You may or may not know about the Carlyle Group (here’s a link to an earlier article), an investment group that employs a bunch of retired politicians, including James A. Baker and the elder President Bush. The group specializes in buying out defense and aerospace contractors, and counts among its investors the bin Laden family. So as Osama drives up defense spending in the United States, the family business benefits financially. I obviously don’t think there’s a conspiracy of any kind here, I just find it perpetually interesting what a small, strange world we live in.

Must read: a two-part article from the Observer on terrorist cells operating in Europe (part one, part two). The most explosive revelation is that US intelligence agents had Mohammed Atta under surveillance in Hamburg last year because he was buying chemicals for explosives and biological warfare. The article also further confirms my suspicions that these extremist cells are cults. They prey upon vulnerable people, often far from home, and indoctrinate them in an extreme, anti-Western form of Islam. They’re then sent to terrorist boot camps and fully brainwashed, and finally are put back in circulation to carry out attacks and recruit new members.

Phil Agre has sent out another batch of attack-related URLs. His introduction to his article is also very interesting, particularly his proposal to “love-bomb” the Muslim world for military reasons. It’s a brilliant idea.

What’s really going on in Saudi Arabia? People are quick to denouce the evils of the Taliban (and rightly so), but somehow the Saudi Arabian government gets a free pass from the U.S. media, despite the fact that the country is an absolute monarchy with no constitution and an appalling human rights record. Should we be surprised that several of the hijackers on 9/11 were Saudis?

Someone instant messaged people on staff at Odigo warning them of an attack of some kind two hours before terrorists attacked the World Trade Center.

The Washington Post has obtained what seem to be the instructions given to each of the hijackers involved in the 9/11 attack. Their story provides excerpts of the instructions and the opinions of various Islamic scholars to the contents of the instructions, which are largely spiritual in nature.

The Bush administration seems to really be backing away from invading Afghanistan. In a joint press conference with King Abdullah of Jordan, President Bush just said (and I quote) “there may or may not be a conventional component [of the war on terror].” I’m pleased to see the President entertaining the possibility that we may not go to war with Afghanistan at all. We may need to take military action against Afghanistan, but we shouldn’t see it as inevitable.

Over the past 24 hours, I’ve become fascinated with Robert Fisk, the Middle East correspondent for The Independent, a British newspaper. Fisk has been stationed in Beirut for over 20 years, and probably understands the dynamic of the Middle East as well as any Westerner. The Independent Web site provides a convenient search that returns all of Fisk’s recent articles. I recommend just going through the list and reading them.