July 2001 Communication between KSM and Bin al-Shibh Intercepted, Later Obtained by Moussaoui Prosecutors
Kevin Fenton has updated this article; visit the original via the link at the bottom - loose nuke
A July 2001 telephone call between alleged 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and 9/11 coordinator Ramzi bin al-Shibh was intercepted, apparently by the NSA. Prosecutors and FBI agents working on the Zacarias Moussaoui case later obtained detailed information about the call, and shared it with the 9/11 Commission.
The three-page memo sets out events concerning Moussaoui in chronological order and the passage about the intercept is between events on 20 and 25 July 2001, indicating it took place within that five-day period.
The first sentence of the paragraph is redacted, but it continues:
Sally is probably Moussaoui, as there is discussion about sending money to Sally. There is a discussion about Teresa being late, which probably refers to [Flight 93 pilot Ziad] Jarrah and possible conflicts with [lead hijacker Mohamed] Atta about Jarrah's isolation from the plot and perhaps uncertainty about whether he would carry out the attacks. It seems that Moussaoui may have been thought as a replacement, since there's an exchange where KSM speaks of Teresa being late so send the money to Sally. KSM is concerned about Jarrah dropping out, stating that if there is a divorce, it will cost a lot of money. Bin al-Shibh tries to reassure him, saying it will be ok. KSM may have been concerned also because he had never met Jarrah and so did not know him personally. There is also a reference to "Danish leather" which is believed to be [“20th hijacker” Mohamed] al Qahtani. At this time, KSM was under great pressure from UBL [Osama bin Laden] to carry out the operation as soon as possible.
The code used by the two men is typical of al-Qaeda operatives talking on the phone, where innocuous words—in this case “Sally,” “Teresa,” “being late,” “divorce” and “Danish leather”—are substituted in for their real meanings. One example is “big wedding,” meaning “attack” or “bombing.” Another was revealed by former Alec Station chief Michael Scheuer in a PBS documentary about al-Qaeda intercepts: “Over time, if you read enough of these conversations, you first get clued in to the fact that maybe ‘bottle of milk’ doesn't mean ‘bottle of milk.’"
The intercept raises two key questions.
First, who intercepted the call and why? German authorities were monitoring bin al-Shibh’s associates (such as Mamoun Darkazanli, Mounir El Motassadeq and Mohammed Haydar Zammar), and the NSA and FBI were monitoring KSM at this time. However, the most likely explanation is that this was an NSA intercept of a call by bin al-Shibh, who it would therefore appear the NSA was tracking.
If the call had been intercepted based on surveillance of KSM, then a post-attack review of it would have made it immediately clear to the listener that KSM was heavily involved in planning 9/11. Bin al-Shibh was identified as an associate of the hijackers shortly after the attacks. However, the US allegedly failed to put together various pieces of intelligence indicating KSM was heavily involved until FBI investigator Ali Soufan got the information out of militant training camp facilitator Abu Zubaida in the spring of 2002, just before Zubaida was taken away from him by the CIA. Therefore, although bin al-Shibh was probably identified as one of the voices on the tape soon after 9/11, KSM must not have been.
In addition, there is a cryptic mention of this intercept in the 9/11 Commission report. A passage apparently drafted by Special Projects leader Barbara Grewe on page 277 says that “KSM had communicated with a phone that was used by bin al-Shibh, and … bin al-Shibh had used the same phone to communicate with Moussaoui.” However, there is no mention of what the source for this claim is in the endnotes. Analysis of the endnotes to the commission’s report indicates that although information from the CIA and FBI was sourced to these agencies in the report, information that apparently came from the NSA was not sourced to it. Sourcing for sections of the report based on NSA intelligence is missing, or the endnotes simply say “intelligence report,” without identifying the originating agency. The lack of sourcing for this section indicates a probable NSA origin.
The wider question is: why was the intercept not exploited to stop the plot? Exploitation of calls between the alleged mastermind and coordinator of the attacks would certainly have had such potential. While an attempt to examine the failings of the FBI and CIA has been made, the NSA—then headed by the controversial Michael Hayden—has largely escaped public scrutiny.
Finally, although not all materials from the Moussaoui trial are available, there is no public record of this intercept being used at the trial. As it indicates that Moussaoui, who escaped the death penalty by one vote, was being considered for a role in 9/11, it would certainly have been of interest to the jury.
Re-posted from here.