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9/11 Commission: Able Danger and German Intelligence on Iraq-Al Qaeda????

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The Omission Commission

The 9/11 Commission Report failed to make any mention of Iraqi operations in Germany that might have been connected to al Qaeda.

by Edward Morrissey

08/17/2005

REPRESENTATIVE CURT WELDON dropped a delayed political bombshell with a special-orders speech last June in which he revealed the existence of a data-mining program at the Pentagon named Able Danger, which he claimed had identified Mohammed Atta and three of the other 9/11 hijackers as al Qaeda operatives over a year before the attacks. Almost two months later, an intelligence-community periodical, Government Security News, noted the speech. This caught the attention of New York Times reporter Douglas Jehl, who informed the nation that far from missing the terrorist cell before the 9/11 attacks, military intelligence had identified them with plenty of time to act.

Questions immediately arose about why no law-enforcement agency took action with the information, and why the 9/11 Commission made no mention of Able Danger or the identification of Atta's cell in its final report. The sources for Weldon's revelations insist that the political atmosphere and the attorneys at the Pentagon would not allow the military to share the information with the FBI, believing (1) the existence of the data-mining project would create a political backlash against the Defense Department, and (2) it would violate the policies of the Department of Justice to have coordination between military intelligence and the FBI involving a legal resident in the United States, as they believed Atta to be.

As for why the 9/11 Commission made no mention of Able Danger, the Commission itself seemed completely unable to provide an answer. Weldon's sources claimed that they had briefed the

Commission on two separate occasions, in October 2003 and July 2004, just before the release of their final report. The Commission's spokesman, Al Felzenberg, initially scoffed at that claim. He acknowledged that the Commission had learned of the Able Danger program during the October 2003 briefing, but that Atta's name had not come up at all. "They all say that they were not told anything about a Brooklyn cell," Felzenberg said. "They were told about the Pentagon operation. They were not told about the Brooklyn cell. They said that if the briefers had mentioned anything that startling, it would have gotten their attention."

A competing series of revelations--from Time magazine, Curt Weldon's book, the Bergen Record, and even from the Commission itself (just four days after stating that they had no recollection at all of the July 2004 briefing)--has cast a shroud of doubt over everyone's credibility, including Weldon. Moreover, it has given momentum for those who felt that the Commission's final report left a significant part of the story untold. Noting that Able Danger, or any other data-mining program, gets no mention at all but that the Commission recommendations include expanding existing data-mining efforts and providing better coordination among them (pages 388-389), critics have begun searching for other data points left out of the Commission's analysis.

THEY MIGHT START with a few cryptic media reports from March 2001 regarding two arrests made in Germany. The BBC and Reuters both noted the capture of Iraqi intelligence agents in Heidelberg. Both reports gave essentially the same minimal data on March 1:

German state prosecutors said on Thursday federal police had arrested two Iraqis on suspicion of spying.

The two men were detained in Heidelberg, according to a German television report. German officials declined to comment on the report. . . . "They are suspected of carrying out missions for an Iraqi intelligence service in a number of German towns since the beginning of 2001,'' said a spokeswoman for state prosecutor Kay Nehm in Karlsruhe.

The Germans did not arrest these Iraqi operatives on a whim. Their counterintelligence operations had tracked them for some time before closing in and capturing the two. At the time, American and British forces had launched air raids on radar stations in Iraq's no-fly zones and the assumption was that the Iraqis may have wanted to hit American forces stationed in Heidelberg in retaliation. However, by March 16, a Paris-based Arabic newspaper had developed more information on the arrests. The Middle East Intelligence Bulletin summarized the report from al-Watan al-Arabi:

Al-Watan al-Arabi (Paris) reports that two Iraqis were arrested in Germany, charged with spying for Baghdad. The arrests came in the wake of reports that Iraq was reorganizing the external branches of its intelligence service and that it had drawn up a plan to strike at US interests around the world through a network of alliances with extremist fundamentalist parties.

The most serious report contained information that Iraq and Osama bin Ladin were working together. German authorities were surprised by the arrest of the two Iraqi agents and the discovery

of Iraqi intelligence activities in several German cities. German authorities, acting on CIA recommendations, had been focused on monitoring the activities of Islamic groups linked to bin Ladin. They discovered the two Iraqi agents by chance and uncovered what they considered to be serious indications of cooperation between Iraq and bin Ladin. The matter was considered so important that a special team of CIA and FBI agents was sent to Germany to interrogate the two Iraqi spies.

Interestingly, journalists such as Amir Taheri considered al-Watan al-Arabi to be a pro-Saddam publication--not surprising given its Parisian readership. Despite its reporting against its presumed interests, the al-Watan al-Arabi article generated no interest either at the time or afterwards. A scan of the Commission report finds no mention of these arrests in Heidelberg, nor any of the CIA or FBI interviews reported by al-Watan al-Arabi.

Why should any of this have mattered to the 9/11 Commission? Their report provides the most important reason: The 9/11 plot began its practical planning in Hamburg, beginning in 1999 and assisting Mohammed Atta and the other 9/11 plotters through the summer of 2001. Having discovered two Iraqi intelligence agents conducting "missions . . . in a number of German towns since the beginning of 2001" indicates at least the possibility of more than just a sabotage assignment. Even apart from the al-Watan al-Arabi reporting, the strange coincidence of discovering Iraqi intelligence operations in such close conjunction to known al Qaeda operations should have raised some eyebrows.

If the 9/11 report is any indication, no one on the Commission considered this connection. In fact, no one knows whether or not the Commission even knew about these arrests. In the years following the 9/11 attacks, there has been much argument about the nature of Saddam Hussein's connections to terror. How could the U.S. government and the 9/11 Commission fail to consider this, given the other activity occurring in Germany during this period:

* Mohammed Atta and Ramzi Binalshibh meet in Berlin in January 2001 for a progress meeting, around the same time German counterintelligence claimed that they picked up the Iraqi trail.

* Ziad Jarrah, another of the crucial al Qaeda pilots, transits between Beirut and Florida through Germany twice during the 2000-2001 holiday season, flying back to the United States at the end of February.

* Marwan al-Shehhi disappears in Casablanca, then constructs a cover story about living in Hamburg.

In fact, the Commission report notes that three of the four al Qaeda team leaders (excepting Hani Hanjour, who had at that time just begun his pilot training) interrupted their planning to take foreign trips (page 244). Why would these men interrupt their preparations in this manner? Traveling in and out of the United States presented a risk--a manageable risk, as events proved--but having three of the four team leaders outside of their established cells at the same time looks unnecessarily foolhardy from al Qaeda's point of view. It also appears to be the only time after their first entry into the United States that this travel occurred. All three had some German connection to their trips. In fact, Jarrah left Germany the same week that the Germans captured the Iraqi agents.

All of this activity in Germany could, of course, just be a coincidence. However, we have no explanation from the 9/11 Commission about why the al Qaeda team leaders who all hailed from the Hamburg cell felt it necessary to travel separately to Germany at the same time that German counterintelligence discovered the Iraqi espionage operation. We have no mention at all of even a coincidental, parallel hostile operation in the vicinity of the al Qaeda team leaders. Just as in the case of Mohammed Afroze, the Commission never bothers even to supply the dots that might connect outside their preferred narrative.

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Enabling danger

Oliver North (archive)

August 19, 2005 | printer friendly version Print | email to a friend Recommend to a friend

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States -- otherwise known as the Sept. 11 Commission -- was supposed to suggest changes in law and policy to help protect us from terror attacks. To make such recommendations, the commission needed to discern what happened. Regrettably, the commission's public hearings devolved into a political circus instead of a fact-finding exercise. Instead of solving the numerous riddles of how 19 terrorists murdered nearly 3,000 Americans, apologists for the Clinton administration used the hearings to deflect blame -- and point to the culpability of the Bush administration.

Consider this exchange between Democrat Commission member Tim Roemer and former Clinton administration official Richard Clarke on Mar. 24, 2004:

ROEMER (to Clarke): I want to know, first of all: Was fighting al Qaeda a top priority for the Clinton administration from 1998 to the year 2001? How high a priority was it in that Clinton administration during that time period?

CLARKE: My impression was that fighting terrorism, in general, and fighting al Qaeda, in particular, were an extraordinarily high priority in the Clinton administration -- certainly no higher priority.

"No higher priority"? Given what we learned this week from Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer, a retired U.S. Army intelligence officer, and newly declassified records from the State Department, Messrs. Roemer and Clarke may wish to -- in congressional parlance -- "revise and extend" their remarks.

Lt. Col. Shaffer was part of an undercover counter-terrorism unit code-named 'Able Danger." When I spoke with him earlier this week he told me that the group, created in 1999, used open-source "data mining" technology to identify and track terrorists. In 2000, the Able Danger unit identified the al Qaeda cell led by Mohamed Atta, holed up in New Jersey. A year later, Atta and his fellow jihadists -- Khalid al-Mihdhar, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Nawar al-Hamzi -- would carry out the Sept. 11 attacks.

According to Lt. Col. Shaffer, on three separate occasions, officers in the Able Danger unit tried to pass information on the Atta-al Qaeda cell to the FBI but were blocked by military lawyers because of concerns about the legality of collecting information on foreign terror suspects in the U.S. Atta had entered the U.S. on a legal visa and the lawyers determined that he had to be treated like any U.S. citizen even though he was associating with suspected terrorists. "Our lawyers told us to leave them [the Atta cell] alone because that was the policy guidance at the time."

The "policy guidance" that kept intelligence agencies and domestic law enforcement officials from exchanging information had been promulgated in 1995 by Jamie Gorelick, deputy attorney general in the Clinton administration and later a member of the Sept. 11 Commission. Would passing the intelligence on the Atta cell to the FBI have prevented the Sept. 11 attack?

Congressman Curt Weldon, R-Pa., thinks so. After learning of the Able Danger unit, he said, 'If we had taken out that cell, Sept. 11 would not have occurred, and certainly, taking out these three principal players in that cell would have severely crippled, if not totally stopped, the operation that killed 3,000 people in America."

Whether the Congressman is correct, we will never know. But we do know that when the Sept. 11 Commission was holding its hearings and preparing its report -- they did not include the Able Danger information. Last week, a commission spokesman at first denied knowing anything about Able Danger and later the chairman and vice-chairman of the commission, Tom Keane and Lee Hamilton, said it was not "historically significant."

Now, they claim that the commission didn't receive enough information on the Able Danger unit from the Pentagon. But Lt. Col. Shaffer says that in 2003, while in Afghanistan, he told commission staff members about efforts to pass the Atta cell information to the FBI. He also told me that he offered to brief the commission more fully in January 2004 after he had returned to the U.S. but that "the offer was declined."

Unfortunately for the Sept. 11 Commission, Able Danger isn't the only embarrassing recent revelation. Newly declassified documents obtained by Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act show that in the summer of 1996, intelligence analysts at the State Department warned the Clinton administration that Osama bin Laden's "prolonged stay in Afghanistan -- where hundreds of 'Arab mujahidin' receive terrorist training and key extremist leaders often congregate -- could prove more dangerous to U.S. interests in the long run than his three-year liaison with Khartoum." A year earlier the Clinton administration rejected a Sudanese offer to have bin Laden detained.

And then there is the strange case of Clinton National Security Advisor, Sandy Berger -- who earlier this year plead guilty to removing and destroying classified documents from the National Archives pertaining to terror threats on U.S. soil. The crimes were committed as Mr. Berger was preparing to testify before the Sept. 11 Commission.

Did the Sept. 11 Commission choose not to hear from the Able Danger officers because Jamie Gorelick was a member of the body? Were the commissioners aware of the State Department's 1996 warnings on Osama bin Laden's move to Afghanistan? Were copies of the documents shredded by Sandy Berger ever placed before the commission?

All of these questions need to be answered for the Sept. 11 Commission to be considered as something other than a whitewash for the Clinton administration. Most importantly -- has the Bush administration solved the "communications problems" evident in the Able Danger case? If not, then we have learned nothing from the murders of Sept. 11.

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See No Evil, Hear No Evil

What the 9/11 Commission narrative left out: Iraqis.

by Stephen F. Hayes

09/05/2005

AHMED HIKMAT SHAKIR IS A shadowy figure who provided logistical assistance to one, maybe two, of the 9/11 hijackers. Years before, he had received a phone call from the Jersey City, New Jersey, safehouse of the plotters who would soon, in February 1993, park a truck bomb in the basement of the World Trade Center. The safehouse was the apartment of Musab Yasin, brother of Abdul Rahman Yasin, who scorched his own leg while mixing the chemicals for the 1993 bomb.

When Shakir was arrested shortly after the 9/11 attacks, his "pocket litter," in the parlance of the investigators, included contact information for Musab Yasin and another 1993 plotter, a Kuwaiti native named Ibrahim Suleiman.

These facts alone, linking the 1993 and 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center, would seem to cry out for additional scrutiny, no?

The Yasin brothers and Shakir have more in common. They are all Iraqis. And two of them--Abdul Rahman Yasin and Shakir--went free, despite their participation in attacks on the World Trade Center, at least partly because of efforts made on their behalf by the regime of Saddam Hussein. Both men returned to Iraq--Yasin fled there in 1993 with the active assistance of the Iraqi government. For ten years in Iraq, Abdul Rahman Yasin was provided safe haven and financing by the regime, support that ended only with the coalition intervention in March 2003.

Readers of The Weekly Standard may be familiar with the stories of Abdul Rahman Yasin, Musab Yasin, and Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. Readers of the

9/11 Commission's final report are not. Those three individuals are nowhere mentioned in the 428 pages that comprise the body of the 9/11 Commission report. Their names do not appear among the 172 listed in Appendix B of the report, a table of individuals who are mentioned in the text. Two brief footnotes mention Shakir.

Why? Why would the 9/11 Commission fail to mention Abdul Rahman Yasin, who admitted his role in the first World Trade Center attack, which killed 6 people, injured more than 1,000, and blew a hole seven stories deep in the North Tower? It's an odd omission, especially since the commission named no fewer than five of his accomplices.

Why would the 9/11 Commission neglect Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, a man who was photographed assisting a 9/11 hijacker and attended perhaps the most important 9/11 planning meeting?

And why would the 9/11 Commission fail to mention the overlap between the two successful plots to attack the World Trade Center?

The answer is simple: The Iraqi link didn't fit the commission's narrative.

AS THE TWO SIDES in the current flap over Able Danger, a Pentagon intelligence unit tracking al Qaeda before 9/11, exchange claims and counterclaims in the news media, the work of the 9/11 Commission is receiving long overdue scrutiny. It may be the case, as three individuals associated with the Pentagon unit claim, that Able Danger had identified Mohammed Atta in January or February 2000 and that the 9/11 Commission simply ignored this information because it clashed with the commission's predetermined storyline. We should soon know more. Whatever the outcome of that debate, the 9/11 Commission's deliberate exclusion of the Iraqis from its analysis is indefensible.

The investigation into the 9/11 attacks began with an article of faith among those who had conducted U.S. counterterrorism efforts throughout the 1990s: Saddam Hussein's Iraq was not--could not have been--involved in any way. On September 12, 2001, the day after the attacks, George W. Bush asked Richard Clarke to investigate the attacks and possible Iraqi involvement in them. Clarke, as he relates in his bestselling book, was offended even to be asked. He knew better.

Philip Zelikow, executive director of the 9/11 Commission, started from the same assumption. So did Douglas MacEachin, a former deputy director of the CIA for intelligence who led the commission's study of al Qaeda and was responsible for the commission's conclusion that there was "no collaborative operational relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda. (Over the course of the commission's life, MacEachin refused several interviews with The Weekly Standard because, we were told, he disagreed with our understanding of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda.)

From the evidence now available, it seems clear that Saddam Hussein did not direct the 9/11 attacks. Few people have ever claimed he did. But some four years after the attacks of September 11, 2001, and one year after the 9/11 Commission released its final report, there is much we do not know. The determination of these officials to write out of the history any Iraqi involvement in terrorism against America has contributed mightily to public misperceptions about the former Iraqi regime and the war on terror.

HERE IS WHAT WE KNOW TODAY about

Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. In August 1999, Shakir, a 37-year-old Iraqi, accepted a position as a "facilitator" at the airport in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. A "facilitator" works for an airline and assists VIP travelers with paperwork required for entry and other logistical issues. Shakir got the job because someone in the Iraqi embassy in Malaysia wanted him to have it. He started that fall.

Although Shakir officially worked for Malaysian Airlines, his contact in the Iraqi embassy controlled his schedule. On January 5, 2000, Shakir apparently received an assignment from his embassy contact. He was to escort a recent arrival through immigration at the airport. Khalid al Mihdhar, a well-connected al Qaeda member who would later help hijack American Airlines Flight 77, had come to Malaysia for an important al Qaeda meeting that would last at least three days. (Shakir may have also assisted Nawaf al Hazmi, another hijacker, thought to have arrived on January 4, 2000.)

Malaysian intelligence photographed Shakir greeting al Mihdhar at the airport and walking him to a waiting car. But rather than see the new arrival off, he hopped in the car with al Mihdhar and accompanied him to the meeting. Malaysian intelligence has provided its photographs to the CIA. While U.S. officials can place Shakir at the meeting with the hijackers and several high-ranking al Qaeda operatives, they do not know whether Shakir participated actively. (Also present at the meeting were Hambali, al Qaeda's top man in South Asia, and Khallad, later identified as the mastermind of the attack on the USS Cole.)

The meeting concluded on January 8, 2000. Shakir reported to work at the airport on January 9 and January 10, and then never again. Khalid al Mihdhar and Nawaz al Hazmi also disappeared briefly, then flew from Bangkok, Thailand, to Los Angeles on January 15, 2000.

Shakir, the Iraqi-born facilitator, would be arrested six days after the September 11 attacks by authorities in Doha, Qatar. According to an October 7, 2002, article by Newsweek's Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, "A search of Shakir's apartment in Doha, the country's capital, yielded a treasure trove, including telephone records linking him to suspects in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and Project Bojinka, a 1994 Manila plot to blow up civilian airliners over the Pacific Ocean." (Isikoff, it should be noted, has been a prominent skeptic of an Iraq-al Qaeda connection.)

Shakir had contact information for a lot of bad people. As noted, one was a Kuwaiti, Ibrahim Suleiman, whose fingerprints were found on the bombmaking manuals U.S. authorities allege were used in preparation for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Suleiman was convicted of perjury and deported to Jordan. Another was Musab Yasin, the brother of 1993 Trade Center bomber Abdul Rahman Yasin. Yet another was Zahid Sheikh Mohammed, brother of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, now in U.S. custody. Shakir also had an old number for Taba Investments, an al Qaeda front group. It was the number long used by Mahmdouh Mahmud Salim, the highest-ranking Iraqi member of al Qaeda. According to testimony from al Qaeda informants, Salim maintained a good relationship with Saddam's intelligence service.

Despite all of this, the Qatari authorities released Shakir shortly after they arrested him.

On October 21, 2001, Shakir flew to Amman, Jordan, where he hoped to board a plane to Baghdad. But authorities in Jordan arrested him for questioning. Shakir was held in a Jordanian prison for three months without being charged, prompting Amnesty International to write the Jordanian government seeking an explanation. The CIA questioned Shakir and concluded that he had received training in counter-interrogation techniques. Shortly after Shakir was detained, Saddam's government began to pressure Jordanian intelligence--with a mixture of diplomatic overtures and threats--to release Shakir. They got their wish on January 28, 2002. He is believed to have returned promptly to Baghdad.

I have discussed Shakir with nine U.S. government officials--policymakers and intelligence officials alike. The timeline above represents the consensus view.

Two weeks before the 9/11 Commission's final report was released to the public, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee released its own evaluation of the intelligence on Iraq. The Senate report added to the Shakir story.

The first connection to the [9/11] attack involved Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, an Iraqi national, who facilitated the travel of one of the September 11 hijackers to Malaysia in January 2000. [Redacted.] A foreign government service reported that Shakir worked for four months as an airport facilitator in Kuala Lumpur at the end of 1999 and beginning of 2000. Shakir claimed he got this job through Ra'ad al-Mudaris, an Iraqi Embassy employee. [Redacted.] Another source claimed that al-Mudaris was a former IIS [iraqi Intelligence Service] officer. The CIA judged in "Iraqi Support for Terrorism," however, that al-Mudaris' [redacted] that the circumstances surrounding the hiring of Shakir for this position did not suggest it was done on behalf of the IIS.

A note about that last sentence: The Senate committee report is a devastating indictment of the CIA's woefully inadequate collection of intelligence on Iraq, and its equally flawed analysis. It is of course possible that the CIA's judgment about al Mudaris is correct, but the bulk of the report inspires no confidence that it is.

Consider the three new facts in this brief summary. One, Shakir himself told interrogators that an Iraqi embassy employee got him the job that allowed him to help the hijacker(s). Two, that Iraqi embassy employee was Ra'ad al Mudaris. Three, another source identified al Mudaris as former Iraqi Intelligence.

All of this information was known to the U.S. intelligence community months before the 9/11 Commission completed its investigation. And yet none of it appeared in the final report.

Two footnotes are the sum total of what the 9/11 Commission had to say about Ahmed Hikmat Shakir. Here is the more substantive, footnote 49 to Chapter 6, on page 502 of the 567-page report: "Mihdhar was met at the Kuala Lumpur airport by Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, an Iraqi national. Reports that he was a lieutenant colonel in the Iraqi Fedayeen turned out to be incorrect. They were based on a confusion of Shakir's identity with that of an Iraqi Fedayeen colonel with a similar name, who was later (in September 2001) in Iraq at the same time Shakir was in police custody in Qatar." The report is sourced to a briefing from the CIA's counterterrorism center and a story in the Washington Post. And that's it.

Readers of the 9/11 Commission report who bothered to study the footnotes might wonder who Shakir was, what he was doing with a 9/11 hijacker in Malaysia, and why he was ever "in police custody in Qatar." They might also wonder why the report, while not addressing those questions, went out of its way to provide information about who he was not. Such readers are still wondering.

There is no doubt the 9/11 Commission had this information at its disposal. On the very day it released its final report, commissioner John Lehman told me that Shakir's many connections to al Qaeda and Saddam's regime suggested something more than random chance.

So how is it that the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report contains a substantive account of Shakir's mysterious contribution to the 9/11 plot, while the 9/11 Commission report--again, released two weeks later--simply ignores it?

We now know even more about Shakir's Iraqi embassy contact, Ra'ad al Mudaris. The post-Saddam Iraqi government launched its own, secret investigation of al Mudaris and his activities. Al Mudaris was a "local employee" of the Iraqi embassy in Kuala Lumpur. That is, he was an Iraqi already living in Malaysia when he began working officially for the embassy. Although Shakir named him as his Iraqi embassy contact and another source noted his affiliation with the Iraqi Intelligence Service, the U.S. government never arrested al Mudaris. He continued his nominal employment at the Iraqi embassy in Kuala Lumpur even after the Iraq war, outliving the regime that had employed him. He left that position early last fall, shortly after he was named publicly in the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report. A senior Iraqi government official tells The Weekly Standard that al Mudaris still lives in Malaysia, a free man.

BY THE END OF LAST WEEK, the demands for more information on Able Danger had reached fever pitch. The Pentagon claimed to have launched an aggressive investigation into the project. 9/11 Commission co-chairman Thomas Kean was demanding more information on Able Danger from the National Security Council. And Senator Arlen Specter, a Pennsylvania Republican who is chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, fired off a hard-hitting letter to FBI director Robert Mueller demanding answers to a series of questions about the Pentagon unit and its interactions with the FBI.

Answers about Able Danger would be nice, but it is surely long past time for answers on Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, Abdul Rahman Yasin, and Musab Yasin. The 9/11 Commission itself and other relevant bodies should reexamine Shakir's role in the 9/11 plot and his connections to the 1993 World Trade Center plotters. The Bush administration should move quickly to declassify all of the intelligence the U.S. government possesses on Shakir and the Yasin brothers. The Senate and House intelligence committee should demand answers on the three Iraqis from the CIA, the DIA, and the FBI.

Here are some of the questions they might ask:

* Ahmed Hikmat Shakir was arrested in Doha, Qatar, just six days after the 9/11 attacks. How was he apprehended so quickly? Was the CIA monitoring his activities? What did the 9/11 Commission know about this arrest? And why wasn't it included in the 9/11 Commission's final report?

* Who identified Shakir's Iraqi embassy contact, Ra'ad al Mudaris, as former Iraqi Intelligence? Is the source credible? If not, why not?

* Have other detainees been asked about Ahmed Hikmat Shakir? If so, what have they said?

* What do the former employees of the Iraqi embassy in Malaysia tell us about Ahmed Hikmat Shakir and Ra'ad al Mudaris?

* Has anyone from the U.S. government interviewed Ra'ad al Mudaris? If so, how does he explain his activities?

* Have the names Ahmed Hikmat Shakir and Ra'ad al Mudaris surfaced in any of the documents captured in postwar Iraq from the Iraqi Intelligence headquarters in Baghdad?

* How long was the phone call between Ahmed Hikmat Shakir and the safehouse shortly before the 1993 World Trade Center attack?

* Does the U.S. government have other indications that Ahmed Hikmat Shakir and the 1993 World Trade Center bombers were in contact, either before or after that attack?

* Vice President Dick Cheney has spoken publicly about documents that indicate Abdul Rahman Yasin was provided safe haven and financing upon his return to Iraq in 1993. The FBI is blocking declassification of those documents, despite the fact that Yasin is on the FBI Most Wanted Terrorist list. Why?

* Before Operation Iraqi Freedom, Abdul Rahman Yasin, Musab Yasin, and Ahmed Hikmat Shakir were all believed to be in Iraq. Where are they today?

Stephen F. Hayes is a senior writer at The Weekly Standard.

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Accounting for the Final Report

The 9/11 Commission's report was once thought of as definitive. Now it looks more rickety with each passing day.

by Edward Morrissey

08/31/2005 12:00:00 AM

IN 2003, as part of that year's Intelligence Authorization Act, Congress specifically authorized the creation and funding of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, which quickly and simply changed its common name to the 9/11 Commission. Congress mandated that this entity not just examine and report on the facts of the attacks themselves--which they did in the gripping narrative that comprises the first part of their report--but also to "make a full and complete accounting of the circumstances surrounding the attacks, and the extent of the United States' preparedness for, and immediate response to, the attacks." The Act also required the new panel to submit its recommendations for "corrective measures that can be taken to prevent acts of terrorism."

The birth of the Commission can trace itself to the mistrust of Congress, which had tried--and failed--to effectively investigate the circumstances of 9/11 and the al Qaeda threat through a joint inquiry between the House and Senate Intelligence Committees prior to forming this commission. The vestiges of the rancor in which the Commission was forged shows clearly in the language of the Act itself, which demands an exact method of selection for the panel members. The Act authorized ten commissioners, no more than five of which could have the same party affiliation. None could currently work in federal, state, or local governments. Republicans and Democrats got five selections each, and only one of those selections came from the White House, Commission chair Thomas Kean.

In July 22, 2004,

the Commission delivered its final report. In its triumphant press release, the panel proclaimed its unanimity in its investigation and conclusions. The second paragraph stakes its claim a claim to being the definitive and final word on the 9/11 plot and recommendations for reorganizing the bureaucracy of intelligence agencies to prevent future terrorist attacks.

The report met with overwhelming political approval. Politicians fell over themselves to endorse not just the fact-finding results of the book but also its complete slate of recommendations. John Kerry demanded that the Bush administration immediately implement every last recommendation, even though Congress had conveniently left on its summer recess and had not even debated the Commission's recommendations themselves--despite having nominal oversight responsibility for the panel. Bush held out for a short period of time on implementation, but in the end bowed to the political winds and put most of the Commission's recommendations into effect.

WHAT DID THE 9/11 COMMISSION CONCLUDE? Despite the highly coordinated nature of the attacks, the enormous scale of the plot, and the commando tactics used by the hijackers--a combination of elements that had not previously or since been seen in al Qaeda attacks--the report concluded that the only state which sponsored Osama bin Laden in 9/11 was Afghanistan and its Taliban government. The report explicitly concluded that no operational connection existed between the 9/11 attacks and governments in Syria, Iran, or Iraq. The panel laid the blame for the failure of the United States to prevent the attacks on our intelligence communities and their political leadership, and added during public hearings recent administrations (George W. Bush and Bill Clinton) had failed to "connect the dots." Its recommendations comprised an expansion of the bureaucracy.

For a year, the final Commission report provided the alpha and omega of all debate on 9/11 . . . until Able Danger came to light earlier this month.

The Special Operations Command data-mining program, which according to three public witnesses identified Mohammed Atta as a potential terrorist 18 months before September 11, wasn't included in the final report and was apparently ignored by the Commission's staff on at least two occasions. When confronted by this new evidence, the Commission changed its story several times over one week, eventually settling on a rebuttal which hinged on discrediting the one witness who had come forward. By the time another week had gone by, two more witnesses had appeared--and further damaged the Commission's credibility.

INSTEAD OF BEING THE DEFINITIVE WORD on September 11, the report has begun to resemble a literary equivalent of Swiss cheese as more and more data came out about what else the Commission missed in its report, either by chance or by design. These data points, or dots as the Commissioners themselves called them, did not have the opportunity for connection in their report:

* The target=_blank>trial and conviction of Mohammed Afroze in India, for his part in a conspiracy to use airplanes to bomb four overseas targets on 9/11/01 using commercial flights out of Heathrow Airport in London.

* The second memo from U.S. District Attorney Mary Jo White in response to the notorious memo from Deputy Attorney General Jamie

S. Gorelick, warning that the implications of the memo will create insurmountable obstacles for prevention of terrorist attacks in the United States. In fact, the report barely mentions the Gorelick memo at all. It certainly never mentions the fact that the Gorelick memo was sent to the Office of Intelligence and Policy Review, which provided legal advice to all government agencies on the use and sharing of intelligence information with Department of Justice agencies.

* A July 21, 2001 editorial in a state-run Iraqi newspaper, al-Nasiriyah, which predicted the three targets of the September 11 attacks two months beforehand. This editorial read was read into the Congressional record by Senator Fritz Hollings on September 12, 2002.

* On July 26, 2001, an Iranian espionage agent told CIA agents in Baku, Azerbaijan, that Osama bin Laden would attack the United States on 9/11 using six men who had already entered the country via Iran. When pressed for his sources, the agent told them that Iranian intelligence knew all about the plot.

* The discovery and arrest of two Iraqi spies in Germany in February 2001, which the Germans claimed at the time exposed an extensive Iraqi espionage network operating in several German cities--at the same time three of the four 9/11 lead hijackers traveled to or through Germany, the only time it ever happened after their successful entry into the United States. Almost six moths to the day before the 9/11 attacks, an Arabic newspaper in Paris described the arrests as relating to the suspicion that radical Islamists, and specifically Osama bin Laden, had started working with the Iraqis to target American interests around the world.

* A memo from the State Department warned Bill Clinton in 1996 that its intelligence services had determined that the United States had to stop Osama bin Laden from relocating to Afghanistan, or al Qaeda would grow into an even more dangerous threat. The report also fails to mention a later Clinton administration effort to offer the Taliban official recognition if they handed bin Laden over to our custody.

* German intelligence analysts concluded in 2002 that radical Islamist terrorists such as al Qaeda worked with Iraqi intelligence services through contacts in the German neo-Nazi community.

* As Stephen Hayes points out, the Commission failed to include Ahmed Hikmat Shakir and Abdul Rahman Yasin--despite their connections to the first World Trade Center bombing and the 9/11 hijackers.

None of the above data points is mentioned in the Commission's final report. They all indicate a possibility that other state sponsors had close ties to al Qaeda. They also indicate that the scope of the Islamist war has little to do with American policy but instead with the establishment of a latter-day caliphate for the ummah, and after that, global Islamist domination. More to the point, however, they all demonstrate--along with Able Danger--that the intelligence services had recognized the threat and tried to take at least some action to stop it before it could fully form against the United States.

What kept them from taking that action? Bureaucracies expressing more concern over appearances of impropriety than in providing for national security. The architect of that policy, Jamie S. Gorelick, sat on the Commission itself. And the Commission took this myopic approach and used it to generate an expansion of the very same bureaucratic problem, passing this off as a solution, rather than the primary cause of the failure.

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