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March 2002: Bush Official Says 9/11 Is Important Because It Lowers Public Resistance to US Military Adventures Edit

An anonymous senior Bush administration official says, as The New Yorker paraphrases it, “Inside government, the reason September 11th appears to have been ‘a transformative moment,’… is not so much that it revealed the existence of a threat of which officials had previously been unaware as that it drastically reduced the American public’s usual resistance to American military involvement overseas, at least for a while.”[1] [NEW YORKER, 4/1/2002]


March 2002: First Secret CIA Prison Built in Thailand Edit

ABC News will later report that the first CIA secret prison is established in Thailand at this time to house Abu Zubaida, the first important al-Qaeda target who is captured at this time [see 1]. George W. Bush had recently authorized the creation of CIA prisons [see 2]. After being captured in Pakistan and treated for gunshot wounds, Zubaida is flown to Thailand around the middle of April 2002 and housed in a small warehouse inside a US military base. He is waterboarded and interrogated [see 3]. Later other secret prisons will open in other countries, such as Poland and Romania. [2][ABC NEWS, 12/5/2005] This prison in Thailand apparently will close some time in 2003. [3][WASHINGTON POST, 11/2/2005] Some reports place the secret prison at the Voice of America relay station near the north-eastern Thai city of Udon Thani close to the border of Laos, but this is unconfirmed. [4][SYDNEY MORNING HERALD, 11/5/2005]


March 2002: Padilla Begins Planning Attacks on US High-Rise Buildings Edit

An al-Qaeda operations leader gives American al-Qaeda member Jose Padilla [see 4] an assignment: target high-rise buildings in the US that use natural gas. Padilla and al-Qaeda leaders consider buildings in Florida, Washington, DC, and New York City as potential targets. Though al-Qaeda leaders consider Padilla an incompetent [see 5], they give him $15,000 to begin putting together a plan. [5][ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/2004] Instead, Padilla will be captured by FBI agents as he comes into Chicago[see 6].

March 2002: US Military Pulls Elite Special Operations Group from Afghanistan and Redeploys Them to Iraq Edit

Fifth Group Special Forces—an elite group whose members speak Arabic, Pashtun, and Dari—is pulled from its mission in Afghanistan and sent to Iraq where the group is assigned the task of locating Saddam Hussein. Members of Fifth Group, who spent six months developing a network of local sources and alliances and who believe they were close to finding Osama bin Laden, are upset with the orders. “We were going nuts on the ground about that decision,” one of them will later recall. [GUARDIAN, 3/26/2004] They are replaced by the Seventh Group Special Forces, who are Spanish speakers experienced mostly in Latin America. They have no local rapport or knowledge. [GUARDIAN, 3/26/2004; NEWSWEEK, 8/28/2007] They are also replaced by the Third Group Special Forces, which is trained to operate in sub-Saharan Africa. They speak French and various African languages. [MSNBC, 7/29/2003] CIA official Gary Schroen will later comment, “Well, you could see changes being made in the US military staffing in Afghanistan, that the Green Beret units, the Fifth Special Forces group, for the most of it, were being pulled out to refit and get ready for Iraq. And it was clear that the kind of guys that I think a lot of us believed were essential US military personnel with special operations capabilities were being pulled away.” [PBS FRONTLINE, 6/20/2006] Entity Tags: Fifth Group Special Forces, Gary C. Schroen Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion, War in Afghanistan Category Tags: Iraq War Impact on Counterterrorism, Afghanistan

March 2002: Cheney Says Decision Has Been Made to Invade Iraq Vice President Dick Cheney drops by a Senate Republican policy lunch and instructs everyone that what he is about to say should not be repeated to anyone. He then explains that the question is no longer if the US will attack Iraq, but when. Time magazine reports this in May 2002. [TIME, 5/5/2002] Entity Tags: Richard (“Dick”) Cheney Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion Category Tags: Alleged Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links, Iraq War Impact on Counterterrorism

March 2002: Treasure Trove of Al-Qaeda Documents Found in Bosnia Raid of US Charity In March 2002, the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF) office in Sarajevo, Bosnia, is raided by US and Bosnian agents and a “treasure trove” of documents are found. One document found is the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda funders (see 1988-1989). Enaam Arnaout is living in the US as head of BIF, but the Sarajevo investigators discover letters between him and bin Laden, including a handwritten note by bin Laden authorizing Arnaout to sign documents on his behalf. Arnaout prepares to flee the US, but is arrested. On November 19, 2002, the US declares BIF a terrorist financier and its Chicago office is closed down. In February 2003, Arnaout pleas guilty to working with al-Qaeda, but US prosecutors agree to drop the charges against him in return for information. [BURR AND COLLINS, 2006, PP. 46-47] Entity Tags: Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Adel Abdul Jalil Batterjee, Benevolence International Foundation, Enaam Arnaout Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Balkans, Terrorism Financing, BIF

March-May 2002: Empty Fuel Tanks in WTC 7 Wreckage Suggest Fuel May Have Contributed to Fire on 9/11 World Trade Center Building 7, which collapsed late in the afternoon of 9/11, had contained two independently supplied and operated fuel systems for emergency power. The fuel had been in several storage tanks low down in the building. In March and April, two 11,700-gallon tanks that had been located under the building’s first floor loading dock and operated by Silverstein Properties are removed from the collapse site. They show no evidence of fuel leakage. FEMA says that approximately 20,000 gallons of fuel are subsequently recovered from them, which is about 85 percent of their total capacity. In early May, two 6,000-gallon tanks that had been owned by Salomon Smith Barney and were also located below the loading dock are recovered. These were always kept full for emergencies and would have been full on 9/11. Yet now they are damaged and appear to be empty. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), “Some fuel contamination was found in the gravel below the tanks and sand below the slab on which the tanks were mounted, but no contamination was found in the organic marine silt/clay layer underneath.” Shyam Sunder, lead investigator of NIST’s WTC investigation, will state that this “suggests that this fuel… could have been consumed in the building.” This finding “allows for the possibility, though not conclusively, that the fuel may have contributed to a fire on Floor 5” of WTC 7. [FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY, 5/1/2002, PP. 5-15; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 6/6/2002; NEWSDAY, 6/6/2002; NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 4/5/2005 ; NEW YORK CITY COUNCIL, 9/8/2006 ] Some people have speculated that the diesel fuel stored in WTC 7 may have played a role in its collapse (see March 2, 2002). However, FEMA says, “Although the total diesel fuel on the premises contained massive potential energy, the best hypothesis has only a low probability of occurrence.” WTC 7 housed another 6,000-gallon tank between its second and third floors, which was meant to fuel generators that would supply backup power to the mayor’s 23rd-floor emergency command center (see June 8, 1999). Currently, no data are available on the condition of this tank. [FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY, 5/1/2002, PP. 5-16 AND 5-31] Entity Tags: World Trade Center Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: WTC Investigation

March-April 2002: Some Report Possible 9/11 Hijacker Link to Anthrax Attacks, Despite Thin Evidence In June 2001, Ahmed Alhaznawi visited the emergency room of Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, and was treated for a skin lesion. He was accompanied by Ziad Jarrah. In October 2001, after a series of mysterious anthrax attacks in the US became front-page news (see October 5-November 21, 2001), the treating doctor told the FBI he recognized the two hijackers and thought the wound was consistent with cutaneous anthrax exposure. However, the FBI discounted the possibility that the anthrax attacks originated with the hijackers or al-Qaeda. In March 2002, the New York Times reports that FBI spokesman John Collingwood “said the possibility of a connection between the hijackers and the anthrax attacks had been deeply explored. ‘This was fully investigated and widely vetted among multiple agencies several months ago… Exhaustive testing did not support that anthrax was present anywhere the hijackers had been.’” [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/23/2002] The FBI is criticized by the neoconservative Weekly Standard for focusing its investigation on a possible domestic perpetrator rather that Iraq or al-Qaeda: “Based on the publicly available evidence, there appears to be no convincing rationale for the FBI’s nearly exclusive concentration on American suspects. And the possibility is far from foreclosed that the anthrax bioterrorist was just who he said he was: a Muslim, impliedly from overseas.” [WEEKLY STANDARD, 4/29/2002] In March 2002 it is also reported that US forces in Afghanistan have discovered installations that could have been used by al-Qaeda to produce biological weapons. “US forces recently discovered a site near the southern Afghan city of Kandahar that appeared to be an al-Qaeda biological weapons lab under construction. At the lab, ‘there was evidence of the attempt, by bin Laden, to get his hands on weapons of mass destruction, anthrax, or a variety of others,’ Gen. Tommy Franks, head of the US Central Command, said… in an interview.” [CBS NEWS, 3/23/2002] However, little new evidence will subsequently come out suggesting al-Qaeda was behind the October 2001 anthrax attacks. Entity Tags: Ahmed Alhaznawi Timeline Tags: 2001 Anthrax Attacks Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

March 2002-September 2004: Saudi Government Charity Slowly Shut Down for Suspected Militant Links

A sign on top of the Al Haramains Islamic Foundation’s four-story office building in Dhaka, Bangladesh, in June 2004. [Source: Rafiqur Rahman / Reuters / Corbis] The Al Haramain Islamic Foundation was founded in 1988 as a branch of the Muslim World League charity, and just like the Muslim World League it is closely linked to the Saudi government. It develops branches in about 50 countries, including a US branch based in Oregon. It has an annual budget of $40 million to $60 million, paid by the Saudi government, and about 3,000 employees. It gives considerable aid to religious causes such as building mosques. But by the early 1990s evidence began to grow that it was funding Islamist militants in Somalia and Bosnia, and a 1996 CIA report detailed its Bosnian militant ties (see January 1996). In 1998, several links were discovered between the charity and the African embassy bombings that year (see Autumn 1997 and 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998).

In March 2002, the US and Saudi governments jointly announce the closing of Al Haramain’s branches in Somalia and Bosnia, but Al Haramain defiantly keeps its Bosnian branch open and it is shut down again after police raids in December 2003. [WASHINGTON POST, 8/19/2004; BURR AND COLLINS, 2006, PP. 38-41] In December 2002, it is reported that the Somali branch is still open as well. [CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR, 12/18/2002] 
In late 2002, Al Haramain is linked to the October 2002 Bali bombing and al-Qaeda operations in Southeast Asia in general (see September-October 2002). 
In May 2003, Al Haramain announces the closing of its branches in Albania, Croatia, and Ethiopia, soon followed by branches in Kenya, Tanzania, Pakistan, and Indonesia. But this is because of pressure due to suspected militant links, and at least the Indonesian branch secretly changes locations and stays open. [BURR AND COLLINS, 2006, PP. 38-41] 
In late 2003, Al Haramain Director-General Aqeel al-Aqeel indiscreetly mentions that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah recently donated money to his charity. Al-Aqeel, Deputy General Mansour al-Kadi, and two other senior officials are fired from the charity by the Saudi minister of religious affairs in January 2004. Interestingly, the Saudi minister is also the chairman of Al-Haramain’s board. In 1997, US intelligence found al-Kadi’s business card in the possession of Wadih el-Hage, Osama bin Laden’s former personal secretary (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). [NETHERLANDS INTERIOR MINISTRY, 1/6/2005 ; BURR AND COLLINS, 2006, PP. 38-41] 
In February 2004, the US Treasury Department freezes the organization’s US financial assets pending an investigation. 
In June 2004, The charity is disbanded by the Saudi Arabian government and folded into an “umbrella” private Saudi charitable organization, the Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad. 
In September 2004, the US designates Al-Haramain a terrorist organization, citing ties to al-Qaeda. [US TREASURY DEPARTMENT, 9/9/2004; WASHINGTON POST, 3/2/2006] The United Nations also bans the organization, saying it has ties to the Taliban. [UNITED NATIONS, 7/27/2007]

Entity Tags: United Nations, US Department of the Treasury, Saudi National Commission for Relief and Charity Work Abroad, Muslim World League, Al-Qaeda, Aqeel al-Aqeel, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation, Al Haramain Islamic Foundation (Oregon branch), Taliban, Mansour al-Kadi Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia, Saudi Arabia, Terrorism Financing

Early March 2002: Two FBI Agents Prevented from Discussing Unclassified Information with Reporter Edit

FBI agents John Vincent (left), and Robert Wright (right) appear on ABC News. [Source: ABC News] In early March 2002, New York Times reporter Judith Miller hears that FBI agent Robert Wright is complaining about the FBI’s mishandling of the Vulgar Betrayal investigation. Miller submits a list of written questions to Wright about his allegations. She also submits a similar list to FBI agent John Vincent, who also worked on Vulgar Betrayal and shares many of Wright’s views. Wright and Vincent quickly reply, but the FBI does not allow Miller to read their answers. Meanwhile, Miller contacts some other FBI officials to hear their side of the issue. She is allowed to speak to them. Because Miller is unable to hear from Wright or Vincent, she decides not to write the story. In December 2002, the Justice Department will hear an appeal from Wright and rule that no classified information was contained in the answers to Miller’s questions. But as of the end of 2005, all of Wright and Vincent’s answers still have not been released by the FBI. [ROBERT G. WRIGHT, JR., V. FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION, 5/16/2005] Entity Tags: John Vincent, Judith Miller, US Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Wright Category Tags: Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal, Terrorism Financing

Early March 2002: Bush Diverts Resources from War on Terror According to a former White House official interviewed by Seymour Hersh during the fall of 2003, Bush makes the decision to invade Iraq at this time and begins diverting resources away from the “war on terrorism” to the planned invasion of Iraq. “The Bush administration took many intelligence operations that had been aimed at al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups around the world and redirected them to the Persian Gulf. Linguists and special operatives were abruptly reassigned, and several ongoing anti-terrorism intelligence programs were curtailed.” [NEW YORKER, 10/27/2003 SOURCES: UNNAMED FORMER WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL] Entity Tags: George W. Bush Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion Category Tags: Iraq War Impact on Counterterrorism

(Show related quotes) Early March 2002: French Author Claims Plane Crash into Pentagon Was Staged

Thierry Meyssan. [Source: Public domain] The book l’Effroyable Imposture (The Horrifying Fraud) is published in France. The book claims that Flight 77 did not crash into the Pentagon on 9/11. It is written by Thierry Meyssan, “president of the Voltaire Network, a respected independent think tank whose left-leaning research projects have until now been considered models of reasonableness and objectivity.” [GUARDIAN, 4/1/2002] The book is widely denounced by the media (See, for example, [AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 3/21/2002; LONDON TIMES, 5/19/2002; NATIONAL POST, 8/31/2002; BALTIMORE SUN, 9/12/2002] ). One reporter heavily criticizes the book even while admitting never to have read it. [LA WEEKLY, 7/19/2002] In France, however, the book sets a publishing record for first-month sales. [TIME (EUROPE), 5/20/2002] One of Meyssan’s theories is that people within the US government wanted to hit the Pentagon for its propaganda effect, but did not want to create a lot of damage or kill important people like Defense Secretary Rumsfeld. He notes that the plane hit the one section under construction, thus greatly reducing the loss of life. [AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 3/21/2002; LONDON TIMES, 5/19/2002] Furthermore, the wall at point of impact was the first and only one to be reinforced and have blast-resistant windows installed as part of an upgrade plan. [NFPA JOURNAL, 11/1/2001] Entity Tags: Thierry Meyssan, Donald Rumsfeld, Pentagon Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: US Government and 9/11 Criticism

March 1, 2002: ISI Maintains Huge Drug Economy Vanity Fair suggests the ISI is still deeply involved in the drug trade in Central Asia. It estimates that Pakistan has a parallel drug economy worth $15 billion a year. Pakistan’s official economy is worth about $60 billion. The article notes that the US has not tied its billions of dollars in aid to Pakistan to assurances that Pakistan will stop its involvement in drugs. [VANITY FAIR, 3/1/2002] Entity Tags: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, United States Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Drugs

March 2, 2002: Macedonian Police Stage the Murder of Seven Men, Falsely Claim They Were Islamist Militants Planning an Attack

Victims of the “Rastanski Lozja” action [Source: New York Times] Seven men are gunned down by Macedonian police near the country’s capital, Skopje. Authorities initially claim they were jihadists who took on the police in a gun battle. In an early report, “Interior Minister Ljube Boskovski said the dead men were ‘probably Pakistanis’ and had been planning attacks on vital installations and embassies.” [BBC, 3/2/2002] However, doubts quickly develop about the official story. The BBC reports, “Sources inside the government have briefed journalists saying they believe that the group were illegal immigrants attempting to cross Macedonia on the well trodden path into Europe.” [BBC, 3/20/2002] The full truth will emerge in April 2004 after a new government launches an investigation: it is revealed that the men, six from Pakistan and one from India, were innocent illegal immigrants who were lured over from Bulgaria, housed in Skopje for several days, and then shot in the middle of the night in an isolated spot. The conspiracy, which has become known as the “Rastanski Lozja” action, involved Boskovski and other politicians, as well as members of a special police unit. Their motive for the plot was to gain US support, in particular against rebellious ethnic Albanians. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 4/30/2004; BBC, 4/30/2004] According to the New York Times, “In late 2001, after a six-month guerrilla war with ethnic Albanian rebels, relations between Macedonia’s nationalist government and the outside world were at a low ebb. Diplomats, government officials and investigators here have suggested that the government hoped to use the post-Sept. 11 campaign against terror to give the government a free hand in its conflict with the mostly Muslim ethnic Albanians.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 5/17/2004] Entity Tags: Ljube Boskovski Timeline Tags: Alleged Use of False Flag Attacks, Kosovar Albanian Struggle Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Balkans, Counterterrorism Action After 9/11

March 2, 2002: Diesel Tanks May Have Destroyed Building and Secret Files on 9/11 A New York Times article theorizes that diesel fuel tanks were responsible for the collapse of Building 7 of the WTC. It collapsed at 5:20 p.m. on 9/11, even though it was farther away from the Twin Towers than many other buildings that remained standing (see (5:20 p.m.) September 11, 2001). It was the first time a steel-reinforced high-rise in the US had ever collapsed in a fire. One of the fuel tanks had been installed in 1999 (see June 8, 1999) as part of a new “Command Center” for Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/2/2002; DOW JONES BUSINESS NEWS, 9/10/2002] However, in interviews, several Fire Department officers who were on the scene say they were not aware of any combustible liquid pool fires in WTC 7. [FIRE ENGINEERING, 9/2002] And, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), between 11:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. on 9/11, “No diesel smells [were] reported from the exterior, stairwells, or lobby areas” of WTC 7. [NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF STANDARDS AND TECHNOLOGY, 6/2004, PP. L-22 ] Curiously, given all the Wall Street scandals later in the year, Building 7 housed the SEC files related to numerous Wall Street investigations, as well as other federal investigative files. All the files for approximately 3,000 to 4,000 SEC cases were destroyed. Some were backed up in other places, but many were not, especially those classified as confidential. [NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL, 9/17/2001] Lost files include documents that could show the relationship between Citigroup and the WorldCom bankruptcy. [STREET, 8/9/2002] The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission estimates over 10,000 cases will be affected. [NEW YORK LAW JOURNAL, 9/14/2001] The Secret Service had its largest field office, with more than 200 employees, in WTC 7 and also lost investigative files. Says one agent: “All the evidence that we stored at 7 World Trade, in all our cases, went down with the building.” [TECH TV, 7/23/2002] The IRS and Department of Defense were also tenants, along with the CIA, which, it has been revealed, had a secret office in Building 7. [CNN, 11/4/2001; NEW YORK TIMES, 11/4/2001; FEDERAL EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY, 5/1/2002, PP. 5-2; NEW YORK MAGAZINE, 3/20/2006] A few days later, the head of the WTC collapse investigation says he “would possibly consider examining” the collapse of Building 7, but by this time all the rubble has already been removed and destroyed. [US CONGRESS, 3/6/2002] Entity Tags: Larry Silverstein, Citibank, Internal Revenue Service, US Securities and Exchange Commission, Central Intelligence Agency, Secret Service, WorldCom, World Trade Center, US Department of Defense Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: WTC Investigation

March 2-13, 2002: Taliban and Al-Qaeda Forces Evade Encirclement Again Edit

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

March 3, 2002: Powell Denies ISI Links to Daniel Pearl Murder Secretary of State Powell rules out any links between “elements of the ISI” and the murderers of reporter Daniel Pearl. [DAWN (KARACHI), 3/3/2002] The Guardian later calls Powell’s comment “shocking,” given the overwhelming evidence that the main suspect, Saeed Sheikh, worked for the ISI. [GUARDIAN, 4/5/2002] Defense Secretary Rumsfeld called Saeed a possible “asset” for the ISI only a week earlier. [LONDON TIMES, 2/25/2002] The Washington Post says, “The [ISI] is a house of horrors waiting to break open. Saeed has tales to tell.” [WASHINGTON POST, 3/28/2002] The Guardian says Saeed “is widely believed in Pakistan to be an experienced ISI ‘asset.’” [GUARDIAN, 4/5/2002] Entity Tags: Colin Powell, Saeed Sheikh, Donald Rumsfeld, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Daniel Pearl Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Saeed Sheikh

March 5, 2002: Israeli Spies Reportedly Tracked 9/11 Hijackers It is reported that many spies in the uncovered Israeli spy ring seemed to have been trailing the 9/11 hijackers. At the very least, they were in close proximity. For instance, five Israeli spies are intercepted in the tiny town of Hollywood, Florida, and four 9/11 hijackers are known to have spent time in Hollywood, Florida. [LE MONDE (PARIS), 3/5/2002; REUTERS, 3/5/2002; JANE'S INTELLIGENCE DIGEST, 3/15/2002] In one case, some Israeli spies lived at 4220 Sheridan Street, only a few hundred feet from where Mohamed Atta was living at 3389 Sheridan Street. Israeli spies appear to have been close to at least ten of the 19 9/11 hijackers. [SALON, 5/7/2002] Entity Tags: Israel Institute for Intelligence and Special Tasks (Mossad), Mohamed Atta Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Israel

March 6, 2002: House Committee on Science Holds Hearing on WTC Collapses Investigation 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, Rep. Joseph Crowley (D) 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, “we are staffing the BPAT with part-time engineers and scientists on a shoestring budget.” [US CONGRESS, 3/6/2002; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 3/7/2002] Entity Tags: Glenn Corbett, Joseph Crowley, House Committee on Science, World Trade Center Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: WTC Investigation

March 6, 2002: US Officials Deny and Media Downplay Existence of Israeli Spy Ring A Washington Post article, relying on US officials, denies the existence of any Israeli spy ring. A “wide array of US officials” supposedly deny it, and Justice Department spokeswoman Susan Dryden says: “This seems to be an urban myth that has been circulating for months. The department has no information at this time to substantiate these widespread reports about Israeli art students involved in espionage.” [WASHINGTON POST, 3/6/2002] The New York Times fails to cover the story at all, even months later. [SALON, 5/7/2002] By mid-March, Jane’s Intelligence Digest, the respected British intelligence and military analysis service, notes: “It is rather strange that the US media seems to be ignoring what may well be the most explosive story since the 11 September attacks—the alleged breakup of a major Israeli espionage operation in the USA.” [JANE'S INTELLIGENCE DIGEST, 3/15/2002] Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Susan Dryden, “Israeli art students” Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Israel, Media

March 7, 2002: Plane Crashing into Pentagon Is Shown in Photos

The Pentagon “video.” These are the first two of five stills of the Pentagon impact. The first one is labeled “plane,” which appears to be the black object above the post on the far right. The second one is labeled ”œimpact.” The three other stills depict a growing fireball. [Source: Public domain] (click image to enlarge) A series of photos surface purporting to show a plane crashing into the Pentagon on 9/11. It is not clear who released the photos, but the Pentagon asserts that they are authentic, and were taken by a Pentagon security camera. The release of these pictures comes within days of the publication of the book l’Effroyable Imposture that disputes the claim that Flight 77 hit the Pentagon (see Early March 2002). “Officials could not immediately explain why the date typed near the bottom of each photograph is September 12 and the time is written as 5:37 p.m.,” the book notes. [US DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE, 9/11/2001; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 3/8/2002; FOX NEWS, 3/8/2002] The whole video, together with another also taken by a Pentagon security camera, will be released in 2006 (see May 16, 2006). Entity Tags: Pentagon Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Other 9/11 Investigations

March 7, 2002: FBI Whistleblower under FBI Surveillance

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] Entity Tags: Matthew Edmonds, James Caruso, Sibel Edmonds Category Tags: Sibel Edmonds

March 7, 2002: Pakistani President Musharraf Says He Wants Saeed Sheikh Hanged Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says Saeed Sheikh, chief suspect in the killing of reporter Daniel Pearl, will not be extradited to the US, at least not until after he is tried by Pakistan. [GUARDIAN, 3/15/2002] The US ambassador later reports to Washington that Musharraf privately said, “I’d rather hang him myself” than extradite Saeed. [WASHINGTON POST, 3/28/2002] Musharraf even brazenly states, “Perhaps Daniel Pearl was over-intrusive. A media person should be aware of the dangers of getting into dangerous areas. Unfortunately, he got over-involved.” [HINDU, 3/8/2002] He also says Pearl was caught up in “intelligence games.” [WASHINGTON POST, 5/3/2002] In early April, Musharraf apparently says he wants to see Saeed sentenced to death. Defense lawyers are appalled, saying Musharraf is effectively telling the courts what to do. [BBC, 4/12/2002] The Washington Post reports in early March that Pakistani “police alternately fabricate and destroy evidence, depending on pressure from above” [WASHINGTON POST, 3/10/2002] , and in fact Saeed’s trial will be plagued with problems. Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Daniel Pearl, Saeed Sheikh Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Saeed Sheikh

Afternoon March 7, 2002: After Being Rebuffed by Own Superiors, FBI Whistleblower Sends Letters to Senators and FBI Internal Investigation Departments 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] Entity Tags: Sibel Edmonds, Senate Intelligence Committee, Office of the Inspector General (DOJ), Office of Professional Responsibility, Charles Grassley, Patrick J. Leahy, Melek Can Dickerson Category Tags: Sibel Edmonds

March 10, 2002: Ridge Says FBI Can’t Find Any Al-Qaeda Cells in US 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] Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Tom Ridge, Federal Bureau of Investigation Category Tags: Terror Alerts, Internal US Security After 9/11

March 11, 2002: Suspected Israeli Students Reportedly Served in Military A newspaper reports that the DEA study on Israeli “art students” determined the “students” all had “recently served in the Israeli military, the majority in intelligence, electronic signal intercept, or explosive ordnance units.” [PALM BEACH POST, 3/11/2002] Entity Tags: Drug Enforcement Agency, “Israeli art students” Category Tags: Israel

March 11, 2002: Flight School Belatedly Receives Hijackers’ Student Visa Approvals Six months after 9/11, a Venice, Florida flight school attended by Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi belatedly receives visa approval forms for the alleged hijackers. The two had been required to apply for student visas before entering a professional flight training program. Their applications were sent from the school, Huffman Aviation, to the Immigration and Naturalization Service in August or September 2000 (see (August 29-September 15, 2000)). The forms show that the INS approved the visas in July and August 2001, clearing both men to stay in the US until October 1, 2001. Spokesman Russ Bergeron says the INS notified the two shortly afterwards. Despite Atta and Alshehhi’s alleged involvement in the 9/11 attacks, an INS clerk issued their visas in October 2001. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI) comments, “This shows once again the complete incompetence of the immigration service to enforce our laws and protect our borders.” [CHARLOTTE SUN, 3/13/2002; ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/13/2002] Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, James Sensenbrenner, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Marwan Alshehhi, Huffman Aviation Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Marwan Alshehhi, Mohamed Atta, Alleged Hijackers' Flight Training

March 12, 2002: Ridge Announces Homeland Security Advisory System

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] Entity Tags: Tom Ridge, US Department of Homeland Security Category Tags: Terror Alerts, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics, Internal US Security After 9/11

March 12, 2002: Structural Engineer Criticizes Decision to Destroy WTC Steel A structural engineer who was a member of the team assembled by the American Society of Civil Engineers to investigate the World Trade Center site after 9/11 complains about the decision to rapidly destroy the remaining structural steel from the collapsed WTC buildings. Dr. Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Berkeley, and specializes in studying structural damage done by earthquakes and terrorist bombings. [CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, 12/7/2001; CBS NEWS, 3/11/2002; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/6/2002] He had come to New York a week after 9/11 to examine the collapsed towers, hoping to gain an understanding of how they had come down (see September 19-October 2001). [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/2/2001; US CONGRESS. HOUSE. COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE, 3/6/2002] However, New York City officials had decided early on to quickly transport the remaining structural steel to scrap yards, to be shipped abroad and melted down for reuse (see Shortly After September 11, 2001). As CBS News now reports, “As a result, Astaneh has almost certainly missed seeing crucial pieces before they were cut up and sent overseas.” Astaneh-Asl complains: “When there is a car accident and two people are killed, you keep the car until the trial is over. If a plane crashes, not only do you keep the plane, but you assemble all the pieces, take it to a hangar, and put it together. That’s only for 200, 300 people, when they die. In this case you had 3,000 people dead.” He says: “My wish was that we had spent whatever it takes, maybe $50 million, $100 million, and maybe two years, get all this steel, carry it to a lot. Instead of recycling it, put it horizontally, and assemble it. You have maybe 200 engineers, not just myself running around trying to figure out what’s going on. After all, this is a crime scene and you have to figure out exactly what happened for this crime, and learn from it.” However, he adds, “My wish is not what happens.” [CBS NEWS, 3/12/2002] Astaneh-Asl previously told the New York Times that the scrap steel from the WTC was “worth only a few million dollars, a tiny fraction of the billions of dollars the cleanup will cost.” Yet the knowledge that could be gained from it “could save lives in a future disaster.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/2/2001] Entity Tags: World Trade Center, Abolhassan Astaneh-Asl Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: WTC Investigation

March 14, 2002: US Indicts Saeed Sheikh for Murder of Daniel Pearl Attorney General Ashcroft announces a second US criminal indictment of Saeed Sheikh, this time for his role in the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. The amount of background information given about Saeed is very brief, with only scant reference to his involvement with Islamic militant groups after his release from prison in 1999. It only mentions is that he fought in Afghanistan with al-Qaeda in September and October 2001. The indictment and Ashcroft fail to mention Saeed’s financing of the 9/11 attacks, and no reporters ask Ashcroft about this either. [CNN, 3/14/2002; LOS ANGELES TIMES, 3/15/2002] Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Saeed Sheikh, Daniel Pearl, John Ashcroft Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Saeed Sheikh

March 15, 2002: FBI Claims Broad Investigation of Hamas Operatives in US Days after FBI agent Robert Wright renewed efforts to make his disputes with the FBI public (see Early March 2002), the Associated Press releases a story that seems designed to counter Wright’s upcoming claims that the FBI has let large numbers of Hamas operatives live and fundraise openly in the US. The article says the FBI is conducting a “broad financial assault” against an “elaborate network of businesses and charities supporting Hamas” in the US. Further, “FBI terrorist tracking units monitoring, intercepting, and disrupting financial transactions from US supporters to Hamas overseas are moving closer to building criminal cases against some of the players.” The article notes that the FBI’s current efforts are based on Wright’s pre-9/11 work in Chicago. The article also says, “Information developed during and after [Wright’s] Chicago case has resulted in the execution of several national security warrants permitting electronic intercepts of key suspects here and overseas… In several instances, the FBI and other US agencies have decided to forgo arrests or indictments and instead have secretly disrupted Hamas activities so that agents could continue to monitor suspects and the flow of their money, officials said.” [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 3/15/2002] Presumably, if any of the Hamas operatives were not suspicious that they were under surveillance before reading this article, they would be after reading it. Entity Tags: Hamas, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Robert Wright Category Tags: Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal, Terrorism Financing, Counterterrorism Action After 9/11

March 15, 2002: Jewish Magazine Says Israelis Spied in US on Radical Muslims Forward, a US publication with a large Jewish audience, admits that there has been an Israeli spy ring in the US. [FORWARD, 3/15/2002] This is a reversal of their earlier stance. [FORWARD, 12/21/2001] But, “far from pointing to Israeli spying against US government and military facilities, as reported in Europe last week, the incidents in question appear to represent a case of Israelis in the United States spying on a common enemy, radical Islamic networks suspected of links to Middle East terrorism.” [FORWARD, 3/15/2002] Entity Tags: “Israeli art students” Category Tags: Israel

March 17, 2002: Christian Church in Pakistan Attacked, Five Killed A Christian church in Islamabad, Pakistan is attacked, killing five people and wounding 41. The church is near the US embassy, and two of the dead are Americans related to a US diplomat. Most of the wounded are said to be Westerners. About six grenades are lobbed into the church during a Sunday service. The group Lashkar-e-Omar is blamed for the attack. This new group is named after Omar Saeed Sheikh, said to have been involved in the 9/11 attacks and the recent murder of reporter Daniel Pearl. It is made up of militants from other Pakistani militant groups. [CNN, 3/18/2002; NEW YORK TIMES, 6/15/2002; RASHID, 2008, PP. 56-60] Entity Tags: Lashkar-e-Omar, Saeed Sheikh Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Saeed Sheikh, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks

March 19, 2002: CIA Director Tenet Has ‘No Doubt’ There Are Links between Al-Qaeda and Iraqi Government Testifying before the Senate Intelligence Committee, CIA Director George Tenet says: “There is no doubt that there have been (Iraqi) contacts and linkages to the al-Qaeda organization. As to where we are on September 11, the jury is still out. As I said carefully in my statement, it would be a mistake to dismiss the possibility of state sponsorship whether Iranian or Iraqi and we’ll see where the evidence takes us…. There is nothing new in the last several months that changes our analysis in any way…. There’s no doubt there have been contacts or linkages to the al-Qaeda organization…. I want you to think about al-Qaeda as a front company that mixes and matches its capabilities…. The distinction between Sunni and Shia that have traditionally divided terrorists groups are not distinctions we should make any more, because there are common interests against the United States and its allies in this region, and they will seek capabilities wherever they can get it…. Their ties may be limited by divergent ideologies, but the two sides’ mutual antipathies toward the United States and the Saudi royal family suggests that tactical cooperation between them is possible.” [PBS, 3/19/2002; AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 3/20/2002] Entity Tags: George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion Category Tags: Alleged Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links

March 19, 2002: Al-Qaeda Linked Chechen Leader Ibn Khattab Assassinated by Russian Intelligence Ibn Khattab, a Chechen rebel leader with links to al-Qaeda, is assassinated by the Russian government. Other Chechen rebel leaders say that Khattab is killed by a poisoned letter given to him by Russia’s intelligence agency, the FSB. The Russians do not present another version of his death. Khattab is unique amongst Chechen leaders because he was actually a Jordanian from a Saudi tribe who moved to Chechnya in 1995 shortly after fighting began there and became one of the top leaders of the Chechen rebellion. He was the main link between the Chechens and Islamist militants like bin Laden (see 1986-March 19, 2002). [BBC, 4/26/2002; INDEPENDENT, 5/1/2002; MSNBC, 6/22/2005] Entity Tags: Ibn Khattab, Russian Federal Security Service Category Tags: Islamist Militancy in Chechnya, Key Captures and Deaths

March 20, 2002: SAAR Network Is Raided

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 Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, Al Taqwa Bank, Counterterrorism Action After 9/11

March 20, 2002: Lawsuit Said to Spur Raid; Targets Allegedly Have Protection from High Republican Figures

Grover Norquist. [Source: Publicity photo] Counterterrorism expert John Loftus files a lawsuit against Sami al-Arian, a Florida professor with suspected ties to US-designated terrorist groups. Hours later, the SAAR network, a group of charities based in Herndon, Virginia, is raided (see March 20, 2002). Loftus claims that a January 2002 raid on the network was cancelled for political reasons, so he filed his lawsuit to force the raid. The SAAR network investigation grew out of an investigation of al-Arian and other people in Florida in the mid-1990s. In 2004, Loftus will claim that for years, people like al-Arian and Abdurahman Alamoudi, one of the targets of the SAAR raid, were able to operate with impunity “because [US agents had] been ordered not to investigate the cases, not to prosecute them, because they were being funded by the Saudis and a political decision was being made at the highest levels, don’t do anything that would embarrass the Saudi government.… But, who was it that fixed the cases? How could these guys operate for more than a decade immune from prosecution? And, the answer is coming out in a very strange place. What Alamoudi and al-Arian have in common is a guy named Grover Norquist. He’s the super lobbyist. Newt Gingrich’s guy, the one the NRA calls on, head of American taxpayers. He is the guy that was hired by Alamoudi to head up the Islamic Institute and he’s the registered agent for Alamoudi, personally, and for the Islamic Institute. Grover Norquist’s best friend is Karl Rove, the White House chief of staff, and apparently Norquist was able to fix things. He got extreme right wing Muslim people to be the gatekeepers in the White House. That’s why moderate Americans couldn’t speak out after 9/11. Moderate Muslims couldn’t get into the White House because Norquist’s friends were blocking their access.” [ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 3/21/2002; MSNBC, 10/23/2005] Entity Tags: Sami Al-Arian, John Loftus, Karl Rove, Abdurahman Alamoudi, Grover Norquist, SAAR Foundation Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, Counterterrorism Action After 9/11

March 21, 2002: FBI Translator Accused of National Security Breaches Polygraphed, but Questions Are Vague and Unspecific FBI translator Melek Can Dickerson has been accused by co-worker Sibel Edmonds of shielding certain individuals from FBI surveillance. On this date Dickerson undergoes a polygraph test and passes. But the questions she is asked are reportedly vague and unspecific. “The polygraph unit chief admitted that questions directly on point could have been asked but were not,” one official is quoted in a report that is later released by the Justice Department’s Office of Inspector General. [VANITY FAIR, 9/2005] Entity Tags: Melek Can Dickerson, Federal Bureau of Investigation Category Tags: Sibel Edmonds

After March 20, 2002-Early 2003: Customs and FBI Battle to Control Finance Investigations

Larry Thompson. [Source: White House] Serious tensions develop between the FBI and Operation Greenquest investigators in the wake of the Greenquest raid on the SAAR network in March 2002 (see After March 20, 2002). The Customs Department launched Greenquest, an investigation into the financing of al-Qaeda and similar groups, weeks after 9/11. In June 2002, the Washington Post will headline an article, “Infighting Slows Hunt for Hidden al-Qaeda Assets.” [WASHINGTON POST, 6/18/2002] FBI Wants Control of Greenquest - With the creation of the new Department of Homeland Security (see November 25, 2002), the FBI and its parent agency the Justice Department are given a chance to gain total control over Operation Greenquest. Newsweek reports, “Internally, FBI officials have derided Greenquest agents as a bunch of ‘cowboys’ whose actions have undermined more important, long-range FBI investigations into terrorist financing.” Meanwhile: “The FBI-Justice move, pushed by [Justice Department] Criminal Division chief Michael Chertoff and Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, has enraged Homeland Security officials.… They accuse the [FBI] of sabotaging Greenquest investigations—by failing to turn over critical information to their agents—and trying to obscure a decade-long record of lethargy in which FBI offices failed to aggressively pursue terror-finance cases. ‘They [the FBI] won’t share anything with us,’ [says] a Homeland Security official. ‘Then they go to the White House and they accuse us of not sharing. If they can’t take it over, they want to kill it.’” Derails Greenquest's Investigation into Firm with Terrorist Ties - This battle has a large effect on the investigation into Ptech, a Boston-based computer company with ties to suspected terrorist financiers. When Ptech whistleblowers approach the FBI, the FBI “apparently [does] little or nothing in response” (see Shortly After October 12, 2001 and May-December 5, 2002). Then Greenquest launches an investigation in Ptech, which culminates in a raid on the Ptech offices in December 2002 (see December 5, 2002). “After getting wind of the Greenquest probe, the FBI stepped in and unsuccessfully tried to take control of the case. The result, sources say, has been something of a train wreck.” [NEWSWEEK, 4/9/2003] Greenquest Based on Single FBI Agent's Investigations - Greenquest appears to have been heavily based on the pre-9/11 investigations of FBI agent Robert Wright. The New York Post will report in 2004: “After 9/11, Wright’s work was picked up by David Kane of the US Customs Service, who raided companies owned by [Yassin] al-Qadi, leading to al-Qadi’s designation as a ‘global terrorist’ and to money-laundering indictments of companies in Northern Virginia linked to al-Qadi and Soliman Biheiri (another Wright investigatee). The [Greenquest] indictments rely heavily on Wright’s work.” [NEW YORK POST, 7/14/2004] FBI Will Win Battle for Greenquest - The FBI will eventually win the battle with Homeland Security and Customs, and Greenquest will cease to exist at the end of June 2003 (see May 13-June 30, 2003). [NEWSWEEK, 4/9/2003] Entity Tags: Operation Greenquest, Larry D. Thompson, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Michael Chertoff, Ptech Inc. Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

After March 20, 2002: CIA and FBI Said to Harass Greenquest Investigators Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz is said to have given the Operation Greenquest investigators some of the information that led to the March 2002 SAAR network raid (see March 20, 2002). She will later write that in the months after that raid, “The CIA was investigating me and the SAAR investigators from Greenquest and Customs. The CIA and the FBI investigated everyone who had anything to do with the SAAR investigation. White vans and SUV’s with dark windows appeared near all the homes of the SAAR investigators. All agents, some of whom were very experienced with surveillance, knew they were being followed. So was I. I felt that I was being followed everywhere and watched at home, in the supermarket, on the way to work… and for what?… The Customs agents were questioned. So were their supervisors. So was the US attorney on the SAAR case.… Risking criticism for being unfoundedly paranoid, I must convey my theory about the investigation and CIA’s involvement in it, I don’t know for certain what’s the deal with the CIA investigating the SAAR investigators, but it sure feels as if someone up in that agency doesn’t like the idea that the Saudi Arabian boat is rocked. The [SAAR raid] had taken place already—the CIA couldn’t change that—but investigating and giving the people behind the raids a hard time is a most efficient way of making sure the SAAR investigation stops there.” [KATZ, 2003, PP. 42] The internal governmental battle against Greenquest will continue until Greenquest will be shut down in 2003 (see After March 20, 2002-Early 2003). Entity Tags: Saudi Arabia, US Customs Service, Operation Greenquest, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, SAAR Foundation, Rita Katz Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Terrorism Financing, Counterterrorism Action After 9/11

March 22, 2002: FBI Whistleblower Fired after Alleging Security Breaches in Translations Department 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] Entity Tags: Mike Feghali, Sibel Edmonds, Thomas Frields, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Stephanie Bryan Category Tags: Sibel Edmonds, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

March 24, 2002: Britain Accused of Fabricating WMD Threat to Justify Troop Deployment in Afghanistan

David Manning [Source: Britainusa.com] Britain is accused of falsely claiming the existence of an al-Qaeda biological and chemical weapons laboratory in Afghanistan in order to justify the deployment of Royal Marines to the country. A British government source says that documents found by American soldiers in a cave near the village of Shah-i-Kot indicates that Osama bin Laden had acquired chemical and biological weapons. The source also claimed that American forces had discovered the laboratory in a cave near the city of Gardez earlier this month. These claims are used to justify the deployment of 1,700 Royal Marines. But once these claims are made public, they are strongly denied by the Pentagon and State Department. A US Army official says, “I don’t know what they’re saying in London but we have received no specific intelligence on that kind of development or capability in the Shah-e-Kot valley region - I mean a chemical or biological weapons facility.” British intelligence, military, and Foreign Office sources also deny any knowledge of the claims. The only evidence related to any sort of laboratory was the discovery near Kandahar last December of an abandoned, incomplete building containing medical equipment, which had been previously reported. The source of the claims is eventually identified as an off-the-record briefing by Prime Minister Tony Blair’s senior foreign policy adviser, David Manning. The Prime Minister’s office says it sticks to “the thrust of the story.” It claims that although evidence points to al-Qaeda’s interest in acquiring such weapons, Manning had “not actually told” reporters a laboratory had been found. [OBSERVER, 3/24/2002] Entity Tags: Pentagon, Geoff Hoon, US Department of State, Foreign Office, Walter Menzies Campbell, Ministry of Defence, David Manning Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

March 25, 2002: British Foreign Minister: No Evidence of Imminent Threat, No Guarantees that Post-War Iraq Will Be Better, No Iraq-Al-Qaeda Link In a memo to British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw advises the prime minister on his upcoming visit to Crawford, Texas (see April 6-7, 2002), where he is to discuss Britain’s role in the US confrontation with Iraq. Straw says that they “have a long way to go to convince” their colleagues in the Labor Party that military action against Iraq is necessary. He notes that “in the documents so far presented, it has been hard to glean whether the threat from Iraq is so significantly different from that of Iran and North Korea as to justify military action.” He points out that “there has been no credible evidence to link Iraq with [Osama bin Laden] and al-Qaeda” and that “the threat from Iraq has not worsened as a result of September 11.” Another issue that needs to be resolved, according to Straw, concerns establishing a legal basis for military action. “I believe that a demand for the unfettered readmission of weapons inspectors is essential, in terms of public explanation, and in terms of legal sanction for any subsequent military action.” The “big question,” Straw notes, which seems “to be a larger hole in this than anything,” is that the Bush administration has not “satisfactorily answered how that regime change is to be secured, and how there can be any certainty that the replacement regime will be better. Iraq has had no history of democracy so no one has this habit or experience.” [UNITED KINGDOM, 3/25/2002 ; WASHINGTON POST, 6/12/2005] Entity Tags: Tony Blair, Jack Straw Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion Category Tags: Alleged Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links

March 27, 2002: Easter Sunday Terror Alert for US Citizens in Italy A terror alert is issued for American interests in four Italian cities. Richard Boucher, spokesman for the State Department, says that “There is not too much more detail I can give you other than saying that we have credible reports that extremists are planning additional terrorist attacks against US interests and that a possible threat exists to US citizens in the cities of Venice, Florence, Milan and Verona on Easter Sunday, March 31st.” [US DEPARTMENT OF STATE, 3/27/2002] No attacks materialize and no further information is given on the nature of the threat. [NEWS HOUNDS, 10/9/2004] Entity Tags: Richard A. Boucher, US Department of State Category Tags: Terror Alerts

March 27, 2002: Cockpit Recordings Raise Doubts about Flight 93 Events

Flight 93’s damaged but successfully recovered cockpit voice recorder. [Source: FBI] New York Times reporter Jere Longman writes an article based on recent leaks to him about Flight 93’s cockpit flight recording. (Later, relatives of the victims are given a single chance to listen to the recording). He claims that earlier reports of a 9-1-1 call from a bathroom reporting smoke and an explosion are incorrect. He names the passenger-caller as Edward Felt and notes that the dispatcher who took the call and Felt’s wife both deny the smoke and explosion story. There were messages from both passengers and hijackers on the plane speaking of a bomb. [PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 10/28/2001] Longman also claims that one passenger, Tom Burnett, told his wife there were guns on the plane. [NEW YORK TIMES, 3/27/2002] Previously, it had been widely reported that Tom Burnett told his wife he did not see any guns. [MSNBC, 9/14/2001] Note that the passengers appeared doubtful that the hijackers had either real guns or bombs, but there is a March 2002 report of a gun being used on Flight 11. Entity Tags: Tom Burnett, Jere Longman, Edward Felt Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Other 9/11 Investigations

Before March 28, 2002: ’Vast Majority’ of Al-Qaeda Leader’s Contacts Are Already under Surveillance 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] Entity Tags: Dan Coleman, Vincent Cannistraro, Abu Zubaida Category Tags: Abu Zubaida, Remote Surveillance

March 28, 2002: Al-Qaeda Leader Zubaida Is Captured

The house in Faisalabad, Pakistan, where Zubaida was captured. [Source: PBS] FBI agents and Pakistani police commandos raid a house in the city of Faisalabad, Pakistan, and capture alleged al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see 1998-2001 and January 2000). He is shot three times but survives. [NEW YORK TIMES, 4/14/2002] In late February 2002, some militants were arrested in Pakistan who admitted they were on their way to Faisalabad to meet with Zubaida. His location was pinpointed over the next few weeks as US intelligence traced his phone calls. [NEW YORK TIMES, 4/14/2002; SUSKIND, 2006, PP. 84-89] He had surgically altered his appearance and was using an alias, so it will take a few days to completely confirm his identity. [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/10/2006] Allegedly Planning to Bomb a School - When Zubaida awakes in a Lahore hospital, he is confronted by CIA agent John Kiriakou, who will later recall: “I asked him in Arabic what his name was. And he shook his head. And I asked him again in Arabic. And then he answered me in English. And he said that he would not speak to me in God’s language. And then I said, ‘That’s okay. We know who you are.’ And then he asked me to smother him with a pillow. And I said, ‘No, no. We have plans for you.’” Kiriakou will later call Zubaida “the biggest fish that we had caught,” and will say, “We knew he was full of information… and we wanted to get it.” Kiriakou will allege that Zubaida’s captors found evidence that he “and two other men were building a bomb. The soldering [iron] was still hot. And they had plans for a school on the table,” apparently the British school in Lahore. Zubaida, Kiriakou will say, was “very current. On top of the current threat information.” Kiriakou will report that while in the hospital, Zubaida “wanted to talk about current events. He told us a couple of times that he had nothing personal against the United States.… He said that 9/11 was necessary. That although he didn’t think that there would be such a massive loss of life, his view was that 9/11 was supposed to be a wake-up call to the United States.” The FBI interrogates him using “standard interview techniques,” ensuring that he is bathed and his bandages changed, urging improved medical care, and trying to “convince him they knew details of his activities” which exceed their actual information. The FBI’s initial reporting claims that during these interrogation sessions, Zubaida “began to provide intelligence insights into al-Qaeda.” That information is problematic; as Kiriakou later says, Zubaida was “willing to talk about philosophy, [but] he was unwilling to give us any actionable intelligence.” [NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, 3/15/2009] Later CIA reports also indicate that CIA officials, presumably Kiriakou and others, believe that Zubaida has information pertaining to planned al-Qaeda attacks against US targets. [SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE, 4/22/2009 ] Rendition - Not long after his arrest, Zubaida is taken to two separate places: a secret CIA holding facility in Thailand and later to Bagram base in Afghanistan. [OBSERVER, 6/13/2004; NEW YORK REVIEW OF BOOKS, 3/15/2009] Throughout his detention, members of the National Security Council and other senior Bush administration officials are briefed about Zubaida’s captivity and treatment. [SENATE INTELLIGENCE COMMITTEE, 4/22/2009 ] Alleged Al-Qaeda Operations Director - Shortly after the arrest, the New York Times reports that “Zubaida is believed by American intelligence to be the operations director for al-Qaeda and the highest-ranking figure of that group to be captured since the Sept. 11 attacks.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 4/14/2002] However, it will later come out that while Zubaida was an important radical Islamist, his importance was probably overstated (see Shortly After March 28, 2002). Noor al-Deen, a Syrian teenager, is captured along with him. The terrified al-Deen will readily answer questions from his captors, and will describe Zubaida as a well-known functionary with little knowledge of al-Qaeda operations. Al-Deen will be sent to a detention facility in Morocco and later to Syria; his subsequent whereabouts and status will remain unknown to the public. [WASHINGTON POST, 3/29/2009] Michael Scheuer, who runs the CIA’s al-Qaeda station (see February 1996), later says of Zubaida’s importance: “I’d followed him for a decade. If there was one guy you could call a ‘hub,’ he was it.” Scheuer will later describe Zubaida, not as an actual al-Qaeda member, but “the main cog in the way they organized,” a point of contact for Islamists from many parts of the globe seeking combat training in the Afghan camps. Scheuer will say that Zubaida, a Palestinian, “never swore bayat [al-Qaeda’s oath of allegiance] to bin Laden,” and he was bent on causing damage to Israel, not the US. ” FBI counterterrorist operative Dan Coleman will go through Zubaida’s journals and other materials seized from his Faisalabad safe house. Coleman will say: “Abu Zubaydah was like a receptionist, like the guy at the front desk [of a hotel]. He takes their papers, he sends them out. It’s an important position, but he’s not recruiting or planning.” Because Zubaida is not conversant with al-Qaeda security methods, “[t]hat was why his name had been cropping up for years.” Of Zubaida’s diaries, Coleman will say: “There’s nothing in there that refers to anything outside his head, not even when he saw something on the news, not about any al-Qaeda attack, not even 9/11. All it does is reveal someone in torment. [Zubaida is physically and mentally crippled from wounds suffered fighting in Afghanistan in the early 1990s.] Based on what I saw of his personality, he could not be what they say he was.” [VANITY FAIR, 12/16/2008] Tortured While in US Custody - Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld publicly vows that Zubaida will not be tortured, but it will later come out that he was (see Mid-May 2002 and After). [NEW YORK TIMES, 4/14/2002] Entity Tags: Bush administration, National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, John Kiriakou, Donald Rumsfeld, Noor al-Deen, Abu Zubaida, Federal Bureau of Investigation Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI, Saudi Arabia, Destruction of CIA Tapes, High Value Detainees, Key Captures and Deaths, Counterterrorism Action After 9/11, Abu Zubaida

March 28, 2002-Mid-2004: High-Ranking Al-Qaeda Detainees Subjected to Aggressive Interrogation Techniques In 2007, NBC News will report that the CIA uses aggressive interrogation techniques on at least 13 high-ranking al-Qaeda detainees between 2002 and 2004. These techniques are first used on Abu Zubaida, captured in March 2002 (see March 28, 2002), and some of the techniques are discontinued in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal around the middle of 2004 (see April 28, 2004), which is also around the time the CIA’s Inspector General issues a secret report suggesting many of these techniques could be a violation of an international treaty against torture (see May 7, 2004). Euphemistically called “enhanced interrogation,” these techniques include:

Sleep deprivation. 
Exposure to extreme heat and cold. 
Confined quarters. 
Psychological and physical abuse. 
The use of psychotropic drugs. 
Waterboarding. However, waterboarding is allegedly only used on about four of the detainees (see May 2002-2003). 

All 13 of these detainees will later be transferred to Guantanamo prison to stand trial before a military tribunal there (see September 2-3, 2006). (Two others similarly transferred - Abu Faraj al-Libbi and Abu al-Hadi al-Iraqi - are captured after the Abu Ghraib scandal and thus are not subjected to as many interrogation techniques.) [MSNBC, 9/13/2007] However, there are other “ghost detainees” not officially acknowledged as captured by the US government (see June 7, 2007). Some, like Hassan Ghul, Abdul Rahim al-Sharqawi, and Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman, are held in the same secret prison as most of the “official” high-ranking detainees later transferred to Guantanamo, so it would seem likely that aggressive techniques have been used on many of them as well. In 2007, President Bush will sign an executive order allowing the CIA to use most of these aggressive techniques again (see July 2007). Entity Tags: Mohammed Nazir Bin Lep, Mohamad Farik Amin, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Majid Khan, Tawfiq bin Attash, Mohammed Omar Abdul-Rahman, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, Hambali, Abdul Rahim al-Sharqawi, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Abd al-Hadi al-Iraqi, Hassan Ghul, Abu Faraj al-Libbi, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, Abu Zubaida, Gouled Hassan Dourad, Central Intelligence Agency Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives Category Tags: High Value Detainees, Abu Zubaida, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

March 28-August 1, 2002: CIA Has No Clear Legal Guidelines for Interrogating Al-Qaeda Leader Zubaida and Other Detainees After al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is captured on March 28, 2002 (see March 28, 2002), the CIA takes control of his detention and interrogation, but there is no legal clarity over just how aggressive his interrogation can be for several months. [TENET, 2007, PP. 241] Thereforem the CIA asks the White House “what the legal limits of interrogation are,” according to Justice Department lawyer John Yoo. [WASHINGTON POST, 6/25/2007] CIA Director George Tenet will write in his 2007 book: “Now that we had an undoubted resource in our hands—the highest-ranking al-Qaeda official captured to date—we opened discussions within the National Security Council as to how to handle him, since holding and interrogating large numbers of al-Qaeda operatives had never been part of our plan.… We wondered what we could legitimately do to get that information. Despite what Hollywood might have you believe, in situations like this you don’t call in the tough guys, you call in the lawyers. It took until August to get clear guidance on what Agency officers could legally do.” [TENET, 2007, PP. 241] This is a reference to an August 1, 2002 Justice Department memo legally justifying the use of some interrogations generally deemed to be torture (see August 1, 2002). But it appears Zubaida was subjected to the most extreme interrogation methods the US used, such as waterboarding, well before August 2002 (see Mid-May 2002 and After). However, during this period of uncertainty and into 2003, the CIA gets advice from Michael Chertoff, head of the Justice Department’s criminal division at the time, about which techniques are likely legal and which ones are not (see 2002-2003). Entity Tags: Michael Chertoff, John C. Yoo, George J. Tenet, Abu Zubaida, Central Intelligence Agency Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives Category Tags: Destruction of CIA Tapes, High Value Detainees, Abu Zubaida, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

Shortly After March 28, 2002: US Intelligence Suspects Captured Al-Qaeda Leader Zubaida May Be Mentally Unstable and Overestimated In the wake of al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida’s arrest (see March 28, 2002), the FBI discovers much useful information (see Shortly After March 28, 2002). FBI agent Dan Coleman leads a team to sort through Zubaida’s computer files and documents. However, at the same time, it is discovered that Zubaida’s prominence in al-Qaeda’s hierarchy was overestimated. Many FBI officials conclude that he was used as little more than a travel agent for training camp attendees because he was mentally ill. Coleman will later comment: “This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality. That’s why they let him fly all over the world doing meet and greet. That’s why people used his name on all sorts of calls and e-mails. He was like a travel agent, the guy who booked your flights.… He knew very little about real operations, or strategy. He was expendable.” Zubaida’s diary evidences his apparent schizophrenia; he wrote it in three different personas, or voices, each with a different and distinctive personality. [SUSKIND, 2006, PP. 94-96, 100; SAVAGE, 2007, PP. 219] Other accounts back up this assessment. For instance, Omar Nasiri, a former informant for European intelligence agencies who met Zubaida in the nineties, will later describe Zubaida’s odd behavior. He “shuffled around his home in near-total darkness, carrying a gas lantern from room to room. He barely spoke and would often communicate by pointing.” [NEW YORKER, 1/22/2007] Involvement in Pre-9/11 Plots - On the other hand, Zubaida does appear to have been involved in numerous plots before 9/11 (see for instance November 30, 1999 and Early September 2001). Al-Qaeda operative Ahmed Ressam cooperated with US investigators after being arrested. He worked with Zubaida and suggested Zubaida was of some importance, but not one of al-Qaeda’s highest leaders: “He is the person in charge of the [training] camps. He receives young men from all countries. He accepts you or rejects you. He takes care of the expenses of the camps. He makes arrangements for you when you travel coming in or leaving.” [GUNARATNA, 2003, PP. 133] Former CIA Chief Rejects Diagnosis of Schizophrenia - In a 2007, former CIA Director George Tenet will claim that the reports Zubaida was mentally unstable are “[b]aloney.… Apparently, the source of the rumor that Abu Zubaida was unbalanced was his personal diary, in which he adopted various personas. From that shaky perch, some junior Freudians leapt to the conclusion that Zubaida had multiple personalities. In fact, Agency psychiatrists eventually determined that in his diary he was using a sophisticated literary device to express himself.” [TENET, 2007, PP. 243] Zubaida Touted as High-Level Terror Chief - Regardless, despite being briefed otherwise, President Bush and others in his administration will repeatedly tout the importance of capturing Zubaida and no hint of any doubts about his importance or sanity will be publicly expressed (see April 9, 2002 and After). Entity Tags: George W. Bush, George J. Tenet, Dan Coleman, Abu Zubaida, Ahmed Ressam, Omar Nasiri, Bush administration, Ron Suskind Category Tags: Abu Zubaida, High Value Detainees, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

March 29, 2002: Bin Laden Family Denies Terrorist Connections

Abdullah bin Laden, bin Laden family spokesman (not the Abdullah connected to WAMY). [Source: Agence France-Presse.] Abdullah bin Laden, spokesman for the bin Laden family and one of Osama’s many brothers, speaks directly to the press for the first time since 9/11. He says that the family cut all personal and financial ties to Osama in 1993 and that no family member has contact with him or provides any kind of support for him. “We went through a tough time. It was difficult. We felt we are a victim as well.” [ABC NEWS, 3/29/2002] Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Abdullah bin Laden, Bin Laden Family Category Tags: Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden Family

Shortly After March 28, 2002: US Investigators Fail to Trace Saudi-Al-Qaeda Financial Link; Saudis Lose Records

Abu Zubaida pictured shortly after he was captured in Pakistan. He appears to be bloodied and on some type of stretcher. [Source: ABC News] When al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is captured in Pakistan (see March 28, 2002), he is found to be carrying two bank cards, similar to US ATM cards. One is from a Kuwaiti bank and the other is from a Saudi bank. A US source involved in Zubaida’s capture believes this is the only time an al-Qaeda leader was ever captured with direct evidence of using Western-styled bank accounts. Author James Risen later notes that the “cards had the potential to help investigators understand the financial structure behind al-Qaeda, and perhaps even the 9/11 plot itself. The cards… could unlock some of al-Qaeda’s darkest secrets.” One US source later tells Risen that the cards “could give us entrée right into who was funding al-Qaeda… You could track money right from the financiers to a top al-Qaeda figure.” But Risen claims that two US sources familiar with the case believe no aggressive investigation into the cards is ever done and Zubaida is never even questioned about the cards. Risen says, “It is not clear whether an investigation of the cards simply fell through the cracks, or whether they were ignored because no one wanted to know the answers about connections between al-Qaeda and important figures in the Middle East—particularly in Saudi Arabia.” Nevertheless, some US investigators eventually pursue the trail of the cards on their own time. Over a year later, they will learn that around the time of Zubaida’s capture, Saudi intelligence officials seized all the financial records connected to the Saudi card and the records then disappeared. [RISEN, 2006, PP. 173-177] In 2007, former CIA officer Robert Baer will similarly comment, “When Abu Zubaida was arrested in Pakistan in 2002, two ATM cards were found on him. One was issued by a bank in Saudi Arabia (a bank close to the Saudi royal family) and the other to a bank in Kuwait. As I understand it, neither Kuwait nor Saudi Arabia has been able to tell us who fed the accounts.… There’s nothing in the 9/11 Commission report about any of this, and I have no idea whether the leads were run down, the evidence lost or destroyed.” [TIME, 12/7/2007] Zubaida otherwise proves resistant to interrogation until he is transferred to a secret CIA prison in Jordan and tortured there in May 2002 (see Mid-May 2002 and After). Entity Tags: Robert Baer, Abu Zubaida Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Saudi Arabia, Other 9/11 Investigations, Destruction of CIA Tapes, High Value Detainees, Abu Zubaida

March 30, 2002: British Newspaper: US Special Forces Training at Secret Location in Kazakhstan With US troops already in many Central Asian countries, US Special Forces are now reportedly training Kazakhstan troops in a secret location. [LONDON TIMES, 3/30/2002] An anonymous source in the Kazakh government previously stated, “It is clear that the continuing war in Afghanistan is no more than a veil for the US to establish political dominance in the region. The war on terrorism is only a pretext for extending influence over our energy resources.” [OBSERVER, 1/20/2002] Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Kazakhstan Category Tags: US Dominance

Late March 2002: President Bush Allegedly Takes Personal Interest in Interrogation of Zubaida In a 2006 book, New York Times reporter James Risen will claim that shortly after al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida is captured in March 2002, “According to a well-placed source with a proven track record of providing extremely reliable information to the author, [CIA Director] George Tenet soon learned that [President] George Bush was taking a very personal interest in the Zubaida case.” Just days after Zubaida’s arrest, Tenet goes to the White House to give his usual daily Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB). Bush asks Tenet about what the CIA is learning from Zubaida’s interrogation. Tenet replies that nothing has been learned yet because Zubaida is heavily wounded and is too groggy from painkillers to talk coherently. Bush then allegedly asks Tenet, “Who authorized putting him on pain medication?” Risen will comment, “It is possible that this was just one more piece of jocular banter between the two plain-speaking men, according to the source who recounted this incident. Bush’s phrasing was ambiguous. But it is also possible that the comment meant something more. Was [Bush] implicitly encouraging [Tenet] to order the harsh treatment of a prisoner?” Risen notes that some of Tenet’s associates claim they have never heard of the incident and doubt that it is true. [RISEN, 2006, PP. 22-23] Later, it appears Bush will be deliberately kept out of the loop regarding the treatment of Zubaida and other detainees in order to avoid culpability for the harsh interrogation methods used (see April 2002 and After). Entity Tags: James Risen, Abu Zubaida, George W. Bush, George J. Tenet Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives Category Tags: Destruction of CIA Tapes, High Value Detainees, Abu Zubaida, Counterterrorism Policy/Politics


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