Part 202 20History 20of 20al 20Qaida 20 NXPowerLite by G790sJJ

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									                               INTRODUCTION


This project constitutes an open-source study of the history of al Qaida, and when it

began, this author assumed that al Qaida had a history. Yet that turned out to be wrong in

significant respects. It is only somewhat of an exaggeration to say that al Qaida has no

history. Al Qaida was founded in August 1988 by Usama bin Ladin and a handful of

other Arab militants, but extremely few mentions of the organization can be found in the

open source literature for the next decade—until the 1998 bombings of two U.S.

embassies. The same paucity of references to al Qaida in its first ten years also

characterizes the classified material, according to the 9/11 Commission.

       Typically, human beings and organizations have a learning curve. They

undertake to master some task and with study and practice become increasingly better at

it. Organizations that exist for years typically acquire an institutional knowledge and

expertise. That knowledge and expertise are passed onto new individuals coming into the

organization, who gain experience in their work, which may well involve periods of

special training. A terrorist organization like al Qaida should also follow this pattern. It

should first commit smaller, less lethal terrorist attacks, gaining the experience to carry

out more sophisticated and deadly assaults. In that initial period, it should become

known to outsiders.




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       Al Qaida, however, is quite unlike this. It emerges into the world of terrorism

spectacularly full-blown, somewhat like Athena from the head of Zeus. At the time of

the near simultaneous bombings of the two U.S. embassies in Africa on August 7, 1998,

al Qaida was not even on the official U.S. list of terrorist groups.


                                        Methodology

It is difficult to imagine a subject that is, on the one hand, so important to U.S. national

security and that, on the other hand, threatens more pitfalls for an analyst than work

related to al Qaida. There is an acute problem of instant experts. Terrorism was not of

major significance to U.S. policymakers prior to 9/11. Nor was the greater Middle East,

as U.S. attention throughout the 1990s, particularly following the 1993 Oslo Accords,

generally focused quite narrowly on the Arab-Israeli peace process, about which highly

exaggerated expectations were held. Many individuals now writing about al Qaida did no

work on this or related subjects prior to September 2001. The absence of information,

particularly about al Qaida‘s first decade, as well as the lack of expertise on the greater

Middle East, creates a vacuum. False information readily fills that vacuum and enters

public discourse, where it is repeated by individuals who lack the knowledge to make an

independent judgment about the validity of what they see and hear. Fundamentally

mistaken information thus acquires the appearance of truth by mere repetition.

       Any serious work on al Qaida requires unusual care to ensure that the information

on which it is based is accurate. Well-known methods exist for doing so. Above all, get

as close to the original sources as possible. Documents, in particular, have great value, as

they represent a reliable, contemporary account. Research based on documents is nearly

as important.



                                              2
           Unfortunately, there are only a limited number of al Qaida documents in the

public record. They do, however, present a picture at odds with the prevailing view that

al Qaida was a huge, sprawling, and highly capable enemy. Of particular interest in this

regard is the work of Wall Street Journal reporter, Alan Cullison, who in late 2001 (after

the defeat of the Taliban), managed to acquire a computer that had belonged to Ayman

al-Zawahiri, bin Ladin‘s deputy. As Cullison observes, ―Al Qaeda has been

mythologized as a disciplined and sophisticated foe, united by a deadly commonality of

purpose and by the wealth of its leader.‖1 Cullison, in fact, suggests that al Qaida was

riven by internal rivalries and that the 9/11 strikes were driven more by al Qaida‘s

weaknesses than its strengths, intended to produce a new unity within the organization.

           In addition to seeking out documents, this author has also focused on official U.S.

statements and studies, including the 9/11 Commission report; sections of the Senate

Select Committee on Intelligence report relevant to terrorism; and the Joint

Congressional Inquiry into the 9/11 attacks.

           Of all the records produced by the U.S. government, the most significant in

critical respects are the court records of the terrorism trials held since the first assault on

New York‘s World Trade Center. Five trials, involving four major terrorist conspiracies,

were extensively researched for this study: 1) the trial for the February 1993 Trade

Center bombing of the four defendants first arrested for that attack; 2) the trial of Shaykh

Omar et al. for the subsequent plot in the spring of 1993 to bomb New York landmarks;

3) the trial for the 1995 plot to bomb a dozen U.S. airliners in the Philippines; 4) the trial

of Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing, and another man for



1
    Alan Cullison, ―Inside Al-Qaeda‘s Hard Drive,‖ Atlantic Monthly, September 2004.


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that bombing; and 5) the trial of four defendants for the 1998 bombings of the U.S.

embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.2

         These court records constitute an enormous opus. The trial transcripts run over

60,000 pages. In addition, the evidence, particularly government exhibits, is extremely

valuable and at least as voluminous. They include a rare open-source repository of al

Qaida documents.

         Yet this material has not been properly exploited. A highly charged political

debate raged after the 9/11 attacks about whether al Qaida had significant ties to Iraq‘s

Baathist regime or not. In the mid-1990s, Khalid al-Fawwaz became bin Ladin‘s

representative in London. Al-Fawwaz‘s telephone records were evidence in the trial for

the bombings of the two U.S. embassies. They include hundreds of calls to Iraq in the

months before and after the bombings. Yet this fact was not communicated to senior

U.S. policymakers.


The Court Records

As most people have never had the experience of doing research on the basis of a major

trial, it might be useful to explain why a court record produces such valuable information.

The problems that officials have regularly cited in regards to intelligence—it is difficult

to get access to the raw reports; human sources remain unknown and their credibility

cannot be judged, etc—do not exist with court records.

         Before anything can be introduced into evidence, a chain of custody must be

established: to explain its origin; demonstrate it was lawfully obtained; and show that it


2
 These are the bulk of the major terrorism trials involving Muslim defendants. Omitted because of time
constraints are the trials for those involved in the millennium bombing plot, namely the Seattle trial of
Ahmed Ressam and a related trial in New York.


                                                     4
has been preserved in its original condition. Nor can material be presented independent

of its context. If, for example, one side wants to cite certain telephone calls, perhaps to

show that one individual communicated with another, the entire billing record for the

relevant phone(s) must be entered into evidence. If a defendant is said to have traveled

somewhere, the entire ticket (or passport) goes into evidence. These procedures,

intended to guard against abuse of government authority, produce an enormous amount

of information—a true fog of evidence—but for those prepared to devote the time to plod

through it, it is a very solid basis for research.

        The testimony of trial witnesses has the same transparency. One can make an

independent estimate of their reliability, particularly as the opposing side will almost

certainly make an issue of a witness‘s credibility, when appropriate. Both sides, the

prosecution and the defense, receive copies of FBI interrogations. If a witness‘s story has

changed over time (which does happen), the lawyers on the opposing side will bring that

out. The problems posed by information from unreliable informants—much discussed in

the post 9/11 intelligence investigations—are minimized in a legal proceeding.

        Very sensitive information may be released, which under other circumstances

would be highly classified material. In the embassy bombing trial, for example, the

prosecution entered into evidence not only transcripts of conversations picked up from a

wiretap of al Qaida‘s Nairobi office, but the actual conversations themselves, preserved

as electronic sound files.

        Constantly assessing the reliability of information is critical in studying al Qaida.

The less reliable a source, the greater the need to ensure that the information is

corroborated Information from a source who makes errors needs to be handled gingerly.




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Furthermore, information should ―make sense,‖ i.e., be consistent with what is known

about how such individuals and organizations generally behave. Finally, in an issue as

complex and poorly understood as this, having no information is better than having

wrong information. Where it is not possible to judge between conflicting accounts, both

are maintained, if only in a footnote, until such time as the matter might be clarified.

       Such a sustained attempt at rigor generates a different perspective on the history

of al Qaida than the dominant one. Al Qaida appears to have been a more modest

enterprise than is generally understood, lacking the cohesion and capabilities routinely

attributed to it. This has significant implications, including for the ongoing war in Iraq,

where the network of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi appears as another al Qaida-like entity.

       Indeed, over the past twelve years, an appealing, but dubious explanation for

major terrorist attacks on the United States has emerged, namely that these assaults have

been the work of one Islamic figure and his fanatical followers. The first such ―face of

terror‖ was Shaykh Omar Abdul Rahman (the blind Egyptian cleric in New York), then it

was Usama bin Ladin, and now it is Abu Musab al Zarqawi. This is a neat, simple

explanation that has strong appeal for the media and the public. The focus on these

figures, strange and unfamiliar, simultaneously fascinating and repellant, however,

constitutes a dubious explanation for very major acts of terrorism, or so this project

argues, and it may well cause analysts and others to overlook other critical elements

involved in those attacks.


                                Structure of This Project

Part I—―The Development and Emergence of al Qaida‖—constitutes a history of the

organization from its founding until September 11, 2001. It is based on the range of



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documentary and official sources noted above, including U.S. court records, plus

secondary sources. Chapter 1 explains how the dominant U.S. view of al Qaida changed

very rapidly, in a short period of time. For almost all the time that al Qaida existed, U.S.

authorities had a poor understanding of the organization.

       Chapter 2 describes the founding of al Qaida in 1988 by bin Ladin and some

fourteen others, after a bitter dispute developed with Abdullah Azzam, the preeminent

figure among the Arab mujahidin in the Afghan jihad against the Soviet Union. Chapter 3

describes al Qaida in Sudan, where it was based from 1991 until 1996. Notably, both bin

Ladin and al Qaida were little known in this period, as a review of the contemporary

literature makes clear. Chapter 4 describes the return of bin Ladin and al Qaida to

Afghanistan, after the Sudanese government, facing U.N. sanctions, pressed them to

leave. It was a difficult move, and as the 9/11 Commission notes, bin Ladin was then in

his weakest position since the early days of the anti-Soviet jihad. Nonetheless, he

adopted a very hostile public stance against the United States and within two years would

begin a series of major assaults against this country, culminating in the 9/11 strikes.

       Part II of this study describes the four major terrorist plots against the United

States noted above. This section is based overwhelmingly on the court records in New

York, along with author interviews. Notably, al Qaida does not figure in these records

until the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings.

       Part III of this study presents some of the difficulties and uncertainties in

understanding al Qaida. Chapter 9 deals with the masterminds of the major Islamic

terrorist attacks directed against the United States from the 1993 World Trade Center

bombing to the 9/11 strikes. As CIA Director George Tenet affirmed in 2002, ―We now




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believe that a common thread runs between the first attack on the World Trade Center in

February 1993 and the 11 September attacks.‖3

         That common thread is an extended family of Baluch, a Sunni Muslim people

living predominantly in eastern Iran and Western Pakistan. Ramzi Yousef, mastermind

of the 1993 Trade Center bombing is Baluch; so, too, is Khalid Shaykh Mohammed

(KSM), mastermind of the 9/11 assaults. KSM is believed to be Yousef‘s maternal uncle,

and others in this family are also terrorist-masterminds. They include two older brothers

of Yousef, as well as another nephew of KSM, Ali Ammar al-Baluchi, who was KSM‘s

right-hand man and provided the principal financing for the 9/11 attacks.4

         The role and significance of these Baluch masterminds is firmly established in the

public record. It is by no means obvious that these individuals are Islamic militants,

however; in fact, they appear not to be. Yet they are regularly assimilated into the

ideology and framework of Islamic militants.

         Chapter 10 suggests that a closed conceptual circle dominates present thinking

about Islamic terrorism. There is a de facto assumption that Islamic militants, the

network of global jihadis, interact only with other individuals that are just like

themselves. Yet they do not live in a hermetically sealed environment, of course. They

can and do interact with other entities. Nor is there any unbridgeable gap between

―secular‖ elements in the Middle East and Islamic ones. In fact, there is a long record of

co-operation between the two. It is quite possible for a terrorist state (whether Islamic or


3
  ―Unclassified Version of Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet's Testimony before the Joint
Inquiry into Terrorist Attacks Against the United States,‖ June 18, 2002.
4
  This author has questions about whether these men are really a family or whether they were, perhaps,
operating under false identities (based on tampering with alien resident files in Kuwait, where several are
supposed to have been born and raised). That would have had the effect of making them appear as a
family. U.S. officials, however, claim they are a family and rather than repeatedly note that this claim has
not been demonstrated, at least in the open-source literature, this project often just repeats the official view.


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―secular‖) to work with a terrorist group, including Islamic groups. Indeed, this is how

we understood Middle Eastern terrorism in the 1980s, and it is not evident that the nature

of terrorism really changed so radically in the 1990s, although our understanding of the

phenomenon certainly did.

        Terrorist states generally have much more resources and expertise than terrorist

groups, as Chapter 10 further explains. The insertion of even a few highly trained agents

of a terrorist state into the activities of a terrorist group can radically transform that

group‘s capabilities. There is even a certain logic to an alliance between a terrorist state

and a terrorist group. Such an alliance might well provide cover and deniability to a

state, allowing it to avoid blame (and punishment) for a major attack, while allowing the

group to carry out far more lethal assaults than it could on its own. Under present

circumstances, however, if a terrorist state and a terrorist group were to work together to

carry out an attack, analysts would be unlikely to see that. Given the prevailing ―mind-

set,‖ they would likely focus on the group to the exclusion of the state, whose role they

might well not even recognize.

        Part IV discusses the implications of this study. Chapter 11 deals with the

insurgency in Iraq, which is often attributed to al-Zarqawi and his network. There is,

however, a substantial body of information to suggest that is incorrect. The focus on al-

Zarqawi seems to be the latest manifestation of the habit that developed in the 1990s of

attributing very considerable acts of violence to one Islamic figure and his extremist

followers.

        A prominent view within the Defense Department, at least as of early this year,

holds that the Iraqi insurgency is dominated by Former Regime Elements, working in




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collaboration with the Syrian regime and with Islamic militants as well. This view is

based on work done by the U.S. military in Iraq, including the analysis of captured

documents and prisoner interrogations. It is expressed even more strongly by Iraqi

officials. That is also what this study of al Qaida would suggest. We seem to be placing

too much emphasis on Islamic figures and Islamic ideology and not giving sufficient

consideration to the technical expertise, management skills, and other resources that we

once thought necessary to carry out very major acts of violence.

        The conclusion to this project summarizes the many flaws and uncertainties in our

understanding of al Qaida and the Islamic terrorism directed against the United States,

beginning with the 1993 Trade Center bombing. It suggests that those deficiencies may

compromise the effective pursuit of the Global War on Terrorism and leave America and

its allies at enhanced risk of future attacks.




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           PART I




The Development and Emergence

         Of al Qaida




             11
                                    CHAPTER 1

               CHANGING VIEWS OF AL QAIDA

Al Qaida was founded in 1988, but there is an unusual paucity of references to the

organization prior to the near-simultaneous bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa a

decade later. The Middle East Contemporary Survey (MECS), a superb reference,

produced annually by Tel Aviv University‘s Dayan Center for Middle East Studies,

provides a detailed, comprehensive account of developments in the region. This author

was surprised to find that al Qaida is not mentioned in the MECS volumes prior to 1998.

The same is true with regard to other open source literature reviewed by this author.

       Three major data bases were searched to confirm a growing suspicion, namely

that analysts were reading a later understanding of al Qaida into an earlier period. A

search of those data bases from their start until August 6, 1998, the day before the U.S.

embassy bombings, supports this suspicion. Those searches, using four possible

spellings—Qa‘ida, Qaida, Qa‘eda, and Qaeda—produced only five mentions of the

organization in its first decade of existence.

      A FBIS search using the database available to U.S. government officials (not the
       more restricted public version.) produced no articles. The search generated one
       article from Britain‘s Guardian newspaper, yet this proved an error. In the FBIS
       database, it is dated January 3, 1998, but the actual date is January 3, 1999.

      A Factiva search (9,000 news sources, including the Wall Street Journal)
       produced no results

      A Lexis-Nexis search (most major U.S. newspapers, as well as much British and
       other English-language press) produced two sets of hits, totaling five articles.



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         One set (two articles) appears in Egypt‘s Al Ahram Weekly in early 1994. Those
         two articles claim (incorrectly) that al Qaida was founded in 1985 and describe it
         essentially as a support network, including hostels, for Arab mujahidin traveling
         to Pakistan.1

         In August 1996, the U.S. State Department issued a factsheet on bin Ladin,
         describing him as ―one of the most significant financial sponsors of Islamic
         extremist activities in the world today.‖2 Like Al Ahram, the factsheet also claims
         al Qaida was founded in 1985. It prompted three more articles mentioning al
         Qaida.3

The 9/11 Commission reports a similar finding regarding the classified literature. Indeed,

the United States did not list al Qaida as a proscribed terrorist organization until thirteen

days after the 1998 embassy bombings, when President Bill Clinton signed an executive

order on August 20, and even then, confusion still existed regarding a point as basic as its

name.4



                 The Development of the U.S. Understanding of al Qaida

The major acts of Islamic terrorism directed against the United States, starting with the

1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, were not originally attributed to al Qaida.

Rather, they were said to be the work of a ―loose network‖ in which no terrorist state or

group was involved. That, indeed, was the position of the FBI as late as February 1998,

when Dale Watson, head of the FBI‘s international terrorism section, testifying to a

Senate committee, surveyed the terrorist threat. He did not mention al Qaida, but spoke

1
  ―The Afghan Connection,‖ Al Ahram Weekly, April 14, 1994; ―Faces of Militancy,‖ Al Ahram Weekly,
April 14, 1994.
2
  U.S. Department of State, ―Usama Bin Ladin: Islamic Extremist Financier,‖ August 14, 1996.
3
  ―US: Saudi financed Islamic Extremists,‖ UPI, August 14, 1996; ―US Blasts Arab as Islamic Sponsor,‖
Reuters, August 16; ―The Misguided U.S. war on Arab and Islamic ‗terror‘,‖ Middle East Mirror, August
16.
4
  Executive Order 13099 of August 20, 1998, ―Prohibiting Transactions with Terrorists Who Threaten to
Disrupt the Middle East Peace Process,‖ in Federal Register, Vol. 3, No 164, August 25, 1998. The order
gives as the primary name for the organization bin Ladin heads ―Islamic Army,‖ with ―al Qaida‖ leading a
list of alternative names. Posted at: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.ghov/cgi-
bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=1998_register&docid=fr25au98-133.pdf


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of ―loosely affiliated groups of like-minded extremists—like the one assembled by Ramzi

Yousef for the plot against the World Trade Center.‖5


Bin Ladin as Terrorist Financier

In the first half of the 1990s, bin Ladin was based in Sudan and was seen as a financier of

others‘ terrorism, mainly supporting Islamic groups whose aim was to overthrow their

own governments, rather than someone who headed an organization that itself carried out

terrorist attacks. The 1996 State Department factsheet cited above is entitled ―Osama bin

Laden: Islamic Extremist Financier‖ and describes him in that fashion. The CIA held a

similar view. In 1995, Agency analysts briefing the White House described bin Ladin‘s

operation in Sudan ―as the Ford Foundation of Sunni Islamic terrorism.‖6

         In early 1996, U.S. authorities, judging that Khartoum had become too dangerous,

decided to close the U.S. embassy, from where the CIA station had kept tabs on bin

Ladin and other Islamic figures based there. Around the same time, at the urging of

National Security Advisor Anthony Lake and Richard Clarke, National Security Council

director for Transnational Threats (which included terrorism), the CIA‘s Counterterrorist

Center (CTC) established a unit devoted to bin Ladin, according to two of Clarke‘s

aides.7 (The 9/11 Commission says the station‘s original task was the financing of



5
  ―Statement for the Record of Dale Watson, Chief International Terrorism Section National Security
Division Federal Bureau of Investigation on Foreign Terrorists in America: Five years after the World
Trade Center,‖ before the Senate Judiciary Committee Subcommittee on Technology, Terrorism, and
Government Information, February 24, 1998.
6
  Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror, (New York: Random House, 2002), p.
247; Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and bin Laden from the Soviet
Invasion to September 10, 2001, (New York: The Penguin Press, 2004), p. 271.
7
  ―The national security adviser raised the issue [of bin Ladin] persistently. ‗Tony was fuming at the mouth
about bin Laden‘ as early as 1996, said a CIA official who worked with him at the time.‖ Lake and Clarke
together visited the Counter Terrorist Center to press their concerns about bin Ladin, resulting in the
establishment of the new unit. Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, op. cit., p. 242.


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terrorism generally, and the unit‘s first head, Michael Scheuer, made the decision to focus

on bin Ladin.8)

        The new unit was anomalous in several ways. It was the CIA‘s first ―virtual

station‖—not based abroad collecting intelligence, but located in the suburbs of

Washington DC. It was also the first station devoted to one person. The CIA had trouble

getting any Directorate of Operations officer to run it, but a former analyst, Michael

Scheuer, who headed the CTC‘s Islamic Extremist Branch, was finally recruited and

remained in that position until 1999.9 The station‘s original name was TFL—Terrorist

Financial Links—reflecting the view that bin Ladin was a financier of others‘ terrorism.

―As late as 1997,‖ the 9/11 Commission observes, ―the CIA‘s Counterterrorist Center

continued to describe [bin Ladin] as an ‗extremist financier.‘‖10

        This view changed with the near-simultaneous bombings of two U.S. embassies

in Africa the next year, of course. Yet the nature of the organization which bin Ladin

headed remained poorly understood. As the 9/11 Commission observes, even in 1998,

―policymakers knew little‖ about al Qaida. ―They knew there was a dangerous

individual, Usama bin Ladin, whom they were trying to arrest and bring to trial.

Documents at the time referred to Bin Ladin and ‗his associates‘ or Bin Ladin and ‗his

network.‘‖11 As the Commission further notes, ―While we now know that al Qaida was

formed in 1988, at the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the Intelligence




8
  The 9/11 Commission Report, Washington DC, 2004, p. 109.
9
  Ibid.
10
   Ibid, p. 135.
11
   Ibid, p. 118.


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Community did not describe this organization, at least in documents we have seen, until

1999‖12 (emphasis added.)

         Two years later, al Qaida would execute one of the most lethal foreign attacks in

U.S. history, comparable only to Pearl Harbor. The situation is as if the U.S. intelligence

community had begun to identify and analyze the Japanese Imperial Navy only in 1939.

         Yet even as little comprehension of bin Ladin‘s organization existed, there were

major disagreements about the nature of the threat he posed prior to 9/11. The Usama bin

Ladin (UBL) station (originally TFL) developed a very alarmist picture of the threat. It

was disparagingly referred to by others at the CIA as ―the Manson Family.‖ As the

Washington Post’s Steve Coll explains, ―They studied bin Laden‘s fatwas, drew up

elaborate charts of his international network, scrutinized interrogation reports, and

monitored the most obscure nuances in theological debates among Sunni extremists.

They were a relatively junior group with an average of three years‘ experience, as

compared to the average of eight years in the mainline Directorate of Intelligence.‖13

         To be sure, others, including the hawkish NSC adviser on Transnational Threats,

Richard Clarke, shared the UBL unit‘s view that bin Ladin posed a very significant

danger. Nonetheless, even these individuals underestimated the danger. As the 9/11

Commission explains, ―An NSC staffer working for Richard Clarke told us the threat was

seen as one that could cause hundreds of casualties, not thousands.‖14 Even more

astonishing, the Deputy Director of the CIA‘s Counterterrorist Center for much of the




12
   Ibid, p. 358.
13
    Steve Coll, op. cit., p. 453. The 9/11 Commission report states that ―analysts in the unit felt that they
were viewed as alarmists even within the CIA,‖ The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 188.
14
   Ibid, p. 119.


                                                       16
1990s published a book in April 2001, in which he argued that terrorism was not a

significant danger, ―a problem managed, never solved.‖15

        Michael Scheuer published two books after 9/11. The second, which became a

national best-seller, strongly attacked Operation Iraqi Freedom and precipitated his

resignation in late 2004. Both books are extraordinary paeans to bin Ladin, and top CIA

officials characterized Scheuer‘s work as ―partly ludicrous.‖16 The editor of Commentary

magazine, citing Scheuer‘s description of bin Ladin as ―the most respected, loved,

romantic, charismatic, and perhaps able figure in the last 150 years of Islamic history,‖

characterized Scheuer as a cross between ―an overwrought Buchananite and a raving

Chomskyite.‖17 Scheuer‘s books raise serious questions about the quality of the work

done by the bin Ladin station. Indeed, the CIA itself actually eliminated the bin Ladin

station the week before the 9/11 attacks.18


Cautions against Lionizing bin Ladin

Before the 9/11 strikes, some experts cautioned against giving bin Ladin too much credit

for terrorist attacks, as the explanation seemed improbable and boosted bin Ladin‘s

stature among Islamic militants. Milton Bearden, CIA Station Chief in Pakistan from

1986 to 1989, told the New York Times, in early 1999 ―‗[Bin Ladin] is public enemy No.

1. . . We‘ve got a $5 million reward out for his head. And now we have, with I‘m not

sure what evidence, linked him to all of the terrorist acts of this year—of this decade,




15
   Paul Pillar, Terrorism and U.S. Foreign Policy, (Washington DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2001), p.
50.
16
   ―Bringing Change, Not by the Book CIA Officials Let Critic Publish,‖ Washington Post, November 25,
2004.
17
   Gabriel Schoenfeld, ―What became of the CIA?‖ Commentary, March 2005.
18
   DIA official, author interview, August 26, 2005.


                                                   17
perhaps.‘‖19 Bearden told the Los Angeles Times, ―I‘m uncomfortable with the role

we‘re giving him and the myths being created.‖20 Mary Anne Weaver, a journalist with

long experience in the Middle East, writing in the New Yorker in 2000 and citing U.S.

intelligence officials, concluded that the Clinton administration had ―mythologized

him.‖21

          British authorities also thought the bin Ladin threat was exaggerated. A House of

Commons mandated study, Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction,

explains that in January 2001, Britain‘s Joint Intelligence Committee believed bin Ladin

posed a significant danger, but ―the actual threat does not match the media hype.‖22

          The official U.S. view that took hold after the 1998 embassy bombings—that bin

Ladin represented a ubiquitous, all-powerful threat—had already begun to shift in the

summer of 2001, if not earlier, and in any case before the 9/11 attacks.23 One factor

contributing to this shift was information provided by Ahmed Ressam, a 31-year old

Algerian, who was nabbed at the Canadian border in 1999, as he attempted to enter the

country to bomb Los Angeles airport (LAX). Ressam subsequently cooperated with U.S.

officials, explaining that the Afghan camps did not operate under the sole authority of bin


19
   ―U.S. Hard Put to Find Proof Bin Laden Directed Attacks,‖ New York Times, April 13, 1999. The same
article quotes Larry Johnson, a CIA official, who served as State Department Deputy Counter Terrorism
Director from 1988 to 1993, as saying that administration officials had ―tended to make Osama bin Laden
sort of a Superman in Muslim garb — he‘s 10 feet tall, he‘s everywhere, he knows everything, he‘s got lots
of money and he can‘t be challenged.‖
20
   ―Saudi Dissident A Prime Suspect In Blasts; Terror: Osama Bin Laden Is Dubbed ‗Most Dangerous Man
In The World‘ For His Anti-U.S. Fanaticism,‖ Los Angeles Times, August 14, 1998.
21
   Mary Anne Weaver, ―The Real Bin Laden; By mythologizing him, the government has made him even
more dangerous.‖ New Yorker, January 24, 2000.
22
   ―Review of Intelligence on Weapons of Mass Destruction,‖ Report of a Committee of Privy Counsellors,
Chairman: The Rt Hon The Lord Butler of Brockwell KG GCB CVO, July 14, 2004, p. 34.
23
   According to a DIA officer, the CTC view of al Qaida began to shift in late 2000. It downgraded the
threat, assessing that while al Qaida was a danger outside the United States, it was not a significant threat
inside the country. On the eve of the 9/11 attacks, on September 7, 2001, the CTC disbanded the UBL unit
on the grounds that it had been a mistake to focus so much on one man. Author interview, August 24,
2005.


                                                     18
Ladin, but ―involved a number of leaders and groups with similar objectives.‖24 Indeed,

Ressam‘s information led in August 2001 to the indictment of ―Abu Doha,‖ leader of the

Algerian terrorists behind the LAX bombing plot.25

        As one U.S. official explained to the Los Angeles Times, ―[Ressam] separated out

the myth that everyone was Al Qaeda. Everyone [in the U.S. government] wanted to say

everything was Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda, Al Qaeda, and Ressam told us it wasn‘t like that,

that it was different bunches of guys that wanted to go off and do their own [stuff]‖

(brackets in original).26


Unique Power and Abilities of al Qaida

With the 9/11 attacks, all suggestion that bin Ladin was not the threat he had been made

out to be disappeared, although almost no one had envisaged an al Qaida assault on that

scale. Al Qaida is regularly described as an entity of such remarkable capabilities that it

constitutes something quite unique in history. The director of Stanford University‘s

Institute for International Studies, defending the White House against the charge it had

neglected the terrorist threat in its first months in office, explains that the 9/11 strikes

represent the ―first time in human history‖ that ―a nonstate actor, a group of religious

extremists at the very bottom of the international system‖ was able ―to inflict devastating

damage on the very pinnacle of the international system."27 Others describe al Qaida as if

it were a state—rather than a group. One analysis, co-authored by the head of the

Fletcher School‘s International Security Studies program, explains, ―In the 1990s, al-

24
   ―Records Show Man in LAX Plot Gave U.S. Key Terrorist Details,‖ Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2005.
25
   ―Abu Doha‖ was the name by which Ressam knew this individual, and he is identified by this name in
the indictment.
26
   ―Records Show Man in LAX Plot Gave U.S. Key Terrorist Details,‖ op. cit.
27
    Coit Blacker, quoted in ―New to the Job, Rice Focused on More Traditional Fears,‖ New York Times,
April 5, 2004.


                                                 19
Qa'ida carried out an organizational and operational transformation in the way terrorist

movements functioned. In effect, it initiated a revolution in terrorist affairs (RTA).‖ The

article, focused on al Qaida‘s deception capabilities, compared them favorably to those of

the Soviet Union.28

        Indeed, it is now routinely affirmed that al Qaida is responsible not only for the

9/11 strikes, but for every Middle Eastern terrorist attack on the United States, going back

to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, if not before. (Some cite the bombing of

an Aden hotel in 1992, which targeted U.S. Marines bound for Somalia; others even cite

the 1990 murder of the right-wing Israeli-American head of the Jewish Defense League,

Meir Kahane.)29

        Notable exceptions to this tendency are Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, the

director and senior director for counterterrorism in the Clinton White House.30 They

rightly recall that in May 1996, when the Sudanese government expelled bin Ladin to

Afghanistan, Washington did not ask to have him extradited to the United States. He was


28
   Richard H. Shultz, Jr. and Ruth Margolies Beitler, ―Tactical Deception and Strategic Surprise in al-
Qai‘da‘s Operations,‖ Middle East Review of International Affairs, Volume 8, No 2, June 2004.
29
   Examples include Peter Bergen, Holy War Inc: Inside the Secret World of Osama Bin Laden, (New
York: The Free Press, 2001); Richard Clarke, Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terror, (New
York: Simon & Schuster, 2004); Steven Emerson, American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, (New
York: Free Press, 2002); Rohan Gunaratna, Inside al Qaeda, (New York: Columbia University Press,
2002);Richard Miniter, Losing bin Ladin: How Bill Clinton’s Failures Unleashed Global Terror
(Washington DC: Regnery, 2003); Miniter, Shadow War: The Untold Story of How Bush is Winning the
War on Terror (Washington DC: Regnery, 2004) Gerald Posner, Why America Slept: The Failure to
Prevent 9/11 (New York: Random House, 2003); Norman Podhoretz, ―World War IV,‖ Commentary,
September 2004; James Taranto, ―Best of the Web Today,‖ Wall Street Journal, September 7, 2004;
Lawrence Wright, ―The Man Behind Bin Laden; How an Egyptian doctor became a master of terror,‖ The
New Yorker, September 16, 2002.
30
   For example, regarding the 1992 Aden bombing, Benjamin and Simon write, ―In December 1992
Yemeni extremists bombed a hotel in Aden where American troops supporting the UN mission in Somalia
were billeted. The Americans were alerted in time and evacuated the hotel without harm; the bomb killed
an Austrian tourist and a hotel worker. Later, Yemeni authorities said that those responsible claimed bin
Laden had financed the operation, which was the first violent act against Americans that has been linked in
any way to the Saudi. But no hard evidence was provided to back up the claim, and U.S. intelligence
analysts have long viewed the tie to bin Laden as tenuous.‖ David Benjamin and Steve Simon, op. cit., p.
234.


                                                    20
not charged with any U.S. crime.31 Indeed, no U.S. indictment of bin Ladin would be

issued until two years later—in June 1998.32 Their account contradicts that of Richard

Clarke, their superior, who in his own book, Against All Enemies, attributes the early

terrorism—including the Kahane murder in 1990; the 1992 bombing in Aden; and the

1993 Trade Center bombing—to al Qaida. In fact, Clarke attributes practically all of the

terrorism the United States experienced from 1990 onward to al Qaida, even suggesting

he can not rule out an al Qaida link to the Oklahoma City bombing.33

         Clarke‘s account, if accurate, would speak to extraordinary disarray regarding the

U.S. handling of terrorism during his watch. In essence, Clarke claims that bin Ladin

was attacking Americans for eight years before he was even charged with a crime.

Moreover, that the senior White House figure responsible for dealing with terrorism has

produced one account of the major terrorist attacks against the United States prior to 1998

and his immediate subordinates have produced another, only underscores that no real

agreement exists on the nature of those assaults.




31
   ―Richard Clarke and the CSG did evaluate at that time [1996] whether the United States wanted custody
of bin Laden. The decision was that it did not, for the simple reason that since he had not yet been indicted
the Justice Department had not grounds to hold him.‖ Ibid, p. 247.
32
   The indictment named only one defendant, bin Ladin, and charged him with only one crime: ―conspiracy
to attack defense utilities of the United States.‖ It was based largely on information from a dubious
informant, Jamal al-Fadl, who is discussed in the next chapter, and was vague as to what installation bin
Ladin had conspired to attack. To understand this charge, one has to understand the complexity of U.S.
conspiracy law, discussed at length in Chapter 6. This indictment did not claim that bin Ladin had actually
attacked the United States, only that he had conspired to do so. If the prosecution believed it could
demonstrate bin Ladin‘s involvement in an actual attack, the attack itself would have been charged as a
count in the indictment.
33
   Richard Clarke, op. cit., .pp. 78, 79, 127, 134. Clarke‘s book is riddled with factual errors. For
example, he claims that Kahane was murdered in 1992 (p. 79); the murder occurred in 1990. Clarke claims
that Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the Trade Center bombing, entered the U.S. without a passport (p. 77);
Yousef had an Iraqi passport. Clarke claims that the U.S. hostages in Iran were released in 1980 (under
President Carter) (p. 101); they were released in 1981 (under President Reagan)


                                                     21
“Ghost Wars”

The paucity of information about al Qaida prior to 1998, or even 1999, stands in contrast

to the later picture of the organization‘s remarkable abilities. After all, if the organization

was so powerful, why was virtually no American aware of its existence and capabilities

for a decade? Ghost Wars—the title of a carefully-researched book by Steve Coll, former

managing editor of the Washington Post—captures the essence of this paradox.34

One possible explanation is that al Qaida is extraordinarily stealthy; the other is that we

fundamentally misunderstand it. The post 9/11 investigation into al Qaida would suggest

the latter.



                                    THE POST 9/11 INVESTIGATION


The post 9/11 investigation has produced a much more authoritative understanding of al

Qaida. No comprehensive report has been publicly released, but several key points have

emerged:

        Al Qaida was much smaller than it had been depicted in the years after the 1998
         U.S. embassy bombings. After analyzing documents seized in Afghanistan and
         reviewing post 9/11 interrogations, ―U.S. intelligence soon concluded that only
         some 180 followers had sworn bayat, or allegiance, to bin Laden,‖ according to a
         major story in U.S. News and World Report.35

Similarly, a Los Angeles Times correspondent explains:

         Over twenty-plus years, tens of thousands of men went through the
         Afghan training camps. In the same period, nearly a dozen attacks
         attributed to Islamic fundamentalists occurred around the world. But most
34
   Steve Coll, op. cit. Coll covered the Afghan war as the Post’s South Asia bureau chief in the late 1980s
and takes a far more sober view of al Qaida than the authors cited above.
35
   ―Playing Offense: The inside story of how U.S. terrorist hunters are going after al Qaeda,‖ U.S. News and
World Report, June 3, 2003. The journalist Peter Bergen, who had earlier been prominent among those
exaggerating al Qaida‘s size, gives a slightly higher figure, ―Most non-specialists are surprised to learn that
al Qaeda has only 200 to 300 members.‖ Peter Bergen, ―The Dense Web of al Qaeda,‖ Washington Post,
December 25, 2003.


                                                      22
         of those men and most of those attacks had little, other than overlapping
         intent, to do with al Qaeda. Most were independent groups running
         independent, often local, operations. In the attacks that were instigated by
         al Qaeda, the same handful of people were involved in virtually every one.
         Even foot soldiers were recycled in new operations. The organization was
         so small that almost everybody in it at one time or another had personal
         interactions with top leadership.36

        Al Qaida was ―more hierarchical than the CIA had believed.‖37

        With ―its religious dogma and blind obedience,‖ al Qaida appears to have been
         ―almost cultlike, with bin Laden cast as guru.‖ As one senior official stated, ―bin
         Laden seems "more Koresh [Branch Davidian leader at Waco, Texas] than
         Napoleon.‖38

        Estimates of bin Ladin‘s wealth ―turned out to be highly exaggerated.‖ He had
         spent his own money long ago and al Qaida‘s revenues were ―built on a
         foundation of charities, mosques, fund-raisers, and businesses that had financed
         the jihad movement‖ since the anti-Soviet war in Afghanistan.39




36
   Terry McDermott, Perfect Soldiers: The Hijackers: Who They Were, Why They Did It, (New York:
HarperCollins, 2005), p. 210.
37
   ―Playing Offense: The inside story of how U.S. terrorist hunters are going after al Qaeda,‖ op. cit.
38
   Ibid. The report provides no further details on this aspect of al Qaida. Bernard Lewis suggests that if bin
Ladin and those around him had come to see bin Ladin as a messianic Islamic figure (the Mahdi, or rightly-
guided one), it would be consistent with such phenomena throughout Islamic history. Author interview,
August 20, 2005. In fact, as recently as 1979, the Saudis faced a Mahdist uprising, in which the rebels
seized Mecca‘s Grand Mosque, although Madhism is quite at odds with the strict Wahhabi interpretation of
Islam. Timothy R. Furnish, ―Bin Ladin: The Man who would be Mahdi,‖ Middle East Quarterly, Spring
2002.
   Furnish was merely speculating about what bin Ladin might do in the future. The statement of a Kuwaiti
businessman before a Combatant Status Review Tribunal at Guantanamo Bay is suggestive of the actual
situation on the eve of the 9/11 attacks. The businessman, Fouad al-Rabia, visited Afghanistan in the
summer of 2001, in the company of two other Kuwaitis, one of whom, Abu Muldah, was a younger man
studying Islam. Abu Muldah had heard from a missionary that bin Ladin was the person ―identified in the
Koran as the guided one,‖ or ―al Mahi‖ (should be al Mahdi). Abu Muldah also identifies him as ―Al Abu
Asaa‖ (perhaps, the father of Jesus, ―Abu Isa‖) and ―the man with a cane,‖ (ie showing the way). Abu
Muldah wanted to know if bin Ladin was indeed this figure.
   When they met with bin Ladin, Abu Muldah asked him what he wanted. Bin Ladin replied that he
wanted the United States out of the Gulf. The Kuwaiti businessman, Fouad al-Rabia, protested that that
would allow Saddam to invade Kuwait. ―Bin Laden said look at the big picture, meaning it was okay for
Saddam to invade Kuwait again. . . . Let Saddam come in and then something would happen and control
would come back,‖ al-Rabia explained. He further told the tribunal, ―I was in Kuwait during the invasion.
I saw what could be done to a small country, like Kuwait, by an enemy.‖ Following their meeting with bin
Ladin, al-Rabia asked the Kuwaiti student whether he believed that bin Laden was the man with the cane.
He was relieved to hear the student reply that he did not think so. Posted by the Associated Press at:
http://wid.ap.org/documents/detainees/fouadalrabia.pdf
39
   ―Playing Offense: The inside story of how U.S. terrorist hunters are going after al Qaeda,‖ op. cit.


                                                     23
        The mastermind of the 9/11 strikes (and perhaps other major al Qaida attacks)
         was an individual known as Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, often referred to as
         KSM. KSM also provided the funding for the 9/11 assaults. He was so deeply
         hidden within al Qaida that U.S. authorities did not even learn that he was part of
         the organization until well after the 9/11 attacks.40 (KSM and his extended
         family of terrorist masterminds are discussed at length in Chapter 9).

The Los Angeles Times reporter cited above, who himself had earlier exaggerated al

Qaida‘s size and capabilities, explains the psychological dynamic behind that error. Once

authorities made the claim that al Qaida was responsible for a major attack, journalists

(and others) scrambled to find within al Qaida the qualities that would explain how it had

carried out such an assault. As the reporter, Terry McDermott, writes,

         Al Qaeda was never the massive, refined army of terror it was portrayed to
         be. That depiction grew out of a desperate and probably unconscious
         rationalization. If Al Qaeda was not a sophisticated enemy, how could it
         ever have succeeded so spectacularly in its assault on the United States?
         The answer most Americans—including me—gave to that question was
         that it obviously could not have otherwise succeeded. The smoking pile
         of rubble in Lower Manhattan was all the evidence required.41

In short, the reasoning was backwards. People reached conclusions about al

Qaida on the basis of the terrorist attacks attributed to it, rather than on any deep

and detailed understanding of the organization itself.


In Sum

For most of the 1990s, U.S. authorities did not understand al Qaida. At first, they were

unaware of its existence, and then they vastly overestimated its size. That it was a small,

hierarchical organization helps explain why it was scarcely known for the first decade of

its existence, yet these new findings have not been widely publicized, nor are their

40
   U.S. authorities learned of KSM‘s critical role from the interrogation of another al Qaida figure, Abu
Zubaydah, captured in March 2002. ―Bold Tracks of Terrorism‘s Mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed
Carried Al Qaeda‘s Hope for Revenge, Renewal,‖ Washington Post, March 9, 2003.
41
   Terry McDermott, ―How Menacing is al Qaeda?,‖ Los Angeles Times, July 17, 2005.


                                                    24
implications necessarily considered and absorbed. If al Qaida was not particularly large

and other similar organizations existed in Afghanistan, what explains its remarkable

lethality?

        The rapidly shifting accounts of al Qaida suggest a high-degree of group think

among counter-terrorism analysts. Few questioned the first explanation offered for the

major Islamic terrorist attacks that began with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade

Center —―loose networks.‖ Then in 1998, after the embassy bombings, when al Qaida

was portrayed as a vast, sprawling international organization, responsible for almost all

Islamic terrorist attacks, few questioned that.

        There is a great deal we do not know about al Qaida (at least on the basis of open-

source literature). Indeed, perhaps precisely because so little is really understood about

the organization, it is easy to project onto it qualities that it does not possess, creating the

impression of knowledge about the organization and the terrorist assaults attributed to it,

when the opposite is the case.




                                               25
                                       CHAPTER 2

                             THE ARAB AFGHANS

Pakistani intelligence co-ordinated the resistance to the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, head of Ittihad-i-Islami (Union of Islam), one of seven Afghan

groups officially recognized by Pakistan, had particularly close ties to the Arabs. Before

the Soviet invasion, Sayyaf was a professor of religion at Kabul University. He had

studied Islam in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, become fluent in Arabic, and embraced

Wahhabism. The Arab volunteers to the Afghan jihad joined up with Sayyaf‘s

organization. Saudi intelligence funded him, and he became their most important client.

The Saudi clerical establishment had other candidates whom they supported, obscure

figures whose names were little known, then or now. ―It was rarely clear who was acting

as a formal agent of the kingdom‘s intelligence service and who was acting as an

independent religious volunteer,‖ Steve Coll observes.1


                  The Relationships between the Arabs and the Afghans

Sayyaf‘s support among Afghans was limited. They were not particularly inclined to

Wahhabism‘s extreme austerity.2 Nonetheless, when an interim Afghan government was

formed in 1989, following the Soviet withdrawal, Sayyaf became prime minister,

presumably at the behest of the Saudis, while a more moderate figure became president.

For all their investment in Sayyaf, however, the Saudis received little. When Iraq

1
 Steve Coll, op. cit., pp. 83-4.
2
 Warren Marik, retired CIA officer, who worked in Pakistan with the Afghan resistance from 1982 until
1985. Author interview, June 29, 2004; Ahmed Shah Massoud, leader of the Northern Alliance to CIA
officer, Gary Schroen, cited in Steve Coll, op. cit., p. 13.


                                                  26
invaded Kuwait the following year, Sayyaf opposed the U.S. intervention, siding with

Saddam Hussein.

         Abdullah Azzam was the best-known of the Arabs involved in the Afghan jihad.

Born in 1941, near Jenin (in what was then British-mandated Palestine), Azzam fled to

Jordan after the 1967 war and became involved in radical Palestinian politics. He then

went to Egypt, where he studied at Al Azhar University, Sunni Islam‘s most prestigious

theological institute, eventually receiving a Ph.D. He was among the first Arabs to join

the Afghan struggle.

         ―The Services Office‖ (Maktab al Khidhimat) was established in the mid-1980s

to facilitate the travel of Arab volunteers to Afghanistan. It was founded either by Azzam

or by Azzam and bin Ladin.3 In either case, Azzam was by far the more senior of the two

and possessed a religious authority that bin Ladin lacked. Bin Ladin was just 22 years

old at the time of the Soviet invasion, while Azzam was 38. Moreover, bin Ladin has no

religious credentials. As the Pakistani journalist, Ahmed Rashid, observes, ―Bin Laden

has always been insecure within the architecture of Islam. He is neither an Islamic




3
  Rohan Gunarata states the two men co-founded the organization. Rohan Gunaratna, op. cit., p. 3. So too
does the 9/11 Commission, The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 56, and this is the dominant U.S. view.
   But it also may be part of an after-the-fact revisionism that elevates bin Ladin‘s role and status. Others,
including both Israelis and Islamic militants, credit Azzam—not bin Ladin—with founding the
organization: i.e. Colonel (Res.) Jonathan Fighel , ―Shaikh Abdullah Azzam: bin Laden‘s Spiritual
Mentor,‖ International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya,
September 27, 2001, posted at: http://www.ict.org.il/articles/articledet.cfm?articleid=388; ―The Striving
Sheik: Abdullah Azzam,‖ Nida ul-Islam (July-September 1996), posted at:
http://www.islam.org.au/articles/14/AZZAM.HTM
  The Pakistani journalist, Ahmed Rashid, also states that Azzam founded the Services Office (in 1984.)
Ahmed Rashid, Taliban: Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia, (New Haven: Yale
University Press, 2001), p. 131.


                                                     27
scholar nor a teacher and thus cannot legally issue a fatwa.‖4 In fact, none of al Qaida‘s

leadership can. None ever studied at a significant Islamic religious institution.5

         The Afghans did the overwhelming bulk of the fighting against the Soviets. They

did not really welcome the Arabs, according to Warren Marik, a former CIA officer who

was involved in the war from 1982 to 1985. The Afghans were mostly interested in the

money they could obtain from the Arabs, according to Marik, who spoke disparagingly of

them, likening the Arabs to groupies following a rock band. Among the Arabs‘ problems

(including bin Ladin), was that they did not then speak a local language and could not

communicate easily with Afghans.6

         Milton Bearden expressed a similar view. Bin Ladin ―was a fund-raiser,‖ Bearden

told the Washington Post. ―He was bringing in a lot of money. He probably went in a

few times and got into a dust-up where he and some Saudis with an Afghan commander

performed well. Nobody had any illusions that these guys were great fighters. The

mythology that's sprung up around this guy goes on and on and on, and it's more or less

nonsense.‖7

         The report of the 9/11 Commission affirms, ―CIA officials involved in aiding the

Afghan resistance regard Bin Ladin and his ‗Arab Afghans‘ as having been militarily

insignificant in the war and recall having little to do with him.‖8


4
  Ibid, p. 136.
5
  This point is also made in The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 64. Nonetheless, the report repeatedly
refers to the ―fatwas‖ issued by bin Ladin and/or al Qaida. They are, in fact, secular authorities—not in the
sense they advocate a separation of mosque and state; but they are political figures. They have no claim to
religious status. The King of Saudi Arabia cannot legitimately issue a fatwa. He is dependent on religious
scholars for such a ruling. The same is true for bin Ladin and al Qaida.
6
  Warren Marik, op. cit.
7
  ―A Global, Pan-Islamic Network; Terrorism Entrepreneur Unifies Groups Financially, Politically,‖
Washington Post, August 23, 1998.
8
  The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 467. Marc Sageman, a CIA case officer in Afghanistan from
1987-89 asserts that, as a group, the Arab mujahidin were involved in only one battle, and then because


                                                     28
        Essam Rida, an Egyptian raised in Kuwait, was involved with the Arab mujahidin

in the early 1980s. Rida presented a similar account in his testimony during the trial for

the 1998 embassy bombings. In the 1970s, Rida attended college in Pakistan, where he

met Azzam, then a professor at Islamabad‘s Islamic University. Subsequently, Rida

settled in Texas, where he studied flying and obtained a pilot‘s license. In 1982, Rida

heard Azzam speak in Ft. Worth, and the next year, he left the United States to assist the

mujahidin.

        When Rida arrived in Peshawar, he was taken to Azzam‘s house, where he spent

the night. The next day, he met with Sayyaf to address some questions he had about the

work he was to do. Rida worked with the mujahidin for the next 18 months, purchasing

military equipment abroad. Rida saw bin Ladin only twice. Bin Ladin did not then live

in Pakistan, but visited the area. Rida soon left the mujahidin and much later explained,

―Any rich individual who comes to Afghanistan would control the decision making.‖9

Bin Ladin was among those he meant.

        In 1993, when bin Ladin was based in Khartoum, Rida flew there to consider

working for bin Ladin, who sought to hire him as a pilot. Yet before Rida would listen to

bin Ladin‘s offer:

        I had few things to discuss with Usama on a personal level relating to the
        days in Peshawar, and relating to my stand that led me to leave Peshawar.
        I told him regardless what you think I want you to hear it from me. I do
        oppose the fact that you are a rich man and trying to be a military leader.
        At the time I did not think that you have any military background, nor did




they chanced to place their camp along a Soviet logistics line and were attacked in the spring of 1987.
According to Sageman, who debriefed Afghans about the battle, he later learned that it involved bin
Ladin‘s camp, Masada, and his men. Marc Sageman, ―Understanding Terror Networks,‖ Foreign Policy
Research Institute, November 1, 2004.
9
  United States v. Usama bin Laden, et al., transcript, p. 553.


                                                   29
           you have any military experience. Thus, I think that what you have done
           to some of the guys is flat killing, not jihad.10

Rida also described an incident in 1989, after he had left the mujahidin and settled in the

United States. He was asked to obtain 25 Barrett rifles, and he shipped them to Pakistan.

The fighters in Pakistan, however, could not sight the scopes on the rifles, and Rida was

obliged to return to Peshawar to do it for them.11

           In sum, a significant number of knowledgeable individuals agree that the Arab

fighters in Afghanistan contributed little to the war against the Soviets. The claim that

they acquired unusually sophisticated and lethal capabilities in the 1980s appears

dubious. To the extent that happened, it happened later, in the 1990s.


The Founding Of Al Qaida

In April 1988, the Soviets concluded an agreement with the United States and Pakistan,

providing for a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan. According to the accord, half the

115,000 Soviet troops there were to leave Afghanistan between May and August of 1988

and the remaining half were to leave by February 1989. Nothing was said about the

10,000 Soviet advisers in Afghanistan. The Soviet-appointed ruler, Najibollah, would

continue to head the Afghan government, even as the mujahidin would continue the war

to oust him.

           Al Qaida was founded in August 1988. Like much regarding the activities of bin

Ladin and the Arab mujahidin from this period, al Qaida‘s founding has been

mythologized. A unity of purpose is commonly attributed to the leadership of the Arab

Afghans that did not exist. Al Qaida was established without Azzam. Notably, Azzam


10
     United States v. Usama bin Laden, op. cit., p.573.
11
     Ibid, p. 556-557.


                                                          30
and his two sons were killed in a car bomb the next year, and the murders are often

attributed to other Arab or Islamic radicals in Peshawar.12

        The most authoritative account of al Qaida‘s founding comes from documents

discovered in Bosnia in 2002.13 They are summarized in a government brief in a

terrorism case in Chicago against Enaam Arnaut (Abu Mahmoud al-Suri). Arnaut, a 39-

year old Syrian-American, was born in Hama, the site of a 1982 uprising by Syria‘s

Muslim Brotherhood against Hafiz al-Assad‘s Baathist regime. (The revolt, supported by

the governments of Jordan and Iraq, was ruthlessly crushed.)

        In the 1990s, Arnaut became executive director of the Benevolence International

Foundation. BIF, incorporated in the United States in 1992, was based in the Chicago

suburbs. In December 2001, the United States designated BIF a terrorist organization

and froze its assets. Subsequently, the Justice Department pressed criminal charges

against Arnaut for funding terrorism.

        The documents described in the prosecution brief against Arnaut include minutes

of an August 11, 1988, meeting ―regarding the establishment of a new military group.‖14

This was a meeting between bin Ladin and Mohamed Loay Bayazid (Abu Rida al-Suri),

who like Arnaut was born in Syria and later acquired U.S. citizenship.

        According to the prosecution brief, ―The minutes of that meeting show that

Bayazid asked Bin Ladin if he agreed that ‗the military gang‘ of ‗Sheikh Abdullah‘

[Azzam] has ended and that ‗disagreement is present.‘‖ The minutes conclude with a

12
   According to The 9/11 Commission Report, ―The killers were assumed —to be rival Egyptians.‖ op. cit.,
p. 56. Yet others attribute the murders to bin Ladin and others to an Afghan leader, Gulbiddin Hekmatyar,
as noted below.
13
   In March 2002, Bosnian police raided the Sarajevo office of the Benevolence International Foundation,
an international charity, founded by a Saudi and suspected of funding Islamic terrorism. The documents
were found on a BIF computer.
14
   United States v. Enaam Arnaut, ―Government‘s Evidentiary Proffer Supporting the Admissibility of Co-
Conspirator Statements,‖ p. 32.


                                                   31
comment from Bayazid, ―An initial estimate, within 6 months of al Qaida, 314 brothers

will be trained and ready.‖15

        A week later, Al Qaida‘s founding meeting—which lasted for three days—was

held at bin Ladin‘s home in Peshawar. A nine-member Advisory Council (Majlis al-

Shura) was chosen. It included Abu Ubeidah al Banshiri, an Egyptian who would

become al Qaida‘s military commander until his death in a 1996 ferry boat accident.

(―Banshiri‖ refers to Afghanistan‘s Panshir Valley. Arabic has no ―p‖ and those who

cannot pronounce ―p‖ substitute ―b.‖)

        The Advisory Council also included Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, an Iraqi who

used the alias Abu Hajir al Iraqi. Salim was knowledgeable about Islam and was the

imam at a mosque in Peshawar. Salim was arrested in Germany in September 1998, on

conspiracy charges related to the U.S. embassy bombings the month before.16 Following

Salim‘s transfer to New York, he tried to escape from prison. He used Tabasco sauce and

a sharpened comb to attack a guard in the eye. Salim failed in his attempted escape, but

the comb penetrated the guard‘s brain, leaving him permanently disabled.




15
   ―TAREEKOSAMA/50/Tareekh Osama 122-123, [History of Osama], a document from the BIF
computer in Bosnia; also cited in ―Government‘s Evidentiary Proffer,‖ op. cit., p. 32. It is unclear how
long Bayazid remained with bin Ladin. He does not appear to have followed bin Ladin from Sudan to
Afghanistan after 1996, as U.S. agents interviewed him in Khartoum in November 2001, along with
Mubarak al-Duri, an Iraqi who was another long time al Qaida member. ―Official Pariah Sudan Valuable
to America‘s War on Terrorism,‖ Los Angeles Times, April 29, 2005.
16
   From 1995 until his arrest, Mamdouh Salim made frequent trips to Germany and a Syrian there, Mamoun
Darkazanli, had signing authority over a German bank account that Salim opened in March 1995. Both
Salim and Darkazanli attended the same Hamburg mosque as the 9/11 hijackers.
    Following the 9/11 attacks, President Bush signed an executive order identifying Darkazanli‘s German
trading company as a terrorist front and his assets were frozen. In October 2004, German authorities
arrested him, after Spain charged he had helped finance a terror network there. David Rose, ―The Osama
Files,‖ Vanity Fair, January 2002; Mark Chediak, ―Following the Money: Tracking Down Al Qaeda‘s Fund
Raisers in Europe, Frontline, no date, posted at:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/front/special/finance.html


                                                  32
                                                                    Mamdouh Salim
                                                                (Government Exhibit 405,
                                                                United States v Usama bin
                                                                         Laden)
                                                                          et al)




According to Salim, he left Iraq in the late 1980s to join the mujahidin, renouncing his

Iraqi citizenship.17 Another figure, Usama Asmurai, who had fought in Afghanistan,

where he led his own group, told the FBI that Salim had contacts with Iraqi intelligence.18

(Asmurai was convicted for his role in a 1995 plot to bomb a dozen U.S. airliners.)

        A 30-year old Saudi, Wael Julaidan (aka Abu Hasan al Madani), roughly bin

Ladin‘s age, was also chosen for al Qaida‘s Advisory Council. In the early 1980‘s,

Julaidan had been a graduate student at the University of Arizona‘s School of Agriculture

and had headed Tucson‘s Islamic Center from 1983 to 1984. Julaidan withdrew from




17
   Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence Assessments on Iraq, Select Committee
on Intelligence, United States Senate, July 7, 2004, p. 328.
18
   Mohammed Odeh, convicted for his role in the embassy bombings, told the FBI that Asmurai had his
own group in Afghanistan, Government Exhibit 6, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al; that Asmurai
had contacts with Iraqi intelligence from Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Prewar Intelligence
Assessments, op. cit., p. 328.
    A CIA report, ―Iraq and al Qaeda: Interpreting a Murky Relationship,‖ citing FBI information, states
that Salim had a good relationship with Iraqi intelligence and that sometime before mid-1995 he visited
Iraq on an al Qaida mission, Stephen F. Hayes, The Connection: How al Qaeda’s Collaboration with
Saddam Hussein has Endangered America, (New York: HarperCollins, 2004), p. 82.


                                                   33
school in 1985 and went to Peshawar.19 In 1987, he led the Saudi Red Crescent society

there.20 In 1999, bin Ladin mentioned him in an interview with al Jazirah television. The

next year, Julaidan was appointed Director General of a Saudi charity, Rabita Trust, and

reportedly met with Bin Ladin and his military commander, Mohammed Atef, an

Egyptian, who succeeded Banshiri following his death. After the 9/11 attacks, Julaidan

was among those designated by the Treasury Department as a terrorist financier and his

assets were frozen. At U.S. urging, the Saudi government froze Julaidan‘s assets in 2002,

and the U.N. Security Council added him to their list of terrorist entities.

         Summarizing the results of al Qaida‘s founding meeting, bin Ladin noted

―mismanagement and bad treatment in Maktab al Khadhamat.‖21 As the prosecution

brief explains, ―This report confirms that al Qaeda was formed following a split between

Abdallah Azzam and Bin Ladin within Maktab al Khidemat.‖22

         The meeting ended on August 20, 1988. The al Qaida report states, ―Work of Al

Qaida commenced on 9/10/88 with a group of 15 brothers, including nine administrative

brothers.‖ It concludes, ―On 9/20, Commandant Abu Ubaida [al Banshiri] arrived and

informed me of the existence of 30 brothers in Al Qaida, who meet the requirements, and

thanks be to God.‖23

         The figures cited in these documents are particularly useful. Widely different

accounts have appeared regarding al Qaida‘s size, but these documents establish that it



19
   ―Mysterious Trip to Flight 77 Cockpit; Suicide Pilot's Conversion to Radical Islam Remains Obscure,‖
Washington Post, September 10, 2002.
20
   Government‘s Evidentiary Proffer, op. cit., p. 29. It is unclear whether the Saudi Red Crescent office in
Peshawar is meant or the entire organization, although the Peshawar office would seem more likely.
21
   ―TAREEKOSAMA/50/Tareekh Osama 127-127a; also cited in ―Government‘s Evidentiary Proffer,‖ op.
cit., p. 33.
22
   ―Government‘s Evidentiary Proffer,‖ op. cit., p. 33 (spelling variations in original document).
23
    Ibid, p. 34.


                                                     34
consisted of 15 people in August 1998 and 30 in September; according to the estimate of

a founding member (Bayazid), that number could be expanded to 315 by early 1989.

          The documents also include the text of al Qaida‘s pledge (bayah), at least as it

existed in 1988:

          The pledge of God and his covenant is upon me, to listen and obey the
          superiors, who are doing this work, in energy, early-rising, difficulty and
          easiness, and for his superiority upon us, so that the word of God will be
          the highest, and his religion victorious.24

This pledge is not to bin Ladin personally, and it may have changed subsequently.


Earlier Accounts of al Qaida’s Founding: An article in al Jihad

Earlier accounts of al Qaida‘s founding illustrate the pitfalls of analysis based on

incomplete information. The work of Rohan Gunaratna, a former Sri Lankan intelligence

officer, tends toward the ―Manson Family‖ perspective of the UBL station, and it has

received significant attention. In his book, Inside Al Qaida, Gunaratna cites an article,

―Al Qaida al Sulbah,‖ (the firm base), written by Azzam that appeared in al Jihad, the

magazine of the Services Office, in April 1988. The article asserts that every ideology

needs a vanguard—a firm base—to secure its implementation. Gunaratna calls this ―Al

Qaida‘s founding document.‖25

          Yet there is no necessary relationship between that article and al Qaida‘s

founding. Perhaps, the idea for such a ―base‖ was a general notion being discussed

among the Arab mujahidin, and Azzam chanced to write it up. It was not Azzam‘s intent

to found a new organization. In fact, Gunaratna presents two contradictory views of the

relationship between Azzam and bin Ladin: on the one hand, bin Ladin is Azzam‘s


24
     ―TAREEKOSAMA/50/Tareekh Osama 127-127a.
25
     Rohan Gunaratna, op. cit., p. 3.


                                               35
devoted protégé and follower; on the other hand, bin Ladin is also Azzam‘s fierce rival,

perhaps, even responsible for his murder.26

        Indeed, the most carefully-researched account of these years, Steve Coll‘s Ghost

Wars, makes clear that soon after bin Ladin settled in the region, moving with his family

to Peshawar in 1986, ―small signs‖ of a split with Azzam began to appear. They arose

partly from bin Ladin‘s ―swelling ego‖ and partly from differences about the proper

objective of their effort.27

        As the prosecution brief—based on the documents found in Bosnia—makes clear,

al Qaida was founded on the basis of a split with Azzam. ―Bin Laden and Azzam went

their separate ways in approximately 1988,‖ the brief explains, ―because Bin Laden

wanted to conduct jihad outside of Afghanistan and Azzam was not prepared to do so.‖28

Thus, the article in al Jihad cannot be the founding document for al Qaida, because by

the summer of 1998, Azzam and bin Ladin held quite different views.

        The prosecutors also described al Qaida‘s ties to another group in Afghanistan,

Hizb-i-Islami (Party of Islam), another Afghan party officially recognized by Pakistan

and headed by Gulbiddin Hekmatyar. In fact, Hizb-i-Islami was the party most favored

by Pakistani intelligence. Hekmatyar was aligned with al Qaida, and many of al Qaida‘s




26
   Ibid, p. 24; the same contradiction is to be found in The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 56, which
cites the same al Jihad article.
27
   Steve Coll, op. cit., p. 162.
28
   Government‘s Evidentiary Proffer, op. cit., p. 19. That was also the Pentagon‘s view, as stated in 1998:
―Bin Ladin split from Azzam in the late 1980s to extend his campaign to all corners of the globe: Azzam
remained focused only on support to Muslims waging military campaigns. Bin Ladin formed a new
organization in 1988 called al-Qa'ida — the military ‗base.‘ After Azzam was killed by a car bomb in late
1989, the MAK split, with the extremist faction joining Bin Ladin's organization.‖ ―U.S. Government Fact
Sheet on Usama bin Ladin,‖ distributed by the Department of Defense, August 20, 1998.


                                                    36
camps were located in territory he controlled.29 Like Sayyaf, Hekmatyar was extremely

anti-Western and supported Saddam after he invaded Kuwait.

        In fact, an Iraqi intelligence document, dated January 25, 1993, and found by U.S.

forces in Iraq, states that Iraqi intelligence established ties with Hizb-i-Islami in 1989 and

that those ties had improved to the point that Iraqi intelligence had a direct relationship

with Hekmatyar. The document also states that Hizb-i-Islami received financial support

from Iraq and Libya.30


Jamal al-Fadl: al Qaida Informant

Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl was born and raised in Sudan. In 1981, when he was 18, al-Fadl

went to Saudi Arabia, got in trouble for smoking marijuana, and returned home.31 Five

years later, he enrolled in a U.S. college and traveled to the United States on a student

visa. Al-Fadl never attended the college, however, and ended up working at, among

other places, Brooklyn‘s Farouq Mosque, which was tied to the Services Office, then run

by Azzam and bin Ladin.

        In 1988, at the direction of the head of the Services Office in Brooklyn, al-Fadl

traveled to Peshawar, where he joined al Qaida. In June 1989, Hassan Turabi and the

National Islamic Front (NIF) seized power in Khartoum. Later that year, at bin Ladin‘s

direction, al-Fadl left Pakistan for Sudan to buy property for him there.




29
   Government‘s Evidentiary Proffer, op. cit., p. 18.
30
   These documents were originally given to Scott Wheeler of the on-line Cybercast News Service (CNS),
Wheeler received them from an individual in the Pentagon and provided copies to this author. A separate
Pentagon source confirmed their authenticity to this author. CNS posted them at:
http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewPrint.asp?Page=%5CNation%5Carchive%5C200410%5CNAT20041011a.h
tml Despite their significance, they received little attention.
31
   United States v. Usama bin Laden, op. cit., p. 164. The prosecution brought this out during al-Fadl‘s
testimony to pre-empt the defense team from raising it first and discrediting al-Fadl.


                                                  37
         In 1991, bin Ladin moved to Khartoum. Al-Fadl worked for both bin Ladin and

the NIF, keeping the NIF informed of bin Ladin‘s activities.32 Al-Fadl subsequently

embezzled some $110,000 from a bin Ladin company, and the NIF came to suspect him

of stealing money from them too.33 In February 1996, al-Fadl left Sudan.

         Al-Fadl traveled first to Syria and then Jordan. His primary foe at this point was

the ruling NIF, and he thought to do something against them, perhaps form an opposition

party or write a book. He finally went to Eritrea, home to a number of Sudanese exiles.

One opposition group sent him to Saudi Arabia, where he met with Saudi intelligence.

The Saudis were more interested in bin Ladin than the NIF, and after discussing possible

plans for assassinating bin Ladin, they directed al-Fadl to return to Eritrea. There, al-Fadl

decided to approach the U.S. embassy. He began talking with American officials in

September 1996.34

         Several months before, in April, the U.N. Security Council had imposed sanctions

on Sudan for supporting terrorism. In May, the Sudanese government obliged bin Ladin

to leave, and he returned to Afghanistan. In August, bin Ladin issued a ―Declaration of

Jihad‖ against the U.S. presence in Saudi Arabia. The United States, like Saudi Arabia,

was particularly interested in bin Ladin.

         Al-Fadl more than obliged. He had a tendency to exaggerate, making his own

role appear more important than it was and presenting bin Ladin and al Qaida in a very

dramatic and ominous fashion. Al-Fadl told U.S. officials he had been chief of bin




32
   United States v. Usama bin Laden, op. cit., p. 1008.
33
   Ibid, p. 1020.
34
   Ibid, pp. 918-21.


                                                     38
Ladin‘s security, when he had in fact been in charge of the payroll.35 He claimed he had

first come to the United States for Islamic military training, although he never engaged in

any military training in this country.36 And he initially told U.S. officials he had trained

in Afghanistan with Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center

bombing, but under further extended questioning acknowledged that was not true.37

        Al-Fadl also told U.S. officials he had twice helped transport weapons and

explosives from Sudan across the Red Sea to an unspecified point in the Arabian

Peninsula. Al-Fadl was indicted for that admission.38 Yet the prosecution never linked

the shipments to any particular attack, and they concluded an agreement with al-Fadl that

in exchange for his co-operation, a possible 15-year sentence could be reduced to zero.

Privately, U.S. officials assured him there would be no jail time. And as part of the

bargaining, al-Fadl received significant financial support, nearly $1 million for him and

his family, whom U.S. authorities brought from Sudan.39

        Al-Fadl was the prosecution‘s star witness in the trial of four defendants for the

conspiracy to bomb the U.S. embassies in Africa. Yet al-Fadl‘s statements are unreliable.

They should be corroborated by other sources, before they are accepted as fact.


Al-Fadl on the Founding of al Qaida

During his testimony, al-Fadl gave two accounts of al Qaida‘s founding, one in his direct

testimony and another under cross-examination. In his initial, lengthy discourse, al-Fadl

used aliases to describe the individuals involved, making his testimony difficult to

35
   Ibid, p. 931. All these points came out, when al-Fadl was under cross-examination during the embassy
bombing trial.
36
   Ibid, p. 950.
37
   Ibid, p. 930.
38
   Al-Fadl‘s indictment is Government Exhibit 2, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
39
   ―U.S. Videos of Qaeda Informer Offer Glimpse Into a Secret Life,‖ New York Times, May 1, 2004.


                                                   39
understand. According to al-Fadl, those involved in establishing al Qaida included: Abu

Ayoub al Iraqi (never further identified); Abu Ubaidah al Banshiri (al Qaida‘s first

military commander); Abu Faraj al Yemeni (never further identified); Abu Hafs al Masry

(Banshiri‘s successor); Dr. Abdel Moez (Ayman al-Zawahiri); Dr. Fadhl el Masry

(identified as a medical doctor); Abu Burhan (never further identified); Al Khabir (never

further identified); Abu Musab al Saudi (never further identified); Izzildine (never further

identified), in addition to bin Ladin.40

         Al-Fadl claimed he was present at the first al Qaida effort to recruit rank and file

members and that it occurred in late 1989 or early 1990. Three individuals (Abu Ayoub

al Iraqi, Abu Ubaidah al Banshiri, and Abu Hafs el Masry) came to a training camp and

signed up recruits. He was one of the first three recruits.

         Yet al-Fadl also gave other, inconsistent accounts of al Qaida‘s early days. He

claimed that Abu Ayoub al Iraqi was the ―first emir of al Qaida‖ and that he reported to

bin Ladin.41 The title amir (prince) signifies the head of an organization, so one cannot

be both amir and report to a superior. Al-Fadl even claimed that bin Ladin was not the

founder of al Qaida:

         Q. So it was at that time, at the end of the war in Afghanistan, that Bin
         Laden decided to start al Qaeda?

         A. Before him, another people.42

Al-Fadl had earlier told the jury, ―When the Russians decide to leave Afghanistan, Bin

Laden, he decide to make his own group . . . [t]o be ready for another step because in


40
   United States v. Usama bin Laden, op. cit., pp. 193-4. During his interrogations, al-Fadl told U.S.
officials the original advisory council had 31 members, ibid, p. 453. But that cannot be correct, as the
documents found at the BIF office in Bosnia state that al Qaida had only 15 members at its founding.
41
   Ibid, pp. 202, 276.
42
   Ibid, p. 507.


                                                     40
Afghanistan everything is over.‖43 Yet al-Fadl now said that al Qaida was formed earlier

to fight the Russians:

           A The ones who came to the — fighting in Afghanistan, they were to be
           united in al Qaeda.

           Q. To do what?

           A. To fight the Russians.

           Q. The Russians had left by 1990; is that correct?

           A. Yes.

           Q. So what were they doing in 1990?

           A. It was formed in '87.

           Q. Okay. So in '87 al Qaeda was formed to fight the Russians as a unified
           force?

           A. Yes.44


           Al-Fadl‘s accounts of al Qaida‘s founding are at odds with the documents found

in Bosnia. Many individuals whom he says were involved appear to be different people

than those named in the documents. Most significantly, al-Zawahiri was not a founding

member of al Qaida, as al-Fadl stated, but began working with bin Ladin much later.

           Indeed, al-Fadl is extremely unreliable. The defense team, which had copies of

his earlier statements to U.S. officials, questioned him about certain points during the

trial. Al-Fadl would simply deny having said what his interrogators had written in their

reports.

           Q. I am going to show you what has been marked as 3501-45, page 147,
           and I ask the interpreter to read the last paragraph to him. . .


43
     Ibid, pp. 188, 189.
44
     Ibid, p. 807.


                                               41
        A. No, that's never happen. I tell them I got the money and I buy
        residential but not factory for my brother.

        Q. So is it your testimony now that you never told an agent of the United
        States government that you used some of the money you stole to help your
        brother build that oil press factory?

        A. No, I never say that. Maybe they understand me wrong.45


After the Soviet Withdrawal

After the Soviets left Afghanistan, the mujahidin fell to quarreling among themselves; the

split focused on the rivalry between Ahmed Shah Massoud and Gulbiddin Hekmatyar.

Azzam supported Massoud, and bin Ladin backed Hekmatyar. A car bombing in

November 1989 killed Azzam and two of his sons. Steve Coll suggests Hekmatyar was

most likely responsible, discounting suspicions directed at bin Ladin:

        Bin Ladin was not yet much of an operator. He was still more
        comfortable talking on cushions, having himself filmed and photographed,
        providing interviews to the Arabic language press, and riding horses in the
        outback.46

        After Azzam‘s murder, bin Laden left Peshawar, taking his family back to Saudi

Arabia. Although he continued to visit Pakistan, he was no longer based there.




45
   Ibid, p. 1011. The defense attorney ran through a number of such instances. They include:
Q. Did you tell the Americans that you traveled to the United States in 1985 or 1986 for Islamic military
training on the second interview with the Americans?
A. No, no. When I came to United States here? No.
Q. I'm going to ask you –
A. I don't remember that at all.
Q. I'm going to ask you to take a look and this is marked 3501-35, page 4, I'm marking now where I want
you to take a look. Please have the interpreter translate it for you.
 (Document handed to witness)
A: No, I never remember, I never tell them that
Ibid, pp. 950-1.
46
   Steve Coll, op. cit., p. 204.


                                                    42
                                   CHAPTER 3

         SAUDI INTERLUDE—AND SUDAN YEARS,
                 INCLUDING SOMALIA

When bin Ladin returned to Saudi Arabia, he was still on good terms with the Saudi

government. They had been working together in the same cause, after all. But problems

soon arose. The People‘s Democratic Republic of Yemen (or South Yemen, which no

longer exists) was governed by Communists. Bin Ladin began to organize volunteers for

a jihad against the Aden regime, which in turn complained to the Saudis.1

         In August 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Bin Ladin famously opposed

the Saudi decision to call on the United States to oust Iraq from Kuwait, claiming that he

could mobilize an army of mujahidin instead. Although no Saudi official considered that

remotely feasible, as a courtesy, bin Ladin was granted a meeting with the Saudi Defense

Minister. Prince Sultan heard bin Ladin out and then told him about the Iraqi army,

asserting, ―There are no caves in Kuwait . . . You cannot fight them from the mountains

and caves. What will you do when he lobs the missiles at you with chemical and

biological weapons?‖ ―We will fight him with faith,‖ bin Ladin replied.2

         Bin Ladin was then 33 years old. The head of Saudi intelligence later remarked

that bin Ladin‘s experience in Afghanistan had changed him. He had grown arrogant and

haughty.3 Bin Ladin‘s unwillingness to cease his campaign against Saudi authorities led


1
  Steve Coll, op. cit., p. 222.
2
  Ibid, p. 223.
3
  Ibid, p. 222.


                                            43
them to expel him from the country in 1991.4 He spent a brief time in Pakistan and

Afghanistan, before settling in Sudan.5


               Khartoum: Hassan Turabi and the National Islamic Front

In June 1989, Lt. General Omar Bashir seized power in Khartoum and soon aligned

himself with Hassan Turabi, head of Sudan‘s National Islamic Front. Among the poorer,

less developed Arab states, Sudan ―did not provide much of a base for influencing the

Middle East,‖ remarks Martin Kramer, a prominent scholar of Islam at Tel Aviv

University‘s Dayan Center for Middle East Studies. ―The country had few resources and

its economic growth had been low or negative for years.‖6 Nonetheless, Turabi, a man of

significant pretension and ambition, considered himself a major Islamic figure and, with

General Bashir, pursued an ideological line that neither they nor their impoverished

country was able to sustain. In 1999, a split developed between Turabi and Bashir.

Turabi was placed under house arrest and his supporters were purged from Sudan‘s

government.

        Sudan supported Islamic militants in Algeria, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Saudi

Arabia, and Tunisia, as well as opposition groups in Uganda and Kenya.7 Predictably,

Khartoum alienated many regional states, both Arab and African. Its few friends

included two Sunni Arab regimes, both pariah states—Libya and Iraq, which Sudan

backed after the invasion of Kuwait and for many years thereafter. The Sudanese regime

also developed ties with the radical Shi‘a government in Tehran, although according to at

4
  Ibid, p. 231.
5
  Ibid, p. 602.
6
  Martin Kramer, ―The Global Village of Islam,‖ in Ami Ayalon (editor), Middle East Contemporary
Survey, Volume XVI, 1992, (Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1995), p. 193.
7
  United States Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1995, (Washington DC: Department of
State Publication, 1996), p. 27.


                                                  44
least one knowledgeable analyst, problems began to arise already in 1993, when that

relationship ―underwent a surprising change for the worse.‖8

        In the early 1990s, Turabi launched a biannual event called the ―Popular Arab and

Islamic Conference,‖ envisaged as an alternative to the Saudi-dominated Islamic

Conference Organization, consisting of Muslim governments (the ICO was founded in

1969 as a counter to the then dominant Arab ideology—pan-Arabism, particularly as

espoused by Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser).

        Turabi‘s PAIC brought together a host of Islamic and Arab extremists,

representing both opposition parties and radical governments. The first such conference,

convened in April 1991, was ―a who‘s who of Sunni fundamentalists.‖ Dubbing Turabi a

―fundamentalist Tom Thumb who sat squarely in the ear of Sudan‘s ruling military

junta,‖ Martin Kramer explains that the first PAIC drew over 200 participants from 55

countries.9 Among them were government officials, including Iraq‘s minister of religious

endowments and the speaker of the Jordanian parliament. Participants also included

leaders of Islamic parties from Syria, Tunisia, Libya, Pakistan, and Egypt. Palestinian

groups—both Islamic (Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad) and nationalist (PLO, PFLP,

and DFLP) —were present, along with Egyptian Nasserists. So, too, was the Afghan,

Gulbiddin Hekmatyar. Bin Ladin may well have attended, but Kramer does not mention

him.

        A second, even larger, PAIC was held in Khartoum in December 1993, with

nearly 450 individuals in attendance from some 60 countries. They included two retired


8
  Yehudit Ronen, ―Sudan,‖ in Ami Ayalon (editor), Middle East Contemporary Survey, Vol XVII, 1993,
(Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1995), p. 625.
9
  Martin Kramer, ―Islam in the New World Order,‖ in Ami Ayalon (editor), Middle East Contemporary
Survey, Vol XV, 1991 (Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1993), p. 182.


                                                 45
Pakistani generals (former chief of staff Mirza Aslam Beg and former intelligence head

Hamid Gul). ―Iran, annoyed with Turabi‘s pretensions, sent a low-level delegation led by

a minor intellectual.‖10 Kramer lists 24 individuals in attendance, and, again, does not

mention bin Ladin—neither among those in attendance nor among those who

prominently failed to attend. A similar review of the third PAIC conference in 1995 also

fails to mention bin Ladin.11

        These conferences reflected Sudan‘s ambitions under the Turabi-Bashir regime.

They sought to promote a radical Arab-Islamic vanguard, and a host of extremist parties

established a presence in Sudan. Khartoum eliminated visa requirements for Arabs, a

policy which was only reversed after strong protests from Cairo following a 1995

assassination attempt on Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, in which Khartoum was

involved. Yet the change in Sudan‘s visa policy ―did not apply to citizens from three

state sponsors of terrorism—Iraq, Libya, and Syria, because of bilateral agreements.‖12

In 1996, Sudan was placed under U.N. sanctions for its support of terrorism.

        The absence of any mention of bin Ladin‘s name in analyses of the PAIC

conferences, although he was then based in Khartoum, raises a major question about his

significance even then. This absence is consistent with the memory of Don Peterson,

U.S. ambassador to Sudan until the end of 1995. ―My recollection is that when I made

representations [to the Sudanese government] about terrorist organizations, Osama bin

Laden did not figure. We in Khartoum were not really concerned about him,‖ Peterson

told the British journalist David Rose. When Ambassador Tim Carney, Peterson‘s

10
   Martin Kramer, ―Rallying Around Islam,‖ in Ami Ayalon (editor), Middle East Contemporary Survey,
Vol XVII, 1993 (Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1995), p.143.
11
   Esther Webman, ―Islamic Politics—Between Dialogue and Conflict,― Bruce Maddy-Weitzman, Middle
East Contemporary Survey, Vol XIX, 1995, (Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1997), p. 106.
12
   Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1995, op. cit., p. 27.


                                                 46
successor, began in February 1996 to press the Sudanese to expel bin Ladin, it was

―mainly because of his campaign against the Saudis.‖13 As another British journalist

Jason Burke notes, one has only to compare the list of attendees at one of Turabi‘s

Islamic conferences to see that bin Ladin was ―nothing more than a marginal player.‖14

In fact, this is exactly what one former al Qaida member, L‘Houssaine Kherchtou, stated

during the trial for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. Referring to bin Ladin‘s reputation

among Arabs, Kherchtou testified, ―When he was in Sudan, not that many people heard

of him.‖15 Of course, if bin Ladin was not well-known among Arabs, he was even less

well-known among Westerners. He did not have the prominence that he was to acquire

after he returned to Afghanistan.


                                      Al Qaida in Sudan

Al Qaida‘s shift to a base in Sudan occurred over several years and began even before bin

Ladin‘s expulsion from Saudi Arabia. This was made clear in the trial for the embassy

bombings. As Jamal al-Fadl explained, in late 1989, he was sent to Khartoum to buy

property for bin Ladin, shortly after the National Islamic Front seized power. Another

Sudanese, who became al Qaida‘s deputy chief financial officer, was recruited in Sudan

that year: Ibrahim al-Qosi, a Guantanamo Bay prisoner against whom charges have been

filed.16 The grounds for bin Ladin‘s relocation to Sudan had already been laid when, in

1991, Saudi authorities forced him to leave the country.




13
   David Rose, ―The Osama Files,‖ Vanity Fair, January 2002.
14
   Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror, (London: I.B. Taurus, 2003), p. 133.
15
   United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., p. 1489.
16
   United States v. Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al-Qosi. Al-Qosi knew al-Fadl‘s brother-in-law, Muhammad
Suliman al-Nalfi, who sent al-Qosi to Afghanistan.


                                               47
        Al Qaida initially retained a presence in Pakistan after it moved to Sudan. The

fighting against the communist government in Kabul continued until April 1992, when

Najibollah was defeated. The following year, the Pakistani government came under

pressure from the United States and Arab governments regarding the presence of Arab

militants in the country. In the spring of 1993, after a meeting between Egyptian

President Hosni Mubarak and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in which Mubarak

complained about the continued presence in Peshawar of Egyptian militants, Pakistani

authorities began arresting Arab extremists and deporting them.

        That caused serious problems for the militants. Shaykh Omar Abdul Rahman,

head of Egypt‘s Islamic Group, was then living in Jersey City. U.S. authorities were

moving to deport him. He was the target of an FBI investigation and his phone was

tapped. As the Pakistani crackdown began—threatening the expulsion of some 700

Egyptians, including two of Shaykh Omar‘s sons—the Egyptians in Peshawar called

Shaykh Omar, seeking advice. He asked them if the Afghan border was open, and after

being told that it was, suggested, ―Let them go to Afghanistan for a while‖17 (apparently

many Arab militants did just that). In another discussion, Shaykh Omar suggested his

sons might try to get visas to Uruguay, Brazil, Mexico, Britain, or Denmark.18

        Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a member of Afghanistan‘s provisional government,

reportedly requested and received Afghan passports for more than 600 Arabs.19 Cairo


17
   United States v. Shaykh Omar Abdul Rahman et al., Government Exhibit 713; transcript p. 8908.
18
   United States v. Shaykh Omar Abdul Rahman et al., Government Exhibit 726, described in ibid, pp.
8891-2.
19
   Kathy Gannon, ―Frontier Menace,‖ Wall Street Journal, August 3, 2004. Two observers visited Pakistan
a year later. They noted the effect of the Pakistani expulsions, ―The Arab Afghans we met in Peshawar
seemed a milder brand. The tougher ones had all left for Sudan and Yemen, with the most active breed
fighting in Kashmir, Bosnia, and Somalia. In addition, fierce fighting was now raging between rival
factions in Afghanistan.‖ Steven Emerson, American Jihad: The Terrorists Living Among Us, (New York:
The Free Press, 2002), p. 71. Khalid Duran accompanied Emerson on the trip.


                                                  48
protested the movement of Egyptian militants from Pakistan to Afghanistan, and while

the Afghan provisional government may have tried to oblige Cairo, it did not control the

entire country. Hekmatyar, by now in opposition to the Afghan government, was

―prepared to take in the Afghan Arabs, according to a statement issued by his office in

Peshawar, urging them to join his principal headquarters near Kabul.‖20

        For his part, Bin Ladin helped transport 480 of the militants to Khartoum.21

        Mohammed Odeh, a Palestinian member of al Qaida, was based in Kenya. Early

on the morning of August 7, 1998—the day the US embassies in Nairobi and Tanzania

were bombed—Odeh was caught at Karachi airport trying to enter Pakistan from Nairobi

on a false passport. The FBI interviewed him at length before dispatching him to New

York to stand trial.

        Odeh told the FBI that he joined al Qaida in 1992, after a year of training at

several Afghan camps. In early 1993, a senior al Qaida figure (Saif al-Adel, an Egyptian,

thought also to be with Egyptian Islamic Jihad) told him the jihad in Afghanistan was

over, and they were moving to do jihad elsewhere. He should prepare himself to travel.22

Several months later, Odeh left Peshawar for Kenya. It appears that al Qaida‘s activities

in Afghanistan did not resume until bin Ladin‘s return in 1996.23

        Throughout this period, al Qaida was an extremely secretive organization.

Documents found in al Qaida‘s Nairobi office suggest that al Qaida did not even use a


20
   Martin Kramer, ―Rallying Around Islam,‖ op. cit., p. 132.
21
   Coll, op. cit., p. 266; Agence France Press, May 19, 1993.
22
   Statement of Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, FBI 302, August 15-28, 1998, Government Exhibit 6, United
States v. Usama bin Laden et al. In 1999, Saif al Adel was head of al Qaida‘s security committee.
23
   The 9/11 Commission presents a different perspective, stating, ―During [bin Ladin‘s] entire time in
Sudan, he had maintained guest houses and training camps in Pakistan and Afghanistan.‖ The 9/11
Commission Report, op. cit., p. 66. However, the report provides no details about these guest houses or
training camps, not even the places in which they were supposed to be located. This question is further
discussed in Chapter 4.


                                                    49
letterhead, and its own documents do not refer to the organization by name.24 It was also

small. Mohammed Odeh—speaking to the FBI in August 1998—said that al Qaida once

had 500 members (without specifying a time frame), but its membership at that point was

down to 150 people, only fifty of them outside Afghanistan.25 Notably, this estimate is

consistent with the post 9/11 understanding of al Qaida, described in Chapter 1.


Al Qaida in Somalia

In January 1991, Somali strongman Mohammed Siad Barre was overthrown by a

coalition of clans, who then fell to fighting among themselves. The lawlessness blocked

relief efforts, and in the summer of 1992, the United Nations intervened to address the

Somali famine. That force proved ineffectual, and in December, 25,000 U.S. troops took

the lead in ―Operation Restore Hope.‖ In June 1993, a militia led by Mohammed Farah

Aideed, head of the Somalia National Movement, ambushed and killed 24 Pakistani

troops from the U.N. force. Further conflict followed, culminating in the October 3,

1993, ―Battle of Mogadishu,‖ in which the downing of two U.S. helicopters killed 18

soldiers. Four days later, President Bill Clinton ordered the withdrawal of the U.S. force

by March 1994.

        L‘Houssaine Kherchtou, a Moroccan Berber and an al Qaida member, split with

bin Ladin in 1996, shortly before bin Ladin returned to Afghanistan. During the embassy




24
   For example, a report written by Mohammed Atef about the Taliban (Government Exhibit 300-B) and a
report by Mustafa Fadhil about Somalia (Government Exhibit 310) do not mention al Qaida and do not use
any letterhead, exhibits from United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
25
   Statement of Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, op. cit. Jamal al-Fadl was a source for the much higher figures
commonly in use, claiming that al Qaida had 1-2,000 members in 1991, United States v. Usama bin Laden
et al., op. cit., p. 444.


                                                  50
bombing trial, Kherchtou testified that al Qaida first became involved in Somalia in early

1992, with the aim of supporting the more Islamic of the Somali factions.26

         Mohammed Odeh was involved in al Qaida‘s activities in Somalia, and he

explained to the FBI that al Qaida aided those Somalis with whom it had the closest

philosophical ties. In the spring of 1993, Odeh flew on a khat smuggling plane to

Mandera, in Kenya‘s northeast corner and waited for someone to meet him and take him

into Somalia, where he was based at a point some 600 kilometers from Mogadishu. Odeh

remained in the area until November. He provided food, money, and training in small

arms and first aid to the Umm Rehan tribe, which had ties with al Ittihad al Islamiya (the

Islamic Union.) Al Ittihad carried out terrorist attacks against Ethiopia as part of a long-

standing dispute between Somalia and Ethiopia over the Ogaden, and it was designated

by the United States as a terrorist organization after 9/11.

         Odeh told the FBI that the tribes which al Qaida trained were opposed to

Aideed.27 Yet Odeh also said that when Mohammed Atef, al Qaida‘s deputy military

commander, traveled to Mogadishu in November 1993, on his return to al Qaida‘s

headquarters in Khartoum, Atef stopped in the area of Somalia in which Odeh was based,

at the request of a local sheikh. Odeh explained that bin Ladin had sent Atef to the Somali

capital to assess the situation, and he had met a member of Aideed‘s clan, reaching an

agreement to force the United Nations out of the city.28 Odeh placed Atef‘s visit after the

Battle of Mogadishu and did not suggest al Qaida had participated in it, although he

affirmed that bin Ladin had welcomed it.


26
   Ibid, pp. 1425-27.
27
   Statement of Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, op. cit.
28
   An FBI agent testified that the agreement was to oust US forces. Ibid, p. 1648. The interrogation report,
however, states UN forces. Statement of Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, op. cit.


                                                     51
        Jamal al-Fadl, however, testified that after Atef returned to Khartoum, ―He talk

about his trip, and he say everything happening in Somalia, it's our responsibility.‖29

U.S. intelligence had picked up radio transmissions in Arabic during the fighting in

Somalia.30 The prosecution tried to suggest that al Qaida had been involved in the Battle

of Mogadishu and to include that among the charges against the defendants. Yet the

judge, after hearing the case, concluded that the prosecution had failed to present

sufficient evidence to send to the jury the charge of al Qaida‘s actual involvement in the

Battle of Mogadishu (the much weaker charge—they conspired to do so—was sent

instead. Chapter 6 explains the complexity of U.S. conspiracy law, which has contributed

to other misunderstandings regarding the terrorist attacks of the 1990s.)

        Ambassador Robert Oakley was U.S. special envoy for Somalia during Operation

Restore Hope. Oakley personally looked into this issue and strongly rejects the notion

that al Qaida was involved in the Battle of Mogadishu. Indeed, he called the idea

―preposterous.‖31 He was prepared to testify to that effect in the trial, if the charge had

not been dropped.32 Aideed‘s forces, in Oakley‘s view, were capable of using RPGs to

down a helicopter and did not need outside assistance.

        Nor was al Qaida the only possible candidate to have aided Aideed. Chapter 2

described one document from the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) found by U.S. forces in

Iraq, linking the IIS with Afghan commander, Gulbiddin Hekmatyar. Many more such

IIS documents were found. They include instructions from Saddam Hussein to the Baath

party and the IIS, written in late January and early February 1993. The first note, to the

29
   United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., p. 284.
30
   Ibid, p. 4458.
31
   Mary Anne Weaver, ―The Real Bin Laden,‖ op. cit.
32
   Author interview, September 23, 2004. This is also the position of David Shinn, the State Department‘s
Coordinator for Somalia, 1992-3.


                                                   52
Baath party‘s Arabian Bureau, states that the party ―should move to hunt the Americans

who are on Arab land, especially in Somalia, by using Arab elements, Asian Muslims

[i.e. Pakistan/Afghanistan] or friends.‖33 A memo three weeks later from Saddam‘s

office responds to IIS proposals for developing relations with groups capable of carrying

out attacks against Iraq‘s enemies. The memo instructs the IIS to ―concentrate on

Somalia‖ and to use Hekmatyar‘s Hizb-i-Islami for the task.34 Hekmatyar, as noted

above, was among those who attended Turabi‘s popular conferences.


The Reactivation of al Qaida’s Activities in Somalia

In early 1997, the al Qaida leadership, then in Afghanistan, decided to ―remilitarize‖ its

operations in Somalia. Mustafa Fadhil, an Egyptian based in Mombassa, Kenya‘s major

port city, led an al Qaida team into Somalia in March 1997 and provided a written report

on the results of his exploratory trip to a Somali region near the Ethiopian border.35

        Fadhil‘s report is reasonably well done, intelligently written and straightforward

in its analysis. He begins by describing the preparations of his team for the journey and

their difficulties in traveling there. Their first meeting is with a deputy of a Sheikh

Hassan (whom Atef visited in 1993, in the trip described by Odeh above). Fadhil

discovers that other Arabs have come into the region to support the fighting and suggests

that is undesirable, even as the Somalis politely rebuff his suggestion. The visit

culminates in a meeting with five local leaders and a discussion of the training al Qaida

might provide. Fadhil‘s report concludes with an analysis of why al Qaida‘s work in


33
   Memo from Saddam‘s secretary to the Honorable Comrade Ali al-Reeh al-Sheikh, January 18, 1993,
posted at: http://www.cnsnews.com/specialreports/2004/exclusive1.asp
34
   Memo from Saddam‘s secretary, February 8, 1993, posted at:
http://www.cnsnews.com/specialreports/2004/exclusive13.asp
35
   Government Exhibit 310-74A, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.


                                                 53
Somalia had been delayed, which seems also to be a polite complaint about the lack of

resources he and his team received for their new mission.

         The document illuminates one aspect of al Qaida‘s activities: support for Islamic

insurgencies—in this case, the Somali claim to the Ogaden region of Ethiopia.36

         The document also illustrates al Qaida‘s secretive nature. The report is addressed

to ―the officials in the administration‖—the al Qaida leadership in Afghanistan. Nowhere

is ―al Qaida‖ even mentioned in this document. And throughout the report, Fadhil uses

aliases in writing about individuals, including himself.

         The activity in Somalia, however, was not pursued for long. A year later, Fadhil

moved to Dar Es Salaam, where he would direct the bombing of the U.S. embassy in

Tanzania.37 The 1998 embassy bombings ended al Qaida‘s presence in Kenya. Indeed,

the lead prosecutor in the trial for those bombings, Patrick J. Fitzgerald, told the 9/11

Commission, ―[P]rior to the August 1998 embassy bombings, it was clear to us that there

was an al Qaeda support and logistics cell in Kenya. If someone had told me the day

before the embassy bombings that al Qaeda would actually attack in Kenya the American

embassy, which for all practical purposes would shut down their ability to operate there, I

would have told them that didn't make sense because it was important for them to be able

to move people.‖38        Evidently by 1998, bin Ladin‘s priorities had changed: attacking the

United States had become more important than assisting Islamic insurgencies, or at least

the insurgents in Somalia.


36
   The second part of the document is a report from a more junior figure, Fazul Mohammed. It is less
coherent and discrete and makes clear that al Qaida is supporting al-Ittihad in sabotage and terrorism in
Ethiopia.
37
   Possibly, the entire scheme, the reactivation of al Qaida‘s activity in Somalia in 1997, was essentially a
ruse, a cover for other activity, namely preparation for the embassy bombings the next year.
38
   Statement of Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Illinois, Before the National
Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, June 16, 2004.


                                                      54
Al Qaida’s Nairobi Office

Wadih El Hage ran al Qaida‘s office in Nairobi. El Hage was a Lebanese Christian,

raised in Kuwait, who converted to Islam. After graduating high school in Kuwait, El

Hage enrolled in a U.S. college. He interrupted those studies in 1983 to spend a year and

a half in Peshawar, then returned to the United States to finish his degree, married an

American woman, and after several subsequent trips to Pakistan, settled in Texas. At

one point in the 1980s, he lived in Tucson, Arizona, where the Maktab al-Khidhimat had

an office. Other individuals who were early members of al Qaida, including two involved

in founding the organization, also lived in Tucson in the 1980s.39

        Soon after moving to Sudan, bin Ladin asked El Hage, then in Texas, to join him

in Khartoum. Later, in May 1994, El Hage shifted from Khartoum to Nairobi to head al

Qaida‘s office there. El Hage was assisted by Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, in his early

twenties and born in the Comoros Islands, a former French colony off the eastern coast of

Africa. Fazul had reportedly studied in Sudan on a scholarship provided by an Islamic

organization.40 Al Qaida‘s Nairobi office had only two people, and there were just a

handful of other al Qaida members in the rest of Kenya.

        Kenyan authorities raided al Qaida‘s Nairobi office in August 1997, and

information from the Kenyan investigation (evidence in the embassy bombing trial)

illuminates the activities of that office. It includes the contents of the office computer, as

well as transcripts (and sound files) from a wiretap on the office phone between July

1996 and September 1997.

39
   Two founding members of al Qaida from Tucson are Mohammed Bayazid (Abu Rida al-Suri) and Wail
Julaidan. An Iraqi member of al Qaida, Mubarak al-Duri, also lived in Tucson at the same time. The 9/11
Commission Report, op. cit., p. 521.
40
   ―Assault on a U.S. Embassy: A Plot Both Wide and Deep,‖ Washington Post, November 23, 1998.


                                                  55
        Al Qaida‘s Nairobi office forged passport stamps for people both inside and

outside Kenya, including in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan, which served as a rear base for

mujahidin involved in the Chechen conflict, and where Egyptian Islamic Jihad had

established an office. El Hage and Fazul had an Apple computer that contained image

files of entry and exit stamps for Kenya and Yemen. 41 They also had blank Pakistani

visas.42 Militants from other countries called inquiring about the status of their passports.

Prominent in those conversations is an Egyptian, identified only as Saad, in Baku. Saad

handled passports for several individuals that were being doctored by El Hage.43 The

international delivery service, DHL, was used to ship the passports back and forth

between Nairobi and Baku.

        Al Qaida‘s false entry and exit stamps were put to ingenious use. For example,

Fazul, who participated in the August 7, 1998, bombing of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi,

left Kenya on August 11, as he had stayed behind to clean up the facilities used by the

conspirators. The risk that Fazul might be caught leaving Kenya was minimized by a

false stamp on his passport that ―showed‖ he had entered Kenya on August 10, three days

after the bombings (further discussed in Chapter 8).

        Indeed, this seems to have been a fairly well known technique within al Qaida.

Mohammed al-Owhali, a 21-year old Saudi, rode in the truck that bombed the embassy in

Nairobi. As the truck approached its target, al-Owhali dismounted from the vehicle to

attack the embassy guards and facilitate the truck‘s approach to the building. He was



41
   One file was dated April 21, 1995, and contained an entry stamp at Sana‘a (Yemen), Government Exhibit
300-E; another file, dated August 25, 1993, contained a Nairobi entry stamp, a Sana‘a exit stamp, and
another Nairobi entry stamp. Government Exhibit 300-F, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
42
   Six blank Pakistani visas were found at Fazul‘s home in the Comoros Islands after the embassy
bombings, Government Exhibit 907, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
43
   Government Exhibits 201, 202, and 207, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.


                                                  56
expected to die in the assault, but he did not. As Owhali then tried to leave Kenya, he

called a contact in Yemen for help, as he had no possessions. Al-Owhali asked that a

passport be sent to him on which he could leave Kenya, saying ―make sure that the

passport has a stamp entering Kenya after August 7.‖44

         Similarly, the passport that Mohammed Odeh used to leave Kenya the night

before the bombings seems to have made an opposite use of those stamps. Odeh was

stopped at Karachi airport, shortly before the attacks, for traveling on a false passport.

That was a routine matter, for which he ordinarily would have been deported back to

Nairobi. Once the bombings occurred, however, Odeh—still in Pakistani custody—

immediately fell under grave suspicion. The passport Odeh used had been given to him

by the Egyptian who directed the two bombings (Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah). It

contained an August 11, 1998, entry stamp into Pakistan. Clearly, something was wrong

with that passport. Odeh‘s lawyer claimed that Odeh was set up by al Qaida to be caught

in order to create a diversion at the airport that would facilitate the entry into Pakistan of

his traveling companion.45 It is also possible Odeh was meant to be arrested for other

reasons.46



44
   United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., p. 2036.
45
   Before the bombing, Odeh was living in a remote Kenyan village (Witu), where he had a furniture shop.
Odeh told the FBI that in the late spring of 1998, he was told that all al Qaida members in Kenya had to
prepare to travel. He had lost his Jordanian passport and was told to acquire travel documents. But he did
not understand what was about to happen; he liked his life in Kenya; and was told that he could not take his
pregnant wife and child with him. So Odeh did not obtain a passport. At the last minute, Abdullah gave
Odeh the passport on which he traveled, leading to his detention at Karachi airport shortly before the
bombings. The FBI learned a lot about the plot from Odeh, including that al Qaida was involved in it.
Odeh told the FBI that ―the reason he was talking to investigators about these matters was because those
people were pushing him and pushing him and then got away, while he is now facing problems.‖
Statement of Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, op. cit.
46
   Odeh‘s detention and interrogation provided early proof of al Qaida‘s involvement in the bombings. If al
Qaida had received assistance from another party, like a terrorist state, that state might have contrived the
circumstances under which U.S. authorities would quickly determine al Qaida‘s responsibility in order to
deflect suspicion away from the terrorist state.


                                                     57
              Passport used by Mohammed Odeh, showing August 11, 1998 entry stamp into
                 Pakistan. He was in fact detained on entry at the airport—on August 7.
                        (Government Exhibit 526, United States v. bin Laden et al)


Relationship with Sudanese Intelligence

While al Qaida was based in Khartoum, it maintained close ties with Sudanese

intelligence. As the lead prosecutor in the trial for the embassy bombings told the 9/11

Commission, ―From about 1992 to 1996, al Qaeda was headquartered in the Sudan,

where al Qaeda worked closely with the ruling party (the National Islamic Front), the

Sudanese intelligence service, and a militia (the defaa al shab [Popular Defense]), which

fought against Christians and others in the Sudan.‖47

            Under cross-examination Jamal al-Fadl acknowledged his own extensive dealings

with Sudanese intelligence. Essentially, he worked for both al Qaida and the Sudanese:

47
     Statement of Patrick J. Fitzgerald, op. cit.


                                                    58
           Q: You have always been an employee of the NIF since you returned to
           the Sudan, haven't you?

           A. Yes.

           Q. And you always reported to the NIF about what Bin Laden was doing
           since Bin Laden came to the Sudan, isn't that right?

           A. I do both. I take from Bin Laden to NIF, from NIF to Bin Laden.48

The Sudanese government worked with bin Ladin, even as it also kept a watchful eye on

him.


Preferential Treatment for Egyptians within al Qaida during its Sudanese Period

Egypt has a population of some 75 million, dwarfing that of any other Arab country (ie

Algeria: 32 million; Iraq: 25 million; Syria 18 million). Any representative group of

Arabs will include a significant number of Egyptians. In addition, Egypt requires

universal male military service. Almost every Egyptian man will have some degree of

military experience—in contrast to a country like Saudi Arabia, where long-standing

concerns about a military coup have mitigated against conscription.

           The size of Egypt‘s population and its draft help explain why the military

command of al Qaida was always in the hands of Egyptians. They had military

experience even before they joined the organization. However, the preferential treatment

of Egyptians while bin Ladin was in Sudan seems to have gone beyond mere recognition

of their prior experience. Among other things, they received higher pay, which was a

source of resentment among others within al Qaida. Al-Fadl complained of this, and it

was one of his rationales for stealing from bin Ladin.49



48
     United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., p. 1006.
49
     Ibid, p. 386.


                                                        59
        L‘Houssaine Kherchtou testified similarly, explaining that al Qaida experienced

an economic crisis in early 1995. Bin Ladin told them he was having financial problems

and was reducing their salaries.50 In December 1995, Kherchtou urgently sought $500,

because his wife was pregnant and needed a cesarean section. He wanted to take her to a

private hospital in Khartoum, where she would receive proper medical attention, but bin

Ladin‘s financial officer refused his request. Kherchtou complained about all the money

that had been spent to send Egyptian members of al Qaida to Yemen, where they renewed

their passports or acquired new ones. As Kherchtou stated:

        They were paying there the transport; they were paying their sitting there
        in Yemen to stay for a whole month so as to get that passport, and
        everything was paid by al Qaeda. But when I was needed that five hundred
        bucks he gave me another story. And that's why I learned that we are
        treated second class.51

This dispute was a major factor in Kherchtou‘s break with al Qaida.


Yemen’s Role

Kherchtou‘s story also suggests one respect in which Yemen served an important

function—facilitating the acquisition of passports for al Qaida members, and perhaps

other militants as well. Yemen was, in fact, among those few states that allowed Arabs

from the Afghan jihad to settle in the country. Yemen also allowed Arabs from the

Bosnian jihad to settle there, after the 1995 Dayton Accord ended the civil war there.52

Significantly, elements in Yemen‘s bureaucracies were sympathetic to the mujahidin.53


50
   Ibid, p. 1282.
51
   Ibid, p. 1284.
52
   Spanish Indictment—Mr Control Number 168, Translator: Daniela Duncan, Central Court of Information
Number 005, Madrid, Criminal Proceedings ―Sumario‖ 0000035/2001 E, In Madrid, on September 17 th
2003, translator Daniela Duncan, p. 248.
53
   ―Friend or Foe: The Story of a Traitor to al Qaeda,‖ Wall Street Journal, December 20, 2002. This
article based, in part, on documents found on al-Zawahiri‘s computer, relates how an Egyptian member of
al Qaida defected in May 1998, only to be betrayed to al Qaida by Yemeni intelligence.


                                                  60
As the State Department stated in 1996: ―The ruling government coalition also includes

both tribal and Islamic elements which have facilitated the entry and documents of

foreign extremists.‖54 Those involved in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies would

use Yemen for just such purposes (Chapter 8.)


Sudan’s Rivalry with Egypt

The Sudanese regime had a particularly intense rivalry with its northern neighbor, which

may help explain the preferential treatment bin Ladin accorded Egyptians, while he was

based in Khartoum. The Sudanese animosity toward Egypt is clear from the documents

found by U.S. forces in Iraq (noted in Chapter 2.)

         According to those documents, in January 1993, the Iraqi Intelligence Service

(IIS) prepared a memo for Saddam‘s office describing the various organizations with

which it maintained ties. It included mention of a meeting with Hassan Turabi‘s deputy,

Ali Othman Taha, vice-chairman of the National Islamic Front. The IIS had, in fact,

already agreed with Taha on re-opening a relationship with Egypt‘s Islamic Jihad (EIJ).

Three years earlier, the IIS had concluded an agreement with EIJ—on December 14,

1990, following Iraq‘s invasion of Kuwait and as the 1991 Gulf War loomed—to conduct

terrorist operations against the Egyptian government, with the IIS providing the Egyptian

group money, training, and equipment. Those operations were halted with the 1991 Gulf

War cease-fire, according to this document.55


54
   United States Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1996, (Washington DC: Department of
State Publication, 1997), p. 22.
55
   January 25, 1993, memo from the IIS director to Saddam‘s office. This memo refers to two Egyptian
groups: Islamic Jihad (al Jihad al Islamiya), headed by Ayman al-Zawahiri, and the Islamic Group (al
Jama’at al Islamiyah), headed then by Shaykh Omar Abdul Rahman. Further correspondence refers only
to Islamic Jihad. Posted at: http://www.cnsnews.com/specialreports/2004/exclusive2.asp
    Saddam replied with the terse statement, ―I think we did not instruct against the Egyptian regime.‖ It is
unclear from the further correspondence whether Saddam meant to reject the proposal to aid the Egyptian


                                                     61
        On March 11, 1993, the IIS wrote Saddam‘s office that Sudan‘s Vice-President

had told the Iraqi ambassador in Khartoum that he wished to send an EIJ leader—who

had been in Afghanistan and was now in Khartoum—to Baghdad. The IIS asked Taha to

postpone the trip, but Taha insisted, saying the Egyptian was ready and would come to

Baghdad on March 13 on a Sudanese plane carrying meat (such Sudanese cargoes were at

that time exempted from the U.N. Security Council air embargo imposed on Iraq). The

IIS recommended approving Taha‘s request, on condition it be done very secretly. 56 The

general thrust of these documents is consistent with a Defense Department memo

indicating that Iraqi intelligence in this time frame established a highly secretive

relationship with EIJ (and later with al Qaida) and that these ties were brokered by the

Sudanese regime.57

        It is unclear why the Sudanese were so keen to enlist Iraq in assisting the EIJ

(although one might speculate they valued Iraq‘s experience.) In any event, Sudan did

become involved in supporting Egyptian militants in terrorism. On June 26, 1995,

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak arrived in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa to

attend a summit of the Organization of African Unity. On his way into the city from the

airport, Mubarak‘s motorcade was ambushed in an apparent assassination attempt. Two

gunmen were killed then, three died in a shootout-out with Ethiopian authorities several




militants or if he meant that he did not think such an agreement had been reached in 1990. Memo from
Saddam‘s secretary to the IIS head, February 8, 1993. Posted at:
http://www.cnsnews.com/specialreports/2004/exclusive13.asp
56
   Memo from IIS to Saddam‘s office, March 11, 1993; Memo from IIS to Saddam‘s office, March 18,
1993. Posted at: http://www.cnsnews.com/specialreports/2004/exclusive15.asp;
http://www.cnsnews.com/specialreports/2004/exclusive18.asp
57
   The October 27, 2003, memo from the Undersecretary of Defense is detailed in Stephen F. Hayes, ―Case
Closed: The U.S. government's secret memo detailing cooperation between Saddam Hussein and Osama
bin Laden,‖ The Weekly Standard, November 24, 2003, and in Stephen F. Hayes, The Connection, op. cit.


                                                  62
days later, one escaped to Sudan, and three others were captured. All were Egyptian

nationals.

         Egyptian authorities immediately denounced Sudan as being behind the attack and

Ethiopian authorities reached the same conclusion several months later. On a visit to

Washington, Ethiopia‘s president explained that Sudanese intelligence was heavily

involved in the assault.58 The favoritism bin Ladin showed Egyptians that generated such

resentment among other members of al Qaida reflected the policies of his Sudanese hosts

and may have been part of an understanding with them.


Libyan Pressure

Libya was one of the few countries inclined to maintain friendly ties with Sudan, which

regularly supported Colonel Qaddafi‘s demand to lift the U.N. sanctions on his country.

Nonetheless, Sudan backed Libya‘s Islamic opposition, which became more active in the

mid-1990s. After armed clashes between the Libyan regime and Islamic militants

erupted in May 1995, Qaddafi began to press Khartoum, which responded by turning

over some exiles. The Sudanese government also obliged bin Ladin to dismiss Libyans

from al Qaida.

         Approximately 20 Libyans were with bin Ladin in Sudan. He told them they had

to leave and offered them $2,400 and plane tickets. They were angry, nonetheless, and

all left al Qaida, including Nazih Abdul Hamed al Raghie (better known by his alias Anas

al-Liby).59 Al-Liby traveled first to Qatar and then to London, where he received




58
   ―Ethiopian leader ties Sudan to attempt on Mubarak's life; Terrorist plot failed in Addis Ababa,‖
Washington Times, October 19, 1995.
59
   L'Houssaine Kherchtou, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., p. 1281.


                                                     63
political asylum. In May 2000, British police raided his home in Manchester, but he had

already fled (a terrorism manual, described in Chapter 4, was found on his computer).


Bin Ladin versus the Saudis

In the spring of 1994, the Saudis took additional measures against bin Ladin. The Saudi

steps were taken in the context of external pressures, including from the Egyptian

government, to suppress bin Ladin‘s activities. They also occurred in the context of

Saudi measures against other elements of their Islamic opposition, which grew in the

years after the 1991 Gulf War.

        In April 1994, Riyadh announced that it had stripped bin Ladin of his citizenship,

and it reportedly seized his assets.60 Four months later, in August, bin Ladin announced

that ―The Advice and Reformation Committee of Arabia‖ (ARC) had opened an office in

London with Khalid al-Fawwaz, a 32 year old Saudi, as its director.61




                                      Khalid al-Fawwaz
                                   Government Exhibit 109
                            United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.


60
  ―Saudis Strip Citizenship From Backer Of Militants,‖ New York Times, April 10, 1994.
61
  Al-Quds al-Arabi, August 8, 1994, in ―Compilation of Usama bin Ladin Statements, 1994-January
2004,‖ FBIS Report-GMP20040209000243, February 9, 2004.


                                                 64
        In contrast to al Qaida, the ARC was a public organization. The London office

was established, in part, to co-ordinate with the Committee of Defense of Legal (ie

shariah) Rights, founded the year before in Saudi Arabia. The Saudi government had

responded to the establishment of the CDLR, by arresting its members, including its

spokesman, Mohammed al-Masari. Released from prison in November 1993, al-Masari

fled to London, where he re-established the CDLR. As Joshua Teitelbaum, who

specializes in Saudi Arabia at Tel Aviv University‘s Dayan Center, noted, the CDLR

―became the main voice of Saudi Islamists in 1994.‖62 As late as March 1996, the

British Independent called the CDLR ―the most prominent Saudi opposition group.‖63

        Bin Ladin‘s London-based committee, the ARC, focused on Saudi Arabia and

contested the legitimacy of Saudi rule, even the existence of the country. Bin Ladin

published three journals, ―all very similar, [which] expressed support for the CDLR,

attacked the regime, and were liberally sprinkled with bin Ladin‘s picture. The avowed

goal of the journals, as exemplified in a map published in each of them was a plan to

abolish the Saudi state and divide the Arabian Peninsula into two states, ‗Greater Hijaz,‘

and ‗Greater Yemen,‘‖ Teitelbaum explains.64 Indeed, that is suggested in an internal

ARC report written in 1995 by Khalid al-Fawwaz—it never refers to ―Saudi Arabia,‖ but

to the ―Arabian peninsula.‖65

        The ARC was not particularly successful. Al-Fawwaz‘s report begins, ―It is

obvious that there is no clear (at least to the extent of my knowledge) strategy for change.



62
   Joshua Teitelbaum, ―Saudi Arabia,‖ in Ami Ayalon and Bruce Maddy-Weitzman (eds) Middle East
Contemporary Survey, 1994, (Boulder CO: Westview Press, 1996), p. 548.
63
   ―Masari ejected from own dissident group,‖ Independent, March 7, 1996.
64
   Joshua Teitelbaum, op. cit., p. 553.
65
   Government Exhibit, 1626 D-T, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.


                                                65
And based upon it, there is no definite work plan to execute this missing strategy.‖66 His

report includes a breakdown, by subject, of the phone calls he received. He notes that

10% of the calls were requests to speak with al-Masari; five per cent were requests to

speak with bin Ladin.67 Bin Ladin was not—in the mid-1990s—the central figure he

would later become. As late as the spring of 1996, he was eclipsed in London by

Mohammed al-Masari.


Al Qaida’s Pursuit of Chemical and Nuclear Weapons?

Jamal al-Fadl claimed that al Qaida sought to obtain material for chemical and nuclear

weapons while it was based in Sudan. Al-Fadl stated that in 1993 or 1994 he

accompanied Mamdouh Salim to a building in Khartoum where chemical weapons were

produced. Al-Fadl told the courtroom, ―[Salim] tell me the al Qaeda group try to help

Islamic National Front to do these weapons, to make these weapons.‖68

        There is, however, little apparent reason why Sudan would seek help from al

Qaida to manufacture chemical weapons. The obvious candidate to provide such

assistance would be a state like Iraq or Iran. Indeed, U.S. officials believed Iraq was

helping Sudan produce chemical weapons, as the New York Times reported in an article

entitled, ―U.S. Says Iraq Aided Production of Chemical Weapons in Sudan.‖69 Under

cross-examination, al-Fadl was asked if he ever saw chemical weapons in Sudan. Al-

66
   Ibid.
67
   Ibid.
68
   United States v. Usama bin Laden et al, op. cit., p. 293.
69
   ―U.S. Says Iraq Aided Production of Chemical Weapons in Sudan,‖ New York Times, August 25, 1998.
In testimony before the Congressional Joint Inquiry, Richard Clarke stated, ―Mr. Fadhil in the New York
trial testified that his job was to go back and forth from Afghanistan to Sudan to supervise the al-Qa‘ida
involvement in the Sudanese chemical program.‖ Richard Clarke, testimony before the Congressional Joint
Inquiry, June 11, 2002, p. 52. Al-Fadl, however, said nothing like that in the trial.
   Clarke also testified, ―We also had lots of reporting of the presence of Iraqis from the Iraqi chemical
corps in Khartoum working with the Sudanese military on the development of chemical weapons.‖ Ibid, p.
41.


                                                   66
Fadl replied yes, naming a site controlled by al Qaida (Damazine house). That prompted

the defense attorney to ask in astonishment, ―That's what you call chemical weapons,

explosives?‖ Al-Fadl replied, ―Yes.‖70

         Al-Fadl claimed that al Qaida also tried to purchase uranium, stating, ―I remember

Abu Fadhl al-Makkee, he call me and he told me we hear somebody in Khartoum, he got

uranium, and we need you to go and study that, is that true or not. . . . He told me go to

Abu Abdullah al-Yemeni and he talk more about that with you.‖ Al-Yemeni then gave

al-Fadl the name of a prominent Sudanese general, who sent him to a person named

Basheer, who agreed to sell the material for $1.5 million. Al-Fadl returned to al-Yemeni,

who sent him to Abu Rida al-Suri (Mohammed Bayazid), and he and al-Suri went to a

house north of Khartoum. According to al-Fadl, ―After few minutes they bring a big bag

and they open it, and it cylinder, like this tall‖ (indicating two to three feet).71 Al Qaida

decided to buy the material. Al-Fadl was given $10,000 for his assistance, and his role in

the purchase ended.72 (If this sounds confusing, it is because al-Fadl‘s testimony can

have that quality).

         On cross-examination, al–Fadl was asked, ―What kind of bag was the cylinder

carried in?‖ His first, unresponsive answer was, ―This size.‖ The exchange continued:

         Q. Was it a fabric bag? Was it a paper bag?

         A. It's something like first time in my life I saw bag that kind. So it look
         different than normal bag we use.

         Q. What did it look like it was made out of?

         A. You open it like that and when it have two halves, the size same, and
         in the back it's

70
   United States v. Usama bin Laden, op. cit., p. 1049.
71
   Ibid, p. 362.
72
   Ibid, p. 364.


                                                     67
           MR. SCHMIDT: Could you translate the question what material was the
           bag made out of. (Interpreted)

           A. (Interpreted) Strong leather Err.

           THE COURT: Leather?

           THE INTERPRETER: Yes, your Honor73

Al-Fadl does not appear credible on these points, which were, in fact, a small part of his

testimony. No independent information in the public record, whether from the court

records or elsewhere, corroborates his claim that al Qaida attempted to acquire chemical

and nuclear material in this period. In fact, it does not seem that al Qaida actually sought

such material then—although al Qaida did try to develop chemical and biological agents

later, after 1996, when it relocated to Afghanistan. Al Qaida, it seems, became far more

lethal and dangerous after it settled in Afghanistan, although, ironically when U.S.

officials pressed Sudan to expel bin Ladin, they believed he would be less able to cause

harm there.


Iran Trained al Qaida?

During the trial, al-Fadl testified that Mamdouh Salim proposed that ―the Shia and the

Sunnis, they should come together for focusing in one enemy.‖ The prosecutor then

asked al-Fadl, ―Did there ever come a time when a person representing Shia Muslims

came to Khartoum to meet with al Qaeda members?‖ Al-Fadl replied,

           A. I remember one guy, his name Ahmed Abdel Rahman Hamadabi. He
           is a Sudani guy.

           Q. What was his last name?



73
     Ibid, pp. 982-3.


                                                  68
        A. Hamadabi. And he Sudani guy, and he is big scholar over there. He
        bring with him other guy, his name Sheikh Nomani. Sheikh Nomani got
        office in Khartoum belong to Iran government for Shia Muslims to recruit
        other people to Shia.74

Al-Fadl claimed that, as a result, five al Qaida members (Abu Talha al Sudani, Saif al

Islam el Masry, Abu Jaffer el Masry, Salem el Masry, and Saif al Adel) were trained by

Hizbollah in south Lebanon, including in how to bomb large buildings.

        This is not as improbable as al Fadl‘s claim that al Qaida assisted Sudan in its

chemical weapons program, but it is not corroborated by other information. The other al

Qaida member who testified in the trial, L‘Houssaine Kherchtou, gave a different account

of al Qaida‘s ties with Iran. Asked on cross-examination, ―[W]hat was the relationship

between the al Qaeda and Iranians,‖ Kherchtou replied:

        A. Iranians? They don't like Iranians.

        Q. Why is that?

        A. Because we are Sunni and they are Shiites, and you know I mean we
        had many points that's why we don't like them.75

In 1995, Spanish authorities began investigating Islamic militants in Spain. A wiretapped

conversation in 1996 underscores the reluctance of the Sunni militants to deal with

Hizbollah. As a Spanish investigator writes,




74
  Ibid, p. 288.
75
  Ibid, p. 1385. An Egyptian, Ali Mohammed, struck a separate agreement with prosecutors and pled
guilty in the fall of 2000. In his plea bargain, Mohammed claimed to have arranged security for a meeting
between Hizbollah‘s Imad Mughniyah and bin Ladin; that Hizbollah provided explosives training for al
Qaida and EIJ; and that Iran supplied EIJ with arms and used Hizbollah to supply explosives disguised to
look like rocks. Stephen Hayes, The Connection, op. cit., p. 68.
   Hayes, like many others, describes Mohammed as a ―senior Egyptian Islamic Jihad terrorist,‖ although
there are serious questions about that identification, as explained in Chapter 8. Quite possibly, Mohammed
told U.S. authorities what he thought they wanted to hear, perhaps thinking, he would get a lighter
sentence. Hayes is a post 9/11 expert on these issues. It is difficult to make reasonable judgments without
having a substantial background on these questions, and there are other errors in his work, above all his
claim that al Qaida was involved in the 1993 Trade Center bombing.


                                                    69
         In the beginning the mujahideens were reticent regarding going to
         Lebanon to continue their fight, because in that country who directed the
         combats and was more active regarding the armed fight was HISBALLAH
         – but their members follow the Shiite belief, and the mujahideens
         considered that it wasn‘t very appropriate to fight side by side with them.
         Without a doubt, all their hesitations disappeared when they heard that
         they were going to fight together with the Palestinians, Arabs who
         followed the Sunni orientation, more concretely with ABU HASAN,
         although he would have some help from HEZBOLLAH, the camps would
         be separated.76(Abu Hasan appears on bin Ladin‘s satellite phone records,
         and he is further discussed in Chapter 8)

It would be imprudent to say ideology is ever definitive, as people regularly make

compromises, particularly when they are in difficult situations. Certainly Shi‘a Iran has

been a major backer of Sunni Palestinian terrorism against Israel. Yet at the same time,

the Sunni-Shi‘a split is significant for Muslims.


Iraqi contacts with bin Ladin?

Steven Simon, senior director for Counterterrorism in the Clinton White House, writes,

"The years when bin Laden was establishing himself in Sudan also happened to be a time

when there was a lot of Iraqi-Sudanese activity."77 Stan Bedlington, a senior analyst at

the CIA‘s Counterterrorist Center told Steve Coll, ―The Iraqis were active in Sudan in

giving bin Laden assistance. A colleague of mine was chief of operations for Africa and

knew it extremely well. He said the relationship between Sudan and the Iraqis was very,

very close indeed . . . Basically, the Iraqis were looking for anti-American partners and

targets of opportunity in places like Sudan.‖78

         A few documents suggesting contacts between Iraq and bin Ladin have come to

light. One document, found in Iraq, deals with this period and is of particular note. It

76
   Spanish indictment, op. cit., pp. 242-3. The spelling inconsistencies and grammatical errors are in the
original translation.
77
   ―Targeting Saddam: Was there an Iraqi 9/11 link?,‖ USA Today, December 3, 2001.
78
   Steve Coll, op. cit., p. 624.


                                                     70
was described by the New York Times. U.S. officials told the Times that it was ―an

internal report by the Iraqi intelligence service detailing efforts to seek cooperation with

several Saudi opposition groups, including Mr. bin Laden's organization, before Al

Qaeda had become a full-fledged terrorist organization.‖ As the Times explains,

           The document, which asserts that Mr. bin Laden ‗was approached by our
           side,‘ states that Mr. bin Laden previously ‗had some reservations about
           being labeled an Iraqi operative,‘ but was now willing to meet in Sudan,
           and that ‗presidential approval‘ was granted to the Iraqi security service to
           proceed. At the meeting, Mr. bin Laden requested that sermons of an anti-
           Saudi cleric be rebroadcast in Iraq. That request, the document states, was
           approved by Baghdad. Mr. bin Laden ‗also requested joint operations
           against foreign forces‘ based in Saudi Arabia.

The Times also reports that the ―Iraqis were cued to make their approach to Mr. bin

Laden in 1994 after a Sudanese official visited Uday Hussein, the leader's son, as well as

the director of Iraqi intelligence, and indicated that Mr. bin Laden was willing to meet in

Sudan. A former director of operations for Iraqi intelligence Directorate 4 met with Mr.

bin Laden on Feb. 19, 1995, the document states.‖

           The document, written after bin Ladin left Sudan for Afghanistan, notes that

―Iraqi intelligence officers began ‗seeking other channels through which to handle the

relationship, in light of his current location‘ and it concluded that ‗cooperation between

the two organizations should be allowed to develop freely through discussion and

agreement.‘‖79


In Sum

It is fashionable to talk about the centrality of groups and the irrelevance of states to

terrorism. But as we have seen, bin Ladin was never independent of his Sudanese hosts.

What he did served their purposes, and when his activities came into conflict with
79
     ―Iraqis, Seeking Foes of Saudis, Contacted bin Laden, File Says,‖ New York Times, June 25, 2004.


                                                     71
Sudanese interests—whether pressure from Libya on Khartoum to expel Libyans or

pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia to expel bin Ladin himself, bin Ladin

was obliged to accommodate Khartoum. Moreover, bin Ladin was in contact with other

intelligence services, while he was based in Sudan.

       Significantly, al Qaida never controlled territory of its own, not even in the

fashion of the Afghan warlords. With each phase, it is necessary to understand the aims

of the parties that hosted bin Ladin, and the influence they exerted on al Qaida




                                            72
                                       CHAPTER 4

        BIN LADIN’S RETURN TO AFGHANISTAN

After a new Afghan government replaced the communist regime in 1992, Gulbiddin

Hekmatyar (backed by Pakistani intelligence) took up arms against it, resulting in a

protracted civil war still ongoing, when the United States invaded Afghanistan in October

2001, in response to the 9/11 attacks. Throughout the 1990s, the training camps that had

been established in the 1980s for the war against the Soviets had continued to function,

supplying manpower for the still-warring Afghan factions. In addition, the camps

provided recruits for the fight for Islamic causes elsewhere. As a 1996 State Department

report explains:

        Afghanistan remained a training ground for Islamic militants and
        terrorists. Ahmed Shah Masood, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and Abdul Rasul
        Sayyaf all maintained training and indoctrination facilities in Afghanistan,
        mainly for non-Afghans. Individuals who trained in these camps were
        involved in insurgencies in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chechnya,
        Tajikistan, Kashmir, and the Middle East.1

A State Department cable, drafted in September 1996, directed U.S. officials who might

have contacts with the Taliban to tell them, ―We welcomed your assurance that you were

closing the terrorist and militant training camps formerly run by Hekmatyar, Sayyaf, or

Arab groups. Can you tell us the current status of those camps?‖2



1
  United States Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism: 1996, (Washington DC: Department of
State Publication, 1997), p. 3.
2
  The National Security Archive of George Washington University obtains classified documents through
FOIA requests. On its website is The September 11th Sourcebooks, Volume VII: The Taliban File,”
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 97, September 11, 2003. It includes Document


                                                  73
           Pakistani intelligence was also actively involved in the Afghan camps, supporting

a radical Pakistani organization, Harakat ul Ansar [Movement of the Supporters—ie of

the Prophet Mohammed], and training militants for the insurgency in Kashmir. In fact, in

August 1998, when the United States struck what it believed to be bin Ladin camps in

response to the embassy bombings earlier that month, Arab casualties were limited.

―Most of those killed were Pakistanis and Afghans who were training to fight in India-

controlled Kashmir,‖ Pakistani journalist, Ahmed Rashid reports.3 Indeed, only two of

the targeted camps (Abu Jindal and al Faruq) were used exclusively by Arabs, according

to the British journalist, Jason Burke.4 The complex nature of what was going on in

Afghanistan is regularly overlooked. Indeed, Burke complains:

           Currently, the dozens of facilities where militants trained in the 1990 to
           1996 period are referred to as ‗bin Laden camps.‘ The implication is that
           all those who trained there during this period and the terrorist acts that
           many committed at the time or went on to commit later, were instigated,
           inspired, facilitated, indeed even directly commissioned by bin Laden. Yet
           there is no evidence for any significant involvement of bin Laden in the
           dozens of establishments set up by Afghan and Pakistani religious
           hardliners at the time.5

Burke claims that two Arab camps—among the camps the U.S. struck in 1998 –were

initially run by Egyptians with financial backing from wealthy Gulf Arabs. After al

Qaida returned to Afghanistan in 1996, Ayman al-Zawahiri helped bin Ladin take them

over, Burke says.6 But just who were these Egyptians? Burke provides no further

details.




17, ―Dealing with the Taliban in Kabul,‖ U.S Department of State Cable, September 18, 1996. Posted at
http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB97/index.htm#doc2
3
  Ahmed Rashid, op. cit., p. 75.
4
  Jason Burke, op. cit., p. 169.
5
  Ibid, p. 21.
6
  Ibid, p. 152.


                                                  74
        A former Libyan militant, now living in London, Noman Benotman, once a

member of the leadership of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, fought in Afghanistan

from 1989 until 1994. Asked whether his group had ties to bin Ladin, Benotman replied,

―The Muqatilah [fighters] did not have any meaningful connections to Bin Laden or the

people around him. Also I would like to challenge the notion prevalent in the West that

Bin Laden was the leader of the Arab Mujahideen. There were several important Arab

groups and they all had their own leaders.‖7

        Indeed, it was not until Ahmed Ressam began cooperating with U.S. officials in

the summer of 2001 that the U.S. bureaucracies began to return to an earlier

understanding that the jihadi activity in Afghanistan involved much more than just al

Qaida, as discussed in Chapter 1.

        In short, there is a very great deal that we do not know regarding what was

happening in Afghanistan in the 1990s. In the 1980s, the United States maintained one of

the few Western embassies in Kabul, but Washington closed the embassy in 1988,

thinking the communist regime would soon fall and the embassy would reopen shortly.

The CIA station in Islamabad became responsible for Afghanistan. As retired CIA

official Gary Schroen explains, the Islamabad station did ―a little reporting‖ on the

country, but it was ―primarily focused‖ on the drug trade.8 That would not change until

1996, when bin Ladin returned to Afghanistan. The United States had no reliable basis

for understanding the environment into which bin Ladin was returning, even as




7
  ―From Mujahid to Activist: An Interview with a Libyan Veteran of the Afghan Jihad,‖ Spotlight on
Terror, The Jamestown Foundation, Volume III, Issue 2, March 22, 2005.
8
  Gary Schroen, First In: An Insider’s Account of How the CIA Spearheaded the War on Terror in
Afghanistan, (New York: Ballantine Books, 2005), p. 47.


                                                   75
Afghanistan‘s anarchic condition would have rendered it fertile ground for the activities

of a variety of hostile parties, including foreign intelligence agencies.



                      The Pervasive Use of Aliases and its Implications

One of the problems in understanding developments among the militants in Afghanistan

is that pretty much everyone in the camps used aliases. Abu Ibrahim al-Suri, for

example, is the typical form for those names, and it means the father of Ibrahim, the

Syrian. One should not assume, however, that a person using that name has a son named

Ibrahim or is necessarily Syrian. All or part of the ―name‖ made be fictitious. Saif al

Islam al-Masry is a significant al Qaida commander and ―al-Masry‖ suggests he is

Egyptian (―Misr‖ is Egypt in Arabic). Yet he may not be.9 Or another example: Ramzi

Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. He was known among

the Islamic militants in New York as ―Rashid, the Iraqi,‖ but after his arrest, it became

clear that he was not Iraqi or even Arab.

         L‘Houssaine Kherchtou traveled to Pakistan in 1991. He described the typical

experience of the Muslim recruits:

         Bait al Ansar [House of the Supporters] was a guest house in which
         whenever you reach Peshawar the first day you have to go there because
         you find all the people there. The first thing you do is you take all your
         valuable things like passports, money, whatever things you have. Then
         they give you, they put it in a safe place, they give you a number, and they
         let you know many things about Afghanistan, why you are here, how long
         you have your time for training, and which camp you are going to be
         trained . . .
9
   Al-Masry‘s picture and a sound file of a wiretapped conversation were evidence in the embassy bombing
trial. Al Masry does not look particularly Egyptian and a native Arabic speaker, listening to the sound file,
described it as someone trying to sound like an Egyptian. This author lived in Egypt and the picture did not
appear to be of an Egyptian. A colleague who had also lived in Egypt and now teaches Arabic at a U.S.
government school, as well as his wife, also a Middle East expert, thought the picture was ―most likely‖ not
that of an Egyptian, even as we all recognized the limits of what could be concluded from a picture.
Personal correspondence, July 25, 2004.


                                                     76
         Q And what name did you go by when you were at Bait al Ansar in Peshawar?

         A I was, I have a nickname Abu Zaid Maghrebi. 10

Kherchtou is from Morocco (―Maghreb,‖ meaning ―west,‖ in Arabic.) In short,

individuals came to the camps from a wide range of countries. They were strangers to

each other, surrendered their identity documents to the guest houses that supported the

camps, and then assumed aliases.11 A reasonably competent intelligence agency,

particularly a Middle Eastern intelligence agency, probably could have penetrated these

people and inserted its agents among them without great difficulty.


A Terrorism Training Manual

This problem is underscored by a terrorism training manual found in a computer file by

British police in 2000, when they raided the Manchester home of Nazih al-Raghie. Al-

Raghie, also known as Anas al-Liby, left bin Ladin after Tripoli pressed Khartoum to

clamp down on the Libyans there, and he eventually obtained political asylum in Britain

(discussed in Chapter 3).12

         The undated, handwritten manual was evidence in the embassy bombing trial and

a translation was posted on the internet by the Justice Department as ―The Al Qaeda

Training Manual.‖13 The book is written in at least two different hands—but one has to




10
   United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., p. 1110.
11
   Khalid Shaykh Mohammed told US authorities that al Qaida members were required to turn in their
passports before going to the front lines in Afghanistan. If they were killed, their passports were recycled
for use by others. 9/11 and Terrorist Travel: Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
Upon the United States, 2004, p. 56.
12
   Noman Benotman claims that al-Raghie joined the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group after leaving al Qaida,
―From Mujahid to Activist: An Interview with a Libyan Veteran of the Afghan Jihad,‖ op. cit.
13
   Initially, DoJ posted the entire manual, but after 9/11, it removed the chapters dealing with the
production of explosives and poisons. Posted at: http://www.usdoj.gov/ag/trainingmanual.htm.


                                                    77
look at the Arabic original (Government Exhibit 1677) to recognize that. The first part is

quite sophisticated—as a former CIA officer remarked ―whoever wrote this manual is not

an amateur.‖14 Although the manual is supposedly intended for individuals training in

Afghanistan, it does not deal with fighting an insurgency against an army, like the Soviet

army, or even combat against other Afghan factions. Rather, its focus seems to be on

overthrowing Arab regimes, and its title page depicts the globe, oriented towards the

Middle East region. The manual is entitled, ―Military Studies in the Jihad Against

Tyrants,‖ with the subtitle, ―Declaration of Jihad against the Country‘s Tyrants: Military

Series.‖




                                                                             ―Military Studies in the Jihad Against
                                                                             Tyrants,‖ Government Exhibit 1077,
                                                                             United States v. Usama bin Laden et al




    The cover is a floral binding, with a label, ―Belongs to the guest house. Please do not remove it from
the house except with permission.‖ Possibly, these pages, which appear to be xerox copies, were copied
and bound many times over.
14
   Bob Baer, ABC News Nightline, March 19, 2002.


                                                     78
The manual deals with carrying out urban terrorism, including how to hold covert

meetings, avoid surveillance, maintain surreptitious communications, etc., and it

specifically identifies ―Sadat, Mubarak, Gadhafi, Assad, Saleh [Yemen] and Fahd [Saudi

Arabia]‖ as ―non-believing leaders.‖ 15

        The manual stresses the imperative of hiding the identities of those involved in

this activity: ―All documents of the undercover brother, such as identity cards and

passport, should be falsified.‖16 The more senior the figure, the greater the need to

conceal his identity, according to this manual. One lesson, for example, emphasizes ―not

revealing the identity of the trainer to trainees.‖17 To the extent these lessons were

implemented, individuals in some Afghan camps may have dealt with people not only

whom they did not know, but also, perhaps, whom they did not have the faintest idea of

just what they represented, including the possibility that foreign intelligence agents were

inserted among them. This could have included the agents of governments targeted by

the militants for the purpose of gathering intelligence about them. It could also have

included the agents of governments seeking to use the militants for their own purposes.

        It should also be noted that we do not really know if this training manual was, in

fact, produced by al Qaida. Nothing in this volume links it to ―al Qaida‖ or any other

specific group. Rather, the volume itself speaks of ―The Organization‖ and the ―Islamic

Military Organization,‖ generic terms. Jason Burke‘s comment about the Afghan training

camps pertains here. Pretty much everything relating to the Islamic militants in

Afghanistan is called al Qaida or is said to be al Qaida-linked or al-Qaida related. The


15
   Saddam Hussein is not among the leaders named. Government Exhibit 1677-T, United States v. Usama
bin Laden et al, p. 8.
16
   Ibid, p. 22.
17
   Ibid, p. 45.


                                                79
present, widespread use of the term ―al Qaida‖ obscures a disturbing reality: we lack any

good information about just who was doing what in Afghanistan for much of the 1990s.

        In the fall of 1996, a few months after bin Ladin‘s return to Afghanistan, Gary

Schroen met with Ahmad Shah Massoud, the legendary mujahidin figure who led the

resistance to the Taliban in the 1990s and who was assassinated on the eve of the 9/11

attacks. Schroen had known Massoud from the 1980s when Schroen was in Kabul and

maintained contact with one of Massoud‘s deputies subsequently. Schroen had argued

against closing the embassy in Kabul and disengaging from Afghanistan. He took bin

Ladin‘s return to Afghanistan as an opportunity to stir Washington‘s interest in the

country and proposed meeting with Massoud to learn more about bin Ladin. The CIA‘s

Counterterrorist Center supported the notion and agreed to fund his trip.18 Massoud

cautioned Schroen against focusing too narrowly on bin Ladin. Bin Ladin‘s group, the

Afghan leader explained, ―was just one dangerous part of a wider movement of armed

Islamic radicalism,‖ which included ―Pakistani and Arab intelligence agencies.‖19

Ahmed Shah Massoud‘s emphasis on the presence of various intelligence agencies in

Afghanistan in the mid-1990s is a crucial point.


                                   Bin Ladin in Afghanistan

In May 1996, Bin Ladin left Khartoum on a leased aircraft stopping in the United Arab

Emirates to refuel, arriving in eastern Afghanistan at an airstrip near Jalalabad.20

Although the Taliban—who would seize Kabul and Jalalabad in September—controlled a


18
   Gary Schroen, op. cit., p. 57.
19
   Steve Coll, op. cit., p. 13.
20
   Bin Ladin was greeted by three local warlords, close to each of the Afghan commanders: Hekmatyar,
Sayyaf and Maulvi Yunis Khalis, whom he had known from his earlier time in Afghanistan, according to
Jason Burke, op. cit., p. 145.


                                                 80
major part of the country, bin Ladin does not seem to have known them, as he arrived in

territory under the control of commanders who had fought the Soviets and whom he

knew from those days.21 Most probably, Pakistani intelligence introduced bin Ladin to

the Taliban.22

        The Taliban were exceedingly unsophisticated and unlearned—whether in the

Koran, Islamic law, or Afghan and Islamic history.23 They were village clerics from

southern Afghanistan who held extreme—―even nutty‖—views about their religion,

including the belief that Islam forbad such activities as flying kites.24 They emerged out

of the widespread banditry that existed then with a promise to deliver swift justice.

Initially, the population welcomed them, as did Pakistani business interests that hoped the

Taliban would create a secure route for transporting goods to Central Asia, newly freed

from Soviet domination.

        Pakistani intelligence was apparently involved in supporting the Taliban from

nearly the start of their venture. That, at least, was the strong suspicion of State

Department officials in Peshawar and Islamabad. Although the Taliban denied they

received foreign support and publicly criticized the Pakistani government, one State

Department cable observes, ―Since the credibility of any Afghan organization depends on

demonstrating that it is free of foreign control, this position is not surprising.‖25 Another

cable notes, ―All visitors to Kandahar have told us they believe that the Taliban must




21
   The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 81.
22
   Ibid, pp. 64-5; Ahmed Rashid, op. cit., p. 138.
23
   Ibid, p. 93.
24
   Charles Fairbanks, author interview, January 7, 2005.
25
   ―The Taliban File,‖ op. cit., U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) cable, November 28, 1994, posted at:
http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB97/index.htm#doc2


                                                   81
have access to considerable funding.‖ The Taliban were reportedly offering officers

salaries three times that of the other commanders.26

         As the Taliban began to extend their control northward and to assume the

responsibilities of government, they encountered serious difficulties. Their support

among the Afghan population dropped precipitously. Ahmed Rashid explains:

         Within the ministries, the Taliban‘s work ethic defied description. No
         matter how serious the military or political crisis, government offices in
         Kabul and Kandahar are open for only four hours a day, from 8:00 AM to
         noon. The Taliban then break for prayers and a long afternoon siesta.
         Later, they have long social gatherings or meetings at night. Ministers‘
         desks are empty of files and government offices are empty of the public.
         Thus while hundreds of Taliban cadres and bureaucrats were involved in a
         drive to force the male population to grow long beards, nobody was
         available to answer queries in the ministries.27

As indigenous support for the Taliban flagged, they came to rely increasingly for fighters

on the non-Afghan militants, whom the Taliban allowed to settle in the territory they

controlled. Prominent among these were al Qaida, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,

and the Sipah-e-Sahaba Pakistan (the Corps of [the Prophet‘s] Companions), a virulently

anti-Shia group, which maintains that the Shia are, in fact, not Muslims.28 In particular,

al Qaida maintained a unit—―the 055 Brigade‖—which provided fighters for the Taliban,

who were considered quite effective, at least in an Afghan context. This is a far different

assessment of the capabilities of the Arab fighters in the 1980s and suggests their training

and skills improved significantly over the decade.

         U.S. authorities initially believed that bin Ladin‘s expulsion to Afghanistan had

effectively neutralized him. Indeed, the move did impose great difficulties. Some al


26
   ―The Taliban File,‖ op. cit., U. S. Embassy (Islamabad) cable, January 26. 1995, posted at:
http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB97/tal6.pdf
27
   Ahmed Rashid, op. cit., p. 101.
28
   Ibid, p. 92.


                                                     82
Qaida members did not follow him. L‘Houssaine Kherchtou explained that they felt

there would be nothing to do in Afghanistan and those with families were concerned

about the lack of basic facilities, including schools for their children.29 Living conditions

in Afghanistan were more primitive than in Khartoum and international communications

were practically non-existent. The 9/11 Commission described bin Ladin‘s predicament,

following his expulsion from Sudan:

        Bin Ladin was in his weakest position since his early days in the war
        against the Soviet Union. The Sudanese government had cancelled the
        registration of the main business enterprises he had set up there and then
        put some of them for public sale. According to a senior al Qaeda detainee,
        the government of Sudan seized everything Bin Ladin had possessed
        there. . . . [S]ome al Qaeda members viewed Bin Laden‘s return to
        Afghanistan as occasion to go off in their own directions. Some
        maintained collaborative relationships with al Qaeda, but many
        disengaged entirely 30

Robert Fisk, the Independent‘s long-time Middle East correspondent, interviewed bin

Ladin in Sudan in 1993 in what was bin Ladin‘s first interview with a Western reporter.

Fisk‘s sympathetic portrait described bin Ladin as a ―shy man.‖31

        In the summer of 1996, Fisk interviewed bin Ladin in Afghanistan. He was no

longer shy, but openly defiant, determined to overthrow the Saudi monarchy and drive

the United States out of the country. ―For bin Ladin the betrayal of the Saudi people,

began 24 years before his birth, when Abdul Aziz al-Saud proclaimed his kingdom,‖ Fisk

explains. ―Our country has become an American colony,‖ bin Ladin affirmed. ―What

happened in Riyadh and Khobar when 24 Americans were killed in two bombings is clear

evidence of the huge anger of Saudi people against America.‖ Bin Ladin was too

extreme even for Fisk, a left-leaning Arabist, generally more sympathetic to third-world

29
   United States v. Usama bin Laden et al, op. cit., p. 1286.
30
   The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 65.
31
   ―Anti-Soviet warrior puts his army on the road to peace,‖ Independent, December 6, 1993.


                                                   83
causes than American ones. When bin Ladin compared the opposition to the United

States that he hoped to generate in Saudi Arabia with the European resistance to Nazi

occupation, Fisk protested that the comparison was ―historically and morally wrong.‖32

Bin Ladin boasted that he would be able to carry out his campaign by fax and telephone.

Fisk dismissed his claim as ―somewhat rash,‖ because ―there is not a single international

telephone line in Nangarhar province‖ and concluded, ―Osama Bin Laden has chosen a

dangerous exile.‖33

         There is an enormous paradox behind bin Ladin‘s exile to Afghanistan: on the one

hand, he was removed to a remote and difficult region, lacking the most basic facilities,

including international communications, and he was thought to have been very much

weakened. On the other hand, bin Ladin soon managed to commit major attacks against

the United States, including one of the most lethal foreign assaults in U.S. history.


Declaration of Jihad

Bin Ladin‘s interview with Robert Fisk was a foretaste of the blustery, angry tone he

would assume in Afghanistan. On August 23, 1996, bin Ladin issued a 23-page

statement entitled, ―Declaration of Jihad Against the Americans Occupying the Land of

the Two Holy Places.‖ It was subtitled ―A message from Usama bin Mohammed bin

Ladin to his Muslim brethren world wide and especially in the Arabian Peninsula.‖34 The

London paper, al Quds al Arabi published excerpts from the bayan—Arabic for




32
   ―Why we reject the West - By the Saudis' fiercest Arab critic,‖ Independent, July 10, 1996.
33
    Ibid; ―Small comfort in Saudi rebel's dangerous exile,‖ Independent, July 11, 1996.
34
   Government Exhibit 1628 (Arabic), 1628-T, (English), United States v. Usama bin Laden et al. It may
be entirely a coincidence, but bin Ladin‘s ―Declaration of Jihad‖ followed little more than a week after the
State Department issued an August 14, 1996, factsheet about him, the first formal public U.S. statement
about the Saudi renegade.


                                                     84
―declaration,‖ as issued by a political authority, as opposed to a fatwa, which is a

religious ruling, issued by an Islamic authority.

         Such public bellicosity from bin Ladin was something new. As the Independent

reported, ―To the shock of many of his supporters, the Saudi dissident Osama Bin Laden

has called for a ‗holy war‘ against the US inside Saudi Arabia and for ‗swift and light

forces working in complete secrecy‘ to strike against what he calls the ‗crusader‘ army in

the Gulf states.‖ Bin Ladin‘s declaration came as a ―profound surprise‖ to his supporters

in the Advice and Reformation Committee. ―We do not think this is the right moment to

start a conflict with the (Saudi) regime,‖ the British paper was told. "[W] e were all

agreed that we should try to keep the situation under control . . . and not let things get

out of hand.‖35

         The ―Declaration of Jihad‖ was amply laced with quotations from the Koran and

other Islamic texts and replete with footnotes.36 The American journalist Steven Emerson

gushed, ―The Epistle is a remarkable document. It revealed a hitherto unexpressed

articulateness in bin Laden. In fact, it was so brilliant that bin Laden was forced to

defend himself from public charges in the Islamic community that he had used a ghost-

writer.‖37

         Bin Ladin directed his complaints against the Saudi government, which had

―nullified the shari‘a and replaced it with secular laws‖ and had allowed the ―American

Crusader forces to stay for many years.‖ The Saudi government was ―dominated by


35
   ―Saudi calls for jihad against US 'crusader'; Iraq is not the only source of concern for America in the
Gulf,‖ Independent, September 2, 1996.
36
   It begins with a Koranic verse, ―To those against whom war is made, permission is given (to fight),
because they are wronged, and, truly, Allah is most powerful for their aid. ― Two years later, the Iraqi
government would begin an angry statement demanding the lifting of sanctions with the same verse, as
discussed in Chapter 8.
37
   Steven Emerson, op. cit., p. 148.


                                                     85
apathy and corruption‖ and the economy was failing.38 Yet, as bin Ladin wrote,

―Everyone agrees that the shadow of a stick cannot be straightened as long as the stick is

crooked.‖

        That statement is the rationale for attacking the United States: it is the United

States which maintains the al-Saud in power, or so bin Ladin claimed. This line of

thinking is not new for Islamic militants. They regularly seek to place their battle

against their own governments in the context of a religious war against Christians, ie the

Crusader forces, so as to delegitimize the governments they are trying to overthrow.

They also regularly blame the West for the shortcomings of their own societies. Indeed,

three years before bin Ladin issued his declaration, the U.S. government charged that

Shaykh Omar Abdul Rahman, head of Egypt‘s Islamic Group, had ―declared Jihad

against the United States‖ and ―to Rahman, America is the ‗infidel‘ leader of the West

and the raison d‘etre for Israel and the Mubarak government in Egypt.‖39 Bin Ladin‘s

statement contained little new. It was the long-established rhetorical posture of Islamic

militants—however, bin Ladin would reverse the established priorities of the Islamic

militants.

        Traditionally, their first priorities had been to seize power in their own countries

or ―liberate‖ Muslim-inhabited territory from non-Muslim control. If they achieved the

initial goal, they might then take on the United States, as Ayatollah Khomeini did in Iran.




38
   Bin Ladin also cited at length a petition that conservative critics of the Saudi regime had presented to
King Fahd in the summer of 1992 and denounced the imprisonment of two prominent radical Saudi clerics,
Salman Auda and Safar al-Hawali (the latter helped inspire a young Saudi who was involved in the 1998
US embassy bombings, as discussed in Chapter 8).
39
   ―Government‘s Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant‘s Pretrial Motions (Phase I), United
States of America v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al, S3 93 Cr. 181 (MEM), p. 6.


                                                    86
Bin Ladin‘s novelty was to declare openly that attacking the United States was his top

priority—and then actually do so in spectacular fashion.

        As Hebrew University‘s Emmanuel Sivan, Israel‘s leading scholar of radical

Islam, observes, ―Almost all radical Islamic movements, except for the Algerian Salafist

Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC) and perhaps also the Indonesian Jama‘a

Islamiyya, hold grave reservations about al Qaeda strategy.‖40

        Significant elements within Egyptian Islamic Jihad rejected it, as did other Islamic

radicals, who criticized bin Ladin then, while affirming the traditional view of the Islamic

radicals:

                Omar Bakri Mohammed, leader of the al-Muhajirun [the émigrés,
                 ie the prophet Mohammed and the first Muslims who journeyed
                 with him from Mecca to Medina] in Britain, stated that while he
                 agreed that an ―international Army—Mohammed‘s Army‖ should
                 be formed, it should first be used ―to combat occupying
                 governments.‖41

                Another London-based figure (the Egyptian, Shaykh Abu Hamza
                 al-Masri, head of the Followers of the Sharia) stated: ―We all agree
                 with bin Laden on the issue of hitting the Americans and their
                 bases. But I differ with him over one issue, namely that it is the
                 ruling regimes that must be fought first because they are the ones
                 letting the Americans run amok in our countries and then a war of
                 attrition on the Americans will follow the war on the regimes.‖42

                In Pakistan the head of the hard-line Lashkar-i-Tayyaba (Army of
                 the Righteous) affirmed, ―The Holy Koran has set the itinerary for
                 the holy war. It asks Muslims to start their holy war with those
                 infidels who live nearby. Therefore, our first target should be
                 India.‖43

40
   Emmanuel Sivan, ―The Clash Within Islam,‖ Survival, March 2003.
41
   Quoted in Anonymous (Michael Scheuer), Through Our Enemies’ Eyes: Osama bin Laden, Radical
Islam, and the Future of America, (Washington DC: Brassey‘s Inc, 2002), p. 176. Following the July 7,
2005, bombings in London, Omar Bakri praised the bombers and then left Britain for Lebanon, as British
authorities threatened to expel him. It was then revealed that he had received some 300,000 pounds of
benefits during his 19 years in Britain and that he was expecting a heart operation through Britain‘s
National Health Service.
42
   Quoted in ibid, p. 176. Al-Masri was arrested in 2002, following a U.S. indictment.
43
   Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, quoted in ibid, p. 176.


                                                  87
                Another radical Pakistani, the leader of the equally hard-line Harakat al-
                 Mujahedin (the Mujahedin Movement) stated, ―I need mujahedin who can
                 fight for the liberation of Kashmir. . . So marry for jihad, give birth for
                 jihad and earn money only for jihad till the cruelty of America and India
                 ends. But India first.‖44

        In addition to reversing these established priorities in his ―Declaration of Jihad,‖

bin Ladin also condemned the 1991 war against Iraq, claiming that sanctions had killed

―more than 600,000 Iraqi children.‖ The month before, he had told Robert Fisk, ―We, as

Muslims, do not like the Iraqi regime but we think that the Iraqi people and their children

are our brothers and we care about their future."45 Bin Ladin did not repeat that criticism

of Saddam in his ―Declaration of Jihad.‖ Rather, he offered a rational for working with

―immoral leaders or highly unscrupulous soldiers‖ because that may be necessary to

avoid defeat (further discussed in Chapter 10).

        How bin Ladin intended to operationalize his ambitious declaration was unclear,

unless perhaps he was prepared to deal with ―immoral leaders or highly unscrupulous

soldiers.‖ Just the year before, his London representative, Khalid al-Fawwaz had decried

their lack of organizational infrastructure within Saudi Arabia, as described in Chapter 3.

The American journalist, Jonathan Randal suggests that bin Ladin took on ―the United

States on American soil only after despairing of overthrowing the Al-Saud at home.‖46

        Adel Abdel Bary Atwan, editor of al Quds al Arabi, visited bin Ladin in

November 1996 and politely raised this question, ―You are launching these threats from

2,500 meters up in the Afghan mountains, 2,000 miles or more from the Arab region. Do




44
   Maulana Masood Azhar, quoted in ibid, p. 176.
45
   ―Why we reject the West - By the Saudis' fiercest Arab critic,‖ op. cit.
46
   Jonathan Randal, Osama: The Making of a Terrorist (New York: Knopf, 2004), p. 35.


                                                 88
you believe that there is something which is difficult to understand here?‖47 And as hard

as it may be now to recapture perceptions of the mid-1990s, Atwan also suggested to bin

Ladin, ―It is clear that the tide of Islamic moderation is expanding while extremism is

declining. Are you not thinking of reconsidering your calculations and admitting the

failure of extremism in Algeria, Egypt and elsewhere?‖48 Those countries which had

faced a wave of violence following the return of the Arab Afghans after the Soviet defeat

had, indeed, made substantial progress in combating that violence.


Mohammed Atef’s Report: One Indication of Bin Ladin’s Difficulties

The difficulties the move to Afghanistan created for al Qaida are reflected in a report

written by Mohammed Atef, who became al Qaida‘s military commander in May 1996,

following the death of his predecessor in a ferryboat accident. Atef‘s undated report,

apparently written in early 1997, has the stated purpose of presenting a positive image of

the Taliban, because ―the media [have] portrayed an untrue image.‖ 49 Atef‘s report,

addressed to Arabs, underscores that al Qaida was predominantly an Arab organization.

        Of the Taliban, Atef writes, ―Their position towards the Arabs who fought jihad

in Afghanistan is an excellent one, a great welcome and an acknowledgment of what the

Arab mujahideen have sacrificed and their right to stay in Afghanistan as Muslims and as

mujahideen.‖ He also claims that the Taliban ―are graduates of the Arab schools‖

—which was not true.50



47
   Al Quds Al Arabi, November 27, 1996, reported as ―Saudi dissident Usamah Bin Ladin interviewed on
attacks against US forces,‖ BBC Summary of World Broadcasts, November 29.
48
   Ibid.
49
   Government Exhibit 300-B, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al. The report, found on Wadih El
Hage‘s computer in al Qaida‘s Nairobi office during an August 1997 raid, offers congratulations on ―the
blessed Fitr holiday,‖ which in 1997 fell in early February.
50
   Ibid.


                                                   89
         Atef presents a plausible account of how the Taliban were regarded in southern

Afghanistan, but not further north, including Kabul, or in the west: ―The movement

emerged and its nucleus came into being in the city of Qandahar as a reaction to the

corruption, oppression and injustice,‖ Atef writes. ―They stripped them [bandits] of their

weapons and carried out the punishment on whomever deserved it. They ordered the

people to pray, and declared the implementation of Islamic Law. Furthermore, they held

the former leaders financially accountable. Thus security spread like never before.‖51

         Atef portrays Afghanistan‘s civil war as a fight between the godly and the

ungodly, ―The situation in Northern Afghanistan is very bad. The inhabitants are calling

for help against Dostum [the Uzbek mujahidin commander] and Massoud . . . The forces

of Massoud, Dostum and some of Sayyaf‘s former forces were corrupted during the

period in which they ruled Kabul and consequently the vices have spread among them.‖52

Atef praises the Taliban for ―abolishing television, music and other forms of corruption,‖

measures that appealed to al Qaida‘s members, but not to much of the Afghan population,

which bitterly resented them.53

         In his report, Atef comments briefly on the weaknesses of the Taliban and notes

that they lack ―administrative or organizational or political expertise.‖54 Al Qaida was,

indeed, significantly more sophisticated and worldly than the village mullahs.



51
   Ibid. A State Department report, written at roughly the same time, explains that the Taliban exercised a
plausible rule in Kandahar, ―Life is not so bad, and the people of Kandahar would be crazy not to prefer
Taliban theocracy to factional warfare and rule by brigands, as existed in Kandahar from 1992 to 1994.‖
The same report, however, notes that the Taliban were an ―occupying force‖ in Kabul and Herat.‖ ―The
Taliban File,‖ op. cit., Document 21, U.S. Embassy (Islamabad) Cable, ―Scenesetter for your visit to
Islamabad: Afghan Angle,‖ January 16, 1997, posted at:
http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB97/tal21.pdf
52
   Government Exhibit 300-B, op. cit.
53
   Ibid.
54
   Ibid.


                                                     90
Other Evidence of Difficulties: Documents Discovered after 9/11

Allan Cullison, a Wall Street Journal reporter who covered the U.S. war in Afghanistan,

provides other, substantial evidence of the difficulties that al Qaida faced after it returned

to Afghanistan. Cullison‘s information comes from a desktop computer that had

belonged to the al Qaida leadership, which he managed to obtain in Kabul after the fall of

the Taliban. It had been used mostly by Ayman al-Zawahiri and contained nearly a

thousand documents, going back to 1997.

        A few authors have written work based on documents found in various Islamic

camps—like training manuals and letters from fighters—but this effort has not produced

any major insights. Jason Burke, for example, obtained letters from a site near Khost,

known as ―the Arab camp.‖ Burke remarks, ―Many of the letters are poorly written and

ungrammatical, even by those for whom Arabic is their first language.‖55 Martha Brill

Olcott, a prominent Central Asian scholar, obtained ten notebooks belonging to the

Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, whom the Taliban allowed to maintain training

facilities in Afghanistan, although her material came largely from camps in Uzbekistan‘s

Fergana valley. Olcott‘s most interesting observation is that the material was parochial,

focused on Uzbek, rather than broader Islamic concerns.56

        Cullison‘s work is, thus, very distinct, based as it is on documents written by or to

high level al Qaida figures, and his conclusions are startling and unique. They are quite

at odds with the prevailing ―Manson family‖ view of al Qaida, first promoted by Michael




55
  Jason Burke, op. cit., p. 155.
56
  Martha Brill Olcott and Bakhtiyar Babajanov, ―The Terrorist Notebooks,‖ Foreign Policy, March/April
2003.


                                                  91
Scheuer and the bin Ladin unit. Given the authority of his sources, Cullison‘s work

merits far more attention than it has received.

        ―Perhaps one of the most important insights to emerge from the [al Qaida]

computer is that 9/11 sprang not so much from al Qaida‘s strengths as from its

weaknesses,‖ Cullison writes.57 The aim of the 9/11 attacks was to put an end to bitter

internal rivalries through a spectacular assault, in Cullison‘s view. This assessment is

consistent with a statement by Khalid Shaykh Mohammed (KSM), mastermind of the

9/11 attacks, to his interrogators: the 1998 embassy bombings and the 2000 bombing of

the USS Cole were a ―recruiting bonanza‖ for al Qaida.58 Bin Ladin‘s declarations did

not attract much of a following—it was actual acts of terrorism that brought him renown.

        Rahimullah Yusufzai, a Peshawar-based Pakistani journalist, spoke with Cullison.

In May 1998, al Qaida smuggled the Pakistani reporter into Afghanistan to attend a press

conference bin Ladin was to give at a camp near Khost. After secreting Yousefzai into

the country, al Qaida kept him waiting several days, before he was

        driven for five hours over trackless terrain to an encampment swarming
        with armed men. Mr. bin Laden made a dramatic entry in a Japanese-built
        pickup, protected by about two dozen bodyguards, and, after a burst of
        celebratory gunfire, delivered a tirade against the U.S. and Israel. It was
        impressive, the Pakistani journalist remembers, but also "total theater." He
        says the place they ended up was just a short distance from where they
        started—the five-hour journey a ruse to make it seem Mr. bin Laden
        controlled a remote and secret stretch of Afghan territory. The throng of
        armed men, he adds, weren't al Qaeda fighters but local Afghans recruited
        as extras. "I speak the language so I could talk to them. They were
        ordinary Afghans," he says. Mr. bin Laden had "stage-managed the whole
        thing."59



57
   Alan Cullison, ―Inside al Qaeda‘s Hard Drive,‖ The Atlantic Monthly, September 2004.
58
   The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 490.
59
   ―A Once-Stormy Terror Alliance Was Solidified By Cruise Missiles,‖ Wall Street Journal, August 2,
2004.


                                                  92
Mullah Omar was furious when he learned of the press conference from a BBC broadcast

and called Yusufzai to hear what bin Ladin had said. "How can he hold a press

conference without my permission? There is only one ruler. Is it me or Osama?" Mullah

Omar protested. The Taliban leader ―particularly resented Mr. bin Laden's flamboyant

grandstanding—his blood-curdling declarations against America, phony fatwas for which

he had no religious authority, and news conferences scripted to exaggerate his power,‖

Yusufzai explained.60

         Jason Burke reports similarly, ―Many senior Taliban figures were angry at the

unwanted attention bin Laden was bringing them.‖ Mullah Omar was ―particularly

irritated by bin Laden‘s issuing fatwas.‖61

         Indeed, one document from al-Zawahiri‘s computer illustrates precisely this point.

Dated July 19, 1999, and written by two individuals identified as Abu Musab al-Suri and

Abu Khaled al-Suri, it was sent to bin Ladin via al-Zawahiri. It complains of bin Ladin‘s

―obstinacy, egotism, and pursuit of internal battles‖ and asserts that bin Ladin‘s

―‘troublemaking‘ had so frayed relations with Mullah Omar that the Taliban had shut

down one Arab camp.”62 Cullison quotes the letter at length:

         The results of the crisis can be felt even here in Kabul and other places.
         Talk about closing down [all] the camps has spread. Discontent with the
         Arabs has become clear. Whispers between the Taliban and some of our
         non-Arab brothers has become customary. In short our brother Abu
         Abdullah‘s [bin Ladin‘s] latest troublemaking with the Taliban and the
         Leader of the Faithful [Mullah Omar] jeopardizes the Arabs, and the Arab
         presence today in all of Afghanistan, for no good reason. . . .
           The strangest thing I have heard so far is Abu Abdullah‘s saying that he
         wouldn‘t listen to the Leader of the Faithful when he asked him to stop


60
   Ibid.
61
   Jason Burke, op. cit., pp, 164-5. Burke‘s footnote for this information is ―Multiple interviews with senior
Taliban officials, Kabul, Kandahar, Heart, and Jalalabad, 1998-9.‖
62
   ―A Once-Stormy Terror Alliance,‖ op. cit.


                                                     93
        giving interviews. . . . I think our brother [bin Laden] has caught the
        disease of [TV] screens, flashes, fans and applause . . .
          The only solution out of this dilemma is what a number of
        knowledgeable and experienced people have agreed upon . . .
          Abu Abdullah should go to the Leader of the Faithful with some of his
        brothers and tell them . . . the Leader of the Faithful was right when he
        asked you to refrain from interviews, announcements, and media
        encounters, and that you will help the Taliban as much as you can in their
        battle, until they achieve control over Afghanistan.
          You should apologize for any inconvenience or pressure you have
        caused . . . and commit to the wishes and orders of the leader of the
        Faithful on matters that concern his circumstances here. . .
          The Leader of the Faithful, who should be obeyed where he reigns is
        Muhammad Omar, not Osama bin Laden. Osama bin Laden and his
        companions are only guests seeking refuge and have to adhere to the terms
        laid out by the person who provided it for them. This is legitimate and
        logical.63

        Nor were conditions in Afghanistan particularly agreeable to the Arabs. The

region was primitive compared to their own countries. ―This place is worse than a

tomb,‖ one Egyptian wrote comrades back home. It ―is not suitable for work.‖64 A top

lieutenant (Morgan al-Gohari) wrote al-Zawahiri, ―Can any of your work be done there in

view of the lack of facilities?‖65 In April 1998, a Yemeni-based militant (Tariq Anwar)

attended a meeting in Afghanistan. He wrote back to friends in Yemen (and one should

bear in mind that by many standards, Yemen is itself fairly primitive)

        I send you my greetings from beyond the swamps to your country, where
        there is progress and civilization . . . You should excuse us for not calling.
        There are many reasons, the most important of which is the difficulty of
        calling from this country. We have to go to the city, which involves a
        number of stages. The first stage involves arranging for a car (as we don‘t
        have a car). Of course, we are bound by the time the car is leaving,
        regardless of the time we want to leave. The second stage involves
        waiting for the car (we wait for the car, and it may be hours late or arrive
        before the agreed time). The next stage is the trip itself, when we sit like
        sardines in a can. Most of the time I have 1/8 of a chair, and the road is
        very bad. After all this suffering, the last stage is reaching a humble

63
   Alan Cullison, op. cit.
64
   ―A Once-Stormy Terror Alliance,‖ op. cit.
65
   Ibid.


                                               94
         government communications office. Most of the time, there is some kind
         of failure—either the power is off; the lines out of order, or the
         neighboring country [through which the connection is made] does not
         reply. Only in rare cases can we make problem-free calls.66

Documents from the embassy bombing trial reflect similar problems. In April 1997, a

senior al Qaida figure (Saif al Islam al-Masry) complained that he couldn‘t get through

on the satellite phone to the al Qaida leadership in Afghanistan, ―We have work to do.

It is disruptive.‖67 In August 1997, it became publicly known that a senior al Qaida

figure had defected to the Saudis. This alarmed Wadih El Hage‘s young assistant in

Nairobi, who wrote the al Qaida leadership, "We ask you to keep in touch with us

through the Internet from Pakistan . . . Or you can do as Abdel Sabbur [Wadih El Hage]

did when he faxed his family from the border city next to you [Peshawar]. We want to

hear your good words and we are afraid of being disconnected."68

         Al Qaida‘s communications problems could only have grown worse after

America‘s August 20, 1998, missile strike on the Afghan camps. Although U.S. officials

suggested that the strike came after they learned of a meeting of al Qaida‘s leadership,

bin Ladin‘s satellite telephone records suggest another explanation. Bin Ladin and those

with access to his phone spent more time talking on the phone that day than on any other

day following the embassy bombings. It did not take extraordinary insight to recognize

the likely connection between the use of the phone and the U.S. strike. In early 1999, the

Pakistani journalist Rahimullah Yusufzai met with bin Ladin for the first interview he




66
   Alan Cullison, op. cit.
67
   Government Exhibit 217b, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al. Similarly, from Afghanistan, al-
Zawahiri sent a message in August 1997 to ―Brother Sharif,‖ stating, ―Don‘t worry if I am late in calling
you, as you know there are few phones here, and one should be afraid to talk with you during these
situations.‖ Government Exhibit 300A-T, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
68
   Ibid.


                                                    95
had given since the attacks. Yusufzai noted that bin Ladin‘s satellite phone ―sits mostly

idle: he fears the U.S. would use the signal to target an attack69


Egyptian Islamic Jihad

While al Qaida was based in Sudan, Egyptians within al Qaida were given preferential

treatment, although they were not necessarily members of Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ),

which had an independent existence. After bin Ladin moved to Afghanistan, al-

Zawahiri settled there too, and relations between the two organizations grew closer. Al-

Zawahiri was one of the signatories to bin Ladin‘s February 1998 ―fatwa‖ calling on

Muslims to kill Americans, which proved preliminary to the August 7, 1998, embassy

bombings. The close ties between Islamic Jihad and al Qaida, however, created strains

within EIJ, as a number of the Egyptian militants wanted to focus their efforts on Egypt.

They viewed the attacks on the United States not only as a distraction, but one that

caused them harm. It prompted the United States to work more vigorously with Egyptian

authorities in pursuing the Egyptian militants.

           This dispute within EIJ over ties with al Qaida actually resulted in the ousting of

al-Zawahiri from the leadership position in the summer of 1999. He was replaced with

another veteran figure, Tharwat Shehata, who wanted to focus EIJ‘s fight on Egypt.

Money was scarce, however, and morale within EIJ ranks remained low. In the spring of

2001, al-Zawahiri reassumed leadership of the organization. Al-Zawahiri proceeded to

formally merge EIJ with al Qaida in June 2001. In an obliquely-worded note, dated May

3, 2001, al-Zawahiri describes the proposed merger to an Egyptian militant who seems to

be outside Afghanistan:


69
     ―Conversation With Terror: Interview of Osama Bin Laden,‖ Time, January 11, 1999.


                                                    96
            Among the benefits of residence here is that traders [jihadis] from all over
            gather in one place under one company, which increases familiarity and
            cooperation among them, particularly between us and the Abdullah
            Contracting Company [bin Ladin and his associates]. The latest result of
            this cooperation is . . . the offer they gave. Following is a summary of the
            offer.
               Encourage commercial activities [jihad] in the village [Egypt] to face
            foreign investors; simulate publicity; then agree on joint work to unify
            trade in our area. Close relations allowed for an open dialogue to solve
            our problems. Colleagues here believe that this is an excellent opportunity
            to encourage sales in general; and in the village in particular. They are
            keen on the success of the project. They are also hopeful that this may be
            a way out of the bottleneck to transfer our activities to the stage of
            multinationals and joint profits. We are negotiating the details with both
            sides . . .70

One EIJ member strongly objected to Zawahiri‘s plan, writing ―I disagree completely

with the issue of sales and profits. They are rather a farce of compound losses. I believe

that going on in this is a dead end, as if we were fighting ghosts or windmills. Enough of

pouring musk on barren land.‖71


                               Al Qaida’s Terrorism and WMD Programs

Al Qaida‘s involvement in major acts of anti-US terrorism does not clearly begin until

after bin Ladin moved to Afghanistan, as the next section of this project explains. Al

Qaida was not involved in the February 1993 bombing of the Trade Center, nor the plot a

few months later, for which Shaykh Omar et al. were convicted. Indeed, the 1998

embassy bombings are the first major terrorist attacks against Americans for which bin

Ladin is indicted in a U.S. court.

            Similarly, it seems that al Qaida‘s efforts to produce biological and chemical

weapons only began after al Qaida returned to Afghanistan. Three such programs have

come to light. One is detailed on the al Qaida computer obtained by Alan Cullison.

70
     Alan Cullison, op. cit.
71
     Ibid.


                                                97
Documents on that computer describe the start in 1999 of an effort to produce biological

and/or chemical agents, which was code-named ―al Zabadi‖ (a watery, unsweetened

yogurt, eaten throughout the Middle East.) This program was very small, with a

proposed start-up budget of $2,000-$4,000. Initially, al-Zawahiri studied foreign medical

journals and provided Arabic summaries for Mohammed Atef. One note from al-

Zawahiri, addressed to Atef and dated April 15, 1999, explains:


             I have read the majority of the book . . . [It] is undoubtedly useful. It
             emphasizes a number of important facts, such as:
             a) The enemy started thinking about these weapons before WWI.
           Despite their extreme danger, we only became aware of them when the
           enemy drew our attention to them by repeatedly expressing concerns that
           they can be produced simply with easily available materials (italics
           added). . .
             b) The destructive power of these weapons is no less than that of nuclear
           weapons.
             c) A germ attack is often detected days after it occurs, which raises the
           number of victims.
             d) Defense against such weapons is very difficult, particularly if large
           quantities are used . . .
                I would like to emphasize what we previously discussed—that looking
           for a specialist is the fastest, safest, and cheapest way. Simultaneously, we
           should conduct a search on our own. . . Along these lines, the book guided
           me to a number of references that I am attaching. Perhaps you can find
           someone to obtain them.72

           A May 23, 1999, note written under an alias used by al-Zawahiri describes some

―very useful ideas‖ that came out of a meeting with Abu Khabab, the alias of a 46-year

old Egyptian scientist, Midhat Mursi al-Sayid Umar. Umar gave al-Zawahiri a computer

disk describing how to produce a nerve gas from insecticides and a chemical additive.73




72
     Ibid.
73
     ―Computer in Kabul holds chilling memos,‖ Wall Street Journal, December 31, 2001.


                                                    98
Umar had experimented with nerve gas on dogs and rabbits at a camp near Jalalabad,

according to U.S. officials.74

        Al-Zawahiri‘s project, however, was not even remotely successful. A June 1999

memo from al-Zawahiri to Atef provides instructions for building a laboratory, including

the direction that the walls be covered with oil paint and the floors with tiles or cement

―to facilitate cleaning with insecticides.‖ The memo also states that ―construction should

not start until electricity is installed.‖75 A progress report the same month complains that

the use of nonspecialists had ―resulted in a waste of effort and money‖ and repeats the

language of al-Zawahiri‘s note two months earlier, that employing experts would be the

―fastest, safest and cheapest route.‖76


Two Other BW Programs

The 9/11 Commission reports of a second biological program that emerged from a

contact of Khalid Shaykh Mohammed (KSM), the 9/11 mastermind. In the mid-1990s,

KSM established ties with an Indonesian militant, known as Hambali, in the context of

the plot to bomb a dozen U.S. airliners in Manila (further discussed in Chapter 9).

Hambali was a member of the Southeast Asian group, Jemaah Islamiya (JI), and in the

mid-1980s, he had trained in a camp belonging to the extremist Afghan leader Abdul

Rasul Sayyaf and had fought against the Soviets.

        Yazid Sufaat was a Malaysian member of JI, who obtained a bachelors degree in

biological sciences from California State University in 1987. Subsequently, Sufaat

joined the Malaysian army and reached the rank of captain, before retiring to civilian life.

74
   ‗Umar is still a fugitive and is described at:
http://www.rewardsforjustice.net/english/wanted_captured/index.cfm?page=Midhat_Mursi
75
   ―Computer in Kabul holds chilling memos,‖ op. cit.
76
   Ibid.


                                                99
In the mid-1990s, Sufaat began attending religious classes taught by Hambali. In January

2000, Sufaat hosted a meeting in his Kuala Lumpur apartment of al Qaida terrorists,

including two of the 9/11 hijackers. Hambali introduced Sufaat to al-Zawahiri in

Kandahar. In 2001, Sufaat spent ―several months trying to cultivate anthrax for al Qaeda

in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport,‖ the 9/11 Commission

reports.77

        The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding

Weapons of Mass Destruction reports on what appears to be a third biological program

run by al Qaida, which began in 1999. The Commission indicates that it cannot say very

much in its public report, because of the issue‘s extreme sensitivity. It states that ―al

Qaida‘s biological program was further along, particularly with regard to Agent X

[reportedly anthrax], than pre-war intelligence indicated.‖78 Yet it also states,

―outstanding questions remain about the extent of biological research and development in

pre-war Afghanistan, including about the reliability of the reporting described above.‖79

        It is thus difficult to understand the status of this program. Still, the capabilities

of terrorist states, like the former regime in Iraq, Iran, or Syria would be far greater than

al Qaida in this regard. The more serious danger would seem to be that an organization

like al Qaida could obtain such material from a terrorist state and essentially act as a front

for that terrorist state in carrying out a devastating attack. Indeed, the existence of a

relatively primitive unconventional weapons program could serve as a cover for material

transferred from a more sophisticated organization.


77
    The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 151.
78
   The Commission on the Intelligence Capabilities of the United States Regarding Weapons of Mass
Destruction, Report to the President of the United States, March 31, 2005, p. 269.
79
   Ibid, p. 270.


                                                 100
In Sum

The story of al Qaida‘s sojourn in Afghanistan in the five years before the 9/11 attacks is

full of uncertainties and paradoxes. We do not know just which parties were present and

established in Afghanistan prior to bin Ladin‘s arrival there, yet we tend to call almost

everything related to hostile activity in Afghanistan, ―al Qaida.‖

       Although Afghanistan was a difficult and remote environment and bin Ladin‘s

exile was expected to neutralize the danger he posed, the opposite happened. Shortly

after his arrival there, bin Ladin adopted a fiery rhetorical stance against the United States

and Saudi Arabia. Knowledgeable observers, both Arab and Western, openly questioned

bin Ladin‘s ability to act on such threats—but two years later he did, starting with the

near simultaneous bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa, then the bombing of the

U.S.S. Cole, and culminating in the 9./11 attacks themselves. Bin Ladin is far from being

the only openly avowed enemy of the United States, and even far from being America‘s

only Islamic enemy. It remains unexplained how he was the only enemy to successfully

commit such destructive acts, particularly the 9/11 attacks.




                                             101
      PART II




Major Terrorist Plots

      against

  the United States




         102
                                      CHAPTER 5

    THE 1993 WORLD TRADE CENTER BOMBING


On February 26, 1993, New York‘s World Trade Center was attacked, marking a radical

departure in America‘s experience with terrorism. The United States had had no serious

domestic terrorism threat. Prior to the Trade Center bombing, major assaults against U.S.

targets occurred abroad, and by 1993, even those attacks had declined dramatically. The

last major terrorist attack on a U.S. target had been Libya‘s downing of Pam Am 103 on

December 21, 1988.

        The 1993 Trade Center bombing also reflected a fantastically new lethal ambition

among terrorists, without precedent in prior assaults against this country, or for that

matter any other country. After his arrest in early 1995, the mastermind of that bombing,

Ramzi Yousef, told federal agents that he had aimed to topple one of the Trade Center‘s

mammoth towers onto its twin and kill 250,000 people.1 Indeed, from the placement of

the bomb-laden vehicle, the FBI had already concluded that the objective of the attack

was to bring down the towers.

        After the Trade Center bombing, some individuals within the U.S. government

saw it as a dangerous harbinger, a wake-up call as to just how serious the terrorist threat

had potentially become. Yet generally speaking, the grave nature of the threat was not

recognized. A former law enforcement official in New York centrally involved in the


1
 Statement of Abdul Basit Mahmoud Abdul Karim, FBI 302, February 7-8, 1995. (Yousef told the agents
escorting him back to New York that this was his real name).


                                                103
terrorism investigations remarked that part of the problem had been that the Clinton

administration viewed terrorism basically as a law enforcement issue not that much

different from organized crime, only needing somewhat more intelligence support.2

        The gravity of the terrorist danger is now recognized, of course, but our

understanding of the present threat is grounded in the understanding of terrorism that

developed—and quickly hardened—in the months following the Trade Center bombing.

A second bombing plot a few months later, also in New York, merely reinforced that

view. These terrorism conspiracies were treated as law enforcement matters, rather than

the national security issue they proved to be. As this chapter, and particularly the next,

will suggest, treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue—with a focus on arresting and

convicting individual perpetrators—contributed to its being understood as a law

enforcement issue.


                                 Terrorism and Criminal Trials

The job of a prosecutor is very narrow: to secure the conviction of the individual

defendants on trial. It is not to explain the bigger picture—the organization behind an

attack—which he may not understand clearly, particularly as he is not likely to be well-

versed in national security matters. The question of the bigger picture, including the key

question of the potential involvement of a state, is not the central issue in a trial, which is

focused on a determination of the guilt (or innocence) of the defendants.

        Gil Childers, the lead prosecutor in the first World Trade Center bombing trial

(Mohammed Salameh et al), once explained to a Washington audience that his trial began

2
  Gil Childers, lead prosecutor in the first World Trade Center bombing Trial (Mohammed Salameh et al),
author interview, January 25, 2005. Childers did understand the threat, as did the head of New York FBI,
the late Jim Fox, who led the investigation in New York. Fox believed the towers would be targeted again,
according to his personal assistant, Maria Aleman, author interview, January 25, 2005.


                                                  104
very early, in September 1993, just six months after the bombing (a defendant has a right

to a speedy trial and Salameh‘s attorney chose to exercise that right, believing additional

time would only help the prosecution.) An investigation into a major bombing plot is a

difficult, protracted effort and produces an enormous amount of information. Yet the law

treats an attack like the Trade Center bombing no differently than a murder. As his trial

began, Childers was still sifting through the evidence against each defendant. He did not

even have the time to give consideration to the nature of the organization behind the

Trade Center bombing.3

        This point, and other aspects of a criminal trial, has special significance for the

key question of state sponsorship of terrorism. Even if a prosecutor knows that a state is

involved in a terrorist plot, he may well judge it to be a secondary issue. The Sudanese

government was involved in the bombing conspiracy targeting the United Nations and

other New York sites in the spring of 1993 that emerged soon after the Trade Center

bombing. Two employees of Sudan‘s U.N. mission were directly involved in that plot,

but they were not indicted, because the judgment was made that Sudan would be unlikely

to lift their diplomatic immunity (further discussed in Chapter 6). Besides, Sudan‘s

involvement was irrelevant to the question of the guilt or innocence of the defendants, as

the lead prosecutor in that trial explained to the author. And although the Trade Center

bombing was included in the conspiracy with which Shaykh Omar et al. were charged, it

was similarly irrelevant whether the mastermind of the Trade Center bombing, Ramzi

Yousef, was a trained agent of a foreign power.4



3
 Gil Childers, American Enterprise Institute, October 6, 2000.
4
 Andrew McCarthy, author interview, February 24, 2005. That is, indeed, the law. The defense tried to
argue precisely this during the trial, but the judge ruled in favor of the prosecution.


                                                  105
           Criminal trials do not address the question of state sponsorship. One cannot stress

that point enough. Moreover, a major wall long existed between intelligence and

evidence. Until the passage of the Patriot Act following the 9/11 attacks, law

enforcement collected one set of information and the national security agencies collected

another, and a real-life Catch-22 resulted. The information produced by the law

enforcement investigation—the evidence—was used primarily in criminal trials, whose

main purpose was to secure convictions. Yet the evidence was far more relevant to

understanding the terrorist attacks than the intelligence collected by the national security

bureaucracies. Although their job was to understand the strategic threat—what if any

party, including a state, was involved—they could not themselves collect the information

most necessary to answer that question, because law enforcement gathered it, and a

barrier stood between the two. Moreover, even when efforts were made to breach that

wall, and they, or at least the CIA‘s Counterterrorist Center, was offered the opportunity

to explore the evidence in depth, they were not much interested for reasons rooted in

bureaucratic cultures and rivalries, as explained below.

           Since the passage of the Patriot Act, the wall between intelligence and evidence

no longer exists in theory. Yet, in practice, it is still there for many U.S. officials. As an

official within OSD explained, he can easily access the intelligence on his computer, but

the evidence is not similarly available to him. He must ask for it, piece by piece, through

the Justice Department liaison. Given the huge quantities of documents involved, that is

just too cumbersome a process for the material to be useable.5




5
    Author interview, February 15, 2005.


                                              106
                                       Al Qaida Not Involved

Neither bin Ladin nor al Qaida were involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing

The names did not come up in the original investigation, according to two individuals in

New York law enforcement involved in it.6 Indeed, bin Ladin is not, even now, indicted

for the Trade Center bombing. That is so despite a thorough inquiry conducted in the

mid-1990s into the question of any possible bin Ladin tie to the attack.

         This key point is also reflected in the CIA‘s now-famous August 6, 2001,

Presidential Daily Brief, warning about the al Qaida threat to the United States. That

PDB states, ―Clandestine, foreign government, and media reports indicate bin Laden

since 1997 has wanted to conduct terrorist attacks in the US. . . The millennium plotting

in Canada in 1999 may have been part of bin Laden's first serious attempt to implement a

terrorist strike in the U.S.‖ (italics added).

         The clear implication is that bin Ladin was not involved in the 1993 bombing

conspiracies in New York Since we now know that another figure—Abu Doha—was

behind the 1999 millennium plot, it would appear that the 9/11 strikes were bin Ladin‘s

first (spectacularly successful) attempt to attack the United States on U.S. soil.

         The Defense Department takes a similar position. Al Qaida‘s crimes against the

United Sates are detailed in military charges issued against four detainees in Guantanamo

Bay. None includes the Trade Center bombing.7 Indeed, a Pentagon source explained




6
  Author interviews January 25, 2005 (Gil Childers) and February 9, 2005 (retired FBI agent). Bin Ladin‘s
name first came up in the investigation in late 1994, but there was nothing special about it, as a number of
other names were also mentioned, including Hekmatyar.
7
  Those charged are David Hicks; Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi; Salim Ahmed Hamdan; and Ali
Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul.


                                                    107
that he knows of no information showing an al Qaida link to the major terrorist assaults

against the United States through the January 1995 Manila airline bombing plot.8


                                 The Intelligence-Evidence Divide

Although the 1993 assault on the World Trade Center did not topple the towers, it caused

very serious damage, leaving a crater five stories deep in the basement floors. The device

required real expertise to construct, suggesting a sophisticated operation. Initial arrests,

however, were made with remarkable speed, suggesting an amateurish operation.

Mohammed Salameh, the 26-year old Palestinian who rented the van that carried the

bomb, was detained just six days after the attack, as he returned to the Ryder rental

agency (for the third time) for his deposit on the leased vehicle, which he had reported

stolen on the eve of the bombing. Salameh‘s detention led to the quick arrest of two

other conspirators. The arrests had far-reaching consequences. They cut off the flow of

information from the FBI to the U.S. national security agencies, because a trial was now

pending.

           Moreover, the early arrests of Salameh and his associates caused many people to

jump to early conclusions. Just five weeks after the bombing, an American journalist

wrote what would become the dominant understanding of the event: the Trade Center

bombing was the work of a ―loose network‖ of Islamic militants. The author, Steven

Emerson, claimed that it was the first ―Egyptian fundamentalist-Palestinian terrorist

operation,‖ asserting that the ring-leader was an Egyptian, Mahmoud Abu Halima, who

had been to Afghanistan. In 1988, Abu Halima had spent a short time—two and a half




8
    Author interview, May 8, 2004.


                                               108
months—in Pakistan and Afghanistan.9 Nonetheless, Emerson fixed on that limited

connection. He also claimed that the attack was not state-sponsored.10

           Yet the investigation had just begun. As authorities would learn, Abu Halima was

not the ring-leader—he was a mere foot soldier. The ringleader—who built the bomb

and without whom it could not have been built—was Ramzi Yousef. Yousef is neither

Egyptian nor Palestinian. He is not even Arab. Yousef is Baluch, an entirely different

ethnic group—and the implications of that, along with a discussion of the Baluch, are

presented in Chapter 9.

           Thus, the theory that a ―loose network‖ was behind the World Trade Center

bombing, and then subsequent attacks, was developed and promulgated on the basis of

early, radically, incomplete information. Yet as more information emerged, it never

really changed. Moreover, the claim that the Trade Center bomb was not state-

sponsored—made in April 1993—was highly problematic. The question could scarcely

have been explored a mere six weeks into the investigation. Indeed, that conclusion was

not proven. It was merely asserted—despite the fact that America‘s prior experience

with major terrorist attacks was that they were, in fact, state-sponsored.

           Indeed, the ―loose network‖ theory was so radically unprecedented that it created

a technical problem for New York investigators. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance

Act (FISA) is used by U.S. law enforcement to wiretap the phones of agents of a foreign

country or terrorist group. As part of the investigation into the Trade Center bombing,

New York FBI sought wiretaps for individuals it deemed suspicious, but the application

for a FISA wiretap required them to name a group. What ―group‖ were they


9
    Statement of Mahmoud Abu Halima, FBI 302, July 17, 1993.
10
     Steven Emerson, ―A Terrorist Network in America,‖ New York Times, April 7, 1993.


                                                   109
investigating? There was no name. In the end, they used the name the Trade Center

bombers themselves had used to claim credit for the attack: ―Liberation Army: Fifth

Battalion,‖ although they had no illusion that such a group existed.11

           Indeed, Richard Clarke, responsible for counter-terrorism at the White House,

understood the implausibility of the ―loose network‖ claim. He describes an inter-agency

meeting shortly after the Trade Center bombing, in which he exchanged words with the

CIA representative, Winston Wiley:

           ―So, what you are telling me, I asked, ―That these guys met at a pickup
           basketball game at the Y in Brooklyn or Jersey City and decided to blow
           up the World Trade Canter ‗cuz they were bored? You expect me to
           believe that?‖

           ―Could be,‖ Wiley shrugged.12

Nonetheless, the notion that this and subsequent Islamic terrorist attacks were

the work of a ―loose network‖ predominated until 1998, when al Qaida became

the explanation for this terrorism.


No National Center of Information

Few Americans understand the radical lack of knowledge that existed about the Trade

Center bombing, even as the arrests and prosecution proceeded. That is largely because

they mistakenly attribute that bombing to Shaykh Omar Abdul Rahman, often called ―the

blind shaykh.‖ This error—and its origins in a confusion regarding the legal charges

against Shaykh Omar—are discussed in the next chapter.

           The lack of understanding within the U.S. government regarding who and what

were involved in the World Trade Center bombing was explained to the author by the


11
     Retired FBI agent, author interview, February 9, 2005.
12
     Richard Clarke, op. cit., p. 77.


                                                     110
lead prosecutor in that trial. After the trial was completed with the conviction of all four

defendants, he led a team of New York law enforcement officials to address what they

recognized to be the limits of their work. They understood that the trial had had a narrow

objective, and they thought it would be prudent to put together the two sets of

information—1) the results of the FBI investigation and 2) the intelligence gathered by

the U.S. national security agencies—to gain a better understanding of the bombing itself.

        Thus, in the spring of 1994, a team from New York met with individuals from the

CIA‘s Counterterrorist Center. The CIA officials did not use their real names and some

provided unlikely biographies. The conversation was very abstract ―at 50,000 feet‖ and

the information generally flowed one-way, this former prosecutor explained. It was not

the most comfortable environment.

        Most importantly, within the government—at the national level—there did not

seem to be a repository of knowledge regarding the people involved in the Trade Center

bombing. Washington knew Hizbollah, Hamas, and other groups—but it did not seem to

understand just what the individuals involved in this attack represented. Moreover, the

Counterterrorist Center was not that interested in what New York law enforcement had to

offer, or at least that was the view of the officials from New York. The CTC never

seemed to make a serious effort to look at everything they had gathered, and there was no

meaningful, in-depth exchange with those in New York who knew the most about the

Trade Center bombing.13



13
  Gil Childers, author interview, January 25, 2005. This author‘s own experience tends to corroborate that.
In December 1994, I presented a briefing on the Trade Center bombing for individuals within the
intelligence community, including two from the CTC. The briefing was based on the evidence from the
Trade Center bombing trial. The CTC officials had not seen that material. One man who covered the
Afghan/Pakistan region believed he had identified Ramzi Yousef, then a fugitive. He had asked the FBI for
Yousef‘s fingerprints, but they had refused to provide them. Yousef‘s fingerprints were evidence in the


                                                   111
        Indeed, it does not seem that the evidence and the intelligence related to the major

terrorist attacks of the 1990s were ever really integrated and analyzed. Daniel Benjamin

and Steven Simon, two White House staffers who dealt with terrorism during the Clinton

administration, left their posts in late 1999 and read the transcripts of a number of

terrorism trials after they had left government. They write, ―[W]e discovered information

so crucial that we were amazed that the relevant agencies did not inform us of it while we

were at the NSC.‖14       They also report that as late as 1998, a senior FBI figure

complained that no one had ever reviewed all the terrorism-related information in the

government‘s possession: the court records, as well as the intelligence.15



                                   The Trade Center Bombing

In the late 1980s, New York FBI began an investigation into the activities of the local

Islamic militants. The al-Kifah (Struggle) Center maintained an office at the al-Farouk

mosque in Brooklyn and another at the Masjid al-Salam (Mosque of Peace) in Jersey

City. El-Sayid Nosair, an Egyptian émigré, manned the Jersey City office and led the

paramilitary training the local militants conducted in rural areas of Connecticut and New

York.16 Among the functions of the al-Kifah Center was to send volunteers to

Afghanistan, under the auspices of the mujahidin Services Office.

        In November 1990, Nosair shot and killed the right-wing Israeli-American, Meir

Kahane. Nosair became a cause celebre among the New York militants, who turned out



trial, however, and the CTC official thanked me profusely after I gave them to him, saying he would fax
them to Islamabad when he got back to his office.
14
   David Benjamin and Steven Simon, op. cit., p. xiii.
15
   Ibid, p. 297.
16
    ―Government‘s Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant‘s Pretrial Motions (Phase I), op. cit.,
pp. 9, 15; United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al., op. cit., p. 14217.


                                                  112
in force during his trial the following year, when the FBI began to use another Egyptian

émigré, Emad Salem, to gather intelligence about the militants. The jury soon acquitted

Nosair of murder, despite the overwhelming evidence against him, convicting him on

assault and weapons charges only. The judge, who shared the general outrage at the

seemingly irrational verdict, handed down the longest sentence he could, and Nosair was

sent to Attica prison in early 1992.

           Nosair wanted revenge against those who had put him away, and he wanted his

friends to do something dramatic for the cause, as he had done. They visited him in

Attica, sometimes accompanied by the FBI informant Emad Salem. Nosair told them,

―You are sitting doing nothing, I did my part, what are you doing?‖17 Although Salem

was involved in an intelligence investigation, he did more than just collect information,

he encouraged the militants to violent action, volunteering his own skills and claiming he

knew how to make bombs. Thus, a bombing plot emerged in May and June of 1992, as

Nosair prodded his friends to make a dozen pipe bombs to be used to kill his judge and

other figures connected with his trial, as well as prominent New York area Jews.

Significantly, Salem was to make the pipe bombs—the others did not know how.

           Mohammed Salameh, one of the New York area militants who became involved

in the Trade Center bombing, had overstayed his U.S. visa and lived aimlessly in Jersey

City. In the United States, he had become a passionate Muslim, averting his eyes if the

television was on and covering his ears, when he heard the radio. Salameh was not very

bright. A neighbor commented that he was laughed at by his friends for being what they

called ―stupid.‖ Another acquaintance remarked, ―Someone could have set him up—a



17
     Emad Salem testimony in ibid, p. 4753.


                                              113
very strong person. . . . He‘s very innocent.‖18 After Ramzi Yousef‘s arrest, as he was

flown back to the United States, Yousef was asked why Salameh had returned for his

deposit on the van. The federal agents reported Yousef‘s response: he ―exclaimed

‗stupid!‘‖19 (Chapter 7 explains that Yousef subsequently told a friend he had ―used‖ the

other conspirators).

        Salameh comes from a long line of terrorists on his mother‘s side. His maternal

grandfather, active in the 1936 Arab revolt against the British in Palestine, later joined the

PLO and was arrested in the early 1980s by the Israelis, despite his advanced age.

Salameh‘s maternal uncle, Kadri Abu Bakr, was number two in the PLO‘s ―Western

Sector,‖ a terrorist unit within the PLO, established in the late 1960s, when the PLO was

based in Jordan (the ―Western sector‖ refers to the area west of the Jordan River—Israel

and the West Bank.) The Israelis arrested Abu Bakr for terrorism in 1968 and sentenced

him to twenty years imprisonment, but he was released in a 1986 prisoner exchange and

deported, making his way to Iraq, where he began working at the PLO‘s Baghdad office.

        As Nosair‘s pipe bombing plot progressed in the late spring of 1992, Salameh was

recruited into it. At roughly the same time, he began to make a large number of overseas

calls, sending his phone bill through the roof. Salameh‘s bill for May was $128.41; for

June it was $1,401; and $2.516.28 for July. On June 10, Salameh made the first of 46

calls to Iraq, before his phone service was cut off July 9, because he could not pay the

charges20 (see Salameh‘s phone bill on following page)




18
   ―Sketch Of Bombing Suspect: Devout, Naive, Doting Son,‖ Los Angeles Times, March 9, 1993.
19
   Abdul Basit Mahmoud Abdul Karim statement, op. cit.
20
   Government Exhibit 824, United States v. Mohammed Salameh et al.


                                                114
Government Exhibit 824, United States v. Mohammed Salameh et al.




                                115
The overwhelming bulk of Salameh‘s calls to Iraq were to his uncle, Kadri Abu Bakr.21

As Newsweek suggested, ―Many secret services could have learned of Salameh's interests

and any one of them—including Iraq's —may have sent an agent to help.‖22

        On June 21, 1992, Abdul Rahman Yasin—the sole remaining indicted fugitive in

the Trade Center bombing—received a U.S. passport.23 Abdul Rahman was born in

Indiana, when his father had been a graduate student at the University of Indiana, but he

was raised in Iraq, and in 1992 he resided in Iraq. In June 1992, Abdul Rahman

presented his birth certificate to the U.S. embassy in Amman, filled out the requisite form

(below), paid $55 and received a U.S. passport




21
   United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al., op. cit., p. 12830.
22
   ―America's Most Wanted,‖ Newsweek, July 4, 1994.
23
   Government Exhibit, United States v. Mohammed Salameh et al, (exhibit number not on copy in author‘s
possession).


                                                 116
         Government Exhibit U/I
United States v. Mohammed Salameh et al.




                  117
        Meanwhile, in Baghdad, on April 12, 1992, as a prosecution brief explains,

―Ramzi Ahmad Yousef, traveling on his Iraqi passport, obtained a visa at the Pakistani

embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, permitting him to travel to Pakistan.‖24 (The passport itself

was issued in Baghdad on September 12, 1991.) On May 22, Yousef left Iraq for Jordan,

staying there a week, then traveled to Pakistan on May 29, as the stamps in his passport

indicate (see appendix A for Yousef‘s passport).25

        Yousef‘s passport and the stamps in it are authentic. As the 9/11 Commission

report explains: "An examination of Yousef's passport by the Forensic Document Lab at

INS later reveals that the date of birth has been overwritten and the passport binding has

been cut and un-stitched, but no other alterations were detected."26 Indeed, the INS

inspector who processed Yousef at JFK testified that Yousef‘s passport ―appeared to be

valid and unaltered.‖27

        In the late summer of 1992, as Yousef and Yasin prepared their trips to the United

States, the FBI lost track of the pipe bombing plot that had begun among Nosair‘s

friends. Their informant, Emad Salem, was uncooperative. He had gone far beyond his

assignment, which was to gather intelligence. The FBI had not instructed him to build

bombs. Salem took three polygraphs and did not pass one; his best was inconclusive.28



24
   ―Government‘s Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant‘s Pretrial Motions,‖ op. cit., p. 21.
25
   Government Exhibit 614, United States v. Mohammed Salameh et al.; ibid, p. 21.
26
   9/11 and Terrorist Travel: Staff Report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the
United States, p. 62. Although this is the most authoritative official U.S. evaluation of the passport, the
information appears only in a footnote.
27
   United States v. Mohammed Salameh et al., op. cit., p. 2542. The Trade Center bombing was included
as an overt act—although not a substantive count—in the trial of Shaykh Omar et al., and the same INS
inspector testified in that trial, ―[Yousef] presented what appeared to be a valid Iraqi passport.‖ United
States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al., op. cit., p. 8253.
28
   Retired FBI agent, author interview, January 27, 2005. The break with Salem also involved an FBI
agent, Nancy Floyd, who worked on Russia. She had met Salem in the course of her work, was impressed
by him, and passed him on to the agents who covered radical Muslims. Floyd remained in contact with
Salem, however, often taking his side in disputes with the Bureau, and coaching him on how to deal with it.


                                                   118
And he refused to wear a body wire or be a witness in any trial that might result from

proceeding with a bombing plot. The Bureau cut off ties with Salem in July 1992.


Four of those Involved: Yousef, Yasin, Salameh, and Ajaj

On September 1, 1992, Yousef arrived in New York, accompanied by a Palestinian he

had recently met at an Islamic center in Islamabad.29 At Yousef‘s suggestion, his

traveling companion, Ahmad Ajaj, attempted to enter the United States on a Swedish

passport in the name of Khurram Khan. Ajaj was stopped at U.S. customs and his

luggage was found to contain jihad and terrorism-related material. Ajaj was arrested and

jailed for six months. Investigators later concluded that he was meant to serve as a

diversion to facilitate Yousef‘s entry into the United States. Perhaps, he was also meant

to link Yousef to the jihadi milieu in the minds of U.S. officials.

         Yousef—who had left Pakistan on the Khurram Khan passport and passed that

passport off to Ajaj during the flight—presented his Iraqi passport to the customs

inspectors in New York. The passport lacked a U.S. visa, and Yousef requested political

asylum. He was fingerprinted, photographed, and released on his own recognizance

pending an asylum hearing.

         Around the same time, in early September, Abdul Rahman Yasin also arrived in

New York, traveling on his new U.S. passport. Abdul Rahman went to stay at the

apartment of his brother, Musab, who lived in the same non-descript Jersey City

apartment building as Mohammed Salameh. Yousef also showed up there, moving into

Salameh‘s apartment (it has never been explained why Yousef contacted Salameh or even


Eventually, this led to her being fired. The story, as told from her side, appears in Peter Lance, 1000 Years
for Revenge: International Terrorism and the FBI: the untold story. (New York: HarperCollins, 2003).
29
   Ahmed Ajaj, Day One, (ABC News), June 27, 1994.


                                                    119
knew where to find him.) In New York, Yousef was known to Salameh and the other

militants as ―Rashid, the Iraqi.‖

        In October, Yousef and Salameh moved to another apartment in Jersey City, and

in November, Yousef started to purchase the chemicals he would use in making the

bomb. Yousef had a sophisticated knowledge of chemistry. Hawley’s Condensed

Chemical Dictionary was among Yousef‘s possessions discovered in early 1995,

following the aborted plot to bomb a dozen U.S. airliners in Manila that led to his arrest.

The 1,288 page book was first published in 1919 and Yousef had the eleventh edition,

published in 1987. The classic reference requires a substantial knowledge of chemistry to

use. After his arrest, Yousef said he had considered assassinating President Bill Clinton,

when Clinton visited Manila briefly. One way to do so, Yousef explained, was to disable

the lead car in the motorcade with a bomb place along its route and then attack the

motorcade with phosgene gas.30 In the ―P” pages of the chemistry dictionary, Yousef

had taped an insert, a few paragraphs Xeroxed from another textbook, Advanced Organic

Chemistry. The paragraphs explained how to produce phosgene.

        Former FBI Acting Director Thomas Pickard testified that Yousef has a college

chemistry degree.31 Yet according to the public record, Yousef obtained a two-year

degree in electrical engineering and did not study chemistry.32 Yousef claims he learned


30
   Yousef claimed that phosgene in liquid form could be placed in a metal container, which could be
opened with an explosive charge, rapidly disbursing the substance as a gas. Abdul Basit Mahmoud Abdul
Karim statement, op. cit.
31
   Thomas Pickard, 9/11 Commission hearing, April 13, 2004.
32
   Yousef claims to be Abdul Basit Karim, a Pakistani born and raised in Kuwait, and U.S. authorities have
accepted that claim. Karim received a two-year degree from Wales‘ Swansea Institute, and the Swansea
Institute does not even teach chemistry. Karim‘s teachers told this author in early 1996 that they did not
believe their student was the terrorist Ramzi Yousef. They told the same thing to former CIA director,
James Woolsey, in early 2001. Among other things, their view is based on physical differences between
the two. Karim was 5‘7‖; Yousef was 6‘ tall. Indeed, if Yousef is not Karim, it would be much easier to
understand how he acquired the knowledge of chemistry that enabled him to make explosives, because


                                                   120
his bomb-making skills in Afghanistan, but no individual involved in the Afghan jihad in

the late 1980s or early 1990s has reliably claimed to have even seen Yousef there.33


The Two Others Involved: Ayyad and Abu Halima

Nidal Ayyad was Salameh‘s good friend, the same age, and also a Palestinian, but Ayyad

was far more successful and settled. Ayyad had received a degree in biochemical

engineering from Rutgers University in 1991 and subsequently worked at Allied Signal, a

New Jersey-based chemical conglomerate. At the time of the bombing, Ayyad was

newly married, and his wife was pregnant. Ayyad helped to obtain some of the

chemicals that were more difficult to acquire. He also accompanied Salameh to the

Trade Center parking garage a few days before the bombing and typed and mailed the

letters in the name of the ―Liberation Army: Fifth Battalion‖ that claimed credit for the

attack.

          Mahmoud Abu Halima was a 34-year old Egyptian, who had come to the U.S.

illegally and later obtained permanent resident status through a fraud-plagued

immigration reform program. Abu Halima was a cab driver. Subsequent investigation

revealed that he was supposed to have been Nosair‘s get-away driver after Kahane‘s

murder, but Abu Halima waited in the wrong place, and after shooting Kahane, Nosair

hailed another cab, botching his escape.34 Abu Halima was active in raising money for

the Afghan mujahidin and helped Nosair organize paramilitary training for the militants.




there is nothing in Karim‘s background that explains it. Laurie Mylroie, Study of Revenge: Saddam
Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America, (Washington DC: American Enterprise Institute), pp. 208-10.
33
   The al Qaida defector Jamal al-Fadl initially told U.S. authorities that he trained with Ramzi Yousef in
Afghanistan, but upon further questioning acknowledged that that was not true (Chapter 2.)
34
   ―Government‘s Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant‘s Pretrial Motions,‖ op. cit., p. 12.


                                                    121
Following Shaykh Omar‘s arrival in the United States in July 1990, Abu Halima acted as

his driver.


                                  The Bombing and its Aftermath

On February 26, shortly after noon, Ramzi Yousef lit the fuse on the bomb parked in the

Trade Center‘s underground garage and went to Jersey City to watch. Yousef saw only

smoke rising from the area of the towers and was ―disappointed‖ to hear initial reports

that only one person had died. Yousef thought perhaps the main charge had failed.35

That was not so, of course. The bomb did immense damage, and six people died,

including a pregnant woman.


Ramzi Yousef’s Escape: through Baluchistan

Yousef worked out a careful plan of escape two months before the bombing. He left New

York the night of the attack, flying to Karachi, Pakistan, with an onward ticket to Quetta,

the capital of Pakistani Baluchistan. Based on Yousef‘s phone records, it appears that

from Quetta, Yousef traveled westwards through Pakistani Baluchistan into Iranian

Baluchistan; south to the Arabian Sea and then to Oman, after which the trail suggested

by Yousef‘s phone records ends.36




35
   Abdul Basit Mahmoud Abdul Karim statement, op. cit.
36
   Laurie Mylroie, op. cit., pp. 66-8. There is a flight from Quetta to Panjgur, a Pakistani town on the
Iranian border, which Yousef may well have taken as he traveled into Iranian Baluchistan.


                                                     122
                    Map of Ramzi Yousef‘s Suspected Escape Route




       Baluchistan is a sparsely populated, very traditional, tribal region. Yousef‘s

escape route implied that he himself was Baluch or had close ties with the Baluch, as

only under such circumstances could someone travel through this area and not call undue

attention to himself. Following Yousef‘s arrest in February 1995, it became readily

apparent that he was Baluch.


Mohammed Salameh’s Arrest

Within days of the attack, investigators discovered the charred piece of the van bearing

its vehicle identification number, enabling them to trace the van to a Ryder rental agency

in Jersey City and determine who had leased it. In fact, it turned out that Salameh had

twice contacted the Ryder office already, seeking the $400 deposit he had placed on the


                                           123
vehicle. The FBI instructed Ryder to contact Salameh and tell him that he could pick up

his money. This scenario seemed so remarkable that the FBI agents actually bet among

themselves, as to whether Salameh would show up.37 He did—and was arrested on the

morning of March 4, 1993, just six days after the bombing.


Abdul Rahman Yasin’s Escape

Following Salameh‘s arrest, the FBI did a sweep of sites associated with him, including

Musab Yasin‘s apartment, where they found his brother Abdul Rahman Yasin. New

Jersey FBI agents brought Abdul Rahman to their Newark headquarters for questioning.

The agents found him extremely helpful and allowed Abdul Rahman to return home.

         New York FBI, however, had another view. Abdul Rahman Yasin was too

helpful. The information he provided—several leads that repeatedly panned out—was

too good. In their experience, an individual with such high-quality information was most

likely a participant in the crime.38 The next evening, March 5, Abdul Rahman, traveling

on his U.S. passport, boarded a flight to Jordan. U.S. authorities later learned that he

stopped at the Iraqi embassy in Amman, where he received assistance to facilitate his

onward journey to Baghdad.39

         The dispute between the FBI‘s New York and New Jersey offices over Abdul

Rahman Yasin continued after his departure. New Jersey FBI felt that New York was

trying to discredit a valuable informant they had discovered. New Jersey FBI had Musab

come to their office several times to call his brother in Baghdad, asking him to return,




37
   Retired FBI agent, author interview, January 27, 2005.
38
   Ibid.
39
   U.S. official, author interview, September 25, 2003.


                                                   124
explaining that the FBI just had a few questions to clear up.40 Abdul Rahman seemed

agreeable in principle, saying that he just had a few personal things to take care of. He

was finally indicted in early August for his role in the bombing.

        Since the fall of Baghdad, U.S. forces have found documents showing that after

the Trade Center bombing, the Iraqi regime rewarded Abdul Rahman Yasin with a house

and a monthly stipend. That pretty much put the lie to a line put out by the Iraqi regime

in the spring of 2002, when CBS‘s 60 Minutes interviewed him ―in prison pajamas, under

heavy guard.‖41 Prisoners almost always lose weight in jail, remarked Gil Childers, who

had helped indict Yasin. The 60 Minutes segment was the first time he had seen a

prisoner acquire a middle-age paunch.42


The Arrests of Nidal Ayyad and Mohammed Abu Halima

Nidal Ayyad made no attempt to flee, and he was arrested on March 10 at his home in

Maplewood, New Jersey. Perhaps, Ayyad, who was not involved in mixing the bomb,

did not recognize that his actions constituted a criminal liability.

        After the bombing, Abu Halima fled to his family home in Egypt, where Egyptian

authorities arrested him on March 16. He was subject to a harsh interrogation, before he

was returned to New York43


40
   ―Missing Bombing Case Figure Reported to Be Staying in Iraq,‖ New York Times, June 10, 1993; Jim
Fox, author interview, December 1, 1994.
41
   60 Minutes, (CBS News), June 2, 2002. Strangely, Richard Clarke accepts the Iraqis‘ story that they had
imprisoned Yasin, Richard Clarke, op. cit., p. 78.
42
   Author interview, January 25, 2005.
43
   Christopher Dickey was then based in Cairo as Newsweek’s Middle East bureau chief for Newsweek.
Dickey informed this author in 1994 that during his interrogation, Abu Halima told Egyptian authorities
that two Iraqis were involved in the plot and they had managed to flee (Abu Halima knew Yousef as an
Iraqi). The Egyptians reported this to U.S. officials and concluded that Iraq was behind the bomb, but were
surprised when the Americans said nothing about it, Dickey explained.
   The Egyptian press—Al Ahram and Al Akhbar, March 25, 1993—reported suspicions of Iraq‘s
involvement in the attack. The Los Angeles Times reported, ―Al Ahram, Cairo‘s semi-official daily
newspaper, did not disclose details of Abouhalima‘s questioning in Egypt but said it had received


                                                   125
In Sum: Fixing on the Two Fugitives

The author has summarized what seem to be the most important facts about the Trade

Center bombing and has focused on the two fugitives, on the assumption that the people

who got away were smarter and more important to the plot than those who were arrested

soon afterwards. It was not the intent to make a controversial argument regarding Iraqi

involvement in the 1993 Trade Center bombing. Yet when one fixes on the two

fugitives, it is a fact that they both had significant ties to Iraq.

        Indeed, Jim Fox, head of New York FBI, the lead investigative agency, and other

senior figures there believed that the Trade Center bombing was a ―false flag‖ operation,

run by Iraq.44 For Fox, who spent 31 years in the Bureau working on counter-terrorism

and counter-espionage, the first arrests were too easy, given the size of the bomb. He

recognized that the individuals he was initially arresting, like Mohammed Salameh, were

not themselves capable of making such a bomb alone. The attack looked to him like a

plot masterminded by others, with Salameh et al. left behind to be arrested and take the

blame. However, that was little understood at the time, and the Trade Center bombing

was soon eclipsed by a second bombing conspiracy in New York and a widely

misunderstood criminal prosecution, namely that of Shaykh Omar et al.




‗information‘ that Iraq was financing many terrorist operations ‗under the cover of religion.‘‖ ―Latest
Bomb Suspect Points to New Clues,‖ Los Angeles Times, March 26, 1993.
44
   Jim Fox wrote, ―Although we are unable to say with certainty the Iraqis were behind the bombing, that is
certainly the theory accepted by most of the veteran investigators.‖ October 24, 1994. It is posted at:
http://www.lauriemylroie.com/archive/Fox_letter10-24-94.pdf Another figure who believed Iraq was
involved is Carson Dunbar, now retired, who was in charge of international terrorism at New York FBI at
the time of the Trade Center bombing.


                                                   126
                                        CHAPTER 6:

            SHAYKH OMAR AND THE SPRING 1993
                    BOMBING PLOT

Following the World Trade Center bombing, the FBI‘s erstwhile informant, Emad Salem,

returned to the Bureau in the late winter of 1993, ready to comply with their procedures,

although mistrust lingered between the two parties.1 More than ever, New York FBI had

need of him, however. It wanted information about the Trade Center bombing. What did

the local militants know? The FBI also wanted to learn if they were planning any more

attacks. Once Salem renewed his efforts to gather information for the Bureau, the same

thing happened that had happened the year before: a bombing plot emerged, with Salem

making the bombs. This time, however, it was not pipe bombs, but a far more spectacular

plot: bombing the United Nations, New York‘s Federal Building, two tunnels, and a

bridge.

          This sounds very much like a successor attack to the Trade Center bombing and a

precursor to 9/11, on the one hand. The objective was great and fantastic devastation. On

the other hand, the plot was significantly different: it was run by the FBI. ―Salem was the

catalyst; without him, the conspiracy would not have got off the ground,‖ Daniel

Benjamin and Steven Simon, former White House counter-terrorism aides report.2 There

was virtually no chance these targets would actually have been bombed, as explained

1
  Salem, who lacked steady employment, wanted to go back on salary with the Bureau, but the agents he
was dealing with initially told him that their supervisors would not permit it. United States v. Omar Ahmad
Ali Abdel Rahman et al., op. cit., p. 6661.
2
  David Benjamin and Steven Simon, op. cit., p. 18.


                                                   127
below. Moreover, except for the bombing of the United Nations, which depended on

assistance from intelligence agents posted to Sudan’s U.N. mission, the conspirators had

given little thought as to how the other targets were to be attacked, when the plot ended

with their arrests in the early morning of June 24, 1993.


                        Shaykh Omar Abdul Rahman Comes to America

In July 1990, when Shaykh Omar first came to the United States, he headed Egypt‘s

largest militant group, the Gamaat Islamiya, or the Islamic Group. Shaykh Omar‘s name

was actually on a terrorism watch list, and he was not supposed to be allowed entry into

the country. Yet not only did Shaykh Omar manage to travel in and out of the United

States repeatedly, the INS actually granted him permanent residence status for a brief

period. This was a matter of significant concern to the Egyptian government.

           Mustafa Shalabi, an Egyptian émigré, ran the Brooklyn office of the al-Kifah

center, with its ties to the mujahidin Services Office. Shalabi had helped found the office

in the 1980s, after becoming captivated by Abdullah Azzam, as the New York Times

explains.3 Soon after arriving in New York, Shaykh Omar became closely involved with

Shalabi in those activities. It was not long, however, before he began to quarrel with

Shalabi over money and power. Shaykh Omar distributed flyers in the mosque and

elsewhere in the Muslim community saying he had expelled Shalabi from his

organization; Shalabi informed the Services Office in Peshawar of Shaykh Omar‘s

activities against him.4 Shalabi was murdered in March 1991, and investigators




3
    ―After Blast New Interest in Holy-War Recruits in Brooklyn,‖ New York Times, April 11, 1993.
4
    Statement of Mahmoud Abu Halima, op. cit.


                                                    128
suspected the blind cleric had one of his followers kill him, but the crime was never

solved.5

           Shaykh Omar preached at the more extreme mosques in the New York area. His

incendiary speeches regularly encouraged his audiences to join the jihad, ―Jihad is

fighting the enemies. Fighting the enemies for God's sake in order to raise them high in

his word. . . . The assassinations for the sake of rendering Islam triumphant is a legitimate

matter.‖ 6 Shaykh Omar was extremely radical and spoke against practically all Arab

rulers. He denounced the Syrian regime as ―polytheists,‖ alluding to the fact that a

syncretic sect, the Alawi, rules in Damascus. He attacked the Saudis, ―Their king calls

himself the protector of the Two Holy Shrines, while he is their destroyer and the

desecrator of the Holy Land by permitting in the country the monkey‘s and the pig‘s

grandchildren, the Americans and the Jews.‖7 When asked, ―What should be the

punishment for the [Arab] leaders who are standing against Iraq?,‖ Shaykh Omar replied,

―Both who are against and the ones who are with Iraq should be killed.‖ And he

affirmed, ―All the rulers are agents for, are employees of America, [and] are moving in its

orbit.‖8

           Shaykh Omar‘s main objective, however, was Egypt and overthrowing the

government there. His consistent focus in his private conversations was urging people to

kill Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. In that respect, he was very similar to the radical

Islamic leaders, cited in Chapter 4, who took issue with bin Ladin‘s assertion that their

first priority should be attacking the United States.


5
  ―Ties of Terror: WTC Bomb Suspect Linked to Attack,‖ Newsday (New York), April 21, 1994.
6
   Government Exhibit 801-T, United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al.
7
  Government Exhibit 808-T, United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al.
8
  Government Exhibit 801-T, op. cit. .


                                                129
        Shaykh Omar was under investigation even before the Trade Center bombing. In

fact, starting on February 16, ten days before that attack, the FBI began to wiretap his

phone.9 In March 1993, Shaykh Omar was ordered deported, and as this second

bombing conspiracy began, he was appealing his deportation.


                                     Emad Salem: FBI Informant

In the days following the Trade Center bombing, Salem angrily threatened the FBI.

Salem, it turned out, routinely recorded his own phone conversations and even some of

his meetings with FBI agents. During the trial of Shaykh Omar et al., Salem was obliged

to acknowledge:

        Q. In your conversations with the FBI, beginning in late February or
        early March, did you threaten the FBI by saying you would expose their
        role in the World Trade Center bombing? Yes or no.

        A.   I said it, sir. . . .

        Q. Did you say I want to talk to the head of the FBI because the
        information I supplied, it was expensive and valuable enough to save the
        country's ass from this bomb? Did you say that, sir?

        A.   Yes, sir.

        Q.   And that was to Agent Anticev, correct?

        A.   Yes, sir.

        Q. Did you say that they were playing shit games in this country and you
        got to imagine how many disasters would be created if the World Trade
        Centers collapse out of some stupid assholes trying to play Muslims? Did
        you say that to Agent Anticev?

        A.   Yes, sir, I said it.10



9
  ―Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman Draft FISA Transcript Chronology/Discovery,‖ United States v. Omar
Ahmed Ali Abdel Rahman et al.
10
   United States of America v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al., op. cit., p. 7233-42.


                                               130
Salem was a problematic figure in other ways too. He had earlier worked for Egyptian

intelligence and maintained ―resilient ties,‖ with his former employer, the New York

Times reports.11 Salem was the star witness in the trial of Shaykh Omar et. al., but he was

also a ―habitual liar,‖ as Benjamin and Simon write.12 Pre-empting the defense on the

question of Salem‘s credibility, the prosecution led Salem through a series of questions,

as he acknowledged to the jury that he had lied to his former wife, Barbara Rogers, and

many others:


        Q: Were any of the stories that you told her about your accomplishments
        in Egypt true?

        A.    No.

        Q. Was Barbara Rogers the only person you tried to impress with these
        stories about your accomplishments in Egypt?

        A.    No, sir.

        Q. Is it fair to say that you told these stories to just about anyone who
        would listen to you?

        A.    Yes, sir.13

That included Nancy Floyd, the FBI agent who first discovered Salem:

        Q. Were you truthful with Agent Floyd when she asked you about your
        background?

        A.    No, I did the same thing.

        Q.    What do you mean you did the same thing?

        A.    I made myself big shot.14


11
   ―The Informer —A special report; Tangled Ties and Tales of F.B.I. Messenger,‖ New York Times,
January 9, 1994.
12
   David Benjamin and Steven Simon, op. cit., p. 18.
13
   United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al., op. cit., pp. 4585-6.
14
   Ibid, p. 4591.


                                                 131
On cross-examination, Salem admitted:

         Q When you were involved in this case, it's fair to say that when you
         reported details to the FBI those sometimes were not true, is that correct?

         A     Correct, ma'am. . . .

         Q     You would exaggerate?

         A     Correct, ma'am.15

Salem was deep in debt when he renewed his ties with the FBI following the Trade

Center bombing. He valued his own work highly and asked $1 million for his co-

operation. The Bureau demurred, but in July, after the conspiracy described below was

wrapped up, such a contract was agreed upon.


                                    The Development of the Plot

In March 1993, Salem returned to infiltrating the local militants and found that one of

them, Siddiq Ibrahim Siddiq Ali, a 32-year old Sudanese émigré, wanted to undertake

violent action. Siddig Ali was a principal organizer of the paramilitary training

associated with the Services Office.16           He was also among Shaykh Omar‘s devotees and

had sworn an oath of loyalty to him.17 Initially, Siddig Ali wanted to assassinate

Mubarak. As he told an informant, he wanted to ―execute the desire of the sheikh‖

—Shaykh Omar.18 However, what emerged was a bombing plot that did not really have

Shaykh Omar‘s approval (see below).




15
   Ibid, p. 5728.
16
   The militants envisaged their training primarily to be in preparation for fighting in Bosnia, yet they were
easily diverted to other projects, including an attack on the United States. Abdo Mohammed Haggag, an
informant for the Egyptian government, testimony in ibid, pp. 1730-1; 1737, 1744, 1877, 6535.
17
   Ibid, p. 5408.
18
   Ibid, p. 10080.


                                                     132
No Link to Al Qaida or bin Ladin

This plot, like the Trade Center bombing, is not linked to al Qaida or bin Ladin. Indeed,

the trial transcript provides further contemporary evidence of bin Ladin‘s relative

insignificance then (as discussed in Chapter 3). Abdullah Azzam was the Arab figure

most associated with the Services Office and the Arab jihad in Afghanistan. Azzam‘s

name came up repeatedly during the trial. For example, Khalid Ibrahim, an Egyptian-

American who participated in the paramilitary training linked to the Services Office and

who went to Peshawar in 1991, was a defense witness. During his testimony, he

mentioned Azzam repeatedly:

             El Sayyid Nosair had a picture of Azzam pasted in his locker at work.19

             Azzam established the Mujahideen Services Office in Peshawar.20

             Azzam established ―other offices‖ in the United States ―for the same
              purpose.‖21

             Azzam ―toured different parts of the world, the Middle East and the United
              States to give lectures about the jihad in Afghanistan.‖22

             Azzam narrated jihad video tapes found in Nosair‘s home.23

             He himself met with Azzam in1987, when Azzam spoke in Jersey City24

             Azzam published al Jihad magazine25

Bin Ladin is mentioned only once during the entire trial, and that occurs during this

testimony. A prosecutor asks Khalid Ibrahim if he has heard of a series of people, one of



19
   Ibid, p. 14204.
20
   Ibid, p. 14205.
21
   Ibid, p. 14205.
22
   Ibid, p. 14206.
23
   Ibid, p. 14211.
24
   Ibid, p. 14211.
25
   Ibid, p. 14308.


                                             133
whom is bin Ladin. Ibrahim replies that he has heard the name, but when asked if he has

ever met bin Ladin, he answers no.

        It should also be noted that Shaykh Omar‘s phone (and that of other defendants)

was tapped during this entire period. There are no communications with bin Ladin or

anyone else identifiable as al Qaida.26 This was so, even though the Pakistani

government was expelling Arab militants in this period, including members of Egypt‘s

Islamic Group, among who were two of Shaykh Omar‘s sons (see Chapter 3.) Despite

the search to find countries to which they could go, Shaykh Omar never called bin Ladin,

then based in Sudan, asking for assistance, nor did he suggest that his people in Peshawar

do so. There is no evidence from this period—despite the FBI‘s ongoing investigation of

Shaykh Omar—to suggest he had any significant relationship with bin Ladin (although a

representative of an Afghan militant, Gulbiddin Hekmatyar, did visit the blind cleric.27)

        The main figure in this plot, Siddig Ali, was a self-important, unstable character.

As a second Egyptian informant, Abdo Mohammed Haggag, stated, Siddig Ali ―wanted

to be the boss of everybody else.‖28 Ali promoted the notion that the local militants

should carry out a spectacular attack in New York to follow on the Trade Center

bombing, and he helped recruit a number of his friends into the plot. Yet as the trial

began in February 1995, Siddig Ali struck a deal with the prosecution for a more lenient

sentence in exchange for his cooperation, leaving his friends to stand trial, while he

provided evidence against them.


26
   ―Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman Draft FISA Transcript Chronology/Discovery,‖ op. cit; ―Chart of
Telephone Activities from August 1992 to February 1993; Government Exhibit 508. This chart is based on
the telephone records of Shaykh Omar, other defendants in his trial, and the defendants in the World Trade
Center bombing trial.
27
   Statement of ―a cooperating witness‖ (Abdo Mohammed Haggag), FBI 302, October 24-26, 1994.
Hekmatyar‘s representative was Mohammed Akbar.
28
   United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al., op. cit., p. 10490.


                                                   134
            Finally, as with the Trade Center bombing, the foot soldiers in this plot were the

gang that couldn‘t shoot straight. Just as the expertise in the Trade Center bombing came

from Ramzi Yousef, the expertise in this plot, such that it was, was provided by the FBI

informant, Emad Salem.


Plots Against Mubarak

Shaykh Omar had a constant desire to see Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak

assassinated. In November 1991, soon after Salem began to penetrate the militants, he

held his first extended conversation with Shaykh Omar. Shaykh Omar asked Salem

about his background, and Salem replied that he had spent 18 years in the Egyptian army,

where he had been a sharp-shooter. Shaykh Omar told Salem that he had been working

for an ―infidel‖ government, and Salem asked, ―How can I make up with God?‖ The

shaykh replied, ―By turning your rifle's barrel to President Mubarak's chest, and kill

him.‖ Shaykh Omar further explained, ―Mubarak is a tyrant, he killed 15 of my home

town.‖ 29

            Before the Trade Center bombing, Siddig Ali had discussed killing Mubarak with

Mahmoud Abu Halima, and after Egyptian authorities arrested Abu Halima, they

questioned him on Siddig Ali‘s plans, before they returned him to New York after ten

days of interrogation. Abu Halima thought he was the only person whom Siddig Ali had

told about his plot, and he concluded from the questions Egyptian authorities asked

during his interrogation that Siddig Ali was an informant for the Egyptian government.

This was reported to Shaykh Omar. Abu Halima, however, was wrong. The informant

was someone else.


29
     Ibid, p. 4632.


                                                135
         Abdo Mohammed Haggag was initially among Shaykh Omar‘s more devoted

followers. In fact, after Shaykh Omar quarreled with yet another Muslim figure in the

New York area, Haggag found the cleric an apartment in the same Jersey City building in

which he lived, and Haggag and his wife assisted the blind shaykh, cooking and cleaning

for him.30 But Haggag soon grew disillusioned with Shaykh Omar and came to describe

him as a publicity hound, ―the crook with a turban‖ and a ―tyrant who hides behind the

Jihad banner.‖31 Haggag became an informant for the Egyptian government, regularly

reporting to its U.N. mission.32 (U.S. authorities were unaware of that and initially

indicted and arrested him).

         As Haggag later explained, while Siddig Ali had talked about killing Mubarak for

some time, he began really to press the idea after Egypt extradited Abu Halima to the

United States on March 24, 1993.33 Haggag reported Siddig Ali‘s solicitations to his

contact at Egypt‘s U.N. Mission, even as he also sought to confirm that Shaykh Omar

approved of the idea—which he did. Shaykh Omar told Haggag, "Depend on God.

Carry out this operation. It does not require a fatwa. . . . You are ready in training, but do

it. Go ahead."34

         Mubarak‘s assassination was the first terrorist act that Siddig Ali proposed to

Emad Salem. In late April 1993, as Salem gave Siddig Ali a ride home from Shaykh


30
   Statement of ―a cooperating witness‖ (Abdo Mohammed Haggag), op. cit.
31
   Haggag letter, December 1, 1992; Government Exhibit 35719-QQ, United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali
Abdel Rahman et al. Haggag also quoted another leader among the New York area fundamentalists, ―This
man doesn‘t know when to stop. He loves trouble. There is not an iota of mercy in his heart towards
neither Islam nor Muslims . . . He doesn‘t care about anyone‘s interest or who is going to be misled or who
will perish. The important thing is to attain his goal.‖
32
   Among the reasons Haggag turned against Shaykh Omar were reports of the shaykh‘s philandering, ibid,
p. 20.
33
   United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al, op. cit., pp. 10093-4.
34
   Ibid, p. 10108; Haggag dates this discussion to sometime between March 31 and April 5, 1993,
Statement of Abdoel (sic) Rahman Haggag, FBI 302, December 13-15, 1994.


                                                   136
Omar‘s apartment, Ali told Salem he had heard that Salem was an explosives expert and

explained that he and Haggag wanted to assassinate Mubarak.35 Ali also told him, as

Salem explained, ―That he have his own people, who they are very well trained for a

suicidal missions, and they were helping and they are willing to help.‖36 That was an

empty boast, however.


The Emergence of the Bombing Conspiracy

Soon thereafter, on April 27, Salem went to Siddig Ali‘s apartment, where they discussed

the Trade Center bombing, among other things.37 Salem had thought that Ali and those

with whom he had been doing paramilitary training were also behind the Trade Center

bombing, but Ali explained that was not so.


         SALEM: By God. Meaning this bomb was not a part of the preparations
         at all?

         SIDDIG ALI: No.

         SALEM: It just happened like that on the way.

         SIDDIG ALI: Yes, of course, it has nothing to do with the matter.

         SALEM: Oh God.

         SIDDIG ALI: Um. It is unrelated.

         SALEM: But that's—that's a strange way of thinking, I mean strange, I
         mean, I'm unable to understand. Does this mean that Mahmoud [Abu
         Halima] planned this using his own wit, just like that?

         SIDDIG ALI: No, I am telling you right now that Mahmoud was not with
         us.


35
   United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al, op. cit., p. 5036.
36
   Ibid.
37
   In this discussion, Siddig Ali called Mohammed Salameh ―the stupidest, the stupidest, the stupidest of
God's creatures.‖ Ibid, p. 5088.


                                                    137
        SALEM: He was not with you.

        SIDDIG ALI: Never.38

In this conversation, Ali did not discuss assassinating Mubarak, but instead asked Salem

whether it would be possible to bomb a local armory.39 Ali also claimed to have ―good

connections‖ to the Sudanese government, because ―all of my family members have been

members of the Islamic movement a long time ago.‖ In fact, he claimed to have ―direct

contact‖ with Khartoum‘s Islamic government.40

        Following this meeting, Salem began officially taping his conversations for the

FBI. On May 7, Ali told Salem that he had changed his mind—he now wanted to bomb

the United Nations.41 Subsequently, Ali added New York‘s Federal Building. Later, two

tunnels and a bridge were added as well.

        On May 18, with an eye to obtaining evidence against Shaykh Omar, Salem asked

Siddig Ali what the cleric had said about bombing the United Nations. Siddig Ali

claimed that Shaykh Omar had said, ―It‘s a must. It‘s a duty.‖42 Indeed, Shaykh Omar

had publicly denounced the United Nations ―as the enemy of God and the enemy of the

Muslims‖ for its failure to stop the Serbian aggression against Bosnian Muslims.43

        Salem soon had the opportunity to ask Shaykh Omar himself. On May 23, Salem,

Siddig Ali, and a third man visited Shaykh Omar‘s apartment. Having previously

advised Shaykh Omar that the only safe place in his apartment to talk was the kitchen,

Salem told him, ‖We go to the kitchen. It‘s better, away from monitoring.‖ Salem began


38
   Ibid, pp. 5129-30.
39
   ―Government‘s Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant‘s Pretrial Motions,‖ op. cit., p. 30;
United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al, op. cit., p. 5096.
40
   Ibid, p. 5107.
41
   ―Government‘s Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendant‘s Pretrial Motions, op. cit., p. 31.
42
   United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al, op. cit. p. 5528.
43
   Ibid, p. 2203.


                                                 138
the discussion by pledging his loyalty to Shaykh Omar, weeping as he did.44 Then Salem

told the shaykh that he and Siddig Ali were ―trying to do a job‖ and he wanted to know

―whether it is forbidden or not.‖ Shaykh Omar responded that Siddig Ali was a spy and

an extended discussion about that followed, before Salem asked:

         I wish to know in regards to the United Nations, do we consider it the
         House of the Devil? . . . [ellipses in text] Because my strike is a
         devastating one and not an amateur one like the one that took place at the
         Trade Center. We are preparing for something big, something big, if God
         is willing, that will bring its highest and lowest. So is that something
         forbidden or allowed?

         Shaykh Omar: It is not forbidden. However, [it] will be bad for Muslims.

         Salem: Not forbidden, however [it] will be bad for Muslims. We do it or . . .

         Shaykh Omar: No.

         Salem: Forget it.

         Shaykh Omar: Find a plan, find a plan . . .

         Salem: Yes

         Shaykh Omar: To inflict damage to the American Army because the
         United Nations . . .

         Salem: Yes

         Shaykh Omar: Will damage the Muslims

         Salem: Yes

         Shaykh Omar: Will damage them deeply

         Salem: So forget about the United Nations.

         Shaykh Omar: No

44
  As Salem later told Siddig Ali, ―My eyes were filled with tears that started to run, couldn‘t control
myself.‖ CM-10, May 23, 1993, Document 691, United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al,
closed case files. This episode also arose in the trial, Q: ―Initially, Mr. Salem, you were, and we heard on
the tape here in the courtroom, you were weeping as you pledged your allegiance, is that correct? A. That is
correct, ma'am.‖ United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al, op. cit., p. 6024.


                                                   139
        Salem: We keep it in the Army.

        Shaykh Omar: Yes, keep it. Let us think, you all think of something else,
        because basically the United Nations, this, they will consider it to be the
        center of peace.

        Salem: Yes

        Shaykh Omar: And that Muslims are against peace, and will create a
        difficulty, and will disturb the Muslim‘s being.

        Salem: Yes, but Siddig suggested that the second target will be the FBI‘s
        center, which is 26 Federal Plaza, what do you think of this one?

        Shaykh Omar: By God, I mean postpone it a little, postpone it a little.
        [The one who killed Kennedy was trained for three years.]

        Salem: Emh, ok, fine, but we have prepared the thing now, Sheik.

        Shaykh Omar: It‘s ok.

        Salem: We wait then?

        Shaykh Omar: Yes, wait a little.

        Salem: Fine, Sheikh.

        Shaykh Omar: May God make things right for you.

        Salem: God bless you. God bless you Sheik. God bless you.

        Shaykh Omar: Peace be upon you.45

They then left the kitchen, returning to the others.46 Salem told Siddig Ali that Shaykh

Omar had said that bombing the United Nations ―is not forbidden, it‘s allowed, but it will



45
   CM-10, May 23, 1993, Document 691, op. cit; section in brackets from ―Government‘s Memorandum of
Law in Opposition to Defendant‘s Pretrial Motions, op. cit., p. 36.
46
   Salem‘s recorder was in a briefcase, and he explained, somewhat proudly, how he got the blind shaykh
on tape. ―I was holding the right hand, the briefcase, and Sheik Omar on my left hand, and when I kissed
his hand, I kissed his hand like that . . . When he start to whisper in my left ear, I start to lift up the
briefcase, and I was careful not to move the handle, because the handle will make squeaks and it's very
sharp to hear. I raised up the briefcase as much as I can. ―United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman
et al, op. cit. pp. 6023-4.


                                                   140
make problems for Muslims.‖ Ali concluded, ―I‘m not going to do it.‖47 But by the end

of the evening, as Salem was driving Ali home, Ali had reverted to his previous position,

because ―I have all the people in place from the [Sudanese] embassy, I think we go ahead

with the big house [their code for the United Nations].48


                                     Sudan’s Role in the Plot

This plot has a clear link to a terrorist state—Sudan. The evidence, including Siddig

Ali‘s statement above, suggests that the Sudanese government, rather than Shaykh Omar,

was the party most interested in bombing the United Nations. Sudan was then

particularly active in supporting terrorism and developing ties with Islamic militants, as

detailed in Chapter 3. Sudan‘s U.N. mission was named as an unindicted co-conspirator

and proof of Sudan‘s involvement was presented in the trial, as the lead prosecutor

affirmed. The Sudanese officials involved in the plot, however, were not indicted,

because the Sudanese government would have been unlikely to lift their diplomatic

immunity, this former prosecutor explained.49

        Of course, U.S. authorities have indicted foreign officials, most notably,

Panamanian president Manuel Noriega. On other occasions, the United States has asked

governments to lift a diplomat‘s immunity. And it took the case of Libya‘s involvement

in the bombing of Pan Am 103 to the Security Council, demanding that Tripoli surrender

two intelligence agents Had any such measures been taken in regard to this plot,




47
   CM-10, May 23, 1993, Document 691, op. cit.
48
   United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al, op. cit., p. 6040.
49
   Andrew McCarthy, author interview, February 24, 2005.


                                                  141
Sudan‘s role would be more widely understood, but this key point is regularly

neglected.50

        The ringleader of the conspirators, Siddig Ali, had regular contacts with two

intelligence agents posted to Sudan‘s U.N. Mission, Siraj Yousef, counselor to the

mission, and Yousef Ahmed Mohammed, third secretary. Federal agents had the

Sudanese mission under surveillance, and after the plot was publicly revealed, the

ambassador, who had not known about it, confronted Hassan Turabi and was told ―to

mind his own business,‖ as ABC News reported.51 Indeed, ABC News also reported that

―US intelligence officials now believe that the highest levels of the Sudanese government

were involved in the bombing plot.‖52

        Three years later, in April 1996, the United States sought to mobilize Security

Council support for a resolution that would impose sanctions on Sudan for its support of

terrorism. The State Department publicly revealed the role of the two Sudanese agents,

as it announced that one had been declared persona non grata and had been given 48

hours to leave the country and that the other had left the country the previous year.53


Sudan’s Ties to Individual Conspirators

When, on May 7, 1993, Siddig Ali told Emad Salem that he wanted to bomb the United

Nations, he also described his ties to Sudan‘s U.N. Mission, which Salem related on the

witness stand:

50
   Neither the 9/11 Commission nor the Congressional Joint Inquiry mention Sudan‘s involvement in this
plot. Similarly, Richard Clarke says nothing about Sudan‘s role about it, op. cit., nor do David Benjamin
and Steven Simon, op. cit.
51
   ABC News, World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, August 16, 1993. According to this report,
―[F]ederal agents have been monitoring the Sudanese mission to the UN for two months now, watching and
listening to all activity. Based on that and other evidence, US intelligence officials now believe that the
highest levels of the Sudanese government were involved in the bombing plot.‖
52
   Ibid.
53
   ―U.S. Expels Sudan Envoy Suspected In Bomb Plot,‖ New York Times, April 11, 1996.


                                                   142
           Q. You testified, did you not, on direct that Siddig Ali claimed to have
           very strong contacts with one of the missions of the United Nations,
           correct?

           A.    Correct, ma'am. . . .

           Q. [H]e stated to you that he would be responsible for the entry card, the
           clearance into the United Nations, right?

           A.    Right.

           Q. And that he would get the car and the plate number, a diplomatic car
           and a diplomatic plate number, correct?

           A.    Correct, ma'am.

           Q. And that would allow you to get entrance into the United Nations
           without being detected, right?

           A.    Right, ma'am.

           Q.    Without inspection he said, right?

           A.    Right, ma'am.54

The Sudanese mission also had ties to another conspirator, a Palestinian,

Mohammed Saleh, who was linked to Hamas and owned a gas station in Yonkers.

He was to provide fuel for the bomb. Referring to transcripts of several wire-

tapped conversations, the prosecution affirmed, ―This makes clear that the

relationship between Siddig Ali and Mohammed Saleh arose out of the Sudanese

mission putting them together.‖55

           The prosecution also demonstrated Saleh‘s extensive contacts with the two

intelligence agents. Saleh made 29 calls to the home of one agent and the same number

to the home of the other. He made 11 calls to Sudan‘s U.N. mission, and he sent one fax

there, for a total of 70 communications originating with Saleh between Saleh and Sudan‘s

54
     United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al., op. cit., p. 6751.
55
     Ibid, p. 11511.


                                                     143
U.N. mission or individuals that worked there.56 When Saleh was arrested, his wallet

contained the business card of yet another Sudanese diplomat, a counselor at the embassy

in Washington.57

        The prosecution also affirmed, ―It is clear from the FISA intercepts over Siddig

Ali‘s telephone that certain representatives of the Sudanese Mission were familiar with

Amir Abdelghani and Fares Khallafalla,‖ two other defendants in this trial.58

        It was the view of the Egyptian informant, Abdo Mohammed Haggag, that when

Siddig Ali began to press him for Mubarak‘s assassination, ―I was thinking that behind

him was one of the institutions in Sudan.‖59 Indeed, Emad Salem himself seemed to

believe the Sudanese government had played a significant role in the bombing plot. On

the night of the arrests, Salem called Egypt to report, ―I gave you an idea about the

people who were arrested. Now you have to keep a keen eye on Sudan.‖60


                      The Progression and Consummation of the Plot

After Siddig Ali told Salem on May 7 that he wanted to bomb the United Nations,

the plot progressed quickly, culminating in the arrest of the conspirators early on

the morning of June 24, mixing what they believed to be explosives in a garage in

Queens, rented by the FBI.

        Salem had encouraged Siddig Ali to bring as many people as possible into

the plot, as he freely acknowledged:



56
   Ibid, p. 12906.
57
   The diplomat was Abubaker Al-Shingieti. Government Exhibit 166B, described in ibid, p. 12115.
58
   Letter from Mary Jo White by Patrick Fitzgerald to Hon. Michael B. Mukasey, February 24, 1995,
United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman, et al., Document 658, Closed Case Files, Southern
District of New York.
59
   Government Exhibit 35119-KK, United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al.
60
   Source Tape, Cassette 15, Side A, United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al.


                                                 144
        I started with two, three [people], he [Siddig Ali] brought two, three. I
        asked for more, he brought more. I was trying always to ask for more and
        more, to bring me everybody who is willing to, or who was participating
        with him before.61

Ordinarily, those involved in a bombing plot try to keep it as small as possible to

avoid detection, but Salem‘s motive (and presumably the FBI‘s) was the opposite,

to get as many of the militants as possible. Hence, eight people were initially

arrested for the plot—five involved in mixing explosives and three for providing

other forms of support.62 This also helps explain why the target list was so

fantastically large, as there was no practical limit to the conspirators‘ dreams.

        The conspirators believed they were making ANFO bombs, but save for

Emad Salem, none had any idea how to do so. After Salem instructed them to

buy fertilizer, they went to a Manhattan garden store and returned with $150 of

Scotts Super Turf Builder. It is impossible to make an ANFO bomb from that

material. As an FBI agent testified:

        A: The fertilizer that was recovered from the garage was a fertilizer that
        did not have ammonium-type nitrate. It had urea as the main ingredient in
        the fertilizer, and actually in this one it had less than 1 percent of
        ammonial nitrogen, and ammonial nitrogen is the type of nitrogen that
        would be required to construct a device, as we previously discussed, or
        within what you would call ANFO, ammonium nitrate and fuel oil.

        Q In point of fact, Agent Thurman, it had .6 or 6/10 of 1 percent of
        ammonium nitrate, is that correct?

        A    That is correct, sir.

        Q    We are talking about Scott Super Turf Builder, I think, is that right?

        A    That is right, sir. . . .


61
 United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al., op. cit., p. 7095.
62
 Of the eight, two reached plea bargains, Siddig Ali and Matarawy Mohammed Said Saleh, an Egyptian,
who had told Siddig Ali he would provide a stolen car to carry a bomb.


                                                145
           Q The fertilizer that was found here, in addition to containing .6, 6/10 of
           one percent of ammonium nitrate, also contained things called phosphates
           and potassium, potassium phosphates basically, is that right?

           A     Yes, sir.

           Q And those would be chemicals which would inhibit, which would
           make it more difficult to explode the ammonium nitrate even if there were
           more there, isn't that correct?

           A     Yes, sir.

            Q In order, again ideally, to fashion an ammonium nitrate charge, an
           ANFO charge for a bomb, you would have to remove the potassium
           phosphates in the fertilizer, is that correct?

           A In this case, in this case it wouldn't have mattered if you had removed
           it because there was not enough, again, ammonial nitrogen. In other cases
           you could still, if you had a high quantity of ammonial nitrogen and still
           had some of the inert ingredients, let's say, you could still get it to work,
           yes, sir.

           Q If I could, Agent Thurman, let me break that down a little. You are
           saying that in this case even if you removed the impurities it wasn't going
           to work because there is not enough ammonium nitrate, is that correct?

           A     That is correct.63

Indeed, when Salem first suggested to Siddig Ali that they build an ANFO bomb,

Ali was surprised to learn that mixing fuel oil and fertilizer would produce an

explosive.64

           On June 23, the night before the arrests, Salem again explained to Siddig

Ali what they were doing,

           Salem: So the formation, it's name is —

           Siddig Ali: What is its names?

           Salem: ANFO.


63
     United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al., op. cit., pp. 17715-8.
64
     Ibid, pp. 7510-1.


                                                     146
            Siddig Ali: What?

            Salem: The bomb mixture called ANFO, what is ANFO means?

            Siddig Ali: Information.

            Salem: No.

            Siddig Ali: Huh.

            Salem: ANFO means ammonium fuel, ammonium nitrate, ANFO,
            ammonium nitrate fuel oil.

            Siddig Ali: Yes, OK.

            Salem: This is the mixture of the—what? This is A, B, C.

            Siddig Ali: Ammonium.

            Salem: ANFO, ammonium nitrate fuel oil. What we brought yesterday is
            fuel oil and the ammonium nitrate is here, however, we increase the —
            yeah.

            Siddig: (Unintelligible)

            Salem: (Unintelligible) Yes. Of course, I have so much experience,
            sheik.

As a defense attorney put it to Salem,

            Q So, a few hours before the FBI raided the safe house, Siddig Ali, the
            boss of the operation, thought ANFO meant information, is that right?

            A     Yes, sir.65

Emad Salem claimed that he had actually broken up a plot that was in progress and that is

how this plot is generally understood.

            Indeed, no less a figure than former FBI Director Louis Freeh described this plot

to the 9/11 Commission in that fashion, claiming the FBI had prevented ―a second major

terrorist attack against the United States in New York City. . . . [T]he organization was


65
     Ibid, p. 7516.


                                               147
going to blow up tunnels and bridges and the United Nations and federal office buildings,

killing potentially thousands and thousands of Americans.‖66           The court record,

however, does not support such a claim at all.


                         Indicting Shaykh Omar/Defining the Plot

When the conspirators were first arrested in the early morning of June 24, Shaykh Omar

was not among them. Some New York politicians, particularly Senator Alfonse

D‘Amato, wanted him arrested too. D‘Amato‘s name had appeared on an assassination

list that El Sayyid Nosair had drawn up, and D‘Amato, rather understandably, thought it

dangerous to leave Shaykh Omar a free man.67 In early July, the INS detained the shaykh

on the highly ironic grounds that as he appealed his deportation order, he was a flight

risk. On August 16, a federal court rejected his appeal, and the shaykh‘s lawyers began

to suggest he would accept deportation, rather than remain imprisoned during further

appeals, a solution D‘Amato endorsed.68 However, the U.S. Attorney‘s Office in New

York‘s Southern District had developed a theory of the crime under which Shaykh Omar

might be indicted: seditious conspiracy, a little used law that grew out of a post-civil war

statute aimed at supporters of the defeated Confederacy who continued to oppose the

federal government.




66
    9/11 Commission Hearing, April 13, 2004. The 9/11 Commission itself states, ―An FBI informant
learned of a plan to bomb major New York landmarks, including the Holland and Lincoln tunnels.
Disrupting this ‗landmarks plot,‘ the FBI in June 1993 arrested [Abd al] Rahman and various
confederates.‖ The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 72.
67
   ―The Cleric's Indictment; Reno Sees Growing Evidence and Makes Call,‖ New York Times, August 26,
1993.
68
   ―Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman May Voluntarily Leave U.S,‖ CNN, August 18, 1993.


                                                148
The Jihad Organization: a Legal Construction

In its case against Shaykh Omar, the prosecution claimed that starting in the late 1980s a

―Jihad Organization‖ arose in New York, with Shaykh Omar as ―one of [its] principal

leaders.‖69 This is a legal construction, as no such organization existed in political

terms—the defendants did not refer to themselves as members of the ―Jihad

Organization,‖ and Shaykh Omar was, in fact, the head of Egypt‘s ―Islamic Group.‖ The

prosecution maintained, ―It is not unusual for the Government to define an organization

in terms other than what the members may use to describe themselves: a single

conspiracy constituting an illegal cartel of garbage haulers may be comprised of members

and associates of different organized crime families.‖70

        The backbone of the indictment against Shaykh Omar is two conspiracy charges,

as the lead prosecutor explained: 1) ―conspiracy to wage a war of urban terrorism‖ and 2)

the conspiracy to bomb the United Nations and other sites, referred to in the indictment as

―the spring 1993 bombing plot.‖71 Other substantive counts included the conspiracy to

murder Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, as well as the 1990 murder of Meir Kahane.

However, neither the bombing of the World Trade Center, nor conspiracy to bomb that

building was a count in this indictment. As the prosecuting U.S. Attorney wrote, ―No

defendant in the Rahman trial was charged with executing the World Trade Center

bombing. The bombing was charged as an overt act of the conspiracy count in the

Rahman case, and none of the Rahman defendants are named in that overt act.‖72


69
   Indictment, United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al, S4 93Cr. 181 (MEM).
70
   Letter from Mary Jo White by Patrick Fitzgerald to Hon. Michael B. Mukasey, op. cit.
71
   Andrew McCarthy, author interview, February 24, 2005; Indictment, United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali
Abdel Rahman, et al., op. cit.
72
   ―Response By: United States Attorney's Office, Southern District Of New York To Section C: The World
Trade Center Bombing, (February 27 And March 10, 1997).‖ Posted at:
http://www.usdoj.gov/oig/special/9704b/7wtctr.htm


                                                 149
US Conspiracy Law: Substantive Count vs. Overt Act

This may sound confusing. It rests on the legal distinction between an ―overt act‖ and a

―substantive count.― A count is a crime charged against a defendant, about which a jury

decides guilty or not guilty. An overt act is an action taken in furtherance of a

conspiracy. An overt act may or may not be illegal in itself, and a conspiracy may be

quite broadly defined.

         Legally, a conspiracy consists of an agreement to commit a crime, followed by at

least one action to advance the aim of the conspiracy—an ―overt act.‖ Without such an

act, there is no conspiracy, as speech alone is protected. If two people talk about robbing

a bank, for example, and then sit in a car outside the bank, watching how it operates, they

have conspired to rob a bank, even if they do nothing further.73 The objective of the

conspiracy does not have to be achieved, for a criminal conspiracy to exist.

        Moreover, once a conspiracy is found to exist, all members of the conspiracy are

legally responsible for all actions of all other conspirators, whether they know about

those actions in advance or even whether they know the individuals who commit them.

This creates far-reaching liability for defendants in criminal conspiracies, but when law

enforcement goes after a drug cartel, it would obviously be unreasonable to require it to

demonstrate that the drug king-pin knew of every drug deal his organization made or

every drug runner it used.

        The case against Shaykh Omar was constructed similarly—according to federal

conspiracy laws. The Trade Center bombing was an overt act in the conspiracy to wage a

war of urban terrorism, but it was not a substantive count. As the trial judge stated, ―The


73
 This example was provided to the author by a retired FBI agent, as he explained conspiracy law.
Author‘s interview, March 3, 2005.


                                                  150
World Trade Center is not charged as a substantive count in this indictment, which is a

notable fact . . . . Nobody here is charged with a substantive count in connection with the

World Trade Center bombing‖ (emphasis added).74 That is, the prosecution did not claim

that Shaykh Omar and his co-defendants participated in that bombing.

        Thus, the prosecution told the jury, ―I am not going to stand up here and tell you

that defendant Abdel Rahman picked up the phone, called overseas and ordered Ramzi

Yousef to show up. There is no proof of that. But I will tell you that when Ramzi

Yousef and Ahmed Ajaj came from Afghanistan, from Pakistan, they came from the same

channel, the same group of people involved with jihad, the same jihad, and the same

enemy, America‖ (emphasis added).75

        Thus, Ramzi Yousef was part of the same Islamic milieu that included Shaykh

Omar and the other defendants, according to the prosecution Shaykh Omar did not have

to have ever spoken with Yousef, know him, or know what he intended to do, in order to

be found guilty of a criminal conspiracy that included among its overt acts, an attack that

Yousef masterminded, namely the World Trade Center bombing.

        Few understand this key point.76 Even David Benjamin and Steven Simon, who

read the trial transcript and make important points about the case, missed the judge‘s


74
   United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman, et al., op. cit., pp. 12457-8.
75
   Ibid, pp. 18612-3.
76
   The 9/11 Commission glides over this point by conflating the two 1993 bombing plots, stating, ―The U.S.
Attorney for the Southern District of New York prosecuted and convicted multiple individuals, including
Ajaj, Salameh, Ayyad, Abouhalima, the Blind Sheikh [Shaykh Omar], and Ramzi Yousef for crimes related
to the World Trade Center bombing and other plots.‖ The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 72.
   The New York Times actually gets this point correct: the Trade Center bombing was an overt act in the
conspiracy charges against Shaykh Omar, ie: ―Surprise Terror Plea Leaves Unresolved Issues.‖ April 24,
2005. Being a New York paper, the Times is well-versed in the legal intricacies of the New York court
proceedings. Otherwise, most authors claim wrongly that Shaykh Omar was convicted for his role in the
Trade Center bombing. They include, as a small sample: David Bossie, former Chief Investigator for the
House Committee on Government Reforms and Oversight, ―Investigator or Obstructionist,‖ Washington
Times, May 19, 2004. ―Questions Linger on Moussaoui's Role in 9/11,‖ Washington Post, April 23, 2005;
Gregory R. Copley, founding editor of Defense and Foreign Affairs, ―Madrid Bombings Highlight Extent


                                                  151
statements. They claim that the telephone in the apartment Ramzi Yousef shared with

Mohammed Salameh and the phone in Shaykh Omar‘s apartment were ―frequently

connected.‖77 Yet there is just one call, lasting two minutes, between the two apartments

in the period from August 1992 until February 1993.78 Shaykh Omar and Ramzi Yousef

had little to do with each other. Indeed, Yousef later told a friend and co-conspirator in

his next plot that he met Shaykh Omar only once, at a Jersey City mosque (Chapter 7).

        Shaykh Omar was convicted through an innovative legal construction: the

prosecution‘s assertion that a ―Jihad Organization‖ arose in New York, of which Shaykh

Omar was a principal leader. The ―Jihad Organization‖ did not exist outside the legal

proceedings against Shaykh Omar et al. It was posited solely for the purposes of that

trial. Nine years later, when Shaykh Omar‘s lawyer, Lynne Stewart, was prosecuted for

providing material aid to terrorism (she passed on Shaykh Omar‘s messages), the

prosecution never mentioned the ―Jihad Organization,‖ but identified the shaykh

(correctly) as a leader of Gamaat Islamiya. Indeed, a number of terrorism trials have

been held in New York since Shaykh Omar‘s trial—including two trials in which Ramzi

Yousef was the principal defendant—and the ―Jihad Organization‖ is not mentioned in

any of them. Although Shaykh Omar bears legal responsibility for the Trade Center

bombing because of the far-reaching liability created by conspiracy law, the charges



and Capability of Islamist Networks Reactivation of Bosnian Support Net for New US Attacks?,‖ Defense
and Foreign Affairs Daily, March 12, 2004; Steven Emerson., ―Prepared Testimony of Steven Emerson,
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Subcommittee On African Affairs,‖ May 15, 1997; Boaz Ganor,
―Lessons from the Counter-terrorism War,.‖ MEF Wire, May 2, 2005, http://www.meforum.org/article/710
77
   David Benjamin and Steven Simon, op. cit., p. 8.
78
   Government Exhibits 508 and W-807, United States v. Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman, et al.
Similarly, Benjamin and Simon claim that Shaykh Omar and Ramzi Yousef both ―regularly‖: called the
same number in Pakistan (810 604). David Benjamin and Steven Simon, op. cit., p. 8.
    Shaykh Omar‘s phone called that number frequently. The Yousef/Salameh phone, however, only called
it twice in two successive calls on November 5, 1992. The first call lasted one minute, and the second
lasted two minutes. Government Exhibit 811, United States v. Mohammed Salameh, et al.


                                                 152
against him do not include direct involvement in that bombing. The author discussed this

point at length with the lead prosecutor, who acknowledged that ―legalistically‖ this was

correct.79


The FBI: Opposed the Indictment of Shaykh Omar

The FBI had not wanted to indict Shaykh Omar; it had wanted to deport him. He was an

inflammatory, despicable character, but the evidence against him did not warrant criminal

charges, in the view of Jim Fox. Fox came to recognize that the trial and conviction of

Shaykh Omar had contributed to a false understanding of the terrorist threat to the United

States, namely that ―loose networks‖ had usurped the role of terrorist states in attacking

America.

        Fox once described the meeting in which the decision to indict Shaykh Omar was

made. Attorney General Janet Reno chaired the meeting. Fox was present, as were Mary

Jo White, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, a representative from FBI

headquarters, and another representative from the Justice Department. Fox argued

strongly against indicting Shaykh Omar; the representative from FBI headquarters argued

mildly against; White argued mildly in favor; and the Justice Department representative

argued strongly in favor of doing so. Five minutes before the end of the hour-long

conference, Reno knocked her knuckles on the table and said, ―Okay, we‘ll indict him.‖

As Fox remarked much later, ―I wish I had spoken up.‖80




79
   Andrew McCarthy, author interview, February 24, 2005. The author also discussed this point with a
retired FBI agent, involved in the case. His memory was that Shaykh Omar had been charged with the
Trade Center bombing, but after we reviewed the indictment, he agreed that that was not so, author
interview, March 3, 2005.
80
   Author interview, March 21, 1996.


                                                  153
                                     CHAPTER 7

     THE MANILA AIR PLOT: THE ATTEMPT TO
            DOWN 12 US AIRLINERS


On the night of January 6, 1995, Ramzi Yousef was mixing explosives in the kitchen sink

of his Manila apartment, when he accidentally started a fire. As neighbors called the fire

department, he fled. Yousef was planning a 48-hour bombing spree, targeting twelve U.S.

jetliners flying Pacific routes. The attack was to take place within two weeks.1 Unlike

the bombing plot described in the previous chapter and like the World Trade Center

bombing, which Yousef had masterminded, the Manila Air Plot, as it is called, was a very

real and deadly plan.

        Had it not been for the accidental fire, Yousef‗s plot may well have succeeded, at

least in substantial part. Yousef knew how to manufacture a liquid explosive that could

be smuggled past airport metal detectors. The detonator was concealed in the heel of the

shoe (metal detectors do not extend to the floor.) And Yousef knew how to construct an

improvised explosive device that could be assembled in the airplane lavatory from

innocuous-seeming materials that could be brought on board an airliner, including a

Casio watch, which served as the bomb‘s timing device.

        Yousef tested a small amount of the explosive in December 1994. He boarded a

Tokyo-bound Philippines Airways plane in Manila, with a lay-over in Cebu, the

Philippines‘ second largest city. On the first leg of the flight, Yousef assembled the

1
Statement of Abdul Basit Mahmoud Abdul Karim, op. cit; Statement of Abdul Hakam Murad, FBI 302,
April 12-13, 1995. Murad‘s statement is an appendix in Peter Lance, op. cit.


                                               154
explosive device and then disembarked at Cebu, leaving the bomb tucked underneath his

seat. The bomb worked as planned. The pilot was able to make an emergency landing in

Okinawa, but the bomb blew a hole in the plane‘s fuselage, killing one passenger.

Yousef did not want to call too much attention to this test attack and used a smaller

amount of explosives than he intended to use in the real assaults.2


                 The Baluch Dimension of the New Terrorism Reappears

Abdul Hakam Murad was an acquaintance of Yousef, who assisted him with the plot.

Although Yousef managed to flee the Philippines, Murad was captured the night of the

fire, after Yousef told him to return to their apartment to pick up his computer. Murad

was subject to a harsh interrogation for two months in Manila, before U.S. agents took

custody of him on April 12, 1995.




                                                                Abdul Hakam Murad
                                                             Government Exhibit 403-D/7
                                                        United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.




Like Yousef, Murad is Baluch. When their judge ordered that an Arabic translator be

provided for the trial, Murad quipped to his lawyer, ―Why not a Baluch translator?‖3 A



2
 David Benjamin and Steven Simon, op. cit., p. 23; Abdul Hakam Murad statement, op. cit., p. 9.
3
 Similarly, when Murad‘s lawyer showed him the entry on Baluchistan in the Encyclopedia of Islam,
Murad was very pleased. Bernard Udell, personal communication.


                                                 155
third Baluch was also involved in this plot: Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, who would go on

to play a key role in al Qaida‘s terrorism, including masterminding the 9/11 attacks.

           The central role played by Baluch in the mega-terrorist attacks of the 1990s is

among the single most important points regarding these attacks that is regularly

neglected. Indeed, the Baluch involvement in these assaults precedes al Qaida‘s

involvement in them.

           Yousef was arrested in Islamabad in February 1995, and Pakistani authorities

were the first to announce publicly his ethnicity. As the New York Times reported, ―The

Pakistan newspaper, The News, which is said to have good sources in the Pakistani

military's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, said that ‗if features could betray

geography,‘ Mr. Yousef appeared to Pakistani investigators ‗as if he is from the coastal

belt of Baluchistan.‘‖ It further explained,

           The account in The News said Pakistani investigators had noted that
           President Saddam Hussein's Government in Iraq had tried to exploit
           animosities against the Iran Government among Baluch tribal people in
           southeastern Iran during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980's. The newspaper
           said this could explain how Mr. Yousef came into possession of the Iraqi
           passport that he used when he arrived in New York in September 1992, six
           months before the World Trade Center bombing. ―If Ramzi is in fact of
           Iranian Baluch origin, it would not have been big problem for him to get
           an Iraq passport,‖ the newspaper said.4

Although the relationship between Iraq and the Iranian Baluch was well-known in

Pakistan, it was not understood in the United States (further discussed in Chapter 9).

           At the time of Ramzi Yousef‘s arrest, the trial of Shaykh Omar et al. had just

begun, and the prosecution fought hard—and successfully—to keep any suggestion that

Yousef might be working for a hostile foreign government out of the court record.



4
    ―Terror Informer Reported to Get U.S. Protection,‖ New York Times, February 13, 1995.


                                                    156
Presumably, the prosecution‘s antipathy to that notion was due to the possibility that it

might diminish the jury‘s sense of the culpability of Shaykh Omar.


                             Ramzi Yousef between Bombing Plots

As Abdul Hakam Murad was flown back to the United States, he talked at length to the

U.S. agents accompanying him. The questions asked of Murad, and his answers, almost

certainly built upon what he had revealed during his protracted Filipino police

interrogation.

        Murad told the U.S. agents that Yousef had confided to him in August 1992 that

he would be traveling to the United States to carry out a bombing attack. Murad also

explained that already by April 1993, little more than a month after the Trade Center

bombing, Ramzi Yousef was living in Karachi, ―where they met on numerous

occasions.‖5 Notably, Yousef was not hiding in Afghanistan and he was not being

sheltered by Islamic militants. In fact, Yousef was staying at Karachi‘s Embassy Hotel.6

Yousef ran an electronics business in Karachi with an individual whom Murad knew as

Abdul Majid (Yousef told Murad that Abdul Majid was an alias. A Filipino police report

identifies Abdul Majid as Khalid Shaykh Mohammed.7)

        Murad also explained that ―Yousef felt secure‖ in Karachi.8 In April 1993, a

massive manhunt was on for Yousef, and U.S. authorities had a great deal of information

about him: his picture, height, weight, and fingerprints, all taken when he was briefly


5
  Statement of Abdul Hakam Murad, op. cit
6
  Ibid. Three men associated with 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta also stayed there (or at least at a Karachi
hotel with the same name) in early September 2001, as they left Germany in advance of the attacks.
Spanish Indictment op. cit., p. 326.
7
  Statement of Abdul Hakam Murad, op. cit.; ―Khaild Shaikh Mohammed,‖ report dated June 19, 2002, by
Republic of the Philippines National Police Commission, Philippine National Police, Pangasinan Police
Provincial Office, Libsong Lingayen, Pangasinan
8
  Statement of Abdul Hakam Murad, op. cit.


                                                   157
detained at JFK airport. That Yousef could be living openly and comfortably in Karachi

underscores the ingenuity of his entry into and exit from the United States. At that point,

U.S. authorities had just recently identified him as having entered the country as Ramzi

Yousef on an Iraqi passport, and the local militants had told the FBI that they had known

him as ―Rashid, the Iraqi.‖ U.S. authorities were searching for an Arab—not a Baluch.

Moreover, Yousef was a master of disguise. Four photographs found in his Manila

apartment showed him looking ―completely different‖ in each.9 Indeed, U.S. authorities

had a picture of Yousef, taken at JFK airport, which was widely disseminated on wanted

posters. Yousef, however, bore little resemblance to that picture, when following his

arrest, he appeared in court.

        Yousef had told Murad about the Trade Center bombing, explaining that he had

bombed the building and that he had met Shaykh Omar only once, at a Jersey City

mosque. Asked about Ahmed Ajaj, Yousef‘s traveling companion on his flight into the

United States, Murad replied that he did not know Ajaj and that Yousef had, according to

the report of the U.S. agents, ―‘used‘ the other individuals involved in the Trade Center

bombing.‖10

        Murad left Karachi in May 1993 and returned in the summer, living in an

apartment owned by a family friend. Yousef stayed with Murad then and caused an

accidental explosion, as he was cleaning lead azide out of a container. Yousef was

seriously injured and spent several weeks in a Karachi hospital, before leaving for Iranian




9
  ―World Trade Center bomb suspect 'stole' Swansea student's identity,‖ Sunday Times of London, June 11,
1995. Nidal Ayyad said that every time he saw Yousef, he looked different. Statement of Nidal Ayyad,
FBI 302, July 8, 1993, p. 6
10
   Statement of Abdul Hakam Murad, op. cit.


                                                  158
Baluchistan—specifically, the city of Iranshahr, where his parents lived—to finish his

recuperation.11

         Murad left Pakistan that fall and returned again in August 1994. This time,

Murad stayed with an older brother of Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Karim, who lived in

Karachi. (Abdul Karim is also a major terrorist figure, and he would be arrested in

2004). Yousef, however, stayed again at the Embassy Hotel, because he did not get

along well with his brother, according to Murad12 Murad was also introduced to another

Manila Air Plot conspirator, Usama Asmurai. At that point—in August 1994, the

detailed plans for the airplane bombings had been worked out and were contained in

Yousef‘s computer.13


                                         The Manila Air Plot

After the consultations in Karachi, Yousef returned to Manila in the latter part of August,

and, along with Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, began to prepare for the bombing plot,

buying chemicals, manufacturing timing devices, and casing the flights they planned to

attack.14 In the fall (September or October), Yousef took Murad to Lahore, where they

spent 18 days, as Yousef prepared Murad for his role in the assault.15 Notably, Yousef

did not go to Afghanistan to train Murad in the use of those explosives—the sensitive

training was conducted in Pakistan.




11
   Ibid.
12
   Ibid.
13
   Stated by the prosecution in its opening remarks. United States v. Ramzi Yousef et al., (Manila Air plot),
transcript, p. 12.
14
   The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 147; United States v. Ramzi Yousef et al., indictment, S 13 93
Cr. 180 (KTD), p. 22.
15
   Statement of Abdul Hakam Murad, op. cit.


                                                    159
         In November, Ramzi Yousef and Usama Asmurai arrived in the Philippines.

Yousef tested a small bomb in the generator room of a shopping mall in Cebu City.16 On

December 1, Yousef and Asmurai carried out another small test bombing in a Manila

movie theater to confirm they could detonate a bomb in a seat. Asmurai, who had

actually planted the bomb in the theater, then left the Philippines.

         On December 11, Yousef bombed the Philippines Airways plane. It was the first

terrorist bombing of a jetliner in five years, but its significance was not appreciated at the

time. Subsequently, Yousef telephoned Murad, then in Dubai, and Murad arrived in

Manila on December 26. Abdul Majid was at Yousef‘s apartment when Murad arrived,

but he moved out, as Murad moved in. Asmurai returned to Manila on January 4, and the

fire in Yousef‘s apartment occurred two days later.

         The small fire produced a great deal of smoke, attracting the attention of

neighbors, and prompting Yousef and Murad to leave their apartment. Subsequently,

Yousef asked Murad to retrieve his laptop computer, and Murad was arrested, as he

returned to their apartment. Yousef succeeded in flying out of Manila and contacting

Ishtiaq Parker, a 25-year old South African Muslim, studying at the Islamic University in

Islamabad. A religious extremist himself, Parker claimed he had known Yousef for less

than a year and that Yousef had struck up an acquaintance by appealing to a mutual

antipathy toward Shi‘a Muslims. On February 3, Parker told U.S. embassy officials

about Yousef, because Yousef was pressing Parker to help him carry out a terrorist

attack.17 Yousef arrived in Islamabad on February 6, and Parker helped check him into a


16
   Simon Reeve, The New Jackals: Ramzi Yousef, Osama bin Laden and the Future of Terrorism (Boston:
Northeastern University Press, 1999) p. 76.
17
   Former CIA Agent, Larry Johnson, on Nightline, (ABC News), February 13, 1995; another, more
elaborate report states that Parker told Pakistani authorities that Yousef first contacted him on January 29


                                                    160
bed and breakfast establishment, just across the street from his own apartment. Yousef

registered under the name, Ali Mohammed Baluch, showing a Pakistani ID card in that

name.18

        Yousef was arrested the next day. An agent with the State Department‘s

Diplomatic Security Service described the arrest:

        A The operation took place on the morning of the 7th of February. We
        went to a house, a guest house, which is similar in the U.S. to a bed and
        breakfast . . .

        Q     Do you remember what the name of it was?

        A     Su Casa Guest House.

        Q     About how far was that from the [US] embassy?

        A     Maybe two miles . . .

        Q     Could you describe what the Su Casa looks like?

        A It looks very similar to a split-level house that is very common in
        the Islamabad area. The idea is that it is a single-family home that has
        been converted into a number of guest rooms or a small hotel, white in
        color, two-level.19

Among the myths surrounding Ramzi Yousef is that he was arrested at a guest house

owned by bin Ladin. Indeed, former FBI Director Louis Freeh told the 9/11 Commission

that Yousef ―was found in Pakistan, staying in an al Qaida guest house.‖20 That is simply

not true.



and actually had him fly to Bangkok to bomb two U.S. flights by sending suitcases as air cargo. Parker
could not bring himself to do it and pressure from Yousef to carry out further attacks followed. Simon
Reeve, op. cit., p. 99.
18
   It identified him as being from the town of Pasni, on the Arabian Sea. ―Terror Informer Reported to Get
U.S. Protection,‖ New York Times, February 13, 1995.
19
   United States v. Ramzi Yousef et al., ibid, pp. 3923-4.
20
   9/11 Commission Hearing, April 13, 2004. Similarly, the Joint Congressional Inquiry reported that
Ramzi Yousef was arrested at a bin Ladin guesthouse in Pakistan, Joint Inquiry into Intelligence
Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 by the House Permanent


                                                  161
        What is true is that a business card belong to Mohammed Jamal Khalifa was

found in Yousef‘s Manila apartment. Khalifa is one of bin Ladin‘s many brothers-in-law

and ran the International Islamic Relief Organization in the Philippines. Yousef told U.S.

authorities that Usama Asmurai had given him the card, in case he needed assistance.21


Usama Asmurai: Initial Blending of Baluch Terrorism with Afghan Elements

Asmurai hails from Central Asia. He headed his own group and actually fought the

Soviets in Afghanistan (Chapter 2).22 Asmurai represents the first instance in which

someone with a significant and authentic background in the Afghan fighting became

involved in the mega-bombing plots against the United States that begin with the 1993

World Trade Center bombing.23

        The 1995 Manila Air Plot thus represents the first clear blending of the Baluch

terrorism with the conflict in Afghanistan. Moreover, this phenomenon begins before bin

Ladin becomes involved in these attacks, as discussed below.




Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, p. 128. The 9/11
Commission was much less willing to accept the notion that bin Ladin was involved in this plot.
21
   Statement of Abdul Basit Mahmoud Abdul Karim, op. cit
22
   Asmurai had several aliases and passports to match the names. Asmurai used a passport in the name of
Waly Khan Amin Shah and that is how he is identified during the Manila Air Plot trial. He also had a
Norwegian passport in the name of Hahsen Grabi.
   Three of these conspirators in this plot have a Qatar connection. Asmurai obtained a Pakistani passport
in Qatar on July 2, 1994 (Government Exhibit 401). Yousef also had a Pakistani passport issued in Qatar, in
the name of Adam Ali. And KSM worked in Qatar in this period.
23
   The other instances are people who merely visited for a brief period, like Mahmoud Abu Halima, or for
whom there is nothing but their own claims, like Ramzi Yousef and KSM. No credible independent source
has ever placed those two men in Afghanistan.


                                                   162
                                                                  Usama Asmurai
                                                            Government Exhibit 403-D/8
                                                       United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.




           Asmurai was initially detained in Manila, but managed to escape prison within

three days. Asmurai has three fingers missing from his left hand, and he was identified

because of his missing fingers a year later in Malaysia, where he was using the name

Usama Turkestani and posing as a restaurateur on the resort island of Langkawi.

Asmurai was transferred to U.S. authorities in December 1995, but it was not long before

he tried to escape from the New York prison. A prison guard testified to his unusual

physical fitness:

           A Once Mr. Shah was released into the recreation area, he usually go
           through a routine every day. He stand on his head and does all kind of
           physical calisthenics, scissorlike exercises with his legs. He does push-
           ups on his knuckles. He falls deliberately, you know, indicating to me that
           he had been doing this for awhile because he would deliberately fall and
           he catches himself so he don't hurt himself. He does it all the time.

           Q The scissor maneuver that you were just describing, could you tell us
           a little more about that?

           A He stands up on top of his head and he exercises with his legs. He
           does all kinds of things with his legs. He is a physical, very physical
           individual.24



24
     United States v. Ramzi Yousef et al., ibid, pp. 3774-5.


                                                       163
Bin Ladin Not Involved

None of the participants in this plot were Arab, and al Qaida was not involved. Bin

Ladin has not been indicted for this plot, and his name does not appear in the trial

transcript. It does, appear, however, in one document introduced into evidence: a

Filipino interrogation of Abdul Hakam Murad, in which Murad is asked who finances

them. He provides a name, Amin (later proved to be correct—Amin Mohammed, a

Yemeni, further discussed in Chapter 9), but the interrogator does not hear Murad and

responds:

        Interrogator: Who? Ben Laden?

        Murad: What? Sorry?

        Murad: No, no, no. You mean, Osama Ben Laden?

        Interrogator: Yeah.

        Murad: From Sudan?

        Interrogator: Yeah.

        Murad: No, no, he‘s not supporting that. We are not taking anything from him.25


The Non-Islamic Lifestyles of the Conspirators

In New York, Ramzi Yousef appeared to be an Islamic militant. Yet in the Philippines,

neither Yousef nor any other of the conspirators lived as religious extremists. ―Although

Mr. Yousef has been described as a Muslim fundamentalist, his former neighbors say that

he was never obvious about his religion, that he dressed well in Western-style clothing




25
  Murad Interrogation-January 7, 1995, p. 16, (Philippines) Government Exhibit (number is illegible),
United States v. Ramzi Yousef et al. Murad also told U.S. agents that Amin from Yemen financed the plot,
Statement of Abdul Hakam Murad, op. cit.


                                                  164
and that he appeared to enjoy Manila's raucous night life,‖ the New York Times reports.26

Several conspirators had girlfriends, including Yousef, who had two sound files of

conversations with her on his computer. Yousef‘s lawyer initially objected to playing

them during the trial, because as he told the judge, ―I understand, the one tape contains

fuck fuck fuck fuck fuck, maybe FUC with an accent umlaut, but I think that is what it

is.‖27 The prosecution responded that it would avoid the obscene parts, and the New York

Times described the clip it played for the jury as ―an amorous exchange.‖28

        Raghida Dirgham, a very attractive Lebanese woman, is New York correspondent

for London‘s al Hayat and interviewed Yousef in prison. Dirgham did not think he was

an Islamic militant. During the interview, she tried to put Yousef at ease and gain his

cooperation with an occasional flirtatious smile. As she wrote, ―He responds to smiles

and smiling makes him shy.‖29 In her experience, a radical Muslim would have averted

his eyes, rather than return her smile.30

        Usama Asmurai had a girlfriend as well. A security guard at his apartment

building in Manila described her to the jury, ―She's a Filipino woman. She is quite

beautiful, and when I see her she's always wearing this fitted clothes, and she's kind of

sexy.‖31

        Most astonishing is a story about Khalid Shaykh Mohammed (if one accepts the

Filipino identification of him as Abdul Majid). In early December 1994, KSM rented a

helicopter to impress a female dentist, whom he was dating, and called her on his cell

26
   ―Broad Terror Campaign Is Foiled By Fire in Kitchen, Officials Say,‖ New York Times, February 12,
1995.
27
   United States v. Ramzi Yousef et al., op. cit., p. 2674.
28
   ―Computer Expert Testifies in Terror Trial,‖ New York Times, July 24, 1996.
29
   ―U/I the Liberation Army was behind the bombing of the Trade Center; I am Pakistani by Nationality and
Palestinian by Choice,‖ al Hayat, April 12, 1995.
30
   Author interview, May 30, 1995.
31
   United States v. Ramzi Yousef, op. cit., p. 883.


                                                  165
phone, while flying by her building.32 He preferred five-star hotels and ―entertained in

karaoke bars and mirrored go-go clubs.‖33


Yousef’s Contacts with Islamic Militants Elsewhere

Abdul Hakam Murad told U.S. officials that Ramzi Yousef had contacts with Islamic

militants in other countries, including Algeria, Egypt, and France, and was teaching them

how to construct bombs. Yousef also visited the Philippines‘ Abu Sayyaf group in

Mindanao in early 1994 and subsequently told Murad that they ―would be difficult to

instruct in explosives since their main interest is in the use of firearms.‖34


In Sum

The dominant tendency among Americans and others, whether professional analysts or

the public more generally, is to view the terrorism that has been described in this and the

previous two chapters in terms of Islamic militants, and Islamic militants alone. In fact,

these attacks are generally attributed to either Shaykh Omar or Usama bin Ladin. When

attributed to the former, it is a failure to understand properly the charges against the blind

cleric. When attributed to the latter, it is actually reading an understanding of later events

into the past.

        Islamic militants may have provided the foot soldiers for these plots, but other

elements provided the expertise. Above all, they are a Baluch clan, central figures in the




32
   ―Khaild Shaikh Mohammed,‖ June 19, 2002, op. cit
33
   ―Terrorists' Sept. 11 plot a many-tentacled creature,‖ Knight Ridder, September 8, 2002. Even if the
Filipino identification is wrong, there is other evidence of KSM‘s womanizing: KSM fled to Qatar after the
plot went awry. Monitoring of his telephone revealed that he boasted of his sexual conquests. Author
interview with US official.
34
   Statement of Abdul Hakam Murad, op. cit.


                                                   166
Trade Center bombing and the Manila Air Plot, one of whom—Khalid Shaykh

Mohammed—would go on to mastermind the 9/11 attacks.




                                      167
                                        CHAPTER 8

                    THE U.S. EMBASSY BOMBINGS

On August 7, 1998, the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

were bombed nearly simultaneously. The attacks occurred little more than two years

after bin Ladin had relocated from Sudan to Afghanistan. They were the first major

terrorist assaults against the United States for which al Qaida was clearly responsible

(ambiguity may exist regarding the two bombings in Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996).1

As the 9/11 Commission reports, ―Not until 1998 did al Qaeda undertake a major terrorist

operation of its own.‖2 This is also the position of former White House counter-

terrorism staffers, David Benjamin and Steven Simon in The Age of Sacred Terror, which

also notes the expertise involved in these attacks, ―No previous terrorist operation had

shown the kind of skill that was evident in the destruction, within ten minutes, of two

embassy buildings separated by hundreds of miles. Someone at the time was quoted as

saying that two such attacks were not twice as hard, they were a hundred times as hard.‖3

Indeed, ―The question nagged: how could any group execute such a pair of attacks

without the help of a state sponsor?‖ the former White House staffers ask, even as they



1
  It is not clear who was responsible for them. ―The Islamic Change Movement,‖ a previously unknown
organization, claimed credit for them in faxes to media organizations. After the first bomb, Saudi
authorities televised the confessions of four militants and then executed them, but doubts existed as to
whether the confessions were genuine. It has been strongly suggested that Iran was involved in the second
bombing, including by former FBI director Louis Freeh, but Stephen Hayes reports that documents found
in Iraq led the Defense Intelligence Agency to report, ―Alleged conspirators employed by IIS are wanted in
connection with the Khobar Towers bombing.‖ Stephen Hayes, The Connection, op. cit., p. 180. Since
Khobar Towers housed the U.S. pilots who enforced the no-fly zone in southern Iraq, Baghdad would
indeed seem a more likely explanation.
2
  9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 62.
3
  Benjamin and Simon op. cit., p. 257.


                                                   168
write, ―The intelligence community maintained that it had no indications of any

noteworthy relationship between al-Qaeda and a state sponsor of terror, except Sudan.‖4

           Yet as the 9/11 Commission reports, ―While we now know that al Qaeda was

formed in 1988, at the end of the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the intelligence

community did not describe this organization, at least in documents we have seen, until

1999.‖5 (italics added). If al Qaida was not even described until 1999, it could not have

been subject to rigorous analysis before then. How could anyone be confident in August

1998 that al Qaida did not have significant ties to one or more terrorist states, particularly

as the United States had very limited knowledge about what was happening in

Afghanistan and just which parties were operating there?

           Indeed, the first U.S. indictment of bin Ladin had been issued just two months

before the embassy bombings, by the Southern District of New York, which had

prosecuted the earlier terrorism cases. The indictment named only one defendant, bin

Ladin, and charged him with only one crime: ―conspiracy to attack defense utilities of

the United States.‖ It relied heavily on the informant, Jamal al-Fadl, and contradicts what

the intelligence community told the White House about al Qaida‘s ties to terrorist states.

It affirms that al Qaida had forged an alliance ―with the government of Iran and its

associated terrorist group Hezballah for the purpose of working together against their

perceived common enemies in the West, particularly the United States.‖ The implication

is that those who told Benjamin and Simon that al Qaida had no meaningful ties to

terrorist states other than Sudan were unaware of al-Fadl‘s reports or, like this author,

judged him to be unreliable. The indictment also states ―al Qaeda reached an


4
    Benjamin and Simon op. cit., p. 263
5
    9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 341.


                                                169
understanding with the government of Iraq that al Qaeda would not work against that

government and that on particular projects, specifically including weapons development,

al Qaeda would work cooperatively with the Government of Iraq.‖



                       The Development of the Embassy Bombings Plot


In the early 1990s, al Qaida began to establish a presence in Kenya, the primary purpose

of which was to facilitate travel to Somalia. Al Qaida had an office in Nairobi, staffed by

two men. In 1994, a Lebanese-American, Wadih El Hage took charge of the office and

established a charity, ―Help Africa People‖ as a cover for his activities. More al Qaida

members were based in or near the port city of Mombassa, whence they could reach

Somalia by sea. Significantly, Mombassa and Dar es Salaam are less than 200 miles

apart, and there is substantial traffic and commerce between the two port cities (see map

on following page).




                                           170
                                                                               Government Exhibit 256
                                                                                  United States v.
                                                                               Usama bin Laden et al.




Ali Mohammed

Ali Mohammed, an Egyptian-American, served 17 years in the Egyptian army, before he

became a member of the U.S. Army at Fort Bragg‘s Special Warfare Center in 1986,

where he worked until 1989. He had, in fact, been in Afghanistan, before coming to Fort

Bragg.6 Ali Mohammed was involved with the Services Office in New York and in

Pakistan. L‘Husseine Kherchtou testified about receiving surveillance training in

Peshawar in 1992 from Mohammed, whom he knew as Abu Mohammed al Amriki. Ali


6
  Col. Norvell De Atkine, USA, Ret., Director of Middle East Studies at the SWC, who knew Mohammed
from his days there author interview, February 24, 2005.


                                               171
Mohammed was not part of al Qaida, although Kherchtou thought he was a member of

Egyptian Islamic Jihad.7

           In December 1993, Ali Mohammed led some al Qaida members in surveilling the

U.S. embassy in Kenya, and they considered other possible attacks, including against

British, French, and Israeli targets in Nairobi. Subsequently, Ali Mohammed told

Kherchtou they should go to Senegal and surveil French targets for possible assault, but

that did not happen.8 In December 1994, a friend called Ali Mohammed from the United

States and told him that U.S. officials wanted to speak with him in conjunction with

Shaykh Omar‘s trial Ali Mohammed returned to the United States and never rejoined

the militants, as U.S. officials would learn much later. The al Qaida leadership had not

trusted him, and after he was contacted by U.S. law enforcement, they told him not to

return.9

           Nonetheless, Ali Mohammed was indicted on conspiracy charges related to the

embassy bombings. He pled guilty in the fall of 2000 and began co-operating with U.S.

officials. Five years later, Ali Mohammed is not in prison and has yet to be sentenced—

suggesting that he is still co-operating with U.S. authorities.10 Indeed, it is not entirely

clear just what Ali Mohammed represents. The Director of Ft. Bragg‘s Middle East

Studies program, Col Norvell De Atkine, described him as an ―adventurer,‖ rather than a

―dedicated Muslim.‖ Ali Mohammed seemed to invent dramatic stories about himself,

which included claims to know major Middle Eastern personalities.11 Ali Mohammed



7
  United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., pp. 1140, 1148.
8
  United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., p. 1215.
9
  Statement of Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney, Northern District of Illinois, op. cit.; United States v.
Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., p. 5276.
10
   Lloyd Epstein, lawyer for Ali Mohammed, author interview, January 10, 2005.
11
   Col Norvell De Atkine, op. cit.


                                                      172
seems a bit like Emad Salem, and it is not impossible that he, like Salem and Abdo

Mohammed Haggag, had ties to Egyptian intelligence, as the Egyptian government

regarded the militants as a serious threat and worked very actively against them.

Penetrating them, using someone like Ali Mohammed, would have been a logical step.

       Analysts commonly attribute the origins of the embassy bombings to the

surveillance of the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, led by Ali Mohammed in 1993. That may

indeed have given bin Ladin the idea for the attack, but it is questionable whether Ali

Mohammed was really planning such an assault, as opposed, perhaps, to trying to

establish his standing within al Qaida. There is a tendency to assume that every

individual associated with al Qaida is an Islamic militant, but that need not be so.

Perhaps, as Col. De Atkine suggested, Ali Mohammed liked the excitement of working

with the group, or alternatively, he may have represented an attempted foreign

intelligence penetration of the organization.


Early Investigation Discovers Little

In 1996, U.S. and Kenyan authorities began investigating bin Ladin‘s activities in

Nairobi. Among other things, starting in July, they placed a wiretap on El Hage‘s home

and office telephones, and they also tapped the phone of the Mercy International Relief

Agency, with which El Hage maintained close ties. In August 1997, El Hage returned

from his second trip to Afghanistan, following bin Ladin‘s move there the year before.

At Nairobi airport, El Hage was confronted by Kenyan police and FBI agents. His home

and office were searched, as was the office of Mercy International. In September, El

Hage was summoned to give testimony in the New York grand jury investigation into bin

Ladin‘s activities. He never returned to Kenya, but settled in Texas, where he had lived



                                            173
previously. The U.S. investigation of al Qaida‘s Nairobi cell ended. It had failed to

generate information to suggest that reason for serious concern existed. Nonetheless,

within the year the al Qaida members in Kenya, with a little outside support, would carry

out the bombings of two U.S. embassies.


The Expertise—mostly from abroad

Essentially the same al Qaida infrastructure that had been engaged in Somalia was

quickly transformed into an infrastructure to support the embassy bombings, after a few

particularly skilled figures appeared on the scene. One was a 35-year old Egyptian,

Abdullah Ahmed Abdullah, who assumed leadership of the al Qaida cell in Kenya.

Abdullah had become an al Qaida member in Afghanistan around 1990 and subsequently

joined bin Ladin in Khartoum. In 1993, he went to Somalia, returned to Sudan, and then

followed bin Ladin to Afghanistan. Some 10 months before the embassy bombings,

Abdullah arrived in Kenya.12

        Another Egyptian, Muhsin Atwah, came from Afghanistan to Africa shortly

before the attacks. Atwah was responsible for building both the Nairobi and Dar es

Salaam bombs. Atwah was one of two instructors in an al Qaida camp in Afghanistan,

where he taught the course in mines, grenades, and how to set charges for TNT and C-

4.13

        A third key figure was Mustafa Fadhil, also an Egyptian member of al Qaida, who

had long been based in Mombassa. Fadhil led an al Qaida team into Somalia in March

1997, as described in Chapter 3. Fadhil was dark-skinned enough to blend into an East


12
 Statement of Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, op. cit.
13
 Ibid. Odeh identified the other man as ―Abu Ubeidah,‖ but a different Abu Ubeidah than al Qaida‘s first
military commander.


                                                  174
African setting. Indeed, one of his aliases was Abu Jihad al-Nubi (the Nubian). In the

spring of 1998, Fadhil moved to Dar Es-Salaam, which he had visited frequently while

living in Mombassa, and began organizing the bombing there.

            Finally, three suicide bombers arrived just before the attacks. One was an

Egyptian, who drove the truck carrying the Dar es Salaam bomb. Two young Saudis, in

their early twenties who had fought in Afghanistan, were responsible for delivering the

Nairobi bomb, although one was not an al Qaida member. As the prosecution affirmed,

―One does not have to be a formal member of al Qaeda to carry out important tasks for

the group.‖14


Support from Local al Qaida Members and Sympathizers

Local al Qaida members and their friends in Kenya and Tanzania provided the basic

logistical support for the bombings. Their tasks, like renting houses, buying trucks, etc.

did not require great skills, but knowledge of the environment and the ability to blend in

with the population. The cells in each country were not strangers to one another, as there

was a lot of traffic between Mombassa and Dar es Salaam, and the logistical structures of

the two plots overlapped. For example, the man who purchased the truck for the Nairobi

bombing, a Kenyan of Yemeni descent, Sheikh Ahmed Salim Swedan, was in the

trucking business, and he also purchased the truck that carried the Dar es Salaam bomb.

Swedan was not an al Qaida member, but he had spent time in Afghanistan and was good

friends with several al Qaida members who participated in the bombings.15

            A 25-yeard old Tanzanian involved in the Dar es Salaam bombing, Khalfan

Khamis Mohammed, had been to a training camp in Afghanistan in 1994, but he was not

14
     United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., p. 35.
15
     Statement of Mohammed Sadiq Odeh, op. cit.


                                                        175
an al Qaida member either. A friend in Dar es Salaam, who drove for Swedan‘s trucking

business, suggested he go there. The camp, which was not an al Qaida camp, was run by

Pakistanis. In fact, although Khalfan was aware that bin Ladin headed an Islamic group,

he did not know its name.16

        Khalfan Mohammed reflects the pliability of some Muslim radicals, particularly

the poorly educated, unskilled, and aimless, as similarly evidenced in the New York City

bombing conspiracies. Their friends suggest a jihad project, and they readily agree, with

little consideration of the consequences, including to themselves. Khalfan had been born

and raised in rural Tanzania, on the island of Pemba. At the age of 17, without having

finished high school, Khalfan moved to Dar es Salaam, where an older brother worked,

who later immigrated to Britain. Khalfan had wanted to find some way to join his

brother in England, but in the spring of 1998, when Mustafa Fadhil asked him to help

with a jihad job, he readily agreed. Khalfan was not told what they were doing until just

five days before the attacks. He did simple, but indispensable things, like help the other

conspirators rent houses; arrange their transportation; and stay at the house where the

bomb was built, in case curious neighbors came by, so they would see a Tanzanian and

not a foreigner.17

        On the eve of the bombings, all except those involved in delivering the bombs

left. On the morning of the attacks, Fazul Mohammed, who had been El Hage‘s young

assistant in al Qaida‘s Nairobi office, led the two Saudi bombers towards the U.S.

embassy, driving his pick-up ahead of their truck and turning off shortly before they

reached their target. Fazul then cleaned up the house in which the bomb had been built,

16
  United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., p. 2858.
17
  Ibid., p. 2817; statement of Khalfan Khamis Mohammed, FBI 302, Government Exhibit 1071, United
States v. Usama bin Laden et al.


                                               176
leaving Nairobi on August 11, on a passport with false stamps, showing that he had just

entered Kenya on August 10, three days after the bombing. That was Fazul‘s guarantee

he would not fall under suspicion as he flew out of Nairobi, and he remains a fugitive to

this day.




Note 10 Aug 1998 entry stamp into Nairobi in lower right corner of Fazul Mohammed‘s
             passport, along with accompanying visa, or ―visitor‘s pass.‖
          Government Exhibit 903, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.


       Khalfan Mohammed remained in Dar es Salaam to assist the Egyptian suicide

bomber, who did not know Swahili, the local language, and then he cleaned up the house

where the bomb had been built. Khalfan had obtained a Tanzanian passport in a false

name through the assistance of a friend, who was a government employee. The day after

the bombing, Khalfan left Tanzania on that passport, having been given $1,000 and




                                           177
phone numbers to call, if he needed help.18 He traveled by bus to Mozambique and then

to South Africa, where he applied for political asylum. Beyond using the false name,

Khalfan did nothing to conceal his identity, and he was arrested in October 1999.


A Suicide Bomber: Mohammed al-Owhali

One of the two Saudis who were supposed to die delivering the Nairobi bomb,

Mohammed al-Owhali, backed out at the last minute. The 21-year old was arrested soon

after the bombing and spoke at length to the FBI. Al-Owhali explained the background

to his involvement, first in Afghanistan and then in the bombing. As a youth, he had

always been religious, but became more so, after he began listening to tapes of the radical

Saudi cleric, Safar al-Hawali. In 1996, as an FBI agent testified, recounting al-Owhali‘s

statement, ―a friend of his had come back from Bosnia and he and his friends started

discussing joining a jihad in particular areas, Turkestan [sic], Bosnia, Cheknia [sic].‖19

They went to Afghanistan, where al-Owhali received basic military training at an al

Qaida camp. He was given the first of many aliases: Mohammed Akbar al-Qatari. He

was told not to tell anyone his real name or that he was from Saudi Arabia.20 He did well

and was one of a select group granted an audience with bin Ladin.

         Al-Owhali declined to swear an oath of loyalty to al Qaida, because he did not

want to be bound to follow their orders, but he sought an active role in combat, and even

more so in some special mission. Al-Owhali fought with distinction alongside the

Taliban and was later approached by a Saudi who had helped treat him for tuberculosis,

which he had contracted in Afghanistan. Al-Owhali knew this individual as Azzam, and


18
   Ibid.
19
   United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., op. cit., p. 1994.
20
   Ibid, p. 1994.


                                                      178
Azzam proposed carrying out an unspecified mission. Al-Owhali readily agreed. Along

with four others, he was given what he regarded as his most advanced training, by an

Egyptian who instructed them in what al-Owhali called the management and operation of

a cell.21 Al-Owhali was then told that had to go to Yemen. Offered a range of passports

on which to travel, al-Owhali chose an Iraqi passport and traveled to Yemen, where he

received a valid Yemeni passport. Al-Owhali was then told to return to Afghanistan.

Only then was he given any idea of what he had volunteered for. He was told he would

be involved in an operation against a U.S. target in East Africa that would result in his

own death. He filmed a ―martyrdom video,‖ to be shown after his death, in which he

stated he was a member of the ―Third Martyr Barracks First Squad of the El Bara bin

Malik division of the Army of Liberating the Islamic Holy Lands.‖22 No such

organization existed, but he was told to say that.

            On August 2, al-Owhali arrived in Nairobi, where Fazul Mohammed met him and

took him to the house where the bomb was being made. The next day, the cell leader met

with al-Owhali and explained to him the bombing plots and his role in them. Azzam, al-

Owhali‘s friend from Afghanistan, would be the suicide driver and al-Owhali would be

his passenger. Al-Owhali would have two tasks. As the bomb-laden vehicle approached

the U.S. embassy, he was to jump out and use a gun and stun grenades to force the

embassy guards to lift the drop-bar blocking the approach, so the truck could get as close

as possible to the building. Also, Azzam was to detonate the bomb by pushing a button

on the dashboard, but if for some reason, it malfunctioned, al-Owhali had the keys to the




21
     Ibid, p. 2003.
22
     Ibid, p. 2008.


                                            179
lock on the rear of the truck. He was to open the lock and detonate the bomb by throwing

grenades at it. One way or another, al-Owhali was expected to die.

            On the morning of August 7, as al-Owhali and Azzam drove toward the embassy,

they listened to Islamic chants to steel their resolve. As they approached the area behind

the embassy, al-Owhali jumped out, only to discover he had left his gun in the truck. He

used a stun grenade to drive away the guard. Azzam began shooting from the vehicle,

and al-Owhali ran away, deciding he had done his part. He was soon arrested.

            Al-Owhali‘s questioning in Nairobi continued for four days. At one point, he told

his interrogators that he wanted to recite a poem to them. As the FBI agent explained,

            It wasn't so much normal speak, it was a chanting, almost a singing-type
            poem.. . . Through the translator I was able to determine that this
            particular chanting poem questioned whether or not two friends would
            ever meet again in paradise, and Al-'Owhali explained to me that this
            chanting poem is what he and Azzam were listening to as they were
            driving for motivation . . . to attack the U.S. Embassy. And as Al-'Owhali
            was reflecting on his friendship with Azzam and this chanting poem, he
            started to cry. 23

And so the interrogation of the 21-year old Saudi ended.


Khalid Shaykh Mohammed ??

The narration above is a summary of the court record regarding the embassy bombings.

However, the Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the

Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001 (by the House and Senate Intelligence

Committees) suggests the full story may be more complex and that Khalid Shaykh

Mohammed may also have been involved. According to this report, a foreign government




23
     Ibid, p. 2038.


                                               180
provided the CIA a list of individuals who flew into Nairobi before the bombings, and

one of those names was an alias for KSM.24


             The Quick and Easy Determination of al Qaida’s Responsibility

Practically all terrorist entities involved in major terrorist attacks on the United States

have tried to keep their responsibility hidden. Libya, for example, did not take credit for

the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103. The Baluch terrorism (1993 Trade Center bombing)

was claimed in the name of a fictitious organization—the Liberation Army: Fifth

Battalion, and to this day, no coherent explanation has been provided of the attack.

Similarly, although claims of responsibility followed the bombings of U.S. targets in

Saudi Arabia in 1995 and 1996, none were credible. Yet al Qaida broke with this pattern.


Belligerent Statements Before the Bombings

Very soon after the embassy bombings, it was apparent that al Qaida was involved,

because the claims of responsibility issued after the attacks—made in the name of a non-

existent group—were easily traced back to bin Ladin‘s satellite phone. The conclusion

that al Qaida was responsible was then sealed with the detention and interrogation of

Mohammed Odeh at Karachi airport the day of the bombing (see Chapter 3 for the

fraudulent passport which Odeh was given to use, including its false entry stamp into

Pakistan, dated August 11, four days after his actual entry).




24
   Joint Inquiry, op. cit., p. 313. The New York Times reported similarly in ―Pakistanis Arrest Qaeda Figure
Seen as Planner Of 9/11,‖ March 2, 2003.
    If this is so, it reinforces the suspicion that Mohammed Odeh was intended to be arrested at Karachi
airport. Odeh was only peripherally involved in the bombing and so as he explained the bombing plot to
authorities, he would have unwittingly gave an incomplete account, which omitted key details, like KSM‘s
role.


                                                    181
        Starting some six months before the bombings, al Qaida began repeatedly to

announce its ferocious antagonism to the United States. In late February Al-Quds al-

Arabi published a statement in the name of ―The International Islamic Front against Jews

and Crusaders,‖ signed by bin Ladin, al-Zawahiri, and four other leaders of radical

Islamic groups (two from Pakistan, one from Egypt, and one from Bangladesh).25 The

signatories called their statement ―a legal fatwa,‖ although none had the Islamic training

that would have qualified them to issue such a pronouncement. The ―fatwa‖ was bolder

and angrier than bin Ladin‘s ―Declaration of Jihad.‖ It was also much shorter—one page,

as compared to 23 pages.26

        The statement read, ―The Arabian Peninsula has never—since God made it flat,

created its desert and encircled it with seas—been stormed by any forces like the crusader

armies spreading in it like locusts, eating its riches and wiping out its plantations,‖ and it

cited ―three facts that are known to everyone:‖

        1) The United States has been occupying the most sacred area of Islamic land,
           the Arabian peninsula for about seven years, robbing it of its riches, dictating
           to its rulers. . . There is no better proof of this than the Americans‘ continued
           aggression against the people of Iraq, with the peninsula as a staging ground. .
           ..
        2) Despite the major devastation inflicted on the Iraqi people at the hands of the
           Crusader-Jewish alliance, despite the horrifying number of those killed, which
           exceeds one million—despite all that, the American are trying once again to
           repeat these horrific massacres . . .

        3) If the Americans‘ aims behind these wars are religious and economic, they are
           also to serve the Jews‘ petty state, and divert attention from [that state‘s]

25
   The names and identifications of the signatories, as they appear on the ―fatwa‖ are: 1. Sheikh Usama Ben
Laden; 2. Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, leader, Jihad Group in Egypt; 3. Sheikh Abu Yair Rifai Ahmed Taha,
one of the leaders of the Islamic Group in Egypt; 4. Mawlana Mir Hamza, secretary, The Ulema Society of
Pakistan; 5. Mawlana Fazlulrahman Khalil, leader, The Supporter‘s Movement of Pakistan; and 6. Sheikh
Abd al-Salam Mohamed, leader, The Jihad Movement in Bangladesh.
   Dated February 12, the ―fatwa‖ was not published for nearly two weeks. Government Exhibit 1505-T,
United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
26
   One page in Arabic, two pages in English translation. Government Exhibits 1505 and 1505-T, United
States v. Usama bin Laden et al.


                                                   182
                occupation of Jerusalem and its killing of Muslims. There is no better proof
                of this than their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the most powerful Arab state
                nearby, and their efforts to fragment all states in the region, such as Iraq,
                Saudi Arabia, Egypt and the Sudan into small paper states . . .

The ―fatwa‖ further affirmed:

             All of these crimes and sins are a clear declaration of war by the
             Americans against God, His messenger, and Muslims . . . In light of that,
             and in following the command of Almighty God, we are issuing the
             following fatwa to all Muslims: The judgment to kill Americans and their
             allies, both civilian and military, is the individual duty of every Muslim
             able to do so, and in any country where it is possible, to liberate Al-Aqsa
             Mosque and The Holy Mosque from their grip, and to expel their armies
             from all Islamic territory, defeated and incapable of threatening any
             Muslim.27

Al-Quds al-Arabi placed a 30 minute call to bin Ladin‘s satellite phone on February 22

and carried news of the ―fatwa‖ the next day. The story ran under the headline: ―Bin

Ladin, al-Zawahiri, and Rifai Taha issue a fatwa for the killing of Americans everywhere,

as a reply to the threats to strike Iraq.‖ Those words are in small print above the main

headline, describing a meeting between U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan and Saddam

Hussein that produced an agreement (of sorts) on U.N. weapons inspections, amid U.S.

threats of a punitive strike on Iraq. The ―fatwa‖ did not seem nearly as important to the

newspaper as what Saddam was doing (see image of newspaper on following page).




27
     Ibid.


                                                 183
                                                                                              Bin Ladin‘s
                                                                                              ―fatwa‖




                                                                                              Saddam‘s
                                                                                              meeting with
                                                                                              Kofi Annan




                    Front Page of al Quds al Arabi, February 23, 1998
              Government Exhibit 93, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.


        Following the issuance of the ―fatwa,‖ bin Ladin continued to issue occasional,

very dramatic threats in the period leading up to the August 7 bombings. In early May,

he endorsed a fatwa from the Ulema Union of Afghanistan, which called the U.S. army

―the enemies of Islam‖ and declared jihad against the United States and its allies.28 That

was at least religiously correct, given that al Qaida did not have the authority to issue a

fatwa. On May 17, ―The International Islamic Front for Jihad against Jews and

Crusaders‖ issued ―Declaration Number 2‖ entitled ―The Wounds of the Aqsa


28
 U.S. Department of State, ―Fact Sheet: The Charges Against International Terrorist, Usama bin Laden,‖
December 15, 1999, http://canberra.usembassy.gov/hyper/WF991215/epf312.htm


                                                 184
Mosque.‖29 On May 30, the same group issued another ―Declaration Number 2,‖ this one

entitled ―The Islamic Nuclear Bomb,‖ hailing Pakistan‘s nuclear tests two days before. 30

On May 26, bin Ladin held a fiery press conference, although the Pakistani journalist,

Rahimullah Yusufzai regarded it as largely bombast, as explained in Chapter 4.31

          Two days later, ABC News Nightline interviewed bin Ladin and broadcast the

interview on June 10. The interviewer suggested to him, ―You are like the Middle East

version of Teddy Roosevelt,‖ according to the unpublished transcript (those words did

not air.) 32 Unlike the Pakistani journalist, and like other U.S. news organizations that

interviewed bin Ladin, Nightline made him (and their interview) appear as important—

and menacing—as possible. The show began with host Ted Koppel introducing bin

Ladin in an extraordinarily dramatic light:

         He may have backed the bombers who attacked the World Trade Center.
         Weapons which he supplied shot down U.S. helicopters in Somalia. He
         applauded the bombings of U.S. bases in Saudi Arabia. American forces
         have now gone to a higher level of alert because he's threatened new
         attacks on U.S. targets.33

Koppel‘s flattering portrait of bin Ladin—flattering in the eyes of radical Muslims, who

would be impressed with the outsized capabilities Koppel ascribed to bin Ladin—was

followed by a clip from bin Ladin, asserting ―We believe that the biggest thieves in the

world are Americans and the biggest terrorists on earth are the Americans.‖ He further
29
   Government Exhibit 1506, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
30
   Government Exhibit 1610, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
31
   Similarly, the Cairo correspondent of al Rai al Amm interviewed al-Zawahiri in this period. Among
other things, he asked al-Zawahiri, ―Has the period of the Islamic expansion or Islamic resurrection in
Egypt ended, especially, to say the least, where there is almost a consensus that there has been a decline in
the popularity of Islamic movement on the Egyptian streets, and now any observer feels that the Islamists
have not acquired the same sympathy compared to the Eighties?‖ Another question was: ―At the time
when the Islamists declare their strong opposition to all the Western countries, and even to Western
civilization itself, the Egyptian government accuses the government of these countries of helping the
Islamists and securing safe shelter as well as financing and support lines for them. How can this
contradiction be explained?‖ Government Exhibit 1502, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
32
   Government Exhibit 81, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
33
   Ibid.


                                                     185
affirmed, ―We do not differentiate between those dressed in military uniforms and

civilians. They're all targets in this fatwa.‖34

         In roughly the same period in which bin Ladin issued his threats, the Iraqi regime

also issued violent threats about the continuation of U.N. sanctions. On May 1, the Iraqi

leadership addressed a statement to the U.N. Security Council, which began, ―Wars in

general happen primarily because of a maximum feeling of injustice‖ and asserted ―Iraq

has been subjected to injustice of which the annals of history speak of nothing similar.‖

It quoted a Koranic verse, ―To those against whom war is made, permission is given to

fight, because they are wronged, and truly Allah is most powerful for their aid.‖ And it

concluded, ―The inability of the Iraqi people to see a lifting of sanctions after eight years

. . . will lead to dire consequences.‖35

         The U.S. media focused on bin Ladin‘s threats and ignored Iraq‘s which

continued throughout the summer (as did bin Ladin‘s), and culminated on August 5, as

Baghdad sent Richard Butler, chief U.N. weapons inspector, back to New York empty-

handed and then angrily announced it was suspending weapons inspections. The Iraqi

leadership repeated earlier threats and further affirmed, ―We have been frankly, clearly,

and truly warning over the past three months—since 1 May 1998—against the

continuation of this situation.‖36 The simultaneous bombings of the two U.S. embassies

occurred two days later.




34
   Ibid.
35
   Iraq Television, May 1, 1998, FBIS translation. For additional details on Iraqi threats in this period, see
Laurie Mylroie, op. cit., pp. 230-33.
36
   Iraq Satellite Television, August 5, 1998, FBIS translation.


                                                     186
Claims of Responsibility After the Bombings

Following the bombings, faxed claims of responsibility were made for each of the two

attacks in the name of ―The Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places,‖ the

―organization‖ al-Owhali cited in his ―martyrdom video.‖ The claims of responsibility

were sent from bin Ladin‘s satellite telephone to Egyptian Islamic Jihad‘s office in Baku

and on to a commercial mail and fax facility in London, called ―The Grapevine,‖ located

not far from an office shared by al Qaida and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. In addition, a call

was placed around the same time from bin Ladin‘s satellite phone to the head of Egyptian

Islamic Jihad in London.

       It was not difficult for U.S. authorities to trace the claims of responsibility and tie

al Qaida to the attacks, further confirming what the interrogation of Mohammed Odeh

had revealed.


                              Key Points from the Evidence

The analysis of the government evidence in the trial for the bombings reveals two

significant points, one concerning al Qaida communications with Iraq in the period

before and after the embassy bombings and a second concerning a possible link between

the Taliban airlines, Ariana, and the embassy bombings.


Khalid al-Fawwaz’s calls to Iraq

Virtually no issue was more hotly debated after 9/11 than the question of al Qaida‘s ties

to Iraq. Key documents—Government Exhibits 1581 and 1583, the billing records for

Khalid al-Fawwaz‘s two telephones at his London residence—illustrate that the court

records from the terrorism trials have not been properly exploited. From April 1997 to




                                             187
January 1999, they show hundreds of calls to Iraq. Most are failed attempts at a

connection, but some forty calls are substantive. Al-Fawwaz‘s phone records show page

after page of such calls.

         They are not mentioned in any of the official reports dealing with al Qaida, nor in

any other of the voluminous post-9/11 literature on al Qaida. Nor they were they brought

to the attention of senior U.S. policy makers. As one colleague involved in 9/11 litigation

remarked, it seems that no one even looked at them.37

         From April 18, 1997, until January 6, 1999, 786 calls were made to Iraq from al-

Fawwaz‘s two phone lines (1812084411 and 1812044422). Of them, 37 calls were

substantive, between one and thirty eight minutes in length, for a total of 398 minutes.38

All calls were to the city of Basra. The phone records (as entered into evidence) begin in

July 1996. For the first nine months, al-Fawwaz did not call Iraq. He began to call the

country in April 1997 and did so through January 1999, when the records end.

         In the period from April 18, 1997, through June 20, 1998, only one number is

called: 964 40 211 538. That number belonged to a Zamel Hamed Assaf al-Sadun.39

Basra is predominantly Shi‘a, but perhaps 20% of the population is Sunni. The al-Sadun

are a major Sunni tribe and they served in the bureaucracies of the former Iraqi regime.

Indeed, two al-Sadun are in the deck of cards used to identify wanted regime figures. 40


37
   John Fawcett, to author, December 6, 2004.
38
   The length of the calls is given in seconds; this calculation is made rounding the length of each call to the
nearest minute.
39
    The house is in Hay Al-Jaza'er, behind Al-Abayachi Mosque. This information was provided to the
author by Aras Karim, former intelligence chief of the Iraqi National Congress. The INC program was
praised by Chief of Staff General Richard Myers, who stated in May 2004 that the INC ―has provided
intelligence to our intelligence unit there in Baghdad that has saved soldiers' lives." ―Lawmakers Clash on
Iraq at Hearing,‖ CNN, May 21, 2004, at: http://www.cnn.com/2004/ALLPOLITICS/05/21/congress.iraq/
40
   The five of diamonds is Abd al-Baqi Abd al-Karim Abdullah al-Sadun, Baath Party Regional Command
Chairman for Diyala District. The four of clubs is Muhammad Ziman Abd al-Razzaq al-Sadun, Baath
Party Regional Command Chairman for Ta‘mim Governorate.


                                                     188
           Starting in July 1998, al-Fawwaz began to call a second Basra number, listed in

the name of Alliaa Sabri Joni, a woman. The number (964 40 410 012) is called through

January 1999.41

           Starting in August 1998, al-Fawwaz began calling a third number (964 40 415

539), registered under the same name as the first number: Zamel al-Sadun, but at a

different Basra address42 (chart of calls on following pages).




41
     The address is house number 11/22/43, Al-Dhubatt Houses, close to Baghdad School.
42
     The address is house in Al-Jebailah, close to Al-Ma'aali high school for girls.


                                                   189
     KHALID FAWWAZ’S CALLS TO IRAQ: APRIL 1997-JANUARY 1999
          Calls over 15 minutes are bolded; calls over 30 minutes are in red)
Date & Time          Number called           Length of call                 Phone used
  of call            (all in Basra area)       (min:sec)

                                         1997
APRIL 18, FRIDAY
4:47 PM          964 40 211 538                   04:56                        4411

APRIL 21, MONDAY
8:09 AM         964 40 211 538                    10:04                        4411

MAY 18, SUNDAY
1:42 PM        964 40 211 538                     15:35                        4422

MAY 28, WEDNESDAY
10:37 PM       964 40 211 538                     14:18                        4411

JUNE 23, MONDAY
8:16 PM         964 40 211 538                    10:04                        4411
11:11           964 40 211 538                    02:58                        4411
11:22           964 40 211 538                    06:40                        4411

JUNE 25, WEDNESDAY
11:29 PM        964 40 211 538                    30:07                        4411

JULY 25, FRIDAY
1:30 PM              964 40 211 538               25:50                        4422

AUGUST 1, FRIDAY
10:33 PM        964 40 211 538                    01:02                        4411

AUGUST 3, SUNDAY
10:47 PM       964 40 211 538                     05:26                        4411

SEPTEMBER 5, FRIDAY
10:46 PM         964 40 211 538                   05:28                        4411

SEPTEMBER 6, SATURDAY
3:48 PM         964 40 211 538                    02:16                        4411
3:53            964 40 211 538                    00:09                        4411




                                         190
SEPTEMBER 8, MONDAY
10:27 PM        964 40 211 538                 32:20   4411

OCTOBER 12, SUNDAY
11:43 PM        964 40 211 538                 14:46   4422

NOVEMBER 6, THURSDAY
20 attempts between 10:29 and 10:56 PM                 4422.

NOVEMBER 12, WEDNESDAY
12 attempts between 3:06 and 4:04 PM                   4422.
11:54 PM             964 40 211 538            06:14   4422

NOVEMBER 17, MONDAY
5 attempts between 7:28 and 10:58 PM                   4422

NOVEMBER 18, TUESDAY
11: 42 PM       964 40 211 538                 02:47   4422

NOVEMBER 22, SATURDAY
5 attempts between 8:17 and 8:22 AM                    4422
8:22 AM               964 40 211 538           02:49   4422
33 attempts between 8:26 and 10:13 AM                  4422
10:15 AM              964 40 211 538           07:41   4422

NOVEMBER 29, SATURDAY
12:15 PM        964 40 211 538                 01:39   4422
2:56 PM         964 40 211 538                 20:48   4422

DECEMBER 29, MONDAY
17 attempts between 9:55 and 10:39 PM                  4422

DECEMBER 30, TUESDAY
140 attempts between 9:41 PM and 12:58 AM              4422

DECEMBER 31, WEDNESDAY
36 attempts between 5:53 and 6:29 AM      .            4422
 5 attempts between 6:35 and 6:41 AM                   4411
62 attempts between 7:15 and 9:20 PM                   4422




                                         191
                                        1998
JANUARY 1, THURSDAY
42 attempts between 6:00 and 6:42 AM                   4422.
8 attempts between 10:03 and 10:16 AM                  4422
5:57 PM              964 40 211 538            12:16   4422

JANUARY 29, THURSDAY
8:44 PM         964 40 211 538                 06:19   4411

FEBRUARY 7, SATURDAY
8:51 PM         964 40 211 538                 11:29   4411

MARCH 12, THURSDAY
10:13 AM       964 40 211 538                  00:05   4411
8:17 PM        964 40 211 538                  00:22   4411
8:31           964 40 211 538                  02:53   4411

MARCH 13, FRIDAY
8:51 AM         964 40 211 538                 00:07   4411
9:47            964 40 211 538                 11:17   4411

APRIL 7, TUESDAY
12 attempts between 7:13 and 7:29 AM                   4411
7 attempts between 6:53 and 10:31 PM                   4422
11: 15 PM             964 40 211 538           03:33   4422

APRIL 8, WEDNESDAY
7 attempts from 12:17 to 1:35 PM                       4422
2:46 PM        964 40 211 538                  03:09   4422
3 attempts from 6:04 to 6:11 PM                        4422

APRIL 9, THURSDAY
8 attempts from 8:39 to 11:32 AM                       4422

APRIL 10, FRIDAY
20 attempts between 8:39 AM and 3:41 PM                4422
3:45 PM              964 40 211 538            37:51   4422

JUNE 6, SATURDAY
12 attempts between 12:37 and 1:13 PM                  4411
1:15 PM              964 40 211 538            16:56   4411




                                        192
JUNE 20, SATURDAY
12:21 PM        964 40 211 538                   05:05          4411

JULY 9, THURSDAY
4 attempts from 7:02 to 8:19 PM                                 4411
8:20 PM               964 40 410 012             17:53          4411

AUGUST 15, SATURDAY
12: 49 PM       964 40 415 539                   11:10          4411

AUGUST 16, SUNDAY
12: 43 PM       964 40 410 012                   08:06          4411

OCTOBER 11, SUNDAY
1: 55 PM        964 40 410 012                   07:40          4411

NOVEMBER 17. TUESDAY
7: 56 PM        964 40 415 539                   00:04          4411
7: 58 PM        964 40 415 539                   07:47          4411

DECEMBER 19, SATURDAY
80 attempts to both numbers, most from 7:09 PM until 12:27 AM   4411

DECEMBER 20, SUNDAY
41 attempts to both numbers from 3:24 until 4:28 AM             4411
65 attempts from 11:06 AM until 12:48 PM                        4411
15 attempts from 10:08 until 10:22 PM                           4411

DECEMBER 21, MONDAY
31 attempts, mostly from 8:08 until 8:38 AM.                    4411

DECEMBER 22, TUESDAY
4 attempts from 9:06 to 9:07 PM                                 4411

DECEMBER 23, WEDNESDAY
8 attempts, mostly from 10:21 to 10:26 PM                       4411

DECEMBER 25, FRIDAY
2:36 PM         964 40 410 012                   00:26          4411

DECEMBER 26, SATURDAY
6:26 PM         964 40 410 012                   00:03          4411


                                         193
DECEMBER 27, SUNDAY
12:27 PM        964 40 410 012                                 00:03                               4411


                                                   1999
JANUARY 5, TUESDAY
9:58 PM         964 40 410 012                                 00:03                               4411

JANUARY 6, WEDNESDAY
Three attempts from 9:34 to 9:36 PM                                                                4411
9: 37 PM             964 40 410 012                            09:31                               4411


Perhaps, al-Fawwaz was calling a friend or relative, who moved to Iraq in 1997, or he

somehow came to know someone living there. And then in 1998, Fawwaz came to know

a second person living there and began calling that person too. Or perhaps his wife made

the calls for similar reasons. Yet the calls may also have related to al Qaida‘s activities,

including the embassy bombings. It is impossible to know without further information,

but this question does not appear to have been explored43


Connection of Ariana Airlines to the Bombing?

Bin Ladin‘s satellite phone records were also evidence in the embassy bombing trial. On

August 20, 1998, at 17:30 GMT, the United States launched a cruise missile strike on al

Qaida training camps in Afghanistan in response to the embassy bombings two weeks

before. Calls made that night from bin Ladin‘s phone—some three hours after the U.S.

attack—include brief calls to two numbers in Quetta, Pakistan, which do not appear




43
  The same problem seems to exist in Britain, as these are, in fact, British phone records, which were
provided to U.S. authorities.


                                                   194
elsewhere in bin Ladin‘s phone records. They appear in the set of calls he made between

20:31 and 20:58 on August 20:

                      20:31                       009281837460                0.5 min
                      20:33                       009281837460                0.5 min
                      20: 34                      441812084411                0.5 min
                      20:58                       009281837747                0.5 min

         Times are GMT; 92 is the code for Pakistan; 81 is the code for Quetta.
         The third call, to London, is to Khalid al-Fawwaz. Source: GX 594.

         Over many years, this author has accumulated an electronic data base of phone

records related to terrorism. The two Quetta numbers do appear in that data base, on

phone bills discovered in Iraq in 2003. Those phone records are part of a larger set of

documents dating from 1998 through 2000, belonging to the Afghan (Taliban)

government airline, Ariana. Why those records were in Iraq is not known to this

author.44 They consist primarily of shipping records, including some three weeks of

Ariana Airway bills. They also include a handful of bank records and utility bills,

including three telephone bills.

         In the Ariana cache, one phone bill is from Peshawar, Pakistan. It is for the

period April 27-May 31, 2000. The name on the bill reads:

                     Gov‘t of Islamic Emirates of Afghanistan at Kabul C/O
                         Brigadier Abdul Hamid Khan (D.G.) AFG
                                 Afghan Trade Development Cell

The Taliban maintained a consulate in Peshawar, with which Brigadier Khan may have

been associated. The phone record demonstrates that Khan had some relationship with

Ariana airlines: there are communications with two individuals at Ariana’s office in

Sharjah. (Sharjah is one of the seven principalities comprising the United Arab Emirates,

44
  The author analyzed these records for a law firm that obtained them from a US political figure who
visited Iraq in the spring of 2003. The firm felt unable to further identify the source without breaching
confidentiality.


                                                    195
which was one of only three countries that recognized the Taliban and one of the few

places to which its airline flew.) Specifically, Khan‘s phone records suggest he was

involved in purchasing spare parts for the airline.45

        Ariana was used to smuggle a wide range of contraband, including arms and

drugs, and it was closely involved with al Qaida. The airline was used to ferry Islamic

militants to Afghanistan and Ariana identification was routinely provided them.46

        The two other phone bills among the Ariana records found in Iraq belong to

employees of its office in Sharjah. One of the bills (from July 1-24, 1999) is for the land

line of the airline‘s station manager, Mullah Farid Ahmed, a Taliban appointee, who was

in his mid-20s when he assumed that position in 1996.47 The other bill (covering calls

from June 30-July 26, 1999) is for the cell phone of Ghulam Farooq Haider.

        The two Quetta numbers called from bin Ladin‘s satellite phone on the night of

August 20, 1998, appear on all three of these Ariana phone records:

        837 747               eighteen times on Brigadier Khan‘s bill.
                              five times on Mullah Ahmed‘s.
                              three times on Ghulam Haider‘s

        837 460               once on Brigadier Khan‘s bill
                              twice on Mullah Ahmed‘s
                              twice on Ghulam Haider‘s

One can only speculate on the significance of this. The least plausible explanation is that

bin Ladin (or someone else in al Qaida‘s leadership) had acquaintances in Quetta

associated with Ariana airlines and tried to contact them after the strike as a personal


45
   For example, the documents show that in May 2000 Khan helped arrange for Goodyear Aviation
Products in the Netherlands to retread Ariana airplane tires.
46
   ―Long before Sept 11, Bin Laden Aircraft Flew Under the Radar,‖ Los Angeles Times, November 18,
2001; ―Emirates Looked Other Way While Al Qaeda Funds Flowed,‖ Los Angeles Times, January 20,
2002.
47
   ―On the Trail of a Man Behind Taliban's Air Fleet,‖ Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2004.


                                                196
matter—indeed, this is particularly unlikely as this is the only time these Quetta numbers

were called from bin Ladin‘s phone. More likely, these two Quetta numbers represented

some kind of emergency numbers.

     The Ariana connection is further underscored by a phone call that Khalid al-Fawwaz,

in London, made two hours after receiving bin Ladin‘s call that night. Al-Fawwaz

telephoned ―Tasweeq Trading‖ in Ajman, which like Sharjah, is one of the seven

principalities comprising the United Arab Emirates. Al-Fawwaz used ―Tasweeq

Trading‖ to ship goods to bin Ladin on Ariana.48 In fact, the Air Waybill for one

shipment was evidence in the trial and is dated April 23, one day later than the series of

Ariana Air Waybills found in Iraq (April 4 through April 22, 1998.) and bears the

number 255-0256911, five numbers past the last Air Waybill in that series.49

     In sum, the night the United States bombed Afghanistan, bin Ladin called two

numbers and al-Fawwaz called a third associated with Ariana airlines. Individuals within

Ariana may have provided some degree of support for al Qaida‘s terrorism, if only after

the fact. There are no doubt many possibilities as to who they might be and what they

might represent. That would include individuals in Taliban or Pakistani intelligence or

perhaps in the network of an arms smuggler associated with Ariana, and as the Ariana

records were found in Iraq, Iraqi intelligence cannot be ruled out, particularly as there

were many reports of Iraqi intelligence contacts with al Qaida throughout 1998.50



48
   This number (972 6 461281) appears three times on Fawwaz‘s records, including on May 15 and 24,
1998. The May 24 call was made in conjunction with another Ariana number, 9281837460.
49
   Government Exhibit 81, United States v. Usama bin Laden et al., United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
The Air Waybill numbers in the series found in Iraq run from 255-0256112 to 255-0256906.
50
   A Defense Department memo reports that Ayman al-Zawahiri—who would shortly issue a ―fatwa‖ with
bin Ladin calling for attacks against Americans and formally merge his organization with al Qaida—visited
Baghdad in early February 1998. Stephen Hayes, The Connection, op. cit., p. 103; Stephen Hayes, ―Case
Closed,‖ op. cit.


                                                  197
Links to Terrorists at Lebanon’s Ain al-Hilweh Camp

Bin Ladin‘s phone records include six calls to an individual at Ain al-Hilweh, the largest

Palestinian camp in Lebanon. The calls are to a cell phone: 961 3 810 880 and occur

between February 19 and April 29, 1998. A Spanish indictment identifies the owner of

that phone as ―Abu Hasan,‖ whose real name is Munir Maqdah, leader of ―Regiment

Black September 13,‖ better known as ―Black September 13 Brigades.‖51

         ―Black September 13 Brigades‖ was formed in opposition to the Oslo accords

(signed on September 13, 1993). Maqdah had been a member of Arafat‘s elite body

guard, ―Force 17,‖ and is a highly-regarded commander in Palestinian circles. After the

Oslo accords and his revolt against Arafat, he ―became outwardly religious, though he

continued to wear his trademark fatigues.‖52 In 1996, according to Spanish authorities,

Maqdah was prominently involved in bringing Arab mujahidin to Lebanon, after they

were forced to leave Bosnia following the Dayton accord.53 Although Maqdah had

fought the Syrian-backed Lebanese army in the early 1990s, he now turned to Syria for

support, as he did to Iran. He also allowed al Qaida to cultivate Islamic militants in Ain



   The Sunday Telegraph reported finding several Iraqi intelligence documents in Baghdad dated between
February and March 1998 dealing with arrangements for the visit to Baghdad of a bin Ladin envoy, for
among other purposes, ―to achieve a direct meeting with [bin Ladin].‖ Sunday Telegraph, April 27, 2003.
   The 9/11 Commission states that in March 1998 ―two al Qaeda members reportedly went to Iraq to meet
with Iraqi intelligence. In July, an Iraqi delegation traveled to Afghanistan to met first with the Taliban and
then with Bin Ladin, The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 66.
  It was also reported that in December 1998 the deputy IIS chief, Farouq Hijazi, met with bin Ladin.
Vincent Cannistraro, former head of CIA counter-terrorist operations, explained, "Hijazi went to
Afghanistan in December and met with Osama, with the knowledge of the Taliban leader, Mullah Omar.
We are sure about that. What is the source of some speculation is what transpired." ―Saddam 'forging links
with Bin Laden,'‖ Guardian, February 14, 1999.
   Similar reports appeared in ―Closer Ties Between Bin Laden, Iraq Raise Fears Of More Dangerous
Terrorism,‖ Detroit Free Press, February 14, 1999 and on National Public Radio, ―Morning Edition,‖
February 18, 1999.
51
   Spanish indictment, op. cit., p. 242.
52
   Gary C. Gambill, ―Dossier: Mounir al Maqdah,‖ Middle East Intelligence Bulletin, Vol. 5., No. 3, July
2003, at http://www.meib.org/articles/0307_pald.htm
53
   Spanish indictment, op. cit., p. 242.


                                                     198
al-Hilweh.54 In the spring of 2003, as Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Maqdah told a

Palestinian weekly that he had sent "hundreds" of Palestinian volunteers in Ain al-Hilweh

to Iraq to carry out suicide bombings.55 "Resisting the American aggression on Iraq

supports the Palestinian people and the intifadah," he affirmed. "What is happening in

Iraq is the battle of the Palestinian people first and the Arab and Muslim nation

second."56




54
   Gary Gambill, op. cit.
55
   Ibid.
56
   "Renegade Palestinians Threaten New Attacks," The Independent, July 18, 2003, quoted in ibid.


                                                  199
           PART III




DIFFICULTIES IN UNDERSTANDING

          AL QAIDA




              200
                                     CHAPTER 9

                   THE BALUCH MASTERMINDS

Among the key points that have emerged from America‘s post-9/11 investigation into al

Qaida is an understanding of the central role played by Khalid Shaykh Mohammed

(KSM), who, in fact, masterminded those assaults. Shortly after KSM‘s capture in

Rawalpindi in March 2003, the Washington Post reported,

         'To be honest, it wasn't until recently that any of us even realized he was
         part of al Qaeda," a U.S. intelligence official said in an interview last
         year. "The big problem nailing him down is that the informants that we
         relied on, especially before 9/11, were mujaheddin. They'd been in
         Afghanistan, in Sudan, back in Afghanistan. Khalid was never a part of
         any of that."1 (emphasis added).

"[KSM] was under everybody's radar,‖ a senior FBI official told the Los Angeles Times.

―We don't know how he did it. We wish we knew.... He's the guy nobody ever heard of.

The others had egos. He didn't."2 The Times stressed KSM‘s pivotal position, ‖Almost

every Al Qaeda suspect whom the Pakistanis have arrested since last year has had some

connection to Mohammed, authorities say. Many of those arrested have no links to one

another, but they all know Mohammed.‖3 A senior CIA official recounted to the

Christian Science Monitor that one major al Qaeda official had lamented that "the loss of

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was like the melting of an iceberg. We can never replace

him."4


1
  ―Bold Tracks of Terrorism's Mastermind Khalid Sheik Mohammed Carried Al Qaeda's Hope for
Revenge, Renewal,‖ Washington Post, March 9, 2003.
2
  ―The Plots and Designs of Al Qaeda's Engineer,‖ Los Angeles Times, December 22, 2002.
3
   Ibid.
4
  ―CIA‘s Role in 9/11 Commission,‖ Christian Science Monitor, July 22, 2004.


                                               201
           U.S. authorities knew none of this until the spring of 2002, when they

interrogated a major al Qaida figure, Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi-born Palestinian, captured

in the central Pakistani city of Feisalabad that March. Three months later, FBI Director

Robert Mueller informed the U.S. Congress, specifically the House and Senate

Intelligence Committees, of the key role KSM had played in 9/11.5

           The belated recognition of KSM‘s importance underscores just how deeply he

was hidden within al Qaida, as well as the shortcomings that long existed in the U.S.

understanding of the organization. Following the 1998 embassy bombings, al Qaida

became a major focus of U.S. counter-terrorism efforts. Nonetheless, it took four more

years—during which time the 9/11 strikes occurred—before KSM‘s centrality to al

Qaida‘s terrorism was recognized.

           In addition to proposing, directing, and organizing the 9/11 strikes, KSM

provided the financial support. The attacks cost some $400,000 to $500,000; that money

has been traced back to KSM, but not further. It is unknown from where he obtained

those funds. As the 9/11 Commission states, ―To date, the U.S. government has not been

able to determine the origin of the money used for the 9/11 attacks.‖6

           In fact, KSM‘s importance reaches far beyond the 9/11 attacks. The

relationship between KSM and bin Ladin began in Afghanistan in 1996, according to the

9/11 Commission.7 The Congressional Joint Inquiry reports that ―since September 11,

the CIA has come to believe that KSM may have been responsible for all bin Ladin




5
  ―Mueller Outlines Origin, Funding of Sept. 11 Plot,‖ Washington Post, June 6, 2002.
6
  The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 172.
7
  Ibid, p. 148.


                                                  202
operations outside Afghanistan.‖8 A senior U.S. counter-terrorism official told the New

York Times that KSM is believed to have been centrally involved in both the bombing of

the U.S. embassies in Africa and the U.S.S. Cole. "There is a clear operational link

between him and the execution of most, if not all, of the Al Qaeda plots over the past five

years.‖9


                      KSM and al Qaida’s Alliance with Indonesia’s JI

KSM was also critical to developing al Qaida‘s ties with Indonesia‘s Jemaah Islamiyah

(JI), which allowed al Qaida to carry out terrorist attacks in Southeast Asia and use this

region as a logistical base. The JI had links with a number of Southeast Asian Islamic

organizations, but al Qaida was the only such group from outside the region with which

JI had a significant relationship.10 ―Al Qaeda‘s success in fostering terrorism in

Southeast Asia,‖ the 9/11 Commission affirms, ―stem[med] largely from its close

relationship with Jemaah Islamiyah.‖11


Hambali, KSM, and the Manila Air Plot

The origins of the relationship between al Qaida and JI lie in ties developed between

KSM and his associates, on the one hand, and an Indonesian militant, Riduan Isamuddin,


8
  Joint Inquiry, op. cit., p. 315. The 9/11 Commission has a somewhat different view. It states ―Though
KSM and Bin Ladin knew each other from the anti-Soviet campaign of the 1980s, KSM apparently did not
begin working with al Qaeda until after the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings.‖ The 9/11 Commission
Report, op. cit., p. 488.
    The Commission‘s conclusion is based on KSM‘s interrogations. However, the first part of the
statement is at odds with the observation of the U.S. intelligence official cited above, who remarked that
KSM had never been part of the jihadi scene in Afghanistan.
9
  ―The Suspect; Tied to Many Plots, an Elusive Figure Who Came to U.S. Attention Late,‖ New York
Times, March 2, 2003.
10
   Ministry of Home Affairs, Singapore, White Paper: The Jemaah Islamiyah: Arrests and the Threat of
Terrorism, January 7, 2003.
11
   The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 150; Singapore concurred, calling Hambali the ―regional
linkman‖ to al Qaida, but identifying Mohammed Atef, rather than KSM, as Hambali‘s key contact.
Singapore, White Paper, op. cit., p. 5.


                                                   203
better known as Hambali, on the other. These ties were established in the context of the

1995 Manila Air plot. The alliance between Hambali and KSM thus predates KSM‘s

association with al Qaida., and it is KSM who delivered JI to al Qaida. As the Financial

Times explains, ―[KSM] was able to offer bin Laden a ready-made terrorist infrastructure

in south east Asia.‖12

           In the early 1990s, Hambali, who had earlier fought the Soviets in Afghanistan,

was living in impoverished circumstances in Malaysia, selling kebabs from a pushcart.13

Starting in 1994, Hambali began to receive ―frequent ‗Middle Eastern‘ type visitors‖ and

soon had a significant amount of money, according to his former landlord.14 In June

1994, he helped set up a business, ―Konsojaya,‖ which exported palm oil from Malaysia

to Afghanistan. Usama Asmurai, convicted for his role in the Manila Air plot, was a

partner in the Konsojaya firm. Its managing director was Amin Mohammed—whom a

participant in that conspiracy (Abdul Hakam Murad) identified as a financier of the plot

(Chapter 7).15

           The relationship between Hambali and those involved in the Manila Air Plot,

specifically KSM, continued afterwards and became the link between al Qaida and JI.

Hambali was the ―key coordinator‖ in JI‘s relationship with al Qaida, although his

involvement with al Qaida brought criticism from JI leader Abu Bakr Bashir, who wanted

Hambali to focus his efforts on Indonesia and Malaysia.16


12
   ―The CEO of al-Qaeda,‖ Financial Times, February 15, 2003.
13
   ―Asia‘s Own Osama,‖ Time International, April 1, 2002.
14
   Ibid.
15
   ―Indonesia Cleric Tied to '95 Anti-U.S. Plot; Asia: Man linked to Sept. 11 attacks helped finance earlier
plan to bomb 12 jets, officials say,‖ Los Angeles Times, February 7, 2002.
16
   For Hambali was ―key coordinator,‖ The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 150; for criticism from
Abu Bakr Bashir, KSM to interrogators, ibid, p. 151. The 9/11 Commission Report also explains that
Hambali did not originally intend to attack the United States, ―but his involvement with al Qaeda appears to
have inspired him to pursue American targets.‖ Ibid.


                                                   204
           Hambali helped provide the facilities for the now-infamous January 2000 al

Qaida meeting outside Kuala Lumpur that included two 9/11 hijackers, as well as a key

figure in the U.S.S. Cole bombing, all three of whom KSM had just finished training in

Karachi.17 They met at a condominium owned by Hambali‘s associate, Yazid Sufaat,

(whose efforts to develop a biological program for al Qaida are discussed in Chapter 4.)18

Sufaat and Hambali also provided support to Zacarias Moussaoui, the so-called ―20th

hijacker,‖ when Moussaoui visited Malaysia that fall.19

           Still, Hambali retained his independence from al Qaida. As the 9/11

Commission notes, ―Like any powerful bureaucrat defending his domain, Hambali

objected when al Qaida leadership tried to assign JI members to terrorist projects without

notifying him.‖20

           In the fall of 2001, U.S. troops in Afghanistan found a JI-produced video of a

Singapore mass transit station in the home of al Qaida‘s military commander Mohammed

Atef, which appeared to be surveillance for an attack. After the 9/11 strikes, a Kuwaiti-

born Canadian citizen, Mohammed Mansour Jabara, approached a JI cell in Singapore

with plans to bomb targets there.21 Jabara had excelled as an al Qaida sniper and had

wanted to be bin Ladin‘s body guard, but he had a Canadian passport and was fluent in

English, so bin Ladin directed him to KSM to operate in Southeast Asia with JI.22 In

December 2001, Singapore authorities arrested over a dozen conspirators, foiling Jabara‘s


17
   The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 151.
18
   An Iraqi, Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, was the airport greeter for the two 9/11 hijackers at this meeting, and it
has been suggested that he worked for Iraqi intelligence. ―Saddam‘s Files: New Evidence of a link
between Iraq and al Qaeda,‖ Wall Street Journal, May 27, 2004; Stephen F. Hayes, ―Who is Ahmed
Hikmat Shakir?,‖ Weekly Standard, June 23, 2004.
19
   The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 151.
20
   Ibid, p.152.
21
   Singapore, White Paper, op. cit., p. 13.
22
   ―The CEO of al-Qaeda,‖ op. cit.


                                                    205
plot. They did not succeed in catching him, however. The next month, Hambali

convened a meeting in Thailand, which Jabara attended, to discuss attacks on bars and

nightclubs across Southeast Asia.23

           That January 2002 meeting led to the bombings of two Bali nightclubs on

October 12, which killed over 200 people. Almost a year later, on August 11, 2003,

Hambali was captured in Thailand and told U.S. authorities that for the previous year,

almost all JI funding had come from al Qaida through KSM, who had provided $30,000

for the Bali bombings, and then gave him another $100,000 for further terrorist attacks.24

Thus, KSM is tied to major JI terrorist assaults as well.

           This alliance between al Qaida and the JI is often understood as the natural

outgrowth of a religious affinity between two Islamic groups, transcending ethnic and

linguistic differences.25 Indeed, this is the view of a White Paper on terrorism prepared

by the Home Affairs Ministry of Singapore.26 As such, the White Paper is an example of

how even a very careful government can misunderstand the nature of the threat within its

borders. Above all, the White Paper does not recognize KSM‘s key role in establishing

al Qaida‘s ties with JI. His name does not even appear in the report—although it was

published after U.S. officials had come to recognize KSM‘s significance.27




23
   ―Qaeda Meeting in Thailand Reportedly Plotted Attacks on Tourists,‖ New York Times, November 8,
2002. This information came from Jabara, who was arrested in Amman, Jordan in March 2002.
24
   ―The Terrorist Talks: Al-Qaeda's top man in Asia sings to interrogators about the group's
Operations,‖ Time, October 13, 2003; ―Hambali Interrogation Yields Clues,‖ Wall Street Journal, January
22, 2004.
25
   The key JI figure in this relationship, Hambali, did not speak Arabic and the senior al Qaida figures with
whom he dealt did not speak a Southeast Asian language, so they communicated in English.
26
   Singapore, White Paper, op. cit.
27
   Nor did the White Paper take into account information available from U.S. court records, specifically the
trial of Ramzi Yousef et al. for the Manila Air Plot.


                                                    206
                                       KSM and his Nephews


KSM‘s importance is underscored by the centrality of his clan to the mega-terrorist

attacks directed against the United States, starting with the first assault on the Trade

Center and culminating in the 9/11 strikes. Not only did the 1993 and 2001 assaults

involve the same target, even more strikingly, they involved the same family. ―We now

believe that a common thread runs between the first attack on the World Trade Center in

February 1993 and the 11 September attacks,‖ CIA Director George Tenet told the

Congressional Joint Inquiry in June 2002.28 Tenet informed the congressmen that the

mastermind of the 9/11 strikes was the uncle of the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade

Center bombing and that in 1995 the two—KSM and Ramzi Yousef—conspired together

in the plot to down a dozen U.S. airliners.

           KSM and his nephews are central to the major Islamic attacks going back to

1993. There is even a classified CIA report, dated January 31, 2003, cited by the 9/11

Commission, entitled, ―Khalid Sheik Muhammad‘s Nephews.‖29 So far, six such family

members, including five nephews, have been publicly named.


Ammar al-Baluchi aka Ali Abdul Aziz Ali

In addition to Ramzi Yousef, KSM‘s terrorist nephews include Ammar al-Baluchi—also

known as Ali Abdul Aziz Ali. Initially, U.S. authorities believed that a 36-year old

Saudi, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hasawi, bin Ladin‘s chief financial officer, provided the


28
   ―Unclassified Version of Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet's Testimony before the Joint
Inquiry into Terrorist Attacks Against the United States,‖ June 18, 2002. KSM had yet to be captured and
Tenet referred to him as ―Mukhtar.‖
   The Congressional Joint Inquiry claimed that ―Mukhtar‖ means ―the brain,‖ in Arabic but that is an error.
It literally means the ―one who is chosen‖ and is commonly used to mean ―chief,‖ as in the village mukhtar.
Joint Inquiry, op. cit., p. 30.
29
   It is a CIA analytic report, identified as CTC 2003-30013, The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 488.


                                                   207
primary financial support for the 9/11 strikes, sending the funds from the United Arab

Emirates (UAE) to the hijackers in the United States. This initial view is detailed at

length in the indictment of Zacarias Moussaoui, issued in December 2001.

         As the investigation progressed, however, U.S. authorities learned that KSM‘s

nephew, Ammar al-Baluchi, was responsible for sending the money to the U.S.-based

hijackers, as FBI Director Robert Mueller told the Congressional Joint Inquiry in

September 2002.30 KSM gave the funds for the 9/11 strikes to al-Baluchi, who stored

most of the money in a laundry bag in his home in Dubai, dispatching it to the hijackers

as required.31

         Ammar al-Baluchi also assisted Jose Padilla, the Hispanic-American arrested at

Chicago‘s O‘Hare airport in May 2002, as he entered the United States to carry out a

major terrorist attack.32 In explaining this plot, Deputy Attorney General James Comey

described al-Baluchi as KSM‘s ―right hand man.‖33

         Little public information is available about al-Baluchi. He is said to be in his

mid-20s, and his sister is said to be married to Ramzi Yousef. He lived in the UAE for




30
   ―Statement of Robert S. Mueller: Joint Investigation Into September 11,‖ September 26, 2002. The 9/11
Commission similarly identified al-Baluchi as the ―financial and travel facilitator for [the] 9/11 plot.‖ The
9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 434.
31
   Al-Baluchi had two bank accounts in the UAE, but keeping the money at home served to hide it from
authorities The Financing of the 9/11 Plot, Terrorist Financing Staff Monograph, 9/11 Commission,
Appendix A, p. 134.
32
   Padilla acknowledged to U.S. authorities that in the summer of 2001, he was trained in a plot to blow up
apartment buildings in the United States, by sealing an apartment that used natural gas and allowing the gas
to fill the apartment. That plot was dropped, when personal difficulties arose between Padilla and his
partner. Subsequently, Padilla and another man approached Abu Zubaydah with a plan to travel to the
United States to detonate a nuclear bomb they had learned to make on the internet. Abu Zubaydah did not
believe they could make a nuclear bomb and suggested instead that a ―dirty bomb‖ (explosives wrapped in
uranium) might be more practical and sent them to KSM in Karachi in March 2002. KSM steered Padilla
back to the first plan of using natural gas to bomb apartment buildings. ―Summary of Jose Padilla
Activities within al-Qaeda,‖ Department of Justice, June 1, 2004.
33
   Press conference, June 1, 2004, at http://www.usdoj.gov/dag/speech/2004/dag6104.htm


                                                    208
several years prior to the 9/11 strikes, where he worked for a computer wholesaler.34 Al-

Baluchi was captured in Karachi in May 2003.


Ramzi Yousef’s Three Brothers

Two older brothers of Ramzi Yousef are also considered to be terrorist masterminds.

Shortly after KSM‘s capture in March 2003, U.S. authorities told the Washington Post

that ―they are concerned that [KSM‘s] nephews—the brothers of imprisoned terrorist

Ramzi Yousef—may be positioned to take over planning of future terror attacks.‖35

        The concern about Ramzi Yousef‘s brothers proved well-founded. Little over a

year later, in June 2004, one of them was arrested in Karachi. That arrest led to a

substantial number of other arrests and prompted U.S. authorities to issue a major

terrorism alert, as the prospect of another large-scale bombing attack loomed.

        Pakistani authorities identified Yousef‘s brother as Musaad Aruchi and explained

that he was a nephew of KSM.36 The arrest received little public attention, but as a senior

Pakistani intelligence official told the Washington Post, ―There is not a single significant

al Qaeda arrest that didn‘t yield us more.‖37 Aruchi had material—street maps of New

York City and addresses of important buildings—suggesting a terrorist attack was being

planned.38



34
   ―The Financing of the 9/11 Plot,‖ op. cit., p. 134.
35
    ―U.S. Fears Nephews May Succeed Captive; Mohammed‘s Relatives Are Also Involved in Attack
Planning, Officials Believe,‖ Washington Post, March 4, 2003.
36
    To understand how a brother of Ramzi Yousef could have the name Musaad Aruchi, one must
understand something of the false identities the conspirators used. U.S. authorities believe that Ramzi
Yousef‘s real name is Abdul Basit Mahmoud Abdul Karim. Yousef‘s two older brothers are Abdul Karim
and Abdul Monim, as the Washington Post reported. After Aruchi‘s arrest, his Pakistani wife filed a
wrongful arrest petition in a Karachi court claiming that the arrested man was not Aruchi, but Abdul Karim
Mahmoud—ie the brother of Abdul Basit Mahmoud, said to be Yousef‘s true identity.
37
    ―Al Qaeda Arrest in June Opened Valuable Leads,‖ Washington Post, August 3, 2004.
38
    Ibid.


                                                   209
        Aruchi‘s interrogation let to the arrest of a key al Qaida communications figure,

Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, a 25-year old Pakistani computer engineer, detained in

Lahore on July 13, 2004. Authorities described Khan as ―a close ally of [KSM‘s] clan,‖

who had worked closely with Aruchi.39 A combined operation involving U.S., British,

and Pakistani intelligence followed. Khan‘s detention was kept secret., and he was run

under control, in an operation similar to Britain‘s famous World War II ―Double Cross,‖

in which British intelligence succeeded in quietly capturing all German agents in Britain,

turning them, and systematically feeding the Nazis false information.

        Directing Khan‘s communications, authorities uncovered a major terrorist ring

preparing attacks in the United States and Britain. The conspirators planned to bomb

London‘s Heathrow airport, and they had detailed surveillance reports on financial

institutions in Washington DC, Newark, New Jersey, and New York including the New

York Stock Exchange. In early August, U.S. authorities announced a terrorism alert and

took extensive security precautions in those three cities, while British officials hastily

arrested thirteen suspects, including a figure (Issa al-Britani), whom KSM had earlier sent

to the United States to case potential targets.40

        As the Wall Street Journal reported, ―Pakistani officials say Mr. Aruchi's links to

these operatives illustrate how Mr. Mohammed's family and friends have become critical

cogs operating within the wider al Qaeda structure.‖41 In March 2005, the United States

indicted three of the men, including al-Britani, charging that from August 2000 to April




39
   ―Al Qaeda Arm in Pakistan is Tied To 12 Years of Plots and Attacks,‖ Wall Street Journal, August 6,
2004.
40
   The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 150.
41
   ―Al Qaeda Arm in Pakistan is Tied To 12 Years of Plots and Attacks,‖ op. cit.


                                                  210
2001, they had conducted surveillance on six financial institutions, as part of a terrorist

conspiracy.

        The information supplied by Mohammed Khan also enabled Pakistani authorities

to seize an indicted fugitive from the 1998 embassy bombings, the Tanzanian, Ahmed

Khalfan Ghailani, who was captured July 25 in the city of Gujrat, after a 16-hour gun

battle. Several months later, on November 12, 2004, Pakistani authorities, accompanied

by FBI agents, raided a house in Karachi, belonging to yet another of KSM‘s nephews:

Abdul Qadir Mahmoud. He was identified as Ramzi Yousef‘s cousin (although he is

probably better described as his brother) and arrested as well.42


An Alternative Understanding of Al Qaida: Two Groups Merging

This description of the extensive role played by KSM and his clan in al Qaida‘s terrorism

suggests an alternative understanding of al Qaida: after bin Ladin returned to

Afghanistan, two groups merged, or at least they began to work with each other. One

group is the original al Qaida, represented by the Islamic leadership of Usama bin Ladin,

Mohammed Atef, et al. and the militants who had thrown in their lot with them. This

group is predominantly Arab.

        The second group is Baluch and consists of KSM and his extended clan. KSM

formally joined al Qaida in late 1998 or early 1999, according to his own statement.43

Ramzi Yousef was not an al Qaida member; whether the other individuals in KSM‘s clan

actually joined al Qaida is not a matter of public record.

42
   ―Yousuf Ramzi‘s (sic) cousin arrested in Karachi, Daily Times (Pakistan), November 20, 2004. In his
1995 interrogation, Abdul Hakim Murad identified an Abdul Qadir Mahmoud as an older brother of
Yousef, living in Quetta, Pakistan. Probably, this is one of Yousef‘s brothers described in ―U.S. Fears
Nephews May Succeed Captive; Mohammed‘s Relatives Are Also Involved in Attack Planning, Officials
Believe,‖ op. cit.
43
   The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p.154.


                                                  211
        KSM and his extended family actually began the mega-terrorist attacks against

the United States, starting with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and then the 1995

Manila Air Plot. After bin Ladin‘s move to Afghanistan in 1996, this Baluch clan then

made its terrorism skills available to his organization.


                                             The Baluch

Further adding to the mystery surrounding KSM and his clan is their ethnicity: Baluch.

Most Americans are unfamiliar with even so much as the name.44 The United States has

had very little to do with the Baluch, and prior to the 1993 Trade Center bombing, there

is not, as far as this author has been able to determine, even one Baluch indicted for or

accused of involvement in a major terrorist attack on a U.S. target.

           The Baluch are a Sunni Muslim people living predominantly in Eastern Iran and

Western Pakistan, with smaller numbers residing in southwestern Afghanistan. The

Baluch have their own language, related to Persian, and occupy a compact territory

slightly larger than France. The Baluch population of Pakistan is some four and a half

million; that of Iran is about one million. During the time of the British raj, the Baluch

areas in what became Pakistan were governed largely by tribal rulers in treaty relations

with Great Britain. With the partition of India, the Baluch sought their own state, but

were forcibly incorporated into Pakistan. Historically, there has been considerable

exchange between Baluchistan and the Arab countries of the Persian Gulf littoral. In




44
  This also applies to experts working on terrorism, including this author who knew nothing about the
Baluch until obliged to learn about them in the context of the 1993 Trade Center bombing. In 2004, I gave
a briefing to an audience that included a U.S. official who had been involved in the hunt for KSM, while
working at the CIA‘s Counterterrorist Center before and after 9/11. She kindly remarked afterwards that
she had not understood all the implications of the Baluch ethnicity of KSM and his clan. October 1, 2004.


                                                  212
Oman, the Baluch long served as the sultan‘s guards, and the oil boom, starting in the

early 1970s, precipitated significant Baluch migration to other Gulf Arab countries.

            Much of Baluch territory is a desolate and difficult desert. ―Most observers

compare it to the moon, but a team of U.S. Geological Survey experts on assignment in

Iranian Baluchistan insisted that it was the closest thing on earth to Mars.‖45 Before the

Muslim conquest of the region, an Arab officer sent to obtain intelligence on the area

reported:

        Commander of the Faithful! It is a country of which the mountains are
        mountains indeed . . . [I]t is a country with so little water that the dates are
        the worst of dates, and the inhabitants are the most warlike of men.46

The Baluch do indeed have a reputation for conflict. The journalist Mary Anne Weaver,

who provides a rare portrait of the Baluch, explains they have been fighting for centuries.

Whoever tried to conquer them, they fought, and when they weren‘t fighting outsiders,

they were fighting each other, even as ―they have never been fully conquered or

subdued.‖47




45
   Selig Harrison, In Afghanistan’s Shadow: Baluch Nationalism and Soviet Temptations, (Washington DC:
Carnegie, 1981) p. 7.
46
   Mir Ahmed Khan Baluch, Inside Baluchistan: A Political Autobiography, (Karachi: Royal Book
Company, 1975), p. 58.
47
   Mary Anne Weaver, Pakistan: In the Shadow of Jihad and Afghanistan, (New York: Farrar, Straus and
Giroux, 2002), p. 93


                                                 213
                                       Armed Baluch
                                    (South Asia Tribune)
             Posted at: http://www.satribune.com/archives/200508/P1_balo.htm


           A traditional, tribal people, the Baluch have strong pre-Islamic traditions and a

reputation for bearing their religion lightly.48 Selig Harrison describes the Baluch as

―notably casual about religious observances.‖49 Weaver traveled to Pakistani Baluchistan

in 1989, and her narrative begins by describing a medieval-like ritual, known as ―to walk

the fire,‖ a pre-Islamic practice which she witnessed. A man accused of murdering his

cousin chose to walk a trench of hot coals, believing it would demonstrate his innocence.

If his feet were burned or blistered, he would be considered guilty and punished; if not,

he would be considered innocent and entitled to compensation from his accuser. He

48
   Sol W. Sanders, long-time international editor of Business Week. Author interview, August 12, 2004.
The rest of this narrative illustrates Sanders‘ point.
49
   Selig Harrison, op. cit., p. 8.


                                                  214
walked the hot coals without blistering his feet and so was deemed innocent. Sharia

(Islamic law) contains no such medieval-like measures for determining guilt or

innocence.

           There is at present a low-level Baluch rebellion in Pakistan, which does not

have a particularly religious coloring and does not attract international jihadis. The

rebels, led by tribal leaders, are described as ―separatists‖ fighting for autonomy, rather

than for the implementation of the sharia, the re-establishment of the Muslim caliphate,

or the overthrow of an ―infidel‖ government, goals typical of Islamic radicals.50 Indeed,

among those notably killed alongside the Baluch during the recent violence are Hindus,

who have lived for centuries under Baluch protection.51 The Baluch are not without

religion. Indeed, in the northern areas, as Weaver relates, the Baluch take their religion

―much more seriously than in other parts of Balochistan.‖52 Yet they are markedly less

religious than other Muslims, like the Arabs or fellow Pakistanis.

           Iran‘s Sunni Baluch have particularly bad relations with the Shi‘a government

in Tehran and were subject to an aggressive Persianizing campaign through much of the

20th century. Tehran kept Baluchistan backward and underdeveloped. Literacy rates are

extremely low, although current statistics are hard to come by. Some 25 years ago, there

were estimated to be only 350 Iranian Baluch college graduates and another 5,000 high-

school graduates. The Iranian Baluch, in fact, looked to the Pakistani Baluch for cultural

and political leadership.



50
   ―Militants stage several attacks in Pakistan,‖ Reuters, March 23, 2005. Typical of the reporting on the
current Baluch violence, the story begins, ―Militants battling for autonomy in Pakistan‘s Baluchistan
province launched several attacks in the past two days.‖ (emphasis added)
51
   ―Baloch Shadow Over China-Pakistan Ties,‖ Asia Times, April 18, 2005. Posted at:
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/South_Asia/GD19Df03.html
52
   Mary Anne Weaver, op. cit., p. 102.


                                                    215
           The Pakistani Baluch were not subject to the severe repression experienced by

the Iranian Baluch, but by most standards, their situation was not particularly good either.

The coastal region (Makran) is more open and developed than the rest of Pakistani

Baluchistan, but in 1989, even in the Makran the male literacy rate was only 12%.53 The

region‘s major city—Turbat—did not have electricity, and the town center operated off

generators provided by the Chinese.54 This lack of development co-exists with a deep

insularity. ―Balochistan has a fortress-like feeling about it,‖ Weaver writes, ―as though

the Baloch would go to any lengths to shut out the rest of the world. When they leave

their deserts and mountains, they say they are going to ‗Hindustan.‘ For most people

Hindustan means India. For the Baloch it also means anyplace else in Pakistan.‖55


The Baluch Rebellion Against Tehran

Jumma Khan, a Baluch figure from Turbat with ties to both Iranian and Pakistani Baluch,

founded the Baluchistan Liberation Front (BLF) in 1964. Khan received backing from

radical Arabs and took up residence in Damascus in the 1960s. Intense Pakistani

pressure for his extradition led Khan to flee to Baghdad in 1968, the same year that the

Baath party returned to power in Iraq. Khan soon became a significant figure in an

Iranian Baluch revolt. Iraq‘s Baathist regime subsidized Khan and other BLF leaders,

and ―Baghdad became the headquarters for intensified radio broadcasting and insurgent

activity in Iranian Baluchistan,‖ which included the training of Baluch tribesman in Iraq,

Selig Harrison explains.56 The Iranian Baluch revolt lasted from 1969 until 1973, when


53
   Ibid, p. 116.
54
   Ibid.
55
   Ibid, p. 104.
56
   Selig Harrison, op. cit., pp. 107-8. Harrison also suggests that the Soviets backed Iraq in arming the
Baluch to create problems for a major U.S. ally, Pakistan.


                                                     216
the shah enticed a major tribal leader to take up a comfortable residence in Tehran. Iraqi

support for the Baluch continued at a reduced level until the 1975 Algiers agreement,

which brought a temporary easing of hostilities between Iraq and Iran.

              Yet contacts between Baghdad and the Baluch never ceased completely, and

they were renewed when the Iran-Iraq War (1980-1988) began. Iraq sought to create

problems for Iran in the east and supported a renewed Baluch insurgency. General Wafiq

Samarrai headed Iraqi military intelligence during that war and remained in his position

until June 1991, when Saddam began to suspect his loyalties. He defected in 1994 and is

now an adviser on security matters to Iraq‘s president. Iraqi intelligence had deep and

well-established ties with the Baluch on both sides of the Pakistan-Iran border, Samarrai

explained. During the war with Iran, Iraqi military intelligence maintained an office in

Dubai, where it ran the Baluch as spies into Iran.57

              Mary Anne Weaver picked up one aspect of Iraq‘s support for the Baluch in her

1989 tour of the region. At the home of the top tribal leader of Makran, Weaver was told

of the region‘s potential for serious instability, deriving in part from nearby conflicts.

―Look at the arms inflow. A bullet costs only one rupee, an egg costs two. There is a lot

of money, combined with a lot of illiteracy,‖ Weaver was told. ―And there are all these

special militias floating about. There are also some four thousand Iranian Baloch living

in the Central Makran Range, fully armed and supported by Iraq, who are running cross-

border operations into Iran. No one can touch them—not the Army, not the government.

They do whatever they want.‖58




57
     Author interview, August 21, 1995.
58
     These words were spoken by a cousin of the nawab, the top tribal leader. Weaver, op. cit., p. 118.


                                                      217
           When Ramzi Yousef was arrested in Islamabad, Pakistani authorities

immediately recognized that he was Baluch and suggested he was tied to the Iraqi

government (Chapter 7).


The Baluch Revolt in Pakistan

In 1973, a Baluch revolt began in Pakistan after Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto

dismissed Baluchistan‘s obstreperous provincial government, alleging that it was working

in concert with Iraq and the Soviet Union. At the same time, Pakistani authorities

claimed that a cache of 300 Soviet submachine guns and 48,000 rounds of ammunition

had been discovered at the house of the Iraqi military attache in Islamabad, charging that

the weapons were intended for Pakistan‘s Baluch. Baghdad responded that the arms

were bound for the Iranian Baluch.59

           The Baluch rebellion soon mushroomed into full scale war, engaging over

80,000 Pakistani troops at its height. The Baluch developed sanctuaries in southern

Afghanistan under the regime of Mohammed Daoud, a former prime minister, who in

1973 had ousted his cousin, the king, and proclaimed himself president. Daoud

reluctantly accepted the Baluch into Afghanistan. By 1977, Pakistani forces had largely

succeeded in crushing the revolt, and popular support for the rebellion was waning.

After General Zia ul-Haq ousted Bhutto that summer, he offered a general amnesty that

included the release of imprisoned Baluch leaders and reached an uneasy a truce with the

Baluch that year.

59
   Selig Harrison, op. cit., p. 35. Harrison reports that Western intelligence sources generally accepted the
Iraqi explanation and believed that the arms were first intercepted by Pakistani authorities in Karachi and
taken north to the capital city to maximize the effect on the diplomatic community and foreign journalists,
who were concentrated in Islamabad.
   On the other hand, as Harrison also notes, a key figure in the revolt of the Pakistani Baluch had visited
Iraq in August 1972 and seemed to have made arrangements for Iraqi arms deliveries. Ibid, p. 36.


                                                     218
           More radical Baluch elements opposed to the truce remained in Afghanistan,

where Daoud was overthrown in 1978, as an unstable Communist government seized

power, leading to the Soviet invasion of the country the next year. Selig Harrison paid

several visits to the Baluch camps in Afghanistan between 1977 and 1980 and suggests

they supported some 2,700 fighters then.60

           The Afghan communist regime had an entirely different attitude toward the

Baluch than the Daoud government. It very much welcomed them, as this relationship

developed in a Cold War context.61 The Baluch were the enemies of their enemy, the

government of Pakistan, which was central to the effort to overthrow the indigenous

communist regime and oust the Soviets from Afghanistan. Thus, in 1981, the leader of

the largest Baluch tribe, Khair Bux Marri, moved to Kabul, ―where large numbers of

Marri guerrillas were already being trained by the Soviet-supported regime,‖ Weaver

reports. Khair Bux Marri brought with him ―a well-trained well-armed guerilla force of

at least five thousand men,‖ and subsequently, ―thousands of other Marris‖ moved to

Afghanistan as well.62 Some significant number of Baluch remained in Afghanistan until

the winter of 1992-93, when they returned to Pakistan after the overthrow of Najibollah

and the demise of Afghanistan‘s last communist government.


In Sum

Given the unusual qualities of the Baluch and their links to the Iraqi regime—which

endured until at least 1988—as well as their ties to the Soviet Union and the Afghan

communist regime—which lasted until each of those entities collapsed, it would be quite


60
   Selig Harrison, op. cit., p. 75.
61
   Ibid, p. 81.
62
   Mary Anne Weaver, op. cit., pp. 113-4.


                                             219
unjustified to assume that when Ramzi Yousef appeared in New York in September 1992

and inserted himself among Islamic radicals there in preparation for bombing the World

Trade Center, Yousef was necessarily an Islamic militant himself. Quite possibly,

Yousef‘s most important tie was to the Iraqi regime, as senior figures in New York FBI

suspected and as Pakistani authorities suggested.

         The same would apply to Yousef‘s uncle, Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, and the

rest of this remarkable Baluch clan. Indeed, one can scarcely understand the mega-

terrorist attacks against the United States, starting with the 1993 Trade Center bombing

and culminating in the 9/11 strikes, without having a firm and clear knowledge of these

masterminds, including where they were trained; by whom; and who funded them. Yet

that knowledge does not exist. For the most part, these Baluch masterminds have been

subsumed under the personalities and ideology of Usama bin Ladin and other Islamic

figures, and they are not recognized for what they are: an entity in their own right.




                                            220
                                        CHAPTER 10

                  CLOSED CONCEPTUAL CIRCLES?


After 9/11, the question was frequently asked, ―Why do they hate us?‖ This hatred was

not new, however; and if the arena of public debate had the discipline and rigor of a

courtroom, a judge might well have dismissed the question as already asked and

answered. Distinguished scholars long ago explained the chronic state of resentment and

anger that exists in the Middle East against the United States. To borrow a phrase from a

book written over forty years ago by the pre-eminent Western historian of Islam, Bernard

Lewis, the problem is ―envious rancor.‖1


                                 Islam’s Modern Existential Crisis

Islam long enjoyed remarkable worldly success. Within 200 years of its founding, its

sway extended over a vast region; and for nearly a millennium, Muslims were a major

force on the world stage. Yet starting in the late 17th century, the emergence of European

power led to rapid Muslim decline. One persistent Muslim response was to affirm the

need to return to the religion‘s roots. Yet Islamic revivalism, in its various forms, has not

proven very successful. In the past fifty years, for example, Islamic radicals have ruled in

just three countries: Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iran. In Sudan, the National Islamic Front

was ousted from government by its military partners (Chapter 3). In Afghanistan, the



1
    Bernard Lewis, The Middle East and the West, (New York: Harper & Row, 1964), p. 45.


                                                   221
repressive and deeply resented Taliban, who had benefited from Pakistani support, were

easily removed by U.S.-led forces after 9/11. And Iran‘s theocracy, unpopular

domestically, is no model or inspiration for others.

        The other pole of the Muslim response has been to try to imitate the West. This

trend constitutes the modernizing tendency within Islam. Those who took this path were

far more likely to become rulers, but they did not prove very effective either. Notable is

the ―Arab Human Development Report,‖ published by the United Nations Development

Program, which presents a thoroughly dismal picture. The combined GDP of the 22

members of the Arab League with a population of some 280 million (roughly that of the

United States) is less than that of Spain. The Arabs translate some 330 books annually,

one-fifth the number Greece translates. Arab political culture is abysmal. ―There is a

substantial lag between Arab countries and other regions in terms of participatory

governance,‖ the U.N. report observes. ―The wave of democracy that transformed

governance in most of Latin America and East Asia in the 1980s and Eastern Europe and

much of Central Asia in the late 1980s and early 1990s has barely reached the Arab

states.‖2

        The distinguished historian, the late Elie Kedourie, stresses the crucial importance

of Islam‘s dismal past three centuries. ―This long, unrelieved series of defeats, setbacks,

and retreats, so unlike what Muslims had experienced throughout their history, and at

such variance with their view of themselves and their relation to the non-Muslim world,

has to be kept continually in mind, since it is the implicit and frequently unspoken

assumption underlying political action in the Middle East in modern times,‖ Kedourie

2
  The report is an annual survey, and was first published in 2002. ―How the Arabs Compare: Arab Human
Development Report 2002,‖ Middle East Quarterly, Fall 2002, includes a brief commentary and extensive
excerpts from that report.


                                                222
writes.3 The answer to the question ―why do they hate us‖ is, at least in significant part,

because Islam, once a glorious civilization, now exists in a degraded state, for which

there is no obvious remedy.


                                   States vs. Groups and Networks

Given that this hatred is of very long standing, it alone cannot explain why 9/11

happened. The question—why do they hate us?—points in the direction of ideas and

feelings and in the current political climate produces the answer ―militant Islam.‖ But

―militant Islam‖ does not adequately describe the full range of malevolent actors in the

Middle East, and this question leads analysts to think within constrained confines.

Another question also needs to be asked: ―How did they do it?‖ This question points in

the direction of capabilities and skills and opens up a wider horizon which includes other

actors who are not Islamic militants, although they might well work with them.


The Intelligence Agency of a Terrorist State: The Case of Saddam’s Iraq

Below is the letter head of the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) from a document dated

March 11, 1993, among the cache found by U.S. forces in Iraq (described in Chapter 3.)

The symbol on the right is of particular interest. It is an eye, and in its center is a picture:

the Mercator map of the world. Below the eye, in English (a bit odd, because this is an

Arabic document), is ―IRAQI INTELLIGENCE SERVICE‖ (bolding added). The

bolded letters spell out ―IRIS.‖ Two perpendicular lines, run through the ―iris‖ of the

―eye‖ like a crosshair, as if the IIS had the entire world in its sights. The image suggests

the IIS viewed itself not as a regional organization, whose activities were limited to the

Middle East, but as an organization with a global mission.
3
    Elie Kedourie, Politics in the Middle East, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992) p. 26.


                                                     223
                  Source: Cybercast News Service; full document posted at
               http://www.cnsnews.com/specialreports/2004/exclusive15.asp


        The report of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) first led by former IAEA inspector

David Kay and then by Charles Duelfer, former Deputy Chairman of UNSCOM, includes

a detailed discussion of the IIS. Were such open-source information available about the

intelligence services of countries like Syria and Iran, it would probably appear similar.

The ISG‘s findings illustrate the capabilities of a major terrorist state.

        The IIS consisted of over twenty compartmentalized directorates. One

directorate, M-14, was responsible for ―special operations.‖ As the ISG report explains:

        It trained Iraqis, Palestinians, Syrians, Lebanese, Egyptian, and Sudanese
        operatives in counterterrorism, explosives, marksmanship, and foreign
        operations at its facilities at Salman Pak. Additionally, M14 oversaw the
        ―Challenge Project,‖ a highly secretive project regarding explosives.
        Sources to date have not been able to provide sufficient details regarding
        the ‖Challenge Project.‖4

As former Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz notes, using the term

―counter-terrorism‖ to describe the activities of M-14 is ―Orwellian.‖ Wolfowitz




4
 Comprehensive Report of the Special Adviser to the DCI on Iraq’s WMD, September 30, 2004 (Iraq
Survey Group), p.78.


                                                224
states, ―It in fact was a terrorist unit that specialized in hijackings, assassinations

and explosives.‖5

        The ―Tiger Group‖ was a unit within M-14 ―primarily comprised of

suicide bombers.‖6

        In April 2003, three days before the fall of Baghdad, a Centcom spokesman

described the M-14 training facility at Salman Pak:

        There was a raid last night by the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. What
        they raided was a training camp near Samanpak (sp) [Salman Pak] . . .
        This raid occurred in response to information that had been gained by
        coalition forces from some foreign fighters we encountered from other
        countries, not Iraq. And we believe that this camp had been used to train
        these foreign fighters in terror tactics. It is now destroyed . . .
          Now, with regard to [Salman Pak], that's just one of a number of
        examples we've found where there is training activity happening inside of
        Iraq. It reinforces the likelihood of links between his regime and external
        terrorist organizations, clear links with common interests. Some of these
        fighters came from Sudan, some from Egypt, and some from other places,
        and we've killed a number of them and we've captured a number of them.7

        Another IIS directorate, M-21, also known as ―al Ghafiqi,‖ made

explosive devices too. The ISG explains:

        No one person constructed an entire explosive device alone. The
        construction process drifted through the sections of the directorate. An
        improvised explosive device (IED) began in the Chemistry Department
        which developed the explosive materials for the device; the Electronics
        Department prepared the timers and wiring of the IED, and the
        Mechanical Department produced the ignitors and designed the IED. Al
        Ghafiqi constantly invented new designs or methods to conceal
        explosives: books, briefcases, belts, vests, thermoses, car seats, floor mats,
        and facial tissue boxes were all used to conceal PE4, C4, RDX, or TNT.8




5
  Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, April 21, 2004.
6
  Iraq Survey Group, op. cit., p. 79.
7
  General Vince Brooks, April 6, 2003, posted at:
http://www.centcom.mil/CENTCOMNews/News_Release.asp?NewsRelease=20030468.txt
8
  Iraq Survey Group, op. cit., p. 81.


                                              225
Of course, al Qaida had none of this. Al Qaida had no chemistry department, no

electronics department, and no mechanical department. Al Qaida, with a membership of

a few hundred individuals, was many times smaller than the IIS and had far fewer

resources. There is simply no comparison between the capabilities of a major terrorist

state and that of a group or ―network.‖ A major terrorist state is far more sophisticated.

       Indeed, prior to the 1993 World Trade Center bombing this was how the United

States and others viewed Middle Eastern terrorism. In 1982, for example, the United

States led a multinational force, which included France and Italy, whose mission was to

stabilize Lebanon. On October 31, 1983, the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut and the

headquarters of the French paratroopers were bombed nearly simultaneously. In a co-

ordinated response, France struck an Iranian target in Lebanon and the United States

attacked a Syrian target.


States working with Networks?

Intelligence agencies routinely penetrate other organizations in both offensive and

defensive operations (indeed, the CIA was criticized for not penetrating al Qaida).

While a highly capable intelligence agency possesses much of what is required for

a successful terrorist attack against a major power like the United States, the

Islamic militant networks, nonetheless, can provide additional advantages. The

militants can far more easily call on young men to die in a jihad operation than

can a terrorist state. The militants can also provide a terrorist state cover and

deniability. The advantages of such a partnership would seem obvious, as the

militants gain from the terrorist state the capability of conducting a much more




                                             226
devastating attack than they could carry out on the basis of their own knowledge

and resources.

           Indeed, the 9/11 Commission‘s description of Khalid Shaykh Mohammed

and Ramzi Yousef is arguably consistent with just this scenario: namely, that

KSM and Yousef are the trained agents of a terrorist state, the expertise and other

resources of which enabled the militants to conduct attacks they were incapable of

carrying out on their own. As the 9/11 Commission states, ―There were also

rootless but experienced operatives, such as Ramzi Yousef and KSM, who—

though not necessarily formal members of someone else‘s organization—were

traveling around the world and joining in projects that were supported by or

linked to Bin Ladin, the Blind Sheikh, or their associates.‖9

           Most of the work involved in a major terrorist attack does not require

extensive training and skills, as much as familiarity with the local environment

and an ability to blend in. That includes activities like renting safe houses,

obtaining vehicles, even assisting in the simpler aspects of a making a bomb. If a

few talented and well-trained individuals are inserted into an environment in

which others lack such skills, but are nonetheless ready, if not eager, to participate

in a terrorist attack, these few well-trained individuals can dramatically change

the capabilities of the original handful of people.




9
    The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 59.


                                                   227
                                      Closed Conceptual Circles

Yet one would not be able to recognize this scenario, if one thought in terms of the

categories that began to dominate Western thinking about the Middle East in the early

1990s and persist to this day. Those categories are fundamentally flawed and constitute a

―mind-set‖ that compromises the ability of analysts and investigators to operate

effectively in the fog of information they must deal with, or so this project would suggest.


Division Between “Secular” And Islamic

One such flawed concept is the notion that a sharp division exists between ―secular‖

entities in the Middle East and Islamic ones and that they constitute two separate and

distinct camps Israeli Prime Minister Itzhak Rabin was probably the most authoritative

figure to give voice to this concept, which for Rabin arose in the context of the Arab-

Israeli ―peace process,‖ about which highly exaggerated expectations were held. One

camp, according to Rabin, was in the process of making a comprehensive peace with

Israel, and the other was implacably hostile. As Rabin affirmed,

           Even Syria and Lebanon, the governments there with which we negotiate
           are those who support peace. . . The enemies of peace are the members of
           the movements and the organizations that belong to the wave of
           extremism, fundamentalist terrorist Islamic movements, a wave that
           covers today most of the Arab and Islamic countries. They are the
           enemies of peace and in their lead is Iran.10

This pervasive perspective also shapes our understanding of the contemporary

terrorist threat. As the 9/11 Commission states:

           The enemy is not just ―terrorism,‖ some generic evil. This vagueness
           blurs the strategy. The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is
           more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism—especially the
           al Qaeda network, its affiliates and its ideology.11

10
     ―Rabin Slams Iran for Anti-Peace Violence,‖ Associated Press, November 11, 1994.
11
     The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 362.


                                                   228
Similarly, the popular scholar Daniel Pipes asks, ―Who is the Enemy?‖ and

replies, ―The enemy is militant Islam.‖12

           These statements contain a key unexamined assumption: the hostile

actions of those who espouse an extreme Islamic agenda, like the Islamic groups,

are distinct and separate from the hostile activities of entities like Syria, the

former Iraqi regime, or any other foe of America that does not espouse the

ideology of Islamic militancy. This is, indeed, a ―mindset,‖ a phenomenon well-

known in history. Analysts end up engaged in group think, and they view a

critical issue though a fundamentally distorted mental framework. (Israelis call

this the conzeptzia.) They do not see what is happening because critical

assumptions they hold are wrong, and thus they cannot sort through properly the

enormous amount of information they receive.

           In fact, the notion that there is a fundamental break between Islamic and ―secular‖

entities is a truly dubious proposition. Writing in 1976, Bernard Lewis deplores the

chronic inability of the West to understand Islam in its own terms. The persistent

tendency over centuries is to project Western concepts onto the religion. In this

important article, entitled ―The Return of Islam‖ and penned when Western scholars were

focused on the ideology of Arab nationalism, Lewis complains they fail to recognize the

critical role Islam plays in the lives of Muslims. Islam has no equivalent to the Western

terms ―secular‖ and ―religious,‖ which express a Christian dichotomy, Lewis writes, as

he highlights the Islamic aspects of political figures and organizations, often described as

―secular.‖ Egyptian President Gamal Abdul Nasser was the iconic figure of Arab


12
     Daniel Pipes, ―Who is the Enemy?,‖ Commentary, January 2002.


                                                  229
nationalism, but as Lewis explains, ―Even in Nasserist Egypt, Islam continued to provide

a main focus of loyalty.‖ In 1965 Egypt was fighting a war in Yemen against forces

backed by Saudi Arabia, and it maintained a state of extreme hostility toward Israel. An

Egyptian army manual issued that year states:

         We must always maintain that our military duty in the Yemen is a jihad
         for God and our military duty against Israel is a jihad for God, and for
         those who fight in this war there is the reward of fighters in the holy war
         for God. . . . Our duty is the holy war for God. ―Kill them wherever you
         come upon them and drive them from the places from which they drove
         you‖ [Qur‘an, ii, 191].13

Similarly, Sylvia Haim, the wife of Elie Kedourie and a distinguished scholar

herself, writing in 1962, explains ―Arab nationalism had to make place for Islam,

to accommodate itself to it, or else risk to find itself exiled into the limbo of

clever ideas. . . The ‗Arabs,‘ in their majority remained Muslim, and unless

Arabism were made to seem consistent with that religion there was no prospect

that it would make many converts.‖14

         Just as Western analysts did not recognize the Islamic aspect of ―secular‖

Arab nationalism thirty years ago, they now see Islamic extremists as an entity

onto themselves, entirely distinct from the nationalists.

         Yet this separation does not exist in reality. In fact, extremist Islamic

organizations, whether states or groups, regularly form alliances with ―secular‖

entities.

        Even as Rabin hailed Syria as a ―partner for peace,‖ fundamentally
         different from ―the wave of extremism, fundamentalist terrorist Islamic
         movements,‖ Syria hosted the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Damascus,


13
  Bernard Lewis, ―The Return of Islam,‖ Commentary, January 1976.
14
  Sylvia G, Haim, Arab Nationalism: An Anthology, (Los Angeles CA: University of California Press,
1976), p.54. (first edition, 1962)


                                                 230
       backed Hizbollah in Lebanon, and was a major ally of the Islamic regime
       in Tehran.

      Hassan Turabi‘s Islamic regime in Khartoum maintained close ties with
       ―secular,‖ Baathist Iraq and encouraged Baghdad to support both the
       Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al Qaida (Chapter 3).

      A potpourri of figures attended Turabi‘s Popular Arab and Islamic
       Conferences, including Iraq‘s Minister of Religion, Jordan‘s Speaker of
       Parliament, retired Pakistani generals, Egyptian Nasserists, along with the
       leaders of Islamic parties from numerous countries (Chapter 3.)

      Iraq began hosting a ―Popular Islamic Conference Organization‖ already
       in 1984, meetings of which continued through 2002.

      Afghan militants, including Gulbiddin Hekmatyar and Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, who
       received very substantial Saudi support in the 1980s, nonetheless backed Saddam
       after he invaded Kuwait in 1990 (Chapter 2.)

      By 1993, Iraqi intelligence, according to its own internal documents, had
       developed well-established ties with Hekmatyar, who also received money from
       ―secular‖ Libya (Chapter 2.)

      In the 1980s, as Iran, backed by Syria, fought a long, bloody war with Iraq,
       Baghdad supported Syria‘s Muslim Brothers, including in their 1982 revolt; and
       after Damascus ferociously crushed that revolt, the more radical among them took
       refuge in Baghdad.

Twenty years ago, the notion that ―militant Islam‖ had an existence independent of and

distinct from ―secular‖ entities would have appeared palpably false. One cannot stress

strongly enough that the unbridgeable gap currently imputed to the relationship between

Islamic and ―secular‖ entities in the Middle East is a consequence of Western

perceptions, rather than regional realities.


Usama bin Ladin and Shaykh Omar on such co-operation

To be sure, many Islamic militants view Arab nationalist rulers and parties with suspicion

and even hostility. Shaykh Omar denounced them all (Chapter 6). Yet these very same

figures also give public expression to the rationale for working with those they do not


                                               231
much like. Shaykh Omar stated, ―If you don't find a pious man with whom you [can]

perform jihad, then do it with a profligate one.‖15

         Most relevant is bin Ladin. In August 1996, after bin Ladin had been expelled to

remote exile in Afghanistan, in his first fiery public denunciation of the United States, his

―Declaration of Jihad,‖ he stated, ‖If a military expedition cannot be done without

immoral leaders or highly unscrupulous soldiers, one choice has to be made: either to

exclude them, which might lead to a conquest by outsiders who would cause utmost harm

to life and religion, or to include them so as to push back the more harmful of the two.‖16

Many, including European critics of the Iraq war, argued that bin Ladin would never

work with a ―secular‖ figure like Saddam Hussein.17 Yet bin Ladin himself articulated

the rationale: necessity, because ―outsiders‖ are the greater enemy.


Global Jihad: Jihadis Deal Only With Other Jihadis Like Themselves?

Analysts routinely speak of the ―global jihad‖ as if it were an autonomous, self-

contained entity, perhaps something akin to the old Communist bloc.18 Indeed, a

recent briefing by one of Israel‘s leading terrorism experts, Boaz Ganor,

illustrates this mind-set. Ganor explains:

         Liberal democratic states confront threats from international terrorism that
         are unlike anything seen previously. The threat emanates from networks of
         radical Islamic terrorist groups dispersed across the globe.

15
   Government Exhibit 801-T, United States v Omar Ahmad Ali Abdel Rahman et al.
16
   Government Exhibit 1628 (Arabic), 1628-T (English), United States v. Usama bin Laden et al.
17
   i.e. ―Allies Find No Links Between Iraq, Al Qaeda; Evidence isn't there, officials in Europe say, adding
that an attack on Hussein would worsen the threat of terrorism by Islamic radicals.‖ Los Angeles Times,
November 4, 2002.
18
   To cite but a few: Global Jihad Monitor, published by the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies,
at: http://www.defenddemocracy.org/publications/publications_show.htm?doc_id=283010 Robert S.
Leiken, Bearers of Global Jihad? Immigration and National Security After 9.11 (Washington DC: The
Nixon Center, 2004); Reuven Paz writes of ―the general goals of Global Jihad‖ and ―the groups of Global
Jihad‖ in PRISM Special Dispatches, Volume 2 (2004), Number 3 (2 June 2004) at http://www.e-
prism.org/images/PRISM_Special_dispatch_no_3-2.pdf


                                                    232
           The origins of this network lies with the mujihadeen in Afghanistan
        fighting the Soviet Union from 1979 until the Soviet exit from the country
        a decade later. After 10 years of war, the mujihadeen could point to an
        amazing victory over the superpower that soon after ceased to exist.
           The mujihadeen who came to Afghanistan from around the Muslim
        world divided into three groups. One group stayed in Afghanistan and
        became the eventual nucleus of Al-Qaeda. The second returned to their
        home countries, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, and
        beyond, where they started working with local jihadist movements or
        joined larger Islamic radical movements. The third group wanted to return
        home but took asylum in Western or non-Arab/Muslim countries.
          Umar Abdal-Rahman (the blind sheikh) is an example of the third
        category, someone who could not return to his homeland of Egypt and so
        settled in the United States. In 1993, he masterminded the World Trade
        Center bombing, which was designed to kill 50,000 people by toppling
        one tower on the other.19

Ganor misstates fundamental facts about the Trade Center bombing, an event of

particular importance, as it is the first major attack attributed to the new Islamic

terrorism. Ganor also misunderstands the U.S. charges against Shaykh Omar and is

unfamiliar with the U.S. court records. (Ramzi Yousef—not a blind cleric—is the key to

that attack, Chapters 5 and 6). Ganor also fails to note that the Arabs involved in the

Afghan jihad were heavily supported by Arab intelligence agencies, as well as Pakistani

intelligence. The militants were not an autonomous entity then, which points to the

possibility that they may not now be fully autonomous. Indeed, the leader of

Afghanistan‘s Northern Alliance, Ahmed Shah Massoud, issued precisely this caution to

the CIA in 1996 (Chapter 4).

        Ganor‘s account makes for a simple, appealing narrative, but not only is it flawed

regarding basic facts, it represents an extremely narrow perspective. It is premised on a

critical assumption: namely, that the only significant interaction that the jihadis have is

with other jihadis, individuals who are just like them.

19
 ―Lessons from the Counter-terrorism War: A briefing by Boaz Ganor,‖ MEF [Middle East Forum]
Wires, April 8, 2005. http://www.meforum.org/article/710


                                               233
        Yet the militants do not live in a hermetically sealed environment. Indeed, since

the fall of the Taliban, they do not even control a state. Ganor‘s constrained, confined

framework does not allow for consideration of the scenario described above: a terrorist

state might insert highly trained agents among the militants and provide them the

capabilities for havoc and mayhem they do not possess on their own.


Another Example: A Spanish Investigation

The same problematic assumptions and errors of fact appear in a major European

investigation, entered into the public record during the trial of 24 Spanish

militants (Imad Yarkas et al.). The 690 page indictment recounts the Spanish

inquiry, including surveillance and wiretaps, going back to 1995, when Madrid

began monitoring the Islamic militants in its midst.

        Like Ganor, Spanish authorities are totally unfamiliar with the U.S. court

records. They attribute the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to Shaykh Omar

and even add their own invention, namely that he was sentenced to death for that

attack (he is serving a life sentence).20 They link Ramzi Yousef to bin Ladin and

al Qaida, although U.S. court records, including Yousef‘s two trials, and U.S.

military charges issued against al Qaida members detained at Guantanamo make

no such connection (Chapter 5.)21


20
   Spanish Indictment, op. cit., p. MR/SPA037584. The indictment also claims that in 1989, Shaykh Omar
―becomes the spiritual leader of the Arab-Afghans.‖ There was no such position; the Arab-Afghans were
then fighting bitterly among themselves.
21
   The indictment claims that before leaving for the United States in September 1992, Yousef was staying
at a bin Ladin guest house in Peshawar and returned there afterwards, Ibid, p MR/SPA037490. All we
know about Yousef‘s movements prior to September 1992 is that he met a Palestinian militant (Ahmed
Ajaj) in an Islamic center in Islamabad that summer. After the bombing, Yousef lived openly in Karachi.
The indictment also claims that Yousef entered the United States on a ―false passport,‖ Ibid, p.
MR/SPA037489. In fact Yousef used an authentic Iraqi passport, as the U.S. court record and an INS
forensic examination makes clear (Chapters 5 and 7).


                                                  234
          The Spanish indictment treats Khalid Shaykh Mohammed in a similar

imprecise and cavalier fashion. It refers to him as a ―Kuwaiti‖ and a ―Kuwaiti

citizen,‖ implying also that he is Arab.22 (KSM is Baluch and a Pakistani citizen,

according to U.S. authorities, Chapter 9) The indictment notes that KSM

masterminded the 9/11 attacks, but nonetheless claims he is less significant than

Abu Zubaydah, the Palestinian who managed al Qaida‘s Afghan camps.23

          Page after page of the indictment recounts in mind-numbing detail the

results of surveilling the Spanish militants and monitoring their phone

conversations. The militants devote an enormous amount of time and energy to

supporting the jihad in various parts of the globe, including Chechnya, Kashmir,

and Afghanistan They are involved in recruiting young men to training camps,

and there is a constant need for funding, supplies, and passports. Spanish

authorities would have had to devote a similar amount of time and energy to

monitoring this activity and trying to understand it. Hundreds of thousands of

man-hours almost certainly went into this work.

          This activity is, indeed, properly described as the work of a ―loose

network.‖ There is no single person in charge or any discernable hierarchy

beyond the al Qaida organization in Afghanistan. There are, instead, many

groups of people in different countries, coordinating in this enterprise. The

indictment helps explain why so many investigators and analysts view

contemporary terrorism as the work of loosely related, ill-structured networks.




22
     Ibid, pp. MR/SPA037498; MR/SPA037505.
23
     Ibid, p. MR/SPA037498.


                                              235
        However, the Islamic war to liberate what the jihadis deem to be Muslim

territory from non-Muslim control is not the same activity as carrying out a major

terrorist attack; and they require, in significant part, different skills and training.

Spanish authorities claim Imad Yarkas and two co-defendants were involved in

planning the 9/11 strikes, although U.S. authorities do not. Otherwise none of

those on trial is charged with involvement in a specific terrorist attack. These

individuals were involved in supporting Islamic insurgencies.

        To be sure, other jihadis did become involved in major terrorist attacks,

most spectacularly the 9/11 strikes. Yet like Boaz Ganor, Spanish investigators

assume that every individual with whom the jihadis have contact is another

Islamic militant like themselves. This is so, even when investigators do not know

the true identity of significant individuals or when the militants‘ description of

certain figures suggests they may be different.24 This also helps explain the

Spanish investigators‘ lack of interest in and knowledge of Khalid Shaykh

Mohammed—and their failure to recognize (at least in this indictment) that he is

the head of an entire clan of terrorist masterminds. KSM is, for them, just another

jihadi, maybe somewhat smarter than the others, but not fundamentally different.

        Judge Baltazar Garzon, Spain‘s most famous judicial investigator, led the Spanish

investigation. Garzon strongly opposed Operation Iraqi Freedom, calling it ―an act of

madness‖ and vehemently asserting that no relationship existed between Iraq and al




24
  For example, in early 1998, a Yemeni militant expelled from Yemen moved to Malaysia, from where he
called the Spanish militants. He gave them a Kuala Lumpur contact number (012208975), which belonged
to ―engineer Mahmud Abdul Karim,‖ who is identified as an Iraqi. Ibid, p. MR/SPA037860. The
indictment appears to assume that Abdul Karim is merely one more jihadi.


                                                236
Qaida. 25 Other prominent counter-terrorism investigators in France and Germany said

much the same.26 To the extent their investigations resemble the Spanish inquiry that

would help explain why knowledgeable and intelligent individuals would take such a

position. It also helps explain why they conceive of the major terrorist attacks conducted

against the United States and other countries to be the work of loose networks, rather than

the work of something more organized, hierarchical, and complex, as one would

ordinarily expect.


Signals and Noise

Following Roberta Wohlstetter in her seminal work, Pearl Harbor: Warning and

Decision, we might call the jihadi activity ―noise‖—and there is a very great deal

of it. Information relevant to the possible insertion of a few highly trained

intelligence agents into these networks—and deeply hidden within them as KSM

was within al Qaida—we might call ―signals.‖ Those signals will almost

certainly be lost in the noise, unless analysts specifically look for them, but they

are unlikely to do so if they operate on the basis of the prevailing mindset.

        To cite Thomas Schelling in his famous foreword to Wohlstetter‘s book and to

use his language in a slightly different context, ―The danger is in a poverty of

expectations.‖ As Schelling writes, ―There is a tendency in our planning to confuse the

unfamiliar with the improbable. The contingency we have not considered seriously looks

strange, what looks strange is thought improbable, what is improbable need not be




25
   ―Famed Spanish Judge Joins Anti-War Protests,‖ World Markets Analysis, April 7, 2003; Zvi Barel, ―Al-
Qaida's Spanish vendetta,‖ Ha’aretz, March 13, 2004.
26
   ―Allies Find No Links Between Iraq, Al Qaeda,‖ op. cit.


                                                  237
considered seriously.‖27 The contingency few have considered in this case is that Islamic

networks may have been penetrated by one or more terrorist states. This scenario likely

appears strange and implausible to those who have not considered it, but that is more a

consequence of the closed conceptual circles that came to dominate Western thinking

about terrorism in the 1990s than the scenario‘s intrinsic improbability.




27
  Roberta Wohlstetter, Pearl Harbor: Warning and Decision, (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press,
1962), pp. vii, viii.


                                                 238
 PART IV




Implications




     239
                                          Chapter 11

       The Insurgency in Iraq and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi

    ―Almost no one says the real problem is that Saddam never surrendered. And even
though he was captured, his people never surrendered. His organization is still operating
   as though they have a chance to win and they‘re allied with people who want to help
  them win, by which I mean the jihadis on the one side and the Syrian Baathists on the
 other—even though the minute they triumphed they would start fighting over the spoils.
    I think we‘re even seeing signs that the Syrian Baathists and the Iraqi Baathists are
 getting back together temporarily. They all want us to lose and that‘s more important to
them than who comes out on top. But if you don‘t see who the enemy is and why they‘re
                                 fighting, you can‘t win.‖
              —Paul Wolfowitz, to the Atlantic Monthly, October 28, 20041


The insurgency in Iraq is a complex matter. Other statements Wolfowitz made to the

Atlantic Monthly in a series of interviews from September 15, 2004, to April 4, 2005,

convey the difficulties in understanding that violence, including, ―I don‘t think anyone

would say it is centrally controlled top-down, Lenin-style, but I think you could make a

case that it‘s a bunch of different groups that are reasonably coordinated and have

reasonably common sources of funding.‖2

        Similarly, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told the Senate Armed

Services Committee in the summer of 2004, "I said one of our mistakes was that we

didn't understand there was a central nervous system. Well, clearly there is."3

        In early 2005, National Security Advisor and Secretary of State designate

Condoleezza Rice expressed a view similar to those above, telling the U.S. Congress,

―[A]s we swept through [Iraq] really rather rapidly, the core of this insurgency, that is the

1
  Mark Bowden, ―Wolfowitz: The Exit Interviews,‖ Atlantic Monthly, July/August, 2005.
2
  Ibid, interview on November 15, 2004.
3
  ―Iraqi Insurgents Are Surprisingly Cohesive, Armitage Says, ―Washington Post, June 26, 2004.


                                                  240
Baathists and many of Saddam's loyal forces, melted into the population. They didn't

stand and fight. When they reemerged, they reemerged as an insurgency.‖4

        The CIA perspective is somewhat different. In early 2005, the Washington Post’s

Jim Hoagland wrote a column, contrasting the Pentagon and CIA views. The CIA sees

the Iraqi insurgency primarily as a Sunni Iraqi nationalist effort, driven by the U.S.

occupation of the country; the Defense Department sees it as ―a well-organized, well-

financed sabotage campaign by Baathists being aided by a small number of foreign Sunni

Salafist extremists such as Abu Musab Zarqawi.‖5 (Hoagland also notes that the CIA

analysis has ―the advantage of greatly lessening the agency's responsibility for having

failed to predict the [Baathist] uprising to begin with.‖6)

        Iraqi officials, both those in the interim government appointed by Paul Bremer in

July 2004, and those in the transitional government elected in January 2005, generally

support the Pentagon view and articulate it even more clearly than the Defense

Department: elements of the former Iraqi regime provide the organization and direction

for the insurgency. They are supported by Syria‘s Baathist regime and work with the

jihadis, including Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.

        All the above perspectives on the Iraqi insurgency share two important points: 1)

the insurgency is overwhelmingly Iraqi; and 2) it is primarily a struggle over power,

rather than a religious campaign.

        The purpose of this chapter is not to provide any definitive understanding of this

violence. That would be a project unto itself. This study of the history of al Qaida,

however, has implications for understanding the insurgency in Iraq, and the purpose of

4
  Hearing, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, January 18, 2005.
5
  Jim Hoagland, ―Tailor-Made for the CIA,‖ Washington Post, February 13, 2005.
6
  Ibid.


                                                 241
this chapter is to highlight them. Above all, this study suggests that one prominent

explanation for the insurgency—Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his network—is not a good

explanation.

           Since early 2005, it seems that the official U.S. view of the Iraqi insurgency has

shifted, although the author has had great difficulties understanding this shift. It seems

that with the upsurge in suicide bombings in Iraq in the spring of 2005, the U.S. military

in Iraq began to focus more exclusively on the foreign jihadis. It now sees them as

distinct from the Former Regime Elements and believes they are the most serious danger

in Iraq.

           Notably, however, the position of Iraqi officials has not changed.

           This study of the history of al Qaida would suggest that the earlier U.S.

understanding of the Iraqi insurgency was more accurate. Since the major Islamic

terrorist attacks against the United States began in 1993 with the World Trade Center

bombing, the persistent tendency among American and other Western analysts has been

to focus on ideology and to give insufficient weight to expertise, as if that were a

negligible factor. The tendency is to see major acts of violence in a simplistic fashion:

one Islamic figure, who is the face of terror, and his fanatical followers. Furthermore, the

tendency has been to postulate the existence of some major obstacle to co-ordination

between ―secular‖ and Islamic elements, although this is contradicted by many known

facts, as discussed in Chapter 10. This study would suggest that the current focus on al-

Zarqawi is merely the latest reiteration of a flawed view among Western analysts that

arose in the wake of the 1993 assault on the World Trade Center.




                                               242
                                      The Insurgency in Iraq

U.S. News and World Report was provided access to thousands of pages of U.S. military

reports covering the period from July 2003 to early 2004 that describe the Iraqi

insurgency, and it published its findings in December 2004. This story represents the

most authoritative and comprehensive open-source account of the nature of the enemy in

Iraq and reflects the dominant view within the Defense Department as of early 2005.7

        Saddam anticipated that Iraq would be defeated by U.S. forces and planned to

fight an insurgency following that defeat.

        In the fall of 2002, according to a report issued by the Pentagon's
        Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, Saddam ordered between
        1,000 and 1,200 officers to undergo guerrilla training at military facilities
        at Salman Pak and Bismayah, near Baghdad. "Young and talented
        officers" from the Iraqi Intelligence Service, the Directorate of Military
        Intelligence, and the Directorate of General Security "were chosen to
        attend two months of training," the task force report says. "The officers
        were assigned numbers and aliases while in training. Saddam Hussein
        numbered himself 'No. 1.'‖ The officers "were told to prepare themselves
        for recontact following the collapse of the regime," the report says. In
        August, as the insurgency grew more violent, the report continues, the
        officers were directed to begin attacks on the coalition: "Network
        commanders stated they were prepared to provide money, cars, and
        explosives."8

A DIA report contains a similar finding. Citing an unclassified sentence from that report,

Wolfowitz told the U.S. Congress, "Cells of former M-14 personnel are organizing and

conducting a terrorist IED campaign against coalition forces. The explosive sections of


7
  This is also reflected in Jim Hoagland, ―Tailor-Made for the CIA,‖ op. cit., which appeared in mid-
February 2005.
8
  ―Seeds of Chaos: The Baghdad Files: A trove of secret intelligence reports shows how Saddam Hussein
planned the current insurgency in Iraq Long before the invasion that toppled his regime was even
launched,‖ U.S. News and World Report, December 20, 2004. A DIA officer presented this author a
contrary view: the insurgency had not been planned in advance. The implications of this different
perspective for the purposes of this study were, however, minimal. This officer believed that the former
regime elements had drawn on pre-existing preparations to deal with domestic unrest and that the
infrastructure designed to deal with that threat was used to conduct the insurgency. Author interview,
August 24, 2005.


                                                  243
M-14 prepared for the invasion by constructing hundreds of suicide vests and belts for

use by Saddam Fedayeen against coalition forces. The IIS established a campaign that

was purposely decentralized so attacks could be carried out in the event that cell leaders

were captured and killed."9 A DIA spokesman explained that former members of M-14

were "probably the best-trained and most effective" members of the anti-coalition force

in Iraq.10

         Maj. Gen. Charles H. Swannack Jr., commander of the 82nd Airborne Division,

responsible for the lower Sunni Triangle, the most violent part of Iraq, was one of the

first U.S. officials to give public expression to this view. "I believe Saddam Hussein

always intended to fight an insurgency should Iraq fall," Swannack said in November

2003. "That's why you see so many of these arms caches out there in significant numbers

all over the country. They were planning to go ahead and fight an insurgency, should Iraq

fall," Swannack said.11

         A year later, in November 2004, following the retaking of Fallujah from rebel

control, Iraq‘s Interior Minister Faleh al-Naqib explained

        Contrary to previous assumptions that the insurgency consisted of many separate
         groups, ―it is a unified movement with a large measure of central command and
         control.‖

        The overwhelming majority of insurgents are Iraqis

        Former Regime Elements play a ―much bigger role‖ than previously assumed

        Saddam‘s regime prepared special units for waging urban warfare, before the
         American-led attack began in March 2003


9
  Hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, April 21, 2004.
10
   ―Wolfowitz Blames Former Iraqi Intelligence Agents for Role in Insurgency,‖ Voice of America, April
21, 2004.
11
   ―Is This Hussein's Counterattack? Commander Says Insurgency Has Earmarks of Planning,‖ Washington
Post, November 13, 2003.


                                                 244
        The political leadership operates from Syria, and the principal coordinator is a
         senior Iraqi Baathist, Muhammad Yunis Ahmad.12


The U.S. Treasury Department recently ordered Ahmad‘s financial assets frozen,

explaining, ―Ahmad is first among the U.S. Central Command's list of key insurgent

leaders, and the Multi National Forces in Iraq are offering a reward of $1 million for

information leading to his capture.‖13

         The report of the Iraq Survey Group offers a similar view, ―In Saddam‘s last

ministers‘ meeting, convened in late March 2003, just before the war began, he told the

attendees at least three times, ‗resist one week and after that I will take over.‘ They took

this to mean he had some kind of secret weapon. There are indications that what Saddam

actually had in mind was some form of insurgency against the coalition.‖14


Former Regime Planning After the Fall of Baghdad

U.S. forces have discovered a number of documents that illuminate the planning of the

Iraqi insurgency, after the fall of Baghdad on April 9, 2003. They include:

                 A Baath party memo written in July 2003. "The document outline[s] the
                  recommended structure for resistance groups fighting coalition forces,‖ a
                  U.S. military report explains. ―The document dictates the need for secrecy
                  and directs a transition to covert operations. . . . Organization of cells was
                  to be small and closed in order to prevent penetration by coalition forces
                  (five members). . . . Members were encouraged to avoid written
                  communication and common party language; days, numbers, and locations
                  should be encoded. Emergency operations are listed for situations when
                  member of cell or group is detained . . . . Party members should have their

12
   ―Iraqi Insurgents‘ New Tactic: Disperse and Attack,‖ Arab News, November 11, 2004.
13
   ―Treasury Designates Financial Supporter of Iraqi Insurgency,‖ U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office
of Public Affairs, June 17, 2005, posted at: http://www.treas.gov/press/releases/js2500.htm
    Notably, this contradicts the claim that the U.S. military leadership in Iraq views Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
and his network as the most significant element of the insurgency. This is just part of the author‘s
difficulty in understanding what the official U.S. view of the insurgency now is.
14
   Iraq Survey Group, op. cit., p 65. Recognizing that Saddam made far-ranging plans for the U.S. assault,
also raises the possibility, of course, that the destruction and/or concealment of Iraq‘s proscribed weapons
of mass destruction were part of those plans.


                                                   245
                 loyalties continuously tested and always have a cover story prepared for
                 their activities."15

                Guidance for the insurgency, dictated by Saddam in late October 2003. It
                 states, ―We must instill in our fighters that there will be no peace and
                 stability until the invaders are thrown out of the country‖16 (italics added)

                ―Plan 549,‖ another document containing guidance from Saddam. It calls
                 for attacks on Iraqi water plants. ―Such attacks could be devastating in
                 terms of the populace's confidence in the coalition and public order,"
                 Saddam suggests.17 Indeed, in November 2003, an individual was
                 captured with over 40 videotapes of water purification sites throughout
                 Iraq to be used for reconnaissance for future attacks.18

The Iraqi insurgency is highly unusual in that the insurgents target the very population

they seek to win over. Indeed, one knowledgeable individual suggests it is not so much

an insurgency, but a campaign of intimidation.19 Yet that is how the Baathists ruled Iraq.

The message is that if you want peace and quiet, you will have to come to terms with us.

        Saddam‘s October 2003 guidance also says, ―We must place mujahideen or at

least supporters among the translators and police, and expose those who are close with

them or cooperate with them from among the Iraqis. At the forefront of this effort should

be those skilled in the art of approaching the target; they are the men of the Mukhabarat.

They know how to deal with the enemy in an oblique manner without disclosing

themselves, but can still obtain information from them‖20 (emphasis added.) Saddam‘s

―intelligence officers also infiltrated coalition operations, including the Coalition

Provisional Authority, and planted agents as journalists in some media operations,‖ U.S.

News explains, and Baathist penetration of Iraq‘s police force is a serious problem,

15
   ―Seeds of Chaos,‖ op. cit.
16
   Document entitled, ―Saddam‘s Guidance,‖ Dictated around the end of October 2003, provided to the
author by an American in Iraq.
17
   ―Seeds of Chaos,‖ op. cit.
18
   Ibid.
19
   Author interview, July 22, 2005.
20
   Saddam‘s Guidance, October 2003, op. cit.


                                                 246
according to a recent study conducted by the inspectors general of the Defense and State

Departments.21


The Baath and Islam

Saddam‘s October 2003 guidance is infused with Islamic terminology.22 His statement is

addressed to ―all those who are named under Jihad and its organizations‖ and refers to the

―mujahideen‖ and the ―jihad squads.‖23 As part of preparations for a post-defeat

campaign, Saddam ordered the formation of new Iraqi organizations, including Jaish

Mohammed (Army of Mohammed), led by the former chief of staff of Iraq's Republican

Guard (Sayf al-Din Fulayyih Hasan al-Rawi.) The Army of Mohammed played a leading

role in the insurgency in Fallujah.24 The Black Falcons is another group founded on

Saddam‘s orders; their expertise is Improvised Explosive Devises. The ―al Quds

[Jerusalem] Division‖ is yet another group, specialized in the use of mortars, rocket-

propelled grenades and other small arms.25

         Former Regime Elements also work with non-Iraqi jihadis. ―Numerous reports

indicate that Saddam's forces were working with foreign terrorists, including al Qaeda, in

carrying out some attacks on coalition forces and Iraqi citizens,‖ U.S. News explains.




21
   ―Seeds of Chaos,‖ op. cit.; Study by the inspectors general of the Defense and State Departments
described in, ―Iraq Police Need Better Screening,‖ Associated Press, July 25, 2005.
22
   The 9/11 Commission, referring to Saddam‘s statements during the 1991 Gulf War, calls Saddam‘s
appeals to Islam ―opportunistic,‖ The 9/11 Commission Report, op. cit., p. 61. Such a claim presumes the
Commission truly understands a figure as complex as Saddam. Besides, it is quite common for people to
become more religious, when they face great challenges; there are no atheists in foxholes.
23
   Saddam does not explain clearly just what ―Jihad and its organizations‖ is, but he makes clear that it is
organized into squads, platoons, and battalions. Saddam‘s Guidance, October 2003, op. cit.
24
   ―Seeds of Chaos,‖ op. cit.
25
   ―Documents Tell of Brutal Improvisation by GIs; Interrogated General's Sleeping-Bag Death, CIA's Use
of Secret Iraqi Squad Are Among Details.‖ Washington Post, August 3, 2005.


                                                    247
"‘Many Iraqis,‘ wrote a Defense Intelligence Agency analyst in November 2003, ‗believe

foreign terrorist groups are collaborating with Saddam to conduct attacks.‘"26

         Long before Operation Iraqi Freedom began, Iraq was developing ties with

Islamic militants. That activity may go back to the early 1990s and may have continued

through the decade (Chapter 3).27          One DIA officer explained that the IIS expanded its

contacts with foreign jihadis in the early 1990s, but cooperation really accelerated in

2001 and 2002, with some 6,000 foreign jihadis being trained in that time.28

         Iraq‘s Transitional Prime Minister, Ayyad Allawi, recently revealed other details

of the pre-war ties between Saddam‘s regime and Islamic figures. Allawi stated that Abu

Musab al-Zarqawi secretly entered Iraq in the fall of 1999, around the time of a ―Popular

Islamic Conference.‖ Allawi also said that Ayman al-Zawahiri, bin Ladin‘s deputy,

attended that conference.




26
   ―Seeds of Chaos,‖ op. cit.
27
   An Iraqi defector, Sabah al-Khodada, who lived in the United States at the time of the 9/11 attacks,
suggested as much. Khodada worked at Salman Pak in an administrative position and was aware of
sections where terrorist training occurred. Both Iraqis and non-Iraqi Arabs were trained there, although the
two were kept separate. In an October 14, 2001, interview, Khodada states, ―I think the training of the
Arabs was much harsher, and much stricter, than the training of the Iraqis.‖ Asked why, Khodada replies,
―Because we know that Arabs, non-Iraqis who come to train in these kind of camps, are going to be sent to
very dangerous and important operations outside Iraq; not inside Iraq. And they will be conducting very
specific operations and dangerous operations in their own cities, or in their own countries, or other
countries all over the world. Those Arabs are real volunteers. They come in small numbers, and they come
with the intention to do some real suicidal operations.‖
   In this interview, part of a joint New York Times/PBS Frontline investigation, Khodada claims the
terrorism training included hijacking airlines. He even drew a map showing a plane parked in the lower left
corner of the large compound, and stated his strong belief that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attacks.
Khodada‘s interview is posted at:
http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/gunning/interviews/khodada.html
    Much of what Khodada said proved true. Salman Pak was used by M-14 to train both Iraqis and non-
Iraqi Arabs in terrorism. When U.S. forces captured the camp, they found an old airplane parked there.
Nonetheless, in a sign of the very bitter dispute over whether Saddam‘s regime had significant ties to
Islamic terrorists, al Qaida, and even the 9/11 attacks, PBS added an editor‘s note to Khodada‘s interview
in 2004, ―A year after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, there has been no verification of Khodada's account of
the activities at Salman Pak.‖ That is simply incorrect.
28
   DIA officer, author interview, August 24, 2005.


                                                   248
         Allawi explained, ―The public part of the Islamic conference was a cover for

parallel secret meetings that were held on the sidelines and in which Islamists who had

terrorist networks in the world took part. Al-Zawahiri came and left but al-Zarqawi

stayed and started to form cells and a relationship grew up between him and the Ansar al-

Islam organization.‖29 Allawi‘s statement is consistent with Secretary of State Colin

Powell‘s February 2003 address to the U.N. Security Council, in which he affirmed that

al-Zarqawi has ties to the Iraqi regime and that Iraqi intelligence ―has an agent in the

most senior levels‖ of Ansar al-Islam.30

         Other Iraqi officials also claim that the Baathists and the Islamic militants are

working together. Barham Salih, a Kurd, who served in both the previous Iraqi

government and the present one, stated, ―In Iraq, we have a lethal alliance between

former Saddamists and these global Jihadists . . . The former regime elements and these

global Jihadists are working together, coordinating attacks and helping each other to

instigate terrorist activities across the country.‖31 Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi

affirmed that al-Zarqawi ―is a tool in the hand of the armed groups, which are affiliated to

the former regime.‖32

         Syria‘s Baathist regime is also apparently involved. An Iraqi journalist, writing in

the Washington Post, explains:

29
   ―Former Iraqi PM Allawi says militant Al-Zarqawi has cells in Syria,‖ Al-Hayat website, May 23, 2005,
BBC World Monitoring, May 23.
     Ansar al-Islam was based in Kurdish-controlled territory within Iraq. It targeted the two pro-American
Kurdish parties that controlled that territory, rather than Saddam, as mistakenly suggested by some,
including Dan Darling, ―The Rise of Ansar al-Islam Inside the birth of the Kurdish terrorist organization,‖
Weekly Standard, July 28, 2005.
30
   Colin Powell statement to the United Nations, February 6, 2003.
31
   ―Saddam Agents, Militants Plan ‗Vicious‘ Poll Attacks,‖ Reuters, January 16, 2005.
32
   ―Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Ahmad Chalabi has said that the insurgent leader, Al-Zarqawi, is ‗a tool in
the hands of armed groups affiliated to the former regime.‖ Asked about the Jordanian charges against him
concerning the Petra Bank, Chalabi said that they were politically motivated. . .‖ Al-Dustur (Jordan), May
17, 2005, BBC World Monitoring, May 17.


                                                   249
         Syria has been an important base and way station for these foreign
         fighters. Interviews with arrested "jihadis" and transcripts of interrogations
         obtained from Iraqi security and intelligence show that a typical jihadi's
         journey from his city in Syria, Jordan, Sudan, Yemen or any other Arab
         country until the moment he blows himself up goes something like this:
         After deciding that he wants to fight the Americans in Iraq, he contacts
         mosques in Damascus known for recruiting mujaheddin for the holy war
         in Iraq. Often these recruitment campaigns are funded by senior Syrian
         officials.
           After deciding that a person is fit to conduct a "martyrdom operation,"
         Syrian intelligence trains him on how to disguise his identity and how to
         handle explosives and ammunitions. Radical mullahs supplement this with
         heavy doses of hard-line religious teaching. The volunteer is then taken
         across the desert in eastern Syria, through the porous borders, into the
         Sunni triangle in Iraq, where he is housed by members of the former
         Baathist intelligence and security network. The second leg of the journey
         is to a safe house in Baghdad, where he is assigned a target to blow up or
         sent to certain areas to fight the Americans or the new Iraqi army and
         police forces.33

According to a New York Times report, ―Foreign fighters continue to flow from Syria,

American officers say. One—a would-be suicide bomber from Libya—recently told

interrogators he trained in Syria for a month, believing he would fight street warfare. . . .

But he was locked in a room to watch jihadist videos and told he would be a suicide

bomber, or be killed.‖34

         These views, along with the documents cited above, suggest that the Iraqi

insurgency is, in very significant part, organized. At least that is the conclusion a number

of knowledgeable officials, both American and Iraqi, have reached, and there is very

substantial evidence supporting that view. Training, planning, management, leadership


33
   Hiwa Osman, ―What Do the Insurgents Want? Different Visions, Same Bloody Tactics,‖ Washington
Post, May 8, 2005. U.S. officials tend to be less certain on this point. It may reflect a feeling that a very
great deal of evidence, perhaps even tantamount to a smoking gun, is necessary before such a conclusion
can be reached. A DIA official sympathetic to the view that Syria provided important support for the
insurgents, primarily a safe haven, explained that Syrian intelligence has been involved since the beginning,
as have elements of the Syrian leadership. Syrian security meets insurgents at the Iraqi border and escorts
them to Damascus and provides security for the top leadership in Syria. Author interview, August 27,
2005.
34
   ―A New Police Force Emerges From Mosul's Chaos,‖ New York Times, August 17, 2005


                                                    250
are all important. Indeed, U.S. institutions, including the U.S. military, invest

considerable resources in developing these skills among their personnel, so why should

Muslims be viewed from another perspective?

        Yet since the 1990s, Americans, in their efforts to understand the violence

emanating from the Middle East, have stressed ideology, or extreme religious belief, to

such an extent that these other factors can and often do appear decidedly secondary.35

This is not just an American perspective. It is now the dominant perspective in Western

countries, even as it is open to serious question.


Iranian Support for Shia Insurgents

The overwhelming bulk of the Iraqi insurgency is Sunni, but recently it has emerged that

Iran is sending sophisticated explosives into Iraq. A Time magazine report even suggests

that the Iranian regime established plans in 2002, in anticipation of the U.S.-led war, to

use the Shi‘a militia it supported, the Badr brigade, to assume control of several cities in

Eastern Iraq, near the Iranian border, and to infiltrate its own intelligence officers into

Iraq.36 This report is quite plausible and underscores the continuing role of states and

their agencies, along with the training, expertise, and resources that implies, in the

conduct of violent campaigns against the United States.



35
   The first individuals to promote this view vigorously in the United States were Yigal Carmon and Steven
Emerson. Carmon, who left Israeli military intelligence with the rank only of a major, was Emerson‘s
advisor for the documentary, Jihad in America. In October 1994, a month before the documentary aired,
Carmon was directed to this author, and we reviewed the relevant evidence from the World Trade Center
bombing trial. Carmon was flabbergasted, explaining that he and Emerson had not reviewed that material.
     Carmon also said that they were not addressing the question of whether the Trade Center bombing had
state sponsorship. They were just using the bombing as a ―hook,‖ to show how dangerous the Islamic
militants were. Emerson told the author the same in a telephone conversation shortly thereafter. The film,
however, left the distinct impression that the Trade Center bombing had been carried out without the
support of a terrorist state.
36
   ―Inside Iran‘s Secret War for Iraq,‖ Time, August 14, 2005.


                                                   251
                                      The Focus on Al-Zarqawi

Although significant elements within the Defense Department believed that the Iraqi

insurgency was led by Former Regime Elements who co-ordinated with others, including

elements in the Syrian regime and foreign jihadis; senior Iraqi government officials

would reach a similar conclusion; and the CIA defined the insurgency as a broader-based

Sunni Iraqi effort, in early 2004, the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad began to

promote the notion that a Jordanian-born Palestinian, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (real name,

Ahmed Fadhil Nazzal al-Kalaylah), was central to the violence in Iraq.

         This focus emerged after the discovery of a letter al-Zarqawi presumably wrote.

In late January 2004, Kurdish forces intercepted a courier attempting to cross the Iraqi

border into Iran, carrying a CD with a 17-page missive addressed to ―the men on the

mountaintops,‖ assumed to be bin Ladin and al-Zawahiri.37 The author of this lengthy,

unsigned letter claimed credit for 25 suicide bombings in Iraq (most major attacks since

the fall) and proposed joining forces with bin Ladin to ignite a sectarian war.

         A great deal of uncertainty surrounds the letter. One really does not know if al-

Zarqawi wrote it, and if he did, why. Assuming al-Zarqawi did write it, he could have

done so on his own initiative, or equally, he could have written the letter in co-ordination

with others, even at their direction. Notably, as President Bush affirmed, the captured

courier, Hassan Ghul, ―reported directly to Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who was the

mastermind of the September 11th attacks.‖38



37
  ―U.S. Casts Fugitive as a Super-Villain,‖ Los Angeles Times, March 7, 2005.
38
  ―Bush Hails Al Qaeda Arrest in Iraq President Defends U.S. Intelligence,‖ Washington Post, January 27,
2004. ―Ghul‖ is far more likely to be a Pakistani than an Arab name. KSM was then in U.S. custody, but
other members of his extended terrorist clan were still active and were, in fact, detained later that year. The


                                                     252
        One Army intelligence officer in Baghdad remarked, ―You have to look at [the

letter] kind of critically . . . You can look at things on the surface and say, ‗Well, OK,

that‘s got to be [al-Zarqawi]; that‘s got to be his work. But, again, you have to look more

critically at it. So to say right now, do I think it was penned by Zarqawi; it‘s inconclusive

at this point. A guy that has such good [operational security], you wonder why he would

do that.‖39

        Despite all these uncertainties—including the possibility that the al-Zarqawi letter

might be part of an enemy deception campaign—CPA officials nonetheless gave it a

great deal of publicity, promoting the notion that al-Zarqawi represented a very

formidable threat. Thus, some two weeks after the letter‘s discovery, the head of the

CPA, Ambassador Paul Bremer, affirmed ―[W]e've had a pattern of suicide bombings

over the last three or four months that exactly fit the strategy that's been outlined by an al

Qaeda terrorist here named Zarqawi, in a letter that we published earlier this week, he's

basically trying to set up a sectarian war here, a civil war in Iraq, and those suicide

bombings were certainly consistent with his strategy.‖40

        This letter was, in some respects, the equivalent of bin Ladin‘s 1996 ―Declaration

of Jihad,‖ or his February 1998 ―fatwa.‖ The language is highly provocative and violent,

but at the end of the day, these are just words. Significant questions need to be asked and

answered. How are those words translated into murderous actions? Who are the people

who do so? Where were they trained and by whom?




implication is that KSM‘s Baluch clan (and by extension, Iraqi intelligence) had something to do with that
letter.
39
   ―U.S. Casts Fugitive as a Super-Villain,‖ op. cit.
40
   This Week [with George Stephanopolous], ABC News, February 15, 2004.


                                                   253
        These words may, in fact, be co-ordinated with some intelligence agency and may

serve as a cover for others to join in attacking the United States (some 60% of al-

Zarqawi‘s network is Iraqi.41) These words may also be intended to serve as a

propaganda device for recruiting purposes. It is a romantic notion for a young Muslim to

join a jihad alongside some figure like al-Zarqawi to expel the infidel occupier of a

Muslim land. There is also the promise of heavenly rewards, including 72 virgins. The

ability of Former Iraqi Regime Elements to command such sacrifices is incomparably

less.

        The outsize qualities that had been attributed to bin Ladin and al Qaida were soon

attributed to al-Zarqawi. A senior staff member of Washington‘s Nixon Center, Robert

Leiken, wrote breathlessly in The Weekly Standard, ―Abu Musab al Zarqawi is hot right

now. He masterminded not only [Nicholas] Berg‘s murder, but also the Madrid carnage

on March 11, the bombardment of Shia worshippers in Iraq the same month, and the

April 24 suicide attack on the port of Basra.‖ Al-Zarqawi, according to Leiken,

―exemplifies Sunni terrorism after 9/11 and the invasion of Iraq, what some call ‗al

Qaeda 2.0‘‖42 The former Sri Lankan intelligence officer, Rohan Gunaratna, whose work

is critiqued in Chapter 2, proclaimed, ―Terrorism's mastermind today is Abu Musab Al-

Zarqawi.‖43 The American journalist Peter Bergen, who had earlier flogged the bin




41
   DIA Officer, Author interview, August 26, 2005.
42
   Robert S. Leiken and Steven Brooke, ―Who is Abu Zarqawi‖ What we know about the terrorist leader
who murdered Nicholas Berg,‖ The Weekly Standard, May 24. 2004. Brooke, a program assistant at the
Nixon Center, later wrote. ―The Rise of Zarqawi: Is he the next bin Ladin?‖ The Weekly Standard, June 7,
2004. That is precisely the author‘s point. The terrorism appears to be masterminded by successive
Islamic figures, because many analysts chose to see it that way. Indeed, it is the current fashion.
43
   Rohan Gunaratna, ―Zarqawi: a new-generation terror mastermind‖, The Korea Herald, July 8, 2004,
republishing an article from Singapore‘s The Straits Times.


                                                  254
Ladin threat, affirmed in the New York Times, ―al-Zarqawi is arguably the most

dangerous terrorist in the world today.‖44


Cautions About Hyping the al-Zarqawi Threat

Just as a few individuals cautioned about mythologizing bin Ladin in the period between

the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings and the 9/11 attacks (Chapter 1), a handful of

individuals have cautioned about exaggerating the capabilities of al-Zarqawi. Most

prominent among them is Jordan‘s King Abdullah, who told CNN in the summer of

2004:

        [Al-Zarqawi} was basically involved in criminal gangs. He was basically a
        street thug — that's probably the best way I can describe it . . . Although I
        must say that, I think, you know, you say that he's the most wanted man in
        Iraq. I think that the press have made him much more capable, much
        smarter and much more of a threat than actually he really is.45

A Los Angeles Times reporter visiting Iraq that spring writes, ―Almost every day, U.S.

officials here display a confiscated letter, allegedly written by Zarqawi, that claims

responsibility for 25 suicide attacks and lays out a blueprint for plunging Iraq into

sectarian chaos.‖ Yet Zarqawi‘s ―anointment as an all-powerful kingpin troubles some

investigators and experts, who say it distorts the nature of the insurgency in Iraq,‖ the

Times cautions, as it quotes an Iraqi anti-terrorist police commander, ―They are always

exaggerating about al Qaeda. . . No witnesses have come and talked to me about Zarqawi.

. . . Maybe he exists—such characters exist. But to complete these operations and we

don‘t know, it‘s impossible.‖46



44
   Peter Bergen, ―This Terrorist is Bad Enough on His Own,‖ New York Times, June 26, 2004. Many others
could be cited.
45
   Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer, CNN, July 18, 2004.
46
   ―U.S. Casts Fugitive as a Super-Villain,‖ op. cit.


                                                255
        As of early 2005, there seemed to be a general consensus within official U.S.

circles that Iraqis were the overwhelming part of the insurgency and within the U.S.

military that Former Regime Elements were the principle organizers of the insurgency.

In the spring of 2005, it seems, however, the U.S. military in Iraq began to suggest that

al-Zarqawi was the greatest threat and that has affected the national view. Still as late as

May, Centcom commander, John Abizaid, cautioned that ―Iraqis — particularly Sunni

Arab extremists and members of the former ruling Baathist Party — account for the

majority of the violence‖ in Iraq. ―Although foreign fighters continue to play a role in

the suicide bombings and unrest, primarily in Western Iraq's al Anbar province, it is

‗important not to overstate their role,‘ Gen. Abizaid said.‖47

        Others seem to hold the earlier view even now. At a Baghdad dinner in late July

with Professor Fouad Ajami, Director of Middle East Studies at Johns Hopkins School

for Advanced International Studies, General David Petreaus said, ―Forget the jihadis, it‘s

the Baathists.‖48 That is to say, Islamic militants do not drive the insurgency; former

regime elements do.

        Certainly, the perspective of Iraqis has not changed. Ammar al-Hakim, oldest son

of the head of Iraq‘s leading Shi‘a party, was asked in early August to describe the

insurgency in Iraq. Hakim stated that it involved the Baathists and jihadis. It was well-

financed and the individuals involved in it were well-trained. He suggested this could not

be done without the involvement of the intelligence service of a neighboring state.‖49



47
   Wall Street Journal, ―Hopes Fade That Elections Would Divide And Conquer Disparate Movement,‖
May 19, 2005.
48
   Participant in the July 22, 2005, dinner to author.
49
   Presumably, Hakim meant Syria. Lunch hosted by Middle East Insight Institute, Washington DC,
August 17, 2005.


                                               256
                                  The Faces of Terror


Since the 1993 bombing of New York‘s World Trade Center, Americans have grown

accustomed to thinking of Islamic terrorism in terms of some figure, regularly dressed in

Islamic garb, with a beard, and his fanatical followers. These figures have successively

been Shaykh Omar Abdul Rahman, Usama bin Ladin, and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. This

notion has its origins in the now-repudiated law enforcement approach to dealing with

terrorism. So one might legitimately ask: Does it really make sense to attribute a major

threat to the world‘s only superpower to one man and his extremist devotees?

        Or another way to illustrate this point: if Shaykh Omar and bin Ladin were the

first two faces of terror:




                                                        Usama bin Ladin




                                           257
Then who are these people, below, who provided the critical expertise for the assaults

attributed to Shaykh Omar and bin Ladin?




                  Ramzi Yousef                      Khalid Shaykh Mohammed
 Mastermind of 1993 Trade Center bombing          Mastermind of the 9/11 Attacks



The Islamic figures are simultaneously repulsive and fascinating. Like moths drawn to a

flame, Americans fixate on them. That is certainly true of the media and the public. Yet

even analysts, in very significant numbers, have adopted the habit of subsuming the

individuals who provide the expertise for these assaults into the ideology of the Islamic

figures with whom they are associated (or thought to be associated).

       This study has demonstrated that the notion of attributing the early Islamic

terrorism, including most importantly, the 1993 Trade Center bombing, to Shaykh Omar

and his followers is simply an error, based on a misunderstanding of the U.S. charges

against him. Similarly, this project has raised serious questions about whether this

concept is a valid way to understand bin Ladin and al Qaida‘s terrorism.


                                           258
       By extension, the same would apply to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Indeed, until

early 2005, the dominant view within the Defense Department was that al-Zarqawi was

not a primary actor in the Iraqi insurgency.

       The idea that such attacks are the product of one man and his extremist followers,

while, perhaps not impossible, is highly unlikely. It is a simplistic notion that neglects

key questions of training, expertise, management, etc. Indeed, the entire, complex range

of actors possibly involved in a major attack on the United States should be thoroughly

explored and vetted, before such an explanation is accepted, lest the hostile actions of

more capable parties be overlooked.




                                               259
                                 CONCLUSION


1. Basic Facts Misunderstood

The most basic facts are widely misconstrued regarding the first three assaults in the

string of Islamic terrorist attacks against the United States that began with the February

1993 bombing of New York‘s World Trade Center and culminated in the 9/11 strikes.

Those plots include: 1) the Trade Center bombing itself; 2) the second New York

bombing plot in the spring of 1993 targeting the United Nations and other local

landmarks; and 3) the 1995 Manila Air Plot, which aimed to down a dozen U.S. civilian

airliners.

        Generally, these plots are attributed to the blind Egyptian cleric, Shaykh Omar

Abdul Rahman, and his followers or to Usama bin Ladin and al Qaida, and they are

assimilated into the ideology of Islamic militants and into the structure of Islamic groups

and networks. This is not only an American perspective, but a widely-held Western

view. Indeed, an idée fixe has developed about militant Islam. An appealing, but

incomplete and simplistic, if not erroneous, explanation has developed for these and

subsequent attacks: one Islamic figure and his fanatical devotees.

        Shaykh Omar had virtually nothing to do with the Trade Center bombing,

however. He was not charged with that attack; so, of course, he was not convicted of it.

Few people understand this key point, however, because they are unfamiliar with the

legal intricacies of his prosecution, while the Manila Air Plot was undertaken while he




                                            260
was in prison. It is inappropriate to attribute these two plots to Shaykh Omar (Chapters 6

and 7.)

          Nor was al Qaida involved in them. Bin Ladin has not been indicted for them in a

U.S. court, nor are they included among the military charges issued against detainees at

Guantanamo Bay, which detail al Qaida‘s conspiracy against the United States (Chapters

5 and 7).


2. Key Role of Baluch Masterminds

These initial attacks were the work of a clan of Baluch with exceptional terrorist skills.

They include Ramzi Yousef, the recognized mastermind of the 1993 assault on the World

Trade Center, and Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, who is considered to be Yousef‘s

maternal uncle and who participated with Yousef in the Manila Air Plot. (The second

New York bombing conspiracy targeting the United Nations and other local landmarks

was an FBI undercover operation and no real explosives were involved.) (Chapters 5-7).

          As CIA Director George Tenet affirmed, ―We now believe that a common thread

runs between the first attack on the World Trade Center in February 1993 and the 11

September attacks.‖1 That ―common thread‖ is Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, the 9/11

mastermind, and his extended family. Most notably, it is not any particular Islamic figure

or group.

          This clan of Baluch terrorists—seven have been publicly identified so far—should

be seen as an entity in their own right and not subordinated to Islamic figures or ideology.

Their most evident link is to the former Iraqi regime, as Pakistani authorities suggested

after they arrested Yousef (Chapters 5, 7, 9).

1
  ―Unclassified Version of Director of Central Intelligence George J. Tenet's Testimony before the Joint
Inquiry into Terrorist Attacks Against the United States,‖ June 18, 2002.


                                                   261
       Indeed, al Qaida—as it existed from 1996, following bin Ladin‘s move to

Afghanistan, until the September 11, 2001, attacks—might be described most precisely as

a merger of two groups: 1) the original al Qaida, namely bin Ladin and the Islamic

militants, and 2) KSM and his extended clan. The latter, it seems, provided al Qaida the

capability to carry out its major terrorist assaults on the United States, which began with

the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies (Chapters 8 and 9.)


3. Evidence Systematically Neglected

Critical information necessary for understanding the terrorist attacks of the 1990s is

systematically neglected: the U.S. court records. The United States treated terrorism

primarily as a law enforcement issue in this period. The court records constitute a clear,

comprehensive, and authoritative source for crucial aspects of those attacks. Yet these

records are huge and inconvenient to access. Few analysts read the trial transcripts, let

alone examine the voluminous government exhibits, which include critical documents,

like phone records, passports, consular papers, etc. Ordinarily, that material would be

highly classified intelligence and readily available on their computers to those with the

requisite clearance. But because early arrests were made in all these cases, this material

was diverted for the purpose of a criminal trial. It never went to the intelligence

community, including the CIA‘s Counterterrorist Center Thus, the national security

agencies—which were responsible for understanding and determining the nature of these

terrorist attacks, including possible state sponsorship—lacked large amounts of important

information that was, in fact, necessary to make those determinations (Chapter 5) .

       Even after the 9/11 strikes, this material does not seem to have been exploited. A

highly charged debate raged about al Qaida‘s possible ties to Iraq. The phone records of



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bin Ladin‘s London representative, Khalid al-Fawwaz, were evidence in the trial for the

conspiracy to bomb two U.S. embassies in Africa. Those records include hundreds of

calls to Iraq in the months before and after the bombings, yet this was not brought to the

attention of senior U.S. policymakers (Chapter 8).


4. Poor Understanding of al Qaida

Al Qaida was founded in August 1988 by bin Ladin and some fourteen others in a bitter

split with Abdullah Azzam, the leading Arab figure in the Afghan jihad against the

Soviets. Yet for most of al Qaida‘s history, U.S. officials had a poor understanding of the

organization. During al Qaida‘s first decade, U.S. officials were largely unaware of even

so much as its existence (Chapters 1 and 2).

       The intelligence community only began to describe al Qaida in 1999, according to

the 9/11 Commission. In their surprise and lethality, the 9/11 attacks are comparable in

this country‘s history only to Pearl Harbor. The situation is as if the U.S. intelligence

community had begun to identify and analyze the Japanese Imperial Navy only in 1939.

       Following the U.S. embassy bombings, when it quickly became clear that al

Qaida was involved, U.S. officials began to focus intensely on the organization, and

analysts then moved in the opposite direction, exaggerating al Qaida‘s size and reach.

They projected onto the organization, which they did not understand very well, qualities

that would help explain the lethality of this and subsequent attacks. Unreliable

informants, like Jamal al-Fadl, who made al Qaida appear very dangerous (and his own

information very important) may have contributed to this tendency (Chapters 1 and 2).

       After 9/11, as information became available from al Qaida documents seized in

Afghanistan and elsewhere and from the interrogation of detainees, analysts gained a



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much better understanding of the organization. Al Qaida, it turned out, was relatively

small with some 200 members. It had a cult-like quality, with bin Ladin as guru, and it

was much more hierarchical than had been thought (Chapter 1).

       U.S. authorities also came to understand a critical source of al Qaida‘s terrorism

expertise. In the spring of 2002, they learned that Khalid Shaykh Mohammed was the

mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, if not of all major terrorist assaults al Qaida had

undertaken Until then, they had not even known that KSM was a member of the

organization (Chapter 9).

       Documents obtained in Afghanistan and described in detail by Wall Street

Journal reporter Alan Cullison underscore this critical point: analysts had exaggerated al

Qaida‘s qualities. Cullison obtained the computer of bin Ladin‘s deputy, Ayman al-

Zawahiri, who also heads Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Its contents, including internal al-

Qaida documents, reveal that the organization was riven by fractiousness. Some jihadis

complained of bin Ladin‘s grandstanding, fearing it would prompt the Taliban to take

measures against them. Al-Zawahiri‘s alliance with bin Ladin was highly controversial

within EIJ, as some members wanted to focus on promoting radical Islam within Egypt,

rather than attacking the United States, and they viewed al-Zawahiri‘s activity as futile:

―pouring musk on barren land.‖ Arabs visiting Afghanistan found it primitive and

uncomfortable, ―beyond the swamps‖ (Chapter 4).


5. States, Groups and Terrorism

The terrorism that began with the 1993 Trade Center bombing is commonly said to

represent a new kind of terrorism that does not involve states—in contrast to America‘s

earlier experience with major Middle Eastern terrorist attacks, which were generally



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state-sponsored. This ―new‖ terrorism was initially said to be the work of ―loose

networks‖ of Islamic militants; several years later, many analysts would ascribe them to

al Qaida, suggesting that the attacks had been somewhat more organized than first

believed, but still maintaining the position that they had not involved states.

       Yet this is not really correct. Sudan was clearly involved in the second New York

City bombing plot in 1993. The trial transcript leaves no doubt. The plot began as an

FBI undercover operation, and two Sudanese intelligence agents, posted to Sudan‘s U.N.

Mission, became involved in it. The Sudanese agents maintained contact with a number

of conspirators, including the ringleader; they introduced him to an individual who could

provide fuel to make an ANFO bomb (although the fertilizer the conspirators chose—

Scotts Super Turf Builder—lacked sufficient ammonium nitrate to produce an explosive).

And a Sudanese agent was to provide the means for getting the planned car-bomb into the

U.N. parking garage (Chapter 6.) In addition, senior figures in New York FBI, the lead

investigative agency, suspected that Iraq was involved in the World Trade Center

bombing (Chapter 5.)

       The claim that a terrorist state was not involved in these terrorism plots was never

proven; it was merely asserted—and then on the basis of an incomplete knowledge of the

local FBI investigations.

       Terrorist states have a far greater capability to carry out terrorist attacks than

individuals or groups. The report of the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) describes the Iraqi

Intelligence Service (IIS). The IIS consisted of over 20 compartmentalized directorates,

two of which dealt with terrorism. Directorate M-14 trained Iraqis and other Arabs in

terrorism and included a highly secretive program that dealt with explosives, called ―The




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Challenge Project,‖ about which the ISG could learn little. ―The Tiger Group‖ was a unit

within M-14 composed primarily of suicide bombers. Directorate M-21 also made

explosives. Its Chemistry Department developed the explosives material. An Electronics

Department prepared the timers and wiring for the bombs. And a Mechanical

Department designed the bombs and produced ignitors. Needless to say, al Qaida had

none of this. It had no Chemistry Department, Electronics Department, or Mechanical

Department.

       It is strange, on the face of it, that as terrorists began to attack the United States

with unprecedented lethal ambition in 1993, and eventually with unprecedented lethal

results in 2001, they should have been seen as a network or group without state support.



6. Understanding the Iraqi Insurgency

Until early 2005, the dominant view in the Defense Department of the Iraqi insurgency

was that it was led by Former Regime Elements, working at least to some extent with

foreign jihadis and Syria. However, the notion that the principal, most dangerous

element in the Iraqi insurgency is Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and his group (now called ―al

Qaida in the Land of the Two Rivers‖) has lately gained more general acceptance,

because the U.S. military in Iraq has recently come to this understanding. Yet this study

of al Qaida‘s history would suggest that the focus on Zarqawi is misplaced. It appears

merely to be the latest reiteration of a tendency that emerged following the 1993 Trade

Center bombing to understand terrorism in terms of one man and his fanatical followers.

       As noted above, the notion that Shaykh Omar and his followers are behind the

1993 World Trade Center bombing is simply false. It is based on a misunderstanding of




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the U.S. charges against him. The notion that bin Ladin and his followers were alone

responsible for major terrorist attacks is dubious—the single figure most responsible for

al Qaida‘s terrorism is Khalid Shaykh Mohammed, who headed an entire clan of terrorist

masterminds, as discussed above. By extension, the notion that one Islamic figure and

his followers are behind a large-scale, sophisticated terrorist campaign in Iraq is also

highly questionable.

        As U.S. authorities reiterate, the United States faces a clever and adaptable enemy

there. It is necessary to think of that enemy as possibly using the full range of tactics

employed in war, including deception operations whose aim could be to confuse the

United States as to just what it is fighting. If the earlier terrorist attacks described in this

study were better understood, perhaps analysts would recognize how unlikely it is that

one man, a Jordanian-born Palestinian at that, and his fanatical followers are running a

major insurgency in Iraq.

        Indeed, Iraqi officials, both those in the present and previous governments,

describe the Iraqi insurgency in terms similar to this author, which reflect the view that

predominated within the Defense Department until early this year.


7. A Distorting “Mindset”

The notion that there is an insurmountable gap between the ―secular‖ Baathists and

jihadis is an invention of Westerners that emerged in the 1990s. It is contrary to well-

known facts and makes the unsustainable assumption that the only significant interaction

that jihadis have is with other individuals who are just like themselves (Chapter 10.)

        If the jihadis are aided by a terrorist state that provides the expertise and other

resources for an attack, that terrorist state will, almost certainly, make substantial efforts



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to hide its involvement. Among other things, it will resort to deception and try to keep its

―footprint‖ as small as possible. Little thought, however, is given to this scenario. A

stifling ―mindset‖ prevails in which practically all hostile activity emanating from the

Middle East is regularly stuffed into the framework of Islamic militants and Islamic

ideology. Analysts may well have missed the small ―footprint‖ that constituted state

support for al Qaida, and if they continue to work within the narrow constraints of this

―mind-set,‖ they will likely miss that small footprint in the future. It will be a ―signal‖

lost amid ―noise‖ (Chapter 10).

       The United States and other countries that subscribe to this view will thus be at

enhanced vulnerability to major terrorist attacks by one or more enemy states. There will

be little or no deterrence to such attacks, because the chances of recognizing an enemy

state‘s involvement will be minimal. Given that unconventional terrorism—including

chemical, biological and even nuclear attack—is commonly anticipated, this could

constitute a very serious problem.


8. Understanding of Terrorism in the 1980s vs Present Understanding

This project, in effect, suggests that the understanding of Middle Eastern terrorism that

the United States had in the 1980s was, in critical respects, superior to the present

understanding. The persistent tendency over the past twelve years—since the February

26, 1993, World Trade Center bombing—has been to assert that the skills and capabilities

once thought necessary to carry out a major terrorist attack are no longer necessary, or are




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easily acquired in a place where there is an ongoing conflict, like Afghanistan or now

Iraq, or even from the internet. 2

         This assessment is, in fact, premised on the numerous misunderstandings and

critical omissions noted above. Given that the terrorist threat grew significantly worse

after this assessment became the conventional wisdom and, indeed, culminated in the

9/11 attacks, one might ask whether it was not incorrect and the policies based on it, thus,

ineffectual. To the extent that this understanding persists—or at least persists without a

very rigorous re-examination to ensure that it really is valid—the effectiveness of present

policies could be similarly compromised.




2
  That the internet has become a major source for terrorism expertise was the theme of the report,‖Terrorists
turn to the Web as a Base of Operations,‖ Washington Post, August 7, 2005. The well-regarded Federation
of American Scientists (FAS) wrote a scathing critique, disputing the Post’s claim that ―al Qaeda and its
offshoots are building a massive and dynamic online library of training materials." The FAS explained that
―contrary to the Post story line, the cited library materials suggest a startling lack of technical competence‖
and cautioned, ―There seems to be a powerful temptation to believe that terrorists are everywhere and,
aided by ‗the internet,‘ capable of everything. It is a temptation that needs to be confronted and thought
through.‖ ―Terrorists, The Internet And The Betaluminium Threat,‖ Secrecy News, Volume 2005, Issue
No. 77 August 8, 2005, posted at http://www.fas.org/sgp/news/secrecy/2005/08/080805.html


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