Not just one missed terrorist’s call, Attorney General Mukasey

“We knew that there had been a call from someplace that was known to be a safe house in Afghanistan and we knew that it came to the United States. We didn’t know precisely where it went. We’ve got 3,000 people who went to work that day, and didn’t come home, to show for that.” — Attorney General Michael Mukasey, speaking last week “in Nancy Pelosi’s hometown.”

AG Michael Mukasey revealed new, stunning information: he now knows precisely to whom that call was made. As 13 of the 15 muscle hijackers came late and knew little, that call undoubtedly was to one of only seven men: Zacarias Moussaoui; the two members of al-Qaeda muscle hijackers who the CIA knew, in March 2000, had entered the United States two months prior, Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi; or one of the four hijacker pilots, Hani Hanjour, Marwan al Shehhi, Ziad Jarrah, and Mohamed Atta. All seven trained to fly after they arrived here. As they entered America alone or in pairs and initially moved and operated independently, each separately made updates to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed via a common communications network. In addition, with Moussaoui excluded, literally hundreds of communications took place between the remaining six.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal quoted Mukasey citing ‘One Missed Call‘ — had only we been listening. Yet the 9/11 Commission found that “communications sufficient to enable planning and direction of the operatives and those who would be helping them” was a critical element in the successful attack. What follows are obvious examples of the terrorists’ communications, to illustrate the many ‘dots’ uncollected before 3,000 died. [Note that the first two citations are to demonstrate that our intelligence agencies knew Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaf al Hazmi to be al-Qaeda and had arrived in the United States on January 15, 2000]:

9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 6 [soon after the USS Cole was bombed]:

On November 11 [2000] 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 [all bolded emphasis added here is mine]. 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.)

9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 6 [backing up a bit in time]:

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. … All made their way to Southeast Asia from Afghanistan and Pakistan, except for Mihdhar, who traveled from Yemen.

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 Mihdhar. 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 … Though Nawaf’s trail was temporarily lost, the CIA soon identified “Khalid” as Khalid al Mihdhar. He was located leaving Yemen and tracked until he arrived in Kuala Lumpur on January 5, 2000. Other Arabs, unidentified at the time, were watched as they gathered with him in the Malaysian capital. On January 8, the surveillance teams reported that three of the Arabs had suddenly left Kuala Lumpur on a short flight to Bangkok. 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.” … Several weeks later, CIA officers in Kuala Lumpur prodded colleagues in Bangkok for additional information regarding the three travelers. 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. … 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 [to enter the United States], or in March, when word came that Hazmi, too, had had a U.S. visa and a ticket to Los Angeles.

9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 8, endnote #85:

Hazmi and Mihdhar used their true names to obtain California driver’s licenses and open New Jersey bank accounts. Hazmi also had a car registered and had been listed in the San Diego telephone book. Searches of readily available databases could have unearthed the driver’s licenses, the car registration, and the telephone listing. A search on the car registration would have unearthed a license check by the South Hackensack Police Department that would have led to information placing Hazmi in the area and placing Mihdhar at a local hotel for a week in early July 2001. The hijackers actively used the New Jersey bank accounts, through ATM, debit card, and cash transactions, until September 10. Among other things, they used their debit cards to pay for hotel rooms; and Hazmi used his card on August 27 to purchase tickets on Flight 77 for himself and his brother (and fellow hijacker), Salem al Hazmi. These transactions could have helped locate them if the FBI had obtained the bank records in time…

9/11 Commission Report, Chapter 7:

Mihdhar’s mind seems to have been with his family back in Yemen, as evidenced by calls he made from the apartment telephone

Following Mihdhar’s departure, Hazmi grew lonely and worried that he would have trouble managing by himself. He prayed with his housemate each morning at 5:00 A.M. and attended services at the Islamic Center. He borrowed his housemate’s computer for Internet access, following news coverage of fighting in Chechnya and Bosnia. With his housemate’s help, Hazmi also used the Internet to search for a wife (after obtaining KSM’s approval to marry). This search did not succeed. Although he developed a close relationship with his housemate, Hazmi preferred not to use the house telephone, continuing the practice he and Mihdhar had adopted of going outside to make phone calls

Unable to participate directly in the operation, Binalshibh instead took on the role of coordinating between KSM and the operatives in the United States. Apart from sending a total of about $10,000 in wire transfers to Atta and Shehhi during the summer of 2000, one of Binalshibh’s first tasks in his new role as plot coordinator was to assist another possible pilot, Zacarias Moussaoui.

In the fall of 2000, KSM had sent Moussaoui to Malaysia for flight training, but Moussaoui did not find a school he liked. He worked instead on other terrorist schemes, such as buying four tons of ammonium nitrate for bombs to be planted on cargo planes flying to the United States. When KSM found out, he recalled Moussaoui back to Pakistan and directed him to go to the United States for flight training. In early October, Moussaoui went to London. When Binalshibh visited London in December, he stayed at the same 16-room dormitory where Moussaoui was still residing. From London, Moussaoui sent inquiries to the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma.

In the meantime, Jarrah obtained a single-engine private pilot certificate in early August. Having reached that milestone, he departed on the first of five foreign trips he would take after first entering the United States. In October, he flew back to Germany to visit his girlfriend, Aysel Senguen. The two traveled to Paris before Jarrah returned to Florida on October 29 [2000]. His relationship with her remained close throughout his time in the United States. In addition to his trips, Jarrah made hundreds of phone calls to her and communicated frequently by email.

The FBI has gathered evidence indicating that Atta was in Virginia Beach on April 4 (as evidenced by a bank surveillance camera photo), and in Coral Springs, Florida on April 11 [2001], where he and Shehhi leased an apartment. On April 6, 9, 10, and 11, Atta’s cellular telephone was used numerous times to call various lodging establishments in Florida from cell sites within Florida…

On May 8, [2001] Rababah went to Hazmi and Hanjour’s apartment to pick them up for the trip to Connecticut. There he says he found them with new room-mates — Ahmed al Ghamdi and Majed Moqed. These two men had been sent to America to serve as muscle hijackers and had arrived at Dulles Airport on May 2. Rababah drove Hanjour to Fairfield, Connecticut, followed by Hazmi, who had Moqed and Ghamdi in his car. After a short stay in Connecticut, where they apparently called area flight schools and real estate agents

In early July [2001], Atta called Binalshibh to suggest meeting in Madrid, for reasons Binalshibh claims not to know. He says he preferred Berlin, but that he and Atta knew too many people in Germany and feared being spotted together. Unable to buy a ticket to Madrid at the height of the tourist season, Binalshibh booked a seat on a flight to Reus, near Barcelona, the next day. Atta was already en route to Madrid, so Binalshibh phoned Shehhi in the United States to inform him of the change in itinerary. Atta arrived in Madrid on July 8. He spent the night in a hotel and made three calls from his room, most likely to coordinate with Binalshibh… Binalshibh advised Atta that Bin Ladin had directed that the other operatives not be informed of the date [of the attack] until the last minute. Atta was to provide Binalshibh with advance notice of at least a week or two so that Binalshibh could travel to Afghanistan and report the date personally to Bin Ladin. … Atta complained that some of the hijackers wanted to contact their families to say goodbye, something he had forbidden. Atta, moreover, was nervous about his future communications with Binalshibh, whom he instructed to obtain new telephones upon returning to Germany. Before Binalshibh left Spain, he gave Atta eight necklaces and eight bracelets that Atta had asked him to buy when he was recently in Bangkok, believing that if the hijackers were clean shaven and well dressed, others would think them wealthy Saudis and give them less notice. … As directed, upon returning from Spain, Binalshibh obtained two new phones, one to communicate with Atta and another to communicate with KSM and others, such as Zacarias Moussaoui. Binalshibh soon contacted KSM and, using code words, reported the results of his meeting with Atta. This important exchange occurred in mid-July. The conversation covered various topics. For example, Jarrah was to send Binalshibh certain personal materials from the hijackers, including copies of their passports, which Binalshibh in turn would pass along to KSM, probably for subsequent use in al Qaeda propaganda.

It therefore appears that the attack date was selected by the third week of August [2001]. This timing is confirmed by Binalshibh, who claims Atta called him with the date in mid-August. According to Binalshibh, Atta used a riddle to convey the date in code-a message of two branches, a slash, and a lollipop (to non-Americans, 11/9 would be interpreted as September 11). Binalshibh says he called Atta back to confirm the date before passing it to KSM.

KSM apparently received the date from Binalshibh in a message sent through Binalshibh’s old Hamburg associate, Zakariya Essabar. Both Binalshibh and KSM claim that Essabar was not privy to the meaning of the message and had no foreknowledge of the attacks. According to Binalshibh, shortly after the date was chosen, he advised Essabar and another Hamburg associate, Said Bahaji, that if they wanted to go to Afghanistan, now was the time because it would soon become more difficult. Essabar made reservations on August 22 [2001] and departed Hamburg for Karachi on August 30; Bahaji purchased his tickets on August 20 and departed Hamburg for Karachi on September 3.

Binalshibh also made arrangements to leave for Pakistan during early September, before the attacks, as did Ali and Hawsawi, the plot facilitators in the UAE. During these final days, Binalshibh and Atta kept in contact by phone, email, and instant messaging. Although Atta had forbidden the hijackers to contact their families, he apparently placed one last call to his own father on September 9. Atta also asked Binalshibh to contact the family of one hijacker, pass along goodbyes from others, and give regards to KSM. Jarrah alone appears to have left a written farewell — a sentimental letter to Aysel Senguen.

Hazmi did not sever all contact with his friends in San Diego. According to Abdullah, after Hazmi left San Diego in December 2000, he telephoned Abdullah twice: in December 2000 or January 2001, Hazmi said he was in San Francisco and would be attending flight school there; about two weeks later, he said he was attending flight school in Arizona… In addition, during the month following Hazmi’s departure from San Diego, he emailed his housemate three times, including a January 2001 email that Hazmi signed “Smer,” an apparent attempt to conceal his identity that struck the housemate as strange at the time. Hazmi also telephoned his housemate that he and his friend had decided to take flight lessons in Arizona, and that Mihdhar was now back in Yemen. That was their last contact. When the housemate emailed Hazmi in February and March of 2001 to find out how he was faring, Hazmi did not reply.

When Atta returned to Florida, Shehhi left for Morocco, traveling to Casablanca in mid-January [2001]. Shehhi’s family, concerned about not having heard from him, reported him missing to the UAE government. The UAE embassy in turn contacted the Hamburg police and a UAE representative tried to find him in Germany, visiting mosques and Shehhi’s last address in Hamburg. After learning that his family was looking for him, Shehhi telephoned them on January 20 and said he was still living and studying in Hamburg. The UAE government then told the Hamburg police they could call off the search.

In early June [2001], Binalshibh traveled by taxi from Kandahar to Quetta, Pakistan, where al Qaeda courier Abu Rahmah took him to KSM. According to Binalshibh, KSM provided a plane ticket to Malaysia and a fraudulent Saudi passport to use for the trip. KSM told him to ask Atta to select a date for the attacks. Binalshibh was to return to Germany and then inform KSM of the date. KSM also gave Binalshibh the email address of Zacarias Moussaoui for future contact. Binalshibh then left for Kuala Lumpur.

Concerned that Jarrah might withdraw from the operation at this late stage, KSM emphasized the importance of Atta and Jarrah’s resolving their differences. Binalshibh claims that such concern was unwarranted, and in their mid-July discussion reassured KSM that Atta and Jarrah would reconcile and be ready to move forward in about a month, after Jarrah visited his family. Noting his concern and the potential for delay, KSM at one point instructed Binalshibh to send “the skirts” to “Sally” — a coded instruction to Binalshibh to send funds to Zacarias Moussaoui

KSM may have instructed Binalshibh to send money to Moussaoui in order to help prepare Moussaoui as a potential substitute pilot for Jarrah. On July 20, 2001, Aysel Senguen, Jarrah’s girlfriend, purchased a one-way ticket for Jarrah from Miami to Dusseldorf. On Jarrah’s previous four trips from the United States to see Senguen and his family in Lebanon, he had always traveled with a round-trip ticket. When Jarrah departed Miami on July 25, Atta appears to have driven him to the airport, another unique circumstance.

Binalshibh picked up Jarrah at the airport in Dusseldorf on July 25 [2001] … While Jarrah was in Germany, Binalshibh and Moussaoui were in contact to arrange for the transfer of funds. Binalshibh received two wire transfers from Hawsawi in the UAE totaling $15,000 and, within days, relayed almost all of this money to Moussaoui in two installments.

Attorney General Michael Mukasey was only making a point by revealing the call from a known safe house in Afghanistan to a then unidentified terrorist inside the United States. He was not attempting to mislead.

My point is without the ability to collect enemy communications in real time and the necessary cooperation of the telecoms, our intelligence agencies will miss the calls that foil future plots, leaving more blood of innocents on the hands of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the insanely like-minded.

  1 comment for “Not just one missed terrorist’s call, Attorney General Mukasey

  1. Jerry
    March 30, 2008 at 6:16 pm

    Let me see if I understand this; The 9-11Commission stated we needed to tighten controls on activities such as Telecommunications and along those same lines didn’t many Liberal Democrats state that the Bush administration act to late in stopping the attacks of 9-11. The Bush Administration along with members from both the Senate and Congress developed and passed those laws that authorize those law enforcement agencies listen, track, record etc to protect our nation. Now after a few years when it gets a little too hot in the oven and special interests (DIRT BAG LOW SUCM Slip n Fall Lawyers) are not making millions of dollars in law sues protecting Terrorist. So now we know who the real enemies of this great nation are, so stand up all you Liberals, along with all your DIRT BAG LOW SCUM Slip n’ Fall Lawyers. So we can take you all to jail.

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