Michel Chossudovsky was perhaps first on the scene with thoughts of an ISI-Atta link, with his November 2001 article “Cover-up or Complicity of the Bush Administration? : The Role of Pakistan's Military Intelligence (ISI) in the September 11 Attacks”. This covers many aspects of the story, but on this page we’re primarily interested in his views on the visit of ISI chief Mahmoud Ahmad to Washington, which saw him in town on September 11, 2001. And these start at the very beginning of the article:
Two days after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon, a delegation led by the head of Pakistan's military intelligence agency (ISI) Lt. Gen. Mahmoud Ahmed, was in Washington for high level talks at the State Department.1
Most US media conveyed the impression that Islamabad had put together a delegation at Washington's behest, and that the invitation to the meeting had been transmitted to the Pakistan government "after" the tragic events of September 11.
But this is not what happened!
Immediately Chossudovsky claims to have spotted some media duplicity, in giving the impression that Ahmed arrived after the attacks. Does he have a single example of such misleading copy, though? Uh, no: not one. Which is a shame, considering what comes next.
Pakistan's chief spy Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad "was in the US when the attacks occurred." 2. According to the New York Times, "he happened to be here on a regular visit of consultations." 3
Not a word was mentioned regarding the nature of his "business" in the US in the week prior to the terrorist attacks. According to Newsweek, he was "on a visit to Washington at the time of the attack, and, like most other visitors, is still stuck there," unable to return home because of the freeze on international airline travel 4
The sources he quotes here are Reuters (13 September 2001), The New York Times (13 September 2001) and Newsweek (14 September 2001), none of which seem to have suggested the visit came after the 9/11 attacks. Unconcerned by the way he’s just debunked himself, Chossudovsky later moves on to another topic.
The press reports confirm that Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad had two meetings with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, respectively on the 12th and 13th. 6 After September 11, he also met Senator Joseph Biden, chairman of the powerful Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate.
Confirmed by several press reports, however, he also had "a regular visit of consultations" with US officials during the week prior to September 11, --i.e. meetings with his US counterparts at the CIA and the Pentagon. 7
What was the nature of these routine "consultations"? Were they in any way related to the subsequent "post-September 11 consultations" pertaining to Pakistan's decision to cooperate with Washington, held behind closed doors at the State Department on September 12 and 13? Was the planning of war being discussed between Pakistani and US officials?
Note the leading questions in the last paragraph, particularly on “the planning of war”. Shouldn’t Chossudovsky actually be providing answers, rather than asking questions? Of course that does require real evidence. Still, let’s divert to another article of his for a moment, where he quotes an article that points out what these “routine consultations” may have been about (our emphasis):
Now, it just so happens that General Mahmoud Ahmad, the alleged "money man" behind 9-11, was in the U.S. when the attacks occurred. He arrived on the 4th of September, one week before 9-11, on what was described as a routine visit of consultations with his U.S. counterparts. According to Pakistani journalist, Amir Mateen (in a prophetic article published on September 10):
"ISI Chief Lt-Gen. Mahmoud's week-long presence in Washington has triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council. Officially, he is on a routine visit in return to CIA Director George Tenet's earlier visit to Islamabad. Official sources confirm that he met Tenet this week. He also held long parleys with unspecified officials at the White House and the Pentagon. But the most important meeting was with Marc Grossman, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. One can safely guess that the discussions must have centred around Afghanistan . . . and Osama bin Laden. What added interest to his visit is the history of such visits. Last time Ziauddin Butt, Mahmoud's predecessor, was here, during Nawaz Sharif's government, the domestic politics turned topsy-turvy within days." 12
Nawaz Sharif was overthrown by General Pervez Musharaf. General Mahmoud Ahmad, who became the head of the ISI, played a key role in the military coup.
Afghanistan and bin Ladin? A remarkable coincidence indeed. Except, well, the quote has benefited from a little judicious “editing”. Which was a brave move, or perhaps foolish, as the original is on Chossudovsky’s own site. Here it is, and this time the bold text shows the bits Chossudovsky left out.
ISI Chief Lt-Gen Mahmood's week-long presence in Washington has triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council. Officially, State Department sources say he is on a routine visit in return to CIA Director George Tenet's earlier visit to Islamabad. Official sources confirm that he met Tenet this week. He also held long parleys with unspecified officials at the White House and the Pentagon. But the most important meeting was with Mark Grossman, US Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs. US sources would not furnish any details beyond saying that the two discussed 'matters of mutual interests.'
What those matters could be is a matter of pure conjecture. One can safely guess that the discussions must have centred around Afghanistan, relations with India and China, disarmament of civilian outfits, country's nuclear and missiles programme and, of course, Osama Bin Laden.
What added interest to his visit is the history of such visits. Last time Ziauddin Butt, Mahmood's predecessor, was here during Nawaz Sharif's government the domestic politics turned topsy-turvy within days. That this is not the first visit by Mahmood in the last three months shows the urgency of the ongoing parleys.
Mahmood's visit comes close to General Musharraf's scheduled meeting with Vajpayee in New York. It is not clear what role the US would play in bringing about any breakthrough. What does it expect from Pakistan to do in the countdown to the historic meeting? It is obvious that the US officials would like to discuss these issues with somebody they know is 'in the know' and being a trusted colleague of Musharraf, capable of 'delivering'. He is not like the foreign minister who did not know whether he was pleading the case of his president or chief executive.
Interestingly, his visit also saw two CIA reports expressing concern on issues related to Pakistan this week. One of them was about the effects of demographic explosion and Pakistan's continued build up in its nuclear and missiles programme. General Mahmood must have been the right person to shed light on such things.
Interesting points left omitted from the original tell us that there are major things to be discussed, other than Afghanistan and bin Ladin: “relations between India and China, disarmament of civilian outfits, country’s nuclear and missiles programme”.
These are then fleshed out with talk of a meeting between Musharraf and Indian PM Vajpayee, clearly something they’d expect to be a major area of discussion. And then there are the specific issues raised in the two CIA reports mentioned, neither of which appear to relate to terrorism,.
The “remarkable coincidence” of Mahmood being in the US on September 11 is also lessened by the information that “this is not the first visit by Mahmood in the last three months”. An article in the Hindu tells us that he had been in Washington in March or April of 2000, too. And that also makes the point that ISI visits are not always followed by the domestic politics turning “topsy-turvy within days”.
All in all, then, it looks like Mahmood had plenty of reasons to be in the US beyond Chossudovsky’s highly speculative “planning of war”. So does he have any real evidence? Back at the original article, it’s not looking promising. After complaining that the US supported Pakistan despite evidence that is supported terrorism, we’re told:
Behind Close Doors at the State Department
The Bush Administration had sought the "cooperation" of those, who were directly supporting and abetting the terrorists. Absurd, but at the same time consistent with Washington's broader strategic and economic objectives in Central Asia.
The meeting behind closed doors at the State Department on September 13 between Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Lt. General Mahmoud Ahmad was shrouded in secrecy. Remember President Bush was not even involved in these crucial negotiations:
"Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage handed over [to ISI chief Mahmoud Ahmad] a list of specific steps Washington wanted Pakistan to take".13 "After a telephone conversation between [Secretary of State Colin] Powell and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Pakistan had promised to cooperate." 14 President George W. Bush later confirmed (also on the morning of September 13th) that the Pakistan government had accepted "to cooperate and to participate as we hunt down those people who committed this unbelievable, despicable act on America''. 15
Former Iran-Contragate Officials Call the Shots
Bear in mind that Richard Armitage had served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security under the Reagan Administration. "He worked closely with Oliver North and was involved in the Iran-contra arms smuggling scandal." 16
In many regards, the pattern of Bush Junior appointments replicate the Iran-Contragate team of the Reagan and Bush senior administrations:
The same kind of appointments are being made in foreign policy. Bush has been choosing people from the most dubious part of the Republican stable of the 1980s, those engaged in the Iran-Contra affair... Armitage served as Assistant Secretary of Defense for International Security Affairs in the Reagan years, but a 1989 appointment in the elder Bush administration was withdrawn before hearings because of controversy over Iran-Contra and other scandals. 17
Armitage was one of the main architects behind US covert support to the Mujahedin and the "militant Islamic base, both during the Afghan-Soviet war as well as in its aftermath. US covert support was financed by the Golden Crescent drug trade.
This pattern has not been fundamentally altered. It still constitutes an integral part of US foreign policy by the Bush Administration and the basis of CIA covert operations.
The substance here, if you can call it that, seems to be that “look, Armitage has done shady things before, so he’s probably doing them now”. Or in the final paragraph, definitely doing them now. Chossudovsky’s evidence is weak in the extreme, but he definitely appears to have convinced himself.
To be fair, Chossudovsky did write a second article on this topic, entitled “Political Deception: The Missing Link behind 9-11”. It was written in June 2002, so you might expect the content to be rather more solid. But you’d be disappointed. Take a look at this.
Condoleezza Rice's Press Conference
In the course of Condoleezza Rice's May 16 press conference (which took place barely a few hours after the publication of the "Bush Knew" headlines in The New York Post), an accredited Indian journalist asked a question on the role of General Mahmoud Ahmad:
Q: Dr. Rice?
Ms RICE: Yes?
Q: Are you aware of the reports at the time that the ISI chief was in Washington on September 11th, and on September 10th $100,000 was wired from Pakistan to these groups here in this area? And why was he here? Was he meeting with you or anybody in the Administration?
Ms RICE: I have not seen that report, and he was certainly not meeting with me.13
Although there is no official confirmation, in all likelihood General Mahmoud Ahmad met Dr. Rice during the course of his official visit. Moreover, she must have been fully aware of the $100,000 transfer to Mohammed Atta, which had been confirmed by the FBI.
Read that last paragraph again. Rice denies meeting Ahmad, however decides that “although there is no official confirmation, in all likelihood General Mahmoud Ahmad met Dr. Rice during the course of his official visit”. Not only is there “no official confirmation” of that, there’s no evidence whatsoever, but that doesn’t seem to bother Chossudovsky.
It’s much the same with the second claim, that “she must have been fully aware of the $100,000 transfer to Mohammed Atta, which had been confirmed by the FBI”. Actually if she never met him this issue wouldn’t arise, but let’s also keep in mind that stories of confirmation of this by the FBI are less than reliable.
Following this, Chossudovsky gives us an account of what he calls the “Mysterious 9-11 Breakfast Meeting on Capitol Hill”, although as we’ve seen above, there are plenty of reasons why the ISI chief might be in Washington. He doesn’t stop there, though, quoting a piece commenting on the ISI’s closeness to terrorists, and “asking questions” about the meeting again:
...On the morning of Sept. 11, Goss and Graham were having breakfast with a Pakistani general named Mahmud Ahmed -- the soon-to-be-sacked head of Pakistan's intelligence service. Ahmed ran a spy agency notoriously close to Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. 17
While the Washington Post acknowledges the links between ISI Chief Mahmoud Ahmad and Osama bin Laden, it fails to dwell on the more important question:
What was Mahmoud doing on Capitol Hill on the morning of September 11, together with Rep. Porter Goss and Senator Bob Graham and other members of the Senate and House intelligence committees?
More leading questions, but no real evidence of anything at all. Still, who cares about that? Now he’s warmed up, Chossudovsky takes his speculation and confecture to a whole new level.
CIA Overshadows the Presidency
Dr. Rice's statement regarding the ISI chief at her May 16 press conference, is an obvious cover-up. While General Ahmad was talking to U.S. officials at the CIA and the Pentagon, he had allegedly also been in contact (through a third party) with the September 11 terrorists. What this suggests is that key individuals within the U.S. military-intelligence establishment knew about these ISI contacts with the September 11 terrorist ‘ring leader', Mohammed Atta, and failed to act. But this conclusion is, in fact, an understatement. Everything indicates that CIA Director George Tenet and ISI Chief General Mahmoud Ahmad, had established a close working relationship. General Mahmoud had arrived a week prior to September 11 for consultations with George Tenet. Bear in mind that the CIA's George Tenet, also has a close personal relationship with President Bush. Prior to September 11, Tenet would meet the President nearly every morning at 8:00 a.m. sharp, for about half an hour. 20 15 A document, known as the President's Daily Briefing, or PDB, "is prepared at Langley by the CIA's analytical directorate, and a draft goes home with Tenet each night. Tenet edits it personally and delivers it orally during his early morning meeting with Bush."21 This practice of "oral intelligence briefings" is unprecedented. Bush's predecessors at the White House, received a written briefing:
"With Bush, who liked oral briefings and the CIA director in attendance, a strong relationship had developed. Tenet could be direct, even irreverent and earthy."22 '
Here we’re told that “Dr. Rice's statement regarding the ISI chief at her May 16 press conference, is an obvious cover-up”. That’s pure opinion, nothing more. Chossudovsky presented no evidence for that previously, and he doesn’t now.
Then he moves on to suggest that because the General had been in contact with Atta through Saeed Sheikh, “key individuals within the U.S. military intelligence establishment” also knew about them. Even if it were proven that Mahmoud Ahmad had instigated the wire transfer, which it isn’t, isn’t it at least conceivable that he didn’t tell the Americans about it? Not to Chossudovsky: he is starting with the view that the US are hiding something here, not uncovering it with evidence.
Just in case you think that’s too much of a leap, Chossudovsky then tells us it’s an “understatement”, because “everything indicates that CIA Director George Tenet and ISI Chief General Mahmoud Ahmad, had established a close working relationship.” Everything? There’s not a single item here to support that at all.
Still, if Mahmoud Ahmad really did instigate the transfer of $100,000 to Atta (uncertain), and if he knew what it was for (entirely unproven), and if his US contacts knew about it in advance of the attacks (entirely unproven), and if George Tenet was one of those (entirely unproven), and if his having a “close personal relationship” with George Bush means that Bush knew about it, too, then Chossudovsky has indeed broken the case. But guess what? It’ll take more than misleadingly edited quotes, unsourced allegations and unsupported speculation to demonstrate that.