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October 12, 1999: General Musharraf Takes Control of Pakistan
Gen. Pervez Musharraf becomes leader of Pakistan in a coup. One major reason for the coup is the ISI felt the previous ruler had to go “out of fear that he might buckle to American pressure and reverse Pakistan’s policy [of supporting] the Taliban.” [New York Times, 12/8/2001] Shortly thereafter, Musharraf replaces the leader of the ISI, Brig Imtiaz, because of his close ties to the previous leader. Imtiaz is arrested and convicted of “having assets disproportionate to his known sources of income.” It comes out that he was keeping tens of millions of dollars earned from heroin smuggling in a Deutsche Bank account. [Financial Times, 8/10/2001] Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, a close ally of Musharraf who is instrumental in the success of the coup. Mahmood actually secured the capital and detained Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, but then honored the chain of command and stepped aside so Musharraf, as head of the military, could take over. Mahmood is rewarded by being made the new director of the ISI. [Guardian, 10/9/2001; Coll, 2004, pp. 504-505]
Spring 2000: ISI Director Said to Become Fundamentalist Muslim
Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, director of the Pakistani ISI since October 1999 (see October 12, 1999), is not considered especially religious. However, around this time he begins telling his colleagues that he has become a “born-again Muslim.” While he doesn’t make open gestures such as growing a beard, when US intelligence learns about this talk they find it foreboding and wonder what its impact on the ISI’s relations with the Taliban will be. Perhaps not coincidentally, around this time he begins meeting less frequently with CIA liaisons and becomes less cooperative with the US. [Coll, 2004, pp. 510-511] But if Mahmood becomes a fundamentalist Muslim, that would not be very unique in the ISI. As Slate will write shortly after 9/11, “many in the ISI loathe the United States. They view America as an unreliable and duplicitous ally, being especially resentful of the 1990 sanctions, which came one year after the Soviets pulled out of Afghanistan. Furthermore, the ISI is dominated by Pashtuns, the same tribe that is the Taliban’s base of support across the border in Afghanistan. Partly because of its family, clan, and business ties to the Taliban, the ISI, even more than Pakistani society in general, has become increasingly enamored of radical Islam in recent years.” [Slate, 10/9/2001]
April 4, 2000: ISI Director Visits Washington and Is Told to Give Warning to Taliban
ISI Director and “leading Taliban supporter” Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed visits Washington. He meets officials at the CIA and the White House. In a message meant for both Pakistan and the Taliban, US officials tell him that al-Qaeda has killed Americans and “people who support those people will be treated as our enemies.” The US threatens to support the Northern Alliance, who are still engaged in a civil war with the Taliban. A short time later, Mahmood goes to Afghanistan and delivers this message to Taliban leader Mullah Omar. However, no actual US action, military or otherwise, is taken against either the Taliban or Pakistan. Author Steve Coll later notes that these US threats were just bluffs since the Clinton administration was not seriously considering a change of policy. [Washington Post, 12/19/2001; Coll, 2004, pp. 508-510]
Summer 2000: Saeed Sheikh Frequently Calls ISI Director
In 2002, French author Bernard-Henri Levy is presented evidence by government officials in New Delhi, India, that Saeed Sheikh makes repeated calls to ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed during the summer of 2000. Later, Levy gets unofficial confirmation from sources in Washington regarding these calls that the information he was given in India is correct. He notes that someone in the United Arab Emirates using a variety of aliases sends Mohamed Atta slightly over $100,000 between June and September of this year (see June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000 and (July-August 2000)), and the timing of these phone calls and the money transfers may have been the source of news reports that Mahmood Ahmed ordered Saeed Sheikh to send $100,000 to Mohamed Atta (see October 7, 2001). However, he also notes that there is evidence of Sheikh sending Atta $100,000 in August 2001 (see Early August 2001), so the reports could refer to that, or both $100,000 transfers could involve Mahmood Ahmed, Saeed Sheikh, and Mohamed Atta. [Levy, 2003, pp. 320-324]
June 29, 2000-September 18, 2000: Hijackers Receive $100,000 in Funding from United Arab Emirates Location
Hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi receive a series of five money transfers from the United Arab Emirates:
- On June 29, $5,000 is wired by a person using the alias “Isam Mansur” to a Western Union facility in New York, where Alshehhi picks it up;
bullet On July 18, $10,000 is wired to Atta and Alshehhi’s joint account at SunTrust from the UAE Exchange Centre in Bur Dubai by a person using the alias “Isam Mansur”;
- On August 5, $9,500 is wired to the joint account from the UAE Exchange Centre by a person using the alias “Isam Mansour”;
- On August 29, $20,000 is wired to the joint account from the UAE Exchange Centre by a person using the alias “Mr. Ali”;
- On September 17 $70,000 is wired to the joint account from the UAE Exchange Centre by a person using the alias “Hani (Fawar Trading).” Some sources suggest a suspicious activity report was generated about this transaction (see (Late September 2000)). [Financial Times, 11/29/2001; Newsweek, 12/2/2001; New York Times, 12/10/2001; MSNBC, 12/11/2001; US Congress, 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 134-5 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia; Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006 pdf file] Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar previously received a transfer from the United Arab Emirates from a “Mr. Ali” (see April 16-18, 2000). The 9/11 Commission say this money was sent by Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (a.k.a. Ammar al-Baluchi), a nephew of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 133-5 pdf file] Although he denies making the $5,000 transfer to Nawaf Alhazmi, Ali will admit sending Alshehhi these amounts and say that the money was Alshehhi’s (see March 30, 2007). He also admits receiving 16 phone calls from Alshehhi around this time. [US Department of Defense, 4/12/2007 pdf file] The hijackers may also receive another $100,000 around this time (see (July-August 2000)). It is suggested that Saeed Sheikh, who wires the hijackers money in the summer of 2001 (see Early August 2001), may be involved in one or both of these transfers. For example, French author Bernard-Henri Levy later claims to have evidence from sources inside both Indian and US governments of phone calls between Sheikh and Mahmood Ahmed, head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency, during this same time period, and he sees a connection between the timing of the calls and the money transfers (see Summer 2000). [Frontline, 10/13/2001; Daily Excelsior (Jammu), 10/18/2001; Levy, 2003, pp. 320-324]
*note: Some people think because Levy is a “right-winger”, he shouldn’t be trusted. FYI.
May 2001: Tenet Visits Pakistan; Armitage Calls on India
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, a former covert operative and Navy Seal, travels to India on a publicized tour while CIA Director Tenet makes a quiet visit to Pakistan to meet with President Pervez Musharraf. Armitage has long and deep Pakistani intelligence connections (as well as a role in the Iran-Contra affair). It would be reasonable to assume that while in Islamabad, Tenet, in what was described as “an unusually long meeting,” also meets with his Pakistani counterpart, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed. [SAPRA (New Delhi), 5/22/2001]
Summer 2001: Saudi and Taliban Leaders Reportedly Discuss Bin Laden
An Asia Times article published just prior to 9/11 claims that Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, makes a clandestine visit to Pakistan around this time. After meeting with senior army officials, he visits Afghanistan with ISI Director Mahmood. They meet Taliban leader Mullah Omar and try to convince him that the US is likely to launch an attack on Afghanistan. They insist bin Laden be sent to Saudi Arabia, where he would be held in custody and not handed over to any third country. If bin Laden were to be tried in Saudi Arabia, Abdullah would help make sure he is acquitted. Mullah Omar apparently rejects the proposal. The article suggests that Abdullah is secretly a supporter of bin Laden and is trying to protect him from harm. [Asia Times, 8/22/2001] A similar meeting may also take place about a week after 9/11 (see September 19, 2001).
September 4-11, 2001: ISI Director Visits Washington for Mysterious Meetings
ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed visits Washington for the second time. On September 10, a Pakistani newspaper reports on his trip so far. It says his visit has “triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council” as well as meetings with CIA Director Tenet (see September 9, 2001), unspecified officials at the White House and the Pentagon, and his “most important meeting” with Marc Grossman, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. The article suggests, “[O]f course, Osama bin Laden” could be the focus of some discussions. Prophetically, the article adds, “What added interest to his visit is the history of such visits. Last time [his] predecessor was [in Washington], the domestic [Pakistani] politics turned topsy-turvy within days.” [News (Islamabad), 9/10/2001] This is a reference to the Musharraf coup just after an ISI Director’s visit on October 12, 1999 (see October 12, 1999).
September 9, 2001: CIA Director Meets ISI Director about Bin Laden Issue
Pakistani ISI Director Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, who is visiting Washington (see September 4-11, 2001), meets with CIA Director George Tenet. In his 2007 book, Tenet will claim that he “tried to press” Mahmood to do something about Taliban support for bin Laden, since the Pakistani government has been supporting the Taliban since its creation in 1994. But Mahmood was supposedly “immovable when it came to the Taliban and al-Qaeda.” Tenet will say that Mahmood’s sole suggestion was the US should try bribing key Taliban officials to get them to turn over bin Laden. However, “even then he made it clear that neither he nor his service would have anything to do with the effort, not even to the extent of advising us whom we might approach.” [Tenet, 2007, pp. 141-142]
(8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001: Intelligence Committee Chairs Meet with ISI Head and Possible 9/11 Attack Funder as the Attack Occurs
From left to right: Senator Bob Graham (D), Senator Jon Kyl (R), and Representative Porter Goss (R).From left to right: Senator Bob Graham (D), Senator Jon Kyl (R), and Representative Porter Goss (R). [Source: US Senate, National Park Service, US House of Representatives]At the time of the attacks, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed is at a breakfast meeting at the Capitol with the chairmen of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, Senator Bob Graham (D) and Representative Porter Goss (R) (Goss is a 10-year veteran of the CIA’s clandestine operations wing). The meeting is said to last at least until the second plane hits the WTC. [Washington Post, 5/18/2002] Graham and Goss later co-head the joint House-Senate investigation into the 9/11 attacks, which has made headlines for saying there was no “smoking gun” of Bush knowledge before 9/11. [Washington Post, 7/11/2002] Note that Senator Graham should have been aware of a report made to his staff the previous month (see Early August 2001) that one of Mahmood’s subordinates had told a US undercover agent that the WTC would be destroyed. Evidence suggests that attendee Mahmood ordered that $100,000 be sent to hijacker Mohamed Atta. Also present at the meeting were Senator Jon Kyl (R) and the Pakistani ambassador to the US, Maleeha Lodhi. (All or virtually all of the people in this meeting had previously met in Pakistan just a few weeks earlier.) Senator Graham says of the meeting: “We were talking about terrorism, specifically terrorism generated from Afghanistan.” The New York Times reports that bin Laden was specifically discussed. [Vero Beach Press Journal, 9/12/2001; Salon, 9/14/2001; New York Times, 6/3/2002]
September 11-16, 2001: Pakistan Threatened; Promises to Support US
ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, extending his Washington visit because of the 9/11 attacks, meets with US officials and negotiates Pakistan’s cooperation with the US against al-Qaeda. It is rumored that later in the day of 9/11 and again the next day, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage visits Mahmood and offers him the choice: “Help us and breathe in the 21st century along with the international community or be prepared to live in the Stone Age.” [Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Hamburg), 9/12/2001; Japan Economic Newswire, 9/17/2001; LA Weekly, 11/9/2001] Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf will write in a 2006 book (see September 25, 2006) that Armitage actually threatens to bomb Pakistan “back to the stone age.” However, Armitage will deny using this wording and say he did not threaten military force. [National Public Radio, 9/22/2006] Secretary of State Powell presents Mahmood seven demands as an ultimatum and Pakistan supposedly agrees to all seven. [Washington Post, 1/29/2002] Mahmood also has meetings with Senator Joseph Biden (D), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Secretary of State Powell, regarding Pakistan’s position. [New York Times, 9/13/2001 pdf file; Reuters, 9/13/2001; Associated Press, 9/13/2001; Miami Herald, 9/16/2001] On September 13, the airport in Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan, is shut down for the day. A government official later says the airport had been closed because of threats made against Pakistan’s “strategic assets,” but does not elaborate. The next day, Pakistan declares “unstinting” support for the US, and the airport is reopened. It is later suggested that Israel and India threatened to attack Pakistan and take control of its nuclear weapons if Pakistan did not side with the US. [LA Weekly, 11/9/2001] It is later reported that Mahmood’s presence in Washington was a lucky blessing; one Western diplomat saying it “must have helped in a crisis situation when the US was clearly very, very angry.” [Financial Times, 9/18/2001]
Mid-September 2001: Pakistani Leaders Side with Taliban
The Guardian later claims that Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has a meeting with his 12 or 13 most senior officers. Musharraf proposes to support the US in the imminent war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda. Supposedly, four of his most senior generals oppose him outright in “a stunning display of disloyalty.” The four are ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, Lt. Gen. Muzaffar Usmani, Lt. Gen. Jamshaid Gulzar Kiani, and Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz Khan. All four are removed from power over the next month. If this meeting took place, it is hard to see when it could have happened, since the article states it happened “within days” of 9/11, but Mahmood was in the US until late September 16, then flew to Afghanistan for two days, then possibly to Saudi Arabia. [Guardian, 5/25/2002]
Mid-September-October 7, 2001: ISI Director Gives Military Advice to Taliban
Pakistani ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed is periodically meeting and communicating with top Taliban leader Mullah Omar during this time. He is advising him to resist the US and not to hand over bin Laden (see September 17-18 and 28, 2001). According to journalist Kathy Gannon, he is also giving Omar and other Taliban leaders advice on how to resist the US military. Omar has almost no education and very little understanding of the Western world. Mahmood, by contrast, has just come from meetings with top officials in the US (see September 11-16, 2001). Gannon will later write that each time Mahmood visited Omar, he gave him “information about the likely next move by the United States. By then, [he] knew there weren’t going to be a lot of US soldiers on the ground. He warned Mullah Omar that the United States would be relying heavily on aerial bombardment and on the Northern Alliance.” Mahmood gives additional pointers on targets likely to be hit, command and control systems, anti-aircraft defense, what types of weapons the US will use, and so forth. [Gannon, 2005, pp. 93-94] Immediately after 9/11, Mahmood had promised Pakistan’s complete support to help the US defeat the Taliban (see September 11-16, 2001).
September 17-18 and 28, 2001: Taliban Refuses to Extradite Bin Laden
On September 17, ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed heads a six-man delegation that visits Mullah Omar in Kandahar, Afghanistan. It is reported he is trying to convince Omar to extradite bin Laden or face an immediate US attack. [Press Trust of India, 9/17/2001; Financial Times, 9/18/2001; London Times, 9/18/2001] Also in the delegation is Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz Khan, an ex-ISI official who appears to be one of Saeed Sheikh’s contacts in the ISI. [Press Trust of India, 9/17/2001] On September 28, Mahmood returns to Afghanistan with a group of about ten religious leaders. He talks with Omar, who again says he will not hand over bin Laden. [Agence France-Presse, 9/28/2001] A senior Taliban official later claims that on these trips Mahmood in fact urges Omar not to extradite bin Laden, but instead urges him to resist the US. [Associated Press, 2/21/2002; Time, 5/6/2002] Another account claims Mahmood does “nothing as the visitors [pour] praise on Omar and [fails] to raise the issue” of bin Laden’s extradition. [Knight Ridder, 11/3/2001] Two Pakistani brigadier generals connected to the ISI also accompany Mahmood, and advise al-Qaeda to counter the coming US attack on Afghanistan by resorting to mountain guerrilla war. The advice is not followed. [Asia Times, 9/11/2002] Other ISI officers also stay in Afghanistan to advise the Taliban.
September 19, 2001: Rumored Meeting Between Saudi Fundamentalists and ISI to Help Taliban
According to the private intelligence service Intelligence Online, a secret meeting between fundamentalist supporters in Saudi Arabia and the ISI takes place in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on this day. Crown Prince Abdullah, the de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, and Prince Nawaf bin Abdul Aziz, the new head of Saudi intelligence, meet with Gen. Mohamed Youssef, head of the ISI’s Afghanistan Section, and ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed (just returning from discussions in Afghanistan). They agree “to the principle of trying to neutralize Osama bin Laden in order to spare the Taliban regime and allow it to keep its hold on Afghanistan.” There has been no confirmation that this meeting in fact took place, but if it did, its goals were unsuccessful. [Intelligence Online, 10/4/2001] There may have been a similar meeting before 9/11 in the summer of 2001.
September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002: Identity of 9/11 Financier Constantly Changes
In 2000, the 9/11 hijackers receive money from a man using “Mustafa Ahmed al-Hisawi” and other aliases. On September 8-11, 2001, the hijackers send money to a man in the United Arab Emirates who uses the aliases “Mustafa Ahmed,” “Mustafa Ahmad,” and “Ahamad Mustafa.” Soon the media begins reporting on who this 9/11 “paymaster” is, but his reported names and identities will continually change. The media has sometimes made the obvious connection that the paymaster is Saeed Sheikh—a British financial expert who studied at the London School of Economics, undisputedly sent hijacker Mohamed Atta money the month before the attacks, made frequent trips to Dubai (where the money is sent), and is known to have trained the hijackers. However, the FBI consistently deflects attention to other possible explanations, with a highly confusing series of names vaguely similar to Mustafa Ahmed or Saeed Sheikh:
- September 24, 2001: Newsweek reports that the paymaster for the 9/11 attacks is someone named “Mustafa Ahmed.” [Newsweek, 10/1/2001] This refers to Mustafa Mahmoud Said Ahmed, an Egyptian al-Qaeda banker who was captured in Tanzania in 1998 then later released. [Sydney Morning Herald, 9/28/2001; Newsday, 10/3/2001]
- October 1, 2001: The Guardian reports that the real name of “Mustafa Mohamed Ahmad” is “Sheikh Saeed.” [Guardian, 10/1/2001] A few days later, CNN confirms from a “senior-level US government source” that this “Sheik Syed” is the British man Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh rescued from an Indian prison in 1999. [CNN, 10/6/2001; CNN, 10/8/2001] However, starting on October 8, the story that ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed ordered Saeed to give Mohamed Atta $100,000 begins to break. References to the 9/11 paymaster being the British Saeed Sheikh (and the connections to the ISI Director) suddenly disappear from the Western media (with one exception [CNN, 10/28/2001] ).
- October 2001: Other articles continue to use “Mustafa Mohammed Ahmad” or “Shaykh Saiid” with no details of his identity, except for suggestions that he is Egyptian. There are numerous spelling variations and conflicting accounts over which name is the alias. There is an Egyptian al-Qaeda financier leader named Mustafa Abu al-Yazid who uses some variant of Saeed Sheikh as an alias. [Evening Standard, 10/1/2001; BBC, 10/1/2001; Newsday, 10/3/2001; Associated Press, 10/6/2001; Washington Post, 10/7/2001; Sunday Times (London), 10/7/2001; Knight Ridder, 10/9/2001; New York Times, 10/15/2001; Los Angeles Times, 10/20/2001]
- October 16, 2001: CNN reports that the 9/11 paymaster “Sheik Sayid” is mentioned in a May 2001 trial of al-Qaeda members. However, this turns out to be a Kenyan named Sheik Sayyid el Masry. [Day 7. United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., 2/20/2001; Day 8. United States of America v. Usama bin Laden, et al., 2/21/2001; CNN, 10/16/2001]
- November 11, 2001: The identity of 9/11 paymaster “Mustafa Ahmed” is suddenly no longer Egyptian, but is now a Saudi named Sa’d Al-Sharif, who is said to be bin Laden’s brother-in-law. [United Nations, 3/8/2001; Newsweek, 11/11/2001; Associated Press, 12/18/2001]
- December 11, 2001: The federal indictment of Zacarias Moussaoui calls the 9/11 paymaster “Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi a/k/a ‘Mustafa Ahmed,’” and gives him Sa’d’s nationality and birth date. [MSNBC, 12/11/2001] Many articles begin adding “al-Hawsawi” to the Mustafa Ahmed name. [Washington Post, 12/13/2001; Washington Post, 1/7/2002; Los Angeles Times, 1/20/2002]
- January 23, 2002: As new information is reported in India, the media returns to the British Saeed Sheikh as the 9/11 paymaster. [Los Angeles Times, 1/23/2002; Daily Telegraph, 1/24/2002; Independent, 1/24/2002; Daily Telegraph, 1/27/2002] While his role in the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl is revealed on February 6, many articles connect him to 9/11, but many more do not. Coverage of Saeed’s 9/11 connections generally dies out by the time of his trial in July 2002.
- June 4, 2002: Without explanation, the name “Shaikh Saiid al-Sharif” begins to be used for the 9/11 paymaster, presumably a combination of Saeed Sheikh and S’ad al-Sharif. [Associated Press, 6/5/2002; Independent, 9/15/2002; Associated Press, 9/26/2002; San Francisco Chronicle, 11/15/2002] Many of the old names continue to be used, however. [New York Times, 7/10/2002; Time, 8/4/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002; Knight Ridder, 9/8/2002; Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002; Washington Post, 9/11/2002; Los Angeles Times, 12/24/2002]
- June 18, 2002: FBI Director Mueller testifies that the money sent in 2000 is sent by someone named “Ali Abdul Aziz Ali” but the money in 2001 is sent by “Shaikh Saiid al-Sharif.” The 9/11 Commission will later identify Aziz Ali as Khalid Shaikh Mohammed’s nephew and agree with Mueller that he sent the money in 2000. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 1]
- September 4, 2002: Newsweek says “Mustafa Ahmad Adin al-Husawi,” presumably Saudi, is a deputy to the Egyptian “Sayyid Shaikh Al-Sharif.” However, it adds he “remains almost a total mystery,” and they are unsure of his name. [Newsweek, 9/4/2002]
- December 26, 2002: US officials now say there is no such person as Shaikh Saiid al-Sharif. Instead, he is probably a composite of three different people: “[Mustafa Ahmed] Al-Hisawi, Shaikh Saiid al-Masri, al-Qaeda’s finance chief, and Saad al-Sharif, bin Laden’s brother-in-law and a midlevel al-Qaeda financier.” [Associated Press, 12/27/2002] Shaikh Saiid al-Masri is likely a reference the Kenyan Sheik Sayyid el Masry. Note that, now, al-Hisawi is the assistant to Shaikh Saiid, a flip from a few months before. Saiid and/or al-Hisawi still haven’t been added to the FBI’s official most wanted lists. [London Times, 12/1/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2002; Wall Street Journal, 6/17/2002] Despite the confusion, the FBI isn’t even seeking information about them. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2/14/2002] Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi is said to be arrested with Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan in 2003, but no photos of him are released, and witnesses of the supposed arrest did not see al-Hawsawi or Mohammed there (see March 1, 2003). [Reuters, 3/3/2003] A few weeks later, it will be reported that “the man US intelligence officials suspected of being al-Qaeda’s financial mastermind, Sheik Said al-Masri, remains at large.” [Business Week, 3/17/2003]
September 30-October 7, 2001: US Media Report Hijackers Received $100,000 from Pakistan
Several media outlets report that, in addition to other transactions, the hijackers received $100,000 wired from Pakistan to two accounts of Mohamed Atta in Florida (see also Summer 2001 and before and Early August 2001). [ABC News, 9/30/2001; CNN, 10/1/2001; Fox News, 10/2/2001; Associated Press, 10/2/2001] For example, CNN says, “Suspected hijacker Mohamed Atta received wire transfers via Pakistan and then distributed the cash via money orders bought here in Florida. A senior law enforcement source tells CNN, the man sending the money to Atta is believed to be Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh.” [CNN, 10/6/2001; CNN, 10/7/2001; CNN, 10/8/2001] The story will also be mentioned by Congressman John LaFalce at a hearing before the House of Representatives’ Committee on Financial Services. [US Congress, 10/3/2001] However, Pakistan, a nuclear power, has already become a key US ally in the war on terror (see September 11-16, 2001). ISI Director Mahmood Ahmed, who is found to have had several telephone conversations with Saeed (see Summer 2000), is replaced (see October 7, 2001), and the story soon disappears from view (see September 24, 2001-December 26, 2002).
Early October 2001: ISI Director Prevents Key Taliban Leader from Defecting
Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed is supposedly helping the US defeat the Taliban (see September 11-16, 2001) while secretly helping the Taliban resist the US (see September 17-18 and 28, 2001 and Mid-September-October 7, 2001). Jalaluddin Haqqani is a Taliban leader close to bin Laden who controls the Khost region of eastern Afghanistan where most of bin Laden’s training camps and supporters are. Journalist Kathy Gannon will later note, “Had he wanted to, Haqqani could have handed the United States the entire al-Qaeda network.” [Gannon, 2005, pp. 94] He also has extensive ties with the ISI, and worked with the CIA in the 1980s. Journalist Steve Coll will later say, “There was always a question about whether Haqqani was really Taliban, because he hadn’t come out of Kandahar; he wasn’t part of the core group. And it was quite reasonable to believe after 9/11 that maybe he could be flipped.… [US officials] summoned him to Pakistan, and they had a series of meetings with him, the content of which is unknown.” [PBS Frontline, 10/3/2006] In early October 2001, Haqqani makes a secret trip to Pakistan and meets with Mahmood. Mahmood advises him to hold out and not defect, saying that he will have help. Haqqani stays with the Taliban and will continue to fight against the US long after the Taliban loses power. [Gannon, 2005, pp. 94]
October 7, 2001: ISI Director Replaced at US Urging; Role in Funding 9/11 Plot Is One Explanation
ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed is replaced in the face of US pressure after links are discovered between him, Saeed Sheikh, and the funding of the 9/11 attacks. Mahmood instructed Saeed to transfer $100,000 into hijacker Mohamed Atta’s bank account prior to 9/11. This is according to Indian intelligence, which claims the FBI has privately confirmed the story. [Press Trust of India, 10/8/2001; Times of India, 10/9/2001; India Today, 10/15/2001; Daily Excelsior (Jammu), 10/18/2001] The story is not widely reported in Western countries, though it makes the Wall Street Journal. [Australian, 10/10/2001; Agence France-Presse, 10/10/2001; Wall Street Journal, 10/10/2001] It is reported in Pakistan as well. [Dawn (Karachi), 10/8/2001] The Northern Alliance also repeats the claim in late October. [Federal News Service, 10/31/2001] In Western countries, the usual explanation is that Mahmood is fired for being too close to the Taliban. [London Times, 10/9/2001; Guardian, 10/9/2001] The Times of India reports that Indian intelligence helped the FBI discover the link, and says, “A direct link between the ISI and the WTC attack could have enormous repercussions. The US cannot but suspect whether or not there were other senior Pakistani Army commanders who were in the know of things. Evidence of a larger conspiracy could shake US confidence in Pakistan’s ability to participate in the anti-terrorism coalition.” [Times of India, 10/9/2001] There is evidence some ISI officers may have known of a plan to destroy the WTC as early as July 1999. Two other ISI leaders, Lt. Gen. Mohammed Aziz Khan and Lt. Gen. Muzaffar Usmani, are sidelined on the same day as Mahmood. [Fox News, 10/8/2001] Saeed had been working under Khan. The firings are said to have purged the ISI of its fundamentalists. However, according to one diplomat, “To remove the top two or three doesn’t matter at all. The philosophy remains.… [The ISI is] a parallel government of its own. If you go through the officer list, almost all of the ISI regulars would say, of the Taliban, ‘They are my boys.’” [New Yorker, 10/29/2001] It is believed Mahmood has been living under virtual house arrest in Pakistan (which would seem to imply more than just a difference of opinion over the Taliban), but no charges have been brought against him, and there is no evidence the US has asked to question him. [Asia Times, 1/5/2002] He also has refused to speak to reporters since being fired [Associated Press, 2/21/2002] , and outside India and Pakistan, the story has only been mentioned infrequently in the media since. [Sunday Herald (Glasgow), 2/24/2002; London Times, 4/21/2002] He will reemerge as a businessman in 2003, but still will not speak to the media (see July 2003).
July 2003: Fired ISI Director Resurfaces as Businessman
Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, who lost his position as ISI Director one month after 9/11 (see October 7, 2001), resurfaces in Pakistan as the head of a subsidiary of a prominent business consortium. The New Yorker notes that it is “a position that require[s] government backing.” Ahmed was considered close to the Taliban, and according to some media accounts, ordered money to hijacker Mohamed Atta. He still apparently has not given any media interviews or been interviewed by US intelligence since his firing. [New Yorker, 7/28/2003]
July 31, 2003: FBI Claims 9/11 Money Came from Pakistan
John S. Pistole, deputy assistant director of the FBI’s Counterterrorism Division, testifies before a Congressional committee. He states the 9/11 investigation “has traced the origin of the funding of 9/11 back to financial accounts in Pakistan, where high-ranking and well-known al-Qaeda operatives played a major role in moving the money forward, eventually into the hands of the hijackers located in the US.” [US Congress, 7/31/2003] Pistole does not reveal any further details, but in India it is noted that this is consistent with previous reports that Saeed Sheikh and ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed were behind the funding of 9/11. [Times of India, 8/1/2003; Pioneer, 8/7/2003] However, the FBI will tell the 9/11 Commission that when Pistole used the word “accounts”, he did not mean actual accounts with a bank, merely that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was based in Pakistan, handled the money. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 144 pdf file]
September 18, 2003: Questions of ISI Leader’s Ties to 9/11 Resurface
A Wall Street Journal review of Bernard-Henri Levy’s book “Who Killed Daniel Pearl?” notes, “It is a fact that Gen. Mahmood Ahmed, then head of the ISI, wired $100,000 to Mohamed Atta before 9/11 through an intermediary. (This was reported in the Journal on Oct. 10, 2001.) So what have we done about it?” The article notes that few are willing to look into this issue or take action against Pakistan since Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is considered a close ally and cooperative in the fight against terrorism. [Wall Street Journal, 9/18/2003] Other reviews of the book raise similar points, and even the conservative columnist George Will notes in the Washington Post, “It is not fantasy that there have been many reports that the then-head of Pakistani intelligence was responsible for $100,000 being wired to Mohamed Atta, the lead 9/11 hijacker.” [Washington Post, 10/5/2003]
July 22, 2004: Prominent Figures See Ties Between the ISI, 9/11, and Even the CIA
Michael Meacher, a British member of Parliament, and a cabinet minister in Tony Blair’s government until 2003, writes in the Guardian, “Significantly, [Saeed] Sheikh is… the man who, on the instructions of General Mahmood Ahmed, the then head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), wired $100,000 before the 9/11 attacks to Mohamed Atta, the lead hijacker. It is extraordinary that neither Ahmed nor Sheikh have been charged and brought to trial on this count. Why not?” Daniel Ellsberg, the “Pentagon Papers” whistleblower during the Nixon presidency, states in the same article, “It seems to me quite plausible that Pakistan was quite involved in [9/11]… To say Pakistan is, to me, to say CIA because… it’s hard to say that the ISI knew something that the CIA had no knowledge of.” [Guardian, 7/22/2004]
July 24, 2004: 9/11 Commission Report Fails to Mention Possible ISI Connections to 9/11
Despite previous leaks to the media showing the 9/11 Commission was given information showing Pakistani officials were “up to their eyeballs” in collaboration with the Taliban and al-Qaeda before 9/11 [Los Angeles Times, 6/14/2004] , and even reports of a document given to the commission claiming the “ISI was fully involved in devising and helping the entire [9/11 plot]” [United Press International, 7/22/2004] , the 9/11 Commission’s Final Report released on this day rarely mentions the ISI at all. The only significant mention is a brief comment that the ISI was the Taliban’s “primary patron.” ISI Director Lt. Gen. Mahmood Ahmed is mentioned only twice, both in the context of post-9/11 diplomacy. Saeed Sheikh is not mentioned at all. The report notes that details of the 9/11 plot were widely known by the Taliban leadership, but fails to consider if the Taliban shared that knowledge or involvement with their “primary patron.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004] Indeed, far from criticizing Pakistan, the commission praises the country for its support in the war on terrorism, and suggests that the US should greatly increase its foreign aid there. [Associated Press, 7/22/2004]
September 24, 2004: Porter Goss Sworn in as New CIA Director
Porter Goss becomes the new CIA Director, replacing George Tenet (John McLaughlin served as interim director for a few months after Tenet’s sudden resignation (see June 3, 2004)). Goss was a CIA field agent, then a Republican Representative and co-chair of the 2002 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. [Knight Ridder, 10/25/2004] He took part in secret meetings with Pakistani ISI Director Mahmood Ahmed before 9/11 and on the morning of 9/11 itself (see August 28-30, 2001) (see (8:00 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Despite some press reports that Mahmood directly ordered money to be sent to hijacker Mohamed Atta, there is virtually no mention of Mahmood or Pakistan in the Inquiry report that Goss co-chaired. Such issues appear to be forgotten by the US press, but the Times of India raises them when his nomination is announced. [Times of India, 8/10/2004] During his confirmation hearings he pledged that he will be a nonpartisan CIA director, but he will purge the CIA of all but “true believers” in Bush’s policies shortly after becoming director (see November-December 2004). [Knight Ridder, 10/25/2004]
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