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Responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks

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Sept. 11, 2001 attacks
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U.S. Congress Inquiry
9/11 Commission

Responsibility for the September 11, 2001 attacks has been found to lie with Osama bin Laden and his organization al-Qaida. However in the immediate aftermath of the attack there was a great deal of uncertainty and spirited debate -- that has evolved and still lasts today -- as to who was actually responsible, whether other groups deserve secondary responsibility, and if so, what level of guilt these other groups bear.

Contents

Initial claims

Initial reports following the attacks indicated that the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a Palestinian terrorist group, had claimed responsibility for the attacks, but this was denied by a senior leader of the group soon after. There are filmed reports of celebrations on the West Bank, although according to articles in the German magazine Stern and the Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, at least one of them was staged. Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat denounced the attacks, saying it was counterproductive to any peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Next to claim responsibility were the Taliban of Afghanistan. The Taliban subsequently denounced the attack and claimed that it was not connected to Osama bin Laden, the Muslim leader living in Afghanistan whom the U.S. government declared the prime suspect.

Virtually all world leaders, including traditional rivals or enemies of the United States, denounced the attacks and expressed sympathy for the American people. In addition to the Taliban, this included Libyan president Moammar Qadhafi, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, and Cuban president Fidel Castro. An exception was Saddam Hussein, then ruler of Iraq, who called the attacks the fruits of U.S. crimes against humanity.

Al-Qaida

Though no group has explicitly claimed responsibility, the militant Islamic al-Qaida group has praised the attacks and the group's leaders have hinted at their involvement in the incidents. Indeed, shortly after the attacks, the United States government declared them and their leader, Osama bin Laden, as the prime suspects. In 2004, the U.S. government commission investigating the attacks officially concluded that the attacks were conceived and implemented by al-Qaida operatives. [1] (http://www.9-11commission.gov/)

Important information about the planning and execution of the attacks by al-Qaida came to light following the capture of two of its members - Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh - in separate raids in 2003 and 2002, and in an exclusive interview with al Jazeera journalist Yosro Fauda in September 2002.

Interrogations allegedly revealed that Khalid Mohammed was the instigator and prime organizer of the attacks. The first hijack plan that Mohammed presented to the leadership of al-Qaida called for several airplanes on both east and west coasts to be hijacked and flown into targets. Mohammed's plan evolved from an earlier foiled plot known as Operation Bojinka which called for ten or more airliners to be bombed in mid-air or hijacked for use as missiles.

Osama bin Laden was aware of these plans, and used his authority to gradually scale them down to an operation with four planes.

According to the captured al-Qaida members, six of the hijackers played active parts in the planning, including the four who became the pilots. The other two were Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. CIA operatives reportedly monitored the movements of these two known militants when they visited the U.S. but did not notify the FBI or gain an inkling of what the hijackers were planning.

The targets ultimately chosen were the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the United States Capitol. Flight 93 was apparently meant to crash into the Capitol. The White House was considered as a target but was dismissed as being too difficult to locate from the air. In the communications that developed as the scheme took form, the Pentagon's code name was the Faculty of Arts, Capitol Hill was the Faculty of Law, and the World Trade Center was coded as the Faculty of Town Planning.

Intelligence experts speak of a "short list" of prime suspects -- groups that possess both the means and the motive to carry out the crime. It appears certain that all hijackers have Arabic origins, and none are Afghani; moreover, both in their immense scale, careful planning and refraining from claiming responsibility, the attacks are reminiscent of Al-Qaida's previous attacks such as the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings that killed over 200 people.

Although bin Laden's al-Qaida organization has never explicitly claimed responsibility, it has praised the attacks and hinted that it was behind them and planning more. The group's spokesman, Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, said in a video sent to al-Jazeera and broadcast in October 2001: "Americans should know, the storm of the planes will not stop. ... There are thousands of the Islamic nation's youths who are eager to die just as the Americans are eager to live."

In November 2001, U.S. forces recovered a videotape from a destroyed house in Jalalabad, Afghanistan which showed Osama bin Laden talking to Khaled al-Harbi. In the tape, Osama seems to admit planning the attacks. Translations from the tape include the following lines:

"we calculated in advance the number of casualties from the enemy, who would be killed based on the position of the tower. We calculated that the floors that would be hit would be three or four floors. I was the most optimistic of them all...We had notification since the previous Thursday that the event would take place that day. We had finished our work that day and had the radio on...Muhammad (Atta) from the Egyptian family (meaning the Al Qaida Egyptian group), was in charge of the group...The brothers, who conducted the operation, all they knew was that they have a martyrdom operation and we asked each of them to go to America but they didn't know anything about the operation, not even one letter. But they were trained and we did not reveal the operation to them until they are there and just before they boarded the planes."[2] (http://www.cbc.ca/news/indepth/targetterrorism/backgrounders/binladen_tapes_transcript.html)

Later Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh were captured. Both were known al Qaida members and both admitted participating in the planning of the attacks. They also indicated bin Laden's direct participation. Mohammed was the principal planner of the attack basing it on the failed Operation Bojinka. Binalshibh may have been picked as a hijacker but, after failing to get into the U.S., worked on financing the operation. Among the details they revealed under interrogation was that the original plan had called for more aircraft but that bin Laden had scaled it down and that bin Laden had attempted to advance the timing of the attacks after events in Israel.

As of 2004, several people including Mohammed, Binalshibh and Mohamed al-Kahtani, the 20th hijacker, were being held by the U.S. as illegal combatants; however, the United States had no one on trial for the attacks. In Germany, Mounir El Motassadeq was convicted of over 3000 counts of accessory to murder for helping finance the hijackers but the verdict was put aside and a new trial scheduled. Abdelghani Mzoudi was acquitted in Germany on the same charges.

Earlier revelations

Main article: Osama bin Laden Fatwa, Osama tapes, Osama bin Laden's Declaration of War

In late September 2001, British Prime Minister Tony Blair released information compiled by Western intelligence agencies connecting Osama bin Laden to the Afghan Taliban leadership and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida organisation.

The Taliban refused to extradite Osama bin Laden or other al-Qaida leaders based in Afghanistan to the United States without conclusive evidence, although they proposed extradition to an Islamic country. (Previously, the Taliban had refused to extradite bin Laden without conclusive evidence that he was involved in the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania, and the bombing of the USS Cole in a harbor in Yemen.) The Taliban leaders' refusal to comply with U.S. government demands gave the U.S. government a rationale for launching the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan on October 7, 2001.

Missing image
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September 17, 2001 - A small portion of the scene where the World Trade Center collapsed following the September 11 attacks.

After the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, an abandoned videotape was purportedly discovered in Kabul, the Afghan capital, showing bin Laden discussing the attacks and claiming foreknowledge of the attacks.

U.S. Investigators have nearly a decade of statements directly from bin Laden that state the motives for the attacks on the U.S. and U.S. allies. In interviews with journalists and other public proclamations since 1996, bin Laden has repeatedly broadcast a common list of grievances which he cites as the reason for his declaration of war against the U.S. Most of these statements have been confirmed as bin Laden's but at least one letter (http://observer.guardian.co.uk/print/0,3858,4552895-102275,00.html) written in Arabic, ostensibly bin Laden's "will", appeared on the Internet but has not been authenticated.

In many interviews with bin Laden, he lists specific foreign policies of the U.S. as the reasons for al-Qaida attacks against Americans and the U.S. government.

An audio tape reportedly from bin Laden stated in part:

"... the Mujahideen saw the black gang of thugs in the White House hiding the Truth, and their stupid and foolish leader, who is elected and supported by his people, denying reality and proclaiming that we (the Mujahideen) were striking them because we were jealous of them (the Americans), whereas the reality is that we are striking them because of their evil and injustice in the whole of the Islamic World, especially in Iraq and Palestine and their occupation of the Land of the Two Holy Sanctuaries. Upon seeing this, the Mujahideen decided teach them a lesson and to take the war to their heartland. On the blessed Tuesday 11 September 2001, while the Zionist-American Alliance was targeting our children and our people in the blessed land of Al-Aqsa, with American tanks and planes in the hands of the Jews, and our people in Iraq were suffering from the America's sanctions upon them, and the Islamic world was very far away from establishing Islam properly." – Osama bin Laden, February 14, 2003

In the paragraph before that he again recaps motives that he has claimed for years:

" ... in 1995, the explosion in Riyadh took place, killing four Americans, in a clear message from the people of that region displaying their rejection and opposition to the American policy of bankrolling the Jews and occupying the Land of the Two Holy Sanctuaries. The following year, another explosion in Al-Khobar killed 19 Americans and wounded more than 400 of them, prompting them to move their bases from the cities to the desert. Then in 1998, the Mujahideen warned America to cease their support to the Jews and to leave the Land of the Two Holy Sanctuaries, but the enemy refused to heed this warning, so the Mujahideen, with the ability from Allah, smashed them with two mighty smashes in East Africa. Then again America was warned, but she refused to pay attention to the warnings, so the Mujahideen destroyed the American Destroyer, the USS Cole, in Aden, in a martyrdom operation, striking a solid blow to the face of the American military and at the same time, exposing the Yemeni Government as American agents, similar to all the countries in the region." -Osama bin Laden February 14, 2003

For many years bin Laden stated motives for attacking U.S. interests. He said in an interview in 1999, "The International Islamic Front for Jihad against the U.S. and Israel has issued a crystal-clear fatwa calling on the Islamic nation to carry on jihad aimed at liberating holy sites. The nation of Muhammad has responded to this appeal. If the instigation for jihad against the Jews and the Americans in order to liberate Al-Aksa Mosque and the Holy Ka'aba Islamic shrines in the Middle East is considered a crime, then let history be a witness that I am a criminal."

"We swore that America wouldn't live in security until we live it truly in Palestine. This showed the reality of America, which puts Israel's interest above its own people's interest. America won't get out of this crisis until it gets out of the Arabian Peninsula, and until it stops its support of Israel." -Osama bin Laden, October 2001

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WTCgroundzero.jpg
"The Pile", Manhattan

A German friend of Mohammed Atta is quoted as describing him as "most imbued actually about Israeli politics in the region and about U.S. protection of these Israeli politics in the region. And he was to a degree personally suffering from that."

The FBI testified that al-Qaida had specific goals. "One of the primary goals of Sunni extremists is the removal of U.S. military forces from the Persian Gulf area, most notably Saudi Arabia."

The Bush Administration and others have stated that terrorists are motivated to attack by "hatred of America". President Bush said: "America was targeted for attack because we're the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world."

Jemaah Islamiyah

While Jemaah Islamiyah leader Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, would not get the spotlight in the United States until after the Bali nightclub bombings, he had a hand in the planning of September 11. His front company, Konsojaya, which was founded in 1994, helped fund Manila-based Operation Bojinka, which was a massive planned terrorist attack that was foiled on January 5, 1995, when Filipino police found the project on Ramzi Yousef's laptop after a chemical fire broke out in his apartment. Yousef would get arrested in Pakistan the following month, but Khalid Sheik Mohammed escaped, and used the plans and lessons learned to help shape September 11. Hambali's company was overlooked, so Hambali was able to go underground. He later met with two of the September 11 hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi in the 2000 Al Qaeda Summit in January 2000. He also gave money to alleged "20th hijacker" Zacarias Moussaoui. Hambali was arrested in Thailand on August 11, 2003.

U.S. culpability

Worldwide, a significant minority see the attack as an outcome of past United States involvement in the Middle East and surrounding area. They believe that such acts of terrorism are only to be expected given the economic and cultural power of the United States and the multinational corporations which are identified with it. The creation of pockets of hatred, according to this viewpoint, is an inevitable consequence of the overwhelming outside economic pressure placed on poor countries with minimal control of their political destiny. Notwithstanding this, the majority of people in most nations also believe that the attack was an evil act and that cause does not equal justification. However, some people also criticize the U.S.'s War on Terrorism, fearing that a violent response will only continue the cycle.

Some people also suspect complicity in the attacks within the U.S. government itself, in order to convince the U.S. citizens to go to war for "terrorism". In the 2004 book Crossing the Rubicon author Michael Ruppert elaborates on this theory and shows which obvious questions have till now not been fully addressed by the Bush administration.

Other nations

Afghanistan

There is no evidence that the government of Afghanistan knew of or approved of the September 11 attacks ahead of time. However, the country gave safe haven to Osama bin Laden, and refused to turn him over to U.S. forces. Because of the Bush doctrine, which stated "We will make no distinction between the terrorists and those who harbor them", the United States invaded and overthrew the Afghan government in 2002.

(more info needed here)

Iraq

Immediately after the attacks, rumors began that Iraq could have been behind them. Some members of the Bush administration reportedly began to draw up such theories immediately after the attacks. The state-run Iraqi media praised the attacks but denied that Iraq was responsible. Despite massive investigations by the CIA and the Office of Special Plans, no link between the government of Iraq and the 9/11 attacks was ever found.

(more info needed here)

Saudi Arabia

In June of 2001, a "high-placed member of a US intelligence agency" told BBC reporter Greg Palast that "after the [2000] elections, the agencies were told to "back off" investigating the Bin Ladens and Saudi royals".[3] (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/events/newsnight/1645527.stm)

In May of 2002, former FBI Agent Robert Wright delivered a tearful press conference apologizing to the families who lost loved ones on 9/11. He described how his superiors intentionally obstructed his investigation into Al-Qaeda financing.[4] (http://www.laweekly.com/ink/02/37/news-crogan.php)[5] (http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/searchResults.jsp?searchtext=Robert+Wright&events=on&entities=on&articles=on&topics=on&timelines=on&projects=on&titles=on&descriptions=on&dosearch=on&search=+Go+)

Agent Wright would later tell ABC's Brian Ross: "September 11th is a direct result of the incompetence of the FBI's International Terrorism Unit," specifically referring to the Bureau's hindering of his investigation into Yassin al-Qadi (al Kadi), who Ross described as a powerful Saudi Arabian businessman with extensive financial ties in Chicago.[6] (http://billstclair.com/911timeline/2002/abcnews121902b.html) One month after September 11, 2001 attacks, the US government officially identified Yassin al-Qadi as one of Osama bin Laden's primary financiers and a specially designated global terrorist.[7] (http://www.fas.org/irp/news/2002/10/dos101102.html)

In an interview with Computerworld Magazine, a former business associate described his relationship with al-Qadi: "I met him a few times and talked to him a few times on the telephone. He never talked to me about violence. Instead, he talked very highly of his relationship with [former President] Jimmy Carter and [Vice President] Dick Cheney."[8] (http://www.computerworld.com/securitytopics/security/story/0,10801,77682,00.html)

The Muwafaq Foundation, which U.S. authorities have confirmed was an arm of bin Laden's terror organization, was headed by Yassin al-Qadi,[9] (http://www.theweeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/001/072kqska.asp) who was also known as the owner of Ptech[10] (http://archives.cnn.com/2002/US/Northeast/12/06/ptech.raid/) -- a company that has supplied high-tech computer systems to the FBI, the IRS, Congress, the Army, the Navy, the Air Force, NATO, the FAA, and the White House. A former FBI Counter Terrorism Agent commented: "For someone like [al-Qadi] to be involved in a capacity, in an organization, a company that has access to classified information, that has access to government open or classified computer systems, would be of grave concern." Yacub Mirza— “a senior official of major radical Islamic organizations that have been linked by the US government to terrorism” —has recently been on Ptech's board of directors; and Hussein Ibrahim, the Vice President and Chief Scientist of Ptech, was vice chairman of a now defunct investment group called BMI, a company the FBI has named as a conduit used by al-Qadi to launder money to Hamas terrorists.[11] (http://wbz4.com/iteam/local_story_343145212.html)[12] (http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/searchResults.jsp?searchtext=al-Qadi&events=on&entities=on&articles=on&topics=on&timelines=on&projects=on&titles=on&descriptions=on&dosearch=on&search=+Go+)


According to Senator Bob Graham, who was chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee from June 2001 through the buildup to the Iraq war, "Two of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers had a support network in the United States that included agents of the Saudi government, and the Bush administration and FBI blocked a congressional investigation into that relationship," as reported by the Miami Herald.

"And in Graham's book, Intelligence Matters, obtained by The Herald Saturday, he makes clear that some details of that financial support from Saudi Arabia were in the 27 pages of the congressional inquiry's final report that were blocked from release by the administration, despite the pleas of leaders of both parties on the House and Senate intelligence committees."[13] (http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/9584265.htm)

(more info needed here)

Pakistan

A senior-level U.S. government source told CNN in October of 2001 that U.S. investigators believed Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh (Ahmed Umar Syed Sheikh), a long time ISI asset, using the alias Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad, sent more than $100,000 from Pakistan to Mohammed Atta, the suspected hijack ringleader of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

"Investigators said Atta then distributed the funds to conspirators in Florida in the weeks before the deadliest acts of terrorism on U.S. soil that destroyed the World Trade Center, heavily damaged the Pentagon and left thousands dead.
In addition, sources have said Atta sent thousands of dollars -- believed to be excess funds from the operation -- back to Syed in the United Arab Emirates in the days before September 11.
Syed also is described as a key figure in the funding operation of al Qaeda, the network headed by suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden."[14] (http://archives.cnn.com/2001/US/10/05/inv.terror.investigation/)

CNN later confirmed that it was "Ahmed Umar Syed Sheikh, whom authorities say used a pseudonym to wire $100,000 to suspected hijacker Mohammad Atta, who then distributed the money in the United States." [15] (http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/south/10/08/india.ressa/)

Soon after the money transfer was discovered, the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence, Gen. Mahmood (Mahmud) Ahmed resigned from his position. Indian news outlets reported the FBI was investigating the possiblity that Gen. Mahmood Ahmed ordered Saeed Sheikh to send the $100,000 to Atta, while most Western media outlets only reported his connections to the Taliban as the reason for his departure. [16] (http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/essay.jsp?article=essaysaeed)

Moreover, The Wall Street Journal was one of the only Western news organizations to follow up on the story, citing the Times of India: "US authorities sought [Gen. Mahmud Ahmed's] removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 [was] wired to WTC hijacker Mohammed Atta from Pakistan by Ahmad Umar Sheikh at the instance of Gen Mahumd." [17] (http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=95001298) The best coverage came from The Daily Excelsior, reporting "The FBI’s examination of the hard disk of the cellphone company Omar Sheikh had subscribed to led to the discovery of the 'link' between him and the deposed chief of the Pakistani ISI, Gen. Mehmood Ahmed. And as the FBI investigators delved deep, sensational information surfaced with regard to the transfer of 100,000 dollars to Mohammed Atta, one of the Kamikaze pilots who flew his Boeing into the World Trade Centre. Gen. Mehmood Ahmed, the FBI investigators found, fully knew about the transfer of money to Atta." [18] (http://www.dailyexcelsior.com/01oct18/news.htm)

Disturbingly, according to the Washington Post, "on the morning of Sept. 11, [Porter] Goss and [Bob] Graham were having breakfast with a Pakistani general named Mahmud Ahmed -- the soon-to-be-sacked head of Pakistan's intelligence service" [19] (http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A36091-2002May17&notFound=true) On September 12 and 13, Lt. Gen. Mahmood met with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, Senator Joseph Biden, the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and Secretary of State Colin Powell. An agreement on Pakistan's collaboration in the new “war on terror” was negotiated between Mahmood and Armitage.[20] (http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/essay_pf.jsp?article=mahmoodahmed)[21] (http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/timeline/2001/reuters091301.html)[22] (http://www.rockymountainnews.com/drmn/america_under_attack/article/0,1299,DRMN_16_824298,00.html)[23] (http://www.cooperativeresearch.org/timeline/2001/miamiherald091601.html) Lt Gen Mehmood Ahmed then lead a six-member delegation to the Afghan city of Kandahar in order to hold crisis talks with the Taliban leadership, supposedly in an attempt to persuade them to hand over Osama bin Laden.[24] (http://www.911readingroom.org/bibliography/whole_document.php?article_id=287)


(more info needed here)

Israel

Various Arab- and Muslim-world news sources carried opinion pieces and articles promoting the claim that Jews, Zionists, or Israel carried out the attacks in order to frame the Arab world to the benefit of Israel. A Gallup survey of 10,000 inhabitants of Islamic countries showed that only 18 percent believed that Arabs were responsible. One popular conspiracy theory held that 4,000 Israelis (or Jews, depending on the version of the story that is told) who normally worked in the World Trade Center mysteriously didn't show up for work the morning of September 11th. There is no evidence that Israel was in any way responsible for this attack (see 9/11 conspiracy claims regarding Jews or Israel).

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