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Monday, April 30, 2007

Rice vs Tenet

If she reacts this strongly to the director of the CIA, imagine how she would react if a lowly Navy CAPT or Army Reserve LT COL raised similar doubts.

From the New York Times:

In an unusual reaction to Mr. Tenet’s book, the State Department sent reporters on Sunday a three-page document underscoring comments the former C.I.A. chief had made to the Sept. 11 commission.

It quoted him as saying of the emerging terrorist threat, in the spring and summer of 2001, “reporting was maddeningly short on actionable details.”

“The most ominous reporting hinting at ‘something big’ was also the most vague.”

It also quoted him as saying that upon taking office, “The new group,” meaning the Bush administration in early 2001, “also immediately understood what we were talking about here, and bin Laden and Al Qaeda became an agenda item early on with the national security adviser and the president.”

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Lance and Clemente won't testify at trial

Okay, if you combine this new article from DeVecchio friend and associate Jerry Capeci with the previous article from the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, it sounds like the net result is that Lance and Clemente can not be called to testify at trial but can be called to testify at a pre-trial hearing on a motion by the defense to exclude evidence based on the fact that Peter Lance wrote a book after reading testimony DeVecchio gave in open court under a grant of immunity. Sounds like a weak argument. What about the news reports? Do those invalidate the case, too? Unless DeVecchio was granted immunity for murder, he's gonna lose the motion.

From the New York Sun:

Prosecutors scored one win when Judge Reichbach agreed that a full-blown hearing was not required on defense charges that the Brooklyn DA's office had improperly obtained its indictment by using testimony for which Mr. DeVecchio had received immunity, until after his trial.

But the judge also set the stage for a major pretrial confrontation between the former agent's defense team and Angela Clemente and Peter Lance, two DeVecchio gadflies whom Mr. Grover has described as part of a "cottage industry of self-styled forensic investigators and journalists" that were used by the district attorney's office to jumpstart its probe.

Ms. Clemente, who describes herself as a forensic analyst, was cited by Mr. Vecchione last year as a driving force behind the DeVecchio indictment. Mr. Lance is an author who claims in a book and on his Web site that he helped the DA's probe. Both have stated they will fight subpoenas from Mr. Grover and cocounsel Mark Bederow that require them to testify about their use of Mr. DeVecchio's immunized testimony in their research and the impact it may have had in the DA's probe.

The judge specifically mentioned Ms. Clemente and Mr. Lance as witnesses he expects to testify at a hearing that is limited to testimony from people who have had involvement in the investigation but will not be called as trial witnesses. The hearing is set for August 8.

Here is that excerpt from the Daily Eagle again:

Before DeVecchio’s trial, defense attorneys will try to have some of the prosecution’s evidence tossed out at a pre-trial hearing set for August 8.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione, head of the rackets bureau, said the purpose of the hearing is “to determine whether any information was gleaned in various testimony at hearings in which he [DeVecchio] was immunized.”

Vecchione characterized the hearing, which was requested by DeVecchio’s defense attorney Douglas Grover, as “inside baseball,” revolving around arcane legal issues regarding special rules of evidence. The hearing will determine if prosecutors are using any of DeVecchio’s own statements against him, statements he might have made at various federal proceedings for which he had been granted immunity.

Vecchione expressed confidence that the outcome of the hearing would not affect the case against the rogue agent, whose betrayal he has characterized as “one of the worst cases of law enforcement corruption in the history of this country.” Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes called the DeVecchio case “the most stunning example of corruption that I have ever seen.”

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tenet book includes July 2001 slide show

From Editor and Publisher:

Ignatius of 'Wash Post' Previews George Tenet Book: It Will Make Your 'Hair Curl'

By E&P Staff

Published: April 15, 2007 11:10 PM ET

The long awaited tell-all (or at least tell-some) memoir from former CIA director George Tenet is coming at the end of the month. Apparently Washington Post columnist David Ignatius has seen it or been briefed on it because on Chris Matthews' Sunday show today on CNN he spilled some beans about it.

Matthews himself must know something about the book, "At the Center of the Storm," because he said, before kicking it to the columnist, "Tenet takes on vice president Dick Cheney. Cheney has maintained that Tenet told President Bush in December of 2002, two weeks before Bush decided to invade Iraq, that there was a 'slam dunk' case to be made that Saddam Hussein possessed those banned weapons. But now Tenet denies ever making that claim. David, this is a big fight. It's pushback time. How tough is this book gonna be?"

Ignatius replied: "It's going be very tough. George Tenet has been doing a slow burn ever since he left the CIA. He's been angrier and angrier as he saw himself being essentially made the fall guy on WMD in Iraq. And he's gonna come back saying he and his agency, the CIA, were pushed, again and again, by Cheney and Cheney's people to give him the answers that they wanted. And he's got chapter and verse on that."

He added: "He will tell a story that I think will make people's hair curl. But he's been waiting a long time to tell this....And he'll also say---this is a very important part of this---that, on the question of what would happen in Iraq after the invasion, the CIA pretty consistently warned, 'You have trouble ahead. You will not be able to unite this country. Sunnis and Shiites are gonna be 'at daggers.'"

Apparently NBC's Andrea Mitchell knows something, too, because she kicked: "He'll also attack and criticize Condoleezza Rice, who has denied a critical briefing before 9/11...a July briefing. They actually have the slide show that they showed her, where they were telling her that al Qaeda was threatening.... You're gonna be re-fighting both sides of who lost Iraq, who lost the WMD struggle. It might get pretty brutal."

Tenet's book is already #132 at in sales rankings.

Trial Date Set in DeVecchio Trial

From the Brooklyn Daily Eagle:

Federal Agent Charged with Aiding Four Mob Murders
By Charles Sweeney
Brooklyn Daily Eagle

JAY STREET — In a case that reaches into the upper echelons of the FBI, a trial date has finally been set in the murder case against retired agent Lindley DeVecchio — charged with helping a well-known organized crime figure and FBI informant commit at least four murders.

The informant, Gregory “Grim Reaper” Scarpa Sr., was a member of the Colombo crime family, one of the most notorious criminal organizations in the country.

Just over a year after his indictment on four counts of murder, former supervisory agent DeVecchio will finally face trial on Sept. 10, according to state Supreme Court Justice Gustin Reichbach, who set the date during a hearing at Brooklyn Supreme Court on Friday.

DeVecchio is charged with providing Scarpa, and other members of the Colombo family, with information that led directly to at least four murders.

One More Hearing
Before DeVecchio’s trial, defense attorneys will try to have some of the prosecution’s evidence tossed out at a pre-trial hearing set for August 8.

Assistant District Attorney Michael Vecchione, head of the rackets bureau, said the purpose of the hearing is “to determine whether any information was gleaned in various testimony at hearings in which he [DeVecchio] was immunized.”

Vecchione characterized the hearing, which was requested by DeVecchio’s defense attorney Douglas Grover, as “inside baseball,” revolving around arcane legal issues regarding special rules of evidence. The hearing will determine if prosecutors are using any of DeVecchio’s own statements against him, statements he might have made at various federal proceedings for which he had been granted immunity.

Vecchione expressed confidence that the outcome of the hearing would not affect the case against the rogue agent, whose betrayal he has characterized as “one of the worst cases of law enforcement corruption in the history of this country.” Kings County District Attorney Charles Hynes called the DeVecchio case “the most stunning example of corruption that I have ever seen.”

Murderous Informant
During his 33-year career as a supervisory agent, DeVecchio was charged with “handling” Scarpa, with whom he had a 15-year relationship as an informant.

Scarpa’s FBI connection traces back to the years when J. Edgar Hoover ran the bureau. His recruitment as an informant came during the FBI’s investigation into the slayings of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964.

DeVecchio is also charged in connection with the murder of Scarpa’s one-time girlfriend, Mary Bari. In September 1984, DeVecchio learned Bari had become an FBI informant. After DeVecchio alerted Scarpa to his girlfriend’s betrayal, Bari was then lured to a Brooklyn nightclub where she was shot to death.

Prosecutors also allege DeVecchio was instrumental in the murder of Patrick Porco, an 18-year-old friend of Scarpa’s son who had witnessed a mob-related murder on a Brooklyn street. After learning Porco had become a cooperating witness in the murder investigation, DeVecchio relayed the information to Scarpa Sr., who then arranged for Porco’s murder.

Two other mobsters were rubbed out based on information DeVecchio allegedly provided to Scarpa, including Joseph Brewster, who was murdered in 1987, after DeVecchio provided Scarpa with information that he was a mob turncoat.

In 1992, DeVecchio allegedly set up mobster Lawrence Lampesi, who became one of Scarpa’s victims during the bloody war for control of the Colombo family after the arrest and imprisonment of boss Carmine Persico.

Defense attorney Grover maintains that an internal FBI probe back in the mid-1990s exonerated DeVecchio, clearing him of any wrongdoing. Transcripts of interviews of Scarpa’s wife by FBI investigators looking into charges of wrongdoing by DeVecchio reveal that she claimed no knowledge of any incriminating details about meetings between the two.

After Scarpa’s prison death from AIDS, Scarpa’s wife, Linda Schiro, changed her tune and took her story to a literary agent in the form of a book proposal that revealed the extent of DeVecchio’s input into various mob rub-outs.

The literary agent got in touch with private investigator Angela Clemente, who had connections with well-known forensic investigator Stephen Dresh. After reviewing the material Clemente presented him, Dresh told the Eagle before his death from cancer last year that he recommended the pair take their findings to a county district attorney.

When presented with Clemente’s findings, Vecchione expressed an immediate interest in the case. After an intensive six-month investigation, a Brooklyn grand jury in March 2006 handed up a sealed indictment charging DeVecchio with four counts of second-degree murder.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Translated article from Le Monde

Many thanks to Paul Thompson of Cooperative Research and author of the Complete 9/11 Timeline for the following:

September 11, 2001: How Much the French Knew

by Guillaume Dasquié
Le Monde
April 16, 2007
translated by John Goldsmith [some minor clarifications are in brackets]

It's an impressive mass of documents. From afar, you would say a dissertation. From up close, not at all. It's stamped "confidential" and "strictly national use" on each page. At the top left, a royal blue logo: that of the DGSE, Direction Générale des Services Extérieurs [General Directorate for Foreign Services], the French secret services. All told, 328 classified pages. Notes, reports, syntheses, maps, graphs, organization charts, satellite photos. All of it devoted to al-Qaeda, its chiefs, sub-chiefs, hide-outs, and training camps. Also to its financial supports. Nothing less than the essence of the reports of the DGSE written between July 2000 and October 2001. A veritable encyclopedia.

After an inquiry of several months' duration on this very special document, we contact the headquarters of the DGSE. And April 3, the current chief of staff, Emmanuel Renoult, allows us to see him in the Tourelles barracks in Paris. After looking through the 328 pages that we put on his desk, he cannot hold back from deploring such a leak as this, all the while letting us understand that this packet represents essentially all of the DGSE's work on the subject during this crucial period. About the content, however, it is impossible to get him to say anything at all. It's too sensitive.

It is true that this chronicle from the secret services on al-Qaeda, with their various revelations, raise a number of questions. And first of all, a surprise: the high number of notes specifically devoted to the threats of al-Qaeda against the US, months before the suicide attacks. There are nine reports on this subject between September 2000 and August 2001. This includes a summary note of five pages, entitled "Hijacking of an airplane by radical Islamists", and dated January 5, 2001. Eight months before 9/11, the DGSE reports tactical discussions since the start of 2000 between Osama bin Laden and his Taliban allies about such an operation against US airlines.

Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi, chief of staff to the head of the DGSE until August 2001 (today president of Serenus Conseil, a corporation specializing in crisis strategy and influence crisis), flips through the 328 pages, and also comes across that note. He hesitates, and then says, "I remember that one...You have to remember that until 2001, hijacking an airline did not have the same meaning as after 9/11.In those days, it meant forcing it to sit in an airport and hold negotiations. We were used to that." A way to put all this in perspective, to understand why this alert dated January 5th did not provoke any reaction from those to whom it was sent: the pillars of executive power.

From January 2001, the leadership of al-Qaeda was visible to the eyes and ears of French spies. The authors of this report even detail the disagreements between terrorists on precisely how to conduct the hijacking. They never doubt their intention. At first, the jihadists want to get an airplane going from Frankfurt to the US. They set up a list of 7 possible companies. Two will finally be chosen by the pirates of September 11: American Airlines and United Airlines. In the introduction, the author of the note announces: "According to Uzbek intelligence services, the hijacking of an airplane seem to have been discussed in early 2000 at a meeting in Kabul among the representatives of the bin Laden organization."

So the Uzbek spies told the French agents. At that point, the fundamentalist Muslims in pro-American Tashkent formed the IMU, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. A militant faction led by Taher Youdachev, had gone to Afghanistan and pledged loyalty to bin Laden, promising to export his jihad in Central Asia. Military records and IMU correspondence found in Afghan al-Qaeda camps later, attest to this.

Alain Chouet remembers this. Until October 2002, he directed the Service of Security Intelligence, the subdivision of the DGSE charged with following terrorist movements. According to him, the credibility of the Uzbek channel is based on the origin of the alliances set up by Gen. Rashid Dostum, one of the principal warlords in Afghanistan, who is Uzbek himself and fighting then against the Taliban. To please his protectors in the Uzbek security services next door, Dostum infiltrated some men into the IMU, as high as the command structures in the camps of al-Qaeda. That is how the intelligence came to Tashkent, knowing full well that his information would eventually go to Washington, London, or Paris.

The January 2001 note indicates clearly that other sources corroborate this information on al-Qaeda's plans. The DGSE is not just trading for information with their colleague intelligence organizations; it is manipulating and "turning" young candidates for the jihad from the suburbs of the big cities of Europe. In addition, the DGSE sends agents to [Ahmed Shah] Massoud [head of the Northern Alliance opposing the Taliban]. Not to mention the satellite telephone intercepts.

A source close to Pierre Brochand, current head of the DGSE, assured us that the service had a "bin Laden cell" since at least 1995. The alert on 5 January is based, thus, on a tested system. Alain Chouret, after asking us to make clear that he was not speaking in the name of French institutions, is laconic but clear: "It is rare that one transmits a paper without cross-checking it." And this paper follows and precedes multiple reports from the DGSE establishing the credibility of bin Laden's war chants.

In its note, the DGSE estimates that al-Qaeda's desire to pass into action (hijacking an airplane of the USA) is certain: "In October 2000 bin Laden attended a meeting in Afghanistan at which the decision to mount this action was upheld." This is January 5, 2001, the die is cast, the French know it... and they are not the only ones.

As with all information dealing with risks to American interests, the note went to the CIA. It goes first to the CIA in Paris, Bill Murray, a French-speaker with the build of John Wayne, who has since returned to the US. We contacted him, but he did not want to talk with us. Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi, who was responsible at that point for liaison with foreign services at the DGSE, cannot conceive of this information not going to him: "That, typically, is the kind of information that would certainly have been forwarded to the CIA. It would even have been an error not to have done it."

On the other side of the Atlantic, two former CIA specialists on the al-Qaeda who we contacted do not remember any special alerts sent by the DGSE. Neither Gary Berntsen, attached to the office of the DDO from 1982 to 2005, nor Michael Scheuer, former head of the bin Laden unit at the CIA, have any recollection of specific information coming from the DGSE.

In Washington, the 9/11 Commission, in its final report published in July 2004, underscored the inability of the FBI, the CIA, and the immigration services to piece together the sparse data pointing towards some of the 9/11 hijackers. At no point did the commission bring up the possibility that the CIA would have sent up to political powers as early as January 2001 intelligence coming from French intelligence regarding the tactical choice of bin Laden to hijack American airliners.

And beyond that, the most astounding thing about the 328 page DGSE report lies in the juxtaposition of the reports warning of the threat, like that of January 2001, and those that give quite early on highly detailed information on the function of the organization. Beginning on July 24, 2000, with a 13 page report entitled "The Networks of Osama bin Laden," it's all there in black and white. The context, the anecdotal details, and all the strategic aspects relative to al-Qaeda are already there. Quite often, later documents simply add additional details. For example, the rumor that bin Laden was dead--which went around in September 2006 --is reported with the intonations of an oft-heard refrain, but nonetheless not without foundation: "The ex-Saudi, who has lived for several years in grim circumstances, is constantly on the move, from camp to camp, suffering equally from kidney and back problems...Recurring rumors speak of his imminent demise, but he does not seem to have changed his daily habits up to now."

On an aerial photo from August 28, 2000: DGSE agents spot a key figure, Abu Khabab [Abu Khabab al-Masri, al-Qaeda's chief bomb maker and chemical weapons expert], close to bin Laden. He is an Egyptian bomb-maker, known for having taught how to make home-made bombs to generations of jihadists, and he is a high ranked target. In two biographical items on him, dated October 25, 2000 and January 9, 2001, the DGSE specifies information exchanged with Mossad, the CIA, and Egyptian security services regarding him. His activities and movements are well covered.

Likewise for Omar Chabani [a.k.a. Abu Jafar, said to be killed in Tora Bora in late 2001], the emir who is in charge of training all the militant Algerians who have come to Afghanistan, according to the DGSE. Al-Qaeda, thanks to him, have set up during 2001 some infrastructures made available to the Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat (GSPC), the terrorist Algerian movement whose head, Hassan Hattab, ex-ally of bin Laden, which endorsed in 2006 a policy of reconciliation with the Algerian president Bouteflika, provoking the ire of the younger generation in the GSPC. These younger people kept up the combat which their elders had dropped; the younger created a new GSPC, renamed al-Qaeda for an Islamic Maghreb, which seems to have been responsible for the attacks of April 11th in Algiers.

Alongside operational aspects of the functioning of al-Qaeda, these DGSE documents propose another look at the political go-betweens used by its chief. An example: in a note of February 15, 2001 devoted in part to the risk of attacks against the French military base in Djibouti, the authors note the presence in the country of bin Laden's representative for the Horn of Africa, Nidal Abdel hay al Mahainy. They note that he arrived on May 26, 2000, and met with the president of the Djibouti Republic.

But it is Saudi Arabia that is constantly the most worrisome with regard to sympathies for Afghanistan which bin Laden is profiting from. The DGSE reports explore bin Laden's relations with business men and various organizations in that country. Certain Saudi personalities have proclaimed their hostility to al-Qaeda, but evidently they have not convinced everyone. Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi remembers well what the high-placed people at the DGSE were thinking: "The DGSE had a lot of difficulty believing that he didn't have any relations with the Saudi monarchy just because he was banished. It was hard to accept."

The report from July 24, 2000 mentions a payment of 4.5 million dollars going to bin Laden from the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), a group directly under the Muslim World League, itself considered the political instrument of the Saudi ulemas [Islamic scholars]. It was not until August 3, 2006 that the IIRO offices appeared on the official list of organizations financing terrorism according to the US Department of the Treasury. Throughout July 2000, two years after the attacks in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, the authors of this memo doubt the sincerity of the public positions taken by bin Laden's family: "It seems more and more likely that bin Laden has maintained contacts with certain members of his family, although the family, which directs one of the largest groups of public works in the world, has officially renounced him. One of his brothers apparently plays a role as intermediary in its professional contacts or the monitoring of its business." According to Lorenzi, it was his recurring doubts, and more specifically the ambivalence of the IIRO, which led the DGSE to work together with the Quai d'Orsay [the Foreign Ministry in Paris] when French diplomats would propose an international convention to the UN against the financing of terrorism.

Another note from DGSE dated September 13, 2001 entitled "Elements on the financial resources of bin Laden" repeats the suspicions regarding the Saudi Binladin Group, the family empire. It speaks of a powerful banker, once close to the royal family, as the chief architect of a plan "that seems to have been used for the transfer to the terrorist of funds that came from the Gulf countries." An annex to this memorandum of September 13, 2001 lists the assets supposedly under Osama bin Laden's direct control. Surprise: In the middle of the known structures that the "Sheikh" managed in Sudan, Yemen, Malaysia and Bosnia, a hotel situated in Mecca in Saudi Arabia still figures in 2001.

Alain Chouet is skeptical about the desire on the part of Saudi authorities to capture bin Laden before September 11. "His loss of Saudi nationality is nothing but a farce. As far as I know, no one did anything in fact to capture him between 1998 and 2001." And a document backs this up, a report from October 2, 2001: "The departure of Prince Turki al-Faisal, head of Saudi intelligence: a political eviction" which reveals the underside of this spectacular firing just before September 11. The authors underscore the limits of Saudi influence especially in Kandahar. "Prince Turki was not able, during his recent trips to Kandahar, to convince those he met with to extradite bin Laden."

And 6 years later? In a large report of the DGSE dated June 6, 2005 that we were able to peruse and entitled "Saudi Arabia, A Kingdom in Danger?" a picture is painted in which the Saudi regime is doing more to combat al-Qaeda. Nonetheless some paragraphs betray remaining doubts about the real desire of the Saudis. The French secret services are still anxious about the penchant for holy war among some Saudi "doctors of the faith"(ulema).

11 septembre 2001 : les Français en savaient long

Guillaume Dasquié
Le Monde

'est une impressionnante masse de documents. De loin, on croirait une thèse universitaire. De près, rien à voir. Des coups de tampons rouges "confidentiel-défense" et "usage strictement national" sur chacune des pages. En haut à gauche, un logo bleu roi : celui de la DGSE, la Direction générale des services extérieurs, les services secrets français. Au total, 328 pages classifiées. Notes, rapports, synthèses, cartes, graphiques, organigrammes, photos satellite. Le tout exclusivement consacré à Al-Qaida, ses chefs, sous-chefs, planques et camps d'entraînement. A ses soutiens financiers aussi. Rien de moins que l'essentiel des rapports de la DGSE rédigés entre juillet 2000 et octobre 2001. Une véritable encyclopédie.

Au terme de plusieurs mois d'enquête sur cette documentation très spéciale, nous prenons contact avec le quartier général de la DGSE. Et le 3 avril, l'actuel chef de cabinet, Emmanuel Renoult, nous reçoit sur place, dans l'enceinte de la caserne des Tourelles à Paris. Après avoir parcouru les 328 pages que nous posons sur son bureau, il ne peut s'empêcher de déplorer une telle fuite, tout en nous laissant entendre que ce paquet représente la quasi-intégralité des productions de la DGSE sur le sujet pour cette période cruciale. En revanche, sur le fond, impossible de lui soutirer le moindre commentaire. Trop sensible.

Il est vrai que ces chroniques des services secrets sur Al-Qaida, avec leurs diverses révélations, soulèvent quantité de questions. Et d'abord une surprise : le nombre élevé de notes uniquement consacrées aux menaces d'Al-Qaida contre les Etats-Unis, des mois avant les attaques suicides de New York et de Washington. Neuf rapports entiers sur le sujet entre septembre 2000 et août 2001. Dont une note de synthèse de cinq pages, intitulée"Projet de détournement d'avion par des islamistes radicaux" , et marquée d'une date… 5 janvier 2001 ! Huit mois avant le 11-Septembre, la DGSE y rapporte les discussions tactiques menées depuis le début de l'année 2000 entre Oussama Ben Laden et ses alliés talibans, au sujet d'une opération de détournement d'avions de ligne américains.

Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi, chef de cabinet du patron de la DGSE jusqu'en août 2001, aujourd'hui président d'une société spécialisée dans les stratégies de crise et d'influence (Serenus Conseil), parcourt devant nous ces 328 pages et tombe en arrêt, lui aussi, sur cette note. Il hésite, prend le temps de la lire et admet : "Je me souviens de celle-là." "Il faut se rappeler, précise M. Lorenzi, que jusqu'en 2001, le détournement d'avion n'a pas la même signification qu'après le 11-Septembre. A l'époque, cela implique de forcer un appareil à se poser sur un aéroport pour mener des négociations. On est habitué à gérer ça." Mise en perspective utile pour comprendre pourquoi cette alerte du 5 janvier n'a provoqué aucune réaction chez ses destinataires : les piliers du pouvoir exécutif.

Dès janvier 2001, la direction d'Al-Qaida se montre néanmoins transparente aux yeux – et aux oreilles – des espions français. Les rédacteurs détaillent même les désaccords entre terroristes sur les modalités pratiques du détournement envisagé. Jamais ils ne doutent de leur intention. Provisoirement, les djihadistes privilégient la capture d'un avion entre Francfort et les Etats-Unis. Ils établissent une liste de sept compagnies possibles. Deux seront finalement choisies par les pirates du 11-Septembre : American Airlines et United Airlines (voir fac-similé). Dans son introduction, l'auteur de la note annonce : "Selon les services ouzbeks de renseignement, le projet d'un détournement d'avion semble avoir été discuté en début d'année 2000 lors d'une réunion à Kaboul entre des représentants de l'organisation d'Oussama Ben Laden…"

Des espions ouzbeks renseignent donc les agents français. A l'époque, l'opposition des fondamentalistes musulmans au régime pro-américain de Tachkent s'est fédérée dans le Mouvement islamique d'Ouzbékistan, le MIO. Une faction militaire de ce parti, emmenée par un certain Taher Youdachev, a rejoint les camps d'Afghanistan et prêté allégeance à Oussama Ben Laden, lui promettant d'exporter son djihad en Asie centrale. Des livrets militaires et des correspondances du MIO, trouvés dans des camps afghans d'Al-Qaida, en attestent.

Alain Chouet a gardé en mémoire cet épisode. Il a dirigé jusqu'en octobre 2002 le Service de renseignement de sécurité, la subdivision de la DGSE chargée de suivre les mouvements terroristes. Selon lui, la crédibilité du canal ouzbek trouve son origine dans les alliances passées par le général Rachid Dostom, l'un des principaux chefs de guerre afghans, d'ethnie ouzbek lui aussi, et qui combat alors les talibans. Pour plaire à ses protecteurs des services de sécurité de l'Ouzbékistan voisin, Dostom a infiltré certains de ses hommes au sein du MIO, jusque dans les structures de commandement des camps d'Al-Qaida. C'est ainsi qu'il renseigne ses amis de Tachkent, en sachant que ses informations cheminent ensuite vers Washington, Londres ou Paris.

La formulation de la note française de janvier 2001 indique clairement que d'autres sources corroborent ces renseignements sur les plans d'Al-Qaida. Selon un dispositif bien huilé en Afghanistan, la DGSE ne se contente pas d'échanges avec des services secrets amis. Pour percer les secrets des camps, d'une part elle manipule et "retourne" des jeunes candidats au djihad originaires des banlieues des grandes villes d'Europe. D'autre part, elle envoie des hommes du service action auprès de l'Alliance du Nord du commandant Massoud. Sans compter les interceptions des téléphones satellitaires.

Un proche de Pierre Brochand, l'actuel patron de la DGSE, nous a assuré que le service disposait d'une "cellule Oussama Ben Laden" depuis au moins 1995. L'alerte du 5 janvier s'appuie donc sur un système éprouvé. Alain Chouet, après nous avoir demandé de préciser qu'il ne s'exprimait pas au nom des institutions françaises, reste laconique mais clair : "Il est rare qu'on transmette un papier sans recouper." D'autant que ledit papier suit et précède de multiples rapports de la DGSE étayant la crédibilité des incantations guerrières d'Oussama Ben Laden.

Dans sa note, la DGSE estime enfin que la volonté d'Al-Qaida de concrétiser son acte de piraterie contre un appareil américain ne laisse aucun doute : "Au mois d'octobre 2000, Oussama Ben Laden a assisté à une réunion en Afghanistan au cours de laquelle la décision de principe de mener cette opération a été maintenue." Nous sommes le 5 janvier 2001, les dés sont jetés, les Français le savent… Et ils ne sont pas les seuls.

Comme toutes les informations évoquant des risques contre des intérêts américains, la note a été transmise à la CIA par le service des relations extérieures de la DGSE, responsable des coopérations entre alliés (renommé depuis service des liaisons). Son premier destinataire est le chef de poste de la CIA à Paris, Bill Murray, un francophone au physique de John Wayne, rentré depuis aux États-Unis. Nous avons pu établir le contact, mais M. Murray n'a pas souhaité donner suite à nos demandes. Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi, dont les responsabilités à la DGSE couvraient alors les questions relatives à la coopération avec les agences étrangères, ne conçoit pas que ces renseignements-là ne lui aient pas été remis : "Ça, typiquement, c'est le genre d'information qui est transmise à la CIA. Ce serait même une faute de ne pas l'avoir fait."

De l'autre côté de l'Atlantique, deux anciens agents de la CIA spécialistes d'Al-Qaida, que nous avons sollicités, ne se souviennent pas d'alertes particulières envoyées par la DGSE. Ni Gary Berntsen, rattaché à la direction des opérations de l'agence de 1982 à 2005, ni Michael Scheuer, ancien responsable de l'unité Ben Laden au siège de la CIA, n'ont gardé en mémoire des informations spécifiques en provenance de la DGSE.

A Washington, la commission d'enquête du Congrès sur le 11-Septembre, dans son rapport final publié en juillet 2004, a mis l'accent sur l'incapacité du FBI, de la CIA ou des services d'immigration d'agréger des données éparses visant certains membres des commandos du 11-Septembre. A aucun moment la commission n'a évoqué la possibilité que la CIA aurait répercuté au pouvoir politique, dès janvier 2001, des renseignements émanant des services français sur le choix tactique d'Oussama Ben Laden d'organiser des détournements d'avions américains.

Au-delà, le plus confondant, à la lecture des 328 pages de la DGSE, tient peut-être dans la juxtaposition entre les notes qui alertent sur des menaces – comme celle de janvier 2001 – et celles qui décrivent très tôt, et avec minutie, le fonctionnement de l'organisation. Dès le 24 juillet 2000, avec la rédaction d'un rapport de treize pages intitulé"Les réseaux d'Oussama Ben Laden", l'essentiel se révèle consigné noir sur jaune pâle, la couleur des originaux de la DGSE. Le contexte, les détails anecdotiques et tous les aspects stratégiques relatifs à Al-Qaida y figurent déjà. Bien souvent, les documents ultérieurs se contentent de les préciser. Ainsi, l'hypothèse de la mort de Ben Laden – qui a connu un certain succès en septembre 2006 – prend, dans cette note du 24 juillet 2000, les intonations d'un refrain connu, mais néanmoins fondé : "L'ex-Saoudien, qui vit depuis plusieurs années dans des conditions précaires, se déplaçant sans cesse, de camp en camp, souffre également de problèmes rénaux et dorsaux. (…) Des rumeurs récurrentes font état de sa mort prochaine, mais il ne paraît pas avoir, jusqu'à présent, changé ses habitudes de vie."

Sur un cliché aérien du 28 août 2000, les agents de la DGSE localisent un homme-clé, très proche d'Oussama Ben Laden. Son nom : Abou Khabab. Cet artificier d'origine égyptienne, connu pour avoir enseigné la science des explosifs artisanaux à des générations de djihadistes, constitue une cible en théorie prioritaire. Dans deux notices biographiques sur ce personnage, du 25 octobre 2000 et du 9 janvier 2001, la DGSE énumère les renseignements échangés avec le Mossad israélien, la CIA et les services de sécurité égyptiens à son sujet. On n'ignore rien de son parcours et de ses déplacements.

C'est également le cas d'Omar Chabani, l'émir chargé d'encadrer tous les militants algériens venus en Afghanistan, selon la DGSE. Grâce à lui, au cours de l'année 2001, Al-Qaida a mis des infrastructures à la disposition du Groupe salafiste pour la prédication et le combat (GSPC), le mouvement terroriste algérien dont le chef historique Hassan Hattab, ex-allié de Ben Laden, a souscrit en 2006 à la politique de réconciliation nationale du président algérien Abdelaziz Bouteflika – ce qui avait provoqué l'ire des jeunes générations du GSPC. Celles-ci ont repris depuis le mois d'octobre la lutte armée délaissée par leurs aînés, en se réclamant d'un nouveau GSPC – renommé Al-Qaida pour le Maghreb islamique – qui semble être responsable des attentats du 11 avril à Alger.

En marge des aspects opérationnels sur le fonctionnement d'Al-Qaida, ces documents de la DGSE proposent un autre regard sur les relais politiques de son chef. Un exemple : dans une note du 15 février 2001 consacrée en partie aux risques d'attentats contre la base militaire française de Djibouti, les auteurs relèvent la présence dans le pays du représentant d'Oussama Ben Laden pour la Corne de l'Afrique, Nidal Abdel Hay al Mahainy. L'homme, arrivé sur place le 26 mai 2000 est-il précisé, a, ni plus ni moins, "rencontré le président de la République djiboutienne".

Mais c'est surtout l'Arabie saoudite qui apparaît comme une préoccupation constante à propos des sympathies extérieures à l'Afghanistan dont profite Oussama Ben Laden. Les rapports de la DGSE explorent ses relations avec des hommes d'affaires et diverses organisations de ce pays. Certaines personnalités saoudiennes ont proclamé leur hostilité à Al-Qaida, mais, manifestement, elles n'ont pas convaincu tout le monde. Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi se souvient bien de l'état d'esprit des responsables du renseignement français : "La DGSE a eu beaucoup de mal à considérer définitivement qu'il n'avait plus de relation avec la monarchie saoudienne, parce qu'il était en rupture de ban. C'était difficile à admettre."

La note du 24 juillet 2000 mentionne un virement de 4,5 millions de dollars au profit du chef d'Al-Qaida par l'International Islamic Relief Organisation (IIRO), une structure directement placée sous la tutelle de la Muslim World League, elle-même considérée comme l'instrument politique des oulémas saoudiens. Il faudra attendre pourtant le 3 août 2006 pour que des bureaux de l'IIRO figurent sur la liste officielle des organisations de financement du terrorisme du département américain du Trésor. Au cours de ce mois de juillet 2000, deux ans après les attentats de Nairobi et Dar-es-Salam, les auteurs de ce mémo doutent de la sincérité des positions affichées par la famille Ben Laden elle-même : "Il semble de plus en plus probable qu'Oussama Ben Laden ait gardé des contacts avec certains membres de sa famille, bien que celle-ci, qui dirige l'un des plus importants groupes de travaux publics dans le monde, l'ait officiellement renié. L'un de ses frères jouerait un rôle d'intermédiaire dans ses contacts professionnels ou le suivi de ses affaires." Selon M. Lorenzi, c'est la récurrence de ces doutes, et plus spécifiquement l'ambivalence de l'IIRO, qui conduiront la DGSE à se mobiliser avec le Quai d'Orsay, en 1999, quand la diplomatie française proposera aux Nations unies une convention internationale contre le financement du terrorisme.

Une autre note des services secrets français, datée du 13 septembre 2001, et intitulée "Eléments sur les ressources financières d'Oussama Ben Laden", réitère ces soupçons à l'encontre du Saudi Ben Laden Group, l'empire familial. Elle présente aussi un puissant banquier, autrefois proche de la famille royale, comme l'architecte historique d'un dispositif bancaire qui "semble avoir été utilisé pour transférer au terroriste des fonds provenant des pays du Golfe". Une annexe de cette note du 13 septembre 2001 répertorie les actifs a priori sous le contrôle direct d'Oussama Ben Laden. Surprise, au milieu de structures connues que le"Cheikh" a dirigées au Soudan, au Yémen, en Malaisie et en Bosnie figure encore, en 2001, un hôtel situé à La Mecque, en Arabie saoudite.

Alain Chouet exprime un réel scepticisme sur la volonté des autorités de Riyad d'appréhender Oussama Ben Laden avant le 11-Septembre : "Sa déchéance de la nationalité saoudienne est une pantalonnade (…) A ma connaissance, personne n'a mis quoi que ce soit en œuvre pour le capturer entre 1998 et 2001." En témoigne cette note du 2 octobre 2001 – "Le départ du prince Turki al-Fayçal, chef des services de renseignement saoudiens : une éviction politique" – qui révèle les dessous de ce spectaculaire limogeage juste avant le 11-Septembre. Les auteurs soulignent "les limites de l'influence saoudienne en Afghanistan (…) Lors de récents voyages à Kandahar du prince Turki, il n'avait pas réussi à convaincre ses interlocuteurs d'extrader Oussama Ben Laden."

Et six ans plus tard ? Dans un ample rapport de la DGSE que nous avons pu consulter, intitulé "Arabie saoudite, un royaume en péril ?" et daté du 6 juin 2005, les agents français dressent un bilan plus positif des initiatives du régime saoudien contre Al-Qaida. Certains paragraphes trahissent toutefois des craintes persistantes. Les services secrets français redoutent toujours les penchants pour la guerre sainte de quelques docteurs de la foi saoudiens.

Monday, April 16, 2007

French knew al Qaeda was planning hijacking

Link via the Blue Collar Republican. Story from Reuters:

French "knew in 2001 al Qaeda was planning hijack"
16 Apr 2007 12:41:30 GMT
Source: Reuters

PARIS, April 16 (Reuters) - French secret services produced nine reports between September 2000 and August 2001 looking at the al Qaeda threat to the United States, and knew it planned to hijack an aircraft, the French daily Le Monde said on Monday.

The newspaper said it had obtained 328 pages of classified documents that showed foreign agents had infiltrated Osama bin Laden's network and were carefully tracking its moves.

One document prepared in January 2001 was entitled "Plan to hijack an aircraft by Islamic radicals", and said the operation had been discussed in Kabul at the start of 2000 by al Qaeda, Taliban and Chechen militants.

The hijack was meant to happen between March and September 2000 but the planners put it back "because of differences of opinion, particularly over the date, objective and participants," Le Monde said, citing the report.

The attacks on U.S. cities that eventually took place on Sept. 11, 2001 killed almost 3,000 people.

Le Monde said the French report of January 2001 had been handed over to a CIA operative in Paris, but that no mention of it had ever been made in the official U.S. Sept. 11 Commission, which produced its findings in July 2004.

The newspaper quoted a former senior official at France's DGSE secret service agency as saying that, although France thought a hijack was being planned, the DGSE did not know that the plot involved flying aircraft into buildings.

"You have to remember that a plane hijack (in January 2001) did not have the same significance as it did after Sept. 11. At the time, it implied forcing a plane to land at an airport and undertaking negotiations," said Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi.

Le Monde said the documents showed the French believed bin Laden was still receiving help from family members and senior officials in Saudi Arabia ahead of Sept. 11, 2001, despite attempts to clamp down on the network after al Qaeda's attacks on U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998.

More details from the AP:

France's foreign intelligence service learned as early as January 2001 that al-Qaida was preparing a hijacking plot likely to involve a U.S. airplane, former intelligence officials said Monday, confirming a report that also said the CIA received the warning.

Le Monde newspaper said it had obtained 328 pages of classified documents on Osama bin Laden's terror network that were drawn up by the French spy service, the DGSE, between July 2000 and October 2001. The documents included a Jan. 5, 2001, intelligence report warning that al-Qaida was at work on a hijacking plot.

Pierre-Antoine Lorenzi, the former chief of staff for the agency's director at the time, said he remembered the note and that it mentioned only the vague outlines of a hijacking plot — nothing that foreshadowed the scale of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

"It wasn't about a specific airline or a specific day, it was not a precise plot," Lorenzi told The Associated Press. "It was a note that said, 'They are preparing a plot to hijack an airplane, and they have cited several companies.'"

The Sept. 11 commission's report on the four hijacked flights has detailed repeated warnings about al-Qaida and its desire to attack airlines in the months before Sept. 11, 2001.

In a version declassified last September, the report shows that the Federal Aviation Administration's intelligence unit received "nearly 200 pieces of threat-related information daily from U.S. intelligence agencies, particularly the FBI, CIA, and State Department."

The French warning, part of which was published in Le Monde, detailed initial rumblings about the plot.

In early 2000 in Kabul, Afghanistan, bin Laden met with Taliban leaders and members of armed groups from Chechnya and discussed the possibility of hijacking a plane that would take off from Frankfurt, Germany, the note said, citing Uzbek intelligence.

The note listed potential targets: American Airlines, Delta Airlines, Continental Airlines, United Airlines, Air France and Lufthansa. The list also included a mention of "US Aero," but it was unclear exactly what that referred to.

Two of the airlines, United and American, were targeted months later on Sept. 11.

Lorenzi said details of the threat would certainly have been passed along to the CIA, though he was unable to specifically confirm that they had been.

"That's the kind of information concerning a friendly country that we communicate," he said. "If you don't do it, it's an error."

He also stressed that officials could not say whether the plot they outlined in January 2001 was an early warning about the attacks to come in September.

At the time, Lorenzi said, officials had heard echoes only about a standard hijacking — they had no idea al-Qaida planned to slam planes into buildings, let alone the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Uzbek officials apparently tipped off the French about the plot. Alain Chouet, a former top anti-terrorism official within the DGSE, said that an Afghan warlord from the Uzbek community who was fighting the Taliban at the time had sent men to infiltrate al-Qaida camps — and their information was passed down the chain to Western intelligence officials.

Confirming information in Le Monde, Chouet said such intelligence was likely checked out before it was put into a note. He also said that to the best of his knowledge, "all identified threats, even indirect and minimal ones, were passed in both directions" between the CIA and the CGSE.

Monday, April 09, 2007

DeVecchio subpoenas Lance and Clemente

From the New York Post:

April 9, 2007 - Lawyers for accused rogue FBI agent Lindley DeVecchio are seeking to haul into court two freelance investigators who've been credited with laying the groundwork for the Brooklyn DA's bombshell quadruple-murder case.

Both Angela Clemente, the single mother who gathered evidence against the former fed for five years and Peter Lance, an investigative journalist who has written three books on federal law enforcement's mishandling of mob and terror cases, confirmed they'd been contacted by lawyers trying to serve subpoenas.

Both said they'd fight the subpoenas, which would require them to testify in a pre-trial hearing tentatively scheduled for May.

"Since it is my intent to cover the trial as a journalist, I will resist any effort to testify - an act that would keep me out of court during the proceedings," Lance told The Post.

"I am working on securing an attorney . . . until I can . . . quash the motion," said Clemente. "I do hope this will not hinder my work. No one is paying my bills."

Both Clemente and Lance appeared at Brooklyn DA Charles Hynes' news conference a year ago announcing the DeVecchio indictments. Prosecutors specifically recognized Clemente's research and said they'd used Lance's book, "Cover Up," as a background primer.

It's worth remembering DeVecchio's lawyers are being paid by the FBI:

You pay G-man's legal bills
Tuesday, March 6th, 2007

Taxpayers are footing part of the mounting legal bills for an ex-FBI agent accused of helping a Brooklyn Mafia boss commit four murders, the Daily News has learned.

The Justice Department is helping fund retired agent Lindley DeVecchio's defense, which has cost more than $450,000 since his indictment last year by the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

"It's an expensive litigation," said DeVecchio's lawyer Douglas Grover, who declined to comment further.
A highly informed source confirmed the Justice Department contributions, saying, "It's on an hourly rate. Not a top New York City rate, more like a federal public defenders' rate."

It could not immediately be determined how much the department is paying.

"There is a process in place by which employees or former [FBI] employees who are the subject of civil litigation or criminal charges can apply for coverage of their legal costs. The recommendation is forwarded to the Department of Justice, where a final determination is made," FBI spokesman John Miller said.

In a case that rocked New York law enforcement, DeVecchio, 66, was indicted last year for providing information on informants and mob rivals to Colombo family boss Gregory Scarpa before the murders.
DeVecchio, who spent 33 years as an agent, is also charged with receiving payoffs from Scarpa totaling more than $66,000.
Now dead, Scarpa was DeVecchio's top secret informant for more than a decade, beginning in 1982. The murders occurred during the brutal Colombo family wars of the late 1980s and early '90s.

Grover, DeVecchio and numerous agents who worked with him maintain he is innocent of the charges and that the Brooklyn DA's prosecution is baseless and misguided.

It also appears the FBI may be obstructing the investigation:

FBI & DA fight over 'mob' agent

Saturday, April 7th 2007, 4:00 AM

The FBI and the Brooklyn district attorney's office are battling over documents critical to the prosecution of a former federal agent accused of helping a mobster kill his rivals, sources said yesterday.

Information about former agent Lindley DeVecchio's Mafia informant, Greg Scarpa Sr., once a captain in the Colombo crime family, is crucial to the prosecution's case, the sources said.

The district attorney's office has asked the FBI for batches of material on Scarpa, including his FBI informant file going back to 1962 and files on other informants, according to sources close to the probe.

But months have gone by and nothing has been delivered to the district attorney's office, even though DeVecchio's trial is scheduled to begin later this spring.

The district attorney's office declined comment yesterday.

FBI spokesman John Miller said the agency has cooperated with Brooklyn prosecutors from the outset.

Miller also said the Brooklyn U.S. attorney's office is having discussions with local prosecutors over how and "what information will be shared."

Scarpa died in 1994. DeVecchio is 65, retired and living in Florida.

In the murder case, DeVecchio allegedly gave Scarpa top secret FBI information on Scarpa's Mafia rivals and other informants leading directly to the killings.

The controversy over the district attorney's requests for information also came up during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on March 27.

Referring to the DeVecchio case, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) said, "I have also heard that the local prosecutors in New York may have some trouble getting the documents from the FBI that they need to try the case."

"It is important that the FBI not take sides as an institution, just to protect one of its own. The FBI should cooperate fully and let the court process proceed."

Saturday, April 07, 2007

No response on probe into Weldon leak

Interesting development from the Gonzales USAO fiasco.

Dear Attorney General Gonzales:

At our last oversight hearing with you on January 18, 2007, you apologized for the tardiness with which you had provided written responses to questions that had been outstanding for six months. Regrettably, the Committee has yet to receive answers from the written questions sent to you in connection with that January 18th hearing. We are approaching three months since the last hearing, yet you and the Department seem to be repeating the practice of not responding in a timely manner. Instead, if you respond at all, you do so only as a hearing appearance approaches. Although the Committee was informed weeks ago to expect your answers to our questions on a rolling basis, we have yet to receive a single answer. Please ensure that the Committee receives your answers to the oversight questions from the January 18th hearing without further delay.

Among the questions he was asked back in January:

Gonzales also said in January that he would try to provide the senators with more information on a variety of topics, including an investigation into leaks from an FBI probe concerning former Pennsylvania Republican Curt Weldon, whether Congress has the authority to prevent the president from increasing troop levels in Iraq, the ways in which the department was sharing gun trace data with state and local law enforcement agencies, the number of prosecutors and investigators assigned to dealing with contracting fraud in Iraq, and details on the case of the Canadian extraordinary rendition victim Maher Arar.