Al Qaeda & The CIA, The Tie That Binds
“There were several ways the FBI could have acquired this information from the CIA — through a CIR from the CIA to the FBI, informally through conversations between a CIA employee and FBI Headquarters employees, and through the FBI employees detailed to the CIA reviewing the CIA cable traffic. We reviewed whether this information was in fact passed to the FBI by the CIA, and based on the evidence, concluded that while the CIA passed some of the information about Khalid al-Mihdhar to the FBI, it did not contemporaneously pass the information about Mihdhar’s U.S. visa to the FBI. We concluded it was not disclosed by the CIA until late August 2001, shortly before the September 11 terrorist attacks. We also reviewed whether FBI detailees to the CIA contemporaneously acquired this information and what action, if any, they took with respect to this information.”
(A Review of the FBI’s Handling of Intelligence Information Related to the September 11 Attacks)
On July 11, 1997, George Tenet, a Georgetown graduate, is standing with his right hand up, ready to be sworn in and confirm his appointment as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency/ All with Senate Select approval of course. Tenet was seen as a visionary, and what he saw was an agency on the brink toward the abyss of history. U.S President Bill Clinton was wary of Tenet but grew warm on him over the next 12 months. Richard Clarke, then the head official in the U.S National Security Council, was also quite close to Clinton and knew the newly appointed DCI would change the agency from within. Tenet would begin the process of transforming the CIA into a global inter-agency force, where Human Intelligence (HUMINT) would come from secretly placed spies in Arab cities where there would be suspected terrorist cells in place. The CIA would have two primary divisions.
Both of these divisions would have their very own way of collecting and ascertaining information and how it would be disseminated to their handlers and superiors.
Every capitol in the world has it’s own covert station. Anywhere between a handful to a slew of case officers are in each designated station. The CIA case officers recruited and ran “assets”, informants and spies. Station chiefs however, collected said information and reported back to Operations Division of Headquarters called the “Directorate of Operations”. This was how the CIA operated all over the world. Tenet saw fit to sow ideas to Clinton during White House briefings in the morning, about a Saudi financier, Osama Bin Laden. Who was living in the Sudan and starting to pop up on cables at the station in Khartoum. By 1995, David Cohen, head of the CIA’s Directorate of Operations, George Tenet and other top level CIA officials began implementing the idea of constructing a virtual station tasked to monitor the finances of Bin Laden and his group, Al Qaeda. The unit “would fuse intelligence disciplines into one office — operations, analysis, signals intercepts, overhead photography and so on”, according to Cohen.
By January 1996, the plan was approved. The choice to appoint Station Chief of the Bin Laden Issue Station was Michael Scheuer. A rugged but experienced asset who could even speak Farsi. Scheuer’s first two hires were also CIA freshman, Alfreda Anne Bikowsky and Tom Wilshire. The Station was an interdisciplinary group, drawing on personnel from the CIA, FBI, NSA, DIA and elsewhere in the intelligence community. Wilshire was named the Deputy Chief of Station, Wilshire had a background at the FBI headquarters on the Hezbollah investigations. While Bikowski was tasked to manage all the hiring at the center.
Meanwhile Bin Laden’s stay in Khartoum was beginning to come to an end. Sudanese officials began contacting the Saudi Ministry of Affairs, negotiating the embattled Bin Laden to return back to his nation of origin. Saudi officials led by Prince Turki bin Faisal, Director of Saudi General Intelligence, cautioned about having him back along with his “rag tag” Mujaheddin fighters. According to the 9/11 Commission Report:
“In February 1996, Sudanese officials began approaching officials from the United States and other governments, asking what actions of theirs might ease foreign pressure. In secret meetings with Saudi officials, Sudan offered to expel Bin Laden to Saudi Arabia and asked the Saudis to pardon him. U.S. officials became aware of these secret discussions, certainly by March. Saudi officials apparently wanted Bin Laden expelled from Sudan. They had already revoked his citizenship, however, and would not tolerate his presence in their country. Also Bin Laden may have no longer felt safe in Sudan, where he had already escaped at least one assassination attempt that he believed to have been the work of the Egyptian or Saudi regimes, and paid for by the CIA.”
The CIA Station in Khartoum already had a lengthy file on Bin Laden, that went back as far as 1992. Donald Petterson, the American ambassador to Sudan knew all too well that Bin Laden was conducting operations and running training camps along with Egyptian and Saudi members of Al Qaeda led by Abu Ubaidah al-Banshiri, Abdul Hadi al-Iraqi and Abu Hafs al-Masri (Mohamed Atef). Petterson had sent U.S Diplomatic cables back to Clarke at the National Security Counsel, about information regarding a burgeoning terrorist cell operating out of camps Al Damazin Farms and Soba Farms. While numerous businesses ran legitimately to launder illegal finances such as Themar al-Mubakaka, Taba Investments, Al Hijra Construction, Ladin International, Wadi Al Aqiq, and Al Qudurat Transportation. Running the daily finances was a Lebanese native and Afghanistan contact, Wadih El Hage. Hage also had a home in Arlington, Texas. El Hage had a “questionable” background which led to a previous tie to the assassination of Jewish Defense Leader Rabbi Meir Kahane in 1990. In which a 1993 WTC bombing suspect, Mahmoud Abouhalima asked El Hage to purchase a .38 caliber revolver. That same gun was used by El Sayyid Nosair to assassinate Kahane just a short while after it’s purchase.
Meanwhile top CIA officials back in Maryland began constructing an idea to assassinate Bin Laden while he began his routines in Khartoum. According to Billy Waugh, CIA field operative in Khartoum, he tracked down Bin Laden in Sudan and prepared an operation to apprehend him, but was denied authorization from the State Department. Meanwhile CIA operatives Waugh and Cofer Black were also tracking down another terrorist operative with no affiliation to Bin Laden, Ilich Ramírez Sánchez also known as Carlos The Jackal. Bin Laden along with his Egyptian emir of Egyptian Islamic Jihad and Al Qaeda’s number two man, Ayman al-Zawahiri were expelled from the Sudan after mounting pressure from the U.S State Department.
Operations at Alec Station began hiring more intelligence assets, new recruits which included Jennifer Matthews, Michael Anne Casey and 12 others. They would later be seen as a “close knit group” mostly women, and were uncompromising to anyone other than Scheuer. They were later nicknamed the “Manson family” by those of the Counterintelligence Center. The station, nicknamed “Alec Station” by Lt.Col. Anthony Shaffer, was in reference to Scheuer’s son, Alec. Located inside a room “Room 2600” inside Langley headquarters, it was cordoned off to anyone else besides staff and CIA leadership officials. Casey was tasked by Wilshire to head the biggest CIA operation of the last 25 years. A house in Sana’a Yemen had begun to gain interest from the NSA, who passed information along to the CIA’s Alec Station every once in a while. The NSA had long begun monitoring a satellite phone used by Bin Laden in 1994, in which one number Bin Laden had called numerous times, it aroused suspicion. Who was Bin Laden calling? It belonged to a house owned by Ahmed al-Hada, an old Afghan colleague who knew the venerable Saudi from his days in Peshawar. It was now considered a “red number”, meaning it was a hotline between Bin Laden, and Al Qaeda.
However the CIA had no means to listen in on calls made to the home and began implementing a listening station. The number, 967–1–200578, was known only to the NSA and CIA. This number was never shared with the FBI or the State Department. Meanwhile Al Qaeda began conducting training camps in Nangarhar, Afghanistan. Bin Laden was a guest in the country, and Mohammad “Mullah” Omar, the emir of the Taliban, had given him refuge knowing that he could use Bin Laden’s finances to help the Taliban gain more control of the country. On the condition, that Bin Laden did not conduct terrorist operations without his approval, Bin Laden agreed to his demands. In short order Bin Laden and Al-Zawahiri organized an al-Qaeda Committee, the World Islamic Front, whom openly declared war on the United States, a fatwa signed by Osama Bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Abu-Yasir Rifa’i Ahmad Taha, Shaykh Mir Hamzah and Fazlur Rahman. In it Bin Laden declared that because of the U.S continued support of Israel, along with its incessant war against Muslims around the world, its past instances including the deaths of 500,00 women and children in Iraq during the Gulf War, all Muslims are to kill “Americans wherever you find them”.
The State Department was made aware of this fatwa by George Tenet. Who, in turn, devised a plan to capture or kill Bin Laden. Shortly after this, Scheuer was promptly demoted to the Langley library by Tenet, who became quickly tired of the passive means to get Bin Laden. He then tasked Richard Blee, who’s father, David Blee who was considered a legend within the CIA,as the new Station Chief of Alec Station. Cofer Black was promptly named chief of the Counter-terrorism Unit. Together they would begin extrapolating on Tenet’s new draft strategy called “The Plan”. U.S President Bill Clinton disapproved of it however. According to the 9/11 Commission Report:
“On May 20, Director Tenet discussed the high risk of the operation with Berger and his deputies, warning that people might be killed, including Bin Laden. Success was to be defined as the exfiltration of Bin Laden out of Afghanistan. A meeting of principals was scheduled for May 29 to decide whether the operation should go ahead. But the principals did not meet…The plan was never presented to the White House for a decision.
Working-level CIA officers were disappointed….No capture plan before 9/11 ever again attained the same level of detail and preparation. The tribals’ reported readiness to act diminished. And Bin Laden’s security precautions and defenses became more elaborate and formidable.”
Bin Laden wanted to ramp up attacks against the United States, but he also knew it would bring unwanted attention to his hosts. With the recent arrest of Omar Abdel Rahman (Blind Sheikh) for his participation in the Landmarks Plot, an operation under the watchful eye of the FBI whom had an insider, Emad Salem, who working on building bombs to use on NYC landmarks. Egyptian radicals in the Gamma Islamiyyah, a group co-headed by Rahman, had engaged in the massacre of Western tourists while visiting the Luxor on November 17,1997, as a means to pressure the United States to release the Blind Sheikh. A band of six men dressed in police uniforms machine-gunned and hacked to death with knives 58 foreign tourists and four Egyptian natives. Sheikh Rahman blamed Israelis for the killings, and al-Zawahiri maintained the Egyptian police had committed it. However the news went global, and the crackdowns began in Egypt under then President Hosni Mubarak of Islamic fundamentalists. Israeli Intelligence began traveling inside the United States to begin “top secret” operations which involved monitoring Al Qaeda subjects without the approval or knowledge of anyone in the State Department. These spy rings inside the country would go unnoticed by many in the intelligence realm until 1999.
Alec Station had began receiving human intelligence reports about the activities inside the Yemen Hub owned by al-Hada. The NSA whom began monitoring all calls inside the Hub since 1996, although some NSA officials claim it started in 1998, had listened to numerous calls from a person named “Khallad” to the house. A high level Al Qaeda meeting was to be held in Malaysia. The NSA related this information to Alec Station and to the FBI”s counter-terrorism unit “I-49” team in NYC. The NSA only shared this data in hopes of the agencies returning with human intelligence information and photographs of people inside the home and those who visited it.
The CIA began following one resident of the home, known now to be Khalid al-Mihdhar, who was married to Ahmed al-Hada’s daughter, Hoda al-Hada. al-Mihdhar departed Yemen only to be followed closely behind by affiliates of the CIA station in Sana'a. During his transfer, al-Mihdhar stopped over the Dubai, United Arab Emirates. He would rent a room at the Nihal Hotel, and while he was away from his room, CIA officers would break in and photograph his passport and other belongings. This information was then passed to the CIA station in Riyadh, whom in turn passed it on to Alec Station. The cable titled “Activities of Bin Laden associate revealed”, detailed that al-Mihdhar possessed a multiple entry visa into the United States which would expire in April 2000. It also had a photograph of al-Mihdhar.
During the next morning, the cable which came in at 6:00am, was first read by Tom Wilshire while the second person to view the information, Doug Miller who along with Mark Rossini, Margaret Gillespie and Ed Goetz, were members of O’Neill’s I-49 unit in New York City. Miller immediately composed a draft cable which addressed the cable and its information. The draft was addressed to FBI headquarters in NYC. It read…
Mihdhar travel to Malaysia
Links between Yemen Hub & The U.S Embassy Bombings
Photos of the Malaysia Meeting had been taken & sent to the FBI
Mihdhar has multiple entry visa into the U.S plans to stay in NYC for 3 months
Miller would then attach the CIA cable to the draft. However Michael Anne Casey, in command of the al-Hada operation, had read Miller’s draft. She would bring it to Wilshire’s attention almost immediately. There Wilshire orders Casey to hold off on sending it. In which Casey then attached a response which is outlined in Miller’s email.
“Pls hold off for now, per Wilshire.”
The Miller cable was on hold. With Miller and Rossini in complete shock over why there was even a hold on sending. Miller would confront Casey, in which Casey would respond in kind as explained by Rossini’s recollection.
“Listen, it’s not an FBI case. It’s not an FBI matter. When we want the FBI to know, we’ll let them know, and you’re not going to say anything.”
January 5th 2000, for three days a summit meeting held inside the condominium owned by Yazid Sufaat, a former captain in the Malaysian Army, had begun taking place with numerous high level terrorist organizers from the Middle East and SE Asia. They included Khalid al-Mihdhar, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Riduan Isamuddin (Hambali), Tawfiq Bin Attash (Khallad) and others. Malaysian authorities took photographs of the people involved in the meeting. While CIA officials were monitoring the home. These photographs were then sent to CIA Alec Station. Cofer Black responded about what he saw from intelligence gathered from the meeting.
“We surveil them. We surveil the guy they’re there to meet,” Black recalled. “Not close enough to hear what they’re saying, but we’re covering, taking pictures, watching their behavior. They’re acting kind of spooky. They’re not using the phone in the apartment. They’re going around, walking in circles, just like junior spies. Going up to phone booths, making a lot of calls. It’s like, ‘Who are these dudes?’
Just months prior to the meeting, Mohammed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi and Ziad Jarrah, all from Hamburg, Germany would visit upon invitation from two Syrian-German Al Qaeda operatives, Mohammed Haydar Zammar and Marmoun Darkanzali, Tanak Farms in Afghanistan. There they would meet with Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, Mohammed Atef and Osama Bin Laden. Atta, al-Shehhi and Jarrah were from the Al Quds Mosque in Hamburg, and they were the most radical members who headed the “Hamburg Cell”, a core group of the most ultra-orthodox members of the mosque headed by a known German radical, Muhmmad Fazazi. German authorities from the Federal Intelligence Service (BND) were monitoring Zammar for 2 years which led them to open an investigation into Al Quds and the Hamburg Cell.
Israeli Mossad operatives continued covert espionage operations inside the United States. According to Ha’aretz:
“Many of the [eavesdropping] technologies in use around the world and developed in Israel were originally military technologies and were developed and improved by [Unit 8200] veterans.” A former commander of Unit 8200, cited by Bamford, states that Verint technology was “directly influenced by 8200 technology….[Verint parent company] Comverse’s main product, the Logger, is based on the Unit’s technology.”
Author of the “Spy Factory”, James Bamford would also state:
“Virtually the entire American telecommunications system is bugged by [Israeli-formed] companies with possible ties to Israel’s eavesdropping agency.”
Carl Cameron, FOX News correspondent would also state regarding the Israeli Intelligence spy operations and the use of remote technology.
“…several government agencies expressed deep concerns that too many unauthorized non-law enforcement personnel can access the wiretap system.” Much of this access was facilitated through “remote maintenance.”
For over 12 months, the Israeli Mossad had used covert espionage rings under the guise of selling art. Many of these Israeli spies were young men and women, who would ply their, cheaply made art work, to the homes of officials from the FBI, DEA and State Department. District Attorney for San Luis Obispo County, Gerald Shea, would open his own investigative report in these Israeli cells who were operating without impunity inside the country. His final draft was entitled “The Shea Memorandum”. Shea would outline the problem in regards to information collected by looking at the police records arrest reports thru-ought the Northeast and Southwest, a long and arduous task.
“In the months leading up to September 11, 2001, the Israeli DEA Groups were spying on the United States.2 They were at the same time keeping Arab groups in our country under surveillance, including the future hijackers and other FBI suspects in the catastrophic attacks of September 11. The base of operations for both the Israeli DEA Groups and the future hijackers of the World Trade Center Planes and the Pennsylvania Plane was in and around Hollywood, Florida.
During the same period, the Israeli New Jersey Group was keeping under surveillance Arab groups in Bergen and Hudson Counties, New Jersey, across the Hudson River from Manhattan, including the future hijackers of the Pentagon Plane, whose center of operations was also in Bergen and Hudson Counties. The Israeli New Jersey Group appears to have been aware, before they occurred, that hijackings had been planned by Arab terrorists, as evidenced by their jubilation when the World Trade Center was first struck, by the North Tower Plane. The leader of the Israeli New Jersey Group, who has fled the United States for Israel, is included, along with the names of the hijackers and FBI suspects, on the May 2002 FBI Suspect List.”
Meanwhile, Bin Laden had begun talking guerilla operations with Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (KSM), thru the invitation from Al Qaeda military commander, Mohammed Atef. Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was not a member of Al Qaeda, and without his nephew, Ramzi Yousef, no longer at his side (Yousef serving 240 years in Adamax Prison Colorado for his participation in 1993 WTC Bombing), he was without an organization. However he did enjoy the individual freedom that came along without the organizational restrictions. He proposed an idea, which would involve members of the Hamburg Cell later. Attack the United States by using planes as the weapon, and not bombs placed on the plane itself. The plan would have operatives acting as ordinary passengers who would end up hijacking ten planes, guarded by muscle hijackers armed with knives while a single pilot would crash the plane into a specific target. At first Bin Laden told Muhammad he would think about this idea. After a second visit by KSM in 1999, Bin Laden agreed to the plan, but instead of the initial notion of hijacking ten planes, he agreed to four which seemed manageable.
The CIA would receive reports that Bin Laden had begun staying in the vicinity of the Sheikh Ali camp, south of Kandahar. CIA assets, from the region, provided a detailed description of the hunting camp, including its size, location, resources, and security, as well as of Bin Laden’s smaller, adjacent camps. Because this was not in an urban area, missiles launched against it would have less risk of causing collateral damage. On February 8, the military began to ready itself for a possible strike.
Clinton, however, at the last moment decided against it. The Counter-terrorism unit in Langley were quite dismayed. A perfect chance at killing Bin Laden, ended on a whim. Clinton feared a global reaction if they instead killed members of the wedding party that was nearby. Tenet’s new operation “The Plan” was beginning to experience the restrictions from the State Department guidelines of using drone technology to carry out operations. Wilshire continued to monitor thru his assistant, Michael Anne Casey, the Yemen Hub. Having human intelligence collection was of primary importance. Meanwhile the NSA managed to collect even far more meta-data than the CIA, as they closely monitored the Hub, as well as al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, by monitoring all phone calls made to and from the house.
After the meeting in Malaysia, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi flew to Bangkok, where according to Richard Blee in a National Security Counsel briefing , they would end up losing track of both men. Alec Station had also lost them in the sea of people, however according to Thomas Drake, former senior executive of the NSA, the NSA had never lost track of them. The NSA continued motioning both men as they entered the United States from Bangkok on January 15, 2000. They were then seen at a Los Angeles restaurant by a Saudi Intelligence operative, Omar al-Bayoumi. Who provided the men with a house, paying their first months rent and also assisting getting them a car. The FBI was never notified by Alec Station or the NSA about their entry into the country until 16 months later. Blee would give no further updates about the surveillance operation. By February 2000, Malaysian authorities special operations branch, sent Alec Station video it had taken of the Summit Meeting. This video was never shared with anyone outside the agency, even still to this day. The cable which came in from Bangkok regarding al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi were made aware to Blee, Bikowski, Matthews and Wilshire. However Rossini claims that more were aware of the men in Bangkok, which included Cofer Black of the Counterintelligence Center. The NSA had required a FISA warrant to start listening to the calls of al-Mihdhar inside the United States, a total of 7 calls in all which were made. Those reports also not shared to any agency.
John O’Neill, head of the FBI’s counterterrorism I-49 unit in New York City began contacting Mark Rossini, his lead man at Alec Station, about what was happening over at the CTC. Rossini implies that the CIA were keeping him “in the dark” knowing he is the eyes and ears of O’Neill. Rossini told O’Neill that he continues to be on the watch for any updated cables involving the Bin Laden-Al Qaeda organization but that the fervent operators inside Alec Station are remarkably strict about what data should be shared outside the unit. Rossini is not alone at Alec Station, as other members of the NTC squad are also employed to the unit that included, Ed Goetz, Margaret Gillespie, and Doug Miller. All would suffer under the universally held scrutiny of those within the agency and the CTC.
Bin Laden meanwhile begins ramping up terrorist operations. A plan was outlined to implement attacks worldwide. Jordanian intelligence intercepting a call between suspected Al Qaeda supervisor, Abu Zubaydah and Khadr Abu Hoshar, led to mass arrests of subjects involved with the plot. Al Qaeda operatives who planned to bomb the Radisson hotel in Amman, hijack Indian Airlines Flight 814, bomb a US warship (USS Sullivans) off the port of Aden, Yemen and bomb LAX airport in Los Angeles.
The plot involving LAX was discovered under unusual circumstances. At Customs Patrol in Port Angeles, Washington, a patrol agent, Diana Dean, had begun looking into the trunk of a rental car in the possession of one, Ahmed Ressam. Officials found a cache of explosives that could have produced “a blast forty times greater than that of a devastating car bomb” and four timing devices which were hidden in the spare tire well. Captured and arrested, Ressam was thoroughly investigated and according to the FBI was part of an international bombing campaign now known to be the “2000 Millennium Bomb Plot”. Ressam told investigators that he was to drive near the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and detonate the explosives killing anyone near the entrance. The CIA had gotten reports from the FBI regarding the operation. Director Tenet decides to ramp up his operations against Bin Laden as well. In the spring of 2000, officers from the Bin Laden Issue Station (Alec Station) joined others in pressing for “Afghan Eyes”, the predator reconnaissance drone program for locating Bin Laden in Afghanistan. However the plan would not be entirely successful as Tenet envisioned. This would come from “bureaucratic” conflict between the agency and the State Department.
Khallad was still being monitored by Alec Station, his name unknown to them as of yet. FBI agents in NYC however were beginning to complain about the lack of cooperation from the CIA, who were in charge of the Yemen Hub investigation. Many within the FBI I-49 Unit were complaining to their superiors that they were stalling in sharing information with them. Outside of the inter-sectional agency divide, Cofer Black had begun implemented an idea, to try and infiltrate Al Qaeda using inside sources as double agents. It was co-opted from Tenet’s “The Plan”. Part of it’s directives were explained in Steve Coll’s book, “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001”:
“They described their plan as military officers might. They sought to surround Afghanistan with secure covert bases for CIA operations — as many bases as they could arrange. Then they would mount operations from each of the platforms, trying to move inside Afghanistan and as close to bin Laden as they could to recruit agents and to attempt capture operations. Black wanted recruitment’s and he wanted to develop commando or paramilitary strike teams made up of officers and men who could “blend” into the region’s Muslim populations.”
Israeli intelligence operatives had long mastered this form of espionage outlined by Black. By using covert operators called “Mistra’avrim”. Israeli and Arab-Israeli units specifically trained to assimilate among the local Arab population, that would take months, even years. Collecting information while hiding in plain sight in densely populated Arab neighborhoods located in Lebanon and Israel. They are commonly tasked with performing intelligence gathering, law enforcement, hostage rescue and counter-terrorism, and to use disguise and surprise as their main weapons. Their training is for long duration operations that included:
- Four months basic infantry training at the Mitkan Adam army base — the IDF Special Training Center.
- Two and a half months of advanced infantry training in the same base.
- Two months of the unit’s basic training, which focus on advanced urban navigation and the beginning of counter-terrorism training.
- Four months Mista’arvim course, which covers everything from learning Arab traditions, language, and way of thought, to civilian camouflage (hair dyeing, contact lenses, clothing).
- One-month courses — sniper, driving and different instructors courses.
October 12, 2000…a US naval ship, the USS Cole, docks at the port side of Aden, Yemen. When a small boat containing massive amounts of C-4 heads directly at her port side and exploding on impact killing 17 and injuring 39. O’Neill was dispatched to head the investigation and was met with resistance from U.S-Yemen ambassador, Barbara Bodine, almost immediately. Bodine disliked O’Neill’s grandiose persona and his seemingly sexual arrogance toward women in positions of affluence. He would soon be “pushed” out of the investigation, which would be handled by his associate, Ali Soufan. Bin Laden praised the attacks, and was suspected of being the mastermind. Months after the attack, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was arrested and was waterboarded to confess, while “Khallad” was also suspected of being a co-mastermind as well.
Alec Station however was still operating without pause. Ressam’s information was indeed valuable, as he had relayed to investigators that he received training from the Khalden Training Camp in Afghanistan between the period of March 1998 and February 1999. He also said trainees were explicitly instructed to attack military targets only, that it was an offense against Islam to kill or injure innocent civilians. While there he is said to have met with Zacarias Moussaoui, a suspected “20th” hijacker in the September 11th attacks. This information would later be used in an infamous White House CIA memo, “Bin Laden To Strike Inside The United States” on August 6 2001.
The plan involving plane hijackings continued forward. Members of the Hamburg Cell, Marwan al-Shehhi, Ziad Jarrah and Mohammed Atta, were selected by Bin Laden to be the pilots of the planes that were to be used in the “Tuesday Attacks”. And so, the initial preparations began. Atta had begun sending emails to a Lakeland Academy in Florida.
“Dear sir, we are a small group of young men from different Arab countries. Now, we are living in Germany since a while for study purposes. We would like to start training for the career of airline professional pilots. In this field, we haven’t yet any knowledge but we are ready to undergo an intensive training program (up to ATP and eventually higher).”
Meanwhile Israeli spies had began the operation of monitoring the members of the Hamburg Cell as they entered the United States. How this operation initialized is not known as of yet. The operatives Atta, al-Shehhi and Jarrah would reside in multiple areas in Florida, With Jarrah always staying alone from Atta and al-Shehhi. The Saudi GID Intelligence arm had long began funding and monitoring al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi and now Hani Hanjour out west, in locations such as Los Angeles, San Diego and Arizona. The CIA’s Alec Station, according to Blee now in the dark about the two operatives they were following. closed the Malaysia Summit investigation. This took place without any initial follow ups in their White House briefings, which included reports to Richard Clarke who was left in a haze by the whole ordeal involving Blee or anyone from Alec Station for that matter.
Intelligence reports coming from around the world thru-ought the spring and summer months of 2001, that included Italy, France, Canada, Germany, Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Israel, would often be vague regarding the details. Be that as it may they al warned the United States intelligence community that something big was about to happen. Bin Laden however was the primary suspect involved according to the intelligence reports. By June 11, 2001, a meeting was arranged in the FBI NYC office between Dina Corsi (FBI) Steve Bongardt (FBI) and Clark Shannon (CIA) regarding Corsi producing 3 photos from the Kuala Lumpur Meeting. Corsi asks whether Bongardt knew who anyone was in the photos. To which he replied he had no idea. Bongardt only knows of Fahd Mohammed al-Quso, who was arrested in the USS Cole Bombing investigation. However Bongardt doesn’t see al-Quso in any of the photographs. Bongardt asks who were the men in the photos Corsi produced. She tells him that due to restrictions he could not be made aware of that information. However, Corsi does reveal the name of a man in one of the photos, as al-Mihdhar. Shannon also states that al-Mihdhar has a Saudi passport but doesn’t tell Bongardt about him possessing a U.S Visa or that he is currently inside the United States. The obvious fact did not pass from Bongardt or anyone from I-49, Alec Station was fishing to see if the FBI knew who al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi or Tawfiq Bin Attash (Khallad) were.
In the afternoon hours of June 6th 2001, Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, receives a frantic phone call from George Tenet. Tenet exclaims he is currently in route to the White House and directs a set up an emergency meeting with staff from the national security counsel. It was the only time Tenet would arrive at the White House unannounced. Tenet was with Richard Blee from Alec Station. As the meeting started it was Blee who headed the conference. Initially stating that intercepts regarding the Yemen Hub were being shared with the FBI. This was knowingly false. He also stated that “multiple attacks” inside the U.S was possible but didn’t elaborate on where or when. Richard Clarke, present at the meeting, mentions that at no point during the conference did Blee or Tenet mention anything regarding al-Mihdhar and his U.S Visa or al-Hazmi traveling inside the United States. By August 2001, U.S President George Bush takes a 30 day vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas. There he is met by CIA daily briefers regarding the status of multiple warnings of terrorist attacks inside the United States. August 6, 2001, CIA briefer, Mike Morrell, gives the infamous Presidential Daily Brief “Bin Ladin determined to strike inside the U.S. to Bush. The PDB did not mention al-Mihdhar or al-Hazmi.
Meanwhile the Hamburg Cell led by Atta and al-Shehhi move to New Jersey. Ziad Jararh however lives alone in Maryland, he also resides in New Jersey later. Jarrah according to German authorities was never been seen with anyone from the Hamburg Cell. All except once. At a wedding party of Al Quds mosque member, Said Bahaji, in October 1999. A high ranking German official with the BND remarked to the Los Angeles Times that:
“The only information we have connecting the three Hamburg suspects is the FBI’s assertion that there is a connection.”
By August 16th 2001, Minneapolis FBI agent Harry Samit arrests, Zacarias Moussaoui and Hussein Al Attas under suspicion of terrorism. Moussaoui had sent numerous emails to the Pan-Am International Flight Academy in Eagan, Minnesota. While training there, his instructor, Clarence Prevost, had noticed erratic behavior from Moussaoui. Asking Prevost alarming questions, such as how to fly boeing's, while not inquiring about landing them. How to fly at full throttle. In their rented room, Moussaoui had a laptop, Attas had a written martyrdom will made out. Samit had thought to himself, did he just stop a terrorist operation from taking place? And are there more operatives inside the city? the state? the country? Had the CIA not called off surveillance on the Malaysia Summit Meeting they would have known that Moussaoui was also at the condo connecting him to al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi and Khallad.
The NSA continued the monitoring of all calls made to and from the Yemen Hub. These intercepts, over 5 years worth, have never been made public. By August 23, 2001, Jack Cloonan from the I-49 FBI unit in NYC, receives a call from Dina Corsi. The CIA discovers that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi were likely inside the United States. Cloonan immediately assigns someone to begin locating the two men. He assigns a new recruit to the NYC field office, Craig Donnachie. However he is told it is an “intelligence” matter and not a criminal one from FBI superiors in NYC. The case is opened with very few resources dedicated to it.
In the Minneapolis FBI field office, a FISA warrant is being drafted by agent Samit who is met with strict defiance from the Minneapolis Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) led by Mike Maltbie. Maltbie under orders from National Security Law Unit chief, Marion “Spike” Bowman, states that there is little evidence for a FISA warrant to search Moussaoui’s laptop and Hussein Al Attas belongings found inside the hotel room. There would be heated internal arguments over the “legalities” of the FISA argument in the days leading to September 11th between Samit and Maltbie. Over in Arizona, FBI agent, Kenneth Williams, drafts am FBI memo which is later infamously called the “Phoenix Memo”. In which entails intelligence gathered from an FBI informant in Arab circles, who witnessed an unusual number of Arabs were training at flight schools. Per the memo:
“Advise the Bureau and New York of the possibility of a coordinated effort by Osama Bin Laden to send students to the United States to attend civil aviation universities and colleges. Phoenix has observed an inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest who are attending or who have attended civil aviation universities and colleges in the State of Arizona.”
The memo handed late to Mueller’s desk, was largely ignored. Meanwhile Steve Bongardt receives a phone call from Dina Corsi. Corsi informs him about Maggie Gillespie finding a CIA memo from March 2000, regarding al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi entering the U.S to which Bongardt replies to Corsi…
“If this guys in the country, he’s not going to fucking Disneyland!!”
Bongardt’s admission is not without irony. By August 23 the United States finally submits al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar’s names on the “terrorist watch list”. While the Al Qaeda operatives purchase plane tickets just weeks before the operation. William Binney, former NSA crypto-analyst, states that if the NSA had implemented his ThinThread program, they would have picked up on this information, which in turn, may have stopped part of the 9/11 attacks from happening. All of these reports, and warnings from the FBI field offices in Arizona, Minneapolis and New York, would all be largely ignored and or dismissed by their superiors. It would lead to disastrous consequences.
September 11th 2001….4 hijacked aircraft crash into the North and South Towers of the World Trade Centers in Manhattan, the Pentagon in Washington D.C and one into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania. Reports were flooding into every intelligence office building around the world. David Boren, former governor of Oklahoma, was having breakfast with George Tenet,. When an aide hurried up to the table where the men were sitting. The whisper of an attack on the World Trade Center towers, both of them met with a wide eyed look from Tenet, who sat in stunned silence for seconds before remarking to Boren who heard all of what was said.
“I wonder if this has something to do with the guy who trained for a pilot’s license in Minnesota”.
The frantic operators at Alec Station had begun reading the cables from abroad, now coming in like a sieve. The passengers lists for all 4 aircraft would find its way to the CTC in the evening hours and handed over to the Customs Office of Intelligence, to which a staffer would remark.
“Oh god, it’s all of them!”
A Department of Defense staffer, Stephen Cambone, jots down notes while at the National Security Council meeting in the evening hours in the war room of the Pentagon. The meeting was with the highest ranking White House officials and Pentagon advisers. The note entailed the following:
AA77–3 indiv have been followed
since Millennium & Cole
1 guy is assoc. of Cole bomber
2 entered the U.S in early July
(2 or 3 pulled aside & interrogated?)
Was this information known to the FBI? It was not known to many in the State Department, and where did this information come from? Who with-held such data? Those questions would later come out during the congressional inquiries in 2002 and 2003.
Over at the Jersey Turnpike…a national “be on the lookout” broadcast which was based on information given from a resident at Doric Towers in Jersey City who saw 3 men celebrating the attacks. The license plate of the truck was also provided by the woman, named only as “Maria” who lived high up in Doric Towers and saw the men acting erratically with her binoculars. East Rutherford police officers serving as traffic officers, Scott DeCarlo and Sgt. Dennis Rivelli, noticed the van which was spotted on a service road off Route 3, near New Jersey’s Giants Stadium. The van had on an embalm, Urban Moving Systems on the right side. The plate number match the BOLO, off by one number, DeCarlo noted it and advised the driver to get out, to which he did not respond to DeCarlo’s request. The driver was forced out of the vehicle by DeCarlo while Rivelli maintained the passenger side with his pistol out. 4 others as well detained in full. In their possessions were a map highlighting the WTC, Doric Towers and Battery Tunnel. Over four thousand dollars were found in the sock of one of the men. What was missing was rather curious as well. No tools, dollys, ropes of any kind that would be found in a moving vehicle was noticed. The five men detained were Paul Kurzburg, Sivan Kurzburg, Omar Mamari, Oded Ellner and Yaron Schmuel.
The detainees were thoroughly investigated by local police and the FBI. All 5 were Israeli nationals and had overstayed their visas. Two were Mossad operatives, Paul and Sivan Kurzberg. One of the men, Omar Mamari had a residence in Hollywood, Florida, just a few short miles away from the residence of Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi.
The “Dancing Israelis” as the media nicknamed them, were released after 71 days of detention. Pressure from NYC state legislators, unnamed, had made some calls, which were rather “persuasive”. They were deported back to Israel. Meanwhile on Sept 13th, high level White House cabinet members, which included U.S President Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and U.S-Saudi ambassador Bandar Bin Sultan held an emergency meeting. The contents of this meet was not publicly known, nor was it related to the media. A week later, numerous members of the Saudi Bin Laden family and the Saudi Kingdom, which included numerous high Saudi intelligence officials were allowed to leave the country. According to Richard Clarke, it came “straight from the top”.
All the players who were involved in the funding of certain 9/11 operatives and those tasked to closely monitor them, were now out of the country, Free from investigations and from further inquiry. The mere mention of their involvement forever shadowed officials from the State Department and from rabid conspiracy theorists who peddle remarkable tales which absolves them of any complicity and foreknowledge.
Maybe that was exactly what it was meant to do.
On September 12, 2001…..The NSA was closed for the first and only time. Only “essential” personnel was allowed in the building. William Binney had dressed in janitorial attire and persuaded the security to allow him entry. He was met by one of the lead contractors after a meeting with Sam Visner, chief of signals intelligence program. To which he told Binney he heard Visner state..
“Do not embarrass large companies the NSA is involved with. You do your part, you will get your share…we can milk this cow for 15 years.”
Ed Loomis, NSA cryptologist from 1964 to 2001, would later state in a PBS interview:
“All those people did not have to die. We could have saved them. We knew this was being planned months ago, but they would not let us issue the reports we wrote!”
Thomas Drake, former senior executive, would also elaborate in the futile nature of NSA superiors:
“Our primary responsibility as an intelligence agency was to provide indicators of warning. And we obviously failed to do that.”
There would be two congressional investigations held between 2002–2004, the 9/11 Commission and Joint House Inquiry into the September 11 2001 attacks. After months of inquiries and detailed reports from every section of intelligence and government officials, it was found that the CIA and NSA were not held responsible for stopping the attacks from happening. Not a single person was found irresponsible in their duties. Not a single fire. Nothing. It left many in the public sphere to wonder, what did these investigative committees ignore? How could it not find a single item showing clear recklessness or even foreknowledge about the multiple warnings made many months prior to the terrorist incidents.
To most people, these commissions were simply made to absolve the agencies from being held responsible. While the foreign intelligence services of Saudi Arabia and Israel were left largely ignored altogether.
That is, until one of them breaks the silence.