Saudi Arabia threatens economic fallout if Congress passes 9/11 bill

The New York Times reports: Saudi Arabia has told the Obama administration and members of Congress that it will sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets held by the kingdom if Congress passes a bill that would allow the Saudi government to be held responsible in American courts for any role in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The Obama administration has lobbied Congress to block the bill’s passage, according to administration officials and congressional aides from both parties, and the Saudi threats have been the subject of intense discussions in recent weeks between lawmakers and officials from the State Department and the Pentagon. The officials have warned senators of diplomatic and economic fallout from the legislation.

Adel al-Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister, delivered the kingdom’s message personally last month during a trip to Washington, telling lawmakers that Saudi Arabia would be forced to sell up to $750 billion in treasury securities and other assets in the United States before they could be in danger of being frozen by American courts. [Continue reading…]

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Does it take 8 years to decide whether to declassify 28-pages of 9/11 report?

The Daily Beast reports: By the end of President Obama’s term in office, the administration hopes to decide whether to declassify a controversial portion of Congress’ investigation into the 9/11 attacks, the White House said Tuesday. The so-called “28 pages,” which have never been publicly released, are said to implicate Saudi government officials and civilians in the deadliest act of terrorism on U.S. soil.

The administration had directed a “declassification review” of the material from the Joint Congressional Inquiry into the terrorist attacks in 2014. Former lawmakers who have read the classified pages say they describe a financial and logistical support network for the 19 hijackers, most of them Saudi citizens, while they were in the U.S. The report was released in December 2002.

“That review process remains underway, but every effort is being taken to complete it before the end of the Administration,” Ned Price, the spokesperson for the National Security Council, told The Daily Beast in a statement. [Continue reading…]

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Time to declassify 28 redacted pages of a report that holds 9/11 secrets

60 Minutes reports: In 10 days, President Obama will visit Saudi Arabia at a time of deep mistrust between the two allies, and lingering doubts about the Saudi commitment to fighting violent Islamic extremism.

It also comes at a time when the White House and intelligence officials are reviewing whether to declassify one of the country’s most sensitive documents — known as the “28 pages.” They have to do with 9/11 and the possible existence of a Saudi support network for the hijackers while they were in the U.S. [Continue reading…]

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No, America isn’t 100 percent safe from terrorism. And that’s a good thing

Juliette Kayyem writes: Admit it. After the terrorist attacks in Brussels this past week, after the brief reflection for those lost or wounded and the sense of “oh, no, not again” passed, other thoughts quickly followed. My own selfish but natural worry, as a mother of three: Should we cancel that trip to Europe this summer?

In the nearly 15 years since 9/11, the questions I’ve fielded from family and friends have varied but never ceased: Should I buy a gun? (Only with training and safety measures at home, and certainly not to combat Islamic terrorists.) Is Times Square safe on New Year’s Eve? (Like every crowd scene, you have to stay alert, but security is high at events like that.) Or my personal favorite, because it combines parental insecurities with disaster management: Is Tulane a good school so many years after Hurricane Katrina? (Yes; it had a few rough months, but your kid should still apply.)

All these queries about a world in mayhem boil down to: Is my family safe? The answer is both simple and liberating: No, not entirely. America was built vulnerable, and thank goodness for that. [Continue reading…]

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A CIA grunt’s tale of the fog of secret war

The New York Times reports: In Douglas Laux’s final days as a C.I.A. officer, the futility of his mission prompted him to quote George Orwell to his boss.

Mr. Laux had spent months in 2012 working with various Middle Eastern nations that were trying to ship arms to Syria to help disparate rebel groups there. But it had become clear to him that the C.I.A had little ability to control the squabbling and backstabbing among the Saudis, Qataris and other Arabs.

He told a senior C.I.A. officer he felt like Winston Smith, the character in “1984” known for his fatalism, because he was carrying out his work without comprehending the politics and competing agendas thwarting progress in aiding the rebellion. “I understand the how,” Mr. Laux said, paraphrasing one of Smith’s famous lines. “I do not understand the why.”

It is a sentiment that might sum up much of Mr. Laux’s career at the C.I.A., an organization he served for eight years as an undercover case officer and soldier in the agency’s shadowy conflicts overseas. His career at the agency began with a tour at a remote firebase in southern Afghanistan and ended with a spot on the agency’s Syria Task Force — a life in war zones that is emblematic of the lives of a large cadre of American spies who joined the C.I.A. after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He left the agency three years ago, but is speaking publicly about his experiences there for the first time in conjunction with the release of a memoir. [Continue reading…]

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Trump says that after 9/11 Bush should have ‘just gone to the beach and enjoyed the ocean and the sun’

In an interview with the New York Times, Donald Trump said: Every bad decision that you could make in the Middle East was made. And now if you look at it, if you would go back 15 years ago, and I’m not saying it was only Obama, It was Obama’s getting out, it was other people’s getting in, but you go back 15 years ago, and I say this, if our presidents would have just gone to the beach and enjoyed the ocean and the sun, we would’ve been much better off in the Middle East, than all of this tremendous death, destruction, and you know, monetary loss, it’s just incredible. ’Cause we’re further, we’re far worse off today than we were 15 years ago or 10 years ago in the Middle East. Far worse. [Continue reading…]

Maybe the trip to the beach should have been preceded by some national mourning, cleaning up the attack sites, and improving airline security, but who can argue with Trump’s colorfully expressed conclusion that the war on terrorism has been an utter failure?

On the international front, the urgent priorities after 9/11 should have been to isolate al Qaeda by putting pressure on the Taliban, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia.

Bush’s principle problem was that he had surrounded himself with the wrong people — and there’s every reason to believe that is exactly what Trump would do too.

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Brussels terror suspect was jailed over Ahmad Shah Massoud assassination, just before 9/11

Khamma Press reports: The coordinated terror attacks in Brussels has unveiled new information regarding the assassination of a key jiahdi leader in Afghanistan as a terror suspect who was arrested by police in Brussels after a dramatic stand-off at a tram stop is believed to have previously been jailed for helping to assassinate an Afghan leader just days before 9/11.

The suspect has been identified as Abderaman A who was shot in the leg at the tram stop in Schaerbeek because he was carrying a rucksack police believed contained a bomb.

Massoud was the arch rival of the Taliban group and was holding the last strategic stronghold in northern Panjsher province as he was assassinated in a suicide attack during an interview by militants who had disguised themselves as journalists.

He was killed shortly before the deadly terrorist attack on New York and Washington and shortly after he paid a visit to Brussels where he issued warnings regarding the terror attack plots by al-Qaeda terrorist network.

In his speech in European Pearliament in April 2001 Massoud “warned the US government” about bin Laden as he was on a diplomatic trip to Europe seeking financial support for his cause from the EU and individual countries. [Continue reading…]

The Daily Mail reports: Osama bin Laden is widely believed to have ordered Massoud’s killing as a favour to the Taliban, whose protection would be critical after the 9/11 attacks.

Passports found on Mr Masood’s killers were linked to a Brussels-based militant cell run by Tarek Maaroufi.

Ameroud was handed a sentence of seven years when he went on trial for his part in the assassination at a court in Paris in 2005. [Continue reading…]

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What the CIA knew about the 9/11 hijackers — before 9/11 — and concealed from the FBI

This 2016 short documentary by Alex Gibney is based on a 2006 article, “The Agent,” by Lawrence Wright.

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Marwan Bishara: Is America at war with Islam?

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Why ISIS isn’t going anywhere

Michael Weiss, in text prepared for his testimony in front of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs on December 2, wrote: Policymakers here and abroad often speak as if ISIS only debuted as a significant insurgency and international terror threat in June 2014, when its soldiers stormed into Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul, almost uncontested. The president surely forgot himself when, in conversation with the New Yorker’s David Remnick, he referred to the group that had dispatched mentally disabled girls in Tal Afar as suicide bombers and blew up the Golden Mosque in Samarra as the “JV team.” But as you well know, this is a jihadist franchise, which with we have grown intimately acquainted for over a decade. It has long memory and is playing an even longer game.

Has it altered its strategy? No, not really, although it has placed greater tactical emphasis on its foreign operations since its capacity for receiving emigrating jihadists from New Jersey to Peshawar has shrunk, thanks to better policing and the relative closure of the Syrian-Turkish border.

Abu Mohammed al-Adnani, officially ISIS’s spokesman but in reality the man in charge of its dominion in Syria, defined the “state’s” foreign policy rather plainly in September: “If you can kill a disbelieving American or European — especially the spiteful and filthy French — or an Australian, or a Canadian, or any other disbeliever from the disbelievers waging war, including the citizens of the countries that entered into a coalition against the Islamic State,” he said, “then rely upon Allah, and kill him in any manner or way however it may be.”

But Adnani was only reiterating what has always been ISIS’s global ambition—to export its holy war well beyond its immediate precincts or purview. The domestic pillar of ISIS’s project is what it calls “remaining and expanding”—the pushing of the borders of the caliphate in the Levant and Mesopotamia and the swelling of the ranks of its fighters and supporters there. We may pretend that ISIS is no state, but its ideologues and bureaucrats and petty officials behave as if they fully believe their own propaganda.

The foreign pillar is the opportunistic spreading of chaos, harm and wanton destruction in the West, relying upon agents who come from the West and who may or may not be returning veterans from a regional battlefield but rather everymen, Muslim or non-Muslim, who have been radicalized remotely. These jihadists are encouraged to strike at the kufar, the unbelievers, on the latter’s home turf or wherever they may be found, using methods both clever and crude: “an explosive device, a bullet, a knife, a car, a rock, or even a boot or a fist,” as al-Adnani elsewhere specified.

The two pillars have been in existence since the era of ISIS’s founder and godfather, the Jordanian jailbird Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Lest we forget, Zarqawi personally beheaded the American contractor Nicholas Berg in Iraq in 2004; two years before that, he had a direct hand in the assassination of 60 year-old American citizen and USAID worker Laurence Foley in Amman. [Continue reading…]

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Memo to Trump: The cheering in New Jersey on 9/11 was coming from Israelis, not Arabs

The Daily Beast reports: It seemed likely that after Donald Trump lied about the residents of Jersey City’s behavior on Sept. 11, 2001 — claiming they cheered the attacks across the river in New York City — Chris Christie, New Jersey’s governor, would be first in line to repudiate him.

That was a naive assumption. It turns out a Republican presidential candidate would sooner slow-dance with Hillary Clinton than criticize the party’s frontrunner in defense of American Muslims.

At a rally in Birmingham, Alabama on Saturday, Trump said, “Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down, and I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering!”

This is, of course, incorrect. The New York Times reported that rumors of Muslims cheering in New Jersey were “discounted by police officials at the time.”

Trump then claimed on Sunday on ABC’s This Week that he had seen footage of the thousands of people cheering on TV — but no such footage seems to exist.

A request for comment from Christie, sent at around 10:30 Sunday morning, went ignored all day by his campaign. Which was curious, since the governor’s tough talk against “crazies” fear-mongering about Muslims — never mind his constant talk about the 9/11 attacks throughout the course of his presidential campaign — has been a defining aspect of his governorship.

In 2011, Christie nominated Sohail Mohammed as a Superior Court judge. When rumors began to circulate on the Internet that Mohammed was tied to terrorism and sympathetic to Sharia, Christie came to his aid.

“This Sharia law business is crap,” he said. “It’s just crazy and I’m tired of dealing with the crazies.” [Continue reading…]

The Washington Post spoke to Jerry Speziale, the police commissioner of Paterson, N.J., for his response to Trump’s claims and he said: “That is totally false. That is patently false. That never happened. There were no flags burning, no one was dancing. That is bullshit.”

Speziale’s statement might not be completely accurate because as Jim Galloway, a journalist at the Atlanta Journal Constitution, noted yesterday: “As the towers came down, some people indeed saw a group of five — not thousands, but five — Middle Eastern men clowning around and photographing themselves in front of the burning towers from the New Jersey waterfront. They weren’t Arabs, and they weren’t Muslims.”

At that time, an FBI bulletin was issued warning law enforcement officers across the New York-New Jersey area to watch for a “vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack”:

White, 2000 Chevrolet van with ‘Urban Moving Systems’ sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center Three individuals with van were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion. FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for prints and detain individuals.

Twenty-five minutes after the alert had been sent out, the van was stopped by officers with the East Rutherford Police Department who arrested its five occupants who all turned out to be Israelis.

Christopher Ketcham later investigated the story in detail and published his findings in a 2007 report, “What did Israel know in advance of the 9/11 attacks?

I have reposted that report and an accompanying article, “The Kuala Lumpur deceit.”

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From the archives: What did Israel know in advance of the 9/11 attacks?

By Christopher Ketcham, March 16, 2007

On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, an FBI bulletin known as a BOLO — “be on lookout” — was issued with regard to three suspicious men who that morning were seen leaving the New Jersey waterfront minutes after the first plane hit World Trade Center 1. Law enforcement officers across the New York-New Jersey area were warned in the radio dispatch to watch for a “vehicle possibly related to New York terrorist attack”:

White, 2000 Chevrolet van with ‘Urban Moving Systems’ sign on back seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first impact of jetliner into World Trade Center Three individuals with van were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion. FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for prints and detain individuals.

At 3:56 p.m., twenty-five minutes after the issuance of the FBI BOLO, officers with the East Rutherford Police Department stopped the commercial moving van through a trace on the plates. According to the police report, Officer Scott DeCarlo and Sgt. Dennis Rivelli approached the stopped van, demanding that the driver exit the vehicle. The driver, 23-year-old Sivan Kurzberg, refused and “was asked several more times [but] appeared to be fumbling with a black leather fanny pouch type of bag”. With guns drawn, the police then “physically removed” Kurzberg, while four other men — two more men had apparently joined the group since the morning — were also removed from the van, handcuffed, placed on the grass median and read their Miranda rights.

They had not been told the reasons for their arrest. Yet, according to DeCarlo’s report, “this officer was told without question by the driver [Sivan Kurzberg],’We are Israeli. We are not your problem.Your problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.'” Another of the five Israelis, again without prompting, told Officer DeCarlo — falsely — that “we were on the West Side Highway in New York City during the incident”. From inside the vehicle the officers, who were quickly joined by agents from the FBI, retrieved multiple passports and $4,700 in cash stuffed in a sock. According to New Jersey’s Bergen Record, which on September 12 reported the arrest of the five Israelis, an investigator high up in the Bergen County law enforcement hierarchy stated that officers had also discovered in the vehicle “maps of the city with certain places highlighted. It looked like they’re hooked in with this”, the source told the Record, referring to the 9/11 attacks. “It looked like they knew what was going to happen when they were at Liberty State Park.”

The five men were indeed Israeli citizens. They claimed to be in the country working as movers for Urban Moving Systems Inc., which maintained a warehouse and office in Weehawken, New Jersey. They were held for 71 days in a federal detention center in Brooklyn, New York, during which time they were repeatedly interrogated by FBI and CIA counter-terrorism teams, who referred to the men as the “high-fivers” for their celebratory behavior on the New Jersey waterfront. Some were placed in solitary confinement for at least forty days; some were given as many as seven lie-detector tests. One of the Israelis, Paul Kurzberg, brother of Sivan, refused to take a lie-detector test for ten weeks. Then he failed it. [Read more…]

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From the archives: The Kuala Lumpur deceit

By Christopher Ketcham, March, 2007

The possible link between pre-9/11 Israeli warnings and the watch-listing of the hijackers Mihdhar and Hazmi was pointed out in late 2004 by a retired top corporate lawyer named Gerald Shea, who compiled a 166-page memo detailing the alleged operations of the Israeli groups in New Jersey, Florida and elsewhere. In the memo, which is drawn from publicly available source material and which he sent to members of the 9/11 Commission and the joint House and Sen­ate intelligence committees, Shea notes that neither the 9/11 Commission’s final report nor the joint report of the intelligence committees “specifically mentions any such [warnings] from the Israeli government”.

Instead, both reports, hewing closely to the CIA’s public stance, attribute the watch-listing of Mihdhar and Hazmi solely to the bumbling work of U.S. intelligence. But a review of the alleged facts in this route to the watch list, Shea insists, makes one doubt their veracity. “The issue is important”, Shea argues, “because any downplaying of Israeli warnings … draws attention away” from the surveillance role the Israeli groups may have played.

The key element in the CIA’s account is the claim that in January 2001 the agency had identified an operational link between the Mihdhar-Hazmi duo and one of Bin Laden’s most trusted lieutenants, Khallad, a.k.a. Tawfiq bin Attash, who was suspected of masterminding the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. According to the CIA, Mihdhar, Hazmi and Khallad had together attended a high-level al-Qaeda meeting in Kuala Lumpur in January 2000. This meeting was historic in the annals of Islamic terrorism, for it was here that the germ of 9/11 was seeded. [Read more…]

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‘The attacks will be spectacular’: How the Bush administration ignored this warning from the CIA months before 9/11

Chris Whipple writes:Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S.” The CIA’s famous Presidential Daily Brief, presented to George W. Bush on August 6, 2001, has always been Exhibit A in the case that his administration shrugged off warnings of an Al Qaeda attack. But months earlier, starting in the spring of 2001, the CIA repeatedly and urgently began to warn the White House that an attack was coming.

By May of 2001, says Cofer Black, then chief of the CIA’s counterterrorism center, “it was very evident that we were going to be struck, we were gonna be struck hard and lots of Americans were going to die.” “There were real plots being manifested,” Cofer’s former boss, George Tenet, told me in his first interview in eight years. “The world felt like it was on the edge of eruption. In this time period of June and July, the threat continues to rise. Terrorists were disappearing [as if in hiding, in preparation for an attack]. Camps were closing. Threat reportings on the rise.” The crisis came to a head on July 10. The critical meeting that took place that day was first reported by Bob Woodward in 2006. Tenet also wrote about it in general terms in his 2007 memoir At the Center of the Storm.

But neither he nor Black has spoken about it publicly in such detail until now — or been so emphatic about how specific and pressing their warnings really were. Over the past eight months, in more than a hundred hours of interviews, my partners Jules and Gedeon Naudet and I talked with Tenet and the 11 other living former CIA directors for The Spymasters, a documentary set to air this month on Showtime.

The drama of failed warnings began when Tenet and Black pitched a plan, in the spring of 2001, called “the Blue Sky paper” to Bush’s new national security team. It called for a covert CIA and military campaign to end the Al Qaeda threat—“getting into the Afghan sanctuary, launching a paramilitary operation, creating a bridge with Uzbekistan.” “And the word back,” says Tenet, “‘was ‘we’re not quite ready to consider this. We don’t want the clock to start ticking.’” (Translation: they did not want a paper trail to show that they’d been warned.) Black, a charismatic ex-operative who had helped the French arrest the terrorist known as Carlos the Jackal, says the Bush team just didn’t get the new threat: “I think they were mentally stuck back eight years [before]. They were used to terrorists being Euro-lefties—they drink champagne by night, blow things up during the day, how bad can this be? And it was a very difficult sell to communicate the urgency to this.”

That morning of July 10, the head of the agency’s Al Qaeda unit, Richard Blee, burst into Black’s office. “And he says, ‘Chief, this is it. Roof’s fallen in,’” recounts Black. “The information that we had compiled was absolutely compelling. It was multiple-sourced. And it was sort of the last straw.” Black and his deputy rushed to the director’s office to brief Tenet. All agreed an urgent meeting at the White House was needed. Tenet picked up the white phone to Bush’s National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice. “I said, ‘Condi, I have to come see you,’” Tenet remembers. “It was one of the rare times in my seven years as director where I said, ‘I have to come see you. We’re comin’ right now. We have to get there.’” [Continue reading…]

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Did Bush and Cheney consider launching a nuclear strike on Afghanistan after 9/11?

Der Spiegel interviewed Michael Steiner, a German career diplomat who was Chancellor Gerhard Schröder’s foreign policy advisor in 2001:

SPIEGEL: What was it like in the days following the [al Qaeda] attacks?

Steiner: Condoleezza Rice was George W. Bush’s security advisor at the time. I actually had quite a good relationship with her. But after Sept. 11, the entire administration positively dug in. We no longer had access to Rice, much less to the president. It wasn’t just our experience, but also that of the French and British as well. Of course that made us enormously worried.

SPIEGEL: Why?

Steiner: Because we thought that the Americans would overreact in response to the initial shock. For the US, it was a shocking experience to be attacked on their own soil.

SPIEGEL: What do you mean, overreact? Were you afraid that Bush would attack Afghanistan with nuclear weapons?

Steiner: The Americans said at the time that all options were on the table. When I visited Condoleezza Rice in the White House a few days later, I realized that it was more than just a figure of speech.

SPIEGEL: The Americans had developed concrete plans for the use of nuclear weapons in Afghanistan?

Steiner: They really had thought through all scenarios. The papers had been written. [Continue reading…]

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