The United States disregarded advanced warning of a 2000 Al Qaeda plot to hijack a commercial airliner because “nobody believed that Usama bin Laden’s organization or the Taliban could carry out such an operation,” according to intelligence documents obtained by Judicial Watch.
It took the government 11 years to furnish the records, requested in May 2002 as part of JW’s Terrorism Research and Analysis Project, and they are just as alarming today as they would have been a decade ago. The documents, from the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) reveal that Al Qaeda had a sophisticated plan to hijack a commercial airliner departing Frankfurt International Airport between March and August 2000. The hijack team was to consist of an Arab, a Pakistani and a Chechen and their targets were U.S. airlines, Lufthansa and Air France.
The intelligence report is remarkably rich in operational details and includes the names, addresses, telephone numbers, operatives’ assignments and duties. It pieces together an intricate plot directed by a 40-year-old Saudi (Sheik Dzabir) from a prominent family with ties to the House of Saud. Al Qaeda actually penetrated the consular section of the German Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, relying on a contact referred to in the intelligence report as “Mrs. Wagner” to provide European Union (EU) visas for use in forged Pakistani passports for the terrorists.
Al Qaeda, the Taliban and Chechen Islamist militants all had substantial operating and support bases in Hamburg and Frankfurt, Germany, according to the data, which also identifies an Al Qaeda passport forger in Hamburg using name, address and telephone numbers. The Taliban Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs conducted meetings in Frankfurt for Taliban and other Afghan terrorists and support personnel during January and February 2000, the U.S. intelligence files reveal.
The records also show documented operational coordination and cooperation between Al Qaeda and Chechen militants. This includes the existence of a secure, reliable terrorist-sponsored route to Chechnya from Pakistan and Afghanistan through Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan. Chechen withdrawal from the plot delayed the operation, the intelligence report says. It also documents evidence of an extensive Al Qaeda terror and support network in Germany as well as deep ties between Al Qaeda and Chechens.
Information about the plot came from an unidentified human intelligence source that provided U.S. authorities with copies of Arabic letters containing details of the Al Qaeda plot. For years the subject report was classified “SECRET” until it finally got declassified and released to JW on August 22, 2013. JW continues gathering information on Al Qaeda activities and U.S. investigations leading to the 9/11 hijackings as well as other terrorist attacks.
In fact, a separate classified intelligence report obtained by JW in 2005 suddenly became relevant this year when “radicalized” Chechen brothers detonated bombs at the Boston Marathon. That document includes shocking details of Al Qaeda’s operations in Chechnya and the tactics employed by Chechen terrorists, including cell phone detonation of backpack bombs like in Boston. It also contains information about Al Qaeda’s activities in Chechnya, including the creation of a 1995 camp—ordered by Osama bin Laden—to train “international terrorists” to carry out plots against Americans and westerners.
The al Qaeda terrorist that President Obama ordered assassinated by drone was closely monitored by the FBI and even followed to the Pentagon’s front door years before his murder, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch.
The files, more than 250 pages of FBI surveillance logs, illustrate alarming incompetence by the U.S. national security establishment involving American-born al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Aulaqi. In late 2011 al-Aulaqi was killed in Yemen by a CIA-led drone strike. President Obama called it a major “milestone” in the fight against al Qaeda and its affiliates, saying that al-Aulaqi took the lead in planning and directing efforts to murder innocent Americans.
But years earlier it appears that he was considered an asset protected by the U.S. government, according to the documents obtained by JW through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit. At the very least the files raise serious questions about the nature of the relationship between the al Qaeda operative and the U.S. government. For instance, the files indicate that the U.S. may have tried to recruit the radical Islamic cleric as an intelligence source in 2002.
That year al-Aulaqi spoke as an invited guest at a Department of Defense (DOD) luncheon that included top Pentagon officials, according to a Fox news report. Incredibly, the FBI had already identified him as a “terrorist organization member,” the files obtained by JW show, and the agency had issued an alert warning to approach al-Aulaqi with caution.
The reports and logs show that agents from the FBI’s elite Special Surveillance Group (SSG) trailed al- Aulaqi to the front door of the Pentagon on the day he broke bread with DOD brass. Here’s a sampling from the government files: “Aulaqi boarded the Metro train, blue line north for the Pentagon.” At 11:32 am, “Aulaqi exited the Metro train, walked through the turnstyle [sic] and greeted two unidentified white females.” At 11:40 am, “Aulaqi and the two unidentified females walked through the train station, onto the escalator, walked southwest and west adjacent to the Pentagon, up the steps and walked northeast towards the entrance to the Pentagon.” And at 12:00 pm, “Surveillance discontinued at the Pentagon.”
It’s beyond comprehension that the FBI, charged with protecting the United States against terrorism and foreign intelligence threats, followed a known terrorist to the Pentagon for his high-level meeting with top officials. This certainly seems to indicate that the Obama administration is not telling the American people the whole story.
If you recall, Judicial Watch previously obtained separate FBI documents showing that the agency was aware as far back as September 27, 2001, that al-Aulaqi may have purchased airplane tickets for three of the 9/11 terrorist hijackers, including mastermind Mohammed Atta. On October 10, 2002, al-Aulaqi was detained at New York’s JFK airport under a warrant for passport fraud, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison. However, the FBI ordered al-Aulaqi’s release, even though the arrest warrant was still active the time of his detention.