Friday, September 26, 2008

Introduction - Primer: What had happened prior to 9/11

The account of 9/11 and interaction between the al Qaeda terrorists and the CIA began in December 1999, when the NSA recorded a conversation from a phone in Yemen. This phone number was found in the back pocket of a terrorists who had taken part in the bombing of the embassies in east Africa in 1998. He had been uncovered because he had shrapnel in his back, indicating that he had been running away from the suicide attack on the embassies. The NSA concluded that this phone number was a number for the communications switch board for the east Africa attacks.

A conversation overheard on this phone in December 1999 described an important al Qaeda planning meeting about to take place in Kuala Lumpur and that Khalid, Nawaf and Saleem, thought to ne Nawaf's younger brother, were going to be traveling to this meeting. This information was sent to the CIA, the FBI HQ and to the FBI New York office. When Khalid passed through Dubai, his passport and passport photograph were photocopied by the CIA and this information sent to the CIA Bin Laden unit, the CIA and FBI Headquartersm including the top managers at the CIA and FBI. Khalid was identified from his passport as Khalid al-Mihdhar. Also noted when this information was sent to the CIA HQ was the fact that Khalid al-Mihdhar had a multi-entry visa for the US and his destination was listed as New York City.

On January 3, 2000 the al Qaeda terrorists tried to bomb the USS the Sullivans in Aden, Yemen. The boat used in the attack sank because the explosives were far too heavy for the size of the boat they had used. Because a high level meeting was just about to start in Kuala Lumpur, several people that had taken part in the bombing of the USS the Sullivans were sent off to attend this meeting. Two of the al Qaeda terrorists who had been part of the attack on the Sullivans failed to get proper visas for Malaysia, and they became stuck in Bangkok while trying to reach the meeting in Kuala Lumpur. One of these terrorists was named Fahad al-Quso.

The al Qaeda meeting took place in Kuala Lumpur on January 5, 2000 and lasted to January 8, 2000. This information and the importance of this al Qaeda meeting was communicated to many people including several high level managers at the CIA and the FBI including CIA Director George Tenet and FBI Director Louis Freeh. All of the people who attended this meeting were photographed by the Malaysian Special Branch, the Malaysian intelligence unit, at the request of the CIA and many were identified as long time al Qaeda terrorists. These photographs were sent on January 9, 2000 to the CIA and CIA Director George Tenet and CTC Manager Cofer Black. When this meeting ended on January 8, 2000, the CIA found out that Nawaf and Khalid al-Mihdhar along with one other al Qaeda terrorist who had attended this meeting had boarded a flight to Bangkok. The CIA identified Nawaf as Nawaf al-Hazmi from the manifest for this flight.

After the Cole bombing in October 2000, the FBI New York office, headed by John O'Neill assigned a young FBI agent Ali Soufan, at the time only 29 years old, to head up the Cole bombing investigation. He was sent his off to Yemen in October 2000 to head up the investigation of the Cole bombing. Soufan had been assigned to this position because he had been born in Lebanon and was one the very few FBI agents that spoke fluent Arabic. FBI Special Agent Steve Bongardt was designated to be his assistant, and to stay behind in the FBI New Office to head up an entire team of FBI criminal investigators working on the Cole bombing investigation.

After the Cole bombing, the Yemen authorities quickly arrested Fahad al-Quso and learned from him that he had been assigned to photograph the attack on the Cole, but when he over slept he missed the attack. The Yemen authorities found out from Quso that a high level al Qaeda terrorist named Tawifq Bin Attash, nick named Khallad had purchased the boat used in the attack on the Cole. Khallad was an al Qaeda nick name meaning the one with one leg. Yemen authorities also found out that Fahad al-Quso had attempted to travel to Kuala Lumpur on January 6, 2000, after the failed attempt on the USS the Sullivans, to deliver money to Khallad.

FBI Agent Soufan was given this information by the Yemen authorities including a passport photograph of Khallad and knew that a high level al Qaeda terrorist with one leg named Khallad was already well known by the FBI. He also concluded that it was likely Khallad had to have been one of the masterminds behind the Cole bombing. Soufan also learned that Khallad had flown over to Bangkok on January 8, 2000 from Kuala Lumpur to pick up the money Quso was bringing from Yemen. To get further information Soufan made several contacts over the next many months to the CIA, to find out what the CIA knew about Khallad and if they were aware of a al Qaeda meeting in Kuala Lumpur in January 2000.

1 comment:

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