By Kristen Breitweiser, one of the four 9/11 widows – known as the “Jersey Girls” – instrumental in forcing the government to form the 9/11 Commission to investigate the 2001 attacks. Follow Kristen Breitweiser on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kdbreitweiser.
Everyone knows about the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s connections to the September 11th attacks. In fact, most Americans can easily recite that 15 of the 19 September 11th hijackers were Saudi.
But, perhaps too few Americans know that there is another Arab nation with strong connections to the 9/11 attacks—the United Arab Emirates, or UAE.
In fact, the Library of Congress, Research Division in its 2007 report stated, “Dubai is strongly linked to the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States; more than half of the hijackers flew directly out of Dubai International Airport to the United States…and the UAE banking system had been used by the 9/11 hijackers to launder funds.”
The 9/11 Commission Report, on page 8 of its Staff Statement #2: Three 9/11 Hijackers: Identification, Watchlisting, and Tracking, states: Ahmed al Ghamdi transited Dubai on May 2, 2001; Fayaz Banihammad transited on June 27, 2001; Hamza al Ghamdi transited on May 28, 2001; Mohand al Sheri transited on May 28, 2001; Majed Moqed transited on May 2, 2001; Salem al Hazmi on June 29, 2001; Ahmed al Haznawi transited on June 8, 2001; Ahmed al Nami transited on May 28, 2001; Ziad Jarrah transited on January 30, 2001; Saeed al Ghamdi transited on June 27, 2001; Abdulaziz al Omari transited on June 29, 2001; Satam al Suqami transited on April 23, 2001; Wail al Shehri transited on June 8, 2001; Waleed al Shehri transited on April 23, 2001; Hani Hanjour transited on December 8, 2000; Khalid al Midhar transited on January 5, 2000; and Marwan al Shehhi transited on January 18, 2000.
Why did nearly every hijacker travel through the Emirates immediately prior to carrying out the 9/11 attacks? By mere coincidence? Or was the choice of the UAE as an operational hub and last point of contact/departure for the hijackers a knowing, tactful, and fully predictable decision?
First, let’s look at the UAE. Pre-9/11, the UAE was a sort of mid-point for al Qaeda terrorists. For example, to get to Afghanistan training camps, jihadists would often transit through the UAE. Why the UAE? For starters, because they offered the only airlines that flew commercially for the Taliban and al Qaeda. Now that’s an interesting fact, isn’t it? Can you imagine their advertising slogan: Fly Jihad Skies—Where Weapons, Spies, and Cash Fly Free! The second thing to know about the UAE is that historically speaking they were lax with their security—whether arms or cash or gold or diamonds or jihadists, the UAE turned a blind eye. Click on some of those links and you’ll realize that Dubai is not just some swank shopping destination for rich and famous housewives. Unfortunately, this blog is too limited to delve into all the UAE dirt, but if you’re inclined to learn more about the dark underbelly and black hole of illicit activity found in the UAE, just google: Victor Bout, Dubai, Flying Dolphin, Ariana Airlines, and Air Cess.
Suffice it to say that if you wanted to keep tabs on jihadists, al Qaeda, and Osama Bin Laden, you’d have been smart to have some friends at Emirates airports keeping a watchful eye on the comings and goings of certain al Qaeda operatives and jihadists. Undoubtedly, the UAE was a cross-roads of bad actors and activities that was one of the key hubs for pre-9/11 activity.
Even without reading the 9/11 Commission’s Final Report, most people might know about the “terrorist summit” that took place in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in January 2000. At this meeting, several well-known terrorists met and planned the 9/11 attacks and the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, Ramzi Bin al Shibh, Khallad bin Attash, Khalid al Midhar, and Nawaf al Hazmi allegedly attended the meeting. The CIA conducted surveillance on the meeting, as well.
Quite interestingly, prior to arriving in Malaysia for this meeting, Khalid al Midhar, a known al Qaeda operative and a key individual to understand because of his connections to the Yemen Switchboard, traveled through Dubai, UAE. Notably, while transiting UAE, the CIA “obtained” al Midhar’s passport and had it photocopied. The CIA’s photocopies included visas that indicated Midhar’s travel plans—past and present. Incidentally, one of these visas is at the heart of the CIA’s failure to notify the FBI and the INS regarding Midhar’s plans to ultimately travel to the U.S. and carryout the 9/11 attacks.
Yet, perhaps even more significant than the CIA’s failure to notify the FBI or INS about Midhar’s travel plans to the U.S. to participate in terrorist activities, is answering the simple question of how and why Midhar was flagged in the Dubai airport in the first place. Specifically, who ordered Midhar’s screening and the photocopying of his passport in Dubai? And, on what grounds? Were all known al Qaeda operatives/jihadists automatically stopped in Dubai or at any other airports in the Emirates—like Sharjah or Abu Dhabi? If so, was it because there was a CIA Emirati watchlist? If there was a CIA Emirati watchlist, when and why was it started? And where is that list now? Was it investigated by the JICI or the 9/11 Commission? And, if so, why was it never revealed to the public? In addition to Midhar, how many other 9/11 hijackers and al Qaeda affiliates were on the CIA’s Emirati watchlist and tagged during their transit in the UAE—after all, in addition to Midhar, 16 of the other 9/11 hijackers transited Dubai in the immediate months before the 9/11 attacks. Did the CIA photocopy all 16 of these 9/11 hijackers’ passports, as well?
There are at least two reported examples of al Qaeda operatives being stopped in Dubai by a purported CIA Emirati watchlist. One of these men was 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah who was allegedly detained and questioned in Dubai in January 2001. The CIA denies this for obvious reasons since Jarrah’s identification and any surrounding information collected on him and his associates as a result of that identification by the CIA, coupled with the CIA’s other well-documented Midhar/Hazmi information (information collected when Midhar transited Dubai in January 2000 as discussed above), would have and should have unwrapped the entire 9/11 plot as of January 2001—at least nine months prior to the 9/11 attacks.
For example, Ziad Jarrah was in the Hamburg cell of the 9/11 hijackers and closely tied to 9/11 “ring-leader” Mohammad Atta, in addition to all of the other Florida hijackers (including Marwan al Shehhi for whom German Intelligence had already given the CIA both his name and phone number two and a half years before 9/11). Jarrah was also connected to 9/11 financier Ramzi bin al Shibh, 9/11 self-proclaimed “master-mind” Khalid Sheikh Mohammad, Phoenix Memorandum subject matter and 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour, Nawaf al Hazmi from the San Diego and Falls Church, Virginia cells, and Zaccarias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker and subject of FBI agent Colleen Rowley’s famous memorandum.
Put bluntly, if you were following Jarrah as of January 2001, you knew everything and everyone you needed to stop the 9/11 attacks. Incidentally, this also likely explains why approximately 85,000 9/11 documents are currently being kept under lock and key by the FBI and Justice Department in Sarasota, Florida since Jarrah (and Mohammad Atta) allegedly made regular visits to the home at issue in the case. Perhaps, some of those 85,000 FBI files reveal precisely how and why the FBI knew about Jarrah and Atta in the first place—because the CIA tipped the FBI off to the hijackers’ arrival as a direct result of their Emirati watchlist.
And, as for the other publicly reported al Qaeda operative detained and questioned in Dubai back in the summer of 2001 due to a reported CIA watchlist? His name was Jamal Beghal. Beghal is worthy of his own blog starting with the fact that some of the information gathered from his detainment in Dubai July 2001 (three months before the 9/11 attacks) allegedly ended up in the infamous August 6th PDB that was titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike Inside the United States.” Indeed and quite horrifically, Beghal has connections from the 9/11 attacks all the way up to the more present day terror attacks in Europe. Just google him: Djamel Beghal, Daoudi, Moussaoui, and Abu Zubaydah. Interesting to note Beghal’s similarities to Anwar Awlaki. One can only imagine the kind of information gathered via Beghal’s watchlist status during the past 15 years.
Incidentally, the only two 9/11 hijackers with no, at least publicly known, paper-trail of transiting the UAE are Mohammad Atta and Nawaf al Hazmi. Yet, even still, both Atta and al Hazmi were apparently identified prior to the 9/11 attacks. Specifically, Atta was identified by SOCOM (Special Operations Command) and DIA’s (Defense Intelligence Agency) Able Danger Program in 2000, and Hazmi was identified by the NSA (National Security(Surveillance)Agency) in early 1999.
Thus to recap, taken together, all of this information indicates that our intelligence agencies certainly had ample opportunity to track and understand the movements of all of the 9/11 hijackers well before the 9/11 attacks. Why this information was not properly used to prevent the attacks remains a solid question. Nevertheless, the UAE as a 9/11 hijacker transit hub is not the only area of interest connecting the UAE to the 9/11 attacks.
Did you also know that nearly all of the money that financed the 9/11 hijackers flowed through UAE banks and used UAE wire transfers? That’s right, we’re not talking about all the Muslim charities that supported al Qaeda and were funded by Saudis, or the alleged checks written and other support given by Saudi royals to 9/11 hijackers in California. We’re talking about the rest of the money that enabled the 9/11 attacks to happen—and it all flowed through UAE banks. Why did almost every dollar used to fund the mass murder of 3,000 start at, and in some cases eventually get returned to, UAE banks? Again, was the use of UAE banks just an anomaly? Or, could it have been reasonably imagined by U.S. intelligence agencies?
Notably, in 2004, the Library of Congress, Research Division said, “the United Arab Emirates (UAE) more than any other small Persian Gulf Monarchy was frequently used by terrorist plotters to move funds around the globe, acquire foreign visas and passports, and shelter terrorists moving between Afghanistan and the Middle East.”
In fact, did you know that when Bin Laden was expelled out of the Sudan in 1996 and had to fly to his new Afghanistan sanctuary, he was permitted to land and refuel his plane in Dubai, UAE—that’s right, not on the soil of the enemy regime of Iran, but on the blessed soil of our very own trusted ally, the UAE who was apparently more than happy to provide safe harbor to the world’s number one terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. Ever wonder what might have happened if Bin Laden wasn’t allowed to land and refuel his plane in the UAE? Would Bin Laden have ever made it to Afghanistan to hook up with the Taliban and plan his many lethal attacks around the globe? Or would Bin Laden have been stuck in the Sudan and ripe for U.S. arrest and extradition—assuming Susan Rice, Richard Clarke, and Sandy Berger were willing to arrest him, of course.
Or what about the UAE’s role in one of the biggest and best chances to kill Osama Bin Laden that took place in 1999 when Bin Laden was on a hunting trip in Afghanistan? Unfortunately, the missile strike was called off by U.S. officials because Bin Laden was accompanied and surrounded by too many Emirati royals. This begs the obvious question: why were Emirati royals hunting with a known terrorist and one of the top 10 most wanted men by the United States of America? Aren’t the Emiratis supposed to be our allies in the fight against terrorism? And why didn’t Richard Clarke and George Tenet green light this strike? Were Clarke and Tenet too worried about offending their Emirati royal friends?
Let’s also not forget the urban legend of Osama Bin Laden being met by a CIA officer as he was undergoing kidney treatment in the summer of 2001. Most don’t register the locale of that alleged meeting: Dubai, UAE. Not surprisingly, the CIA denies this encounter. Though clearly, the cross-pollination and incidents of the CIA, Bin Laden, and the UAE do seem to mount up.
Perhaps all of these facts shed light on the UAE’s recent handiwork in trying to scuttle JASTA (the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act). Clearly, the UAE, much like the KSA, has a lot to worry about and want to hide when it comes to their alleged logistic and financial connections to the 9/11 attacks and radical Sunni terrorism, in general.
And while the 9/11 Commission did dole out a “blistering treatment” of the UAE when it found that, “the vast majority of the funding the 9/11 attacks flowed through the UAE,” the Commission softened its blow by saying that the UAE government had ignored American pressure to clamp down on terror financing “until after the attacks”—leading one to believe that the UAE cleaned up its act in the wake of 3,000 dead on September 11th. Sadly, as is apparent from the following 8 cables that are dated between 2006-2011, the UAE continue(d) to be a problem with regard to illicit financing: cable 1; cable 2; cable 3; cable 4; cable 5; cable 6; cable 7 and cable 8.
This blog sets out some of the concrete reasons why Emirati royals, Emirati paid lobbyists, and Emirati Beltway friends, are so deeply concerned about JASTA and its implications for the UAE. Indeed, the United Arab Emirates, just like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has a lot to worry about and cover up with regard to their alleged role in global terrorism. It’s also why the Emirati’s and Saudis’ recent statements and actions regarding Qatar (calling out Qatar for funding and supporting terrorism) sound so double-dealing and self-serving in nature.
Until we as a nation are willing to acknowledge, sanction/blacklist, and hold accountable every nation that participates in the funding of terrorist groups, the reign of radical Sunni terror will continue. And that is why the 9/11 Families continue to fight to ensure that JASTA remains the law of the land. JASTA will undoubtedly make the world a safer place while at the same time serving as a meaningful legacy to all those who perished on September 11th.
***This blog’s intentional focus on the UAE connections to the 9/11 attacks should not be considered to detract from nor exonerate the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for its alleged financial and logistical role in the 9/11 attacks. To learn more about the Saudi financial and logistical role in the 9/11 attacks and the evidence surrounding Saudi support for radical Sunni terrorism, please read any of the following: Saudi Aramco IPO: Crowdfunding for Jihad; Up In Arms, Not Selling Arms to Saudis; Saudi Snake Oil that Fuels Terror; 29 Pages Revealed: Crime, Corruption and Cover-up; Redacted, All the Kingdom’s Men; Uproar Over the 28 Pages, the Saudi-CIA Connection; 9/11 Commission Did Not Exonerate the Saudis; and Obama of Arabia. In assigning responsibilty for the 9/11 attacks, the 9/11 Families’ sole goal is to ensure that all culpable parties are held accountable for their participatory role in the murder of 3,000 innocent souls on the morning of September 11th.