9/11 Commission, Al-Qaeda in Italy, Hijackers - 9/11 Timeline Additions for Week Ending March 30, 2008

Kevin Fenton

New entries this week cover a wide variety of topics. Regarding the 9/11 Commission, members and staff were dismayed by Laurie Mylroie's Iraq-al-Qaeda potboiler, as was a CIA expert who had the misfortune to sit on the same panel as Mylroie, and the Jersey Girls. Staffers were appalled by executive director Philip Zelikow's rewriting of a staff statement to imply Iraqi connections to al-Qaeda, and forced him to back down. Zelikow finally accepted the lack of connections between Iraq and al-Qaeda, but Vice President Cheney did not.

(Sorry about this, but there seems to be a bug in the system and these first few entries aren’t available individually right now. They should be in the near future, but can now be viewed in the 9/11 Commission Timeline anyway).

In Italy, the Algerian GIA, an organisation thoroughly penetrated by its government that laid the foundations for al-Qaeda in Europe, established a base in a Milan mosque in the mid-1990s. Radicals connected to the mosque were arrested in 1998, but the prosecution was unsuccessful and the authorities were uninterested in a potential informer who knew about arms smuggling to the war in Bosnia. Cell members seem to have been incompetent, but were overheard discussing the entry of terrorists into the US in early 2001.

Several of the 9/11 hijackers allegedly failed in their attempts to fight in Chechnya, are said to have worked as security staff at Kandahar airport, and had tickets for afternoon flights on 9/11. Fifteen of them were profiled as high risk potential clients by a British banking compliance company, unsurprisingly because of their links to terrorism.

Wounded mujaheddin were treated in Londonistan, but the British government refused to extradite a member of al-Qaeda's fatwa committee on car bombing charges, and gave him asylum instead. London-based extremist Abu Hamza travelled to Bosnia and preached in Luton.

Following on from the BCCI additions last week, the Treasury Department read a "dynamite" report on the bank in 1985, but took no action, a plane crash in the same year appears to be linked to both BCCI and Iran-Contra, and the bank had links to the A. Q. Khan network. In addition, wanted BCCI suspects were protected in Pakistan and the UAE, and the FBI's interest in BCCI figure Ghaith Pharaon was brief.

In the wider world of terrorism finance, in the later 1980s the US and Britain were aware Middle Eastern governments were paying off Abu Nidal, and a major Saudi bank was used to fund militants, but no action was taken against it.

A CIA officer known as Rich B was appointed head of Alec Station, the CIA's bin Laden unit in 1999, but had a poor relationship with the FBI's John O'Neill. Neither that, nor 9/11 stopped him from being promoted to station chief in Kabul in the middle of the battle of Tora Bora.

Miscellaneous entries cover the US government's lack of interest in the drugs trade in Afghanistan during the Soviet-Afghan War, al-Qaeda establishing its first base in Arizona in 1986, and proliferator-in-chief Jimmy Carter giving Pakistan's nuclear programme the green light. The FBI also hired the daughter of a Pakistani spy, but fired an agent that opposed the hiring because of his support for whistleblower Sibel Edmonds.

Finally, CIA legend Billy Waugh drafted a plan to assassinate bin Laden in 1991, fought in Bosnia, and ended the debate about possible collaboration between the CIA and al-Qaeda in his autobiography with the words "I worked right there with these al-Qaeda operatives."

Originally posted here. Please also bear in mind that the History Commons is in need of donations.