Skip to comments."Saddam's Fingerprints on N.Y. Bombings" (Wall Street Journal, June 1993)
Posted on 04/10/2004 11:29:37 PM PDT by WhistlingPastTheGraveyard
Military retaliation from Baghdad was the main administration concern following Saturday's strike on Iraq. Yet U.S. officials should start thinking seriously about the question of retaliation through terror. It is quite possible, for example, that there was a connection between Saddam and recent attempts to blow up Manhattan. It is quite possible that New York's terror is Saddam's revenge.
Speculation about the responsibility for last week's bombing plot and the earlier World Trade Center bombing has focused on Iran, Sudan, and the fundamentalist Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman. Much energy has been spent linking the terror to Islamic fundamentalism. Yet Saddam, a secular tyrant, is also suspect.
Information already in the public domain allows us to make this case. Start with the fact that the most important person in the Trade Center bombing is an Iraqi, Ramzi Ahmad Yusuf. Known in New York as Rashid, Mr. Yusuf has 11 aliases. The U.S. press has reported that he left Iraq in early 1992, transiting Jordan to Pakistan. He entered New York in early September on Pakistan Airways. Mr. Yusuf, traveling on his Iraqi passport, passed through immigration by requesting asylum. The FBI claims the plot began in August, while Mr. Yusuf was abroad.
Mr. Yusuf soon became the roomate of Mohammed Salameh, the naive Palestinian who repeatedly returned to the van rental agency for his deposit. Passionate, but not bright, Mr. Salameh would appear a ready dupe to an intelligence operative. In trial documents, an Iraqi-American, Musaab Yassin, has stated that he had known Mr. Salameh two years. Mr. Yassin moved into Mr. Salameh's apartment in September 1992, and Mr. Salameh moved out. Mr. Yassin's younger brother, Abboud, lived with him. An Arab who knows Musaab Yassin, like Mr. Yusuf, came to the U.S. in the fall of 1992, seeking medical treatment.
In late November, Mr. Yusuf allegedly ordered chemicals for the bomb and Mr. Salameh rented a locker to store them. The plot was underway. In early February, Mr. Salameh notified his landlord that he and Mr. Yusuf would leave at month's end. On Feb. 26 the World Trade Center was bombed. Messrs. Salameh and Yusuf vacated their apartment two days later.
Mr. Salameh was arrested March 4. Musaab Yassin returned home that day to find the FBI searching his apartment, while Abboud had been taken for questioning. Abboud Yassin told the FBI that he taught Mr. Salameh to drive the van that carried the bomb, that he accompanied Mr. Salameh to an apartment later identified as the bomb's testing ground; and Abboud Yassin's information helped lead the FBI to the locker where the chemicals had been stored. The U.S. press reports that Abboud Yassin then returned to Iraq, as did Mr. Yusuf. The New York Times reported that Arabs who knew Mr. Salameh and the second Palestinian arrested, Nidal Ayyad, said that the two had "close ties with two Iraqis, one of whom they say was named Rashid, but both of whom have since disappeared."
This information, although sketchy, indicates Iraqi activity. If Mr. Yusuf, the key figure, had worked for Iran, Tehran would not have let him return to Iraq. Given the totalitarian nature of the Iraqi regime, even Abboud Yassin's return to Iraq is significant. An innocent man would, arguably, have chosen to stay in the U.S. - he would have a better chance of a fair hearing in a U.S. court than before an Iraqi intelligence officer. If Abboud Yassin was involved in the bombing - but was not acting under Baghdad's instruction - then it was even more imprudent for him to return to Iraq. Mr. Yusuf and Abboud Yassin could have gone to Afghanistan, where they would not have exposed themselves to the potentially fatal suspicions of Baghdad's intelligence agencies.
That two men involved came from Iraq and returned there is reason enough to consider an Iraqi role in the World Trade Center bombing. What other possible evidence is there? It has been reported that the bombing suspects received money from abroad: up to $100,000 from Germany, Iran, and "another Middle Eastern Country." That country is probably Jordan, shielded by U.S. authorities who continue protecting Amman for the sake of the "peace process." Without knowing how much money came from each country, though, it is hard to exclude Iraq. Last but not least, it is worth noting that the February bombing occurred on the second anniversary of Kuwait's liberation.
What about last week's arrests? The FBI arrested five Sudanese and three others as it broke up a second bombing plot. The conspirators' first target was the United Nations' headquarters. Other targets were added, including FBI headquarters in New York. Additionally, four assassinations were planned, including that of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and U.N. secretary general Boutros Boutros-Ghali. Like the Trade Center bombing, much of this operation was amateurish. The conspiracy instigator, Siddiq Ibrahim Ali, had a plan to get a car into the FBI building, but it was amateurish (he proposed shooting the guards). Professional terrorists divide their organizations into small cells, each devoted to specific tasks. These planners used a large group in which every participant was known to the others, so that the entire plot could quickly unravel once one member was caught. Yet, like the World Trade Center bombing, this was audacious. Had it suceeded, thousands could have died.
It's important to note that both the Trade Center bombing and the later plot represent something new - at least in the West. Saddam, however, commits that kind of carnage on a daily basis. Two of the nations thought to be behind the second plot are not ideal suspects. Khartoum is suspected, because Sudanese played a big role in the plot. With Iran, Sudanese has been involved in a violent campaign to overthrow secular governments in North Africa, including Mr. Boutros-Ghali's own government in Cairo. But Khartoum has not sponsored terrorism against U.S. targets. That it should suddenly support potentially the most devastating anti-American attack ever makes little sense. A separate question though is whether Sudanese diplomats could be bought. This is possible, since Khartoum is broke, and months behind in paying its diplomats. Iranian sponsorship of the plot is also unlikely. Iran has no big quarrel with the U.N. - it benefits from the U.N.'s disarmament of Iraq. The U.N. is not the obvious target for Muslim extremists. Their quarrel is with the U.S. They could have easily chosen an American target. Explaining why fundamentalists would bomb the U.N. is possible, but the explanation is strained - that they see the U.N. as a U.S. surrogate; that their violence is caused by anger at many issues involving the U.N., including Bosnia, Somalia and the Palestinians. The Trade Center suspects issued a set of demands that the U.S. stop aiding Israel and stop interfering in the internal affairs of Middle Eastern countries.
Saddam by contrast has every reason to attack the U.N. Saddam also hates Egypt's Mubarak and wants him dead, no less than he wanted George Bush dead. Baghdad Radio threatened Mr. Bush personally during the Gulf War and Mubarak as well, "Does he (Mubarak) think that the crime he committed against the people of Iraq will go unpunished?... Prepare yourself for it and shiver at the thought."
Attention has focused on the Iranian-Sudanese relationship. But Baghdad could as easily recruit Sudanese as Tehran. For Saddam, Iraqi sponsorship would be vengeance with a twist. Baghdad wants Washington to blame Iran for the terror striking America's shores. If it doesn't and fundamentalists are caught, that too is fine, because it promotes a hysteria about Islamic fundamentalism and Iran which, Saddam calculates, would eventually benefit Iraq. If Saddam is behind the attacks, more will surely follow. The focus of the New York investigations should shift to the question of state sponsorship. If considerable evidence points to Saddam, then President Clinton must fulfill his Saturday pledge: "We will combat terrorism. We will deter aggrssion. We will protect our people."
Yousef and the 1993 WTC Bomb are the smoking guns in the case against Saddam. I only wish Jim Fox were alive to testify before the commission.
What's going on in Washington right now in the debate over terrorism and the possible Iraq connection?
The Pentagon believes Iraq is behind the terrorism that began on September 11 and wants to include Iraq as a central target in our war on terrorism.
The State Department says that there's no evidence, or insufficient evidence, that Iraq is involved; [that] Osama bin Laden and Afghanistan should be the sole object of our war, because we have to build an international coalition for support for the American war effort in Afghanistan, and if we add another target, i.e. Iraq, to our war, that will break up the coalition that exists in support of the war in Afghanistan. The CIA maintains that the evidence points to bin Laden and there is little evidence pointing to Iraq, and it's not interested in pursuing the evidence pointing to Iraq.
Who are the members of the teams that are fighting each other here?
This is a very bitter and nasty fight. ... One of the things that is going on is that people who accommodated Bill Clinton's desire not to hear of Iraqi involvement in any of the preceding terrorism are continuing on that line, probably with an eye to their past positions they held and maybe probably their careers; they feel their careers may be endangered.
The Defense Policy Group for the Defense Department, this panel of very esteemed Washingtonians, people from power in the past and such, recently came to some decisions. Can you tell us about that?
I was not at the Defense Policy Board meeting. Some people who were, some friends, told me about it. And what I heard was that, in some respects, my work on terrorism played a prominent role. There are people [who are] involved in this debate with the book who are familiar with this book [and] who have endorsed it. I think it makes a compelling case that Iraq was involved in the first attack on the World Trade Center back in 1993, and then it raises questions -- serious questions -- about whether Iraq has not been involved in subsequent terrorism.
That's very important, because the general view is we have been doing all these things to Saddam for a decade since the Gulf War, and he's been unable to strike back at us. Now, if you believe that, you believe Saddam's no problem. But if you believe that he has been attacking us since 1993 with very major ambitions -- because in 1993, the intention was to bring down the Trade Center towers; Saddam has been trying to carry out those murderous plots since 1993 -- then you have an entirely different view of the man's vengefulness and willfulness and the kind of threat he poses to the United States.
Why would Saddam Hussein get involved in this? Why take the chance of attacking the United States?
One can ask why did Saddam invade Kuwait in 1990. He is a man who takes chances. Moreover, Saddam's view of the utility of violence is entirely different than ours. A Kuwaiti once told me -- he's a professor of political science at Kuwait University -- "There's something very important that you Americans have to understand about the mentality of Saddam and those around him." The Kuwaiti then went on to tell me this little story.
He was a member of a delegation from the Arab Political Science Association -- Arab academics -- who visited Baghdad in the late 1980s during the latter years of the Iran/Iraq war. And they asked Tariq Aziz, the deputy prime minister, "Why is it that Iraq attacks oil tankers carrying oil from Iran, even when those tankers belong to countries that are friendly to Iraq, like France?" And Tariq Aziz replied to them, "Iraq wants more international pressure to end the Iran/Iraq war, and the way to get people to do what you want is to hurt them."
Saddam sees violence as something that can achieve his goals. He sees a utility in violence. In addition, Saddam seeks revenge against the Untied States, to do to us what we have done to Iraq...
Give me the overall picture on the 1993 World Trade Center bombing and evidence of connections to Iraq.
It revolves around the issue of the identity of the Trade Center bomber. [Convicted terrorist] Ramzi Yousef came into the United States on an Iraqi passport in the name of Ramzi Yousef, which is why he's known by that name. He left on a Pakistani passport in the name of Abdul Basit Karim, who is a real individual. He was a Pakistani born and raised in Kuwait, where his father worked.
And oddly enough, most of that can be deduced from the evidence in the Trade Center trial, particularly the copies of the passport of Abdul Basit Karim that Ramzi Yousef presented to the Pakistani consulate in New York in December 1992 to obtain the passport on which he fled. The Kuwaitis maintained a file on Abdul Basit Karim because he was a resident alien, and that file was tampered with.
There is considerable evidence that Iraqi intelligence tampered with documents in Kuwait when it occupied that country. Above all, the file of Abdul Basit Karim, on whose passport Ramzi Yousef fled the United States the night of the Trade Center bombing, was tampered with. Information was taken out, information was put in.
So what does that lead you to believe?
That Abdul Basit's file in Kuwait was tampered with leads me to believe that Iraqi intelligence tampered with that file to create a false identity for Ramzi Yousef. Only Iraqi intelligence, reasonably, could have tampered with the Kuwaiti Interior Ministry files.
Has what you just laid out convinced other people?
The evidence did convince other people of this -- many other people, including senior people in national security circles and journalists. Then there was this recent trip to London by James Woolsey, and the British provided information that is contrary to that.
So James Woolsey's trip to London, which we assume ... was to figure out who Yousef really was... Your information is that London intelligence told Woolsey that indeed, it seems that he was this Kuwaiti?
The impression I have is that the British officials said that Ramzi Yousef is really the individual born Abdul Basit Karim in Kuwait.
But you think this is just a ploy, basically, and the real intention was...?
I believe that the British officials who said that are either mistaken -- because it is an Iraqi intelligence operation and it's very complicated, and one can make mistakes in the investigation -- or that they acted out of ill will for some reason, like Britain does not want the U.S. to go to war against Iraq.
There is a big debate going on. If Iraq can be shown to be behind the February 1993 attack on the Trade Center, that makes the case a great deal stronger. Some people do not want that case to be made, because they don't want us to go to war with Iraq.
Why do people in Washington get nervous about the coalition when it comes to targeting Iraq?
The State Department's business is diplomacy. It likes coalitions, by its very nature, and it likes negotiations and it likes agreements. There are some problems that cannot be dealt with in that way. In addition, the State Department accommodated the position of the Clinton administration, which was not to see any problem in Iraq, whether in regards to Saddam's weapons or in regards to terrorism. Clinton just didn't want Iraq to be an issue. And there are people -- many people in the State Department -- who went along with it.
One aspect of that was a viciousness towards the Iraqi National Congress, and getting in the way of trying to provide any meaningful support to the INC, trying to make decision making capabilities far more difficult, and trying to pretend the INC couldn't do anything, when, in fact, it could...
If you were going to go in to see President George Bush and lay down on his desk one piece of evidence that would convince him that indeed, Iraq is tied to terrorism, what would that one piece of evidence be?
I would take the British file on Abdul Basit, because they maintained a Home Office file; the Kuwaiti file on Abdul Basit, which was tampered with; and the American immigration file, INS file, on Ramzi Yousef. And I would use that information to show that the Kuwaiti file was tampered with, that the information in the British file contradicts the information in the Kuwaiti file.
And just so that it's very clear -- what do you think happened? Iraqi intelligence went in to the Kuwaiti files, realizing they had this man, Ramzi Yousef, who they were going to use in the years to come. So therefore they were setting up a circumstance where they would create a mole, basically, whose identity would be certified by Kuwaiti files. What do you assume happened?
When Iraq occupied Kuwait in 1990 and 1991, it used some Kuwaiti files to create false identities for key agents. It tampered with those files. It tampered with Abdul Basit Karim's files to create a false identity for Ramzi Yousef.
Questions also exist about Abdul Hakim Murad, who was convicted with Yousef in the plane bombing plot [Ed. Note: a plan to bomb 12 U.S. airplanes in the Philippines] and also claims to be born in Kuwait. Questions also exist about Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, also involved in the plane bombing, a fugitive who also claims to be born in Kuwait. People should check those files to see if they've been tampered with.
On all of this, it's all circumstantial evidence, but a lot of people believe it. Why?
Well, Jim Fox, then head of the New York FBI himself believed that Iraq was behind the Trade Center bombing. Why? Because he recognized that the Muslim extremists were not capable of carrying out this plot on their own. There was something major behind it. Two, there were Iraqis all around the fringe of the plot. One of those Iraqis, Abdul Rachman Yasin, came from Baghdad before the bombing, returned to Baghdad afterwards.
The bombing occurred on the second anniversary of the Gulf War ceasefire approximately, and the Gulf War was not a distant memory at the time. People had it very vividly in their minds. The defendants themselves -- Mahmud Abu Halima, an Egyptian -- believed that Iraq was behind the Trade Center bombing, and understood perfectly well what had happened.
And had used them?
And had used them. That's right.
What did he say about that?
There was an Egyptian in jail with Mahmud Abu Halima, and that Egyptian told the FBI that Halima said that Ramzi Yousef came to the United States, transformed the conspiracy, and left them behind to be arrested and take the blame. The Egyptian asked Halima, "Are the authorities going to catch Ramzi Yousef?" and Abu Halima said, "No, don't ask. Can't catch a Ramzi Yousef." Abu Halima's brother told the same Egyptian man that Muhammad Salameh ([Note: Salameh is another defendant in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing] had dealt with Iraqi intelligence.
Yasin -- what was his role, and how do we know that?
Abdul Rachman Yasin was indicted for his role in the 1993 bombing of the Trade Center. He's still a fugitive. The indictment of Yasin states explicitly that he helped mix chemicals for the bomb.
How was national security, in your view, endangered by the locking up of the evidence in this case, or in general, in looking at terrorist cases as cases that can be dealt with in the court?
By treating terrorism as a law enforcement issue, that has the effect of denying to the national security bureaucracies the information that would allow them to recognize state sponsorship. That is because of the grand jury secrecy laws. That lies at its heart.
Whenever information is obtained by a grand jury investigation, it cannot, by law, the criminal code, be provided to the national security bureaucracy. So that meant, for example, that in the 1993 bombing, the results of the FBI investigation were not provided to the national security bureaucracy. The FBI said to them... For instance, if an individual, say, in the State Department -- which did happen -- asked the FBI about the Trade Center bombing, the FBI said there was no state sponsorship.
When this individual asked, "Well, could we see the evidence to check for ourselves," the FBI said, "No, this is a criminal case. We're handling it." In order to understand who was behind that bomb, one needs the results of the FBI investigation. It's much more important than the intelligence that's produced by the national security bureaucracy.
The only agencies which had both the evidence and the intelligence was the FBI, and in particular, the National Security Division of the FBI. It was formally responsible for examining the question of state sponsorship in the Trade Center bombing. It didn't recognize the structure and hierarchy which supported that plot. It saw only individuals, and therefore came to the conclusion that this was loose networks, or what they called international radical terrorism.
No one could double-check on that work, because no other bureaucracy had the evidence produced by the FBI investigation. And that persists to this day, because there is still an outstanding fugitive. That's what an FBI agent told me earlier this year.
Because Abdul Rachman Yasin is still a fugitive, the entire results of the FBI investigation cannot be provided to the national security bureaucracy. You can get the evidence -- that's what's been made public -- but not the entire results of the investigation.
Did we ever demand from Baghdad the extradition of Yasin?
Under the Clinton administration, although it was known that Yasin was in Baghdad, there was no serious effort to demand his extradition. Perhaps pieces of paper were sent to Baghdad, but there was no serious effort to pursue it. And if the Iraqis did not cooperate, then to use that to show that Iraq is a state that harbors terrorists. ... In fact, I suggested to Martin Indyk, who was NSC adviser in the fall of 1993, that he do exactly that.
I pointed out to him Yasin's presence in Baghdad. I said, "Well, if the Iraqis aren't going to hand him over -- which you don't expect them to -- then let's use that to isolate Baghdad and show it's a terrorist state." Martin thought that was a good idea when I spoke to him, but nothing ever happened. I think he went to those above him; they didn't want the evidence of Iraqi involvement out, and they didn't pursue it.
The reason that the Clinton administration did not want the evidence of Iraqi involvement coming out in the Trade Center bombing was because, in June of 1993, Clinton had attacked Iraqi intelligence headquarters. It was for the attempt to kill George Bush. But Clinton also believed that that attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters would take care of the bombing in New York, that it would deter Iraq from all future acts of terrorism. And by not telling the public what was suspected of happening -- that New York FBI really believed Iraq was behind the Trade Center bombing -- Clinton avoided raising the possibility the public might demand that the United States do a lot more than just bomb one building. And Clinton didn't want to do more. Clinton wanted to focus on domestic politics, including health policy.
And even if you read something like George Stephanopoulos's memoirs, for Clinton, the attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters in 1993 was a nail-biting affair. He was not confident that those missiles would land where they were supposed to. Clinton did not want to get the United States involved in a war with Iraq, in 1993 or since.
The Clinton administration's unwillingness to identify Iraq as the suspected sponsor of the Trade Center bombing was a terrible blunder. Not only did the 1993 attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters not deter Saddam forever; indeed, Saddam was back already in January of 1995 with that plot in the Philippines.
It didn't deter Saddam forever, and equally important, it generated a false and fraudulent explanation for terrorism called "the loose network theory" -- that terrorism is no longer carried out by states, that the Trade Center bombing was a harbinger of a new terrorism carried out by individuals or loose networks without the support of state.
And once that notion took hold, Saddam could easily play into it by working with Islamic extremists like Osama bin Laden, putting them front and center, leaving a few bin Laden operatives to be arrested. That also played into this fraudulent theory and led directly to the events of September 11...
Is your opinion that bin Laden basically was the front man for Saddam Hussein?
Bin Laden and Saddam are working together; they're both in it together. But between Iraqi intelligence and Al Qaeda, the far more important party is Iraqi intelligence. Bin Laden also worked with Sudanese intelligence. That came out in the trial for the 1998 embassy bombing. Bin Laden works with the Taliban. He's not as important as we think. He does not work independently of a state, of a government. But because we have not seen the links, or perhaps not wanted to see the links between Osama bin Laden and various governments, we ourselves have attributed to him capabilities that he alone does not possess.
To finish up on Ramzi Yousef ... back in 1996, you suggested to bring former acquaintances to identify him, to figure out what his real identity was. Did that ever happen? And if not, why not?
In 1996, I wrote that those who knew Abdul Basit from his days in Kuwait should be brought to the prison to meet Ramzi Yousef and give us the best possible account we can of whether Ramzi Yousef's, in fact, also Basit. Indeed, I met with Abdul Basit's teachers in Britain. I offered to bring them to New York, because Yousef was about to be on trial -- see if they could look at him in the courtroom and come to a definitive conclusion. Because those people do not believe that their student is Ramzi Yousef, and they've said so since, publicly.
They said to me, "Well, we'd like to do that, but the only circumstances under which we'd be 100 percent sure is if we met with him." Well, he's in the custody of U.S. officials. That was what I wanted to happen; that has not happened to this day. The trip to London, because of what the British said, that is now apparently lost. But I want that to happen. I want teachers who knew Abdul Basit to go to the prison in Colorado and meet Ramzi Yousef, and if the U.S. government can't afford it, I will pay the expenses myself.
The George Bush assassination attempt -- what were the ties? This was one of the situations that people say was proven; it was used as the reason by Clinton for the attack.
Regarding the Iraqi attempt to assassinate George Bush and his entourage in April 1993, the Kuwaitis discovered the bomb before it could go off, and that bomb could be linked to other bombs built by Iraqi intelligence.
So that was, for our government, good enough proof that this indeed was an Iraqi scheme?
Yes. The fact that the bomb in Kuwait could be tied to other bombs built by Iraq was accepted as proof that Iraq was behind this thing. But there was a debate within the Clinton administration about how to respond. There were some people who wanted to hold trials. They did not want the United States to attack Iraq militarily. That's kind of a strange response, but they really wanted it, and that debate had to be settled first before Clinton took action against Saddam Hussein. But as I say, even then, I think Clinton had a lot more in mind.
How is the debate altered by the anthrax attacks?
The anthrax attacks, particularly the attack on Senator Daschle's office, in which high-grade military anthrax was used and infected a considerable number of people, strongly suggests that a state is involved in this. Only states have that kind of material, and of course Iraq is the number one suspect. I believe that it strengthens the hand of those people who argue that the war on terrorism should be taken to Iraq. It's also terribly dangerous. Because what's to prevent those people who have that anthrax from delivering it in a way that's going to be far more deadly?
Suppose those people just go onto a subway system in an American city? Suppose those people go to the subway system in an American city and just release it into the air? When that happens, no one's going to know that it has occurred, so there won't be any testing for anthrax. And presumably, the people who inhale that anthrax, the same sort of anthrax that arrived in Senator Daschle's office, will become sick and die.
You had a conversation with General Wafiq al Samarrai, who helped define the reason why -- after all the pressure of UNSCOM, the U.N. weapons inspection team sent into Iraq -- they would not give up this weaponry. Help us define the Iraqis' view of these weapons.
General Samarrai was head of the Iraqi intelligence. He defected in late 1994 to the Iraqi National Congress, and I spoke with him in the fall of 1995 after Hussein Kamal's defection. Samarrai told me at that point that Iraq was terribly dangerous; Saddam lived for revenge, and that his biological weapons, in particular, were a great danger. He thought those biological weapons were meant for Americans, that they would be part of Saddam's revenge. He told me Saddam is a destroyer.
And what did he mean by that?
I assume that he meant that Saddam, in some way, lives for destruction. I didn't ask him to explain any further. He said, "Saddam is a destroyer." It's open to whatever interpretation people would put on it by destruction.
Are there any other points that are very significant to you?
It is important that people understand that Ramzi Yousef is not an Islamic fundamentalist. That came out following his arrest for the plot in the Philippines. Remember, he was running from authorities and he ran to Islamabad. Many people said he went to Osama bin Laden's guesthouse. No, he went to a commercial guesthouse in Islamabad, not far from the Iraqi Embassy, and that's where he was arrested.
Because he was caught by surprise, he was revealed not to be a fundamentalist. There's nothing religious about him. He went to Manila's bars and enjoyed Manila's nightlife. There are voice files on his computer, and he speaks very abusively to a woman. This is not how those people behave.
Does one have to tie Hussein to bin Laden to give enough reason to go after Hussein?
Well, there is significant evidence tying Hussein to bin Laden. There's evidence tying the plotters in the September 11 attack to Iraq directly. Above all, Mohammed Atta, who piloted the plane that first hit the Trade Center tower -- and that was a key figure in the conspiracy in the U.S. -- met repeatedly with Iraqi officials in Prague.
Very notably, in June 2000, Atta traveled from Germany, where he was based, to Prague and met an Iraqi official there. Atta stayed there only 24 hours. That's the only purpose he had in going to Prague. He then flew to New Jersey on his first trip to the United States. He stayed here for six months, in that period of time taking pilot's training in Florida.
In that period of time, he received a $100,000 wire transfer from the United Arab Emirates. This is a new phase of the conspiracy that begins, and begins after Atta meets an Iraqi intelligence official. That seems significant and worth pursuing. Lastly, there's a lot of evidence, but it's all circumstantial. Is it enough to turn this country towards what could be a very difficult and damaging war against Iraq, the possibility of the loss of the coalition, and the chance of making a mistake? Is it enough?
An assessment has to be made by the political leadership of this country, whether it is more likely that bin Laden acted on his own or more likely that bin Laden acted in concert with Iraq. That involves questions about could bin Laden himself have carried out the attack on September 11 or was a state required. It means going back and looking at the previous terrorism, including the first attack on the World Trade Center n 1993.
If the assessment concludes -- which I believe it should -- that Iraq was most probably involved, then that means Saddam is a very, very big danger. Don't forget, there's biological weapons now involved. And this anthrax can cause more Americans to die, and many, many more Americans than died on September 11. Is that a threat that we want to sit passively for and wait to happen, or do we want to pre-empt it? Because the odds are very high that Saddam is going to do that at some point.
I used to teach at the Naval War College, the Navy's senior academy, and one of the things the teachers said and the students learned is you go after the center of gravity, the main force -- and that's Iraq. That information that the president needs does not have to be definitive, because that information may not be available. What it has to do is be convincing. If the president's convinced of it, then we take the war to Iraq and we persuade our coalition partners it has to be done.
How strong is the Pentagon convinced of this?
I think at the Pentagon they are quite convinced of this need to take the war to Iraq.
Is there any point that you think is essential to know?
Saddam Hussein retains a huge biological weapons program. That's the program that he made the greatest effort to conceal from UNSCOM and the U.N. weapons inspectors. Richard Butler, the last UNSCOM chairman, has repeatedly described it as "a black hole." And it's very dangerous, Iraq's biological weapons program. There haven't been any weapons inspectors in Iraq for the past three years.
One of the things that is particularly disturbing about the way that Iraq dealt with that program -- it never turned over any of its stockpile of biological agents to UNSCOM. That's a bit strange, because a biological program is the easiest to reconstitute. Iraq could have given UNSCOM most of its stockpile, kept a few seed germs to regrow at any time, and very quickly reconstituted that stockpile that it had. Why didn't it do that?
One suggestion that has emerged, which is particular relevant in recent days, is that, as people all know now, anthrax and other biological agents have DNA. If the U.N. weapons inspectors had part of the stockpile from which any given Iraqi biological agent had come, if there were an act of terrorism carried out by Iraq in this country using Iraqi biological agents, it might be possible on the basis of DNA testing to trace the agents used in the biological attack to Iraq's stockpile. But without Iraq's stockpile, of course, that can't be done.
So by retaining Iraq's entire biological stockpile, Saddam also retained the option of carrying out biological terrorism against the United States.
Because we can't prove it?
We can't prove it. We don't have any evidence whatsoever. If we had, or if more particularly, the U.N. weapons inspectors had Iraq's biological agents; if Iraq had turned over those stockpiles, then we might well be able to link the anthrax attacks to Iraq.
February 26, 1991:
Saddam Hussein announces the withdraw of Iraqi troops from Kuwait.
February 26, 1993:
Ryder truck bomb attack on WTC in New York City kills 6.
April 19, 1991:
UNSCOM is formed to carry out weapons inspection in Iraq. In this interview with CNN, Tariq Aziz refers to "the end of the war in April 19, 1991".
April 19, 1995:
Ryder truck bomb attack on Murrah Building in Oklahoma City kills 168.
Annual celebration of 1969 Ba'athist takeover of Iraq.
July 17, 1990:
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein launches attack on Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), charging they had conspired with the United States to depress world oil prices through overproduction. (the official beginning on the "Mother of all Wars" and prelude to the August 2 invasion of Kuwait).
July 17, 1996:
TWA Flight 800 "bombing" (according to George Stephanopoulos) kills 230 passengers.
October 31, 1998:
President Bill Clinton signs H.R. 4655, "The Iraq Liberation Act of 1998", restating the case for Saddam Hussein's ouster and pledging support for the Ba'athist opposition.
October 31, 1999:
Egypt Air flight 990 mysteriously drops into the Atlantic Ocean 30 minutes after takeoff, killing 217. The 767's cockpit voice recorder confirms the co-pilot, Gameel al-Batouti, has complete control when the plane begins to lose altitude. Examination of the flight data-recorder shows that Batouti cut the power and pushed the control yoke forward, sending the 727 into free fall. During the fall, the flight's senior pilot, Captain Ahmad al-Habashi is heard re-entering the cockpit screaming "What's happening? What's happening?". Al-Batouti calmly replies "Tawakkalt ala Allah" ("I rely on God"), and repeats the phrase as many as ten times as the plane crashes into the Atlantic.
June 25, 1993:
U.S. launches cruise missile strikes against Iraqi intelligence for the attempted assassination of President George H.W. Bush in Kuwait City (and, unofficially, for the February WTC attack).
June 25, 1999:
Fuel truck-bomb explodes outside the Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia killing 19 USAF military personnel and wounding 515 persons, including 240 U.S. personnel.
August 7, 1990:
Operation Desert Shield begins, in response to the August 2 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait.
August 7, 1998:
Two car bombs explode at the American Embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, killing 224 people and wounding more than 5,000 others.
September 11, 1990:
President George H.W. Bush addresses a joint session of the U.S. Congress on the matter of Saddam Hussein and the looming Gulf War ("This is not, as Saddam Hussein would have it, the United States against Iraq. It is Iraq against the world"). This was President Bush's first major address on the issue.
September 11, 2001:
Terrorists hijack four commercial airliners in coordinated strikes on New York City and Washington, DC, killing over 3000.
P.S. Lack of the USS Cole is interesting. An opportune port call to good to pass up or..?
P.P.S. Are you aware Richard Clarke, while describing a list of terrorist events of the 90's, included TWA-800? Scary.
On October 12th, 1990, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 672 -- a condemnation of Israel's retaliation against the Al Aqsa Mosque that killed 19 Palestinians. The attack was provoked by a terrorist attack on worshippers at the western wall.
Stockpiles of weapons were found cached at the Temple Mount, so it was a planned terrorist attack, not a spontaneous uprising. It is widely believed that the attack was masterminded by Saddam Hussein, in order to escalate tension in the region, fracture the coalition lining up against him and draw attention away from Kuwait. When the U.S. immediately began to campaign for the resolution to rebuke Israel, Hussein's plan fell apart.
This was a very bad day for Saddam Hussein. It was the scene of his first major miscalculation in the war (besides starting it in the first place).
On October 12, 2000, the Cole was bombed, killing 17.
On October 12, 2002, the nightclub in Bali was bombed, killing 187.
There's definitely some history with that date, but it's a little too nuanced to put in a post like the one above. It needs to be explained more than the other dates.
Have I been living in a cave?!?! I never saw so many chronological linkages between Saddam and terrorism.
As far as I know, nobody's ever put them all in one place at one time. When you start lining them up like this, it's just chilling.
Almost worth buying a full page add for it in The Fishwrap aka The NY Times. If Sean Penn can do it, why can't we?
Wish I had the scratch, I'd do it myself this fall. If the Dems want to make issues of the war in Iraq and 9/11, this is the stuff we need to hammer them with. I'm tired of the shrill "there's no connection between Iraq and 9/11" chorus coming from these DNC programmed zombies. They need to be shot down ever time they spew this outrageous lie.
How did you put these together?
I was reading that Tariq Aziz interview from CNN (linked above in #6), and when he said "the end of the war in April 19", it just jumped off the screen. That's what got me started.
I posted it here back in November, but I included some things I probably shouldn't have, and it didn't get the reaction I had hoped for.
Thanks for giving me the occasion to touch it up and bring it back. I believe it's a striking piece of circumstantial evidence.
I'll add the transcipt to this thread later today.
Handwritten letter dated Feb. 19, 1998 linking bin Laden and Saddam Hussein
discussing arrival of a secret envoy sent by bin Laden to Iraq.
The signature beneath the letter is a codename, "MDA" - the Mukhabarat.
========= Chemical Warhead found in Kirkuk =============
Chemical warhead found at an Iraqi air base, marked with a green band,
the symbol for chemical weaponry. Trace amounts of a nerve agent were found
at two spots along the ~meter-long warhead. These amounts are consistent with
leakage from the chemically armed weapon. A 13-foot missile was found next to it.
========= Halabja =========
Dead children, previously playing in Halabja
Victims of Saddams' WMD in March 1988.
=========== French missiles FIRST given to Iraq to be USED Against US and Coalition Heroes =========
French missiles found by the Poles, and to protect France, blown up.
Froggies said they did not say "2003". LOL. Decide for yourself.
Iraqi missiles given to, and now located in, Syria:
========= RUSSIAN MISSILES AND DIRTY BOMBS FOUND IN IRAQ =========
Russian-made R-60, NATO AA-8 Aphid, air-to-air missiles were found..
The Russian-made missiles are >6 feet long. Each carries 3.5 pounds of uranium.
wrapped around a high explosive warhead (13.2-pound) making a "dirty bomb".
Also found in Iraq:
* A clandestine network of laboratories and safehouses within the Iraqi Intelligence Service
that contained equipment subject to UN monitoring and suitable for continuing CBW research.
* A prison laboratory complex, possibly used in human testing of BW agents, that Iraqi officials
working to prepare for UN inspections were explicitly ordered not to declare to the UN.
* Reference strains of biological organisms concealed in a scientist's home,
one of which can be used to produce biological weapons.
* New research on BW-applicable agents, Brucella and Congo Crimean Hemorrhagic Fever (CCHF),
and continuing work on ricin and aflatoxin were not declared to the UN.
* Documents and equipment, hidden in scientists' homes, that would have been useful in
resuming uranium enrichment by centrifuge and electromagnetic isotope separation (EMIS).
* A line of UAVs not fully declared at an undeclared production facility and an admission
that they had tested one of their declared UAVs out to a range of 500 km, 350 km beyond the permissible limit.
* Continuing covert capability to manufacture fuel propellant useful only for prohibited SCUD variant missiles,
a capability that was maintained at least until the end of 2001 and that cooperating Iraqi scientists
have said they were told to conceal from the UN.
* Plans and advanced design work for new long-range missiles with ranges up to at least 1000 km -
well beyond the 150 km range limit imposed by the UN. Missiles of a 1000 km range would have allowed
Iraq to threaten targets through out the Middle East, including Ankara, Cairo, and Abu Dhabi.
* Clandestine attempts between late-1999 and 2002 to obtain from North Korea technology
related to 1,300 km range ballistic missiles --probably the No Dong -- 300 km range anti-ship cruise missiles,
and other prohibited military equipment.
Still missing based on the UNSCOM report to the UN Security Council in January 1999,
when the UN inspectors left Iraq in 1998, they had been unable to account for:
up to 360 tons of bulk chemical warfare agents, including 1.5 tons of VX nerve agent;
up to 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals, including approximately 300 tons which,
in the Iraqi chemical warfare program, were unique to the production of VX;
growth media procured for biological agent production (enough to produce
over three times the 8,500 litres of anthrax spores Iraq admitted to UN inspectors to having manufactured);
over 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents;
20 al-Hussein missles with a range of 650 km, in violation
of UN Security Council Resolution 687 (Iraq had told UNSCOM that it filled these warheads with anthrax and botulinum);
2,850 tons of mustard gas, 210 tons of tabun, and 795 tons of sarin and cyclosarin;
development of the Al-Samoud short-range missle (which had the capability to fly beyond the 150 km allowed by UN resolutions)
THE WORLD TRADE CENTER BOMB:
Who is Ramzi Yousef? And Why It Matters
by Laurie Mylroie
ACCORDING TO THE presiding judge in last year's trial, the bombing of New York's World Trade Center on February 26, 1993 was meant to topple the city's tallest tower onto its twin, amid a cloud of cyanide gas. Had the attack gone as planned, tens of thousands of Americans would have died. Instead, as we know, one tower did not fall on the other, and, rather than vaporizing, the cyanide gas burnt up in the heat of the explosion. "Only" six people died.
Few Americans are aware of the true scale of the destructive ambition behind that bomb, this despite the fact that two years later, the key figure responsible for building it--a man who had entered the United Stares on an Iraqi passport under the name of Ramzi Yousef--was involved in another stupendous bombing conspiracy. In January 1995, Yousef and his associates plotted to blow up eleven U.S. commercial aircraft in one spectacular day of terrorist rage. The bombs were to be made of a liquid explosive designed to pass through airport metal detectors. But while mixing his chemical brew in a Manila apartment, Yousef started a fire. He was forced to flee, leaving behind a computer that contained the information that led to his arrest a month later in Pakistan. Among the items found in his possession was a letter threatening Filipino interests if a comrade held in custody were not released. It claimed the "ability to make and use chemicals and poisonous gas... for use against vital institutions and residential populations and the sources of drinking water."  Quickly extradited, he is now in U.S. custody awaiting trial this spring. Ramzi Yousef's plots were the most ambitious terrorist conspiracies ever attempted against the United States. But who is he? Is he a freelance bomber? A deranged but highly-skilled veteran of the Muslim jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan? Is he an Arab, or of some other Middle Eastern ethnicity? Is there an organization--perhaps even a state--behind his work?
These questions have an obvious bearing not only on past events but on possible future ones as well.  It is important to know who Ramzi Yousef is and who his "friends" are, because if he is not just a bomber-for-hire, or an Islamic militant loosely connected to other Muslim fundamentalists, Yousef's "friends" could still prove very dangerous to the United States. It is of considerable interest, therefore, that a very persuasive case can be made that Ramzi Yousef is an Iraqi intelligence agent, and that his bombing conspiracies were meant as Saddam Hussein's revenge for the Gulf War. If so, and if, as U.S. officials strongly suspect, Baghdad still secretly possesses biological warfare agents, then we may still not have heard the last from Saddam Hussein.
This essay will focus on three points. First, it will argue that, as things stand now, coordination between the Justice Department and the relevant national security agencies is such that the latter--and thus national security itself gets very short shrift when it comes to dealing with terror incidents perpetrated on U.S. soil. Second, it will look afresh at the evidence from the World Trade Center bombing case and suggest that the most logical explanation of the evidence points to Iraqi state sponsorship. Third, it will assay briefly what dangers the Iraqi regime may still pose to the United States should this analysis prove correct.
A High Wall
THE SUGGESTION THAT Iraq might well have been behind Ramzi Yousef's exploits may initially strike many as implausible. Wouldn't the U.S. government investigation of the World Trade Center bombing have uncovered evidence to that effect, evidence that the press, in turn, would have broadcast far and wide? Wouldn't America's robust anti-terrorist intelligence capacities have focused on such suspicions long ago?
While these are reasonable questions, they reveal a lack of understanding about how the U.S. government works when legal and national security issues of this special sort overlap. A high wall, in fact, stands between the Justice Department, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, on the one hand, and the national security agencies on the other. Once arrests are made, the trials of individual perpetrators take bureaucratic precedence over everything else. The Justice Department inherits primary investigatory jurisdiction, and the business of the Justice Department is above all the prosecution and conviction of individual criminals. Once that process is underway, the Justice Department typically denies information to the national security bureaucracies, taking the position that passing on information might "taint the evidence" and affect prospects for obtaining convictions. 
In effect, the Justice Department puts the prosecution of individual perpetrators--with all the rights to a fair trial guaranteed by the U.S. judicial system--above America's national security interest in determining who may be behind terrorist attacks. Questions of state sponsorship that are of pressing interest to national security agencies are typically relegated to a distant second place, or never properly addressed at all, because the national security agencies are denied critical information. In particular, whenever early arrests are made regarding a terrorist incident on American soil, the U.S. government cannot properly address both the national security question of state sponsorship and the criminal question of the guilt or innocence of individual perpetrators at the same time.
This is precisely what happened in the World Trade Center bombing. In the case of Ramzi Yousef, the perfectly reasonable questions posed above about who this man is and who may sponsor him have never been properly investigated. Instead of the appropriately trained people conducting a comprehensive investigation, the World Trade Center bombing was followed by an undercover operation, in which an informant of dubious provenance led a handful of local Muslims in a new bombing conspiracy, aimed at the United Nations and other New York landmarks. For this conspiracy Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman and nine others were found guilty in early October 1995. Yet none of those in the trial of Sheikh Omar et al., as it is formally called, was accused of actually participating in the World Trade Center bombing. They were only charged with conspiracy regarding it. The government contended that other followers of Sheikh Omar--four fundamentalists who stood trial in 1994--were actually responsible for puffing it into effect.
But what if Ramzi Yousef, who eluded the grasp of U.S. authorities until after his second bombing conspiracy, is neither a follower of Sheikh Omar nor a Muslim fundamentalist? That if he is an Iraqi agent? From a legal perspective--as the judge in that trial advised the defense team--whether state sponsorship played a role in the World Trade Center bombing was irrelevant to the guilt or innocence of Sheikh Omar et al. And indeed, the prosecution did not need to address the question of whether the World Trade Center bombing had state sponsorship in order to obtain the convictions sought against Sheikh Omar and the others.
Indeed, that state sponsorship can be irrelevant to a criminal prosecution was explained most clearly by the federal prosecutors in the New York bombing conspiracies, the lead prosecutor in the trial of Sheikh Omar et al., and the lead prosecutor in last year's Trade Center bombing trial, who will also prosecute Ramzi Yousef. When I put it to them that Iraq was probably behind the Trade Center bombing, they replied, "You may be right, but we don't do state sponsorship. We prosecute individuals." Asked who does "do" state sponsorship, they answered, "Washington." "Who in Washington?" No one seemed to know.
Yet by responding to state-sponsored terrorism solely by arresting and trying individual perpetrators, the U.S. government, in effect, invites such states to commit acts of terror in such a way as to leave behind a few relatively minor figures to be arrested, tried, and convicted. Done adroitly, this makes it unlikely that the larger, more important, and more difficult question of state sponsorship will ever be addressed.
The problem is illustrated vividly in the case of Ramzi Yousef since his arrest in February 1995. The Justice Department has passed on very little information to other bureaucracies. The FBI's typical response to any question about Yousef is: "We can't tell you much because of the trial."  As a result, the State Department, which is responsible for determining whether a terrorist act had state sponsorship, lacks the most basic information-- even, for example, a point as simple as what passport Yousef was traveling on when he was arrested in Islamabad.
The details of the World Trade Center case are chilling. From the outset, the Justice Department refused to share key information with the national security agencies. The government had two sets of relevant information--foreign intelligence, gathered by the CIA from watching terrorist states such as Iran and Iraq, and evidence gathered by the FBI largely within the United Stares for use in the trial. The FBI flatly told the national security bureaucracies that there was "no evidence" of state sponsorship in the World Trade Center bombing. When the national security agencies asked to see the evidence themselves, the FBI replied, "No, this is a criminal matter. We're handling it." Thus, all that the national security agencies had available to decide the question of state sponsorship was foreign intelligence they themselves had collected.
But many cases of stare-sponsored terrorism cannot be cracked by means of intelligence alone. The crucial element linking the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 to Libya, for example, was not intelligence but a piece of physical evidence--a microchip, part of the bomb's timing device, that could be tied to other bombs built by Libyan agents.
After the World Trade Center bombing, the FBI was the only bureaucracy with both the intelligence and the evidence. Even if the FBI did make a serious effort to examine the evidence for state sponsorship--and it is not clear that it did--the Bureau alone is not competent to carry out such an investigation. "They're head hunters", one official in Pentagon Counter terrorism remarked--that is, they are oriented to the arrest of individuals. A State Department expert described the FBI's new Office of Radical Fundamentalism as "a joke", bereft of any genuine Middle East expertise.
But the more fundamental problem is that the Justice Department in Washington seems not to have been interested in pursuing the question of state sponsorship. In fact, the New York FBI office suspected an Iraqi connection early on, but the Washington brass seemingly wanted to tell America that they had already cracked the case and caught most of the perpetrators. It is always easier to go after the small fry than to catch the big fish, and law enforcement is ever vulnerable to the temptation to cut off a conspiracy investigation at the most convenient point.
Thus, five weeks after the World Trade Center bombing, four Arabs were under arrest. The mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, had fled. Still, at that point in early April 1993, the FBI proclaimed that it had captured most of those involved. The bombing, it claimed, was the work of a loose group of fundamentalists with no ties to any state. The predictable media frenzy followed and, perhaps as a result, some obvious questions were not asked. How could the government know so early in the investigation that those it had arrested had no ties to any state? If the government knew so much so soon, then why did one of those arrested never stand trial for the bombing, and why were three others indicted much later? In short, the Justice Department determined that the bombing had no state sponsorship even before it decided definitively who had been involved.
Moreover, by April it was impossible to have conducted a sufficiently thorough investigation. Such an investigation required, at a minimum, a meticulous examination of all records associated with the defendants to insure that they had had no contact with foreign intelligence agencies--or at least that none could be found. That process simply could not have been accomplished in five weeks. And it must be kept in mind that, at the time, the mastermind of the bomb was a fugitive about whom almost nothing was known. How could anyone therefore declare confidently that he was not a foreign agent, especially in light of the fact that he had entered the United States on an Iraqi passport and had been known among the New York fundamentalists as "Rashid, the Iraqi"?
Ironically, this sort of problem would not have arisen had the bombing occurred abroad. In such cases there are usually two separate investigations by two different bureaucracies, one to determine state sponsorship, the other to catch the individuals responsible. After the bombing of Pan Am 103, for example, the CLA led an inter-agency intelligence investigation addressing the question of state sponsorship. There was also a separate criminal investigation, headed by the FBI, aimed at individual perpetrators.
But there was no intelligence investigation of the World Trade Center bombing. The CIA is, after all, prohibited from operating in America. Of course, a crack inter-agency team could have been established to examine the question of state sponsorship. But Clinton administration officials set up no such team.
In September 1995, the State Department forwarded to Congress the report of an independent panel, established to examine whether mistakes in security training had contributed to the March 8 assassination of two U.S. consular officials in Karachi--apparent retaliation for Ramzi Yousef's extradition. The report expressed concern about the FBI's lack of cooperation with the national security agencies. Clearly, discontent with the FBI is growing among those agencies as issues such as international crime--and with them the Bureau's international role--assume a mare prominent role in the post-Cold War world. Indeed, one State Department official described the FBI'S unwillingness to share information as "the train wreck coming"--meaning that given the FBI's lack of expertise in international politics, there may well come a time when the Bureau will be sitting on information that, in the hands of others, could have been used to avert a disaster.
One may indeed ask whether the World Trade Center bombing itself is not a harbinger of the train wreck coming. For if Saddam Hussein was behind it, then the Justice Department, in effect, has blinded the national security bureaucracies to a serious danger, namely the possibility that in the extreme Iraq might use biological agents, whether for terrorism in America or in the context of military' action in the region, possibly involving U.S. troops.
Of course, that is an important "if." It is to that issue we now turn.
Ramzi Yousef, a.k.a. Abdul Basit Karim -the key man; likely Iraqi agent.
El Sayid Nosair--murderer of Rabbi Meir Kahane, bomb plot initiator.
Emad Salem--FBI informant with ties to Egyptian intelligence.
Mohammed Salameh--Palestinian fundamentalist, Nosair accomplice and early plotter; left a trail of phone calls to Iraq.
Musab Yasin--Iraqi with New Jersey apartment where Yousef first went.
Abdul Rahman Yasin--Musab's brother, led FBI to apartment where bomb was made; employee of Iraqi government; indicted fugitive, presently in Baghdad.
Nidal Ayyad--Palestinian fundamentalist convicted in the World Trade Center bombing.
Mahmud Abu Halima--Egyptian fundamentalist cab driver convicted in the World Trade Center bombing.
Eyyad Ismail--Palestinian from Jordan charged with having driven the van.
Forty-Six Calls to Iraq
ALTHOUGH THE national security agencies never received the World Trade Center evidence, at the conclusion of a trial evidence becomes public. Anyone can examine it, and I did so meticulously. The raw data consist mostly of telephone records, passports, and airplane tickets. Such data reveal nothing directly about state sponsorship, but under close analysis certain facts begin to stand out and certain patterns emerge. And it helps to know the Middle East well.
The story begins in November 1990 when an Egyptian fundamentalist, El Sayid Nosair, shot and killed Meir Kahane, an extreme right-wing Israeli-American, in Manhattan. A year later, in November 1991, Nosair's trial became a cause celebre among local fundamentalists, who turned out in force to support their "martyr." Planted among them was an Egyptian, Emad Salem, working as an FBI informant, even as he maintained ties to Egyptian intelligence. In December, the jury returned a bizarre verdict, acquitting Nosair of murder and finding him guilty on lesser charges. An outraged judge gave Nosair a maximum sentence on those lesser charges, and sent him to Attica.
The fundamentalists continued to support Nosair, arranging bus trips from their mosques to visit him in prison. Salem, the FBI plant, remained among them. In early June 1992, with Salem acting as an agent provocateur, Nosair convinced his friends to execute a bomb plot. He wanted them to make twelve pipe bombs, to be used for assassinating his judge and a Brooklyn assemblyman, the others to be used against Jewish targets. A cousin was to organize the plot, and Salem was to build the bombs.
A twenty-six year old Palestinian, Mohammad Salameh, was soon recruited into the plot. Salameh comes from a long line of terrorists on his mother's side. His maternal grandfather fought in the 1936 Arab revolt against British rule in Palestine, and even as an old man joined the PLO and managed to get himself jailed by the Israelis. A maternal uncle was arrested in 1968 for terrorism and served eighteen years in an Israeli prison before he was released and deported, making his way to Baghdad where he became number two in the "Western Sector", a PLO terrorist unit under Iraqi influence.
Despite this pedigree, Salameh himself is naive and manipulable. When one considers that he was arrested in the process of returning to collect the deposit on the van he had rented to carry the Trade Center bomb, it is not so surprising that on June 10, soon after being recruited into Nosair's plot, Salameh made the first of forty-six calls to Iraq, the vast majority to his terrorist uncle in Baghdad. We can only speculate about what Salameh told his uncle, but it seems very likely that he spoke about the bold new project Nosair was organizing, perhaps seeking his help and advice. Salameh's telephone bills suggest that the pipe bombing plot was one of the most exciting events in his life: In six weeks he ran up a bill of over four thousand dollars and lost his phone service.
Iraq is one of the few remaining Stalinist states. Iraqis routinely assume their telephones are bugged, and are even cautious about discussing sensitive issues in their own homes. The more significant the person, the greater the likelihood his activities are monitored--at least that is what Baghdadis assume. My own experience in Baghdad makes clear that when Iraqis want to be sure that a conversation is not monitored, it takes place out of doors. It is thus more than likely that Iraqi intelligence learned of Nosair's bombing plot and Salameh's participation in it through Salameh's phone calls to his uncle. In any event, key preparatory steps to the World Trade Center bombing were taken within days of Salameh's first call-including steps taken in Baghdad.
On June 21, an Iraqi living in Baghdad, Abdul Rahman Yasin (subsequently an indicted fugitive in the Trade Center bombing) appeared at the U.S. embassy in Amman asking for a U.S. passport. Born in America, Abdul Rahman received his passport, which he soon used to travel to this country.
Just at this crucial point, unfortunately, the FBI lost track of the Nosair-Salameh conspiracy. It did not fully trust its informant, Emad Salem, and Salem's ties to Egyptian intelligence; the Bureau severed relations with him in early July when he refused to follow its procedures relating to criminal investigations.
Salameh's phone bills and other evidence raise the distinct possibility that, Iraqi intelligence having learned of Nosair's plans from Salameh's calls to his uncle, Baghdad decided to help out, transforming the plot in the process. If so, the speed of the reaction suggests that Iraqi intelligence may have already been planning some operation against America, and that Salameh1s calls to his uncle provided it with a fortuitous means of carrying it out. Here probably lies the source of Ramzi Yousef s exploits in America.
Enter Ramzi Yousef
ON SEPTEMBER 1, 1992, Ramzi Yousef arrived at JFK airport. He presented an Iraqi passport without a U.S. visa, was briefly detained (and fingerprinted) for illegal entry, and granted asylum pending a hearing. Yousef went to stay at the apartment of Musab Yasin, an Iraqi living in Jersey City. So too did Abdul Rahman Yasin, Musab's younger brother, who arrived in America from Iraq soon after Yousef. (Musab had an unlisted telephone number under an Israeli-sounding alias, Josie Hadas.)
Musab lived in the same building as Mohammad Salameh. Many young Arab men used their two apartments, praying and eating together; relations were so close that the apartments were connected by an intercom. Once established within this group, Ramzi Yousef befriended Salameh, and the two left to share an apartment elsewhere in Jersey City. From then on, the impressionable Salameh was under Yousef s wing.
Although the principal conspirators had been in place since September, it was not until after the U.S. elections on November 3 that Yousef began to prepare the World Trade Center bomb. In mid-November the first of many calls to chemical companies appears on his phone bills. At the same time, Yousef also began calling surgical supply companies for the gloves, masks, and rubber tubing he needed to make the bomb. In the meantime, two other local fundamentalists were recruited into the plot, Nidal Ayyad and Mahmud Abu Halima. Ayyad, a Palestinian, was the same age as Salameh and Salameh's friend. Abu Halima, a thirty-four year old Egyptian cab driver, was a friend of Nosair. Abu Halima was older and generally savvier than the two Palestinians.
In January 1993, Yousef and Salameh moved into another Jersey City apartment where the bomb was actually built. Set well back from the street, the building provided seclusion. On February 21 a twenty-one year old Palestinian named Eyyad Ismail arrived from Dallas. Ismail is charged with having driven the bomb-laden van. On February 23, Salameh went to a Ryder rental agency to rent the van to carry the bomb. On the morning of February 26, the conspirators gathered at a local Shell gas station where they topped up the tank--one last explosive touch--before driving to Manhattan. Shortly after noon, the bomb went off, on--let it be well noted--the second anniversary of the ending of the Gulf War.
That evening Salameh drove Yousef and Ismail to JFK airport; Yousef escaped to Pakistan on falsified travel documents, and Ismail flew home to Jordan. But Salameh looks to have been deliberately left behind by Yousef, not provided with money he needed for a plane ticket. Salameh had a ticket to Amsterdam on Royal Jordanian fight 262, which continues on to Amman, dated for March 5, but it was an infant ticket that had cost him only $65. While Salameh had been able to use this ticket to get himself a Dutch visa, he could not actually travel on it Needing more money for an adult fare, he tried to get his van deposit back by telling the rental agency that the van had been stolen. With either desperate or inane persistence, he returned three times before he was finally arrested on March 4.
Salameh had used Musab Yasin's phone number when renting the van, and Abdul Rahman Yasin was picked up the same day in a sweep of sites associated with Salameh. Abdul Rahman was taken to New Jersey FBI headquarters in Newark. He is reported to have been extremely cool, as a trained intelligence agent would be. He was helpful to investigators who themselves faced tremendous pressure to produce answers. He told them, for instance, the location of the apartment that was used to make the bomb, a key bit of information. They thanked him for his cooperation and let him walk out. This, although he had arrived just six months before from Iraq, and might well attempt to return there. And indeed, the very next day, Abdul Rahman Yasin boarded Royal Jordanian 262 to Amman, the same plane Salameh had hoped to catch. From Amman he went on to Baghdad. An ABC news stringer saw him there last year, outside his father's house, and learned from neighbors that he worked for the Iraqi government.
Meanwhile, as U.S. authorities searched for Abdul Rahman Yasin in March 1993, after his "helpful" session with the FBI and before they knew for certain that he had fled, an FBI agent who had worked with Emad Salem in June 1992 speculated:
Mahmud Abu Halima had similar thoughts. As he told a prison companion who later turned state's evidence:
That, indeed, is the most straightforward explanation of the World Trade Center bombing: that it was an Iraqi intelligence operation, led by Ramzi Yousef, with the local fundamentalists serving first as aides and then as diversionary dupes.
Since Yousef's arrest and extradition to the United States, the evidence for this explanation has, if anything, grown stronger. First of all, he is clearly no fundamentalist. According to neighbors, he had a Filipina girlfriend and enjoyed Manila's raucous night life. Yousef's nationality and ethnicity have also become known: He is a Pakistani Baluch.
The Baluch are a distinct ethnic group, speaking their own language, one of several Middle Eastern peoples without their own homeland. They live in eastern Iran and western Pakistan in inhospitable desert terrain over which neither Tehran nor Islamabad exercises much control. Baluchistan is a haven for smuggling, both of drugs and of arms. The Baluch are Sunni and are at sharp odds with Tehran's Shia clerical regime. Through Iraq's many years of conflict with Iran, first in the early 1970s and then during the Iran-Iraq war a decade later, Iraqi intelligence developed close ties with the Baluch on both sides of the Iranian-Pakistani border. Above all, it used them to carry out terrorism against Iran.
Yousef's associates in Pakistan, too, were anti-Shia. This fact, taken together with his Baluch ethnicity, make it nearly impossible that Iran could be behind Yousef. The most recent inquiries, made since Yousef's arrest, have reduced the question to two possibilities: He is a free-lancer connected to a loose network of fundamentalists; or he worked for Iraq. 
Of Passports and Fingerprints
THE SINGLE MOST important piece of evidence pointing to Iraq is the passport on which Yousef fled America. It was no ordinary passport.
On November 9,1992, just after the final green light for the bombing had been given, Yousef reported to Jersey City police that he had lost his passport. He claimed to be Abdul Basit Mahmud Abdul Karim, a Pakistani born and reared in Kuwait. Then, between December 3 and December 27, Yousef made a number of calls to Baluchistan. Several of them were conference calls to a few key numbers, a geographical plotting of which suggests that they were related to Yousef's probable escape route--through Pakistani and Iranian Baluchistan--across the Arabian Sea to Oman, after which the "telephone trail" ends. After Yousef s arrest, a National Security Council staffer confirmed to me that Yousef had indeed fled from the United States through Baluchistan.
On December 31, 1992, Yousef went to the Pakistani consulate in New York with photocopies of Abdul Basit's current and previous passports. Consistent with his story to police in Jersey City, he claimed to have lost his passport and asked for a new one. The consulate suspected his non-original documentation enough to deny him a new passport. But it did provide him a six-month, temporary passport and told him to straighten things out when he returned "home." This turned out to be good enough for the purpose at hand.
By now it should be clear that the World Trade Center bomber's real name is probably neither Ramzi Yousef nor Abdul Basit. After all, would someone intending to blow up New York's tallest tower go to such trouble to get a passport under his own name? Yousef was a man of many passports; he had three on his person when he was arrested in Pakistan. Rather, it seems that Ramzi Yousef risked going to the Pakistani consulate with such flimsy documents because he wanted investigators to conclude that he was in fact Abdul Basit, and so would stop trying to determine his real identity. And that is pretty much what happened.
But why Abdul Basit Karim? Here we come to one of the most intriguing and vital aspects of the case. Because there really was an Abdul Basit Karim, a Pakistani born in Kuwait, who later attended Swansea Institute, a technical school in Wales. After graduating in 1989 with a two-year degree in computer-aided electronic engineering, he returned to a job in Kuwait's planning ministry. As Abdul Basit and his family were permanent residents of Kuwait, Kuwait's Interior Ministry maintained files on them. But the files for Abdul Basit and his parents in Kuwait's Interior Ministry have been tampered with. Key documents from the Kuwaiti files on Abdul Basit and his parents are missing. There should be copies of the front pages of the passports, including a picture, a notation of height, and so forth, but that material is gone. There is also information in the file that should not be there, especially a notation stating that Abdul Basit and his family left Kuwait for Iraq on August 26, 1990, transiting to Iran at Salamchah (a crossing point near Basra) on their way to Pakistani Baluchistan, where, according to the file, they now live.
Who put that notation into Abdul Basit's file and why? Consider the circumstances of the moment. The Kuwaiti government had ceased to exist, and Iraq was an occupation authority; bent on establishing control over a hostile population amid near-universal condemnation, as an American-led coalition threatened war. The situation was chaotic as hundreds of thousands of people were fleeing for their lives. While the citizens of Western countries were pawns in a high stakes game, held hostage by Iraq, little attention was paid to the multitude of Third World nationals bent on escape. It truly boggles the imagination to believe that under such circumstances an Iraqi bureaucrat was sitting calmly in Kuwait's Interior Ministry taking down the flight plans--including the itinerary and final destination--of otherwise non-descript Baluchis fleeing Kuwait. Rather, it looks as if Iraqi intelligence put that information into Abdul Basit's file to make it appear that he left Kuwait rather than died there, and that, like Ramzi Yousef, he too was Baluch.
Moreover, Iraqi intelligence apparently switched fingerprint cards, removing the original with Abdul Basit's fingerprints and replacing it with one bearing those of Yousef. Fingerprints are decisive for investigators because no two people's match. But the very fact that fingerprints are so decisive makes them the perfect candidate for careful manipulation. Thus, after U.S. authorities learned that Yousef had fled as Abdul Basit, they sent his fingerprints (taken by the Immigration and Naturalization Service at JFF airport when he was briefly detained for illegal entry) to Kuwait, asking if they matched those of Abdul Basit. When the Kuwaitis said that they did, everyone assumed the question settled--forgetting that Kuwait's files were not secure during the Iraqi occupation.
Pakistan also maintains files on those of its citizens permanently resident abroad, at the embassy in the country in which they live. On August 9, Baghdad ordered all embassies in Iraq's "nineteenth province" to close. Most did, including the Pakistani embassy. The files on Abdul Basit and his family that should be in the Pakistani embassy in Kuwait are missing. The Pakistani government now has no record of the family.
What does all this suggest? To me it suggests that Abdul Basit and his family were in Kuwait when Iraq invaded in August 1990; that they probably died then; and that Iraqi intelligence then tampered with their files to create an alternative identity for Ramzi Yousef. Clearly, only Iraq could reasonably have: 1) known of, or caused, the death of Abdul Basit and his family; 2) tampered with Kuwait's Interior Ministry files, above all switching the fingerprint cards; and 3) filched the files on Abdul Basit and his family from the Pakistani embassy in Kuwait.
Of course, the best way to verify or falsify this would be to check with people who knew Abdul Basit before August 1990. To this end, Brad White, a former Senate Judiciary Committee investigator and CBS newsman, contacted an overseas source he knew in the United Kingdom who had looked into the matter. Two people had a good memory of Abdul Basit but, shown photos of Yousef, were unable to make a positive identification. They both felt that while there was some similarity in looks, it was not the same person. "Our feeling is that Ramzi Yousef is probably not Basit", White was told.
Logic and circumstance also suggest the same conclusion. Is it likely to be mere coincidence, after all, that during Iraq's occupation of Kuwait key documents were removed from Abdul Basit's and his parents files, while the same files were filched in their entirety from the Pakistani embassy? Moreover, Abdul Basit had no criminal record in Britain, nor did he or his parents have any security record in Kuwait. The first concrete knowledge we have of Ramzi Yousef/Abdul Basit comes in early 1991, around the end of the Gulf war when he showed up in the Philippines seeking contact with a Muslim group there. Introduced as "the chemist", he proposed to collaborate in bombing conspiracies. Now, how did a young man who had led a seemingly normal life up until August 1990 suddenly become a world class terrorist six months after Iraq invaded his country of residence? Where did he get such sophisticated explosives training in just six months? (The real Abdul Basit's degree, remember, was in electronic engineering, not chemistry, which Swansea Institute does not even teach.)
And where are Abdul Basit's parents? They never returned to Kuwait after its liberation, nor have they appeared anywhere else. Did they too take up a life of crime after decades of abiding by the law?
Ramzi Yousef's arrest has made it easy enough to resolve a key question and perhaps produce important evidence implicating Iraq in the World Trade Center bombing: Is "Ramzi Yousef" really Abdul Basit or not? Let those who remember Abdul Basit from before August 1990 meet Yousef in person and tell us. It sounds simple and logical, but strangely, the Justice Department has shown no interest in arranging such a meeting. Moreover, it has decided to try, the bomber as Ramzi Yousef even though no one, including Yousef by now, maintains that that is his real name. If the government believes that Yousef is really Abdul Basit, why doesn't it try him as Abdul Basit? Why is the Justice Department uninterested even in definitively determining his identity, even though doing so might help get to the bottom of the matter. I recently asked a Justice Department official, who maintains his confident view that Yousef is indeed Abdul Basit, "Why don't you bring the people who knew Abdul Basit to the prison to meet Yousef, so they can say for sure if they are the same?" "But you", I was told, "are interested in an intelligence question." Earlier I had been told, "It does not matter what we call him. We just try a body."
And so back we come to the high wall. As before, those who have the information about Ramzi Yousef and his bombing conspiracies are not concerned with the question of state sponsorship, or at least consider it secondary to their trials; while those who are concerned with state sponsorship are denied the information that they need to investigate the question properly.
Threats From Baghdad
MOST MEMBERS OF the U.S. national security bureaucracies think that Saddam Hussein has largely lain low since the Gulf War, constrained by economic sanctions and swift American reactions to his occasional feints to the south. But if in February 1993, Saddam ordered his agents to try to topple New York's tallest tower onto its twin, and if, in January 1995, Iraq sponsored an effort to destroy eleven U.S. airplanes in the Far East, then Saddam has not been quiescent.
This, simply put, is why it is important to find out who Ramzi Yousef is and who may have put him up to his murderous work. Maybe Iraq had nothing to do with him, despite all the circumstantial evidence suggesting otherwise. But if it did, then the otherwise peculiar, bombastic, and extremely violent statements emanating from Baghdad might make more sense than they at first seem to.
In the fall of 1994, Baghdad's official press, in essence, threatened that Saddam might use his remaining unconventional agents, biological and chemical, for terrorism in America, or in missiles delivered against his enemies in the region if and when he became fed up with sanctions. On September 29, 1994, following an otherwise cryptic statement of Saddam Hussein's, the government newspaper, Babil, warned: "Does the United States realize the meaning of every Iraqi becoming a missile that can cross to countries and cities?"
Other threats followed almost daily;
When peoples reach the verge of collective death, they will be able to spread death to all. 
When one realizes that death is one s inexorable fate, there remains nothing to deter one from taking the most risky steps to influence the course of events. 
We seek to tell the United States and its agents that the Iraqi patience has run out and that the perpetuation of the crime of annihilating the Iraqis will trigger crises whose nature and consequences are known only to God.
These statements occurred in the context of Saddam's second and abortive lunge at Kuwait, which was thwarted by the swift U.S. deployment to the region. Saddam then turned around and formally recognized Kuwait, removing what then seemed to be the last major obstacle to lifting sanctions, and the Iraqi press soon began to call 1995, "the year of lifting sanctions."
But that was not to be. The UN Special Commission (UNSCOM) started to uncover evidence of a large, undeclared biological program. As Baghdad's disappointment grew, the Iraqi press began to repeat the threats it had made in the fall. The number two man in Iraq's information ministry warned, "Iraq's abandonment of part of its weapons-the long-range missiles and chemical weapons. . does not mean it has lost everything." Al-Quds al-Arabi, a London paper financed by Baghdad and close to the Iraqi regime, cautioned. "Iraq still has options. But they are all destructive options. Yet if the Americans continue to humiliate them, they will have no option but to bring the temple down on everyone's head."19
After Baghdad succeeded in getting a clean bill of health from UNSCOM in mid-June on its chemical and missile programs, it finally acknowledged in July having had an offensive biological program and having produced anthrax and botulinim. But it denied that it had ever tried to weaponize those agents and, in any case, claimed to have destroyed them in the fall of 1990. The claim was neither credible nor verifiable, particularly as Iraq produced no documents detailing their destruction. Indeed, the Iraqi "revelations" may even have been meant as a threat, an attempt to intimidate the United Nations by hinting at what Baghdad was still capable of doing.
In early August 1995, as Iraq pressed UNSCOM for a clean bill of health on its biological program, Hussein Kamil--Saddam's cousin and son-in-law, and the man responsible for overseeing the build-up of Iraq's unconventional weapons program defected. This precipitated a flood of stunning revelations from Baghdad. They included the admission that Iraq had indeed weaponized botulinim and anthrax. At the very same time that it had earlier claimed to be destroying those agents, the Iraqi regime now acknowledged that it had been stuffing them into bombs and missiles. Yet Iraq still claimed that whatever biological agents it had produced had been destroyed, even as it still failed to produce any documents to confirm their purported destruction.
It looks as if Iraq is holding on to prohibited weapons of mass destruction, even as it insists that sanctions be lifted. Why? In early September, a former adviser to Saddam Hussein predicted that Iraq would not give up any more unconventional agents. Instead, Saddam would probably employ them for blackmail and brinkmanship to get sanctions lifted. And failing that, he would use them. General Wafiq Samarrai, former head of Iraqi military intelligence, told me much the same: "Tell the allies that they have to destroy Iraq's biological agents before Saddam can use them." Iraq could attack its neighbors by missile, or America through terrorism. The United Stares might retaliate with nuclear weapons, but by then "the disaster will already have happened", Samarrai warned. 
Would Saddam actually do such a thing? When asked about the possibility of Saddam's using biological agents for terrorism in America, UNSCOM chairman RoIf Ekeus replied, "It is obviously possible." Yet such thoughts seem far from the minds of most U.S. officials, who believe that Saddam is trapped by sanctions and can do no real harm. They feel no urgency about bringing Saddam down; they sense no danger.
YET IF RAMZI YOUSEF is in fact an Iraqi intelligence agent, there obviously is a danger. Even if we cannot yet be absolutely certain of this, so many American and allied lives are potentially at stake that it seems the least a responsible government can do is to make every reasonable effort to find out. As Saddam Hussein senses his ever-increasing isolation and sees the prospects for lifting sanctions receding, his desperation may lead him to order other, and even more ghastly, deeds.
If Saddam Hussein still hungers for revenge, the question of Ramzi Yousef's terrorism is much too important to be left solely to the Justice Department, while the FBI continues to withhold critical information from the national security bureaucracies.
The following are among the steps that could and should be taken to address the issue of whether Iraq is behind Ramzi Yousef and to strengthen America's anti-terrorism efforts generally:
Bring those who knew Abdul Basit Karim before August 1990 to meet Yousef in prison and pronounce definitely if they are one and the same man.
Demand the immediate and unconditional extradition of Abdul Rahman Yasin from Baghdad.
Establish a "tiger team", drawn from the best and brightest within the national security bureaucracies, to examine all the information in the U.S. government's possession related to Yousef and his bombing conspiracies. Yousef's apparent use of chemical agents in New York and his threat to use them in the Philippines deserve special attention.
Establish appropriate procedures so that whenever a terrorist attack occurs against U.S. targets that might be state-sponsored, a qualified team will address the question of state sponsorship regardless of whether the terror occurs on U.S. soil or whether early arrests are made.
Individually, the pieces of this puzzle--the elusive identity and affiliation of the World Trade Center bomber; the series of explicit threats against the United States issuing from Baghdad; the question of Iraqi biological capabilities--raise troubling questions. Taken together, they provide the outline of a very frightening possibility. The lack of coordination between the Departments of Justice and State may have created a niche for terrorism within America's borders; while the lack of any adequate response to the two major bombing conspiracies may have already begun to undermine the credibility of the threat of deterrence. So far, State Department officials have been content to leave the issue of Iraq's possible resort to biological terrorism on the back burner, secure in the belief that the threat of nuclear retaliation will be sufficient deterrent. But Saddam has previously miscalculated the American reaction to his provocations. It would be reassuring to know that, somewhere in the policy-apparatus of the State Department, someone is looking seriously at the possibility of future terrorist acts and at the requirements of effective deterrence.
The best proof of this is their eagerness to destroy Iraq, the strongest neighboring Arab state, and their endeavor to fragment all the states of the region such as Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Sudan into paper statelets and through their disunion and weakness to guarantee Israel's survival and the continuation of the brutal crusade occupation of the Peninsula.
I'm sure Johh Galt will be along any minute to tell us what a tin foil hack Mylorie is....
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