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9/11's Trainer in Terrorism Was an FBI Informant

(Peter Dale Scott Talk in Palo Alto, October 27, 2006)

If I had an hour, I would talk to you about how the 9/11 Report failed to reconcile Dick Cheney's conflicting accounts, which cannot all be true, of what he did on the morning of 9/11 in the bunker beneath the White House. But that story takes two whole chapters of my forthcoming book, The Road to 9/11. So instead I will expand on what I spoke about a month ago in Berkeley, concerning Ali Mohamed, Washington's double agent inside al-Qaeda, and also a chief 9/11 plotter.(1) I want to add important new material tonight. Ali Mohamed, an Egyptian, was a close ally of Osama bin Laden. As he later confessed in court, he also aided the terrorist Ayman al-Zawahiri, a co-founder of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and by then an aide to bin Laden, when he visited America to raise money.(2) It is now generally admitted that Ali Mohamed worked for the FBI, the CIA, and U.S. Special Forces.

Patrick Fitzgerald, who testified to the 9/11 Commission about Ali Mohamed, knew him well. In 1994 he had named him as an unindicted co-conspirator in the New York landmarks case, yet allowed him to remain free. This was because, as Fitzgerald knew, Ali Mohamed was an FBI informant, from at least 1993 and maybe 1989.(3) Thus, from 1994 "until his arrest in 1998 [by which time the 9/11 plot was well under way], Mohamed shuttled between California, Afghanistan, Kenya, Somalia and at least a dozen other countries."(4)

What I first wrote in 2004, and again in 9/11 and American Empire, has to my knowledge has not yet been in the US press: it is that in 1993 Ali Mohamed had been detained by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Canada, (when he inquired at an airport after an incoming al Qaeda terrorist who turned out to be carrying two forged Saudi passports). Mohamed immediately told the RCMP to make a phone call to the FBI in the United States, and the call secured his release.(5) This release enabled Ali to go on to Kenya, take pictures of the U.S.. Embassy, and deliver them to bin Laden for the Embassy bombing plot.

In August 2006 there was a National Geographic Special on Ali Mohamed. We can take this as the new official fallback position on Ali Mohamed, because John Cloonan, the FBI agent who worked with Fitzgerald on Mohamed, helped narrate it. I didn't see the show, but here's what TV critics said about its contents:

Ali Mohamed manipulated the FBI, CIA and U.S. Army on behalf of Osama bin Laden. Mohamed trained terrorists how to hijack airliners, bomb buildings and assassinate rivals. [D]uring much of this time Mohamed was ... , an operative for the CIA and FBI, and a member of the U.S. Army.(6) ... 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 writing most of the al Qaeda terrorist manual and helping plan attacks on American troops in Somalia and U.S. embassies in Africa.(7)

That Mohamed trained al Qaeda in hijacking planes and wrote most of the al Qaeda terrorist manual is confirmed in a new book, The Looming Tower, by Lawrence Wright, who has seen US Government records.(8) Let me say this again: one of al-Qaeda's top trainers in terrorism and how to hijack airplanes was an operative for FBI, CIA, and the Army.

But what we have heard so far is a fall-back cover-up of even worse truths. Peter Lance, who first wrote the script for the National Geographic special, told about Mohamed's detention and release in Toronto. This important detail, along with others, was cut from the program. Lance withdrew from the project and complained on his website about these and other cuts, such as this one:

"Within days of 9/11 Cloonan ... 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."(9)

So let us sum up what we know so far about Ali Mohamed:

  1. A key planner of the 9/11 plot, and trainer in hijacking, was simultaneously an informant for the FBI.
  2. This operative trained the members for all of the chief Islamist attacks inside the United States -- the first WTC bombing, the New York landmarks plot, and finally 9/11, as well as the attacks against Americans in Somalia and Kenya.
  3. And yet for four years Mohamed was allowed to move in and out of the country as an unindicted conspirator. Then, unlike his trainees, he was allowed to plea-bargain. To this day he may still not have been sentenced for any crime, and may even be in witness protection.(10)

Peter Lance has charged that Fitzgerald had evidence before 1998 to implicate Mohamed in the Kenya Embassy bombing, yet did nothing and let the bombing happen.(11) In fact, the FBI was aware back in 1990 that Mohamed had engaged in terrorist training on Long Island; yet it acted to protect Mohamed from arrest, even after one of his trainees had moved beyond training to an actual assassination.(12)

Mohamed's trainees were all members of the Al-Kifah Center in Brooklyn, which served as the main American recruiting center for the Makhtab-al-Khidimat, the "Services Center" network that after the Afghan war became known as al Qaeda.(13) The Al-Kifah Center was headed in 1990 by the blind Egyptian Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, who like Ali Mohamed had been admitted to the United States, despite being on a State Department Watch List. (14) As he had done earlier in Egypt, the sheikh "issued a fatwa in America that permitted his followers to rob banks and kill Jews."(15)

In November 1990, three of Mohamed's trainees conspired together to kill Meir Kahane, the racist founder of the Jewish Defense League. The actual killer, El Sayyid Nosair, was caught by accident almost immediately; and by luck the police soon found his two co-conspirators, Mahmoud Abouhalima and Mohammed Salameh, waiting at Nosair's house. They found much more: There were formulas for bomb making, 1,440 rounds of ammunition, and manuals [supplied by Ali Mohamed] from the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg marked "Top Secret for Training," along with classified documents belonging to the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff. The police found maps and drawings of New York City landmarks like the Statue of Liberty, Times Square -- and the World Trade Center. The forty-seven boxes of evidence they collected also included the collected sermons of blind Sheikh Omar, in which he exhorted his followers to "destroy the edifices of capitalism."(16)

All three had been trained by Ali Mohamed back in the late 1980s at a rifle range, where the FBI had photographed them, before terminating this surveillance in the fall of 1989.(17)

The U.S. Government was thus in an excellent position to arrest, indict, and convict all of the terrorists involved, including Mohamed.

Yet only hours after the killing, Joseph Borelli, Chief of NYPD detectives, struck a familiar American note and pronounced Nosair a "lone deranged gunman.."(18) Some time later, he actually told the press that "There was nothing [at Nosair's house] that would stir your imagination ... ..Nothing has transpired that changes our opinion that he acted alone."[19]

Borelli was not acting alone in this matter. His position was also that of the FBI, who said they too believed "that Mr. Nosair had acted alone in shooting Rabbi Kahane." "The bottom line is that we can't connect anyone else to the Kahane shooting," an F.B.I. agent said."(20)

In thus limiting the case, the police and FBI were in effect protecting Nosair's two Arab co-conspirators in the murder of a U.S. citizen. Both of them were ultimately convicted in connection with the first WTC bombing, along with another Mohamed trainee, Nidal Ayyad. The 9/11 Report, summarizing the convictions of Salameh, Ayyad, Abouhalima, and the blind Sheikh for the WTC bombing and New York landmarks plots, calls it "this superb investigative and prosecutorial effort" (i.e. by Cloonan and Fitzgerald).(21) It says nothing about the suppressed evidence found in Nosair's house, including "maps and drawings of New York City landmarks," which if pursued should have prevented both plots from developing.

Almost certainly, the 9/11 Commission knew more about this scandalous situation than they let on. It cannot be just a coincidence that they selected to write the staff reports about al Qaeda and the 9/11 plot, and conduct the relevant interviews, Dietrich Snell, who had been Fitzgerald's colleague in the Southern District of New York U.S. Attorney's office. (Thus Snell presumably drafted the praise for the superb effort by his former colleague Patrick Fitzgerald and the FBI). Of the nine people on Snell's team, all but one had worked for the U.S. Government, and all but two for either the Justice Department or the FBI.(22)

If you go to my website, www.peterdalescott.net, you will know that: Shortly after 9/11, in October 2001, U.S. and British newspapers briefly alleged that the paymaster for the 9/11 attacks was a possible agent of the Pakistani intelligence service ISI, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh. There was even a brief period in which it was alleged that the money had been paid at the direction of the then ISI Chief, Lieutenant-General Mahmoud Ahmad.(23)

Others have since argued that Saeed Sheikh worked for both America and Britain, since "both American and British governments have studiously avoided taking any action against Sheikh despite the fact that he is a known terrorist who has targeted U.S. and UK citizens."(24) The claim what Saeed Sheikh was recruited by MI-6 in Great Britain has been made by myself, by John Newman, and by Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed; recently it has been pointed to in the new book by Pervez Musharraf, the President of Pakistan.(25)

And there may have been other double agents. Last month Robert Baer, a former CIA officer, told an Australian newspaper that ''In 1996, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed [the al-Qaeda mastermind of the 9/11 plot] was in Doha [the capital of Qatar], the CIA found out about it, and wanted to arrest him and people in Washington stopped them. That has never been answered in the 9/11 commission report, why that arrest was stopped."(26)

One week after 9/11, in a story for Pacific News Service, I wrote the following (which is still on my website):

It is important to learn from the serious mistakes made by the United States and CIA in the past. The usual CIA mode of undermining foreign governments it does not like -- from Russia to Cuba to Iran -- has been to organize and train their opponents in criminal activities, including sabotage and smuggling. But time and again this strategy backfires. The problem is that as soon as the United States loses interest in its agents' cause, the sabotage techniques it has taught will more than likely be turned back against it.(27)

This is what happened with al Qaeda.

When I wrote this I did not yet know about the scandal of Ali Mohamed's tolerated terrorism. In 2004, when I did know, I reported a story in the London Independent (but not this country) that Mohamed was on the U.S. payroll at the time he was training the Arab Afghans, and that the CIA, reviewing the case five years after the first WTC bombing, concluded in an internal document that the CIA itself was "partly culpable" in the World Trade Center attack.(28)

I cannot tell you whether (as I would like to think) Mohamed and Saeed were examples of rogue agents out of control (in which case we have a CIA problem), or whether they were agents not out of control (in which case we have of course a much worse CIA problem). One way or the other, we have a fundamental and on-going problem, for which we need a more serious remedy than just putting a Democrat in the White House. As has happened after past intelligence fiascoes, our intelligence agencies were strengthened as a result of the 9/11 Commission, not brought under control, and their budgets were increased.

It's time to confront the reality that these agencies themselves, and their own sponsorship and protection of terrorist activities, have aggravated the greatest threats to our national security. Scott Ritter and others have written that, at this very moment, CIA-backed bombings are being undertaken in Iran by the Mujahideen e-Khalq (MEK or MKO), an opposition group listed by the United States State Department as a Foreign Terrorist Organization.(29) It appears that, as if having learned nothing, the CIA is still sponsoring terrorists.

I want to admit, in all fairness, that certain notable victories have been achieved in the narrow pursuit of al Qaeda. At the same time, after five years of the new broadened war on terrorism, we can say with confidence that the net result to date is a far more dangerous world than we had before.

Peter Dale Scott's latest book (co-edited with David Ray Griffin) is 9/11 & American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out (Olive Branch Press, 2006). His website is http://www.peterdalescott.net.

Notes

  1. I discuss Ali Mohamed in a book I co-edited with David Ray Griffin: David Ray Griffin and Peter Dale Scott (eds.), 9/11 & American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2006), 74, 76-77.
  2. This admitted connection to al-Zawahiri has led some to identify Mohamed (Abu Mohamed al Amriki) with the al-Amriki alleged by Yossef Bodansky to have acted as go-between between Zawahiri and the CIA: "In the first half of November 1997 Ayman al-Zawahiri met a man called Abu-Umar al-Amriki (al-Amriki means "the American") at a camp near Peshawar, on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. High-level Islamist leaders insist that in this meeting Abu-Umar al-Amriki made al-Zawahiri an offer: The United States would not interfere with or intervene to prevent the Islamists' rise to power in Egypt if the Islamist mujahideen currently in Bosnia-Herzegovina would refrain from attacking the U.S. forces there. Moreover, Abu-Umar al-Amriki promised a donation of $50 million (from unidentified sources) to Islamist charities in Egypt and elsewhere. This was not the first meeting between Abu-Umar al-Amriki and Zawahiri. Back in the 1980s Abu-Umar al-Amriki openly acted as an emissary for the CIA with various Arab Islamist militant and terrorist movements ... then operating under the wings of the Afghan jihad ... . In the late 1980s, in one of his meetings with Zawahiri, Abu-Umar al-Amriki suggested that Zawahiri would need "$50 million to rule Egypt." At the time, Zawahiri interpreted this assertion as a hint that Washington would tolerate his rise to power if he could raise this money. The mention of the magic figure, $50 million, by Abu-Umar al-Amriki in the November 1997 meeting was interpreted by Zawahiri and the entire Islamist leadership, including Osama bin Laden, as a reaffirmation of the discussions with the CIA in the late 1980s about Washington's willingness to tolerate an Islamic Egypt. In 1997 the Islamist leaders were convinced that Abu-Umar al-Amriki was speaking for the CIA -- that is, the uppermost echelons of the Clinton administration" (Bodansky, Bin Laden, 212-13). As we shall see, it is the case that Mohamed was allowed to travel to Afghanistan even after his designation as an unindicted co-conspirator in 1994 (San Francisco Chronicle, 10/21/01).
  3. Peter Lance, "Triple Cross: National Geographic Channel's Whitewash of the Ali Mohamed Story," Huffington Post, 8/29/06, http://news.yahoo.com/s/huffpost/20060829/ cm_huffpost/028270. Unfortunately Lance's book on Mohamed, Triple Cross, was not yet available as this book went to press. Cf. Lawrence White, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Knopf, 2006), 181-82; Daniel Benjamin and Steven Simon, The Age of Sacred Terror (New York: Random House, 2002), 236; Lawrence Wright, New Yorker, 9/16/02: "In 1989 -- Mohamed talked to an F.B.I. agent in California and provided American intelligence with its first inside look at Al Qaeda."
  4. Raleigh News & Observer, 10/21/01, http://www.knoxstudio. com/shns/story.cfm?pk=ALIMOHAMED-10-24-01&cat=AN.
  5. Toronto Globe and Mail, 11/22/01, http://www.mail-archive. com/hydro@topica.com/msg00224.html; Peter Dale Scott, "How to Fight Terrorism," California Monthly, September 2004, http://www.alumni.berkeley.edu/Alumni/Cal_Monthly/September_2004/How_to_fight_terrorism.asp. Mohamed's companion, Essam Marzouk, is now serving 15 years of hard labor in Egypt, after having been arrested in Azerbaijan. Mohamed's detention and release was months after the first WTC bombing in February 1993, and after the FBI had already rounded up two of the plotters whom they knew had been trained by Ali Mohamed.
  6. Dave Shiflett, Bloomberg News, 8/28/06, http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601088&sid=aNWwkZYujCIs&refer=home.
  7. Glenn Garvin, Miami Herald, http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/entertainment/columnists/glenn_garvin/15310462.htm
  8. Lawrence Wright, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (New York: Knopf, 2006), 181. The Report claims (56) that "Bin Ladin and his comrades had their own sources of support and training, and they received little or no assistance from the United States." But Wright reports that Mohamed, while on a leave from the U.S. army, went to Afghanistan and trained "the first al-Qaeda volunteers in techniques of unconventional warfare, including kidnappings, assassinations, and hijacking planes." This was in 1988, one year before Mohamed left active U.S. Army service and joined the Reserve.
  9. Peter Lance, "Triple Cross: National Geographic Channel's Whitewash of the Ali Mohamed Story," Huffington Post, 8/29/06, http://news.yahoo.com/s/huffpost/20060829/cm _huffpost/028270.
  10. According to publicity for the National Geographic special, Mohamed is "currently in U.S. custody," but "his whereabouts and legal status are closely guarded secrets" (Rocky Mountain News, 8/28/06, 2D). Lance wrote that Mohamed was put into the witness protection program. "David Runke [Ruhnke], 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.''' (Shiflett, Bloomberg News, 8/28/06). As of November 2001, Mohamed had not been sentenced and was still believed to be supplying information from his prison cell.
  11. "Ali Mohamed had stayed in [El-Hage's] Kenyan home in the mid 90's as they plotted the bombings. Another agent in Fitzie's squad Dan Coleman, had searched El-Hage's home a year before the bombings and found direct links to Ali Mohamed and yet Fitzgerald failed to connect the dots" (Lance, "Triple Cross," Huffington Post, 8/29/06).
  12. Peter Lance, 1000 Years for Revenge (New York: Regan Books/ Harper Collins, 2003), 29-37.
  13. Robert Dreyfuss, Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (New York: Metropolitan Books/Henry Holt, 2005), 278; John K. Cooley, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America, and International Terrorism (London: Pluto Press, 1999), 87-88; Lance, 1000 Years for Revenge, 29-31; Independent, 11/1/98.
  14. Rahman was issued two visas, one of them "by a CIA officer working undercover in the consular section of the American embassy in Sudan" (Peter L.. Bergen, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden [New York: Free Press, 2001], 67). FBI consultant Paul Williams writes that Ali Mohamed "settled in America on a visa program controlled by the CIA" (Paul L. Williams, Al Qaeda: Brotherhood of Terror [[Upper Saddle River, NJ]: Alpha/ Pearson Education, 2002], 117). Others allegedly admitted, despite being on the State Department watch list, were Mohamed Atta and possibly Ayman al-Zawahiri (Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation, and the Anatomy of Terrorism [Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2005], 205, 46).
  15. Wright, The Looming Tower, 177.
  16. Lance, 1000 Years, 34.
  17. Lance, 1000 Years, 31; Peter Lance, Cover Up: What the Government Is Still Hiding about the War on Terror (New York: Regan Books/ HarperCollins, 2004), 25.
  18. Newsday, 11/8/90; quoted in Lance, 1000 Years, 35.
  19. New York Times, 11/8/90; Robert I. Friedman, Village Voice, 3/30/93.
  20. New York Times, 12/16/90.
  21. 9/11 Report, 72.
  22. Kean and Hamilton, Without Precedent, 273 (chapters); Lance, Cover Up, 212-20 (reports). Snell was assisted by Douglas MacEachin, the former CIA deputy Director for Intelligence.
  23. Peter Dale Scott "Who Paid the 9/11 Hijackers? Al-Hawsawi? Mahmoud Ahmad?" GlobalResearch.ca, 10/14/04, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/SCO410A.html. Cf. David Ray Griffin, The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press/Interlink, 2004), 104-07; Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation, and the Anatomy of Terrorism (Northampton, MA: Olive Branch Press, 2005), 137-44; Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, The London Bombings: An Independent Inquiry (London: Duckworth, 2006), 169; Peter Dale Scott, "The CIA's Secret Powers: Afghanistan, 9/11, and America's Most Dangerous Enemy." Critical Asian Studies, 35:2 (2003), 233-258.
  24. Ahmed, The War on Truth, 142; cf. John Newman, Remarks, Omissions and Errors in the Commission's Final Report, Rep. McKinney 9/11 Congressional Briefing, 18 August 2005, http://911readingroom.org/bib/whole_document.php?article_id=422.
  25. Pervez Musharraf, In the Line of Fire: A Memoir (New York: Free Press, 2006), 225: "It is believed in some quarters that while Omar Sheikh was at the LSE he was recruited by the British intelligence agency MI6. It is said that MI6 persuaded him to take an active part in demonstrations against Serbian aggression in Bosnia and even sent him to Kosovo to join the jihad. At some point he probably became a rogue or double agent."
  26. Courier Mail (Australia), 9/23/06; cf. Robert Baer, Sleeping with the Devil (New York: Crown, 2003), 18-19.
  27. Peter Dale Scott, "Made in the U.S.A. - How the U.S. Manufactures Terrorists," Pacific News Service, Sep 19, 2001.
  28. Peter Dale Scott, "How to Fight Terrorism." California Monthly, September 2004; citing Andrew Marshall, Independent, 11/1/98, http://billstclair.com/911timeline/1990s/independent110198.html.
  29. Scott Ritter, "The US war with Iran has already begun," ZNet, 6/21/05, http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?itemid=8126.: "President Bush has taken advantage of the sweeping powers granted to him in the aftermath of 11 September 2001, to wage a global war against terror and to initiate several covert offensive operations inside Iran. The most visible of these is the CIA-backed actions recently undertaken by the Mujahadeen el-Khalq, or MEK, an Iranian opposition group, once run by Saddam Hussein's dreaded intelligence services, but now working exclusively for the CIA's Directorate of Operations. It is bitter irony that the CIA is using a group still labelled as a terrorist organisation, a group trained in the art of explosive assassination by the same intelligence units of the former regime of Saddam Hussein, who are slaughtering American soldiers in Iraq today, to carry out remote bombings in Iran of the sort that the Bush administration condemns on a daily basis inside Iraq." I have not yet seen Scott Ritter, Target Iran: The Truth About the White House's Plans for Regime Change (New York: Avalon Publishing Group, 2006)..