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October 1998: Associate of Embassy Bombers Meets Prosecutors, Will Agree to Testify in CourtEdit

Essam al Ridi, an associate of Osama bin Laden and Wadih El-Hage, one of the al-Qaeda operatives responsible for the recent embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), is contacted by US government officials working on the case. They want to interview al Ridi, who had various dealings with bin Laden and El-Hage in the early 1990s (see Early 1993, Before October 1993, and (1994-1995)), to help them build a case. Al Ridi, who is outside the US, is not given any assurances that he will not be arrested on his return, but is told there are no charges against him and no plans to charge him. Al Ridi decides to return and does not even bother to bring a lawyer to his meeting with the government. He will testify about his dealings with bin Laden and El-Hage at the trial of the embassy bombers in 2001. [UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK, 1/14/2001] However, al Ridi will later complain about his treatment after the court case. He will be detained, kicked, and held incommunicado during a visit to Egypt in May 2001, and fired by an airline after 9/11 because the FBI again asks for his help. After being fired, he will find it hard to get work. FBI agent Robert Miranda will admit some problems: “I said, ‘Help us, and we’ll help you,’ and it didn’t work out.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 6/3/2002] Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Essam al Ridi, Robert Miranda Category Tags: 1998 US Embassy Bombings

October 1998: Military Analyst Goes Where Spies Fail to Go, but Her Efforts Are Rejected

Julie Sirrs. [Source: Julie Sirrs] Julie Sirrs, a military analyst for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), travels to Afghanistan. Fluent in local languages and knowledgeable about the culture, she had made a previous undercover trip there in October 1997. She is surprised that the CIA was not interested in sending in agents after the failed missile attack on bin Laden in August 1998, so she returns at this time. Traveling undercover, she meets with Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud. She sees a terrorist training center in Taliban-controlled territory. Sirrs claims, “The Taliban’s brutal regime was being kept in power significantly by bin Laden’s money, plus the narcotics trade, while [Massoud’s] resistance was surviving on a shoestring. With even a little aid to the Afghan resistance, we could have pushed the Taliban out of power. But there was great reluctance by the State Department and the CIA to undertake that.” She partly blames the interest of the US government and the oil company Unocal to see the Taliban achieve political stability to enable a trans-Afghanistan pipeline (see May 1996) (see September 27, 1996). She claims, “Massoud told me he had proof that Unocal had provided money that helped the Taliban take Kabul.” She also states, “The State Department didn’t want to have anything to do with Afghan resistance, or even, politically, to reveal that there was any viable option to the Taliban.” After two weeks, she returns with a treasure trove of maps, photographs, and interviews. [ABC NEWS, 2/18/2002; NEW YORK OBSERVER, 3/11/2004] By interviewing captured al-Qaeda operatives, she learns that the official Afghanistan airline, Ariana Airlines, is being used to ferry weapons and drugs, and learns that bin Laden goes hunting with “rich Saudis and top Taliban officials” (see Mid-1996-October 2001) (see 1995-2001). [LOS ANGELES TIMES, 11/18/2001] When she returns from Afghanistan, her material is confiscated and she is accused of being a spy. Says one senior colleague, “She had gotten the proper clearances to go, and she came back with valuable information,” but high level officials “were so intent on getting rid of her, the last thing they wanted to pay attention to was any information she had.” She is cleared of wrongdoing, but her security clearance is pulled. She eventually quits the DIA in frustration in 1999. [ABC NEWS, 2/18/2002; NEW YORK OBSERVER, 3/11/2004] Congressman Dana Rohrabacher (R) will later claim that the main DIA official behind the punishment of Sirrs is Lt. Gen. Patrick Hughes, who later becomes “one of the top officials running the Department of Homeland Security.” [DANA ROHRABACHER, 6/21/2004] Entity Tags: Patrick Hughes, Defense Intelligence Agency, Julie Sirrs, Osama bin Laden, US Department of State, Ariana Airlines, Northern Alliance, Al-Qaeda, Taliban, Central Intelligence Agency, Ahmed Shah Massoud, Unocal Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Drugs, Pipeline Politics

October 1998: Vulgar Betrayal Investigation Nearly Shut Down

Mark Flessner. Two months after the US embassy bombings in Africa (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), FBI agent Robert Wright and his Vulgar Betrayal investigation discover evidence they think ties Saudi multimillionaire Yassin al-Qadi to the bombings. Since 1997, Wright had been investigating a suspected terrorist cell in Chicago that was connected to fundraising for Hamas. They discovered what they considered to be clear proof that al-Qadi and other people they were already investigating had helped fund the embassy bombings. Wright asks FBI headquarters for permission to open an investigation into this money trail at this time, but the permission is not granted. Wright will later recall, “The supervisor who was there from headquarters was right straight across from me and started yelling at me: ‘You will not open criminal investigations. I forbid any of you. You will not open criminal investigations against any of these intelligence subjects.’” Instead, they are told to merely follow the suspects and file reports, but make no arrests. Federal prosecutor Mark Flessner, working with the Vulgar Betrayal investigation, later will claim that a strong criminal case was building against al-Qadi and his associates. “There were powers bigger than I was in the Justice Department and within the FBI that simply were not going to let [the building of a criminal case] happen. And it didn’t happen.… I think there were very serious mistakes made. And I think, it perhaps cost, it cost people their lives ultimately.” [ABC NEWS, 12/19/2002] Flessner later will speculate that Saudi influence may have played a role. ABC News will report in 2002, “According to US officials, al-Qadi [has] close personal and business connections with the Saudi royal family.” [ABC NEWS, 11/26/2002] Wright later will allege that FBI headquarters even attempted to shut down the Vulgar Betrayal investigation altogether at this time. He says, “They wanted to kill it.” [ABC NEWS, 12/19/2002] However, he will claim, “Fortunately an assistant special agent in Chicago interceded to prevent FBI headquarters from closing Operation Vulgar Betrayal.” [FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, 6/2/2003] He claims that a new supervisor will write in late 1998, “Agent Wright has spearheaded this effort despite embarrassing lack of investigative resources available to the case, such as computers, financial analysis software, and a team of financial analysts. Although far from being concluded, the success of this investigation so far has been entirely due to the foresight and perseverance of Agent Wright.” [FEDERAL NEWS SERVICE, 5/30/2002] When the story of this interference in the alleged al-Qadi-embassy bombings connection will be reported in late 2002, Wright will conclude, “September the 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI’s International Terrorism Unit. No doubt about that. Absolutely no doubt about that. You can’t know the things I know and not go public.” He will remain prohibited from telling all he knows, merely hinting, “There’s so much more. God, there’s so much more. A lot more.” [ABC NEWS, 12/19/2002] Entity Tags: Yassin al-Qadi, Hamas, US Department of Justice, International Terrorism Unit, Mark Flessner, Robert Wright, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Vulgar Betrayal Category Tags: Robert Wright and Vulgar Betrayal, Terrorism Financing, BMI and Ptech, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, 1998 US Embassy Bombings

October 1998: Islamic Conference Calls KLA Struggle ‘Jihad’ An annual international Islamic conference in Pakistan formally characterizes the Kosovo Liberation Army’s struggle as a “jihad.” [WALL STREET JOURNAL (EUROPE), 11/1/2001] Entity Tags: Kosovo Liberation Army Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Balkans

October 1998: Leading British Imam and Informer Abu Hamza Issues Warning of Attack in Yemen, Supporters Soon Involved in Plot There Supporters of Shariah, a radical organization run by leading British imam Abu Hamza al-Masri, issue a threat of attacks in Yemen. The threat, described by authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory as a “blustering communiqué,” is published in the group’s October 1998 newsletter. In language that is “juvenile and insulting,” the US military and other “unbelievers” are warned to leave Yemen or suffer the consequences. Abu Hamza, an informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), has recently started working with the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA—see (June 1998)), a Yemen-based militant organization. The IAA will be near to implementing a massive plot in December involving close associates of Abu Hamza (see Before December 23, 1998 and December 23, 1998), but it is unclear if Abu Hamza is aware of this plot at the time the communiqué is published. Abu Hamza will follow up in the next month’s newsletter with more of the same, accusing a country he refers to as the “United Snakes of America” of plotting “a secret operation to target Muslim fundamentalists in the region.” He adds: “We see this as a powerful detonator for Muslims to explode in the faces of the Snakes of America. This will hopefully trigger a domino effect in the Peninsula. As observers have seen the more frequent explosions in the land of Yemen in the last four months, especially in the crude oil pipeline which is the blood for the American vampires.” [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 164] Entity Tags: Abu Hamza al-Masri, Islamic Army of Aden, Supporters of Shariah Category Tags: Abu Hamza Al-Masri, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism, Yemeni Militant Collusion

October-November 1998: Al-Qaeda US-based Recruiting Efforts Uncovered US intelligence learns al-Qaeda is trying to establish a cell within the US. There are indications that the organization might be trying to recruit US citizens. This apparently will be mentioned in President Bush’s August 6, 2001 briefing, which states, “A clandestine source said in 1998 that a bin Laden cell in New York was recruiting Muslim-American youth for attacks” (see August 6, 2001). In the next month, there is information that a terror cell in the United Arab Emirates is attempting to recruit a group of five to seven young men from the US to travel to the Middle East for training. This is part of a plan to strike a US domestic target. [US CONGRESS, 9/18/2002; US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003] Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Warning Signs, Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB

October 1998 and After: Multiple Countries Monitor Zubaida’s Phone Calls Counterterrorism expert Rohan Gunaratna will later write that after the US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), surveillance of al-Qaeda is stepped up around the world. “One intelligence officer attached to the French embassy in Islamabad, [Pakistan], urged his counterparts in foreign missions in Pakistan to detail the recipients of phone calls made by… al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida, then living in Peshawar, to individuals in their various countries.” As a result, “several governments [launch] investigations of their own.” [GUNARATNA, 2003, PP. 245] A close associate of Zubaida in Peshawar at this time is Khalil Deek, who is actually a mole for the Jordanian government (see 1998-December 11, 1999). One such investigation is launched by the Philippine government on October 16, 1998, after being asked by French intelligence to gather intelligence on people in the Philippines in contact with Zubaida. Code named CoPlan Pink Poppy, the investigation reveals connections between al-Qaeda and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a Philippine militant group. On December 16, 1999, Abdesselem Boulanouar and Zoheir Djalili, two French Algerians belonging to the Algerian al-Qaeda affiliate the Salafist Group for Call and Combat (GSPC), are arrested due to information learned from monitoring Zubaida’s calls to the Philippines. Boulanouar is arrested at an airport carrying a terrorist training manual he admitted writing for the MILF. Both men also are arrested carrying explosive devices. French intelligence says Boulanouar had ties to Ahmed Ressam (see December 14, 1999), and like Ressam, may have been planning to carry out attacks at the turn of the millennium. He will be deported to France and imprisoned on terrorism related charges. CoPlan Pink Poppy will be canceled in 2000 for lack of funds. [GULF NEWS, 3/14/2000; RESSA, 2003, PP. 132-133; GUNARATNA, 2003, PP. 245] However, while details are murky, it appears other governments continue to monitor Zubaida’s calls. Around the same time as the Philippines arrests, one militant in Jordan is even arrested while still in the middle of a phone call to Zubaida (see November 30, 1999). US intelligence will remain intensely focused on Zubaida before 9/11 (see Late March-Early April 2001 and May 30, 2001), and just days before 9/11 the NSA will monitor calls Zubaida is making to the US (see Early September 2001). It appears his calls will continue to be monitored after 9/11 as well (see October 8, 2001). Entity Tags: Khalil Deek, Zoheir Djalili, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure, Abdesselem Boulanouar, Philippines, Abu Zubaida, Al-Qaeda, Ahmed Ressam, Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat Category Tags: Khalil Deek, Abu Zubaida, Remote Surveillance, Philippine Militant Collusion, Al-Qaeda in Southeast Asia

October 2, 1998: Italian Tip Leads to Increased German Surveillance of Hamburg Cell Three Yemeni men are arrested in Turin, Italy. They are connected to planned attacks on US facilities in Europe. They are members of Islamic Jihad, the Egyptian militant group led by al-Qaeda number two, Ayman al-Zawahiri. Italian police search their apartments and discover beards, wigs, weapons, and contact details for Mohammed Haydar Zammar, a member of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. This information is quickly passed to the German domestic intelligence service. Prior to this point, Germany has been investigating Zammar (see March 1997), but apparently they are uncertain if his claims of training in Afghanistan and meeting bin Laden are idle boasts. But after these arrests in Italy, German intelligence will realize Zammar has connections to real terrorists. The surveillance operation on him, and others in the Hamburg cell, will increase in intensity. [STERN, 8/13/2003; VANITY FAIR, 11/2004] Entity Tags: Germany, Italy, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Islamic Jihad Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Germany, Al-Qaeda in Italy

October 7, 1998: Richard Clarke Warns of Terrorist Threat to New York and Washington, Advocates Aggressive Defensive Strategy Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke advocates an aggressive approach to dealing with terrorists and countries that harbor them, and says terrorists are likely to go after America’s “Achilles’ heel,” which is “in Washington… in New York,” and “throughout the country.” He makes these comments during a two-day conference on countering chemical and biological warfare, held in Washington, DC. [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/8/1998; USIS WASHINGTON FILE, 10/8/1998] Enemies Could Target Washington or New York - In his speech at the conference, Clarke says, “The United States can defeat in a conventional war any other military in the world.” Therefore: “Our enemies instead will use unconventional techniques, either exclusively or as a supplement to their attack. They will use terrorism. They will use cyber attack and information warfare. And they will use chem-bio attack.” He adds that America’s enemies “will go after our Achilles’ heel,” which is “in Washington. It is in New York. It is throughout the country. For no longer can we count as a nation on the two great oceans defending us from foreign attack here at home.” US Willing to Take 'The First Step' - Clarke says that the US government has developed a strategy for dealing with chemical and biological weapons attacks, which includes an aggressive approach toward terrorist groups and rogue states. He says these groups and states “should know that those who engage in terrorist acts, including terrorist acts involving chemical and biological weapons, can be assured that they will pay a high price.” The government’s promise to them is “attack us and you will unleash a relentless and methodical machine against you.” Furthermore, Clarke says, the US is willing to act preemptively: “The United States reserves for itself the right of self-defense, and if that means our taking the first step, we will do so. We will not tolerate terrorist organizations acquiring or maintaining stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.” [USIS WASHINGTON FILE, 10/8/1998] US Will Target Countries that Harbor Terrorists - In an interview after his speech, Clarke emphasizes that countries that harbor these terrorist groups also risk being targeted by the US. He points to the recent missile attacks against Sudan in retaliation for the US embassy bombings in Africa (see August 20, 1998), and says the US will “definitely do something” about such countries. “The something depends on what the circumstances are.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 10/8/1998] Clarke will repeat his claim that the nation’s “Achilles’ heel” terrorists will come after is “here in the United States” in an April 2000 interview with the Washington Post (see April 2, 2000). [WASHINGTON POST, 4/2/2000] Entity Tags: Richard A. Clarke Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Warning Signs, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

October 8, 1998: FAA Warns of Al-Qaeda Threat to US Civil Aviation The FAA issues the first of three warnings this year to US airports and airlines urging a “high degree of vigilance” against threats to US civil aviation from al-Qaeda. It specifically warns against a possible terrorist hijacking “at a metropolitan airport in the Eastern United States.” The information is based on statements made by Osama bin Laden and other Islamic leaders, and intelligence obtained after the US cruise missile attacks in August. All three warnings come in late 1998, well before 9/11. [BOSTON GLOBE, 5/26/2002] Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, Federal Aviation Administration Category Tags: US Air Security, Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

October 14, 1998: ’Poised Response’ Exercise Prepares for Bin Laden Attack on Washington A training exercise, code-named Poised Response, is held at the FBI’s headquarter in Washington, DC, based around a possible terrorist attack in the nation’s capital. US Attorney General Janet Reno invites 200 policemen from the Washington metropolitan area to participate. They have to consider four scenarios: a car bombing, an explosive device in a federal building, an assassination attempt on Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and a chemical weapon attack on a Washington Redskins football game. As Time magazine later describes, while the exercise participants are “never told which terrorist might carry out such an audacious attack, Reno and other top Administration aides had one man in mind: Osama bin Laden, whose Afghan camp had been blasted by US cruise missiles two months earlier. His operatives might be coming to town soon.” Time will report there being evidence that bin Laden could be planning to strike Washington or New York (see December 21, 1998). Reportedly, Poised Response is unsuccessful, quickly degenerating into interagency squabbling, and Reno leaves it feeling uneasy. [AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, 12/15/1998; TIME, 12/21/1998; WASHINGTON TIMES, 5/17/2002] Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Janet Reno Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Military Exercises

October 15, 1998: Future 9/11 Commission Executive Director Zelikow Says ‘Public Assumptions’ Shape Views of History In his opening remarks at a conference on contemporary political history organized by the Miller Center of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia, future 9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow emphasizes that the public understanding of history is shaped by what are sometimes referred to as “public myths.” “[U]nderstanding contemporary political history is extremely important and constantly alive in public discourse. ‘Contemporary’ is defined functionally by those critical people and events that go into forming the public’s presumptions about its immediate past. This idea of ‘public presumption’ is akin to William McNeill’s notion of ‘public myth’ but without the negative implication sometimes invoked by the word ‘myth.’ Such presumptions are beliefs (1) thought to be true (although not necessarily known to be true with certainty), and (2) shared in common within the relevant political community. The sources for such presumptions are both personal (from direct experience) and vicarious (from books, movies, and myths).” Zelikow says that public assumptions often grow out of “searing events”: “particularly ‘searing’ or ‘molding’ events take on ‘transcendent’ importance and, therefore, retain their power even as the experiencing generation passes from the scene.” [ZELIKOW, 1999 ] In a previous publication, Zelikow had written about how a “catastrophic terrorism” event could constitute a momentous, history-shaping milestone: “An act of catastrophic terrorism that killed thousands or tens of thousands of people… would be a watershed event in America’s history.… Like Pearl Harbor, such an event would divide our past and future into a ‘before’ and ‘after’” (see November 1997-August 1998). Entity Tags: Philip Zelikow Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Role of Philip Zelikow, 9/11 Commission

October 16, 1998: DIA Report Details Bin Laden’s Chechen Connections The Defense Intelligence Agency acquires a report on the connections between Osama bin Laden and Chechen rebel leader Ibn Khattab. The report states that Ibn Khattab fought with bin Laden in Afghanistan and established training camps in Chechnya at bin Laden’s request. It also says that bin Laden has met with Chechen leaders and agreed to help them with “financial supplies”, and that the Chechen camps will be used to train European militants to conduct kidnappings and terrorist acts against French, Israeli, US, and British citizens. A direct route from Afghanistan to Chechnya has been established through Turkey and Azerbaijan, and is being used for “volunteers”, as well as drug smuggling. [DEFENSE INTELLIGENCE AGENCY, 10/16/1998 ] What US intelligence knows about the relationship between Ibn Khattab and bin Laden will play an important role in the handling of the Zacarias Moussaoui case just before 9/11 (see August 22, 2001 and August 24, 2001). Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Ibn Khattab, Defense Intelligence Agency Category Tags: Osama Bin Laden, Islamist Militancy in Chechnya

October 19, 1998: US Officials Aware Some Saudi Royalty Are Funding Bin Laden It is reported that some of the many thousands of Saudi royal family members are aiding bin Laden. Dick Gannon, who retired several months before as deputy director for operations of the State Department’s Office of Counterterrorism, says, “We’ve got information about who’s backing bin Laden, and in a lot of cases it goes back to the royal family… There are certain factions of the Saudi royal family who just don’t like us.” Paradoxically, this support comes despite bin Laden’s repeated calls to overthrow the Saudi royal family. [US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 10/19/1998] Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Dick Gannon Category Tags: Saudi Arabia, Terrorism Financing

October 21, 1998: Presidential Directive Updates Continuity of Government Plan to Deal with Terrorist Threat President Clinton issues Presidential Decision Directive 67 (PDD-67), which updates the US Continuity of Government (COG) program in line with the emerging threat posed by terrorists. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 166-167 AND 170; WASHINGTON POST, 6/4/2006] PDD-67, “Enduring Constitutional Government and Continuity of Government Operations,” requires agencies to plan for governmental continuity if the US is hit by a major terrorist attack. [KNIGHT RIDDER, 11/17/1999; FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS, 12/12/2000] The directive is classified and there is no White House fact sheet summarizing its contents. [FEDERATION OF AMERICAN SCIENTISTS, 12/12/2000; US CONGRESS. HOUSE. COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM, 4/22/2004] But according to Energy Department documents, the new COG plan “could be triggered by an event worse than what’s expected from the Y2K problem and comparable to the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing.” [KNIGHT RIDDER, 11/17/1999] According to the Washington Post, the result of PDD-67 will be that “every single government department and agency [is] directed to see to it that they could resume critical functions within 12 hours of a warning, and keep their operations running at emergency facilities for up to 30 days.” [WASHINGTON POST, 6/4/2006] The directive puts the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)—which is responsible for planning for and responding to disasters—in charge of the COG program. [US CONGRESS. HOUSE. COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM, 4/28/2005, PP. 4 ] Within FEMA, the Office of National Security Affairs will specifically be responsible for COG activities. [LARSON AND PETERS, 2001, PP. 103] FEMA’s responsibilities will include providing guidance for agencies to develop their continuity plans (see July 26, 1999), and the coordination of interagency exercises. [US CONGRESS. HOUSE. COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM, 4/28/2005, PP. 4 ] Richard Clarke, who has now been appointed counterterrorism “tsar” (see May 22, 1998), drafted PDD-67 earlier in the year (see Early 1998). [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 166-167] The COG plan will be activated for the first time on the morning of 9/11 (see (Between 9:45 a.m. and 9:56 a.m.) September 11, 2001). [ABC NEWS, 4/25/2004] Entity Tags: William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline, Civil Liberties Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

(October 25-November 20, 1998): Bin Laden Tried by Taliban for Embassy Bombings, Set Free After US Does Not Provide Much Evidence After the Taliban is warned that bin Laden has been accused of involvement in the recent 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), it initiates judicial proceedings against him. But when the US fails to provide Afghanistan’s supreme court with sufficient evidence, bin Laden is acquitted. [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 11/20/1998] The Taliban has already received some claims regarding bin Laden’s involvement in terrorism from the US (see August 23, 1998), but these are insufficient and more evidence is requested. Originally, there is no cut-off date for supplying evidence, but when the US does nothing, the Taliban leaders become frustrated and announce a time limit on the inquiry: “If anyone has any evidence of bin Laden’s involvement in cases of terrorism, subversion, sabotage, or any other acts, they should get it to the court before November 20. If by then there is nothing, we will close the case and in our eyes he will be acquitted.” In a November 10 cable the US embassy in Pakistan, which also handles Afghan affairs, comments: “The Taliban appear to many observers not to be totally unreasonable in their demand that the US provide them evidence on bin Laden.” [US EMBASSY (ISLAMABAD), 11/10/1998 ] The US then sends the Taliban a video of an interview bin Laden gave CNN in 1997, a transcript of his ABC 1998 interview, and a copy of his US indictment for the embassy bombings. [US DEPARTMENT OF STATE, 11/11/1998 ] The inquiry is headed by the country’s chief justice, Noor Mohamed Saqib. After the evidence is found not to be enough and bin Laden is set free, Saqib comments: “It is their shame that they have been silent. America is wrong about bin Laden… Anything that happens now anywhere in the world they blame Osama, but the reality is in the proof and they have not given us any. It’s over and America has not presented any evidence. Without any evidence, bin Laden is a man without sin… he is a free man.” [ASSOCIATED PRESS, 11/20/1998] However, the State Department says that it did not “endorse, support, or request” the sharia court trial, but simply wanted bin Laden extradited. A White House spokesperson says, “Without commenting on the rigor of the Taliban judicial system, it is clear that Mr. bin Laden is a proven threat to US national interests.” [US DEPARTMENT OF STATE, 11/11/1998 ; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 11/20/1998] The Taliban’s leadership is not satisfied with the outcome of the trial and will subsequently ask the US for help in getting rid of bin Laden (see November 28, 1998). Entity Tags: US Embassy in Islamabad, US Department of State, Taliban, Noor Mohamed Saqib, Osama bin Laden, Supreme Court of Afghanistan Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, 1998 US Embassy Bombings, Osama Bin Laden

October 29-30, 1998: London Imam Abu Hamza’s Militia Beats Up Small Group of Aging, Moderate Muslims; British Police Refuse to Intervene A group of moderate Muslim community leaders tries to serve a court order instructing radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri and his followers to vacate Finsbury Park mosque. The community leaders and Abu Hamza, an informer for British intelligence against other Islamist extremists (see Early 1997), have been battling over the mosque for some time. On the first attempt to serve the order, one of Abu Hamza’s sons snatches the court papers and throws them away. Second Attempt - On a second attempt a day later, the community leaders are ambushed on the stairs inside the mosque by a mob of Abu Hamza’s supporters, and two of them are physically thrown down the stairs. One of the ambushed men runs to the police standing outside the mosque’s gates and, according to authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory: “The officers heard the commotion, and could see these elderly men limping out of the door cut and bruised, but said that the court injunction gave them no power to arrest any of the mob inside.” The police, who had also refused to help earlier in the year, tell the startled community leaders that they have been aware for some time that Abu Hamza was the subject of previous injunctions from other mosques. They say the solution is to get an eviction order, although this will be costly and time-consuming, and they will do nothing against Abu Hamza in the meantime. Trustees Give Up - The legal battles will continue for several months, after which Abu Hamza offers the community leaders a truce. However, he immediately breaks the truce and the leaders, exhausted, give up. Kadir Barkatullah, one of the management committee ousted by Abu Hamza, will say that he and others make a total of seven complaints to the police about Abu Hamza, but nothing is ever done. Although British Prime Minister Tony Blair will tell Muslim leaders to act against extremists in their local communities, according to Barkatullah, “When we did do precisely that with Abu Hamza, we were ignored.” Incidents Continue - Despite the supposed truce, attacks on moderate Muslims associated with the mosque will continue; one of the community leaders is attacked in his shop with a baseball bat, and an imam is beaten unconscious inside the mosque. [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 34-35, 46-47, 288] Entity Tags: Abu Hamza al-Masri, Kadir Barkatullah Category Tags: Abu Hamza Al-Masri, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism

October 31, 1998: Clinton Signs Law Making It US Policy to Remove Hussein in Iraq President Clinton signs the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998 (ILA) into law. The act, which passed with overwhelming support from Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate, was written by Trent Lott (R-MS) and other Republicans with significant input from Ahmed Chalabi and his aide, Francis Brooke. [US CONGRESS, 10/31/1998 ; WASHINGTON POST, 1/25/2002; NEW YORKER, 6/7/2004] (Former Defense Intelligence Agency official Patrick Lang will later write that one of the driving goals behind the ILA is to revive the failed 1995 coup plans against Saddam Hussein, called “End Game”—see November 1993.) [MIDDLE EAST POLICY COUNCIL, 6/2004] The act makes it “the policy of the United States to support efforts to remove the regime headed by Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq and to promote the emergence of a democratic government to replace that regime.” To that end, the act requires that the president designate one or more Iraqi opposition groups to receive up to $97 million in US military equipment and nonlethal training. The act authorizes another $43 million for humanitarian, broadcasting, and information-collection activities. To be eligible for US assistance, an organization must be “committed to democratic values, to respect for human rights, to peaceful relations with Iraq’s neighbors, to maintaining Iraq’s territorial integrity, and to fostering cooperation among democratic opponents of the Saddam Hussein regime.” [US CONGRESS, 10/31/1998 ; WASHINGTON POST, 1/25/2002; NEW YORKER, 6/7/2004] Chalabi Receives Millions from State Department - Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress receives $17.3 million from the State Department to carry out what it calls the “collection and dissemination of information” about Saddam Hussein’s atrocities to the public. It will continue to receive hundreds of thousands per month from the Defense Department as well. [MOTHER JONES, 4/2006] However, the Clinton administration itself has little use for Chalabi. One administration official will say, “He represents four or five guys in London who wear nice suits and have a fax machine.” [UNGER, 2007, PP. 160] Zinni Warns of Legislation Presaging Military Action - While few in Washington see the ILA as presaging military action against Iraq, one who does is Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, the commander of CENTCOM. As the bill works its way through Congress, Zinni tells some of his senior staff members that the bill is far more serious than most believe. It is much more than a sop for the pro-war crowd, Zinni believes, but in reality a first step towards an invasion of Iraq. In 2004, former ambassador Joseph Wilson will write, “He was, of course, right, but few were listening.” [WILSON, 2004, PP. 290] Entity Tags: Patrick Lang, Francis Brooke, Iraqi National Congress, Clinton administration, US Department of State, Trent Lott, Ahmed Chalabi, US Department of Defense, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion Category Tags: Alleged Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links

November 1998: Turkish Extremists’ Plan to Crash Airplane into Famous Tomb Uncovered

The Kemal Ataturk mausoleum in Ankara, Turkey. [Source: Noha El-Hennawy / Los Angeles Times] US intelligence learns that a Turkish extremist group named Kaplancilar, led by Metin Kaplan and based in Cologne, Germany, had planned a suicide attack. The conspirators, who have been arrested, planned to crash an airplane packed with explosives into the Kemal Ataturk mausoleum in Ankara during a government ceremony. The Turkish press says the group has cooperated with Osama bin Laden, and the FBI includes this incident in a bin Laden database. [NEW YORK TIMES, 2/5/2002; US CONGRESS, 9/18/2002; US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003 ] Entity Tags: Metin Kaplan, Osama bin Laden, Kaplancilar, Federal Bureau of Investigation Category Tags: Warning Signs

November 1998: Americans and Saudis Possibly Attempt to Poison Bin Laden According to the 1999 book The New Jackals by journalist Simon Reeve, bin Laden is nearly poisoned to death this month. The operation “involved American technology and know-how in concert with Saudi finance and manpower, thus avoiding any difficult questions in the US Congress about state-sponsored assassinations. The attack involved an assassin called Siddiq Ahmed who was paid $267,000 to poison bin Laden. It was only partially successful, causing acute kidney failure.” [REEVE, 1999, PP. 204] Apparently, different Saudi factions have vastly different attitudes towards bin Laden, because the same book claims that around this same time, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi intelligence minister, may have met with senior Taliban leaders to extract guarantees of support for bin Laden, to ensure the Taliban would not hand bin Laden over to the US. [REEVE, 1999, PP. 191] No post-9/11 investigations will mention this alleged poisoning incident. Entity Tags: Siddiq Ahmed, Osama bin Laden, Turki al-Faisal Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Osama Bin Laden

November 1998: Former President George H. W. Bush Meets with Bin Laden Family Former President George H. W. Bush meets with the bin Laden family on behalf of the Carlyle Group. The meeting takes place in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. [SUNDAY HERALD (GLASGOW), 10/7/2001] Entity Tags: George Herbert Walker Bush, Carlyle Group, Bin Laden Family Category Tags: Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden Family

After October 1998: Radical Imam Abu Hamza Takes over Second London Mosque, Expands Influence Radical imam Abu Hamza al-Masri takes over a second mosque in London, at Stockwell in the city’s south. He already controls the large Finsbury Park mosque in north London (see March 1997) and is working with British intelligence at this time (see Early 1997). Abu Hamza also expands his operations by preaching in other towns and cities in Britain. Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will later comment: “Like a medieval monarch, Abu Hamza wasn’t satisfied with just Finsbury Park, and wanted to expand his fiefdom. His first step was to take his roadshow around the country, poisoning other mosques with his hateful creed then leaving it to hand-picked locals and some his Supporters of Shariah hard men to complete the takeover at mosques such as that in Stockwell, south London. He roamed the country with a convoy of cars, always with an entourage of minders in tow to whip up the crowd.” [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 48-49] Entity Tags: Abu Hamza al-Masri Category Tags: Abu Hamza Al-Masri, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism November 4, 1998: French Intelligence Fires Algerian Mole The French intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure (DGSE) fires Reda Hassaine, a mole who has penetrated radical Islamist circles in London (see Early 1997 and 1998). Hassaine is fired despite his detailed reports and great access to top militant leaders, because the French see him as a “maverick” who also works with the British press, and suspect he is still also working for the Algerian government (see Early 1995). In particular, a new Algerian intelligence officer has arrived in London and DGSE managers are suspicious of this officer for some reason. Hassaine’s French handler, “Jerome,” says his bosses are making a mistake by firing Hassaine because he thinks that radical Islam is becoming more dangerous, but complains that the decision is not his to make. Hassaine is given severance pay of £2,000 (about US$ 3,000), and in return signs a statement saying he will not talk about his work for the DGSE. Hassaine will later be hired as an informer for British intelligence. [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 133-136] Entity Tags: Reda Hassaine, Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure Category Tags: Reda Hassaine, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism

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 Category Tags: 1998 US Embassy Bombings, Hunt for Bin Laden


(November 11, 1998): Algerian Informer Hired by Scotland Yard Reda Hassaine, an Algerian mole who has penetrated radical Islamist circles in London, goes to Scotland Yard and tells the British police that he has vital information for the anti-terrorist branch. Hassaine had previously informed on Islamist extremists in London for Algerian and French services, but has just been fired by the French (see Early 1995 and November 4, 1998). He speaks to two officers with the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch about his work for the French, whom he had helped monitor leading extremist Abu Hamza al-Masri and Algerian terrorists living in London. Although most of Special Branch’s officers focus on Irish terrorism, they decide to hire Hassaine. The work is “frequently frustrating,” and only lasts for six months, after which control of Hassaine is passed to Britain’s domestic intelligence service, MI5 (see (May 1999)). After it is decided that Hassaine will leave the service of Special Branch and be transferred to MI5, Special Branch asks him to sign a letter saying that he is aware he will go to jail if he talks to anyone about his relationship with them, and if he is arrested by police, he will not be protected by immunity from prosecution. However, Hassaine is angry at this and refuses to sign. [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 137-8] Entity Tags: Metropolitan Police Special Branch, Reda Hassaine Category Tags: Reda Hassaine, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism

November 28, 1998: Taliban Hints at Possible Expulsion of Bin Laden Senior Taliban spokesman Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil meets diplomats from the US embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, to examine new ways of resolving the problem of Osama bin Laden’s presence in Afghanistan after judicial proceedings against him collapse there (see (October 25-November 20, 1998)). Ahmed expresses his opinion that Taliban leaders are caught between “a rock and a hard place” since, if they expel bin Laden without cause they will have internal problems and, if they do not, they will have external ones due to the US. Ahmed suggests that the Saudis have a key to the solution. Afghan and Saudi religious scholars could convene a joint meeting and issue a ruling that bin Laden had acted illegally, for example by holding a news conference when he was under a communication ban. He could then be expelled without this causing internal unrest in Afghanistan and the problem would be resolved “in minutes, not hours.” The US would be happy if bin Laden were expelled to Saudi Arabia or Egypt, but the Saudis apparently do not favor a joint meeting and the proposal is not acted upon. [US DEPARTMENT OF STATE, 11/28/1998 ] Entity Tags: Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, US Embassy in Islamabad, Taliban, Osama bin Laden Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Osama Bin Laden, Saudi Arabia

Late 1998: US Initiates New Effort to Stop Financing of Al-Qaeda, but to Little Effect

William Wechsler. [Source: CAP] Shortly after the US embassy bombings in 1998 (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), the US launches a new interagency effort to track bin Laden’s finances. There had been a previous interagency effort in 1995 but it had fizzled (see October 21, 1995). Counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke sets up a task force. He orders it to find out how much money bin Laden has, where it comes from, how it is distributed, and to stop it. Clarke appoints William Wechsler, a National Security Council staff member, to head the task force. The task force begins an investigation of bin Laden’s finances (see Late 1998). Clarke later writes that he and Wechsler “quickly [come] to the conclusion that the [US government] departments [are] generally doing a lousy job of tracking and disrupting international criminals’ financial networks and had done little or nothing against terrorist financing.” [NEW YORK TIMES, 9/20/2001; CLARKE, 2004, PP. 190-191] Clarke will later claim there was only limited effort from within the US government to fight bin Laden’s financial network. He will assert that within weeks of setting up the interagency effort, it was determined that only one person in the US government, a lowly Treasury Department official, appeared to have any expertise about the hawala system, an informal and paperless money transfer system used by al-Qaeda that is popular with Muslim populations worldwide (see 1993-September 11, 2001). Clarke will later write that the “CIA knew little about the [hawala] system, but set about learning. FBI knew even less, and set about doing nothing.” The FBI claims there are no hawalas in the US, but Wechsler finds several in New York City using a simple Internet search. Clarke will say, “Despite our repeated requests over the following years, nobody from the FBI ever could answer even our most basic questions about the number, location, and activities of major hawalas in the US—much less taken action.” The efforts of other departments are not much better. The one Treasury official with some expertise about hawalas is eventually let go before 9/11. [CLARKE, 2004, PP. 192-193] Efforts to pressure governments overseas also meet with little success (see August 20, 1998-1999). Entity Tags: William Wechsler, Richard A. Clarke, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaeda, Central Intelligence Agency, US Department of the Treasury Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11, Terrorism Financing

Late 1998: US Investigators Reassess Bin Laden’s Finances, Discover Saudi ‘Fundraising Machine’ In late 1998, a new US interagency task force is created to track bin Laden’s finances (see Late 1998). The task force asks for help from the CIA’s Illicit Transactions Group (ITG), a little known entity keeping track of criminals, militants, and money launderers. The task force and ITG scour US intelligence data on al-Qaeda’s finances and soon discover that the assumption that al-Qaeda gets most of its funds from bin Laden’s huge personal fortune and numerous businesses is wrong. While he does have a fortune, according to William Wechsler, the task force director, al-Qaeda is “a constant fundraising machine.” The evidence is indisputable that most of the money is coming from Saudi Arabia. [US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT, 12/15/2003] However, what little pressure the US will put on Saudi Arabia before 9/11 to stop the funding of al-Qaeda will have no effect (see August 20, 1998-1999 and June 1999). Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Al-Qaeda, Osama bin Laden, William Wechsler, Illicit Transactions Group Category Tags: Saudi Arabia, Terrorism Financing

Late 1998: Al-Qaeda Leader Located in Sudan, but US Does Not Try to Capture Him Intelligence agents learn Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid (a.k.a. Abu Hafs the Mauritanian), an important al-Qaeda leader, is staying in a particular hotel room in Khartoum, Sudan. White House officials ask that he be killed or captured and interrogated. International capture operations of wanted militants, a practice known as “rendition,” have become routine by the mid-1990s (see 1993). In fact, over a dozen al-Qaeda operatives are rendered between July 1998 and February 2000 (see July 1998-February 2000). But in this case, both the Defense Department and the CIA are against it, although Al-Walid does not even have bodyguards. The CIA puts the operation in the “too hard to do box,” according to one former official. The CIA says it is incapable of conducting such an operation in Sudan, but in the same year, it conducts another spy mission in the same city. [NEW YORK TIMES, 12/30/2001; CLARKE, 2004, PP. 143-46] A plan is eventually made to seize Al-Walid, but by then he has left the country. [NEW YORK TIMES, 12/30/2001] Entity Tags: US Department of Defense, Central Intelligence Agency, Mahfouz Walad Al-Walid, Clinton administration Category Tags: Counterterrorism Action Before 9/11

Late 1998: Moles within Al-Qaeda Lead to Arrests of 20 of Bin Laden’s Closest Associates Edit

Journalist Simon Reeve will write in the 1999 book The New Jackals that shortly after the African embassy bombings, “With the help of one, possibly two, medium-level moles within [al-Qaeda], Americans arrested and questioned 20 of bin Laden’s closest associates and began inquiries in 28 countries.” Reeve does not say how he knows this, but his book is heavily sourced by interviews with US intelligence officials. The notion that the US had moles within al-Qaeda runs counter to the usual official US position after 9/11 that al-Qaeda was nearly impenetrable. [REEVE, 1999, PP. 204] Top bin Laden associates arrested during this time include:

Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (see September 20, 1998); 
Khalid al-Fawwaz, Ibrahim Eidarous, and Adel Abdel Bary (see Early 1994-September 23, 1998); 
Ihab Saqr, Essam Marzouk, and Ahmad Salama Mabruk (see Late August 1998); 
Ali Mohamed (see September 10, 1998); and 
Wadih El-Hage (see September 15, 1998).


December 1, 1998: Bin Laden Actively Planning Attacks Inside US According to a US intelligence assessment, “[bin Laden] is actively planning against US targets and already may have positioned operatives for at least one operation.… Multiple reports indicate [he] is keenly interested in striking the US on its own soil… Al-Qaeda is recruiting operatives for attacks in the US but has not yet identified potential targets.” Later in the month, a classified document prepared by the CIA and signed by President Clinton states: “The intelligence community has strong indications that bin Laden intends to conduct or sponsor attacks inside the US.” [US CONGRESS, 9/18/2002; WASHINGTON POST, 9/19/2002; US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003 ; US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003] This warning will be mentioned in the August 2001 memo given to President Bush entitled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in US” (see August 6, 2001). Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Central Intelligence Agency, Osama bin Laden Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Warning Signs, Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB

December 2, 1998: Clinton Meets Pakistani Leader but Bin Laden Not Top Priority

Nawaz Sharif meeting with US Defense Secretary William Cohen at the Pentagon on December 3, 1998. [Source: US Department of Defense] Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif comes to Washington to meet with President Clinton and other top Clinton administration officials. The number one issue for Clinton is Pakistan’s nuclear program, since Pakistan had recently illegally developed and exploded a nuclear weapon (see May 28, 1998). The second most important issue is Pakistan’s economy; the US wants Pakistan to support free trade agreements. The third most important issue is terrorism and Pakistan’s support for bin Laden. Author Steve Coll will later note, “When Clinton himself met with Pakistani leaders, his agenda list always had several items, and bin Laden never was at the top. Afghanistan’s war fell even further down.” Sharif proposes to Clinton that the CIA train a secret Pakistani commando team to capture bin Laden. The US and Pakistan go ahead with this plan, even though most US officials involved in the decision believe it has almost no chance for success. They figure there is also little risk or cost involved, and it can help build ties between American and Pakistani intelligence. The plan will later come to nothing (see October 1999). [COLL, 2004, PP. 441-444] Entity Tags: Nawaz Sharif, Clinton administration, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI

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 Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

December 4, 1998: Clinton Warned ‘Bin Laden Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft’ Inside US Edit

Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli. [Source: Public domain] On December 4, 1998, an item in President Clinton’s Presidential Daily Briefing (PDB) is titled, “Bin Laden Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks.” The PDB says “Bin Laden and is allies are preparing for attacks in the US, including an aircraft hijacking to obtain the release of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Muhammad Sadiq ‘Awda. One source quoted a senior member of Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya (IG) saying that, as of late October, the IG had completed planning for an operation in the US on behalf of bin Laden, but that the operation was on hold. A senior bin Laden operative from Saudi Arabia was to visit IG counterparts in the US soon thereafter to discuss options-perhaps including an aircraft hijacking.” The same source says bin Laden may implement plans to hijack US aircraft before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan on December 20 and that two members of the operational team had evaded security checks in a recent trial run at a New York airport. A possible different source says that in late September, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, brother of the assassin of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and described in the PDB as an IG leader, was planning to hijack a US airliner during the “next couple of weeks” to free Abdul-Rahman and other prisoners. The PDB also says that “some members of the bin Laden network have received hijack training, according to various sources, but no group directly tied to bin Laden’s al-Qaeda organization has ever carried out an aircraft hijacking. Bin Laden could be weighing other types of operations against US aircraft.” The PDB mentions other bin Laden related threats, including recent reports that the IG has obtained surface-to-air missiles and intends to move them from Yemen to Saudi Arabia to shoot down aircraft. [WASHINGTON POST, 7/18/2004; 9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 128-130] The private intelligence group Stratfor will later say that, in addition to his ties with IG, Islambouli worked with bin Laden in the Maktab al-Khidamat charity front in Pakistan and is believed to have lived in Afghanistan in the 1990s as “part of the group of key Egyptian advisers surrounding bin Laden.” Islambouli will formally join with al-Qaeda in 2006. [STRATFOR, 8/10/2006] In early 1998, the CIA ignored information from a recently retired CIA agent that claimed 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed was in a terrorist cell with Islambouli, both were experts on plane hijackings, and were planning to hijack planes (see Early 1998). Perhaps not coincidentally, on this same day, CIA Director George Tenet issues a “declaration of war” against al-Qaeda in a memo to the US intelligence community (see December 4, 1998). Also on this day, counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke holds a meeting of his interagency Counterterrorism and Security Group (CSG) to discuss the threat. The group agrees that New York City airports should go on a maximum security alert that weekend and security should be boosted at other East Coast airports. The FBI, FAA, and New York City Police Department get versions of the PDB report. Later in December and again in January 1999 the source says the hijacking has been postponed because two operatives have been arrested in Washington or New York. But the FBI is unable to find any information to support the threat nor is it able to verify any arrests similar to what the source described, and the source remains mysterious. The high alert in New York airports is canceled by the end of January. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 128-130] This PDB will be mentioned in President Bush’s famous August 6, 2001 PDB, but mentions that US officials “have not been able to corroborate” the plot (see August 6, 2001). Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Federal Aviation Administration, Al-Gama’a al-Islamiyya, Richard A. Clarke, Counterterrorism and Security Group, Ramzi Yousef, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Mohammed Shawqui Islambouli, Muhammad Sadiq ‘Awda, Osama bin Laden, New York City Police Department, Maktab al-Khidamat Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Key Warnings, Warning Signs, Bush's Aug. 6, 2001 PDB, Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman, Presidential Level Warnings

December 5, 1998: Unocal Abandons Afghan Pipeline Project Unocal announces it is withdrawing from the CentGas pipeline consortium, and closing three of its four offices in Central Asia. President Clinton refuses to extend diplomatic recognition to the Taliban, making business there legally problematic. A concern that Clinton will lose support among women voters for upholding the Taliban plays a role in the cancellation. [NEW YORK TIMES, 12/5/1998] Entity Tags: Centgas, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Unocal, Taliban Category Tags: Pipeline Politics

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 Category Tags: Counterterrorism Policy/Politics

December 18-20, 1998: US Locates Bin Laden but Declines to Strike

The governor’s mansion in Kandahar, Afghanistan. [Source: CBC] On December 18, 2000, CIA receives a tip that bin Laden will be staying overnight on December 20 at the governor’s mansion in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Missile strikes are readied against him. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 130-131] Gary Schroen, head of the CIA’s Pakistan office, e-mails CIA headquarters with the message, “Hit him tonight—we may not get another chance.” However, principal advisers to President Clinton agree not to recommend a strike because of doubts about the intelligence and worries about collateral damage. The military estimates the attacks will kill about 200 people, presumably most of them innocent bystanders. Schroen will later recall, “It struck me as rather insane, frankly. They decided not to attack bin Laden because he was in a building in fairly close proximity to a mosque. And they were afraid that some of the shrapnel was going to hit the mosque and somehow offend the Muslim world, and so they decided not to shoot on that occasion. That’s the kind of reason for not shooting that the policy maker, anyway, came up with endlessly.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004; CBC, 9/12/2006] Later intelligence appears to show that bin Laden left before the strike could be readied, but some aware of the intelligence felt it was a chance that should have been taken anyway. [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 130-131] In the wake of this incident, officials attempt to find alternatives to cruise missiles, such a precision strike aircraft. However, US Central Command Chief General Anthony Zinni is apparently opposed to deployment of these aircraft near Afghanistan, and they are not deployed. [9/11 COMMISSION, 3/24/2004] Entity Tags: Clinton administration, Anthony Zinni, Osama bin Laden, Gary C. Schroen Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

December 21, 1998: Bin Laden May Be Planning Attacks on New York and Washington In a Time magazine cover story entitled “The Hunt for Osama,” it is reported that intelligence sources “have evidence that bin Laden may be planning his boldest move yet—a strike on Washington or possibly New York City in an eye-for-an-eye retaliation. ‘We’ve hit his headquarters, now he hits ours,’ says a State Department aide.” [TIME, 12/21/1998] Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden Category Tags: Warning Signs

Before December 23, 1998: Yemeni Militant Group Plots Christmas Attacks on Western Targets The Islamic Army of Aden (IAA), a local militant group linked to al-Qaeda (see Early 2000 and October 12, 2000), plots a series of strikes against Western-related targets in Aden, Yemen. According to the Yemeni authorities, the plot encompasses:

An attack on the Movenpick hotel, which is used by Western tourists and had already been bombed in 1992 (see December 29, 1992); 
Firing rockets into a clinic in the grounds of Aden’s only Christian church; 
Murdering British diplomats at the British consulate; 
Attacks on the Al Shadhrawan nightclub; 
Hitting the UN office in Aden; and 
Attacking a hotel used by US troops. 

However, the plot, headed by IAA leader Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, will be broken up on December 23, when six of the plotters linked to leading British imam Abu Hamza al-Masri are arrested by police in Aden (see December 23, 1998). [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 159-160] Entity Tags: Islamic Army of Aden, Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar Category Tags: Abu Hamza Al-Masri, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism, Yemeni Militant Collusion

December 22, 1998: Bin Laden Takes Credit for ‘Instigating’ Embassy Bombings In an interview for Time magazine held on this date, bin Laden is asked whether he was responsible for the August 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). He replies, “If the instigation for jihad against the Jews and the Americans in order to liberate [Islamic shrines in Mecca and Medina] is considered a crime, then let history be a witness that I am a criminal. Our job is to instigate and, by the grace of God, we did that—and certain people responded to this instigation.… I am confident that Muslims will be able to end the legend of the so-called superpower that is America.” He admits knowing certain people accused of being behind the bombing, such as Wadih El-Hage and Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, but denies they had any connection to the bombings. [TIME, 1/11/1999; GLOBE AND MAIL, 10/5/2001] Entity Tags: Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Osama bin Laden, Wadih El-Hage Category Tags: 1998 US Embassy Bombings, Osama Bin Laden, Wadih El-Hage, Alleged Al-Qaeda Media Statements

December 22, 1998: Bin Laden Thanks Pakistani Government Departments for Their Assistance In an interview with ABC News, bin Laden says, “As for Pakistan, there are some governmental departments, which, by the Grace of God, respond to the Islamic sentiments of the masses in Pakistan. This is reflected in sympathy and cooperation. However, some other governmental departments fell into the trap of the infidels…” [ABC NEWS, 1/2/1999] A Slate article will call this “bin Laden obliquely express[ing] gratitude to his ISI friends.” [SLATE, 10/9/2001] Entity Tags: Pakistan Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan, Osama bin Laden Category Tags: Pakistan and the ISI

December 23, 1998: British Radicals Arrested in Yemen; Apparently Intended to Carry out Bomb Plot A group of six young men are arrested in Yemen, where they are alleged to have been planning a series of bombings. Five of the men are British. They include Mohsin Ghalain, the stepson of Abu Hamza al-Masri, a leading radical cleric in Britain and informer for the British security services (see Early 1997), and Shahid Butt, Abu Hamza’s “six-foot four-inch enforcer.” The men are members of the militant Supporters of Sharia organization run by Abu Hamza and are in Yemen to work with the Islamic Army of Aden, a local radical organization and al-Qaeda affiliate. Arrest Merely a Coincidence - The Yemeni government will say that they are arrested purely by coincidence, after the police notice a group of them committing a minor traffic violation. When their vehicle is found and searched following a chase, a cache of weapons and explosives is found in it. Skepticism about Yemeni Claim - However, author Mary Quin will later comment: “Several aspects of the story about how the Britons were apprehended did not ring true. Having spent a week on Yemeni roads myself, it seemed highly unlikely that a police officer would bother to pull over a vehicle at midnight for something as mundane as going the wrong way around a traffic island.… The fact that the car happened to be stashed with weapons and explosives seemed too much of a coincidence. I was also suspicious of the reported speed with which the police located the two hotels where the defendants were staying.” Informant Tip? - Instead, Quin will speculate that the Yemeni authorities were tipped off by an informer, Hetam bin Farid, who will later go on to command the Islamic Army of Aden (see (December 30, 1998-October 31, 1999)). Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will also say that the timing of the arrests “suggest[s] that Yemeni intelligence services had prior warning of the bomb plot.” [QUIN, 2005, PP. 103-4, 116; O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 156-157, 176, 178-179] Entity Tags: Supporters of Sharia, Islamic Army of Aden, Hetam bin Farid, Mohsin Ghalain, Shahid Butt Category Tags: Abu Hamza Al-Masri, Yemeni Militant Collusion


December 24, 1998: President Clinton Signs Order Authorizing the Assassination of Bin Laden President Bill Clinton signs a memorandum of notification authorizing the CIA to kill Osama bin Laden. The memo is sent to Clinton by National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, apparently at the request of CIA Director George Tenet, who has discussed the memo with Berger and seems to have given it his blessing. The highly classified memo concerns operations by a group of CIA tribal assets in Afghanistan who are monitoring bin Laden. Their task had previously been to capture bin Laden and they had been banned from assassinating him, but these rules are now changed and a kill operation is authorized. The memo makes it very clear that “the president [is] telling the tribal leaders they could kill bin Laden.” 9/11 Commission Executive Director Philip Zelikow will later recall the memo tells the tribal leaders: “you may conduct an operation to kill him,” adding, “There were no euphemisms in the language.” Although the CIA is still legally prevented from assassinating people, Clinton administration lawyers now say that bin Laden is an imminent danger to the US, so he can be killed as a part of pre-emptive self-defense. Despite his role in drafting the memo, Tenet and his deputies will later claim to the 9/11 Commission that Clinton never issued such clear authorization (see Before January 14, 2004). However, the order to assassinate bin Laden is garbled within the CIA and the CIA’s bin Laden unit appears not to receive it (see December 26, 1998 and After). [WASHINGTON POST, 2/22/2004; SHENON, 2008, PP. 357-8] Entity Tags: Philip Zelikow, Osama bin Laden, William Jefferson (“Bill”) Clinton, Central Intelligence Agency Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

December 26, 1998: Future Kidnappers Allegedly Meet Half-Brother of Yemeni President According to Ahmed Abdullah al-Hasani, who will later head the Yemeni navy and be Yemen’s ambassador to Syria, men from the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA) meet with Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, half-brother of Yemen’s president Ali Abdallah Saleh. Al-Ahmar helped recruit Islamist radicals to fight in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War (see 1980-1990) and allegedly later received a payment from Osama bin Laden to help settle Afghan Arabs in Yemen (see May 21-July 7, 1994). The meeting follows the breaking up of an IAA plot to attack targets in Aden (see Before December 23, 1998 and December 23, 1998), and comes two days before the IAA takes Western hostages in an attempt to obtain the release of six recently arrested IAA operatives (see December 28-29, 1998). Al-Hasani will say, “Two days before the killings, members of the terrorist group were in al-Ahmar’s house in Sana’a,” the capital of Yemen. “They were also in telephone contact with Sana’a just before the shootings.” [SUNDAY TIMES (LONDON), 5/8/2005] Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will write that during the kidnapping, IAA leader Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar “bark[s] out his demands for a prisoner swap over the telephone to a half-brother of Yemen’s President Saleh, among others.” Presumably, this half-brother is al-Ahmar. In addition, on the last day of the kidnapping Almihdhar tells a local dignitary, “We have contacts at the highest level and we are expecting a response from them at noon.” [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 159-160] Exactly what al-Ahmar knows of the kidnapping in advance, if anything, is unclear. Entity Tags: Ahmed Abdullah al-Hasani, Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, Islamic Army of Aden Category Tags: Yemeni Militant Collusion

December 26, 1998 and After: CIA Apparently Does Not Understand It Is Authorized to Assassinate Bin Laden; Bin Laden Unit Not Informed The CIA seems not to understand permission given by President Bill Clinton to assassinate Osama bin Laden (see December 24, 1998). The instruction was contained in a memorandum of notification signed by Clinton authorizing the agency to use a group of tribal fighters to kill bin Laden. Previously, the tribal leaders had only been authorized to capture bin Laden, and this new memo marks an important shift in policy. According to author Philip Shenon, the memo is “written in stark language” and it makes it very clear “that the president was telling the tribal leaders they could kill bin Laden.” However, the actual memo is closely held within the CIA, and the 9/11 Commission will comment, “This intent [to have bin Laden killed] was never well communicated or understood within the agency.” Apparently, it is never even communicated to Michael Scheuer, head of Alec Station, the CIA’s bin Laden unit. Scheuer will later express his frustration at not being allowed to try to kill bin Laden, “We always talked about how much easier it would have been to kill him.” [9/11 COMMISSION, 7/24/2004, PP. 133; SHENON, 2008, PP. 358] Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, Alec Station, Michael Scheuer, 9/11 Commission Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden

Page 12 of 64 (6374 events) December 27, 1998: British Informer Abu Hamza Involved in Militant Plot to Abduct Western Tourists in Yemen Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, leader of the al-Qaeda-affiliated Islamic Army of Aden (see Early 2000 and October 12, 2000), telephones Abu Hamza al-Masri, a London-based imam and informer for the British security services (see Early 1997). Six operatives sent by Abu Hamza to Yemen for training had become involved in a bomb plot, but were arrested four days ago (see December 23, 1998). Almihdhar makes two calls to Abu Hamza, and tells him of the capture of the operatives, who include Abu Hamza’s stepson and former bodyguard. The two men apparently come up with a plan to capture some Western tourists, and Abu Hamza purchases more airtime worth £500 (about $800) for Almihdhar’s satellite phone. After the tourists are captured the next day (see December 28-29, 1998), Almihdhar will immediately telephone Abu Hamza and, according to one of the tourists’ drivers, say, “We’ve got the goods that were ordered, 16 cartons marked Britain and America.” This is not the only telephone contact between the two men, and authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will add, “What was apparent from the first hours of the hostage crisis was that the short-tempered [Almihdhar] needed the advice and reassurance of his spokesman in North London.” The calls are intercepted by the Government Communications Headquarters, Britain’s wiretapping agency, using a base in Cyprus. Although the communications cannot be used in court under British law, they are useful to the intelligence services in determining what is going on between Almihdhar and Abu Hamza. However, the intercepts are also shared with the FBI, which will later indicate it may use them in a US prosecution of Abu Hamza stemming from the fact that two of the kidnap victims are American nationals. [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 156-157, 161, 180] Entity Tags: Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, Abu Hamza al-Masri, Government Communications Headquarters, Islamic Army of Aden Category Tags: Remote Surveillance, Abu Hamza Al-Masri, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism, Yemeni Militant Collusion

December 28-29, 1998: Western Tourists Kidnapped in Yemen by Al-Qaeda-Linked Group, Some Die in Rescue Attempt A group of 20 people, including 16 western tourists, are kidnapped in southern Yemen by the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA), an al-Qaeda affiliate. In return for releasing the hostages, IAA leader Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar demands the release of six IAA operatives arrested a few days earlier (see December 23, 1998). Almihdhar also makes further demands, including the release of more prisoners, an end to the US-led bombing of Iraq, and a change of government in Yemen. Knowing that it will be unable to meet all these demands and worried Almihdhar will carry out his threat to start executing the hostages, the day after the kidnapping the Yemen government sends in the army to rescue them, but four hostages die during the fighting. [QUIN, 2005, PP. 31-62, 83, 126-7, 155-6, 200-1] Three of the militants are killed, and seven, including Almihdhar, are captured. However, some escape. [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 168] Motive - Hostage Mary Quin, who will write a book about the kidnapping, will later conclude that fear for the hostages’ safety is not the only motive for the attack by the army and that it is also a product of the government’s policy of attacking the IAA where possible. Yemen’s deputy foreign minister will comment: “We are not tolerating these groups. What happened in Abyan [where the hostages were held] was a reaction to a crackdown on these people.” Link to Abu Hamza - Before and during the kidnapping, Almihdhar is in contact with the IAA’s spokesman, Abu Hamza al-Masri, in London, using a satellite phone Abu Hamza provided him with. One of the six operatives Almihdhar wants the government to release is Abu Hamza’s stepson. Almihdhar will be sentenced to death for his role, and most of the other kidnappers are also caught and punished (see October 17, 1999). The Yemen government later asks for the extradition of Abu Hamza, who has a relationship with British intelligence (see Early 1997), but the British government refuses (see January 1999). [QUIN, 2005, PP. 31-62, 83, 126-7, 155-6, 200-1] Relative of 9/11 Hijacker? - It will later be suggested that Almihdhar is a distant relative of 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar. [NEW YORK TIMES, 12/7/2001] Entity Tags: Mary Quin, Abu Hamza al-Masri, Zein al-Abidine Almihdhar, Islamic Army of Aden, Yemen Category Tags: Abu Hamza Al-Masri, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism, Yemeni Militant Collusion, Alleged Al-Qaeda Linked Attacks

December 28, 1998 and After: In British Media, Radical Imam Abu Hamza Defends Kidnapping in Yemen Radical imam and British intelligence informer Abu Hamza al-Masri (see Early 1997) defends the kidnapping of Western hostages in Yemen by the Islamic Army of Aden (IAA—see December 28-29, 1998) in the British media. The IAA is an al-Qaeda affiliate (see Early 2000 and October 12, 2000) and Abu Hamza acts as its press officer. Although it is unusual for radical Islamists to appear on television in Britain at this time, Abu Hamza does not shy away from the publicity. Authors Sean O’Neill and Daniel McGrory will even call him a “publicity junkie,” and comment on his television appearances: “[Abu Hamza] tried to defend the indefensible by appearing on television and supporting the gunmen holding innocent Western hostages in the desert. Much of what he had to say in his strangled English about ‘jihad’ and martyrdom baffled his armchair British audience, most of who at the time had never heard of al-Qaeda.… He would stab his hook at the camera lens as he issued his bloodcurdling threats against politicians who did not heed his advice. His language was provocative, his demeanour threatening, but he had achieved one ambition—people in Britain suddenly knew the name of Abu Hamza.” His appearances do not go down well with the media, and, in O’Neill and McGrory’s words, he is “vilified .. after he admitted that he was the press officer for the kidnappers from the pompously named Islamc Army of Aden and Abyan.” Abu Hamza will later admit that this is the biggest mistake he ever makes. According to O’Neill and McGrory: “He [loses] friends and credibility, and [becomes] a marked man by the security authorities in Britain. But his standing with young British extremists [is] boosted.” [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 158-159, 172-173] Entity Tags: Islamic Army of Aden, Abu Hamza al-Masri Category Tags: Abu Hamza Al-Masri, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism

After December 29, 1998: Yemeni Authorities See Abu Hamza as Terror Leader Following the exposure of a bomb plot (see December 23, 1998) and a kidnapping and murder (see December 28-29, 1998) in Yemen, local officials place most of the blame for the problems on British-based radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri. According to authors Daniel McGrory and Sean O’Neill, local security official General Mohammed Turaik can “barely bring himself to mouth the name of Abu Hamza.” He is “almost incoherent with rage that the man he held responsible for the bloodshed was giving television interviews in London, and not standing in the dock of an Aden court to face his accusers.” Yemen compiles a large amount of evidence about Abu Hamza’s involvement, but also blames al-Qaeda-linked training camps in Afghanistan for altering the thinking of Yemenis who went there. [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 170-171] Entity Tags: Mohammed Turaik, Abu Hamza al-Masri Category Tags: Abu Hamza Al-Masri, Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism

Soon After December 29, 1998: Yemenis Thwart British Investigation into Kidnapping and Murder Linked to Prominent General Yemeni officials initially agree to receive a team of British investigators who will look into a kidnapping and murder case in which Yemeni terrorists abducted Western tourists, including some from Britain (see December 28-29, 1998). Initially, leading security official General Mohammed Turaik says that there is no point in British investigators coming to Yemen, because his office managed to rapidly wrap up the inquiry. However, he adds that if the British want to visit the scene of the kidnap and talk to imprisoned kidnappers, then they can. However, when the investigators arrive, according to authors Daniel McGrory and Sean O’Neill, they “find themselves restricted to hanging around their hotels. Requests to travel to Abyan to see where the hostages died were left in an in-tray. Suggestions that the… detectives might question the six men the General claimed had been sent from Finsbury Park [a British mosque associated with radicalism], to blow up British targets in Aden were ignored.” [O'NEILL AND MCGRORY, 2006, PP. 171] The reason for this change of opinion is unclear. It may be due to deteriorating diplomatic relations between Yemen and Britain (see January 1999). Another explanation would be that a prominent relative of Yemen’s president, General Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, is said to have met with the kidnappers in advance (see December 26, 1998). Entity Tags: Mohammed Turaik Category Tags: Londonistan - UK Counterterrorism, Yemeni Militant Collusion


Late 1998: Key Embassy Bombing Witnesses Are Beheaded Before They Can Talk to FBI FBI counterterrorism expert John O’Neill and his team investigating the 1998 US embassy bombings are repeatedly frustrated by the Saudi government. Guillaume Dasquié, one of the authors of The Forbidden Truth, later tells the Village Voice: “We uncovered incredible things.… Investigators would arrive to find that key witnesses they were about to interrogate had been beheaded the day before.” [BRISARD AND DASQUIE, 2002, PP. XXIX; VILLAGE VOICE, 1/2/2002] Entity Tags: John O’Neill, Federal Bureau of Investigation Category Tags: Saudi Arabia, 1998 US Embassy Bombings

Late 1998: Taliban Stall Pipeline Negotiations to Keep Western Powers at Bay During the investigation of the August 7, 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), FBI counterterrorism expert John O’Neill finds a memo by al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef on a computer. The memo shows that bin Laden’s group has a keen interest in and detailed knowledge of negotiations between the Taliban and the US over an oil and gas pipeline through Afghanistan. Atef’s analysis suggests that the Taliban are not sincere in wanting a pipeline, but are dragging out negotiations to keep Western powers at bay. [SALON, 6/5/2002] Entity Tags: Mohammed Atef, United States, Taliban, John O’Neill, Al-Qaeda Category Tags: Pipeline Politics, Hunt for Bin Laden

Late 1998: Failed Missile Attack Said to Increase Bin Laden’s Stature in Muslim World

Top: a protest sign in a late 1998 Pakistan protest reads: “Down Down Clinton! Long Live Laden!” Bottom: a children’s toy featuring bin Laden from the late 1990s. [Source: National Geographic] According to reports, the failed US missile attack against bin Laden on August 20, 1998 greatly elevates bin Laden’s stature in the Muslim world. A US defense analyst later states, “I think that raid really helped elevate bin Laden’s reputation in a big way, building him up in the Muslim world.… My sense is that because the attack was so limited and incompetent, we turned this guy into a folk hero.” [WASHINGTON POST, 10/3/2001] An Asia Times article published just prior to 9/11 suggests that because of the failed attack, “a very strong Muslim lobby emerge[s] to protect [bin Laden’s] interests. This includes Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, as well as senior Pakistani generals. Crown Prince Abdullah has good relations with bin Laden as both are disciples of slain Sheikh Abdullah Azzam (see 1985-1989).” [ASIA TIMES, 8/22/2001] In early 1999, Pakistani President Musharraf complains that by demonizing bin Laden, the US has turned him into a cult hero. The US decides to play down the importance of bin Laden. [UNITED PRESS INTERNATIONAL, 4/9/2004] Entity Tags: Pervez Musharraf, Osama bin Laden, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud, Abdullah Azzam Category Tags: Hunt for Bin Laden, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the ISI

Late 1998: El Hage Points to Darkazanli and Hamburg Cell

On top is El-Hage’s business card for his fake charity, Help Africa People. Below is his card for his business Anhar Trading. On the lower left is a US address and on the lower right is Darkazanli’s address in Germany. [Source: CNN] The CIA first became interested in Mamoun Darkazanli in 1993 (see 1993). The FBI shows interest in Darkazanli after al-Qaeda operatives Wadih El Hage and Mamdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer) are arrested in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998-September 5, 2001 and September 20, 1998). According to FBI documents, Darkazanli’s fax and telephone numbers are discovered in El Hage’s address book. Darkazanli’s Deutsche Bank account number is found in the book as well. [CNN, 10/16/2001] El-Hage had created a number of shell companies as fronts for al-Qaeda activities, and one of these uses the address of Darkazanli’s apartment. [CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 11/17/2002] Further, El-Hage’s business card shows Darkazanli’s Hamburg address. The FBI also discovers that Darkazanli has power of attorney over a bank account belonging to Salim, a high-ranking al-Qaeda member. El Hage will later be convicted for his role in the 1998 US embassy bombings, and Salim will remain in US custody. [NEW YORK TIMES, 6/20/2002; US CONGRESS, 7/24/2003, PP. 157 ] By this time, Darkazanli is associating with members of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell, and may be a member of the cell himself. Entity Tags: Wadih El-Hage, Mamoun Darkazanli, Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, Federal Bureau of Investigation Category Tags: Al-Qaeda in Germany, Mamoun Darkazanli, Wadih El-Hage

Late December 1998: Data Mining Program Authorized to Go after Bin Laden Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Henry Shelton will later say, “Right after I left SOCOM (Special Operations Command), I asked my successor to put together a small team, if he could, to try to use the Internet and start trying to see if there was any way that we could track down Osama bin Laden or where he was getting his money from or anything of that nature.” A team of six intelligence officers will be given this task and Shelton will be periodically briefed on the progress of the program. But apparently the team, later to be called Able Danger, will focus on data mining tasks relating to Bosnia and China for most of 1999. [SACRAMENTO BEE, 12/7/2005; US CONGRESS, 2/15/2006] Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the head of the military’s Special Operations Command (SOCOM), helped come up with the idea for Able Danger and helps to set it up. SOCOM, based in Tampa, Florida, is responsible for America’s secret commando units. [GOVERNMENT SECURITY NEWS, 9/2005] Mark Zaid, a lawyer for several Able Danger whistleblowers in 2005, will give this description of Able Danger: “In the most understandable and simplistic terms, Able Danger involved the searching out and compiling of open source or other publicly available information regarding specific targets or tasks that were connected through associational links. No classified information was used. No government database systems were used.… The search and compilation efforts were primarily handled by defense contractors, who did not necessarily know they were working for Able Danger, and that information was then to be utilized by the military members of Able Danger for whatever appropriate purposes.” [US CONGRESS, 9/21/2005] Apparently, Able Danger does not begin to use real data to fight al-Qaeda until near the end of 1999. Entity Tags: Peter J. Schoomaker, Special Operations Command, Mark Zaid, Henry Hugh Shelton, Able Danger Timeline Tags: 9/11 Timeline Category Tags: Able Danger

Late December 1998: Iraqi Ambassador Reportedly Meets with Osama Bin Laden; But Meeting Took Place Three Years Earlier According to US intelligence sources, Farouk Hijazi, the Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, visits Afghanistan in late 1998 after US cruise missiles are fired on al-Qaeda training camps following the bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Hijazi, who is also a longtime intelligence officer, meets Osama bin Laden in Kandahar and extends an offer from Baghdad to provide refuge for him and Taliban leader Mullah Omar. Bin Laden reportedly rejects the offer because he doesn’t want his organization dominated by Saddam Hussein. After the 9/11 attacks, proponents of invading Iraq will claim the visit makes Hijazi a key link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. Hijazi will be captured by US troops in late April 2003 after the US/British invasion of Iraq begins. [GUARDIAN, 2/16/1999; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 9/27/2001; KNIGHT RIDDER, 10/7/2002; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 4/25/2003; ASSOCIATED PRESS, 7/13/2003] However, in 2006, a bipartisan Senate report will conclude that Hijazi did meet with bin Laden, but in 1995, not 1998 (see Early 1995). Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Mullah Omar, Farouk Hijazi Timeline Tags: Events Leading to Iraq Invasion Category Tags: Alleged Iraq-Al-Qaeda Links

Timeline linksEdit

September 8 September 9 September 10 September 11

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