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Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Able Danger Classic

Original script for Triple Cross

From Peter Lance:


A National Geographic Channel Special about Al Qaeda’s Master Spy and the Untold Story Behind the 9/11 Attacks


Based on “TRIPLE CROSS”, an extraordinary new book by renowned investigative journalist Peter Lance, Towers Productions presents the untold story of Ali A. Mohamed, a radical ex-Egyptian Army officer who became a CIA asset, joined the US Army, and spent five years as an FBI informant, but who all the while was really Osama bin Laden’s chief intelligence agent, playing a key role in Al Qaeda terror plots and “triple crossing” US officials on the road to 9/11.

It’s a real life epic that plays out like a Tom Clancy thriller as it takes us through twist and turns from Brooklyn to Khartoum, Kandahar to Fort Bragg. The story spans a quarter century from the assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat in 1981, up through the 9/11 attacks, and to the present. As the plot unfolds, we are introduced to characters we never knew were connected to the 9/11 saga, including corrupt FBI agents and Mafia kingpins.

And it’s a tale that some well-known federal authorities are extremely reluctant to discuss, because it shines a highly unflattering light on US intelligence failures going back to the late 1980s.

The two-hour documentary will show how Mohamed survived more than 14 years as al Qaeda’s chief “mole” inside the U.S. How he moved his boss, bin Laden, in and out of Afghanistan. How he helped plan the operation in Somalia that downed two U.S. Blackhawk helicopters. How he assisted in planning the 1998 African embassy bombings, and even wrote part of the al Qaeda terror manual. And finally, how Mohamed confessed to his crimes, cut a deal with the US government that has never been explained to the public…and soon after, just plain disappeared. To this day Mohamed’s whereabouts are a complete mystery.

The 9/11 Commission’s Final Report, released in the summer of 2004, exposed only a fragment of the Mohamed story. Since then, the Able Danger scandal has begun to expose the extent to which US officials set up barriers to uncovering the 9/11 plot. This film will link the Mohamed story to that brewing scandal.


Prologue: October 20, 2000. Ali Mohamed stands shackled before Judge Leonard B. Sand in a Federal District courtroom in Lower Manhattan. Over the next 30 minutes, he pleads guilty five times, admitting involvement in plots to kill U.S. soldiers in Somalia and Africa, and U.S. civilians “anywhere in the world.” He was handpicked by Osama bin Laden to train al Qaeda terrorists in Sudan and Afghanistan. The goals of his students were to “kidnap, murder and main.”

In short but deliberate sentences, Mohamed peels back the top layer of the secret life he’d led as a master spy. He was highly educated, fluent in four languages. He’d risen from a young recruit in the virulently anti-American Egyptian Islamic Jihad to become Osama bin Laden’s most trusted security advisor. As Ali ticks off al Qaeda exploits, he appears contrite, a broken jihadi, a man now willing to cooperate with the Feds. The hope is that he will finally give up all of his secrets.

Yet in that Southern District Courtroom nearly two years before the attacks of September 11th, he said nothing on the record about his most stunning achievements… As Peter Lance begins to tell the story we flashback to:

1984. A veteran of the same radical Egyptian Army unit that killed Sadat, Mohamed is discharged from the military.

1985. Mohamed signs on as a CIA asset and is allowed to slip past a watch list and enter the U.S. Within months, Mohamed has married a Silicon Valley woman whom he met on the plane over, and joined the U.S. Army as an enlisted man. He quickly makes sergeant and gets himself posted to the highly secure base at Fort Bragg, NC where Delta Force and the Green Berets train. As Peter Lance tells it, Mohamed was dispatched to the US by bin Laden and Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, the Egyptian radical who serves as bin Laden’s number-two, and whose special protégé was a young Army officer named Ali Mohamed.

July 1989. The FBI’s elite Special Operations Group follows a clandestine cell of Islamic militants from the al Farooq mosque in Brooklyn to a firing range in Calverton, Long Island. Of the men photographed by the FBI over four weekends, one would kill Rabbi Meier Kahane in 1990; three would be convicted in the 1993 WTC bombing; and two would be convicted in 1995 in the plot to blow up New York’s bridge and tunnels. The man training the militants at the firing range is none other than Ali Mohamed. Yet within weeks, the FBI shuts down the investigation into what would soon become al Qaeda’s flagship sleeper cell.

November 5th, 1990. The Feds are searching the home of one of Mohamed’s Calverton trainees, El Sayyid Nosair. Nosair had been apprehended for assassinating Rabbi Meier Kahane.
In Nosair’s house, the FBI and NYPD find top-secret memos from the U.S. Joint Chiefs, manuals and maps from Fort Bragg, pictures of the World Trade Center, and bomb recipes. They also find tapes of the Arabic sermons of the Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel Rahman (OAR) the radical Egyptian cleric who leads the New York cell, and who, like Mohamed, entered the US by slipping past a “watch list.” The evidence gives authorities a road map to the World Trade Center bombing plot to come. Yet for unexplained reasons, the FBI goes along with the NYPD and calls the Kahane assassination a “lone gunman” shooting. How Nosair would have obtained US military documents—from the same army base where Ali Mohammed had served—is left unanswered for now…

1991. Osama bin Laden commissions Mohamed to coordinate his fledgling al Qaeda organization’s move from Afghanistan to Sudan. Mohammed oversees the building of terror training camps in Sudan, drills bin Laden’s personal bodyguards and helps write the manual that later becomes al Qaeda’s terror bible. Mohammed’s travels outside the U.S. would range from a few weeks, to at one point, more than a year, between older terrorist camps in Afghanistan, bin Laden’s new base in Sudan, and the U.S. He performs bin Laden’s bidding while commuting back and forth to his American wife in Silicon Valley where he seeks a “secret” clearance from a top U.S. defense contractor.


1992. The FBI has other opportunities to hook on to Ali Mohammed and penetrate the cell he’d trained in New York. Unfortunately, agents either avoid or overlook many of their chances.

FBI Special Agent Nancy Floyd in the New York office recruits Emad Salem, an Egyptian ex-intelligence officer to infiltrate the cell. Salem is close to uncovering a plot, inspired by the Blind Sheikh and being planned by his militant followers. to hit “12 Jewish locations” in NY. But FBI ASAC Carson Dunbar, a senior agent with zero terrorism experience, takes over the FBI’s Joint Terrorist Task Force (JTTF) and shuts Salem down. Now the FBI is blinded to the true danger of the Sheik’s operation. As soon as the Bureau loses its asset inside the cell the Sheikh contacts Pakistan and Ramzi Yousef, a master bomb maker, arrives in New York

Fall of 1992. Mohamed’s trainees from the al Farooq mosque begin serving as Yousef’s team in executing the first World Trade Center bombing. During this period the Feds have multiple chances to interdict the cell and stop the bombing.

February 26, 1993. Yousef and the Calverton trainees were able to complete construction of a bomb and detonate it in the basement of the World Trade Center. After the bombing, Agent Floyd and her Egyptian informant go back undercover, and manage an FBI sting that convicts the Blind Sheik and nine others in a plot to blow up New York’s landmarks.

Out in Silicon Valley, meantime, Ali Mohamed, bin Laden’s “man inside,” cozies up to US intelligence. By now he has left the US Army and signed on as an FBI informant. He studies the FBI’s playbook on Al Qaeda while feeding his control agents disinformation by informing on Mexican drug smugglers. The assignment enables him to deflect attention from his own trafficking: smuggling al Qaeda operatives into America, even boldly squiring one, al Qaeda’s No. 2, Dr. al-Zawahiri, on two U.S. fund raising tours that raise ten of thousands of dollars.

In another 1993 incident, Royal Canadian Mounted Police catch Mohamed attempting to smuggle al Qaeda terrorist Essam Marzouk into the US, using Ali’s favorite route from Vancouver to Seattle. It is Marzouk who would later seek a nuclear weapon for bin Laden in years to come. But after being interrogated by the Mounties, Ali is released on the word of the FBI.


Ali Mohamed’s al Qaeda assignments in Africa multiply by 1993, when the ex-Egyptian officer and FBI informant organizes a Kenyan al Qaeda cell for bin Laden. The Kenyan cell will contribute to the downing of two US military helicopters in the infamous Blackhawk Down incident in Somalia.

Mohammed soon contacts Wadih el Hage, one of the future conspirators in the African US embassy bombings, and someone who had likewise known the New York cell’s Calverton trainees. New evidence uncovered by Lance for TRIPLE CROSS will show that officials in the US Justice Department, including Patrick Fitzgerald, were aware that Mohamed was in contact with El Hage.

Shortly after the ’93 Trade Center bombing, the FBI actually recruits Mohamed to provide key intelligence on the cell responsible for that attack, even though their informant was the very man who had trained the cell members. While feeding his control agents disinformation, Ali continues to study the Bureau’s playbook.

It’s at this point that Mohamed brokers an historic summit between bin Laden, a radical Sunni, and Imad Fayez Mugniyah, leader of the military wing of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite group responsible for bombing the Beirut U.S. Embassy and the Marine barracks in 1983. This summit happens while Ali is working directly as an informant to FBI agents in Sacramento, San Francisco and New York. Yet the Feds apparently never know about it.

1994. While the FBI’s trail towards ’93 Trade Center mastermind Ramzi Yousef runs cold, Yousef and his uncle Khalid Sheikh Mohammed move to Manila, linking up with Abdul Hakim Murad, a pilot trained in 4 U.S. flight schools; and Wali Khan, an Uzbeki whom bin Laden called “The Lion”. The team will move on to brainstorm three terror attacks in Asia, with a special interest in detonating planes.
They conduct a wet-test of a miniature nitroglycerine bomb aboard PAL Flight #434 on December 11th, 1994. The explosion kills a Japanese national but just misses the center wing fuel tank. Yousef vows to get it right when he executes project Bojinka, a plot to bomb 12 US-bound jetliners over the Pacific.

December 16th, 1994. INS agents arrest bin Laden’s brother-in-law, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, on visa fraud and other violations in Mountain View, California, just miles from Ali Mohamed’s house.

The Feds seize an Apple Newton PDA with a treasure trove of data linking Khalifa to bin Laden, the New York cell and the Yousef-KSM cell in Manila. Khalifa is one of the Manila cell’s financiers. His computer is an important piece of evidence that connects to both the ’93 attack on the World Trade Center, as well as the now-brewing 9/11 plot. Khalifa is a walking one-man playbook of al Qaeda secrets who should have been highly motivated to cut a deal with US officials. Why? Because a death sentence hangs over his head for a series of al Qaeda bombings in Amman, Jordan.

January 6, 1995. But higher ups at the Justice and State Departments want no part of holding an alleged bomber from Jordan on American soil. In this case, ironically, despite the FBI’s lobbying for the INS and Justice Department to hold Khalifa, officials decide otherwise. Jamie Gorelick, a Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Justice Department, along with Secretary of State Warren Christopher, petitions an Immigration judge for Khalifa’s release. He is eventually extradited to Jordan and, after a witness recanted, he was set free – only to return to Saudi Arabia where he is embraced with a hero’s welcome. He would serve as Ramzi Yousef’s chief financier in his Bojinka plot.

That same day in 1995, Philippines National Police catch a break when a suspicious apartment fire lands Yousef’s terror partner Abdul Hakim Murad in custody. Authorities confiscate the Toshiba laptop Yousef has used to store all of his terror plots. This laptop, and the ensuing interrogations of Murad, do far more than hint at what will be the 9/11 attacks…. But they will be overlooked or otherwise ignored.


Exclusive evidence retrieved by the Philippine National Police from Yousef’s laptop proves that one of the plots being developed by the Yousef-KSM cell was the “planes as missiles” suicide scenario realized on 9/11 – a plot separate from the Bojinka plot to bomb 12 planes in the Pacific, for which Murad would be the lead pilot. Lance will detail how Yousef and KSM had chosen up to seven targets on both U.S. coasts including the WTC, Pentagon, White House, CIA headquarters, a nuclear plant, and the Sears & Transamerica Towers. Further, that they had up to ten Islamic pilots training in U.S. flight schools in 1995.

In an exclusive interview conducted by Peter Lance with PNP Col. Rodolfo Mendoza – the chief interrogator of Murad – will be included. Mendoza uncovered the entire “planes as missiles” plot.
With recently uncovered documents, we’ll prove that the FBI’s Legal Attaché in Manila got the evidence as early as January 1995.

The FBI agents who took control of Murad wrote a haunting 17-page report on their debriefing, which included a statement from Murad that Yousef intended to return to the US and attack the World Trade Center again. (This body of evidence contradicts the 9/11 Commission’s report that the planes operation was conceived in 1996.)

We’ll cut to the Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC), the federal jail in Lower Manhattan where Ramzi Yousef, apprehended in February 1995, is awaiting trial for the Bojinka plot and representing himself in court. Through a series of notes and FBI’s #302 memos Lance uncovered, we’ll document how the bomb maker sends messages to his partner Murad across the cell of Greg Scarpa, Jr., a Colombo family wiseguy, while Scarpa awaits his racketeering trial.

The startling notes, which the FBI gets directly from Scarpa, Jr., show how Yousef’s "people" intend to put a bomb on a U.S. airliner to win a mistrial in the Bojinka case. His motive is to argue that a blast on a 747 identical to the PAL #434 “wet test” occurred while he was incarcerated; creating reasonable doubt in the jurors’ minds over whether Yousef was responsible for the PAL bombing. Based on evidence obtained exclusively by Lance from the PNP we’ll show how Yousef’s diagrams for such a device matched precisely those of his earlier PAL #434 bomb. In the notes passed to Scarpa Jr., Yousef even suggests RDX as an alternate explosive to nitroglycerine , the key explosive in the PAL #434 device.

Scarpa Jr.’s cooperation with the FBI goes much further. The Bureau instructs Scarpa Jr. to tell Yousef he can help the terrorist communicate with his people in New York and abroad. Yousef thus begins to place calls from the prison to his associates on the outside, making at least one to his uncle, Khalid Sheik Mohammed in Doha, Qatar. The call is patched through a Mafia front company called “Roma Corp” run by the FBI. According to one Bureau document obtained by Lance, Scarpa Jr. reports that Yousef has told him that Osama bin Laden plans to hijack a plane to free the Blind Sheik. This is a crucial piece of intelligence that takes on new importance in the years to come as both Presidents Clinton (in ‘98) and Bush (in ‘01) are warned of similar bin Laden hijack plots.

Ali Mohammed, meanwhile, continues his missions on behalf of Osama bin Laden. He snaps photographs of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya, then slips into Sudan to meet with bin Laden and deliver his intelligence. Mohammed later coordinates bin Laden’s return to Afghanistan when the Sudanese government effectively kicks him out soon thereafter. Another of bin Laden’s Sudanese aides, Jamal al Fadl, defects to the U.S., giving Feds their first real sense, at least officially, of al Qaeda’s scope and bin Laden’s violent designs on the U.S. This informant had at one point worked at the very same al Farooq Mosque from which Ali Mohammed had trained the WTC bombers. He directly ties bin Laden to the New York cell of the Blind Sheik, citing bin Laden’s funding of El Sayyid Nosair’s defense in 1991 after the Kahane murder.

July 17th, 1996. The night before Murad's confession to Col. Mendoza is to be entered into evidence in Yousef’s Bojinka trial, TWA #800 crashes off Long Island after a mysterious explosion in the area of the center fuel tank. 234 passengers and crew are killed. The FBI immediately dispatches 1000 agents to the crash site, believing (based on Scarpa Jr.’s intel) that the crash was a terrorist incident.

As he told Scarpa Jr. he would do, Yousef immediately requests that the judge in his case declare a mistrial. The motion is denied. But the evidence uncovered by Lance suggests that the crash of TWA #800 was the Bojinka plot fulfilled.


Fall 1996. As the wreckage of TWA 800 is assembled piece by piece in a hangar on Long Island, FBI agents discover traces of nitroglycerine, RDX and a third high explosive (PETN) near the center wing fuel tank. The Bureau is about to declare the crash sabotage with evidence of a “bomb,” when it does a “180 turn.”

With zero forensic evidence to support the theory, the Bureau ends up siding with the National Transportation Safety Board, which concludes that a spark in TWA #800’s fuel tank caused its spontaneous combustion. It doesn’t matter that in the billions of air miles of the 747-100 there had never been such an event or that the evidence of a bomb trigger precisely matches what Yousef told Scarpa, Jr. he would do and moves for a mistrial the day after the crash.

The FBI would eventually shut down the TWA #800 investigation in the fall of 1997, declaring that the NTSB’s “spark” theory was the probable cause. But Lance will reveal shocking evidence that Bureau agents not only found the high explosives nitro glycerin, RDX and PETN between the 15th and 17th rows of TWA #800’s passenger cabin directly above the fuel tank, he’ll also shatter the FBI’s sole explanation for the presence of the explosives in the planes wreckage.

The act will end with the FBI’s dramatic flight to Qatar to capture KSM after the Roma Corp. patch revealed his presence in Doha, only to narrowly miss him when Qatari officials tip KSM off. According to Lance, FBI officials have never acknowledged the significance of the Scarpa-Yousef connection, as it might suggest that the FBI might be blamed with facilitating the TWA 800 crash.

Lance will further document that the FBI was especially reluctant to have Greg Scarpa Jr. emerge as a credible witness in a possible TWA 800 trial, because doing so would undermine up to 60 Mafia cases stemming from New York’s infamous “Colombo war” which claimed 12 lives from 1991-92. One such case, involving Scarpa’s father and an allegedly corrupt FBI undercover agent, was recently re-opened by the Brooklyn DA’s office, based on Lance’s research.

Among the top officials who are party to the Scarpa-Yousef intelligence: Dietrich “Dieter” Snell, the Assistant US Attorney who co-prosecuted Yousef and Murad; Valerie Caproni, head of the criminal division in the Eastern District of New York, on whose career this series of Colombo War mafia cases rested; and: Patrick Fitzgerald, then head of Organized Crime & Terrorism in the Southern District of New York, who would go on to convict Osama bin Laden in absentia in the 2001 African Embassy bombing case, before becoming US Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois and a highly prominent Special Prosecutor.

Meantime, FBI officials continue to trust bin Laden’s personal intelligence agent inside the US, Ali Mohamed. Mohamed, now known in Al Qaeda as “Ali the American,” moves freely back and forth between Silicon Valley to consult with bin Laden in Sudan and Afghanistan. But while snookering FBI agents on both coasts, Mohamed’s most devastating act of terror was to come.


Peter Lance will lead off the second hour with the sealed federal indictment of Khalid Sheik Mohamed (KSM) in 1996 for the Pacific airliners/Bojinka plot Keeping the hunt for KSM secret stands in stark contrast to the very public $2-million reward that brought Yousef to justice after the first World Trade Center Bombing. In fact, Department of Justice officials will hide KSM’s identity from the public until January of 1998, when he was well into executing the 9/11 plot.

Greg Scarpa, Jr., meantime, should have received “downward release time” under federal sentencing rules for risking his life to inform on Yousef. During the 11 months he informed on Yousef, Scarpa Jr. generated a treasure trove of intelligence on Yousef, al Qaeda and bin Laden’s threats to the U.S. But, when he goes to trial in 1998 for racketeering, prosecutors Patrick Fitzgerald and Dieter Snell support Valerie Caproni’s allegation that Scarpa, Jr.’s intelligence was a “hoax” and a “scam.” As a result, Scarpa Jr., a wiseguy who had run a marijuana ring, is sentenced to 40 years in a Supermax prison for RICO violations.

Throughout this period, from 1996 on, the US Justice Department and the FBI’s New York office--the two bin Laden “offices of origin”--receive multiple warnings that a larger al Qaeda network is out there, ready to strike. These include the November 1997 Luxor massacre, tied to the Blind Sheikh’s Islamic Group, as well as a 1998 Presidential Daily Briefing to President Clinton that warns of an airplane hijack plot to free the Blind Sheikh. But their ultimate wakeup calls will be the 1998 African Embassy Bombings, a plot planned by both Wadih El Hage and the FBI’s owned informant Ali Mohammed.


August 7th, 1998. Blasts at the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania kill more than 200 people, including 12 Americans. As Peter Lance will reveal, Patrick Fitzgerald and the Department of Justice soon come to understand the depth of Ali Mohammed’s deception and how he could become the linchpin witness in the Embassy bombing trial, which Fitzgerald would prosecute.

Days after the Kenya and Tanzanian bombings, the Feds called Mohammed back to New York for a briefing.
Demonstrating the audacity that had allowed him to penetrate the Bureau for years, Mohamed returns, figuring he could brass it out, like he had in 1995 when the Feds named him as an un-indicted co-conspirator in the “Day of Terror” plot.

But as soon as he leaves the grand jury room, Mohammed is arrested. The Feds quickly jail him in the M.C.C. under a “John Doe” warrant. One might imagine that the capture of bin Laden’s “master spy” would generate front-page headlines. It does not. The feds keep it quiet, just as they did with the sealed indictment of KSM in 1996. According to Lance, this is because federal prosecutors worry that Mohammed would reveal the long and compromising history of his involvement with the US government if he ever took the stand in open court.

For the next nine months the Feds keep Mohammed’s presence in the federal jail hidden from the press as Ali negotiates a plea deal. Given that his presence in the Embassy bombing plot alone could generate a death sentence, Mohammed is characteristically cocky about his chances. He knew that the Feds will want to keep secret the damage he’s done to U.S. intelligence and law enforcement over the years. In the Spring of 1999 they charge him, but he appears un phased.

Meanwhile, the Defense Intelligence Agency begins developing its own intelligence, linking members of the New York cell to an unknown al Qaeda operation. Commencing in December of 1999, on the order of Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Hugh Shelton, the Army’s Special Operations Command create Operation Able Danger designed to identify al Qaeda cells and take them out.

Using a unique concept called “data mining” involving high-end search “bots” which comb the Internet, the Able Danger analysts soon unearth the same evidence that the FBI had for years; namely, that al Qaeda was responsible for the first attack on the World Trade Center and is planning more acts of terror aimed at the U.S. A link chart created in the late summer of 1999 by DIA analysts, obtained for the first time by Peter Lance, clearly demonstrates the links among bin Laden, the Blind Sheik, Ramzi Yousef, and Ali Mohamed.


January 2000. The U.S. intelligence community has its next best change at interdicting the 9/11 plot when the CIA becomes aware of a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia that involves Khalid al Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, two of the “planes operation” hijackers. Also present is Khalid bin Atash, who will be a key operational player in the U.S.S. Cole bombing ten months later as well as Hambali, the Indonesian cleric linked to the Yousef-KSM Manila bombing cell.

But in another of the catastrophic “what ifs” on the road to 9/11, the CIA reportedly fails to tip the Bureau to the meeting until the two hijackers were already in the U.S.

October 20th, 2000. We now come full-circle to where we began in the prologue of the film, with Ali Mohamed’s appearance before Judge Sands in a Federal District courtroom in Lower Manhattan. For reasons that have never been explained, Mohamed, with a possible death penalty staring him in the face, is able to parlay his plea into a secret deal. Did it involve prison time? We don’t know, as there is no record of Mohamed in the US prison system.

Perhaps they sent him into the cushy limbo of witness protection, so he could proffer more tidbits about the terror network he’d served as al Qaeda’s “California connection.” Today, more than five and a half years after pleading guilty to crimes that would have ended any other terrorist’s life via lethal injection, Ali Mohamed, remains a legal black hole. As far as anyone outside the Government knows, he has never been sentenced for his crimes.

Exactly how much did Mohamed know about the 9/11 plot, which was well underway at the time of his capture? We may never know. But, as Lance explains, the inability of senior DOJ officials like Dietrich Snell and Patrick Fitzgerald to extract from Mohammed the full depth of al Qaeda’s violent plan to attack the U.S., results by 2001 in a continuing series of intelligence failures.

For any FBI or DOJ investigator in the SDNY, by now, the number of “dots” on the chart foreshadowing a major bin Laden attack on the U.S. by now is overwhelming. Given the body of intelligence they had on the Blind Sheikh, Yousef, KSM, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Ali Mohammed and bin Laden, who had already declared war on America, why weren’t these senior Justice Department officials able to interdict the 9/11 plot – especially when, by the fall of 2000, hijackers al Midhar and al Hazmi were living openly in San Diego in rooms rented from Abdusattar Shaikh, another paid FBI informant?

September 2000. The next opportunity for the Feds to bring the planets into alignment comes within days of the FBI’s cancellation of a meeting between Bureau agents and Lt. Col. Anthony Shaffer who was slated to share the active Able Danger links between the Blind Sheikh’s New York cell and al Qaeda.

Weeks later, Osama bin Laden and Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri stage an infamous video fatwa. In it, bin Laden presents one of the Blind Sheik’s sons, who declares: “Go to the spilling of blood for your Sheikh,” and “remember (El Sayyid) Nosair” – the man Ali Mohammed trained at Calverton who spilled the first al Qaeda blood on U.S. soil with the murder of Rabbi Meier Kahane in 1990.

If the FBI and Southern District prosecutors like Fitzgerald and Snell ever needed confirmation of the link between bin Laden, the Blind Sheik, and the New York cell that had carried out the first World Trade Center bombing, this was it.

Two weeks later, October 12, 2000. A small inflatable boat laden with explosives blows a four-story hole in the side of the U.S.S. Cole, in Aden, Yemen harbor. 17 U.S sailors are killed. In his earlier video fatwa, bin Laden, whose roots are in Yemen, even hinted at the attack’s location by wearing a Yemeni dagger.

By then, Lt. Col. Shaffer and the Able Danger operatives say they had already put lead 9/11 hijacker Mohammed Atta’s picture in a link chart tied to the blind Sheikh. But before the end of the year 2000, less than nine months before 9/11, DIA officials had already ordered that evidence destroyed. The question is Why?


2001. As the clock ticks down now towards the events of September 11th, 33 separate terror warnings will be made by the summer of 2001. To use CIA Director George Tenet’s metaphor “the system was blinking red.” In July Phoenix Memo is issued, warning of suspicious Islamic pilots in U.S. flight schools. In August, Zacarias Moussaoui is arrested, but his computer is not searched because the FBI is unable to obtain a warrant from the special foreign intelligence court set up to handle such cases.
There is another reminder of the importance of the Blind Sheik to al Qaeda when on August 6th, President George W. Bush receives a Presidential Daily Briefing in Crawford Texas, titled “Bin Laden determined to attack in U.S.” It too warns of an airplane hijack plot to free the Blind Sheikh harking back to Greg Scarpa’s Yousef intel from 1996 and the PDB to Clinton in ’98. And then, as Lance reveals, a week before 9/11, the Taliban government in Afghanistan offers to exchange the Blind Sheik for the Christian missionaries held captive in Kabul.

The events of the day 9/11 itself are self-evident. The question is, why? Why did it have to happen given the dozens of warnings dating back to the FBI’s surveillance of Ali Mohammed in the summer of 1989, as he was training the first cell to attack the Twin Towers? What did Federal prosecutors like Patrick Fitzgerald feel knowing that Mohammed had been in custody since 1998 and had to know details of the “planes as missiles” plot given his closeness to bin Laden?

As Lance asserts now, in the beginning the FBI lapses amounted to negligence. By the time the Philippines National Police tipped the Feds to the “planes as missiles” plot in 1995, their lapses had reached the stage of “gross negligence.” But taking into account Jamie Gorelick’s forced extradition of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa and the long overdue arrest of Ali Mohammed, followed by the destruction of the Able Danger data, the evidence begins to suggest that senior FBI, DOJ and DIA officials were setting up roadblocks to uncovering the truth.

The motive, Lance believes, is the abject fear among prosecutors like Fitzgerald, Snell and Deputy A.G. Gorelick that the five year long compromise of the FBI by Ali Mohammed would make them each, in part, accountable for failing to stop the 9/11 attacks. With Ali Mohammed, the Feds had their best possible source inside al Qaeda, and yet, for years, bin Laden’s master spy continued to use them, giving them virtually nothing in return.

Why didn’t the 9/11 Commission pick up on this? As Lance notes, it might have been because Gorelick herself became one of the ten Commissioners and Dietrich Snell was appointed senior counsel. As we’ll soon see, the conflicts of interest were profound and the Commission would reveal only part of the truth.


In this final act, we will tell the story of the 9/11 Commission, and how it failed to issue a truly thoroughgoing Final Report because it suffered from conflicts of interest. Lance will link some of the chief people responsible for contributing to the 9/11 Commission’s understanding of events to a campaign of disinformation. Among those individuals:

Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick, who served on the Commission’s panel. In 1995, she wrote the famous “wall memo”, which instituted a “wall” to separate all FBI and DOJ investigators working on “past” al Qaeda cases from Foreign Counter Intelligence (FCI) investigators who were trying to prevent “future” al Qaeda attacks. This, says Lance, was the equivalent of separating the left side of the Justice Department’s al Qaeda brain from the right side.
Later, when the 9/11 Commission would cite “walls” and “stove piping” as the chief reasons for the intelligence community’s failure to stop the 9/11 attacks, they failed to mention that these barriers were built by senior officials like Gorelick. As Lance points out, Gorelick was one of only two Commission officials allowed into the SCIF (a secured room) to view all of the classified documents relating to the 9/11 attacks. Along with Commission Executive Director, Philip Zelikow, a former associate of Condoleezza Rice, Gorelick was in a position to control the evidence that the full Commission saw.

Dietrich Snell, the former federal prosecutor of Ramzi Yousef who had turned a blind eye toward the PNP evidence of the “planes operation” in 1995, was charged by the 9/11 Commission with determining the single most important conclusion on the road to 9/11: the origin of the plot.

In mid-March of 2004, when Peter Lance testifies before the Commission, it is Dietrich Snell who takes his testimony in a windowless conference room with no stenographer present and no recording device to put the testimony on the record.

Despite dozens of heretofore secret memos provided to the Commission by Lance proving bin Laden’s link to the Yousef/OAR 1993 WTC bombing cell, and the Yousef/KSM Manila cell; despite Lance’s video tape of Col. Mendoza’s interview in which he confirms Abdul Hakim Murad’s revelation of the “planes as missiles” plot in 1995, and despite Lance’s presentation of the DIA link chart which connects bin Laden to the Yousef/OAR New Brooklyn cell, Snell flushes this evidence, reducing it to a single footnote in the Commission’s final report.

July, 2004 When Navy Captain Scott Phillpott, director of the Able Danger data mining operation, tells the 9/11 Commission that his unit had uncovered evidence of a link between lead hijacker Mohammed Atta and the blind Sheikh’s Brooklyn cell, it is Dietrich Snell who deems it “not sufficiently reliable” to include in the Commission’s Final Report, published a month later.

Lance contends that as a former SDNY prosecutor, Snell should have been called as a lead witness before the Commission.
Instead he was given the crucial responsibility of determining “the origin of the 9/11 plot, and in doing so, Lance contends, Snell took Yousef out of the plot; concluding that the plot commenced in 1996 – two years after Yousef had spun it into motion in Manila. Snell asserted that KSM was not a member of al Qaeda at the time and had merely “pitched” the “planes operation” to bin Laden, whom he allegedly barely knew.

In reaching this conclusion in the 9/11 Commission’s Report Dietrich Snell remove the two bin laden “offices of origin” (including his own SDNY) from any culpability for failing to stop the Yousef-OAR WTC bombing cell in 1992.

Snell’s sole authority for this conclusion was KSM himself, who was captured in March of 2003 and reportedly subjected to torture including “water boarding.” But Snell’s conclusion on the origin of the plot became the official “truth” as set forth by the Commission, the last official body to examine the biggest mass murder in U.S. history. The report contained scant mention of Ali Mohamed.

When Patrick Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (Chicago) testified before the 9/11 Commission on June 16th, 2004 he actually cited Mohammed as “one of the most chilling examples of al Qaeda’s espionage.” But he only told a fragment of the full story.

Speaking at a nationally televised hearing, under oath, Fitzgerald went into great detail about how Ali Mohammed had been stationed at Fort Bragg, from which he trained “some of the persons who would later carry out the 1993 World Trade Center bombing,” and how he had “arranged bin Laden’s security in the Sudan” and later “lived as an American citizen in California, applying for a job as an FBI translator and working as a security guard for a defense contractor.”

But what Fitzgerald didn’t tell the Commission – or the American public, was that Mohammed had served as an FBI informant for five years from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing to the 1998 African Embassy bombings; that Fitzgerald had been unable to get Mohammed to cooperate; that Mohamed had been given a plea deal that somehow did not compel him to testify about al Qaeda, bin Laden, or what he might have known about the 9/11 plot.

Fitzgerald’s limited testimony was the only official word on Ali Mohammed in the 9/11 Commission’s Final Report – a book that became a national best seller – praised by the mainstream media and nominated for a National Book Award.

The official story put forth by the 9/11 Commission might have held. But in the late summer of 2005, cracks began to appear in the Commission’s vaulted credibility when Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA) produced evidence that the Able Danger unit had linked Atta to the blind Sheikh’s cell more than a year before the Commission said that he’d shown up on the radar.

Suddenly, decorated officers including Tony Shaffer and Scott Phillpott were muzzled by the Pentagon. Shaffer’s top-secret clearance was removed and he was set up on petty charges.
Cong. Weldon called it a scandal that was “bigger than Watergate,” and three separate congressional committees began investigations. Americans as politically diverse as Lt. Col. Oliver North on the right and “The Jersey Girls” who campaigned for Sen. John Kerry on the left, believe that that Able Danger probe offers the last best chance to get the full truth about why U.S. intelligence agencies failed to prevent 9/11.

To date, the Bush administration has resisted the Able Danger probe. The question is why? Why would this Pentagon under Donald Rumsfeld withhold Able Danger data that might impact negatively on the previous administration? The answer lies in the untold, chilling tale of how Ali Mohammed compromised three of the big five intelligence agencies across 3 Presidential administrations.

Because Peter Lance’s evidence from the PNP and the link chart he published in 2003 was in perfect sync with the Able Danger revelations, he was asked to consult by Rep. Weldon and Rep. Frank Wolf (R-VA), the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee which funds the FBI and Justice.

Those investigations will unfold as this documentary is being produced. Further, as Lance has documented, Patrick Fitzgerald may find himself with some difficult questions to answer if called before the House panel.

Chief among them: why was Ali Mohammed, al Qaeda’s master spy who cleaned the FBI’s clock for years, never formally sentenced or sent to a U.S. prison? Did the man largely responsible for the African Embassy bombings skate with a cushy deal for life in Witness Protection? What about the rumors that he has been freed? What do Fitzgerald, Snell and other DOJ officials have to hide?

In addition to Snell and Fitzgerald, one former DOJ official who could answer our questions is Valerie Caproni. In fact, she is now in a position to be particularly forthcoming. Currently, she works at General Counsel to the FBI. In effect, she’s the Bureau’s top lawyer.

Recently Caproni made headlines by testifying on Capitol Hill to help insure that the FBI was granted extraordinary investigative powers to conduct domestic surveillance with the renewal of The Patriot Act. She has yet to answer for why she was a party to the continuing efforts to discredit Greg Scarpa, Jr., whom Lance will petition the Bureau of Prisons to interview for this documentary.

As many parts of this story come full circle, the case of Greg Scarpa Jr. is particularly significant. When Lance attempted to interview Scarpa Jr. in the summer of 2004, Warden Robert A. Hood of ADX Florence (Supermax) sent Lance a letter alleging that his conversation with Greg Jr. would constitute a “risk to the internal security” of the prison and “to the safety of the staff, inmates and members of the public.” Peter Lance with a reporter’s notebook and a pen.

By exploring the untold saga of Ali Mohamed, bin Laden’s master spy inside the U.S., the question that this ground breaking documentary will seek to answer is this: “What do they have to hide?”

Quick hits

Not much here, but better than nothing.

Judith Miller:

Another controversy destined to linger is whether "Able Danger," a once secret Pentagon program, identified one of the hijackers, Mohammed Atta, years before he entered the United States.

Jim Geraghty:

The report itself seemed comprehensive (until we learned about Able Danger), but the hearings were a circus....

Well, presuming all of this is true – the Rudy stuff, the NORAD stuff, the Iraq stuff and the Israel stuff, to say nothing of Able Danger — shouldn’t these men be held to account for the fact that their original report – touted as the most thorough and comprehensive account of the attacks ever – is now, by their own admission, incomplete and papered over sensitive issues?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Real 9/11 Conspiracy?

Cliff Kincaid has an interesting theory:

While the Bush Administration can be criticized for ignoring warnings that an attack like 9/11 might occur, it is the Clinton Administration which can be accused of actually facilitating 9/11 by conducting a foreign policy that promoted the rise of radical Islam.

We have looked at some of this evidence before, in an AIM Report published shortly after 9/11, but we must take another look because developments over the years have added to the case against the Clinton Administration.

First, the Clinton Administration was allied with radical Islam when it waged a war on Serbia and the CIA was ordered to assist the Kosovo Liberation Army, some of whose members were trained by bin Laden. That was 1999-two years before 9/11.

One of many stories about such connections appeared in the Washington Times on May 4, 1999, and was written by Jerry Seper. It said, "Some members of the Kosovo Liberation Army, which has financed its war effort through the sale of heroin, were trained in terrorist camps run by international fugitive Osama bin Laden...the KLA members, embraced by the Clinton administration in NATO's...bombing campaign to bring Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic to the bargaining table, were trained in secret camps in Afghanistan, Bosnia-Herzegovina and elsewhere, according to newly obtained intelligence reports...The reports said bin Laden's organization, known as al-Qaeda, has both trained and financially supported the KLA. Many border crossings into Kosovo by 'foreign fighters' also have been documented and include veterans of the militant group Islamic Jihad from Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan."

After 9/11, Dollars for Terror, an important book by Swiss television journalist Richard Labeviere, explained in detail what was happening and how it had backfired on the U.S. He presented the thesis that the international Islamic networks linked to bin Laden were nurtured by elements of the U.S. intelligence community, especially during the Clinton years.

This is a shocking view, but it puts other developments in perspective, such as Clinton support for radical Muslims in such places as Kosovo and Bosnia before that. The book also suggests that Islamic radicals, who were present in the U.S. in the 1990s and training to fly aircraft, were tolerated because it was believed that they were going to hit targets in other countries, not the United States.

In other words, the CIA was actively assisting the bin Laden network, thinking it would serve U.S. interests.

Of course, I think it was actually Bush 41 who was leading the CIA when they started funding radical Islam with the help of our good friends the Saudis, but I digress. Dollars for Terror was also published in 2000, unless it was republished after 9/11.

Official statement from Peter Lance

I watched the documentary last night, and you could tell they were trying to fill in for the missing interviews with Peter Lance. They did acknowledge it was based on his book, but only in a credit near the beginning which was on screen a few seconds. The documentary definitely had a pro-FBI slant, especially toward the three FBI agents who were interviewed and their good friend Patrick Fitzgerald. Here is a statement from Peter Lance in response to the show last night:

TRIPLE CROSS: Nat Geo Channel’s Whitewash of the Ali Mohamed Story

By Peter Lance

In the fall of 2005 I was approached by Jonathan Towers, producer of Inside 9/11, a four-hourdocumentary on the road to 9/11 in which I was one of 60 journalists and government officials interviewed. I told Towers that I was working on a new investigative book exposing FBI negligence in its nine year failure to stop Ali A. Mohamed, al Qaeda’s chief spy who infiltrated the Bureau, the CIA and the Green Berets at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Towers immediately optioned my research and flew me to Washington where I presented TRIPLE CROSS, my new book to John Ford, programming president of the Nat Geo Channel.He bought the project in the room, declaring, “I don’t know how we can’t do a documentary.”

Over Christmas I wrote a 12 page ten-act treatment outlining the two key parts of the Ali Mohammed story: First, how he’d come to the U.S. in 1985, seduced a California woman intomarriage, enlisted in the U.S. Army and got himself assigned to the JFK Special Warfare Schooland Bragg. From there, as he stole top secret documents for his chief sponsor, al Qaeda’s No. 2 Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohamed commuted to New York City on weekends where he trained key members of the first WTC bombing cell and the notorious “Day of Terror” cell responsible for a plot to blow up the U.N. and the bridges and tunnels into Manhattan.

In 1991 Mohamed moved bin Laden and 100’s of al Qaeda terrorists from Afghanistan to Sudan, set up al Qaeda’s training camps in Khartoum and literally wrote al Qaeda manual ofterror. In 1993 he trained members of the al Qaeda contingent that downed two U.S.Blackhawk helicopters in Somalia, brokered a meeting between bin Laden and the head of Hezbollah and personally took the pictures of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi that Osama binLaden himself used to target the suicide truck bombs that killed 224 in Kenya in 1998.

That part of my research was presented in the Nat Geo documentary that aired on Monday.

But that was only half of my story. The other half was the astonishing saga of how the two bin Laden “offices of origin” -- the FBI’s New York Office (NYO) and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the SDNY, allowed Mohamed to operate with impunity for years. How key special agents in the bin Laden Squad (I-49) like Jack Cloonan desperately played catch-up as Mohamed planned the Embassy bombings. How John Zent, Ali’s west coast control agent was totally outgunned by him, getting caught up as a material witness in a grisly triple homicide in Fresno in 1992 when he should have been riding herd over the al Qaeda sleeper. How it was Zent who vouched for Ali and got him released from Canadian custody in 1993 – allowing him the freedom to help plan the Blackhawk Down operation and the Embassy bombing plot.

My most astonishing, findings involved Patrick Fitzgerald, the former head of OrganizedCrime and Terrorism in the SDNY, who had allowed Ali to remain free as early as 1994 eventhough he named him as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Day of Terror. Another of my key findings was that Fitzgerald buried probative evidence of an al Qaeda New York cell in 1996.

Beginning in January 1996 Fitzgerald effectively ran Squad I-49, but I learned that despitewiretaps on the key cell members and hard evidence in 1997 that Ali Mohamed (an FBIinformant) was a major player in the Embassy bombing plot – he allowed him to remain free.

Most shocking were two face to face meetings Fitzgerald had with Mohamed in 1997. After the first meeting in April “Fitzie,” as Cloonan called him, declared Ali “the most dangerousman” he’d “ever met” and announced that “we cannot let this man out on the street.”

But Fitzgerald did, even though in October of 1997 Ali told him that he loved bin Laden and didn’t need a fatwa to declare war against the U.S. where he’d become a naturalized citizen. Fitzgerald had convicted blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman and 9 others for seditious conspiracy two years earlier, yet he permitted Mohamed to operate in the open and didn’tarrest him until after the simultaneous truck bombings in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7th, 1998 which followed Ali Mohamed’s 1993 surveillance with surgical precision.

Fitzgerald and Cloonan then took more than 18 months to get a plea bargain out ofMohamed, who never truly betrayed al Qaeda. They kept him in Manhattan Federal jail for 9 months on a John Doe warrant for fear the media would get wind of their negligence and actually prevented him from testifying in the Embassy bombing trial in 2001 because of the embarrassment that cross-examination of Mohamed would cause the Bureau and the Justice Department who had allowed bin Laden’s top spy to work as an FBI informant.

Worse, while they had Ali in custody for three years, Fitzgerald and Cloonan failed to extract the 9/11 plot from him, even though they knew that the plot had commenced in 1994 in Manila, almost four years before Ali’s capture and as the man who had lived with bin Laden and personally trained his security detail, Mohamed knew every twist and turn of it.

Within days of 9/11 Cloonan rushed backed from Yemen and interviewed Ali, whom the Feds had allowed to slip into witness protection, and demanded to know the details of the plot. At that point Ali wrote it all out – including details of how he’d counseled would-be hijackers on how to smuggle box cutters on board aircraft and where to sit, to effect the airline seizures.

In effect, my telling of the Ali Mohamed story holds Cloonan, Fitzgerald and a host of other key Feds responsible for not stopping the 1998 Embassy bombings or the 9/11 plot.

And yet not a word of that showed up in the two-hour documentary entitled “Triple Cross: Bin Laden’s spy in America” which aired Monday night on the Nat Geo Channel. Why? Because Nat Geo allowed Jack Cloonan to become the effective “narrator” of the film. He never once suggested that Fitzgerald was in any way at fault. He never mentioned how Fitziehad failed to keep Ali off the street. Nor did Cloonan name John Zent, Ali’s hapless California “control” agent, who was repeatedly snookered by him for years.

How did this happen? In June, in the midst of script writing the doc of which I was to be the principal narrator, executive producer and editorial voice, the Nat Geo Channel and Towers Productions knuckled under to Cloonan and two other key Feds; former U.S. Attorney Mary Jo White and former NYO Joint Terrorism Task Force investigator Det. Tommy Corrigan.

My contract with Towers stipulated that I was to get all interview transcripts immediately after on camera shoots in order to incorporate the details in the book’s manuscript – Yet these three ex Feds demanded that Nat Geo keep the research from me and they simply acquiesced.

I couldn’t go on camera to narrate the doc without these key interviews, so NGC cut me out of the production and post production process – even refusing to send me a rough cut of the doc for fact-checking unless I signed a non-disparagement agreement.

All of this is documented in a series of letters between me and Nat Geo Channel executives contained (along with the January 2006 treatment) in a press released dated August 27th, 2006.

In effect, NGC ended up replacing me with Jack Cloonan, one of the very Feds that my research had found grossly negligent. Cloonan had two and a half years from January 1996 to August 1998 to build a file on Ali and interdict the Embassy plot and yet, despite evidence from I-49’s own files of Ali’s direct links to senior Embassy plotters, Cloonan, Fitzgerald and othertop Feds failed to detect the plot. In the end, 224 died and more than 4,000 were injured.

In February of 2001, Fitzgerald went on to prosecute three relatively peripheral players in theplot and cemented his reputation by convicting them of an act of terror that his own “bin Laden squad” had failed to prevent. The fourth operative, Wadih El-Hage had been on the FBI’s radar since 1991. Ali Mohamed had stayed in his Kenyan home in the mid 90’s as they plotted the bombings. Another agent in Fitzie’s squad searched El-Hage’s home a year before the bombings and found direct links to Mohamed and yet Fitzgerald failed to connect the dots.

But the viewers of TRIPLE CROSS – the Nat Geo documentary on Monday night never sawany of this evidence critical of the Feds because Nat Geo Channel, allowed the story of FBI failures in the Ali Mohamed case to be told from the Bureau’s point of view. It was like doing Schindler’s List from Hitler’s perspective. The casualty of all of this was the truth – and under the guise of a documentary which Nat Geo Channel claimed was “based in part” on my book, they perpetrated a factual distortionunknown in the recent history of broadcast journalism.

Why does any of it matter and why is this not simply a case of a disgruntled writer, unhappy at a television adaptation of his work? Because going in, the Nat Geo Channel bought a documentary from a five-time Emmy winning reporter that, once and for all, would expose the negligence of the Dept. of Justice on the road to 9/11. See the treatment that they green lit. It’s at the end of the August 27th, 2006 press release.

This matters because key Feds who covered-up probative al Qaeda intelligence in 1996 remain in senior positions at Justice. Fitzgerald is U.S. Attorney for Chicago and Special Prosecutor in the CIA leak case. Valerie Caproni, who supported Fitzgerald’s burial of evidence of an active al Qaeda cell in New York in 1996 is now the FBI’s general counsel.

Most importantly, as I discovered after five years of research, the FBI has utterly failed to reform post 9/11. After more than $600 million spent on an updated computer system to track bin Laden, they have scrapped the “virtual case file” system and FBI Director Robert Mueller told Congress in 2005 that it will be 2009 before they have the same ability to connect the dots that most Americans have using Google and other search engines.

Just months ago it was reported that many agents in the FBI’s flagship “bin Laden” New York office didn’t even have access to e-mail - while al Qaeda remains a tightly organized threat.

Further, as I report in TRIPLE CROSS (the book) Dietrich Snell, a key SDNY prosecutor who served with Fitzgerald, covered up crucial evidence of FBI negligence before the 9/11 Commission and flushed key links between al Qaeda and the New York cell of blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman turned-up by the Army’s Operation Able Danger in the year 2000.

Tonight’s documentary gave lip service to the tragic Ali Mohamed story but failed to provide a single word of critical analysis to help viewers understand what a disservice Feds like Cloonan and Fitzgerald did to this country in causing citizens to rely on the FBI and Justice Department to protect them, while they were continually outgunned by bin Laden’s #1 spy.

When my book comes out I’ll connect those dots and set the record straight. But for those viewers who thought that they got the truth on Ali Mohamed from the Nat Geo Channel, I can assure them, as the principal investigative reporter to uncover his story, they got a whitewash.

Contact: Peter Lance:

Monday, August 28, 2006

An interview with Peter Lance

On Thursday evening I had the privilege of talking with Peter Lance for about half an hour about his new book and the dispute between himself and National Geographic, who is airing a documentary based in part on his book tonight. One thing I asked him was about the new cover for his book which you can see a sneak preview of here. You can also pre-order the book at Note the site does not have the new cover or postponed publication date yet. Anyway, Peter confirmed it was the mug shot of Ali Mohamed. I also asked if he had uncovered any new charts, besides the chart given to him by Jay Boesen which was created in March 2000. He said that he had not, but that when I saw the chart he did have I would be blown away. He has talked to several people including Congressman Weldon, who believe it shows why the military was embarassed by the information the Able Danger team was uncovering. He thought General Schoomaker in particular may have been embarassed to have his own team uncover the fact that an Al Qaeda mole had been working for SOCOM in the early nineties. Personally, I doubt this is the reason the data at LIWA was deleted in April 2000. For one, Schoomaker was a huge supporter of Able Danger and his second in command, Gene Lambert, was outraged that INSCOM had deleted the data. I asked if he has spoken to any members of the Able Danger team while researching his book, but he digressed citing the need to maintain confidentiality for his sources. He did say that the focus of the book is Ali Mohamed and besides the theory that Mohamed was the reason armed federal agents showed up at LIWA in early 2000, he did not uncover many significant new details on the Able Danger project itself. He did mention someone that is apparently in documentary that airs tonight, or the previous documentary from sunday night, Inside 9/11. During an interview with Patrick Fitzgerald, National Geographic asked him if he would acknowledge that there was a link between Al Qaeda and the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993. Fitzgerald replied, "I'm not prepared to say that at this time." This is five years after 9/11!

After listening to his interview on 810 AM the night before, I also had several follow up questions to things he had mentioned on the air. He had mentioned a connection between Ali Mohamed and Hamburg, which made my ears perk up. However, he clarified in our conversation that this was back in 1984, when the US sent him into a Hamburg mosque to spy on a radical Muslim cleric there. It was not directly related to the later Al Qaeda Hamburg cell of Mohamed Atta and Ramzi Binalshibh. I asked if he had uncovered any link between the Al Quds mosque or a man by the name of Zammar, who had recruited the Al Qaeda Hamburg cell, but he did not recall finding anything about their name. On the radio, he had mentioned that three of the hijackers got their fake IDs made at a storefront with a direct connection to Ali Mohamed. To me it seemed obvious that if the FBI has followed up after his arrest, and staked out the storefront, they might have intercept the 9/11 plot early on. Peter agreed, and said this location was known as the "Jersey Jihad Center". Ali Mohamed had used the location to train other radicals there and show them training videos or Islamic terrorist propaganda. Last but not least I asked him what he thought had happened to Ali Mohamed, since he was never sentenced. He replied that he did not think he was out on the street, but rather in "custodial witness protection" which means that he is behind bars in a federal prison somewhere, but still has the possibility of getting out at some time in the future if he cooperates.

UPDATE: I have made three corrections after forwarding the link to Peter Lance for review. First, he said Schoomaker "may" have been embarassed, not that he "must" have been. He explained, "I don't know for sure if he ever saw the link chart;" Second, I misunderstood the context of the quote from Fitzgerald. He was quoted denying the link between Al Qaeda and the 1993 attack, not Ramzi Yousef and 9/11. If you see the "Inside 9/11" documentary, you can get the exact quote there. Last and perhaps least, the correct American spelling is "Ali Mohamed" not "Mohammed".

Did anyone record 'Inside 9/11'?

Apparently that documentary has new details on Able Danger:

You have seven snappy hours to get up to date on matters September 11 on the National Geographic Channel. It's almost as if the channel has commandeered the franchise on that deadly day. It is mostly excellent documentary duty and, of course, horrifying and depressing and awful. You don't need to be forewarned.

There's the four-hour "Inside 9/11" from 7-11 p.m. Sunday night. This is a freshened version of last year's production, which the network claims as its highest-rated show and scored an audience of 18 million over the two-night airing. (The update will be run again on September 11.)

...In "Inside 9/11," they've added the Zacarias Moussaoui trial, the secret Able Danger Osama hunters, etc. "Final Report" charts the generally stumbling pursuit of bin Laden. There's a misnomer here because there's no final report. Don't get your hopes up.

This was produced by the same company that did the Ali Mohamed documentary.

Three reviews of tonight's documentary

From the New York Times:

About halfway through “Triple Cross: Bin Laden’s Spy in America,” tonight’s enlightening documentary about the Egyptian-born superspy Ali A. Mohamed on the National Geographic Channel, something bizarre happens. A retired Army officer, Robert Anderson, discusses working with Mr. Mohamed at Fort Bragg, N.C., in the late 1980’s. Those were the days when the handsome, audacious spy was cooling his heels in the United States Army.

“I said to him,” Lieutenant Colonel Anderson recalls. “ ‘You know, Anwar Sadat was not only a hero to Egypt, but he was also a hero to the United States, and the entire free world.’

“So his response to me was, ‘He was a traitor, and he had to die.’ ”

That’s when the penny should have dropped, but it didn’t. The bizarre part comes in voice-over. “Colonel Anderson,” says the matter-of-fact narrator, “allows Mohamed to remain in his unit, in spite of his misgivings.”

From the Hartford Courant:

According to the film, based in part on a book by Peter Lance, Mohamed helped stake out East African embassies bombed by al-Qaida in 1998, trained terrorists on the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 and came up with the idea of multiple hijacked aircraft striking major U.S. targets.

Later, in U.S. custody in 2000 and after pleading guilty to five counts of conspiracy to kill Americans and strike U.S. targets around the world, his information was the main source of the famously ignored "Bin Laden Determined to Strike in U.S." memo.

From Bloomberg:

Terrorism expert Steve Emerson, interviewed throughout the program, is awestruck by Mohamed's career.

``I've never seen a terrorist with such a storied background, with his connections to U.S. law enforcement and intelligence,'' he says. Emerson adds that Mohamed also revealed ``bureaucratic crevices'' between the CIA, FBI and military that were so big ``you could drive truck bombs through them.''

Mohamed is thought to be supplying information helpful to the U.S. government from an undisclosed prison cell, and at least one person thinks his final chapter has yet to be written.

David Runke, a defense attorney in the African embassies bombing case, says, ``I think the most likely thing that will happen is he'll be released, he'll be given a new name and a new identity, and he will pick up a life someplace.''

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

California Dreamin' with Ayman Al Zawahiri

One of the more disturbing parts of Paul Thompson's timeline on Ali Mohammed:

Late 1994 or 1995: Islamic Jihad Head Fundraises in US Again

Ali Mohamed helps Ayman al-Zawahiri enter the US for another fundraising tour and acts as his head of security during his stay. At the time, al-Zawahiri is known to have been the head of the militant group Islamic Jihad since the late 1980’s. He is also al-Qaeda’s de facto number two leader, though this is not widely known. This is apparently his third visit to the US after recruiting and fundraising trips in 1989 and 1993 (see Spring 1993) . [New Yorker, 9/9/2002] Al-Zawahiri travels on a passport forged by Mohamed and uses a false name. He pretends to be a doctor for a charity raising money for refugees in Afghanistan, but in fact raises money for his Islamic Jihad group. Some donors know his true purpose, and others do not. According to one security expert, he is also in the US “to see whom he could recruit here, what could be done here—preparing the establishment of a base.” Mohamed and Khaled Abu el-Dahab (see 1987-1998), the two known members of a Santa Clara, California, based al-Qaeda sleeper cell, host al-Zawahiri in Santa Clara and escort him to nearby mosques in Santa Clara, Stockton, and Sacramento. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/11/2001; Chicago Tribune, 12/11/2001] He spends weeks in the US, traveling to other states such as Texas and New York to raise money from mosques there as well. He raises as much as $500,000. El-Dahab is later told some of the money collected is used later in the year to fund bombing of Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, killing 17 diplomats. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/11/2001] Accounts on the timing of the trip are vague, and differ as to whether it took place in late 1994 or some time in 1995. Perhaps coincidentally, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother in law, is arrested in mid-December 1994 in Morgan Hill, California, approximately 30 miles from Santa Clara. The FBI finds and quickly translates literature in Khalifa’s luggage advocating training in assassination, explosives, and weapons, bombing churches, and murdering Catholic priests, but seemingly inexplicably, they deport him a few months later (see December 16, 1994-May 1995). Two directors of President Clinton’s National Security Council’s counterterrorism team later will claim that they did not learn of al-Zawahiri’s trips until 1999, and even then they only learned about it by accident and were unable to get the FBI to reveal any more about the trips (see 1999).

Here is a link to the earier trip, also coordinated by Ali Mohammed.

New article by Rory O'Connor

Posted at and

Another 9/11 Coverup in the Making?

Despite the best efforts of the Pentagon to keep the lid on, the story of Able Danger -- the controversial secret military intelligence program that purportedly identified five active al-Qaeda cells and four of the 9/11 hijackers more than a year before the worst terror attacks ever on American soil -- continues to make news.

The latest wrinkle is a nasty public spat between the National Geographic Channel, which plans to broadcast "Triple Cross: Bin Laden's Spy in America" on Aug. 28, and author Peter Lance, whose new book forms the basis of the documentary.

Lance is an Emmy-winning former reporter-producer for ABC News. His book, "Triple Cross," which will be released in September, accuses law enforcement officials of negligence in tracking down Ali Mohamed, an alleged al-Qaeda agent in the United States for years before Sept. 11. The book says Mohamed was hired by the CIA and worked for the FBI, all the while providing information to the terrorists. The book also contains, according to Lance, "a major new insight" into why the Pentagon killed the Able Danger operation in April 2000.

It involves the discovery by Able Danger operatives that Ali Mohamed was a member of Osama bin Laden's inner circle. Mohamed turned up in FBI surveillance photos as early as 1989, training radical Muslims who would go on to assassinate Jewish militant Meir Kahane and detonate a truck bomb at the World Trade Center. He not only avoided arrest, but managed to become an FBI informant while smuggling bin Laden in and out of Afghanistan, writing most of the al-Qaeda terrorist manual and helping plan attacks on American troops in Somalia and U.S. embassies in Africa. Finally arrested in 1998, Mohamed cut a deal with the Justice Department, and his whereabouts remain shrouded, unknown.

''The FBI allowed the chief spy for al-Qaeda to operate right under their noses,'' Lance said. ''They let him plan the bombings of the embassies in Africa right under their noses. Two hundred twenty-four people were killed and more than 4,000 wounded because of their negligence."

Lance contends that when Pentagon officials realized how embarrassing it would be if it were revealed that bin Laden's spy had stolen top-secret intelligence (including the positions of all Green Beret and SEAL units worldwide), they decided to bury the entire Able Danger program. Lance further states that his book also contains evidence that Patrick Fitzgerald (of later Scooter Libby/Valerie Plame fame) covered up key al-Qaeda intelligence in 1996, when he was then an assistant U.S. attorney in New York. To Lance, Fitzgerald was "one of the principal players in the government's negligence, who engaged in an affirmative coverup of key al-Qaeda-related intelligence in 1996."

Lance believes "Fitzgerald was hopelessly outgunned by Mohamed, a hardened al-Qaeda spy, who was bin Laden's personal security advisor." Despite two face-to-face meetings with Mohamed, whom Fitzgerald called "the most dangerous man I've ever met," he left him on the street, which allowed Mohamed -- who actually planned the surveillance for the African Embassy bombings -- to help pull off that simultaneous act of terror in Kenya and Tanzania on August 7, 1998, in which 224 died and more than 4,000 were injured....

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Peter Lance on KGO 810 AM tonight


If you are on the west coast, Lance will be on KGO 810 AM tonight at 7 PM PDT with everyone’s favorite Libertarian Gene Burns. They should have audio on their site if you can’t get the signal.

UPDATE: Lance was on for the full three hours. He cited hundreds of facts and references from memory and covered a lot of material. One thing that caught my ear was new evidence, apparently related to the Kahane murder from 1991 which relates to a store near the Al Farooq mosque in Brooklyn. Apparently, Lance has learned three of the 9/11 hijackers obtained fake IDs at the same place ten years later, in 2001. Obviously, if the FBI had staked the place out, they might have disrupted the plot, considering that I believe the same hijackers were also on their terror watch lists.

He mentioned Rory O'Connor and Scott Malone, to include their work on the subject. In a strange twist at the end, it almost sounded to me like Ali Mohammed's wife - who Lance said lives in the Bay Area - called in using the name Lydia and made a veiled threat, asking if he feared being killed.

Anyway, it was a very interesting interview. I will check if I can get audio.

National Geographic whitewash hits the wires

UPI just picked up the story:

Former ABC News reporter Peter Lance says a U.S. National Geographic Channel documentary on al-Qaida based on his book is a distortion.

The winner of five Emmy awards said the cable channel's "Triple Cross: Bin Laden's Spy in America," scheduled to air Aug. 28, "skews the documentary so much in favor of the feds that it actually distorts the factual story."

Lance's book, "Triple Cross," which will be released in September, accuses law enforcement officials of negligence in tracking down Ali Mohamed, an alleged al-Qaida agent in the United States for years before Sept. 11, Daily Variety reported.

The book says Mohamed was hired by the CIA and worked for the FBI, all the while providing information to terrorists.

National Geographic's Executive Vice President of Programming John Ford said the organization's producers never intended to base the documentary solely on the book.

"It's also based on our own independent research," Ford said. "I think he wants this show to reflect his own personal conclusions."

The disagreement began in June when Lance said he did not receive promised transcripts of interviews with law-enforcement officers he criticizes in his book.

Ford said Lance was "using this controversy to promote his book."

But Lance said, "They hijacked my work."

As you can see, National Geographic is still using Lance's title, "Triple Cross".

Monday, August 21, 2006

What National Geographic is afraid to air

From Peter Lance's August 17th press release. An excerpt from his June 19th letter to National Geographic:

In the fascinating case, Dana Ewell, the 21 year old heir to an eight million dollar fortune -- with malice aforethought -- hired a hitman to shoot his parents and 24 year old sister in cold blood. Special Agent Zent was the key alibi witness. His daughter Monica was Ewell’s financé and received almost $40,000 after the murders from Ewell whom the FSO proved with an iron-tight case of forensic and eyewitness testimony engineered the murders labeled Fresno’s “crime of the decade.”

The evidence showed that not only Zent interfered and possibly obstruct the investigation, but six years after the crimes he testified as a character witness for Dana, prompting the lead detective to tell me that Zent was “absolutely the worst possible FBI agent to be monitoring a terrorist like Ali Mohamed.”

...I also discovered a key May 8th, 1995 letter from Ellen Corcella, a prosecutor in the EDNY disclosing eight separate instances where SSA R. Lindley DeVecchio had given FBI intelligence to mob killer Gregory Scarpa Sr. and that this unholy alliance between the G-man and the hit man may have explained why the Feds of the NYO and SDNY buried a treasure trove of al Qaeda related evidence in 1996 at a crucial time when they were purportedly trying to connect the dots on Ali Mohamed.

This letter was prima facie evidence from the Feds own files that totally undermined James Kallstrom, former ADIC of the FBI’s NYO who claimed in a 4/10/96 memo to Louis Freeh that there was “insufficient evidence” to form a prosecutive opinion on DeVecchio and pushed for the DeVecchio OPR to be shut down.

...Three weeks ago I uncovered a link chart dated 3.21.00 sent to me by Jacob L. Boesen, the principal builder of link charts for Operation Able Danger. With a picture of Ali Mohamed smack dab in the middle of a box outlining bin Laden’s inner circle which included Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Mohammed Atef, Mohammed Khalifa and Wadih-El-Hage, the chart was proof of why the U.S. Army went along with an order a week later in April 2000 to destroy 2.5 terabytes of data uncovered by Able Danger analysts.

The data vindicated my research in 1000 YEARS and COVER UP and showed a DIRECT LINK between al Qaeda’s inner circle (which included Ali M) and the New York cell of blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman as well as the Yousef–KSM Manila cell.

...All three of these stunning findings which I uncovered during the month of May related DIRECTLY to the Ali Mohamed story that was the basis of my new book. All three of them should have been in the latest draft of the script.


As the treatment you bought reflects, TRIPLE CROSS has always been about two issues a) what Ali Mohamed did to deceive three U.S. intelligence agencies and b) how he was able to deceive them, particularly the FBI.

To tell the Ali Mohamed story while not telling the full and accurate story of the stunning series of missteps by the NYO and SDNY, the two bin Laden “offices of origin,” would be to do a disservice not only to your viewers, but to the American people and it would further breach your commitment to me to accurately reflect my book TRIPLE CROSS in your documentary.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Comings and Goings of Ali A. Mohamed

The post below piqued my curiosity about the life of Ali A. Mohamed, an FBI informant, who had served in the US military as well as the Egyptian military. I spent a few hours reading about him in the New York Times archives (subscription required). Sure enough, what I've been reading about this terrorist is confirmed by several articles in the Times, going back many years. I was going to write a timeline of Mohamed's life, but I found an excellent one in the San Francisco Chronicle here. And, unbelievably, there is no record that this terrorist has been sentenced for his crimes.

Here's Wikipedia:
"While he was subpoenad in Rahman's trial, Ali Mohammed was not arrested until years later — on 10 September 1998, when he attempted to flee to Egypt after being subpoenaed in the aftermath of the embassy bombings in Nairobi and Tanzania. After eight months of imprisonment without trial, Ali Mohammed entered a guilty plea in May 1999. What happened after that is unclear. The trial proceeded, but there is no record of any sentencing or even a conviction. As late as February
, 2002, CBS News reported that "Mohammad pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing."[2] There has been no further news of his whereabouts, his sentencing, or whether he was released."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Author: Terror spy show a TV whitewash

UPDATE: Here is a detailed press release from Peter Lance describing the whitewash. In essence, National Geographic told Lance the documentary would be based on his book, would mention his book, and he would get to write the script. These are some of the considerations which led him to sell them the rights to the book in the first place. Instead, an outside production company was hired who rewrote the whole show from the perspective of some of the very FBI investigators who Lance accuses in his book of near criminal negligence. When Lance objected to the biased pro-FBI slant of the rewrite, instead of considering his objections, National Geographic decided to change the title of the documentary so they could go forward without him - despite the fact that the entire documentary is based on the research that he did for his book:

They took a documentary based entirely on my work which was highly critical of the negligence of agents like Cloonan and former AUSA Patrick Fitzgerald - currently the U.S. Attorney for Chicago and Special Prosecutor in the CIA leak case - and make it appear that they were somehow on top of the Ali Mohamed scandal.

From the Miami Herald Friday:

An investigative journalist says his book on a Sept. 11 coverup has been mangled by documentary makers who want him to sign a `non-disparagment agreement.'


What was already expected to be a controversial documentary that charges that Osama bin Laden's top spy infiltrated three different branches of U.S. national security has gotten even hotter, with veteran investigative reporter Peter Lance calling the TV documentary based on his book a whitewash that's ``like doing Schindler's List from Hitler's perspective.''

The documentary, Triple Cross, is scheduled to air on the National Geographic Channel Aug. 28, with Lance's book of the same name set for publication a few weeks later. But their accounts of the way bin Laden's master spy Ali A. Mohamed outwitted the CIA, the FBI and the U.S. Army may be overshadowed by the acrimonious war of words between Lance and the network.

Lance, who in early treatments of the Triple Cross script functioned as the on-screen narrator, was so infuriated by the program's eventual direction that he refused to appear. National Geographic's producers at one point held back transcripts of interviews they were supposed to share with Lance, and still won't let him see the final documentary unless he signs what they call a ``non-disparagment agreement.''

As the dispute has mushroomed, some sources interviewed for the Triple Cross documentary have contacted National Geographic, asking to be removed from the program.

''We went in under the impression that this documentary was based on Peter Lance's book and his findings,'' said Russ Caso, chief of staff to U.S. Rep. Curt Weldon, R-Pa., whose office has investigated the Mohamed case. ``But after a while, we didn't think National Geographic was doing a 100 percent job. . . . We felt we weren't looking at an unbiased piece.''

Though screen adaptations of novels often turn rancorous, it's virtually unknown in the world of documentaries, where authors usually work closely with filmmakers who buy the rights to their books. ''It's probably happened before,'' said John Ford, executive vice president of programming at National Geographic Channel, ``but I can't tell you when. I certainly don't know of a case.''

Ford says his network stands behind the documentary, which underwent its finishing touches just this week. And he strongly denies that it's a puff piece or whitewash.

''It exposes how different parts of the U.S. national security apparatus failed to connect the dots on Ali Mohamed over a decade and a half,'' he said. ``They all had information that could have shut him down, if they'd shared it. It's like a Tom Clancy thriller, but true.''

Mohamed turned up in FBI surveillance photos as early as 1989, training radical Muslims who would go on to assassinate Jewish militant Meir Kahane and detonate a truck bomb at the World Trade Center. He not only avoided arrest, but managed to become an FBI informant at the same time he was smuggling bin Laden in and out of Afghanistan, writing most of the al Qaeda terrorist manual and helping plan attacks on American troops in Somalia and U.S. embassies in Africa.

Finally arrested in 1998, Mohamed cut a deal with the Justice Department. His whereabouts remain shrouded in official secrecy.

Lance, an Emmy winner who spent nine years as a producer-reporter at ABC, was one of the first journalists on the trail of the Mohamed story. He documented parts of it in two earlier books, 1000 Years For Revenge and Cover Up, both harshly critical of government counterterrorism efforts, especially at the FBI. He says Triple Cross will be the toughest yet.

''The FBI allowed the chief spy for al Qaeda to operate right under their noses,'' Lance said. ''They let him plan the bombings of the embassies in Africa right under their noses. Two hundred twenty-four people were killed and more than 4,000 wounded because of their negligence.'' When the FBI finally realized what was happening, he said, it buried the story to hide not just its kid-gloves treatment of Mohamed, but other misbehavior by agents in the case.

But early versions of the documentary script, Lance said, made it look just the opposite. FBI agents and Justice Department officials were interviewed sympathetically and at length, he said. ''The overwhelming impression was that the FBI was on top of Ali Mohamed,'' Lance said. ``It was outrageous. . . . They hijacked my research and watered down key findings in order to appease some prominent feds.''

National Geographic's Ford, however, denied that the network cozied up to the FBI: ``Peter wanted us to include accusations and conclusions in our documentary that we could not independently verify, and we weren't willing to do that.''

Lance retorted that it was ``reprehensible for them to suggest there was anything in my research they couldn't confirm. If there were, why didn't they just call me up and ask?''

Ultimately, however, Ford said it was the network's call to make. ''In our contract,'' he said, ``we had final editorial control.''

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

National Geographic proud of new documentary


Nat Geo Commissions Doc on “Bin Laden’s Spy”

WASHINGTON, August 15: National Geographic Channels International (NGCI) and National Geographic Channel have commissioned Towers Productions — the team behind Inside 9/11 — to produce Bin Laden’s Spy in America.

The two-hour special will premiere in the U.S. on August 28, followed by an international rollout on September 10. The special will be a key offering for NGCI at MIPCOM, according to Germaine Deagan Sweet, NGCI’s director of program syndication. “It’s one of the best we’ve been able to put out,” she says.

Bin Laden’s Spy in America tells the story of an ex-Egyptian Special Forces Major who joined the U.S. Army and infiltrated the U.S. intelligence community while working for terrorist organizations like Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al Qaeda. “It is frightening in not only the level of detail, but the deception, and the information he was able to access,” Deagan Sweet says.

The documentary is in part based on the upcoming investigative book Triple Cross by Peter Lance.

Sydney Suissa, the EVP of content at NGCI, said of the special, “It’s far more riveting than any spy novel could ever be.”

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Mark Your Calendars

Peter Lance's new book and related documentary, which should reveal new details about Able Danger, are coming to bookstores and TV sets near you in the next two to three weeks:

Triple Cross
How Bin Laden's Chief Security Adviser Penetrated the CIA, the FBI, and the Green Berets
By Peter Lance

Price: $27.95
On Sale: 9/5/2006
Formats: Hardcover | E-Book

The two hour documentary based on the book is also supposed to mention Able Danger. You can see the promotional materials and a trailer here.

Here is a press release from National Geographic about the documentary.

It will air on the National Geographic Channel, August 28th:

9P Triple Cross: Bin Laden's Spy in America
Triple Cross: Bin Laden's Spy in America [N/A]
Also airs: Tuesday, August 29
Tuesday, September 5

11P The Hunt for Zarqawi
The Hunt for Zarqawi [TV-PG]

12A Triple Cross: Bin Laden's Spy in America
Triple Cross: Bin Laden's Spy in America [N/A]
Also airs: Tuesday, September 5
Wednesday, September 6

2A The Final Report
Waco Tragedy [TV-PG]
Also airs: Tuesday, September 5

No Need to Waste Your Money

I picked up a copy of the new book by Kean and Hamilton, and will post the relevant excerpts later tonight. They did mention Able Danger, but only to rehash the exact same dismissive words they have used elsewhere.

UPDATE: Here are the excerpts as promised.

From page 112:

Logistically, this kind of trip is hard to arrange. We sent a very small delegation: Zelikow; Kevin Scheid, the head of our staff team looking at intelligence; Mike Hurley, the head of our team looking at counterterrorism policy, as well as team member Dan Byman; and Dietrich Snell, the head of our team investigating the 9/11 plot. Afghanistan is a war zone, and Saudi Arabia and Pakistan are dangerous for Westerners, particularly U.S. officials. Our staff needed armed guards at times, but we wanted to keep these details small. Travel was by military or CIA aircraft, and to facilitate a busy itenerary the delegation needed to be small enough to travel by helicopter.

So, Snell was at Bagram after all.

From page 114:

One meeting that has since drawn attention regarded a pre-9/11 Department of Defense program. On October 21, at Bagram Airbase, Zelikow and two of our staff met with three intelligence officials from the U.S. Defense Department; an executive branch minder was present. One of these witnesses referred to a pre-9/11 program known as Able Danger, which was used to develop information about al Qaeda.

In August 2005, a year after our report came out, Congressman Curt Weldon publicly alleged that the Department of Defense intelligence officer had told our staff that Mohammed Atta - a 9/11 pilot and the attack ringleader - had been under surveillance before 9/11 as part of the Able Danger program. Yet none of our staff at that meeting recalled Mohammed Atta's name being mentioned; nor did the executive branch minder. The MFR prepared shortly after that meeting makes no mention of Atta. As each of our staff members has said to us, if Mohammed Atta's name had come up as being under surveillance, they certainly would have remembered it. Immediately after the Bagram Airbase interview, we made requests to the Department of Defense for Able Danger documents. None of those documents made any mention of Mohammed Atta or any other future 9/11 hijackers.

Certainly would have remembered it? Indeed:

At the end of the meeting, Philip Zelikow approaches him and says, “This is important. We need to continue this dialogue when we get back to the states.” [Government Security News, 9/2005] Following the meeting, Zelikow calls back to the 9/11 Commission’s headquarters in Washington to request that staff draft a document request, seeking information on Able Danger from the Department of Defense. [Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton, 8/12/2005] According to Anthony Shaffer, “My understanding from talking to another member of the press is that [Zelikow’s] call came into America at four o clock in the morning. He got people out of bed over this.” [Government Security News, 9/2005]

From page 294:

Another item that surfaced in early July was the "Able Danger" Department of Defense surveillance program that our staff had been briefed on in Afghanistan. On July 12, Dietrich Snell interviewed Captain Scott Phillpott, who requested the meeting. At that point, ou staff had received all of the Department of Defense documents on Able Danger and had found no mention of Atta, though there had been mention of the al Qaeda operative Mohammed Atef.

Phillpott told Snell he recalled seeing the name and photo of Mohammed Atta on an "analyst's notebook chart" involved in Able Danger before 9/11 - in other words, Able Danger had managed to get Mohammed Atta under surveillance. Phillpott said he saw this chart only briefly, and that it dated from the period February - April 2000.

There was no documentary evidence whatsoever to back up Phillpott's sensational claim. Phillpott himself had not performed the analysis, not could he explain what information had led to this supposed identification of Atta by Able Danger. In addition to the lack of documentary evidence from Able Danger, there was no corroboration of Phillpott's account by any information from within the U.S. government, or by German government sources that had tracked the Hamburg cell. Phillpott's account also failed to match up with detailed evidence compiled by our staff documenting Atta's travels, activities, and entry into the United States, including from the INS and State Department records. Snell concluded that the officer's account was not sufficiently reliable to warrant inclusion in the report or further investigation. This conclusion was not a challenge to Captain Phillpott's good intentions; the tip he provided just did not check out.

Just did not check out? Which is why they decided it was not worth checking out? That sounds like circular logic to me. For instance, they could have asked to talk to the analyst who compiled the chart, and still had a copy when Phillpott met with Snell. Regardless, my understanding is that several large media outlets have in fact checked it out and found it did check out indeed. Stay tuned for more details which should come out in "special reports" from a few major news sources next month.

From page 317:

The arguments about 9/11 did not end with the publication of our report. For instance, over the summer of 2005, Congressman Curt Weldon repeatedly accused us of overlooking the importance of Able Danger, the Department of Defense open-source data-mining program. We dispute the facts of Congressman Weldon's charge - that Able Danger identified Mohammed Atta before 9/11 and that he gave then Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen Hadley an Able Danger chart with Atta's name on it on September 25, 2001, a chart developed in 1999 (Weldon made the charge in his June 2005 book, Countdown to Terror). Hadley has no recollection of such a chart and no such chart has been found in the records of the National Security Council. To date, despite extensive reviews by the Department of Defense and the Senate Intelligence Committee, no chart - or any other Able Danger document that had been created before 9/11 - has been found that includes Atta's name of any other hijacker's name.

The absense of any documents supporting the charge, the manifold contradictions in the statements made about Able Danger by Weldon and others, the improbability - if not impossibility - of the program's ability to identify Atta, and the simple fact that people can have faulty memories about what took place years in the past, led us to the conclusion that Able Danger just did not do what Weldon said it did. Yet there will be other "Able Dangers" in the years to come; it is always possible for new information to emerge. That information should be reviewed on its merits, and we are happy to welcome that information into the dialogue on 9/11.

Well, my understanding is that the Inspector General may have in fact recovered such a chart. Regardless, as far as the Hadley story goes, if the chart was not handed over at the meeting, why was Dr. Eileen Priesser from the Able Danger project at the meeting? Why do Chris Shays and Dan Burton, who also attended the meeting, back Congressman Weldon up on this?

The answer is simple. The 9/11 Commission did not get all the facts because it did not want to get all the facts. In that regard, it might truly be without precedent.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Without Precedent?

From the Wall Street Journal:

Behind the 9/11 Report

Co-chairmen of the commission detail how the investigation unfolded. But a question remains: Was their work as effective as their publicity?


Without Precedent By Thomas H. Kean and Lee H. Hamilton

Knopf, 370 pages

In July 2004, the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, popularly known as the 9/11 Commission, published its final report. Coming in the midst of the presidential campaign, it won the quick endorsement of both candidates and wide acceptance in the media. In "Without Precedent," the commission's co-chairmen, Thomas Kean and Lee Hamilton, offer an inside account of their investigation of the 9/11 tragedy. The book's title is somewhat of a misnomer. There were of course dozens of precedents for high-level bipartisan inquiries, such as the Warren Commission's investigation of the JFK assassination. More to the point, there was a precedent for the investigation of the 9/11 attack: the Joint Inquiry by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. Indeed, the 9/11 Commission was required to use the Joint Inquiry's report as its starting point and to limit itself to fill in what that report had not already covered.

The most notable difference between these two investigations was their public relations -- or, in Messrs. Kean and Hamilton's apt phrase, their "public face." The co-chairmen assumed that it was vital to be perceived "as having full access to the most secretive material in the government." To build this impression, they recount in the book how they prevailed in their battle for information with a secretive Bush administration, an evasive military bureaucracy and recalcitrant New York City officials.

They also had to cultivate the media. So both chairmen appeared on the TV talk shows, gave joint press interviews and did everything possible to build an aura of openness around the investigation -- hoping to avoid, as they explained, "the kinds of conspiracy theorizing that have followed in the wake of other inquiries."

For the commission to succeed, Messrs. Kean and Hamilton had to nurture the impression that the commissioners had seen all the evidence regarding 9/11 and had independently assessed it. In reality, however, the 9/11 Commission was neither exhaustive nor independent. If the investigation had truly been as exhaustive as advertised, it would have made a genuine effort to weigh evidence that ran counter to its thesis.

But it did not. Consider how the 9/11 Commission dealt with Capt. Scott Phillpott, a high-ranking naval intelligence officer who asserted that through data mining his military intelligence unit, code-named Able Danger, had identified Mohamed Atta as a potential terrorist in 2000 and even had his photograph on a chart. Since the staff could not find any such chart in the documents that it had obtained from the Pentagon, and because Capt. Phillpott's account "failed to match up" with the staff's conclusion that Atta was unknown to U.S. intelligence prior to 9/11, this putative identification of Atta was omitted from the commission's report (and a number of commissioners were not informed about it).

Later, the Pentagon said that at least four other intelligence officers in the unit had confirmed that they had seen the photograph of Atta or recalled hearing Atta's name prior to 9/11. The Pentagon also explained one possible reason the chart with Atta's photo was missing: The military had destroyed many Able Danger records in 2001.

To be sure, there were reasons to be skeptical about eye-witness accounts, but an exhaustive investigation would have at least heard them. Nor was the 9/11 Commission able to independently evaluate or verify crucial information it received from intelligence agencies. Although the CIA had imprisoned seven al Qaeda conspirators who had planned, directed and coordinated the 9/11 attack, the agency refused to give the commission access to the prisoners. In the case of the Warren Commission, Chief Justice Earl Warren went to Jack Ruby's prison cell to personally question Oswald's killer. In the case of the 9/11 Commission, the commissioners were not allowed to speak to, see or know the whereabouts of conspirators.

The commission could not even question the prisoners' CIA interrogators about the way information had been obtained from them. The co-chairmen admit in "Without Precedent" that they "had no way of evaluating the credibility of detainee information." But apparently that did not discourage them from accepting, essentially at face value, information from the prisoners, delivered via a CIA "project manager," if it would fill in gaps in the commission's investigation.

For example, the CIA reported that one key prisoner, Ramzi Binalshibh, had said co-conspirator Atta "did not meet with anyone" when he went to Prague in June 2000 -- even though Binalshibh himself was not in Prague and had no first-hand knowledge. He further alleged that on another two journeys, Atta went to Spain solely to talk with him and met no other conspirator -- but Binalshibh was not in Spain during all of Atta's visits. And, again through the medium of the CIA project manager, Binalshibh informed commissioners that Osama bin Laden would not have allowed Atta to meet with an Iraqi intelligence officer because the al Qaeda leader was upset with Saddam Hussein's treatment of Muslims.

Even though such contributions were indeed unverifiable -- particularly the one that required Binalshibh to read bin Laden's mind -- the 9/11 Commission came to rely on this information, giving it the benefit of the doubt when conflicting information surfaced.

For instance, the commission uncovered CIA documents that threatened to complicate matters by dragging Iran into the 9/11 conspiracy: The documents revealed that Iran had "apparently facilitated" the travel of most of the 9/11 "muscle hijackers" in flights from Afghanistan by not stamping their passports, and that Imad Mugniyah, the Hezbollah terrorist group's infamous chief of terrorist operations, had flown with the hijackers. But the commissioners merely referred the "troubling" matter to the CIA project manager. At that point, the report was only one week away from publication. The project manager quickly ran the information past the agency's prisoners and sent a reply back "just in time for inclusion in the Report," Messrs. Kean and Hamilton write. Result: "We found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack." Such CIA feeds permitted the commission to hew to its theory that al Qaeda carried out 9/11 with no help from any outside party or government.

With this book, Messrs. Kean and Hamilton have shown how a government-appointed commission managed to create the appearance, if not the reality, of an exhaustive independent investigation and artfully transformed itself into a lobby for the reorganization of the intelligence establishment. Now that is without precedent.

Mr. Epstein is the author of "Inquest: The Warren Commission and the Establishment of Truth," and he is currently writing a book about the 9/11 Commission.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Another Reason 9/11 Could Have Been Stopped

While it is not clear if the book mentions Able Danger, Rory O'Connor has a review of "The Looming Tower: Al Qaeda and the Road to 9/11" by Lawrence Wright and an interview with the author. The book hits bookstores tomorrow and I'll definitely be picking up a copy. If nothing else, it makes crystal clear the type of bureaucratic issues and infighting that let 9/11 ever happen in the first place. Those familiar with the story of Able Danger will not be shocked to hear this:

How to explain this astonishing failure? One theory has it that the CIA may have been trying to turn the two Al Qaeda members into double agents as a means of infiltrating the terror group. "Half the guys in the Bureau think CIA was trying to turn them to get inside Al Qaeda," Wright told me. "It's never been proven, but it's extremely suggestive that this was a failed CIA operation to recruit them." If so, that would at least explain why, when FBI Cole investigator Ali Soufran repeatedly queried the CIA about the meeting in Malaysia -- attended not only by the Cole bombers but also by the two 9/11 hijackers -- the information about al-Mihdhar and al-Hamzi was withheld.

And what of the other, egregious and repeated intelligence failures that resulted in the worst terror attacks ever on US soil? Were they also due to bureaucratic bungling and turf wars, as some have suggested? Were they instead the result of a bi-partisan attempt to cover-up ongoing intelligence failures dating back several administrations? Or, as some have suggested, was the intelligence community simply drowning in the tsunami of pre-attack "threat assessments" and warnings that were flooding in during the months leading up to 9/11?

"What is the explanation?" Wright asks rhetorically. "Turf wars? A bipartisan cover-up? Drowning in threats? Can I choose 'All of the above?'"

Wright cites a post-attack report on the CIA failures by the Department of Justice's Inspector General. "There are lots of reasons to release the report, and lots of culpability there," he says. "The CIA failed in its moral and legal obligations. Yet the report is still secret."

Nor is the National Security Agency blameless, says Wright. "NSA also has lots of complicity," he says. "The agency had crucial information that it did not share with the FBI either." The NSA, for example, had been monitoring Al Qaeda telephone calls after the US embassy bombings to a number in Yemen. "That number was called by Osama bin Ladin both before and after the embassy bombings. Khaled al-Mihdhar was the son-in-law of the guy whose phone it was. He called there from California eight times! Had the NSA shared its information, the FBI could have mapped the entire global Al Qaeda network."

In conclusion, Wright says he believes that "All the clues were there, but the pieces were in different people's hands and were never put together." More disturbingly, he believes that we are no safer today than we were five years ago.

"So many in the US intelligence community are demoralized and drifting away," he reports. "Moreover, the reorganization of our intelligence hierarchy has done nothing to make the situation better. Instead, it's only muddied things further. The lines of responsibility are not at all clear. Who's responsible? Who's in charge? It's only gotten worse since 9/11."

Saturday, August 05, 2006

9/11 Commissioners are selling a new book

Oh, for the love of God. The commissioners are selling a new book about themselves. Interesting. Of course, it was actually the staff not the commission who wrote the report. Anyway, who do they think they're kidding? Without precedent? Heard of the Warren Commission?

Without Precedent: The Inside Story of the 9/11 Commission

Thomas H. Kean, Lee Hamilton

Pub. Date: August 15, 2006


In the words of the commission's co-chairmen, this is the compelling inside story of how the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States-more commonly known as the 9/11 Commission-managed to succeed against all odds in producing a report that made clear what went wrong and why. The mandate of the 9/11 Commission was daunting and all-encompassing. In its investigation of the events leading up to and including September 11, 2001, the commission had to examine U.S. diplomacy, military policy, intelligence agencies, law enforcement, border and aviation security, and congressional oversight, as well as the immediate response to the terrorist attacks, while also investigating the lethal enemy al Qaeda. The creation of the 9/11 Commission was blocked for months by the Bush administration, and after its inception in December 2002 the commission spent months mired in a series of controversies-the resignation of its first chairman, Henry Kissinger, and vice-chairman, George Mitchell; an inadequate budget; an extraordinarily polarized atmosphere leading up to the 2004 presidential election; the conflicting demands of various interest groups; the distrust of the victims' families; difficulties in obtaining access to highly classified documents and to al Qaeda detainees; and a media eager to record stumbles and gaffes. The obstacles were great, and the expectations for a blue-ribbon panel are never high-yet somehow the 9/11 Commission overcame everything that might have thwarted it and succeeded beyond anyone's greatest expectation, holding a series of hearings that riveted the nation, producing a unanimous and widely heralded report that became a national best seller,and issuing recommendations that led to the most significant reform of America's national security agencies in decades. The 9/11 Commission report slaked the national thirst for accountability. Here for the first time is the story of how the commission came together to produce its landmark document.

Publishers Weekly

A re-creation of the inner workings of a government commission threatens to be a dry bureaucratic procedural, but the 9/11 Commission was so politically fraught that its story is compelling in its own right. Chairman Kean and vice-chair Hamilton detail the commission's fight with Congress for more money and time; its wranglings with the Bush administration to win access to witnesses and classified documents; its delicate relations with victims' families, who were its harshest critics and staunchest champions; its strategic use of public censure to wring concessions from recalcitrant officials; and the forging of a bipartisan consensus among fractious Republican and Democratic commissioners. Their tone is evenhanded and diplomatic, but some adversaries-NORAD, the FAA, House Republicans-get singled out as stumbling blocks to the investigation. The authors cogently defend the compromises they made and swat conspiracy theories about coverups, but critics unhappy with the commission's refusal to "point fingers" or its lukewarm resistance to White House claims of executive privilege may not be satisfied. The issues the commission wrestled with-official incapacity to prevent disaster, the government's use and misuse of intelligence, presidential accountability-are still in the headlines, which makes this lucid, absorbing account of its work very timely. Photos. (Aug. 15) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Why do I have a feeling the book will not mention Able Danger at all. Or that if it does, it will be downplayed or relegated to a footnote, just like the commission did with most of the important information in it's report.

From Fox News:

Sept. 11 Commissioners' Book Details Internal Disputes

The Sept. 11 commission was so frustrated with repeated misstatements by the Pentagon and FAA about their response to the 2001 terror attacks that it considered an investigation into possible deception, the panel's chairmen say in a new book.

Republican Thomas Kean and Democrat Lee Hamilton also say in "Without Precedent" that their panel was too soft in questioning former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani — and that the 20-month investigation may have suffered for it.

The book, a behind-the-scenes look at the investigation, recounts obstacles the authors say were thrown up by the Bush administration, internal disputes over President Bush's use of the attacks as a reason for invading Iraq, and the way the final report avoided questioning whether U.S. policy in the Middle East may have contributed to the attacks.

Kean and Hamilton said the commission found it mind-boggling that authorities had asserted during hearings that their air defenses had reacted quickly and were prepared to shoot down United Airlines Flight 93, which appeared headed toward Washington.

In fact, the commission determined — after it subpoenaed audiotapes and e-mails of the sequence of events — that the shootdown order did not reach North American Aerospace Command pilots until after all of the hijacked planes had crashed.

Thanks to Mark at Regime of Terror Blog for the tip.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Curt Weldon's Opponent Campaigning in Uniform

Via QT Monster:

Violating the Military Code: Curt Weldon's Opponent Campaigning in Uniform

So who does Joe Sestak think he is? In what country does he think he's living? Looks like Sestak thinks he's in Cuba or some such. The new blog, Army of Curt, has the photo (along with the links). What a disgrace, pretty creepy actually:

Weldon's opponent Joe Sestak was caught red handed by the Delco Times campaigning in full military dress, a clear violation of the military code

Read the whole thing.

Nothing but office space?

The allegations do not specifically address Able Danger, or even pre-9/11 intelligence, but remember this quote from Ron Suskind while you read the new allegations of criminal conduct by the Pentagon during the investigation of 9/11:

The vast federal government, under stress, does not work quite so efficiently as a single mind. It has protective urges, competing agendas, rules for who does what and who represents actions to the citizenry, the sovereign, the bosses; it accomplishes a great deal, yes, but is defined often by its dysfunctions. And that means it lies and dissembles, hides what it can, and sometimes acts out of self-preservation, because without your trust it is nothing but office space.

From the Washington Post, via Regime of Terror Blog:

Some staff members and commissioners of the Sept. 11 panel concluded that the Pentagon's initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public rather than a reflection of the fog of events on that day, according to sources involved in the debate.

Suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004, debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation, according to several commission sources. Staff members and some commissioners thought that e-mails and other evidence provided enough probable cause to believe that military and aviation officials violated the law by making false statements to Congress and to the commission, hoping to hide the bungled response to the hijackings, these sources said.

In the end, the panel agreed to a compromise, turning over the allegations to the inspectors general for the Defense and Transportation departments, who can make criminal referrals if they believe they are warranted, officials said.

"We to this day don't know why NORAD [the North American Aerospace Command] told us what they told us," said Thomas H. Kean, the former New Jersey Republican governor who led the commission. "It was just so far from the truth. . . . It's one of those loose ends that never got tied."

You can read the transcripts for yourself. From Captain Ed:

The commission complained early about the spin coming from the Department of Defense and from aviation officials in reconstructing the events of the day. DoD officials blamed sketchy records of the day's events for the confusion on timing. For instance, testimony indicated that the Air Force had tracked United 93 and would have shot the plane down had it approached Washington, but tapes subpoenaed by the Commission later revealed that the military had no idea about United 93 until it had crashed.

The tapes told a much different story than the witnesses, and the Commission was understandably upset that these witnesses gave them demonstrably false information two years or more after the events in question. The DoD could have reviewed the tapes themselves and figured out the facts. Commissioners felt that it approached perjury and wanted to have them prosecuted after they finallly got the tapes through the hostile manuever of subpoenas.

In the end, they allowed the DoD and DoT inspectors general to review the matter. Reports from both are expected shortly as to whether the testimony given was knowingly false. If so, the DoJ should consider prosecution.

However, we should also keep in mind the balls-up that the Commission became. While their recreation of the day's events was excellent work, the rest of their effort produced nothing but the bureaucratic spin of which they accuse the DoD. The inclusion on Jamie Gorelick even after her role promoting the extralegal separation of law enforcement and intelligence units became clear skewed the panel's point of view. She should have been a witness, not a panel member, as she was too much of a participant in the activities that led to the intelligence failures of 9/11.

The Commission also failed to follow up on important information in their haste to blame 9/11 on intelligence operations. They completely missed the ABLE DANGER program that had identified Mohammed Atta and his core of operatives as potential terrorists, and that was not because of DoD intransigence. Multiple members of that team tried to get their interest, and the panel refused to follow up on the leads. Even after these people went public with the information, panel members like Thomas Kean -- quoted heavily in this story -- mocked them and discounted their honor.

UPDATE: Captain Ed has new developments. From the New York Times:

The Defense Department’s watchdog agency said Friday that it had no evidence that senior Pentagon commanders intentionally provided false testimony to the Sept. 11 commission about the military’s actions on the morning of the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The agency, the Pentagon’s office of inspector general, said the Defense Department’s initial inaccurate accounts could be attributed largely to poor record-keeping.

The Pentagon initially suggested that the North American Aerospace Defense Command, the military’s domestic air-defense operation, had reacted quickly to reports of the hijackings and had been prepared to intercept and possibly shoot down one of the hijacked planes.

The Sept. 11 commission, which uncovered the inconsistencies in the Pentagon’s account, made a formal request in July 2004 for the inspector general to investigate why senior military officials who testified to the commission had made so many inaccurate statements.