Team B Issue #1:
The Case That The 9-11 Aerial Attack Was a State-Sponsored Act


Secretary of State Colin Powell in presenting his case to the UN on February 5th identified what he termed "The nexus of Iraq and terror." Powell asserted that the US had learned prior to 9-11-2001 from a foreign intelligence service that " bin Laden met with a senior Iraqi intelligence official in Khartoum, and later met the director of the Iraqi intelligence service," and that Iraq, according to other intelligence sources, "forged ... secret, high-level intelligence service contacts with al Qaeda." The US also learned from its interrogation of al Qaeda sources after 9-11-2001 that Iraq offered "chemical or biological weapons training for two al Qaeda associates beginning in December 2000."

Despite this reported collaboration between Iraq and al-Qaeda before 9- 11, Powell did not consider the possibility that state-sponsorship controlled the coordinated aerial attack on targets in New York and Washington on 9- 11. Yet until 9-11, the US government took very seriously the role of hostile states using intelligence services to covertly sponsor bombings and other activities that could be attributed to free-lance terrorists. As late as April 2001, Powell issued a report designating seven governments— Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Cuba, North Korea, and Sudan— as "state sponsors of international terrorism," and expressed concern "of Pakistani support to terrorist groups and elements active in Kashmir, as well as Pakistani support, especially military support, to the Taliban, which continues to harbor terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, al-Gama'a al- Islamiyya, and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan."

As a specific example of state-sponsored terrorism against the US, Powell cited reports that the "Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) might retaliate against Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty for broadcasts critical of the Iraqi regime" in Prague. That allegation came directly from a source in a position to know, Jabir Salim, the Iraqi consul in the Czech Republic, who defected in December 1998. Salim reportedly revealed during his debriefings that he had been given $150,000 in two payments by the Iraqi intelligence service to buy untraceable explosives and pay free-lance terrorists to detonate a truck bomb in front of the Radio Free Europe building in downtown Prague. The Czech government in response to Salim's disclosure not only increased its police protection of Radio Free Europe, it expelled Salim's replacement at the Iraqi Embassy in April 2001 because of suspicions he was continuing the plot.

The theory of state-sponsored terrorism, which was the conventional wisdom during the cold war, was based on the assumption that states sought to camouflage, or at least create a fig leaf of plausible deniability for the bombings and other covert actions carried out by their intelligence services, by using free-lance terrorists as operatives. In support, state sponsors had many options. They could use embassy bases, in which their officers were protected by diplomatic immunity, to conduct the necessary surveillance. They could use unsearchable diplomatic pouches and courier planes to transport lethal weaponry, such as C-4, Semtex and ricin. They could counterfeit authentic-looking travel documents and plant records in official files to back them up. They could use state banks to launder and transfer virtually untraceable money to the accounts of operatives. They could use their foreign intelligence officers to recruit operatives abroad under false flags or use their internal security services to threaten and compromise relatives of operatives to control their action. Since individual terrorists rarely had such resources, it was commonly assumed, even when the bodies of terrorists were found at the scene of a complex attack, that it had state sponsorship.

India, for example, assumes that Pakistan are behind the Harkut-ul- Mujahideen that carries out terrorist-style attacks in Kashmir even when captured operatives traced directly back to al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan. Similarly, even though local Saudi terrorists bombed the US military residences at Khobar Towers in Dharan, Saudi Arabia in 1996, killing 19 Americans, the US Department of Justice assumed, because of the size of the bomb and advanced planning, that the attack was organized by a state: Iran. In fact, on July 22, 2001 that Attorney General Ashcroft vowed to pursue the Iranians "who inspired, supported and supervised the attack." That was 51 days before the aerial attack on the World Trade Center.

Why then is not the possibility of state participation in the 9-11 attack given consideration under the theory of state-sponsored terrorism? After all, the 9-11 attack was perhaps the most complex, synchronous assault on the United States since Pearl Harbor. It involved:

1) four separate crews of trained hijackers embarking from three separate airports;

2) intelligence that included advance reconnaissance of numerous airports, airliners, cockpits and flight crews;

3) weapons (or chemical sprays) that allowed the crews to disable the pilots and for co-pilots with such dispatch that not a single one of them was able to inform the ground controllers over their open radio of the attack.

4) four or more pilots capable of flying Boeing 757s and Boeings 767s in evasive patterns, while turning off the IFF transponders to confuse and delay interception and navigate the planes towards pre-selected targets;

5) documentation for at least 13 of the hijackers, including passports that were either stolen or recycled from the passports of Arabs killed in Chechenya or elsewhere, and forged driver licenses and other ID;

6) funds to transport, train, arm and quarter 19 or more operatives for many months, and the mechanisms to deposit and transfer these funds in such a way that they remained untraceable;

7) escape routes and new identities for Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and other operatives not aboard the four planes;

8) the communications, logistics and agent management necessary to securely coordinate four separate attacks on the same day.

Under the theory of state sponsored terrorism, the intelligence service of a hostile state would be considered as the supplier of such resources and planning. And a prime candidate would be a hostile state that had planned past attacks on American targets, and had a link to al-Qaeda, such as Iraq. Consider:

1. Iraq was at war with the United States in the no-fly zones in September 2001.

2. Iraq, according to Secretary of State Powell's disclosures, had "secret, high-level intelligence service contacts with al Qaeda" and offered "chemical or biological weapons training for two al Qaeda associates beginning in December 2000."

3. Iraq, according to an intelligence officer who defected from Prague, had used its embassy in Prague as a base to organize, finance and direct a terrorist bombing aimed at an American facility in 1998: Radio Free Europe.

4) An Iraqi officer in Prague, according to the Czech intelligence service (BIS), met with an Arab it identified as 9-11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, in April 2001, which resulted in the Czech Foreign Ministry expelling the Iraqi Officer.

5) Iraq had both the means and experience to carry out state-sponsored covert actions that used free-lance terrorists as operatives.

6) In his 1999 book Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War On America,Yossef Bodansky, former Director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, states his belief that "terrorist operations in several parts of the world now attributed to bin Laden were actually state-sponsored operations." He accepts that bin Laden and his followers participated in these actions but argues that planning, intelligence support and escape routes were provided by state intelligence services, including those of Iran and Iraq. In Bodansky's view, these states not only used Jihadists to carry out their covert actions, they used them as masks to hide behind.

Why then should not the Kean Commission consider the possibility that 9-11 was an act of state-sponsored terrorism?
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