9-11 report on USS Cole
I've typed this accurately as I could. So if I missed a punctuation mark excuse. I've reviewed it twice and the wording is accurate. But I would suggest you read the actual document anyway as it is very interesting.
"6.3 The Attack on the USS COLE
Early in chatper 5 we introduced, along with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, two other men who ebcame operational coordinators for al Qaeda: Khallad and Nashiri. As we explained, both were involved during 1998 and 1999 in preparing to attack aship off the coast of Yemen with a boatload of explosives. They had originally targeted a commerical vessel, specifically an oil tanker, but Bin Laden urged them to look for a US warhsip instead. In January 2000, their team had attempted to attack a warship in the port of Aden, but the attempt failed when the suicide boat sank. More than nine months later, on October 12 2000, al Qaeda operatives in a small boat laden with explosives attacked a US Navy destroyer, the USS Cole. The blast ripped a hole in the side of the Cole, killing 17 members of the ship's crew and wounding at least 40.
The plot, we now know, was a full-fledged al Qaeda operation, supervised directly by Bin Ladin. he chose the target and location of the attack, selected teh suicide operatives, and provded teh money needed to purchase explosives and equipment. Nashiri was the field commander and managed the operation in Yemen. Khallad helped in Yemen until he was arrested in a case of mistaken identity and freed with Bin Ladin's help, as we mentioned earlier. Local al Qaeda corrdinators included Jamal al Badawi and Fahd al Quso, who was supposed to film the attack from a nearby apartment. The two suicide operatives chosen were Hassan al Khamri and Ibrahim al Thawar, also known as Nibras. Nibras and Quso delived money to khallad in Bangkok during Khallad's January trip to Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok.
In September 2000, Bin Ladin reportedly told Nashiri that he wanted to replace Khamri and Nibras. Nashiri was angry and disagreed, telling other he would go to Afghanistan and explain to Bin Ladin that the new operatives were already trained and ready to conduct the attack. Prior to departing, Nashiri gave Nibras and Khamri instructions to execute the attack on the next US warship that entered teh port of Aden.
While Nashiri was in Afghanistan, Nibras and Khamri saw their chance. They piloted the explosives-laden boat alongside the USS Cole, made friendly gestures to crew members, and detonated teh bomb. Quso did not arrive at the apartment in time to film the attack.
Back in Afghanistan, Bin Ladin anticipated US military retaliation. He ordered teh evacuation of al Qaeda's Kandahar airport compound and fled-first to teh desert are near Kabul, then to Khowst and Jalalabad, and eventually back to Kandahar. In Kandahar, he rotated between five to six residences, spending one night at each residence. In addition, he sent his senior advisor, Mohammed Atef, to a different part of Kandahar and his deputy, Ayman al Zawahiri, to Kabul so that all three could not ben killed in one attack.
There was no American strike. In February 2001, a source reported that an individual whom he identified as the big instructor (probably a reference to Bin Ladin) complained frequently that the US had not yet attacked. Accordin to the source, Bin Ladin wanted the US to attack, and if it did not he would laugh something bigger.
The attack on the USS Cole galvanized al Qaeda's recruitment efforts. Following the attack, Bin Ladin instructed teh media committee, then headed by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, to produce a propaganda video that included a reenactment of the attack along with images of the al Qaeda training camps and training methods; it also highlighted Muslim suffering in Palestine, Kashmir, Indonesia, and Chechnya. Al Qaeda's image was very important to Bin Ladin, and the video was widely disseiminated. Portions were aired on Al Jazeera, CNN, and other television outlets. It was also disseminated among many young men in Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and caused many extremists to travel to Afghanistan for training and jihad. Al Qaeda members considered the video an effective tool in their struggle for preeminence among other Islamist and jihadist movements.
Keep it out of the main forum...
Investigating the Attack
Teams from the FBI, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the CIA mwere immediately sent to Yemen to investigate the attack.With difficulty, Barbara Bodine, the U.S. ambassador to Yemen, tried to persuade the Yemeni government to accept these visitors and allow them to carry arms, though the Yemenis balked at letting Americans openly carry long guns (rifles, shotguns, automatic weapons). Meanwhile, Bodine and the leader of the FBI team, John O’Neill, clashed repeatedly—to the point that after O’Neill had been rotated out of Yemen but wanted to return, Bodine refused the request. Despite the initial tension, theYemeni and American investigations proceeded.Within a few weeks, the outline of the story began to emerge.
On the day of the Cole attack, a list of suspects was assembled that included al Qaeda’s affiliate Egyptian Islamic Jihad. U.S. counterterrorism officials told us they immediately assumed that al Qaeda was responsible.But as Deputy DCI John McLaughlin explained to us, it was not enough for the attack to smell, look, and taste like an al Qaeda operation.To make a case, the CIA needed not just a guess but a link to someone known to be an al Qaeda operative.
Within the first weeks after the attack, the Yemenis found and arrested both Badawi and Quso, but did not let the FBI team participate in the interrogations. The CIA described initial Yemeni support after the Cole as “slow and inadequate.” President Clinton, Secretary Albright, and DCI Tenet all intervened to help. Because the information was secondhand, the U.S. team could not make its own assessment of its reliability.
On November 11, the Yemenis provided the FBI with new information from the interrogations of Badawi and Quso, including descriptions of individuals from whom the detainees had received operational direction. One of them was Khallad, who was described as having lost his leg. The detainees said that Khallad helped direct the Cole operation from Afghanistan or Pakistan.The Yemenis (correctly) judged that the man described as Khallad was Tawfiq bin Attash.
An FBI special agent recognized the name Khallad and connected this news with information from an important al Qaeda source who had been meeting regularly with CIA and FBI officers.The source had called Khallad Bin Ladin’s “run boy,” and described him as having lost one leg in an explosives accident at a training camp a few years earlier.To confirm the identification, the FBI agent asked the Yemenis for their photo of Khallad.The Yemenis provided the photo on November 22, reaffirming their view that Khallad had been an intermediary between the plotters and Bin Ladin. (In a meeting with U.S. officials a few weeks later, on December 16, the source identified Khallad from the Yemeni photograph.)
U.S. intelligence agencies had already connected Khallad to al Qaeda terrorist operations, including the 1998 embassy bombings. By this time the Yemenis also had identified Nashiri, whose links to al Qaeda and the 1998 embassy bombings were even more well-known.133 In other words, the Yemenis provided strong evidence connecting the Cole attack to al Qaeda during the second half of November, identifying individual operatives whom the United States knew were part of al Qaeda. During December the United States was able to corroborate this evidence. But the United States did not have evidence about Bin Ladin’s personal involvement in the attacks until Nashiri and Khallad were captured in 2002 and 2003.
Considering a Response
The Cole attack prompted renewed consideration of what could be done about al Qaeda. According to Clarke,Berger upbraided DCITenet so sharply after the Cole attack—repeatedly demanding to know why the United States had to put up with such attacks—that Tenet walked out of a meeting of the principals.
The CIA got some additional covert action authorities, adding several other individuals to the coverage of the July 1999 Memorandum of Notification that allowed the United States to develop capture operations against al Qaeda leaders in a variety of places and circumstances. Tenet developed additional options, such as strengthening relationships with the Northern Alliance and the Uzbeks and slowing recent al Qaeda–related activities in Lebanon.
On the diplomatic track, Berger agreed on October 30, 2000, to let the State Department make another approach to Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister Abdul Jalil about expelling Bin Ladin.The national security advisor ordered that the U.S.message “be stern and foreboding.” This warning was similar to those issued in 1998 and 1999. Meanwhile, the administration was working with Russia on new UN sanctions against Mullah Omar’s regime.
President Clinton told us that before he could launch further attacks on al Qaeda in Afghanistan, or deliver an ultimatum to the Taliban threatening strikes if they did not immediately expel Bin Ladin, the CIA or the FBI had to be sure enough that they would “be willing to stand up in public and say, we believe that he [Bin Ladin] did this.” He said he was very frustrated that he could not get a definitive enough answer to do something about the Cole attack. Similarly, Berger recalled that to go to war, a president needs to be able to say that his senior intelligence and law enforcement officers have concluded who is responsible. He recalled that the intelligence agencies had strong suspicions,but had reached “no conclusion by the time we left office that it was al Qaeda.”
Our only sources for what intelligence officials thought at the time are what they said in informal briefings. Soon after the Cole attack and for the remainder of the Clinton administration, analysts stopped distributing written reports about who was responsible.The topic was obviously sensitive, and both Ambassador Bodine in Yemen and CIA analysts in Washington presumed that the government did not want reports circulating around the agencies that might become public, impeding law enforcement actions or backing the President into a corner.
Instead the White House and other principals relied on informal updates as more evidence came in. Though Clarke worried that the CIA might be equivocating in assigning responsibility to al Qaeda, he wrote Berger on November 7 that the analysts had described their case by saying that “it has web feet, flies, and quacks.” On November 10, CIA analysts briefed the Small Group of principals on their preliminary findings that the attack was carried out by a cell of Yemeni residents with some ties to the transnational mujahideen network. According to the briefing, these residents likely had some support from al Qaeda. But the information on outside sponsorship, support, and direction of the operation was inconclusive. The next day, Berger and Clarke told President Clinton that while the investigation was continuing, it was becoming increasingly
clear that al Qaeda had planned and directed the bombing.
In mid-November, as the evidence of al Qaeda involvement mounted, Berger asked General Shelton to reevaluate military plans to act quickly against Bin Ladin. General Shelton tasked General Tommy Franks, the new commander of CENTCOM, to look again at the options. Shelton wanted to demonstrate that the military was imaginative and knowledgeable enough to move on an array of options, and to show the complexity of the operations. He briefed Berger on the “Infinite Resolve” strike options developed since 1998, which the Joint Staff and CENTCOM had refined during the summer into a list of 13 possibilities or combinations. CENTCOM added a new “phased campaign” concept for wider-ranging strikes, including attacks against the Taliban. For the first time, these strikes envisioned an air campaign against Afghanistan of indefinite duration. Military planners did not include contingency planning for an invasion of Afghanistan. The concept was briefed to Deputy National Security Advisor Donald Kerrick on December 20, and to other officials.
On November 25, Berger and Clarke wrote President Clinton that although the FBI and CIA investigations had not reached a formal conclusion, they believed the investigations would soon conclude that the attack had been carried out by a large cell whose senior members belonged to al Qaeda. Most of those involved had trained in Bin Ladin–operated camps in Afghanistan, Berger continued. So far, Bin Ladin had not been tied personally to the attack and nobody had heard him directly order it, but two intelligence reports suggested that he was involved. When discussing possible responses, though, Berger referred to the premise—al Qaeda responsibility—as an “unproven assumption.”
In the same November 25 memo, Berger informed President Clinton about a closely held idea: a last-chance ultimatum for the Taliban. Clarke was developing the idea with specific demands: immediate extradition of Bin Ladin and his lieutenants to a legitimate government for trial, observable closure of all terrorist facilities in Afghanistan, and expulsion of all terrorists from Afghanistan within 90 days. Noncompliance would mean U.S. “force directed at the Taliban itself ” and U.S. efforts to ensure that the Taliban would never defeat the Northern Alliance. No such ultimatum was issued.
Nearly a month later, on December 21, the CIA made another presentation to the Small Group of principals on the investigative team’s findings. The CIA’s briefing slides said that their “preliminary judgment” was that Bin Ladin’s al Qaeda group “supported the attack” on the Cole, based on strong circumstantial evidence tying key perpetrators of the attack to al Qaeda. The CIA listed the key suspects, including Nashiri. In addition, the CIA detailed the timeline of the operation, from the mid-1999 preparations, to the failed attack on the USS The Sullivans on January 3, 2000, through a meeting held by the operatives the day before the attack.
The slides said that so far the CIA had “no definitive answer on [the] crucial question of outside direction of the attack—how and by whom.” The CIA noted that the Yemenis claimed that Khallad helped direct the operation from Afghanistan or Pakistan, possibly as Bin Ladin’s intermediary, but that it had not seen the Yemeni evidence. However, the CIA knew from both human sources and signals intelligence that Khallad was tied to al Qaeda. The prepared briefing concluded that while some reporting about al Qaeda’s role might have merit, those reports offered few specifics. Intelligence gave some ambiguous indicators of al Qaeda direction of the attack.
This, President Clinton and Berger told us, was not the conclusion they needed in order to go to war or deliver an ultimatum to the Taliban threatening war. The election and change of power was not the issue, President Clinton added. There was enough time. If the agencies had given him a definitive answer, he said, he would have sought a UN Security Council ultimatum and given the Taliban one, two, or three days before taking further action against both al Qaeda and the Taliban. But he did not think it would be responsible for a president to launch an invasion of another country just based on a “preliminary judgment.”
Other advisers have echoed this concern. Some of Secretary Albright’s advisers warned her at the time to be sure the evidence conclusively linked Bin Ladin to the Cole before considering any response, especially a military one, because such action might inflame the Islamic world and increase support for the Taliban. Defense Secretary Cohen told us it would not have been prudent to risk killing civilians based only on an assumption that al Qaeda was responsible. General Shelton added that there was an outstanding question as to who was responsible and what the targets were.
Clarke recalled that while the Pentagon and the State Department had reservations about retaliation, the issue never came to a head because the FBI and the CIA never reached a firm conclusion. He thought they were “holding back.” He said he did not know why, but his impression was that Tenet and Reno possibly thought the White House “didn’t really want to know,” since the principals’ discussions by November suggested that there was not much White House interest in conducting further military operations against Afghanistan in the administration’s last weeks. He thought that, instead, President Clinton, Berger, and Secretary Albright were concentrating on a last minute push for a peace agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis.
Some of Clarke’s fellow counterterrorism officials, such as the State Department’s Sheehan and the FBI’s Watson, shared his disappointment that no military response occurred at the time. Clarke recently recalled that an angry Sheehan asked rhetorically of Defense officials: “Does al Qaeda have to attack the Pentagon to get their attention?”
On the question of evidence, Tenet told us he was surprised to hear that the White House was awaiting a conclusion from him on responsibility for the Cole attack before taking action against al Qaeda. He did not recall Berger or anyone else telling him that they were waiting for the magic words from the CIA and the FBI. Nor did he remember having any discussions with Berger or the President about retaliation. Tenet told us he believed that it was up to him to present the case. Then it was up to the principals to decide if the case was good enough to justify using force. He believed he laid out what was knowable relatively early in the investigation, and that this evidence never really changed until after 9/11.
A CIA official told us that the CIA’s analysts chose the term “preliminary judgment” because of their notion of how an intelligence standard of proof differed from a legal standard. Because the attack was the subject of a criminal investigation, they told us, the term preliminary was used to avoid locking the government in with statements that might later be obtained by defense lawyers in a future court case. At the time, Clarke was aware of the problem of distinguishing between an intelligence case and a law enforcement case. Asking U.S. law enforcement officials to concur with an intelligence-based case before their investigation had been concluded “could give rise to charges that the administration had acted before final culpability had been determined.”
There was no interagency consideration of just what military action might have looked like in practice—either the Pentagon’s new “phased campaign” concept or a prolonged air campaign in Afghanistan. Defense officials, such as Under Secretary Walter Slocombe and Vice Admiral Fry, told us the military response options were still limited. Bin Ladin continued to be elusive.They felt, just as they had for the past two years, that hitting inexpensive and rudimentary training camps with costly missiles would not do much good and might even help al Qaeda if the strikes failed to kill Bin Ladin.
In late 2000, the CIA and the NSC staff began thinking about the counterterrorism policy agenda they would present to the new administration. The Counterterrorist Center put down its best ideas for the future, assuming it was free of any prior policy or financial constraints.The paper was therefore informally referred to as the “Blue Sky” memo; it was sent to Clarke on December
29.The memo proposed
• A major effort to support the Northern Alliance through intelligence sharing and increased funding so that it could stave off the Taliban army and tie down al Qaeda fighters. This effort was not intended to remove the Taliban from power, a goal that was judged impractical and
too expensive for the CIA alone to attain.
• Increased support to the Uzbeks to strengthen their ability to fight terrorism and assist the United States in doing so.
• Assistance to anti-Taliban groups and proxies who might be encouraged to passively resist the Taliban.
The CIA memo noted that there was “no single ‘silver bullet’ available to deal with the growing problems in Afghanistan.” A multifaceted strategy would be needed to produce change.
No action was taken on these ideas in the few remaining weeks of the Clinton administration. Berger did not recall seeing or being briefed on the Blue Sky memo. Nor was the memo discussed during the transition with incoming top Bush administration officials. Tenet and his deputy told us they pressed these ideas as options after the new team took office.
As the Clinton administration drew to a close, Clarke and his staff developed a policy paper of their own, the first such comprehensive effort since the Delenda plan of 1998.The resulting paper, entitled “Strategy for Eliminating the Threat from the Jihadist Networks of al Qida: Status and Prospects,” reviewed the threat and the record to date, incorporated the CIA’s new ideas from the Blue Sky memo, and posed several near-term policy options. Clarke and his staff proposed a goal to “roll back” al Qaeda over a period of three to five years. Over time, the policy should try to weaken and eliminate the network’s infrastructure in order to reduce it to a “rump group” like other formerly feared but now largely defunct terrorist organizations of the 1980s. “Continued anti-al Qida operations at the current level will prevent some attacks,” Clarke’s office wrote, “but will not seriously attrit their ability to plan and conduct attacks.” The paper backed covert aid to the Northern Alliance, covert aid to Uzbekistan, and renewed Predator flights in March 2001. A sentence called for military action to destroy al Qaeda command-and control targets and infrastructure and Taliban military and command assets. The paper also expressed concern about the presence of al Qaeda operatives in the United States.
I’m still reading this, its some 300 pages in length, but I would advise you all to read it.
I don't need to read 500 pages to get the cluster bombs ready.
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