Tuesday, February 14, 2006

‘Suspects and Plots: Osama bin Laden and US Intelligence’

Suspects and Plots, the link to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden
Rep. McKinney 9/11 Congressional Briefing
18 August 2005

by Nafeez Ahmed

URL: http://www.nowpublic.com/node/25032

The title of my section is ‘Suspects and Plots: Osama bin Laden and US
Intelligence’, so I’m going to try and present a number of important
facts and reports that fundamentally challenge the official account of
the nature and identities of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, (very briefly,
I won’t be able to cover everything at all), their relationship to Al
Qaeda and their activities as Islamic extremists.

While I won’t offer a kind of alternative theoretical explanation,
it must be noted that the facts that I’m going to refer to constitute
as yet unresolved anomalies that strike at the core of the official
narrative espoused by the 9/11 Commission and other previous enquiries.

A variety of reports from reliable accounts, journalistic
investigations, eyewitness testimonials, provide a very bizarre picture
at odds with the conventional portrayal of the 9/11 hijackers as
‘Islamic fundamentalists’. Two key hijackers for example, Mohammed Atta
and Marwan al Shehi are known to have visited the Woodland Park Resort
Hotel in the Philippines, several times between 1998 and 2000. Numerous
local residents and hotel workers according to the International Herald
Tribune recognized them from news photographs, after the event.

They reportedly drank whiskey with Philippine bar girls, they dined
at a restaurant that specialized in Middle East cuisine, and visited at
least one of the local flight schools. Al Shehi himself through several
parties with different Arab friends, they drank alcohol…they had a lot
of money.

And there are a number of reports like this; they spent time with
the girls, the chambermaids and so on and so forth. General activities
not commensurate with this strict puritan Islamic ideology of Al Qaeda…

…US investigators have said that 5 of the hijackers including Atta,
Al Shehi, Nawaq al Hamzi, Ziad Jarrah, Hani Hanjour, they visited Las
Vegas, six times between May and August 2001. According to the San
Francisco Chronicle for example, they “engaged in some decidedly
un-Islamic sampling of prohibited pleasures in America’s reputed
capitol of moral corrosion”.

Activities included drinking alcohol, which is strictly prohibited
in Islam, gambling, (the same), and visiting strip clubs—I could go on,
but I don’t want to repeat the kind of reports that are available, but
suffice it to say that the number and consistency of the reports is
sufficient to conclude that; this is true, these guys were basically
not acting at all in accordance with the kind of traditional
requirements of Islam.

Just to give you an idea, I have a quote from an expert, his name
is Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub, he’s a professor of religion at Temple
University in Philadelphia, and he specializes in Islamic and Middle
East studies, he said… “It’s incomprehensible that a person could
drink, and go to a strip bar one night, then kill themselves the next
day in the name of Islam. People who would kill themselves for their
faith, would come from very strict Islamic ideology. Something doesn’t
add up here.”

Just to give you a kind of deeper understanding of what we’re
talking about, Al Qaeda is basically a kind of radical tendency, within
a broader Islamic movement known as the Salafi movement, which
originates today in Saudi Arabia. It’s derived from the Islamic term
‘Salaf’ which means ‘to proceed’, and refers to the companions of the
Prophet Mohammed. And the general idea is that you have to very
strictly follow the precise behavior of the Prophet, if you go outside
of that boundary, you’re basically exiled from the religion, you cannot
call yourself a Muslim.

So, the fact that these people were behaving in this way is very,
very bizarre, and that’s one element of the picture that I want to give
you. What was their connection to Al Qaeda? How were they connected to
Al Qaeda if they were behaving in a way that was supposedly completely
at odds with Al Qaeda traditions?

Moving on from there, another very interesting phenomenon which
needs to be acknowledged, which the Commission report simply doesn’t
look at in any detail at all, is how these Al Qaeda operatives were
able to go in and out of the United States, without any kind of
sanction at all from the immigration services. There was a very
interesting report from Joel Mowbray from the conservative National
Review, and what he argued, he interviewed a number of State Dept.
officials who worked with visas and consular affairs, and what he
concluded was that expert analysis of these visas, the visa application
forms of 15 of the 9/11 terrorists show that all of them among the 15
reviewed should have been denied visas under then-existing law. It
wasn’t that the law was a problem, or that we needed to tighten the
borders, it was that the law simply wasn’t applied.

6 separate experts were interviewed by Mowbray. They analyzed the
simple two-page form and they came to the same conclusion; all of the
visa applications should have been denied on their face, and he
catalogs some of the glaring problems with the visas, he says even an
untrained eye would be able to look at this and say this is impossible
to allow these people into the country.

And the very odd thing that I’d like to draw to your attention, is
that I have a statement from a guy by the name of Michael Springman,
who was chief of the US Consulate in Jedda, and it’s been confirmed,
that at least 13 of the hijackers obtained visas to the United States
from the US Consulate in Jedda.

Now, it’s interesting because according to Michael Springman, who
used to be head of the visa bureau in Jedda in the 1980’s, he said that
he had been protesting to the State Dept. that the CIA, according to
him, was using the US Consulate in Jeddah to grant visas to unqualified
applicants from all over the world, basically to recruit Mujahadin in
the Afghan war. And what Springman subsequently said in the aftermath
of 9/11, that he’s worried, after hearing these reports, that the
pipeline wasn’t closed up.

This is what he said, I believe he said this in an interview with
CBC Radio in Canada, “I had not been protesting fraud, what I was
protesting was in reality an effort to bring recruits, rounded up by
Osama bin Laden to the United States for terrorist training by the

“The State Dept. did not run the Consulate in Jedda, the CIA did.
Of the roughly 20 Washington-dispatched staff there, I know for a
certainty that only 3 people including myself had no ties to any of the
US intelligence services.”

So that is an issue that the 9/11 Commission simply has not dealt with in sufficient detail.

The other issue I want to bring up is the issue of military
training. There are many reports that came out after 9/11, that many of
the hijackers received US military training at installations in the
United States that required a certain degree of security clearance. The
reports came from Newsweek, the Washington Post, and the New York
Times. 5 of the hijackers, it has been alleged, received training in
the 1990’s at secure US military installations. According to
Knight-Ridder news service, Mohammed Atta had trained at the
International Officers School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery
Alabama, Abdul Aziz al Omari had attended Aerospace Medical School at
Brooks Air Force Base in Texas, Saed al Ghamdi had been to the Defense
Language Institute in Monterey, California, apparently four of them
trained at the Pensacola Naval Air Station, and there are many other
reports of this nature.

Now when this actually came out in the press, obviously there was
kind of a big hullabaloo, how did this happen? Senator Bill Nelson
actually faxed the Office of the Attorney General, John Ashcroft, and
he demanded to know, is this true? September 17th is when he made
contact, “Can you confirm or refute these reports?” Then by September
21st, Sen. Nelson was informed that the FBI could neither say ‘yes’ or
‘no’, according to his press office. Apparently the Bureau was still
investigating any connection to the military facility.

A pioneering journalist by the name of Daniel Hopsicker, he’s a
former producer of PBS Wall Street Week, and former investigative
reporter for NBC News, he contacted Sen. Nelson’s office a month later
and he wanted to precisely what was going on. They said, that the FBI
had said, that they’re trying to get through something complicated and

Hopsicker wasn’t satisfied with this, and in the end he spoke to
somebody at the DOD, and really pushed them, and in the end the
spokesman admitted, “I do not have the authority to tell you who
attended which schools”.

This is a very significant statement because it confirmed that
somebody did attend schools, but we just don’t have the authority to
tell you. And again, this is an issue that the 9/11 Commission has not
looked into.

To give you one more thing… is the extent of the surveillance of
almost every one of the hijackers by the intelligence community… every
single hijacker was for at least a year, to more than a year, under the
surveillance of the US intelligence community, and often many other
intelligence agencies. And despite that, despite some of them being
known to the intelligence community, they were still able to come into
the United States, I’ll only give the example of Mohammed Atta, we have
confirmation that Mohammed Atta was on a terrorist watch list since
1986. He’d been implicated in a bus bombing in Israel.

And now this is very strange… he was able to come in and out of the
United States, his visa in particular had expired before he came in, he
came in January, 2001 for re-entry, he was in violation of his visa
status, yet somehow he was allowed in.

Why weren’t the screens flashing that this guy is a confirmed suspected terrorist?

…the conventional narrative tells us that Atta was not extensively
surveilled once he had entered into the United States. I found an
interesting report from the Miami Herald quoting officials from the
NSA, confirming that essentially, conversations between Atta, (the
chief 9/11 hijacker), and Khalid Sheikh Muhammed, (he’s been described
as the 9/11 mastermind), occurred and these conversations were
monitored by the NSA while Atta was in the United States. The Herald
points out that the NSA is prohibited by law from monitoring calls to
and from the United States without special court orders, so this was

And yet, this is something that has been denied, it is something
that has not been looked into, and the worrying thing, I have a report
from the London Independent, “officials say that Mr. Muhammed (KSM),
who was in Pakistan at the time received a telephone call from Mr.
Atta, the hijacker’s ringleader, on 10th September, intelligence
officials who monitored, then translated that conversation believe that
using coded language Mr. Muhammed gave Mr. Atta the final approval to
launch the strikes.”

The question of course needs to be asked, what else remains of
these conversations that were intercepted, how much information was
available, and why was this not acted on and circulated in the
intelligence community appropriately, and why hasn’t the Commission,
first and foremost, dealt with this issue?

In conclusion… the 9/11 hijackers were clearly not Islamic
extremists. It’s difficult to see how these facts fit with the
conventional wisdom that they were devout members of Osama bin Laden’s
Al Qaeda. Furthermore, and alternatively, it’s difficult to see, even
if they were members of Al Qaeda how the conventional depiction of Al
Qaeda as a network of devout militant Islamic extremists can be
maintained, given this distinctively un-Islamic conduct.

The question then arises, as to who these people were, and
alternatively, what was the nature of this apparent Al Qaeda cell? The
official narrative as it stands cannot resolve this problem. It’s
exacerbated by the fact that the majority of the 9/11 hijackers
repeatedly entered and re-entered the United States, on fraudulent
visas, apparently supplied by the US Consulate in Jedda, which
reportedly has a CIA connection.

Worse still, many of these hijackers, while in the United States
somehow managed to obtain high-level security clearance to train at
several US military installations. They had simultaneous connections
with the US military while they were connected to Al Qaeda… and I will
leave it at that.

This is a fundamental anomaly that strikes at the core of the
official narrative, I don’t know what the explanation is, I won’t
pretend to, but we need to have some kind of investigation to resolve