The 9/11 Commission Report, by The National Commission on

What you are allowed to think and what you do think are two different things, aren't they? That's another way of saying that this forum may be NSFW, if your boss is a Republican. A liberal won't fire you for it, but they'll laugh at you in the break room and you may not get promoted. Unless you're an engineer, of course, in which your obsession with facing reality is not actually a career-disabling disability.

Re: The 9/11 Commission Report, by The National Commission o

Postby admin » Tue Mar 22, 2016 7:48 am

Part 1 of 3

3. COUNTERTERRORISM EVOLVES

In chapter 2, we described the growth of a new kind of terrorism, and a new terrorist organization-especially from 1988 to 1998, when Usama Bin Ladin declared war and organized the bombing of two U.S. embassies. In this chapter, we trace the parallel evolution of government efforts to counter terrorism by Islamic extremists against the United States.

We mention many personalities in this report. As in any study of the U.S. government, some of the most important characters are institutions. We will introduce various agencies, and how they adapted to a new kind of terrorism.

3.1 FROM THE OLD TERRORISM TO THE NEW: THE FIRST WORLD TRADE CENTER BOMBING

At 18 minutes after noon on February 26, 1993, a huge bomb went off beneath the two towers of the World Trade Center. This was not a suicide attack. The terrorists parked a truck bomb with a timing device on Level B-2 of the underground garage, then departed. The ensuing explosion opened a hole seven stories up. Six people died. More than a thousand were injured. An FBI agent at the scene described the relatively low number of fatalities as a miracle.1

President Bill Clinton ordered his National Security Council to coordinate the response. Government agencies swung into action to find the culprits. The Counterterrorist Center located at the CIA combed its files and queried sources around the world. The National Security Agency (NSA), the huge Defense Department signals collection agency, ramped up its communications intercept network and searched its databases for clues.2 The New York Field Office of the FBI took control of the local investigation and, in the end, set a pattern for future management of terrorist incidents.

Four features of this episode have significance for the story of 9/11.

First, the bombing signaled a new terrorist challenge, one whose rage and malice had no limit. Ramzi Yousef, the Sunni extremist who planted the bomb, said later that he had hoped to kill 250,000 people.3

Second, the FBI and the Justice Department did excellent work investigating the bombing. Within days, the FBI identified a truck remnant as part of a Ryder rental van reported stolen in Jersey City the day before the bombing.4

Mohammed Salameh, who had rented the truck and reported it stolen, kept calling the rental office to get back his $400 deposit. The FBI arrested him there on March 4, 1993. In short order, the Bureau had several plotters in custody, including Nidal Ayyad, an engineer who had acquired chemicals for the bomb, and Mahmoud Abouhalima, who had helped mix the chemicals.5

The FBI identified another conspirator, Ahmad Ajaj, who had been arrested by immigration authorities at John F. Kennedy International Airport in September 1992 and charged with document fraud. His traveling companion was Ramzi Yousef, who had also entered with fraudulent documents but claimed political asylum and was admitted. It quickly became clear that Yousef had been a central player in the attack. He had fled to Pakistan immediately after the bombing and would remain at large for nearly two years.6

The arrests of Salameh, Abouhalima, and Ayyad led the FBI to the Farouq mosque in Brooklyn, where a central figure was Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, an extremist Sunni Muslim cleric who had moved to the United States from Egypt in 1990. In speeches and writings, the sightless Rahman, often called the "Blind Sheikh," preached the message of Sayyid Qutb's Milestones, characterizing the United States as the oppressor of Muslims worldwide and asserting that it was their religious duty to fight against God's enemies. 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 Rahman and various confederates.7

As a result of the investigations and arrests, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York prosecuted and convicted multiple individuals, including Ajaj, Salameh, Ayyad, Abouhalima, the Blind Sheikh, and Ramzi Yousef, for crimes related to the World Trade Center bombing and other plots.

An unfortunate consequence of this superb investigative and prosecutorial effort was that it created an impression that the law enforcement system was well-equipped to cope with terrorism. Neither President Clinton, his principal advisers, the Congress, nor the news media felt prompted, until later, to press the question of whether the procedures that put the Blind Sheikh and Ramzi Yousef behind bars would really protect Americans against the new virus of which these individuals were just the first symptoms.8

Third, the successful use of the legal system to address the first World Trade Center bombing had the side effect of obscuring the need to examine the character and extent of the new threat facing the United States. The trials did not bring the Bin Ladin network to the attention of the public and policymakers.

The FBI assembled, and the U.S. Attorney's office put forward, some evidence showing that the men in the dock were not the only plotters. Materials taken from Ajaj indicated that the plot or plots were hatched at or near the Khaldan camp, a terrorist training camp on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Ajaj had left Texas in April 1992 to go there to learn how to construct bombs. He had met Ramzi Yousef in Pakistan, where they discussed bombing targets in the United States and assembled a "terrorist kit" that included bomb-making manuals, operations guidance, videotapes advocating terrorist action against the United States, and false identification documents.9

Yousef was captured in Pakistan following the discovery by police in the Philippines in January 1995 of the Manila air plot, which envisioned placing bombs on board a dozen trans-Pacific airliners and setting them off simultaneously. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed-Yousef's uncle, then located in Qatar-was a fellow plotter of Yousef's in the Manila air plot and had also wired him some money prior to the Trade Center bombing. The U.S. Attorney obtained an indictment against KSM in January 1996, but an official in the government of Qatar probably warned him about it. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed evaded capture (and stayed at large to play a central part in the 9/11 attacks).10

The law enforcement process is concerned with proving the guilt of persons apprehended and charged. Investigators and prosecutors could not present all the evidence of possible involvement of individuals other than those charged, although they continued to pursue such investigations, planning or hoping for later prosecutions. The process was meant, by its nature, to mark for the public the events as finished-case solved, justice done. It was not designed to ask if the events might be harbingers of worse to come. Nor did it allow for aggregating and analyzing facts to see if they could provide clues to terrorist tactics more generally-methods of entry and finance, and mode of operation inside the United States.

Fourth, although the bombing heightened awareness of a new terrorist danger, successful prosecutions contributed to widespread underestimation of the threat. The government's attorneys stressed the seriousness of the crimes, and put forward evidence of Yousef's technical ingenuity. Yet the public image that persisted was not of clever Yousef but of stupid Salameh going back again and again to reclaim his $400 truck rental deposit.

3.2 ADAPTATION-AND NONADAPTATION-IN THE LAW ENFORCEMENT COMMUNITY

Legal processes were the primary method for responding to these early manifestations of a new type of terrorism. Our overview of U.S. capabilities for dealing with it thus begins with the nation's vast complex of law enforcement agencies.

The Justice Department and the FBI

At the federal level, much law enforcement activity is concentrated in the Department of Justice. For countering terrorism, the dominant agency under Justice is the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI does not have a general grant of authority but instead works under specific statutory authorizations. Most of its work is done in local offices called field offices. There are 56 of them, each covering a specified geographic area, and each quite separate from all others. Prior to 9/11, the special agent in charge was in general free to set his or her office's priorities and assign personnel accordingly.11

The office's priorities were driven by two primary concerns. First, performance in the Bureau was generally measured against statistics such as numbers of arrests, indictments, prosecutions, and convictions. Counterterrorism and counterintelligence work, often involving lengthy intelligence investigations that might never have positive or quantifiable results, was not career-enhancing. Most agents who reached management ranks had little counterterrorism experience. Second, priorities were driven at the local level by the field offices, whose concerns centered on traditional crimes such as white-collar offenses and those pertaining to drugs and gangs. Individual field offices made choices to serve local priorities, not national priorities.12

The Bureau also operates under an "office of origin" system. To avoid duplication and possible conflicts, the FBI designates a single office to be in charge of an entire investigation. Because the New York Field Office indicted Bin Ladin prior to the East Africa bombings, it became the office of origin for all Bin Ladin cases, including the East Africa bombings and later the attack on the USS Cole. Most of the FBI's institutional knowledge on Bin Ladin and al Qaeda resided there. This office worked closely with the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York to identify, arrest, prosecute, and convict many of the perpetrators of the attacks and plots. Field offices other than the specified office of origin were often reluctant to spend much energy on matters over which they had no control and for which they received no credit.13

The FBI's domestic intelligence gathering dates from the 1930s.With World War II looming, President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover to investigate foreign and foreign-inspired subversion-Communist, Nazi, and Japanese. Hoover added investigation of possible espionage, sabotage, or subversion to the duties of field offices. After the war, foreign intelligence duties were assigned to the newly established Central Intelligence Agency. Hoover jealously guarded the FBI's domestic portfolio against all rivals. Hoover felt he was accountable only to the president, and the FBI's domestic intelligence activities kept growing. In the 1960s, the FBI was receiving significant assistance within the United States from the CIA and from Army Intel-ligence. The legal basis for some of this assistance was dubious.

Decades of encouragement to perform as a domestic intelligence agency abruptly ended in the 1970s.Two years after Hoover's death in 1972, congressional and news media investigations of the Watergate scandals of the Nixon administration expanded into general investigations of foreign and domestic intelligence by the Church and Pike committees.14 They disclosed domestic intelligence efforts, which included a covert action program that operated from 1956 to 1971 against domestic organizations and, eventually, domestic dissidents. The FBI had spied on a wide range of political figures, especially individuals whom Hoover wanted to discredit (notably the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.), and had authorized unlawful wiretaps and surveillance. The shock registered in public opinion polls, where the percentage of Americans declaring a "highly favorable" view of the FBI dropped from 84 percent to 37 percent. The FBI's Domestic Intelligence Division was dissolved.15

In 1976, Attorney General Edward Levi adopted domestic security guidelines to regulate intelligence collection in the United States and to deflect calls for even stronger regulation. In 1983,Attorney General William French Smith revised the Levi guidelines to encourage closer investigation of potential terrorism. He also loosened the rules governing authorization for investigations and their duration. Still, his guidelines, like Levi's, took account of the reality that suspicion of "terrorism," like suspicion of "subversion," could lead to making individuals targets for investigation more because of their beliefs than because of their acts. Smith's guidelines also took account of the reality that potential terrorists were often members of extremist religious organizations and that investigation of terrorism could cross the line separating state and church.16

In 1986, Congress authorized the FBI to investigate terrorist attacks against Americans that occur outside the United States. Three years later, it added authority for the FBI to make arrests abroad without consent from the host country. Meanwhile, a task force headed by Vice President George H.W. Bush had endorsed a concept already urged by Director of Central Intelligence William Casey-a Counterterrorist Center, where the FBI, the CIA, and other organizations could work together on international terrorism. While it was distinctly a CIA entity, the FBI detailed officials to work at the Center and obtained leads that helped in the capture of persons wanted for trial in the United States.

The strengths that the FBI brought to counterterrorism were nowhere more brilliantly on display than in the case of Pan American Flight 103, bound from London to New York, which blew up over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988, killing 270 people. Initial evidence pointed to the government of Syria and, later, Iran. The Counterterrorist Center reserved judgment on the perpetrators of the attack. Meanwhile, FBI technicians, working with U.K. security services, gathered and analyzed the widely scattered fragments of the airliner. In 1991, with the help of the Counterterrorist Center, they identified one small fragment as part of a timing device-to the technicians, as distinctive as DNA. It was a Libyan device. Together with other evidence, the FBI put together a case pointing conclusively to the Libyan government. Eventually Libya acknowledged its responsibility.17 Pan Am 103 became a cautionary tale against rushing to judgment in attributing responsibility for a terrorist act. It also showed again how-given a case to solve-the FBI remained capable of extraordinary investigative success.

FBI Organization and Priorities

In 1993, President Clinton chose Louis Freeh as the Director of the Bureau. Freeh, who would remain Director until June 2001, believed that the FBI's work should be done primarily by the field offices. To emphasize this view he cut headquarters staff and decentralized operations. The special agents in charge gained power, influence, and independence.18

Freeh recognized terrorism as a major threat. He increased the number of legal attaché offices abroad, focusing in particular on the Middle East. He also urged agents not to wait for terrorist acts to occur before taking action. In his first budget request to Congress after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, he stated that "merely solving this type of crime is not enough; it is equally important that the FBI thwart terrorism before such acts can be perpetrated." Within headquarters, he created a Counterterrorism Division that would complement the Counterterrorist Center at the CIA and arranged for exchanges of senior FBI and CIA counterterrorism officials. He pressed for more cooperation between legal attachés and CIA stations abroad.19

Freeh's efforts did not, however, translate into a significant shift of resources to counterterrorism. FBI, Justice, and Office of Management and Budget officials said that FBI leadership seemed unwilling to shift resources to terrorism from other areas such as violent crime and drug enforcement; other FBI officials blamed Congress and the OMB for a lack of political will and failure to understand the FBI's counterterrorism resource needs. In addition, Freeh did not impose his views on the field offices. With a few notable exceptions, the field offices did not apply significant resources to terrorism and often reprogrammed funds for other priorities.20

In 1998, the FBI issued a five-year strategic plan led by its deputy director, Robert "Bear" Bryant. For the first time, the FBI designated national and economic security, including counterterrorism, as its top priority. Dale Watson, who would later become the head of the new Counterterrorism Division, said that after the East Africa bombings, "the light came on" that cultural change had to occur within the FBI. The plan mandated a stronger intelligence collection effort. It called for a nationwide automated system to facilitate information collection, analysis, and dissemination. It envisioned the creation of a professional intelligence cadre of experienced and trained agents and analysts. If successfully implemented, this would have been a major step toward addressing terrorism systematically, rather than as individual unrelated cases. But the plan did not succeed.21

First, the plan did not obtain the necessary human resources. Despite designating "national and economic security" as its top priority in 1998, the FBI did not shift human resources accordingly. Although the FBI's counterterrorism budget tripled during the mid-1990s, FBI counterterrorism spending remained fairly constant between fiscal years 1998 and 2001. In 2000, there were still twice as many agents devoted to drug enforcement as to counterterrorism.22

Second, the new division intended to strengthen the FBI's strategic analysis capability faltered. It received insufficient resources and faced resistance from senior managers in the FBI's operational divisions. The new division was supposed to identify trends in terrorist activity, determine what the FBI did not know, and ultimately drive collection efforts. However, the FBI had little appreciation for the role of analysis. Analysts continued to be used primarily in a tactical fashion-providing support for existing cases. Compounding the problem was the FBI's tradition of hiring analysts from within instead of recruiting individuals with the relevant educational background and expertise.23

Moreover, analysts had difficulty getting access to the FBI and intelligence community information they were expected to analyze. The poor state of the FBI's information systems meant that such access depended in large part on an analyst's personal relationships with individuals in the operational units or squads where the information resided. For all of these reasons, prior to 9/11 relatively few strategic analytic reports about counterterrorism had been completed. Indeed, the FBI had never completed an assessment of the overall terrorist threat to the U.S. homeland.24

Third, the FBI did not have an effective intelligence collection effort. Collection of intelligence from human sources was limited, and agents were inadequately trained. Only three days of a 16-week agents' course were devoted to counterintelligence and counterterrorism, and most subsequent training was received on the job. The FBI did not have an adequate mechanism for validating source reporting, nor did it have a system for adequately tracking and sharing source reporting, either internally or externally. The FBI did not dedicate sufficient resources to the surveillance and translation needs of counterterrorism agents. It lacked sufficient translators proficient in Arabic and other key languages, resulting in a significant backlog of untranslated intercepts.25

Finally, the FBI's information systems were woefully inadequate. The FBI lacked the ability to know what it knew: there was no effective mechanism for capturing or sharing its institutional knowledge. FBI agents did create records of interviews and other investigative efforts, but there were no reports officers to condense the information into meaningful intelligence that could be retrieved and disseminated.26

In 1999, the FBI created separate Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence divisions. Dale Watson, the first head of the new Counterterrorism Division, recognized the urgent need to increase the FBI's counterterrorism capability. His plan, called MAXCAP 05, was unveiled in 2000: it set the goal of bringing the Bureau to its "maximum feasible capacity" in counterterrorism by 2005. Field executives told Watson that they did not have the analysts, linguists, or technically trained experts to carry out the strategy. In a report provided to Director Robert Mueller in September 2001, one year after Watson presented his plan to field executives, almost every FBI field office was assessed to be operating below "maximum capacity." The report stated that "the goal to 'prevent terrorism' requires a dramatic shift in emphasis from a reactive capability to highly functioning intelligence capability which provides not only leads and operational support, but clear strategic analysis and direction."27

Legal Constraints on the FBI and "the Wall"

The FBI had different tools for law enforcement and intelligence.28 For criminal matters, it could apply for and use traditional criminal warrants. For intelligence matters involving international terrorism, however, the rules were different. For many years the attorney general could authorize surveillance of foreign powers and agents of foreign powers without any court review, but in 1978 Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.29This law regulated intelligence collection directed at foreign powers and agents of foreign powers in the United States. In addition to requiring court review of proposed surveillance (and later, physical searches), the 1978 act was interpreted by the courts to require that a search be approved only if its "primary purpose" was to obtain foreign intelligence information. In other words, the authorities of the FISA law could not be used to circumvent traditional criminal warrant requirements. The Justice Department interpreted these rulings as saying that criminal prosecutors could be briefed on FISA information but could not direct or control its collection.30

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Justice prosecutors had informal arrangements for obtaining information gathered in the FISA process, the understanding being that they would not improperly exploit that process for their criminal cases. Whether the FBI shared with prosecutors information pertinent to possible criminal investigations was left solely to the judgment of the FBI.31

But the prosecution of Aldrich Ames for espionage in 1994 revived concerns about the prosecutors' role in intelligence investigations. The Department of Justice's Office of Intelligence Policy and Review (OIPR) is responsible for reviewing and presenting all FISA applications to the FISA Court. It worried that because of the numerous prior consultations between FBI agents and prosecutors, the judge might rule that the FISA warrants had been misused. If that had happened, Ames might have escaped conviction. Richard Scruggs, the acting head of OIPR, complained to Attorney General Janet Reno about the lack of information-sharing controls. On his own, he began imposing information-sharing procedures for FISA material. The Office of Intelligence Policy and Review became the gatekeeper for the flow of FISA information to criminal prosecutors.32

In July 1995, Attorney General Reno issued formal procedures aimed at managing information sharing between Justice Department prosecutors and the FBI. They were developed in a working group led by the Justice Department's Executive Office of National Security, overseen by Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick.33 These procedures-while requiring the sharing of intelligence information with prosecutors-regulated the manner in which such information could be shared from the intelligence side of the house to the criminal side.

These procedures were almost immediately misunderstood and misapplied. As a result, there was far less information sharing and coordination between the FBI and the Criminal Division in practice than was allowed under the department's procedures. Over time the procedures came to be referred to as "the wall." The term "the wall" is misleading, however, because several factors led to a series of barriers to information sharing that developed.34

The Office of Intelligence Policy and Review became the sole gatekeeper for passing information to the Criminal Division. Though Attorney General Reno's procedures did not include such a provision, the Office assumed the role anyway, arguing that its position reflected the concerns of Judge Royce Lamberth, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. The Office threatened that if it could not regulate the flow of information to criminal prosecutors, it would no longer present the FBI's warrant requests to the FISA Court. The information flow withered.35

The 1995 procedures dealt only with sharing between agents and criminal prosecutors, not between two kinds of FBI agents, those working on intelligence matters and those working on criminal matters. But pressure from the Office of Intelligence Policy Review, FBI leadership, and the FISA Court built barriers between agents-even agents serving on the same squads. FBI Deputy Director Bryant reinforced the Office's caution by informing agents that too much information sharing could be a career stopper. Agents in the field began to believe-incorrectly-that no FISA information could be shared with agents working on criminal investigations.36

This perception evolved into the still more exaggerated belief that the FBI could not share any intelligence information with criminal investigators, even if no FISA procedures had been used. Thus, relevant information from the National Security Agency and the CIA often failed to make its way to criminal investigators. Separate reviews in 1999, 2000, and 2001 concluded independently that information sharing was not occurring, and that the intent of the 1995 procedures was ignored routinely.37 We will describe some of the unfortunate consequences of these accumulated institutional beliefs and practices in chapter 8.

There were other legal limitations. Both prosecutors and FBI agents argued that they were barred by court rules from sharing grand jury information, even though the prohibition applied only to that small fraction that had been presented to a grand jury, and even that prohibition had exceptions. But as interpreted by FBI field offices, this prohibition could conceivably apply to much of the information unearthed in an investigation. There were also restrictions, arising from executive order, on the commingling of domestic information with foreign intelligence. Finally the NSA began putting caveats on its Bin Ladin-related reports that required prior approval before sharing their contents with criminal investigators and prosecutors. These developments further blocked the arteries of information sharing.38

Other Law Enforcement Agencies

The Justice Department is much more than the FBI. It also has a U.S. Marshals Service, almost 4,000 strong on 9/11 and especially expert in tracking fugitives, with much local police knowledge. The department's Drug Enforcement Administration had, as of 2001, more than 4,500 agents.39 There were a number of occasions when DEA agents were able to introduce sources to the FBI or CIA for counterterrorism use.

The Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), with its 9,000 Border Patrol agents, 4,500 inspectors, and 2,000 immigration special agents, had perhaps the greatest potential to develop an expanded role in counterterrorism. However, the INS was focused on the formidable challenges posed by illegal entry over the southwest border, criminal aliens, and a growing backlog in the applications for naturalizing immigrants. The White House, the Justice Department, and above all the Congress reinforced these concerns. In addition, when Doris Meissner became INS Commissioner in 1993, she found an agency seriously hampered by outdated technology and insufficient human resources. Border Patrol agents were still using manual typewriters; inspectors at ports of entry were using a paper watchlist; the asylum and other benefits systems did not effectively deter fraudulent applicants.40

Commissioner Meissner responded in 1993 to the World Trade Center bombing by providing seed money to the State Department's Consular Affairs Bureau to automate its terrorist watchlist, used by consular officers and border inspectors. The INS assigned an individual in a new "lookout" unit to work with the State Department in watchlisting suspected terrorists and with the intelligence community and the FBI in determining how to deal with them when they appeared at ports of entry. By 1998, 97 suspected terrorists had been denied admission at U.S. ports of entry because of the watchlist.41

How to conduct deportation cases against aliens who were suspected terrorists caused significant debate. The INS had immigration law expertise and authority to bring the cases, but the FBI possessed the classified information sometimes needed as evidence, and information-sharing conflicts resulted. New laws in 1996 authorized the use of classified evidence in removal hearings, but the INS removed only a handful of the aliens with links to terrorist activity (none identified as associated with al Qaeda) using classified evidence.42

Midlevel INS employees proposed comprehensive counterterrorism proposals to management in 1986, 1995, and 1997. No action was taken on them. In 1997, a National Security Unit was set up to handle alerts, track potential terrorist cases for possible immigration enforcement action, and work with the rest of the Justice Department. It focused on the FBI's priorities of Hezbollah and Hamas, and began to examine how immigration laws could be brought to bear on terrorism. For instance, it sought unsuccessfully to require that CIA security checks be completed before naturalization applications were approved.43 Policy questions, such as whether resident alien status should be revoked upon the person's conviction of a terrorist crime, were not addressed.

Congress, with the support of the Clinton administration, doubled the number of Border Patrol agents required along the border with Mexico to one agent every quarter mile by 1999. It rejected efforts to bring additional resources to bear in the north. The border with Canada had one agent for every 13.25 miles. Despite examples of terrorists entering from Canada, awareness of terrorist activity in Canada and its more lenient immigration laws, and an inspector general's report recommending that the Border Patrol develop a northern border strategy, the only positive step was that the number of Border Patrol agents was not cut any further.44

Inspectors at the ports of entry were not asked to focus on terrorists. Inspectors told us they were not even aware that when they checked the names of incoming passengers against the automated watchlist, they were checking in part for terrorists. In general, border inspectors also did not have the information they needed to make fact-based determinations of admissibility. The INS initiated but failed to bring to completion two efforts that would have provided inspectors with information relevant to counterterrorism-a proposed system to track foreign student visa compliance and a program to establish a way of tracking travelers' entry to and exit from the United States.45

In 1996, a new law enabled the INS to enter into agreements with state and local law enforcement agencies through which the INS provided training and the local agencies exercised immigration enforcement authority. Terrorist watchlists were not available to them. Mayors in cities with large immigrant populations sometimes imposed limits on city employee cooperation with federal immigration agents.A large population lives outside the legal framework. Fraudulent documents could be easily obtained. Congress kept the number of INS agents static in the face of the overwhelming problem.46

The chief vehicle for INS and for state and local participation in law enforcement was the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), first tried out in New York City in 1980 in response to a spate of incidents involving domestic terrorist organizations. This task force was managed by the New York Field Office of the FBI, and its existence provided an opportunity to exchange information and, as happened after the first World Trade Center bombing, to enlist local officers, as well as other agency representatives, as partners in the FBI investigation. The FBI expanded the number of JTTFs throughout the 1990s, and by 9/11 there were 34.While useful, the JTTFs had limitations. They set priorities in accordance with regional and field office concerns, and most were not fully staffed. Many state and local entities believed they had little to gain from having a full-time representative on a JTTF.47

Other federal law enforcement resources, also not seriously enlisted for counterterrorism, were to be found in the Treasury Department.

Treasury housed the Secret Service, the Customs Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms. Given the Secret Service's mission to protect the president and other high officials, its agents did become involved with those of the FBI whenever terrorist assassination plots were rumored.

The Customs Service deployed agents at all points of entry into the United States. Its agents worked alongside INS agents, and the two groups sometimes cooperated. In the winter of 1999-2000, as will be detailed in chapter 6, questioning by an especially alert Customs inspector led to the arrest of an al Qaeda terrorist whose apparent mission was to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms was used on occasion by the FBI as a resource. The ATF's laboratories and analysis were critical to the investigation of the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and the April 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.48

Before 9/11, with the exception of one portion of the FBI, very little of the sprawling U.S. law enforcement community was engaged in countering terrorism. Moreover, law enforcement could be effective only after specific individuals were identified, a plot had formed, or an attack had already occurred. Responsible individuals had to be located, apprehended, and transported back to a U.S. court for prosecution. As FBI agents emphasized to us, the FBI and the Justice Department do not have cruise missiles. They declare war by indicting someone. They took on the lead role in addressing terrorism because they were asked to do so.49
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Re: The 9/11 Commission Report, by The National Commission o

Postby admin » Tue Mar 22, 2016 7:50 am

Part 2 of 3

3.3 . . .AND IN THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) within the Department of Transportation had been vested by Congress with the sometimes conflicting mandate of regulating the safety and security of U.S. civil aviation while also promoting the civil aviation industry. The FAA had a security mission to protect the users of commercial air transportation against terrorism and other criminal acts. In the years before 9/11, the FAA perceived sabotage as a greater threat to aviation than hijacking. First, no domestic hijacking had occurred in a decade. Second, the commercial aviation system was perceived as more vulnerable to explosives than to weapons such as firearms. Finally, explosives were perceived as deadlier than hijacking and therefore of greater consequence. In 1996, a presidential commission on aviation safety and security chaired by Vice President Al Gore reinforced the prevailing concern about sabotage and explosives on aircraft. The Gore Commission also flagged, as a new danger, the possibility of attack by surface-to-air missiles. Its 1997 final report did not discuss the possibility of suicide hijackings.50

The FAA set and enforced aviation security rules, which airlines and airports were required to implement. The rules were supposed to produce a "layered" system of defense. This meant that the failure of any one layer of security would not be fatal, because additional layers would provide backup security. But each layer relevant to hijackings-intelligence, passenger prescreening, checkpoint screening, and onboard security-was seriously flawed prior to 9/11.Taken together, they did not stop any of the 9/11 hijackers from getting on board four different aircraft at three different airports.51

The FAA's policy was to use intelligence to identify both specific plots and general threats to civil aviation security, so that the agency could develop and deploy appropriate countermeasures. The FAA's 40-person intelligence unit was supposed to receive a broad range of intelligence data from the FBI, CIA, and other agencies so that it could make assessments about the threat to aviation. But the large volume of data contained little pertaining to the presence and activities of terrorists in the United States. For example, information on the FBI's effort in 1998 to assess the potential use of flight training by terrorists and the Phoenix electronic communication of 2001 warning of radical Middle Easterners attending flight school were not passed to FAA headquarters. Several top FAA intelligence officials called the domestic threat picture a serious blind spot.52

Moreover, the FAA's intelligence unit did not receive much attention from the agency's leadership. Neither Administrator Jane Garvey nor her deputy routinely reviewed daily intelligence, and what they did see was screened for them. She was unaware of a great amount of hijacking threat information from her own intelligence unit, which, in turn, was not deeply involved in the agency's policymaking process. Historically, decisive security action took place only after a disaster had occurred or a specific plot had been discovered.53

The next aviation security layer was passenger prescreening. The FAA directed air carriers not to fly individuals known to pose a "direct" threat to civil aviation. But as of 9/11, the FAA's "no-fly" list contained the names of just 12 terrorist suspects (including 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed), even though government watchlists contained the names of many thousands of known and suspected terrorists. This astonishing mismatch existed despite the Gore Commission's having called on the FBI and CIA four years earlier to provide terrorist watchlists to improve prescreening. The longtime chief of the FAA's civil aviation security division testified that he was not even aware of the State Department's TIPOFF list of known and suspected terrorists (some 60,000 before 9/11) until he heard it mentioned during the Commission's January 26, 2004, public hearing. The FAA had access to some TIPOFF data, but apparently found it too difficult to use.54

The second part of prescreening called on the air carriers to implement an FAA-approved computerized algorithm (known as CAPPS, for Computer Assisted Passenger Prescreening System) designed to identify passengers whose profile suggested they might pose more than a minimal risk to aircraft. Although the algorithm included hijacker profile data, at that time only passengers checking bags were eligible to be selected by CAPPS for additional scrutiny. Selection entailed only having one's checked baggage screened for explosives or held off the airplane until one had boarded. Primarily because of concern regarding potential discrimination and the impact on passenger throughput, "selectees" were no longer required to undergo extraordinary screening of their carry-on baggage as had been the case before the system was computerized in 1997.55 This policy change also reflected the perception that nonsuicide sabotage was the primary threat to civil aviation.

Checkpoint screening was considered the most important and obvious layer of security. Walk-through metal detectors and X-ray machines operated by trained screeners were employed to stop prohibited items. Numerous government reports indicated that checkpoints performed poorly, often failing to detect even obvious FAA test items. Many deadly and dangerous items did not set off metal detectors, or were hard to distinguish in an X-ray machine from innocent everyday items.56

While FAA rules did not expressly prohibit knives with blades under 4 inches long, the airlines' checkpoint operations guide (which was developed in cooperation with the FAA), explicitly permitted them. The FAA's basis for this policy was (1) the agency did not consider such items to be menacing, (2) most local laws did not prohibit individuals from carrying such knives, and (3) such knives would have been difficult to detect unless the sensitivity of metal detectors had been greatly increased. A proposal to ban knives altogether in 1993 had been rejected because small cutting implements were difficult to detect and the number of innocent "alarms" would have increased significantly, exacerbating congestion problems at checkpoints.57

Several years prior to 9/11, an FAA requirement for screeners to conduct "continuous" and "random" hand searches of carry-on luggage at checkpoints had been replaced by explosive trace detection or had simply become ignored by the air carriers. Therefore, secondary screening of individuals and their carry-on bags to identify weapons (other than bombs) was nonexistent, except for passengers who triggered the metal detectors. Even when small knives were detected by secondary screening, they were usually returned to the traveler. Reportedly, the 9/11 hijackers were instructed to use items that would be undetectable by airport checkpoints.58

In the pre-9/11 security system, the air carriers played a major role. As the Inspector General of the Department of Transportation told us, there were great pressures from the air carriers to control security costs and to "limit the impact of security requirements on aviation operations, so that the industry could concentrate on its primary mission of moving passengers and aircraft.. . . [T]hose counterpressures in turn manifested themselves as significant weaknesses in security." A longtime FAA security official described the air carriers' approach to security regulation as "decry, deny and delay" and told us that while "the air carriers had seen the enlightened hand of self-interest with respect to safety, they hadn't seen it in the security arena."59

The final layer, security on board commercial aircraft, was not designed to counter suicide hijackings. The FAA-approved "Common Strategy" had been elaborated over decades of experience with scores of hijackings, beginning in the 1960s. It taught flight crews that the best way to deal with hijackers was to accommodate their demands, get the plane to land safely, and then let law enforcement or the military handle the situation. According to the FAA, the record had shown that the longer a hijacking persisted, the more likely it was to end peacefully. The strategy operated on the fundamental assumption that hijackers issue negotiable demands (most often for asylum or the release of prisoners) and that, as one FAA official put it, "suicide wasn't in the game plan" of hijackers. FAA training material provided no guidance for flight crews should violence occur.60

This prevailing Common Strategy of cooperation and nonconfrontation meant that even a hardened cockpit door would have made little difference in a hijacking. As the chairman of the Security Committee of the Air Line Pilots Association observed when proposals were made in early 2001 to install reinforced cockpit doors in commercial aircraft, "Even if you make a vault out of the door, if they have a noose around my flight attendant's neck, I'm going to open the door." Prior to 9/11, FAA regulations mandated that cockpit doors permit ready access into and out of the cockpit in the event of an emergency. Even so, rules implemented in the 1960s required air crews to keep the cockpit door closed and locked in flight. This requirement was not always observed or vigorously enforced.61

As for law enforcement, there were only 33 armed and trained federal air marshals as of 9/11.They were not deployed on U.S. domestic flights, except when in transit to provide security on international departures. This policy reflected the FAA's view that domestic hijacking was in check-a view held confidently as no terrorist had hijacked a U.S. commercial aircraft anywhere in the world since 1986.62

In the absence of any recent aviation security incident and without "specific and credible" evidence of a plot directed at civil aviation, the FAA's leadership focused elsewhere, including on operational concerns and the ever-present issue of safety. FAA Administrator Garvey recalled that "every day in 2001 was like the day before Thanksgiving." Heeding calls for improved air service, Congress concentrated its efforts on a "passenger bill of rights," to improve capacity, efficiency, and customer satisfaction in the aviation system. There was no focus on terrorism.63

3.4 .. . AND IN THE INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY

The National Security Act of 1947 created the position of Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). Independent from the departments of Defense, State, Justice, and other policy departments, the DCI heads the U.S. intelligence community and provides intelligence to federal entities.

The sole element of the intelligence community independent from a cabinet agency is the CIA. As an independent agency, it collects, analyzes, and disseminates intelligence from all sources. The CIA's number one customer is the president of the United States, who also has the authority to direct it to conduct covert operations.64 Although covert actions represent a very small fraction of the Agency's entire budget, these operations have at times been controversial and over time have dominated the public's perception of the CIA.

The DCI is confirmed by the Senate but is not technically a member of the president's cabinet. The director's power under federal law over the loose, confederated "intelligence community" is limited.65 He or she states the community's priorities and coordinates development of intelligence agency budget requests for submission to Congress.

This responsibility gives many the false impression that the DCI has line authority over the heads of these agencies and has the power to shift resources within these budgets as the need arises. Neither is true. In fact, the DCI's real authority has been directly proportional to his personal closeness to the president, which has waxed and waned over the years, and to others in government, especially the secretary of defense.

Intelligence agencies under the Department of Defense account for approximately 80 percent of all U.S. spending for intelligence, including some that supports a national customer base and some that supports specific Defense Department or military service needs.66 As they are housed in the Defense Department, these agencies are keenly attentive to the military's strategic and tactical requirements.

One of the intelligence agencies in Defense with a national customer base is the National Security Agency, which intercepts and analyzes foreign communications and breaks codes. The NSA also creates codes and ciphers to protect government information. Another is the recently renamed National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), which provides and analyzes imagery and produces a wide array of products, including maps, navigation tools, and surveillance intelligence. A third such agency in Defense is the National Reconnaissance Office. It develops, procures, launches, and maintains in orbit information-gathering satellites that serve other government agencies.

The Defense Intelligence Agency supports the secretary of defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff, and military field commanders. It does some collection through human sources as well as some technical intelligence collection. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps have their own intelligence components that collect information, help them decide what weapons to acquire, and serve the tactical intelligence needs of their respective services.

In addition to those from the Department of Defense, other elements in the intelligence community include the national security parts of the FBI; the Bureau of Intelligence and Research in the State Department; the intelligence component of the Treasury Department; the Energy Department's Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, the former of which, through leveraging the expertise of the national laboratory system, has special competence in nuclear weapons; the Office of Intelligence of the Coast Guard; and, today, the Directorate of Intelligence Analysis and Infrastructure Protection in the Department of Homeland Security.

The National Security Agency

The National Security Agency's intercepts of terrorist communications often set off alarms elsewhere in the government. Often, too, its intercepts are conclusive elements in the analyst's jigsaw puzzle. NSA engineers build technical systems to break ciphers and to make sense of today's complex signals environment. Its analysts listen to conversations between foreigners not meant for them. They also perform "traffic analysis"-studying technical communications systems and codes as well as foreign organizational structures, including those of terrorist organizations.

Cold War adversaries used very hierarchical, familiar, and predictable military command and control methods. With globalization and the telecommunications revolution, and with loosely affiliated but networked adversaries using commercial devices and encryption, the technical impediments to signals collection grew at a geometric rate. At the same time, the end of the Cold War and the resultant cuts in national security funding forced intelligence agencies to cut systems and seek economies of scale. Modern adversaries are skilled users of communications technologies. The NSA's challenges, and its opportunities, increased exponentially in "volume, variety, and velocity."67

The law requires the NSA to not deliberately collect data on U.S. citizens or on persons in the United States without a warrant based on foreign intelligence requirements. Also, the NSA was supposed to let the FBI know of any indication of crime, espionage, or "terrorist enterprise" so that the FBI could obtain the appropriate warrant. Later in this story, we will learn that while the NSA had the technical capability to report on communications with suspected terrorist facilities in the Middle East, the NSA did not seek FISA Court warrants to collect communications between individuals in the United States and foreign countries, because it believed that this was an FBI role. It also did not want to be viewed as targeting persons in the United States and possibly violating laws that governed NSA's collection of foreign intelligence.68

An almost obsessive protection of sources and methods by the NSA, and its focus on foreign intelligence, and its avoidance of anything domestic would, as will be seen, be important elements in the story of 9/11.

Technology as an Intelligence Asset and Liability

The application of newly developed scientific technology to the mission of U.S. war fighters and national security decisionmakers is one of the great success stories of the twentieth century. It did not happen by accident. Recent wars have been waged and won decisively by brave men and women using advanced technology that was developed, authorized, and paid for by conscientious and diligent executive and legislative branch leaders many years earlier.

The challenge of technology, however, is a daunting one. It is expensive, sometimes fails, and often can create problems as well as solve them. Some of the advanced technologies that gave us insight into the closed-off territories of the Soviet Union during the Cold War are of limited use in identifying and tracking individual terrorists.

Terrorists, in turn, have benefited from this same rapid development of communication technologies. They simply could buy off the shelf and harvest the products of a $3 trillion a year telecommunications industry. They could acquire without great expense communication devices that were varied, global, instantaneous, complex, and encrypted.

The emergence of the World Wide Web has given terrorists a much easier means of acquiring information and exercising command and control over their operations. The operational leader of the 9/11 conspiracy, Mohamed Atta, went online from Hamburg, Germany, to research U.S. flight schools. Targets of intelligence collection have become more sophisticated. These changes have made surveillance and threat warning more difficult.

Despite the problems that technology creates, Americans' love affair with it leads them to also regard it as the solution. But technology produces its best results when an organization has the doctrine, structure, and incentives to exploit it. For example, even the best information technology will not improve information sharing so long as the intelligence agencies' personnel and security systems reward protecting information rather than disseminating it.

The CIA

The CIA is a descendant of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), which President Roosevelt created early in World War II after having first thought the FBI might take that role. The father of the OSS was William J. "Wild Bill" Donovan, a Wall Street lawyer. He recruited into the OSS others like himself-well traveled, well connected, well-to-do professional men and women.69

An innovation of Donovan's, whose legacy remains part of U.S. intelligence today, was the establishment of a Research and Analysis Branch. There large numbers of scholars from U.S. universities pored over accounts from spies, communications intercepted by the armed forces, transcripts of radio broadcasts, and publications of all types, and prepared reports on economic, political, and social conditions in foreign theaters of operation.

At the end of World War II, to Donovan's disappointment, President Harry Truman dissolved the Office of Strategic Services. Four months later, the President directed that "all Federal foreign intelligence activities be planned, developed and coordinated so as to assure the most effective accomplishment of the intelligence mission related to the national security," under a National Intelligence Authority consisting of the secretaries of State, War, and the Navy, and a personal representative of the president. This body was to be assisted by a Central Intelligence Group, made up of persons detailed from the departments of each of the members and headed by a Director of Central Intelligence.70

Subsequently, President Truman agreed to the National Security Act of 1947, which, among other things, established the Central Intelligence Agency, under the Director of Central Intelligence. Lobbying by the FBI, combined with fears of creating a U.S. Gestapo,71 led to the FBI's being assigned responsibility for internal security functions and counterespionage. The CIA was specifically accorded "no police, subpoena, or law enforcement powers or internal security functions."72 This structure built in tensions between the CIA and the Defense Department's intelligence agencies, and between the CIA and the FBI.

Clandestine and Covert Action. With this history, the CIA brought to the era of 9/11 many attributes of an elite organization, viewing itself as serving on the nation's front lines to engage America's enemies. Officers in its Clandestine Service, under what became the Directorate of Operations, fanned out into stations abroad. Each chief of station was a very important person in the organization, given the additional title of the DCI's representative in that country. He (occasionally she) was governed by an operating directive that listed operational priorities issued by the relevant regional division of the Directorate, constrained by centrally determined allocations of resources.

Because the conduct of espionage was a high-risk activity, decisions on the clandestine targeting, recruitment, handling, and termination of secret sources and the dissemination of collected information required Washington's approval and action. But in this decentralized system, analogous in some ways to the culture of the FBI field offices in the United States, everyone in the Directorate of Operations presumed that it was the job of headquarters to support the field, rather than manage field activities.

In the 1960s, the CIA suffered exposure of its botched effort to land Cuban exiles at the Bay of Pigs. The Vietnam War brought on more criticism. A prominent feature of the Watergate era was investigations of the CIA by committees headed by Frank Church in the Senate and Otis Pike in the House. They published evidence that the CIA had secretly planned to assassinate Fidel Castro and other foreign leaders. The President had not taken plain responsibility for these judgments. CIA officials had taken most of the blame, saying they had done so in order to preserve the President's "plausible deniability."73

After the Watergate era, Congress established oversight committees to ensure that the CIA did not undertake covert action contrary to basic American law. Case officers in the CIA's Clandestine Service interpreted legislation, such as the Hughes-Ryan Amendment requiring that the president approve and report to Congress any covert action, as sending a message to them that covert action often leads to trouble and can severely damage one's career. Controversies surrounding Central American covert action programs in the mid-1980s led to the indictment of several senior officers of the Clandestine Service. During the 1990s, tension sometimes arose, as it did in the effort against al Qaeda, between policymakers who wanted the CIA to undertake more aggressive covert action and wary CIA leaders who counseled prudence and making sure that the legal basis and presidential authorization for their actions were undeniably clear.

The Clandestine Service felt the impact of the post-Cold War peace dividend, with cuts beginning in 1992. As the number of officers declined and overseas facilities were closed, the DCI and his managers responded to developing crises in the Balkans or in Africa by "surging," or taking officers from across the service to use on the immediate problem. In many cases the surge officers had little familiarity with the new issues. Inevitably, some parts of the world and some collection targets were not fully covered, or not covered at all. This strategy also placed great emphasis on close relations with foreign liaison services, whose help was needed to gain information that the United States itself did not have the capacity to collect.

The nadir for the Clandestine Service was in 1995, when only 25 trainees became new officers.74 In 1998, the DCI was able to persuade the administration and the Congress to endorse a long-range rebuilding program. It takes five to seven years of training, language study, and experience to bring a recruit up to full performance.75

Analysis. The CIA's Directorate of Intelligence retained some of its original character of a university gone to war. Its men and women tended to judge one another by the quantity and quality of their publications (in this case, classified publications). Apart from their own peers, they looked for approval and guidance to policymakers. During the 1990s and today, particular value is attached to having a contribution included in one of the classified daily "newspapers"- the Senior Executive Intelligence Brief-or, better still, selected for inclusion in the President's Daily Brief.76

The CIA had been created to wage the Cold War. Its steady focus on one or two primary adversaries, decade after decade, had at least one positive effect: it created an environment in which managers and analysts could safely invest time and resources in basic research, detailed and reflective. Payoffs might not be immediate. But when they wrote their estimates, even in brief papers, they could draw on a deep base of knowledge.

When the Cold War ended, those investments could not easily be reallocated to new enemies. The cultural effects ran even deeper. In a more fluid international environment with uncertain, changing goals and interests, intelligence managers no longer felt they could afford such a patient, strategic approach to long-term accumulation of intellectual capital. A university culture with its versions of books and articles was giving way to the culture of the newsroom.

During the 1990s, the rise of round-the-clock news shows and the Internet reinforced pressure on analysts to pass along fresh reports to policymakers at an ever-faster pace, trying to add context or supplement what their customers were receiving from the media. Weaknesses in all-source and strategic analysis were highlighted by a panel, chaired by Admiral David Jeremiah, that critiqued the intelligence community's failure to foresee the nuclear weapons tests by India and Pakistan in 1998, as well as by a 1999 panel, chaired by Donald Rumsfeld, that discussed the community's limited ability to assess the ballistic missile threat to the United States. Both reports called attention to the dispersal of effort on too many priorities, the declining attention to the craft of strategic analysis, and security rules that prevented adequate sharing of information. Another Cold War craft had been an elaborate set of methods for warning against surprise attack, but that too had faded in analyzing new dangers like terrorism.77

Security. Another set of experiences that would affect the capacity of the CIA to cope with the new terrorism traced back to the early Cold War, when the Agency developed a concern, bordering on paranoia, about penetration by the Soviet KGB. James Jesus Angleton, who headed counterintelligence in the CIA until the early 1970s, became obsessed with the belief that the Agency harbored one or more Soviet "moles." Although the pendulum swung back after Angle-ton's forced retirement, it did not go very far. Instances of actual Soviet penetration kept apprehensions high.78 Then, in the early 1990s, came the Aldrich Ames espionage case, which intensely embarrassed the CIA. Though obviously unreliable, Ames had been protected and promoted by fellow officers while he paid his bills by selling to the Soviet Union the names of U.S. operatives and agents, a number of whom died as a result.

The concern about security vastly complicated information sharing. Information was compartmented in order to protect it against exposure to skilled and technologically sophisticated adversaries. There were therefore numerous restrictions on handling information and a deep suspicion about sending information over newfangled electronic systems, like email, to other agencies of the U.S. government.79

Security concerns also increased the difficulty of recruiting officers qualified for counterterrorism. Very few American colleges or universities offered programs in Middle Eastern languages or Islamic studies. The total number of undergraduate degrees granted in Arabic in all U.S. colleges and universities in 2002 was six.80 Many who had traveled much outside the United States could expect a very long wait for initial clearance. Anyone who was foreign-born or had numerous relatives abroad was well-advised not even to apply. With budgets for the CIA shrinking after the end of the Cold War, it was not surprising that, with some notable exceptions, new hires in the Clandestine Service tended to have qualifications similar to those of serving officers: that is, they were suited for traditional agent recruitment or for exploiting liaison relationships with foreign services but were not equipped to seek or use assets inside the terrorist network.

Early Counterterrorism Efforts

In the 1970s and 1980s, terrorism had been tied to regional conflicts, mainly in the Middle East. The majority of terrorist groups either were sponsored by governments or, like the Palestine Liberation Organization, were militants trying to create governments.

In the mid-1980s, on the basis of a report from a task force headed by Vice President George Bush and after terrorist attacks at airports in Rome and Athens, the DCI created a Counterterrorist Center to unify activities across the Directorate of Operations and the Directorate of Intelligence. The Counterterrorist Center had representation from the FBI and other agencies. In the formal table of organization it reported to the DCI, but in fact most of the Center's chiefs belonged to the Clandestine Service and usually looked for guidance to the head of the Directorate of Operations.81

The Center stimulated and coordinated collection of information by CIA stations, compiled the results, and passed selected reports to appropriate stations, the Directorate of Intelligence analysts, other parts of the intelligence community, or to policymakers. The Center protected its bureaucratic turf. The Director of Central Intelligence had once had a national intelligence officer for terrorism to coordinate analysis; that office was abolished in the late 1980s and its duties absorbed in part by the Counterterrorist Center. Though analysts assigned to the Center produced a large number of papers, the focus was support to operations. A CIA inspector general's report in 1994 criticized the Center's capacity to provide warning of terrorist attacks.82

Subsequent chapters will raise the issue of whether, despite tremendous talent, energy, and dedication, the intelligence community failed to do enough in coping with the challenge from Bin Ladin and al Qaeda. Confronted with such questions, managers in the intelligence community often responded that they had meager resources with which to work.83

Cuts in national security expenditures at the end of the Cold War led to budget cuts in the national foreign intelligence program from fiscal years 1990 to 1996 and essentially flat budgets from fiscal years 1996 to 2000 (except for the so-called Gingrich supplemental to the FY1999 budget and two later, smaller supplementals). These cuts compounded the difficulties of the intelligence agencies. Policymakers were asking them to move into the digitized future to fight against computer-to-computer communications and modern communication systems, while maintaining capability against older systems, such as high-frequency radios and ultra-high- and very-high-frequency (line of sight) systems that work like old-style television antennas. Also, demand for imagery increased dramatically following the success of the 1991 Gulf War. Both these developments, in turn, placed a premium on planning the next generation of satellite systems, the cost of which put great pressure on the rest of the intelligence budget. As a result, intelligence agencies experienced staff reductions, affecting both operators and analysts.84

Yet at least for the CIA, part of the burden in tackling terrorism arose from the background we have described: an organization capable of attracting extraordinarily motivated people but institutionally averse to risk, with its capacity for covert action atrophied, predisposed to restrict the distribution of information, having difficulty assimilating new types of personnel, and accustomed to presenting descriptive reportage of the latest intelligence. The CIA, to put it another way, needed significant change in order to get maximum effect in counterterrorism. President Clinton appointed George Tenet as DCI in 1997, and by all accounts terrorism was a priority for him. But Tenet's own assessment, when questioned by the Commission, was that in 2004, the CIA's clandestine service was still at least five years away from being fully ready to play its counterterrorism role.85 And while Tenet was clearly the leader of the CIA, the intelligence community's confederated structure left open the question of who really was in charge of the entire U.S. intelligence effort.
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Re: The 9/11 Commission Report, by The National Commission o

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Part 3 of 3

3.5 . . .AND IN THE STATE DEPARTMENT AND THE DEFENSE DEPARTMENT

The State Department


The Commission asked Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage in 2004 why the State Department had so long pursued what seemed, and ultimately proved, to be a hopeless effort to persuade the Taliban regime in Afghanistan to deport Bin Ladin. Armitage replied: "We do what the State Department does, we don't go out and fly bombers, we don't do things like that[;] . . . we do our part in these things."86

Fifty years earlier, the person in Armitage's position would not have spoken of the Department of State as having such a limited role. Until the late 1950s, the department dominated the processes of advising the president and Congress on U.S. relations with the rest of the world. The National Security Council was created in 1947 largely as a result of lobbying from the Pentagon for a forum where the military could object if they thought the State Department was setting national objectives that the United States did not have the wherewithal to pursue.

The State Department retained primacy until the 1960s, when the Kennedy and Johnson administrations turned instead to Robert McNamara's Defense Department, where a mini-state department was created to analyze foreign policy issues. President Richard Nixon then concentrated policy planning and policy coordination in a powerful National Security Council staff, overseen by Henry Kissinger.

In later years, individual secretaries of state were important figures, but the department's role continued to erode. State came into the 1990s overmatched by the resources of other departments and with little support for its budget either in the Congress or in the president's Office of Management and Budget.

Like the FBI and the CIA's Directorate of Operations, the State Department had a tradition of emphasizing service in the field over service in Washington. Even ambassadors, however, often found host governments not only making connections with the U.S. government through their own missions in Washington, but working through the CIA station or a Defense attaché. Increasingly, the embassies themselves were overshadowed by powerful regional commanders in chief reporting to the Pentagon.87

Counterterrorism

In the 1960s and 1970s, the State Department managed counterterrorism policy. It was the official channel for communication with the governments presumed to be behind the terrorists. Moreover, since terrorist incidents of this period usually ended in negotiations, an ambassador or other embassy official was the logical person to represent U.S. interests.

Keeping U.S. diplomatic efforts against terrorism coherent was a recurring challenge. In 1976, at the direction of Congress, the department elevated its coordinator for combating terrorism to the rank equivalent to an assistant secretary of state. As an "ambassador at large," this official sought to increase the visibility of counterterrorism matters within the department and to help integrate U.S. policy implementation among government agencies. The prolonged crisis of 1979-1981, when 53 Americans were held hostage at the U.S. embassy in Tehran, ended the State Department leadership in counterterrorism. President Carter's assertive national security advisor, Zbigniew Brzezinski, took charge, and the coordination function remained thereafter in the White House.

President Reagan's second secretary of state, George Shultz, advocated active

U.S. efforts to combat terrorism, often recommending the use of military force. Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger opposed Shultz, who made little headway against Weinberger, or even within his own department. Though Shultz elevated the status and visibility of counterterrorism coordination by appointing as coordinator first L. Paul Bremer and then Robert Oakley, both senior career ambassadors of high standing in the Foreign Service, the department continued to be dominated by regional bureaus for which terrorism was not a first-order concern.

Secretaries of state after Shultz took less personal interest in the problem. Only congressional opposition prevented President Clinton's first secretary of state, Warren Christopher, from merging terrorism into a new bureau that would have also dealt with narcotics and crime. The coordinator under Secretary Madeleine Albright told the Commission that his job was seen as a minor one within the department.88 Although the description of his status has been disputed, and Secretary Albright strongly supported the August 1998 strikes against Bin Ladin, the role played by the Department of State in counterterrorism was often cautionary before 9/11. This was a reflection of the reality that counterterrorism priorities nested within broader foreign policy aims of the U.S. government.

State Department consular officers around the world, it should not be forgotten, were constantly challenged by the problem of terrorism, for they handled visas for travel to the United States. After it was discovered that Abdel Rahman, the Blind Sheikh, had come and gone almost at will, State initiated significant reforms to its watchlist and visa-processing policies. In 1993, Congress passed legislation allowing State to retain visa-processing fees for border security; those fees were then used by the department to fully automate the terrorist watchlist. By the late 1990s, State had created a worldwide, real-time electronic database of visa, law enforcement, and watchlist information, the core of the post-9/11 border screening systems. Still, as will be seen later, the system had many holes.89

The Department of Defense

The Department of Defense is the behemoth among federal agencies. With an annual budget larger than the gross domestic product of Russia, it is an empire. The Defense Department is part civilian, part military. The civilian secretary of defense has ultimate control, under the president. Among the uniformed military, the top official is the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who is supported by a Joint Staff divided into standard military staff compartments-J-2 (intelligence), J-3 (operations), and so on.

Because of the necessary and demanding focus on the differing mission of each service, and their long and proud traditions, the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps have often fought ferociously over roles and missions in war fighting and over budgets and posts of leadership. Two developments diminished this competition.

The first was the passage by Congress in 1986 of the Goldwater-Nichols Act, which, among other things, mandated that promotion to high rank required some period of duty with a different service or with a joint (i.e., multiservice) command. This had strong and immediate effects, loosening the loyalties of senior officers to their separate services and causing them to think more broadly about the military establishment as a whole.90 However, it also may have lessened the diversity of military advice and options presented to the president. The Goldwater-Nichols example is seen by some as having lessons applicable to lessening competition and increasing cooperation in other parts of the federal bureaucracy, particularly the law enforcement and intelligence communities.

The second, related development was a significant transfer of planning and command responsibilities from the service chiefs and their staffs to the joint and unified commands outside of Washington, especially those for Strategic Forces and for four regions: Europe, the Pacific, the Center, and the South. Posts in these commands became prized assignments for ambitious officers, and the voices of their five commanders in chief became as influential as those of the service chiefs.

Counterterrorism

The Pentagon first became concerned about terrorism as a result of hostage taking in the 1970s. In June 1976, Palestinian terrorists seized an Air France plane and landed it at Entebbe in Uganda, holding 105 Israelis and other Jews as hostages. A special Israeli commando force stormed the plane, killed all the terrorists, and rescued all but one of the hostages. In October 1977, a West German special force dealt similarly with a Lufthansa plane sitting on a tarmac in Mogadishu: every terrorist was killed, and every hostage brought back safely. The White House, members of Congress, and the news media asked the Pentagon whether the United States was prepared for similar action. The answer was no. The Army immediately set about creating the Delta Force, one of whose missions was hostage rescue.

The first test for the new force did not go well. It came in April 1980 during the Iranian hostage crisis, when Navy helicopters with Marine pilots flew to a site known as Desert One, some 200 miles southeast of Tehran, to rendezvous with Air Force planes carrying Delta Force commandos and fresh fuel. Mild sandstorms disabled three of the helicopters, and the commander ordered the mission aborted. But foul-ups on the ground resulted in the loss of eight aircraft, five airmen, and three marines. Remembered as "Desert One," this failure remained vivid for members of the armed forces. It also contributed to the later Goldwater-Nichols reforms.

In 1983 came Hezbollah's massacre of the Marines in Beirut. President Reagan quickly withdrew U.S. forces from Lebanon-a reversal later routinely cited by jihadists as evidence of U.S. weakness. A detailed investigation produced a list of new procedures that would become customary for forces deployed abroad. They involved a number of defensive measures, including caution not only about strange cars and trucks but also about unknown aircraft overhead. "Force protection" became a significant claim on the time and resources of the Department of Defense.

A decade later, the military establishment had another experience that evoked both Desert One and the withdrawal from Beirut. The first President Bush had authorized the use of U.S. military forces to ensure humanitarian relief in war-torn Somalia. Tribal factions interfered with the supply missions. By the autumn of 1993, U.S. commanders concluded that the main source of trouble was a warlord, Mohammed Farrah Aidid. An Army special force launched a raid on Mogadishu to capture him. In the course of a long night, two Black Hawk helicopters were shot down, 73 Americans were wounded, 18 were killed, and the world's television screens showed images of an American corpse dragged through the streets by exultant Somalis. Under pressure from Congress, President Clinton soon ordered the withdrawal of U.S. forces. "Black Hawk down" joined "Desert One" as a symbol among Americans in uniform, code phrases used to evoke the risks of daring exploits without maximum preparation, overwhelming force, and a well-defined mission.

In 1995-1996, the Defense Department began to invest effort in planning how to handle the possibility of a domestic terrorist incident involving weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The idea of a domestic command for homeland defense began to be discussed in 1997, and in 1999 the Joint Chiefs developed a concept for the establishment of a domestic Unified Command. Congress killed the idea. Instead, the Department established the Joint Forces Command, located at Norfolk, Virginia, making it responsible for military response to domestic emergencies, both natural and man-made.91

Pursuant to the Nunn-Lugar-Domenici Domestic Preparedness Program, the Defense Department began in 1997 to train first responders in 120 of the nation's largest cities. As a key part of its efforts, Defense created National Guard WMD Civil Support Teams to respond in the event of a WMD terrorist incident. A total of 32 such National Guard teams were authorized by fiscal year 2001. Under the command of state governors, they provided support to civilian agencies to assess the nature of the attack, offer medical and technical advice, and coordinate state and local responses.92

The Department of Defense, like the Department of State, had a coordinator who represented the department on the interagency committee concerned with counterterrorism. By the end of President Clinton's first term, this official had become the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict.93

The experience of the 1980s had suggested to the military establishment that if it were to have a role in counterterrorism, it would be a traditional military role-to act against state sponsors of terrorism. And the military had what seemed an excellent example of how to do it. In 1986, a bomb went off at a disco in Berlin, killing two American soldiers. Intelligence clearly linked the bombing to Libya's Colonel Muammar Qadhafi. President Reagan ordered air strikes against Libya. The operation was not cost free: the United States lost two planes. Evidence accumulated later, including the 1988 bombing of Pan Am 103, clearly showed that the operation did not curb Qadhafi's interest in terrorism. However, it was seen at the time as a success. The lesson then taken from Libya was that terrorism could be stopped by the use of U.S. air power that inflicted pain on the authors or sponsors of terrorist acts.

This lesson was applied, using Tomahawk missiles, early in the Clinton administration. George H.W. Bush was scheduled to visit Kuwait to be honored for his rescue of that country in the Gulf War of 1991. Kuwaiti security services warned Washington that Iraqi agents were planning to assassinate the former president. President Clinton not only ordered precautions to protect Bush but asked about options for a reprisal against Iraq. The Pentagon proposed 12 targets for Tomahawk missiles. Debate in the White House and at the CIA about possible collateral damage pared the list down to three, then to one- Iraqi intelligence headquarters in central Baghdad. The attack was made at night, to minimize civilian casualties. Twenty-three missiles were fired. Other than one civilian casualty, the operation seemed completely successful: the intelligence headquarters was demolished. No further intelligence came in about terrorist acts planned by Iraq.94

The 1986 attack in Libya and the 1993 attack on Iraq symbolized for the military establishment effective use of military power for counterterrorism- limited retaliation with air power, aimed at deterrence. What remained was the hard question of how deterrence could be effective when the adversary was a loose transnational network.

3.6 .. . AND IN THE WHITE HOUSE

Because coping with terrorism was not (and is not) the sole province of any component of the U.S. government, some coordinating mechanism is necessary. When terrorism was not a prominent issue, the State Department could perform this role. When the Iranian hostage crisis developed, this procedure went by the board: National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski took charge of crisis management.

The Reagan administration continued and formalized the practice of having presidential staff coordinate counterterrorism. After the killing of the marines in Beirut, President Reagan signed National Security Directive 138, calling for a "shift . . . from passive to active defense measures" and reprogramming or adding new resources to effect the shift. It directed the State Department "to intensify efforts to achieve cooperation of other governments" and the CIA to "intensify use of liaison and other intelligence capabilities and also to develop plans and capability to preempt groups and individuals planning strikes against U.S. interests."95

Speaking to the American Bar Association in July 1985, the President characterized terrorism as "an act of war" and declared: "There can be no place on earth left where it is safe for these monsters to rest, to train, or practice their cruel and deadly skills. We must act together, or unilaterally, if necessary to ensure that terrorists have no sanctuary-anywhere."96 The air strikes against Libya were one manifestation of this strategy.

Through most of President Reagan's second term, the coordination of counterterrorism was overseen by a high-level interagency committee chaired by the deputy national security adviser. But the Reagan administration closed with a major scandal that cast a cloud over the notion that the White House should guide counterterrorism.

President Reagan was concerned because Hezbollah was taking Americans hostage and periodically killing them. He was also constrained by a bill he signed into law that made it illegal to ship military aid to anticommunist Contra guerrillas in Nicaragua, whom he strongly supported. His national security adviser, Robert McFarlane, and McFarlane's deputy, Admiral John Poindexter, thought the hostage problem might be solved and the U.S. position in the Middle East improved if the United States quietly negotiated with Iran about exchanging hostages for modest quantities of arms. Shultz and Weinberger, united for once, opposed McFarlane and Poindexter.

A staffer for McFarlane and Poindexter, Marine Lieutenant Colonel Oliver North, developed a scheme to trade U.S. arms for hostages and divert the proceeds to the Contras to get around U.S. law. He may have had encouragement from Director of Central Intelligence William Casey.97

When the facts were revealed in 1986 and 1987, it appeared to be the 1970s all over again: a massive abuse of covert action. Now, instead of stories about poisoned cigars and Mafia hit men, Americans heard testimony about a secret visit to Tehran by McFarlane, using an assumed name and bearing a chocolate cake decorated with icing depicting a key. An investigation by a special counsel resulted in the indictment of McFarlane, Poindexter, North, and ten others, including several high-ranking officers from the CIA's Clandestine Service. The investigations spotlighted the importance of accountability and official responsibility for faithful execution of laws. For the story of 9/11, the significance of the Iran-Contra affair was that it made parts of the bureaucracy reflexively skeptical about any operating directive from the White House.98

As the national security advisor's function expanded, the procedures and structure of the advisor's staff, conventionally called the National Security Council staff, became more formal. The advisor developed recommendations for presidential directives, differently labeled by each president. For President Clinton, they were to be Presidential Decision Directives; for President George

W. Bush, National Security Policy Directives. These documents and many others requiring approval by the president worked their way through interagency committees usually composed of departmental representatives at the assistant secretary level or just below it. The NSC staff had senior directors who would sit on these interagency committees, often as chair, to facilitate agreement and to represent the wider interests of the national security advisor.

When President Clinton took office, he decided right away to coordinate counterterrorism from the White House. On January 25, 1993, Mir Amal Kansi, an Islamic extremist from Pakistan, shot and killed two CIA employees at the main highway entrance to CIA headquarters in Virginia. (Kansi drove away and was captured abroad much later.) Only a month afterward came the World Trade Center bombing and, a few weeks after that, the Iraqi plot against former President Bush.

President Clinton's first national security advisor, Anthony Lake, had retained from the Bush administration the staffer who dealt with crime, narcotics, and terrorism (a portfolio often known as "drugs and thugs"), the veteran civil servant Richard Clarke. President Clinton and Lake turned to Clarke to do the staff work for them in coordinating counterterrorism. Before long, he would chair a midlevel interagency committee eventually titled the Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG).We will later tell of Clarke's evolution as adviser on and, in time, manager of the U.S. counterterrorist effort.

When explaining the missile strike against Iraq provoked by the plot to kill President Bush, President Clinton stated: "From the first days of our Revolution, America's security has depended on the clarity of the message: Don't tread on us. A firm and commensurate response was essential to protect our sovereignty, to send a message to those who engage in state-sponsored terrorism, to deter further violence against our people, and to affirm the expectation of civilized behavior among nations."99

In his State of the Union message in January 1995, President Clinton promised "comprehensive legislation to strengthen our hand in combating terrorists, whether they strike at home or abroad." In February, he sent Congress proposals to extend federal criminal jurisdiction, to make it easier to deport terrorists, and to act against terrorist fund-raising. In early May, he submitted a bundle of strong amendments. The interval had seen the news from Tokyo in March that a doomsday cult, Aum Shinrikyo, had released sarin nerve gas in a subway, killing 12 and injuring thousands. The sect had extensive properties and laboratories in Japan and offices worldwide, including one in New York. Neither the FBI nor the CIA had ever heard of it. In April had come the bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City; immediate suspicions that it had been the work of Islamists turned out to be wrong, and the bombers proved to be American antigovernment extremists named Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. President Clinton proposed to amend his earlier proposals by increasing wiretap and electronic surveillance authority for the FBI, requiring that explosives carry traceable taggants, and providing substantial new money not only for the FBI and CIA but also for local police.100

President Clinton issued a classified directive in June 1995, Presidential Decision Directive 39, which said that the United States should "deter, defeat and respond vigorously to all terrorist attacks on our territory and against our citizens." The directive called terrorism both a matter of national security and a crime, and it assigned responsibilities to various agencies. Alarmed by the incident in Tokyo, President Clinton made it the very highest priority for his own staff and for all agencies to prepare to detect and respond to terrorism that involved chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons.101

During 1995 and 1996, President Clinton devoted considerable time to seeking cooperation from other nations in denying sanctuary to terrorists. He proposed significantly larger budgets for the FBI, with much of the increase designated for counterterrorism. For the CIA, he essentially stopped cutting allocations and supported requests for supplemental funds for counterterrorism.102

When announcing his new national security team after being reelected in 1996, President Clinton mentioned terrorism first in a list of several challenges facing the country.103 In 1998, after Bin Ladin's fatwa and other alarms, President Clinton accepted a proposal from his national security advisor, Samuel "Sandy" Berger, and gave Clarke a new position as national coordinator for security, infrastructure protection, and counterterrorism. He issued two Presidential Decision Directives, numbers 62 and 63, that built on the assignments to agencies that had been made in Presidential Decision Directive 39; laid out ten program areas for counterterrorism; and enhanced, at least on paper, Clarke's authority to police these assignments. Because of concerns especially on the part of Attorney General Reno, this new authority was defined in precise and limiting language. Clarke was only to "provide advice" regarding budgets and to "coordinate the development of interagency agreed guidelines" for action.104

Clarke also was awarded a seat on the cabinet-level Principals Committee when it met on his issues-a highly unusual step for a White House staffer. His interagency body, the CSG, ordinarily reported to the Deputies Committee of subcabinet officials, unless Berger asked them to report directly to the principals. The complementary directive, number 63, defined the elements of the nation's critical infrastructure and considered ways to protect it. Taken together, the two directives basically left the Justice Department and the FBI in charge at home and left terrorism abroad to the CIA, the State Department, and other agencies, under Clarke's and Berger's coordinating hands.

Explaining the new arrangement and his concerns in another commencement speech, this time at the Naval Academy, in May 1998, the President said:

First, we will use our new integrated approach to intensify the fight against all forms of terrorism: to capture terrorists, no matter where they hide; to work with other nations to eliminate terrorist sanctuaries overseas; to respond rapidly and effectively to protect Americans from terrorism at home and abroad. Second, we will launch a comprehensive plan to detect, deter, and defend against attacks on our critical infrastructures, our power systems, water supplies, police, fire, and medical services, air traffic control, financial services, telephone systems, and computer networks.. . . Third, we will undertake a concerted effort to prevent the spread and use of biological weapons and to protect our people in the event these terrible weapons are ever unleashed by a rogue state, a terrorist group, or an international criminal organization.. . . Finally, we must do more to protect our civilian population from biological weapons.105

Clearly, the President's concern about terrorism had steadily risen. That heightened worry would become even more obvious early in 1999, when he addressed the National Academy of Sciences and presented his most somber account yet of what could happen if the United States were hit, unprepared, by terrorists wielding either weapons of mass destruction or potent cyberweapons.

3.7 .. . AND IN THE CONGRESS

Since the beginning of the Republic, few debates have been as hotly contested as the one over executive versus legislative powers. At the Constitutional Convention, the founders sought to create a strong executive but check its powers. They left those powers sufficiently ambiguous so that room was left for Congress and the president to struggle over the direction of the nation's security and foreign policies.

The most serious question has centered on whether or not the president needs congressional authorization to wage war. The current status of that debate seems to have settled into a recognition that a president can deploy military forces for small and limited operations, but needs at least congressional support if not explicit authorization for large and more open-ended military operations.

This calculus becomes important in this story as both President Clinton and President Bush chose not to seek a declaration of war on Bin Ladin after he had declared and begun to wage war on us, a declaration that they did not acknowledge publicly. Not until after 9/11 was a congressional authorization sought.

The most substantial change in national security oversight in Congress took place following World War II. The Congressional Reorganization Act of 1946 created the modern Armed Services committees that have become so powerful today. One especially noteworthy innovation was the creation of the Joint House-Senate Atomic Energy Committee, which is credited by many with the development of our nuclear deterrent capability and was also criticized for wielding too much power relative to the executive branch.

Ironically, this committee was eliminated in the 1970s as Congress was undertaking the next most important reform of oversight in response to the Church and Pike investigations into abuses of power. In 1977, the House and Senate created select committees to exercise oversight of the executive branch's conduct of intelligence operations.

The Intelligence Committees

The House and Senate select committees on intelligence share some important characteristics. They have limited authorities. They do not have exclusive authority over intelligence agencies. Appropriations are ultimately determined by the Appropriations committees. The Armed Services committees exercise jurisdiction over the intelligence agencies within the Department of Defense (and, in the case of the Senate, over the Central Intelligence Agency). One consequence is that the rise and fall of intelligence budgets are tied directly to trends in defense spending.

The president is required by law to ensure the congressional Intelligence committees are kept fully and currently informed of the intelligence activities of the United States. The committees allow the CIA to some extent to withhold information in order to protect sources, methods, and operations. The CIA must bring presidentially authorized covert action Findings and Memoranda of Notification to the Intelligence committees, and it must detail its failures. The committees conduct their most important work in closed hearings or briefings in which security over classified material can be maintained.

Members of the Intelligence committees serve for a limited time, a restriction imposed by each chamber. Many members believe these limits prevent committee members from developing the necessary expertise to conduct effective oversight.

Secrecy, while necessary, can also harm oversight. The overall budget of the intelligence community is classified, as are most of its activities. Thus, the Intelligence committees cannot take advantage of democracy's best oversight mechanism: public disclosure. This makes them significantly different from other congressional oversight committees, which are often spurred into action by the work of investigative journalists and watchdog organizations.

Adjusting to the Post-Cold War Era

The unexpected and rapid end of the Cold War in 1991 created trauma in the foreign policy and national security community both in and out of government. While some criticized the intelligence community for failing to forecast the collapse of the Soviet Union (and used this argument to propose drastic cuts in intelligence agencies), most recognized that the good news of being relieved of the substantial burden of maintaining a security structure to meet the Soviet challenge was accompanied by the bad news of increased insecurity. In many directions, the community faced threats and intelligence challenges that it was largely unprepared to meet.

So did the intelligence oversight committees. New digitized technologies, and the demand for imagery and continued capability against older systems, meant the need to spend more on satellite systems at the expense of human efforts. In addition, denial and deception became more effective as targets learned from public sources what our intelligence agencies were doing. There were comprehensive reform proposals of the intelligence community, such as those offered by Senators Boren and McCurdy. That said, Congress still took too little action to address institutional weaknesses.106

With the Cold War over, and the intelligence community roiled by the Ames spy scandal, a presidential commission chaired first by former secretary of defense Les Aspin and later by former secretary of defense Harold Brown examined the intelligence community's future. After it issued recommendations addressing the DCI's lack of personnel and budget authority over the intelligence community, the Intelligence committees in 1996 introduced implementing legislation to remedy these problems.

The Department of Defense and its congressional authorizing committees rose in opposition to the proposed changes. The President and DCI did not actively support these changes. Relatively small changes made in 1996 gave the DCI consultative authority and created a new deputy for management and assistant DCIs for collection and analysis. These reforms occurred only after the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence took the unprecedented step of threatening to bring down the defense authorization bill. Indeed, rather than increasing the DCI's authorities over national intelligence, the 1990s witnessed movement in the opposite direction through, for example, the transfer of the CIA's imaging analysis capability to the new imagery and mapping agency created within the Department of Defense.

Congress Adjusts

Congress as a whole, like the executive branch, adjusted slowly to the rise of transnational terrorism as a threat to national security. In particular, the growing threat and capabilities of Bin Ladin were not understood in Congress. As the most representative branch of the federal government, Congress closely tracks trends in what public opinion and the electorate identify as key issues. In the years before September 11, terrorism seldom registered as important. To the extent that terrorism did break through and engage the attention of the Congress as a whole, it would briefly command attention after a specific incident, and then return to a lower rung on the public policy agenda.

Several points about Congress are worth noting. First, Congress always has a strong orientation toward domestic affairs. It usually takes on foreign policy and national security issues after threats are identified and articulated by the administration. In the absence of such a detailed-and repeated-articulation, national security tends not to rise very high on the list of congressional priorities. Presidents are selective in their use of political capital for international issues.

In the decade before 9/11, presidential discussion of and congressional and public attention to foreign affairs and national security were dominated by other issues-among them, Haiti, Bosnia, Russia, China, Somalia, Kosovo, NATO enlargement, the Middle East peace process, missile defense, and glob-alization. Terrorism infrequently took center stage; and when it did, the context was often terrorists' tactics-a chemical, biological, nuclear, or computer threat-not terrorist organizations.107

Second, Congress tends to follow the overall lead of the president on budget issues with respect to national security matters. There are often sharp arguments about individual programs and internal priorities, but by and large the overall funding authorized and appropriated by the Congress comes out close to the president's request. This tendency was certainly illustrated by the downward trends in spending on defense, intelligence, and foreign affairs in the first part of the 1990s. The White House, to be sure, read the political signals coming from Capitol Hill, but the Congress largely acceded to the executive branch's funding requests. In the second half of the decade, Congress appropriated some 98 percent of what the administration requested for intelligence programs. Apart from the Gingrich supplemental of $1.5 billion for overall intelligence programs in fiscal year 1999, the key decisions on overall allocation of resources for national security issues in the decade before 9/11-including counterterrorism funding-were made in the president's Office of Management and Bud-get.108

Third, Congress did not reorganize itself after the end of the Cold War to address new threats. Recommendations by the Joint Committee on the Organization of Congress were implemented, in part, in the House of Representatives after the 1994 elections, but there was no reorganization of national security functions. The Senate undertook no appreciable changes. Traditional issues-foreign policy, defense, intelligence-continued to be handled by committees whose structure remained largely unaltered, while issues such as transnational terrorism fell between the cracks. Terrorism came under the jurisdiction of at least 14 different committees in the House alone, and budget and oversight functions in the House and Senate concerning terrorism were also splintered badly among committees. Little effort was made to consider an integrated policy toward terrorism, which might range from identifying the threat to addressing vulnerabilities in critical infrastructure; and the piecemeal approach in the Congress contributed to the problems of the executive branch in formulating such a policy.109

Fourth, the oversight function of Congress has diminished over time. In recent years, traditional review of the administration of programs and the implementation of laws has been replaced by "a focus on personal investigations, possible scandals, and issues designed to generate media attention." The unglamorous but essential work of oversight has been neglected, and few members past or present believe it is performed well. DCI Tenet told us: "We ran from threat to threat to threat.. . . [T]here was not a system in place to say, 'You got to go back and do this and this and this.'" Not just the DCI but the entire executive branch needed help from Congress in addressing the questions of counterterrorism strategy and policy, looking past day-to-day concerns. Members of Congress, however, also found their time spent on such everyday matters, or in looking back to investigate mistakes, and often missed the big questions-as did the executive branch. Staff tended as well to focus on parochial considerations, seeking to add or cut funding for individual (often small) programs, instead of emphasizing comprehensive oversight projects.110

Fifth, on certain issues, other priorities pointed Congress in a direction that was unhelpful in meeting the threats that were emerging in the months leading up to 9/11. Committees with oversight responsibility for aviation focused overwhelmingly on airport congestion and the economic health of the airlines, not aviation security. Committees with responsibility for the INS focused on the Southwest border, not on terrorists. Justice Department officials told us that committees with responsibility for the FBI tightly restricted appropriations for improvements in information technology, in part because of concerns about the FBI's ability to manage such projects. Committees responsible for South Asia spent the decade of the 1990s imposing sanctions on Pakistan, leaving presidents with little leverage to alter Pakistan's policies before 9/11. Committees with responsibility for the Defense Department paid little heed to developing military responses to terrorism and stymied intelligence reform. All committees found themselves swamped in the minutiae of the budget process, with little time for consideration of longer-term questions, or what many members past and present told us was the proper conduct of oversight.111

Each of these trends contributed to what can only be described as Congress's slowness and inadequacy in treating the issue of terrorism in the years before 9/11.The legislative branch adjusted little and did not restructure itself to address changing threats.112 Its attention to terrorism was episodic and splintered across several committees. Congress gave little guidance to executive branch agencies, did not reform them in any significant way, and did not systematically perform oversight to identify, address, and attempt to resolve the many problems in national security and domestic agencies that became apparent in the aftermath of 9/11.

Although individual representatives and senators took significant steps, the overall level of attention in the Congress to the terrorist threat was low. We examined the number of hearings on terrorism from January 1998 to September 2001.The Senate Armed Services Committee held nine-four related to the attack on the USS Cole. The House Armed Services Committee also held nine, six of them by a special oversight panel on terrorism. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its House counterpart both held four. The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, in addition to its annual worldwide threat hearing, held eight; its House counterpart held perhaps two exclusively devoted to counterterrorism, plus the briefings by its terrorist working group. The Senate and House intelligence panels did not raise public and congressional attention on Bin Ladin and al Qaeda prior to the joint inquiry into the attacks of September 11, perhaps in part because of the classified nature of their work. Yet in the context of committees that each hold scores of hearings every year on issues in their jurisdiction, this list is not impressive. Terrorism was a second- or third-order priority within the committees of Congress responsible for national security.113

In fact, Congress had a distinct tendency to push questions of emerging national security threats off its own plate, leaving them for others to consider. Congress asked outside commissions to do the work that arguably was at the heart of its own oversight responsibilities.114 Beginning in 1999, the reports of these commissions made scores of recommendations to address terrorism and homeland security but drew little attention from Congress. Most of their impact came after 9/11.
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Part 1 of 2

4. RESPONSES TO AL QAEDA'S INITIAL ASSAULTS

4.1 BEFORE THE BOMBINGS IN KENYA AND TANZANIA


Although the 1995 National Intelligence Estimate had warned of a new type of terrorism, many officials continued to think of terrorists as agents of states (Saudi Hezbollah acting for Iran against Khobar Towers) or as domestic criminals (Timothy McVeigh in Oklahoma City).As we pointed out in chapter 3, the White House is not a natural locus for program management. Hence, government efforts to cope with terrorism were essentially the work of individual agencies.

President Bill Clinton's counterterrorism Presidential Decision Directives in 1995 (no. 39) and May 1998 (no. 62) reiterated that terrorism was a national security problem, not just a law enforcement issue. They reinforced the authority of the National Security Council (NSC) to coordinate domestic as well as foreign counterterrorism efforts, through Richard Clarke and his interagency Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG). Spotlighting new concerns about unconventional attacks, these directives assigned tasks to lead agencies but did not differentiate types of terrorist threats. Thus, while Clarke might prod or push agencies to act, what actually happened was usually decided at the State Department, the Pentagon, the CIA, or the Justice Department. The efforts of these agencies were sometimes energetic and sometimes effective. Terrorist plots were disrupted and individual terrorists were captured. But the United States did not, before 9/11, adopt as a clear strategic objective the elimination of al Qaeda.

Early Efforts against Bin Ladin

Until 1996, hardly anyone in the U.S. government understood that Usama Bin Ladin was an inspirer and organizer of the new terrorism. In 1993, the CIA noted that he had paid for the training of some Egyptian terrorists in Sudan. The State Department detected his money in aid to the Yemeni terrorists who set a bomb in an attempt to kill U.S. troops in Aden in 1992. State Department sources even saw suspicious links with Omar Abdel Rahman, the "Blind Sheikh" in the New York area, commenting that Bin Ladin seemed "committed to financing 'Jihads' against 'anti Islamic' regimes worldwide." After the department designated Sudan a state sponsor of terrorism in 1993, it put Bin Ladin on its TIPOFF watchlist, a move that might have prevented his getting a visa had he tried to enter the United States. As late as 1997, however, even the CIA's Counterterrorist Center continued to describe him as an "extremist financier."1

In 1996, the CIA set up a special unit of a dozen officers to analyze intelligence on and plan operations against Bin Ladin. David Cohen, the head of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, wanted to test the idea of having a "virtual station"-a station based at headquarters but collecting and operating against a subject much as stations in the field focus on a country. Taking his cue from National Security Advisor Anthony Lake, who expressed special interest in terrorist finance, Cohen formed his virtual station as a terrorist financial links unit. He had trouble getting any Directorate of Operations officer to run it; he finally recruited a former analyst who was then running the Islamic Extremist Branch of the Counterterrorist Center. This officer, who was especially knowledgeable about Afghanistan, had noticed a recent stream of reports about Bin Ladin and something called al Qaeda, and suggested to Cohen that the station focus on this one individual. Cohen agreed. Thus was born the Bin Ladin unit.2

In May 1996, Bin Ladin left Sudan for Afghanistan. A few months later, as the Bin Ladin unit was gearing up, Jamal Ahmed al Fadl walked into a U.S. embassy in Africa, established his bona fides as a former senior employee of Bin Ladin, and provided a major breakthrough of intelligence on the creation, character, direction, and intentions of al Qaeda. Corroborating evidence came from another walk-in source at a different U.S. embassy. More confirmation was supplied later that year by intelligence and other sources, including material gathered by FBI agents and Kenyan police from an al Qaeda cell in Nairobi.3

By 1997, officers in the Bin Ladin unit recognized that Bin Ladin was more than just a financier. They learned that al Qaeda had a military committee that was planning operations against U.S. interests worldwide and was actively trying to obtain nuclear material. Analysts assigned to the station looked at the information it had gathered and "found connections everywhere," including links to the attacks on U.S. troops in Aden and Somalia in 1992 and 1993 and to the Manila air plot in the Philippines in 1994-1995.4

The Bin Ladin station was already working on plans for offensive operations against Bin Ladin. These plans were directed at both physical assets and sources of finance. In the end, plans to identify and attack Bin Ladin's money sources did not go forward.5

In late 1995, when Bin Ladin was still in Sudan, the State Department and the CIA learned that Sudanese officials were discussing with the Saudi government the possibility of expelling Bin Ladin. U.S. Ambassador Timothy Carney encouraged the Sudanese to pursue this course. The Saudis, however, did not want Bin Ladin, giving as their reason their revocation of his citizenship.6

Sudan's minister of defense, Fatih Erwa, has claimed that Sudan offered to hand Bin Ladin over to the United States. The Commission has found no credible evidence that this was so. Ambassador Carney had instructions only to push the Sudanese to expel Bin Ladin. Ambassador Carney had no legal basis to ask for more from the Sudanese since, at the time, there was no indictment out-standing.7

The chief of the Bin Ladin station, whom we will call "Mike," saw Bin Ladin's move to Afghanistan as a stroke of luck. Though the CIA had virtually abandoned Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, case officers had reestablished old contacts while tracking down Mir Amal Kansi, the Pakistani gunman who had murdered two CIA employees in January 1993.These contacts contributed to intelligence about Bin Ladin's local movements, business activities, and security and living arrangements, and helped provide evidence that he was spending large amounts of money to help the Taliban. The chief of the Counterterrorist Center, whom we will call "Jeff," told Director George Tenet that the CIA's intelligence assets were "near to providing real-time information about Bin Ladin's activities and travels in Afghanistan." One of the contacts was a group associated with particular tribes among Afghanistan's ethnic Pashtun community.8

By the fall of 1997, the Bin Ladin unit had roughed out a plan for these Afghan tribals to capture Bin Ladin and hand him over for trial either in the United States or in an Arab country. In early 1998, the cabinet-level Principals Committee apparently gave the concept its blessing.9

On their own separate track, getting information but not direction from the CIA, the FBI's New York Field Office and the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York were preparing to ask a grand jury to indict Bin Ladin. The Counterterrorist Center knew that this was happening.10 The eventual charge, conspiring to attack U.S. defense installations, was finally issued from the grand jury in June 1998-as a sealed indictment. The indictment was publicly disclosed in November of that year.

When Bin Ladin moved to Afghanistan in May 1996, he became a subject of interest to the State Department's South Asia bureau. At the time, as one diplomat told us, South Asia was seen in the department and the government generally as a low priority. In 1997, as Madeleine Albright was beginning her tenure as secretary of state, an NSC policy review concluded that the United States should pay more attention not just to India but also to Pakistan and Afghanistan.11 With regard to Afghanistan, another diplomat said, the United States at the time had "no policy."12

In the State Department, concerns about India-Pakistan tensions often crowded out attention to Afghanistan or Bin Ladin. Aware of instability and growing Islamic extremism in Pakistan, State Department officials worried most about an arms race and possible war between Pakistan and India. After May 1998, when both countries surprised the United States by testing nuclear weapons, these dangers became daily first-order concerns of the State Department.13

In Afghanistan, the State Department tried to end the civil war that had continued since the Soviets' withdrawal. The South Asia bureau believed it might have a carrot for Afghanistan's warring factions in a project by the Union Oil Company of California (UNOCAL) to build a pipeline across the country. While there was probably never much chance of the pipeline actually being built, the Afghan desk hoped that the prospect of shared pipeline profits might lure faction leaders to a conference table. U.S. diplomats did not favor the Taliban over the rival factions. Despite growing concerns, U.S. diplomats were willing at the time, as one official said, to "give the Taliban a chance."14

Though Secretary Albright made no secret of thinking the Taliban "despicable," the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Bill Richardson, led a delegation to South Asia-including Afghanistan-in April 1998. No U.S. official of such rank had been to Kabul in decades. Ambassador Richardson went primarily to urge negotiations to end the civil war. In view of Bin Ladin's recent public call for all Muslims to kill Americans, Richardson asked the Taliban to expel Bin Ladin. They answered that they did not know his whereabouts. In any case, the Taliban said, Bin Ladin was not a threat to the United States.15

In sum, in late 1997 and the spring of 1998, the lead U.S. agencies each pursued their own efforts against Bin Ladin. The CIA's Counterterrorist Center was developing a plan to capture and remove him from Afghanistan. Parts of the Justice Department were moving toward indicting Bin Ladin, making possible a criminal trial in a New York court. Meanwhile, the State Department was focused more on lessening Indo-Pakistani nuclear tensions, ending the Afghan civil war, and ameliorating the Taliban's human rights abuses than on driving out Bin Ladin. Another key actor, Marine General Anthony Zinni, the commander in chief of the U.S. Central Command, shared the State Department's view.16

The CIA Develops a Capture Plan

Initially, the DCI's Counterterrorist Center and its Bin Ladin unit considered a plan to ambush Bin Ladin when he traveled between Kandahar, the Taliban capital where he sometimes stayed the night, and his primary residence at the time, Tarnak Farms. After the Afghan tribals reported that they had tried such an ambush and failed, the Center gave up on it, despite suspicions that the tribals' story might be fiction. Thereafter, the capture plan focused on a nighttime raid on Tarnak Farms.17

A compound of about 80 concrete or mud-brick buildings surrounded by a 10-foot wall, Tarnak Farms was located in an isolated desert area on the outskirts of the Kandahar airport. CIA officers were able to map the entire site, identifying the houses that belonged to Bin Ladin's wives and the one where Bin Ladin himself was most likely to sleep. Working with the tribals, they drew up plans for the raid. They ran two complete rehearsals in the United States during the fall of 1997.18

By early 1998, planners at the Counterterrorist Center were ready to come back to the White House to seek formal approval. Tenet apparently walked National Security Advisor Sandy Berger through the basic plan on February 13. One group of tribals would subdue the guards, enter Tarnak Farms stealthily, grab Bin Ladin, take him to a desert site outside Kandahar, and turn him over to a second group. This second group of tribals would take him to a desert landing zone already tested in the 1997 Kansi capture. From there, a CIA plane would take him to New York, an Arab capital, or wherever he was to be arraigned. Briefing papers prepared by the Counterterrorist Center acknowledged that hitches might develop. People might be killed, and Bin Ladin's supporters might retaliate, perhaps taking U.S. citizens in Kandahar hostage. But the briefing papers also noted that there was risk in not acting. "Sooner or later," they said, "Bin Ladin will attack U.S. interests, perhaps using WMD [weapons of mass destruction]."19

Clarke's Counterterrorism Security Group reviewed the capture plan for Berger. Noting that the plan was in a "very early stage of development," the NSC staff then told the CIA planners to go ahead and, among other things, start drafting any legal documents that might be required to authorize the covert action. The CSG apparently stressed that the raid should target Bin Ladin himself, not the whole compound.20

The CIA planners conducted their third complete rehearsal in March, and they again briefed the CSG. Clarke wrote Berger on March 7 that he saw the operation as "somewhat embryonic" and the CIA as "months away from doing anything."21

"Mike" thought the capture plan was "the perfect operation." It required minimum infrastructure. The plan had now been modified so that the tribals would keep Bin Ladin in a hiding place for up to a month before turning him over to the United States-thereby increasing the chances of keeping the U.S. hand out of sight. "Mike" trusted the information from the Afghan network; it had been corroborated by other means, he told us. The lead CIA officer in the field, Gary Schroen, also had confidence in the tribals. In a May 6 cable to CIA headquarters, he pronounced their planning "almost as professional and detailed . . . as would be done by any U.S. military special operations element." He and the other officers who had worked through the plan with the tribals judged it "about as good as it can be." (By that, Schroen explained, he meant that the chance of capturing or killing Bin Ladin was about 40 percent.) Although the tribals thought they could pull off the raid, if the operation were approved by headquarters and the policymakers, Schroen wrote there was going to be a point when "we step back and keep our fingers crossed that the [tribals] prove as good (and as lucky) as they think they will be."22

Military officers reviewed the capture plan and, according to "Mike," "found no showstoppers." The commander of Delta Force felt "uncomfortable" with having the tribals hold Bin Ladin captive for so long, and the commander of Joint Special Operations Forces, Lieutenant General Michael Canavan, was worried about the safety of the tribals inside Tarnak Farms. General Canavan said he had actually thought the operation too complicated for the CIA-"out of their league"-and an effort to get results "on the cheap." But a senior Joint Staff officer described the plan as "generally, not too much different than we might have come up with ourselves." No one in the Pentagon, so far as we know, advised the CIA or the White House not to proceed.23

In Washington, Berger expressed doubt about the dependability of the tribals. In his meeting with Tenet, Berger focused most, however, on the question of what was to be done with Bin Ladin if he were actually captured. He worried that the hard evidence against Bin Ladin was still skimpy and that there was a danger of snatching him and bringing him to the United States only to see him acquitted.24

On May 18, CIA's managers reviewed a draft Memorandum of Notification (MON), a legal document authorizing the capture operation. A 1986 presidential finding had authorized worldwide covert action against terrorism and probably provided adequate authority. But mindful of the old "rogue elephant" charge, senior CIA managers may have wanted something on paper to show that they were not acting on their own.

Discussion of this memorandum brought to the surface an unease about paramilitary covert action that had become ingrained, at least among some CIA senior managers. James Pavitt, the assistant head of the Directorate of Operations, expressed concern that people might get killed; it appears he thought the operation had at least a slight flavor of a plan for an assassination. Moreover, he calculated that it would cost several million dollars. He was not prepared to take that money "out of hide," and he did not want to go to all the necessary congressional committees to get special money. Despite Pavitt's misgivings, the CIA leadership cleared the draft memorandum and sent it on to the National Security Council.25

Counterterrorist Center officers briefed Attorney General Janet Reno and FBI Director Louis Freeh, telling them that the operation had about a 30 percent chance of success. The Center's chief, "Jeff," joined John O'Neill, the head of the FBI's New York Field Office, in briefing Mary Jo White, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, and her staff. Though "Jeff" also used the 30 percent success figure, he warned that someone would surely be killed in the operation. White's impression from the New York briefing was that the chances of capturing Bin Ladin alive were nil.26

From May 20 to 24, the CIA ran a final, graded rehearsal of the operation, spread over three time zones, even bringing in personnel from the region. The FBI also participated. The rehearsal went well. The Counterterrorist Center planned to brief cabinet-level principals and their deputies the following week, giving June 23 as the date for the raid, with Bin Ladin to be brought out of Afghanistan no later than July 23.27

On May 20, Director Tenet discussed the high risk of the operation with Berger and his deputies, warning that people might be killed, including Bin Ladin. Success was to be defined as the exfiltration of Bin Ladin out of Afghanistan.28 A meeting of principals was scheduled for May 29 to decide whether the operation should go ahead.

The principals did not meet. On May 29, "Jeff" informed "Mike" that he had just met with Tenet, Pavitt, and the chief of the Directorate's Near Eastern Division. The decision was made not to go ahead with the operation. "Mike" cabled the field that he had been directed to "stand down on the operation for the time being." He had been told, he wrote, that cabinet-level officials thought the risk of civilian casualties-"collateral damage"-was too high. They were concerned about the tribals' safety, and had worried that "the purpose and nature of the operation would be subject to unavoidable misinterpretation and misrepresentation-and probably recriminations-in the event that Bin Ladin, despite our best intentions and efforts, did not survive."29

Impressions vary as to who actually decided not to proceed with the operation. Clarke told us that the CSG saw the plan as flawed. He was said to have described it to a colleague on the NSC staff as "half-assed" and predicted that the principals would not approve it. "Jeff " thought the decision had been made at the cabinet level. Pavitt thought that it was Berger's doing, though perhaps on Tenet's advice. Tenet told us that given the recommendation of his chief operations officers, he alone had decided to "turn off" the operation. He had simply informed Berger, who had not pushed back. Berger's recollection was similar. He said the plan was never presented to the White House for a decision.30

The CIA's senior management clearly did not think the plan would work. Tenet's deputy director of operations wrote to Berger a few weeks later that the CIA assessed the tribals' ability to capture Bin Ladin and deliver him to U.S. officials as low. But working-level CIA officers were disappointed. Before it was canceled, Schroen described it as the "best plan we are going to come up with to capture [Bin Ladin] while he is in Afghanistan and bring him to justice."31 No capture plan before 9/11 ever again attained the same level of detail and preparation. The tribals' reported readiness to act diminished. And Bin Ladin's security precautions and defenses became more elaborate and formidable.

At this time, 9/11 was more than three years away. It was the duty of Tenet and the CIA leadership to balance the risks of inaction against jeopardizing the lives of their operatives and agents. And they had reason to worry about failure: millions of dollars down the drain; a shoot-out that could be seen as an assassination; and, if there were repercussions in Pakistan, perhaps a coup. The decisions of the U.S. government in May 1998 were made, as Berger has put it, from the vantage point of the driver looking through a muddy windshield moving forward, not through a clean rearview mirror.32

Looking for Other Options

The Counterterrorist Center continued to track Bin Ladin and to contemplate covert action. The most hopeful possibility seemed now to lie in diplomacy- but not diplomacy managed by the Department of State, which focused primarily on India-Pakistan nuclear tensions during the summer of 1998.The CIA learned in the spring of 1998 that the Saudi government had quietly disrupted Bin Ladin cells in its country that were planning to attack U.S. forces with shoulder-fired missiles. They had arrested scores of individuals, with no publicity. When thanking the Saudis, Director Tenet took advantage of the opening to ask them to help against Bin Ladin. The response was encouraging enough that President Clinton made Tenet his informal personal representative to work with the Saudis on terrorism, and Tenet visited Riyadh in May and again in early June.33

Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah, who had taken charge from the ailing King Fahd, promised Tenet an all-out secret effort to persuade the Taliban to expel Bin Ladin so that he could be sent to the United States or to another country for trial. The Kingdom's emissary would be its intelligence chief, Prince Turki bin Faisal. Vice President Al Gore later added his thanks to those of Tenet, both making clear that they spoke with President Clinton's blessing. Tenet reported that it was imperative to get an indictment against Bin Ladin. The New York grand jury issued its sealed indictment a few days later, on June 10.Tenet also recommended that no action be taken on other U.S. options, such as the covert action plan.34

Prince Turki followed up in meetings during the summer with Mullah Omar and other Taliban leaders. Apparently employing a mixture of possible incentives and threats, Turki received a commitment that Bin Ladin would be expelled, but Mullah Omar did not make good on this promise.35

On August 5, Clarke chaired a CSG meeting on Bin Ladin. In the discussion of what might be done, the note taker wrote, "there was a dearth of bright ideas around the table, despite a consensus that the [government] ought to pursue every avenue it can to address the problem."36

4.2 CRISIS:AUGUST 1998

On August 7, 1998, National Security Advisor Berger woke President Clinton with a phone call at 5:35 A.M. to tell him of the almost simultaneous bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Suspicion quickly focused on Bin Ladin. Unusually good intelligence, chiefly from the yearlong monitoring of al Qaeda's cell in Nairobi, soon firmly fixed responsibility on him and his associates.37

Debate about what to do settled very soon on one option: Tomahawk cruise missiles. Months earlier, after cancellation of the covert capture operation, Clarke had prodded the Pentagon to explore possibilities for military action. On June 2, General Hugh Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had directed General Zinni at Central Command to develop a plan, which he had submitted during the first week of July. Zinni's planners surely considered the two previous times the United States had used force to respond to terrorism, the 1986 strike on Libya and the 1993 strike against Iraq. They proposed firing Tomahawks against eight terrorist camps in Afghanistan, including Bin Ladin's compound at Tarnak Farms.38 After the embassy attacks, the Pentagon offered this plan to the White House.

The day after the embassy bombings, Tenet brought to a principals meeting intelligence that terrorist leaders were expected to gather at a camp near Khowst, Afghanistan, to plan future attacks. According to Berger, Tenet said that several hundred would attend, including Bin Ladin. The CIA described the area as effectively a military cantonment, away from civilian population centers and overwhelmingly populated by jihadists. Clarke remembered sitting next to Tenet in a White House meeting, asking Tenet "You thinking what I'm thinking?" and his nodding "yes."39 The principals quickly reached a consensus on attacking the gathering. The strike's purpose was to kill Bin Ladin and his chief lieutenants.40

Berger put in place a tightly compartmented process designed to keep all planning secret. On August 11, General Zinni received orders to prepare detailed plans for strikes against the sites in Afghanistan. The Pentagon briefed President Clinton about these plans on August 12 and 14.Though the principals hoped that the missiles would hit Bin Ladin, NSC staff recommended the strike whether or not there was firm evidence that the commanders were at the facilities.41

Considerable debate went to the question of whether to strike targets outside of Afghanistan, including two facilities in Sudan. One was a tannery believed to belong to Bin Ladin. The other was al Shifa, a Khartoum pharmaceutical plant, which intelligence reports said was manufacturing a precursor ingredient for nerve gas with Bin Ladin's financial support. The argument for hitting the tannery was that it could hurt Bin Ladin financially. The argument for hitting al Shifa was that it would lessen the chance of Bin Ladin's having nerve gas for a later attack.42

Ever since March 1995, American officials had had in the backs of their minds Aum Shinrikyo's release of sarin nerve gas in the Tokyo subway. President Clinton himself had expressed great concern about chemical and biological terrorism in the United States. Bin Ladin had reportedly been heard to speak of wanting a "Hiroshima" and at least 10,000 casualties. The CIA reported that a soil sample from the vicinity of the al Shifa plant had tested positive for EMPTA, a precursor chemical for VX, a nerve gas whose lone use was for mass killing. Two days before the embassy bombings, Clarke's staff wrote that Bin Ladin "has invested in and almost certainly has access to VX produced at a plant in Sudan."43 Senior State Department officials believed that they had received a similar verdict independently, though they and Clarke's staff were probably relying on the same report. Mary McCarthy, the NSC senior director responsible for intelligence programs, initially cautioned Berger that the "bottom line" was that "we will need much better intelligence on this facility before we seriously consider any options." She added that the link between Bin Ladin and al Shifa was "rather uncertain at this point." Berger has told us that he thought about what might happen if the decision went against hitting al Shifa, and nerve gas was used in a New York subway two weeks later.44

By the early hours of the morning of August 20, President Clinton and all his principal advisers had agreed to strike Bin Ladin camps in Afghanistan near Khowst, as well as hitting al Shifa. The President took the Sudanese tannery off the target list because he saw little point in killing uninvolved people without doing significant harm to Bin Ladin. The principal with the most qualms regarding al Shifa was Attorney General Reno. She expressed concern about attacking two Muslim countries at the same time. Looking back, she said that she felt the "premise kept shifting."45

Later on August 20, Navy vessels in the Arabian Sea fired their cruise missiles. Though most of them hit their intended targets, neither Bin Ladin nor any other terrorist leader was killed. Berger told us that an after-action review by Director Tenet concluded that the strikes had killed 20-30 people in the camps but probably missed Bin Ladin by a few hours. Since the missiles headed for Afghanistan had had to cross Pakistan, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs was sent to meet with Pakistan's army chief of staff to assure him the missiles were not coming from India. Officials in Washington speculated that one or another Pakistani official might have sent a warning to the Taliban or Bin Ladin.46

The air strikes marked the climax of an intense 48-hour period in which Berger notified congressional leaders, the principals called their foreign counterparts, and President Clinton flew back from his vacation on Martha's Vineyard to address the nation from the Oval Office. The President spoke to the congressional leadership from Air Force One, and he called British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from the White House.47 House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott initially supported the President. The next month, Gingrich's office dismissed the cruise missile attacks as "pinpricks."48

At the time, President Clinton was embroiled in the Lewinsky scandal, which continued to consume public attention for the rest of that year and the first months of 1999. As it happened, a popular 1997 movie, Wag the Dog, features a president who fakes a war to distract public attention from a domestic scandal. Some Republicans in Congress raised questions about the timing of the strikes. Berger was particularly rankled by an editorial in the Economist that said that only the future would tell whether the U.S. missile strikes had "created 10,000 new fanatics where there would have been none."49

Much public commentary turned immediately to scalding criticism that the action was too aggressive. The Sudanese denied that al Shifa produced nerve gas, and they allowed journalists to visit what was left of a seemingly harmless facility. President Clinton, Vice President Gore, Berger, Tenet, and Clarke insisted to us that their judgment was right, pointing to the soil sample evidence. No independent evidence has emerged to corroborate the CIA's assessment.50 Everyone involved in the decision had, of course, been aware of President Clinton's problems. He told them to ignore them. Berger recalled the President saying to him "that they were going to get crap either way, so they should do the right thing."51 All his aides testified to us that they based their advice solely on national security considerations. We have found no reason to question their statements. The failure of the strikes, the "wag the dog" slur, the intense partisanship of the period, and the nature of the al Shifa evidence likely had a cumulative effect on future decisions about the use of force against Bin Ladin. Berger told us that he did not feel any sense of constraint.52 The period after the August 1998 embassy bombings was critical in shaping U.S. policy toward Bin Ladin. Although more Americans had been killed in the 1996 Khobar Towers attack, and many more in Beirut in 1983, the overall loss of life rivaled the worst attacks in memory. More ominous, perhaps, was the demonstration of an operational capability to coordinate two nearly simultaneous attacks on U.S. embassies in different countries. Despite the availability of information that al Qaeda was a global network, in 1998 policymakers knew little about the organization. The reams of new information that the CIA's Bin Ladin unit had been developing since 1996 had not been pulled together and synthesized for the rest of the government. Indeed, analysts in the unit felt that they were viewed as alarmists even within the CIA. A National Intelligence Estimate on terrorism in 1997 had only briefly mentioned Bin Ladin, and no subsequent national estimate would authoritatively evaluate the terrorism danger until after 9/11. Policymakers knew there was a dangerous individual, Usama Bin Ladin, whom they had been trying to capture and bring to trial. Documents at the time referred to Bin Ladin "and his associates" or Bin Ladin and his "network." They did not emphasize the existence of a structured worldwide organization gearing up to train thousands of potential terrorists.53

In the critical days and weeks after the August 1998 attacks, senior policy-makers in the Clinton administration had to reevaluate the threat posed by Bin Ladin. Was this just a new and especially venomous version of the ordinary terrorist threat America had lived with for decades, or was it radically new, posing a danger beyond any yet experienced?

Even after the embassy attacks, Bin Ladin had been responsible for the deaths of fewer than 50 Americans, most of them overseas. An NSC staffer working for Richard Clarke told us the threat was seen as one that could cause hundreds of casualties, not thousands.54 Even officials who acknowledge a vital threat intellectually may not be ready to act on such beliefs at great cost or at high risk.

Therefore, the government experts who believed that Bin Ladin and his network posed such a novel danger needed a way to win broad support for their views, or at least spotlight the areas of dispute. The Presidential Daily Brief and the similar, more widely circulated daily reports for high officials-consisting mainly of brief reports of intelligence "news" without much analysis or con-text-did not provide such a vehicle. The national intelligence estimate has often played this role, and is sometimes controversial for this very reason. It played no role in judging the threat posed by al Qaeda, either in 1998 or later.

In the late summer and fall of 1998, the U.S. government also was worrying about the deployment of military power in two other ongoing conflicts. After years of war in the Balkans, the United States had finally committed itself to significant military intervention in 1995-1996. Already maintaining a NATO-led peacekeeping force in Bosnia, U.S. officials were beginning to consider major combat operations against Serbia to protect Muslim civilians in Kosovo from ethnic cleansing. Air strikes were threatened in October 1998;a full-scale NATO bombing campaign against Serbia was launched in March 1999.55

In addition, the Clinton administration was facing the possibility of major combat operations against Iraq. Since 1996, the UN inspections regime had been increasingly obstructed by Saddam Hussein. The United States was threatening to attack unless unfettered inspections could resume. The Clinton administration eventually launched a large-scale set of air strikes against Iraq, Operation Desert Fox, in December 1998. These military commitments became the context in which the Clinton administration had to consider opening another front of military engagement against a new terrorist threat based in Afghanistan.

A Follow-On Campaign?

Clarke hoped the August 1998 missile strikes would mark the beginning of a sustained campaign against Bin Ladin. Clarke was, as he later admitted, "obsessed" with Bin Ladin, and the embassy bombings gave him new scope for pursuing his obsession. Terrorism had moved high up among the President's concerns, and Clarke's position had elevated accordingly. The CSG, unlike most standing interagency committees, did not have to report through the Deputies Committee. Although such a reporting relationship had been prescribed in the May 1998 presidential directive (after expressions of concern by Attorney General Reno, among others), that directive contained an exception that permitted the CSG to report directly to the principals if Berger so elected. In practice, the CSG often reported not even to the full Principals Committee but instead to the so-called Small Group formed by Berger, consisting only of those principals cleared to know about the most sensitive issues connected with counterterrorism activities concerning Bin Ladin or the Khobar Towers investigation.56

For this inner cabinet, Clarke drew up what he called "Political-Military Plan Delenda." The Latin delenda, meaning that something "must be destroyed," evoked the famous Roman vow to destroy its rival, Carthage.The overall goal of Clarke's paper was to "immediately eliminate any significant threat to Americans" from the "Bin Ladin network."57The paper called for diplomacy to deny Bin Ladin sanctuary; covert action to disrupt terrorist activities, but above all to capture Bin Ladin and his deputies and bring them to trial; efforts to dry up Bin Ladin's money supply; and preparation for follow-on military action. The status of the document was and remained uncertain. It was never formally adopted by the principals, and participants in the Small Group now have little or no recollection of it. It did, however, guide Clarke's efforts.

The military component of Clarke's plan was its most fully articulated element. He envisioned an ongoing campaign of strikes against Bin Ladin's bases in Afghanistan or elsewhere, whenever target information was ripe. Acknowledging that individual targets might not have much value, he cautioned Berger not to expect ever again to have an assembly of terrorist leaders in his sights. But he argued that rolling attacks might persuade the Taliban to hand over Bin Ladin and, in any case, would show that the action in August was not a "one-off" event. It would show that the United States was committed to a relentless effort to take down Bin Ladin's network.58

Members of the Small Group found themselves unpersuaded of the merits of rolling attacks. Defense Secretary William Cohen told us Bin Ladin's training camps were primitive, built with "rope ladders"; General Shelton called them "jungle gym" camps. Neither thought them worthwhile targets for very expensive missiles. President Clinton and Berger also worried about the Economist's point-that attacks that missed Bin Ladin could enhance his stature and win him new recruits. After the United States launched air attacks against Iraq at the end of 1998 and against Serbia in 1999, in each case provoking worldwide criticism, Deputy National Security Advisor James Steinberg added the argument that attacks in Afghanistan offered "little benefit, lots of blowback against [a] bomb-happy U.S."59

During the last week of August 1998, officials began considering possible follow-on strikes. According to Clarke, President Clinton was inclined to launch further strikes sooner rather than later. On August 27, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Walter Slocombe advised Secretary Cohen that the available targets were not promising. The experience of the previous week, he wrote, "has only confirmed the importance of defining a clearly articulated rationale for military action" that was effective as well as justified. But Slocombe worried that simply striking some of these available targets did not add up to an effective strategy.60

Defense officials at a lower level, in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Special Operations and Low-Intensity Conflict, tried to meet Slocombe's objections. They developed a plan that, unlike Clarke's, called not for particular strikes but instead for a broad change in national strategy and in the institutional approach of the Department of Defense, implying a possible need for large-scale operations across the whole spectrum of U.S. military capabilities. It urged the department to become a lead agency in driving a national counterterrorism strategy forward, to "champion a national effort to take up the gauntlet that international terrorists have thrown at our feet." The authors expressed concern that "we have not fundamentally altered our philosophy or our approach" even though the terrorist threat had grown. They outlined an eight-part strategy "to be more proactive and aggressive." The future, they warned, might bring "horrific attacks," in which case "we will have no choice nor, unfortunately, will we have a plan." The assistant secretary, Allen Holmes, took the paper to Slocombe's chief deputy, Jan Lodal, but it went no further. Its lead author recalls being told by Holmes that Lodal thought it was too aggressive. Holmes cannot recall what was said, and Lodal cannot remember the episode or the paper at all.61

4.3 DIPLOMACY

After the August missile strikes, diplomatic options to press the Taliban seemed no more promising than military options. The United States had issued a formal warning to the Taliban, and also to Sudan, that they would be held directly responsible for any attacks on Americans, wherever they occurred, carried out by the Bin Ladin network as long as they continued to provide sanctuary to it.62

For a brief moment, it had seemed as if the August strikes might have shocked the Taliban into thinking of giving up Bin Ladin. On August 22, the reclusive Mullah Omar told a working-level State Department official that the strikes were counterproductive but added that he would be open to a dialogue with the United States on Bin Ladin's presence in Afghanistan.63 Meeting in Islamabad with William Milam, the U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Taliban delegates said it was against their culture to expel someone seeking sanctuary but asked what would happen to Bin Ladin should he be sent to Saudi Arabia.64

Yet in September 1998, when the Saudi emissary, Prince Turki, asked Mullah Omar whether he would keep his earlier promise to expel Bin Ladin, the Taliban leader said no. Both sides shouted at each other, with Mullah Omar denouncing the Saudi government. Riyadh then suspended its diplomatic relations with the Taliban regime. (Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the United Arab Emirates were the only countries that recognized the Taliban as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.) Crown Prince Abdullah told President Clinton and Vice President Gore about this when he visited Washington in late September. His account confirmed reports that the U.S. government had received independently.65

Other efforts with the Saudi government centered on improving intelligence sharing and permitting U.S. agents to interrogate prisoners in Saudi custody. The history of such cooperation in 1997 and 1998 had been strained.66 Several officials told us, in particular, that the United States could not get direct access to an important al Qaeda financial official, Madani al Tayyib, who had been detained by the Saudi government in 1997.67 Though U.S. officials repeatedly raised the issue, the Saudis provided limited information. In his September 1998 meeting with Crown Prince Abdullah, Vice President Gore, while thanking the Saudi government for their responsiveness, renewed the request for direct U.S. access to Tayyib.68 The United States never obtained this access.

An NSC staff-led working group on terrorist finances asked the CIA in November 1998 to push again for access to Tayyib and to see "if it is possible to elaborate further on the ties between Usama bin Ladin and prominent individuals in Saudi Arabia, including especially the Bin Ladin family."69 One result was two NSC-led interagency trips to Persian Gulf states in 1999 and 2000. During these trips the NSC, Treasury, and intelligence representatives spoke with Saudi officials, and later interviewed members of the Bin Ladin family, about Usama's inheritance. The Saudis and the Bin Ladin family eventually helped in this particular effort and U.S. officials ultimately learned that Bin Ladin was not financing al Qaeda out of a personal inheritance.70 But Clarke was frustrated about how little the Agency knew, complaining to Berger that four years after "we first asked CIA to track down [Bin Ladin]'s finances" and two years after the creation of the CIA's Bin Ladin unit, the Agency said it could only guess at how much aid Bin Ladin gave to terrorist groups, what were the main sources of his budget, or how he moved his money.71

The other diplomatic route to get at Bin Ladin in Afghanistan ran through Islamabad. In the summer before the embassy bombings, the State Department had been heavily focused on rising tensions between India and Pakistan and did not aggressively challenge Pakistan on Afghanistan and Bin Ladin. But State Department counterterrorism officials wanted a stronger position; the department's acting counterterrorism coordinator advised Secretary Albright to designate Pakistan as a state sponsor of terrorism, noting that despite high-level Pakistani assurances, the country's military intelligence service continued "activities in support of international terrorism" by supporting attacks on civilian targets in Kashmir. This recommendation was opposed by the State Department's South Asia bureau, which was concerned that it would damage already sensitive relations with Pakistan in the wake of the May 1998 nuclear tests by both Pakistan and India. Secretary Albright rejected the recommendation on August 5, 1998, just two days before the embassy bombings.72 She told us that, in general, putting the Pakistanis on the terrorist list would eliminate any influence the United States had over them.73 In October, an NSC counterterrorism official noted that Pakistan's pro-Taliban military intelligence service had been training Kashmiri jihadists in one of the camps hit by U.S. missiles, leading to the death of Pakistanis.74

After flying to Nairobi and bringing home the coffins of the American dead, Secretary Albright increased the department's focus on counterterrorism. According to Ambassador Milam, the bombings were a "wake-up call," and he soon found himself spending 45 to 50 percent of his time working the Taliban-Bin Ladin portfolio.75 But Pakistan's military intelligence service, known as the ISID (Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate), was the Taliban's primary patron, which made progress difficult.

Additional pressure on the Pakistanis-beyond demands to press the Taliban on Bin Ladin-seemed unattractive to most officials of the State Department. Congressional sanctions punishing Pakistan for possessing nuclear arms prevented the administration from offering incentives to Islamabad.76 In the words of Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott, Washington's Pakistan policy was "stick-heavy." Talbott felt that the only remaining sticks were additional sanctions that would have bankrupted the Pakistanis, a dangerous move that could have brought "total chaos" to a nuclear-armed country with a significant number of Islamic radicals.77

The Saudi government, which had a long and close relationship with Pakistan and provided it oil on generous terms, was already pressing Sharif with regard to the Taliban and Bin Ladin. A senior State Department official concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah put "a tremendous amount of heat" on the Pakistani prime minister during the prince's October 1998 visit to Pakistan.78

The State Department urged President Clinton to engage the Pakistanis. Accepting this advice, President Clinton invited Sharif to Washington, where they talked mostly about India but also discussed Bin Ladin. After Sharif went home, the President called him and raised the Bin Ladin subject again. This effort elicited from Sharif a promise to talk with the Taliban.79

Mullah Omar's position showed no sign of softening. One intelligence report passed to Berger by the NSC staff quoted Bin Ladin as saying that Mullah Omar had given him a completely free hand to act in any country, though asking that he not claim responsibility for attacks in Pakistan or Saudi Arabia. Bin Ladin was described as grabbing his beard and saying emotionally, "By Allah, by God, the Americans will still be amazed.The so-called United States will suffer the same fate as the Russians. Their state will collapse, too."80

Debate in the State Department intensified after December 1998, when Michael Sheehan became counterterrorism coordinator. A onetime special forces officer, he had worked with Albright when she was ambassador to the United Nations and had served on the NSC staff with Clarke. He shared Clarke's obsession with terrorism, and had little hesitation about locking horns with the regional bureaus. Through every available channel, he repeated the earlier warning to the Taliban of the possible dire consequences-including military strikes-if Bin Ladin remained their guest and conducted additional attacks. Within the department, he argued for designating the Taliban regime a state sponsor of terrorism. This was technically difficult to do, for calling it a state would be tantamount to diplomatic recognition, which the United States had thus far withheld. But Sheehan urged the use of any available weapon against the Taliban. He told us that he thought he was regarded in the department as "a one-note Johnny nutcase."81

In early 1999, the State Department's counterterrorism office proposed a comprehensive diplomatic strategy for all states involved in the Afghanistan problem, including Pakistan. It specified both carrots and hard-hitting sticks- among them, certifying Pakistan as uncooperative on terrorism. Albright said the original carrots and sticks listed in a decision paper for principals may not have been used as "described on paper" but added that they were used in other ways or in varying degrees. But the paper's author, Ambassador Sheehan, was frustrated and complained to us that the original plan "had been watered down to the point that nothing was then done with it."82

The cautiousness of the South Asia bureau was reinforced when, in May 1999, Pakistani troops were discovered to have infiltrated into an especially mountainous area of Kashmir. A limited war began between India and Pakistan, euphemistically called the "Kargil crisis," as India tried to drive the Pakistani forces out. Patience with Pakistan was wearing thin, inside both the State Department and the NSC. Bruce Riedel, the NSC staff member responsible for Pakistan, wrote Berger that Islamabad was "behaving as a rogue state in two areas-backing Taliban/UBL terror and provoking war with India."83

Discussion within the Clinton administration on Afghanistan then concentrated on two main alternatives. The first, championed by Riedel and Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth, was to undertake a major diplomatic effort to end the Afghan civil war and install a national unity government. The second, favored by Sheehan, Clarke, and the CIA, called for labeling the Taliban a terrorist group and ultimately funneling secret aid to its chief foe, the Northern Alliance. This dispute would go back and forth throughout 1999 and ultimately become entangled with debate about enlisting the Northern Alliance as an ally for covert action.84

Another diplomatic option may have been available: nurturing Afghan exile groups as a possible moderate governing alternative to the Taliban. In late 1999, Washington provided some support for talks among the leaders of exile Afghan groups, including the ousted Rome-based King Zahir Shah and Hamid Karzai, about bolstering anti-Taliban forces inside Afghanistan and linking the Northern Alliance with Pashtun groups. One U.S. diplomat later told us that the exile groups were not ready to move forward and that coordinating fractious groups residing in Bonn, Rome, and Cyprus proved extremely difficult.85

Frustrated by the Taliban's resistance, two senior State Department officials suggested asking the Saudis to offer the Taliban $250 million for Bin Ladin. Clarke opposed having the United States facilitate a "huge grant to a regime as heinous as the Taliban" and suggested that the idea might not seem attractive to either Secretary Albright or First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton-both critics of the Taliban's record on women's rights.86 The proposal seems to have quietly died.

Within the State Department, some officials delayed Sheehan and Clarke's push either to designate Taliban-controlled Afghanistan as a state sponsor of terrorism or to designate the regime as a foreign terrorist organization (thereby avoiding the issue of whether to recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's government). Sheehan and Clarke prevailed in July 1999, when President Clinton issued an executive order effectively declaring the Taliban regime a state sponsor of terrorism.87 In October, a UN Security Council Resolution championed by the United States added economic and travel sanctions.88

With UN sanctions set to come into effect in November, Clarke wrote Berger that "the Taliban appear to be up to something."89 Mullah Omar had shuffled his "cabinet" and hinted at Bin Ladin's possible departure. Clarke's staff thought his most likely destination would be Somalia; Chechnya seemed less appealing with Russia on the offensive. Clarke commented that Iraq and Libya had previously discussed hosting Bin Ladin, though he and his staff had their doubts that Bin Ladin would trust secular Arab dictators such as Saddam Hussein or Muammar Qadhafi. Clarke also raised the "remote possibility" of Yemen, which offered vast uncontrolled spaces. In November, the CSG discussed whether the sanctions had rattled the Taliban, who seemed "to be looking for a face-saving way out of the Bin Ladin issue."90

In fact none of the outside pressure had any visible effect on Mullah Omar, who was unconcerned about commerce with the outside world. Omar had virtually no diplomatic contact with the West, since he refused to meet with non-Muslims. The United States learned that at the end of 1999, the Taliban Council of Ministers unanimously reaffirmed that their regime would stick by Bin Ladin. Relations between Bin Ladin and the Taliban leadership were sometimes tense, but the foundation was deep and personal.91 Indeed, Mullah Omar had executed at least one subordinate who opposed his pro-Bin Ladin policy.92

The United States would try tougher sanctions in 2000.Working with Russia (a country involved in an ongoing campaign against Chechen separatists, some of whom received support from Bin Ladin), the United States persuaded the United Nations to adopt Security Council Resolution 1333, which included an embargo on arms shipments to the Taliban, in December 2000.93 The aim of the resolution was to hit the Taliban where it was most sensitive- on the battlefield against the Northern Alliance-and criminalize giving them arms and providing military "advisers," which Pakistan had been doing.94 Yet the passage of the resolution had no visible effect on Omar, nor did it halt the flow of Pakistani military assistance to the Taliban.95

U.S. authorities had continued to try to get cooperation from Pakistan in pressing the Taliban to stop sheltering Bin Ladin. President Clinton contacted Sharif again in June 1999, partly to discuss the crisis with India but also to urge Sharif, "in the strongest way I can," to persuade the Taliban to expel Bin Ladin.96 The President suggested that Pakistan use its control over oil supplies to the Taliban and over Afghan imports through Karachi. Sharif suggested instead that Pakistani forces might try to capture Bin Ladin themselves. Though no one in Washington thought this was likely to happen, President Clinton gave the idea his blessing.97

The President met with Sharif in Washington in early July. Though the meeting's main purpose was to seal the Pakistani prime minister's decision to withdraw from the Kargil confrontation in Kashmir, President Clinton complained about Pakistan's failure to take effective action with respect to the Taliban and Bin Ladin. Sharif came back to his earlier proposal and won approval for U.S. assistance in training a Pakistani special forces team for an operation against Bin Ladin. Then, in October 1999, Sharif was deposed by General Pervez Musharraf, and the plan was terminated.98

At first, the Clinton administration hoped that Musharraf's coup might create an opening for action on Bin Ladin. A career military officer, Musharraf was thought to have the political strength to confront and influence the Pakistani military intelligence service, which supported the Taliban. Berger speculated that the new government might use Bin Ladin to buy concessions from Washington, but neither side ever developed such an initiative.99

By late 1999, more than a year after the embassy bombings, diplomacy with Pakistan, like the efforts with the Taliban, had, according to Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering, "borne little fruit."100
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4.4 COVERT ACTION

As part of the response to the embassy bombings, President Clinton signed a Memorandum of Notification authorizing the CIA to let its tribal assets use force to capture Bin Ladin and his associates. CIA officers told the tribals that the plan to capture Bin Ladin, which had been "turned off" three months earlier, was back on. The memorandum also authorized the CIA to attack Bin Ladin in other ways. Also, an executive order froze financial holdings that could be linked to Bin Ladin.101

The counterterrorism staff at CIA thought it was gaining a better understanding of Bin Ladin and his network. In preparation for briefing the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on September 2,Tenet was told that the intelligence community knew more about Bin Ladin's network "than about any other top tier terrorist organization."102

The CIA was using this knowledge to disrupt a number of Bin Ladin-associated cells. Working with Albanian authorities, CIA operatives had raided an al Qaeda forgery operation and another terrorist cell in Tirana. These operations may have disrupted a planned attack on the U.S. embassy in Tirana, and did lead to the rendition of a number of al Qaeda-related terrorist operatives. After the embassy bombings, there were arrests in Azerbaijan, Italy, and Britain. Several terrorists were sent to an Arab country. The CIA described working with FBI operatives to prevent a planned attack on the U.S. embassy in Uganda, and a number of suspects were arrested. On September 16, Abu Hajer, one of Bin Ladin's deputies in Sudan and the head of his computer operations and weapons procurement, was arrested in Germany. He was the most important Bin Ladin lieutenant captured thus far. Clarke commented to Berger with satisfaction that August and September had brought the "greatest number of terrorist arrests in a short period of time that we have ever arranged/facilitated."103

Given the President's August Memorandum of Notification, the CIA had already been working on new plans for using the Afghan tribals to capture Bin Ladin. During September and October, the tribals claimed to have tried at least four times to ambush Bin Ladin. Senior CIA officials doubted whether any of these ambush attempts had actually occurred. But the tribals did seem to have success in reporting where Bin Ladin was.104

This information was more useful than it had been in the past; since the August missile strikes, Bin Ladin had taken to moving his sleeping place frequently and unpredictably and had added new bodyguards. Worst of all, al Qaeda's senior leadership had stopped using a particular means of communication almost immediately after a leak to the Washington Times.105 This made it much more difficult for the National Security Agency to intercept his conversations. But since the tribals seemed to know where Bin Ladin was or would be, an alternative to capturing Bin Ladin would be to mark his location and call in another round of missile strikes.

On November 3, the Small Group met to discuss these problems, among other topics. Preparing Director Tenet for a Small Group meeting in mid-November, the Counterterrorist Center stressed, "At this point we cannot predict when or if a capture operation will be executed by our assets."106

U.S. counterterrorism officials also worried about possible domestic attacks. Several intelligence reports, some of dubious sourcing, mentioned Washington as a possible target. On October 26, Clarke's CSG took the unusual step of holding a meeting dedicated to trying "to evaluate the threat of a terrorist attack in the United States by the Usama bin Ladin network."107The CSG members were "urged to be as creative as possible in their thinking" about preventing a Bin Ladin attack on U.S. territory. Participants noted that while the FBI had been given additional resources for such efforts, both it and the CIA were having problems exploiting leads by tracing U.S. telephone numbers and translating documents obtained in cell disruptions abroad. The Justice Department reported that the current guidelines from the Attorney General gave sufficient legal authority for domestic investigation and surveillance.108

Though intelligence gave no clear indication of what might be afoot, some intelligence reports mentioned chemical weapons, pointing toward work at a camp in southern Afghanistan called Derunta. On November 4, 1998, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed its indictment of Bin Ladin, charging him with conspiracy to attack U.S. defense installations. The indictment also charged that al Qaeda had allied itself with Sudan, Iran, and Hezbollah. The original sealed indictment had added that al Qaeda had "reached an 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."109 This passage led Clarke, who for years had read intelligence reports on Iraqi-Sudanese cooperation on chemical weapons, to speculate to Berger that a large Iraqi presence at chemical facilities in Khartoum was "probably a direct result of the Iraq-Al Qida agreement." Clarke added that VX precursor traces found near al Shifa were the "exact formula used by Iraq."110This language about al Qaeda's "understanding" with Iraq had been dropped, however, when a superseding indictment was filed in November 1998.111

On Friday, December 4, 1998, the CIA included an article in the Presidential Daily Brief describing intelligence, received from a friendly government, about a threatened hijacking in the United States. This article was declassified at our request.

The same day, Clarke convened a meeting of his CSG to discuss both the hijacking concern and the antiaircraft missile threat. To address the hijacking warning, the group agreed that New York airports should go to maximum security starting that weekend. They agreed to boost security at other East coast airports. The CIA agreed to distribute versions of the report to the FBI and FAA to pass to the New York Police Department and the airlines. The FAA issued a security directive on December 8, with specific requirements for more intensive air carrier screening of passengers and more oversight of the screening process, at all three New York City area airports.112

The following is the text of an item from the Presidential Daily Brief received by President William J. Clinton on December 4, 1998. Redacted material is indicated in brackets.

SUBJECT: Bin Ladin Preparing to Hijack US Aircraft and Other Attacks

1. Reporting [-] suggests Bin Ladin and his allies are preparing for attacks in the US, including an aircraft hijacking to obtain the release of Shaykh 'Umar 'Abd al-Rahman, Ramzi Yousef, and Muhammad Sadiq 'Awda. One source quoted a senior member of the Gama'at al-Islamiyya (IG) saying that, as of late October, the IG had completed planning for an operation in the US on behalf of Bin Ladin, but that the operation was on hold.A senior Bin Ladin operative from Saudi Arabia was to visit IG counterparts in the US soon thereafter to discuss options-perhaps including an aircraft hijacking.

• IG leader Islambuli in late September was planning to hijack a US airliner during the "next couple of weeks" to free 'Abd al-Rahman and the other prisoners, according to what may be a different source.
• The same source late last month said that Bin Ladin might implement plans to hijack US aircraft before the beginning of Ramadan on 20 December and that two members of the operational team had evaded security checks during a recent trial run at an unidentified New York airport. [-]

2. Some members of the Bin Ladin network have received hijack training, according to various sources, but no group directly tied to Bin Ladin's al-Qa'ida organization has ever carried out an aircraft hijacking.Bin Ladin could be weighing other types of operations against US aircraft.Accord-ing to [-] the IG in October obtained SA-7 missiles and intended to move them from Yemen into Saudi Arabia to shoot down an Egyptian plane or, if unsuccessful, a US military or civilian aircraft.

• A [-] in October told us that unspecified "extremist elements" in Yemen had acquired SA-7s. [-]

3. [-] indicate the Bin Ladin organization or its allies are moving closer to implementing anti-US attacks at unspecified locations, but we do not know whether they are related to attacks on aircraft. A Bin Ladin associate in Sudan late last month told a colleague in Kandahar that he had shipped a group of containers to Afghanistan. Bin Ladin associates also talked about the movement of containers to Afghanistan before the East Africa bombings.


• In other [-] Bin Ladin associates last month discussed picking up a package in Malaysia. One told his colleague in Malaysia that "they" were in the "ninth month [of pregnancy]."
• An alleged Bin Ladin supporter in Yemen late last month remarked to his mother that he planned to work in "commerce" from abroad and said his impending "marriage," which would take place soon, would be a "surprise.""Commerce" and "marriage" often are codewords for terrorist attacks. [-]


The intelligence community could learn little about the source of the information. Later in December and again in early January 1999, more information arrived from the same source, reporting that the planned hijacking had been stalled because two of the operatives, who were sketchily described, had been arrested near Washington, D.C. or New York. After investigation, the FBI could find no information to support the hijack threat; nor could it verify any arrests like those described in the report. The FAA alert at the New York area airports ended on January 31, 1999.113

On December 17, the day after the United States and Britain began their Desert Fox bombing campaign against Iraq, the Small Group convened to discuss intelligence suggesting imminent Bin Ladin attacks on the U.S. embassies in Qatar and Ethiopia. The next day, Director Tenet sent a memo to the President, the cabinet, and senior officials throughout the government describing reports that Bin Ladin planned to attack U.S. targets very soon, possibly over the next few days, before Ramadan celebrations began. Tenet said he was "greatly concerned."114

With alarms sounding, members of the Small Group considered ideas about how to respond to or prevent such attacks. Generals Shelton and Zinni came up with military options. Special Operations Forces were later told that they might be ordered to attempt very high-risk in-and-out raids either in Khartoum, to capture a senior Bin Ladin operative known as Abu Hafs the Mauritanian-who appeared to be engineering some of the plots-or in Kandahar, to capture Bin Ladin himself. Shelton told us that such operations are not risk free, invoking the memory of the 1993 "Black Hawk down" fiasco in Mogadishu.115

The CIA reported on December 18 that Bin Ladin might be traveling to Kandahar and could be targeted there with cruise missiles. Vessels with Tomahawk cruise missiles were on station in the Arabian Sea, and could fire within a few hours of receiving target data.116

On December 20, intelligence indicated Bin Ladin would be spending the night at the Haji Habash house, part of the governor's residence in Kandahar. The chief of the Bin Ladin unit, "Mike," told us that he promptly briefed Tenet and his deputy, John Gordon. From the field, the CIA's Gary Schroen advised: "Hit him tonight-we may not get another chance." An urgent teleconference of principals was arranged.117

The principals considered a cruise missile strike to try to kill Bin Ladin. One issue they discussed was the potential collateral damage-the number of innocent bystanders who would be killed or wounded. General Zinni predicted a number well over 200 and was concerned about damage to a nearby mosque. The senior intelligence officer on the Joint Staff apparently made a different calculation, estimating half as much collateral damage and not predicting damage to the mosque. By the end of the meeting, the principals decided against recommending to the President that he order a strike. A few weeks later, in January 1999, Clarke wrote that the principals had thought the intelligence only half reliable and had worried about killing or injuring perhaps 300 people. Tenet said he remembered doubts about the reliability of the source and concern about hitting the nearby mosque. "Mike" remembered Tenet telling him that the military was concerned that a few hours had passed since the last sighting of Bin Ladin and that this persuaded everyone that the chance of failure was too great.118

Some lower-level officials were angry. "Mike" reported to Schroen that he had been unable to sleep after this decision. "I'm sure we'll regret not acting last night," he wrote, criticizing the principals for "worrying that some stray shrapnel might hit the Habash mosque and 'offend' Muslims." He commented that they had not shown comparable sensitivity when deciding to bomb Muslims in Iraq. The principals, he said, were "obsessed" with trying to get others-Saudis, Pakistanis, Afghan tribals-to "do what we won't do." Schroen was disappointed too. "We should have done it last night," he wrote. "We may well come to regret the decision not to go ahead."119 The Joint Staff's deputy director for operations agreed, even though he told us that later intelligence appeared to show that Bin Ladin had left his quarters before the strike would have occurred. Missing Bin Ladin, he said, "would have caused us a hell of a problem, but it was a shot we should have taken, and we would have had to pay the price.120

The principals began considering other, more aggressive covert alternatives using the tribals. CIA officers suggested that the tribals would prefer to try a raid rather than a roadside ambush because they would have better control, it would be less dangerous, and it played more to their skills and experience. But everyone knew that if the tribals were to conduct such a raid, guns would be blazing. The current Memorandum of Notification instructed the CIA to capture Bin Ladin and to use lethal force only in self-defense. Work now began on a new memorandum that would give the tribals more latitude. The intention was to say that they could use lethal force if the attempted capture seemed impossible to complete successfully.121

Early drafts of this highly sensitive document emphasized that it authorized only a capture operation. The tribals were to be paid only if they captured Bin Ladin, not if they killed him. Officials throughout the government approved this draft. But on December 21, the day after principals decided not to launch the cruise missile strike against Kandahar, the CIA's leaders urged strengthening the language to allow the tribals to be paid whether Bin Ladin was captured or killed. Berger and Tenet then worked together to take this line of thought even further.122

They finally agreed, as Berger reported to President Clinton, that an extraordinary step was necessary. The new memorandum would allow the killing of Bin Ladin if the CIA and the tribals judged that capture was not feasible (a judgment it already seemed clear they had reached). The Justice Department lawyer who worked on the draft told us that what was envisioned was a group of tribals assaulting a location, leading to a shoot-out. Bin Ladin and others would be captured if possible, but probably would be killed. The administration's position was that under the law of armed conflict, killing a person who posed an imminent threat to the United States would be an act of self-defense, not an assassination. On Christmas Eve 1998, Berger sent a final draft to President Clinton, with an explanatory memo. The President approved the document.123

Because the White House considered this operation highly sensitive, only a tiny number of people knew about this Memorandum of Notification. Berger arranged for the NSC's legal adviser to inform Albright, Cohen, Shelton, and Reno. None was allowed to keep a copy. Congressional leaders were briefed, as required by law. Attorney General Reno had sent a letter to the President expressing her concern: she warned of possible retaliation, including the targeting of U.S. officials. She did not pose any legal objection. A copy of the final document, along with the carefully crafted instructions that were to be sent to the tribals, was given to Tenet.124

A message from Tenet to CIA field agents directed them to communicate to the tribals the instructions authorized by the President: the United States preferred that Bin Ladin and his lieutenants be captured, but if a successful capture operation was not feasible, the tribals were permitted to kill them. The instructions added that the tribals must avoid killing others unnecessarily and must not kill or abuse Bin Ladin or his lieutenants if they surrendered. Finally, the tribals would not be paid if this set of requirements was not met.125

The field officer passed these instructions to the tribals word for word. But he prefaced the directions with a message: "From the American President down to the average man in the street, we want him [Bin Ladin] stopped." If the tribals captured Bin Ladin, the officer assured them that he would receive a fair trial under U.S. law and be treated humanely. The CIA officer reported that the tribals said they "fully understand the contents, implications and the spirit of the message" and that that their response was, "We will try our best to capture Bin Ladin alive and will have no intention of killing or harming him on purpose." The tribals explained that they wanted to prove that their standards of behavior were more civilized than those of Bin Ladin and his band of terrorists. In an additional note addressed to Schroen, the tribals noted that if they were to adopt Bin Ladin's ethics, "we would have finished the job long before," but they had been limited by their abilities and "by our beliefs and laws we have to respect."126

Schroen and "Mike" were impressed by the tribals' reaction. Schroen cabled that the tribals were not in it for the money but as an investment in the future of Afghanistan. "Mike" agreed that the tribals' reluctance to kill was not a "showstopper." "From our view," he wrote, "that seems in character and fair enough."127

Policymakers in the Clinton administration, including the President and his national security advisor, told us that the President's intent regarding covert action against Bin Ladin was clear: he wanted him dead. This intent was never well communicated or understood within the CIA. Tenet told the Commission that except in one specific case (discussed later), the CIA was authorized to kill Bin Ladin only in the context of a capture operation. CIA senior managers, operators, and lawyers confirmed this understanding. "We always talked about how much easier it would have been to kill him," a former chief of the Bin Ladin unit said.128

In February 1999, another draft Memorandum of Notification went to President Clinton. It asked him to allow the CIA to give exactly the same guidance to the Northern Alliance as had just been given to the tribals: they could kill Bin Ladin if a successful capture operation was not feasible. On this occasion, however, President Clinton crossed out key language he had approved in December and inserted more ambiguous language. No one we interviewed could shed light on why the President did this. President Clinton told the Commission that he had no recollection of why he rewrote the language.129

Later in 1999, when legal authority was needed for enlisting still other collaborators and for covering a wider set of contingencies, the lawyers returned to the language used in August 1998, which authorized force only in the context of a capture operation. Given the closely held character of the document approved in December 1998, and the subsequent return to the earlier language, it is possible to understand how the former White House officials and the CIA officials might disagree as to whether the CIA was ever authorized by the President to kill Bin Ladin.130

The dispute turned out to be somewhat academic, as the limits of available legal authority were not tested. Clarke commented to Berger that "despite 'expanded' authority for CIA's sources to engage in direct action, they have shown no inclination to do so." He added that it was his impression that the CIA thought the tribals unlikely to act against Bin Ladin and hence relying on them was "unrealistic."131 Events seemed to bear him out, since the tribals did not stage an attack on Bin Ladin or his associates during 1999.

The tribals remained active collectors of intelligence, however, providing good but not predictive information about Bin Ladin's whereabouts. The CIA also tried to improve its intelligence reporting on Bin Ladin by what Tenet's assistant director for collection, the indefatigable Charles Allen, called an "all-out, all-agency, seven-days-a-week" effort.132 The effort might have had an effect. On January 12, 1999, Clarke wrote Berger that the CIA's confidence in the tribals' reporting had increased. It was now higher than it had been on December 20.133

In February 1999, Allen proposed flying a U-2 mission over Afghanistan to build a baseline of intelligence outside the areas where the tribals had coverage. Clarke was nervous about such a mission because he continued to fear that Bin Ladin might leave for someplace less accessible. He wrote Deputy National Security Advisor Donald Kerrick that one reliable source reported Bin Ladin's having met with Iraqi officials, who "may have offered him asylum." Other intelligence sources said that some Taliban leaders, though not Mullah Omar, had urged Bin Ladin to go to Iraq. If Bin Ladin actually moved to Iraq, wrote Clarke, his network would be at Saddam Hussein's service, and it would be "virtually impossible" to find him. Better to get Bin Ladin in Afghanistan, Clarke declared.134 Berger suggested sending one U-2 flight, but Clarke opposed even this. It would require Pakistani approval, he wrote; and "Pak[istan's] intel[ligence service] is in bed with" Bin Ladin and would warn him that the United States was getting ready for a bombing campaign: "Armed with that knowledge, old wily Usama will likely boogie to Baghdad."135 Though told also by Bruce Riedel of the NSC staff that Saddam Hussein wanted Bin Ladin in Baghdad, Berger conditionally authorized a single U-2 flight. Allen meanwhile had found other ways of getting the information he wanted. So the U-2 flight never occurred.136

4.5 SEARCHING FOR FRESH OPTIONS

"Boots on the Ground?"


Starting on the day the August 1998 strikes were launched, General Shelton had issued a planning order to prepare follow-on strikes and think beyond just using cruise missiles.137 The initial strikes had been called Operation Infinite Reach. The follow-on plans were given the code name Operation Infinite Resolve.

At the time, any actual military action in Afghanistan would have been carried out by General Zinni's Central Command. This command was therefore the locus for most military planning. Zinni was even less enthusiastic than Cohen and Shelton about follow-on cruise missile strikes. He knew that the Tomahawks did not always hit their targets. After the August 20 strikes, President Clinton had had to call Pakistani Prime Minister Sharif to apologize for a wayward missile that had killed several people in a Pakistani village. Sharif had been understanding, while commenting on American "overkill."138

Zinni feared that Bin Ladin would in the future locate himself in cities, where U.S. missiles could kill thousands of Afghans. He worried also lest Pakistani authorities not get adequate warning, think the missiles came from India, and do something that everyone would later regret. Discussing potential repercussions in the region of his military responsibility, Zinni said, "It was easy to take the shot from Washington and walk away from it. We had to live there."139

Zinni's distinct preference would have been to build up counterterrorism capabilities in neighboring countries such as Uzbekistan. But he told us that he could not drum up much interest in or money for such a purpose from Washington, partly, he thought, because these countries had dictatorial governments.140

After the decision-in which fear of collateral damage was an important factor-not to use cruise missiles against Kandahar in December 1998, Shelton and officers in the Pentagon developed plans for using an AC-130 gunship instead of cruise missile strikes. Designed specifically for the special forces, the version of the AC-130 known as "Spooky" can fly in fast or from high altitude, undetected by radar; guided to its zone by extraordinarily complex electronics, it is capable of rapidly firing precision-guided 25, 40, and 105 mm projectiles. Because this system could target more precisely than a salvo of cruise missiles, it had a much lower risk of causing collateral damage. After giving Clarke a briefing and being encouraged to proceed, Shelton formally directed Zinni and General Peter Schoomaker, who headed the Special Operations Command, to develop plans for an AC-130 mission against Bin Ladin's headquarters and infrastructure in Afghanistan. The Joint Staff prepared a decision paper for deployment of the Special Operations aircraft.141

Though Berger and Clarke continued to indicate interest in this option, the AC-130s were never deployed. Clarke wrote at the time that Zinni opposed their use, and John Maher, the Joint Staff's deputy director of operations, agreed that this was Zinni's position. Zinni himself does not recall blocking the option. He told us that he understood the Special Operations Command had never thought the intelligence good enough to justify actually moving AC-130s into position. Schoomaker says, on the contrary, that he thought the AC-130 option feasible.142

The most likely explanation for the two generals' differing recollections is that both of them thought serious preparation for any such operations would require a long-term redeployment of Special Operations forces to the Middle East or South Asia. The AC-130s would need bases because the aircraft's unrefueled range was only a little over 2,000 miles. They needed search-and-rescue backup, which would have still less range. Thus an AC-130 deployment had to be embedded in a wider political and military concept involving Pakistan or other neighboring countries to address issues relating to basing and overflight. No one ever put such an initiative on the table. Zinni therefore cautioned about simply ordering up AC-130 deployments for a quick strike; Schoomaker planned for what he saw as a practical strike option; and the underlying issues were not fully engaged. The Joint Staff decision paper was never turned into an interagency policy paper.

The same was true for the option of using ground units from the Special Operations Command. Within the command, some officers-such as Schoomaker-wanted the mission of "putting boots on the ground" to get at Bin Ladin and al Qaeda. At the time, Special Operations was designated as a "supporting command," not a "supported command": that is, it supported a theater commander and did not prepare its own plans for dealing with al Qaeda. Schoomaker proposed to Shelton and Cohen that Special Operations become a supported command, but the proposal was not adopted. Had it been accepted, he says, he would have taken on the al Qaeda mission instead of deferring to Zinni. Lieutenant General William Boykin, the current deputy under secretary of defense for intelligence and a founding member of Delta Force, told us that "opportunities were missed because of an unwillingness to take risks and a lack of vision and understanding."143

President Clinton relied on the advice of General Shelton, who informed him that without intelligence on Bin Ladin's location, a commando raid's chance of failure was high. Shelton told President Clinton he would go forward with "boots on the ground" if the President ordered him to do so; however, he had to ensure that the President was completely aware of the large logistical problems inherent in a military operation.144

The Special Operations plans were apparently conceived as another quick strike option-an option to insert forces after the United States received actionable intelligence. President Clinton told the Commission that "if we had had really good intelligence about . . . where [Usama Bin Ladin] was, I would have done it." Zinni and Schoomaker did make preparations for possible very high risk in-and-out operations to capture or kill terrorists. Cohen told the Commission that the notion of putting military personnel on the ground without some reasonable certitude that Bin Ladin was in a particular location would have resulted in the mission's failure and the loss of life in a fruitless effort.145 None of these officials was aware of the ambitious plan developed months earlier by lower-level Defense officials.

In our interviews, some military officers repeatedly invoked the analogy of Desert One and the failed 1980 hostage rescue mission in Iran.146 They were dubious about a quick strike approach to using Special Operations Forces, which they thought complicated and risky. Such efforts would have required bases in the region, but all the options were unappealing. Pro-Taliban elements of Pakistan's military might warn Bin Ladin or his associates of pending operations. With nearby basing options limited, an alternative was to fly from ships in the Arabian Sea or from land bases in the Persian Gulf, as was done after 9/11. Such operations would then have to be supported from long distances, overflying the airspace of nations that might not have been supportive or aware of U.S. efforts.147

However, if these hurdles were addressed, and if the military could then operate regularly in the region for a long period, perhaps clandestinely, it might attempt to gather intelligence and wait for an opportunity. One Special Operations commander said his view of actionable intelligence was that if you "give me the action, I will give you the intelligence."148 But this course would still be risky, in light both of the difficulties already mentioned and of the danger that U.S. operations might fail disastrously. We have found no evidence that such a long-term political-military approach for using Special Operations Forces in the region was proposed to or analyzed by the Small Group, even though such capability had been honed for at least a decade within the Defense Department.

Therefore the debate looked to some like bold proposals from civilians meeting hypercaution from the military. Clarke saw it this way. Of the military, he said to us, "They were very, very, very reluctant."149 But from another perspective, poorly informed proposals for bold action were pitted against experienced professional judgment. That was how Secretary of Defense Cohen viewed it. He said to us: "I would have to place my judgment call in terms of, do I believe that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, former commander of Special Forces command, is in a better position to make a judgment on the feasibility of this than, perhaps, Mr. Clarke?"150

Beyond a large-scale political-military commitment to build up a covert or clandestine capability using American personnel on the ground, either military or CIA, there was a still larger option that could have been considered-invading Afghanistan itself. Every official we questioned about the possibility of an invasion of Afghanistan said that it was almost unthinkable, absent a provocation such as 9/11, because of poor prospects for cooperation from Pakistan and other nations and because they believed the public would not support it. Cruise missiles were and would remain the only military option on the table.

The Desert Camp, February 1999

Early in 1999, the CIA received reporting that Bin Ladin was spending much of his time at one of several camps in the Afghan desert south of Kandahar. At the beginning of February, Bin Ladin was reportedly located in the vicinity of the Sheikh Ali camp, a desert hunting camp being used by visitors from a Gulf state. Public sources have stated that these visitors were from the United Arab Emirates.151

Reporting from the CIA's assets provided a detailed description of the hunting camp, including its size, location, resources, and security, as well as of Bin Ladin's smaller, adjacent camp.152 Because this was not in an urban area, missiles launched against it would have less risk of causing collateral damage. On February 8, the military began to ready itself for a possible strike.153 The next day, national technical intelligence confirmed the location and description of the larger camp and showed the nearby presence of an official aircraft of the United Arab Emirates. But the location of Bin Ladin's quarters could not be pinned down so precisely.154 The CIA did its best to answer a host of questions about the larger camp and its residents and about Bin Ladin's daily schedule and routines to support military contingency planning. According to reporting from the tribals, Bin Ladin regularly went from his adjacent camp to the larger camp where he visited the Emiratis; the tribals expected him to be at the hunting camp for such a visit at least until midmorning on February 11.155 Clarke wrote to Berger's deputy on February 10 that the military was then doing targeting work to hit the main camp with cruise missiles and should be in position to strike the following morning.156 Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert appears to have been briefed on the situation.157

No strike was launched. By February 12 Bin Ladin had apparently moved on, and the immediate strike plans became moot.158 According to CIA and Defense officials, policymakers were concerned about the danger that a strike would kill an Emirati prince or other senior officials who might be with Bin Ladin or close by. Clarke told us the strike was called off after consultations with Director Tenet because the intelligence was dubious, and it seemed to Clarke as if the CIA was presenting an option to attack America's best counterterrorism ally in the Gulf. The lead CIA official in the field, Gary Schroen, felt that the intelligence reporting in this case was very reliable; the Bin Ladin unit chief, "Mike," agreed. Schroen believes today that this was a lost opportunity to kill Bin Ladin before 9/11.159

Even after Bin Ladin's departure from the area, CIA officers hoped he might return, seeing the camp as a magnet that could draw him for as long as it was still set up. The military maintained readiness for another strike opportunity.160 On March 7, 1999, Clarke called a UAE official to express his concerns about possible associations between Emirati officials and Bin Ladin. Clarke later wrote in a memorandum of this conversation that the call had been approved at an interagency meeting and cleared with the CIA.161 When the former Bin Ladin unit chief found out about Clarke's call, he questioned CIA officials, who denied having given such a clearance.162 Imagery confirmed that less than a week after Clarke's phone call the camp was hurriedly dismantled, and the site was deserted.163 CIA officers, including Deputy Director for Operations Pavitt, were irate. "Mike" thought the dismantling of the camp erased a possible site for targeting Bin Ladin.164

The United Arab Emirates was becoming both a valued counterterrorism ally of the United States and a persistent counterterrorism problem. From 1999 through early 2001, the United States, and President Clinton personally, pressed the UAE, one of the Taliban's only travel and financial outlets to the outside world, to break off its ties and enforce sanctions, especially those relating to flights to and from Afghanistan.165 These efforts achieved little before 9/11.

In July 1999, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hamdan bin Zayid threatened to break relations with the Taliban over Bin Ladin.166 The Taliban did not take him seriously, however. Bin Zayid later told an American diplomat that the UAE valued its relations with the Taliban because the Afghan radicals offered a counterbalance to "Iranian dangers" in the region, but he also noted that the UAE did not want to upset the United States.167

Looking for New Partners

Although not all CIA officers had lost faith in the tribals' capabilities-many judged them to be good reporters-few believed they would carry out an ambush of Bin Ladin. The chief of the Counterterrorist Center compared relying on the tribals to playing the lottery.168 He and his associates, supported by Clarke, pressed for developing a partnership with the Northern Alliance, even though doing so might bring the United States squarely behind one side in Afghanistan's long-running civil war.

The Northern Alliance was dominated by Tajiks and drew its strength mainly from the northern and eastern parts of Afghanistan. In contrast, Taliban members came principally from Afghanistan's most numerous ethnic group, the Pashtuns, who are concentrated in the southern part of the country, extending into the North-West Frontier and Baluchistan provinces of Pakistan.169

Because of the Taliban's behavior and its association with Pakistan, the Northern Alliance had been able at various times to obtain assistance from Russia, Iran, and India. The alliance's leader was Afghanistan's most renowned military commander, Ahmed Shah Massoud. Reflective and charismatic, he had been one of the true heroes of the war against the Soviets. But his bands had been charged with more than one massacre, and the Northern Alliance was widely thought to finance itself in part through trade in heroin. Nor had Massoud shown much aptitude for governing except as a ruthless warlord. Nevertheless, Tenet told us Massoud seemed the most interesting possible new ally against Bin Ladin.170

In February 1999, Tenet sought President Clinton's authorization to enlist Massoud and his forces as partners. In response to this request, the President signed the Memorandum of Notification whose language he personally altered. Tenet says he saw no significance in the President's changes. So far as he was concerned, it was the language of August 1998, expressing a preference for capture but accepting the possibility that Bin Ladin could not be brought out alive. "We were plowing the same ground," Tenet said.171

CIA officers described Massoud's reaction when he heard that the United States wanted him to capture and not kill Bin Ladin. One characterized Massoud's body language as "a wince." Schroen recalled Massoud's response as "You guys are crazy-you haven't changed a bit." In Schroen's opinion, the capture proviso inhibited Massoud and his forces from going after Bin Ladin but did not completely stop them.172 The idea, however, was a long shot. Bin Ladin's usual base of activity was near Kandahar, far from the front lines of Taliban operations against the Northern Alliance.

Kandahar, May 1999

It was in Kandahar that perhaps the last, and most likely the best, opportunity arose for targeting Bin Ladin with cruise missiles before 9/11. In May 1999, CIA assets in Afghanistan reported on Bin Ladin's location in and around Kandahar over the course of five days and nights. The reporting was very detailed and came from several sources. If this intelligence was not "actionable," working-level officials said at the time and today, it was hard for them to imagine how any intelligence on Bin Ladin in Afghanistan would meet the standard. Communications were good, and the cruise missiles were ready. "This was in our strike zone," a senior military officer said. "It was a fat pitch, a home run." He expected the missiles to fly. When the decision came back that they should stand down, not shoot, the officer said, "we all just slumped." He told us he knew of no one at the Pentagon or the CIA who thought it was a bad gamble. Bin Ladin "should have been a dead man" that night, he said.173

Working-level CIA officials agreed. While there was a conflicting intelligence report about Bin Ladin's whereabouts, the experts discounted it. At the time, CIA working-level officials were told by their managers that the strikes were not ordered because the military doubted the intelligence and worried about collateral damage. Replying to a frustrated colleague in the field, the Bin Ladin unit chief wrote: "having a chance to get [Bin Ladin] three times in 36 hours and foregoing the chance each time has made me a bit angry.... [T]he DCI finds himself alone at the table, with the other princip[als] basically saying 'we'll go along with your decision Mr. Director,' and implicitly saying that the Agency will hang alone if the attack doesn't get Bin Ladin."174 But the military officer quoted earlier recalled that the Pentagon had been willing to act. He told us that Clarke informed him and others that Tenet assessed the chance of the intelligence being accurate as 50-50. This officer believed that Tenet's assessment was the key to the decision.175

Tenet told us he does not remember any details about this episode, except that the intelligence came from a single uncorroborated source and that there was a risk of collateral damage. The story is further complicated by Tenet's absence from the critical principals meeting on this strike (he was apparently out of town); his deputy, John Gordon, was representing the CIA. Gordon recalled having presented the intelligence in a positive light, with appropriate caveats, but stating that this intelligence was about as good as it could get.176

Berger remembered only that in all such cases, the call had been Tenet's. Berger felt sure that Tenet was eager to get Bin Ladin. In his view, Tenet did his job responsibly. "George would call and say, 'We just don't have it,'" Berger said.177

The decision not to strike in May 1999 may now seem hard to understand. In fairness, we note two points: First, in December 1998, the principals' wariness about ordering a strike appears to have been vindicated: Bin Ladin left his room unexpectedly, and if a strike had been ordered he would not have been hit. Second, the administration, and the CIA in particular, was in the midst of intense scrutiny and criticism in May 1999 because faulty intelligence had just led the United States to mistakenly bomb the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the NATO war against Serbia. This episode may have made officials more cautious than might otherwise have been the case.178

From May 1999 until September 2001, policymakers did not again actively consider a missile strike against Bin Ladin.179 The principals did give some further consideration in 1999 to more general strikes, reviving Clarke's "Delenda" notion of hitting camps and infrastructure to disrupt al Qaeda's organization. In the first months of 1999, the Joint Staff had developed broader target lists to undertake a "focused campaign" against the infrastructure of Bin Ladin's network and to hit Taliban government sites as well. General Shelton told us that the Taliban targets were "easier" to hit and more substantial.180

Part of the context for considering broader strikes in the summer of 1999 was renewed worry about Bin Ladin's ambitions to acquire weapons of mass destruction. In May and June, the U.S. government received a flurry of ominous reports, including more information about chemical weapons training or development at the Derunta camp and possible attempts to amass nuclear material at Herat.181

By late June, U.S. and other intelligence services had concluded that al Qaeda was in pre-attack mode, perhaps again involving Abu Hafs the Mauritanian. On June 25, at Clarke's request, Berger convened the Small Group in his office to discuss the alert, Bin Ladin's WMD programs, and his location. "Should we pre-empt by attacking UBL facilities?" Clarke urged Berger to ask his colleagues.182

In his handwritten notes on the meeting paper, Berger jotted down the presence of 7 to 11 families in the Tarnak Farms facility, which could mean 60-65 casualties. Berger noted the possible "slight impact" on Bin Ladin and added, "if he responds, we're blamed."183 The NSC staff raised the option of waiting until after a terrorist attack, and then retaliating, including possible strikes on the Taliban. But Clarke observed that Bin Ladin would probably empty his camps after an attack.184

The military route seemed to have reached a dead end. In December 1999, Clarke urged Berger to ask the principals to ask themselves: "Why have there been no real options lately for direct US military action?"185There are no notes recording whether the question was discussed or, if it was, how it was answered.

Reports of possible attacks by Bin Ladin kept coming in throughout 1999. They included a threat to blow up the FBI building in Washington, D.C. In September, the CSG reviewed a possible threat to a flight out of Los Angeles or New York.186 These warnings came amid dozens of others that flooded in.

With military and diplomatic options practically exhausted by the summer of 1999, the U.S. government seemed to be back where it had been in the summer of 1998-relying on the CIA to find some other option. That picture also seemed discouraging. Several disruptions and renditions aimed against the broader al Qaeda network had succeeded.187 But covert action efforts in Afghanistan had not been fruitful.

In mid-1999, new leaders arrived at the Counterterrorist Center and the Bin Ladin unit. The new director of CTC, replacing "Jeff," was Cofer Black. The new head of the section that included the Bin Ladin unit was "Richard." Black, "Richard," and their colleagues began working on a new operational strategy for attacking al Qaeda; their starting point was to get better intelligence, relying more on the CIA's own sources and less on the tribals.188

In July 1999, President Clinton authorized the CIA to work with several governments to capture Bin Ladin, and extended the scope of efforts to Bin Ladin's principal lieutenants. The President reportedly also authorized a covert action under carefully limited circumstances which, if successful, would have resulted in Bin Ladin's death.189 Attorney General Reno again expressed concerns on policy grounds. She was worried about the danger of retaliation. The CIA also developed the short-lived effort to work with a Pakistani team that we discussed earlier, and an initiative to work with Uzbekistan. The Uzbeks needed basic equipment and training. No action could be expected before March 2000, at the earliest.190

In fall 1999, DCI Tenet unveiled the CIA's new Bin Ladin strategy. It was called, simply, "the Plan." The Plan proposed continuing disruption and rendition operations worldwide. It announced a program for hiring and training better officers with counterterrorism skills, recruiting more assets, and trying to penetrate al Qaeda's ranks. The Plan aimed to close gaps in technical intelligence collection (signal and imagery) as well. In addition, the CIA would increase contacts with the Northern Alliance rebels fighting the Taliban.191

With a new operational strategy, the CIA evaluated its capture options. None scored high marks. The CIA had no confidence in the Pakistani effort. In the event that Bin Ladin traveled to the Kandahar region in southern Afghanistan, the tribal network there was unlikely to attack a heavily guarded Bin Ladin; the Counterterrorist Center rated the chance of success at less than 10 percent. To the northwest, the Uzbeks might be ready for a cross-border sortie in six months; their chance of success was also rated at less than 10 percent.192

In the northeast were Massoud's Northern Alliance forces-perhaps the CIA's best option. In late October, a group of officers from the Counterterrorist Center flew into the Panjshir Valley to meet up with Massoud, a hazardous journey in rickety helicopters that would be repeated several times in the future. Massoud appeared committed to helping the United States collect intelligence on Bin Ladin's activities and whereabouts and agreed to try to capture him if the opportunity arose. The Bin Ladin unit was satisfied that its reporting on Bin Ladin would now have a second source. But it also knew that Massoud would act against Bin Ladin only if his own interests and those of the United States intersected. By early December, the CIA rated this possibility at less than 15 percent.193

Finally, the CIA considered the possibility of putting U.S. personnel on the ground in Afghanistan. The CIA had been discussing this option with Special Operations Command and found enthusiasm on the working level but reluctance at higher levels. CIA saw a 95 percent chance of Special Operations Command forces capturing Bin Ladin if deployed-but less than a 5 percent chance of such a deployment. Sending CIA officers into Afghanistan was to be considered "if the gain clearly outweighs the risk"-but at this time no such gains presented themselves to warrant the risk.194

As mentioned earlier, such a protracted deployment of U.S. Special Operations Forces into Afghanistan, perhaps as part of a team joined to a deployment of the CIA's own officers, would have required a major policy initiative (probably combined with efforts to secure the support of at least one or two neighboring countries) to make a long-term commitment, establish a durable presence on the ground, and be prepared to accept the associated risks and costs. Such a military plan was never developed for interagency consideration before 9/11.As 1999 came to a close, the CIA had a new strategic plan in place for capturing Bin Ladin, but no option was rated as having more than a 15 percent chance of achieving that objective.
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Re: The 9/11 Commission Report, by The National Commission o

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Part 1 of 2

5. AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND

5.1 TERRORIST ENTREPRENEURS


By early 1999, al Qaeda was already a potent adversary of the United States. Bin Ladin and his chief of operations, Abu Hafs al Masri, also known as Mohammed Atef, occupied undisputed leadership positions atop al Qaeda's organizational structure. Within this structure, al Qaeda's worldwide terrorist operations relied heavily on the ideas and work of enterprising and strong-willed field commanders who enjoyed considerable autonomy. To understand how the organization actually worked and to introduce the origins of the 9/11 plot, we briefly examine three of these subordinate commanders: Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), Riduan Isamuddin (better known as Hambali), and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri. We will devote the most attention to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the chief manager of the "planes operation."

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

No one exemplifies the model of the terrorist entrepreneur more clearly than Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks. KSM followed a rather tortuous path to his eventual membership in al Qaeda.1 Highly educated and equally comfortable in a government office or a terrorist safehouse, KSM applied his imagination, technical aptitude, and managerial skills to hatching and planning an extraordinary array of terrorist schemes. These ideas included conventional car bombing, political assassination, aircraft bombing, hijacking, reservoir poisoning, and, ultimately, the use of aircraft as missiles guided by suicide operatives.

Like his nephew Ramzi Yousef (three years KSM's junior), KSM grew up in Kuwait but traces his ethnic lineage to the Baluchistan region straddling Iran and Pakistan. Raised in a religious family, KSM claims to have joined the Muslim Brotherhood at age 16 and to have become enamored of violent jihad at youth camps in the desert. In 1983, following his graduation from secondary school, KSM left Kuwait to enroll at Chowan College, a small Baptist school in Murfreesboro, North Carolina. After a semester at Chowan, KSM transferred to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, which he attended with Yousef's brother, another future al Qaeda member. KSM earned a degree in mechanical engineering in December 1986.3

Detainee Interrogation Reports

Chapters 5 and 7 rely heavily on information obtained from captured al Qaeda members. A number of these "detainees" have firsthand knowledge of the 9/11 plot.

Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses-sworn enemies of the United States-is challenging. Our access to them has been limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications received from the locations where the actual interrogations take place. We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no control over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambiguities in the reporting. We were told that our requests might disrupt the sensitive interrogation process.

We have nonetheless decided to include information from captured 9/11 conspirators and al Qaeda members in our report. We have evaluated their statements carefully and have attempted to corroborate them with documents and statements of others. In this report, we indicate where such statements provide the foundation for our narrative. We have been authorized to identify by name only ten detainees whose custody has been confirmed officially by the U.S. government.2


Although he apparently did not attract attention for extreme Islamist beliefs or activities while in the United States, KSM plunged into the anti-Soviet Afghan jihad soon after graduating from college. Visiting Pakistan for the first time in early 1987, he traveled to Peshawar, where his brother Zahid introduced him to the famous Afghan mujahid Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, head of the Hizbul-Ittihad El-Islami (Islamic Union Party). Sayyaf became KSM's mentor and provided KSM with military training at Sayyaf's Sada camp. KSM claims he then fought the Soviets and remained at the front for three months before being summoned to perform administrative duties for Abdullah Azzam. KSM next took a job working for an electronics firm that catered to the communications needs of Afghan groups, where he learned about drills used to excavate caves in Afghanistan.4

Between 1988 and 1992, KSM helped run a nongovernmental organization (NGO) in Peshawar and Jalalabad; sponsored by Sayyaf, it was designed to aid young Afghan mujahideen. In 1992, KSM spent some time fighting alongside the mujahideen in Bosnia and supporting that effort with financial donations. After returning briefly to Pakistan, he moved his family to Qatar at the suggestion of the former minister of Islamic affairs of Qatar, Sheikh Abdallah bin Khalid bin Hamad al Thani. KSM took a position in Qatar as project engineer with the Qatari Ministry of Electricity and Water. Although he engaged in extensive international travel during his tenure at the ministry-much of it in furtherance of terrorist activity-KSM would hold his position there until early 1996, when he fled to Pakistan to avoid capture by U.S. authorities.5

KSM first came to the attention of U.S. law enforcement as a result of his cameo role in the first World Trade Center bombing. According to KSM, he learned of Ramzi Yousef's intention to launch an attack inside the United States in 1991 or 1992, when Yousef was receiving explosives training in Afghanistan. During the fall of 1992, while Yousef was building the bomb he would use in that attack, KSM and Yousef had numerous telephone conversations during which Yousef discussed his progress and sought additional funding. On November 3, 1992, KSM wired $660 from Qatar to the bank account of Yousef's co-conspirator, Mohammed Salameh. KSM does not appear to have contributed any more substantially to this operation.6

Yousef's instant notoriety as the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing inspired KSM to become involved in planning attacks against the United States. By his own account, KSM's animus toward the United States stemmed not from his experiences there as a student, but rather from his violent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel. In 1994, KSM accompanied Yousef to the Philippines, and the two of them began planning what is now known as the Manila air or "Bojinka" plot-the intended bombing of 12 U.S. commercial jumbo jets over the Pacific during a two-day span. This marked the first time KSM took part in the actual planning of a terrorist operation. While sharing an apartment in Manila during the summer of 1994, he and Yousef acquired chemicals and other materials necessary to construct bombs and timers. They also cased target flights to Hong Kong and Seoul that would have onward legs to the United States. During this same period, KSM and Yousef also developed plans to assassinat President Clinton during his November 1994 trip to Manila, and to bomb U.S.-bound cargo carriers by smuggling jackets containing nitrocellulose on board.7

KSM left the Philippines in September 1994 and met up with Yousef in Karachi following their casing flights. There they enlisted Wali Khan Amin Shah, also known as Usama Asmurai, in the Manila air plot. During the fall of 1994,Yousef returned to Manila and successfully tested the digital watch timer he had invented, bombing a movie theater and a Philippine Airlines flight en route to Tokyo. The plot unraveled after the Philippine authorities discovered Yousef's bomb-making operation in Manila; but by that time, KSM was safely

Image
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/11 plot, at the time of his capture in 2003

back at his government job in Qatar. Yousef attempted to follow through on the cargo carriers plan, but he was arrested in Islamabad by Pakistani authorities on February 7, 1995, after an accomplice turned him in.8

KSM continued to travel among the worldwide jihadist community after Yousef's arrest, visiting the Sudan, Yemen, Malaysia, and Brazil in 1995. No clear evidence connects him to terrorist activities in those locations. While in Sudan, he reportedly failed in his attempt to meet with Bin Ladin. But KSM did see Atef, who gave him a contact in Brazil. In January 1996, well aware that U.S. authorities were chasing him, he left Qatar for good and fled to Afghanistan, where he renewed his relationship with Rasul Sayyaf.9

Just as KSM was reestablishing himself in Afghanistan in mid-1996, Bin Ladin and his colleagues were also completing their migration from Sudan. Through Atef, KSM arranged a meeting with Bin Ladin in Tora Bora, a mountainous redoubt from the Afghan war days. At the meeting, KSM presented the al Qaeda leader with a menu of ideas for terrorist operations. According to KSM, this meeting was the first time he had seen Bin Ladin since 1989. Although they had fought together in 1987, Bin Ladin and KSM did not yet enjoy an especially close working relationship. Indeed, KSM has acknowledged that Bin Ladin likely agreed to meet with him because of the renown of his nephew, Yousef.10

At the meeting, KSM briefed Bin Ladin and Atef on the first World Trade Center bombing, the Manila air plot, the cargo carriers plan, and other activities pursued by KSM and his colleagues in the Philippines. KSM also presented a proposal for an operation that would involve training pilots who would crash planes into buildings in the United States. This proposal eventually would become the 9/11 operation.11

KSM knew that the successful staging of such an attack would require personnel, money, and logistical support that only an extensive and well-funded organization like al Qaeda could provide. He thought the operation might appeal to Bin Ladin, who had a long record of denouncing the United States.12

From KSM's perspective, Bin Ladin was in the process of consolidating his new position in Afghanistan while hearing out others' ideas, and had not yet settled on an agenda for future anti-U.S. operations. At the meeting, Bin Ladin listened to KSM's ideas without much comment, but did ask KSM formally to join al Qaeda and move his family to Afghanistan.13

KSM declined. He preferred to remain independent and retain the option of working with other mujahideen groups still operating in Afghanistan, including the group led by his old mentor, Sayyaf. Sayyaf was close to Ahmed Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance. Therefore working with him might be a problem for KSM because Bin Ladin was building ties to the rival Taliban.

After meeting with Bin Ladin, KSM says he journeyed onward to India, Indonesia, and Malaysia, where he met with Jemaah Islamiah's Hambali. Hambali was an Indonesian veteran of the Afghan war looking to expand the jihad into Southeast Asia. In Iran, KSM rejoined his family and arranged to move them to Karachi; he claims to have relocated by January 1997.14

After settling his family in Karachi, KSM tried to join the mujahid leader Ibn al Khattab in Chechnya. Unable to travel through Azerbaijan, KSM returned to Karachi and then to Afghanistan to renew contacts with Bin Ladin and his colleagues. Though KSM may not have been a member of al Qaeda at this time, he admits traveling frequently between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1997 and the first half of 1998, visiting Bin Ladin and cultivating relationships with his lieutenants, Atef and Sayf al Adl, by assisting them with computer and media projects.15

According to KSM, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam marked a watershed in the evolution of the 9/11 plot. KSM claims these bombings convinced him that Bin Ladin was truly committed to attacking the United States. He continued to make himself useful, collecting news articles and helping other al Qaeda members with their outdated computer equipment. Bin Ladin, apparently at Atef's urging, finally decided to give KSM the green light for the 9/11 operation sometime in late 1998 or early 1999.16

KSM then accepted Bin Ladin's standing invitation to move to Kandahar and work directly with al Qaeda. In addition to supervising the planning and preparations for the 9/11 operation, KSM worked with and eventually led al Qaeda's media committee. But KSM states he refused to swear a formal oath of allegiance to Bin Ladin, thereby retaining a last vestige of his cherished autonomy.17

At this point, late 1998 to early 1999, planning for the 9/11 operation began in earnest. Yet while the 9/11 project occupied the bulk of KSM's attention, he continued to consider other possibilities for terrorist attacks. For example, he sent al Qaeda operative Issa al Britani to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to learn about the jihad in Southeast Asia from Hambali. Thereafter, KSM claims, at Bin Ladin's direction in early 2001, he sent Britani to the United States to case potential economic and "Jewish" targets in New York City. Furthermore, during the summer of 2001, KSM approached Bin Ladin with the idea of recruiting a Saudi Arabian air force pilot to commandeer a Saudi fighter jet and attack the Israeli city of Eilat. Bin Ladin reportedly liked this proposal, but he instructed KSM to concentrate on the 9/11 operation first. Similarly, KSM's proposals to Atef around this same time for attacks in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, and the Maldives were never executed, although Hambali's Jemaah Islamiah operatives did some casing of possible targets.18

KSM appears to have been popular among the al Qaeda rank and file. He was reportedly regarded as an effective leader, especially after the 9/11 attacks. Co-workers describe him as an intelligent, efficient, and even-tempered manager who approached his projects with a single-minded dedication that he expected his colleagues to share. Al Qaeda associate Abu Zubaydah has expressed more qualified admiration for KSM's innate creativity, emphasizing instead his ability to incorporate the improvements suggested by others. Nashiri has been similarly measured, observing that although KSM floated many general ideas for attacks, he rarely conceived a specific operation him-self.19 Perhaps these estimates reflect a touch of jealousy; in any case, KSM was plainly a capable coordinator, having had years to hone his skills and build relationships.

Hambali

Al Qaeda's success in fostering terrorism in Southeast Asia stems largely from its close relationship with Jemaah Islamiah (JI). In that relationship, Hambali became the key coordinator. Born and educated in Indonesia, Hambali moved to Malaysia in the early 1980s to find work. There he claims to have become a follower of the Islamist extremist teachings of various clerics, including one named Abdullah Sungkar. Sungkar first inspired Hambali to share the vision of establishing a radical Islamist regime in Southeast Asia, then furthered Hambali's instruction in jihad by sending him to Afghanistan in 1986.After undergoing training at Rasul Sayyaf's Sada camp (where KSM would later train), Hambali fought against the Soviets; he eventually returned to Malaysia after 18 months in Afghanistan. By 1998, Hambali would assume responsibility for the Malaysia/Singapore region within Sungkar's newly formed terrorist organization, the JI.20

Also by 1998, Sungkar and JI spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir had accepted Bin Ladin's offer to ally JI with al Qaeda in waging war against Christians and Jews.21 Hambali met with KSM in Karachi to arrange for JI members to receive training in Afghanistan at al Qaeda's camps. In addition to his close working relationship with KSM, Hambali soon began dealing with Atef as well. Al Qaeda began funding JI's increasingly ambitious terrorist plans, which Atef and KSM sought to expand. Under this arrangement, JI would perform the necessary casing activities and locate bomb-making materials and other supplies. Al Qaeda would underwrite operations, provide bomb-making expertise, and deliver suicide operatives.22

The al Qaeda-JI partnership yielded a number of proposals that would marry al Qaeda's financial and technical strengths with JI's access to materials and local operatives. Here, Hambali played the critical role of coordinator, as he distributed al Qaeda funds earmarked for the joint operations. In one especially notable example, Atef turned to Hambali when al Qaeda needed a scientist to take over its biological weapons program. Hambali obliged by introducing a U.S.-educated JI member, Yazid Sufaat, to Ayman al Zawahiri in Kandahar. In 2001, Sufaat would spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al Qaeda in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport.23

Hambali did not originally orient JI's operations toward attacking the United States, but his involvement with al Qaeda appears to have inspired him to pursue American targets. KSM, in his post-capture interrogations, has taken credit for this shift, claiming to have urged the JI operations chief to concentrate on attacks designed to hurt the U.S. economy.24 Hambali's newfound interest in striking against the United States manifested itself in a spate of terrorist plans. Fortunately, none came to fruition.

In addition to staging actual terrorist attacks in partnership with al Qaeda, Hambali and JI assisted al Qaeda operatives passing through Kuala Lumpur. One important occasion was in December 1999-January 2000. Hambali accommodated KSM's requests to help several veterans whom KSM had just finished training in Karachi. They included Tawfiq bin Attash, also known as Khallad, who later would help bomb the USS Cole, and future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar. Hambali arranged lodging for them and helped them purchase airline tickets for their onward travel. Later that year, Hambali and his crew would provide accommodations and other assistance (including information on flight schools and help in acquiring ammonium nitrate) for Zacarias Moussaoui, an al Qaeda operative sent to Malaysia by Atef and KSM.25

Hambali used Bin Ladin's Afghan facilities as a training ground for JI recruits. Though he had a close relationship with Atef and KSM, he maintained JI's institutional independence from al Qaeda. Hambali insists that he did not discuss operations with Bin Ladin or swear allegiance to him, having already given such a pledge of loyalty to Bashir, Sungkar's successor as JI leader. Thus, like any powerful bureaucrat defending his domain, Hambali objected when al Qaeda leadership tried to assign JI members to terrorist projects without notifying him.26

Abd al Rahim al Nashiri

KSM and Hambali both decided to join forces with al Qaeda because their terrorist aspirations required the money and manpower that only a robust organization like al Qaeda could supply. On the other hand, Abd al Rahim al Nashiri-the mastermind of the Cole bombing and the eventual head of al Qaeda operations in the Arabian Peninsula-appears to have originally been recruited to his career as a terrorist by Bin Ladin himself.

Having already participated in the Afghan jihad, Nashiri accompanied a group of some 30 mujahideen in pursuit of jihad in Tajikistan in 1996.When serious fighting failed to materialize, the group traveled to Jalalabad and encountered Bin Ladin, who had recently returned from Sudan. Bin Ladin addressed them at length, urging the group to join him in a "jihad against the Americans." Although all were urged to swear loyalty to Bin Ladin, many, including Nashiri, found the notion distasteful and refused. After several days of indoctrination that included a barrage of news clippings and television documentaries, Nashiri left Afghanistan, first returning to his native Saudi Arabia and then visiting his home in Yemen. There, he says, the idea for his first terrorist operation took shape as he noticed many U.S. and other foreign ships plying the waters along the southwest coast of Yemen.27

Nashiri returned to Afghanistan, probably in 1997, primarily to check on relatives fighting there and also to learn about the Taliban. He again encountered Bin Ladin, still recruiting for "the coming battle with the United States." Nashiri pursued a more conventional military jihad, joining the Taliban forces in their fight against Ahmed Massoud's Northern Alliance and shuttling back and forth between the front and Kandahar, where he would see Bin Ladin and meet with other mujahideen. During this period, Nashiri also led a plot to smuggle four Russian-made antitank missiles into Saudi Arabia from Yemen in early 1998 and helped an embassy bombing operative obtain a Yemeni passport.28

At some point, Nashiri joined al Qaeda. His cousin, Jihad Mohammad Ali al Makki, also known as Azzam, was a suicide bomber for the Nairobi attack. Nashiri traveled between Yemen and Afghanistan. In late 1998, Nashiri proposed mounting an attack against a U.S. vessel. Bin Ladin approved. He directed Nashiri to start the planning and send operatives to Yemen, and he later provided money.29

Nashiri reported directly to Bin Ladin, the only other person who, according to Nashiri, knew all the details of the operation. When Nashiri had difficulty finding U.S. naval vessels to attack along the western coast of Yemen, Bin Ladin reportedly instructed him to case the Port of Aden, on the southern coast, instead.30 The eventual result was an attempted attack on the USS The Sullivans in January 2000 and the successful attack, in October 2000, on the USS Cole.

Nashiri's success brought him instant status within al Qaeda. He later was recognized as the chief of al Qaeda operations in and around the Arabian Peninsula. While Nashiri continued to consult Bin Ladin on the planning of subsequent terrorist projects, he retained discretion in selecting operatives and devising attacks. In the two years between the Cole bombing and Nashiri's capture, he would supervise several more proposed operations for al Qaeda. The October 6, 2002, bombing of the French tanker Limburg in the Gulf of Aden also was Nashiri's handiwork. Although Bin Ladin urged Nashiri to continue plotting strikes against U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf, Nashiri maintains that he actually delayed one of these projects because of security concerns.31 Those concerns, it seems, were well placed, as Nashiri's November 2002 capture in the United Arab Emirates finally ended his career as a terrorist.

5.2 THE "PLANES OPERATION"

According to KSM, he started to think about attacking the United States after Yousef returned to Pakistan following the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Like Yousef, KSM reasoned he could best influence U.S. policy by targeting the country's economy. KSM and Yousef reportedly brainstormed together about what drove the U.S. economy. New York, which KSM considered the economic capital of the United States, therefore became the primary target. For similar reasons, California also became a target for KSM.32

KSM claims that the earlier bombing of the World Trade Center taught him that bombs and explosives could be problematic, and that he needed to graduate to a more novel form of attack. He maintains that he and Yousef began thinking about using aircraft as weapons while working on the Manila air/Bojinka plot, and speculated about striking the World Trade Center and CIA headquarters as early as 1995.33

Certainly KSM was not alone in contemplating new kinds of terrorist operations.A study reportedly conducted by Atef, while he and Bin Ladin were still in Sudan, concluded that traditional terrorist hijacking operations did not fit the needs of al Qaeda, because such hijackings were used to negotiate the release of prisoners rather than to inflict mass casualties. The study is said to have considered the feasibility of hijacking planes and blowing them up in flight, paralleling the Bojinka concept. Such a study, if it actually existed, yields significant insight into the thinking of al Qaeda's leaders: (1) they rejected hijackings aimed at gaining the release of imprisoned comrades as too complex, because al Qaeda had no friendly countries in which to land a plane and then negotiate; (2) they considered the bombing of commercial flights in midair-as carried out against Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland- a promising means to inflict massive casualties; and (3) they did not yet consider using hijacked aircraft as weapons against other targets.34

KSM has insisted to his interrogators that he always contemplated hijacking and crashing large commercial aircraft. Indeed, KSM describes a grandiose original plan: a total of ten aircraft to be hijacked, nine of which would crash into targets on both coasts-they included those eventually hit on September 11 plus CIA and FBI headquarters, nuclear power plants, and the tallest buildings in California and the state of Washington. KSM himself was to land the tenth plane at a U.S. airport and, after killing all adult male passengers on board and alerting the media, deliver a speech excoriating U.S. support for Israel, the Philippines, and repressive governments in the Arab world. Beyond KSM's rationalizations about targeting the U.S. economy, this vision gives a better glimpse of his true ambitions. This is theater, a spectacle of destruction with KSM as the self-cast star-the superterrorist.35

KSM concedes that this proposal received a lukewarm response from al Qaeda leaders skeptical of its scale and complexity. Although Bin Ladin listened to KSM's proposal, he was not convinced that it was practical. As mentioned earlier, Bin Ladin was receiving numerous ideas for potential operations- KSM's proposal to attack U.S. targets with commercial airplanes was only one of many.36

KSM presents himself as an entrepreneur seeking venture capital and people. He simply wanted al Qaeda to supply the money and operatives needed for the attack while retaining his independence. It is easy to question such a statement. Money is one thing; supplying a cadre of trained operatives willing to die is much more. Thus, although KSM contends he would have been just as likely to consider working with any comparable terrorist organization, he gives no indication of what other groups he thought could supply such exceptional commodities.37

KSM acknowledges formally joining al Qaeda, in late 1998 or 1999, and states that soon afterward, Bin Ladin also made the decision to support his proposal to attack the United States using commercial airplanes as weapons. Though KSM speculates about how Bin Ladin came to share his preoccupation with attacking America, Bin Ladin in fact had long been an opponent of the United States. KSM thinks that Atef may have persuaded Bin Ladin to approve this specific proposal. Atef's role in the entire operation is unquestionably very significant but tends to fade into the background, in part because Atef himself is not available to describe it. He was killed in November 2001 by an American air strike in Afghanistan.38

Bin Ladin summoned KSM to Kandahar in March or April 1999 to tell him that al Qaeda would support his proposal. The plot was now referred to within al Qaeda as the "planes operation."39

The Plan Evolves

Bin Ladin reportedly discussed the planes operation with KSM and Atef in a series of meetings in the spring of 1999 at the al Matar complex near Kandahar. KSM's original concept of using one of the hijacked planes to make a media statement was scrapped, but Bin Ladin considered the basic idea feasible. Bin Ladin, Atef, and KSM developed an initial list of targets. These included the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center. According to KSM, Bin Ladin wanted to destroy the White House and the Pentagon, KSM wanted to strike the World Trade Center, and all of them wanted to hit the Capitol. No one else was involved in the initial selection of targets.40

Bin Ladin also soon selected four individuals to serve as suicide operatives: Khalid al Mihdhar, Nawaf al Hazmi, Khallad, and Abu Bara al Yemeni. During the al Matar meetings, Bin Ladin told KSM that Mihdhar and Hazmi were so eager to participate in an operation against the United States that they had already obtained U.S. visas. KSM states that they had done so on their own after the suicide of their friend Azzam (Nashiri's cousin) in carrying out the Nairobi bombing. KSM had not met them. His only guidance from Bin Ladin was that the two should eventually go to the United States for pilot training.41

Hazmi and Mihdhar were Saudi nationals, born in Mecca. Like the others in this initial group of selectees, they were already experienced mujahideen. They had traveled together to fight in Bosnia in a group that journeyed to the Balkans in 1995. By the time Hazmi and Mihdhar were assigned to the planes operation in early 1999, they had visited Afghanistan on several occasions.42

Khallad was another veteran mujahid, like much of his family. His father had been expelled from Yemen because of his extremist views. Khallad had grown up in Saudi Arabia, where his father knew Bin Ladin, Abdullah Azzam, and Omar Abdel Rahman (the "Blind Sheikh"). Khallad departed for Afghanistan in 1994 at the age of 15.Three years later, he lost his lower right leg in a battle with the Northern Alliance, a battle in which one of his brothers died. After this experience, he pledged allegiance to Bin Ladin-whom he had first met as a child in Jeddah-and volunteered to become a suicide operative.43

When Khallad applied for a U.S. visa, however, his application was denied. Earlier in 1999, Bin Ladin had sent Khallad to Yemen to help Nashiri obtain explosives for the planned ship-bombing and to obtain a visa to visit the United States, so that he could participate in an operation there. Khallad applied under another name, using the cover story that he would be visiting a medical clinic to obtain a new prosthesis for his leg. Another al Qaeda operative gave Khallad the name of a person living in the United States whom Khallad could use as a point of contact on a visa application. Khallad contacted this individual to help him get an appointment at a U.S. clinic. While Khallad was waiting for the letter from the clinic confirming the appointment, however, he was arrested byYemeni authorities. The arrest resulted from mistaken identity: Khallad was driving the car of another conspirator in the ship-bombing plot who was wanted by the Yemeni authorities.44

Khallad was released sometime during the summer of 1999, after his father and Bin Ladin intervened on his behalf. Khallad learned later that the al Qaeda leader, apparently concerned that Khallad might reveal Nashiri's operation while under interrogation, had contacted a Yemeni official to demand Khallad's release, suggesting that Bin Ladin would not confront the Yemenis if they did not confront him. This account has been corroborated by others. Giving up on acquiring a U.S. visa and concerned that the United States might learn of his ties to al Qaeda, Khallad returned to Afghanistan.45

Travel issues thus played a part in al Qaeda's operational planning from the very start. During the spring and summer of 1999, KSM realized that Khallad and Abu Bara, both of whom were Yemenis, would not be able to obtain U.S. visas as easily as Saudi operatives like Mihdhar and Hazmi. Although Khallad had been unable to acquire a U.S. visa, KSM still wanted him and Abu Bara, as well as another Yemeni operative from Bin Ladin's security detail, to participate in the planes operation. Yet because individuals with Saudi passports could travel much more easily than Yemeni, particularly to the United States, there were fewer martyrdom opportunities for Yemenis. To overcome this problem, KSM decided to split the planes operation into two components.46

The first part of the planes operation-crashing hijacked aircraft into U.S. targets-would remain as planned, with Mihdhar and Hazmi playing key roles. The second part, however, would now embrace the idea of using suicide operatives to blow up planes, a refinement of KSM's old Manila air plot. The operatives would hijack U.S.-flagged commercial planes flying Pacific routes across East Asia and destroy them in midair, possibly with shoe bombs, instead of flying them into targets. (An alternate scenario apparently involved flying planes into U.S. targets in Japan, Singapore, or Korea.) This part of the operation has been confirmed by Khallad, who said that they contemplated hijacking several planes, probably originating in Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, or Malaysia, and using Yemenis who would not need pilot training because they would simply down the planes. All the planes hijacked in the United States and East Asia were to be crashed or exploded at about the same time to maximize the attack's psychological impact.47

Training and Deployment to Kuala Lumpur

In the fall of 1999, the four operatives selected by Bin Ladin for the planes operation were chosen to attend an elite training course at al Qaeda's Mes Aynak camp in Afghanistan. Bin Ladin personally selected the veteran fighters who received this training, and several of them were destined for important operations. One example is Ibrahim al Thawar, or Nibras, who would participate in the October 12, 2000, suicide attack on the USS Cole. According to KSM, this training was not given specifically in preparation for the planes operation or any other particular al Qaeda venture. Although KSM claims not to have been involved with the training or to have met with the future 9/11 hijackers at Mes Aynak, he says he did visit the camp while traveling from Kandahar to Kabul with Bin Ladin and others.48

The Mes Aynak training camp was located in an abandoned Russian copper mine near Kabul. The camp opened in 1999, after the United States had destroyed the training camp near Khowst with cruise missiles in August 1998, and before the Taliban granted al Qaeda permission to open the al Faruq camp in Kandahar.Thus, for a brief period in 1999, Mes Aynak was the only al Qaeda camp operating in Afghanistan. It offered a full range of instruction, including an advanced commando course taught by senior al Qaeda member Sayf al Adl. Bin Ladin paid particular attention to the 1999 training session. When Salah al Din, the trainer for the session, complained about the number of trainees and said that no more than 20 could be handled at once, Bin Ladin insisted that everyone he had selected receive the training.49

The special training session at Mes Aynak was rigorous and spared no expense. The course focused on physical fitness, firearms, close quarters combat, shooting from a motorcycle, and night operations. Although the subjects taught differed little from those offered at other camps, the course placed extraordinary physical and mental demands on its participants, who received the best food and other amenities to enhance their strength and morale.50

Upon completing the advanced training at Mes Aynak, Hazmi, Khallad, and Abu Bara went to Karachi, Pakistan. There KSM instructed them on Western culture and travel. Much of his activity in mid-1999 had revolved around the collection of training and informational materials for the participants in the planes operation. For instance, he collected Western aviation magazines; telephone directories for American cities such as San Diego and Long Beach, California; brochures for schools; and airline timetables, and he conducted Internet searches on U.S. flight schools. He also purchased flight simulator software and a few movies depicting hijackings. To house his students, KSM rented a safehouse in Karachi with money provided by Bin Ladin.51

In early December 1999, Khallad and Abu Bara arrived in Karachi. Hazmi joined them there a few days later. On his way to Karachi, Hazmi spent a night in Quetta at a safehouse where, according to KSM, an Egyptian named Mohamed Atta simultaneously stayed on his way to Afghanistan for jihad training.52

Mihdhar did not attend the training in Karachi with the others. KSM says that he never met with Mihdhar in 1999 but assumed that Bin Ladin and Atef had briefed Mihdhar on the planes operation and had excused him from the Karachi training.53

The course in Karachi apparently lasted about one or two weeks. According to KSM, he taught the three operatives basic English words and phrases. He showed them how to read phone books, interpret airline timetables, use the Internet, use code words in communications, make travel reservations, and rent an apartment. Khallad adds that the training involved using flight simulator computer games, viewing movies that featured hijackings, and reading flight schedules to determine which flights would be in the air at the same time in different parts of the world. They used the game software to increase their familiarity with aircraft models and functions, and to highlight gaps in cabin security. While in Karachi, they also discussed how to case flights in Southeast Asia. KSM told them to watch the cabin doors at takeoff and landing, to observe whether the captain went to the lavatory during the flight, and to note whether the flight attendants brought food into the cockpit. KSM, Khallad, and Hazmi also visited travel agencies to learn the visa requirements for Asian countries.54

The four trainees traveled to Kuala Lumpur: Khallad, Abu Bara, and Hazmi came from Karachi; Mihdhar traveled from Yemen. As discussed in chapter 6, U.S. intelligence would analyze communications associated with Mihdhar, whom they identified during this travel, and Hazmi, whom they could have identified but did not.55

According to KSM, the four operatives were aware that they had volunteered for a suicide operation, either in the United States or in Asia. With different roles, they had different tasks. Hazmi and Mihdhar were sent to Kuala Lumpur before proceeding to their final destination-the United States. According to KSM, they were to use Yemeni documents to fly to Malaysia, then proceed to the United States using their Saudi passports to conceal their prior travels to and from Pakistan. KSM had doctored Hazmi's Saudi passport so it would appear as if Hazmi had traveled to Kuala Lumpur from Saudi Arabia via Dubai. Khallad and Abu Bara went to Kuala Lumpur to study airport security and conduct casing flights. According to Khallad, he and Abu Bara departed for Malaysia in mid-December 1999. Hazmi joined them about ten days later after briefly returning to Afghanistan to attend to some passport issues.56

Khallad had originally scheduled his trip in order to receive a new prosthesis at a Kuala Lumpur clinic called Endolite, and Bin Ladin suggested that he use the opportunity to case flights as well. According to Khallad, Malaysia was an ideal destination because its government did not require citizens of Saudi Arabia or other Gulf states to have a visa. Malaysian security was reputed to be lax when it came to Islamist jihadists. Also, other mujahideen wounded in combat had reportedly received treatment at the Endolite clinic and successfully concealed the origins of their injuries. Khallad said he got the money for the prosthesis from his father, Bin Ladin, and another al Qaeda colleague.57

According to Khallad, when he and Abu Bara arrived in Kuala Lumpur they contacted Hambali to let him know where they were staying, since he was to be kept informed of al Qaeda activities in Southeast Asia. Hambali picked up Khallad and Abu Bara and brought them to his home, enlisting the help of a colleague who spoke better Arabic. Hambali then took them to the clinic.58

On December 31, Khallad flew from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok; the next day, he flew to Hong Kong aboard a U.S. airliner. He flew in first class, which he realized was a mistake because this seating assignment on that flight did not afford him a view of the cockpit. He claims to have done what he could to case the flight, testing security by carrying a box cutter in his toiletries kit onto the flight to Hong Kong. Khallad returned to Bangkok the following day. At the airport, the security officials searched his carry-on bag and even opened the toiletries kit, but just glanced at the contents and let him pass. On this flight, Khallad waited until most of the first-class passengers were dozing, then got up and removed the kit from his carry-on. None of the flight attendants took notice.59

After completing his casing mission, Khallad returned to Kuala Lumpur. Hazmi arrived in Kuala Lumpur soon thereafter and may even have stayed briefly with Khallad and Abu Bara at Endolite. Mihdhar arrived on January 5, probably one day after Hazmi. All four operatives stayed at the apartment of Yazid Sufaat, the Malaysian JI member who made his home available at Hambali's request. According to Khallad, he and Hazmi spoke about the possibility of hijacking planes and crashing them or holding passengers as hostages, but only speculatively. Khallad admits being aware at the time that Hazmi and Mihdhar were involved in an operation involving planes in the United States but denies knowing details of the plan.60

While in Kuala Lumpur, Khallad wanted to go to Singapore to meet Nibras and Fahd al Quso, two of the operatives in Nashiri's ship-bombing operation. An attempt to execute that plan by attacking the USS The Sullivans had failed just a few days earlier. Nibras and Quso were bringing Khallad money from Yemen, but were stopped in Bangkok because they lacked visas to continue on to Singapore. Also unable to enter Singapore, Khallad moved the meeting to Bangkok. Hazmi and Mihdhar decided to go there as well, reportedly because they thought it would enhance their cover as tourists to have passport stamps from a popular tourist destination such as Thailand. With Hambali's help, the three obtained tickets for a flight to Bangkok and left Kuala Lumpur together. Abu Bara did not have a visa permitting him to return to Pakistan, so he traveled to Yemen instead.61

In Bangkok, Khallad took Hazmi and Mihdhar to one hotel, then went to another hotel for his meeting on the maritime attack plan. Hazmi and Mihdhar soon moved to that same hotel, but Khallad insists that the two sets of operatives never met with each other or anyone else. After conferring with the ship-bombing operatives, Khallad returned to Karachi and then to Kandahar, where he reported on his casing mission to Bin Ladin.62

Bin Ladin canceled the East Asia part of the planes operation in the spring of 2000. He evidently decided it would be too difficult to coordinate this attack with the operation in the United States. As for Hazmi and Mihdhar, they had left Bangkok a few days before Khallad and arrived in Los Angeles on January 15, 2000.63

Meanwhile, the next group of al Qaeda operatives destined for the planes operation had just surfaced in Afghanistan. As Hazmi and Mihdhar were deploying from Asia to the United States, al Qaeda's leadership was recruiting and training four Western-educated men who had recently arrived in Kanda-har. Though they hailed from four different countries-Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, and Yemen-they had formed a close-knit group as students in Hamburg, Germany. The new recruits had come to Afghanistan aspiring to wage jihad in Chechnya. But al Qaeda quickly recognized their potential and enlisted them in its anti-U.S. jihad.
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Re: The 9/11 Commission Report, by The National Commission o

Postby admin » Tue Mar 22, 2016 8:04 am

Part 2 of 2

5.3 THE HAMBURG CONTINGENT

Although Bin Ladin, Atef, and KSM initially contemplated using established al Qaeda members to execute the planes operation, the late 1999 arrival in Kandahar of four aspiring jihadists from Germany suddenly presented a more attractive alternative. The Hamburg group shared the anti-U.S. fervor of the other candidates for the operation, but added the enormous advantages of fluency in English and familiarity with life in the West, based on years that each member of the group had spent living in Germany. Not surprisingly, Mohamed Atta, Ramzi Binalshibh, Marwan al Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah would all become key players in the 9/11 conspiracy.

Mohamed Atta

Mohamed Atta was born on September 1, 1968, in Kafr el Sheikh, Egypt, to a middle-class family headed by his father, an attorney. After graduating from Cairo University with a degree in architectural engineering in 1990, Atta worked as an urban planner in Cairo for a couple of years. In the fall of 1991, he asked a German family he had met in Cairo to help him continue his education in Germany. They suggested he come to Hamburg and invited him to live with them there, at least initially. After completing a course in German, Atta traveled to Germany for the first time in July 1992. He resided briefly in Stuttgart and then, in the fall of 1992, moved to Hamburg to live with his host family. After enrolling at the University of Hamburg, he promptly transferred into the city engineering and planning course at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg, where he would remain registered as a student until the fall of 1999. He appears to have applied himself fairly seriously to his studies (at least in comparisonn to his jihadist friends) and actually received his degree shortly before traveling to Afghanistan. In school, Atta came across as very intelligent and reasonably pleasant, with an excellent command of the German language.64

When Atta arrived in Germany, he appeared religious, but not fanatically so. This would change, especially as his tendency to assert leadership became increasingly pronounced. According to Binalshibh, as early as 1995 Atta sought to organize a Muslim student association in Hamburg. In the fall of 1997, he joined a working group at the Quds mosque in Hamburg, a group designed to bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians. Atta proved a poor bridge, however, because of his abrasive and increasingly dogmatic personality. But among those who shared his beliefs, Atta stood out as a decisionmaker. Atta's friends during this period remember him as charismatic, intelligent, and persuasive, albeit intolerant of dissent.65

In his interactions with other students, Atta voiced virulently anti-Semitic and anti-American opinions, ranging from condemnations of what he described as a global Jewish movement centered in New York City that supposedly controlled the financial world and the media, to polemics against governments of the Arab world. To him, Saddam Hussein was an American stooge set up to give Washington an excuse to intervene in the Middle East. Within his circle, Atta advocated violent jihad. He reportedly asked one individual close to the group if he was "ready to fight for [his] belief" and dismissed him as too weak for jihad when the person declined. On a visit home to Egypt in 1998, Atta met one of his college friends. According to this friend, Atta had changed a great deal, had grown a beard, and had "obviously adopted fundamentalism" by that time.66

Ramzi Binalshibh

Ramzi Binalshibh was born on May 1,1972, in Ghayl Bawazir, Yemen. There does not seem to be anything remarkable about his family or early background. A friend who knew Binalshibh in Yemen remembers him as "religious, but not too religious." From 1987 to 1995, Binalshibh worked as a clerk for the International Bank of Yemen. He first attempted to leave Yemen in 1995, when he applied for a U.S. visa. After his application was rejected, he went to Germany and applied for asylum under the name Ramzi Omar, claiming to be a Sudanese citizen seeking asylum. While his asylum petition was pending, Binalshibh lived in Hamburg and associated with individuals from several mosques there. In 1997, after his asylum application was denied, Binalshibh went home to Yemen but returned to Germany shortly thereafter under his true name, this time registering as a student in Hamburg. Binalshibh continually had academic problems, failing tests and cutting classes; he was expelled from one school in September 1998.67

According to Binalshibh, he and Atta first met at a mosque in Hamburg in 1995. The two men became close friends and became identified with their shared extremist outlook. Like Atta, by the late 1990s Binalshibh was decrying what he perceived to be a "Jewish world conspiracy." He proclaimed that the highest duty of every Muslim was to pursue jihad, and that the highest honor was to die during the jihad. Despite his rhetoric, however, Binalshibh presented a more amiable figure than the austere Atta, and was known within the community as being sociable, extroverted, polite, and adventuresome.68

In 1998, Binalshibh and Atta began sharing an apartment in the Harburg section of Hamburg, together with a young student from the United Arab Emirates named Marwan al Shehhi.69

Marwan al Shehhi

Marwan al Shehhi was born on May 9, 1978, in Ras al Khaimah, the United Arab Emirates. His father, who died in 1997, was a prayer leader at the local mosque. After graduating from high school in 1995, Shehhi joined the Emirati military and received half a year of basic training before gaining admission to a military scholarship program that would fund his continued study in Germany.70

Shehhi first entered Germany in April 1996.After sharing an apartment in Bonn for two months with three other scholarship students, Shehhi moved in with a German family, with whom he resided for several months before moving into his own apartment. During this period, he came across as very religious, praying five times a day. Friends also remember him as convivial and "a regular guy," wearing Western clothes and occasionally renting cars for trips to Berlin, France, and the Netherlands.71

As a student, Shehhi was less than a success. Upon completing a course in German, he enrolled at the University of Bonn in a program for technical, mathematical, and scientific studies. In June 1997, he requested a leave from his studies, citing the need to attend to unspecified "problems" in his home country. Although the university denied his request, Shehhi left anyway, and consequently was compelled to repeat the first semester of his studies. In addition to having academic difficulties at this time, Shehhi appeared to become more extreme in the practice of his faith; for example, he specifically avoided restaurants that cooked with or served alcohol. In late 1997, he applied for permission to complete his course work in Hamburg, a request apparently motivated by his desire to join Atta and Binalshibh. Just how and when the three of them first met remains unclear, although they seemed to know each other already when Shehhi relocated to Hamburg in early 1998.Atta and Binalshibh moved into his apartment in April.72

The transfer to Hamburg did not help Shehhi's academic progress; he was directed by the scholarship program administrators at the Emirati embassy to repeat his second semester starting in August 1998, but back in Bonn. Shehhi initially flouted this directive, however, and did not reenroll at the University of Bonn until the following January, barely passing his course there. By the end of July 1999, he had returned to Hamburg, applying to study shipbuilding at the Technical University and, more significantly, residing once again with Atta and Binalshibh, in an apartment at 54 Marienstrasse.73

After Shehhi moved in with Atta and Binalshibh, his evolution toward Islamic fundamentalism became more pronounced. A fellow Emirati student who came to Hamburg to visit Shehhi noticed he no longer lived as comfortably as before. Shehhi now occupied an old apartment with a roommate, had no television, and wore inexpensive clothes. When asked why he was living so frugally, Shehhi responded that he was living the way the Prophet had lived.74 Similarly, when someone asked why he and Atta never laughed, Shehhi retorted, "How can you laugh when people are dying in Palestine?"75

Ziad Jarrah

Born on May 11, 1975, in Mazraa, Lebanon, Ziad Jarrah came from an affluent family and attended private, Christian schools. Like Atta, Binalshibh, and Shehhi, Jarrah aspired to pursue higher education in Germany. In April 1996, he and a cousin enrolled at a junior college in Greifswald, in northeastern Ger-many. There Jarrah met and became intimate with Aysel Senguen, the daughter of Turkish immigrants, who was preparing to study dentistry.76

Even with the benefit of hindsight, Jarrah hardly seems a likely candidate for becoming an Islamic extremist. Far from displaying radical beliefs when he first moved to Germany, he arrived with a reputation for knowing where to find the best discos and beaches in Beirut, and in Greifswald was known to enjoy student parties and drinking beer. Although he continued to share an apartment in Greifswald with his cousin, Jarrah was mostly at Senguen's apartment. Witnesses interviewed by German authorities after 9/11, however, recall that Jarrah started showing signs of radicalization as early as the end of 1996. After returning from a trip home to Lebanon, Jarrah started living more strictly according to the Koran. He read brochures in Arabic about jihad, held forth to friends on the subject of holy war, and professed disaffection with his previous life and a desire not to leave the world "in a natural way."77

In September 1997, Jarrah abruptly switched his intended course of study from dentistry to aircraft engineering-at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg. His motivation for this decision remains unclear. The rationale he expressed to Senguen-that he had been interested in aviation since playing with toy airplanes as a child-rings somewhat hollow. In any event, Jarrah appears already to have had Hamburg contacts by this time, some of whom may have played a role in steering him toward Islamic extremism.78

Following his move to Hamburg that fall, he began visiting Senguen in Greifswald on weekends, until she moved to the German city of Bochum one year later to enroll in dental school. Around the same time, he began speaking increasingly about religion, and his visits to Senguen became less and less frequent. He began criticizing her for not being religious enough and for dressing too provocatively. He grew a full beard and started praying regularly. He refused to introduce her to his Hamburg friends because, he told her, they were religious Muslims and her refusal to become more observant embarrassed him. At some point in 1999, Jarrah told Senguen that he was planning to wage a jihad because there was no greater honor than to die for Allah. Although Jar-rah's transformation generated numerous quarrels, their breakups invariably were followed by reconciliation.79

Forming a Cell

In Hamburg, Jarrah had a succession of living accommodations, but he apparently never resided with his future co-conspirators. It is not clear how and when he became part of Atta's circle. He became particularly friendly with Binalshibh after meeting him at the Quds mosque in Hamburg, which Jarrah began attending regularly in late 1997.The worshippers at this mosque featured an outspoken, flamboyant Islamist named Mohammed Haydar Zammar. A well-known figure in the Muslim community (and to German and U.S. intelligence agencies by the late 1990s), Zammar had fought in Afghanistan and relished any opportunity to extol the virtues of violent jihad. Indeed, a witness has reported hearing Zammar press Binalshibh to fulfill his duty to wage jihad. Moreover, after 9/11, Zammar reportedly took credit for influencing not just Binalshibh but the rest of the Hamburg group. In 1998, Zammar encouraged them to participate in jihad and even convinced them to go to Afghanistan.80

Owing to Zammar's persuasion or some other source of inspiration, Atta, Binalshibh, Shehhi, and Jarrah eventually prepared themselves to translate their extremist beliefs into action. By late 1999, they were ready to abandon their student lives in Germany in favor of violent jihad. This final stage in their evolution toward embracing Islamist extremism did not entirely escape the notice of the people around them. The foursome became core members of a group of radical Muslims, often hosting sessions at their Marienstrasse apartment that involved extremely anti-American discussions. Meeting three to four times a week, the group became something of a "sect" whose members, according to one participant in the meetings, tended to deal only with each other.81 Atta's rent checks for the apartment provide evidence of the importance that the apartment assumed as a center for the group, as he would write on them the notation "Dar el Ansar," or "house of the followers."82

In addition to Atta, Binalshibh, Shehhi, and Jarrah, the group included other extremists, some of whom also would attend al Qaeda training camps and, in some instances, would help the 9/11 hijackers as they executed the plot:

• Said Bahaji, son of a Moroccan immigrant, was the only German citizen in the group. Educated in Morocco, Bahaji returned to Germany to study electrical engineering at the Technical University of Hamburg-Harburg. He spent five months in the German army before obtaining a medical discharge, and lived with Atta and Binalshibh at 54 Marienstrasse for eight months between November 1998 and July 1999. Described as an insecure follower with no personality and with limited knowledge of Islam, Bahaji nonetheless professed his readiness to engage in violence.Atta and Binalshibh used Bahaji's computer for Internet research, as evidenced by documents and diskettes seized by German authorities after 9/11.83
• Zakariya Essabar, a Moroccan citizen, moved to Germany in February 1997 and to Hamburg in 1998, where he studied medical technology. Soon after moving to Hamburg, Essabar met Binalshibh and the others through a Turkish mosque. Essabar turned extremist fairly suddenly, probably in 1999, and reportedly pressured one acquaintance with physical force to become more religious, grow a beard, and compel his wife to convert to Islam. Essabar's parents were said to have made repeated but unsuccessful efforts to sway him from this lifestyle. Shortly before the 9/11 attacks, he would travel to Afghanistan to communicate the date for the attacks to the al Qaeda leadership.84
• Mounir el Motassadeq, another Moroccan, came to Germany in 1993, moving to Hamburg two years later to study electrical engineering at the Technical University.A witness has recalled Motassadeq saying that he would kill his entire family if his religious beliefs demanded it. One of Motassadeq's roommates recalls him referring to Hitler as a "good man" and organizing film sessions that included speeches by Bin Ladin. Motassadeq would help conceal the Hamburg group's trip to Afghanistan in late 1999.85
• Abdelghani Mzoudi, also a Moroccan, arrived in Germany in the summer of 1993, after completing university courses in physics and chemistry. Mzoudi studied in Dortmund, Bochum, and Muenster before moving to Hamburg in 1995. Mzoudi described himself as a weak Muslim when he was home in Morocco, but much more devout when he was back in Hamburg. In April 1996, Mzoudi and Motassadeq witnessed the execution of Atta's will.86

During the course of 1999, Atta and his group became ever more extreme and secretive, speaking only in Arabic to conceal the content of their conversations.87 When the four core members of the Hamburg cell left Germany to journey to Afghanistan late that year, it seems unlikely that they already knew about the planes operation; no evidence connects them to al Qaeda before that time. Witnesses have attested, however, that their pronouncements reflected ample predisposition toward taking some action against the United States.88 In short, they fit the bill for Bin Ladin, Atef, and KSM.

Going to Afghanistan

The available evidence indicates that in 1999,Atta, Binalshibh, Shehhi, and Jarrah decided to fight in Chechnya against the Russians. According to Binalshibh, a chance meeting on a train in Germany caused the group to travel to Afghanistan instead. An individual named Khalid al Masri approached Binalshibh and Shehhi (because they were Arabs with beards, Binalshibh thinks) and struck up a conversation about jihad in Chechnya. When they later called Masri and expressed interest in going to Chechnya, he told them to contact Abu Musab in Duisburg, Germany. Abu Musab turned out to be Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a significant al Qaeda operative who, even then, was well known to U.S. and German intelligence, though neither government apparently knew he was operating in Germany in late 1999. When telephoned by Binalshibh and Shehhi, Slahi reportedly invited these promising recruits to come see him in Duisburg.89

Binalshibh, Shehhi, and Jarrah made the trip. When they arrived, Slahi explained that it was difficult to get to Chechnya at that time because many travelers were being detained in Georgia. He recommended they go to Afghanistan instead, where they could train for jihad before traveling onward to Chechnya. Slahi instructed them to obtain Pakistani visas and then return to him for further directions on how to reach Afghanistan. Although Atta did not attend the meeting, he joined in the plan with the other three.After obtaining the necessary visas, they received Slahi's final instructions on how to travel to Karachi and then Quetta, where they were to contact someone named Umar al Masri at the Taliban office.90

Following Slahi's advice, Atta and Jarrah left Hamburg during the last week of November 1999, bound for Karachi. Shehhi left for Afghanistan around the same time; Binalshibh, about two weeks later. Binalshibh remembers that when he arrived at the Taliban office in Quetta, there was no one named Umar al Masri. The name, apparently, was simply a code; a group of Afghans from the office promptly escorted him to Kandahar. There Binalshibh rejoined Atta and Jarrah, who said they already had pledged loyalty to Bin Ladin and urged him to do the same. They also informed him that Shehhi had pledged as well and had already left for the United Arab Emirates to prepare for the mission. Binalshibh soon met privately with Bin Ladin, accepted the al Qaeda leader's invitation to work under him, and added his own pledge to those of his Hamburg colleagues. By this time, Binalshibh claims, he assumed he was volunteering for a martyrdom operation.91

Atta, Jarrah, and Binalshibh then met with Atef, who told them they were about to undertake a highly secret mission. As Binalshibh tells it, Atef instructed the three to return to Germany and enroll in flight training. Atta- whom Bin Ladin chose to lead the group-met with Bin Ladin several times to receive additional instructions, including a preliminary list of approved targets: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Capitol.92 The new recruits also learned that an individual named Rabia al Makki (Nawaf al Hazmi) would be part of the operation.93

In retrospect, the speed with which Atta, Shehhi, Jarrah, and Binalshibh became core members of the 9/11 plot-with Atta designated its operational leader-is remarkable. They had not yet met with KSM when all this occurred. It is clear, then, that Bin Ladin and Atef were very much in charge of the operation. That these candidates were selected so quickly-before comprehensive testing in the training camps or in operations-demonstrates that Bin Ladin and Atef probably already understood the deficiencies of their initial team, Hazmi and Mihdhar. The new recruits from Germany possessed an ideal combination of technical skill and knowledge that the original 9/11 operatives, veteran fighters though they were, lacked. Bin Ladin and Atef wasted no time in assigning the Hamburg group to the most ambitious operation yet planned by al Qaeda.

Bin Ladin and Atef also plainly judged that Atta was best suited to be the tactical commander of the operation. Such a quick and critical judgment invites speculation about whether they had already taken Atta's measure at some earlier meeting. To be sure, some gaps do appear in the record of Atta's known whereabouts during the preceding years. One such gap is February-March 1998, a period for which there is no evidence of his presence in Germany and when he conceivably could have been in Afghanistan.94 Yet to date, neither KSM, Binalshibh, nor any other al Qaeda figure interrogated about the 9/11 plot has claimed that Atta or any other member of the Hamburg group traveled to Afghanistan before the trip in late 1999.

While the four core Hamburg cell members were in Afghanistan, their associates back in Hamburg handled their affairs so that their trip could be kept secret. Motassadeq appears to have done the most. He terminated Shehhi's apartment lease, telling the landlord that Shehhi had returned to the UAE for family reasons, and used a power of attorney to pay bills from Shehhi's bank account.95 Motassadeq also assisted Jarrah, offering to look after Aysel Senguen in Jarrah's absence. Said Bahaji attended to similar routine matters for Atta and Binalshibh, thereby helping them remain abroad without drawing attention to their absence.96

Preparing for the Operation

In early 2000,Atta, Jarrah, and Binalshibh returned to Hamburg. Jarrah arrived first, on January 31, 2000.97 According to Binalshibh, he and Atta left Kandahar together and proceeded first to Karachi, where they met KSM and were instructed by him on security and on living in the United States. Shehhi apparently had already met with KSM before returning to the UAE. Atta returned to Hamburg in late February, and Binalshibh arrived shortly thereafter. She-hhi's travels took him to the UAE (where he acquired a new passport and a U.S. visa), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and one or more other destinations. Shehhi also returned to Germany, possibly sometime in March.98

After leaving Afghanistan, the hijackers made clear efforts to avoid appearing radical. Once back in Hamburg, they distanced themselves from conspicuous extremists like Zammar, whom they knew attracted unwanted attention from the authorities.99 They also changed their appearance and behavior. Atta wore Western clothing, shaved his beard, and no longer attended extremist mosques. Jarrah also no longer wore a full beard and, according to Senguen, acted much more the way he had when she first met him. And when Shehhi, while still in the UAE in January 2000, held a belated wedding celebration (he actually had been married in 1999), a friend of his was surprised to see that he had shaved off his beard and was acting like his old self again.100

But Jarrah's apparent efforts to appear less radical did not completely conceal his transformation from his Lebanese family, which grew increasingly concerned about his fanaticism. Soon after Jarrah returned to Germany, his father asked Jarrah's cousin-a close companion from boyhood-to intercede. The cousin's ensuing effort to persuade Jarrah to depart from "the path he was taking" proved unavailing.101 Yet Jarrah clearly differed from the other hijackers in that he maintained much closer contact with his family and continued his intimate relationship with Senguen. These ties may well have caused him to harbor some doubts about going through with the plot, even as late as the summer of 2001, as discussed in chapter 7.

After leaving Afghanistan, the four began researching flight schools and aviation training. In early January 2000, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali-a nephew of KSM living in the UAE who would become an important facilitator in the plot- used Shehhi's credit card to order a Boeing 747-400 flight simulator program and a Boeing 767 flight deck video, together with attendant literature; Ali had all these items shipped to his employer's address. Jarrah soon decided that the schools in Germany were not acceptable and that he would have to learn to fly in the United States. Binalshibh also researched flight schools in Europe, and in the Netherlands he met a flight school director who recommended flight schools in the United States because they were less expensive and required shorter training periods.102

In March 2000, Atta emailed 31 different U.S. flight schools on behalf of a small group of men from various Arab countries studying in Germany who, while lacking prior training, were interested in learning to fly in the United States. Atta requested information about the cost of the training, potential financing, and accommodations.103

Before seeking visas to enter the United States, Atta, Shehhi, and Jarrah obtained new passports, each claiming that his old passport had been lost. Presumably they were concerned that the Pakistani visas in their old passports would raise suspicions about possible travel to Afghanistan. Shehhi obtained his visa on January 18, 2000; Atta, on May 18; and Jarrah, on May 25.104 Binalshibh's visa request was rejected, however, as were his three subsequent applications.105 Binalshibh proved unable to obtain a visa, a victim of the generalized suspicion that visa applicants from Yemen-especially young men applying in another country (Binalshibh first applied in Berlin)-might join the ranks of undocumented aliens seeking work in the United States. Before 9/11, security concerns were not a major factor in visa issuance unless the applicant already was on a terrorist watchlist, and none of these four men was. Concerns that Binalshibh intended to immigrate to the United States doomed his chances to participate firsthand in the 9/11 attacks. Although Binalshibh had to remain behind, he would provide critical assistance from abroad to his co-conspirators.

Once again, the need for travel documents dictated al Qaeda's plans.

Travel

It should by now be apparent how significant travel was in the planning undertaken by a terrorist organization as far-flung as al Qaeda. The story of the plot includes references to dozens of international trips. Operations required travel, as did basic communications and the movement of money. Where electronic communications were regarded as insecure, al Qaeda relied even more heavily on couriers.

KSM and Abu Zubaydah each played key roles in facilitating travel for al Qaeda operatives. In addition, al Qaeda had an office of passports and host country issues under its security committee. The office was located at the Kandahar airport and was managed by Atef. The committee altered papers, including passports, visas, and identification cards.106

Moreover, certain al Qaeda members were charged with organizing passport collection schemes to keep the pipeline of fraudulent documents flowing. To this end, al Qaeda required jihadists to turn in their passports before going to the front lines in Afghanistan. If they were killed, their passports were recycled for use.107 The operational mission training course taught operatives how to forge documents. Certain passport alteration methods, which included substituting photos and erasing and adding travel cachets, were also taught. Manuals demonstrating the technique for "cleaning" visas were reportedly circulated among operatives. Mohamed Atta and Zakariya Essabar were reported to have been trained in passport alteration.108

The purpose of all this training was twofold: to develop an institutional capacity for document forgery and to enable operatives to make necessary adjustments in the field. It was well-known, for example, that if a Saudi traveled to Afghanistan via Pakistan, then on his return to Saudi Arabia his passport, bearing a Pakistani stamp, would be confiscated. So operatives either erased the Pakistani visas from their passports or traveled through Iran, which did not stamp visas directly into passports.109

5.4 A MONEY TRAIL?

Bin Ladin and his aides did not need a very large sum to finance their planned attack on America. The 9/11 plotters eventually spent somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 to plan and conduct their attack. Consistent with the importance of the project, al Qaeda funded the plotters. KSM provided his operatives with nearly all the money they needed to travel to the United States, train, and live. The plotters' tradecraft was not especially sophisticated, but it was good enough. They moved, stored, and spent their money in ordinary ways, easily defeating the detection mechanisms in place at the time.110 The origin of the funds remains unknown, although we have a general idea of how al Qaeda financed itself during the period leading up to 9/11.

General Financing

As we explained in chapter 2, Bin Ladin did not fund al Qaeda through a personal fortune and a network of businesses in Sudan. Instead, al Qaeda relied primarily on a fund-raising network developed over time. The CIA now estimates that it cost al Qaeda about $30 million per year to sustain its activities before 9/11 and that this money was raised almost entirely through donations.111

For many years, the United States thought Bin Ladin financed al Qaeda's expenses through a vast personal inheritance. Bin Ladin purportedly inherited approximately $300 million when his father died, and was rumored to have had access to these funds to wage jihad while in Sudan and Afghanistan and to secure his leadership position in al Qaeda. In early 2000, the U.S. government discovered a different reality: roughly from 1970 through 1994, Bin Ladin received about $1 million per year-a significant sum, to be sure, but not a $300 million fortune that could be used to fund jihad.112 Then, as part of a Saudi government crackdown early in the 1990s, the Bin Ladin family was forced to find a buyer for Usama's share of the family company in 1994.The Saudi government subsequently froze the proceeds of the sale. This action had the effect of divesting Bin Ladin of what otherwise might indeed have been a large fortune.113

Nor were Bin Ladin's assets in Sudan a source of money for al Qaeda. When Bin Ladin lived in Sudan from 1991 to 1996, he owned a number of businesses and other assets. These could not have provided significant income, as most were small or not economically viable. When Bin Ladin left in 1996, it appears that the Sudanese government expropriated all his assets: he left Sudan with practically nothing. When Bin Ladin arrived in Afghanistan, he relied on the Taliban until he was able to reinvigorate his fund-raising efforts by drawing on ties to wealthy Saudi individuals that he had established during the Afghan war in the 1980s.114

Al Qaeda appears to have relied on a core group of financial facilitators who raised money from a variety of donors and other fund-raisers, primarily in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia.115 Some individual donors surely knew, and others did not, the ultimate destination of their donations. Al Qaeda and its friends took advantage of Islam's strong calls for charitable giving, zakat. These financial facilitators also appeared to rely heavily on certain imams at mosques who were willing to divert zakat donations to al Qaeda's cause.116

Al Qaeda also collected money from employees of corrupt charities.117 It took two approaches to using charities for fund-raising. One was to rely on al Qaeda sympathizers in specific foreign branch offices of large, international charities-particularly those with lax external oversight and ineffective internal controls, such as the Saudi-based al Haramain Islamic Foundation.118 Smaller charities in various parts of the globe were funded by these large Gulf charities and had employees who would siphon the money to al Qaeda.119

In addition, entire charities, such as the al Wafa organization, may have wittingly participated in funneling money to al Qaeda. In those cases, al Qaeda operatives controlled the entire organization, including access to bank accounts.120 Charities were a source of money and also provided significant cover, which enabled operatives to travel undetected under the guise of working for a humanitarian organization.

It does not appear that any government other than the Taliban financially supported al Qaeda before 9/11, although some governments may have contained al Qaeda sympathizers who turned a blind eye to al Qaeda's fundraising activities.121 Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of al Qaeda funding, but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization. (This conclusion does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al Qaeda.)122

Still, al Qaeda found fertile fund-raising ground in Saudi Arabia, where extreme religious views are common and charitable giving was both essential to the culture and subject to very limited oversight.123 Al Qaeda also sought money from wealthy donors in other Gulf states.

Al Qaeda frequently moved the money it raised by hawala, an informal and ancient trust-based system for transferring funds.124 In some ways, al Qaeda had no choice after its move to Afghanistan in 1996: first, the banking system there was antiquated and undependable; and second, formal banking was risky due to the scrutiny that al Qaeda received after the August 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, including UN resolutions against it and the Taliban.125 Bin Ladin relied on the established hawala networks operating in Pakistan, in Dubai, and throughout the Middle East to transfer funds efficiently. Hawaladars associated with al Qaeda may have used banks to move and store money, as did various al Qaeda fund-raisers and operatives outside of Afghanistan, but there is little evidence that Bin Ladin or core al Qaeda members used banks while in Afghanistan.126

Before 9/11, al Qaeda spent funds as quickly as it received them. Actual terrorist operations represented a relatively small part of al Qaeda's estimated $30 million annual operating budget. Al Qaeda funded salaries for jihadists, training camps, airfields, vehicles, arms, and the development of training manuals. Bin Ladin provided approximately $10-$20 million per year to the Taliban in return for safe haven. Bin Ladin also may have used money to create alliances with other terrorist organizations, although it is unlikely that al Qaeda was funding an overall jihad program. Rather, Bin Ladin selectively provided startup funds to new groups or money for specific terrorist operations.127

Al Qaeda has been alleged to have used a variety of illegitimate means, particularly drug trafficking and conflict diamonds, to finance itself. While the drug trade was a source of income for the Taliban, it did not serve the same purpose for al Qaeda, and there is no reliable evidence that Bin Ladin was involved in or made his money through drug trafficking.128 Similarly, we have seen no persuasive evidence that al Qaeda funded itself by trading in African conflict diamonds.129 There also have been claims that al Qaeda financed itself through manipulation of the stock market based on its advance knowledge of the 9/11 attacks. Exhaustive investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, FBI, and other agencies have uncovered no evidence that anyone with advance knowledge of the attacks profited through securities transactions.130

To date, the U.S. government has not been able to determine the origin of the money used for the 9/11 attacks. Ultimately the question is of little practical significance. Al Qaeda had many avenues of funding. If a particular funding source had dried up, al Qaeda could have easily tapped a different source or diverted funds from another project to fund an operation that cost $400,000-$500,000 over nearly two years.

The Funding of the 9/11 Plot

As noted above, the 9/11 plotters spent somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 to plan and conduct their attack. The available evidence indicates that the 19 operatives were funded by al Qaeda, either through wire transfers or cash provided by KSM, which they carried into the United States or deposited in foreign accounts and accessed from this country. Our investigation has uncovered no credible evidence that any person in the United States gave the hijackers substantial financial assistance. Similarly, we have seen no evidence that any foreign government-or foreign government official-supplied any funding.131

We have found no evidence that the Hamburg cell members (Atta, Shehhi, Jarrah, and Binalshibh) received funds from al Qaeda before late 1999. It appears they supported themselves. KSM, Binalshibh, and another plot facilitator, Mustafa al Hawsawi, each received money, in some cases perhaps as much as $10,000, to perform their roles in the plot.132

After the Hamburg recruits joined the 9/11 conspiracy, al Qaeda began giving them money. Our knowledge of the funding during this period, before the operatives entered the United States, remains murky. According to KSM, the Hamburg cell members each received $5,000 to pay for their return to Germany from Afghanistan after they had been selected to join the plot, and they received additional funds for travel from Germany to the United States. Financial transactions of the plotters are discussed in more detail in chapter 7.

Requirements for a Successful Attack

As some of the core operatives prepared to leave for the United States, al Qaeda's leaders could have reflected on what they needed to be able to do in order to organize and conduct a complex international terrorist operation to inflict catastrophic harm. We believe such a list of requirements would have included

• leaders able to evaluate, approve, and supervise the planning and direction of the operation;
• communications sufficient to enable planning and direction of the operatives and those who would be helping them;
• a personnel system that could recruit candidates, vet them, indoctrinate them, and give them necessary training;
• an intelligence effort to gather required information and form assessments of enemy strengths and weaknesses;
• the ability to move people; and
• the ability to raise and move the necessary money.

The information we have presented about the development of the planes operation shows how, by the spring and summer of 2000, al Qaeda was able to meet these requirements.

By late May 2000, two operatives assigned to the planes operation were already in the United States.Three of the four Hamburg cell members would soon arrive.
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Re: The 9/11 Commission Report, by The National Commission o

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Part 1 of 3

6. FROM THREAT TO THREAT

In chapters 3 and 4 we described how the U.S. government adjusted its existing agencies and capacities to address the emerging threat from Usama Bin Ladin and his associates. After the August 1998 bombings of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, President Bill Clinton and his chief aides explored ways of getting Bin Ladin expelled from Afghanistan or possibly capturing or even killing him. Although disruption efforts around the world had achieved some successes, the core of Bin Ladin's organization remained intact.

President Clinton was deeply concerned about Bin Ladin. He and his national security advisor, Samuel "Sandy" Berger, ensured they had a special daily pipeline of reports feeding them the latest updates on Bin Ladin's reported location.1 In public, President Clinton spoke repeatedly about the threat of terrorism, referring to terrorist training camps but saying little about Bin Ladin and nothing about al Qaeda. He explained to us that this was deliberate-intended to avoid enhancing Bin Ladin's stature by giving him unnecessary publicity. His speeches focused especially on the danger of nonstate actors and of chemical and biological weapons.2

As the millennium approached, the most publicized worries were not about terrorism but about computer breakdowns-the Y2K scare. Some government officials were concerned that terrorists would take advantage of such breakdowns.3

6.1 THE MILLENNIUM CRISIS

"Bodies Will Pile Up in Sacks"


On November 30, 1999, Jordanian intelligence intercepted a telephone call between Abu Zubaydah, a longtime ally of Bin Ladin, and Khadr Abu Hoshar, a Palestinian extremist. Abu Zubaydah said, "The time for training is over." Suspecting that this was a signal for Abu Hoshar to commence a terrorist operation, Jordanian police arrested Abu Hoshar and 15 others and informed Washington.4

One of the 16, Raed Hijazi, had been born in California to Palestinian parents; after spending his childhood in the Middle East, he had returned to northern California, taken refuge in extremist Islamist beliefs, and then made his way to Abu Zubaydah's Khaldan camp in Afghanistan, where he learned the fundamentals of guerrilla warfare. He and his younger brother had been recruited by Abu Hoshar into a loosely knit plot to attack Jewish and American targets in Jordan.5

After late 1996, when Abu Hoshar was arrested and jailed, Hijazi moved back to the United States, worked as a cabdriver in Boston, and sent money back to his fellow plotters. After Abu Hoshar's release, Hijazi shuttled between Boston and Jordan gathering money and supplies. With Abu Hoshar, he recruited in Turkey and Syria as well as Jordan; with Abu Zubaydah's assistance, Abu Hoshar sent these recruits to Afghanistan for training.6

In late 1998, Hijazi and Abu Hoshar had settled on a plan. They would first attack four targets: the SAS Radisson Hotel in downtown Amman, the border crossings from Jordan into Israel, and two Christian holy sites, at a time when all these locations were likely to be thronged with American and other tourists. Next, they would target a local airport and other religious and cultural sites. Hijazi and Abu Hoshar cased the intended targets and sent reports to Abu Zubaydah, who approved their plan. Finally, back in Amman from Boston, Hijazi gradually accumulated bomb-making materials, including sulfuric acid and 5,200 pounds of nitric acid, which were then stored in an enormous subbasement dug by the plotters over a period of two months underneath a rented house.7

In early 1999, Hijazi and Abu Hoshar contacted Khalil Deek, an American citizen and an associate of Abu Zubaydah who lived in Peshawar, Pakistan, and who, with Afghanistan-based extremists, had created an electronic version of a terrorist manual, the Encyclopedia of Jihad. They obtained a CD-ROM of this encyclopedia from Deek.8 In June, with help from Deek, Abu Hoshar arranged with Abu Zubaydah for Hijazi and three others to go to Afghanistan for added training in handling explosives. In late November 1999, Hijazi reportedly swore before Abu Zubaydah the bayat to Bin Ladin, committing himself to do anything Bin Ladin ordered. He then departed for Jordan and was at a waypoint in Syria when Abu Zubaydah sent Abu Hoshar the message that prompted Jordanian authorities to roll up the whole cell.9

After the arrests of Abu Hoshar and 15 others, the Jordanians tracked Deek to Peshawar, persuaded Pakistan to extradite him, and added him to their catch. Searches in Amman found the rented house and, among other things, 71 drums of acids, several forged Saudi passports, detonators, and Deek's Encyclopedia. Six of the accomplices were sentenced to death. In custody, Hijazi's younger brother said that the group's motto had been "The season is coming, and bodies will pile up in sacks."10

Diplomacy and Disruption

On December 4, as news came in about the discoveries in Jordan, National Security Council (NSC) Counterterrorism Coordinator Richard Clarke wrote Berger, "If George's [Tenet's] story about a planned series of UBL attacks at the Millennium is true, we will need to make some decisions NOW." He told us he held several conversations with President Clinton during the crisis. He suggested threatening reprisals against the Taliban in Afghanistan in the event of any attacks on U.S. interests, anywhere, by Bin Ladin. He further proposed to Berger that a strike be made during the last week of 1999 against al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan-a proposal not adopted.11

Warned by the CIA that the disrupted Jordanian plot was probably part of a larger series of attacks intended for the millennium, some possibly involving chemical weapons, the Principals Committee met on the night of December 8 and decided to task Clarke's Counterterrorism Security Group (CSG) to develop plans to deter and disrupt al Qaeda plots.12

Michael Sheehan, the State Department member of the CSG, communicated warnings to the Taliban that they would be held responsible for future al Qaeda attacks. "Mike was not diplomatic," Clarke reported to Berger. With virtually no evidence of a Taliban response, a new approach was made to Pakistan.13 General Anthony Zinni, the commander of Central Command (CENTCOM), was designated as the President's special envoy and sent to ask General Musharraf to "take whatever action you deem necessary to resolve the Bin Laden problem at the earliest possible time." But Zinni came back empty-handed. As Ambassador William Milam reported from Islamabad, Musharraf was "unwilling to take the political heat at home."14

The CIA worked hard with foreign security services to detain or at least keep an eye on suspected Bin Ladin associates. Tenet spoke to 20 of his foreign counterparts. Disruption and arrest operations were mounted against terrorists in eight countries.15 In mid-December, President Clinton signed a Memorandum of Notification (MON) giving the CIA broader authority to use foreign proxies to detain Bin Ladin lieutenants, without having to transfer them to U.S. custody. The authority was to capture, not kill, though lethal force might be used if necessary.16 Tenet would later send a message to all CIA personnel overseas, saying, "The threat could not be more real.. . . Do whatever is necessary to disrupt UBL's plans.. . .The American people are counting on you and me to take every appropriate step to protect them during this period." The State Department issued a worldwide threat advisory to its posts overseas.17

Then, on December 14, an Algerian jihadist was caught bringing a load of explosives into the United States.

Ressam's Arrest

Ahmed Ressam, 23, had illegally immigrated to Canada in 1994. Using a falsified passport and a bogus story about persecution in Algeria, Ressam entered Montreal and claimed political asylum. For the next few years he supported himself with petty crime. Recruited by an alumnus of Abu Zubaydah's Khaldan camp, Ressam trained in Afghanistan in 1998, learning, among other things, how to place cyanide near the air intake of a building to achieve maximum lethality at minimum personal risk. Having joined other Algerians in planning a possible attack on a U.S. airport or consulate, Ressam left Afghanistan in early 1999 carrying precursor chemicals for explosives disguised in toiletry bottles, a notebook containing bomb assembly instructions, and $12,000. Back in Canada, he went about procuring weapons, chemicals, and false papers.18

In early summer 1999, having learned that not all of his colleagues could get the travel documents to enter Canada, Ressam decided to carry out the plan alone. By the end of the summer he had chosen three Los Angeles-area airports as potential targets, ultimately fixing on Los Angeles International (LAX) as the largest and easiest to operate in surreptitiously. He bought or stole chemicals and equipment for his bomb, obtaining advice from three Algerian friends, all of whom were wanted by authorities in France for their roles in past terrorist attacks there. Ressam also acquired new confederates. He promised to help a New York-based partner, Abdelghani Meskini, get training in Afghanistan if Meskini would help him maneuver in the United States.19

In December 1999, Ressam began his final preparations. He called an Afghanistan-based facilitator to inquire into whether Bin Ladin wanted to take credit for the attack, but he did not get a reply. He spent a week in Vancouver preparing the explosive components with a close friend. The chemicals were so caustic that the men kept their windows open, despite the freezing temperatures outside, and sucked on cough drops to soothe their irritated throats.20 While in Vancouver, Ressam also rented a Chrysler sedan for his travel into the United States, and packed the explosives in the trunk's spare tire well.21

On December 14, 1999, Ressam drove his rental car onto the ferry from Victoria, Canada, to Port Angeles, Washington. Ressam planned to drive to Seattle and meet Meskini, with whom he would travel to Los Angeles and case LAX. They planned to detonate the bomb on or around January 1, 2000. At the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) preinspection station in Victoria, Ressam presented officials with his genuine but fraudulently obtained Canadian passport, from which he had torn the Afghanistan entry and exit stamps. The INS agent on duty ran the passport through a variety of databases but, since it was not in Ressam's name, he did not pick up the pending Canadian arrest warrants. After a cursory examination of Ressam's car, the INS agents allowed Ressam to board the ferry.26

A Case Study in Terrorist Travel

Following a familiar terrorist pattern, Ressam and his associates used fraudulent passports and immigration fraud to travel. In Ressam's case, this involved flying from France to Montreal using a photo-substituted French passport under a false name. Under questioning, Ressam admitted the passport was fraudulent and claimed political asylum. He was released pending a hearing, which he failed to attend. His political asylum claim was denied. He was arrested again, released again, and given another hearing date.Again, he did not show. He was arrested four times for thievery, usually from tourists, but was neither jailed nor deported. He also supported himself by selling stolen documents to a friend who was a document broker for Islamist terrorists.22

Ressam eventually obtained a genuine Canadian passport through a document vendor who stole a blank baptismal certificate from a Catholic church. With this document he was able to obtain a Canadian passport under the name of Benni Antoine Noris. This enabled him to travel to Pakistan, and from there to Afghanistan for his training, and then return to Canada. Impressed, Abu Zubaydah asked Ressam to get more genuine Canadian passports and to send them to him for other terrorists to use.23

Another conspirator, Abdelghani Meskini, used a stolen identity to travel to Seattle on December 11, 1999, at the request of Mokhtar Haouari, another conspirator. Haouari provided fraudulent passports and visas to assist Ressam and Meskini's planned getaway from the United States to Algeria, Pakistan, and Afghanistan.24 One of Meskini's associates, Abdel Hakim Tizegha, also filed a claim for political asylum. He was released pending a hearing, which was adjourned and rescheduled five times. His claim was finally denied two years after his initial filing. His attorney appealed the decision, and Tizegha was allowed to remain in the country pending the appeal. Nine months later, his attorney notified the court that he could not locate his client. A warrant of deportation was issued.25


Late in the afternoon of December 14, Ressam arrived in Port Angeles. He waited for all the other cars to depart the ferry, assuming (incorrectly) that the last car off would draw less scrutiny. Customs officers assigned to the port, noticing Ressam's nervousness, referred him to secondary inspection. When asked for additional identification, Ressam handed the Customs agent a Price Costco membership card in the same false name as his passport. As that agent began an initial pat-down, Ressam panicked and tried to run away.27

Inspectors examining Ressam's rental car found the explosives concealed in the spare tire well, but at first they assumed the white powder and viscous liquid were drug-related-until an inspector pried apart and identified one of the four timing devices concealed within black boxes. Ressam was placed under arrest. Investigators guessed his target was in Seattle. They did not learn about the Los Angeles airport planning until they reexamined evidence seized in Montreal in 2000; they obtained further details when Ressam began cooperating in May 2001.28

Emergency Cooperation

After the disruption of the plot in Amman, it had not escaped notice in Washington that Hijazi had lived in California and driven a cab in Boston and that Deek was a naturalized U.S. citizen who, as Berger reminded President Clinton, had been in touch with extremists in the United States as well as abroad.29 Before Ressam's arrest, Berger saw no need to raise a public alarm at home- although the FBI put all field offices on alert.30

Now, following Ressam's arrest, the FBI asked for an unprecedented number of special wiretaps. Both Berger and Tenet told us that their impression was that more Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) wiretap requests were processed during the millennium alert than ever before.31

The next day, writing about Ressam's arrest and links to a cell in Montreal, Berger informed the President that the FBI would advise police in the United States to step up activities but would still try to avoid undue public alarm by stressing that the government had no specific information about planned attacks.32

At a December 22 meeting of the Small Group of principals, FBI Director Louis Freeh briefed officials from the NSC staff, CIA, and Justice on wiretaps and investigations inside the United States, including a Brooklyn entity tied to the Ressam arrest, a seemingly unreliable foreign report of possible attacks on seven U.S. cities, two Algerians detained on the Canadian border, and searches in Montreal related to a jihadist cell. The Justice Department released a statement on the alert the same day.33

Clarke's staff warned, "Foreign terrorist sleeper cells are present in the US and attacks in the US are likely."34 Clarke asked Berger to try to make sure that the domestic agencies remained alert. "Is there a threat to civilian aircraft?" he wrote. Clarke also asked the principals in late December to discuss a foreign security service report about a Bin Ladin plan to put bombs on transatlantic flights.35

The CSG met daily. Berger said that the principals met constantly.36 Later, when asked what made her decide to ask Ressam to step out of his vehicle, Diana Dean, a Customs inspector who referred Ressam to secondary inspection, testified that it was her "training and experience."37 It appears that the heightened sense of alert at the national level played no role in Ressam's detention.

There was a mounting sense of public alarm. The earlier Jordanian arrests had been covered in the press, and Ressam's arrest was featured on network evening news broadcasts throughout the Christmas season.38

The FBI was more communicative during the millennium crisis than it had ever been. The senior FBI official for counterterrorism, Dale Watson, was a regular member of the CSG, and Clarke had good relations both with him and with some of the FBI agents handling al Qaeda-related investigations, including John O'Neill in New York. As a rule, however, neither Watson nor these agents brought much information to the group. The FBI simply did not produce the kind of intelligence reports that other agencies routinely wrote and disseminated. As law enforcement officers, Bureau agents tended to write up only witness interviews. Written case analysis usually occurred only in memoranda to supervisors requesting authority to initiate or expand an investigation.39

But during the millennium alert, with its direct links into the United States from Hijazi, Deek, and Ressam, FBI officials were briefing in person about ongoing investigations, not relying on the dissemination of written reports. Berger told us that it was hard for FBI officials to hold back information in front of a cabinet-rank group. After the alert, according to Berger and members of the NSC staff, the FBI returned to its normal practice of withholding written reports and saying little about investigations or witness interviews, taking the position that any information related to pending investigations might be presented to a grand jury and hence could not be disclosed under then-prevailing federal law.40

The terrorist plots that were broken up at the end of 1999 display the variety of operations that might be attributed, however indirectly, to al Qaeda. The Jordanian cell was a loose affiliate; we now know that it sought approval and training from Afghanistan, and at least one key member swore loyalty to Bin Ladin. But the cell's plans and preparations were autonomous. Ressam's ties to al Qaeda were even looser. Though he had been recruited, trained, and prepared in a network affiliated with the organization and its allies, Ressam's own plans were, nonetheless, essentially independent.

Al Qaeda, and Bin Ladin himself, did have at least one operation of their very own in mind for the millennium period. In chapter 5 we introduced an al Qaeda operative named Nashiri. Working with Bin Ladin, he was developing a plan to attack a ship near Yemen. On January 3, an attempt was made to attack a U.S. warship in Aden, the USS The Sullivans. The attempt failed when the small boat, overloaded with explosives, sank. The operatives salvaged their equipment without the attempt becoming known, and they put off their plans for another day.

Al Qaeda's "planes operation" was also coming along. In January 2000, the United States caught a glimpse of its preparations.

A Lost Trail in Southeast Asia

In late 1999, the National Security Agency (NSA) analyzed communications associated with a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East, indicating that several members of "an operational cadre" were planning to travel to Kuala Lumpur in early January 2000. Initially, only the first names of three were known-"Nawaf," "Salem," and "Khalid." NSA analysts surmised correctly that Salem was Nawaf's younger brother. Seeing links not only with al Qaeda but specifically with the 1998 embassy bombings, a CIA desk officer guessed that "something more nefarious [was] afoot."41

In chapter 5, we discussed the dispatch of two operatives to the United States for their part in the planes operation-Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihd-har. Two more, Khallad and Abu Bara, went to Southeast Asia to case flights for the part of the operation that was supposed to unfold there.42 All made their way to Southeast Asia from Afghanistan and Pakistan, except for Mihdhar, who traveled from Yemen.43

Though Nawaf's trail was temporarily lost, the CIA soon identified "Khalid" as Khalid al Mihdhar.44 He was located leaving Yemen and tracked until he arrived in Kuala Lumpur on January 5, 2000.45 Other Arabs, unidentified at the time, were watched as they gathered with him in the Malaysian capital.46

On January 8, the surveillance teams reported that three of the Arabs had suddenly left Kuala Lumpur on a short flight to Bangkok.47 They identified one as Mihdhar. They later learned that one of his companions was named Alhazmi, although it was not yet known that he was "Nawaf." The only identifier available for the third person was part of a name-Salahsae.48 In Bangkok, CIA officers received the information too late to track the three men as they came in, and the travelers disappeared into the streets of Bangkok.49

The Counterterrorist Center (CTC) had briefed the CIA leadership on the gathering in Kuala Lumpur, and the information had been passed on to Berger and the NSC staff and to Director Freeh and others at the FBI (though the FBI noted that the CIA had the lead and would let the FBI know if a domestic angle arose).The head of the Bin Ladin unit kept providing updates, unaware at first even that the Arabs had left Kuala Lumpur, let alone that their trail had been lost in Bangkok.50 When this bad news arrived, the names were put on a Thai watchlist so that Thai authorities could inform the United States if any of them departed from Thailand.51

Several weeks later, CIA officers in Kuala Lumpur prodded colleagues in Bangkok for additional information regarding the three travelers.52 In early March 2000, Bangkok reported that Nawaf al Hazmi, now identified for the first time with his full name, had departed on January 15 on a United Airlines flight to Los Angeles. As for Khalid al Mihdhar, there was no report of his departure even though he had accompanied Hazmi on the United flight to Los Angeles.53 No one outside of the Counterterrorist Center was told any of this. The CIA did not try to register Mihdhar or Hazmi with the State Department's TIPOFF watchlist-either in January, when word arrived of Mihdhar's visa, or in March, when word came that Hazmi, too, had had a U.S. visa and a ticket to Los Angeles.54

None of this information-about Mihdhar's U.S. visa or Hazmi's travel to the United States-went to the FBI, and nothing more was done to track any of the three until January 2001, when the investigation of another bombing, that of the USS Cole, reignited interest in Khallad. We will return to that story in chapter 8.

6.2 POST-CRISIS REFLECTION: AGENDA FOR 2000

After the millennium alert, elements of the U.S. government reviewed their performance. The CIA's leadership was told that while a number of plots had been disrupted, the millennium might be only the "kick-off" for a period of extended attacks.55 Clarke wrote Berger on January 11, 2000, that the CIA, the FBI, Justice, and the NSC staff had come to two main conclusions. First, U.S. disruption efforts thus far had "not put too much of a dent" in Bin Ladin's network. If the United States wanted to "roll back" the threat, disruption would have to proceed at "a markedly different tempo." Second, "sleeper cells" and "a variety of terrorist groups" had turned up at home.56 As one of Clarke's staff noted, only a "chance discovery" by U.S. Customs had prevented a possible attack.57 Berger gave his approval for the NSC staff to commence an "afteraction review," anticipating new budget requests. He also asked DCI Tenet to review the CIA's counterterrorism strategy and come up with a plan for "where we go from here."58

The NSC staff advised Berger that the United States had only been "nibbling at the edges" of Bin Ladin's network and that more terror attacks were a question not of "if" but rather of "when" and "where."59 The Principals Committee met on March 10, 2000, to review possible new moves. The principals ended up agreeing that the government should take three major steps. First, more money should go to the CIA to accelerate its efforts to "seriously attrit" al Qaeda. Second, there should be a crackdown on foreign terrorist organizations in the United States. Third, immigration law enforcement should be strengthened, and the INS should tighten controls on the Canadian border (including stepping up U.S.-Canada cooperation).The principals endorsed the proposed programs; some, like expanding the number of Joint Terrorism Task Forces, moved forward, and others, like creating a centralized translation unit for domestic intelligence intercepts in Arabic and other languages, did not.60

Pressing Pakistan

While this process moved along, diplomacy continued its rounds. Direct pressure on the Taliban had proved unsuccessful. As one NSC staff note put it, "Under the Taliban, Afghanistan is not so much a state sponsor of terrorism as it is a state sponsored by terrorists."61 In early 2000, the United States began a high-level effort to persuade Pakistan to use its influence over the Taliban.

In January 2000, Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth and the State Department's counterterrorism coordinator, Michael Sheehan, met with General Musharraf in Islamabad, dangling before him the possibility of a presidential visit in March as a reward for Pakistani cooperation. Such a visit was coveted by Musharraf, partly as a sign of his government's legitimacy. He told the two envoys that he would meet with Mullah Omar and press him on Bin Ladin. They left, however, reporting to Washington that Pakistan was unlikely in fact to do anything, "given what it sees as the benefits of Taliban control of Afghanistan."62

President Clinton was scheduled to travel to India. The State Department felt that he should not visit India without also visiting Pakistan. The Secret Service and the CIA, however, warned in the strongest terms that visiting Pakistan would risk the President's life. Counterterrorism officials also argued that Pakistan had not done enough to merit a presidential visit. But President Clinton insisted on including Pakistan in the itinerary for his trip to South Asia.63 His one-day stopover on March 25, 2000, was the first time a U.S. president had been there since 1969. At his meeting with Musharraf and others, President Clinton concentrated on tensions between Pakistan and India and the dangers of nuclear proliferation, but also discussed Bin Ladin. President Clinton told us that when he pulled Musharraf aside for a brief, one-on-one meeting, he pleaded with the general for help regarding Bin Ladin. "I offered him the moon when I went to see him, in terms of better relations with the United States, if he'd help us get Bin Ladin and deal with another issue or two."64

The U.S. effort continued. Early in May, President Clinton urged Musharraf to carry through on his promise to visit Afghanistan and press Mullah Omar to expel Bin Ladin.65 At the end of the month, Under Secretary of State Thomas Pickering followed up with a trip to the region.66 In June, DCI Tenet traveled to Pakistan with the same general message.67 By September, the United States was becoming openly critical of Pakistan for supporting a Taliban military offensive aimed at completing the conquest of Afghanistan.68

In December, taking a step proposed by the State Department some months earlier, the United States led a campaign for new UN sanctions, which resulted in UN Security Council Resolution 1333, again calling for Bin Ladin's expulsion and forbidding any country to provide the Taliban with arms or military assistance.69 This, too, had little if any effect. The Taliban did not expel Bin Ladin. Pakistani arms continued to flow across the border.

Secretary of State Madeleine Albright told us, "We did not have a strong hand to play with the Pakistanis. Because of the sanctions required by U.S. law, we had few carrots to offer."70 Congress had blocked most economic and military aid to Pakistan because of that country's nuclear arms program and Musharraf's coup. Sheehan was critical of Musharraf, telling us that the Pakistani leader "blew a chance to remake Pakistan."71

Building New Capabilities: The CIA

The after-action review had treated the CIA as the lead agency for any offensive against al Qaeda, and the principals, at their March 10 meeting, had endorsed strengthening the CIA's capability for that role. To the CTC, that meant proceeding with "the Plan," which it had put forward half a year earlier-hiring and training more case officers and building up the capabilities of foreign security services that provided intelligence via liaison. On occasion, as in Jordan in December 1999, these liaison services took direct action against al Qaeda cells.72

In the CTC and higher up, the CIA's managers believed that they desperately needed funds just to continue their current counterterrorism effort, for they reckoned that the millennium alert had already used up all of the Center's funds for the current fiscal year; the Bin Ladin unit had spent 140 percent of its allocation. Tenet told us he met with Berger to discuss funding for counterterrorism just two days after the principals' meeting.73

While Clarke strongly favored giving the CIA more money for counterterrorism, he differed sharply with the CIA's managers about where it should come from. They insisted that the CIA had been shortchanged ever since the end of the Cold War. Their ability to perform any mission, counterterrorism included, they argued, depended on preserving what they had, restoring what they had lost since the beginning of the 1990s, and building from there-with across-the-board recruitment and training of new case officers, and the reopening of closed stations. To finance the counterterrorism effort, Tenet had gone to congressional leaders after the 1998 embassy bombings and persuaded them to give the CIA a special supplemental appropriation. Now, in the aftermath of the millennium alert, Tenet wanted a boost in overall funds for the CIA and another supplemental appropriation specifically for counterterrorism.74

To Clarke, this seemed evidence that the CIA's leadership did not give sufficient priority to the battle against Bin Ladin and al Qaeda. He told us that James Pavitt, the head of the CIA's Directorate of Operations, "said if there's going to be money spent on going after Bin Ladin, it should be given to him. ...My view was that he had had a lot of money to do it and a long time to do it, and I didn't want to put more good money after bad."75 The CIA had a very different attitude: Pavitt told us that while the CIA's Bin Ladin unit did "extraordinary and commendable work," his chief of station in London "was just as much part of the al Qaeda struggle as an officer sitting in [the Bin Ladin unit]."76

The dispute had large managerial implications, for Clarke had found allies in the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).They had supplied him with the figures he used to argue that CIA spending on counterterrorism from its baseline budget had shown almost no increase.77

Berger met twice with Tenet in April to try to resolve the dispute. The Deputies Committee met later in the month to review fiscal year 2000 and 2001 budget priorities and offsets for the CIA and other agencies. In the end, Tenet obtained a modest supplemental appropriation, which funded counterterrorism without requiring much reprogramming of baseline funds. But the CIA still believed that it remained underfunded for counterterrorism.78
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Part 2 of 3

Terrorist Financing

The second major point on which the principals had agreed on March 10 was the need to crack down on terrorist organizations and curtail their fund-raising.

The embassy bombings of 1998 had focused attention on al Qaeda's finances. One result had been the creation of an NSC-led interagency committee on terrorist financing. On its recommendation, the President had designated Bin Ladin and al Qaeda as subject to sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act. This gave the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) the ability to search for and freeze any Bin Ladin or al Qaeda assets that reached the U.S. financial system. But since OFAC had little information to go on, few funds were frozen.79

In July 1999, the President applied the same designation to the Taliban for harboring Bin Ladin. Here, OFAC had more success. It blocked more than $34 million in Taliban assets held in U.S. banks. Another $215 million in gold and $2 million in demand deposits, all belonging to the Afghan central bank and held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, were also frozen.80After October 1999, when the State Department formally designated al Qaeda a "foreign terrorist organization," it became the duty of U.S. banks to block its transactions and seize its funds.81 Neither this designation nor UN sanctions had much additional practical effect; the sanctions were easily circumvented, and there were no multilateral mechanisms to ensure that other countries' financial systems were not used as conduits for terrorist funding.82

Attacking the funds of an institution, even the Taliban, was easier than finding and seizing the funds of a clandestine worldwide organization like al Qaeda. Although the CIA's Bin Ladin unit had originally been inspired by the idea of studying terrorist financial links, few personnel assigned to it had any experience in financial investigations. Any terrorist-financing intelligence appeared to have been collected collaterally, as a consequence of gathering other intelligence. This attitude may have stemmed in large part from the chief of this unit, who did not believe that simply following the money from point A to point B revealed much about the terrorists' plans and intentions. As a result, the CIA placed little emphasis on terrorist financing.83

Nevertheless, the CIA obtained a general understanding of how al Qaeda raised money. It knew relatively early, for example, about the loose affiliation of financial institutions, businesses, and wealthy individuals who supported extremist Islamic activities.84 Much of the early reporting on al Qaeda's financial situation and its structure came from Jamal Ahmed al Fadl, whom we have mentioned earlier in the report.85 After the 1998 embassy bombings, the U.S. government tried to develop a clearer picture of Bin Ladin's finances. A U.S. interagency group traveled to Saudi Arabia twice, in 1999 and 2000, to get information from the Saudis about their understanding of those finances. The group eventually concluded that the oft-repeated assertion that Bin Ladin was funding al Qaeda from his personal fortune was in fact not true.

The officials developed a new theory: al Qaeda was getting its money elsewhere, and the United States needed to focus on other sources of funding, such as charities, wealthy donors, and financial facilitators. Ultimately, although the intelligence community devoted more resources to the issue and produced somewhat more intelligence,86 it remained difficult to distinguish al Qaeda's financial transactions among the vast sums moving in the international financial system. The CIA was not able to find or disrupt al Qaeda's money flows.87

The NSC staff thought that one possible solution to these weaknesses in the intelligence community was to create an all-source terrorist-financing intelligence analysis center. Clarke pushed for the funding of such a center at Treasury, but neither Treasury nor the CIA was willing to commit the resources.88

Within the United States, various FBI field offices gathered intelligence on organizations suspected of raising funds for al Qaeda or other terrorist groups. By 9/11, FBI agents understood that there were extremist organizations operating within the United States supporting a global jihadist movement and with substantial connections to al Qaeda. The FBI operated a web of informants, conducted electronic surveillance, and had opened significant investigations in a number of field offices, including New York, Chicago, Detroit, San Diego, and Minneapolis. On a national level, however, the FBI never used the information to gain a systematic or strategic understanding of the nature and extent of al Qaeda fundraising.89

Treasury regulators, as well as U.S. financial institutions, were generally focused on finding and deterring or disrupting the vast flows of U.S. currency generated by drug trafficking and high-level international fraud. Large-scale scandals, such as the use of the Bank of New York by Russian money launderers to move millions of dollars out of Russia, captured the attention of the Department of the Treasury and of Congress.90 Before 9/11,Treasury did not consider terrorist financing important enough to mention in its national strategy for money laundering.91

Border Security

The third point on which the principals had agreed on March 10 was the need for attention to America's porous borders and the weak enforcement of immigration laws. Drawing on ideas from government officials, Clarke's working group developed a menu of proposals to bolster border security. Some reworked or reiterated previous presidential directives.92 They included

• creating an interagency center to target illegal entry and human traffickers;
• imposing tighter controls on student visas;93
• taking legal action to prevent terrorists from coming into the United States and to remove those already here, detaining them while awaiting removal proceedings;94
• further increasing the number of immigration agents to FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces to help investigate immigration charges against individuals suspected of terrorism;95
• activating a special court to enable the use of classified evidence in immigration-related national security cases;96 and
• both implementing new security measures for U.S. passports and working with the United Nations and foreign governments to raise global security standards for travel documents.97

Clarke's working group compiled new proposals as well, such as

• undertaking a Joint Perimeter Defense program with Canada to establish cooperative intelligence and law enforcement programs, leading to joint operations based on shared visa and immigration data and joint border patrols;
• staffing land border crossings 24/7 and equipping them with video cameras, physical barriers, and means to detect weapons of mass destruction (WMD); and
• addressing the problem of migrants-possibly including terrorists- who destroy their travel documents so they cannot be returned to their countries of origin.98

These proposals were praiseworthy in principle. In practice, however, they required action by weak, chronically underfunded executive agencies and powerful congressional committees, which were more responsive to well-organized interest groups than to executive branch interagency committees. The changes sought by the principals in March 2000 were only beginning to occur before 9/11.

"Afghan Eyes"

In early March 2000, when President Clinton received an update on U.S. covert action efforts against Bin Ladin, he wrote in the memo's margin that the United States could surely do better. Military officers in the Joint Staff told us that they shared this sense of frustration. Clarke used the President's comment to push the CSG to brainstorm new ideas, including aid to the Northern Alliance.99

Back in December 1999, Northern Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Massoud had offered to stage a rocket attack against Bin Ladin's Derunta training complex. Officers at the CIA had worried that giving him a green light might cross the line into violation of the assassination ban. Hence, Massoud was told not to take any such action without explicit U.S. authorization.100 In the spring of 2000, after the CIA had sent out officers to explore possible closer relationships with both the Uzbeks and the Northern Alliance, discussions took place in Washington between U.S. officials and delegates sent by Massoud.101

The Americans agreed that Massoud should get some modest technical help so he could work on U.S. priorities-collecting intelligence on and possibly acting against al Qaeda. But Massoud wanted the United States both to become his ally in trying to overthrow the Taliban and to recognize that they were fighting common enemies. Clarke and Cofer Black, the head of the Counterterrorist Center, wanted to take this next step. Proposals to help the Northern Alliance had been debated in the U.S. government since 1999 and, as we mentioned in chapter 4, the U.S. government as a whole had been wary of endorsing them, largely because of the Northern Alliance's checkered history, its limited base of popular support in Afghanistan, and Pakistan's objections.102

CIA officials also began pressing proposals to use their ties with the Northern Alliance to get American agents on the ground in Afghanistan for an extended period, setting up their own base for covert intelligence collection and activity in the Panjshir Valley and lessening reliance on foreign proxies. "There's no substitute for face-to-face," one officer told us.103 But the CIA's institutional capacity for such direct action was weak, especially if it was not working jointly with the U.S. military. The idea was turned down as too risky.104

In the meantime, the CIA continued to work with its tribal assets in southern Afghanistan. In early August, the tribals reported an attempt to ambush Bin Ladin's convoy as he traveled on the road between Kabul and Kandahar city- their first such reported interdiction attempt in more than a year and a half. But it was not a success. According to the tribals' own account, when they approached one of the vehicles, they quickly determined that women and children were inside and called off the ambush. Conveying this information to the NSC staff, the CIA noted that they had no independent corroboration for this incident, but that the tribals had acted within the terms of the CIA's authorities in Afghanistan.105

In 2000, plans continued to be developed for potential military operations in Afghanistan. Navy vessels that could launch missiles into Afghanistan were still on call in the north Arabian Sea.106 In the summer, the military refined its list of strikes and Special Operations possibilities to a set of 13 options within the Operation Infinite Resolve plan.107 Yet planning efforts continued to be limited by the same operational and policy concerns encountered in 1998 and 1999. Although the intelligence community sometimes knew where Bin Ladin was, it had been unable to provide intelligence considered sufficiently reliable to launch a strike. Above all, the United States did not have American eyes on the target. As one military officer put it, we had our hand on the door, but we couldn't open the door and walk in.108

At some point during this period, President Clinton expressed his frustration with the lack of military options to take out Bin Ladin and the al Qaeda leadership, remarking to General Hugh Shelton, "You know, it would scare the shit out of al-Qaeda if suddenly a bunch of black ninjas rappelled out of helicopters into the middle of their camp."109 Although Shelton told the Commission he did not remember the statement, President Clinton recalled this remark as "one of the many things I said." The President added, however, that he realized nothing would be accomplished if he lashed out in anger. Secretary of Defense William Cohen thought that the President might have been making a hypothetical statement. Regardless, he said, the question remained how to get the "ninjas" into and out of the theater of operations.110 As discussed in chapter 4, plans of this kind were never carried out before 9/11.

In late 1999 or early 2000, the Joint Staff's director of operations, Vice Admiral Scott Fry, directed his chief information operations officer, Brigadier General Scott Gration, to develop innovative ways to get better intelligence on Bin Ladin's whereabouts. Gration and his team worked on a number of different ideas aimed at getting reliable American eyes on Bin Ladin in a way that would reduce the lag time between sighting and striking.111

One option was to use a small, unmanned U.S. Air Force drone called the Predator, which could survey the territory below and send back video footage. Another option-eventually dismissed as impractical-was to place a powerful long-range telescope on a mountain within range of one of Bin Ladin's training camps. Both proposals were discussed with General Shelton, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and then briefed to Clarke's office at the White House as the CSG was searching for new ideas. In the spring of 2000, Clarke brought in the CIA's assistant director for collection, Charles Allen, to work together with Fry on a joint CIA-Pentagon effort that Clarke dubbed "Afghan Eyes."112After much argument between the CIA and the Defense Department about who should pay for the program, the White House eventually imposed a cost-sharing agreement. The CIA agreed to pay for Predator operations as a 60-day "proof of concept" trial run.113

The Small Group backed Afghan Eyes at the end of June 2000. By mid-July, testing was completed and the equipment was ready, but legal issues were still being ironed out.114 By August 11, the principals had agreed to deploy the Predator.115 The NSC staff considered how to use the information the drones would be relaying from Afghanistan. Clarke's deputy, Roger Cressey, wrote to Berger that emergency CSG and Principals Committee meetings might be needed to act on video coming in from the Predator if it proved able to lock in Bin Ladin's location. In the memo's margin, Berger wrote that before considering action, "I will want more than verified location: we will need, at least, data on pattern of movements to provide some assurance he will remain in place." President Clinton was kept up to date.116

On September 7, the Predator flew for the first time over Afghanistan. When Clarke saw video taken during the trial flight, he described the imagery to Berger as "truly astonishing," and he argued immediately for more flights seeking to find Bin Ladin and target him for cruise missile or air attack. Even if Bin Ladin were not found, Clarke said, Predator missions might identify additional worthwhile targets, such as other al Qaeda leaders or stocks of chemical or biological weapons.117

Clarke was not alone in his enthusiasm. He had backing from Cofer Black and Charles Allen at the CIA. Ten out of 15 trial missions of the Predator over Afghanistan were rated successful. On the first flight, a Predator saw a security detail around a tall man in a white robe at Bin Ladin's Tarnak Farms compound outside Kandahar. After a second sighting of the "man in white" at the compound on September 28, intelligence community analysts determined that he was probably Bin Ladin.118

During at least one trial mission, the Taliban spotted the Predator and scrambled MiG fighters to try, without success, to intercept it. Berger worried that a Predator might be shot down, and warned Clarke that a shootdown would be a "bonanza" for Bin Ladin and the Taliban.119

Still, Clarke was optimistic about Predator-as well as progress with disruptions of al Qaeda cells elsewhere. Berger was more cautious, praising the NSC staff's performance but observing that this was no time for complacency. "Unfortunately," he wrote, "the light at the end of the tunnel is another tunnel."120

6.3 THE ATTACK ON THE USS COLE

Early in chapter 5 we introduced, along with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, two other men who became operational coordinators for al Qaeda: Khallad and Nashiri. As we explained, both were involved during 1998 and 1999 in preparing to attack a ship off the coast of Yemen with a boatload of explosives. They had originally targeted a commercial vessel, specifically an oil tanker, but Bin Ladin urged them to look for a U.S. warship instead. In January 2000, their team had attempted to attack a warship in the port of Aden, but the attempt failed when the suicide boat sank. More than nine months later, on October 12, 2000, al Qaeda operatives in a small boat laden with explosives attacked a U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Cole. The blast ripped a hole in the side of the Cole, killing 17 members of the ship's crew and wounding at least 40.121

The plot, we now know, was a full-fledged al Qaeda operation, supervised directly by Bin Ladin. He chose the target and location of the attack, selected the suicide operatives, and provided the money needed to purchase explosives and equipment. Nashiri was the field commander and managed the operation in Yemen. Khallad helped in Yemen until he was arrested in a case of mistaken identity and freed with Bin Ladin's help, as we also mentioned earlier. Local al Qaeda coordinators included Jamal al Badawi and Fahd al Quso, who was supposed to film the attack from a nearby apartment. The two suicide operatives chosen were Hassan al Khamri and Ibrahim al Thawar, also known as Nibras. Nibras and Quso delivered money to Khallad in Bangkok during Khallad's January 2000 trip to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.122

In September 2000, Bin Ladin reportedly told Nashiri that he wanted to replace Khamri and Nibras. Nashiri was angry and disagreed, telling others he would go to Afghanistan and explain to Bin Ladin that the new operatives were already trained and ready to conduct the attack. Prior to departing, Nashiri gave Nibras and Khamri instructions to execute the attack on the next U.S. warship that entered the port of Aden.123

While Nashiri was in Afghanistan, Nibras and Khamri saw their chance. They piloted the explosives-laden boat alongside the USS Cole, made friendly gestures to crew members, and detonated the bomb. Quso did not arrive at the apartment in time to film the attack.124

Back in Afghanistan, Bin Ladin anticipated U.S. military retaliation. He ordered the evacuation of al Qaeda's Kandahar airport compound and fled- first to the desert area near Kabul, then to Khowst and Jalalabad, and eventually back to Kandahar. In Kandahar, he rotated between five to six residences, spending one night at each residence. In addition, he sent his senior advisor, Mohammed Atef, to a different part of Kandahar and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, to Kabul so that all three could not be killed in one attack.125

There was no American strike. In February 2001, a source reported that an individual whom he identified as the big instructor (probably a reference to Bin Ladin) complained frequently that the United States had not yet attacked. According to the source, Bin Ladin wanted the United States to attack, and if it did not he would launch something bigger.126

The attack on the USS Cole galvanized al Qaeda's recruitment efforts. Following the attack, Bin Ladin instructed the media committee, then headed by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to produce a propaganda video that included a reenactment of the attack along with images of the al Qaeda training camps and training methods; it also highlighted Muslim suffering in Palestine, Kashmir, Indonesia, and Chechnya. Al Qaeda's image was very important to Bin Ladin, and the video was widely disseminated. Portions were aired on Al Jazeera, CNN, and other television outlets. It was also disseminated among many young men in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and caused many extremists to travel to Afghanistan for training and jihad.Al Qaeda members considered the video an effective tool in their struggle for preeminence among other Islamist and jihadist movements.127

Investigating the Attack

Teams from the FBI, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the CIA were immediately sent to Yemen to investigate the attack. With difficulty, Barbara Bodine, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, tried to persuade the Yemeni government to accept these visitors and allow them to carry arms, though the Yemenis balked at letting Americans openly carry long guns (rifles, shotguns, automatic weapons). Meanwhile, Bodine and the leader of the FBI team, John O'Neill, clashed repeatedly-to the point that after O'Neill had been rotated out of Yemen but wanted to return, Bodine refused the request. Despite the initial tension, the Yemeni and American investigations proceeded. Within a few weeks, the outline of the story began to emerge.128

On the day of the Cole attack, a list of suspects was assembled that included al Qaeda's affiliate Egyptian Islamic Jihad. U.S. counterterrorism officials told us they immediately assumed that al Qaeda was responsible. But as Deputy DCI John McLaughlin explained to us, it was not enough for the attack to smell, look, and taste like an al Qaeda operation. To make a case, the CIA needed not just a guess but a link to someone known to be an al Qaeda operative.129

Within the first weeks after the attack, the Yemenis found and arrested both Badawi and Quso, but did not let the FBI team participate in the interrogations. The CIA described initial Yemeni support after the Cole as "slow and inadequate." President Clinton, Secretary Albright, and DCI Tenet all intervened to help. Because the information was secondhand, the U.S. team could not make its own assessment of its reliability.130

On November 11, the Yemenis provided the FBI with new information from the interrogations of Badawi and Quso, including descriptions of individuals from whom the detainees had received operational direction. One of them was Khallad, who was described as having lost his leg. The detainees said that Khallad helped direct the Cole operation from Afghanistan or Pakistan. The Yemenis (correctly) judged that the man described as Khallad was Tawfiq bin Attash.131

An FBI special agent recognized the name Khallad and connected this news with information from an important al Qaeda source who had been meeting regularly with CIA and FBI officers. The source had called Khallad Bin Ladin's "run boy," and described him as having lost one leg in an explosives accident at a training camp a few years earlier. To confirm the identification, the FBI agent asked the Yemenis for their photo of Khallad. The Yemenis provided the photo on November 22, reaffirming their view that Khallad had been an intermediary between the plotters and Bin Ladin. (In a meeting with U.S. officials a few weeks later, on December 16, the source identified Khallad from the Yemeni photograph.)132

U.S. intelligence agencies had already connected Khallad to al Qaeda terrorist operations, including the 1998 embassy bombings. By this time the Yemenis also had identified Nashiri, whose links to al Qaeda and the 1998 embassy bombings were even more well-known.133

In other words, the Yemenis provided strong evidence connecting the Cole attack to al Qaeda during the second half of November, identifying individual operatives whom the United States knew were part of al Qaeda. During December the United States was able to corroborate this evidence. But the United States did not have evidence about Bin Ladin's personal involvement in the attacks until Nashiri and Khallad were captured in 2002 and 2003.

Considering a Response

The Cole attack prompted renewed consideration of what could be done about al Qaeda. According to Clarke, Berger upbraided DCI Tenet so sharply after the Cole attack-repeatedly demanding to know why the United States had to put up with such attacks-that Tenet walked out of a meeting of the principals.134

The CIA got some additional covert action authorities, adding several other individuals to the coverage of the July 1999 Memorandum of Notification that allowed the United States to develop capture operations against al Qaeda leaders in a variety of places and circumstances. Tenet developed additional options, such as strengthening relationships with the Northern Alliance and the Uzbeks and slowing recent al Qaeda-related activities in Lebanon.135

On the diplomatic track, Berger agreed on October 30, 2000, to let the State Department make another approach to Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Jalil about expelling Bin Ladin. The national security advisor ordered that the U.S. message "be stern and foreboding." This warning was similar to those issued in 1998 and 1999. Meanwhile, the administration was working with Russia on new UN sanctions against Mullah Omar's regime.136

President Clinton told us that before he could launch further attacks on al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or deliver an ultimatum to the Taliban threatening strikes if they did not immediately expel Bin Ladin, the CIA or the FBI had to be sure enough that they would "be willing to stand up in public and say, we believe that he [Bin Ladin] did this." He said he was very frustrated that he could not get a definitive enough answer to do something about the Cole attack.137 Similarly, Berger recalled that to go to war, a president needs to be able to say that his senior intelligence and law enforcement officers have concluded who is responsible. He recalled that the intelligence agencies had strong suspicions, but had reached "no conclusion by the time we left office that it was al Qaeda."138

Our only sources for what intelligence officials thought at the time are what they said in informal briefings. Soon after the Cole attack and for the remainder of the Clinton administration, analysts stopped distributing written reports about who was responsible. The topic was obviously sensitive, and both Ambassador Bodine in Yemen and CIA analysts in Washington presumed that the government did not want reports circulating around the agencies that might become public, impeding law enforcement actions or backing the President into a corner.139

Instead the White House and other principals relied on informal updates as more evidence came in. Though Clarke worried that the CIA might be equivocating in assigning responsibility to al Qaeda, he wrote Berger on November 7 that the analysts had described their case by saying that "it has web feet, flies, and quacks." On November 10, CIA analysts briefed the Small Group of principals on their preliminary findings that the attack was carried out by a cell of Yemeni residents with some ties to the transnational mujahideen network. According to the briefing, these residents likely had some support from al Qaeda. But the information on outside sponsorship, support, and direction of the operation was inconclusive. The next day, Berger and Clarke told President Clinton that while the investigation was continuing, it was becoming increasingly clear that al Qaeda had planned and directed the bombing.140

In mid-November, as the evidence of al Qaeda involvement mounted, Berger asked General Shelton to reevaluate military plans to act quickly against Bin Ladin. General Shelton tasked General Tommy Franks, the new commander of CENTCOM, to look again at the options. Shelton wanted to demonstrate that the military was imaginative and knowledgeable enough to move on an array of options, and to show the complexity of the operations. He briefed Berger on the "Infinite Resolve" strike options developed since 1998, which the Joint Staff and CENTCOM had refined during the summer into a list of 13 possibilities or combinations. CENTCOM added a new "phased campaign" concept for wider-ranging strikes, including attacks against the Taliban. For the first time, these strikes envisioned an air campaign against Afghanistan of indefinite duration. Military planners did not include contingency planning for an invasion of Afghanistan. The concept was briefed to Deputy National Security Advisor Donald Kerrick on December 20, and to other officials.141

On November 25, Berger and Clarke wrote President Clinton that although the FBI and CIA investigations had not reached a formal conclusion, they believed the investigations would soon conclude that the attack had been carried out by a large cell whose senior members belonged to al Qaeda. Most of those involved had trained in Bin Ladin-operated camps in Afghanistan, Berger continued. So far, Bin Ladin had not been tied personally to the attack and nobody had heard him directly order it, but two intelligence reports suggested that he was involved. When discussing possible responses, though, Berger referred to the premise-al Qaeda responsibility- as an "unproven assumption."142

In the same November 25 memo, Berger informed President Clinton about a closely held idea: a last-chance ultimatum for the Taliban. Clarke was developing the idea with specific demands: immediate extradition of Bin Ladin and his lieutenants to a legitimate government for trial, observable closure of all terrorist facilities in Afghanistan, and expulsion of all terrorists from Afghanistan within 90 days. Noncompliance would mean U.S. "force directed at the Taliban itself" and U.S. efforts to ensure that the Taliban would never defeat the Northern Alliance. No such ultimatum was issued.143

Nearly a month later, on December 21, the CIA made another presentation to the Small Group of principals on the investigative team's findings. The CIA's briefing slides said that their "preliminary judgment" was that Bin Ladin's al Qaeda group "supported the attack" on the Cole, based on strong circumstantial evidence tying key perpetrators of the attack to al Qaeda. The CIA listed the key suspects, including Nashiri. In addition, the CIA detailed the timeline of the operation, from the mid-1999 preparations, to the failed attack on the USS The Sullivans on January 3, 2000, through a meeting held by the operatives the day before the attack.144

The slides said that so far the CIA had "no definitive answer on [the] crucial question of outside direction of the attack-how and by whom." The CIA noted that the Yemenis claimed that Khallad helped direct the operation from Afghanistan or Pakistan, possibly as Bin Ladin's intermediary, but that it had not seen the Yemeni evidence. However, the CIA knew from both human sources and signals intelligence that Khallad was tied to al Qaeda. The prepared briefing concluded that while some reporting about al Qaeda's role might have merit, those reports offered few specifics. Intelligence gave some ambiguous indicators of al Qaeda direction of the attack.145

This, President Clinton and Berger told us, was not the conclusion they needed in order to go to war or deliver an ultimatum to the Taliban threatening war. The election and change of power was not the issue, President Clinton added. There was enough time. If the agencies had given him a definitive answer, he said, he would have sought a UN Security Council ultimatum and given the Taliban one, two, or three days before taking further action against both al Qaeda and the Taliban. But he did not think it would be responsible for a president to launch an invasion of another country just based on a "preliminary judgment."146

Other advisers have echoed this concern. Some of Secretary Albright's advisers warned her at the time to be sure the evidence conclusively linked Bin Ladin to the Cole before considering any response, especially a military one, because such action might inflame the Islamic world and increase support for the Taliban. Defense Secretary Cohen told us it would not have been prudent to risk killing civilians based only on an assumption that al Qaeda was responsible. General Shelton added that there was an outstanding question as to who was responsible and what the targets were.147

Clarke recalled that while the Pentagon and the State Department had reservations about retaliation, the issue never came to a head because the FBI and the CIA never reached a firm conclusion. He thought they were "holding back." He said he did not know why, but his impression was that Tenet and Reno possibly thought the White House "didn't really want to know," since the principals' discussions by November suggested that there was not much White House interest in conducting further military operations against Afghanistan in the administration's last weeks. He thought that, instead, President Clinton, Berger, and Secretary Albright were concentrating on a last-minute push for a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis.148

Some of Clarke's fellow counterterrorism officials, such as the State Department's Sheehan and the FBI's Watson, shared his disappointment that no military response occurred at the time. Clarke recently recalled that an angry Sheehan asked rhetorically of Defense officials: "Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon to get their attention?"149

On the question of evidence, Tenet told us he was surprised to hear that the White House was awaiting a conclusion from him on responsibility for the Cole attack before taking action against al Qaeda. He did not recall Berger or anyone else telling him that they were waiting for the magic words from the CIA and the FBI. Nor did he remember having any discussions with Berger or the President about retaliation. Tenet told us he believed that it was up to him to present the case. Then it was up to the principals to decide if the case was good enough to justify using force. He believed he laid out what was knowable relatively early in the investigation, and that this evidence never really changed until after 9/11.150

A CIA official told us that the CIA's analysts chose the term "preliminary judgment" because of their notion of how an intelligence standard of proof differed from a legal standard. Because the attack was the subject of a criminal investigation, they told us, the term preliminary was used to avoid locking the government in with statements that might later be obtained by defense lawyers in a future court case. At the time, Clarke was aware of the problem of distinguishing between an intelligence case and a law enforcement case. Asking U.S. law enforcement officials to concur with an intelligence-based case before their investigation had been concluded "could give rise to charges that the administration had acted before final culpability had been determined."151

There was no interagency consideration of just what military action might have looked like in practice-either the Pentagon's new "phased campaign" concept or a prolonged air campaign in Afghanistan. Defense officials, such as Under Secretary Walter Slocombe and Vice Admiral Fry, told us the military response options were still limited. Bin Ladin continued to be elusive. They felt, just as they had for the past two years, that hitting inexpensive and rudimentary training camps with costly missiles would not do much good and might even help al Qaeda if the strikes failed to kill Bin Ladin.152

In late 2000, the CIA and the NSC staff began thinking about the counterterrorism policy agenda they would present to the new administration. The Counterterrorist Center put down its best ideas for the future, assuming it was free of any prior policy or financial constraints. The paper was therefore informally referred to as the "Blue Sky" memo; it was sent to Clarke on December 29.The memo proposed

• A major effort to support the Northern Alliance through intelligence sharing and increased funding so that it could stave off the Taliban army and tie down al Qaeda fighters.This effort was not intended to remove the Taliban from power, a goal that was judged impractical and too expensive for the CIA alone to attain.
• Increased support to the Uzbeks to strengthen their ability to fight terrorism and assist the United States in doing so.
• Assistance to anti-Taliban groups and proxies who might be encouraged to passively resist the Taliban.

The CIA memo noted that there was "no single 'silver bullet' available to deal with the growing problems in Afghanistan." A multifaceted strategy would be needed to produce change.153

No action was taken on these ideas in the few remaining weeks of the Clinton administration. Berger did not recall seeing or being briefed on the Blue Sky memo. Nor was the memo discussed during the transition with incoming top Bush administration officials. Tenet and his deputy told us they pressed these ideas as options after the new team took office.154

As the Clinton administration drew to a close, Clarke and his staff developed a policy paper of their own, the first such comprehensive effort since the Delenda plan of 1998.The resulting paper, entitled "Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al Qida: Status and Prospects," reviewed the threat and the record to date, incorporated the CIA's new ideas from the Blue Sky memo, and posed several near-term policy options.

Clarke and his staff proposed a goal to "roll back" al Qaeda over a period of three to five years. Over time, the policy should try to weaken and eliminate the network's infrastructure in order to reduce it to a "rump group" like other formerly feared but now largely defunct terrorist organizations of the 1980s. "Continued anti-al Qida operations at the current level will prevent some attacks," Clarke's office wrote, "but will not seriously attrit their ability to plan and conduct attacks." The paper backed covert aid to the Northern Alliance, covert aid to Uzbekistan, and renewed Predator flights in March 2001. A sentence called for military action to destroy al Qaeda command-and-control targets and infrastructure and Taliban military and command assets. The paper also expressed concern about the presence of al Qaeda operatives in the United States.155
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Re: The 9/11 Commission Report, by The National Commission o

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Part 3 of 3

6.4 CHANGE AND CONTINUITY

On November 7, 2000,American voters went to the polls in what turned out to be one of the closest presidential contests in U.S. history-an election campaign during which there was a notable absence of serious discussion of the al Qaeda threat or terrorism. Election night became a 36-day legal fight. Until the Supreme Court's 5-4 ruling on December 12 and Vice President Al Gore's concession, no one knew whether Gore or his Republican opponent, Texas Governor George W. Bush, would become president in 2001.

The dispute over the election and the 36-day delay cut in half the normal transition period. Given that a presidential election in the United States brings wholesale change in personnel, this loss of time hampered the new administration in identifying, recruiting, clearing, and obtaining Senate confirmation of key appointees.

From the Old to the New

The principal figures on Bush's White House staff would be National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, who had been a member of the NSC staff in the administration of George H.W. Bush; Rice's deputy, Stephen Hadley, who had been an assistant secretary of defense under the first Bush; and Chief of Staff Andrew Card, who had served that same administration as deputy chief of staff, then secretary of transportation. For secretary of state, Bush chose General Colin Powell, who had been national security advisor for President Ronald Reagan and then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For secretary of defense he selected Donald Rumsfeld, a former member of Congress, White House chief of staff, and, under President Gerald Ford, already once secretary of defense. Bush decided fairly soon to keep Tenet as Director of Central Intelligence. Louis Freeh, who had statutory ten-year tenure, would remain director of the FBI until his voluntary retirement in the summer of 2001.

Bush and his principal advisers had all received briefings on terrorism, including Bin Ladin. In early September 2000, Acting Deputy Director of Central Intelligence John McLaughlin led a team to Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas, and gave him a wide-ranging, four-hour review of sensitive information. Ben Bonk, deputy chief of the CIA's Counterterrorist Center, used one of the four hours to deal with terrorism. To highlight the danger of terrorists obtaining chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons, Bonk brought along a mock-up suitcase to evoke the way the Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult had spread deadly sarin nerve agent on the Tokyo subway in 1995. Bonk told Bush that Americans would die from terrorism during the next four years.156 During the long contest after election day, the CIA set up an office in Crawford to pass intelligence to Bush and some of his key advisers.157 Tenet, accompanied by his deputy director for operations, James Pavitt, briefed President-elect Bush at Blair House during the transition. President Bush told us he asked Tenet whether the CIA could kill Bin Ladin, and Tenet replied that killing Bin Ladin would have an effect but would not end the threat. President Bush told us Tenet said to him that the CIA had all the authority it needed.158

In December, Bush met with Clinton for a two-hour, one-on-one discussion of national security and foreign policy challenges. Clinton recalled saying to Bush, "I think you will find that by far your biggest threat is Bin Ladin and the al Qaeda." Clinton told us that he also said, "One of the great regrets of my presidency is that I didn't get him [Bin Ladin] for you, because I tried to."159 Bush told the Commission that he felt sure President Clinton had mentioned terrorism, but did not remember much being said about al Qaeda. Bush recalled that Clinton had emphasized other issues such as North Korea and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.160

In early January, Clarke briefed Rice on terrorism. He gave similar presentations-describing al Qaeda as both an adaptable global network of jihadist organizations and a lethal core terrorist organization-to Vice President-elect Cheney, Hadley, and Secretary of State-designate Powell. One line in the briefing slides said that al Qaeda had sleeper cells in more than 40 countries, including the United States.161 Berger told us that he made a point of dropping in on Clarke's briefing of Rice to emphasize the importance of the issue. Later the same day, Berger met with Rice. He says that he told her the Bush administration would spend more time on terrorism in general and al Qaeda in particular than on anything else. Rice's recollection was that Berger told her she would be surprised at how much more time she was going to spend on terrorism than she expected, but that the bulk of their conversation dealt with the faltering Middle East peace process and North Korea. Clarke said that the new team, having been out of government for eight years, had a steep learning curve to understand al Qaeda and the new transnational terrorist threat.162

Organizing a New Administration

During the short transition, Rice and Hadley concentrated on staffing and organizing the NSC.163 Their policy priorities differed from those of the Clinton administration. Those priorities included China, missile defense, the collapse of the Middle East peace process, and the Persian Gulf.164 Generally aware that terrorism had changed since the first Bush administration, they paid particular attention to the question of how counterterrorism policy should be coordinated. Rice had asked University of Virginia history professor Philip Zelikow to advise her on the transition.165 Hadley and Zelikow asked Clarke and his deputy, Roger Cressey, for a special briefing on the terrorist threat and how Clarke's Transnational Threats Directorate and Counterterrorism Security Group functioned.166

In the NSC during the first Bush administration, many tough issues were addressed at the level of the Deputies Committee. Issues did not go to the principals unless the deputies had been unable to resolve them. Presidential Decision Directive 62 of the Clinton administration had said specifically that Clarke's Counterterrorism Security Group should report through the Deputies Committee or, at Berger's discretion, directly to the principals. Berger had in practice allowed Clarke's group to function as a parallel deputies committee, reporting directly to those members of the Principals Committee who sat on the special Small Group. There, Clarke himself sat as a de facto principal.

Rice decided to change the special structure that had been built to coordinate counterterrorism policy. It was important to sound policymaking, she felt, that Clarke's interagency committee-like all others-report to the principals through the deputies.167

Rice made an initial decision to hold over both Clarke and his entire counterterrorism staff, a decision that she called rare for a new administration. She decided also that Clarke should retain the title of national counterterrorism coordinator, although he would no longer be a de facto member of the Principals Committee on his issues. The decision to keep Clarke, Rice said, was "not uncontroversial," since he was known as someone who "broke china," but she and Hadley wanted an experienced crisis manager. No one else from Berger's staff had Clarke's detailed knowledge of the levers of government. 168

Clarke was disappointed at what he perceived as a demotion. He also worried that reporting through the Deputies Committee would slow decisionmaking on counterterrorism.169

The result, amid all the changes accompanying the transition, was significant continuity in counterterrorism policy. Clarke and his Counterterrorism Security Group would continue to manage coordination. Tenet remained Director of Central Intelligence and kept the same chief subordinates, including Black and his staff at the Counterterrorist Center. Shelton remained chairman of the Joint Chiefs, with the Joint Staff largely the same. At the FBI, Director Freeh and Assistant Director for Counterterrorism Dale Watson remained. Working-level counterterrorism officials at the State Department and the Pentagon stayed on, as is typically the case. The changes were at the cabinet and subcabinet level and in the CSG's reporting arrangements. At the subcabinet level, there were significant delays in the confirmation of key officials, particularly at the Defense Department.

The procedures of the Bush administration were to be at once more formal and less formal than its predecessor's. President Clinton, a voracious reader, received his daily intelligence briefings in writing. He often scrawled questions and comments in the margins, eliciting written responses. The new president, by contrast, reinstated the practice of face-to-face briefings from the DCI. President Bush and Tenet met in the Oval Office at 8:00 A.M., with Vice President Cheney, Rice, and Card usually also present. The President and the DCI both told us that these daily sessions provided a useful opportunity for exchanges on intelligence issues.170

The President talked with Rice every day, and she in turn talked by phone at least daily with Powell and Rumsfeld. As a result, the President often felt less need for formal meetings. If, however, he decided that an event or an issue called for action, Rice would typically call on Hadley to have the Deputies Committee develop and review options. The President said that this process often tried his patience but that he understood the necessity for coordination.171

Early Decisions

Within the first few days after Bush's inauguration, Clarke approached Rice in an effort to get her-and the new President-to give terrorism very high priority and to act on the agenda that he had pushed during the last few months of the previous administration. After Rice requested that all senior staff identify desirable major policy reviews or initiatives, Clarke submitted an elaborate memorandum on January 25, 2001. He attached to it his 1998 Delenda Plan and the December 2000 strategy paper. "We urgently need . . . a Principals level review on the al Qida network," Clarke wrote.172

He wanted the Principals Committee to decide whether al Qaeda was "a first order threat" or a more modest worry being overblown by "chicken little" alarmists. Alluding to the transition briefing that he had prepared for Rice, Clarke wrote that al Qaeda "is not some narrow, little terrorist issue that needs to be included in broader regional policy." Two key decisions that had been deferred, he noted, concerned covert aid to keep the Northern Alliance alive when fighting began again in Afghanistan in the spring, and covert aid to the Uzbeks. Clarke also suggested that decisions should be made soon on messages to the Taliban and Pakistan over the al Qaeda sanctuary in Afghanistan, on possible new money for CIA operations, and on "when and how . . . to respond to the attack on the USS Cole."173

The national security advisor did not respond directly to Clarke's memorandum. No Principals Committee meeting on al Qaeda was held until September 4, 2001 (although the Principals Committee met frequently on other subjects, such as the Middle East peace process, Russia, and the Persian Gulf ).174 But Rice and Hadley began to address the issues Clarke had listed. What to do or say about the Cole had been an obvious question since inauguration day. When the attack occurred, 25 days before the election, candidate Bush had said to CNN, "I hope that we can gather enough intelligence to figure out who did the act and take the necessary action. There must be a consequence."175 Since the Clinton administration had not responded militarily, what was the Bush administration to do?

On January 25,Tenet briefed the President on the Cole investigation. The written briefing repeated for top officials of the new administration what the CIA had told the Clinton White House in November. This included the "preliminary judgment" that al Qaeda was responsible, with the caveat that no evidence had yet been found that Bin Ladin himself ordered the attack. Tenet told us he had no recollection of a conversation with the President about this briefing.176

In his January 25 memo, Clarke had advised Rice that the government should respond to the Cole attack, but "should take advantage of the policy that 'we will respond at a time, place and manner of our own choosing' and not be forced into knee-jerk responses."177 Before Vice President Cheney visited the CIA in mid-February, Clarke sent him a memo-outside the usual White House document-management system-suggesting that he ask CIA officials "what additional information is needed before CIA can definitively conclude that al-Qida was responsible" for the Cole.178 In March 2001, the CIA's briefing slides for Rice were still describing the CIA's "preliminary judgment" that a "strong circumstantial case" could be made against al Qaeda but noting that the CIA continued to lack "conclusive information on external command and control" of the attack.179 Clarke and his aides continued to provide Rice and Hadley with evidence reinforcing the case against al Qaeda and urging action.180

The President explained to us that he had been concerned lest an ineffectual air strike just serve to give Bin Ladin a propaganda advantage. He said he had not been told about Clinton administration warnings to the Taliban. The President told us that he had concluded that the United States must use ground forces for a job like this.181

Rice told us that there was never a formal, recorded decision not to retaliate specifically for the Cole attack. Exchanges with the President, between the President and Tenet, and between herself and Powell and Rumsfeld had produced a consensus that "tit-for-tat" responses were likely to be counterproductive. This had been the case, she thought, with the cruise missile strikes of August 1998.The new team at the Pentagon did not push for action. On the contrary, Rumsfeld thought that too much time had passed and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, thought that the Cole attack was "stale." Hadley said that in the end, the administration's real response to the Cole would be a new, more aggressive strategy against al Qaeda.182

The administration decided to propose to Congress a substantial increase in counterterrorism funding for national security agencies, including the CIA and the FBI. This included a 27 percent increase in counterterrorism funding for the CIA.183

Starting a Review

In early March, the administration postponed action on proposals for increasing aid to the Northern Alliance and the Uzbeks. Rice noted at the time that a more wide-ranging examination of policy toward Afghanistan was needed first. She wanted the review very soon.184

Rice and others recalled the President saying, "I'm tired of swatting at flies."185 The President reportedly also said, "I'm tired of playing defense. I want to play offense. I want to take the fight to the terrorists."186 President Bush explained to us that he had become impatient. He apparently had heard proposals for rolling back al Qaeda but felt that catching terrorists one by one or even cell by cell was not an approach likely to succeed in the long run. At the same time, he said, he understood that policy had to be developed slowly so that diplomacy and financial and military measures could mesh with one another.187

Hadley convened an informal Deputies Committee meeting on March 7, when some of the deputies had not yet been confirmed. For the first time, Clarke's various proposals-for aid to the Northern Alliance and the Uzbeks and for Predator missions-went before the group that, in the Bush NSC, would do most of the policy work. Though they made no decisions on these specific proposals, Hadley apparently concluded that there should be a presidential national security policy directive (NSPD) on terrorism.188

Clarke would later express irritation about the deputies' insistence that a strategy for coping with al Qaeda be framed within the context of a regional policy. He doubted that the benefits would compensate for the time lost. The administration had in fact proceeded with Principals Committee meetings on topics including Iraq and Sudan without prior contextual review, and Clarke favored moving ahead similarly with a narrow counterterrorism agenda.189 But the President's senior advisers saw the al Qaeda problem as part of a puzzle that could not be assembled without filling in the pieces for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Rice deferred a Principals Committee meeting on al Qaeda until the deputies had developed a new policy for their consideration.

The full Deputies Committee discussed al Qaeda on April 30. CIA briefing slides described al Qaeda as the "most dangerous group we face," citing its "leadership, experience, resources, safe haven in Afghanistan, [and] focus on attacking U.S." The slides warned, "There will be more attacks."190

At the meeting, the deputies endorsed covert aid to Uzbekistan. Regarding the Northern Alliance, they "agreed to make no major commitment at this time." Washington would first consider options for aiding other anti-Taliban groups.191 Meanwhile, the administration would "initiate a comprehensive review of U.S. policy on Pakistan" and explore policy options on Afghanistan, "including the option of supporting regime change."192 Working-level officials were also to consider new steps on terrorist financing and America's perennially troubled public diplomacy efforts in the Muslim world, where NSC staff warned that "we have by and large ceded the court of public opinion" to al Qaeda.

While Clarke remained concerned about the pace of the policy review, he now saw a greater possibility of persuading the deputies to recognize the changed nature of terrorism.193 The process of fleshing out that strategy was under way.

6.5 THE NEW ADMINISTRATION'S APPROACH

The Bush administration in its first months faced many problems other than terrorism. They included the collapse of the Middle East peace process and, in April, a crisis over a U.S. "spy plane" brought down in Chinese territory. The new administration also focused heavily on Russia, a new nuclear strategy that allowed missile defenses, Europe, Mexico, and the Persian Gulf.

In the spring, reporting on terrorism surged dramatically. In chapter 8, we will explore this reporting and the ways agencies responded. These increasingly alarming reports, briefed to the President and top officials, became part of the context in which the new administration weighed its options for policy on al Qaeda.

Except for a few reports that the CSG considered and apparently judged to be unreliable, none of these pointed specifically to possible al Qaeda action inside the United States-although the CSG continued to be concerned about the domestic threat. The mosaic of threat intelligence came from the Counterterrorist Center, which collected only abroad. Its reports were not supplemented by reports from the FBI. Clarke had expressed concern about an al Qaeda presence in the United States, and he worried about an attack on the White House by "Hizbollah, Hamas, al Qida and other terrorist organizations."194

In May, President Bush announced that Vice President Cheney would himself lead an effort looking at preparations for managing a possible attack by weapons of mass destruction and at more general problems of national pre-paredness. The next few months were mainly spent organizing the effort and bringing an admiral from the Sixth Fleet back to Washington to manage it. The Vice President's task force was just getting under way when the 9/11 attack occurred.195

On May 29, at Tenet's request, Rice and Tenet converted their usual weekly meeting into a broader discussion on al Qaeda; participants included Clarke, CTC chief Cofer Black, and "Richard," a group chief with authority over the Bin Ladin unit. Rice asked about "taking the offensive" and whether any approach could be made to influence Bin Ladin or the Taliban. Clarke and Black replied that the CIA's ongoing disruption activities were "taking the offensive" and that Bin Ladin could not be deterred. A wide-ranging discussion then ensued about "breaking the back" of Bin Ladin's organization.196

Tenet emphasized the ambitious plans for covert action that the CIA had developed in December 2000. In discussing the draft authorities for this program in March, CIA officials had pointed out that the spending level envisioned for these plans was larger than the CIA's entire current budget for counterterrorism covert action. It would be a multiyear program, requiring such levels of spending for about five years.197

The CIA official, "Richard," told us that Rice "got it." He said she agreed with his conclusions about what needed to be done, although he complained to us that the policy process did not follow through quickly enough.198 Clarke and Black were asked to develop a range of options for attacking Bin Ladin's organization, from the least to most ambitious.199

Rice and Hadley asked Clarke and his staff to draw up the new presidential directive. On June 7, Hadley circulated the first draft, describing it as "an admittedly ambitious" program for confronting al Qaeda.200 The draft NSPD's goal was to "eliminate the al Qida network of terrorist groups as a threat to the United States and to friendly governments." It called for a multiyear effort involving diplomacy, covert action, economic measures, law enforcement, public diplomacy, and if necessary military efforts. The State Department was to work with other governments to end all al Qaeda sanctuaries, and also to work with the Treasury Department to disrupt terrorist financing. The CIA was to develop an expanded covert action program including significant additional funding and aid to anti-Taliban groups. The draft also tasked OMB with ensuring that sufficient funds to support this program were found in U.S. budgets from fiscal years 2002 to 2006.201

Rice viewed this draft directive as the embodiment of a comprehensive new strategy employing all instruments of national power to eliminate the al Qaeda threat. Clarke, however, regarded the new draft as essentially similar to the proposal he had developed in December 2000 and put forward to the new administration in January 2001.202 In May or June, Clarke asked to be moved from his counterterrorism portfolio to a new set of responsibilities for cybersecurity. He told us that he was frustrated with his role and with an administration that he considered not "serious about al Qaeda."203 If Clarke was frustrated, he never expressed it to her, Rice told us.204

Diplomacy in Blind Alleys Afghanistan. The new administration had already begun exploring possible diplomatic options, retracing many of the paths traveled by its predecessors. U.S. envoys again pressed the Taliban to turn Bin Ladin "over to a country where he could face justice" and repeated, yet again, the warning that the Taliban would be held responsible for any al Qaeda attacks on U.S. interests.205 The Taliban's representatives repeated their old arguments. Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage told us that while U.S. diplomats were becoming more active on Afghanistan through the spring and summer of 2001, "it would be wrong for anyone to characterize this as a dramatic shift from the previous administration.206

In deputies meetings at the end of June, Tenet was tasked to assess the prospects for Taliban cooperation with the United States on al Qaeda. The NSC staff was tasked to flesh out options for dealing with the Taliban. Revisiting these issues tried the patience of some of the officials who felt they had already been down these roads and who found the NSC's procedures slow. "We weren't going fast enough," Armitage told us. Clarke kept arguing that moves against the Taliban and al Qaeda should not have to wait months for a larger review of U.S. policy in South Asia. "For the government," Hadley said to us, "we moved it along as fast as we could move it along."207 As all hope in moving the Taliban faded, debate revived about giving covert assistance to the regime's opponents. Clarke and the CIA's Cofer Black renewed the push to aid the Northern Alliance. Clarke suggested starting with modest aid, just enough to keep the Northern Alliance in the fight and tie down al Qaeda terrorists, without aiming to overthrow the Taliban.208

Rice, Hadley, and the NSC staff member for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, told us they opposed giving aid to the Northern Alliance alone. They argued that the program needed to have a big part for Pashtun opponents of the Taliban. They also thought the program should be conducted on a larger scale than had been suggested. Clarke concurred with the idea of a larger program, but he warned that delay risked the Northern Alliance's final defeat at the hands of the Taliban.209

During the spring, the CIA, at the NSC's request, had developed draft legal authorities-a presidential finding-to undertake a large-scale program of covert assistance to the Taliban's foes. The draft authorities expressly stated that the goal of the assistance was not to overthrow the Taliban. But even this program would be very costly. This was the context for earlier conversations, when in March Tenet stressed the need to consider the impact of such a large program on the political situation in the region and in May Tenet talked to Rice about the need for a multiyear financial commitment.210

By July, the deputies were moving toward agreement that some last effort should be made to convince the Taliban to shift position and then, if that failed, the administration would move on the significantly enlarged covert action program. As the draft presidential directive was circulated in July, the State Department sent the deputies a lengthy historical review of U.S. efforts to engage the Taliban about Bin Ladin from 1996 on. "These talks have been fruitless," the State Department concluded.211

Arguments in the summer brought to the surface the more fundamental issue of whether the U.S. covert action program should seek to overthrow the regime, intervening decisively in the civil war in order to change Afghanistan's government. By the end of a deputies meeting on September 10, officials formally agreed on a three-phase strategy. First an envoy would give the Taliban a last chance. If this failed, continuing diplomatic pressure would be combined with the planned covert action program encouraging anti-Taliban Afghans of all major ethnic groups to stalemate the Taliban in the civil war and attack al Qaeda bases, while the United States developed an international coalition to undermine the regime. In phase three, if the Taliban's policy still did not change, the deputies agreed that the United States would try covert action to topple the Taliban's leadership from within.212

The deputies agreed to revise the al Qaeda presidential directive, then being finalized for presidential approval, in order to add this strategy to it. Armitage explained to us that after months of continuing the previous administration's policy, he and Powell were bringing the State Department to a policy of overthrowing the Taliban. From his point of view, once the United States made the commitment to arm the Northern Alliance, even covertly, it was taking action to initiate regime change, and it should give those opponents the strength to achieve complete victory.213

Pakistan. The Bush administration immediately encountered the dilemmas that arose from the varied objectives the United States was trying to accomplish in its relationship with Pakistan. In February 2001, President Bush wrote General Musharraf on a number of matters. He emphasized that Bin Ladin and al Qaeda were "a direct threat to the United States and its interests that must be addressed." He urged Musharraf to use his influence with the Taliban on Bin Ladin and al Qaeda.214 Powell and Armitage reviewed the possibility of acquiring more carrots to dangle in front of Pakistan. Given the generally negative view of Pakistan on Capitol Hill, the idea of lifting sanctions may have seemed far-fetched, but perhaps no more so than the idea of persuading Musharraf to antagonize the Islamists in his own government and nation.215

On June 18, Rice met with the visiting Pakistani foreign minister, Abdul Sattar. She "really let him have it" about al Qaeda, she told us.216 Other evidence corroborates her account. But, as she was upbraiding Sattar, Rice recalled thinking that the Pakistani diplomat seemed to have heard it all before. Sattar urged senior U.S. policymakers to engage the Taliban, arguing that such a course would take time but would produce results. In late June, the deputies agreed to review U.S. objectives. Clarke urged Hadley to split off all other issues in U.S.-Pakistani relations and just focus on demanding that Pakistan move vigorously against terrorism-to push the Pakistanis to do before an al Qaeda attack what Washington would demand that they do after. He had made similar requests in the Clinton administration; he had no more success with Rice than he had with Berger.217

On August 4, President Bush wrote President Musharraf to request his support in dealing with terrorism and to urge Pakistan to engage actively against al Qaeda. The new administration was again registering its concerns, just as its predecessor had, but it was still searching for new incentives to open up diplomatic possibilities. For its part, Pakistan had done little. Assistant Secretary of State Christina Rocca described the administration's plan to break this logjam as a move from "half engagement" to "enhanced engagement." The administration was not ready to confront Islamabad and threaten to rupture relations. Deputy Secretary Armitage told us that before 9/11, the envisioned new approach to Pakistan had not yet been attempted.218

Saudi Arabia. The Bush administration did not develop new diplomatic initiatives on al Qaeda with the Saudi government before 9/11.Vice President Cheney called Crown Prince Abdullah on July 5, 2001, to seek Saudi help in preventing threatened attacks on American facilities in the Kingdom. Secretary of State Powell met with the crown prince twice before 9/11.They discussed topics like Iraq, not al Qaeda. U.S.-Saudi relations in the summer of 2001 were marked by sometimes heated disagreements about ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence, not about Bin Ladin.219

Military Plans

The confirmation of the Pentagon's new leadership was a lengthy process. Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz was confirmed in March 2001 and Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Douglas Feith in July. Though the new officials were briefed about terrorism and some of the earlier planning, including that for Operation Infinite Resolve, they were focused, as Secretary Rumsfeld told us, on creating a twenty-first-century military.220

At the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Shelton did not recall much interest by the new administration in military options against al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He could not recall any specific guidance on the topic from the secretary. Brian Sheridan-the outgoing assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict (SOLIC), the key counterterrorism policy office in the Pentagon-never briefed Rumsfeld. He departed on January 20; he had not been replaced by 9/11.221

Rumsfeld noted to us his own interest in terrorism, which came up often in his regular meetings with Tenet. He thought that the Defense Department, before 9/11, was not organized adequately or prepared to deal with new threats like terrorism. But his time was consumed with getting new officials in place and working on the foundation documents of a new defense policy, the quadrennial defense review, the defense planning guidance, and the existing contingency plans. He did not recall any particular counterterrorism issue that engaged his attention before 9/11, other than the development of the Predator unmanned aircraft system.222

The commander of Central Command, General Franks, told us that he did not regard the existing plans as serious. To him a real military plan to address al Qaeda would need to go all the way, following through the details of a full campaign (including the political-military issues of where operations would be based) and securing the rights to fly over neighboring countries.223

The draft presidential directive circulated in June 2001 began its discussion of the military by reiterating the Defense Department's lead role in protecting its forces abroad. The draft included a section directing Secretary Rumsfeld to "develop contingency plans" to attack both al Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan. The new section did not specifically order planning for the use of ground troops, or clarify how this guidance differed from the existing Infinite Resolve plans.224

Hadley told us that by circulating this section, a draft Annex B to the directive, the White House was putting the Pentagon on notice that it would need to produce new military plans to address this problem.225 "The military didn't particularly want this mission," Rice told us.226

With this directive still awaiting President Bush's signature, Secretary Rumsfeld did not order his subordinates to begin preparing any new military plans against either al Qaeda or the Taliban before 9/11.

President Bush told us that before 9/11, he had not seen good options for special military operations against Bin Ladin. Suitable bases in neighboring countries were not available and, even if the U.S. forces were sent in, it was not clear where they would go to find Bin Ladin.227

President Bush told us that before 9/11 there was an appetite in the government for killing Bin Ladin, not for war. Looking back in 2004, he equated the presidential directive with a readiness to invade Afghanistan. The problem, he said, would have been how to do that if there had not been another attack on America. To many people, he said, it would have seemed like an ultimate act of unilateralism. But he said that he was prepared to take that on.228

Domestic Change and Continuity

During the transition, Bush had chosen John Ashcroft, a former senator from Missouri, as his attorney general. On his arrival at the Justice Department, Ashcroft told us, he faced a number of problems spotlighting the need for reform at the FBI.229

In February, Clarke briefed Attorney General Ashcroft on his directorate's issues. He reported that at the time, the attorney general acknowledged a "steep learning curve," and asked about the progress of the Cole investigation.230 Neither Ashcroft nor his predecessors received the President's Daily Brief. His office did receive the daily intelligence report for senior officials that, during the spring and summer of 2001, was carrying much of the same threat information.

The FBI was struggling to build up its institutional capabilities to do more against terrorism, relying on a strategy called MAXCAP 05 that had been unveiled in the summer of 2000.The FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism, Dale Watson, told us that he felt the new Justice Department leadership was not supportive of the strategy. Watson had the sense that the Justice Department wanted the FBI to get back to the investigative basics: guns, drugs, and civil rights. The new administration did seek an 8 percent increase in overall FBI funding in its initial budget proposal for fiscal year 2002, including the largest proposed percentage increase in the FBI's counterterrorism program since fiscal year 1997.The additional funds included the FBI's support of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah (a onetime increase), enhanced security at FBI facilities, and improvements to the FBI's WMD incident response capability.231

In May, the Justice Department began shaping plans for building a budget for fiscal year 2003, the process that would usually culminate in an administration proposal at the beginning of 2002. On May 9, the attorney general testified at a congressional hearing concerning federal efforts to combat terrorism. He said that "one of the nation's most fundamental responsibilities is to protect its citizens . . . from terrorist attacks." The budget guidance issued the next day, however, highlighted gun crimes, narcotics trafficking, and civil rights as priorities. Watson told us that he almost fell out of his chair when he saw this memo, because it did not mention counterterrorism. Longtime FBI Director Louis Freeh left in June 2001, after announcing the indictment in the Khobar Towers case that he had worked so long to obtain. Thomas Pickard was the acting director during the summer. Freeh's successor, Robert Mueller, took office just before 9/11.232

The Justice Department prepared a draft fiscal year 2003 budget that maintained but did not increase the funding level for counterterrorism in its pending fiscal year 2002 proposal. Pickard appealed for more counterterrorism enhancements, an appeal the attorney general denied on September 10.233

Ashcroft had also inherited an ongoing debate on whether and how to modify the 1995 procedures governing intelligence sharing between the FBI and the Justice Department's Criminal Division. But in August 2001,Ashcroft's deputy, Larry Thompson, issued a memorandum reaffirming the 1995 procedures with the clarification that evidence of "any federal felony" was to be immediately reported by the FBI to the Criminal Division. The 1995 procedures remained in effect until after 9/11.234

Covert Action and the Predator

In March 2001, Rice asked the CIA to prepare a new series of authorities for covert action in Afghanistan. Rice's recollection was that the idea had come from Clarke and the NSC senior director for intelligence, Mary McCarthy, and had been linked to the proposal for aid to the Northern Alliance and the Uzbeks. Rice described the draft document as providing for "consolidation plus," superseding the various Clinton administration documents. In fact, the CIA drafted two documents. One was a finding that did concern aid to opponents of the Taliban regime; the other was a draft Memorandum of Notification, which included more open-ended language authorizing possible lethal action in a variety of situations. Tenet delivered both to Hadley on March 28. The CIA's notes for Tenet advised him that "in response to the NSC request for drafts that will help the policymakers review their options, each of the documents has been crafted to provide the Agency with the broadest possible discretion permissible under the law." At the meeting, Tenet argued for deciding on a policy before deciding on the legal authorities to implement it. Hadley accepted this argument, and the draft MON was put on hold.235

As the policy review moved forward, the planned covert action program for Afghanistan was included in the draft presidential directive, as part of an "Annex A" on intelligence activities to "eliminate the al Qaeda threat."236 The main debate during the summer of 2001 concentrated on the one new mechanism for a lethal attack on Bin Ladin-an armed version of the Predator drone.

In the first months of the new administration, questions concerning the Predator became more and more a central focus of dispute. Clarke favored resuming Predator flights over Afghanistan as soon as weather permitted, hoping that they still might provide the elusive "actionable intelligence" to target Bin Ladin with cruise missiles. Learning that the Air Force was thinking of equipping Predators with warheads, Clarke became even more enthusiastic about redeployment.237

The CTC chief, Cofer Black, argued against deploying the Predator for reconnaissance purposes. He recalled that the Taliban had spotted a Predator in the fall of 2000 and scrambled their MiG fighters. Black wanted to wait until the armed version was ready. "I do not believe the possible recon value outweighs the risk of possible program termination when the stakes are raised by the Taliban parading a charred Predator in front of CNN," he wrote. Military officers in the Joint Staff shared this concern.238 There is some dispute as to whether or not the Deputies Committee endorsed resuming reconnaissance flights at its April 30, 2001, meeting. In any event, Rice and Hadley ultimately went along with the CIA and the Pentagon, holding off on reconnaissance flights until the armed Predator was ready.239

The CIA's senior management saw problems with the armed Predator as well, problems that Clarke and even Black and Allen were inclined to minimize. One (which also applied to reconnaissance flights) was money. A Predator cost about $3 million. If the CIA flew Predators for its own reconnaissance or covert action purposes, it might be able to borrow them from the Air Force, but it was not clear that the Air Force would bear the cost if a vehicle went down. Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz took the position that the CIA should have to pay for it; the CIA disagreed.240

Second, Tenet in particular questioned whether he, as Director of Central Intelligence, should operate an armed Predator. "This was new ground," he told us. Tenet ticked off key questions: What is the chain of command? Who takes the shot? Are America's leaders comfortable with the CIA doing this, going outside of normal military command and control? Charlie Allen told us that when these questions were discussed at the CIA, he and the Agency's executive director, A. B. "Buzzy" Krongard, had said that either one of them would be happy to pull the trigger, but Tenet was appalled, telling them that they had no authority to do it, nor did he.241

Third, the Hellfire warhead carried by the Predator needed work. It had been built to hit tanks, not people. It needed to be designed to explode in a different way, and even then had to be targeted with extreme precision. In the configuration planned by the Air Force through mid-2001, the Predator's missile would not be able to hit a moving vehicle.242

White House officials had seen the Predator video of the "man in white." On July 11, Hadley tried to hurry along preparation of the armed system. He directed McLaughlin, Wolfowitz, and Joint Chiefs Vice Chairman Richard Myers to deploy Predators capable of being armed no later than September 1. He also directed that they have cost-sharing arrangements in place by August 1. Rice told us that this attempt by Hadley to dictate a solution had failed and that she eventually had to intervene herself.243

On August 1, the Deputies Committee met again to discuss the armed Predator. They concluded that it was legal for the CIA to kill Bin Ladin or one of his deputies with the Predator. Such strikes would be acts of self-defense that would not violate the ban on assassinations in Executive Order 12333.The big issues-who would pay for what, who would authorize strikes, and who would pull the trigger-were left for the principals to settle. The Defense Department representatives did not take positions on these issues.244

The CIA's McLaughlin had also been reticent. When Hadley circulated a memorandum attempting to prod the deputies to reach agreement, McLaughlin sent it back with a handwritten comment on the cost-sharing: "we question whether it is advisable to make such an investment before the decision is taken on flying an armed Predator." For Clarke, this came close to being a final straw. He angrily asked Rice to call Tenet. "Either al Qida is a threat worth acting against or it is not," Clarke wrote. "CIA leadership has to decide which it is and cease these bi-polar mood swings."245

These debates, though, had little impact in advancing or delaying efforts to make the Predator ready for combat. Those were in the hands of military officers and engineers. General John Jumper had commanded U.S. air forces in Europe and seen Predators used for reconnaissance in the Balkans. He started the program to develop an armed version and, after returning in 2000 to head the Air Combat Command, took direct charge of it.

There were numerous technical problems, especially with the Hellfire missiles. The Air Force tests conducted during the spring were inadequate, so missile testing needed to continue and modifications needed to be made during the summer. Even then, Jumper told us, problems with the equipment persisted. Nevertheless, the Air Force was moving at an extraordinary pace. "In the modern era, since the 1980s,"Jumper said to us, "I would be shocked if you found anything that went faster than this."246

September 2001

The Principals Committee had its first meeting on al Qaeda on September 4. On the day of the meeting, Clarke sent Rice an impassioned personal note. He criticized U.S. counterterrorism efforts past and present. The "real question" before the principals, he wrote, was "are we serious about dealing with the al Qida threat? . . . Is al Qida a big deal? . . . Decision makers should imagine themselves on a future day when the CSG has not succeeded in stopping al Qida attacks and hundreds of Americans lay dead in several countries, including the US," Clarke wrote. "What would those decision makers wish that they had done earlier? That future day could happen at any time."247

Clarke then turned to the Cole. "The fact that the USS Cole was attacked during the last Administration does not absolve us of responding for the attack," he wrote. "Many in al Qida and the Taliban may have drawn the wrong lesson from the Cole: that they can kill Americans without there being a US response, without there being a price.... One might have thought that with a $250m hole in a destroyer and 17 dead sailors, the Pentagon might have wanted to respond. Instead, they have often talked about the fact that there is 'nothing worth hitting in Afghanistan' and said 'the cruise missiles cost more than the jungle gyms and mud huts' at terrorist camps." Clarke could not understand "why we continue to allow the existence of large scale al Qida bases where we know people are being trained to kill Americans."248

Turning to the CIA, Clarke warned that its bureaucracy, which was "masterful at passive aggressive behavior," would resist funding the new national security presidential directive, leaving it a "hollow shell of words without deeds." The CIA would insist its other priorities were more important. Invoking President Bush's own language, Clarke wrote, "You are left with a modest effort to swat flies, to try to prevent specific al Qida attacks by using [intelligence] to detect them and friendly governments' police and intelligence officers to stop them. You are left waiting for the big attack, with lots of casualties, after which some major US retaliation will be in order[.]"249

Rice told us she took Clarke's memo as a warning not to get dragged down by bureaucratic inertia.250 While his arguments have force, we also take Clarke's jeremiad as something more. After nine years on the NSC staff and more than three years as the president's national coordinator, he had often failed to persuade these agencies to adopt his views, or to persuade his superiors to set an agenda of the sort he wanted or that the whole government could support.

Meanwhile, another counterterrorism veteran, Cofer Black, was preparing his boss for the principals meeting. He advised Tenet that the draft presidential directive envisioned an ambitious covert action program, but that the authorities for it had not yet been approved and the funding still had not been found. If the CIA was reluctant to use the Predator, Black did not mention it. He wanted "a timely decision from the Principals," adding that the window for missions within 2001 was a short one. The principals would have to decide whether Rice, Tenet, Rumsfeld, or someone else would give the order to fire.251

At the September 4 meeting, the principals approved the draft presidential directive with little discussion.252 Rice told us that she had, at some point, told President Bush that she and his other advisers thought it would take three years or so for their al Qaeda strategy to work.253 They then discussed the armed Predator.

Hadley portrayed the Predator as a useful tool, although perhaps not for immediate use. Rice, who had been advised by her staff that the armed Predator was not ready for deployment, commented about the potential for using the armed Predator in the spring of 2002.254

The State Department supported the armed Predator, although Secretary Powell was not convinced that Bin Ladin was as easy to target as had been suggested. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill was skittish, cautioning about the implications of trying to kill an individual.255

The Defense Department favored strong action. Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz questioned the United States' ability to deliver Bin Ladin and bring him to justice. He favored going after Bin Ladin as part of a larger air strike, similar to what had been done in the 1986 U.S. strike against Libya. General Myers emphasized the Predator's value for surveillance, perhaps enabling broader air strikes that would go beyond Bin Ladin to attack al Qaeda's training infrastructure.256

The principals also discussed which agency-CIA or Defense-should have the authority to fire a missile from the armed Predator.257

At the end, Rice summarized the meeting's conclusions. The armed Predator capability was needed but not ready. The Predator would be available for the military to consider along with its other options. The CIA should consider flying reconnaissance-only missions. The principals-including the previously reluctant Tenet-thought that such reconnaissance flights were a good idea, combined with other efforts to get actionable intelligence. Tenet deferred an answer on the additional reconnaissance flights, conferred with his staff after the meeting, and then directed the CIA to press ahead with them.258

A few days later, a final version of the draft presidential directive was circulated, incorporating two minor changes made by the principals.259

On September 9, dramatic news arrived from Afghanistan. The leader of the Northern Alliance, Ahmed Shah Massoud, had granted an interview in his bungalow near the Tajikistan border with two men whom the Northern Alliance leader had been told were Arab journalists. The supposed reporter and camera-man-actually al Qaeda assassins-then set off a bomb, riddling Massoud's chest with shrapnel. He died minutes later.

On September 10, Hadley gathered the deputies to finalize their three-phase, multiyear plan to pressure and perhaps ultimately topple the Taliban leadership.260

That same day, Hadley instructed DCI Tenet to have the CIA prepare new draft legal authorities for the "broad covert action program" envisioned by the draft presidential directive. Hadley also directed Tenet to prepare a separate section "authorizing a broad range of other covert activities, including authority to capture or to use lethal force" against al Qaeda command-and-control elements. This section would supersede the Clinton-era documents. Hadley wanted the authorities to be flexible and broad enough "to cover any additional UBL-related covert actions contemplated."261

Funding still needed to be located. The military component remained unclear. Pakistan remained uncooperative. The domestic policy institutions were largely uninvolved. But the pieces were coming together for an integrated policy dealing with al Qaeda, the Taliban, and Pakistan.
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