History Commons Groups

December 24, 2008

Former FBI Director: 9/11 Hijacker’s Phone Played “Integral Role” in Cole Investigation

At the 9/11 Commission hearing on Law Enforcement and the Intelligence Community in April 2004, in response to a question about the FBI’s failings from commissioner Tim Roemer, former FBI Director Louis Freeh said:

… It would have been helpful — it would have been helpful — for the FBI at that particular point in time to know the names of those two individuals [Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi]; that the information which was generated in the January 2000 physical surveillance, not by the CIA but by a liaison agency [Malaysia’s Special Branch] — if that information and the initiation for that surveillance, which were phone calls to a central number, which you’re well aware of, which plays a integral role not only in the East African bombings case but also in the Cole investigation;…

The phone number, Yemen 1200578, was registered Ahmed al-Hada, father-in-law of Flight 77 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, and Almihdhar lived at al-Hada’s house when not away on bin-Laden-related business. The number is the subject of the 9/11 Timeline’s Yemen Hub category, which summarises pretty-much everything known about the number.

As outlined in the Yemen Hub category, the number was under heavy surveillance by the US. It was al-Qaeda’s operations centre and had been integral in the embassy bombings, when it received calls from both the bombers in Africa and bin Laden in Afghanistan. Intercepts of the calls enabled the FBI to map al-Qaeda’s global network (except the 9/11 hijackers in the US, whose location the NSA failed to communicate). According to a US investigator, the hub number was used by the bombers to “put everything together” before the Cole bombing.

There are two simple questions: If the NSA was listening in on the bombers putting everything together before the Cole attack, why was it not prevented? Second, why was the hub not shut down after the Cole attack? The policy of allowing the hub to operate to map al-Qaeda was proved to be a failure by the Cole bombing, as no amount of intelligence was worth the lives of the dead sailors, so the people who ran the hub should have been arrested, as were some of the other Cole bombers in Yemen, like Fahad al-Quso.

When we started looking at the calls made by the Cole bombers, neither Paul nor I could believe they called this number, as we figured it would have got the plot shut down immediately, due to the heavy surveillance. Oh, how naïve we were. I just don’t get how what happened could have happened – neither the embassy bombings, nor the Cole, nor 9/11.

And here’s one last question: where is the NSA inspector general’s report on the Cole bombing? And its inspector general’s reports on the embassy bombings and 9/11?


  1. Hi Kevin, History Commons section on the USS Cole and Yemen section is extremely thorough, the best by far available on the web, and nearly perfect with one little exception, Qasim al-Reimi is not dead. The announcement of his death was later repealed by authorities

    see: http://yementimes.com/article.shtml?i=1076&p=front&a=4

    So this entry needs an adjustment:

    July 2, 2007: Suicide Bomber Kills Westerners in Yemen; Al-Qaeda Is Suspected

    One month later, Yemeni security forces kill four suspected al-Qaeda militants who are believed to have been involved in the bombing. One of the killed is Kassem al-Raimi, an alleged top al-Qaeda operative thought to have masterminded the bombing. Al-Raimi was one of many who escaped from a Yemeni prison the year before (see February 3, 2006). [BBC, 8/8/2007] In several interviews after the bombing, Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh will claim his government has reached a new truce with al-Qaeda. [Associated Press, 10/26/2007]
    Entity Tags: Ali Abdallah Saleh, Kassem al-Raimi, Al-Qaeda

    Keep up the great work, sorry to dump the update here.

    Jane Novak


    Comment by Jane — December 31, 2008 @ 11:34 am | Reply

  2. And Happy New Year!

    Comment by Jane — December 31, 2008 @ 11:35 am | Reply

  3. Also your post is spot on.

    Comment by Jane — December 31, 2008 @ 11:38 am | Reply

  4. Also from a couple of weeks ago, most wanted terrorist says Yemeni Political Security Organization complicit in some terror attacks:


    sorry sorry, I’ll stop now…

    Comment by Jane — December 31, 2008 @ 11:50 am | Reply

  5. Hi Jane, thanks for the correction about the el-Reimi. It will appear when it makes its way through the system.

    I just googled your name, so sad to learn you are a Shiite monarchist and a Zionist running dog (grins), although I have to admit that this is pretty impressive. I had always thought that a Shiite Zionist was a contradiction in terms, but I suppose you learn something every day.

    Comment by kevinfenton — January 1, 2009 @ 4:57 am | Reply

  6. 🙂 Actually this week I’m a Socialist Seperatist, next week I plan on going back to being a Shiite Zionist. Thanks for taking care of that.

    Comment by Jane — January 2, 2009 @ 4:33 pm | Reply

  7. Not a member of the Unitarian Jihad?

    — Max, aka Brother Pitchfork of Reasoned Mercy

    Comment by Max — January 2, 2009 @ 6:01 pm | Reply

  8. Wow it works.

    regards from.

    Sister Shining Hydrogen Bomb of Fervent Kindness

    Comment by Jane — January 2, 2009 @ 11:15 pm | Reply

  9. With a name like that, you should be Pope. (Pope-ess? Do we/they have a hierarchical authoritarian command structure? The things I don’t know….)

    Comment by Max — January 3, 2009 @ 10:42 pm | Reply

  10. Dear Sir,

    Do you really believe this is true. As the father of one of those sailors who has been working for years to get Andwers this could be extremely important to us. I was told that they had not overheard anything about the pending attack. I am not doubting you, thats what we were told. And how does one get those reports you mentioned about the Cole and Embassy bombings. I would like to send these and my questions to the Senator Corny who has told us that the hearing will be this year.
    Gary G. Swenchonis Sr
    Remember the Cole

    Comment by bobster67 — January 19, 2009 @ 1:45 am | Reply

  11. […] very likely they’d have had a greater ability to prevent those September attacks as well. There are two simple questions: If the NSA was listening in on the bombers putting everything together before the Cole attack, why […]

    Pingback by Flopping Aces » Blog Archive » Former FBI Director: 9/11 Hijacker’s Phone Played “Integral Role” in Cole Investigation — January 19, 2009 @ 6:53 am | Reply

  12. Gary, good luck getting a proper response from Senator Cornyn. I’ll make sure Kevin sees your comment, maybe he can give you some sourcing info.

    Comment by Max — January 19, 2009 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

  13. Reply to Mr. Swenchonis

    I am pretty sure this is true – that the Cole bombers called al-Hada’s phone in Sana’a, which was under surveillance by the NSA. In addition to being confirmed by the FBI director, it has been reported by numerous sources. For example:

    US News and World Report:
    “The home also served as a planning center for the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Yemen.”

    The Cell, by John Miller, Michael Stone and Chris Mitchell (Miller is now assistant director of the FBI):
    Almihdhar’s “father-in-law’s phone also provided a critical communication link between the bomber who blasted a hole in the USS Cole.”
    Page 270 in my copy.

    MSNBC, by Robert Windrem:
    “As far as the Cole bombing, a U.S. investigator said the phone was used by the bombers to ‘put everything together.'”

    The Shadow Factory by James Bamford:
    “Between 1996 and 1998, bin Laden and his top aides made a total of 221 calls to the ops center’s phone number, 011-967-1-200-578, using the house to coordinate the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa and to plan the attack of the USS Cole in the port of Aden in 2000.”
    Page 8

    They are all talking about al-Hada’s number in Sana’a, which the NSA started monitoring some time between 1996 and August 1998. It was reported credibly by 4 media sources and confirmed by the FBI director. I’d say that’s pretty solid.

    In addition, we know that one of the Cole masterminds, Khallad bin Attash, called the number about 5-6 days before the failed attack on the Sullivans – this is the call the NSA picked up that led to the monitoring of al-Qaeda’s famous Malaysia summit in January 2000.

    Regarding the NSA’s reports on the embassy attacks, the Cole bombing and 9/11, I don’t know if they exist. The NSA is supersecret, they won’t tell me aynthing about specific investigations through the public affairs office and they don’t have a friendly approach to FOIA requests.

    It occurs to me that if you really wanted you could try finding Ali Soufan (who headed the FBI’s Cole investigation, but has since left the bureau). After the embassy bombings and 9/11 the bureau looked at the attackers’ phone records and discovered they had called the Yemen number and that the NSA must have intercepted the calls but did nothing with them. That may well have been the case after the Cole as well (and it would explain why the FBI director knew of it). Soufan would probably know about calls between the bombers and al-Hada, and I understand he might tell you. Unfortunately, I’m not in contact with him, although he was still working for Giuliani partners in January last year. Maybe he is still there. Good luck.

    Comment by kevinfenton — January 19, 2009 @ 1:44 pm | Reply

  14. […] in testimony before the 9/11 Commission by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, as I pointed out last December. I still think the primary issues here are the same as I put them last year: As outlined in the […]

    Pingback by FBI Document Shows Cole Bombers Called Yemen Hub « History Commons Groups — August 22, 2009 @ 12:12 pm | Reply

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