The Hull Thread
Chronology of Events From January 2000 - March 2000
(Articles from news sources have been placed
within for educational, research, and discussion purposes
only, in compliance with "Fair Use" criteria established in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976.)
January 11, 2000 London Times
Iran and North Korea are working together to improve the accuracy of a naval cruise missile which Tehran bought from the Chinese in the mid-1990s. The joint programme is intended to provide the Iranian Navy with an advanced weapon capable of being used in a coastal defence or anti-ship role. The new weapon is an improved version of the Chinese C802 cruise missile which Iran began procuring from Beijing until pressure from Washington persuaded the Chinese to freeze the deal. The Chinese weapon closely resembles France's Exocet missile, although Aérospatiale, the French manufacturer, has always denied any technology exchange. The French Exocet proved devastating against Royal Navy warships in the Falklands conflict in 1982. The Argentinians had acquired Exocet prior to their invasion of the Falklands. Iran had already bought older 30-mile range C801 missile from China in the early 1990s and had received about half of the 150, 80-mile range, C802s on order from Beijing before the supply was frozen in 1997. The longer range missiles were also delivered to Tehran without target designation systems, which is why Iran is now developing the advanced equipment with the help of the North Koreans, according to intelligence sources. The latest reports indicate that North Korea is working on an "over-the-horizon" designation system to increase the chances of a successful hit.
January 2000 The New York Post as reported in Newsmax.com - January 11,
The Algerian terror group whose members were caught allegedly smuggling explosives into the United States joined forces with Osama bin Laden's network and planned to strike here on his behalf, The Post has learned. Law-enforcement agencies in Seattle and New York have established a number of connections between bin Laden and the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, four of whose members were arrested on immigration, explosives and conspiracy charges last month. Sources told The Post that a key piece of the puzzle was a chilling communiqué issued in September by a senior commander of the Algerian Armed Islamic Group, which goes by the initials GIA in French. (Note from author: For more links to the GIA organization see The I.R.A., Iraq, and Oklahoma City) The communiqué celebrated the second anniversary of the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, an operation credited to bin Laden's al Qeda organization -- and warned of more attacks. "We say to all the enemies of God in France and the U.S. and elsewhere that the explosions that took place in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam prove that we carry through on our threats. Do not think it is bin Laden alone who is behind this," the communiqué said to be written by GIA senior commander Antar Zouabri said. "This involves children from the Armed Islamic Group who will poison you. So expect more acts." U.S. counter-terrorism officials interpreted the communiqué, recently obtained through intelligence channels, as a possible explanation for why GIA members appeared to be targeting the United States. "It is now becoming increasingly clear that there was a plan to launch a major attack in the United States and that an Algerian cell was activated for the job," said Yossef Bodansky, staff director of the House Subcommittee on Terrorism. "It is also clear that the Algerians are now part of the big family of world Islamicists that is headed by Osama bin Laden." Attorney General Janet Reno is expected to decide soon that separate arrests of GIA members last month in Washington state and Brooklyn are part of one conspiracy and that the case will be tried in federal court in New York.
January 20, 2000 The Times of India
A Taliban-controlled newspaper reported Wednesday that suspected terrorist Osama Bin Laden would end his "hostilities'' towards the US if Washington withdrew its soldiers from Saudi Arabia -- the site of two of Islam's holiest places. "If the United States withdraws its forces from Saudi Arabia, Bin Laden will stop opposing it, give up his hostility and offer his hand in friendship,'' the Taliban's official Pashtu-language weekly newspaper, the Shariat reported. The article did not identify the source of the information. Bin Laden, who has taken refuge in Afghanistan, has declared a jehad against the US to protest the presence of US soldiers in his homeland.
January 20, 2000 Associated Press
Weeks after the last pile of debris from EgyptAir 990 was pulled from the sea, investigators say they are more convinced than ever of their original theory: The jet was crashed deliberately. .... National Transportation Safety Board has said there are no plans to reconstruct the aircraft, which speaks volumes about the investigation, experts said. .... NTSB's working theory remains the plane was sent into a nose dive by relief co-pilot Gamil El-Batouty, who took control of the aircraft shortly after takeoff from New York's Kennedy Airport, according to two officials close to the investigation. The FBI has been involved from the start and has uncovered no evidence of terrorism or conspiracy, according to one of the federal officials. EgyptAir and El-Batouty's family have angrily rejected the theory of an intentional crash. "If the pilots were American would they dare to say the same things?" El Batouty's nephew, Walid El-Batouty, asked in an interview last week in Egypt. "We've been shattered, humiliated and accused." EgyptAir chairman Mohamed Fahim Rayan said in Cairo that the plane's nearly sonic-speed descent was the result of "something happening" in the tail apparatus. Capt. Walid Morad, chairman of the Egyptian Airline Pilots Association, said he would not reach any conclusions until U.S. investigators - aided by Egyptian experts - issue a final report. "We will only consider documents like the final report of this accident," Morad said. "Something that is proven. ... There should be evidence."
January 21, 2000 USA Today
A federal grand jury filed a terrorism conspiracy indictment against two Algerians Thursday, alleging for the first time here that explosives smuggled into Washington state were going to be used to blow up buildings or other U.S. targets. The nine-count indictment, which supersedes previous federal charges, accuses Ahmed Ressam and Abdelmajid Dahoumane of conspiring since 1998 ''to destroy or damage structures, conveyances or other real or personal property within the United States.'' It does not disclose specific targets or how investigators had discovered the plot stretched back at least a year. It does not allege any property was actually damaged. Ressam, 32, was arrested Dec. 14 at Port Angeles. The trunk of his rental car contained a substance used to make the military-grade C-4 explosive and a ''nitroglycerine equivalent'' in two glass jars. He was detained as he left a ferry from Victoria, British Columbia. Dahoumane remains at large, accused of being an accomplice to Ressam. The two men had shared a $36 per night Vancouver, British Columbia, motel room in the 25 days before Ressam's arrest, during which time they either made or had in their possession the explosives, according to a Canadian arrest warrant for Dahoumane. Ressam had made a one-night motel reservation near the Seattle Center and its Space Needle for Dec. 14, and had a plane reservation to London from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. After Ressam's arrest, Seattle Mayor Paul Schell canceled the city's New Year's Eve celebration at the Space Needle for fear of a possible terrorist attack. At least four other Algerian nationals and one woman married to an Algerian are being investigated in the explosives plot. One man was to meet Ressam in Seattle, drive him where he needed to go and give him money, Canadian police said Thursday. That man, Abdel Ghani Meskini, 31, pleaded innocent Thursday in New York City to charges of providing and concealing support for Ressam. Meskini was ordered to go to Seattle by Montreal shopkeeper Mokhtar Haouri, another Algerian national, a Canadian police investigator alleged at a Montreal bail hearing for Haouri on Thursday. Meskini returned to New York after Ressam was arrested Dec. 14, Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigator Serge Haineault testified. Haouri and Meskini were indicted earlier this month by a U.S. federal grand jury in Manhattan for violations of the federal law against providing support to terrorists. They are accused of conspiring to transfer fake or stolen U.S. immigration identity cards and passports of other countries, including Canada and France, as well as using fake credit, bank and charge cards over the last year to buy $1,000 or more worth of merchandise. Their indictment did not say what they are accused of buying. Meskini divulged under American police questioning that Haouri is a member of the Islamic Salvation Front, the Algerian political party that was poised to win elections before the army intervened in 1992, the RCMP investigator testified. Haouri also is a member of the party's armed faction, the GIA, which has been fighting a guerrilla war against the army and is accused of committing atrocities against civilians, Haineault said. Ressam has been linked by investigators to the GIA, which has targeted foreigners in Algeria and France. Counterterrorism experts have suggested that Ressam, who reportedly was trained in terrorist tactics in Afghanistan, may be linked to suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, a Saudi exile believed to be in Afghanistan. Timing devices found in Ressam's rented Chrysler are identical to ones used by bin Laden's forces in previous attacks, former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro has said. In Seattle, another man investigated in the case, Abdel Hakim Tizegha, pleaded innocent Thursday to immigration charges in U.S. District Court. He faces a March 20 trial before U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein. Tizegha, arrested Dec. 24 in the Seattle suburb of Bellevue, was indicted last week on charges of illegally re-entering the United States and eluding authorities at the U.S.-Canada border at Blaine, about 100 miles north of Seattle. According to published reports, the FBI gained key evidence on explosives smuggling from telephone conversations between Tizegha in Bellevue and Meskini in Brooklyn. A Canadian woman married to an Algerian, Lucia Garofalo, was arrested Dec. 19 as she tried to cross into the United States at Beecher Falls, Vt. She later was linked to Ressam and Meskini through telephone records. She faces seven charges ranging from illegally transporting an alien into the United States to possessing a false passport. Another Algerian man, Bouabide Chamchi, was arrested with Garofalo. He faces four counts, including possession of a false passport and making false statements to U.S. Customs. Both Garofalo and Chamchi have pleaded innocent. Investigators also have sought Said Atmani, believed to be Ressam's former roommate in Montreal.
(Note from website author: The article above contains a few intriguing references to "other U.S. targets", "conveyances", "nitroglycerine", "a plane reservation to London from Seattle", and someone who was "trained in terrorist tactics in Afghanistan". Further in the article below we find references to "timing devices consisting of Casio watches mounted on circuit boards with 9-volt batteries"
December 18, 1999 Seattle Times
Court papers said Ressam was carrying four timing devices consisting of Casio watches mounted on circuit boards with a 9-volt battery. A former chief of counter-terrorism at the Central Intelligence Agency said last night that the timing devices and use of nitroglycerine are the "signature devices" of groups affiliated with Afghan-based Osama bin Laden. "These are devices we have seen before," said Vincent Cannistraro, speaking last night from his home in McLean, Va. "They were used among groups affiliated with bin Laden in attacks in the Philippines and at an apartment bombing in Moscow." The use of a Casio watch in the homemade timing devices found in the car in Port Angeles, the use of the two 9-volt batteries combined with the type of explosive found, suggest that whoever made those devices has ties to bin Laden, Cannistraro said. "This particular device is associated with the bomb-making methodology taught at the terrorist training camps in Afghanistan," Cannistraro said. Court documents filed yesterday revealed the prosecutors' first suggestion of the suspect's plans. They said Ressam was planning to stay just one night at the Best Western Loyal Motor Inn and then fly Wednesday to New York on a flight connecting to London.
The U.S. government have let it be believed that this was a planned bombing of a Seattle building (perhaps the Seattle Needle) .
December 18, 1999 NY Times
Several plastic garbage bags containing more than 130 pounds of two kinds of powder, later identified by the Washington state police crime laboratory as urea and sulfate, as well as two jars of a yellowish liquid found to be nitroglycerine, were found in the trunk of the car, in the spare-tire compartment. The car also contained four black boxes, each with a circuit board connected to a Casio watch and a 9-volt battery, apparently to be used as timing devices, a government official said. Urea and nitroglycerine were two of the main ingredients in the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. Urea is a chemical sold for melting ice and is used in fertilizer. It takes more technical skill to make it into a bomb than was employed by the two Americans who killed 168 people in Oklahoma City in 1995 with a huge but crude bomb made of fuel oil and fertilizer. The World Trade Center bomb, carried out by Islamic radicals, was built with a main charge of urea nitrate -- a combination of 1,200 pounds of urea and about 105 gallons of nitric acid, a chemical widely used in industrial etching -- and a booster made of nitroglycerine. The motel where Mr. Ressam made a reservation is a few blocks from the Seattle Center, a complex of public buildings, including the Space Needle, that is to be the site of New Year's Eve celebrations.
However, in the World Trade Center bombing, carried out by individuals trained in camps financed by Osama bin Laden, much greater amounts of bomb materials were utilized and the triggering devices were fuses that were lit.
These news reports are eerily similar to those that we have seen before. Take, for example, the Ramsey Yousef plan to blow up several airliners in the Philippines ......
July 29, 1996 TIME magazine
(In December 1994) Ramsey Yousef tested his plan for attacking U.S. carriers by boarding a Philippine Airlines flight on the first leg from the Philippines to Japan. He carried with him the components of a bomb, unassembled in his carry-on bag. On board he assembled the bomb, which was made of gun cotton, a nitroglycerine solution packed into a contact-lens bottle. He tucked the bomb under a cushion and left the plane after its first stop in the Philippine city of Cebu. Two hours later the device exploded killing a passenger.
May 13, 1996 International News The Telegraph (U.K. Electronic
Edition) Issue 382
Ramsey Yousef is accused of having designed the bomb that blew up in the World Trade Centre in 1993. His idea was to topple one of the twin towers onto the other - perhaps 50,000 people would have perished. Yousef placed a bomb on a Philippines Airlines jet (to test) a method he intended using to destroy three US passenger planes at a later date. That plan, had it worked, would have killed about 700 civilians, dwarfing all previous terrorist outrages against air passengers. A fire at the flat where he lodged in Manila - possibly caused by nitroglycerine - led to a search by the Philippines police. Yousef managed to escape, fleeing to Pakistan. America should expect further attacks.
August 26, 1996 International News The Telegraph (U.K. Electronic
Edition) Issue 460
FBI agents are re-examining evidence from a New York trial that reveals in chilling detail how Islamic militants have perfected sophisticated techniques for bombing civilian airliners. Three Muslim fundamentalists are on trial for an audacious plan to destroy 12 American-owned Boeing 747s in a series of attacks in the Far East during just two days in January 1995. Had the plan succeeded, as many as 4,000 passengers would have perished in the most sustained assault to have been carried out against civilian aircraft in peacetime. The alleged mastermind of the plan was Ramzi Yousef - the alleged brain behind the New York World Trade Centre bombing. A stable form of liquid nitroglycerine was carried in a bottle labelled as contact-lens solution and not detectable by airport X-ray machines. To make sure their plan worked, the bombers are said to have carried out a "dry run" on a Philippines Airlines flight when a Japanese businessmen had the bottom half of his body blown away.
Were the arrests in Seattle linked to a plot to place bombs on the New York leg, and/or the London leg, of the flights that Ressam had booked and set them to go off with casio timing devices once he had left the aircraft in New York and in London? Ressam had booked to fly to London through New York departing on Wednesday, December 22, 1999. A bombing on that date would have occurred on the eleventh anniversary of the downing of PA 103 in the Jewish calendar - PA 103 was bombed on December 21, 1988 which is 13 Tevet 5749 in the Jewish calendar. December 22, 1999 is 13 Tevet 5760 in the Jewish calendar. In London on the PA 103 anniversary a Korean airlines 747 aircraft did crash shortly after takeoff in mysterious circumstances. See the article "Strange Bedfellows")
January 22, 2000 The NY Times
Early on the morning of Dec. 21, with tensions growing around the world about possible acts of terror during New Year's celebrations, Irish police officers raided a house in a working-class section of Dublin as part of a series of sweeps that rounded up five North African immigrants for questioning. But they released the men after about 24 hours, saying they did not have enough evidence to hold them, said Barbara A. Scarlett, a spokeswoman for the United States Embassy in Dublin. Within days, authorities in Ireland and the United States began to realize that they might have missed a chance to learn more about a terrorist network. They now say an analysis of documents and a computer seized in the raids show that one of the men, Hamid Aich, might have had ties to an Algerian, Ahmed Ressam, who was arrested in Seattle on Dec. 14 after military explosives and homemade detonators were found in his car. The Irish authorities, aware that Mr. Ressam had been arrested trying to cross into the United States from Canada, decided to question the handful of Algerian and Libyan immigrants in Dublin. American officials say they asked the Irish to detain all five until a determination could be made about their potential threat. In interviews, American law enforcement officials made it clear that they were disappointed that they were unable to question Mr. Aich or fully explore his ties to Mr. Ressam. They are still reviewing information in his computer, hoping that it might explain Mr. Ressam's plans for the explosives hidden in the wheelwell of his car, his possible accomplices and any broader organization or group that may have sponsored the plot. No criminal charges have been brought against Mr. Aich, F.B.I. officials said. One investigator said some material on the computer suggests that Mr. Aich had ties to Egyptian Islamic Jihad, which has targeted tourists and Egyptian officials. American law enforcement officials would not say whether they suspect that Mr. Aich was directly involved in the plot involving Mr. Ressam, nor would they detail the possible ties between him and Mr. Ressam found on the computer. But one official said he hoped that the ongoing analysis of the computer and documents would prove valuable to the F.B.I. in its efforts to unravel what investigators believe was a terrorist plot to set off as many as four bombs somewhere in the United States. Little is known about Mr. Aich, a 34-year-old Algerian who American law enforcement officials said had been in Canada, where Mr. Ressam had been living before his arrest. One law enforcement official said Mr. Aich had stayed at the same Vancouver address as Abdel Hakim Tizegha, another figure in the Seattle investigation. A former counterterrorism official said that Mr. Aich had been picked up in Dublin at the suggestion of a Western intelligence agency and that the sweep was part of new procedures set in place after the Aug. 7, 1997, bombings of the United States Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Under the guidelines, police officers around the world question suspected terrorists and search their homes in an effort to forestall any possible planned attacks. The raids in Ireland were part of a series of sweeps around the world last month, from Canada and New York, to Jordan and other parts of Europe, officials said. Irish Special Branch detectives from a unit that investigates terrorist groups detained Mr. Aich in the working-class South Dublin suburb of Talaght. Irish officials would not discuss the raids or Mr. Aich, saying only that their police had acted properly. "We're satisfied everything was done appropriately," said Eamonn C. McKee, a spokesman for the Irish embassy in Washington. F.B.I. officials in Washington and New York would not comment on Mr. Aich. An American official said the Central Intelligence Agency had alerted counterparts in Ireland to the significance of the five, but declined to specify whether the raid was made at Washington's request. It was not clear whether Irish authorities had a clear picture of Mr. Aich's significance or possible ties to Islamic militants.
January 22, 2000 SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
Investigators from the United States and Egypt will review part of the flight control system in the tail of Boeing's 767 airplane as part of the investigation into the crash of EgyptAir Flight 990, the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board said yesterday. The disclosure comes just a couple of days after the chairman of EgyptAir told a news conference in Cairo that "something happened" to the tail of the Boeing 767 that caused it to go into a near supersonic dive before the plane broke up and crashed into the sea. Safety board Chairman Jim Hall said investigators from his agency and the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority will examine the 767's elevator system, as well as perform a metallurgic examination of the plane's engine pylon components. The elevators are flat panels on the horizontal stabilizer of the tail that control up and down movements of the plane when the pilot pushes or pulls on the control stick. In his statement yesterday, Hall blasted as "wrong" a published report this week that quoted unnamed government officials as saying a mechanical problem has all but been ruled out as the cause of the crash. "NTSB is disturbed to see that again this week unidentified sources were used as the basis of a news report purporting to have informed knowledge of our work," Hall said. "As is often the case in these matters, the story was wrong. No hypothesis for the cause of this accident has been accepted, and the activities that I have outlined indicate that there is much that still needs to be done before a determination of cause can be reached." In November, with no evidence the crash was an accident, Hall was prepared to turn the investigation over to the FBI -- further fueling the theory of pilot suicide -- when the Egyptian government strenuously objected. Since then, the safety board has said little about how the investigation is going. Government officials in Egypt demanded that the NTSB conduct a thorough investigation and pull wreckage from the ocean. That recovery operated ended in late December, with Hall announcing that about 70 percent of the wreckage, mostly in tiny pieces, had been laid out in a hangar at Quonset Point, R.I.
January 27, 2000 New York Times
American investigators have uncovered what they believe are links between Algerians who have been charged with plotting a terrorist attack in the United States and Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi accused of bombing two American Embassies in East Africa, law enforcement officials said yesterday. In recent days, the authorities in Senegal arrested a man who American investigators believe directed an Algerian group in Canada in its effort to enter the United States and carry out a bomb plot late last year. The investigators said the man being held in Senegal, Mohambedou Ould Slahi, is a brother-in-law of one of Mr. bin Laden's key lieutenants. Officials said that federal prosecutors in Manhattan are preparing formal charges against Mr. Slahi, which could be used as the basis for his extradition. ...... Officials disclosed, for example, that one of the men charged in the case had a roommate who was associated with an Islamic charity that prosecutors said played a role in the embassy bombings. Mr. bin Laden has been charged with directing those attacks, which killed more than 200. A host of questions remain about the bomb plot, which appears to have been centered in the Canadian cities of Montreal and Vancouver. To date, federal prosecutors have charged four Algerians with taking part, but they remain uncertain what the target was. ..... Officials said that the emergence of Mr. Slahi as a key suspect reinforces American and Canadian suspicions about the origins of the bomb plot. ... Mr. Slahi's connections to Mr. bin Laden's group, Al Qaeda, they said, suggest the possibility that Mr. Bin Laden may be at the heart of the plot. .... Little is known about his background, but investigators say he had "constant communications" with a construction company in Khartoum, Sudan, that was owned by Mr. bin Laden. The company, officials said, was used as a front for Al Qaeda. Mr. bin Laden lived in Khartoum from 1991 to 1996. Several officials said that Mr. Slahi is related by marriage to one of Mr. bin Laden's key operatives, known as "the Mauritanian." They would not identify this person, but one official said he had been tied to the African bombings. More recently, officials said, Mr. Slahi was living in Germany. Last fall, he arrived in Canada. While in Montreal, the officials said, Mr. Slahi worked closely with Mokhtar Haouari, an Algerian man who has been charged with arranging the logistics of the plot. .... Officials said that Mr. Slahi fled to a Montreal mosque before leaving the country. ..... American officials said there are several other emerging links between the bomb plot and Mr. bin Laden's group. One involves Hamid Aich, an Algerian who lived for three years in the Vancouver suburb of Burnaby, until May 1999. A law enforcement official said that after leaving Canada, Mr. Aich moved to Ireland and was associated with Mercy International Relief Agency, an Islamic charity that American prosecutors have linked to the embassy bombings and Mr. bin Laden. The charity's director, prosecutors said in court papers, received calls on his mobile phone from Mr. bin Laden's satellite telephone. An F.B.I. search of the charity's files in the days after the embassy bombings uncovered a receipt dated July 24, 1998, two weeks before the bombings, that referred to plans to obtain weapons from Somalia. In his three years in Canada, Mr. Aich shared an apartment with Abdel Majid Dahoumane, according to the building's superintendent. Mr. Aich was briefly detained last month in Ireland, and the police there seized his computer and personal papers. He was released before the authorities understood that the material tied him to bomb plot, officials said. American investigators are also looking into whether Khalil Said al-Deek, a Palestinian who became an American in 1991 and is now being held in Jordan, may also have links to Al Qaeda. Jordanian officials have told their American counterparts they believe that Mr. Deek was a key figure in a plot to blow up tourist sites in Jordan at the new year.
January 29, 2000 The New York Times
A leading suspect in an aborted terrorist plot, who the authorities believe is linked to the Osama bin Laden terror network, has been arrested in Mauritania, after he was briefly detained and released in Senegal, law enforcement officials said today. The suspect, Mohambedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritania native, was held by the Mauritanian security service in Nouakchott, the capital of the West African nation, after he was released in neighboring Senegal. He was detained in Mauritania, as he was in Senegal, at the request of the American authorities. .... Until last week, Mr. Ould Slahi had been living in Montreal, where he met with several people suspected in the bombing plot, and before that he resided in Germany. Interviews in those places suggested that Mr. Ould Slahi did not seem to be a militant firebrand. Associates said he was a devout Muslim who attended mosque every day and kept his political beliefs to himself. The New Year's bomb plot was uncovered last month when an Algerian, Ahmed Ressam, was arrested at Port Angeles, Wash., as he tried to enter the United States on a ferry from Canada driving a car carrying explosives and four timing devices. American officials suspect that Mr. Ould Slahi may have been an organizer of the plot and theorize that he may have been a conduit for the bin Laden organization. Last fall Mr. Ould Slahi traveled to Montreal, where he met frequently with Mokhtar Haouri, another Algerian charged with directing Mr. Ressam in the plan. ..... In the German industrial city of Duisburg, where Mr. Ould Slahi previously resided, police officials said, the authorities became interested in him shortly after the bombings of American Embassies in East Africa in 1998. The German authorities learned that Mr. Ould Slahi might have ties to Islamic extremists in Europe, the officials said. ..... Today another man, Youssef Karroum, whose nationality was not known, was placed into custody as a material witness in the case in Seattle after he was stopped at a Canadian border crossing in a car in which traces of explosive chemicals were found, law enforcement officials said. It was not clear how Mr. Karroum was connected to the plot. Mr. Ould Slahi's brother-in-law is a close associate of Mr. bin Laden, who has been charged in an indictment as the leader of Al Qaeda, the Islamic terror group responsible for the embassy bombing attacks in 1998. Moreover, Mr. Ould Slahi was in continuous contact with representatives of a construction company in Sudan that was owned by Mr. bin Laden and operated clandestinely to support Al Qaeda's terror objectives.
January 31, 2000 The Electronic Telegraph Issue
A Kenya Airlines Airbus 310, carrying 170 passengers and 10 crew, crashed into the sea after taking off from Abidjan, Ivory Coast, on a flight to Lagos yesterday.
January 31, 2000 The Associated Press
An Alaska Airlines jet carrying at least 70 people plummeted into the Pacific Ocean 20 miles northwest of the Los Angeles airport Monday after reporting mechanical problems. Flight 261, heading from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to San Francisco and later to Seattle, was reported down about 3:45 p.m., the Federal Aviation Administration said. The jet's crew had reported mechanical difficulties and asked to land at Los Angeles, said Ron Wilson, a spokesman for the San Francisco airport. ''Radar indicates it fell from 17,000 feet and then was lost from radar,'' Wilson told KRON-TV in San Francisco. Len Sloper, an Alaska Airlines customer service agent in Los Angeles, said the pilot reported having problems with the ''stabilizer trim'' shortly before the plane crashed. Evans said the aircraft had no previous stabilizer trim problems. He also said the plane had a low-level service check on Jan. 11 and a more thorough check as part of normal maintenance last January. On Sunday, a Kenya Airways flight crashed into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after take off from Abidjan, Ivory Coast. The Airbus 310 carried 10 crew members and 169 passengers. At least 10 people survived. Last Oct. 31, EgyptAir Flight 990 plummeted into the ocean 60 miles south of the Massachusetts island of Nantucket. All 217 people aboard the Boeing 767 were killed.
(Note from website author: There are similarities with this crash and that of EgyptAir 990 as follows
EgyptAir 990: Crashes over ocean on October 31. Problems with the tail operation. Departs New York City where associate of Osama bin Laden (Ali Mohamed) is jailed. Struggle in cockpit is deemed to be an attempt.to commit suicide.
AlaskaAir 216: Crashes over ocean on January 31. Problems with the tail operation. Destination Seattle where associate of Osama bin Laden (Ahmed Ressam) is jailed. Struggle in cockpit is deemed to be an attempt to regain control.
"Bring down their planes" - Sheikh Rahman, associate of bin Laden from his prison cell)
February 1, 2000 The Associated Press
While considered the safest period of flying, there recently have been a surprising number of high-profile crashes, and about 900 deaths, when the jetliners were at or near their cruising altitude - the latest Alaska Airlines Flight 261. But aviation experts emphasized Wednesday that there is no common thread to these accidents - as many as a half dozen since 1996. And while the causes in some cases have yet to be determined, the suspicions range from electrical failure to mechanical control problems to sabotage by a pilot. Early indications from the crash of the Alaska Airlines MD-83 were that a mechanical problem with a control device - the horizontal stabilizer - may have caused the jetliner to plunged 17,000 feet into the Pacific off southern California. All 88 people aboard were presumed dead. A study by the Boeing Company, that examined fatal airliner crashes over a 10-year period, found that 9 percent of the accidents were at cruise altitude. Nearly seven of every 10 crashes occurred in either takeoff and early climb or in final approach or landing. But since 1996 there have been five major air crashes where the problems began when the aircraft were at or near cruise altitude, sometimes well into their flight. That was the case with Alaska Airlines Flight 261, which reported problems Monday during a flight in clear weather from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to San Francisco. It fell from 17,000 feet into 300 to 750 feet of ocean after the pilot suddenly reported a control problem. "The aircraft no doubt was cruising along minding its own business ... when it got into some problems,'' says Matthews, although little is yet known for certain of what triggered the problem. On July 17, 1996, TWA Flight 800 was climbing gradually after taking off from New York City and well along in its flight when it exploded at about 13,000 feet. All 230 people aboard were killed. While the investigation has yet to be completed, an electrical spark is widely believed to have caused a fuel tank explosion. Last October, Egypt Air Flight 990, a twin-engine Boeing 767, was cruising at 31,000 feet off Nantucket, Mass., when it suddenly dove, and plummeted at breakneck speed into the cold Atlantic, killing all 217 people aboard. The reason for the dive is still a mystery. About two months earlier, on Sept. 2, 1998, Swissair Flight 111, was also cruising along a similar route on a flight from New York to Geneva when it crashed off Nova Scotia, killing the 229 people aboard. While the investigation continues, an electrical problem is suspected. Investigators are still not certain what caused a Boeing 737, belonging to SilkAir, to fall out of the sky from cruise altitude and crash into a muddy river in Indonesia in December, 1997. There is some suspicion the pilot may have crashed the plane in a suicide. And in May, 1996, Valuejet Flight 592, with 110 people aboard, was climbing well beyond its takeoff, though still climbing, when it crashed into the Everglades. Investigators said hazardous cargo caught fire, causing the crash. "We don't see any common threat (sic) in these accidents,'' emphasized Capt. Dwayne Woerth, president of the Air Line Pilots Association, in an interview".
(Note from website author: The official
explanations so far are...
Valuejet and Swissair - Fires from empty oxygen canisters and bad wiring.
JFK Jr., EgyptAir, SilkAir and AlaskaAir - Four nose dives from two pilot suicides - one after several minutes of cockpit struggle, one disorientated pilot, and one "we don't have the excuse yet but the pilots struggled for 6 minutes".
TWA 800: A 12 volt spark that was more destructive that the bolt of lighting that hit the plane landing in Italy.)
February 3, 2000 The Times of India
Saudi exile Osama Bin Laden is determined to strike further blows against America and appears to be widening his web of connections to anti-US groups, CIA director George Tenet said in testimony prepared for delivery to Congress Wednesday. He also said that Bin Laden, whom the US accuses of masterminding attacks on two embassies in Africa in 1998, is trying to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. "Despite some well-publicised disruptions, we believe he could still strike without additional warning,'' Tenet said in a draft of the testimony. Bin Laden and other "terrorist'' groups continue to develop "surrogates'' to carry out attacks in an effort to avoid detection, Tenet said. He gave as an example the Egyptian Islamic Jihad as being closely linked to Bin Laden's organisation and having operatives in Europe, Yemen, Pakistan, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. "An important development over the past year is that Bin Laden has identified new extremists who previously had few ties to his organisation and little interest in targeting us where we sleep,'' Tenet said. He cited a web of alliances among Sunni extremists, including groups in North Africa, radical Palestinians, and groups in Pakistan and parts of central Asia. Bin Laden also provides "substantial support'' to extremist groups based in Kashmir who were believed to be involved in the hijacking of an Indian Airliner last year, Tenet said. Bin Laden has shown a "strong interest in chemical weapons,'' Tenet said. His operatives are trained to conduct attacks with toxic chemicals or biological toxins and there are indications he is seeking to obtain chemical, biological, radiological, or nuclear weapons, he said. Another set of extremist groups, including Hamas, the Palestine Islamic Jihad and Lebanese Hezbollah, continues to pose a "significant threat'' to the West Asia peace process and planned terrorist attacks against US and Israeli interests, he added. Hamas is seeking to conduct attacks with toxic chemicals and "may have achieved competence in some of the requisite elements,'' Tenet said. Iran remains the "most active'' state sponsor of some of these groups and the use of "terrorism'' as a political tool has not changed since President Mohammad Khatami took office in August 1997, he said.
February 3, 2000 The New York Times - Editorial - The Mystery
of Flight 261
The crash of Alaska Airlines flight 261 is the latest in a stream of ocean crashes - the explosion of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island in 1996, the Swissair crash off the Canadian coast in 1998, the EgyptAir crash of the Massachusetts coast last year and, just this past Sunday, the Kenya Airways disaster near the Ivory Coast. Public anxiety is perhaps unavoidable because the mechanics of flight remain to many people a bit of a mystery. The mystery only deepens when something causes a plane to fail.
February 4, 2000 The Associated Press
One of the "black boxes'' aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 261 recorded a loud noise in the minutes before the MD-83 went out of control and plunged into the ocean, a federal investigator said Friday. The noise was one of two revealed by analysis of the cockpit voice recorder, said John Hammerschmidt, a member of the National Transportation Safety Board. About 12 minutes before the end of the recording the plane apparently lost vertical control, Hammerschmidt said. The crew recovered control in about 1 1/2 minutes. Some time later, a flight attendent is heard telling the pilots of a loud noise from the rear of the jet. "The crew acknowledged that they had heard it too,'' Hammerschmidt said. A second noise, which was actually recorded by the device, then sounded just near the end of the tape. "Slightly more than one minute before the end of the recording, a loud noise can be heard on the recording and the airplane appears to go out of control,'' he said. The plane has an audible alarm to indicate a stall, or dangerous loss of lift. No such warning is heard on the tape, Hammerschmidt said.
February 4, 2000 ABCNews.com
An EgyptAir pilot who claims to have information about the crash of one of the airline's planes last year that killed everyone on board reportedly has asked for political asylum in Britain. The official Middle East News Agency carried a statement Friday by EgyptAir quoting the airline's chairman, Mohammed Fahim Rayan, as saying that the pilot, Hamdi Hanafi Taha, had asked for asylum, saying "he has information on the EgyptAir crash." Taha flew a planeload of passengers to London earlier Friday and made his asylum request at Heathrow Airport. In London, a spokesman for the Home Office, when asked if an EgyptAir pilot had requested asylum, said: "We can confirm an Egyptian national has sought entry into the U.K. and his application is being considered by the immigration services." The spokesman refused to elaborate. The plane Taha had flown to London returned to Cairo as scheduled early Saturday piloted by reserve pilot Mohammed Salama. Upon arrival in Cairo, Salama told reporters only that the crew had seen Taha being escorted away by police in London.
Monday, February 7, 2000 WorldTribune.com
Saudi billionaire fugitive Osama Bin Laden is sustaining a serious deterioration of his kidneys and requires advanced medical care, an Arab newspaper reported on Sunday. The London-based Al Hayat daily said Bin Laden has ordered for a physician to arrive at his lair in Afghanistan to administer medical care. The newspaper said Bin Laden has refused to leave his hideout out of fear of being captured by U.S. agents. Bin Laden requires treatment that is not available in Afghanistan, the daily said. Al Hayat quoted sources as saying that they could not provide details of Bin Laden's illness. But the sources suggested that his illness has led to a cessation of activities by Bin Laden. In Jordan, the prosecution is preparing charges against a suspected Bin Laden lieutenant, Khalil Dik. Dik was said to have led a suspected terrorist cell in plans to blow up tourist facilities in Jordan during millennium celebrations last month. Jordanian sources said Dik, a Palestinian with U.S. citizenship, has confessed to carrying instructions to prepare bombs. They said Dik is suspected of working for a travel agency connected to Bin Laden and which made travel arrangements for Islamic terrorist agents. Bin Laden is also said to be involved in the current terrorist alert in Moscow. Russian authorities have placed the city on alert for attacks by Chechen separatists.
February 8, 2000 CBS.com
Before it careened into the Pacific Ocean, Alaska Airlines Flight 261 took two near vertical dives ... data indicates that the passengers endured two terrifying dives, the last one upside-down, in a high speed plunge into the Pacific. The first happened with the plane at 31,000 feet, about 12 minutes before the crash. Something forced the nose down. The jet dropped at a rate of 7,000 feet per minute, three times the normal rate of descent. The speed break was deployed, and after about a minute Flight 261 regained controlled flight at 24,000 feet. Over the next nine minutes the plane continued in controlled descent from 24,000 to 18,000 feet. Pilots meanwhile extended the plane's sleds and flaps for more than 30 seconds and commented that doing so appeared to make the plane controllable. The crew retracted the sleds. As the flaps began to extend again, data shows the airplane pitching nose down at 26 degrees per second, the pitch increasing to 59 degrees in three seconds and reaching 70 degrees before the nose began to edge up. This put the plane in negative 3 Gs -- meaning objects in the plane were pulled upward at three times the force of gravity ... the final descent from 17,000 lasted just over one minute. Preliminary radar data indicates that at a time basically corresponding to the beginning of the final descent of the aircraft, a piece of the plane may have broken off.
February 13, 2000 The Electronic Telegraph Issue 1724
Recent intelligence reports have provided details of substantial arms shipments from Teheran to Lebanon, including long-range Katyusha missiles and anti-tank weapons. Senior officers from Iran's Revolutionary Guards corps have also visited training camps in the Bekaa Valley of Lebanon. The arms shipments were personally authorised by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran's spiritual leader and figurehead of militant Islamic groups. Khamenei is deeply opposed to the Arab-Israeli peace process and particularly alarmed at the prospect of Israel negotiating a peace deal with Syria. His followers also hope that by assisting Hizbollah's attacks against Israel they will be able to increase the chances of Iran's conservative politicians retaining control of parliament. The revelation that Iranian hardliners are behind the attacks is deeply embarrassing for Mohammed Khatami, the Iranian president, who has worked hard to persuade the West that the country is no longer involved in international terrorism. President Khatemi's charm offensive has worked to the extent that Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, recently restored diplomatic relations with Teheran, despite opposition from the US State Department. Hizbollah, a radical militia which draws support from Lebanon's Shi'ite Muslims, has enjoyed close relations with Iran, the region's largest Shi'ite Muslim nation. The decision to increase support for Hizbollah was taken after a meeting of high-ranking conservative Iranian officials in Teheran at the end of last year, which was hosted by Ayatollah Khamenei. While authorising an increase in attacks on Israel, Khamenei stated that every effort should be made to conceal Iran's involvement so that Syria would be blamed for the attacks. This would result in Israel abandoning its efforts to secure a peace deal with Damascus. Khamenei has also initiated a contingency plan to ensure that Hizbollah's infrastructure in southern Lebanon survives in the unlikely event of Syria and Israel concluding a peace deal. The Iranians fear that Syria, which already controls most of Lebanon, would insist that Hizbollah demobilises its military forces, as they would no longer be necessary to conduct attacks against Israel. And as one of Syria's closest regional allies, the Iranians would not be in a position to oppose the Syrians' wishes. The Iranians believe that by developing close military links with Palestinian militants in southern Lebanon they will be able to disrupt the peace process, irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations. Experienced military instructors from the Revolutionary Guards have been dispatched to Lebanon to assist with training Palestinian recruits at camps in the Bekaa Valley. Some have been sent for specialist training outside Teheran. While most ordinary Iranians will be oblivious to the activities of Iranian hardliners in southern Lebanon, the bombing raids conducted last week by Israeli warplanes against Lebanese targets will undoubtedly play into the hands of hardline politicians in Teheran as they enter the final week of election campaigning. President Khatami, Iran's reform-minded leader, is attempting to overthrow the conservative majority in the country's 260-member parliament so that he can implement a series of wide-ranging reforms. But Iran's conservatives do not intend to give up control of parliament without a fight. One indication of how events in southern Lebanon can be brought to bear on the Iranian election campaign was provided at the end of last week when crowds of pro-conservative demonstrators marched through the centre of Teheran chanting "Death to Israel".
February 14, 2000
Almost four years ago, a TWA jumbo jet exploded in midair. Now, the families of the 42 French victims are wondering why pertinent radar information has been withheld. Relatives of the victims of the as yet unexplained 1996 explosion of TWA Flight 800 off Long Island, N.Y., want to believe they are being told the truth by investigating U.S. agencies. Their faith in the investigators is so strong, in fact, that when confronted with evidence that has been withheld from them for nearly three-and-a-half years, their first instinct is to question the legitimacy of the evidence rather than demand an explanation of the omission. The classic catch-22 in this instance is that while many family members believe the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, has lied to them, they nonetheless are willing to accept as authentic only the evidentiary pronouncements by the board.
This point recently was underscored when more than a dozen French family members of the victims of TWA Flight 800 met in Paris to discuss the status of the ongoing $40 million official U.S. probe of the downing of the jumbo jet. The families tell Insight they feel isolated from the investigation, separated not only by an ocean and language barriers but also by a French legal system that prohibits their direct participation. They expressed astonishment during their first look at radar data that, to date, have been published only by Insight http://Flight800.org/flotilla.htm These data, which cover a much wider geographical area than previously acknowledged, reveal that at about the time of the accident, nearly two dozen surface vessels and aircraft entered military warning area known as W-105, which was in close proximity to the site of the crash. Critics say such facts add fuel to the fire of those who believe that the Department of the Navy may have played a role in the crash. Although this information was available to federal investigators within hours of the disaster, inexplicably it was withheld from NTSB Exhibit 13A of the CD-ROM record of evidence provided at the December 1997 public hearings on the disaster in Baltimore. It seemed incredible to the families, they report, that the NTSB would withhold the data and that no other news organization -- French or U.S. -- carried this major news break concerning the investigation.
"Why should we believe," says Catherine Breistroff, who lost her 25-year-old brother, Michel, "that they [NTSB] would give up the data? Why would they just give you the information? Has the NTSB confirmed that this interpretation of the data is correct? If we write to the NTSB, who is to say they won't lie to us? What difference will it make? Already we have not been given all the information. Everybody lies to us and we don't know what to believe." Christophe Delange also lost his brother, Sylvain, on Flight 800 and voices the feelings of many others: "I don't have any hope in the political process anymore. I have stopped looking on a personal level, but it really disturbs me that something is right here and it appears as though it has been hidden from me. I have no personal convictions, but this radar data is very disturbing news. We have this new information, but what do we do now?"
Although the French families feel excluded from the investigation, they nonetheless have taken one step that their American counterparts have not. An attorney representing some of them has hired a professional aviation investigator, Serge Roche, to conduct an independent enquiry into the cause of the crash. A retired commercial airline pilot, Roche is an expert in air-accident investigations and airline security. He makes no bones about what he believes caused the center wing tank, or CWT, of the Paris-bound 747 to explode. As he presents evidence that supports a likely missile involvement, he expects to be attacked for disputing the official theory of a mechanical malfunction. A source close to the investigation tells Insight that "a lawsuit against Roche has been threatened if he persists in pursuing the missile theory." Roche is not concerned about such warnings and remains committed to a thorough investigation. "I am doing my job, asking questions. How can they sue me?" he asks.
Though the FBI's lead investigator on TWA Flight 800, James Kallstrom, has referred to the independent investigators who have been publishing their findings on the Internet as "bottom-feeders," such sources have provided carefully authenticated information, some of which Roche has verified and incorporated into his analysis. Based on evidence he has collected on his own, information gathered from the NTSB Baltimore hearings and through other independent investigators, Roche says he is sure that "the mechanical theory is false." In fact, despite repeated reports in the press that the NTSB has concluded the explosion was caused by a spark inside the CWT, the official investigation remains active and the NTSB has yet to provide any evidence of the source of ignition inside the CWT.
Roche believes that the NTSB has withheld important information, but he also cites failures by the French magistrate responsible for conducting an official investigation for the families of French victims. And he says that the press on both sides of the Atlantic has failed to insist on answers. "In France," says Roche, "journalists are basically hard-news writers. It's more day-to-day news. But they also are very aware and worried about what happened to [former White House press secretary] Pierre Salinger when he came out with his report of the first radar tape. More importantly, journalists never asked for the NTSB CD-ROM [showing the radar scan of the area at the time of the explosion] because they didn't know about it. What we have to do is force the issue by going back to the United States and interviewing the eyewitnesses, going into the hangar and having theability to view the wreckage. Then I can bring this information back to the press and hopefully they will finally do their job. The revelation [by Insight] of the new radar data should have been enough to get them involved again, but although more than a dozen reporters covered the Paris conference and saw and heard the presentation of the new radar data, not one news organization mentioned it."
Meanwhile, Roche and the families tell Insight they believe much of the blame for the lack of press enthusiasm about the story should fall on the French magistrate. "She has been totally unresponsive to the families' wishes," complains Roche. "The magistrate is put in place to conduct an investigation. This magistrate has no background in aircraft accidents and one year after the accident, and after the NTSB preliminary report was prepared for the Baltimore hearings, she finally traveled to the United States and came back with the NTSB CD-ROM of the investigation. When pressed by the families for information, she complained that she didn't have the correct software to read the CD-ROM, then complained that she could not interpret the information. I have written to her numerous times, including one letter that posed more than 100 questions about the investigation, but to this day I've not received even one response. Because she won't do what is required, I am obliged to go around her, but without the magistrate's intervention I cannot get into the hangar at Calverton [New York] to view the wreckage. I have no doubt that the NTSB and FBI have not provided all the truth, but I also need to see the physical evidence firsthand." Under French law, family members are prohibited from making direct contact with the NTSB and FBI, and therefore are forced to work through the magistrate. However, based on the discussion among the family members who attended the weekend conference, it appears they are ready to make a formal request to get the current magistrate replaced with someone better suited to investigate aviation disasters and more responsive to the families' inquiries. They will take up the matter when all of the families of the 42 French victims meet in Paris in late March.
But even within this small group of people there are divisions. "The families who attended this conference," says Roche, "believe in the possibility that something other than a mechanical problem caused the CWT to explode. The other families believe what the NTSB is telling them because they are the official agency. Some of the families even have suggested that I am being paid by Boeing and that's why I'm pursuing the missile scenario. This is absurd." Lawsuits have been filed on behalf of the French families against Boeing, TWA and the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA. However, according to Maitre Portejoie, the Paris-based attorney representing just two of the French families and under contract with Frank Granito, the New York attorney representing a large number of French and American families, "I am just the executor of my clients' wishes. I am paid to represent my clients who believe the cause of the explosion was mechanical." Many consider this an odd response given that Portejoie hired Roche to investigate the cause of the crash. Two days after the conference with the French families, and nearly five months after Insight published the new radar data, Portejoie still had not seen the radar data and had not deposed the NTSB, FBI or eyewitnesses, let alone reviewed the eyewitness statements.
Back in the States, Granito also has not seen the new radar data nor has he deposed the eyewitnesses, the NTSB or the FBI. According to Granito, "It's hard for the families to understand that we are retained to represent them in a civil suit, not a criminal suit. My job is to establish by a preponderance of the evidence the probable cause. I don't have to prove Boeing was negligent. I don't have to find out with 100 percent certainty. I only have to prove that the product was defective at the time of the accident." When questioned about why Boeing continues to pursue the missile theory when he is so sure the cause was mechanical, Granito says, "I don't know why. But the Boeing attorneys and their engineers are not together on this. It makes Boeing very happy because it keeps the conspiracy theory alive. There is no credible evidence that this is a missile. I haven't seen the radar data so I don't know what you're talking about. Would it surprise me that there are more ships and aircraft in the area? Yes. But it's a big leap in logic that because there are ships out there that they shot a missile at this aircraft. This information isn't relevant. The bottom line is we're never going to know what was the initiating spark inside the CWT. I have more access to the evidence than anyone, and all of the evidence points to the interior of the CWT."
Granito's remarks raise a number of questions. For instance, if he "has more access to the evidence than anyone," how is it that he is unaware of the newly released radar data? Did the NTSB fail to make the radar data available to the lead attorney for the families? Why did the FBI withhold unrestricted access to the eyewitness accounts from the NTSB investigators until the bureau's criminal investigation was put in an inactive/pending status? Why did lead FBI investigator Kallstrom formally request that the eyewitness reports be withheld from the NTSB public hearings in Baltimore? And why has the NTSB yet to release the eyewitness reports to the public for review, despite Public Law No. 93-633, which requires that the NTSB report its findings and make them available to the public? So far, the NTSB has withheld from the public two important pieces of the investigation -- the radar data and the eyewitness reports. Would it be unreasonable for the families to question why the investigative bodies consider this information important while the attorney who represents them does not? Would it be relevant for the families to wonder what other information about the crash that took the lives of their loved ones is being kept from them? Although Granito's job may only be to settle the claims, the families are interested in the truth. Bernard Jacquemot, who lost his son, Benoit, aboard TWA 800 is one who attended the Paris conference. "The new radar data is important," he tells Insight, "and raises many new questions about the cause of the crash. I have no idea why the NTSB would hide this information, but I would like them to explain the reason. I would like to know what the ships are that show up on this data. I am surprised that this information was not released in the press, and I find it strange that no one would cover it. All the information we get is from the American families' newsletter [The Families of TWA Flight 800]." Jacquemot agrees with Roche that the French press has done little to investigate the incident because maybe they "consider it an American story and now they are more interested in things that are happening today" -- things such as two more mysterious airline disasters -- one in South Africa and one off the coast of California -- which occurred during these interviews. "I want to express very much my deep emotion for the families of those who died," says Granito. "Every time this happens, it brings it all back to us. We have to have a meeting with the French magistrate and the NTSB so they can answer some of these questions. We need to know why they withheld the radar data. So far, there has been no pressure to make the data public, and now we need to put pressure on them to explain it."
February 18, 2000 Report from the Flight 800 Independent Researchers
Recently released radar data has been compared with the NTSB's trajectory study in Exhibit 22c and a careful analysis shows that Exhibit 22c is internally inconsistent. Two different graphs in Exhibit 22c show widely different times for Flight 800 to be in the air. The graph (figure 10) which shows the CIA/NTSB simulation of the aircraft climbing (like a streaking missile) shows the aircraft was airborne for more than 53 seconds. The graph (figure 18) which shows the radar track from the Islip ASR-8 radar shows 9 radar hits which equal 42.2 seconds. A careful sweep by sweep analysis of the raw radar data has shown that there were only 8 radar hits which equals 36.7 seconds. This leaves 16.6 seconds unaccounted for. If the aircraft fell in a ballistic arc from the initial explosion, it would have hit the water after 8 radar sweeps. If the aircraft did a "zoom climb" as postulated by the CIA and NTSB simulations, it would have been at 15,000 ft or 8,000 ft. after Sweep 8 and should have still been visible on radar for another 16 seconds, or 3-4 radar sweeps. It was not. Because it was already in the water. http://twa800.com/images/exhibit22c_radar.pdf
February 19, 2000 The New York Times
Government officials investigating a decade of international terrorist attacks say they have found a common thread, Islamic charities and relief organizations that they suspect are being used to move men, money and weapons across borders. American officials said Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile charged with masterminding the 1998 bombings of American Embassies in East Africa, relied on at least nine of the groups in his recent operations. Other charities and relief groups, the Americans said, have been linked to a recent plot to bomb historic and tourist sites in Jordan, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and terrorist attacks in Egypt against tourists and Government officials. "These charities and relief groups are a crucial part of terrorism's infrastructure," said one official who monitors terrorism closely. Although the administration has previously investigated alleged links between individual Islamic charities and specific terrorist groups, this is the first time that it is scrutinizing a block of such groups to determine whether they are being used, wittingly or not, by Islamic terrorist networks. As such, officials say, the inquiry is a major expansion of the government's counterterrorism efforts. Israel has been pressing the United States for years to spearhead an international crackdown on Islamic charities and private relief groups. In recent months, American officials have circulated within the government a list of more than 30 groups that they are examining for links to terrorism, at least two of which are based in the United States. One instance in which investigators said they believed that the role of charities was crucial was the bombings of the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, crimes that killed more than 200 people and wounded thousands. Prosecutors said material seized from the Nairobi office of the Mercy International Relief Agency includes records of calls to the cellular telephone of Mr. bin Laden. Another document found at the office, dated two weeks before the bombings, refers to "getting the weapons from Somalia." Mercy, based in Ireland, was one of five private associations that Kenya closed weeks after the bombing. The government said those groups had "deviated from development objectives" and "posed a serious threat" to Kenya's security. In recent days, officials disclosed that a roommate of one the men charged with plotting to bomb targets in the United States had worked for Mercy in Dublin. The list of more than 30 groups with suspected terrorist ties includes two in the United States, the Global Relief Foundation Inc. and the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development, in Richardson, Tex. American officials have been looking into Holy Land since the mid-90's. Some government officials recommended that the group be prosecuted in 1997 for supporting Hamas, the militant Islamic group. But others opposed the effort, fearing that it would expose intelligence sources and spur public criticism of the administration as anti-Muslim. The inquiry appears to have been revived. Responding recently to a lawsuit by Steven Emerson, a journalist who follows militant Islamic groups, the State Department said it could not make documents about Holy Land public because the group was the subject of "an ongoing law-enforcement proceeding." Contending that it was a front for Hamas, Israel closed the charity and four others in May 1997
February 19, 2000
Radar analysis proving that the CIA explanation of the eyewitness testimony is wrong was sent to Chairman Hall of the NTSB.
February 20, 2000 Glasgow Sunday Herald
Andrew Hardie, the Lord Advocate, resigned from his cabinet post as Scotland's leading law officer because he realised the Lockerbie case was a shambles which would probably end in acquittal for the two Libyan defendants. According to prosecution team insiders, Hardie - who has dismissed as 'outrageous' claims that he resigned over fears that the Lockerbie prosecution was a mess - quit solely because of Lockerbie. The case against Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah, which opens in May, is plagued with problems including witnesses changing statements, allegations that original FBI witness statements no longer tally with witnesses current account of events and new witnesses coming forward who will throw the whole concept of a Libyan plot into disarray. Hardie realised there were a series of almost fatal blows waiting to strike the prosecution, including three new witnesses - a British customs official and two former Pan-Am employees - who will give evidence pointing towards an Iran-Syria conspiracy behind the bombing. Lord Fraser of Carmyllie, who was Lord Advocate at the time Pan-Am 103 exploded over Lockerbie, said Hardie must have known he would cause uproar over his resignation. He claims the credibility of the Scottish legal system has now been damaged. Other threats to the prosecution case come from former CIA chief, Vincent Cannistraro, who headed the agency's Lockerbie investigation team. Originally on the prosecution's witness list, he was dropped and is now refusing to be called for the defence. The Camp Zeist court will have no power to sub poena him. From the beginning of the case, he said Mohammed Abu Talb, a terrorist now in a Swedish jail for bombing offences, was behind Lockerbie. Talb is connected to Iranian-Syrian group thought to have carried out the Pan-Am bombing. The prosecution also face their own star witness, Abu Maged Jiacha, being destroyed in the dock. His evidence will place one of the accused at the centre of a Libyan conspiracy. It has always been said that Jiacha only contacted the CIA in 1992. In fact a secret cable between the CIA bureau in Malta and the agency's HQ in Langley reveals that he was in fact known to the CIA four months before the December 1988 bombing. Apart from this revelation allowing the defence to question his credibility, they will also make an issue of the fact that he is set to make millions of dollars in reward money. Defence are also now looking for Abol Hassan Mesbahi, an Iranian secret service defector who also claims the bomb plot was Iranian inspired. Scottish prosecutors preparing the case by interviewing key witnesses have also found that original statements given to the FBI do not tally with the witnesses current version of events. The defence will also focus on FBI examiner J Thomas Thurman who identified a piece of the alleged bomb's circuit board as being exclusively used by Libyan intelligence. However, he was removed from his job when it came to light that his forensics lab was fabricating evidence to suit FBI inquiries in the World Trade Centre bombing and the Oklahoma bomb. He also does not have formal forensic qualifications. Edwin Bollier, who manufactured the bomb circuit board, is also expected to claim that he supplied the same instruments to East German intelligence. One of his claims will be that the fragment of the circuit board could not have caused the explosion as it had never been used. Tony Gauci, who owned the Maltese shop which sold the clothes wrapped around the bomb, will also be attacked by defence over his identification evidence. Questions will also be raised over why military and political figures, including South African foreign minister, Pik Botha, switched planes avoiding flying on the doomed Pan-Am flight. The defence are further expected to make play of the role of the Israeli intelligence agency, Mossad. It will be alleged that Mossad sent a fake radio communication from Tripoli to Lybian agents in Berlin claiming 'mission accomplished' the day after the explosion. Hardie has been severely criticised by the families of the Lockerbie victims for his resignation. New Jersey family member Susan Cohen said: "We were told we could rely on him. It is totally unacceptable that he has walked away without an explanation." She says his resignation has re-opened questions of Iranian-Syrian involvement. Jim Swire, who speaks for the UK families and has always claimed he was never entirely convinced that Libya was behind the plot, added: "I can't see why Lord Hardie should want to evade this trial unless he was seriously worried about this trial." One source close to the trial added: "If the Libyans are freed there will be outrage in the USA. They will think that a Mickey Mouse court fouled up, and if they'd been in a US court they'd have seen justice done." Another source said: "One quiet day, after the case has been underway for weeks, the prosecution will admit that none of the evidence can be linked to the two men in the dock." Hardie had never been in favour of a trial in a neutral country under Scots law without jury - as he wrote in January 1998 in an article for the Scots Law Times.
February 21, 2000 NY Times
Three weeks after his arrest, a Mauritanian suspected of plotting bomb attacks against the United States has been released. Mauitanian officials released the suspect, Mohambedou Ould Slahi, because of "lack of proof". Slahi, who had been living in Canada, left there in part because of an investigation that began after Ahmed Ressam, an Algerian also living in Canada, was arrested in December in Washington State as he tried to enter the United States with a car carrying explosives and timing devices.
February 21, 2000 NY Times
In unusually bold language, the Clinton Administration welcomed the election results in Iran today and said it interpreted them as an unequivocal demand for greater freedom within the country and for improved relations abroad. "By all indications this is an event of historic proportions," the State Department spokesman, James P. Rubin, said this evening, referring to the partial results available so far. The vote showed, he said in a statement, that the Iranian people want "engagement with the rest of the world" and "made clear their preference for greater freedoms within Iran." The parliamentary election, the most open since the fall of the Shah, has been long awaited by the Clinton administration as a test of whether it could turn around the hostile relations of the last 20 years before Mr. Clinton leaves office. A series of American inducements for opening a dialogue over the last several years, including a secret message from President Clinton last August, have all been spurned by the Iranian leadership. With the strengthening of President Mohammad Khatami's moderate forces in Iran, the Clinton administration clearly hopes that the stonewalling will at least be reduced and that Mr. Khatami will be able to make inroads into the power preserves of the supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who controls the military, intelligence services and the judiciary. In tonight's statement, the State Department cautioned that it remained to be seen whether the "clear hopes of the Iranian people can be translated to reality." "Obviously we hope that the trends of the elections will be reflected by a different approach to the outside world," Mr. Rubin said. In that regard, he said, the United States was most concerned to see whether Iran would change its opposition to the Middle East peace negotiations and whether it would cease its support of terrorist groups seeking to derail the current rounds of negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and between Israel and Syria. The United States has recently stepped up its accusations against Iran for supporting such terrorist groups. For the United States to take real advantage of the election results, it must first find someone authoritative to talk to. The first move by the administration will most likely be to search for a way to open substantive talks, a senior administration official said today. The official pointed out, that even North Korea -- which has hostile relations with the United States and which, like Iran, is on the State Department's list of countries that sponsor state terrorism -- has official talks with the United States. Ever since Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright offered in June 1998 to draw up a "road map" to re-establish relations with Iran, the Iranian government has rebuffed the administration. Last year, the administration was rebuffed again when President Clinton sent a message that the United States had information concerning the involvement of "Iranian government officials and others" in the bombing of an American military building in Saudi Arabia, which killed 19 American servicemen. In the letter, Mr. Clinton attempted to gain Iranian cooperation in the case and at the same time to test the willingness of the moderates in Tehran to engage the United States. The United States, in addition to trying to start a dialogue with Iran, has some leverage with the wide range of sanctions that have been imposed on its government. Many of these were imposed by executive order and can be lifted without the approval of Congress, where there has been criticism of Mr. Clinton's efforts to reach out to Iran. In 1995, President Clinton cited Iranian support for terrorist groups as the reason for banning all American trade with country. Some of these sanctions were relaxed to allow the sale of grain and medicine. And last December, the administration allowed Boeing to sell parts to Iran's national airline so as to ensure the safety of its Boeing 747 passenger aircraft.
Family member, Donald Nibert, writes an article in Spectrum Magazine expressing his belief that the U.S. government has suppressed information. He also writes to the House Aviation Committee http://twa800.com/nibert/nibert-12-16-99.htm
February 27, 2000 Glasgow Sunday
The F.B.I. is refusing to release secret intelligence reports revealing details of the Middle Eastern terrorist suspected of making the Lockerbie bomb. The files - marked top secret and held at the FBI headquarters in Washington DC - would destroy the theory that Libya was behind the attack on PanAm flight 103, which killed 270 people in December 1988. Top-level intelligence sources say the files comprise debriefing notes taken by FBI agents from Marwan Khreesat, a Jordanian bomb-maker. The files detail how Khreesat was behind a Palestinian terrorist cell operating in West Germany just months before the PanAm attack. He was caught with bombs identical to the one that exploded over Lockerbie. Khreesat's devices comprised Toshiba Bombeat radios wired with Semtex and fitted inside brown suitcases - an exact replica of the PanAm bomb. He admitted making five bombs, but only four were ever recovered. Intelligence sources believe that the fifth device was the Lockerbie bomb. Sunday Herald investigations have revealed that the FBI debriefed Khreesat at the Jordan intelligence service HQ in November 1989 after his release from Germany and the Lockerbie bombing. He gave details and sketches of the bombs he had been making and revealed information about other members of his terrorist cell. The FBI has not released any of Khreesat's confession to either the defence or prosecution teams in the Lockerbie case or to any of the law-enforcement agencies, including the Scottish police, who are involved in investigating the case. Two Libyans - Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi and Lamen Khalifa Fhimah - are to go on trial for the bombing, this May, in Camp Zeist in Holland. Jim Swire, spokesman for the British families of the Lockerbie victims, said that the trial would be thrown into complete disarray if claims of an FBI cover-up were true. Khreesat was arrested in Germany in 1988 during a German intelligence operation known as Autumn Leaves, carried out by the German equivalent of the FBI - the BKA (Bundeskriminalmt or Federal Crime Office). Khreesat was linked to the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine- General Command, a terrorist cell that, in the early stages of the Lockerbie inquiry, was suspected of carrying out the PanAm attack. It has long been suspected that the PFLP-GC, based in Syria but backed by Iran, carried out the Lockerbie attack in revenge for America shooting down an Iranian airbus. From October 1988, the BKA began monitoring the homes of suspected Palestinian terrorists. The main surveillance target was Hafez Dalkamoni, a senior member of the PFLP-GC. BKA agents spotted a Volvo with Swedish plates arriving at a flat where Dalkamoni was staying. Three Arabs were in the vehicle and unloaded a number of packages. The car was driven by the brother-in-law of Mohammed Abu Talb. From the beginning of the case, American intelligence suspected Talb of being behind Lockerbie. Talb is linked to the PFLP-GC and is now in a Swedish jail for bombing offences. Khreesat - one of the top bomb- makers of the PFLP-GC - was also seen at the flat. One of the items taken out of the car was a dark Samsonite case, the same as the bag used to hold the Lockerbie bomb. Khreesat and Dalkamoni were also seen buying alarm clocks, switches and batteries. BKA telephone wire taps overheard Khreesat call a Damascus telephone number and say he had "made the medicine stronger". The BKA took this as a reference to a bomb. Dalkamoni and Khreesat were subsequently arrested. In their car, there was a Toshiba Bombeat radio-cassette player, containing a bomb identical to the Lockerbie device. In their flat, German agents discovered fuses, detonators and soldering irons. During detention, Khreesat admitted knowing about explosives but, within days, he was released and left Germany. Khreesat worked as a double agent for the Jordanian secret service. According to intelligence sources, he admitted to his handlers in Amman that he had made five bombs. The Jordanians told Britain and the United States of this development. German intelligence officers made a further search of the Arabs' flat and found three more Toshiba bombs and seven kilos of Semtex. Sources close to the Lockerbie case said: "Khreesat admitted making five bombs. One was found in the car and three in the flat. That's a total of four. Where is the fifth? These bombs were identical to the PanAm device. This all seems to point in only one direction, and that is that Khreesat's fifth bomb went on board the PanAm flight." The former West German government did admit that it was "theoretically possible" that the bomb that blew up PanAm flight 103 could have been one of Khreesat's bombs. Khreesat is currently in protective custody in Jordan and is known to have given an interview to a number of FBI agents, including Tom Thurman, the FBI examiner who identified a piece of the Lockerbie bomb's circuit board as being used exclusively by Libyan intelligence. Thurman was later sacked when it came to light that his forensics lab was fabricating evidence to suit FBI inquiries in the World Trade Centre bombing and the Oklahoma bombing. He also has no formal forensic qualifications. The Jordanian government, which is heavily funded by America, refuses to answer inquiries on whether or not it would allow Khreesat to attend the Lockerbie trial if he was to be called. A spokesman for the Jordanian ambassador's office in Washington DC said: "We are not interested in the PanAm case." The FBI refused to confirm or deny that it was secretly withholding Khreesat's debriefing notes from the Lockerbie defence and prosecution teams. An FBI spokesman said: "We cannot comment on this issue as this matter is before the courts." Jim Swire, who lost his daughter Flora in the Lockerbie bombing, said: "I am very concerned if the FBI have significant evidence relevant to the prosecution and defence teams which they are not prepared to supply. If that is the case, it can only undermine the faith that the court could place on the FBI's connection to the trial and the significant part played by the FBI in the assembly of the prosecution case."
February 28, 2000 Newsweek
EgyptAir has signed up three former top NTSB officials, including a former NTSB chairman, to work on the crash (EgyptAir 990) investigation. The airline has also hired as adviser a top U.S. law firm, Fulbrught & Jaworski. The Egyptian government has retained an elite D.C. firm, Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, to help on the case. These experts will "help find the truth" says an Egyptian Embassy official. The evidence supporting the pilot-suicide theory is "very circumstantial," the embassy official says, insisting the plane could have been brought down by a mechanical problem. He suggests the U.S. investigators are sitting on important information.
February 29, 2000 NY Times
Middle Eastern and American officials say they believe that a key lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, the Saudi exile, coordinated a terrorist plot that was aimed at Western and Israeli tourists in Jordan in December. American and Middle Eastern investigators say they believe that the suspect, Abu Zubaydah, was also in contact with Algerians who have been charged in a separate attempt to bomb unspecified targets in the United States in December. But they say the emerging evidence about Mr. Zubaydah provides an important development in their effort to establish that Mr. bin Laden is a commanding figure in terrorist plots against the West. These investigators say they believe that Mr. bin Laden and his group were trying to land two blows at once against Western interests. Those attacks, they say, would have been their first large terrorist actions since the bombings of the American Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, for which Mr. bin Laden has been indicted. Investigators began working on the theory that Mr. bin Laden was behind the alleged plots as soon as arrests were made in Jordan and the United States. They quickly discovered that some of those people held in Jordan had been trained in camps operated in Afghanistan by the Saudi exile. They also found that the Algerians in Canada had taken direction from a Mauritanian man related by marriage to Mr. bin Laden. But investigators said the role of Mr. Zubaydah, from the Gaza Strip, is the most significant evidence to date that Mr. bin laden was directly behind the two operations.
Mr. Zubaydah is a trusted member of Mr. bin Laden's inner circle, they said. Middle Eastern intelligence officials describe Mr. Zubaydah as the coordinator of Mr. bin Laden's "external operations," which they describe as the group's terrorist activities outside Afghanistan. Operating from Peshawar, Pakistan, Mr. Zubaydah was in charge of communications between Mr. bin Laden's organization in Afghanistan and terrorist cells around the world, investigators now suspect. But Mr. Zubaydah's role fits a pattern that investigators say they recognize, particularly in the embassy bombings in East Africa in 1998. Middle Eastern intelligence officials say they believe that an Egyptian radical and bin Laden lieutenant, named Mohammed Atef, helped coordinate the embassy attacks. They say he was in contact with the cells in Kenya and Tanzania that carried out the operations. Mr. Atef is thought to have disappeared into Afghanistan after the embassy bombings. Now, Middle Eastern intelligence officials say Mr. Zubaydah took Mr. Atef's place, just in time for the plots of last December. Both operations failed after members of both cells were arrested. On Dec. 15, the Jordanian authorities said they had arrested 13 members of a group planning attacks against an American hotel and three tourist sites frequented by Israelis and Westerners. Jordanian officials said they had evidence that the suspects received terrorist training in Afghanistan and were tied to the bin Laden network. At the same time, a separate plot was unraveling along the United States-Canadian border. On Dec. 14, the authorities arrested an Algerian named Ahmed Ressam, whose car contained a military explosive and homemade detonators. Canadian authorities say Mr. Ressam, known by the nom de guerre Abu Reda, had received military training at camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Abu Zubaydah is the alias of Mohammed Hussein Zein-al-Abideen. Born in 1973, he went to Afghanistan as a teenager, where he reportedly linked up with Mr. bin Laden. From Peshawar, on the Pakistani-Afghan border, Mr. Zubaydah has played a critical role in the development of Mr. bin Laden's international networks in the last two years, officials say. In Pakistan, they say, Mr. Zubaydah acted as gatekeeper for the Afghan training camps operated by Mr. bin Laden and his allies. Intelligence officials have been told that leaders of cells around the world would contact him to request training in Afghanistan for cell members. These people would then travel to Peshawar and meet Mr. Zubaydah, who would decide whether they would be given training and in which camps, according to these reports. Among the cell leaders with whom he was in direct contact was Khader Abu Hosher, the reputed leader of the plot to attack four tourist sites in Jordan, according to Middle Eastern intelligence officials. Mr. Zubaydah told Mr. Hosher which sites were to be picked for attack, intelligence officials say they have learned. In addition, officials say they have discovered that Mr. Zubaydah had a joint bank account in Peshawar with Khalil Deek. He is a naturalized American citizen of Palestinian descent who has been jailed in Jordan in connection with the millennium plot there. The bank account contained between $1,800 and $3,000, officials said. Mr. Deek, who is now in jail in Jordan, is charged with having played a role in arranging the travel between Afghanistan and Jordan for those involved in the Jordan plot. The authorities say Mr. Zubaydah was also in contact with Mr. Ressam and his group in Canada. The ties between Mr. Zubaydah and the Canadian group seem less clearly understood than are his links to the Jordan cell. But one connection between Mr. Zubaydah and the Ressam group apparently went through an Algerian in Canada named Fateh Kamel, some Western intelligence officials state. Mr. Kamel, who had ties to Mr. Ressam's group, also had ties to a group of militant Islamic veterans of the Afghan war who are now in Bosnia. In turn, that group was in contact with Mr. Zubaydah, according to a European intelligence official.
Another link found between Mr. bin Laden's group and the Canadian operation was through Mohambedou Ould Slahi, a Mauritanian who lived for a time in Montreal, where he met frequently with Mokhtar Haouri, an Algerian suspected of directing Mr. Ressam in the bomb plot. Mr. Ould Slahi's brother-in-law is a close associate of Mr. bin Laden. In addition, Mr. Ould Slahi has been in frequent contact with the representatives of a construction company in Sudan owned by Mr. bin Laden; investigators have concluded that the company served as a front for Mr. bin Laden's terror network. Mr. Ould Slahi was arrested in Mauritania last month, but has since been released. American and Middle Eastern intelligence officials are more certain of the links between the Jordan plot and Mr. bin Laden. Mr. Hosher was a veteran of the Afghan war who later became a member of Jaish Muhammad, or Muhammad Army, a radical Islamic group that mounted terrorist acts in Jordan in the 1980's. After his release from prison in Jordan in 1993, he moved to Yemen, where he came in contact with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a radical group now allied with Mr. bin Laden. Mr. Hosher's assistant in the Jordan plot was Raed Hejazi, who traveled on an American passport and worked for a time as a taxi drive in Boston. Mr. Hosher is now in jail in Jordan, and Mr. Hejazi is at large. Like the cell in Canada, the group in Jordan appears to have had links to terrorists in Algeria. Jordanian officials are investigating Omar Abu Omar, now living in Britain, who they say has links to the Jordanian cell and who has previously provided religious sanctions for terrorism in Algeria. Britain has rejected Jordan's requests to extradite him.
March 3, 2000 FoxNews.com
Investigators asked the Navy on Friday to recover the remaining engine and more flight-control equipment from the wreckage of an EgyptAir jet that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 217 aboard. About 70 percent of the plane has been recovered from the ocean floor off the coast of Massachusetts, but officials close to the investigation have said that examinations of the airliner's remains have revealed no signs of mechanical failure that would have caused the crash on Oct. 31, 1999. An underwater survey of the debris after the December recovery mission identified the possible location of other aircraft components that might offer clues to investigators. The planned recovery operation, which will take up to 10 days, is scheduled to begin March 18. Once recovered, the additional parts of the Boeing 767 will be examined by investigators in Quonset Point, R.I.
March 16, 2000 Reuters
Asiaweek magazine said on Thursday that exiled Saudi Arabian dissident Osama bin Laden is dying of kidney failure. The weekly news magazine, quoting "a Western intelligence source who has been tracking him," said in its latest edition the kidney disease had begun to affect bin Laden's liver and associates were trying to obtain a dialysis machine to stabilise his condition. The United States has accused bin Laden of leading a "terrorist" network and masterminding the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa that killed more than 200 people. Asiaweek said bin Laden, 45, who is in Afghanistan, remained mostly conscious and was able to talk and hold meetings. But "the man is dying," Asiaweek quoted the source as saying.
March 18, 2000 NY Times
Canadian investigators looking into the deadly crash of Swissair 111 in 1998 say a pilot's map light, built into the cockpit ceiling, may be a source of ignition in that model airplane. But Canadian officials say they are still far from determining the cause of the crash, which killed 129 people off Nova Scotia. "We haven't ruled out anything, yet," Jim Harris, a spokesman for Canada's Transportation Safety Board said Friday. He said following the discovery of the problem, investigators in a military base began sorting through boxes of fractured debris to see if they could find the map light from the plane that crashed. In the months since the crash, the Transportation Safety Board's most important recommendation has been to reduce the amount of material on board that can fuel a fire, by replacing the insulation. It has also called for looking into another potential cause of fire, wiring near the main cabin door, which it said could be damaged and provide a spark. Shortly before the crash, the crew reported smoke in the cockpit. Examinations of about a dozen MD-11s still in service have found various problems with the lights, including heat damage of the adjacent insulation. The Transportation Safety Board has recommended replacing the insulation, and some of the damage from map lights was found by airlines doing that work. The lights use halogen bulbs, which operate at hotter temperatures than standard incandescents. A spokeswoman for Boeing, Laurie Gunter, said that the lights are used on other planes and elsewhere on the MD-11, but that the damage has only been observed in the captain's and first officer's map lights.
March 19, 2000 NY Times
(The thesis of this website is
that the search for a criminal act in the downing of TWA 800 ceased once
it became clear that Osama bin Laden was involved and was funded by Iran.
In the case of the embassy bombings in Africa a similar course is
Lawyers for three men charged in the 1998 African embassy bombings are arguing for their clients' lives on political grounds, contending that executing them would be a foreign-policy disaster for the United States. In a memorandum that is being sent to Attorney General Janet Reno, the defense lawyers contend that executions of their clients, who are accused of being mere "foot soldiers" in a terrorist conspiracy, would only turn them into Islamic martyrs while creating a blood feud between the United States and the Muslim world. The effect, the lawyers say, would be to damage seriously the government's chances of prosecuting Osama bin Laden, the wealthy Saudi exile who has been accused of leading a global terrorist conspiracy that included the embassy attacks and other acts of violence against Americans abroad. Apparently worried that the issue may be viewed too narrowly, the lawyers have also taken the unusual step of sending their 30-page memo to top State Department officials. "We think it plain," the memo declares, "that the State Department ought to be fully consulted, and its views considered, on all of the grave foreign policy, national security and human rights implications of a U.S. government request for the death penalty." The case is the first in which federal prosecutors have sought to impose the death penalty against a defendant accused of terrorism in a foreign country. It is also the first time the government has begun to pursue the death penalty in the series of major terrorism prosecutions of about two dozen Islamic militants in New York that began with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Among those cases is another plot to blow up major landmarks in New York City. One defense lawyer who has read the memo said: "This case lies at the intersection of the criminal justice system and foreign policy. The whole point of the memo is that it is folly to simply treat this as a mere criminal case, much as we might wish things were so simple." The defense decided last week to send the memo after the United States attorney, Mary Jo White, indicated that she would seek the death penalty for at least one of the defendants, Mohamed Rashed Daoud al-'Owhali, and was still considering doing so against two other defendants. The bombings at Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killed more than 200 people and wounded thousands. Mr. al-'Owhali is one of two men in custody accused of playing a role in the Nairobi bombing. The memo makes the strategy clear: to catch the attention of top national security advisers to President Clinton and to cast the death penalty issue not in legal terms but in a larger context of the government's stand against terrorism. The memo notes, for example, that if prosecutors seek to execute Mr. al-'Owhali and two co-defendants, Mohammed Saddiq Odeh and Khalfan Khamis Mohamed, it would be the clearest signal that Mr. bin Laden would also face execution were he brought to New York and convicted. Placing Mr. bin Laden on death row would have enormous ramifications for the United States, the memo says. In the World Trade Center case, it notes, the defendants did not face capital charges because the bombing occurred before the 1994 death penalty law was passed. An attempt to arrest Mr. bin Laden and imprison him for life, the memo contends, will be seen as a credible punishment, "because it displays the self-restraint and moderation of a great nation." "But if the United States declares that its success in this effort will be measured by its ability to kill bin Laden once he has been taken prisoner and rendered harmless," the memo says, "the story line will quickly shift in a direction that could do considerable harm to long-term American interests." The lawyers argue in their policy memo that the death penalty decision is too big to be left solely to Attorney General Reno. The memo says that such a "momentous decision" should involve "those agencies which do possess genuine expertise and experience in how the actions of U.S. courts may affect American policy interests around the world."
March 21, 2000 Reuters
Air safety investigators have concluded that witness accounts of the 1996 explosion of a TWA jumbo jet off Long Island, New York, are of little use in their nearly completed probe of the crash. The National Transportation Safety Board Tuesday issued the report of its "witness group'' that reviewed 755 records of interviews performed by the Federal Bureau of Investigation following the July 17, 1996, crash that killed all 230 people on board. "The FBI witness documents reviewed by the witness group are poorly suited for purposes of an aircraft accident investigation,'' the investigators concluded. The safety board is expected to hold a final hearing on the crash of TWA flight 800 later this year. Investigators suspect an electrical fault ignited fuel vapors in the Boeing 747s nearly empty center fuel tank, breaking the plane apart and sending it into the sea. Nevertheless, witness accounts of seeing a streak of light in the sky around the time of the crash have continued to aid conspiracy theories that a missile could have brought down the plane. The safety board said that 670 witnesses reported seeing something judged to be related to the accident and of those 258 saw something that fit the definition of a streak of light. Most of those streak of light accounts were consistent with the path of the accident plane, the witness review group said. There were 38 accounts of a streak of light rising straight up, or nearly so, but these accounts seemed to be inconsistent with the calculated flight path of the plane. The safety board said some FBI interviewers had framed their questions in a manner that emphasized aspects relevant to a missile investigation. The FBI conducted the original interviews without safety board investigators being present because it initially believed it was dealing with a criminal probe. NTSB's witness group said a at least a handful of witness accounts could be cited to support a variety of theories about the accident. "No study of the eyewitness accounts alone can prove or refute the contention that the crash of TWA flight 800 was due to any particular cause,'' it said.
March 21, 2000 CNN
More than 700 witness accounts of what happened the night that TWA Flight 800 crashed into the Atlantic Ocean, killing all 230 aboard, are too conflicting to lead to any conclusions, federal investigators say. Two new reports from the National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday again dismissed theories -- all based solely on witness reports -- that the Boeing 747 may have been downed by a missile in July 1996. Investigators believe the crash was caused by a center fuel tank explosion possibly brought on by sparks from worn wiring, but their findings are still not complete. Of the 755 people who reported seeing the explosion, only 38 said they saw a streak of light rising straight up or nearly so -- and those accounts "seem to be inconsistent with the ... flight path" of the plane, the NTSB said. The NTSB, in its Witness Group Study report, said, "FBI witness interviewing was focused on the possibility that a missile had been used against the accident airplane. This focus may have resulted in bias on the part of some of the interviewers. "Beliefs concerning the possibility of a missile attack may have biased or colored the word choices used in reporting the witness accounts; therefore, these accounts must be interpreted carefully." A total of 258 witnesses observed a streak of light, the NTSB said. Investigators believe the streaks of light may have been from the plane during some stage of its flight before it exploded in a fireball. The NTSB witness reports conclude that the cause of the explosion cannot be determined through eyewitness accounts alone. Some witness accounts were too vague, some were too specific, and some contradictory, investigators said. The witnesses were on land, sea and air. Some were surfers. Many may have been influenced by news media reports about the explosion, investigators said. Most did not realize they were watching a plane explode, thinking rather that what they saw was some sort of fireworks display or other event.
March 29, 2000 Associated Press
A federal appeals court ruled Wednesday that families of the TWA Flight 800 victims can seek millions of dollars in damages for pain and suffering because the crash was not in international waters. The 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in a 2-to-1 decision that the 1996 crash eight miles off the coast of Long Island was not governed by the Death on the High Seas Act, which limits lawsuit damages. Families of the victims have sought millions of dollars in damages from Boeing, TWA and Hydro-Aire Inc., which made the plane's fuel pumps. The plaintiffs claim the companies were negligent in the construction and operation of the plane. A trial in the case is set to begin next Feb. 1. Boeing spokesman Russell Young, said the company was studying the ruling and did not have an immediate comment. Julia Bishop, a TWA spokeswoman, said the airline would leave it to Boeing to decide whether to appeal the ruling "because it's more Boeing's issue than ours.'' A message left with a lawyer for Hydro-Aire was not immediately returned.