The horrifying image of the blasted, crumbling World Trade Center twin towers erupting in black clouds of smoke and debris will flicker on our television screens again and again during the anniversary observance of September 11, 2001, Black Tuesday, the day, according to the Koran, when Allah created darkness.
A parade of politicians, pundits, and publicists will doubtless lie to us again, will declare the attack unprecedented and unexpected, and will urge us to surrender our liberties in exchange for a specious promise of protection. Once more the pitiful bleating of intelligence officials will be heard in the land. We will be asked to believe that twenty-six intelligence services with a budget of more than thirty billion dollars didn't have a clue.
Truth to tell, they had myriad clues. Let's begin with the date, September 11. Exactly five years earlier, September 11, 1996, Ramzi Yousef, Wali Khan Shah, and Abdul Hakim Murad were convicted as conspirators in the first attack on the World Trade Center. The three conspirators had been at large since March 1993 and would probably still be at large had not a quick-thinking Filipina policewoman investigated a suspicious flash fire.
In January 1995, a patrolman told Manila Senior Inspector Aida Fariscal not to worry about the smoke plume rising from a sixth-floor apartment down the street from the station because some Pakistanis had accidentally started a blaze with firecrackers. Fariscal decided to walk down the street and have a look anyway. These days nothing was routine. A typhoon had just left a trail of wreckage in its wake, and Manila was still preparing for the upcoming visit of the pope.
The apartment was littered with chemicals, cotton, and electrical wiring. After refusing a $2000 bribe, Fariscal and a patrolman took a man of many aliases (later identified as Abdul Hakim Murad) into custody. Murad's two companions escaped.
When she returned with the bomb squad, Fariscal
knew that from the generals and officials arriving on the scene, this was no ordinary bust. The entire apartment was a manufacturing site for explosive devices. The bomb squad discovered two complete remote-controlled pipe-bombs, an extensive array of explosive chemicals funnels, timers, hotplates, reference manuals, as well as a number of varied passports hidden in a wall divider, the pope's schedule and maps of his procession through the city, and a laptop computer belonging to one of Murad's escaped companions, whose identity emerged from many layers of aliases as Ramzi Yousef.
Murad confessed to Philippine police that he and his companions were ready to carry out an ambitious terror attack. Murad, a pilot who had received some of his pilot training in the United States, was primed to crash a plane into C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, Virginia. A second pilot would crash his plane into the Pentagon, and another would crash his plane into some major federal building. These suicide bombings would be coordinated with other crashes. Murad described an elaborate scheme to hide bombs on eleven American airliners (United, Delta, and Northwest), bombs timed to explode simultaneously over the Pacific Ocean. Investigators found detailed plans, including maps and flight schedules, for this fiendish design on Yousef's laptop computer, part of an operation code-named Bojinka (Serbo-Croatian for big bang).
Philippine police in Manila arrested Murad's partners in crime, Ramzi Yousef and Wali Khan Shah, Islamic militants linked to Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda network. As fugitives from justice, the trio was extradited to the United States, where they were convicted and imprisoned.
Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was unrepentant. His only regret was that he did not bring down the twin towers in 1993 because he lacked funds to buy enough explosives. Intelligence officials in the Philippines say that a round-faced Indonesian cleric known as Hambali was Yousef's main moneyman. He funded and coordinated Yousef's cell through a Malaysian trading company. Both Hambali and Wali Khan Shah were on the board of directors. (In 1994, Wali Khan Shah directed hijackers of a Philippine Airlines plane who killed a Japanese businessman. According to Murad, this was a practice run for Project Bojinka.) Here was a strong clue linking Hambali, Al Qaeda, and the terrorists, but no one followed it. A second source of funding came from a local charitable foundation headed by Mohammad Jamal Khalifa, brother-in-law to bin Laden. No one followed that clue, either.
Hambali's Al Qaeda network, say Philippine officials, has built a formidable logistics operation, providing money, housing, and fake documents to terrorists involved in attacks on the 1993 World Trade Center, the October 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen, and the September 11 attacks. They say Hambali and his subordinates met with at least two of the Sept. 11 suicide hijackers in Malaysia in January 2000.
Hambali's organization provided money and documents identifying Zacarias Moussaoui (currently on trial for conspiracy in the 9/11 attack) as a consultant for a Malaysian company, Infocus Tech, to expedite his entrance into the United States. Yazid Sufaat signed a letter as Managing Director of the Malaysian company, declaring that Moussaoui was a marketing consultant for Infocus Tech and would receive a $2,500 monthly allowance. (Infocus Tech, a real company, denies that Moussaoui was ever an employee.) Significantly, Sufaat also owned the Kuala Lumpur condominium where crucial terrorist meetings took place. One gathering was attended by a man later identified as a leading suspect in the October 2000 bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Yemen. Moussaoui stayed at the same condo eight months later.
Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arraigned last January on six counts of conspiracy to commit murder and terrorism, declared in court that the U.S. government chose not to arrest hijacker Hani Hanjour last summer because that would have tipped off the attackers to surveillance by the F.B.I. "They arrested me and not Hanjour who was a few week before me at Pan Am Flight School (and has been reported was a danger) because they knew that I was not with the 19 hijackers and therefore they will not be alerted . . . by my arrest."
Moussaoui's story received corroboration May 24, 2002, when ABC News reported that paid F.B.I. informant Auki Collins claimed he had monitored the Arab and Islamic communities in Phoenix, including Hani Hanjour while he attended flight school in Phoenix. The F.B.I. admitted that Collins had worked for them, but denied he had told them anything about Hanjour.
Moussaoui claimed he had been under observation before 9/11 and that the hijackers' movements had been facilitated by the U.S. government. Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Spencer denied Moussaoui's allegation in court, maintaining that Moussaoui had not been under physical or electronic surveillance, that he knows of no such surveillance by any foreign government, and also that the U.S. government did not facilitate the movement of any of the 19 hijackers or have any of them under surveillance while they were in the United States. Spencer's sweeping denials don't stand up under scrutiny.
Steve Fainaru's and James V. Grimaldi's Washington Post article of September 23, 2001 concludes: "Since 1996, the F.B.I. had been developing evidence that international terrorists were using US flight schools to learn to fly jumbo jets. A foiled plot in Manila to blow up U.S. airliners [Bojinka] and later court testimony by an associate of bin Laden had touched off F.B.I. inquiries at several schools, officials say." So it appears that at least the flight schools were under surveillance.
Three days after the 9/11 attack, the F.B.I. released a list of 19 suspected hijackers, complete with birthdates, photographs, and aliases. The gullible American press never questioned the authenticity of the list, but professionals in Europe did.
Andreas von Buelow, a former German cabinet member, expressed his dissatisfaction with the official account in a full-page interview in the January 13, 2002 edition of the Berlin Tagesspiegel. "For 60 decisive minutes, the military and intelligence agencies let the fighter planes stay on the ground; 48 hours later, however, the F.B.I. presented a list of suicide attackers. Within ten days, it emerged that seven of them were still alive."
Von Buelow wondered why the F.B.I chief took no position regarding contradictions, where the list came from, and why he did not give ongoing reports on the investigation.
F.B.I. director Robert Mueller said the agency was "fairly confident" that the hijackers' names were not aliases, but before the end of September at least four of the men should have been removed from the list. All four had reported their passports stolen, and none of the four were in the United States at the time of the highjacking.
Relatives declared that two other young men were alive and working with relief agencies in Chechnya. Social Security officials reported that six of the nineteen F.B.I. suspects had used stolen Social Security numbers. Yet, since September 27, the F.B.I. has not revised the list.
At least five of the F.B.I. suspects were actually in other countries at the time of the attack:
Clearly, some or all the highjackers used stolen identities. Why hasn't the F.B.I. clarified the mix-up? Who is responsible for releasing the original list and photos of the highjackers?
U. S. military officials gave the F.B.I. information that during the nineties, five of the highjackers were trained at secure U.S. military installations. Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmad Alnami, and Ahmed Alghamdi all listed their address at the Pensacola Naval Station. A high-ranking Pentagon official said another of the hijackers may have been trained in strategy and tactics at the Air War College in Montgomery, Alabama. The fifth man may have received language instruction at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. Both were former Saudi Air Force pilots who had come to the United States, according to the Pentagon source. Why were they there?
Ziad Samir Jarrah, identified on the F.B.I.'s list as a hijacker aboard the airliner that crashed in western Pennsylvania, was on an American watch list of terrorists in January 30, 2001. Officials from the United Arab Emirates detained and questioned Jarrah that day and noted that he had visited Afghanistan and Pakistan (a red flag to border watches). He was returning to Florida, where he had taken flight training for more than six months. Jarrah then re-entered the U.S. without hindrance. (Jarrah's Lebanese family claims, however, that their son was visiting his hospitalized father on that date.) Someone closely resembling Jarrah and calling himself Jarrah leased an apartment in Brooklyn in 1995 while the Lebanese Jarrah was studying in Beirut. Were there two Jarrahs? Was one or neither of them aboard that airliner?
The agencies keep changing their stories. On August 21, 2001, the F.B.I. listed Kahlil Almidhar and Nawaf Alhamzi as suspects for border-watch. Shortly afterward, the bureau learned the two were already in the country and began an unsuccessful search.
The C.I.A. initially said they were unaware of Alhazmi's presence in this country until immigration officials notified them in August 2001. The C.I.A. later admitted that months earlier Malaysian intelligence reported a meeting in a Kuala Lumpur condo between Khalid Almidhar, Salem Alhamzi, and other suspects.
Those in attendance were videotaped by Malaysia's Special Branch at the request of the United States and were later identified as including not only hijackers Alhazmi and Almidhar, but also a one-legged al Qaeda fighter named Tawfiq bin Attash, alias Khalad. (The F.B.I. had identified Khalad as a leading suspect in the U.S.S. Cole bombing in October 2000.)
Newsweek reported that the Malaysian agency continued to watch the condo, though the C.I.A. seemed to lose interest. "'We couldn't fathom it, really,' Rais Yatim, Malaysia's Legal Affairs minister, told Newsweek. 'There was no show of concern.'" Too bad, because Zacarias Moussaoui, who was arrested August 16, stopped by on his way to the United States later that year.
Moussaoui entered the United States in February 2000 and enrolled in the same Oklahoma flight school Murad had attended. After flunking out in Oklahoma, he resumed lessons on flight simulators in Eagan, Minnesota, where his eccentric behavior aroused suspicions. The F.B.I. detained him on immigration charges on August 17. Among his possessions, they discovered a laptop computer.
Eager to examine the computer, Minneapolis F.B.I. agents repeatedly requested a special warrant to examine Moussaoui's computer, and bureau attorneys in Washington repeatedly denied their requests, claiming there was insufficient evidence. The special court that reviews warrants covered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act has approved more than 12,000 Justice Department applications for covert search warrants and wiretaps and rejected only one since the act was passed in 1978.
After the 9/11 attacks, F.B.I. agent Coleen Rowley, general counsel in the Minneapolis field office, wrote a scorching 13-page open letter to F.B.I. Director Robert S. Mueller III and the Senate Intelligence Committee. She asserted that the French government had shared ample intelligence on Moussaoui, including information on his links to Osama bin Laden, information that supported requests for a special surveillance warrant to search Moussaoui's laptop computer in the weeks before the terrorist attacks. (The French, who had put Moussaoui on a watch list in 1999 because they suspected him of terrorist activities, insisted that they had shared their thick dossier with American intelligence agencies.) Rowley said some field agents were so frustrated that they joked about spies and moles for bin Laden working at Washington headquarters.
Rowley complained that agents' reports from Arizona and Minneapolis landed on the desk of David Frasca, head of the Radical Fundamentalists Unit, who had actually telephoned Rowley as she and other agents watched the 9/11 attacks on television. He instructed her not to proceed with the Moussaoui investigation, with the cryptic explanation that Minneapolis might screw up something else going on elsewhere in the country. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?
Even Senate Investigating Committee members wondered why Yemen-born Ramzid Binalshibh was refused a visa four times when his roommate Moussaoui breezed right through. Binalshibh wired some nice chunks of money to Moussaoui without raising any red flags, though. Perhaps he should have applied as a Saudi resident.
J. Michael Springmann, formerly chief of the visa section at the U.S. Embassy in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, claims that he rejected hundreds of suspicious visa applications, but the C.I.A. officer overruled him and ordered the visas to be issued. Springmann protested to the State Department, the Office of Diplomatic Security, the F.B.I., the Justice Department and congressional committees, but was told to shut up. Springmann observed that 15 of the 19 people who allegedly flew airplanes into buildings in the United States got their visas from the same CIA-dominated consulate in Jeddah. As a special favor to residents of Saudi Arabia (including non-Saudi citizens), applicants for non-immigrant visas can apply at private travel agencies anywhere in Saudi Arabia and receive their U.S. visa through the mail. During the month following the 9/11 attack, 102 applicants received their visas by mail, 2 more were interviewed, and none were rejected.
No doubt about it--the Saudis always got special treatment. In a November 6, 2001 BBC broadcast Greg Palast revealed just how special that treatment was. After Pakistan expelled the World Association of Muslim Youth (WAMY) and India claimed that the organization was linked to terrorist bombings in Kashmir and the Philippines military accused WAMY of funding Muslim insurgency, the F.B.I. got orders to leave them alone.
The bin Laden family members got extra special treatment. Palast says that days after the hijackers took off from Boston aiming for the Twin Towers, " a special charter flight out of the same airport whisked 11 members of Osama Bin Laden's family off to Saudi Arabia. That did not concern the White House. Their official line is that the Bin Ladens are above suspicion - apart from Osama, the black sheep, who they say hijacked the family name. That's fortunate for the Bush family and the Saudi royal household, whose links with the Bin Ladens could otherwise prove embarrassing. But Newsnight has obtained evidence that the F.B.I. was on the trail of other members of the Bin Laden family for links to terrorist organisations before and after September 11th."
The owner of a motel outside Oklahoma City had a strange story to tell Jim Crogan (Los Angeles Weekly, July 26, 2002). About six weeks before 9/11, three men tried unsuccessfully to rent a room at the weekly rate. He later saw photos of the men and recognized them as suspected conspirators and terrorists.
"The motel owner said that Moussaoui and a man who appeared to be Marwan al-Shehhi --who helped crash a jetliner into the south tower of the World Trade Center--were friendly and said a few things, but Atta was clearly the leader."
"'He did most of the talking and seemed very serious,' said the owner, adding, 'I was standing face to face, about two feet away from Atta, and talked to the three of them for about 10 minutes.'"
After the owner reported the incident to the F.B.I., he heard from the bureau several weeks later. "'The agent told me they had passed on a copy of my statement to Moussaoui's defense team, and I might be getting a call from them. But I was under no obligation to talk to them. However, I don't know if that was the truth. Since then, I have never heard from anyone connected to Moussaoui's case.'"
Cogan says that the convicted Oklahoma City bombers, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, were said to have stayed at the some motel, "interacting with a group of Iraquis during the weeks before the bombing."
Television reporter Jayna Davis also interviewed motel staff and former guests, collecting signed affidavits about their contacts with McVeigh and the Iraquis. The bureau twice refused to accept her materials.
Cogan notes that the absence of this information from the public record "raises new questions about the FBI investigation of Moussaoui and even the 1995 destruction of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City."
1. On September 10, 2001, there were 4,526 put options bought on United Airlines and only 748 call options. For American Airlines, the number of puts is 60 times the daily average. Who were these traders?
2. The chief of the Pakistani Intelligence Service wired $100,000 to Mohammed Atta before the attacks. On September 11, he met with the heads of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees in Washington, D.C. Why did he send the money and why was he meeting with congresspersons on September 11?
3. Why were Standard Operating Procedures, designed to prevent, intercept, or terminate an attack, utterly ignored or suspended on 9/11?
4. Why did George W. Bush continue to read a story to elementary school children after he learned of the attack?
5. Why did Pentagon officials cancel their airline flights on 9/11?
Mary Schiavo, former Inspector General for the U.S. Department of Transportation under both Bush I and Clinton, and a lawyer for thirty-two families from all 9/11 hijacked planes, stated that every single aviation disaster in history, except for 9/11, had been followed by not only a criminal investigation but a national transportation safety investigation.
What are they hiding? Why is no one held accountable? Despite massive evidence of incompetence and dishonesty, no heads have rolled. Each time a falsehood is exposed, a new and stranger story replaces it. The trail gets muddier and muddier.
Let's follow tradition in this matter. We must convene an independent investigative commission like those convened after Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination, but with a difference. In addition to the learned professionals who sit on the committee, let us, the American people, be represented by some members of the families whose loved ones perished on Black Tuesday.