Skip to comments.Operation Bojinka's bombshell
Posted on 01/02/2002 7:19:53 AM PST by Wallaby
Not for commercial use. Solely to be used for the educational purposes of research and open discussion.
Operation Bojinka's bombshell Matthew Brzezinski, SPECIAL TO THE STAR Toronto Star January 2, 2002 Wednesday Ontario Edition
Six years before Sept. 11, Philippine policewoman helped crack a terrorist cell linked to Osama bin Laden
It was already evening, here on the other side of the international date line, when the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Aida Fariscal had gone to bed early on Sept. 11, only to be awakened by a frantic colleague. "Quick," he instructed, "turn on your television."
The footage of the hijacked airliner bursting into flame made Fariscal bolt upright. "Oh my God," she gasped. "Bojinka."
"We told the Americans about the plans to turn planes into flying bombs as far back as 1995," he complained to reporters. "Why didn't they pay attention?"
For the retired Philippine police officer, that word and the nightmare scenario it evoked had receded into distant memory these past six years. Sometimes weeks went by without her even thinking about the terrorist plot she had foiled so long ago. But there it was, after all this time, unfolding live on her television. "I thought, at first," she tells me, "that I was having a bad dream, or that I was watching a movie." But as the burning towers came crashing down under their own weight, disbelief turned to anger. "I still don't understand," she says, "how it could have been allowed to happen." We are having lunch in a busy Manila shopping centre, not far from the Dona Josefa Apartments, where it all started, where she - and the CIA and the FBI - first heard the words "Operation Bojinka." Fariscal has insisted on a corner table, so she can keep an eye on the other patrons and the shoppers beyond the restaurant's greasy glass partition. Old habits, she explains, die hard, and, after a life of fighting crime, she always takes precautions, especially now that she is off the force, a widowed grandmother living on a pension in a small one-bedroom apartment.
She seems bitter, and surprisingly fragile in her hoop earrings and pink lipstick. She is bitter that the generals in the Philippine high command hogged all the credit for Bojinka (which means loud bang in Serbo-Croatian), while all she received was $700 (U.S.) and a trip to Taiwan. She is bitter that the Americans apparently didn't take the foiled plot seriously enough. But most of all, she is angry that, in the end, her hunch didn't save thousands of lives. "I can't get those images," she says of the World Trade Center wreckage, "out of my mind."
The call came in shortly after 11 on a Friday night back in January, 1995: a routine fire alarm, some smoke spotted on the top floor of a six-storey building just down the street from Manila Police Station No. 9. Fariscal, the watch commander, peered out of the precinct house window, but couldn't see any sign of a blaze on Quirino Ave. Still, she dispatched Patrolman Ariel Fernandez to check it out. "Nothing to worry about," he reported when he returned a few minutes later. "Just some Pakistanis playing with firecrackers."
Fariscal wasn't so sure. She hadn't earned her senior inspector stripes by sitting down on the job, and had risen in the male-dominated ranks of the Manila police force by trusting her "female intuition." And her instinct that night told her something was wrong.
"The Pope was coming to the Philippines, we were worried about security, and on top of that we had just had a big typhoon," she recalls. The senior inspector decided to walk the 500 metres to the Dona Josefa Apartments to see for herself. She barely had time to change out of her civilian clothes, a flower-patterned dress and sandals, and she didn't think she needed her gun. But just in case, she ordered Patrolman Fernandez and another officer to tag along as backup while she picked her way past the uprooted palm trees.
The Dona Josefa apartment building was a well-kept but not luxurious residence, with an open lobby and an airy feel. It was often used for short-term rentals by Middle Eastern tourists, who came to Manila's neon-lit Malate nightclub district to get away from the strict mores back home. It was also a block away from the papal nunciature, where John Paul II would be staying.
"What's happening here, boss?" Fariscal asked the Dona Josefa doorman in Tagalog, a native tongue of the Philippines. Two men, he said, had fled their sixth-floor apartment, pulling on their pants as they ran in the smoky corridor. "They told me everything was under control; just some fireworks that accidentally went off."
Fariscal faced a quandary. She couldn't legally enter the apartment without a search warrant, now that there was no longer an imminent danger of fire. But she couldn't simply walk away, either. She was stubborn that way. It was one reason why in 1977, after 17 years as a homemaker raising four children, she had decided to enrol in the police academy. "Open it up," she instructed.
Suite 603 was a cluttered one-bedroom bachelor pad. The first thing Fariscal noticed was four hot plates, still in their packing crates. Bundles of cotton lay scattered around the room, soaked in some sort of pungent beige solution, next to clear plastic containers of various sizes and shapes bearing the stamp of German and Pakistani chemical manufacturers. And loops of electrical wiring: green, yellow, blue and red.
Just then, the phone rang, causing Fariscal to jump with fright. "I'd just seen a movie with Sylvester Stallone where the telephone was booby-trapped," she recalls now. "Everybody out," she ordered. They scrambled back downstairs, where the doorman appeared to be in a high state of agitation. "That's one of them," he whispered. "He's coming back."
Patrolman Fernandez grabbed the suspect. He was young, in his twenties, Fariscal guessed, and handsome in a rakish sort of way. He said his name was Ahmed Saeed, that he was a commercial pilot, and that he was just on his way to the precinct house to explain any misunderstanding over the firecracker smoke.
"There's the other one," interrupted the doorman, pointing to a thin, bearded individual standing outside. Fariscal set off in his direction. He was calmly talking on his cell phone, smoking a pipe and watching her. For a brief instant their eyes met. Fariscal had no idea she was looking at Ramzi Yousef, the man who had tried to bring down the World Trade Center in 1993.
The sound of gunfire froze Fariscal in her tracks. She had been wounded a few years back when a bullet ripped through her left arm and torso to lodge four centimetres from her spine, and the memory left her skittish. But she whirled around just in time to see Patrolman Fernandez aiming his service revolver at Saeed's fleeing back. As the cops gave chase, the fugitive suddenly lurched forward, sprawling on the pavement; he had tripped over the exposed roots of a tree toppled by the typhoon. Saeed was back in custody. But his accomplice had taken advantage of the confusion to melt into the gathering crowd of street peddlers and gawkers.
Neither Fariscal nor the two officers with her had any handcuffs, so they improvised with rope from a clothesline and hauled Saeed to his feet. "I'll give you $2,000 to let me go," he pleaded. Most Manila police officers don't make that in a year. But Fariscal refused. Concerned that the suspect would try to bolt again, she radioed the precinct for a squad car. As usual, none was available. One of the cops tried to hail down a passing "jeepney," the converted World War II-vintage U.S. Army Jeeps pressed into service as cheap - if not always reliable - public transportation in Manila. Finally, Fariscal commandeered a minivan taxi and conscripted two burly pedestrians to help watch Saeed during the short ride to the precinct station.
By now, Fariscal had an inkling she had stumbled onto something big. She couldn't know, however, just how big her discovery would turn out to be; that amid the clutter of the chemicals and cotton at the Dona Josefa apartment, investigators would unearth a plan that, with the benefit of hindsight, career CIA officers today admit looks alarmingly like an early blueprint for the Sept. 11 attack on America.
All Fariscal knew for the moment was that she had just nabbed some sort of a terrorist - and, in the Philippines, that could mean anything.
At the precinct, Saeed signed a statement, in which he proclaimed his innocence and claimed to be a simple tourist visiting a friend in the chemicals import-export business. But, perhaps sensing the game was up, he complained to Fariscal that there are "two Satans that must be destroyed: the Pope and America."
The senior inspector had already surmised that the Pope was a target of assassination, a suspicion borne out when she returned with the bomb squad to Suite 603 at 2: 30 a.m. and found a photograph of the pontiff tucked into the corner of a bedside mirror, near a new crucifix, rosary and Bible. There were street maps of Manila, plotting the papal motorcade's route; two remote-control pipe bombs; and a phone message from a tailor saying the cassock Saeed had ordered was ready for a final fitting.
By 4 a.m. the situation was deemed serious enough that the first generals had started showing up on the scene, and a judge was soon rousted out of bed to sign a belated search warrant.
"It was obvious they had planned to dress someone up as a priest, and smuggle the bomb past the Holy Father's security detail," Fariscal recalls. But the sheer magnitude of the chemical arsenal Fariscal found in Suite 603 also made it clear the conspirators had other targets. The four new hot plates needed to cook the concoctions indicated the extremists were gearing up for mass production.
It took days for the bomb squad to draw up a complete inventory of the apartment's contents, which included a cornucopia of explosive ingredients - sulphuric, picric and nitric acid, pure glycerin, acetone, sodium trichlorate, nitrobenzoyl, ammonia, silver nitrates, methanamine and ANFO binary explosive, among others. Funnels, thermometers, graduated cylinders and beakers, mortars and pestles, various electronic fusing systems, timers, circuit breakers, batteries and a box of Rough Rider lubricated condoms rounded out the home laboratory, which included chemistry reference manuals and a recipe written in Arabic on how to build powerful liquid bombs.
"The guys in the bomb squad had never seen an explosive like this before," says Fariscal. Neither had many U.S. investigators. "The particularly evil genius of this device was that it was virtually undetectable by airport security measures," says Vincent Cannistraro, the former head of the CIA's counter-terrorism centre.
But what were the targets? And who were the conspirators? A clue to the identity of the suspects emerged when Fariscal found dozens of passports in different names hidden in a wall divider. Saeed, apparently, had many aliases, including Abdul Hakim, student, age 26, Pakistani passport No. C665334, issued in Kuwait. His real name, investigators would eventually discover, was Abdul Hakim Murad. According to transcripts from his interrogation, he was the Pakistani-born son of a crane operator for a Kuwait petroleum company. He had graduated from high school in Al-Jery, Kuwait, before attending the Emirates Flying School in Dubai and moving on to flight schools in Texas, Upstate New York and North Carolina, where after completing the required 275 hours of flight time, he received a commercial pilot's licence from Coastal Aviation Inc. on June 8, 1992.
Philippine investigators called in their U.S. counterparts for help. According to U.S. and Philippine officials, both the CIA Manila station chief and the resident FBI legal attache were notified. A team of intelligence agents flew in from Washington.
Murad, as Fariscal now thought of Saeed, was a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. So, it turned out, was his accomplice at the Dona Josefa Apartments, the thin, bearded man who had given Fariscal the slip. He had registered under the name Najy Awaita Haddad, purporting to be a Moroccan national. But the United States already had a thick file on him, and that was just one of his 21 known aliases. Sometimes he passed himself off as Paul Vijay, or Adam Sali or even Dr. Richard Smith. He was in fact Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, a fugitive with a $2 million bounty placed on his head by the U.S. government.
Fingerprints lifted at the apartment helped give Yousef away; a life spent assembling bombs had left his fingers burnt and distinctively deformed from mishaps mixing tricky chemical concoctions. He had learned his deadly skills, Philippine officials said, in Afghanistan, at a training camp for Osama bin Laden's followers, and in turn had taught Murad the art of bomb making in Lahore, Pakistan.
But Murad had not learned his lessons well, for it was his mistake that set off the fire in the kitchen sink that alerted Manila police. In his haste to flee Suite 603, Yousef left behind many clues. Some, like contact lens solution and a receipt from a pharmacy, seemed innocuous. But others would give the FBI and the CIA a chilling preview of what the terrorists had in store for the United States.
The most damning information was gleaned from Yousef's computer, and four accompanying diskettes. The data were encrypted and in Arabic, but Philippine technicians eventually deciphered the code and translated the texts. One of Yousef's translated documents - stamped SECRET by Philippine intelligence - spells out the terrorist cell's broad objectives. "All people who support the U.S. government are our targets in our future plans and that is because all those people are responsible for their government's actions and they support the U.S. foreign policy and are satisfied with it," it declared.
"We will hit all U.S. nuclear targets," the manifesto continued. "If the U.S. government keeps supporting Israel, then we will continue to carry out operations inside and outside the United States to include ..." Here the text terminates ominously.
Already, intelligence officials had gleaned a treasure-trove of information on the inner workings of bin Laden's terrorist network. Cell members did not appear to even know one another's real names. Duties were divided and none of the conspirators stayed in the same place for any length of time. But there were still more frightening revelations to come.
Another file found on Yousef's computer consisted of a printout of U.S. airline schedules, which initially baffled investigators. The file, named Bojinka, listed the travel itineraries of 11 long-haul flights between Asia and the United States, mostly on United and American airlines. All the flights had several legs, and were grouped under five headings bearing code names of accomplices such as Zyed, Majbos or Obaid. Each accomplice would leave the bombs on the first leg of the flight, and then eventually return to locations like Lahore, Pakistan. Obaid, for instance, would fly from Singapore to Hong Kong on United Flight 80, which continued as United Flight 806 to San Francisco. Under the flight plan, Yousef had written: "SETTING: 9: 30 PM to 10: 30 PM. TIMER: 23HR. BOJINKA: 20: 30-21: 30 NRT Date 5."
Zyed, on the other hand, would take Northwest Airlines Flight 30 from Manila to Seoul, with continued service to Los Angeles. "SETTING: 8: 30-9: 00. TIMER: 10HR. BOJINKA: 19: 30-20: 00 NRT Date 4," the accompanying instruction read.
The repeated use of the word "TIMER" concerned investigators, who by then had made the connection between the dozens of Casio wristwatches found in Suite 603 and one discovered a few weeks earlier on a Philippine Airlines flight from the Philippine town of Cebu to Tokyo's Narita International Airport. The watch had served to detonate a blast that ripped through the Boeing 747, killing a Japanese passenger and forcing the plane to make an emergency landing.
Philippine intelligence put the screws to Murad. In Camp Crame, a military installation on the outskirts of Manila, he was subjected for 67 days to what Philippine intelligence reports delicately refer to as TI, or tactical interrogation. By the time he was handed over to the Americans, interrogators had extracted everything they thought they needed to know.
Yousef, Murad confessed, had indeed been responsible for the blast aboard the Philippine airliner, which was actually a dry run to test the terrorists' new generation of nitroglycerin explosive, known as a "Mark II" bomb. Yousef had deposited his device - lethal liquid concealed in a contact lens solution bottle with cotton-ball stabilizing agents and a harmless-looking wristwatch wrapped around it - under seat 27F on the Manila-to-Cebu leg of the flight to Tokyo. He had gotten off in Cebu after setting the watch's timer for four hours later. The same plan was to be repeated on the 11 U.S. commercial jetliners. U.S. federal prosecutors later estimated that 4,000 passengers would have died had the plot been successful.
The enormity of Bojinka also frightened U.S. officials. "We had never seen anything that complicated or ambitious before. It was unparalleled," recalls Cannistraro, the former CIA counter-terrorism head.
But, Philippine and U.S intelligence officials said, the Bojinka operation called for a second, perhaps even more ambitious phase, as interrogators discovered when they pressed Murad about his pilot's licence. All those years in flight school, he confessed, had been in preparation for a suicide mission. He was to buy, rent, or steal a small plane, fill it with explosives and crash it into CIA headquarters.
There were secondary targets the terrorists wanted hit: U.S. Congress, the White House, the Pentagon and possibly some skyscrapers. The only problem, Murad complained, was that they needed more trained pilots to carry out the plot.
"It's so chilling," says Fariscal. "Those kamikaze pilots trained in America, just like Murad.
"The FBI knew all about Yousef's plans," she says. "They'd seen the files, been inside 603. The CIA had access to everything, too. Look," she adds, fishing in a plastic shopping bag for one of her most prized possessions, a laminated certificate of merit bearing the seal of the CIA. "Awarded to Senior Inspector Aida D. Fariscal," it reads. "In recognition of your personal outstanding efforts and co-operation." "This should have never, ever been allowed to happen," she repeats angrily. "All those poor people dead."
In her outrage at the biggest U.S. intelligence failure since Pearl Harbor, Fariscal is not alone in the Manila law enforcement community. Gen. Avelino "Sonny" Razon, one of the lead investigators in the Bojinka case, was so shocked at what he saw on Sept. 11 that he jumped on a plane in Cebu, where he was now police chief, and flew to Manila to convene a hasty press conference. "We told the Americans about the plans to turn planes into flying bombs as far back as 1995," he complained to reporters. "Why didn't they pay attention?"
U.S. officials counter that they did pay attention. FBI spokesperson John E. Collingwood denies that the bureau had advance knowledge of a plot to turn airliners into flying bombs. "The FBI had no warnings about any hijack plots. There was a widely publicized 1995 conspiracy in Manila to remotely blow up 11 U.S. airliners over the Pacific," Collingwood said in a letter to the Washington Post in October, "but that was disrupted. And, as is the practice, what was learned in that investigation was widely disseminated, even internationally, and thoroughly analyzed by multiple agencies. It does not connect to the current case."
Not everyone in the U.S. intelligence community, however, is of the same mind. "There certainly were enough precursors that should have led analysts to suspect that the U.S could come under domestic attack," says Cannistraro, a 27-year intelligence veteran who ran the CIA's counter-terrorism division until 1990. "There's no question about it. We knew about the pilots and suicide plots. Just didn't put two and two together."
That failure to connect the dots lies at the heart of the intelligence breakdown, says Cannistraro.
"It's the imagination that failed us," says a former senior CIA agent, "not the system." He dismissed the connection to Bojinka as a "hindsight is cheap" theory.
Yet it is precisely the responsibility of the agency's thousands of planners and analysts to dream up what may appear as crazy scenarios in order to find ways to thwart them. And it is unclear what became of the information gleaned from Operation Bojinka.
"We didn't file it and forget about it," a CIA spokeswoman insists. Indeed, shortly after Yousef's liquid bombs were discovered, the Federal Aviation Administration did begin installing "sniffer" devices, which can detect explosive chemicals, at major airports throughout the United States. But beyond that, there is no evidence of any other clear response by the intelligence community to the information gleaned from the foiled plot in the Philippines.
The terrorists, on the other hand, appear to have drawn a number of invaluable conclusions from their 1995 setback. "Under interrogation Murad told us several things that should have been of interest to analysts on the deterrence side," recalls retired Gen. Renato De Villa, who served as Philippines defence minister at the time of the raid on Suite 603. First, the extremists saw the 1993 World Trade Center bombing as a failure and still considered the twin towers a viable target. And more importantly, the cell seemed to be growing frustrated with explosives. They were too expensive, unstable and could give them away.
Though nothing in Murad's confession gave investigators any warning of hijackings, somewhere along the line, his brothers at arms in bin Laden's Al Qaeda network did make the leap from explosives to jet fuel and box cutters.
One reason U.S counter-terrorism officials may not have been able to outwit the terrorists, critics charged, is because the entire intelligence community has become too reliant on technology rather than human resources. "Where the system breaks down," says a former staff member of the National Security Council who regularly attended briefings on bin Laden, "is not at the hunting and gathering stage" - the ability to electronically intercept information. "We are probably tapped into every hotel room in Pakistan. We can listen in to just about every phone call in Afghanistan," explains the former NSC staffer. "Where the rubber hits the pavement is with the analysts. They are a bunch of 24-year-old recent grads from Middlebury or Dartmouth who have never been to Pakistan or Afghanistan, don't speak any of the relevant languages, and seem more knowledgeable about the bar scene in Georgetown. They just don't compare to the Soviet specialists we used to have. I'm not surprised they missed it."
With the benefit of hindsight, Murad's confession today sounds almost prophetic, and as U.S investigators backtrack, piecing together bits of the puzzle left behind by the hijackers, the spectre of Bojinka looms large. As in the case of the Sept. 11 attacks, authorities in Manila following Suite 603's money trail found the deeper they dug, the closer they came to bin Laden. The critical clue was in Ramzi Yousef's computer. A list of cell phone numbers on its hard drive led authorities to stake out another apartment in Manila, this one on Singalong St. There they apprehended a third conspirator in Yousef's terrorist cell, a stocky Afghan by the name of Wali Khan Amin Shah.
Like Yousef, Shah carried many passports under various aliases - Norwegian, Saudi, Afghan and four Pakistani, all filled with travel visas and entry stamps from Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Shah also had mangled hands, and was missing two fingers. Both his legs were heavily scarred with shrapnel, and he had a large surgical scar on his stomach.
Shah turned out to be Bojinka's unlikely finance officer. To launder incoming funds, Shah used bank accounts belonging to his live-in Filipino girlfriend and a number of other Manila women, one of whom was an employee at a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet, and others who were described as bar hostesses. Most of the transfers were surprisingly small - $500 or $1,000 handed over at a Wendy's or a karaoke bar late at night. Under "tactical interrogation" at Camp Crame, Shah admitted that most of the funds were channelled to Adam Sali, an alias used by Ramzi Yousef, through a Philippine bank account belonging to Omar Abu Omar, a Syrian-born man working at a local Islamic organization known as the International Relations and Information Centre - run by one Mohammed Jalal Khalifa, bin Laden's brother-in-law.
Shah's and Murad's confessions led to Yousef's arrest in Pakistan, and the three suspects were extradited to New York to stand trial. All three were sentenced to life in prison at a maximum-security facility in Colorado, and Bojinka was filed in the "win" column, even as Mohamed Atta and fellow Sept. 11 hijackers were hatching plans to enrol in flight schools around the United States. That no one seemed to notice the connection, says Cannistraro, is the great failure.
In 1998, on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the first World Trade Center bombing, Dale Watson, the FBI's top expert on international terror, reported to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee that "although we should not allow ourselves to be lulled into a false sense of security ... I believe it is important to note that in the five years since the Trade Center bombing, no significant act of foreign-directed terrorism has occurred on American soil."
Three years later, Sept. 11, 2001, the suicide attacks coincided almost to the day, with another fifth anniversary: the 1996 conviction, in a Manhattan court, of Bojinka's original plotters.
'There certainly were enough precursors that should have led analysts to suspect the U.S could come under domestic attack. We knew about the pilots and suicide plots. Just didn't put two and two together.'
Vincent Cannistraro, former CIA official
I wonder if the CIA/FBI suffer from the 'we know better' syndrome too many Americans exhibit when dealing with people from the third world?
In Isaac's Storm (about the Galveston hurricane) American weathermen ignored Cubans who warned -- accurately -- that the great storm was heading for Texas. It was a matter of arrogant dismissal of a 'lesser breed.'
If the FBI treats police in American cities as inferiors how did they treat this Filipina and her colleagues?
Imam Siraj Wahaj: A well known establishment Muslim figure in the US known for his charasmatic speaking style. Currently a prayer leader and imam at a mosque in Brooklyn, New York. A former member of the Nation of Islam, he fell out with the group's leader, Louis Farrakhan, whom he now believes cannot be considered as a Muslim. He is much admired in his neighbourhood for his work among the young, and for ridding the district of drug pushers."MILITANTS IN THE LINE-UP FOR CONFERENCE SEASON; Kathy Evans profiles the leaders competing for allegiance and money of British Islam," Kathy Evans, The Guardian (London) , THE GUARDIAN HOME PAGE; Pg. 8; August 5, 1995.
a couple of things jump out of this paragraph:
1. was terry nichols using filapino women in money laundering a la Bojinka?
2. was Bojinka's money laundering Omar Abu Omar the same "Omar" hanging out with the kingman, AZ gang?
(The FP, which participated in the April elections, was the thinly-disguised political heir to the Islamic fundamentalist Welfare Party, or Refah Party. The RP was ordered dissolved by the Turkish government on January 16, 1998, as, according to Agence France Presse, "a threat to Turkey's secular constitution." Strict secularism, a form of separation of church and state with teeth, is one of the explicit building blocks of the Turkish Republic. It is written into its constitution and is a part of the national legislator's oath of office. Attempting to lessen or reverse the secular nature of the Republic is specifically illegal in Turkey.) After the elections, on May 2, 1999, two young women who had worn the hijab (or, head scarf, a scarf covering the head but for the face, the traditional religious headdress of women in many Muslim countries) during their campaigns, were among the deputies-elect who filed into the chamber of the National Grand Assembly in Istanbul. One, Nesrin Unal, was bare-headed. The other, Ms. Merve Kavakci, was wearing her hijab as she had during the campaign. All hell broke loose. According to The New York Times (May 3), Assembly Deputies cried "Out, out!" The shouting brought the session to a halt. When a recess was called, Ms. Kavakci left the chamber and has not been back. Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, reported to be one of the angriest in the Assembly, was quoted by The New York Times (May 3) as saying, "No one may interfere with the private lives of individuals, but this is not a private space. This is the supreme foundation of the state. It is not a place in which to challenge the state." Ecevit previously said (evidently speaking before the first meeting of Parliament) in clarification of the rule against wearing the hijab in Parliament, also as quoted by The New York Times (May 2), "She can cover her head as she wishes in her private life and in her private work in Parliament, but when she is in the parliamentary chamber or in committee rooms, we expect her to conform to established rules and traditions." The New York Times also noted that "The head scarf has become an inflammatory symbol in Turkey. Powerful leaders consider it a sign of religious militancy and antisecular beliefs. Some women, however, say that their scarves are simply an expression of fidelity to Islam and have no political implication." The New York Times also reported that, in Ms. Kavakci's case, she had said "her scarf simply reflected her private commitment to Islam . ." On the eve of the incident, however, it appeared that Kavakci's wearing of her head scarf may have been a planned political event. According to The New York Times, "Virtue Party leaders have said they are unable to overrule Ms. Kavakci's decision. 'She gave the election authorities a picture of herself in a head scarf and they did not object,' said one of them, Abdullah Gul. 'It is up to her.'" Further, The Times quoted Kavakci herself as saying that "Banning head scarves is a form of pressure. It shames all political parties. If the deputies maintain their opposition to head scarves, in the next election they will be buried at the polls. I'm not going to take off my head scarf . ." In a story on Kavakci's having worn her hijab during the campaign, the Dallas Morning News quoted Kavakci as saying prior to the election that "We will see how democratic people are" and that, according to Kavakci, a test of Turkish democracy would be if she were allowed to take her seat in the Assembly. As late as May 16th, she was still maintaining in the Turkish press that "My head is covered because of my faith." Nesrin Unal, of the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party, the other woman who wore the hijab during the campaign, said before the election that she would not wear her hijab in Parliament. Ms. Unal is quoted The New York Times as saying, "My goal is to serve the people . . I don't want a confrontation over the head scarf issue. That would create tensions that would harm Turkey." The issues for the media to examine were, obviously, what were Ms. Kavakci's motivations, what difference did it make if women serving in the Turkish Assembly could wear the hijab, who stood to gain by creating a scandal, who was making use of the press generated by the incident, and what difference did it all make? Of all these questions, the Western media, except for one reporter, read the story at the surface and missed the real issue which dealt with the ties between the Refah Party, domestic Islamist party (i.e. the FP) and possibly the radical Islamic terrorist groups and fronts and how that could affect the political stability of Turkey, its status as an ally of the United States and member of NATO, and the survivability of perhaps the most secular government of all the Muslim countries of the Middle East. The common factor which bought them all together and which was just beneath the surface was the terrorism of radical Islam, and the friends of terrorism, not necessarily or only in Turkey, but here in the United States. American journalist and expert on Middle Eastern terrorism, Steven Emerson, was the first to break through the conventional "surface" coverage of the Kavakci Affair. He provided the Turkish press with facts and documentation of her connection to a radical Muslim terrorist front group operating here in the United States, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). Emerson had obtained an audio tape of a speech Kavakci had made at the 1997 IAP meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
(The FP, which participated in the April elections, was the thinly-disguised political heir to the Islamic fundamentalist Welfare Party, or Refah Party. The RP was ordered dissolved by the Turkish government on January 16, 1998, as, according to Agence France Presse, "a threat to Turkey's secular constitution." Strict secularism, a form of separation of church and state with teeth, is one of the explicit building blocks of the Turkish Republic. It is written into its constitution and is a part of the national legislator's oath of office. Attempting to lessen or reverse the secular nature of the Republic is specifically illegal in Turkey.)
After the elections, on May 2, 1999, two young women who had worn the hijab (or, head scarf, a scarf covering the head but for the face, the traditional religious headdress of women in many Muslim countries) during their campaigns, were among the deputies-elect who filed into the chamber of the National Grand Assembly in Istanbul. One, Nesrin Unal, was bare-headed. The other, Ms. Merve Kavakci, was wearing her hijab as she had during the campaign. All hell broke loose. According to The New York Times (May 3), Assembly Deputies cried "Out, out!" The shouting brought the session to a halt. When a recess was called, Ms. Kavakci left the chamber and has not been back.
Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, reported to be one of the angriest in the Assembly, was quoted by The New York Times (May 3) as saying, "No one may interfere with the private lives of individuals, but this is not a private space. This is the supreme foundation of the state. It is not a place in which to challenge the state." Ecevit previously said (evidently speaking before the first meeting of Parliament) in clarification of the rule against wearing the hijab in Parliament, also as quoted by The New York Times (May 2), "She can cover her head as she wishes in her private life and in her private work in Parliament, but when she is in the parliamentary chamber or in committee rooms, we expect her to conform to established rules and traditions."
The New York Times also noted that "The head scarf has become an inflammatory symbol in Turkey. Powerful leaders consider it a sign of religious militancy and antisecular beliefs. Some women, however, say that their scarves are simply an expression of fidelity to Islam and have no political implication." The New York Times also reported that, in Ms. Kavakci's case, she had said "her scarf simply reflected her private commitment to Islam . ." On the eve of the incident, however, it appeared that Kavakci's wearing of her head scarf may have been a planned political event. According to The New York Times, "Virtue Party leaders have said they are unable to overrule Ms. Kavakci's decision. 'She gave the election authorities a picture of herself in a head scarf and they did not object,' said one of them, Abdullah Gul. 'It is up to her.'" Further, The Times quoted Kavakci herself as saying that "Banning head scarves is a form of pressure. It shames all political parties. If the deputies maintain their opposition to head scarves, in the next election they will be buried at the polls. I'm not going to take off my head scarf . ."
In a story on Kavakci's having worn her hijab during the campaign, the Dallas Morning News quoted Kavakci as saying prior to the election that "We will see how democratic people are" and that, according to Kavakci, a test of Turkish democracy would be if she were allowed to take her seat in the Assembly. As late as May 16th, she was still maintaining in the Turkish press that "My head is covered because of my faith."
Nesrin Unal, of the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party, the other woman who wore the hijab during the campaign, said before the election that she would not wear her hijab in Parliament. Ms. Unal is quoted The New York Times as saying, "My goal is to serve the people . . I don't want a confrontation over the head scarf issue. That would create tensions that would harm Turkey."
The issues for the media to examine were, obviously, what were Ms. Kavakci's motivations, what difference did it make if women serving in the Turkish Assembly could wear the hijab, who stood to gain by creating a scandal, who was making use of the press generated by the incident, and what difference did it all make? Of all these questions, the Western media, except for one reporter, read the story at the surface and missed the real issue which dealt with the ties between the Refah Party, domestic Islamist party (i.e. the FP) and possibly the radical Islamic terrorist groups and fronts and how that could affect the political stability of Turkey, its status as an ally of the United States and member of NATO, and the survivability of perhaps the most secular government of all the Muslim countries of the Middle East. The common factor which bought them all together and which was just beneath the surface was the terrorism of radical Islam, and the friends of terrorism, not necessarily or only in Turkey, but here in the United States. American journalist and expert on Middle Eastern terrorism, Steven Emerson, was the first to break through the conventional "surface" coverage of the Kavakci Affair. He provided the Turkish press with facts and documentation of her connection to a radical Muslim terrorist front group operating here in the United States, the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP). Emerson had obtained an audio tape of a speech Kavakci had made at the 1997 IAP meeting in Chicago, Illinois.
| The IAP is the principal American front group for Hamas (the Arabic acronym for Islamic Resistance Movement). IAP has set up an elaborate publications and video operation, in both Arabic and English, promoting Hamas and radical Islamic views. In the past, it has distributed terrorist recruitment videos through a company called Aqsa Vision and has published Hamas communiqus calling for armed attacks. Its annual conferences have been used as vehicles to bring leading Islamic militants into the United States. At one conference in Kansas City, a featured speaker was the head of the military wing of Hamas. At another conference, young terrorist recruits were taught bomb making. At its Chicago conferences held in December 1996 and 1997, militants representing Middle East and U.S.-based groups issued violent and racist exhortations. Records from World Trade Center bombing trials show calls made to the IAP by conspirators who were later convicted.
[Merve Kavakci's father, Dr. Yusuf Zai Kavakci, is the Imam or spiritual leader of the Dallas Central Mosque of the Islamic Association of North Texas. It is considered to be one of the most active centers of Hamas activity in the United States and hosts the leadership and members of both the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP) and the Holy Land Foundation (HLF). Both organizations are the primary conduits for Hamas activity and fundraising in the United States.] In her 1997 IAP speech, Kavakci held forth on how she was engaged in a Jihad (i.e. Holy War) in Turkey but that her form of Jihad was in the political arena. "[Not] everybody has to be in politics to be making Jihad. But this is the area where I, myself, have chosen to make my Jihad. . What's important here is the responsibility to Allah that we will be asked . did we make Jihad." Again she called for the unification of Muslims under an Islamic flag: "Therefore, at the dawn of the twenty-first century, Muslims all around the world have to somehow gather under the flag of Islamic union which will enable us to act and react as one central body . . Muslims of Turkey, . have already started their part in this work . ."
At the 1997 IAP meeting, Kavakci spoke along with Ishaq Farhan. Farhan said that "As we step into the 21st century, we have to impose sharia [Islamic law] as the state law." He also said that "Sudan is the model for independence from the West." (He expressed no reservations as to Sudan's own Jihad and resumption of slavery targeting the Christians in the south of that country.) Farhan is a well-known radical Muslim. Newsday, October 23, 1995, reported that "Farhan is determined to make sure Jordan continues to teach its children that war against the Jews is a religious obligation." The same article went on: "'The Jews are taught they are the chosen people and all others are beasts and animals put on earth to serve them,' he said. 'So frankly speaking, this region can't hold two civilizations. Either we prevail with the Islamic civilization or the Jews prevail. There is no hope for these to be together.'"
By May 4th, just two days after Kavakci's hijab demonstration in Parliament, a Turkish newspaper, the Istanbul Milliyet was publishing stories quoting Turkish President Suleyman Demirel as accusing her of having links to Hamas and the America-based IAP. One Deputy Chairman of Kavakci's Virtue Party, Abdullah Gul, was reported as referring to the Milliyet report as "merciless character assasination . launched through the Turkish media," but not saying that he actually denied the speech she made, nor her being hosted at the IAP function, or the facts of the nature of the IAP. (On the other hand, as also reported in Milliyet, another Deputy Chairman of the Virtue Party, Aydin Menderes, resigned from the party on May 6th following the incident. He was reported as criticizing Kavakci for unnecessarily thrusting the Virtue Party and the Turkish Republic into a crisis by deciding to wear the hijab in the Assembly chamber.) Neither The New York Times nor NPR gave even nodding attention to the revelations of Kavakci's ties to terrorist front groups and her contacts through them with terrorist spokesmen and hate mongers. As of the date of this writing (June 4, 1999), they have maintained a stolid silence on Kavakci's radical Islamic connections.
A new disclosure then surfaced in the Turkish press that Kavakci had given a speech in 1996 to the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA). ISNA, headquartered in Plainfield, Indiana, is a front for various groups including the Muslim Brotherhood (the oldest militant fundamentalist organization) and Hamas. ISNA, which holds annual meetings, had over 20,000 in attendance at its December 1997 annual convention. (Merve Kavakci has a direct connection to ISNA through her father, Dr. Yusuf Zai Kavakci, who was elected in 1997 to the "shura" or council of ISNA.) According to a transcript of that speech, she stated her opposition to the secular nature of the Turkish Republic and announced the intention of (as it was then called) the Refah Party (RP) to replace the Republic with an expressly Islamic state run according to Islamic religious law. In her speech she said, "Now I can probably announce that with the new Refah government in Turkey, it's time for Muslims of Turkey to unite, and it's time for the Muslims of the world to unite as one body, under the name of Islamic Union . in the very near future."Kavacki's speaches, her attendance at radical fundamentalist functions in 1996 and 1997, and her sharing a podium without complaint or protest with militant advocates of imposing Islamic religious government under Mulsim Shari'a law indicated a hidden agenda to substitute an Islamic theocracy for the secular Republic of Turkey. The problem for Kavakci is that it is illegal under Turkish law to call for the replacement of the secular republic by an Islamist state.
Kavakci went on during her 1996 ISNA speech to say that during her work for this Islamist goal, the men and women of Refah were following the Refah Party program: "We had our headquarters as the men had one headquarters and we worked parallel with them, of course, we were always under the command of our Prime Minister Najmuddin Erbakan." The Refah program, of course, was to bring Turkey under Islam, as she further stated: "We can divide people of the world, the whole of humanity into two groups. Either they are from Hizbu [party of] Refah, they are in the way of Islam, they have accepted Islam or they are candidates to accept Islam." She spoke in glowing terms of her visit to the Sudan where, in discussions with her "colleagues" there they decided "we should be united so we can act together against violence going on against Muslims all around the world." She did not raise any objection to the institution of Islamic shariah law as the basic law of Sudan, to the systematic violence being conducted by the radical Islamic regime in its Jihad or Holy War against the Christians in the south of Sudan, nor to the resumption there of the black African slave trade.
These statements, which were obviously made in the context of her career in Turkey and Turkish politics, and the very fact of her association with the likes of ISNA, once discovered, raised a firestorm in Turkey, a country which has worked long and hard to avoid religious civil war and hatred, primarily through maintaining a barrier between church and state (even stricter than our own) as written into its charter documents in accordance with the vision of the Republic's founder, Kemal Ataturk.
| It didn't take long for her State-side radical organization "friends" to come to her aid. Shortly after the story on the Kavakci "hijab incident" broke, press releases and letters to the editor from radical Islamic front groups started appearing in the American media, purporting, as usual, to speak for all Muslims everywhere. It was announced on the web-site of the Islamic News and Information Network that Muslim women from the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) were to hold a protest demonstration in front of the Turkish consulate in Manhattan later that week on May 10th. ICNA openly supports militant Islamic fundamentalist organizations, praises terrorist attacks, issues incendiary public statements and supports the imposition of the sharia (Islamic law). ICNA's views are disseminated through regular conferences and its monthly publication, The Message, regularly attacks Western values and policies. ICNA has created several non-profit charitable organizations that collect tax-deductible contributions for militant Islamic causes.
Another vocal supporter with a disreputable past turned out to be the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR). On May 13th, CAIR issued a press release announcing a demonstration of American Muslim women to be held May 17th, in Washington, after which a letter of protest would be delivered to the Turkish embassy. The Washington Times reported that from 30 to 40 women showed up, led by Tannaz Haddad of CAIR, and pushed a letter through the mail slot in the embassy door. It was immediately returned to them by the embassy security guard. According to the Times, the ambassador, Baki Ilkin, said he had no intention of accepting the letter. Ilkin was reported as saying that the hijab ban applies in public buildings and universities and that the Turkish government sees such attire in those places as a political statement designed to take Turkey back to the past. While CAIR portrays itself as a mainstream, objective, public affairs organization, in reality it is a proponent of a radical, militant Islam of the worst kind. CAIR officials openly support Hamas, defend radical Islamic regimes, sponsor trips to the U.S. for radical Islamists from abroad to speak at conferences, and attack and intimidate individuals or organizations in any way critical of radical Islam.
AIR personnel are further interconnected with other radical organizations supporting terrorism and violence to advance the political aims of their own ruthless brand of militant Islam. For example, Mohammad Nimer, the director of CAIR's Research Center, was a member of the Board of Directors of the United Association for Studies and Research (UASR). This somewhat "academic"-sounding organization is actually the strategic arm of Hamas in the United States. One Hamas terrorist operative, caught and convicted by Israeli authorities, called UASR "the political command of Hamas in the United States."
Imam Siraj Wahaj, a member of CAIR's Board of Advisors, was listed as a potential unindicted co-conspirator in the World Trade Center bombing case. As the Imam (i.e. spiritual leader) of the al-Taqwa Mosque in Brooklyn, he provided a forum for Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman (convicted of being the mastermind of the conspiracy). He is also Vice President of the Islamic Society of North America (ISNA), a group that embraces elements of the Muslim Brotherhood (possibly the oldest of the radical Islamic groups). Wahaj is closely affiliated with the Muslim Arab Youth Association (MAYA) before which he was an invited speaker at its 19th annual conference in 1996. In 1991, he told the Islamic Association of North Texas that Operation Desert Storm was part of a plan "to destroy the greatest threat to the Western world, and that is al-Islam."
CAIR issued another press release on May 25th in support of Kavakci announcing that, along with several other American Muslim organizations, it had met with officials in the U.S. State Department that day to discuss the treatment of Merve Kavakci and what it saw as violations of her political and religious rights in not being permitted to take her oath of office as a deputy of the Turkish Parliament while wearing the hijab. Representatives of CAIR and other groups met with representatives of the State Department's Turkey desk, the office of the Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom and the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. They also discussed the "broader issue of religious freedom in Turkey" the lack of religious freedom in Iran, the Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan or in the lands administered by the Palestinian Authority. (Also signing the request for a meeting with the State Department were ISNA and ICNA, which as noted earlier, had previously called for rallies and demonstrations on behalf of Kavakci).
Also represented at the meeting with the State Department was the American Muslim Council (AMC). Michael D. Horowitz, Director of the Hudson Institute's Project for Civil Justice Reform, summarized the career and program of the AMC as: "Briefly stated, the AMC is the principal American front group for the worst, most vicious and most radical terrorist movements and regimes in the Middle East and Africa." While it poses as a "moderate" Arab-American organization, the AMC's activities and its leaders' statements show that it is, in fact, a highly radical Islamic group that openly supports and praises Hamas terrorists; voices support and approval for Middle Eastern terrorist regimes and political movements; defends and befriends convicted and imprisoned Islamic terrorists; condemns true Islamic moderates who seek to defuse religious tensions and disavow terrorism and violence; and seeks to intimidate scholars and journalists who have published writings which AMC says are "offensive" to Islam. The AMC, like CAIR, also cooperates closely with the UASR. So closely, in fact, as to share officers and board members. The UASR founder and first President was the Hamas Political Bureau head, Musa Abu Marzouk. Abdurahman Alamoudi, former AMC Executive Director and present Secretary of AMC's board, has been a member of UASR's board since 1995. Aly Ramadan Abuzaakouk, AMC's current Executive Director, served as President of UASR's board of directors in 1997. UASR's current executive director, Ahmed Yousef, has been described by Mohammad Salah (who confessed and was convicted in Israel for terrorist acts and has been the subject here of civil forfeiture proceedings alleging money laundering for Hamas) in The New York Times as the "Hamas leader in the United States." A former member of Israeli intelligence says that Yousef is the person "in charge of all Hamas activities."
Support for her by radical Islamists and militant Islamic groups extended beyond the United States. In Amman, Jordan, Ibrahim Ghawshah (spokesman for Hamas and influential leader of that group) spoke effusively about Kavakci when interviewed by a Turkish journalist for the Milliyet. "We know about Merve from the television. We read about her in newspapers. We believe in her, admire her courage, and support her." Akrit, a Turkish Islamist (i.e. militant Muslim) newspaper lamented (in the May 8 issue) that Turkey had lost an ardent supporter in the United States by attacking Merve Kavakci for her Hamas connections, because the IAP which actively supports Hamas (and hitherto had defended Turkey against Armenian and Greek lobbyists in the States) would now be turned against the secular republic. The Akrit columnist didn't seem to notice that he was admitting and establishing the IAP-Hamas connection.
The Ramallah Al-Ayyam weighed in on May 13th with the statement: "How fragile is this secular state that is shaken by a woman's headscarf, and how fake is this democracy that denies a woman the right to cover her hair?" The story did not mention Kavakci's ties to radical Islamic groups which had been public knowledge for at least a week.
| The Istanbul Hurriyet for May 16th reported that the Turkish government had sent a protest note to Iran after the Secretary General of Iran's Council of the Guardians of the Constitution described Turkey's "despotism" in refusing Kavakci permission to wear her hijab in the Turkish parliamentary chamber saying "what kind of democracy is this." The Iranian press had also been publishing columns in favor of Kavakci since at least May 5th (e.g. Tehran Kayhan International - "Hoo'ha over headscarf"); on May 10th, the same paper ran a column entitled "Is Turkey headed Algeria's way;" again, on May 10th, when it dubbed the hijab crisis as "the plot to suppress spiritual principles in Turkey;" and on May 12th when the Tehran Iran News called the incident "The Turkish government's witch-hunt of Kavakci."Perhaps what caused her the most trouble in this entire situation was the simple notoriety she brought on herself by the hijab demonstration. It was after she had flouted the Turkish constitution and laws, which prohibit religious dress (in schools and public offices), that all of her other activities came under scrutiny. One of the most interesting aspects of the affair was that the investigation prompted by her conduct revealed that on March 5, 1999, she had taken the oath of American citizenship. This fact first appeared May 13, 1999, when The New York Times reported Bulent Ecevit's revelation that Kavakci also had an American passport. Although Turkey recognizes and permits dual-citizenship, its election laws require that candidates for the Assembly notify Turkish election officials of the fact. It appears to be no more than a rather straightforward con-flict-of-interest notice requirement. For some reason, she did not do this. Her oath as an American citizen required her to renounce all "allegiance and fidelity to any foreign prince, potentate, state or sovereignty, of whom or which I have heretofore been a subject or citizen, that I will support and defend the constitution and the laws of the United States of America against all enemies foreign and domestic." The oath she had intended to take as a member of the Turkish Grand Assembly would have sworn her "to safeguard the existence and independence of the State, the indivisible integrity of the Country and the Nation, and the absolute sovereignty of the Nation; to remain loyal to the supremacy of law, to the democratic and secular Republic, and to Ataturk's principles and reforms; not to deviate from the ideal according to which everyone is entitled to enjoy human rights and fundamental freedoms under peace and prosperity in society, national solidarity and justice, and loyalty to the Constitution." How she intended to reconcile the Turkish oath she intended to take with the American oath she had already taken, and harmonize it as well with her publicly-held views expressed in the United States as to her political agenda for Turkey, she never said. The Turkish cabinet revoked her Turkish citizenship on May 13th.
Just after the hijab incident, Kavakci told the Turkish press that she "was a child of the Republic." One of Kemal Ataturk's essential founding principles for the Turkish Republic was its strict adherence to secularism, i.e. a Turkish version of strict separation of church and state but a principle of separation enunciated with all the force of a man who had seen his country go through decades of suffering, violence and defeat stemming from sectarian causes.
By this time, Kavakci had given the impression that she would likely swear to anything and say anything but that her true agenda rested on her militant principles and with her radical friends and associates. It is hard to see how the Turkish legislature could have allowed such a person with such a history to take the oath of office without tacitly gutting its entire constitution and the system of government which, especially by the standards of the Middle East, held such promise as a force for peace in the future of the region. As a practical matter, it would seem that her performance on May 2nd may have been planned or orchestrated to some purpose, perhaps to gain free publicity for the FP and maybe to distract the public's attention from the party's failure at the polls.
What probably was the clincher to her political career, however, were the revelations of her contact with and unequivocal support for the U.S.-based radical Islamic front groups and her espousal of their fundamentalist agenda for Turkey as well.
In all this, all the major, mainstream media saw was the image foisted on them by their own preconceptions, which was reinforced by the radical Islamic front groups who evidently saw a way to inflict punishment on a country which consistently resists their efforts to turn it into another Iran, a country which tries to work for peace in cooperation with Israel, and a nation not afraid to insist on taking control of its own future without the interference of terrorist religionists. The major American news media, as exemplified by NPR and The New York Times, seemingly ignored the facts coming out on Kavakci's background in Turkey.
Long on opinions but short on facts, and apparently lacking the interest and commitment to dig for the facts which would expose the true background and program of Merve Kavakci and her radical Muslim colleagues, the American press saw only a young woman refused the right to wear what they saw as an innocuous garment in a public place.
In fact, the matter of wearing the hijab in a public place (e.g. worn by a teacher in a public school) has been recently litigated all the way to the Supreme Court in the United States. It might be surprising for the media who missed the real story on Kavakci to discover that the laws in Oregon and Pennsylvania which asserted a State's "compelling interest in preserving an atmosphere of religious neutrality" were upheld by the United States Supreme Court. Even in America, religious dress can be lawfully prohibited in a specific, publicly-sponsored place in order to preserve an "atmosphere of religious neutrality" on the part of the government. Upon examination, this may not be so far from what the Turkish nation, under its own circumstances and history, was trying to achieve in Ankara.
If the American media, which have long claimed the title of "Fourth Estate" as being yet another and necessary branch of our democracy's core institutions, with the exception of Bloomberg New World News, missed or perhaps sidestepped and avoided the critical element of Kavakci's ties to radical Islamic terrorist groups and front organization, one wonders how they will catch the other, more swiftly moving facts of the war of the terrorists against the civilized world. It is difficult to imagine what the cost will be to America and her allies in prosperity and blood if the Fourth Estate's diligence, energy and intellectual honesty do not improve. The ultimate irony may be that when it is all over, they may not even have noticed that the war took place.
couple things about Cannistraor's comment:
1. could a "virtually undectable" devise such as this tiny contact lense/casio timer have been the real culprit on TWA 800?
where is Michael Rivero when we need him?)
2. is shoe bomber, reid's device the next generation of the "undectable by airport security" genre?
The only way that it appears we'll all be safe traveling is for us all to get implants.
No, not the "Augmentation" type! The I.D. type!
Abu Omar was the nome deguerre used by the Egyptian Ali Mohammed who worked for BIn Laden (and the FBI)in the US and througout the world. I am checking to see if Mohammed was in the Phillipines at the time Terry Nichols was. Nichols was there when Ramzi Yousef was there.
If these guys are so clever and skilled at building undectable bomb devices it it possible they built something that explains the unexplained pattern of blast damage to the Murrah BUilding in OKC?
Terrorism trial begins in New York
3 men accused of plotting to bomb U.S. planes
May 13, 1996
Web posted at: 11:35 a.m. EDT
From Correspondent Brian Jenkins
NEW YORK (CNN) -- Jury selection began in New York Monday in the federal trial of three men accused of plotting to bomb 11 planes headed for the United States on a single day in 1995.
Ramzi Yousef is charged with masterminding the plot. He also will be tried later this year, accused of planning the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993. Four men are already serving life in prison for that crime.
The alleged plot was discovered in the Philippines in January 1995, when a fire broke out in a Manila apartment 200 yards from the Vatican's embassy, a week before the arrival of Pope John Paul II.
Police were shocked by what they found inside: a smoking mixture of explosives in a sink, street maps and garments like those worn by the Pope's entourage, suggesting a plot to kill the Pontiff.
They also say they found computer disks containing detailed plans to blow up U.S. airliners.
The alleged plot involved leaving bombs on flights that would take off from Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore.
Vince Cannistraro, former director of the CIA's Counter terrorism Division calls it, "Extraordinarily ambitious, very complicated to bring off, and probably unparalleled by other terrorist operations that we know of."
Kenneth Timmerman, director of the Middle East Data Project, believes the sophistication of the plot is a sign the intelligence agency of another country is behind it.
Some see the hand of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein; others the government of Iran.
Fingerprints on a bomb recipe notebook found in the burned apartment convinced the FBI that the brains behind "Project Bojinka" was Yousef, a young engineer born in either Iran or Pakistan, also accused in the World Trade Center bombing.
Authorities think Yousef flew out of New York just hours after that explosion, later launched a failed plot in Thailand to bomb an Israeli consulate, and wound up in the Philippines.
The FBI believes he staged a test for Project Bojinka in December 1994, leaving a bomb under a seat on a Philippine Airlines flight, killing a Japanese tourist.
According to Cannistraro, "His particular, peculiar evil genius was to devise a method of putting together a liquid explosive that could not be detected by the security apparatuses in effect at most airports at that time."
"This is somebody who is really a world class operator. . And I don't think we have seen someone like this, as accomplished as this, ever," said Timmerman.
Yousef was finally caught in Pakistan, and the FBI brought him back to New York.
Philippine police captured his co-defendant, Abdul Hakim Murad when he tried to clean out the apartment in Manila. He was a childhood friend of Yousef in Kuwait.
A third defendant, Wali Khan Amin Shah, an Afghani, was arrested in Malaysia last December.
Lawyers for the three men say their trial might take three or four months.
- New plotter arrested in airline bomb conspiracy - December 12, 1996
- Bomb plot suspect escapes prison, recaptured - February 8, 1996
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The web must be pretty busy, it's taking forever for these threads to load!
"We told the Americans about the plans to turn planes into flying bombs as far back as 1995," he complained to reporters. "Why didn't they pay attention?"
Because everyone was too fat, dumb and happy - and Clinton was too busy worrying about getting his little willy wet.
Now, all we have to do to be safe is surrender some of our rights and the government will protect us. We'll get our rights back - they promised.