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."
Forensic Intelligence International, LLC the Kauth house, 318 Cooper Avenue, Hancock, Michigan 49930; 906-370-9993 706-294-9993 (mobile), 603-452-8208 (fax & voice mail), firstname.lastname@example.org
Monday, April 5, 2004 Urgent & Confidential Thomas H. Kean, Chairman
Lee H. Hamilton, Vice Chairman
National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States
301 7th Street, SW
Washington, DC 20407
Re: Pre-September 2001 FBI and Dept. of Justice Intelligence on Terrorism (R. Yousef)
Dear Chairman Kean and Vice Chairman Hamilton:
Our monitoring of the Commissions hearings indicates that significant intelligence concerning the terrorist threat to the United States obtained between 1996 and early 2001 by various components of the U.S. Department of Justice has not been provided to the Commission.
This intelligence was provided to agents of the New York office of the FBI and senior prosecutors with the offices of the U.S. Attorneys for the Southern and Eastern Districts of New York by an informant, Gregory Scarpa, Jr., who developed a close personal relationship with Ramzi Ahmed Yousef while Yousef and Scarpa were incarcerated at the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) in New York in 1996 and 1997, with supplemental information provided in 2000 by Scarpa to an official of the U.S. Bureau of Prisons after he was transferred to the Administrative Maximum Security (ADMAX) Penitentiary in Florence Colorado, to which Yousef had already been transferred and where both currently remain. In early 2001 another inmate of Florence ADMAX attempted to transmit much of the information developed by Scarpa to the director of the FBI, the President of the United States and the Attorney General.1
We first became aware of this intelligence when, for purposes entirely unrelated to terrorism, we met with Scarpa at Florence ADMAX in March 2003. In the course of these meetings Scarpa provided to us his contemporaneous (1996-97) handwritten notes of his conversations with Yousef and his terrorist codefendants2 and copies of FBI Forms 302 (informant reports) recounting the information which he had provided to agents of the FBI.3
1 We cannot, of course, confirm that these mailings, made by Gerard Van Hoorelbeke, in fact left the prison or reached their intended recipients. Van Hoorelbeke remains incarcerated at Florence ADMAX (Reg. No. 10376-029).
2 Scarpa reported conversations with Yousef and with Yousefs codefendants, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Abdul Hakim Murad and Eyad Ismoil. Many of these conversations referenced a person identified by the terrorists as Bojinga, whom we believe to be Osama Bin Laden.
3 During his incarceration at the MCC, Scarpa was regularly debriefed by an agent of the FBI who, using the alias Susan Schwartz, posed as a paralegal employed by Scarpas attorney, Larry J. Silverman. In addition to these reports, Scarpa, utilizing a mini-camera provided by the warden of the MCC, provided the FBI with photographs of documents (kites) which Yousef shared with him. Also, with the assistance of Scarpa (acting on behalf of the FBI) Yousef was able to make telephone calls, monitored by the FBI, to active (unincarcerated) members of his terrorist networks via a patch-through phone accessed from MCC. FI2
- 2 -
The intelligence provided by Scarpa included specific threats to U.S. airlines, the identification of countries (e.g., England) through which terrorists were entering the United States and testing U.S. security procedures, instructions for smuggling explosive chemicals and detonators (including hiding these in the heels of shoes), and formulas for explosives and for the production of phosgene and mustard gases. Yousef revealed to Scarpa his strong interest in obtaining blank U.S. passports which his people would only use for one trip to board the planes to be hijacked. Further intelligence laid out a plan to videotape the killings of hijacking victims, with distribution of these tapes to the media.4
One very serious missed opportunity to disrupt a terrorist network here in the United States prior to September 11, 2001, involved Yousefs agreement to meeting in New York between Scarpas associates (who would have been disguised FBI agents) and four active (unincarcerated) terrorists. This meeting never took place because the cognizant FBI agents and assistant U.S. attorneys refused to agree to Yousefs demand that $3,000 be provided to the terrorists.
It should be noted that Scarpa provided this assistance to the FBI at considerable risk not only to himself but also to members of his family, whose address he was compelled to provide to Yousef to enhance his credibility.
We have identified the following officials as having been directly involved with Scarpa in his role as an informant, as summarized in the attached Scarpa-Yousef Intelligence Timeline:5
New York Office of the FBI
. Susan Schwartz (alias)
. Pat White
. James Kallstrom
U.S. Attorneys Offices
. AUSA Michael Garcia (EDNY)
. AUSA Patrick Fitzgerald (EDNY)
. AUSA Valerie Caproni (EDNY)
. U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White (SDNY)
Metropolitan Correctional Center (New York)
. Warden R.M. Reish
Administrative Maximum Secuity Penitentiary, Florence, Colorado
. Mr. Manly (SIS)
4 Scarpas intelligence anticipates shoe bomber Richard Reed, the authorization for the 9/11 attacks given by Yousef's uncle, Kahlid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohammed Attas and Al Qaedas English connections, the single-use passports employed to board the airplanes hijacked on 9/11, and the videotaped death in Pakistan of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.
5 The office of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York was initially informed of Scarpas contacts with Yousef at the MCC and his willingness to serve as an informant by his attorney, Larry J. Silverman (46 Trinity Place, New York 10006; 212-425-1616), who remained informed of Scarpas activities on behalf of the government.
- 3 -
Although the information provided by Scarpa appears to have been fully documented, especially in Forms 302 prepared by the New York office of the FBI, we do not know if this information was disseminated to other agencies with responsibility for the prevention of terrorist attacks on the United States.
We understand that AUSA Patrick Fitzgerald (EDNY), in a later (sealed) court filing, attested to the credibility, accuracy and value of the terrorism intelligence provided by Scarpa. However, at the time of Scarpas sentencing AUSA Valerie Caproni denigrated Scarpas credibility as an informant. Apparently, Scarpas credibility was perceived to pose a threat in the context of serious questions which had been raised concerning the informant relationship of Scarpas father, Gregory Scarpa, Sr., with FBI Supervisory Special Agent R. Lindley DeVecchio, the revelation of which might place in jeopardy a number of convictions secured by the office of the U.S. Attorney (EDNY). This latter matter, entirely unrelated to terrorism, remains a subject of continuing, independent investigation.
We strongly advise that the Commission fully examine the terrorism intelligence secured by the government through the informant services of Gregory Scarpa, Jr., and assess the extent to which it was appropriately utilized to reduce the terrorist threat to the United States.
Stephen P. Dresch, Ph.D.
Principal witness: Gregory Scarpa, Jr. Reg. No. 10099-050 ADX Florence
P.O. Box 8500
5880 State Highway 67 South
Florence, Colorado 81226
Attachment: Scarpa-Yousef Intelligence Timeline
End. The timeline is seven pages long, with info related to Flight 800, Atlanta, other matters, including one situation where an opportunity to develop leads related to four terrorists, at-large in New York, failed to develop.
Info can be seen at:
Once at the above link, click on lower left link.
And found this article related to the 911 commission:
Speaking of politics, it is probably no coincidence that one of the five Democrats on the high level 9-11 Commission is Jamie Gorelick. As Clinton's deputy attorney general in 1996, she seems to have been the one charged with derailing the FBI and scuttling any serious investigation into Flight 800's demise.
A Pulitzer awaits the first reporter who pursues this story to its natural conclusion, and we will do all that we can to help.
For several days I've been refraining from the temptation to comment on the name "Gorelick" :) Anyway, interesting Fox News is carrying that. I think it's something the public needs to be made aware of.
There's enough other information in the letter and the attached "Intelligence Timeline" that should keep some reporters curious--what the 911 commission does with the info remains to be seen. Other information in other places suggests that anything related to Flight 800 will be ignored.
PANEL 2: STATES AND TERRORISM
WITNESSES: LAURIE MYLROIE, AUTHOR; JUDITH YAPHE, NATIONAL DEFENSE UNIVERSITY; MURHAF JOUEJATI, GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY; MARK GASIOROWSKI, LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY
MS. MYLROIE: Thank you very much for the invitation to address you this morning.
A major policy and intelligence failure occurred in the 1990s, namely the emergence of a serious misunderstanding about the nature of major terrorist attacks on the United States. Prior to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, it was assumed that all major attacks against the United States were state-sponsored. The Trade Center bombing is said to mark the start of a new kind of terrorism that does not involve states, and that is simply not true.
And what I'm going to say to you is going to be different than you heard earlier this morning, and that's because the information on which I am basing these evaluations is the evidence from the trials rather than the intelligence. And because terrorism throughout the '90s was treated as a law enforcement issue, that evidence, I would suggest, is more important, more relevant, and more reliable in understanding the terrorist threat.
I'll speak briefly about three plots: the '93 Trade Center bombing, the '95 plot to bomb a dozen U.S. airplanes in the Philippines, and 9/11. My focus will be on the masterminds -- individuals like Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Sheikh Mohammad. My point will be: we do not know who these people are. Their identities are all based on documents in Kuwait that pre-date its liberation in 1991, and those documents are not reliable because Iraqi intelligence was there for seven months. Indeed, there is substantial reason to believe that these masterminds are Iraqi intelligence agents.
Now, the '93 bombing of the Trade Center is supposed to be the start of a new, stateless terrorism. But New York FBI, the lead investigative agency, its director, Jim Fox, believed that Iraq was behind the bomb. Why? It was huge. It was meant to topple one tower on to the other, and it left a crater six stories deep in the basement floors. Fox's background was counter-intelligence, and he believed that the individuals he was arresting immediately after the bombing, like the 26-year-old Palestinian Mohammad Salama, who was detained as he returned to the Ryder rental agency for his deposit on the van that carried the bomb. These individuals alone could not have carried out such an attack. There were also Iraqis all around the fringe of the plot. One of them, Abdul Rahman Yasin, came from Baghdad before the bombing, returned afterwards. He's still an indicted fugitive. Also, see Salama's many phone calls to Iraq at a crucial early stage of the plot, which are part of my testimony. That's government exhibit 824, a page from Salama's phone bill, evidence from his trial.
But the key point is the identity of the mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, without whom that bomb could not have been built. He entered the United States on an Iraqi passport in the name of Ramzi Yousef, and fled the night of the Trade Center bombing on a Pakistani passport in the name of Abdel Basit Karim. There really was an individual Abdel Basit Karim, born and raised in Kuwait. He graduated high school, then went to study in Britain, got his degree in June of '89, and returned to Kuwait. And apparently he was still there a year later when Iraq invaded. Yousef obtained the passport on which he fled New York by going to the Pakistani consulate with Xerox copies of the 1984 and 1988 passports of Abdel Basit Karim saying he was Karim, he had lost his passport, and he needed a new one to get home. The consulate didn't like the documentation, but nonetheless gave him a temporary passport, and that's the passport on which Yousef fled. The copies of Karim's passport that Yousef presented to the consulate were also evidence in the trial. If you look at government exhibits 739 C and B, you'll see the first two pages of those passports. You can look at the signatures, and you'll see that they're radically different.
Also, a Pakistani address has spaces for a permanent address in Pakistan and a present address in Pakistan. The present address in those passports is blank because the family lived in Kuwait. But the permanent address has changed. The permanent address is, in a Pakistani passport, the family's place of origin. By definition, it doesn't change. But in the 1984 passport, it says Karachi; the '88 passport, Baluchistan. The signature is different. The permanent addresses are different. Those documents went through a scanner.
And similar problem exists with Karim's file in Kuwait. As a routine matter, Kuwait's interior ministry maintained a resident alien file on Karim. Information was taken out. There should have been front -- Xerox copies of the front pages of passports with the signature, the picture, et cetera. The Kuwaitis recognized that that was missing because of Iraq's occupation. What they didn't realize was that the whole file was corrupted. Information was added. There was a notation that Abdul Basit Karim and his family left Kuwait on August 26th, 1990, traveling from Kuwait to Iraq, crossing to Iran at Salancha on the way to Pakistani Baluchistan where they live now. But no one gives his whole itinerary when he crosses a border. That information doesn't belong in the file. Moreover, on that day, there was an Iraqi army of occupation -- no Kuwaiti government. The Iraqis put that information into Abdul Basit Karim's file.
Finally, Yousef's fingerprints are in that file. But everyone's fingerprints are unique, so that can mean only one of two things: Yousef's real identity is Abdul Basit Karim, or someone switched the fingerprint cards.
I met with Karim's teachers in Britain for a whole variety of reasons, including that Yousef is tall and Abdul Basit Karim was medium to short -- two different heights. Karim's teachers believe, as do I, that their student is not the bomber, that the student died in Kuwait, and that Ramzi Yousef assumed his identity.
And if Yousef is not Karim, that means a file in Kuwait was tampered with, including switching the fingerprint cards for the evident purpose of creating a false identity for a terrorist.
You're all aware of the practices of Soviet-style intelligence agencies. Agents not attached to an embassy are called illegals, and it's standard practice to develop false identities or legends for illegals. Reasonably, only Iraq could have tampered with Karim's file in Kuwait, including switching the fingerprint cards, while it occupied Kuwait. Iraqi intelligence created a legend for an illegal, and that's the significance of Karim's file.
Now, in '95, Yousef was involved in a plot to bomb a dozen U.S. airplanes in the Philippines. Arrested with him was an individual known as Abdul Hakim Murad. Murad is supposed to be Yousef's childhood friend from Kuwait. And, like Yousef, Murad is also Baluch. Khalid Sheik Mohammed was indicted for that plot, too. Mohammed escaped and went on to head al Qaeda's military committee after al Qaeda moved to Afghanistan, and he masterminded the 9/11 attacks. Mohammed is supposed to be Yousef's maternal uncle, but his identity like that of Yousef and Murad is based on what he himself has told other people, and documents in Kuwait that predate Kuwait's liberation from Iraq. Neither are reliable. We don't necessarily know who Mohammad is.
Now, U.S. authorities understand the three other, quote, "relatives" of Yousef -- two older brothers and a younger cousin -- there is a chart on the back of my written statement -- they are also key al Qaeda figures. The brothers, and perhaps the cousin, were also born and raised in Kuwait and their identities, too, rest on Kuwaiti documents. Notably, these people are all Baluch, Sunni Muslim people living in eastern Iran and western Pakistan. Iraqi intelligence has long-standing ties with the Baluch. It used them against Iran.
Prior to the Trade Center bombing, no Baluch was involved in terrorism against the United States. Yes, there's nothing to do with them. And no Baluch organization is on the State Department's terrorism list. Why should Baluch attach the United States, except for the link to Iraqi intelligence?
It's essentially the claim now of U.S. authorities that the core of the murderous terrorist attacks from the Trade Center bombing to 9/11, at that core is a particularly talented and murderous Baluch family. Yousef, his friends, his uncle, two brothers, and a cousin. Yet there is another explanation. This is not a family. Rather they are Baluch illegals given legends by Iraqi intelligence on the basis of documents in Kuwait.
Recently I asked an Israeli retired from the number two position in military intelligence which made more sense: "Is this a murderous family or illegals with legends?" He replied: "It's obvious. It's obvious that these are illegals with legends."
There's a major lapse in the investigation to take these identities at face value. That question must be pursued, and there are suggestions about doing that in my written statement. The odds are high that these people are not whom they claim to be, and demonstrating that would constitute a clear link between Iraq and the 9/11 attack, as reasonably only Iraq could have created these legends while it occupied Kuwait. That would also demonstrate that there is no new kind of terrorism that does not involve states. This terrorism was part of a war that did not end with the 1991 cease-fire, but continues to this day. Thank you.
OSAMA BIN LADEN and Saddam Hussein had an operational relationship from the early 1990s to 2003 that involved training in explosives and weapons of mass destruction, logistical support for terrorist attacks, al Qaeda training camps and safe haven in Iraq, and Iraqi financial support for al Qaeda--perhaps even for Mohamed Atta--according to a top secret U.S. government memorandum obtained by THE WEEKLY STANDARD.
The memo, dated October 27, 2003, was sent from Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Douglas J. Feith to Senators Pat Roberts and Jay Rockefeller, the chairman and vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee. It was written in response to a request from the committee as part of its investigation into prewar intelligence claims made by the administration. Intelligence reporting included in the 16-page memo comes from a variety of domestic and foreign agencies, including the FBI, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Agency. Much of the evidence is detailed, conclusive, and corroborated by multiple sources. Some of it is new information obtained in custodial interviews with high-level al Qaeda terrorists and Iraqi officials, and some of it is more than a decade old. The picture that emerges is one of a history of collaboration between two of America's most determined and dangerous enemies.
According to the memo--which lays out the intelligence in 50 numbered points--Iraq-al Qaeda contacts began in 1990 and continued through mid-March 2003, days before the Iraq War began. Most of the numbered passages contain straight, fact-based intelligence reporting, which in some cases includes an evaluation of the credibility of the source. This reporting is often followed by commentary and analysis.
The relationship began shortly before the first Gulf War. According to reporting in the memo, bin Laden sent "emissaries to Jordan in 1990 to meet with Iraqi government officials." At some unspecified point in 1991, according to a CIA analysis, "Iraq sought Sudan's assistance to establish links to al Qaeda." The outreach went in both directions. According to 1993 CIA reporting cited in the memo, "bin Laden wanted to expand his organization's capabilities through ties with Iraq."
The primary go-between throughout these early stages was Sudanese strongman Hassan al-Turabi, a leader of the al Qaeda-affiliated National Islamic Front. Numerous sources have confirmed this. One defector reported that "al-Turabi was instrumental in arranging the Iraqi-al Qaeda relationship. The defector said Iraq sought al Qaeda influence through its connections with Afghanistan, to facilitate the transshipment of proscribed weapons and equipment to Iraq. In return, Iraq provided al Qaeda with training and instructors."
One such confirmation came in a postwar interview with one of Saddam Hussein's henchmen. As the memo details:
4. According to a May 2003 debriefing of a senior Iraqi intelligence officer, Iraqi intelligence established a highly secretive relationship with Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and later with al Qaeda. The first meeting in 1992 between the Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) and al Qaeda was brokered by al-Turabi. Former IIS deputy director Faruq Hijazi and senior al Qaeda leader [Ayman al] Zawahiri were at the meeting--the first of several between 1992 and 1995 in Sudan. Additional meetings between Iraqi intelligence and al Qaeda were held in Pakistan. Members of al Qaeda would sometimes visit Baghdad where they would meet the Iraqi intelligence chief in a safe house. The report claimed that Saddam insisted the relationship with al Qaeda be kept secret. After 9-11, the source said Saddam made a personnel change in the IIS for fear the relationship would come under scrutiny from foreign probes.
A decisive moment in the budding relationship came in 1993, when bin Laden faced internal resistance to his cooperation with Saddam.
5. A CIA report from a contact with good access, some of whose reporting has been corroborated, said that certain elements in the "Islamic Army" of bin Laden were against the secular regime of Saddam. Overriding the internal factional strife that was developing, bin Laden came to an "understanding" with Saddam that the Islamic Army would no longer support anti-Saddam activities. According to sensitive reporting released in U.S. court documents during the African Embassy trial, in 1993 bin Laden reached an "understanding" with Saddam under which he (bin Laden) forbade al Qaeda operations to be mounted against the Iraqi leader. Another facilitator of the relationship during the mid-1990s was Mahmdouh Mahmud Salim (a.k.a. Abu Hajer al-Iraqi). Abu Hajer, now in a New York prison, was described in court proceedings related to the August 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania as bin Laden's "best friend." According to CIA reporting dating back to the Clinton administration, bin Laden trusted him to serve as a liaison with Saddam's regime and tasked him with procurement of weapons of mass destruction for al Qaeda. FBI reporting in the memo reveals that Abu Hajer "visited Iraq in early 1995" and "had a good relationship with Iraqi intelligence. Sometime before mid-1995 he went on an al Qaeda mission to discuss unspecified cooperation with the Iraqi government."
Some of the reporting about the relationship throughout the mid-1990s comes from a source who had intimate knowledge of bin Laden and his dealings. This source, according to CIA analysis, offered "the most credible information" on cooperation between bin Laden and Iraq.
This source's reports read almost like a diary. Specific dates of when bin Laden flew to various cities are included, as well as names of individuals he met. The source did not offer information on the substantive talks during the meetings. . . . There are not a great many reports in general on the relationship between bin Laden and Iraq because of the secrecy surrounding it. But when this source with close access provided a "window" into bin Laden's activities, bin Laden is seen as heavily involved with Iraq (and Iran). Reporting from the early 1990s remains somewhat sketchy, though multiple sources place Hassan al-Turabi and Ayman al Zawahiri, bin Laden's current No. 2, at the center of the relationship. The reporting gets much more specific in the mid-1990s:
8. Reporting from a well placed source disclosed that bin Laden was receiving training on bomb making from the IIS's [Iraqi Intelligence Service] principal technical expert on making sophisticated explosives, Brigadier Salim al-Ahmed. Brigadier Salim was observed at bin Laden's farm in Khartoum in Sept.-Oct. 1995 and again in July 1996, in the company of the Director of Iraqi Intelligence, Mani abd-al-Rashid al-Tikriti.
9 . . . Bin Laden visited Doha, Qatar (17-19 Jan. 1996), staying at the residence of a member of the Qatari ruling family. He discussed the successful movement of explosives into Saudi Arabia, and operations targeted against U.S. and U.K. interests in Dammam, Dharan, and Khobar, using clandestine al Qaeda cells in Saudi Arabia. Upon his return, bin Laden met with Hijazi and Turabi, among others.
And later more reporting, from the same "well placed" source:
10. The Director of Iraqi Intelligence, Mani abd-al-Rashid al-Tikriti, met privately with bin Laden at his farm in Sudan in July 1996. Tikriti used an Iraqi delegation traveling to Khartoum to discuss bilateral cooperation as his "cover" for his own entry into Sudan to meet with bin Laden and Hassan al-Turabi. The Iraqi intelligence chief and two other IIS officers met at bin Laden's farm and discussed bin Laden's request for IIS technical assistance in: a) making letter and parcel bombs; b) making bombs which could be placed on aircraft and detonated by changes in barometric pressure; and c) making false passport [sic]. Bin Laden specifically requested that [Brigadier Salim al-Ahmed], Iraqi intelligence's premier explosives maker--especially skilled in making car bombs--remain with him in Sudan. The Iraqi intelligence chief instructed Salim to remain in Sudan with bin Laden as long as required.
The analysis of those events follows:
The time of the visit from the IIS director was a few weeks after the Khobar Towers bombing. The bombing came on the third anniversary of a U.S. [Tomahawk missile] strike on IIS HQ (retaliation for the attempted assassination of former President Bush in Kuwait) for which Iraqi officials explicitly threatened retaliation.
IN ADDITION TO THE CONTACTS CLUSTERED in the mid-1990s, intelligence reports detail a flurry of activities in early 1998 and again in December 1998. A "former senior Iraqi intelligence officer" reported that "the Iraqi intelligence service station in Pakistan was Baghdad's point of contact with al Qaeda. He also said bin Laden visited Baghdad in Jan. 1998 and met with Tariq Aziz."
11. According to sensitive reporting, Saddam personally sent Faruq Hijazi, IIS deputy director and later Iraqi ambassador to Turkey, to meet with bin Laden at least twice, first in Sudan and later in Afghanistan in 1999. . . .
14. According to a sensitive reporting [from] a "regular and reliable source," [Ayman al] Zawahiri, a senior al Qaeda operative, visited Baghdad and met with the Iraqi Vice President on 3 February 1998. The goal of the visit was to arrange for coordination between Iraq and bin Laden and establish camps in an-Nasiriyah and Iraqi Kurdistan under the leadership of Abdul Aziz.
That visit came as the Iraqis intensified their defiance of the U.N. inspection regime, known as UNSCOM, created by the cease-fire agreement following the Gulf War. UNSCOM demanded access to Saddam's presidential palaces that he refused to provide. As the tensions mounted, President Bill Clinton went to the Pentagon on February 18, 1998, and prepared the nation for war. He warned of "an unholy axis of terrorists, drug traffickers, and organized international criminals" and said "there is no more clear example of this threat than Saddam Hussein."
The day after this speech, according to documents unearthed in April 2003 in the Iraqi Intelligence headquarters by journalists Mitch Potter and Inigo Gilmore, Hussein's intelligence service wrote a memo detailing coming meetings with a bin Laden representative traveling to Baghdad. Each reference to bin Laden had been covered by liquid paper that, when revealed, exposed a plan to increase cooperation between Iraq and al Qaeda. According to that memo, the IIS agreed to pay for "all the travel and hotel costs inside Iraq to gain the knowledge of the message from bin Laden and to convey to his envoy an oral message from us to bin Laden." The document set as the goal for the meeting a discussion of "the future of our relationship with him, bin Laden, and to achieve a direct meeting with him." The al Qaeda representative, the document went on to suggest, might provide "a way to maintain contacts with bin Laden."
Four days later, on February 23, 1998, bin Laden issued his now-famous fatwa on the plight of Iraq, published in the Arabic-language daily, al Quds al-Arabi: "For over seven years the United States has been occupying the lands of Islam in the holiest of places, the Arabian Peninsula, plundering its riches, dictating to its rulers, humiliating its people, terrorizing its neighbors, and turning its bases in the Peninsula into a spearhead through which to fight the neighboring Muslim peoples." Bin Laden urged his followers to act: "The ruling to kill all Americans and their allies--civilians and military--is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it."
Although war was temporarily averted by a last-minute deal brokered by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, tensions soon rose again. The standoff with Iraq came to a head in December 1998, when President Clinton launched Operation Desert Fox, a 70-hour bombing campaign that began on December 16 and ended three days later, on December 19, 1998.
According to press reports at the time, Faruq Hijazi, deputy director of Iraqi Intelligence, met with bin Laden in Afghanistan on December 21, 1998, to offer bin Laden safe haven in Iraq. CIA reporting in the memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee seems to confirm this meeting and relates two others.
15. A foreign government service reported that an Iraqi delegation, including at least two Iraqi intelligence officers formerly assigned to the Iraqi Embassy in Pakistan, met in late 1998 with bin Laden in Afghanistan.
16. According to CIA reporting, bin Laden and Zawahiri met with two Iraqi intelligence officers in Afghanistan in Dec. 1998.
17. . . . Iraq sent an intelligence officer to Afghanistan to seek closer ties to bin Laden and the Taliban in late 1998. The source reported that the Iraqi regime was trying to broaden its cooperation with al Qaeda. Iraq was looking to recruit Muslim "elements" to sabotage U.S. and U.K. interests. After a senior Iraqi intelligence officer met with Taliban leader [Mullah] Omar, arrangements were made for a series of meetings between the Iraqi intelligence officer and bin Laden in Pakistan. The source noted Faruq Hijazi was in Afghanistan in late 1998.
18. . . . Faruq Hijazi went to Afghanistan in 1999 along with several other Iraqi officials to meet with bin Laden. The source claimed that Hijazi would have met bin Laden only at Saddam's explicit direction. An analysis that follows No. 18 provides additional context and an explanation of these reports:
Reporting entries #4, #11, #15, #16, #17, and #18, from different sources, corroborate each other and provide confirmation of meetings between al Qaeda operatives and Iraqi intelligence in Afghanistan and Pakistan. None of the reports have information on operational details or the purpose of such meetings. The covert nature of the relationship would indicate strict compartmentation [sic] of operations.
Information about connections between al Qaeda and Iraq was so widespread by early 1999 that it made its way into the mainstream press. A January 11, 1999, Newsweek story ran under this headline: "Saddam + Bin Laden?" The story cited an "Arab intelligence source" with knowledge of contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda. "According to this source, Saddam expected last month's American and British bombing campaign to go on much longer than it did. The dictator believed that as the attacks continued, indignation would grow in the Muslim world, making his terrorism offensive both harder to trace and more effective. With acts of terror contributing to chaos in the region, Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait might feel less inclined to support Washington. Saddam's long-term strategy, according to several sources, is to bully or cajole Muslim countries into breaking the embargo against Iraq, without waiting for the United Nations to lift if formally."
INTELLIGENCE REPORTS about the nature of the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda from mid-1999 through 2003 are conflicting. One senior Iraqi intelligence officer in U.S. custody, Khalil Ibrahim Abdallah, "said that the last contact between the IIS and al Qaeda was in July 1999. Bin Laden wanted to meet with Saddam, he said. The guidance sent back from Saddam's office reportedly ordered Iraqi intelligence to refrain from any further contact with bin Laden and al Qaeda. The source opined that Saddam wanted to distance himself from al Qaeda."
The bulk of reporting on the relationship contradicts this claim. One report states that "in late 1999" al Qaeda set up a training camp in northern Iraq that "was operational as of 1999." Other reports suggest that the Iraqi regime contemplated several offers of safe haven to bin Laden throughout 1999.
23. . . . Iraqi officials were carefully considering offering safe haven to bin Laden and his closest collaborators in Nov. 1999. The source indicated the idea was put forward by the presumed head of Iraqi intelligence in Islamabad (Khalid Janaby) who in turn was in frequent contact and had good relations with bin Laden.
Some of the most intriguing intelligence concerns an Iraqi named Ahmed Hikmat Shakir:
24. According to sensitive reporting, a Malaysia-based Iraqi national (Shakir) facilitated the arrival of one of the Sept 11 hijackers for an operational meeting in Kuala Lumpur (Jan 2000). Sensitive reporting indicates Shakir's travel and contacts link him to a worldwide network of terrorists, including al Qaeda. Shakir worked at the Kuala Lumpur airport--a job he claimed to have obtained through an Iraqi embassy employee. One of the men at that al Qaeda operational meeting in the Kuala Lumpur Hotel was Tawfiz al Atash, a top bin Laden lieutenant later identified as the mastermind of the October 12, 2000, attack on the USS Cole.
25. Investigation into the bombing of the USS Cole in October 2000 by al Qaeda revealed no specific Iraqi connections but according to the CIA, "fragmentary evidence points to possible Iraqi involvement."
26. During a custodial interview, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi [a senior al Qaeda operative] said he was told by an al Qaeda associate that he was tasked to travel to Iraq (1998) to establish a relationship with Iraqi intelligence to obtain poisons and gases training. After the USS Cole bombing in 2000, two al Qaeda operatives were sent to Iraq for CBW-related [Chemical and Biological Weapons] training beginning in Dec 2000. Iraqi intelligence was "encouraged" after the embassy and USS Cole bombings to provide this training.
The analysis of this report follows.
CIA maintains that Ibn al-Shaykh's timeline is consistent with other sensitive reporting indicating that bin Laden asked Iraq in 1998 for advanced weapons, including CBW and "poisons."
Additional reporting also calls into question the claim that relations between Iraq and al Qaeda cooled after mid-1999:
27. According to sensitive CIA reporting, . . . the Saudi National Guard went on a kingdom-wide state of alert in late Dec 2000 after learning Saddam agreed to assist al Qaeda in attacking U.S./U.K. interests in Saudi Arabia.
And then there is the alleged contact between lead 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta and an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague. The reporting on those links suggests not one meeting, but as many as four. What's more, the memo reveals potential financing of Atta's activities by Iraqi intelligence.
The Czech counterintelligence service reported that the Sept. 11 hijacker [Mohamed] Atta met with the former Iraqi intelligence chief in Prague, [Ahmed Khalil Ibrahim Samir] al Ani, on several occasions. During one of these meetings, al Ani ordered the IIS finance officer to issue Atta funds from IIS financial holdings in the Prague office.
And the commentary:
CIA can confirm two Atta visits to Prague--in Dec. 1994 and in June 2000; data surrounding the other two--on 26 Oct 1999 and 9 April 2001--is complicated and sometimes contradictory and CIA and FBI cannot confirm Atta met with the IIS. Czech Interior Minister Stanislav Gross continues to stand by his information.
It's not just Gross who stands by the information. Five high-ranking members of the Czech government have publicly confirmed meetings between Atta and al Ani. The meeting that has gotten the most press attention--April 9, 2001--is also the most widely disputed. Even some of the most hawkish Bush administration officials are privately skeptical that Atta met al Ani on that occasion. They believe that reports of the alleged meeting, said to have taken place in public, outside the headquarters of the U.S.-financed Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, suggest a level of sloppiness that doesn't fit the pattern of previous high-level Iraq-al Qaeda contacts.
Whether or not that specific meeting occurred, the report by Czech counterintelligence that al Ani ordered the Iraqi Intelligence Service officer to provide IIS funds to Atta might help explain the lead hijacker's determination to reach Prague, despite significant obstacles, in the spring of 2000. (Note that the report stops short of confirming that the funds were transferred. It claims only that the IIS officer requested the transfer.) Recall that Atta flew to Prague from Germany on May 30, 2000, but was denied entry because he did not have a valid visa. Rather than simply return to Germany and fly directly to the United States, his ultimate destination, Atta took pains to get to Prague. After he was refused entry the first time, he traveled back to Germany, obtained the proper paperwork, and caught a bus back to Prague. He left for the United States the day after arriving in Prague for the second time.
Several reports indicate that the relationship between Saddam and bin Laden continued, even after the September 11 attacks:
31. An Oct. 2002 . . . report said al Qaeda and Iraq reached a secret agreement whereby Iraq would provide safe haven to al Qaeda members and provide them with money and weapons. The agreement reportedly prompted a large number of al Qaeda members to head to Iraq. The report also said that al Qaeda members involved in a fraudulent passport network for al Qaeda had been directed to procure 90 Iraqi and Syrian passports for al Qaeda personnel.
The analysis that accompanies that report indicates that the report fits the pattern of Iraq-al Qaeda collaboration:
References to procurement of false passports from Iraq and offers of safe haven previously have surfaced in CIA source reporting considered reliable. Intelligence reports to date have maintained that Iraqi support for al Qaeda usually involved providing training, obtaining passports, and offers of refuge. This report adds to that list by including weapons and money. This assistance would make sense in the aftermath of 9-11.
Colin Powell, in his February 5, 2003, presentation to the U.N. Security Council, revealed the activities of Abu Musab al Zarqawi. Reporting in the memo expands on Powell's case and might help explain some of the resistance the U.S. military is currently facing in Iraq.
37. Sensitive reporting indicates senior terrorist planner and close al Qaeda associate al Zarqawi has had an operational alliance with Iraqi officials. As of Oct. 2002, al Zarqawi maintained contacts with the IIS to procure weapons and explosives, including surface-to-air missiles from an IIS officer in Baghdad. According to sensitive reporting, al Zarqawi was setting up sleeper cells in Baghdad to be activated in case of a U.S. occupation of the city, suggesting his operational cooperation with the Iraqis may have deepened in recent months. Such cooperation could include IIS provision of a secure operating bases [sic] and steady access to arms and explosives in preparation for a possible U.S. invasion. Al Zarqawi's procurements from the Iraqis also could support al Qaeda operations against the U.S. or its allies elsewhere.
38. According to sensitive reporting, a contact with good access who does not have an established reporting record: An Iraqi intelligence service officer said that as of mid-March the IIS was providing weapons to al Qaeda members located in northern Iraq, including rocket propelled grenade (RPG)-18 launchers. According to IIS information, northern Iraq-based al Qaeda members believed that the U.S. intended to strike al Qaeda targets during an anticipated assault against Ansar al-Islam positions.
The memo further reported pre-war intelligence which "claimed that an Iraqi intelligence official, praising Ansar al-Islam, provided it with $100,000 and agreed to continue to give assistance."
CRITICS OF THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION have complained that Iraq-al Qaeda connections are a fantasy, trumped up by the warmongers at the White House to fit their preconceived notions about international terror; that links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden have been routinely "exaggerated" for political purposes; that hawks "cherry-picked" bits of intelligence and tendentiously presented these to the American public.
Carl Levin, a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, made those points as recently as November 9, in an appearance on "Fox News Sunday." Republicans on the committee, he complained, refuse to look at the administration's "exaggeration of intelligence."
Said Levin: "The question is whether or not they exaggerated intelligence in order to carry out their purpose, which was to make the case for going to war. Did we know, for instance, with certainty that there was any relationship between the Iraqis and the terrorists that were in Afghanistan, bin Laden? The administration said that there's a connection between those terrorist groups in Afghanistan and Iraq. Was there a basis for that?"
There was, as shown in the memo to the committee on which Levin serves. And much of the reporting comes from Clinton-era intelligence. Not that you would know this from Al Gore's recent public statements. Indeed, the former vice president claims to be privy to new "evidence" that the administration lied. In an August speech at New York University, Gore claimed: "The evidence now shows clearly that Saddam did not want to work with Osama bin Laden at all, much less give him weapons of mass destruction." Really?
One of the most interesting things to note about the 16-page memo is that it covers only a fraction of the evidence that will eventually be available to document the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. For one thing, both Saddam and bin Laden were desperate to keep their cooperation secret. (Remember, Iraqi intelligence used liquid paper on an internal intelligence document to conceal bin Laden's name.) For another, few people in the U.S. government are expressly looking for such links. There is no Iraq-al Qaeda equivalent of the CIA's 1,400-person Iraq Survey Group currently searching Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.
Instead, CIA and FBI officials are methodically reviewing Iraqi intelligence files that survived the three-week war last spring. These documents would cover several miles if laid end-to-end. And they are in Arabic. They include not only connections between bin Laden and Saddam, but also revolting details of the regime's long history of brutality. It will be a slow process.
So Feith's memo to the Senate Intelligence Committee is best viewed as sort of a "Cliff's Notes" version of the relationship. It contains the highlights, but it is far from exhaustive.
One example. The memo contains only one paragraph on Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, the Iraqi facilitator who escorted two September 11 hijackers through customs in Kuala Lumpur. U.S. intelligence agencies have extensive reporting on his activities before and after the September 11 hijacking. That they would include only this brief overview suggests the 16-page memo, extensive as it is, just skims the surface of the reporting on Iraq-al Qaeda connections.
Other intelligence reports indicate that Shakir whisked not one but two September 11 hijackers--Khalid al Midhar and Nawaq al Hamzi--through the passport and customs process upon their arrival in Kuala Lumpur on January 5, 2000. Shakir then traveled with the hijackers to the Kuala Lumpur Hotel where they met with Ramzi bin al Shibh, one of the masterminds of the September 11 plot. The meeting lasted three days. Shakir returned to work on January 9 and January 10, and never again.
Shakir got his airport job through a contact at the Iraqi Embassy. (Iraq routinely used its embassies as staging grounds for its intelligence operations; in some cases, more than half of the alleged "diplomats" were intelligence operatives.) The Iraqi embassy, not his employer, controlled Shakir's schedule. He was detained in Qatar on September 17, 2001. Authorities found in his possession contact information for terrorists involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, the 1998 embassy bombings, the 2000 attack on the USS Cole, and the September 11 hijackings. The CIA had previous reporting that Shakir had received a phone call from the safe house where the 1993 World Trade Center attacks had been plotted.
The Qataris released Shakir shortly after his arrest. On October 21, 2001, he flew to Amman, Jordan, where he was to change planes to a flight to Baghdad. He didn't make that flight. Shakir was detained in Jordan for three months, where the CIA interrogated him. His interrogators concluded that Shakir had received extensive training in counter-interrogation techniques. Not long after he was detained, according to an official familiar with the intelligence, the Iraqi regime began to "pressure" Jordanian intelligence to release him. At the same time, Amnesty International complained that Shakir was being held without charge. The Jordanians released him on January 28, 2002, at which point he is believed to have fled back to Iraq.
Was Shakir an Iraqi agent? Does he provide a connection between Saddam Hussein and September 11? We don't know. We may someday find out.
But there can no longer be any serious argument about whether Saddam Hussein's Iraq worked with Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda to plot against Americans.
Isn't THIS interesting, huh?
Duh - everyone who doesn't think there's a connection.
How 'bout ...Bad guys like to all do bad things...and it's even more fun when you can do worse things, together!
sheesh...doesn't take a rocket scientist...
Yes. I'm looking for the details. When I get them, I'll post them here.