Anthrax, Embassy Bombings – Additions to the 9/11 Timeline as of August 10, 2008

The main focus in the 9/11 Timeline this last week has been the anthrax attacks. There was some material about them in the Timeline at one point, but it got lost somehow. It has now been revived and new material has been added. The first anthrax mailing was in 1997, when the target was the Jewish service organization B'nai B'rith, and the CIA investigated the possibility of anthrax attacks using letters in 1999. Wrongly accused scientist Steven Hatfill's contract with USAMRID ended in the same year, and he then started helping the US military build a mock biological weapons factory. White House staff started taking anti-anthrax drugs on 9/11.

When the Patriot Act was introduced in early October 2001, anthrax recipients Senators Daschle and Leahy argued against it, at the same time as the first attack was reported in the media. The FBI quickly came under pressure to link the attacks to al-Qaeda, which Vice-President Cheney suggested publicly. A strange coincidence temporarily seemed to boost this possibility, and even President Bush suggested a link, although the Iraqi government was suspected as well. As fears mounted, Canada overrode Bayer's patent for the anti-anthrax drug Cipro, whereas the company reduced the price for the US government.

Hatfill continued to work with US special forces until the autumn of 2002, and the FBI finally started considering other subjects in late 2006. A year later, a Republican senator said top officials had leaked false leads to hide their lack of progress, and in early 2008 a judge said there was "not a scintilla of evidence" linking the attacks to Hatfill, to whom the FBI had to pay millions in compensation.

The FBI was reported to be focusing on "about four" subjects this March, and Director Robert Mueller said it was making "great progress" in July, just five days before now-chief suspect Bruce Ivins apparently killed himself. Thankfully, some people in congress want a proper investigation of what happened.

The second main topic for additions this week was the 1998 embassy bombings, whose tenth anniversary was on Thursday. The bombings stemmed from al-Qaeda activities in Africa in the mid-1990s, when they trained Somali militants, and attempted to assassinate the president of Egypt, after which the Saudis tried to assassinate Osama bin Laden. Four of the embassy bombers worked for a charity that is said to be a CIA front, and when the State Department issued a warning about a possible attack by bin Laden in the summer of 1998, the warning did not cover Africa.

There were a number of missed clues that could have prevented the bombings and some of the new entries focus on this. Shortly before the attacks, phone calls between two of the bombers may have been monitored, a security guard noticed the US embassy in Kenya being videotaped, most of the bombers flew from Africa to Pakistan, and al-Qaeda evacuated its Afghan training camps, which were being monitored by the US. Perhaps most importantly, one of the bombers was arrested in Pakistan three hours before the bombings.

Following the attacks, bin Laden's London office was finally shut down and an a marathon extradition battle started. One of the alleged embassy bombers narrowly escaped capture in Kenya last week.

Regarding the 9/11 Commission, the White House told commission chairman Tom Kean he had to "stand up" for the president, although White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales fought hard to deny the commission access to executive branch documents and personnel. When Philip Zelikow was appointed executive director of the commission, his ties to National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice caused counterterrorism tsar Richard Clarke to think, "The fix is in."

At the CIA, a renditions branch was established in 1997, helping out with up to 70 renditions before 9/11, and top Clinton administration officials were briefed about this. After 9/11, a manager responsible for the renditions program, Rich B, proposed that the CIA would use hit teams to assassinate suspects around the world.

Miscellaneous events include military tribunal charges being dropped against one of the several "20th hijackers," a 2008 al-Qaeda suicide bombing in Yemen killing four, and a leading London imam being seen at a militant training camp in 1997. Finally, an al-Qaeda militant leader was killed in Somalia in May by a missile, Chechen leader Ibn Khattab was assassinated by the Russians in 2002, and there is a big new entry about Peter Power regarding the 7/7 London bombings.

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