Archive for July, 2004

Captured Terrorists Hint at New Plan, Officials Say

22 July 2004: Al Qaeda members captured in recent weeks in Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Afghanistan have provided important information about a possible impending terrorist attack on the scale of Sept. 11, 2001, senior intelligence officials said.

The interrogations of the Qaeda members have been a major factor in raising American concerns about a possible attack to a level not seen since Sept. 11, the intelligence officials said. They said that the captured members of Al Qaeda had provided clues that traced planning for a major attack back to the group’s central leadership, including Osama bin Laden, who is believed to be in the Afghan-Pakistan border region.

“We don’t have specificity to exact time, place or location,” a senior intelligence official said. “But it’s more than just them saying generally that there’s something coming.”

American officials have warned for the last two weeks about such an attack, but have refused to describe the source of their information. But with the release of the report by the Sept. 11 commission, the officials said they wanted to be as precise as possible about the foundation for the current concern.

“I wouldn’t characterize what we have now as chatter,” a senior Central Intelligence Agency official said. “I think we have some fairly specific information that Al Qaeda wants to come after us.” The senior C.I.A. official, a counterterrorism expert, added, “This is serious.”

One senior intelligence official said that there was “no doubt” that Mr. bin Laden and other leaders of Al Qaeda remain very much focused on carrying out a new attack in the United States or on American targets overseas. Senior C.I.A. officials described Al Qaeda’s leadership as having been very much weakened by American-led actions since Sept. 11, but they would offer no prediction for when Mr. bin Laden might be captured.

“We’re looking for one person here in a part of the world where not many people have gone before,” a senior C.I.A. official said, in an apparent allusion to the rugged, mountainous border region where Mr. bin Laden is still believed to be hiding.

Two counterterrorism officials based in Europe said that an intelligence breakthrough pointing to such a renewed threat had come about six weeks ago. The officials suggested that the information was based on both human and technical intelligence, but they refused to be more specific. A third intelligence official said the recent interrogations of Al Qaeda members had provided important leads.

The warnings come despite what both the commission, in its 571-page report, and three senior C.I.A. officials, at a briefing at the agency’s headquarters, describe as major achievements since Sept. 11 in a war that has focused on Al Qaeda and its leadership. Both the commission and the C.I.A. officials described the United States as being safer today than it was on Sept. 11, but both detailed twin threats that remain, from remnants of Al Qaeda’s old leadership as well as the broader, militant Muslim movement it has inspired.

“You’re seeing parallel things going on,” said a senior C.I.A. official involved with counterterrorism. “Al Qaeda central is plotting, and we think they’re involved in some of the current plotting. And you also have in parallel a global movement of people, not necessarily close to or linked to Al Qaeda, but who themselves are plotting as well. So that gives you a picture of the world.”

Among the senior intelligence officials who have described the current threat environment as the most worrying since the months before the Sept. 11 has been John E. McLaughlin, the acting director of central intelligence. Compared with that period, other intelligence officials said, current intelligence-gathering has not included as many intercepted communications suggesting that an attack might be imminent.

But the intelligence officials say that the current information has been specific, consistent and solid, and comes from multiple sources. They declined to identify the captured Al Qaeda members who have provided the most important information but said they regarded it as credible. They said it had led them to believe that Mr. bin Laden and his top deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, regarded possible operations in the United States as falling very much under their authority.

The intelligence officials said they regarded Al Qaeda as much less capable than it was at the time of the Sept. 11 attacks. Many of its known leaders at the time of those attacks have been killed or arrested, they noted, while military operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen have eliminated many of the agency’s sanctuaries.

“If you look at the capability of the people who came after us before Sept. 11 in terms of safe haven, in terms of financial security, in terms of ability to plan, their world is upside down,” the C.I.A. counterterrorism official said. “I cannot come away from that with any conclusion other than that we are substantially safer today than we were three years ago. They could plan, they could raise funds, they could do it in an environment that they thought they were relatively secure with a partner whom they supported that was the Taliban. That does not exist anymore. ”

Still, a second, senior C.I.A. official said of Al Qaeda: “It is not mutually exclusive to say that it has been weakened, but it’s still very dangerous. They take a long time to plan operations.”

“Even though we’ve been hurting them, they’ve been planning things over a long period of time,” the senior C.I.A. official said. “There are certain periods when your guard has to be up, and this is one of them for a variety of reasons that are quite solid in their sourcing. But it’s also true that they don’t strike until they’re ready. So this is an organization that surveils, does homework, prepares, is careful.”

The C.I.A. officials spoke at a briefing on Wednesday at the agency’s headquarters. They spoke on condition of anonymity, and under an agreement that their remarks would not be reported until after the commission made its report public on Thursday morning.

The commission report echoed recent warnings by George J. Tenet, who stepped down this month as director of central intelligence, in saying that the most worrying aspect of Mr. bin Laden’s organization might be the degree to which it had inspired a broader ideological movement among a new generation of terrorists.

“The problem is that Al Qaeda represents an ideological movement, not a finite group of people,” the report said in its executive summary. “It initiates and inspires, even if it no longer directs. In this way, it has transformed itself into a decentralized force.

“Bin Laden may be limited in his ability to organize major attacks from his hideouts,” the Sept. 11 report continued. “Yet killing or capturing him, while extremely important, would not end terror. His message of inspiration to a new generation of terrorists would continue.”

The Pakistan Connection

22 July 2004: Omar Sheikh, a British-born Islamist militant, is waiting to be hanged in Pakistan for a murder he almost certainly didn’t commit - of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Both the US government and Pearl’s wife have since acknowledged that Sheikh was not responsible. Yet the Pakistani government is refusing to try other suspects newly implicated in Pearl’s kidnap and murder for fear the evidence they produce in court might acquit Sheikh and reveal too much.

Significantly, Sheikh is also the man who, on the instructions of General Mahmoud Ahmed, the then head of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), wired $100,000 before the 9/11 attacks to Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker. It is extraordinary that neither Ahmed nor Sheikh have been charged and brought to trial on this count. Why not?

Ahmed, the paymaster for the hijackers, was actually in Washington on 9/11, and had a series of pre-9/11 top-level meetings in the White House, the Pentagon, the national security council, and with George Tenet, then head of the CIA, and Marc Grossman, the under-secretary of state for political affairs. When Ahmed was exposed by the Wall Street Journal as having sent the money to the hijackers, he was forced to “retire” by President Pervez Musharraf. Why hasn’t the US demanded that he be questioned and tried in court?

Another person who must know a great deal about what led up to 9/11 is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, allegedly arrested in Rawalpindi on March 1 2003. A joint Senate-House intelligence select committee inquiry in July 2003 stated: “KSM appears to be one of Bin Laden’s most trusted lieutenants and was active in recruiting people to travel outside Afghanistan, including to the US, on behalf of Bin Laden.” According to the report, the clear implication was that they would be engaged in planning terrorist-related activities.

The report was sent from the CIA to the FBI, but neither agency apparently recognised the significance of a Bin Laden lieutenant sending terrorists to the US and asking them to establish contacts with colleagues already there. Yet the New York Times has since noted that “American officials said that KSM, once al-Qaida’s top operational commander, personally executed Daniel Pearl … but he was unlikely to be accused of the crime in an American criminal court because of the risk of divulging classified information”. Indeed, he may never be brought to trial.

A fourth witness is Sibel Edmonds. She is a 33-year-old Turkish-American former FBI translator of intelligence, fluent in Farsi, the language spoken mainly in Iran and Afghanistan, who had top-secret security clearance. She tried to blow the whistle on the cover-up of intelligence that names some of the culprits who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks, but is now under two gagging orders that forbid her from testifying in court or mentioning the names of the people or the countries involved. She has been quoted as saying: “My translations of the 9/11 intercepts included [terrorist] money laundering, detailed and date-specific information … if they were to do real investigations, we would see several significant high-level criminal prosecutions in this country [the US] … and believe me, they will do everything to cover this up”.

Furthermore, the trial in the US of Zacharias Moussaoui (allegedly the 20th hijacker) is in danger of collapse apparently because of “the CIA’s reluctance to allow key lieutenants of Osama bin Laden to testify at the trial”. Two of the alleged conspirators have already been set free in Germany for the same reason.

The FBI, illegally, continues to refuse the to release of their agent Robert Wright’s 500-page manuscript Fatal Betrayals of the Intelligence Mission, and has even refused to turn the manuscript over to Senator Shelby, vice-chairman of the joint intelligence committee charged with investigating America’s 9/11 intelligence failures. And the US government still refuses to declassify 28 secret pages of a recent report on 9/11.

It has been rumoured that Pearl was especially interested in any role played by the US in training or backing the ISI. Daniel Ellsberg, the former US defence department whistleblower who has accompanied Edmonds in court, has stated: “It seems to me quite plausible that Pakistan was quite involved in this … To say Pakistan is, to me, to say CIA because … it’s hard to say that the ISI knew something that the CIA had no knowledge of.” Ahmed’s close relations with the CIA would seem to confirm this. For years the CIA used the ISI as a conduit to pump billions of dollars into militant Islamist groups in Afghanistan, both before and after the Soviet invasion of 1979.

W ith CIA backing, the ISI has developed, since the early 1980s, into a parallel structure, a state within a state, with staff and informers estimated by some at 150,000. It wields enormous power over all aspects of government. The case of Ahmed confirms that parts of the ISI directly supported and financed al-Qaida, and it has long been established that the ISI has acted as go-between in intelligence operations on behalf of the CIA.

Senator Bob Graham, chairman of the Senate select committee on intelligence, has said: “I think there is very compelling evidence that at least some of the terrorists were assisted, not just in financing … by a sovereign foreign government.” In that context, Horst Ehmke, former coordinator of the West German secret services, observed: “Terrorists could not have carried out such an operation with four hijacked planes without the support of a secret service.”

That might give meaning to the reaction on 9/11 of Richard Clarke, the White House counter-terrorism chief, when he saw the passenger lists later on the day itself: “I was stunned … that there were al-Qaida operatives on board using names that the FBI knew were al-Qaida.” It was just that, as Dale Watson, head of counter-terrorism at the FBI told him, the “CIA forgot to tell us about them”.

Detroit Airport Screener Accused of Lying

22 July 2004: A Dearborn man was in federal court Thursday, accused of lying when he applied for his job as a TSA screener at Detroit Metro Airport. 25-year-old Sadeq Ahmed spoke to reporters as he walked out of the Detroit Federal Courthouse Thursday afternoon, released on bond.

Back in October of 2002, Ahmed allegedly said he had never had his security clearance suspended, when in fact he had. His security clearance and access to classified information was suspended in 2001, while he was in the Air Force serving at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.

“I have no idea what the charges are,” he said, ” but as soon as we talk to my lawyer, we’ll figure it out. ”

Ahmed is also accused of saying he never left a job under unfavorable conditions, when in fact he was discharged from the Air Force because he allegedly made statements that he supports Osama Bin Laden, that the U.S. deserved the 9/11 attacks, and that U.S. aircraft flying over Iraq should crash.

Ahmed denies it all.

“No way,” he stressed. “People take things out of context. That’s not the right information. Thank you.”

If convicted, Ahmed could spend up to five years in prison. In the face of the charges, his family stands by him.

“I know he does not support Bin Laden, he doesn’t support those planes crashing and everything. He supports the American flag, like how he was in the Air Force,” brother Toufeq said. “He supported America.”

Terror files posted on state website

Terror files posted on state website

12 July 2004: It appears that Terrorist 007, an individual who appears to be in the United States and who professes to be one of Al Qaeda’s mujahadeen, has hijacked yet another website, this one belonging to the Arkansas State Department of Highways and Transportation.

Earlier this evening, 007 posted a group of links of audio and video files on the Arabic language forum of the Ansar al Sunnah Supporters.

The files, which have had limited distribution to date because of their heavy bandwidth demand, link to an FTP server at www.ahtd.state.ar.us

Authorities have been notified.

Is Wall Street Al Qaeda’s Next Target?

10 July 2004: Officials are worried about al-Qaeda’s next possible target in the United States. New information says al Qaeda may be headed for the heart of America’s economy — Wall Street.

Wall Street area is normally high in terms of security. Bomb sniffing dogs and the New York Police Department’s Hercules Unit are on scene. Traffic is also minimal.

According to a story in Sunday’s New York Post, a growing concern of the nation’s intelligence agencies is that Wall Street may be one of al Qaeda next targets. The Post reports new terrorist chatter on the issue of terror attack on the heart of America’s economy was so serious that it prompted Tom Ridge to issue last week’s high profile warning. He said he wasn’t aware of any specific plans. However, intelligence information indicates Osama bin Laden and top deputies are personally involved in planning a potential attack just in time to disrupt the November elections.

As a result, security at Wall Street already high before is at an all- time high now. The NYPD’s Hercules Unit is on duty 24-hours a day. Car traffic through most of this area minimal at best. If you ever thought of driving downtown, you might want to keep your car as far away as possible. And take mass transit or walk.