U.S. Ignored Intel of 2000 Al Qaeda Hijack Plot: Didn’t Believe “Usama bin Laden’s Organization or the Taliban Could Carry out Such an Operation”
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.