"...Knowledge of Sufaat's letter to Moussaoui would have disclosed a possible al Qaeda connection, but it remained unexamined while the Minneapolis agents tried and failed to obtain a search warrant."
In other words, had America agreed to list the Chechen separatists as "terrorists," as the Russians have been urging them to do since 1999, the warrant would have been immediately obtained and evidence of the plot possibly uncovered. This was America's best chance of foiling the September 11th attacks. However, official U.S. policy has refused to recognize the Chechen separatists as terrorists linked to Al Qaeda -- despite the incredible wealth of evidence proving the connection. The Moussaoui evidence shows that America's policy of refusing to view the Chechen separatists as "terrorists" was directly responsible for the failure to pursue Moussaoui. This was not mere human error or bureaucratic inefficiency. It was the result of a carefully-designed policy worked out by the Bush Administration.
Zacarias Moussaoui: Saved By Chechens
Bush's core foreign policy team -- National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz -- started boasting months before they took office about how tough on Russia they planned to get. And "tough on Russia" meant "soft on Chechnya" -- after all, if the Chechens hated the Russians, they couldn't be all bad.
One of the Bush administration's first foreign-policy moves was deciding to meet representatives of the Chechen separatists at the highest level ever. In February of 2001, a ranking State Department official, John Beyrle, met with Ilyas Akhmadov, the foreign minister of the sseparatist Chechen leadership. (By comparison, the Clinton Administration had only allowed a Russian desk officer to meet with Akhmadov.)
The Russians were furious. Sergei Markov, one of the Kremlin's leading talking tools, published an article, "Russia Can See Beyond Bush's Cold-War Logic" on the Kremlin's web site, strana.ru, in which he demanded that any US official who met with the Chechen rebels should be deemed persona non grata in Russia. Reading Markov's article now, it's clear the Russians were trying to make sense of this unprovoked humiliation:
"The team of Cold-War veterans and inexperienced diplomats who shape the diplomacy of the new U.S. administration is pushing Russia toward actions in keeping with Cold-War logic. But Russia cannot benefit from such logic: Russia seeks not confrontation, but integration with the West. Therefore, Russia should not accept Cold-War logic."
It is a strange reversal of roles: America as the erratic belligerent, Russia as the sober negotiator, trying to calm the madman down.
The Chechen connection to International Islamic militants is nothing new. Chechens were one of the most visible ethnic groups among the foreign fighters in Afghanistan. Yet while Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Uighur separatists, the IMU and other groups fighting alongside Al Qaeda were labeled terrorists by the State Department and media, the Chechens were spared, simply because the Bush administration had a soft spot for any group which was anti-Russian.
Early this year, with the Bush Administration so drunk on its Afghan victory that it was ready to scrap the ABM treaty, expand NATO and establish bases in the Caucuses and Central Asia, America essentially pulled down its pants in front of Russia and yelled, "Eat Me!" For the first time in history, Radio Liberty began broadcasting in the Chechen language. The move was considered such a slap in the face that even Grigory Yavlinsky, one of the few liberal politicians with the courage to oppose the second Chechen war from the outset, said that Radio Liberty's decision showed "the tactlessness that is typical of American politicians."