The Hull Thread
Chronology of Events From January 1999 - March 1999
January 4, 1999 New York Post
Saddam Hussein is joining forces with Islamic fundamentalist Osama bin Laden to launch a joint terror counterstrike against the United States and Britain, a new report says. Feeling the sting of a U.S. bombing campaign, Saddam has reached out to the millionaire mastermind of the two U.S. embassy bombings in Africa - hoping to tap into bin Laden's network of terrorists, Newsweek says in this week's edition. An Arab intelligence expert, reported to know Saddam personally, told the magazine that "very soon, you will be witnessing large-scale terrorist activity by the Iraqis." ..... An alliance would match Saddam's weapons - including easy-to-hide biological agents - and bin Laden's force of terror zealots. .... In an interview with Newsweek at his desert camp in Afghanistan, bin Laden confirmed that civilian Americans are as much a target as the military or government agencies. "Muslim scholars have issued [a religious order] against any American who pays taxes to his government," said bin Laden. "He is our target, because he is helping the American war machine against the Muslim nation." Bin Laden has been waging a public-relations war, granting interviews to both Newsweek and Time magazines. Clutching an AK-47 automatic rifle at his side, bin Laden conceded to Time that he "instigated" the attack on the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. But he falls short of taking the blame. "Our job is to instigate and, by the grace of God, we did that," said bin Laden. "I did not order [the attacks], but was very glad for what happened to the American spies in East Africa," the Saudi exile told Newsweek.
January 5, 1999 The Electronic Telegraph Issue
Evidence was mounting yesterday that the three British tourists killed in Yemen last week were the first casualties of Operation Desert Fox. As fear grew of more revenge attacks, it emerged that the "jihadists", holy warriors who seized the 16 Westerners, had apparently done so after failing to blow up the British consul in the port of Aden in southern Yemen. That plan was thought to have been a direct reprisal for the air strikes - making the three Britons the unwitting casualties of Tony Blair's inseparable alliance with Bill Clinton. Last night, British diplomats were trying to establish details about links between the Westerners' kidnappers and about five Islamic fundamentalists caught in Aden on Dec 23. They were carrying bombs and automatic weapons. The diplomats will want to focus in particular on suggestions by the Yemeni authorities that some of the bombers were travelling on British passports. All five bombers allegedly admitted they were under the command of Abu Hassan, the leader of the kidnapping team. ..... At the forefront of demands for revenge against Britain and America is the exiled Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden, who reportedly trained the Yemeni kidnappers. He called on Islamic fighters to drive both powers from the Middle East, claiming that the air strikes were undertaken at the behest of Israel.
January 6, 1999 Reuters
Relatives of people who died in one of Ireland's worst air crashes demanded an official explanation on Wednesday of why the jet plummeted into the sea with 61 people in 1968. .... "We have a legal team now and they're getting ready to take action. We want disclosure of all files, all information and all data,'' the pilot's son, David O'Beirne, told Reuters in an interview. .... Relatives say they suspect a cover-up due to a British military accident and are working on a legal case to make Aer Lingus AERL.CN, the Irish flag-carrier which owned the plane, and the Irish government release all the documents about the crash. Some relatives have suggested that the aircraft might have been shot down by a stray test missile from a British military range in Wales or have been knocked down by a pilotless aircraft used as a target. ...."This crash was huge. It was the largest thing the government ever had to deal with,'' O'Beirne, the chairman of a relatives committee, said by telephone. ... O'Beirne was 20 months old on March 24, 1968, the day his father Barney piloted the jet from the southern city of Cork. The plane plummeted 17,000 feet into the water 25 minutes after its departure in clear weather. Of four crew and 57 passengers, comprising Irish, British, Belgian, Swiss and Americans, only 14 bodies were recovered. O'Beirne, a cameraman, said his committee had traced relatives representing 48 of the victims and was determined to piece together what happened. "We're putting a very strong case together. We're not going to take no for an answer,'' he added.
January 8, 1999 The Electronic Telegraph Issue 1323
The fallout from the hostage crisis in Yemen took a dramatic turn yesterday when it was claimed that the kidnappers were trying to secure the release of British nationals arrested for their alleged involvement in a plot to bomb British targets in Aden. The terrorist suspects are alleged by the Yemeni authorities to have been recruited in Britain before travelling to Yemen for training by the militant Al Jihad group. The men were said to have been recruited by Al Jihad's leader, Abu Hassan, to attack the British consulate, the Christchurch Anglican church and two hotels used by westerners in retaliation for air strikes on Iraq. Yemeni authorities claim they raided the suspects' rooms at the two hotels on Dec 23, five days before the kidnappers struck. A Frenchman was also arrested and explosives and automatic weapons allegedly seized. The Yemeni authorities claim to have acquired enough information after the arrests to begin looking for Abu Hassan. ... On Dec 28, Abu Hassan and other members of Al Jihad took 16 western tourists hostage near Mudiyah. The kidnappers demanded the release of the alleged plotters arrested on Dec 23. In a rescue attempt 24 hours later, three Britons and an Australian were killed. Three terrorists were killed and three, including Abu Hassan, captured. .... In a separate development, the families of five British nationals who went to Yemen said yesterday that they were under arrest. They named them as Mohsin Ghalain, 18, Shahid Butt, 33, Malik Nassar Harhra, 26, Samad Ahmeed, 21 and Ghulam Hussein, 25, but did not specify why they had been held. Three are from Birmingham, one from Luton and the fifth has addresses in Birmingham and London.
January 9, 1999 The Electronic Telegraph Issue
Five British men allegedly involved in a terrorist bombing campaign in Yemen were also connected with the Muslim fundamentalist behind the kidnapping of tourists, the Yemeni interior minister claimed yesterday. .... It was the first official word from the Yemeni authorities about the alleged terrorists. Relatives in Britain denied they were terrorists and said the men did not know each other before going to Yemen on holiday to learn Arabic. .... Mr Arab claimed the five men arrested were connected with Abu Hassan, the 28-year-old fundamentalist who led the kidnap operation of 16 Western tourists on Dec 28. Three Britons and an Australian died when Yemeni troops mounted a rescue operation. Earlier, a Yemeni security source in Aden claimed the kidnap operation had been organised to secure the release of the five Britons ..... Relatives said the men were not travelling as a group and, while some were friends, not all of them knew each other. They repeated their claims that the men were in Yemen on holiday. The 24-year-old wife of Mr Hussain, Monica Davis, said: "My husband is a quiet family man who is not even active in the community, let alone in politics. "We have saved up for two years to go on a family holiday during Ramadan and he had gone out before me. When he telephoned I was to join him. We chose Yemen because it has a nice seaside."
January 13, 1999 Global Intelligence Update
Seven Afghan nationals, reportedly arrested and detained in Malaysia on January 7 as they attempted to board a London-bound flight using forged Italian passports, may have been connected with Saudi terrorist financier Osama Bin Laden. This incident and increasing Bin Laden linked guerrilla activity in the Philippines suggest the potential for terrorist acts following the end of Ramadan on January 19. China's Xinhua news agency reported on January 7 that Malaysia immigration authorities had detained seven Afghan nationals at the Bayan Lepas International Airport, when the group attempted to board a Singapore Airlines flight for London. Malaysian authorities stated that the reason behind the arrest was that the Italian passports that the Afghanis were carrying were believed to be forged, obtained most likely through the help of an Italian national who was also arrested. Penang Immigration Director, Md Saad Md Akhir, said that the seven Afghanis had been under investigation since they entered Malaysia on December 7 last year, via the Kuala Lumpur International Airport in Sepang, using Afghan passports. They are believed to have acquired forged Italian passports from the Italian national after entering Malaysia, and to have tested them by entering Singapore on December 8 and returning to Malaysia on December 15. .....Saudi terrorist financier Osama Bin Laden, currently based in Afghanistan, evidently maintains contacts and possibly banking operations in Malaysia. Furthermore, he has apparently recently used Malaysia as a transshipment point for arms, money and personnel to the Philippine Muslim extremist groups Abu Sayyaf and the Salafiyah Fighters. It is possible that these Afghan nationals were some of Bin Laden's "Afghan Arabs," traveling under Afghan passports, using Bin Laden's contacts in Malaysia to prepare for a mission in the United Kingdom. The London destination is particularly noteworthy. While London hosts an array of Middle Eastern opposition groups, possible targets for a Taleban-sponsored operation, it has also been Washington's staunchest ally on Mid East policy. This showed itself most clearly in the joint U.S.-UK air strikes against Iraq, Operation Desert Fox. ..... (G)roups backed by Bin Laden have been on the move, and U.S. planners have clearly been bracing for trouble. .... While the arrest of these Afghanis in Malaysia may have interrupted a plot to attack U.S. and British interests in London, Bin Laden's group and allies are clearly on the move again, with multiple target options. On January 2, Bin Laden said that attempts by Washington to disrupt his finances, arrest him or execute him have failed even though there have been reports of attempts on his life, that he is broke, and reports leaked by the Pentagon that he may be ill. Evidence suggests he may not be merely talking tough. In late December, a group of 16 tourists, including U.S. and British citizens, was kidnapped as they traveled in convoy through the southern Yemeni southern province of Abyan, by a group calling itself Islamic Jihad. Three Britons and one Australian died during the subsequent gun battle, when the Yemeni army tried to rescue the tourists. The rescuers reportedly fired indiscriminately as the kidnappers, armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons and equipped with a laptop computer and satellite telephone, used the hostages as human shields. Official Yemeni reports claim that the kidnappers were part of a group calling itself Islamic Jihad and were already shooting hostages when the order was given to start the rescue. The report also stated that the group has links to other extremist groups outside Yemen, though they did not specify what groups. An FBI report filed on January 2 stated that the FBI had substantial evidence linking this group to Bin Laden and that they were, in fact, trained at camps run by Bin Laden. "He has been deeply involved in the funding and training of Islamic extremists in the Yemen for several years," a U.S. intelligence officer was quoted as telling the British newspaper The Sunday Telegraph. "Despite being a Saudi, he is one of the most powerful men in the Yemen. We are convinced these men were trained by him."..... Deutsche Presse Agentur (DPA) reported on January 12 that the Philippine Moslem rebel groups, Abu Sayyaf and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), are expecting a multi-million dollar shipment of arms and ammunition from Middle Eastern Islamic fundamentalist groups. The German news agency cited an anonymous rebel source as claiming that most of the funding for the arms comes from Afghanistan, where Saudi terrorist financier Osama Bin Laden is currently based. On January 10, MILF Vice Chairman for Military Affairs, Al Haj Murad, reportedly told Businessworld Philippines that MILF was receiving help from "civic organizations" in Moslem countries. On January 8, DPA cited MILF Chairman for Western Mindanao, Ustadz Shariff Julabbi, as acknowledging that the MILF receives funding from sympathizers in Australia, Germany, and unnamed Arab countries. "They are extending support because they know the cause of our struggle," said Julabbi, adding that, "A revolutionary group like ours needs help from foreigners." That help comes not only in arms but in expertise as well. DPA cited MILF sources as claiming that at least 300 Indonesians and 70 Pakistanis were training guerrillas at camps in Mindanao...... On January 11, the Philippine military was placed on red alert, following reports that Abu Sayyaf and the MILF would launch major coordinated attacks after Ramadan, which ends January 19. Philippine military intelligence announced that it had uncovered a terrorist plot by Abu Sayyaf to attack urban areas, in a new phase of a campaign begun last year with a series of attacks on buses in Mindanao. Military patrols, already stepped up following a recent series of grenade attacks attributed to Abu Sayyaf, have been further increased, not only in the predominantly Moslem southern Philippines, but also in Moslem enclaves in and around Manila. Rebels have reportedly been spotted in the Islamic Center in Quiapo.....In Yemen, the Philippines, and now possibly Malaysia, Bin Laden is becoming increasingly active once again. That he may have been targeting London suggests that he is preparing for another high-profile operation. If, after further investigation, the Afghanis detained in Malaysia prove to be members of Bin Laden's organization, businesses operating in Malaysia and other localities known to be within Bin Laden's network should increase their security measures. U.S. and UK citizens and businesses in particular should take precautions throughout Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
January 16, 1999 Electronic Telegraph Issue
Four Britons arrested in Yemen were charged yesterday with being members of an "armed gang" intent on committing murders in the southern port of Aden. Charges were also expected to be laid against a fifth. The move came as the Yemenis voiced their concern over alleged links between British-based Muslim fundamentalists and the Islamic terrorists who kidnapped 16 Western tourists last month. Last night a transcript of an Arab television interview given by a London-based Muslim cleric was passed by the Foreign Office to the police. The men, British passport holders, were arrested in Aden on Dec 24 and have been accused of planning to attack Western targets, including the British consulate and an Anglican church. It is claimed that the kidnap that took place five days later, and ended in a shoot-out in which four tourists were killed, was staged to secure their release. ...... The alleged British connection to Islamic terrorism was described as "profoundly worrying" by Abdel Karim al-Iriyani, the Yemeni prime minister, in a telephone call to Robin Cook, Foreign Secretary. He referred to "dangerous statements" made in a television interview given by Abu Hamza, who leads the Supporters of Sharia organisation based at Finsbury Park mosque in north London. Mr Hamza, an Egyptian refugee who lost both his hands fighting with the mujahideen in Afghanistan, told the Qatari satellite television station Al-Jazirah that there would be serious repercussions if the leader of the kidnappers, Abu Hassan, was executed. "I expect that matters will get worse if Abu Hassan is killed. Then there may be killings without kidnappings," he said. ..... Abu Hassan is the self-confessed leader of an Islamic fundamentalist group that kidnapped the Western tourists in Yemen last month. Three Britons and an Australian were killed when the terrorist hideout was stormed by Yemeni forces. Hassan went on trial earlier this week, admitting his role in the kidnapping and calling for a "jihad" - or holy war - against the West. He faces the death penalty if convicted. Hassan and Hamza have known each other since their days in Afghanistan and the London-based imam was contacted by the terrorist leader shortly after the tourists were abducted.
January 17, 1999 The Electronic Telegraph Issue
Two Birmingham mosques, including the centre in which two of the five British Muslims arrested in Yemen worshipped, have been revealed as recruiting grounds for militant Islamic groups. The disclosures will heighten fears that Muslim extremists are being given too much freedom in Britain to target and train young men for terrorism. James Clappison, a shadow Home Office minister, is to write to Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, to urge a crackdown on terrorists. "Any suggestion that this country is being used as a base for terrorist acts should be investigated thoroughly," he said yesterday. Dr Mohammad Naseem, the moderate chairman of the Birmingham Central Mosque's ruling committee, revealed yesterday that, in the wake of the Bosnian conflict, he had interrupted a meeting of young men who had admitted planning to train an Islamic militia group. "This man told me that he was preparing a military unit, an Islamic guard. They were going to arm themselves and train in the countryside," said Dr Naseem. The mosque is where Shahid Butt, 33, and his friend Samad Ahmed, 21, worshipped. They are two of the four men who were charged on Friday by the Yemeni authorities with being members of an "armed gang" plotting murder in the southern port of Aden. A fifth British Muslim is charged with associating with the gang. All deny the charges. Birmingham Central Mosque has tried to halt the work of extremists who have targeted their communal areas; a sign warns: "Any unauthorised collections within the mosque and grounds is strictly forbidden". Last week a young Muslim told The Telegraph how an extremist group that believes in the violent overthrow of the West had lured him at another mosque in south Birmingham. Nadeem, 28, who would not give his surname, said he was drawn into the group, encouraged to pray with them and believed that he could be an Islamic freedom fighter. On an "educational weekend" in Wales, he said he was shown how to use an automatic gun and afterwards decided to leave the group. .... Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad is this week expected to expand its investigation into alleged international terrorists living in Britain. According to the Yemeni authorities, some of the five arrested Britons have claimed that they were ordered on a bombing mission by Sheikh Abu Hamza, leader of the Supporters of Shariah, the north London Islamic extremist group.
January 21, 1999 Global Intelligence Update :
New Delhi police announced on January 20, 1999 that they had arrested Sayed Abu Nasir, a Bangladeshi citizen reportedly linked to Osama Bin Laden. According to a police spokesman, Nasir was part of a seven-man team that planned to attack the U.S. embassy in New Delhi, as well as consulates in Calcutta and Madras. The other members of Nasir's team, believed to be from Myanmar, Egypt, and Sudan, have yet to be apprehended. However, New Delhi police did reveal that three other individuals linked to Nasir were arrested recently in the eastern Indian town of Siliguri. Officials did not provide any other specifics on those arrests, other than to link them to Nasir. The presence of Bin Laden's network in India is not a new development; we first reported the possibility of an attack against U.S. facilities in India last October (http://www.stratfor.com/services/giu/101398.asp). The report of Nasir's arrest comes on the heels of a reported violation of Pakistani airspace by U.S. aircraft. On January 18 the Pakistani newspaper "Jang" published an account of U.S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft flying over Pakistani territory. According to Jang, the aircraft were detected over Pakistan on January 14 and 15 by Pakistani civil aviation authorities. The newspaper noted that the airspace violations, which previously occurred in conjunction with the U.S. attack on sites in Afghanistan, are now commonplace and pose a threat to the safety of Pakistani civil aviation....... The arrests in India follow reports of increased Bin Laden activity in the Philippines and Malaysia, including the support of fundamentalist Moslem terrorist and separatist groups and the possible attempt to dispatch terrorists to the United Kingdom. .... While the main function of the P-3 Orion is as a land-based maritime patrol and Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft, its EP-3 variant is an Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) aircraft, and is used to collect various electronic signals emitted by devices such as radar. However, the EP-3 can be configured to intercept voice communications, including perhaps those originating from Bin Laden's network. This would allow the U.S. to develop intelligence on Bin Laden's network in general and possibly his location. ...... With the end of Ramadan, Bin Laden has renewed his call for a holy war against Americans, giving U.S. officials ample reason to believe he may be ready to strike again. The arrest of Nasir in India only adds weight to this belief. With moves underway by both sides, the conflict between Bin Laden and the U.S. may be nearing "end game."
January 22, 1999 The New York Times
President Clinton said Thursday that it is "highly likely" that a terrorist group will launch or threaten a germ or chemical attack on American soil within the next few years. .... "I just want the American people to know what they need to know and have a realistic view of this," the President said in the 45-minute interview, "not to be afraid, or asleep. I think that's the trick." Without providing specifics, Clinton warned that any attack with germ or chemical weapons would prompt "at least a proportionate if not a disproportionate response." ..... Clinton said he is weighing a proposal from the Defense Department to establish a commander in chief for the defense of the continental United States ..... Such a program would go far beyond the civil defense measures and bomb shelters that marked the cold war, setting up instead a military leadership to help fight chaos and disarray if an attack occurred. ..... Clinton described how he had come to see germ, chemical and computer attacks as the greatest emerging threat to national security, and the White House said Thursday that he would propose $2.8 billion in his next budget to fight such terrorism. On Friday Clinton plans to announce the Administration's program to combat exotic forms of terrorism that he said would dominate national defense in the next century. The steps include developing new vaccines, stockpiling antibiotics, setting up emergency medical teams in major cities and a corps of computer experts who could respond quickly to electronic attacks. Clinton said that of all the new threats, the one that "keeps me awake at night" is the possibility of germ attack. "A chemical attack would be horrible, but it would be finite," he said, adding that it would not spread. But a biological attack could spread, he added, "kind of like the gift that keeps on giving." During Clinton's Presidency, terrorism has emerged as one of the nation's thorniest security challenges, its dangers more diffuse than those of the cold war yet more immediate. Clinton said he had began worrying about biological terrorism and other unconventional threats six years ago, in February 1993, after Islamic radicals exploded a bomb under the World Trade Center in New York. The bombing killed six people and injured more than a thousand. He said his concerns about the danger of germ or chemical attack were deepened by reports that Iraq had retained some chemical weapons and by the activities of a Japanese cult, Aum Shinrikyo, which attacked the Tokyo subway system in 1995 with a nerve agent, killing 12 and injuring 5,000. ..... He noted that Osama bin Laden, a Saudi fugitive who is accused of masterminding the United States Embassy bombings in Africa in August, has "made an effort to get chemical weapons" and "may have" tried to get germ weapons. "We don't know that they have them," Clinton said. Clinton said "a lot of what we've done already," some of it secret, "has delayed" foreign efforts to develop and deploy chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. .... Clinton's personal interest in the threat, aides agree, has become a powerful force behind secret meetings, actions and directives meant to bolster antiterrorism work and to counter what aides describe as a growing danger to civilians.
February 8, 1999 Insight Magazine Vol. 15, No.
Insight has learned the Boeing Co., in an attempt to limit its liability, may defend itself in civil litigation with the theory that the airliner was downed by a U.S. missile.. .. . According to confidential sources, Boeing is considering whether to spring a stunning legal tactic in its defense -- one that greatly is upsetting some of the families mourning the loss of loved ones. Based on interviews and secret corporate documents, Insight has discovered that if the civil case goes to trial the legal team representing the giant airplane manufacturer may invoke a missile theory to try to absolve Boeing of liability.. . . . Moreover, it has been learned, Boeing's legal team already has raised the missile claim as a tool to chip away at the resolve and ultimate financial demands of the victims' families, hoping to reduce settlements by half. . "At this point, Boeing is seeking a 50 percent discount on each case because of its belief that a jury will conclude a missile downed Flight 800," declares one of the secret legal memos obtained by Insight. As a well-placed source explains: "Boeing attorneys will try to plant reasonable doubt and make a jury believe that a missile downed TWA 800." But according to sources and attorneys for the families, the missile theory makes legal sense as a device to hold down the settlement. "I think they [Boeing] would try and put up a missile defense because anything else would make them liable," says Douglas Latto, an aviation attorney with Baumeister & Samuels, one of the five law firms handling the claims of the victims' families. Although he says he is unaware of Boeing lawyers even considering a missile defense, he could not rule it out as a possible legal tactic and, perhaps, one already subtly raised in motions on file with the New York court.
Meanwhile, the investigation is riddled with evidentiary holes -- enough, in fact, that the Senate Judiciary Committee is planning hearings this year to look into some of the problems that surrounded the $20 million federal investigation. Among the more troubling issues that have fueled a large number of conspiracy theories and may add credence to Boeing's possible defense are the inconsistencies in the Navy's accounts of the location of their vessels in the area at the time of the disaster, and whether exercises were taking place off the coast of Long Island on the evening of the crash. Very early in the investigation it was learned that live-fire exercises were scheduled for the week of July 15-21 in the Narragansett Bay Operating Area, or NBOA, 80 to 100 miles north of the crash site. Despite a Local Notice to Mariners that was issued by the U.S. Coast Guard cautioning about these exercises, Navy officials subsequently claimed that no tests were conducted on those dates in that area. The Navy Department had in December 1996 explained the purpose of a nearby Orion aircraft's mission as follows: "The P-3 dropped sonobuoys during the training portion of the flight; sonobuoys gravity dropped; all sonobuoys accounted for." In February 1997, the Department of Defense general counsel said "the closest U.S. Navy vessel at the time of the crash was the USS Normandy .. 185 nautical miles from the crash site," and that the "VP-26 P-3C (P-3 Orion aircraft) was flying on a routine training flight approximately 55 miles southeast of the site." Nearly six months after the general counsel's office explained that the USS Normandy was the "closest" vessel to the crash site, the story changed. In June 1997, the general counsel's office reported that "the Navy has confirmed that there were no submarines in the vicinity of the TWA Flight 800 crash site at the time of the crash. Only two submarines were operating north of the Virginia Capes Operating Areas at the time. These submarines were operating approximately 107 and 138 miles from the crash site." But the same June report also upgraded the P-3 from a "routine" training flight. Now it "was en route to operations with the USS Trepang, the submarine that was approximately 107 miles from the crash site." Despite the earlier December statement that the P-3 had "dropped sonobuoys," the Navy backpedaled, reporting "the P-3 had not released or deployed any sonobuoys." If the two submarines were 107 and 138 miles from the crash site, the USS Normandy was not the "closest" vessel. Today the U.S. Navy no longer claims the Normandy was the "closest" vessel, is mum about the location of any submarines and avoids any mention of the P-3's mission. Some are troubled that, nearly two-and-a-half years after the tragedy, the same Navy that controlled the salvage operation of the Flight 800 wreckage has been unable to provide consistent information about its assets in the area and the nature of their exercises on the night of the tragedy. And, despite news accounts saying that all the families of the victims accept the FBI and NTSB conclusion that the destruction of the 747 was caused by a mechanical failure, some people, including Don and Donna Nibert, have serious doubts. It was late in the evening of July 17, 1996, when the Niberts learned from TV news broadcasts that the flight carrying their 16-year-old daughter, Cheryl, to Paris had exploded over the Atlantic. Unlike most of the families who lost loved ones on the doomed flight, the Niberts long have believed that the aircraft was downed by a missile. Within two days of the crash, Don Nibert had raised the issue of military involvement with members of the Secret Service and also the former head of the FBI's New York office, James Kallstrom, who in an effort to comfort Nibert told him, "The Navy assures me that all their missiles are accounted for." Nibert continued to press for answers to his concerns and ultimately felt shunned by the FBI's lead investigator. "Kallstrom wouldn't talk to me directly after we had an exchange about the military having lied about other matters," Nibert says. Just before Christmas last year, the Niberts began to look for answers outside of official government sources. "I was wondering why I hadn't heard from anyone" was the response Nibert got from Fred Meyer, a retired major of the New York Air National Guard, when he reached out to those who claim to have witnessed a missile intercept the plane. Meyer is one of hundreds of eyewitnesses to the explosion and, as a member of the Air National Guard, he assisted in the recovery efforts. "A streak came across the sky from my left center and proceeded further to my left.... There was an explosion ... a high-velocity explosion; a fuel-tank explosion would have been a low-velocity explosion," says Meyer. Of the 753 people believed by the FBI and the NTSB to have witnessed the fireball, 80 to 100 have described the event in great detail. But details of what many witnesses said they saw never has been made public -- which may change soon when the NTSB Witness Group releases a summary report including the original FBI FD-302s, the official forms used by the FBI to record witness statements. ..... But to many of the eyewitnesses, regardless of what they believe they saw, the events of that July night, high up in the sky where a fireball plummeted into the Atlantic Ocean, there remains mystery. For some, there remains anger about the presentation of a CIA video used by the FBI as a public prop to explain what might have happened to TWA 800 because it doesn't accurately reflect what they say they saw. It is this pool of doubt and concern that Boeing may tap into as it prepares defenses to explain why it should not be held liable for the tragedy. In fact, Insight has learned that since at least the spring of 1997, attorneys at Perkins Coie, Boeing's lead attorneys, have been interviewing eyewitnesses. "They wanted to know what I saw," Meyer said in a recent interview with Insight. "I gave them a list of names I had of other witnesses that they may want to interview."
February 4, 1999 The New York Times
A senior American official met Wednesday in Pakistan with leaders of the Taliban, the armed religious group that rules most of Afghanistan and shelters Osama bin Laden, the world's most-wanted terrorist suspect. The Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian affairs, Rick Inderfurth, told the Taliban Deputy Foreign Minister, Jalil Akhund, that bin Laden must be "expelled from Afghanistan and brought to justice for his crimes," said the State Department spokesman, James P. Rubin. ... In previous meetings, the Taliban have never shown any inclination to turn him over. "We believe there are real threats against us coming from Osama bin Laden," a senior State Department official said Wednesday. "This is an extremely serious matter and we are going to hold them responsible for his behavior." ... "What the Taliban want from the outside world is acceptance and recognition," a State Department official said. "We can't promise we will recognize them, but we're telling them: If you want to be seen as a government, you have to act like a government. If you go along with international norms, you will receive wider acceptance and probably greater assistance." ..... In a parallel development, the Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, met with Pakistani officials Wednesday to tell them that since "they have used their influence to assist the Taliban in their rise to power, we expect them to use their influence to stop them" from harboring bin Laden, a State Department official said.
February 8, 1999 The New York Times
Six months after the deadly bombings of two American embassies in Africa, the counterattack against the man suspected of being the mastermind, Osama bin Laden, has failed to weaken his ability to strike again but succeeded in making him a hero in the Islamic world, senior U.S. and foreign officials say. Bin Laden's most potent political weapon, his violent oratory condemning the American presence in the Persian Gulf, is winning sympathy and support from North Africa to South Asia, U.S. officials say. That poses a growing threat to American personnel and policies abroad. "This is a political movement," said a top American counterterrorism official. "We have to have a political and diplomatic strategy to attack him without aggrandizing him." But Washington lacks one, the official said. The United States has aimed cruise missiles, covert operations and criminal investigations against bin Laden. It has arrested men believed to be his political associates. It has thwarted two of his plans to attack more American embassies, U.S. officials say. But American stratagems to block his access to bank accounts, cut his connections to terrorist cells and sever his links to political supporters have not succeeded. Secure in his redoubts in Afghanistan, bin Laden could strike "at any time" against symbols of American power, CIA Director George Tenet told Congress last week. ...... Many officials there say their boldest counterattack on bin Laden -- firing cruise missiles at his guerrilla bases in Afghanistan and what they suspected was a chemical weapons factory in Sudan -- may have backfired. The missiles inflicted little lasting damage but helped to make bin Laden "a revered figure" in the Islamic world, a third senior counterterrorism official said. Bin Laden receives money and political support from princes of the Saudi royal family, whose king he has vowed to depose, and from powerful people and financial institutions in Kuwait and Qatar, where there is a strong American military presence, U.S. officials say. Administration officials say they are continuing to press foreign governments to arrest suspected supporters and associates of his. Secret arrests and unpublicized detentions of several suspects took place three weeks ago, officials said. But the arrests do not always stick. Seven people detained in England and Albania at the behest of the United States have been quietly released for lack of evidence in recent weeks, officials said. ..... This glorified image is spreading in Pakistan, the country the United States is relying on the most to help bring bin Laden to justice. "When bin Laden speaks, he is reflecting the aspirations of the people," said Naseerullah Babar, a retired general who recently served as Pakistan's interior minister. .... American counterterrorism officials ruefully agree that bin Laden's oratory also rings true in Saudi Arabia. His attacks on the Saudi royal family's repression and corruption are factually similar to State Department human rights reports and CIA economic analyses. But they differ sharply in blaming the United States for shoring up the House of Saud by stationing troops in the Arabian Peninsula. Bin Laden's popular support swelled after the cruise missile attacks, American officials and allies in the region agree. "What was served by the cruise missile attacks?" said Mohammad Siddique Kanju, the deputy foreign minister of Pakistan. "You've inflated one individual to an enormous extent. Why would you want to create more like him? Such acts only help him proliferate." Attacking bin Laden with missiles gave him the status of a state -- a nation unto himself, as an intelligence official said -- in a war with America. ...... "He has been blown beyond all proportion," said Ghazi Salah el-Din, the information minister of Sudan, where bin Laden lived from 1992 to 1996. "I know the guy, having met him. And he's not that mighty. He's being pumped up. I can understand that in the context of trying to personify terrorism. But the United States has created a hero out of him."
February 14, 1999 CNN Web posted at: 2:51 a.m.
EST (0751 GMT)
Osama bin Laden .... has "disappeared" from his base in Afghanistan, a Taliban militia spokesman said Saturday. Other Afghan sources said he left the country. The Saudi-born dissident, a hero to Muslim extremists from Iraq to Kashmir, was thought to have been living in the Taliban's spiritual capital Qandahar under heavy guard. "Yes, our guest has gone missing," Taliban spokesman Tayyab Agha said in Qandahar. "We had not told him to leave, and we do not know where he has gone to or whether he has left the country." The report of bin Laden's departure comes days after the Taliban, which rules most of Afghanistan, took away his cellular telephone and imposed new restrictions on him. In Washington, National Security Council spokesman P.J. Crowley said Saturday that bin Laden "belongs in custody to face justice for the murder of more than 250 innocent Americans and Africans." .... Crowley hinted that U.S. intelligence had an idea where bin Laden was. "I can't comment on what we know about his current whereabouts" he said. There was diplomatic and media speculation that bin Laden has found sanctuary in Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, Iran or Chechnya, or gone into hiding in Afghanistan. Afghan sources speaking on condition of anonymity said it is unlikely he could remain there without Taliban officials knowing where he went. ...... The United States and Britain have recently renewed their efforts to capture bin Laden. Taliban officials met U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Rick Inderfurth last week in the Pakistani capital of Islamabad and later met with British officials. Washington has reserved the right to attack bin Laden. And there was recent speculation in Afghanistan and Pakistan that another U.S. missile attack on Afghanistan was likely.
February 24, 1999 The New York Times
The crash of Trans World Airlines Flight 800, already the subject of the nation's biggest air crash investigation and the world's largest aircraft reconstruction, has now led to a looming question as the National Transportation Safety Board tries to wrap up its inquiry: what to do with the wreckage. ..... The safety board is seeking a permanent home for the wreckage, where investigators could go to recheck their conclusions and where future air safety investigators could be trained in matters ranging from metallurgy to reconstruction techniques. ..... three parties are interested. The College of Aeronautics, near La Guardia International Airport in Queens, and the Virginia campus of George Washington University are competing to adopt the wreckage, along with the airport in Hagerstown, Md. Each would build a structure large enough for the reconstruction, which is about 114 feet long including the scaffolding, 48 feet wide and 30 feet high, and lease it back to the board. The College of Aeronautics trains aviation mechanics and engineers, and George Washington's school of engineering has an automobile crash test program and would expand into airplane crash analysis. "It would save the taxpayers money and would provide a very important educational tool," said James E. Hall, chairman of the safety board. The board, which intends to issue a final report on the crash this year and to move the wreckage immediately afterward, would not give up control over the wreckage, nor allow it to be open for display to the public, but would make it much more widely available to aviation safety experts and students. The plane, on a flight from Kennedy International Airport to Paris, exploded off Long Island a few minutes after takeoff. The safety board believes the reason was a flaw of some kind in the center fuel tank and has been conducting tests to determine where in the tank it occurred.
Whoever gets the wreckage would also keep it available for use by the parties in lawsuits. For example, Mitch Baumeister, a Manhattan lawyer who represents the families of 21 passengers in suits against T.W.A., said today that he was looking forward to having juries tour the reconstruction, to prove that no missile was involved in the crash. ...... Wreckage from major crashes is usually kept for years by an airline's insurance company; as with a car, when the insurance company pays the claim, it owns the wreck. But in this crash, T.W.A. and its insurance company declined to pay for the cost of salvage, so the Federal Government did; now the Government owns the debris.
The Village Voice February 24 - March 2, 1999
The elusive ignition source for the extremely rare center tank explosion that the National Transportation Safety Board believes destroyed TWA Flight 800 on July 17, 1996, remains a troubling and controversial mystery. .... The Voice has recently uncovered many unexplained elements in the investigation, among them: a piece of wing debris bearing clues that excited one investigator, a veteran pilot; a loud sound on the cockpit voice recorder and erratic readings on the flight data recorder, both suggesting a high explosive blast; hundreds of eyewitness accounts, finally being examined by the NTSB, of which more than a hundred suggest that a missile brought down the plane; and, lastly, a recommended test that investigators failed to carry out. The wing debris seemingly shatters the NTSB's theory. "You ever shot a .22 through a tin can? You know how the holes look where it punctures the metal and it rolls the metal back and tears it as it stretches?" the veteran pilot asked. "Well that's what these holes looked like, except they were oval-shaped." He was recalling three holes each at least six inches long by around three inches high, he said which had been punched through the thin aluminum paneling of a structural piece from inside the right wing of the 747. The holes were punched out "from the airplane toward the wing tip," he added. The piece, called a rib, came from within the wing's leading edge about five feet out from the fuselage, he said, where the landing lights would be. The pilot, an accredited accident investigator, found the piece four days after the crash while touring the Calverton hangar where the recovered debris was taken. He spotted Dr. Merritt Birky, a top NTSB scientist who led the agency's effort to document damage caused by fire or explosion, and carried the five-foot-by-six-inch rib over to him. "I said, 'Look, I think that these holes were caused by a high explosion,' " the pilot recalls. According to the pilot, Birky said it had already been determined that the holes in the rib were made by impact with the water. Dissatisfied, the pilot took the piece over to the FBI field lab at Calverton, where technicians gave him a demonstration of their explosive-sniffing machine. The piece promptly tested positive for nitrates, a possible sign of explosive residue. Before the rib was taken off next day for further tests at the FBI's Washington lab, another crash investigator had a chance to examine the holes. "They were not caused by water," he told the Voice. .... "I do remember a piece in that general vicinity [of the right wing] was of great interest but on further examination by the [FBI] metallurgists it proved to be nothing," retired assistant director of the FBI, James Kallstrom, recently told the Voice from his office at the Delaware bank where he's now employed. The piece tested negative for nitrates in Washington, Kallstrom said. Kallstrom said he couldn't recall details of the investigation. For instance, a December 1997 report recommended that investigators should fill the inboard wing fuel tanks of a 747 with water and fire shoulder-launched missiles at them. Only then could a missile be ruled out as the cause of the crash. (A spokesman for the NTSB told the Voice the agency does not consider the test necessary.) Noting that the "severe shattering of the left wing upper skin" had puzzled investigators, military expert Richard Bott speculated in the report, obtained by the Voice, that a missile striking the inboard left wing fuel tank would create "a significant hydrodynamic ram event" that would account for the wing's peculiar fragmentation. Some wing pieces were recovered near JFK, suggesting that they fell from the aircraft in the first moments after the plane exploded. "You know," Kallstrom said, "there are some things you can't explain." Yet while dismissing this evidence Kallstrom seemed at the same time less emphatic in his rejection of the missile theory than he had during previous Voice interviews. "Clearly there's a mountain of evidence that says it wasn't [a missile], and maybe there's a little pile over here that says it was," he said. Previously he had insisted that there is "not a scintilla" of evidence a missile was involved. Whether they amount to "not a scintilla" or part of that "little pile," the eyewitness accounts remain for many the most vexing element of the TWA 800 story. Kallstrom over a year ago unveiled the CIA video that explained that the more than 100 witnesses who told of a streak of light ending in an explosion, fireball, or flash had seen not a missile but the burning plane, which the CIA thinks climbed steeply after it exploded. But now when Kallstrom was asked about the eyewitnesses, he said, "Let me say this to this day I still believe that the eyewitnesses were reporting what they saw." Confoundingly, this appears to endorse accounts challenged by both the CIA and the FBI. The FBI would not allow NTSB investigators near the eyewitnesses in the early days of the investigation, but much later transferred a mountain of witness statements to the NTSB for examination. One member of the NTSB's Witness Group told the Voice the group began examining the statements last fall and hopes to finish sometime in March or April, after which, he said, the NTSB will put the accounts into its TWA 800 public docket and post them on its Web site. This senior accident investigator said he hopes the group will take a crack at explaining what the witnesses saw, and does not expect to be constrained by the CIA's analysis. "If once it's explained it doesn't make sense, I have no problem going on the record and saying so," the investigator said. If eyewitnesses really did just imagine they saw a missile, that leaves the NTSB searching for something that could have ignited the vapor above the 50 or so gallons of fuel in the huge center tank. Yet the safety board stated last year that it may never find the ignition source. .... That, in turn, is no surprise to the man whose familiarity with 747s is second to none. "When we designed the airplane we did every damn thing we could to make a fuel tank explosion not happen," said Joe Sutter, the retired Boeing chief engineer who more than 30 years ago led the 747 design team. Sutter told the Voice, "There've been thousands of 747s, sitting on the ramp, cooking in violent heat for hours due to delays, and they've taken off with hot empty tanks hundreds of thousands of times, so if it happened this way, that was a real freak accident." ....... To show it has indeed found the cause of the crash, the NTSB has identified a breakup sequence that it says led in two or three seconds from the center tank explosion to disintegration of the aircraft, specifically when the nose and first-class section fell off. But although its investigators determined which parts of the tank were damaged in the initial explosion, not all those features were included in the scenario developed by the Sequencing Group. In addition, the group made no progress toward identifying where in the tank the explosion may have begun, admitted senior metallurgist James Wildey in his summary to the Sequencing Report. The breakup sequence, then, remains merely a best guess for the order in which things happened. But one expert who examined the report suggested that the burst of energy that tore the center tank partitions from their rivets, snapped the keel beam beneath the tank, and ripped apart the fuselage skin may not have come from inside the tank at all. "If the tank had 50 gallons of water in it, and you put enough energy into it, it will blow up," said Professor Richard Schile of the University of Bridgeport. Schile, who has degrees in mechanical and aeronautical engineering and has worked on failure analysis at Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, said that in examining combustion in the tank the NTSB may have missed the main event. "This sounds to me like the pressure rise was a hell of a lot higher than we think it was and it occurred so rapidly that it just blew the structure apart," he said. "The fire may have come later and been incidental." A sudden increase in pressure would be expected to leave its mark on the airplane's black boxes. There is a sonic signature at the very end of TWA 800's cockpit voice recording that investigators have described as a very loud, very abrupt sound. So far, however, the NTSB has barely acknowledged the sound. To electronics engineer James Cash, who as chairman of the Cockpit Voice Recorder Group leads the NTSB's study of the sound, that's as it should be. "Analysis is never released . . . it's for our internal use," he told the Voice. But one investigator said that the NTSB has turned down offers from outside labs to interpret the CVR sound. .... One member of the CVR group is skeptical that the NTSB has made any real effort to analyze the sound at all. "It certainly should have been investigated thoroughly," he said. Recently, one investigator said, TWA and the Air Line Pilots Association, two parties to the investigations, have urged the NTSB to say what could have caused the CVR sound, and to release a report on some tests conducted on a retired 747 in Bruntingthorpe, England, in the summer of 1997. In one test the safety board filled the airplane's center tank with propane, exploded it, and recorded the sound on a CVR. "We need to use the Bruntingthorpe data in our analysis. I want the data to be published," said one investigator. The CVR group has not met since the Bruntingthorpe tests, which were finished in August 1997, he said. The NTSB did not respond to a question about the report on its Bruntingthorpe tests. Some independent investigators remain convinced that the wildly erratic readings included on the last line of data from the flight data recorder, which the NTSB drew a line through on its FDR Report, also indicate that a high-pressure wave rocked the airplane (Voice, July 21, 1998). Retired TWA captain and flight engineer Howard Mann examined an addendum to the FDR Report, obtained by the Voice, and concluded, "They are not accounting for the erratic data at all." These anomalies the witness accounts, the CVR sound, the damage to the wing rib, the FDR's last line all nourish a band of TWA 800 conspiracy theorists, some of whom still believe that an accidentally fired U.S. Navy missile hit the plane. A founding member of this group recently got the chance to scrutinize the wreckage inside the Calverton hangar. Author James Sanders, who wrote The Downing of TWA Flight 800 and who is awaiting trial on charges of conspiring to steal evidence from the hangar (Voice, April 21, 1998), was permitted to photograph the fuselage reconstruction as part of pretrial discovery. He and his attorney first had to sign an agreement that they would not share any of the photos with the media, he told the Voice. Sanders said that after examining the reconstruction he concluded that the NTSB has given a misleading impression of some of the damage. He mentioned, for example, a center tank partition that, according to the NTSB, sustained "accordion" damage, meaning "folding directly inboard" from the direction of the right wing. But Sanders said that the damage is far more extreme than the description suggests. "Spanwise beam two is crushed inward about eight feet from an external force it's extraordinary when you see it in person," he said. (The NTSB suggests that the accordion damage was caused by water impact.) Retired navy commander William S. Donaldson also is convinced a missile hit the plane (Voice, July 21), but unwilling to believe the Navy capable of such a ghastly error, he blames terrorists. He told the Voice recently that an 800 number his group had placed in a Long Island newspaper has drawn an overwhelming response from eyewitnesses who are not satisfied with the government's explanation of what they saw.
March 2, 1999 New York Times
A Palestinian immigrant, Ghazi Ibrahim Abu Maizar, was convicted of plotting to bomb the New York City subway and was sentenced Monday to life in prison, after bitterly denouncing Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people and United States support for Israel. ..... Reading a statement in heavily accented English, Abu Maizar, 25, a slight, bearded man wearing a Muslim skullcap, said, "I lived under the Israeli Army occupation for 20 years, facing all kind of suffering from the aggression of the Israeli Army." He was convicted in July of possession of the bomb, and of threatening and conspiring to use it. Abu Maizar, who was born and raised in the West Bank, arrived in the United States illegally from Canada several months before he was arrested with the pipe bomb in his Brooklyn apartment in July 1997. ..... Prosecutors in the United States Attorney's office in Brooklyn have said they found no evidence linking Abu Maizar to any known terrorist group. .... During the trial, when Abu Maizar testified against the advice of his lawyers, he said he had intended the bomb as a suicide attack in which he hoped to kill as many Jews as possible, although he maintained that the bomb was not to have been placed in the subway. But an F.B.I. agent testified that Abu Maizar said after his arrest that he had wanted to bomb a rush-hour train on the B line "because there are a lot of Jews that ride that train."
March 4, 1999 The New York
Osama bin Laden, the suspected terrorist, and the Taliban, his protectors in Afghanistan, have had a violent falling-out, raising the possibility that his days of refuge may be numbered, senior American officials said on Wednesday. Three American officials and two representatives of the Taliban, which is the armed religious movement that runs Afghanistan, said a fight broke out three weeks ago in Kandahar among bin Laden's bodyguards and a group of Taliban officials assigned to watch over him. After the fight, the officials said, bin Laden was expelled from Kandahar, the Afghan city in which he had taken refuge with his family; transported into isolation in the Afghan countryside, and stripped of his satellite telephones, which American officials said allowed him to plot with fellow radicals throughout the world. "There is friction between him and the Taliban," one senior American official said. "They have tried to constrain him for the first time and tried to limit his communications." "It's a good sign," he said, and it indicates that bin Laden .... may have worn out his welcome with the Taliban, which has sheltered him since 1996. .... The senior American officials said they were not certain of bin Laden's current location, only that he and his Taliban guards move from place to place in the stony wilds of Afghanistan. Officially, the Taliban also say they have no idea of bin Laden's whereabouts. Privately, they are pondering what to do with him, a second Taliban representative said. They have sent an emissary to the United States asking how to deal with him without being seen to double-cross him, and they have asked Saudi Arabia if it would take care of his wives and children, said the Taliban representative, who demanded anonymity, as did the American officials. All gave similar accounts of the breach between bin Laden and the Taliban. On Feb. 10, they said, bin Laden's bodyguards became furious when a group of 10 or more Taliban officials moved to supplant them. By one account, automatic weapons were fired. After the fight, "bin Laden found himself in a confined and difficult situation," said Mujahid, the Taliban's permanent representative-designate at the United Nations. Three days later, the Taliban leadership formally replaced bin Laden's bodyguards with members of their intelligence service and foreign ministry, instructing their men to make bin Laden disappear from public view, the officials said. "Our leadership decided to cut all communications from him, and even his telephone set has been taken from him," Mujahid said. "He has been told no foreigner can talk to him. Ten bodyguards were provided for him. The duty of the bodyguards was to supervise him and observe that he will not contact any foreigner or use any communication system in Afghanistan. He is now isolated." .... "Afghanistan is the safest place in the world for me," bin Laden said last year. If that is no longer true, he has very few alternatives, American officials said. Somalia is one and Iraq is another, they said, but it would be very difficult for him to travel internationally undetected, and neither nation can guarantee the protection he has enjoyed until now.
March 11, 1999 The New York Times
When the nation's most infamous terrorists -- the Oklahoma City bomber, the Unabomer, and the World Trade Center bomber -- are allowed out of solitary confinement so that they can have one hour of exercise in the nation's most secure Federal prison, what do they do? Apparently, they just chat. .... Timothy J. McVeigh is a right-wing extremist convicted of carrying out the Oklahoma City bombing, while Ramzi Ahmed Yousef is a Muslim terrorist who masterminded the World Trade Center attack. .... The prison, the United States Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colo., is so secure that it is known as Super Max. McVeigh, Kaczynski and Yousef, who are otherwise allowed no contact with each other, are permitted to spend their one-hour exercise period in separate cages in the prison yard, speaking to each other through mesh fences. Because of their distance from each other, they must speak loudly, so guards can hear what they say. ... Lawrence K. Feitell, wrote to the judge that he had seen on a television news program that McVeigh, Kaczynski and Yousef were allowed to have their daily exercise chats in the prison yard. He asked that Felipe be allowed "to share" with the three "in their outdoor mutual recreation." ..... Precisely what the inmates discuss through the prison fence is not known. Yousef's lawyer, Bernard V. Kleinman, said by phone that his client has had conversations with McVeigh through the fence and also as they have been moved from their cells to the recreation area. "They talk about innocuous things like the movies," Kleinman said. "They don't talk about anything that they shouldn't be talking about."
March 12, 1999 Dan's Papers Long
On August 23, 1996 the FBI announced it had found in the passenger section wreckage of TWA Flight 800 traces of chemicals used in explosives. But a few weeks later the Bureau said that the chemicals were the residue of a dog-sniffing bomb test conducted on June 10, 1996 by an officer of the St. Louis Airport Police ... when the plane (#17119) that would become Flight 800 on July 17, 1996 was at Lambert - St. Louis International Airport. If this apparently explained the explosive residue in the passenger section, there were facts that did not sit well with the FBI's statements and conclusions. The time the test ended on the plane and the time that this plane blocked out (when it began to taxi) left an impossibly narrow window to load crew and passengers. ... On September 20, 1996 the Bureau had conducted an interview with Officer Burnett of the St. Louis Airport Police. The officer said that on the morning of June 10, 1996 he had inquired of the manager on duty of the TWA Line Service to see if there were any available aircraft he might use for a test for his bomb-sniffing dog. Officer Burnett was told there was a wide body aircraft available. ... There was no one on the plane when officer Burnett began to place the chemicals at 10:45 a.m. .... at 11:45 he began the test which took 15 minutes ... Burnett said he removed all the chemicals by 12:15 when he left the plane. At no time during the test, or when he left, did Burnett see any member of the crew ... (The 747 that Burnett claimed he was on and which later became Flight 800 was therefore empty of passengers and crew at 12:15 p.m.) ... The plane that day was Flight 1 and proceeded from St. Louis to Honolulu ... (it) blocked out at 12:35 p.m.
There was another 747 at the St. Louis Airport the same day, #17116, which maintenance records have as arriving at JFK at 4:42 p.m. EDT ... this flight left St. Louis around 1:45 p.m. Central Time which (makes) it the more likely candidate for the test. 17119 (the Flight 800 plane) did indeed leave at right after 12:30 p.m. .. (thus there was) at most 20 minutes before the plane began to taxi, an impossible amount of time for cleaning and catering people to do their jobs, as well as have crew and passengers board the craft (if the test had been conducted on 17119). The FBI related to Traficant that it was provided by the FAA with information from TWA that showed 17119 was "at Gate 50 from just before 700 hours (7 a.m.) to until approximately 1230 (12:30 p.m.)." The statement alone verifies that Officer Burnett (is claimed by the FBI to have) conducted his test on a plane that left (in less) than 20 minutes after all the test material had been cleared off the plane. A source inside TWA ... was involved in communication between TWA and the Lambert - St. Louis Airport Police. He said that the Airport Police originally presented TWA with a date for the bomb - sniffing dog test that was not June 10, 1996. TWA told the Airport police that 17119 was not in St. Louis on that date. The Airport Police came back with a second date: and again TWA responded: our plane wasn't there on that day, either. June 10, 1996 came on the third try.
March 16, 1999 Global Intelligence Update
On March 12, Agence France Presse reported that Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan's Taleban authorities had signed a protocol allowing only Afghans who have been certified by Taleban officials to enter Saudi Arabia during the annual Moslem pilgrimage to Mecca. Relations between Riyadh and the Taleban have been strained, at best, since the Taleban decided to host Saudi terrorist Osama bin Laden. Well known for his alleged involvement in the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, bin Laden also vowed, long ago, to overthrow the Saudi monarchy. The Taleban have been deeply divided over their decision to host bin Laden. .... The U.S. recently raised the stakes, when in meetings with the Taleban, the U.S. reserved the right to take any necessary military action against bin Laden or countries that support him...... Riyadh's move to tacitly recognize the Taleban suggests that the Taleban are no longer providing bin Laden safe harbor or, at very least, are convincingly distancing themselves from their association with him. .... While the reasons behind the apparent Taleban decision to withdraw support from bin Laden remain unclear, the Saudi decision to sign the Pilgrimage Protocol with the Taleban strongly suggests that the split has actually occurred. How far this relationship will go remains to be seen .... At the most optimistic, this could revive plans for establishing a pipeline from Central Asia across Afghanistan.