer never receives a response to his memo. [ATLANTIC MONTHLY, 12/2004] Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, George J. Tenet, Jack Downing, Central Intelligence Agency, Michael Scheuer, Alec Station Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

June 24, 1999: CIA Director Gives Congress Secret Warning Bin Laden Planning Attacks in US CIA Director George Tenet tells a closed session of Congress, “We have seen numerous reports that bin Laden and his associates are planning terrorist attacks against US officials and facilities in a variety of locations, including in the US.” [COLL, 2004, PP. 454] However, six months later and after a well-publicized attempted al-Qaeda attack on the Los Angeles airport (see December 14, 1999), he will not mention in an open session that bin Laden has the capability to stage attacks inside the US (see February 2, 2000). Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, US Congress, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

October 1999: CIA Does Not Share Information with Able Danger Program

Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer. [Source: Sandy Schaeffer] Capt. Scott Phillpott, head of the Able Danger program, asks Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer to talk to a representative of CIA Director George Tenet and attempt to convince him that the new Able Danger program is not competing with the CIA. Shaffer later recalls the CIA representative replying, “I clearly understand the difference. I clearly understand. We’re going after the leadership. You guys are going after the body. But, it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is, CIA will never give you the best information from ‘Alex Base’ [the CIA’s covert action element targeting bin Laden] or anywhere else. CIA will never provide that to you because if you were successful in your effort to target al-Qaeda, you will steal our thunder. Therefore, we will not support this.” Shaffer claims that for the duration of Able Danger’s existence, “To my knowledge, and my other colleagues’ knowledge, there was no information ever released to us because CIA chose not to participate in Able Danger.” [GOVERNMENT SECURITY NEWS, 9/2005] Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Scott Phillpott, Anthony Shaffer, Able Danger, Central Intelligence Agency Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

December 8, 1999: CIA Concludes that Bin Laden Plans Many Imminent Attacks, Including Some inside US Edit

The CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center concludes in a classified report that bin Laden wants to inflict maximum casualties, cause massive panic, and score a psychological victory. He may be seeking to attack between five and 15 targets on the Millennium. “Because the US is bin Laden’s ultimate goal… we must assume that several of these targets will be in the US.” [TIME, 8/4/2002; US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003] CIA Director George Tenet delivers this warning to President Clinton. Author Steve Coll later comments that Tenet also “grabbed the National Security Council’s attention with that prediction.” [COLL, 2004, PP. 482] The US takes action in a variety of ways (see Early December 1999). It will turn out that bin Laden did plan many attacks to be timed for the millennium celebrations, including ones inside the US, but all failed (see December 31, 1999-January 1, 2000). Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Steve Coll, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Counterterrorist Center, Osama bin Laden Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

December 11, 1999: Watch List Importance Is Stressed but Procedures Are Not Followed The CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center sends a cable reminding all its personnel about various reporting obligations. The cable clearly states that it is important to share information so suspected members of US-designated terrorist groups can be placed on watch lists. The US keeps a number of watch lists; the most important one, TIPOFF, contains about 61,000 names of suspected terrorists by 9/11. [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 9/22/2002; KNIGHT RIDDER, 1/27/2004] The list is checked whenever someone enters or leaves the US “The threshold for adding a name to TIPOFF is low,” and even a “reasonable suspicion” that a person is connected with a US-designated terrorist group warrants being added to the database. [US CONGRESS, 9/20/2002] Within a month, two future hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, will be identified as al-Qaeda operatives (see December 29, 1999), but the cable’s instructions will not be followed for them. The CIA will initially tell the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that no such guidelines existed, and CIA Director Tenet will fail to mention the cable in his testimony to the Inquiry. [NEW YORK TIMES, 5/15/2003; US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003, PP. 157 ] Entity Tags: 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Counterterrorist Center, Central Intelligence Agency, Nawaf Alhazmi, TIPOFF, George J. Tenet, Khalid Almihdhar Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

2000: Al-Qaeda Operative Allegedly Turns Informant for CIA and Other Intelligence Agencies Al-Qaeda operative Luai Sakra apparently begins working as an informant for the CIA, Syrian intelligence, and Turkish intelligence. Sakra, a young Syrian whose parents were Turkish, attended the Khaldan training camp in Afghanistan in 1997. He developed a bond with Abu Zubaida, the al-Qaeda leader who was logistics manager for the camp. Zubaida will later be captured and interrogated by the CIA and will reportedly confirm a link with Sakra. Zubaida tasked Sakra with building up an al-Qaeda network in Turkey. In 1999, the Syrian government began hunting him for his role in a revolt in a Lebanon refugee camp. [DER SPIEGEL (HAMBURG), 8/24/2005] The Turkish newspaper Zaman will report shortly after his capture in 2005, “Sakra has been sought by the secret services since 2000.” The CIA interrogated him twice in 2000. “Following the interrogation, the CIA offered him employment. He also received a large sum of money by the CIA. However the CIA eventually lost contact with him. Following this development, in 2000 the CIA passed intelligence about Sakra through a classified notice to Turkey, calling for the Turkish (intelligence) to capture him. [They] caught Sakra in Turkey and interrogated him.” [ZAMAN, 8/14/2005] Sakra was then apparently let go again. He will then move Germany and assist some of the 9/11 hijackers (see September 2000-July 24, 2001), then reveal details about the 9/11 attacks to Syrian intelligence the day before 9/11 (see September 10, 2001). He also will later claim to have trained some 9/11 hijackers in Turkey starting in late 1999 (see Late 1999-2000). In 2007, former CIA Director George Tenet will write in his book “At the Center of the Storm” that “a source we were jointly running with a Middle Eastern country went to see his foreign handler and basically told him something big was about to go down.” [TENET, 2007, PP. 160] This is very likely a reference to Sakra, since no one else comes close to matching the description of telling a Middle Eastern government about the 9/11 attacks one day in advance, not to mention working as an informant for the CIA at the same time. Tenet’s revelation strongly supports the notion that Sakra in fact accepted the CIA’s offers in 2000 and had been working with the CIA and other intelligence agencies at least through 9/11. Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Luai Sakra, Abu Zubaida, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

January 6-9, 2000: Top CIA and Clinton Cabinet Officials Repeatedly Briefed about Al-Qaeda Summit in Malaysia On January 6, 2000, the CIA station in Malaysia begins passing details from the Malaysian government’s surveillance of the al-Qaeda summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to the CIA Counterterrorist Center (CTC) (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After). Cofer Black, head of the CTC, orders that he be continually informed about the meeting. CIA Director George Tenet is frequently informed as well. They are given continual updates until the meeting ends on January 8. [STERN, 8/13/2003] National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, FBI Director Louis Freeh, and other top officials are briefed, but apparently President Clinton is not. [BAMFORD, 2004, PP. 225-26] However, it appears that the CIA deliberately and repeatedly fails to tell the FBI that one attendee, future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, has an active visa to visit the US (see Mid-July 2004, January 6, 2000, and January 5-6, 2000). No evidence will be presented suggesting anyone else outside the CIA is told this crucial fact either. The Malaysia summit ends on January 8. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 237] Officially, the CIA will later claim to have lost future hijackers Alhazmi and Almihdhar as they left the meeting (see January 8, 2000). However, Almihdhar will later report back to al-Qaeda that he thought he was followed to the US (see Mid-July 2000). It will not be reported whether any of the other attendees are monitored after leaving the meeting. Entity Tags: Sandy Berger, Nawaf Alhazmi, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Khalid Almihdhar, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, Louis J. Freeh, Counterterrorist Center, Cofer Black Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

February 2, 2000: CIA Director Tells Public that Bin Laden Is Planning ‘Further Blows Against America’ CIA Director George Tenet tells a Senate committee in open session that bin Laden “wants to strike further blows against America.” He points out the close links between al-Qaeda and Islamic Jihad and says this is part of an “intricate web of alliances among Sunni extremists worldwide, including North Africans, radical Palestinians, Pakistanis, and Central Asians.” He points out ties between drug traffickers and the Taliban and says, “There is ample evidence that Islamic extremists such as Osama bin Laden use profits from the drug trade to support their terror campaign.” But there is no mention of Pakistan’s support for al-Qaeda and the Taliban, despite CIA knowledge of this (see Autumn 1998). Instead, he claims Iran is “the most active state sponsor” of terrorism. Additionally, he does not mention that bin Laden is capable of planning attacks inside the US, even though he told that to Congress in a closed session six months earlier (see June 24, 1999). [SENATE, 2/2/2000] Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, US Congress, George J. Tenet, Osama bin Laden, Islamic Jihad, Taliban Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Spring 2000: Briefings for CIA Panel Indicate Pakistan Is ‘the US Number One Enemy’ CIA Director George Tenet forms a national security advisory panel that comprises a team of security analysts and is chaired by Admiral David Jeremiah. The panel is, in the words of authors Adrian Levy and Catherine Scott-Clark, “asked to think the unthinkable.” The State Department’s WMD specialist Robert Gallucci is the official responsible for nuclear issues. Galluccci will comment: “It was all sources, all clearances.… I was the nuclear freak and got briefings set up on the nuclear terrorist thing. Every single scenario was extremely scary and entirely believable. There was lots and lots of intelligence. Put it this way, the US number one enemy was looking more and more like Pakistan.” [LEVY AND SCOTT-CLARK, 2007, PP. 293] Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Adm. David E. Jeremiah, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of State, Robert Gallucci Timeline Tags: A. Q. Khan's Nuclear Network

March 2000: US Team Plans to Capture Al-Qaeda Leader in Afghanistan, but Mission Is Aborted

Maj. Brock Gaston. [Source: State Department] CIA official Gary Berntsen and a US Army Special Forces major known as Brock (an apparent reference to Maj. Brock Gaston) lead a six-person team with the mission to enter Afghanistan and capture one of bin Laden’s top aides. The exact target is not specified; the team is expected to take advantage of whatever opportunities present themselves. The team passes through Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, then meets up with Northern Alliance forces in the part of Afghanistan still under their control. But from the very beginning they encounter resistance from a CIA superior officer who is based in a nearby country and is in charge of CIA relations with the Northern Alliance. Known publicly only by his first name Lawrence, he apparently had a minor role in the Iran-Contra affair and has a personal dispute with Gaston. The team stays at Ahmad Shad Massoud’s Northern Alliance headquarters high in the Afghan mountains for about two weeks. However, they never have a chance to cross into Taliban territory for their mission because Lawrence is sending back a stream of negative messages to CIA headquarters about the risks of their mission. A debate ensues back at headquarters. Cofer Black, head of the CIA’s Counter Terrorist Center, and his assistant Hank Crumpton support continuing the mission. But CIA Director George Tenet and his assistant Jim Pavitt cancel the mission on March 25. Upon returning to the US, Berntsen, Gaston, Black, and Crumpton formally call for Lawrence’s dismissal, but to no effect. Berntsen will later comment that Black and Crumpton “had shown a willingness to plan and execute risky missions. But neither CIA Director George Tenet nor President Bill Clinton had the will to wage a real fight against terrorists who were killing US citizens.” [CNN, 12/15/2001; BERNTSEN AND PEZZULLO, 2005, PP. 43-64] Entity Tags: James Pavitt, Brock Gaston, Cofer Black, Gary Berntsen, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, George J. Tenet, Hank Crumpton, Lawrence Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

June 2000: Tenet Visits Pakistan, Complains about Islamic Charities’ Ties to Bin Laden CIA Director George Tenet makes a secret trip to Pakistan to complain about funds being moved through Islamic charities to al-Qaeda. This is part of an effort coordinated by the National Security Council to cut off the vast sums of money that intelligence officials believe flow to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network through Islamic charities and wealthy donors from across the Middle East. The US campaign prompts the Pakistani government in early 2001 to make some efforts to ban raising funds explicitly designated for holy war. Former US officials will later claim the trip is part of a larger effort to disrupt bin Laden’s financial network following the 1998 US embassy bombings. [WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/1/2001] Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, National Security Council, Al-Qaeda, Pakistan Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

September 7-October 2000: Predator Flights over Afghanistan Are Initiated Then Halted

The first Predator flight over Afghanistan on September 7, 2000 captures bin Laden circled by security in his Tarnak Farms complex. [Source: CBC] An unmanned spy plane called the Predator begins flying over Afghanistan, showing incomparably detailed real-time video and photographs of the movements of what appears to be bin Laden and his aides. It flies successfully over Afghanistan 16 times. [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004] President Clinton is impressed by a two-minute video of bin Laden crossing a street heading toward a mosque inside his Tarnak Farms complex. Bin Laden is surrounded by a team of a dozen armed men creating a professional forward security perimeter as he moves. The Predator has been used since 1996, in the Balkans and Iraq. One Predator crashes on takeoff and another is chased by a fighter, but it apparently identifies bin Laden on three occasions. Its use is stopped in Afghanistan after a few trials, mostly because seasonal winds are picking up. It is agreed to resume the flights in the spring, but the Predator fails to fly over Afghanistan again until after 9/11. [WASHINGTON POST, 12/19/2001; CLARKE, 2004, PP. 220-21] On September 15, 2001, CIA Director Tenet apparently inaccurately tells President Bush, “The unmanned Predator surveillance aircraft that was now armed with Hellfire missiles had been operating for more than a year out of Uzbekistan to provide real-time video of Afghanistan.” [WASHINGTON POST, 1/29/2002] Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

After October 12, 2000: Clinton Administration Sets High Threshold for Response to Cole Bombing Following the attack on the USS Cole in Yemen (see October 12, 2000), the Clinton administration discusses what standard of evidence it needs to launch a counter-strike against al-Qaeda, which it suspects of the bombing. Following the bombing of the US embassies in East Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), the administration fired a number of cruise missiles at suspected al-Qaeda targets (see August 20, 1998). However, the administration decides it must have evidence that bin Laden and al-Qaeda’s leadership has authority, direction, and control of the attack before initiating a response. CIA Director George Tenet will comment: “This is a high threshold to cross.” Tenet will also say that this threshold was not set by the CIA, but by “policy makers.” [TENET, 2007, PP. 128] Although the bombing is tied to three known leading al-Qaeda operatives, Khallad bin Attash (see November 11, 2000), Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri (see November-December 2000), and Ahmed al-Hada (see November 2000 or After), early on in the investigation, no counterstrike is initiated (see Shortly After October 12, 2000 and Late October 2000). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will express his frustration with the inaction: “[I]n Washington neither CIA nor FBI would state the obvious: al-Qaeda did it. We knew there was a large al-Qaeda cell in Yemen There was also a large cell of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, but that group had now announced its complete merger into al-Qaeda, so what difference did it make which group did the attack? [Counterterrorism staff] had worked around the clock piecing together the evidence and had made a very credible case against al-Qaeda. CIA would agree only months later.” [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 223] The authors of the 2002 book The Cell will later write: “The links to bin Laden were everywhere. Each of the suspects being held in Yemen had admitted training in the Afghan camps run by bin Laden… neither the FBI nor the CIA was ever able to tell the president that they had direct proof that the Cole was a bin Laden-ordered job, though now, in retrospect, it seems terribly obvious. In any case, even if there had been compelling proof that bin Laden was behind the Cole bombing, there was little chance that the Clinton administration would have launched an attack on any Islamic country while he was trying to get the Israelis and Palestinians to the peace table.” [MILLER, STONE, AND MITCHELL, 2002, PP. 238] Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Richard A. Clarke, Clinton administration Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Shortly After October 12, 2000: US Decides Against Immediate Counterstrike on Al-Qaeda after Cole Bombing

Michael Sheehan. [Source: Center on Law and Security] In the wake of the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), Clinton administration officials hold a high level meeting to discuss what the US response should be. The meeting attendees include: Counterterrorism “Tsar” Richard Clarke, Defense Secretary William Cohen, CIA Director George Tenet, Attorney General Janet Reno, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Deputy National Security Adviser Jim Steinberg, and State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism Michael Sheehan.

Clarke suggests that al-Qaeda was behind the attacks. There is no hard evidence of this yet but he argues that the attack matches their profile and capabilities. He presents a detailed plan, which he’d been working on before the bombing, to level all the al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan as well as key Taliban buildings in such towns as Kandahar and Kabul. 
Reno argues there’s no clear evidence yet who was behind the bombing. If there is such evidence, any US actions should not be for retaliation but only for self-protection against future attacks. 
Tenet says that he suspects al-Qaeda is behind the bombing but also wants to wait until an investigation determines that before acting. 
Cohen is against any counterattack. Clarke will later recall Cohen saying at the meeting that the Cole bombing “was not sufficient provocation.” Sheehan will later say that the “entire Pentagon” was generally against a counterattack. 
Albright is against a counterattack for diplomatic reasons. The Clinton administration is involved in trying to create a peace settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians and bombing Afghanistan could ruin such talks. 

Many also argue that if Afghanistan is attacked and bin Laden is not killed, he could emerge a greater hero in the Muslim world, just as he did after a 1998 US missile strike (see Late 1998). Clarke argues that the continual creation of new trained militants in Afghanistan needs to stop, and if bin Laden is killed, that would merely be a “bonus.” At the end of the meeting, the highest-ranking officials cast votes, and seven vote against Clarke’s counterstrike plan, while only Clarke votes in favor of it. After the meeting, Sheehan will meet with Clarke and express frustration with the outcome, saying, “What’s it going to take to get them to hit al-Qaeda in Afghanistan? Does al-Qaeda have to hit the Pentagon?” [MINITER, 2003, PP. 222-227] Entity Tags: William S. Cohen, Richard A. Clarke, Osama bin Laden, Madeleine Albright, Al-Qaeda, Michael Sheehan, George J. Tenet, Jim Steinberg, Janet Reno, Taliban Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Late October 2000: Clinton Considers Missile Attack on Bin Laden Shortly after the USS Cole bombing (see October 12, 2000), the US supposedly obtains intelligence that prompts President Clinton to consider another missile strike on bin Laden. The US presidential election is in early November. Author Lawrence Wright will later write, “Clinton maintains that, despite the awkward political timing, his administration came close to launching another missile attack… but at the last minute the CIA recommended calling it off because [bin Laden’s] presence at the site was not completely certain.” [WRIGHT, 2006, PP. 244] Additionally, the tie between the Cole bombing and al-Qaeda had not yet been confirmed. The first strong evidence of such a tie will come in late November 2000 when details of an al-Qaeda operative’s confession are given to the FBI (see Late October-Late November 2000). The 9/11 Commission will make no mention of any planned strikes around this time in their final report while discussing the missed opportunities to strike at bin Laden. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 237] However, the Washington Post will detail the opportunity, saying the target was a “stone compound, built around a central courtyard full of al-Qaeda operatives.” But the strike is canceled when CIA Director George Tenet calls National Security Adviser Sandy Berger and says about the quality of intelligence, “We just don’t have it.” [WASHINGTON POST, 12/19/2001] Ironically, it appears bin Laden was actually hoping to be attacked, anticipating that it would boost his reputation in the Muslim world. In the summer of 2001, the NSA will monitor two al-Qaeda operatives discussing how disappointed they are that the US did not retaliate after the Cole bombing (see June 30-July 1, 2001). Entity Tags: Sandy Berger, Osama bin Laden, Clinton administration, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Late 2000-September 10, 2001: US Intelligence Makes No Strategic Assessment about Islamic Militant Threat The US intelligence community considers creating a strategic analysis about terrorism, but none is done before 9/11. The last National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on terrorism was released in 1997 (see 1997). The 9/11 Commission will later say that assessments such as NIEs can “provoke widespread thought and debate [and ] have a major impact on their recipients, often in a wider circle of decision makers.” By late 2000, CIA Director George Tenet recognizes the lack of any recent strategic analysis about al-Qaeda or Islamic militancy in general. He appoints a senior manager, who briefs him in March 2001 about “creating a strategic assessment capability.” The CIA’s Counterterrorist Center (CTC) establishes a new strategic assessments branch in July 2001 and about ten analysts are slated to work for it. But it takes time to hire the new staff and the first head of this branch reports for work just one day before 9/11. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 342-343] Not only is there no NIE or any other sweeping strategic assessment on al-Qaeda between 1997 and 9/11, but one still will not be completed five years after 9/11. Apparently the US military opposes such an assessment for fear it would reduce the military’s role in counterterrorism efforts (see September 12, 2006). Entity Tags: Counterterrorist Center, US intelligence, George J. Tenet, Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

December 2000: Incoming Bush Administration Briefed on Terrorism Threat; Apparently Ignores Recommendations CIA Director Tenet and other top CIA officials brief President-elect Bush, Vice President-elect Cheney, future National Security Adviser Rice, and other incoming national security officials on al-Qaeda and covert action programs in Afghanistan. Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt recalls conveying that bin Laden is one of the gravest threats to the country. Bush asks whether killing bin Laden would end the problem. Pavitt says he answers that killing bin Laden would have an impact but not stop the threat. The CIA recommends the most important action to combat al-Qaeda is to arm the Predator drone and use it over Afghanistan. [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004; REUTERS, 3/24/2004] However, while the drone is soon armed, Bush never gives the order to use it in Afghanistan until after 9/11 (see September 4, 2001). Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Central Intelligence Agency, George W. Bush, Condoleezza Rice, Al-Qaeda, James Pavitt, Osama bin Laden Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

December 18, 2000: CIA Director Warns Clinton of Increased Risk that Al-Qaeda Could Attack in Coming Weeks In a memo to President Clinton that is also widely distributed in the US intelligence community, CIA Director George Tenet warns: “The next several weeks will bring an increased risk of attacks on our country’s interests from one or more Middle Eastern terrorist groups… The volume of credible threat reporting has grown significantly in the past few months, particularly concerning plans by Osama bin Laden’s organization for new attacks in Europe and the Middle East.… Our most credible information on bin Laden activity suggests his organization is looking at US facilities in the Middle East, especially the Arabian peninsula, in Turkey and Western Europe. Bin Laden’s network is global however and capable of attacks in other regions, including the United States.” [TENET, 2007, PP. 128-129] Just one day later, Clinton will brief incoming President Bush on the al-Qaeda threat (see December 19, 2000). Entity Tags: George J. Tenet, Osama bin Laden, US intelligence, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Central Intelligence Agency Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

December 29, 2000: CIA Develops ‘Blue Sky’ Plan to Increase Support to Massoud, Strike Bin Laden National Security Adviser Sandy Berger asks CIA Director how he would go after al-Qaeda if he were unconstrained by resources and policies. He assigns Cofer Black and the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center to develops a plan for the incoming Bush administration. It is dubbed the “Blue Sky Memo.” The CIA presents it to counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke on December 29, 2000. It recommends increased support to anti-Taliban groups and especially a major effort to back Ahmed Shah Massoud’s Northern Alliance, to tie down al-Qaeda personnel before they leave Afghanistan. No action is taken on it in the last few weeks of the Clinton administration; and the new Bush administration does not appear interested in it either. [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004; TENET, 2007, PP. 130-131] The National Security Council counterterrorism staff also prepares a strategy paper, incorporating ideas from the Blue Sky Memo. [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004] Entity Tags: Sandy Berger, Richard A. Clarke, Cofer Black, George J. Tenet, Osama bin Laden, Bush administration, Al-Qaeda, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Clinton administration, Counterterrorist Center, Northern Alliance, National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Late December 2000: Sexual Liaisons Cost Wolfowitz Post as Director of CIA

Shaha Ali Riza. [Source: World Bank] With Donald Rumsfeld in as Defense Secretary (see December 28, 2000), Vice President Cheney is moving closer to getting a team in place that will allow him to fulfill his dream of the “unitary executive”—the gathering of power into the executive branch at the expense of the legislative and judicial branches. One key piece to Cheney’s plan is to place neoconservative academic Paul Wolfowitz as the head of the CIA. However, Wolfowitz’s personal life is proving troublesome for Cheney’s plans. Wolfowitz’s marriage is crumbling. His wife of over 30 years, Clare, is threatening to go public with her husband’s infidelities. Wolfowitz is having one affair with a staffer at the School of International Studies, and is openly romancing another woman, Shaha Ali Riza, a secular Muslim neoconservative with close ties to Iraqi oppositions groups, including Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress. Smitten with the idea of a secular Muslim and a secular Jew forming a romantc liaison, Wolfowitz frequently escorts Riza, and not his wife, to neoconservative social events. Many insiders joke about Wolfowitz’s “neoconcubine.” His dalliances, particularly with a Muslim foreign national, raise questions about his ability to obtain the necessary national security clearance he will need to head the CIA. Cheney does not intend to allow questions of security clearances or wronged and vengeful wives to stop him from placing Wolfowitz at the head of the agency, but this time he does not succeed. After Clare Wolfowitz writes a letter to President-elect Bush detailing her husband’s sexual infidelities and possible security vulnerabilities, Wolfowitz is quietly dropped from consideration for the post. Current CIA Director George Tenet, after reassuring Bush that he can work with the new regime, is allowed to keep his position. Author Craig Unger later writes, “If Cheney and the neocons were to have control over the national security apparatus, it would not come from the CIA.” [UNGER, 2007, PP. 187-189] Entity Tags: Iraqi National Congress, Clare Wolfowitz, Craig Unger, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, Shaha Ali Riza, George W. Bush, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: Civil Liberties, Neoconservative Influence


Main article: George Tenet:2001

Post 2001Edit

Main article: George Tenet:Post-2001 Timeline

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