In the aftermath of the bombings of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the Bush administration was desperate to capture similar militants like the suicide bombers on the planes in the hope of learning more about what other people knew about the attacks, not so much about other possible attacks, for fear that there would be devastating blowback from the massive cock-up. The fact that no more attacks were anticipated was graphically demonstrated when President Bush continued reading to those children in the elementary school in Florida after he had been informed of the airliners being highjacked after they had taken off from distant airports in Boston, Newark, and Washington.
The Pentagon, under Donald Rumsfeld's direction, had caused the cock-up by allowing George Tenet's CIA to steal a march in its counterterrorism duel with the FBI - seriously embarrassed by the belated discovery of the spying by its agent, Robert Hanssen, for the now defunct Soviets - by allowing 15 of its agents - unarmed, and under the general direction of Barbara Olson, wife of the Solicitor General, on the plane which crashed into the Pentagon - on the last three flights in the hope that they would catch the alleged highjackers red-handed, and force them to surrender to the authorities after the four planes had landed in LA. The Secretary of Defense had assured this outcome by making himself the one to be called by the National Military Command Center in case of emergency - what resulted in him doing nothing in time to shoot down the planes when he was alerted of the highjackings.
It was to be a replay of what Tenet had arranged against Al-Qaeda attacks back in November and December 1999 during the Millennium celebrations, thanks to National Security Agency (NSA) telephone intercepts, 34 in all, resulting ultimately in the capture of Algerian jihadist, Ahmed Ressam, when he entered the USA illegally from Canada in the hope of blowing the same Los Angeles International Airport. DCI Tenet and his counterterrorism chief, Cofer Black, tried on July 10th to get National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice on board for a similar operation, thanks to all the renewed telephone noise about "something spectacular is coming" - as Bob Woodward recounted in State of Denial - but she declined to initiate an extraordinary response, opting instead for policy making to take its course - what resulted in the adoption of National Security Presidential Directive-9 just the day before the attacks.
When the hijackers turned out to be deadly suicide bombers, and carried out their assignments with essential precision, though, Tenet's covert government in Washington had a mass of damning evidence to cover up. The Agency was blamed for not taking action against the long-suspected leaders of the hijackers, Khalid Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf Al-Hazmi, from entering the country until after they were already arrived, and had then bought 10 airline tickets for men fo Middle-Eastern origin to fly to LA from Boston. While the CIA claimed that it was a lack of knowledge which permitted the disaster to happen, it was really the result of an ad-hoc remedy for the presumed highjackers rather than simply preventing them from getting on the four planes.
The immediate problem was to suppress evidence that the 15 agents were on the last three planes. To accomplish this, authorities refused to release the full passenger lists for the four flights, leaving out the names not only the 19 well-known suicide bombers by then, but also the names of the Agency agents - what would cause all kinds of damaging blowback if the general public learned of them. Of course, leaving out the names of the suicide bombers allowed all kinds of government disinformation agents and their ignorant followers to claim that there were no such people - what helped facilitate all kinds of crazy conspiracy theories - e. g., the planes were never highjacked, merely taken control of by electronic equipment on the ground by unknown conspirators who then crashed the planes where they wanted.
The existence of the 15 agents was not eliminated, though, by only releasing the abbreviated passenger lists as recorded cellphone calls by the passengers, especially from Barbara Olson to her husband Ted, kept suspicions alive that more was going on than the government was admitting. While everyone was wondering how the spooks could have screwed up so much, she was reported to have twice called the Solicitor General, confirming, apparently the expected, stating: "Our plane is being hijacked." (Quoted from "The Dead," NYHT, September 13, 2001, p. 7.) Then after the pilot had been herded unexpectedly into the back of the plane as it made its way towards The Pentagon, she called again, asking frantically: "What do I tell the pilot to do?." Apparently, there was an expectation that the hijacking would go smoothly until the plane approached its destination, what the herding of passengers, and the reversal of course indicated was no longer in the cards.
Then the government went to increasing lengths to downplay the cellphone calls, soon raising doubts that Ms. Olson had even called her husband, and then trying to make out that no calls from the planes were possible at the time of the highjacking, though there were several articles about such calls, as this article in Time reported: "HIGH IN THE AIR, FROM INSIDE THE planes and skyscrapers where their final moments slipped away, dozens of victims spoke their last words to faraway people closest to their hearts." ("The Last Phone Call," September 24, 2001 issue, p. 76) The government so persisted, though, that the calls from the planes were most unlikely, if they ever really occurred, that the Solicitor General ultimately doubted that he really spoke to Barbara during the last minutes of her life!
Of course, immediately after the attacks occurred, all kinds of blowback began to surface in the leaderless, embarrassed FBI. Louis Freeh had retired the previous May as Director, and his replacement, Robert Mueller, was still in hospital, recovering from an operation. More important, the Bureau's most dedicated counterterrorist, John O'Neill, had been so isolated from the hunt for the highjackers that he had not only resigned, but was also killed in the WTC collapse. (For more on this, see Trowbridge Ford, "O'Neill: A Voice in the Wilderness," Eye Spy, Issue Thirteen, pp. 22-3.)
Bureau agents in Minneapolis had such well-founded suspicions, thanks to input that the imprisoned Ahmed Ressam had supplied, that Zacarias Moussaoui was involved in some kind of highjacking that they had arrested him for immigration fraud, but superiors in Washington, apparently not to tip off the other highjackers what it knew, had not allowed them to pursue the case further. Special Agent Ken Williams in Phoenix had alerted headquarters in Washington of several persons of Middle East origin, seeking suspicious limited pilot training, but nothing was done about it. Then Mohammad Al-Kahtani tried to enter the USA in Orlando in August, apparently as a "muscle man" for the understaffed flight which crashed in Pennsylvania, but was denied entry - ending up as one of the first inmates of the notorious prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba aka Gitmo.
None of these arrests, even after Al-Kahtani was tortured, resulted in any significant information about who had planned the attacks, really knew about them, and represented serious threats to the administration in Washington if what they knew really leaked out. To meet this challenge, two days after the attacks, President Bush instituted the extraordinary rendition policy - sending suspected Al-Qaeda terrorists to places like Saudi Arabia for harsh interrogation to make them talk. "In the immediate wake of 9/11," Bob Woodward wrote in State of Denial, "Bush wanted answers from those who had been detained." (p. 81) Of course, it wasn't clear what the questions really were, so the Agency went for broke to get as many possible sources of information for questions that might become necessary - what resulted in apparently the first rendering of suspects in a trolling way - the shipment of Egyptian-born Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed Al-Zery from Stockholm to Cairo on December 18, 2001.
Before this, over 200 suspects arrested for terrorism had been sent to various secret locations in the hope of finding out more about what they apparently knew through harsh measures since the US Constitution did permit unrestricted interrogations of its residents. The most successful rendering of terrorist suspects had been that of Ramzi Ahmed Yousef - the mastermind of the 1993 WTC bombing, and a nephew of Al-Qaeda leader Khalid Mohammad - from Islamabad back to the States in 1995 by the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Egyptian authorities had not only warned American ones about the bombing, but also had kept track of where Yousef had disappeared to. Agiza and Al-Zery seemed to be ideal sources for a deep 'fishing trip' with the Egyptians for more possible suspects since they were connected to the jihardists who had assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
Cairo, it seems, alerted the State Department that it was still looking into the alleged terrorism that Agiza and Al-Zery had committed, and would like to interrogate them further. The Egyptian authorities had gone to the State Department because it had no confidence in working with either the FBI or the CIA because, as the Yousef problem demonstrated, they always worked at cross purposes. (For more on this, see Mark Riebling, Wedge:The Secret War Between The FBI And CIA, p. 433ff.) State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security then contacted the Foreign Department in Stockholm, stating that it was of the utmost urgency that they be taken to Egypt for questioning about possible threats against American establishments, especially the Embassy, in Sweden.
Despite the BDS's success in Yousef's capture, things had not gone well with it since, thanks to budget cuts, and security lapses, so it was looking for some big surprise to improve its funding and stature. Its biggest problem was failling to prevent the attacks on its embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1996, and then there were the disappearances of secret information through either institutional or personal failure. It was also still suffering from the blowback from the spying in 1989 for the Soviets by the State Department's Felix Bloch - the most important one it ever experienced - especially since he escaped prosecution for it because of the lack of proper coordination with other law enforcement agencies.
To help prevent this in future, State had established a Rewards for Justice program where it was willing to pay up to $5,000,000 to anyone preventing such security failure. Since it was started in 1984, about 40 persons had been paid nearly $62,000,000 by the program.
Under the circumstances, Foreign Minister Anna Lindh had little choice but to go along with the request after informing the Göran Persson's Cabinet of it, and gaining its approval of it. According to her former press secretary, Eva Franchell, in Girlfiend, an account from Rosenbad, Lindh was told she would be sacked if she didn't. While she was marking arrangements for their orderly deportation, though, the process was speeded by Såpo agents on the afternoon of December 18th when the suspects were taken to the police office at Bromma Airport where they met by two officials from the American Embassy, apparently the BDS's regional director, and the CIA's resident. When they checked in there with police officer Paul Forell, Stephen Grey wrote in Ghost Plane: The True Story of the CIA Rendition and Torture Program, "they gave their first names and said they were from the U. S. Embassy. They obviously knew the SAPO officers officers, he recalled."
Of course, this raised the real possibility that the Såpo agents thought they were in the running for some kind of reward from the State Department's justice program, explaining why they were so eager to do the work. They were certainly in the running for something as they were not just informing the BDS of possible terrorism but were actually handing over the suspects allegedly involved in it. Little wonder, then, they stood back, and watched confidently as the two were taken to one of the CIA's Gulfstream V jets where they were stripped of their grab, sedated with suppositories for the trip, dressed in prisoner uniforms, and chained to the plane for the flight to Egypt.
Since the suspects just disappeared without a trace for almost everyone, it took awhile for Swedish authorities to learn what had happened to them, Thomas Bodström learned in January from Såpo director Jan Danielsson that the suspects had been whisked away to Cairo by the CIA. Lindh learned from them what had happened to them, and what feedback they were supplying their torturers about their alleged colleagues - what proved to be little more than what they had learned during their stays in the Middle East about who might have worked for Al-Qaeda and Saddam in most menial capacities.
In June, US Attorney General announced that José Padilla, who planned to set off a 'dirty' bomb in the States, had been captured, thanks to the information which had been tortured out of British resident Binyam Mohammed after he had been snatched away at Karachi Airport because of MI6 tipoffs, and rendered by the CIA to Morocco. Then Lindh leared from British Foreigin Secretary Jack Straw, with whom she had close relations, about other renderings involving British territory, especially those of Australian David Hicks, and Tunisian Abdellah Al-Hajji who was caught in Pakistan and rendered shortly thereafter to the American prison in Gitmo. Britain was the focal point of the rendition transit system, and the Foreign Office was the best informed agency in the world about what was going on.
Under these circumstances, the Swedish Foreign Department was not about to go along with another unannounced rendering of a Swedish resident, this time fellow Tunisian Kerim Chatty, when he attempted to board a RyanAir flight from Västerås to London Stansted on August 29, 2002. Chatty was an ideal follower to the 9/11 suicide bombers, having attended flight training courses in South Carolina in 1996, and having converted to radicial Islam while serving a prison sentence for illegal arms possession. It was with a similar illegal, loaded pistol that Chatty tried to get on the plane - what a military source, apparently America's Defense Intelligence Agency, later told Reuters - with the plan "...to crash the plane into a US embassy in Europe."
To make the plan seem even more real, the Embassy in Stockholm had installed many illlegal cameras around its premises to catch anyone on tape, casing the joint.
While one cannot be sure what US agents planned for if Chatty had gotten on the flight, it seems likely it was to be a replay of what their deceased predecessors had planned on 9/11, only this time there would be enough physical power to make sure that he did not get control of the plane, much less attempt to crash it into the Stockholm facility. This time Såpo was on a very short leash, thanks to strict instructions from the Foreign Department, not even allowing Chatty to get on the plane, but charging him with attempted highjacking. Then Såpo denied the claims about Chatty being on a suicide mission, dismissing them as disinformation. Ultimately, Chatty was not even charged with attempted highjacking, only found guilty in December of firearms offences for which he was sentenced to four months in prison.
Foreign Secretary Lindh was radicalized by this whole process. Now she, during Sweden's Presidency of the European Commission, was committed to building up democracy in Serbia, strengthening the EU, settling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, preventing the ouster of Saddam Hussein's regime without a UN mandate, and stopping extra-judicial killings by the Americans and their allies in the war on terrorism. She also called for greater respect for international law and human rights in the conduct of foreign affairs, especially in Palestine. At the end of January, she called for Ariel Sharon's government to "end the occupation, give up settlements, and agree on a pragmatic solution to Jerusalem." Most observers saw these initiatives as her staking her claims to be Sweden's next Prime Minister.
Unfortunately, this was not to be, as she was stopped every step of the way, ultimately resulting in her being assassinated. Her attempt to bolster Zoran Djinjic's fledgling democratic government in Serbia - which had sent Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague's War Crimes Tribunal - was stopped cold when she went to meet him in Belgrade as he too was assassinated right before the meeting was scheduled to take place. Lindh was unsuccessful in stopping the invasion of Iraq without a mandate - what could only have happened if the UN arms inspectors had discovered evidence that Saddam had restarted his WMD programs. And Washington and Tel Aviv were in no way moved by her recommendations or restrained by her complaints. Actually, they only moved her into the bullseye, as I have already indicated in my article about her assassination.
The trigger was the feared blowback from the murder of Dr. David Kelly on July 17, 2003 In Oxfordshire - what was necessary because of what the famous weapons inspector planned to do, now that it had been determined that there was no WMD justification for the invasion of Iraq, a finding which Lindh was bound to take the greatest advantage of within the EU. When the Hutton Inquiry suspended its hearings in early September without a clear indication of how it would rule on his killing, covert operators - a Mossad kidon apparently, as in the killings of Djinjic and Kelly - carried out the assassination.
This time, though, it was neither the result of distant snipers, nor an apparent suicide, but a Serbian - high on drugs, and hearing microwave instructions aka 'voices' - who was directed to the murder site, Stockholm's famous NK department store, after stealing a weapon from another store along the way, where he was moved by still more 'voices' to cut up the defenseless woman with near impunity, as the Swedish Security Service had not seen fit to provide her, of all the leading politicians, with bodyguard protection.
One, in light of what had happened to Olof Palme, and what Lindh had done, can only wonder why.