Al-Qaeda in Spain, 9/11 Commission’s Investigation of NSA, Torture – Additions as of April 27, 2008

Al-Qaeda in Spain, 9/11 Commission’s Investigation of NSA, Torture – Additions as of April 27, 2008

Many of this week's new entries deal with al-Qaeda in Spain and the collection of informants and surveillance targets that performed the 2004 Madrid train bombings. Spanish authorities first began monitoring the main al-Qaeda cell in Spain in 1995, later linking it to the Hamburg cell that provided three of the alleged 9/11 pilots, and watching it commit an interesting variety of crimes. The Spanish learned the cell was sending recruits to al-Qaeda training camps, and found out that al-Qaeda had established a camp in Indonesia, but did not bother to tell the Indonesian authorities about it.

French authorities tipped the Spanish off about one of the future train bombers in 2001, but he was not arrested, although some of his associates, including cell leader Barakat Yarkas were. After the bombings, the government continued to blame Basque separatists, despite evidence of Islamist involvement, seven of the bombers blew themselves up, and one of the bombers remained free in Morocco in unusual circumstances.

One person connected to the Spanish cell was London-based imam and MI5 informer Abu Qatada, who helped Yarkas move money to rebels in Chechnya, served as a religious advisor to al-Qaeda, and, together with Osama bin Laden, helped a wanted militant move to Britain.

A new group of entries has been added dealing with the 9/11 Commission's (non-)investigation of NSA files. The commission initially ignored the NSA, even though the NSA granted it access to its files. A single staffer decided to review a small portion of the material, two more staffers helped her later, and a small group spent a single day at NSA headquarters just before the commission reported.

In torture, Justice Department lawyer John Yoo said the military could ignore a raft of irksome laws in 2003, and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice permitted harsh tactics to be used on a detainee a couple of months later. President George Bush recently admitted he knew about such high-level approvals of the harsh techniques, and an al-Qaeda leader arrested in 2002 has never emerged from the archipelago of black sites.

In the media, the Washington Post hinted at US use of rendition and torture in late October 2001, but falsely claimed Iraq had given al-Qaeda a chemical weapon a year later. CNN limited critical reporting of the Bush administration due to pressure and patriotic fervour in late 2001, and, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Weekly Standard thought there was a link between Iraq and al-Qaeda.

Miscellaneous entries: the president of Iran expressed doubts about the 'official version' of 9/11, President Bush said Khalid Shaikh Mohammed intended to attack US buildings with explosives, and Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the US made mistakes during the anti-Soviet jihad. Finally, a Dutch filmmaker was killed by an al-Qaeda linked group, and the US is unable to send more troops to Afghanistan, because they are busy in Iraq.

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