What warning, if any, did the CIA receive from the National Reconnaissance Office concerning Arabs training on the fuselage of a passenger airliner at a terrorist training camp prior to September 11th, 2001?


After Sabah Khalifa Khodada Alami, an Iraqi military officer, defected from Iraq in 1999 to Turkey. He now lives in Fort Worth, Texas. When he was debriefed, he described his training mission at Salman Pak, a military base about 21 miles from Baghdad that had been used for the testing of secret weapons, including chemical biological warfare agents, and paramilitary training for covert actions. Captain Sabah Khalifa Khodada Alami said that as late as 1998 he trained an elite commando team, Fedayeen Saddam, in airline hijacking and sabotage. Through a translator, Mr. Alami described, according to the Wall street Journal, a daily regimen of exercises on kidnapping, assassination, and -- using a Boeing 707 parked inside the complex -- how to hijack a plane or bus without weapons. He said that a separate group of non-Iraqis were being similarly trained by Saddam's intelligence service, the mukhabarat. Asked about the plane by an interviewer for Front Line, he said "Yes, there's a real whole 707 plane, a whole real plane, standing in the middle of the training area in this camp."

Subsequently, a second Iraqi defector, a former intelligence officer who defected in early 2001 , described "Islamicists" training on a Boeing 707 parked in Salman Pak from about 1995 to as recently as September 2000. Neither defector said any efforts were made to hide or conceal the Boeing from satellite photography. And, according to Front Line, a former U.N. inspector who worked for the United Nations said that he saw the fuselage of an airliner at Salman Pak which was smaller than a Boeing. Whatever manufacture and size , there is agreement such a plane was in the Salman Pak complex.

During this period, the base at Salman Pak was under surveillance of US KH-11 reconnaissance satellites which were providing intelligence on Iraq's possible weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological warfare equipment, to the CIA. The information about Salman Pak was also used publically by UNSCOM, the UN agency charged with monitoring Iraq's disposal of such weapons. Since Salman Pak was systematically photographed, if the defectors' accounts are accurate, the Boeing 707 would also have been routinely photographed between 1995 and 2000 many times. Given that Salman Pak was not an air base, a Boeing 707 on the ground there would have stood out like a sore thumb. It is also possible that the Arabs training on it were recognizable (unless training was only at night or they wore masks). After September 11th, a private US satellite photo company, Space Imaging, went through its archives and found a photo that included a plane parked in the Salman Pak compound.

The National Reconnaissance Office collates, analyzes and distributes the intelligence gleaned from satellite imagery in Iraq. If it had pictures of an airliner, Boeing or whatever kind, permanently stationed inside the Salmon Pak complex, it is reasonable to assume that they would not have withheld them from the CIA. If so, the CIA had photographic evidence confirming defectors claims that Iraq was practicing, if not preparing, covert actions against a Boeing prior to September 11th.


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