DID US OFFICIALS BLOCK CAPTURES AND INVESTIGATIONS AFTER 9/11?
Chapter 8 of David Ray Griffin’s The New Pearl Harbor
Having suggested that the "new Pearl Harbor" that occurred on 9/11 served as a pretext for a pre-established agenda, the critics then argue that US behavior after 9/11 supports this view. Portions of this behavior?namely, the wars against both Afghanistan and Iraq?were mentioned in the previous chapter. The present chapter summarizes evidence pointing to other examples of US behavior after 9/11 that point, according to critics, to the falsity of the official account.
Continuing the Anti-Hunt for Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda
Ahmed and Thompson provide considerable evidence that although the war in Afghanistan was supposedly to root out al-Qaeda and bin Laden? taking him, in President Bush’s language, "dead or alive"?the actual objective must have been something else, since there were several instances in which the government and its military commanders seemed at pains to allow bin Laden and al-Qaeda to escape.
For example, according to many residents of Kabul, a convoy of al-Qaeda forces, thought to include its top leaders, made a remarkable escape during one night in early November of 2001. A local businessman said:
We don’t understand how they weren’t all killed the night before because they came in a convoy of at least 1,000 cars and trucks. It was a very dark night, but it must have been easy for the American pilots to see the headlights. The main road was jammed from eight in the evening until three in the morning.
Thompson comments: "With all of the satellite imagery and intense focus on the Kabul area at the time, how could such a force have escaped the city unobserved by the US?">1
Also early in November, US intelligence agencies, having watched al-Qaeda fighters and leaders move into the area of Jalalabad, reported that bin Laden himself had arrived. According to Knight-Ridder newspapers, this is what happened next:
American intelligence analysts concluded that bin Laden and his recreating fighters were preparing to flee across the border. But the US Central Command, which was running the war, made no move to block their escape. "It was obvious from at least early November that this area was to be the base for an exodus into Pakistan," said one intelligence official, who spoke only on condition of anonymity. "All of this was known, and frankly we were amazed that nothing was done to prepare for it.">2
Shortly thereafter, on November 14, the Northern Alliance captured Jalalabad. That night, a convoy of "several hundred cars" holding 1,000 or more al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, evidently including bin Laden, escaped from Jalalabad and reached the fortress of Tora Bora. US forces bombed the nearby Jalalabad airport, but apparently not the convoy.>3
On November 16, approximately 600 al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters, including many senior leaders, reportedly escaped from Afghanistan, by taking a long trek to escape the bombing in the Tora Bora region. Although there are two main routes from the Tora Bora region to Pakistan, US planes bombed only one of these routes, so that the 600 men were able to escape unharmed by using the other one. Hundreds more reportedly continued to use this escape route over the next weeks, generally not bothered by US bombing or Pakistani border guards.>4 One Afghan intelligence officer reportedly said that he was astounded that the Americans did not station troops to block the most obvious exit routes. The Telegraph later said: "In retrospect, and with the benefit of dozens of accounts from the participants, the battle for Tora Bora looks more like a grand charade." Eyewitnesses expressed shock, it said, that US forces pinned in Taliban and al-Qaeda forces, thought to contain many high leaders, on three sides only, leaving the route to Pakistan open. An intelligence chief in Afghanistan’s new government was quoted as saying: "The border with Pakistan was the key, but no one paid any attention to it.">5
A Special Forces soldier stationed in Fayetteville, North Carolinalater stated that on November 28, US forces had bin Laden pinned in a Tora Bora cave but failed to act. While Special Forces soldiers were waiting for orders, he said, they watched two helicopters fly into the area where bin Laden was believed to be, load up passengers, and fly toward Pakistan. This statement, made on condition of anonymity, is given more credibility, Thompson points out, by the fact that Newsweek separately reported that many Tora Bora locals claimed that "mysterious black helicopters swept in, flying low over the mountains at night, and scooped up al-Qaeda’s top leaders.">6 "Perhaps just coincidentally," Thompson adds, the same day that this story was reported there was also a story reporting that five soldiers at Fayetteville – at least three of whom were Special Forces soldiers who had recently returned from Afghanistan – and their wives had died since June in apparent murder-suicides.>7
In late December of 2001, the new Afghan interior minister, Younis Qanooni, claimed that the ISI had helped bin Laden escape from Afghanistan.>8 For critics of the official account, this claim is significant given the fact that the Bush administration has considered Pakistan a partner in its post-9/11 efforts.
In March of 2002, this apparent lack of interest in killing or capturing bin Laden was put into words by the president himself, who said of bin Laden: "He’s a person who’s now been marginalized…! just don’t spend that much time on him…I truly am not that concerned about him." The suspicion that the war was never about bin Laden, which Bush’s statement could be taken to imply, was explicitly stated, Thompson points out, a month later by General Richard Myers, who said that "the goal has never been to get bin Laden.">9 Another American official was quoted as making an even more revealing statement, saying that "casting our objectives too narrowly" risked "a premature collapse of the international effort if by some lucky chance Mr. bin Laden was captured.">10 A way of making sense of all this was provided by George Monbiot, who wrote a week after 9/11:
If Osama bin Laden did not exist, it would be necessary to invent him. For the past four years, his name has been invoked whenever a US president has sought to increase the defence budget or wriggle out of arms control treaties. He has been used to justify even President Bush’s missile defence programme…. Now he has become the personification of evil required to launch a crusade for good: the face behind the faceless terror…. [H]is usefulness to western governments lies in his power to terrify. When billions of pounds of military spending are at stake, rogue states and terrorist warlords become assets precisely because they are liabilities.>11
Monbiots statement, in conjunction with the American officicial’s concern about a "premature collapse of the international effort," provides apossible explanation as to why the "hunt for bin Laden" was unsuccessful.
Concealing the Role of Pakistan’s ISI
As we saw earlier, the CIA and its counterpart in Pakistan, the ISI, worked together in the late 1990s to create the Taliban and ensure its victory. This point is reinforced by Chossudovsky, who says: "Without US support channeled through the Pakistani ISI, the Taliban would not have been able to form a government in 1996.">12 Furthermore, he says, just as without the ISI there would have been no Taliban government in Kabul, "without the unbending support of the US government, there would be no powerful military-intelligence apparatus in Pakistan.">13 This close relationship between the CIA and the ISI goes back to the 1980s, during which the ISI was the local agency through which the CIA conducted its covert operation in Afghanistan, which began in 1979. The CIA and the ISI recruited radical Muslims from around the world to form the Mujaheddin to fight against Soviet forces.>14 Osama bin Laden was originally brought to Pakistan to help with this effort. Although he was under contract to the CIA, "the CIA gave Usama free rein in Afghanistan, as did Pakistan’s intelligence generals"”Ahmed quotes John Cooley as saying – and bin Laden used that free rein and his accumulated wealth to begin organizing al-Qaeda in 1985.>15 In the late 1980s, Pakistan’s President Benazir Bhutto, seeing how strong the Mujaheddin movement was becoming, told President Bush: "You are creating a Frankenstein.">16 Then in the late 1990s, after the CIA had worked with the ISI to create the Taliban, South East Asia specialist Selig Harrison who knew CIA agents, reports that he warned them that they "were creating a monster.">17
And if both al-Qaeda and the Taliban were reportedly becoming monstrous, the same was said of the ISI itself. After the withdrawal of the Soviet Union from Afghanistan, the ISI, which had at the instigation of the CIA begun producing heroin in order to turn Soviet soldiers into addicts, began smuggling its heroin into Western countries, using the huge profits to build itself up. As a result, said one analyst, the ISI became a "parallel structure wielding enormous power over all aspects of government." Time magazine later confirmed this analysis, saying that the "notorious" ISI "is commonly branded ‘a state within the state,’ or Pakistan’s ‘invisible government,’" and a story in the New Yorker called the ISI "a parallel government of its own.">18
This history of the ISI, with its links to the CIA on the one hand and al-Qaeda and the Taliban on the other, is important in light of evidence that these links were never broken. Chossodovsky, rejecting the view that the "Osama-CIA links belong to the ‘bygone era’ of the Soviet-Afghan war," asserts: "The CIA has never severed its ties to the ‘Islamic Militant Network.’">19 And Ahmed quotes Selig Harrison’s statement, made in March of 2001, that "[t]he CIA still has close links with the ISI.">20
These links are also supported by an investigator with a very different political perspective from Ahmed’s and Chossudovky’s, Gerald Posner. I cited earlier Posners report on the interrogation of Abu Zubaydah insofar as it dealt with Zubaydah’s claim that his al-Qaeda activities were carried out on behalf of Saudi officials. Zubaydah also reportedly said that it was on behalf of Pakistani officials. "According to Zubaydah," reports Posner,
he was present in 1996, in Pakistan, when bin Laden struck a deal with Mushaf Ali Mir, a highly placed military officer with close ties to some of the most pro-Islamist dements in ISI. It was a relationship that was still active and provided bin Laden and al-Qaeda protection, arms, and supplies.>21
Posner also reports that, just as three of the Saudis identified by Zubaydah died within four months, the same fate befell Musfaaf Ali Mir seven months later. On February 20, 2003, he, his wife, and many of his closest confidants were killed when their air force plane – which had recently passed inspection – went down in good weather.>22 Accordingly, although Posner accepts the official American position on most issues, he here presents evidence against the US attempt to distance the Pakistanis, portrayed as good, from bin Laden and al-Qieda, portrayed as evil.
In any case, the importance of the fact that the ISI continued to be closely linked with both the CIA and al-Qaeda may have been made manifest by a discovery coming shortly after 9/11 – This was the disovery that an ISI agent, Saeed Sheikh, had made a wire transfer of $100.000 to Mohamed Atta’s bank accounts in Florida, and that he had done this at the instruction of none other than General Mahrnoud Ahmad, the Director of the ISI.>23 Accordingly, the ISI, which had continued to work closely with the CIA, was discovered to have secretly sent money to the man considered to be the ringleader of the 9/11 terrorists. This "damning link," as Agence France-Press called it, was reportedly first revealed to the US government by the Indian government.>24
The discovery of this transfer took on even more potential significance when it was learned that General Mahmoud Ahmad had been in Washington on 9/11?having, in fact, been there from September 4 until several days after 9/11. During this period, he reportedly met with CIA Director George Tenet until September 9, then met with officials in the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and the State Department, as well as with the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence committees. The News, a leading newspaper in Pakistan, made this significant comment on September 10: "What added interest to [General Ahmad’s] visit is the history of such visits. Last time [his] predecessor was [in Washington], the domestic [Pakistani] politics turned topsy-turvy within days." The reference, Thompson points out, is to the coup of October 12, 1999, when General Musharraf took over the government?after which he made General Ahmad, who had been instrumental to the success of the coup, the Director of the ISI.>25
Big things also happened on the occasion of this visit, and not only the attacks of 9/11 itself. On September 9, the leader of the Northern Alliance, Ahmad Masood, was the victim of an assassination, which the Northern Alliance declared to be the work of the ISI. That this assassination followed immediately upon extended conversations between the head of the ISI and the head of the CIA is especially significant, suggests Chossudovsky, in light of the fact that the United States had long been seeking to "weaken Masood, who was perceived as a nationalist reformer." Suggesting that this assassination "served US interests," Chossudovsky adds that after Masood was dead, "the Northern Alliance became fragmented into different factions. Had Masood not been assassinated, he would have become the head of the post-Taliban government formed in the wake of the US bombings of Afghanistan.">26 These reflections provide a possible explanation of the treatment of Julie Sirrs by the Defense Intelligence Agency, discussed in Chapter 6.
The significance of Masoods assassination was perhaps alluded to by John O’Neill, the investigator who had resigned from the FBI after having his attempts to investigate al-Qaeda obstructed. On September 10, the day after Masood’s assassination, O’Neill moved into his new office in the North Tower of the WTC, where he had become director of security, and on 9/11 he was one of the people killed. On the night of September 10, he had reportedly told a colleague: "We’re due for something big. I don’t like the way things are lining up in Afghanistan.">27
From the perspective of the critics of the official account of 9/11, the fact that Masood was assassinated while the ISI chief was visiting Washington might have been one of the reasons Washington tried to keep this visit quiet. In any case, a comparison of transcripts of Condoleezza Rice’s press conference on May 16, 2002, suggests, believes Chossudovsky, that the Bush administration did want to keep General Ahmads presence in Washington from being widely known. The transcript from the Federal News Service shows that the following interchange occurred:
QUESTION: Are you aware of the reports at the time that the ISI chief was in Washington on September 11th, and on September 10th, $100,000 was wired from Pakistan to these groups in this area? And why he was here? Was he meeting with you or anybody in the administration?
MS. RICE: I have not seen that report, and he was certainly not meeting with me.
Besides the question whether it is credible that the head of Pakistan’s intelligence agency would meet with the National Security Council but not with the president’s National Security Advisor, the other suspicious thing is that, as pointed out by Chossudovsky, the White House version of this transcript begins thus:
QUESTION: Dr. Rice, are you aware of the reports at the time that (inaudible) was in Washington on September 11th…”
This version of the transcript, which?unlike the transcript from the Federal News Service – does not contain the information that the person being discussed was "the ISI chief," was the one reported on the CNN show "Inside Politics" later that day.>28
The suspicion that US officials wanted to conceal the ISI connection is also suggested by the evidence, raised by Chossudovsky, that the FBI, in reporting on the connection with Pakistan, did not specifically mention General Ahmad, Saeed Sheikh, or the ISI. For example, Brian Ross of ABC News reported that he had been told by federal authorities that they had "tracked more than $100,000 from banks in Pakistan." Ross also reported that according to Time magazine, "some of that money … can be traced directly to people connected to Osama bin Laden.">29 The FBI’s way of reporting the story, saying that the money came from "people connected to Osama bin Laden," diverted attention from General Ahmad, Saeed Sheikh, and the ISI. Indeed, thus laundered, the potentially embarrassing discovery about the transfer of money was used to confirm the official account?that primary responsibility for the attacks belonged to Osama bin Laden.
Later evidence suggested that Saeed Sheikh had transferred even more money to Atta. Thompson says that evidently $100,000 was transferred in 2000 and another $100,000 on August 11 of 2001, and that it is not clear to which of these transfers the story that broke in October referred.>30 Also, the New York Times suggested that a total of about $325,000 was transferred to Atta’s Florida accounts by one "Mustafa Ahmed," and this name was thought by some, including the Guardian and CNN, to be an alias for Saeed Sheikh.>31 This individual’s final transfers to Atta’s account occurred on September 8 and 9.>32 "These last-minute transfers," Thompson reports, "are touted as the ‘smoking gun’ proving al-Qaeda involvement in the 9/11 attacks, since Saeed is a known financial manager for bin Laden." However, Thompson asks, "since Saeed also works for the ISI, aren’t these transfers equally a smoking gun of ISI involvement in the 9/11 attacks?">33
Chossudovsky takes this thought a step further, calling the story of the ISI’s transfer of money to Atta, in conjunction with the presence of the ISI chief in Washington during the week, "the missing link behind 9-11." According to his summary statement:
The 9-11 terrorists did not act on their own volition. The suicide hijackers were instruments in a carefully planned intelligence operation. The evidence confirms that al-Qaeda is supported by Pakistan’s ISI [and it is amply documented that] the ISI owes its existence to the CIA.>34
Chossudowski, accordingly, believes that this evidence suggests possible complicity by "key individuals within the US military-intelligence Establishment," adding: "Whether this amounts to complicity on the part of the Bush administration remains to be firmly established. The least one can expect at this stage is an inquiry.">35
Chossudowsky is not alone in his musings on the possibility that the money transfer might point to direct US involvement in the planning of 9/11. Ahmed and Jared Israel both ask whether the long-time connection between the CIA and the ISI might mean that US financial aid was funneled to al-Qaeda through the ISI.>36 This possibility is also suggested by a story in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, which said: "There are many in Musharraf’s government who believe that Saeed Sheikh’s power comes not from the ISI, but from his connections with our own CIA. The theory is that…Saeed Sheikh was bought and paid for.">37
Ahmed, realizing that the suggestion of CIA financing is speculative, believes that what happened next at least demonstrated that Washington did not want the continuing relationship between al-Qaeda and the ISI explored. On October 8, just before the beginning of the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, General Ahmad gave up his position with the ISI. Although it was publicly announced that he had decided it was time to retire, a story in the Times of India said: "the truth is more shocking." This more shocking truth was that after India had given US officials evidence of the money transfer ordered by General Ahmad, he had been quietly dismissed after "US authorities sought his removal.">38 For Ahmed, this behavior suggests a cover-up:
The US, which one would think would be spearheading a full-scale investigation into the role of the ISI, actually prevented one from going ahead by asking from behind the scenes for the ISI chief…to quietly resign….
By pressuring the then ISI Director-General to resign without scandal on the pretext of reshuffling, while avoiding any publicity with respect to his siphoning of funds to alleged lead hijacker Mohamed Area, the US had effectively blocked any sort of investigation into the matter. It prevented wide publicity of these facts, and allowed the ISI chief, who was clearly complicit in the terrorist attacks of 11 th September, to walk away free.
Whatever the motivations behind such a cynical policy, it is indisputable that the US response at least suggests a significant degree of indirect complicity on the part of the US government, which appears more interested in protecting, rather than investigating and prosecuting, a military intelligence agency that funded the lead hijacker in the WTC and Pentagon attacks.>39
Chossudovsky likewise finds it disturbing that "the Bush administration refuses to investigate these ISI links.">40
Another possible connection between the ISI and 9/11 is Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, identified by the US government as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks (as well as one of the planners of Project Bojinka, the 1993 bombing of the WTC, and the bombing of the USS Cole). In 1999, according to reports, he repeatedly visited Atta’s apartment in Hamburg.>41 As we saw earlier, the day before 9/11 he evidently gave Atta final approval during a telephone call intercepted by the NSA. All this is generally known (with the proviso that, according to the NSA, it did not translate the content of that call until after 9/11). What has rarely been mentioned, however, is evidence that Mohammed, a Pakistani, had links to the ISI. One of the few exceptions to this silence was Josef Bodansky, the director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, who stated in 2002 that Mohammed was related to the ISI, which had acted to shield him.>42 If this is correct, then the day before 9/11, Mohamed Atta was given money by one ISI agent (Saeed Sheikh) and final authorization by another ISI agent (Khalid Shaikh Mohammed). We will see below, furthermore, that there is evidence that Saeed and Mohammed worked closely together on another ISI-related operation.
Further Evidence that the ISI Should Be Investigated
Critics of the official account of 9/11 report that in addition to the fact that US officials evidendy tried to cover up the connection between die ISI and the al-Qaeda operatives in the United States, there have been still other stories about the ISI suggesting that any real attempt to understand 9/11 would need to focus on it. Some of these stories have involved investigative reporters.
In November of 2001, Christina Lamb was in Pakistan investigating the connections between the ISI and the Taliban, but the ISI had her arrested and expelled from the country.>43
In late January of 2002, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped while in Pakiscan investigating, according to a story in the Washington Post "links between Pakistani extremists and Richard C. Reid, the British man accused of trying to blow up an American airliner with explosives hidden in his sneakers." Pearl, who had read a story in the Boston Globe suggesting that Reid may have had ties to a religious group called Al-Fuqra, was evidently going to see its leader, Ali Gilani, when he was kidnapped. Gilani reportedly had links with Saeed Sheikh and the ISI. The story in the Washington Post continued: "As part of that probe, Pearl may have soured into areas involving Pakistan’s secret intelligence organisations,">44 The US press suspected early on, therefore, that the ISI was responsible for Pearl’s fate.
That the kidnappers were not just ordinary terrorists was suggested by their demands, especially their demand that the United States sell F-16 fighters to Pakistan. As Thompson comments: "No terrorist group had ever shown interest in the F-16’s, but this demand and the others reflect the desires of Pakistan’s military and the ISI.">45 It was reported by UPI at me end of January, in fact, that US intelligence believed the kidnappers to be connected to the ISI.>46 After this, stories about Pearl would only seldom mention the ISI.
After it was learned that Pearl had been murdered, it was also learned that Saeed, the ISI agent who had wired $100,000 to Mohamed Atta, had been involved in the kidnapping. The ISI picked him up and held him secretly for a week, after which neither Saeed nor the ISI would discuss what had transpired that week. The Pakistani police then attributed Pearl’s murder to him. Saeed at first confessed, but, after he was sentenced to hang, he recanted. Thompson asks: "Did Saeed work out a secret deal during his ‘missing week’ in ISI custody to get a light sentence, a deal that is later broken?">47 In any case, between Saeeds arrest and his conviction, Thompson reports, some news stories mentioned his links to al-Qaeda, some mentioned his links to ISI, and a few mentioned that he might have been related to both groups, but many stories failed to mention either connection. By the time of Saeed’s conviction in July of 2002, moreover, "not a single US newspaper is connecting Saeed to either al-Qaeda or the ISI." Thompson asks: "Is the media afraid of reporting any news that could imply a connection between the ISI and the 9/11 attacks?">48
The same question could be asked, furthermore, with regard to the reporting about Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s involvement in the Pearl case. In 1997, former CIA agent Robert Baer was told by a former police chief in Qatar?to which Mohammed had fled after the exposure of the Bojinka plot in the Philippines?that Mohammed was one of bin Laden’s key aides.>49 Baer then told Pearl about Mohammed, so Pearl may have been looking into the connection between Reid and Mohammed. Investigators later came to believe, in any case, that Reid operated under Mohammed’s supervision.>50 They also came to believe that Mohammed was the mastermind behind the kidnapping.>51 Furthermore, Josef Bodansky, the man who claimed in 2002 that Mohammed had ties to the ISI, also claimed then that Mohammed was the one who ordered Pearl’s murder,>52 and in October of 2003, reporter John Lupkin said that US officials "now have new information that leads them to believe [Mohammed] killed Pearl.">53 In this story, however, there is no mention of a possible ISI connection. Pearl is said to have been working on "a story on Islamic militants." And the only organization to which Mohammed is connected is al-Qaeda.
In any case, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, thought to be the mastermind behind 9/11, is also thought to be behind the kidnapping and murder of Daniel Pearl. If that is so, it would not be a big leap to infer that Pearl may have been killed out of fear that he was uncovering the truth about 9/11. And if Mohammed was indeed connected with ISI, this would be further reason to suspect ISI involvement in 9/11.
Yet another story involving the ISI and reporters began when Pakistan’s government failed in February of 2002 to prevent the News from publishing a story about Saeed’s connections to the ISI. Saeed had not only admitted his involvement in attacks on the Indian parliament, the story revealed, but had also said that the ISI had helped him finance, plan, and execute the attacks. Shortly thereafter, the ISI pressured the News to fire the four journalists who worked on the story and also demanded an apology from the newspaper’s editor. The journalists were fired and the editor fled the country.>54 After summarizing these reports, Thompson adds: "This information comes from an article tided, ‘There’s Much More To Daniel Pearl’s Murder Than Meets the Eye,’ and that certainly seems to be the case.">55
The fact that the ISI apparently has so much to hide, combined with the fact that an American journalist was reportedly kidnapped and perhaps murdered by the same ISI agent who had sent money to Mohamed Atta, should, one would think, make US intelligence agencies very anxious to interview Saeed to learn all they could about the ISI. The Washington Post, for example, said: "The [ISI] is a house of horrors waiting to break open. Saeed has tales to tell.">56 However, in late February of 2002, Time magazine stated that the second highest Taliban official in US custody, Mullah Haji Abdul Samat Khaksar, had after several months still been waiting to talk to the CIA, even though he had reportedly volunteered the information that "ISI agents are still mixed up with the Taliban and al-Qaeda." Many months later, the Indian Express was wondering why Saeed, sitting in a Pakistani prison, still had not been interviewed by US intelligence agencies.>57 This lack of curiosity suggests to critics of the official account that US intelligence agencies assumed that these men had nothing to tell them that they did not already know.
Far from pursuing the ISI connections, in fact, Washington seemed intent on denying that there were any. In March of 2002, Secretary of State Powell declared that there were no links between Pearl’s murder and "elements of the ISI." In light of the overwhelming evidence that the main suspect, Saeed Sheikh, worked for the ISI, said the Guardian, Powell’s denial was "shocking.">58 Shortly thereafter, when Attorney General Ashcroft announced a criminal indictment against Saeed, there was no mention of his financing of the 9/11 attacks.>59
These incidents suggesting an official desire to cover up ISI involvement, furthermore, reportedly had a startling precedent in 1999. According to later reports, an informant for the US government, Randy Glass, made a wire-recording of a conversation at a dinner involving himself, some illegal arms dealers, and an ISI agent named Rajaa Gulum Abbas. This dinner, which took place on July 14, 1999, and was observed by FBI agents at nearby tables pretending to be customers, was at a restaurant within view of the WTC. Abbas, besides saying that he wanted to buy a shipload of stolen US military weapons to give to bin Laden, pointed to the WTC and said: "Those towers are coming down.">60 In June of 2002, Abbas was secredy indicted for attempting to buy US military weapons illegally. But when the indictment was finally revealed in March of 2003, it made "no mention of Pakistan, any ties to Afghanistan’s former Taliban regime or the ultimate destination of the weapons.">61
If the part of this story about the towers is true, it suggests, obviously, that the plan to attack the WTC was discussed long before the Bush administration took office, and even before September of 2000, when the Project for the New Amencan Century published its manifesto with its reference to the good that could come out of a new Pearl Harbor." And if true, moreover, it makes the circumstantial case for ISI involvement in the planning for 9/11 even stronger, adding further interest to the fact that the Bush administration has been so intent to keep the ISI’s nameout of all stories about 9/11.
FBI Flight from Flight School Investigations
Further lack of curiosity about the background to the attacks was shown by the FBI in relation to a story, which broke four days after 9/11, that many of the alleged hijackers had received flight training at US military installations. These installations included the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Brooks Air Force Base in San Antonio, Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, and the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California.>62 The Pensacola station was even listed on the drivers licenses of three of the men as their permanent address.>63 When asked about this report, a spokesperson for the US Air Force said that while the names were similar, "we are probably not talking about the same people.">64
TV producer, book author, and investigative journalist Daniel Hopsicker reports that when he asked a major in the Air Force’s Public Affairs Office about this story, she said: "Biographically, they’re not the same people. Some of the ages are 20 years off." But when Hopsicker, replying that he was interested only in Mohamed Atta, asked if she was "saying that the age of the Mohamed Atta who attended the Air Forces International Officer’s School at Maxwell Air Force Base was different from the terrorist Atta’s age as reported," she replied: "Urn, er, no." Then when Hopsicker said that he would like information about the Mohamed Atta who had attended the school at Maxwell, so that he could contact him, the major reportedly said that she did not think he was going to get that information. On September 16, news reports said that, with regard to Atta and two other men who had reportedly attended US military schools: "Officials would not release ages, country of origin or any other specific details of the three individuals.">65
Even US senators evidently got stonewalled. When Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson learned that three of the hijackers had been trained at Pensacola Naval Station, he sent a letter to Attorney General Ashcroft asking if this was true. Hopsicker reports that when a spokesman for Senator Nelson was asked about this, he said: "we never got a definitive answer from the Justice Department. So we asked the FBI for an answer… Their response to date has been that they are trying to sort through something complicated and difficult."
Nevertheless, on October 10, with this "complicated and difficult" problem unsolved and dozens of other facts seeming to scream out for an extensive and intensive investigation, FBI Director Mueller, calling the FBI’s month-long investigation of 9/11 "the most exhaustive in its history," declared it over. Officials reportedly said that Mueller’s attitude was that his agents now had "a broad understanding of the events of September 11" and that it "was now time to move on.">66 Mueller, according to the Washington Post, "described reports that several of the hijackers had received flight training in the United States as news, quite obviously.’" But he had the agents who were investigating this news reassigned.>67 "The investigative staff has to be made to understand," one law enforcement official was quoted as saying, "that we’re not trying to solve a crime now.">68
To critics of the official account, a cover-up is suggested not only by the FBI’s refusal to investigate this story but also by evidence that it had earlier tried to conceal the training received by some of the hijackers at two flight schools in Venice, Florida. Hopsicker, reporting that many of the men had trained at these two schools, also reports that just 18 hours after the 9/11 attacks?at 2 AM”FBI agents came to both schools and removed student files.>69 This story, like the one about the FBI confiscating the film from the gas station across from the Pentagon immediately after the crash there, lends additional support to the charge that the FBI had rather specific advance knowledge.
The FBI’s Quick Release of Omar al-Bayoumi
One fact about post-9/11 investigations that the critics of the official account find significant is that whereas many people with no apparent connections to the hijackers were arrested and held for long periods, some people with seemingly obvious connections were, if arrested at all, quickly released. For example, reports Thompson, back in 1999, when Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar?who would later be named as two of the hijackers?first entered the country, they were met at the airport in Los Angeles by a Saudi named Umar al-Bayoumi. He drove them to San Diego and provided an apartment for them. He also helped them open a bank account, obtain car insurance, get Social Security cards, and call flight schools in Florida.>70 As the CongressionalJoint Inquiry would later learn, "One of the FBI’s best sources in San Diego informed the bureau that he thought that al-Bayoumi," who seemed to have access to large sums of money, "must be an intellignece officer for Saudi Arabia,">71 Two months before 9/11, al-Bayoumi moved to England. After 9/11, he was arrested by British agents working with the FBI. However, the FBI, ostensibly accepting his story that he had met Alhazmi and Almihdhar by coincidence, angered British agents by releasing him "after a week without charge." Thompson comments: "Al-Bayoumis quick release is in sharp contrast to that of hundreds of US Muslims who are held anonymously for many monris after 9/11 despite having no connections to terrorism of any kind.">72
A Cover-Up at the NSA?
In late October of 2001, the Boston Globe reported that some government intelligence officials were furious because, they said information pertinent to the 9/11 investigation was being destroyed by the National Security Agency (NSA). They also claimed that possible leads were not being followed because of lack of cooperation by the NSA.>73 In a story that Thompson evidently thinks might be related, investigative reporter James Bamford, an authority on the NSA, reported that at least six of the identified hijackers, including all of those that boarded Flight 77 from Washington, had from August until 9/11 been "living, working, planning and developing all their activities in Laurel, Maryland, which happens to be the home of the NSA. So they were actually living alongside NSA employees as they were plotting all these things.">74 This fact might be simply a coincidence, but the accusations of a cover-up by NSA officials could make one wonder.
Later Developments Involving Moussaoui
On July 2, 2002, motions from Zacarias Moussaoui were unsealed infederal court. Claiming to have information showing the US goverment wanted the attacks of September to happen, Moussaoui indicated that hewanted to testify before both a grand jury and Congress.>75 Thus far what he has to say has not been made public.
In September of 2002, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh revealed that federal prosecutors had not discussed a plea bargain with Moussaoui since he had been indicted the previous November. Reporting that Moussaoui’s lawyers, and some FBI officials, remain bewildered at the government’s failure to pursue a plea bargain," Hersh quoted a federal public defender as saying: "I’ve never been in a conspiracy case where the government wasn’t interested in knowing if the defendant had any information – to see if there wasn’t more to the conspiracy.">76
On July of 2003, an Associated Press story contained the following statements:
Defying a court order, the Justice Department said Monday it would not make an al-Qaeda witness available to terrorism suspect Zacarias Moussaoui – even though prosecutors understood this could mean dismissal of the charges.
The only US case to arise from the September 11 attacks could be sent to a military tribunal if US District Judge Leonie Brinkema dismissed the case….
The government said it recognizes that its objection means the deposition of suspected September 11 organizer Ramzi Binalshibh cannot go forward. The Justice Department’s decision also "obligates the court now to dismiss the indictment unless the court finds that the interests of justice can be served by another action," the prosecution filing said….
Brinkema has ruled that Moussaoui, who is representing himself, should be allowed to question Binalshibh via a satellite hookup. The exchange, which the government is desperately trying to stop, could be played to jurors if Moussaoui’s case goes to trial…
Repeating earlier arguments, the government said Monday: "The deposition, which would involve an admitted and unrepentant terrorist (the defendant) questioning one of his al-Qaeda confederates, would necessarily result in the unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Such a scenario is unacceptable to the government, which not only carries the responsibility for prosecuting the defendant, but also of protecting this nations security at a time of war with an enemy who already murdered thousands of our citizens.">77
From the point of view of critics of the official account of 9/11, these stories suggest that the Justice Department’s primary concern is not to find out what really happened, nor to prosecute the man who has beenknown as "the 20th hijacker," but to keep him from speaking in public.
Promotions Instead of Punishment
The two major theories to account for the failure to prevent the attacks of 9/11, as we have seen, are the complicity theory and the incompetence theory. As Barrie Zwicker pointed out, "Incornpetence usually earns reprimands," so the incompetence theory is weakened in the eyes of critics by the absence of reprimands. Thompson reports for example, that over a year after 9/11, the directors of the CIA, the FBI, and the NSA all admitted before a congressional committee that no individuals in their agencies had been fired or even punished for missteps connected to 9/11.>78
To the contrary, Thompson adds, some of them were promoted. For example, Marion "Spike" Bowman – the agent at FBI headquarters who altered the Minneapolis FBI’s request for the warrant to search Moussaouis belongings?was in December of 2002 given an FBI award for "exceptional performance." This award came, furthermore, after a congressional report said that Bowman’s RFU unit had given Minneapolis FBI agents "inexcusably confused and inaccurate information" that was "patently false.">79
Reflecting on this and other promotions, a former Justice Department official said that FBI Director Mueller had "promoted the exact same people who have presided over the – failure.">80 Such actions, of course, give critics support for their contention that from the point of the FBI and the Bush administration more generally, the events of 9/11 represented not a failure but a spectacular success.
For the critics of the official account, the evidence summarized in this chapter, which concerns official US behavior after 9/11, furtherstrengthens the case for concluding not only that the official account is false but also that the true account would point to US complicity. For one thing, the evidence that American forces did not really try to capture
Osama bin Laden suggests that his long-term relationship with US agencies had not really, as the official account says, come to an end. As to exactly which US institutions were involved in the conspiracy, evidence in this chapter, more than that in previous ones, suggests CIA involvement. This chapter also provides further evidence of complicity by the White House, at least in the attempt to cover up the ISI’s?and thereby the CIA’s?involvement. With regard to White House involvement in the planning: If the prediction about the WTC towers made by an ISI agent in 1999 really occurred and reflected a joint ISI-CIA plan, then that plan must have been formulated long before it was certain that George W. Bush would become president. If he was involved in the planning, he would most likely have been brought in after the basic plan had already been formulated.
FOOTNOTES to Chapter 8:
- Thompson, "Timeline," early November 2001 (A), quoting London Times, July 22,2002.
- Knight-Ridder, October 20, 2002, quoted in "Timeline," Early November (B).
- Sydney Morning Herald, November 14, 2001, Christian Science Monitor, March 4 2002, and Knight-Ridder, November 20, 2002, cited in "Timeline," November 10, 2001
- Newsweek, August 11, 2002, cited in "Timeline," November 16, 2001 (B).
- Christian Science Monitor, March 4, 2002, and Telegraph, February 23, 2002, cited in "Timeline," early December 2001.
- "Timeline," November 28, 2001, citing Fayetteville Observer, August 2, and Newsweek, August 11, 2002.
- Timeline," November 28, 2001, citing Independent, August 2, 2002.
- BBC, December 30, 2001, cited in "Timeline," December 30, 2001.
- "Timeline," March 13, 2002, quoting the White House, March 13, and the Department of Defense, April 6, 2002.
- Ahmed, 78, quoting Daily Mirror, November 16, 2001.
- George Monbiot, "The Need for Dissent," Guardian, September 18, 2001, quoted in Ahmed, 295-96.
- Chossudovsky, War and Globalisation, 60.
- Ibid., 61.
- Ibid., 22-23; "Timeline," March 1985, citing Washington Post, Jury 19, 1992, and Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000).
- Ahmed, 177-78, quoting John K. Cooley, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism (London: Pluto, 1999), 120, 226. Another thing that the CIA, the ISI, and bin Laden had in common, Thompson reports, is that they all had accounts in the now notorious Bank of Credit and Commerce International (BCCI), which was based in Pakistan ("Timeline" July 5, 1991, citing Detroit News, September 30, 2001, and Washington Post, February 17, 2002).
- Newsweek, October 1, 2001, quoted in "Timeline," March 1985.
- Times of India, March 7, 2001, and CNN, February 27, 2002, quoted in "Timeline," March 1994 (B).
- Time, May 6, 2002, quoted in "Timeline," 1984; New Yorker, October 29, 2001, quoted in "Timeline," October 7, 2001.
- Chossudovsky, War and Globalisatum, 38.
- Ahmed, 216, quoting Selig Harrison, "Creating the Taliban: ‘CIA Made a Historic Mistake,’" Rationalist International Bulletin No. 68: March 19, 2001 (http://rationalistinternational.net).
- Ahmed, 189.
- Gerald Posner, Why America Slept: The Failure to Prevent 9111 (New York: Random House, 2003), 193.
- ABC News, September 30, and Wall Street Journal, October 10, 2001, cited in "Timeline," May 2000.
- Agence France-Presse, October 10, 2001, cited in Chossudovsky, War and Globalisation, 58.
- "Timeline," October 12, 1999, citing the News, September 10,2001.
- Chossudovsky, War and Globalisation, 52-54, 60.
- PBSs Frontline, October 3, 2002, quoted in "Timeline," August 23, 2001.
- Chossudovsky, War and Globalisation, 156-58.
- Ibid., 58-59, quoting Brian Ross on ABC’s "This Week," September 30,2001.
- "Timeline," October 7, 2001.
- "Timeline," Septembre 8-11, 2001 (C), citing Guardian, October 1, and CNN, October 6, 2001. Thompson adds that although earlier the media had "sometimes made the obvious connection that the paymaster was the British man Saeed Sheikh, a financial expert who studied at the London School of Economics" (see "Timeline," June 1993-October 1994), after October 8, when the story that ISI Director Ahmad ordered Saeed to give Mohamed Atta $100,000 began to break, "References to the 9/11 paymaster being the British Saeed Sheikh.-.suddenly disappear from the Western media (with one exception [CNN, 10/28/01])." Thompson then documents the fact that the Western media began referring to this individual, under numerous names, as Egyptian or Saudi Arabian, rather than Pakistani. One of the results of this confusion was that, conveniendy, the paymaster came to be identified as "Sheikh Saiid," said to be an alias for Sa’d al-Sharif, one of bin Laden’s brothers-in-law. For details about the massive confusion in the press about the name of the paymaster, see "Timeline," October 1, October 16, November 11, December 11, 2001, January 23, June 4, June 18, September 4, and December 26, 2002. See also two articles by Chaim Kupferberg (who prefers to call the paymaster Omar Saeed), "Daniel Pearl and the Paymaster of 9/11: 9/11 and the Smoking Gun that Turned on its Teacher," and "There’s Something about Omar." These two articles were posted September 21, 2002, and October 21, 2003, respectively, on the website of the Centre for Research on Globalisation (www.globalresearch.ca) http://globalresearch.ca/articles/KUP310A.html .
- "Timeline," September 8-11, 2001 (C), citing New York Times, July 10, 2002, and Financial Times, November 30, 2001.
- "Timeline," September 8-11, 2001 (C), citing Guardian on the relationship between Saeed Sheikh and bin Laden.
- Chossudovsky, War and Globalisation, 146.
- Ibid., 62.
- Ahmed, 218, 226, citing Jared Israel, "Did ‘Our’ Allies, Pakistani Intelligence, Fund t WTC Attackers?" The Emperor’s New Clothes www.emperors-clothes.com October 15,2001.
- Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March 3, 2002, quoted in Thompson, "Timeline," 1999 (I).
- Ahmed, 218-19, citing Manoj Joshi, "India Helped FBI Trace ISI-Terrorist Links," Times of India, October 9, 2001.
- Ibid., 224, 225.
- Chossudovsky, War and Globalisation, 62.
- New York Times, November 4, and Associated Press, August 24, 2002, cited in "Timeline," 1999 (K).
- UPI (United Press International), September 30, 2002, cited in "Timeline," June 4, 2002; see also early 1994-January 1995, and December 24, 2001-January 23, 2002.
- Telegraph, November 11, 2001, cited in "Timeline," November 10, 2001.
- "Timeline," January 6 and January 23, 2002, quoting Washington Post, February 23, 2002, and citing Boston Globe, January 6, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, March, 3, and VanityFair, August, 2002.
- "Timeline," January 28, 2002, citing London Times, April 21, and Guardian, July 16, 2002.
- "Timeline," January 28, 2002, citing UPI, January 29, 2002
- "Timeline," February 12, 2002, citing Boston Globe, 7, Observer, February 24, 2002, Newsweek, March 11, and Vanity Fair, August, 2002.
- "Timeline," February 6, 2002.
- UPI, September 30, 2002; Vanity Fair, February, 2002, and Baer, See No Evil The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA’s War on Terrorism (New York: Crown Pub, 2002), 270-71, cited in "Timeline," December 1997.
- CNN, January 30, 2003, cited in "Timeline," December 22, 2001 (B).
- Time, January 26, and CNN, January 30,2003, cited in "Timeline," January 23,2002.
- UPI, September 30, 2002, cited in "Timeline," June 4, 2002.
- John J. Lumpkin, "New Theory on Pearl Skying: 9/11 Mastermind Believed to Have Killed Wall Street Journal Reporter," APAP, October 21, 2003
- "Timeline," February 18, 2002 (B), citing News, February 18, London Times, April 21, and Guardian, July 16, 2002.
- "Timeline," March 1, 2002, citing "There’s Much More To Daniel Pearls Murder Than Meets the Eye," Washington Post, March 10, 2002.
- "Timeline," March 3, 2002.
- "Timeline," July 19, 2002 (B), citing Time, February 25, 2002, and Timeline," December 26, 2002, citing India Express, July 19, 2002.
- "Timeline," March 3, 2002, citing Dawn, March 3,2002, and Guardian, April 5,2002.
- "Timeline," March 14, 2002, citing CNN, March 14, and Los Angeles Times, March 15, 2002.
- WPBF Channel 25, August 5, 2002, Cox News, August 2, 2002, and Palm Beach Post, October 17, 2002, cited in "Timeline," July 14, 1999.
- Palm Beach Post, March 20, 2003 (see also South Florida Sun-Sentinel, March 20, 2003), quoted in Timeline," June 2002.
- Newsweek, September 15, New York Times, September 15, and Washington Post, September 16, 2001, cited in "Timeline," September 15-17, 2001.
- Gannett News Service and Pensacola News Journal, both September 17, 2001, cited in "Timeline," September 15-17, 2001.
- Washington Post, September 16, 2001, quoted in Ahmed, 97.
- Danid Hopsicker, "Did Terrorists Train at US. Military Schools?" Online Journal October 30, 2002, quoted in Ahmed, 98-99. (Hopsicker who has produced television business shows, including "Inside Wall Street," is also the author of Barry and the Boys CIA, the Mob, and’America’s Secret History [Madcow Press, 2001 ].)
- Hopsicker, "Did Terrorists?" quoted in Ahmed, 98, 99.
- Steve Fainaru and James V. Grimaldi, "FBI Knew Terrorists Were Using Flight Schools," Washington Post, September 23, 2001, quoted in Ahmed, 99.
- Hopsicker, "Did Terrorists?", quoted in Ahmed, 99.
- Hopsicker, "What Are They Hiding Down in Venice, Florida?" Online Journal, November 7, 2001, quoted in Ahmed, 100. An interesting footnote to this story is provided by the fact that Arne Kruithof and Rudi Dekkers, each of whom owned one of these flight schools, each narrowly escaped dying in a small plane crash. On Kruithof’s crash, which occurred on July 26, 2002, see Hopsicker, "Magic Dutch Boy Escapes Fiery Crash," Mad Cow Morning News, July 4, 2002 (www.madcowprod.com/index27.html); on Dekkers’ crash, which occurred on January 24, 2003, see Hopsicker, "Dekkers’ Helicopter Crashed on Way to Showdown over Huffman Aviation," Mad Cow Morning News, January 28, 2003 (www.madcowprod.com/index43.html).
- "Timeline," November 1999, citing Sunday Mercury, October 21, 2001, Washington Post, December 29, 2001, and Newsweek, September 24, 2002.
- James Risen, "Informant for F.B.I. Had Contacts with Two 9/11 Hijackers," New York Times, July 25, 2003.
- "Timeline," September 21 or 22, 2001, citing Los Angeles Times and Newsweek, both November 24, 2002.
- Boston Globe, October 27, 2001, cited in "Timeline," October 24, 2001.
- Washington Post, September 19, and the BBC, June 21, 2002, cited in "Timeline," August 2002 (B). Bamford, as we saw earlier, wrote Body of Secrets: Anatomy of the Ultra-Secret National Security Agency (2001; New York Anchor Books, 2002).
- Michael Ruppert, "A Timeline Surrounding September 11th," From the Wilderness Publications (www.n-omthewilderness.com), item 96, citing Washington Post, July 3, 2002.
- Seymour Hersh, New Yorker, September 30, 2002, quoted in "Timeline," September 30, 2002.
- Larry Margasak, "Feds Reject Moussaoui Witness," Associated Press, July 14, 2003.
- Thompson, "Timeline," October 17,2002, citing Washington Post, September 18,2002.
- "Timeline," December 4, 2002, quoting Star Tribune, December 22, 2002.
- "Timeline," December 4, 2002, quoting Time, December 30, 2002.