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[infowar.de] Neue Enthüllungen zum 11. September
Exclusive: The Informant Who Lived With the Hijackers
NEWSWEEK has learned that one of the bureau’s informants had a close relationship
with two of the hijackers
By Michael Isikoff
Sept. 16 issue — At first, FBI director Bob Mueller insisted there was nothing the bureau
could have done to penetrate the 9-11 plot. That account has been modified over
time—and now may change again. NEWSWEEK has learned that one of the bureau’s
informants had a close relationship with two of the hijackers: he was their roommate.
THE CONNECTION, JUST discovered by congressional investigators, has stunned some
top counterterrorism officials and raised new concerns about the information-sharing
among U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. The two hijackers, Khalid
Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, were hardly unknown to the intelligence community. The
CIA was first alerted to them in January 2000, when the two Saudi nationals showed up
at a Qaeda “summit” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. FBI officials have argued internally for
months that if the CIA had more quickly passed along everything it knew about the two
men, the bureau could have hunted them down more aggressively.
But both agencies can share in the blame. Upon leaving Malaysia, Almihdhar and
Alhazmi went to San Diego, where they took flight-school lessons. In September 2000,
the two moved into the home of a Muslim man who had befriended them at the local
Islamic Center. The landlord regularly prayed with them and even helped one open a
bank account. He was also, sources tell NEWSWEEK, a “tested” undercover “asset”
who had been working closely with the FBI office in San Diego on terrorism cases related
to Hamas. A senior law- enforcement official told NEWSWEEK the informant never
provided the bureau with the names of his two houseguests from Saudi Arabia. Nor does
the FBI have any reason to believe the informant was concealing their identities. (He
could not be reached for comment.) But the FBI concedes that a San Diego case agent
appears to have been at least aware that Saudi visitors were renting rooms in the
informant’s house. (On one occasion, a source says, the case agent called up the
informant and was told he couldn’t talk because “Khalid”—a reference to Almihdhar—was in
the room.) I. C. Smith, a former top FBI counterintelligence official, says the case agent
should have been keeping closer tabs on who his informant was fraternizing with—if only to
seek out the houseguests as possible informants. “They should have been asking, ‘Who
are these guys? What are they doing here?’ This strikes me as a lack of investigative
curiosity.” About six weeks after moving into the house, Almihdhar left town, explaining to
the landlord he was heading back to Saudi Arabia to see his daughter. Alhazmi moved
out at the end of 2000.
In the meantime, the CIA was gathering more information about just how potentially
dangerous both men were. A few months after the October 2000 bombing of the USS
Cole in Yemen, CIA analysts discovered —in their Malaysia file that one of the chief
suspects in the Cole attack— Tawfiq bin Attash—was present at the “summit” and had been
photographed with Almihdhar and Alhazmi. But it wasn’t until Aug. 23, 2001, that the CIA
sent out an urgent cable to U.S. border and law-enforcement agencies identifying the two
men as “possible” terrorists. By then it was too late. The bureau did not realize the San
Diego connection until a few days after 9-11, when the informant heard the names of the
Pentagon hijackers and called his case agent. “I know those guys,” the informant
purportedly said, referring to Almihdhar and Alhazmi. “They were my roommates.”
But the belated discovery has unsettled some members of the joint House and Senate
intelligence committees investigating the 9-11 attacks. The panel is tentatively due to
begin public hearings as early as Sept. 18, racing to its end- of-the-year deadline. But
some members are now worried that they won’t get to the bottom of what really happened
by then. Support for legislation creating a special blue- ribbon investigative panel, similar
to probes conducted after Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination, is increasing.
Only then, some members say, will the public learn whether more 9-11 secrets are buried
in the government’s files.
—with Jamie Reno
© 2002 Newsweek, Inc.
Revealed: The Taliban minister, the US envoy and the warning of September 11 that
By Kate Clark in Kabul
07 September 2002 Internal links Revealed: The Taliban minister, the US envoy and the
warning of September 11 that was ignored Germans 'foil US base attack' Police hold 16
after two Afghan attacks
Weeks before the terrorist attacks on 11 September, the United States and the United
Nations ignored warnings from a secret Taliban emissary that Osama bin Laden was
planning a huge attack on American soil.
The warnings were delivered by an aide of Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban Foreign
Minister at the time, who was known to be deeply unhappy with the foreign militants in
Afghanistan, including Arabs.
Mr Muttawakil, now in American custody, believed the Taliban's protection of Mr bin
Laden and the other al- Qa'ida militants would lead to nothing less than the destruction of
Afghanistan by the US military. He told his aide: "The guests are going to destroy the
The minister then ordered him to alert the US and the UN about what was going to
happen. But in a massive failure of intelligence, the message was disregarded because of
what sources describe as "warning fatigue". At the same time, the FBI and the CIA failed
to take seriously warnings that Islamic fundamentalist students had enrolled in flight
schools across the US.
Mr Muttawakil's aide, who has stayed on in Kabul and who has to remain anonymous for
his security, described in detail to The Independent how he alerted first the Americans
and then the United Nations of the coming calamity of 11 September.
The minister learnt in July last year that Mr bin Laden was planning a "huge attack" on
targets inside America, the aide said. The attacks were imminent and would be so deadly
the United States would react with destructive rage.
Mr bin Laden had been in Afghanistan since May 1996, bringing his three wives, 13
children and Arab fighters. Over time he became a close ally of the obscurantist Taliban
leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Mr Muttawakil learnt of the coming attacks on America not from other members of the
Taliban leadership, but from the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tahir
Yildash. The organisation was one of the fundamentalist groups that had found refuge on
Afghan soil, lending fighters for the Taliban's war on the Northern Alliance and benefiting
from good relations with al- Qa'ida in its fight against the Uzbek government.
According to the emissary, Mr Muttawakil emerged from a one-to-one meeting with Mr
Yildash looking shocked and troubled. Until then, the Foreign Minister, who had
disapproved of the destruction of the Buddhist statues in Bamian earlier in the year, had
no inkling from others in the Taliban leadership of what Mr bin Laden was planning.
"At first Muttawakil wouldn't say why he was so upset," said the aide. "Then it all came
out. Yildash had revealed that Osama bin Laden was going to launch an attack on the
United States. It would take place on American soil and it was imminent. Yildash said
Osama hoped to kill thousands of Americans."
At the time, 19 members of al-Qa'ida were in situ in the US waiting to launch what would
be the deadliest foreign attack on the American mainland.
The emissary went first to the Americans, travelling across the border to meet the consul
general, David Katz, in the Pakistani border town of Peshawar, in the third week of July
2001. They met in a safehouse belonging to an old mujahedin leader who has confirmed
to The Independent that the meeting took place.
Another US official was also present possibly from the intelligence services. Mr Katz, who
now works at the American embassy in Eritrea, declined to talk about the meeting. But
other US sources said the warning was not passed on.
A diplomatic source said: "We were hearing a lot of that kind of stuff. When people keep
saying the sky's going to fall in and it doesn't, a kind of warning fatigue sets in. I actually
thought it was all an attempt to rattle us in an attempt to please their funders in the Gulf,
to try to get more donations for the cause."
The Afghan aide did not reveal that the warning was from Mr Muttawakil, a factor that
might have led the Americans to down-grade it. "As I recall, I thought he was speaking
from his own personal perspective," one source said. "It was interesting that he was from
the Foreign Affairs Ministry, but he gave no indication this was a message he was
Interviewed by The Independent in Kabul, the Afghan emissary said: "I told Mr Katz they
should launch a new Desert Storm like the campaign to drive Iraq out of Kuwait but this
time they should call it Mountain Storm and they should drive the foreigners out of
Afghanistan. They also had to stop the Pakistanis supporting the Taliban."
The Taliban emissary said Mr Katz replied that neither action was possible. Nor did Mr
Katz pass the warning on to the State Department, according to senior US diplomatic
When Mr Muttawakil's emissary returned to Kabul, the Foreign Minister told him to see UN
officials. He took the warning to the Kabul offices of UNSMA, the political wing of the
UN. These officials heard him out, but again did not report the secret Taliban warning to
UN headquarters. A UN official familiar with the warnings said: "He appeared to be
speaking in total desperation, asking for a Mountain Storm, he wanted a sort of deus ex
machina to solve his country's problems. But before 9/11, there was just not much hope
that Washington would become that engaged in Afghanistan."
Officials in the State Department and in UN headquarters in New York said they knew
nothing about a Taliban warning. But they said they would now be looking into the
Mr Muttawakil is now unavailable for comment he handed himself in to the Afghan
authorities in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan last
February. He is reported to be in American custody there, one of the few senior members
of the Taliban regime the US has managed to arrest.
As America steadily broke the Taliban's military machine last autumn, there were no
Taliban defections. Apart from Mr Mutawakil's one vain attempt to warn the world, the
Taliban remained absolutely loyal to their leader's vision.
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