Category Archives: al Qaida: General articles

Book Review of Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden”

Book Review of Steve Coll’s “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001” (Penguin Books) (Paperback)

By Elias Davidsson, 18 October 2014

Unreliable author or disinformation agent?

While hailed by the New York Times as the “finest historical narrative so far on the origins of al-Qaeda” and by Washington Post as “authoritative”, I beg to differ. Here is a random sample from the book, manifesting the vagueness of the author’s claims and their unverifiable nature:

“Within the morass of intelligence lay ominous patterns. One was an interest by bin Laden’s operatives in the use of aircraft. A classified September 1998 threat report warned that in bin Laden’s next strike his operatives might fly an explosive-laden airplane into an American airport and blow it up. Another report that fall, unavailable to the public, highlighted a plot involving aircraft in New York and Washington.”(p. 420)

“A second pattern in the threats that fall did galvanize attention: It seemed increasingly obvious that bin Laden planned to attack inside the United States…[T]he CIA picked up reports that bin Laden had authorized $9 million bounties for the assassination of each of four top CIA officers. Many of the intelligence reports were vague. Still, the pattern was unmistakable. (p. 420-1)

Note (1) the author’s use of classified sources that readers cannot verify; (2) the vagueness of the claims; (3) the anonymity of the actors allegedly involved.

While the above manifests only lousy journalism, the following falls already into the category of plain deception:

“By late 1999, [Mohamed] Atta and others in the Al Quds group had committed themselves to martyrdom through jihad….Bin Laden and his senior planners had already seized on the idea of using airplanes to attack the United States.” (p. 476)

“After Atta was selected as the mission’s leader he met with bin Laden personally to discuss targets. The Hamburg group already knew how to operate comfortably in Western societies, but before returning to Europe some of them spent time with Mohammed in Karachi, studying airline schedules and discussing life in the United States” (p. 477-8)

“Among the [9/11] plotters there were tensions, accusations, and apparent changes of heart as the launch date approached. Jarrah and Atta clashed as the former operated on his own and spent time with his girlfriend…Atta selected early September after determining Congress would be in session. Although bin Laden continued to lobby for the White House as a target, Atta still favored the Capitol.” (p. 570-1)

Now, for the facts:

(a) There is no evidence that Atta (and others) “had committed themselves to martyrdom.”
(b) There is no evidence that Bin Laden and his senior planners had ever “seized on the idea of using airplanes to attack the United States”
(c) There is no evidence that Atta “was selected as the [9/11] mission’s leader” by anyone, let alone by bin Laden
(d) There is no evidence that members of the Hamburg group “spent time with Mohammed in Karachi studying airline schedules”
(e) There is no evidence that “Jarrah and Atta clashed,” let alone about the attacks.
(f) There is no evidence that Atta “selected early September after determining Congress would be in session.”
(g) There is no evidence that bin Laden “continued to lobby for the White House as a target” nor that Atta “favored the Capitol.”
(h) The author implies throughout that Mohamed Atta and his friends participated in the 9/11 attacks. This insinuation is unsubstantiated and represents a gross defamation of innocent people. Those who find my statement puzzling are invited to see it substantiated in my book “Hijacking America’s Mind on 9/11.”

The author’s claim that Osama bin Laden selected Atta and his friends as suicide pilots is not endorsed by the FBI. The FBI admitted in June 2006 to journalist Ed Haas that the agency possesses no evidence linking bin Laden to 9/11. Steve Coll could have spared himself ridicule, had he first consulted with the FBI before making his claims.

An author who offers readers unsubstantiated legends must either be incompetent or act as a purveyor of disinformation. As a Pulizer-prize winner, the author can hardly be regarded as incompetent. This leaves us with the alternative.

Book review of Jason Burke’s Al Qaeda – The True Story of Radical Islam

Jason Burke: Al Qaeda – The True Story of Radical Islam (Penguin Books, 2004)

Book Review by Elias Davidsson, October 19, 2014

Pretentious and disingenious

Burke’s book appears at first sight as a serious, scholarly, contribution to the study of Al Qaeda. It is heavily annotated, contains a glossary and a useful index, a map of Afghanistan and is well structured. Yet, as I will attempt to show, the book is essentially a slick fraud. The purpose of my review is to warn potential readers, nothing more and nothing less.

A substantial part of the book is devoted to the history of the so-called jihadist movement. Due to the nature of the subject matter, we may surmise that most sources used to compile such a history cannot be verified by readers, because of the inaccessibility of witnesses and the difficulty to authenticate documents allegedly issued by Islamic militants. There are, however, other means to gauge the credibility and integrity of the author, particularly in cases where sources are not only accessible to the wide public, but should have been cited by the author, had he been faithful to the truth.

Let us first consider how the author covered the role of one Ali A. Mohamed, a mysterious but crucial figure  to whom author Peter Lance devoted an entire book (“Triple Cross”). Author Burke mentions Mohamed at two locations in his book (p. 104 and 147). He presents Mohamed casually as a “former American special forces supply sergeant” who trained Islamic militants in Peshawar and cased the US embassy in Nairobi (Kenya) for bin Laden. In an extended endnote on p. 311, the author provides  slightly more information for those particularly interested. Yet, the author completely obfuscates Mohamed’s intimate cooperation with the FBI and the CIA and the fact that he also trained Islamists in the New York and New Jersey area with the knowledge of the FBI. In short, the author obfuscates the fact that Mohamed worked for the U.S. government while helping Al Qaeda. Given that the book was published in 2004, the author also obfuscated the fact that Mohamed, arrested and charged in the U.S. in connection with the bombings of the US embassies in East Africa, was spared a sentence and placed into the witness protection system, as is typical with US agents.  The author could hardly have been oblivious to the above facts. If he was, it would represent gross incompetence on his part.

On p. 102 the author claims that Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (widely known as KSM), reportedly incarcerated in Guantánamo, “was one of the key planners of the 11 September attacks.”  The author does not bother to substantiate this claim.  It is true that this claim was published in the mainstream press but its basis is merely an unauthenticated transcript issued by the Department of Defense that purports to represent a confession by said person.  That piece of paper contains also the claim by the alleged confessor to have planned the murder of the Pope and the destruction of a bank in Washington State that did not exist at the time of that person’s arrest. If this is the type of evidence on which the author relies, how can readers trust those sources that they cannot even access?

On. p. 59 the author debunks the straw-man claim that bin Laden was funded by the CIA. Actually no serious person has made that claim. But he conceals from his readers evidence of a relationship between the CIA and Bin Laden, sustained until 9/11. This relationship was revealed by the  French daily Le Figaro and Radio-France International in October 2001. According to these fairly reliable sources, CIA agent Larry Mitchell visited bin Laden at the American Hospital in Dubai on July 12, 2001, during bin Laden’s treatment there.  Although both the CIA and bin Laden denied to have met each other at this opportunity, author Richard Labévière cites in his book “Les coulisses de la terreur” further sources confirming this meeting.  Even if one would consider such sources as controversial, concealing these reports from readers does not inspire confidence in the author’s integrity.

Chapter 15 is devoted to the 11 September attacks, namely to the event that, as it were, crowned the terrorist accomplishments of the global Islamic terrorist movement, that is the subject of the book.  In this case the author did not need to rely on evidence gleaned from dark corners in Afghanistan or on dubious statements made by dubious characters in interrogations. The evidence regarding 9/11 is readily accessible and could be gleaned from U.S. mainstream media, Congressional hearings and other open sources.

The author apparently acknowledges this fact, albeit in a slightly different formulation, writing on p. 235: “The mechanics of the [9/11] plot have been examined in infinitesimal detail.” While many details have been revealed, it is not accurate that the plot had been examined in “infinitesimal detail”, and certainly not by the U.S. authorities. Already on the morning of September 12, 2001, Attorney General John Ashcroft warned that the task of the FBI was not to “solve a crime” but to prevent new attacks.  This warning was repeated four weeks later by the Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, as revealed by the New York Times.  The White House, for its part, fiercely opposed a public inquiry into the events and only grudgingly accepted to establish a Commission of Inquiry 411 days after the events. The terms of reference of this Commission, its budget and its composition were all meant to render its findings stale. Even the chairman and vice-chairmen of the Commission admitted later that the Commission had failed.  Nothing of that is found in Burke’s Chapter 15.

The author blithely claims that Islamic terrorists “armed with simple box cutters,” took control of airliners.  The team that hijacked flight UA175 was allegedly led by Marwan Alshehhi, while that of flight AA11 by Mohamed Atta. (p. 234).  Yet the names of these individuals do no appear on any authenticated passenger list (or flight manifest), no one saw them at the respective airport and their bodies were not identified at the crash site. Actually the names of none of the 19 alleged hijackers appear on any authenticated passenger list, none were seen by airport personnel and the body of none was identified at the crash sites. Incidentally, the official story only mentions “box-cutters” in relation to flight AA77, not because box-cutters were found at the crash site, but because “box-cutters” were mentioned in one phone call allegedly made from that aircraft.

A third “suicide pilot” named by Burke is Hani Hanjour, a diminutive bungler, who allegedly steered a Boeing 757 at more than 400 mph horizontally (20 feet above the ground) into the second floor of the Pentagon, a feat that even professional pilots would hardly be able to accomplish with a passenger airliner. Hani’s flight instructors designated his flight skills “so shoddy…that they questioned whether his pilot’s license was genuine.”  One former employee of the flight school quoted by the New York Times on May 4, 2002, said about Hani “I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all.” One flight school repeatedly complained to the FAA about Hanjour but apparently the FAA ignored these complaints. Hani clearly enjoyed protection from “higher ups”. These facts, again, are obfuscated by the author, as they would undermine the legend he blithely presents as truth.  The fact that the U.S. authorities never produced evidence in support of their official legend on 9/11 – neither regarding the identities of the alleged hijackers, nor about the identities of the crashed aircraft – is not mentioned by the author.

It is difficult to believe that the author was entirely oblivious to the above facts. The question arises why a perceptive intellectual such as Noam Chomsky was led to write in a blurb to the author: “Based on careful on-the-ground investigation and penetrating inquiry, this fine study, the most illuminating I know, gives remarkable insight into Islamic militancy.”

I call on Burke to explain to his readers his omissions and his unsubstantiated claims, as presented above.

John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, justifies drone attacks

The White House  Office of the Press Secretary
June 29, 2011

Remarks of John O. Brennan, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, on Ensuring al-Qa’ida’s Demise –

As Prepared for Delivery
Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, Washington, D.C.

Good afternoon.  Thank you, Dean Einhorn, for your very warm welcome and for your decades of service—in government, global institutions and here at SAIS.  And it’s a special pleasure to be introduced by John McLaughlin, a friend and colleague of many years and one of our nation’s great intelligence professionals.

It’s a pleasure to be here at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, an institution that has instilled in generations of public servants the pragmatic approach to problem-solving that is essential for the effective conduct of foreign policy.  I especially want to thank the Merrill Center for Strategic Studies for its emphasis on national security and for joining with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to introduce students to our Intelligence Community and inspiring the next generation of intelligence professionals.     

It’s wonderful to see so many friends and colleagues who I’ve had the privilege to work with over many years.  You have devoted your lives to protecting our nation from many threats, including the one that brings me here today, and one that has claimed the lives of some of our friends and colleagues—that is the continued terrorist threat from al-Qa’ida.  

Today, we are releasing President Obama’s National Strategy for Counterterrorism, which formalizes the approach that we’ve been pursuing and adapting for the past two and half years to prevent terrorist attacks and to ensure al-Qa’ida’s demise.  I’m pleased that we are joined today by dedicated professionals from across the federal government who helped to shape our strategy and who work tirelessly every day to keep our country safe.  Thank you for being here.

An unclassified summary of our strategy is being posted today to the White House website,   In the time I have with you, I’d like to put our strategy in context, outline its key goals and principals, and describe how we’re putting these principles into practice to protect the American people.    

I want to begin with the larger strategic environment that shapes our counterterrorism efforts.  This starts with the recognition that this counterterrorism strategy is only one part of President Obama’s larger National Security Strategy.  This is very important.  Our counterterrorism policies do not define our entire foreign policy; rather, they are a vital part of—and are designed to reinforce—our broader national security interests.

Since taking office, President Obama has worked to restore a positive vision of American leadership in the world—leadership defined, not by the threats and dangers that we will oppose, but by the security, opportunity and dignity that America advances in partnership with people around the world.  This has enhanced our national security in many areas against many threats.  

At the same time, many of the President’s broader foreign policy and national security initiatives also help to achieve our more focused counterterrorism goals.  They do so by addressing the political, economic and social conditions that can sometimes fuel violent extremism and push certain individuals into the arms of al-Qa’ida.

For instance, when our diplomats promote the peaceful resolution of political disputes and grievances, when our trade and economic policies generate growth that lifts people out of poverty, when our development experts support good governance that addresses people’s basic needs, when we stand up for universal human rights—all of this can also help undermine violent extremists and terrorists like al-Qa’ida.  Peaceful political, economic, and social progress undermines the claim that the only way to achieve change is through violence.  It can be a powerful antidote to the disillusionment and sense of powerlessness that can make some individuals more susceptible to violent ideologies.

Our strategy recognizes that our counterterrorism efforts clearly benefit from—and at times depend on—broader foreign policy efforts, even as our CT strategy focuses more narrowly on preventing terrorist attacks against our interests, at home and abroad.

This, obviously, is also the first counterterrorism strategy to reflect the extraordinary political changes that are sweeping the Middle East and North Africa.  It’s true that these changes may bring new challenges and uncertainty in the short-term, as we are seeing in Yemen.  It also is true that terrorist organizations, and nations that support them, will seek to capitalize on the instability that change can sometimes bring.  That is why we are working closely with allies and partners to make sure that these malevolent actors do not succeed in hijacking this moment of hope for their own violent ends.  

But as President Obama has said, these dramatic changes also mark an historic moment of opportunity.  So too for our counterterrorism efforts.  For decades, terrorist organizations like al-Qa’ida have preached that the only way to affect change is through violence.  Now, that claim has been thoroughly repudiated, and it has been repudiated by ordinary citizens, in Tunisia and Egypt and beyond, who are changing and challenging their governments through peaceful protest, even as they are sometimes met with horrific brutality, as in Libya and Syria.  Moreover, these citizens have rejected the medieval ideology of al-Qa’ida that divides people by faith and gender, opting instead to work together—Muslims and Christians, men and women, secular and religious.

It is the most profound change in the modern history of the Arab world, and al-Qa’ida and its ilk have been left on the sidelines, watching history pass them by.  Meanwhile, President Obama has placed the United States on the right side of history, pledging our support for the political and economic reforms and universal human rights that people in the region are demanding.  This, too, has profound implications for our counterterrorism efforts.

Against this backdrop, our strategy is very precise about the threat we face and the goals we seek.  Paul Nitze once observed that “one of the most dangerous forms of human error is forgetting what one is trying to achieve.”  President Obama is adamant that we never forget who we’re fighting or what we’re trying to achieve.

Let me start by saying that our strategy is not designed to combat directly every single terrorist organization in every corner of the world, many of which have neither the intent nor the capability to ever attack the United States or our citizens.

Our strategy of course recognizes that there are numerous nations and groups that support terrorism in order to oppose U.S. interests.  Iran and Syria remain leading state sponsors of terrorism.  Hezbollah and HAMAS are terrorist organizations that threaten Israel and our interests in the Middle East.  We will therefore continue to use the full range of our foreign policy tools to prevent these regimes and terrorist organizations from endangering our national security.

For example, President Obama has made it clear that the United States is determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.  And we will continue working closely with allies and partners, including sharing and acting upon intelligence, to prevent the flow of weapons and funds to Hezbollah and HAMAS and to prevent attacks against our allies, citizens or interests.

But the principal focus of this counterterrorism strategy—and the focus of our CT efforts since President Obama took office—is the network that poses the most direct and significant threat to the United States, and that is al-Qa’ida, its affiliates and its adherents.  We use these terms deliberately.

It is al-Qa’ida, the core group founded by Usama bin Laden, that has murdered our citizens, from the bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania to the attack on the U.S.S. Cole to the attacks of September 11th, which also killed citizens of more than 90 other countries.

It is al-Qa’ida’s affiliates—groups that are part of its network or share its goals—that have also attempted to attack our homeland.  It was al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen, that attempted to bring down that airliner over Detroit and which put explosives on cargo planes bound for the United States.  It was the Pakistani Taliban that sent Faisal Shahzad on his failed attempt to blow up an SUV in Times Square.

And it is al-Qa’ida’s adherents—individuals, sometimes with little or no direct physical contact with al-Qa’ida, who have succumbed to its hateful ideology and who have engaged in, or facilitated, terrorist activities here in the United States.  These misguided individuals are spurred on by the likes of al-Qaida’s Adam Gadahn and Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen, who speak English and preach violence in slick videos over the Internet.  And we have seen the tragic results, with the murder of a military recruiter in Arkansas two years ago and the attack on our servicemen and women at Fort Hood.

This is the first counterterrorism strategy that focuses on the ability of al-Qa’ida and its network to inspire people in the United States to attack us from within.  Indeed, this is the first counterterrorism strategy that designates the homeland as a primary area of emphasis in our counterterrorism efforts.       

Our strategy is also shaped by a deeper understanding of al-Qa’ida’s goals, strategy, and tactics. I’m not talking about al-Qa’ida’s grandiose vision of global domination through a violent Islamic caliphate.  That vision is absurd, and we are not going to organize our counterterrorism policies against a feckless delusion that is never going to happen.  We are not going to elevate these thugs and their murderous aspirations into something larger than they are.

Rather, President Obama is determined that our foreign and national security policies not play into al-Qa’ida’s strategy or its warped ideology.  Al-Qa’ida seeks to terrorize us into retreating from the world stage.  But President Obama has made it a priority to renew American leadership in the world, strengthening our alliances and deepening partnerships.  Al-Qa’ida seeks to portray America as an enemy of the world’s Muslims.  But President Obama has made it clear that the United States is not, and never will be, at war with Islam.   

Al-Qa’ida seeks to bleed us financially by drawing us into long, costly wars that also inflame anti-American sentiment.  Under President Obama, we are working to end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan responsibly, even as we keep unrelenting pressure on al-Qa’ida.  Going forward, we will be mindful that if our nation is threatened, our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us.

Al-Qa’ida seeks to portray itself as a religious movement defending the rights of Muslims, but the United States will continue to expose al-Qa’ida as nothing more than murderers.  They purport to be Islamic, but they are neither religious leaders nor scholars; indeed, there is nothing Islamic or holy about slaughtering innocent men, women, and children.  They claim to protect Muslims, but the vast majority of al-Qa’ida’s victims are, in fact, innocent Muslim men, women, and children.  It is no wonder that the overwhelmingly majority of the world’s Muslims have rejected al-Qa’ida and why its ranks of supporters continue to decline.

Just as our strategy is precise about who our enemy is, it is clear about our posture and our goal.  This is a war—a broad, sustained, integrated and relentless campaign that harnesses every element of American power.  And we seek nothing less than the utter destruction of this evil that calls itself al-Qa’ida.

To achieve this goal, we need to dismantle the core of al-Qa’ida—its leadership in the tribal regions of Pakistan—and prevent its ability to reestablish a safe haven in the Pakistan–Afghanistan region.  In other words, we aim to render the heart of al-Qa’ida incapable of launching attacks against our homeland, our citizens, or our allies, as well as preventing the group from inspiring its affiliates and adherents to do so.

At the same time, ultimately defeating al-Qa’ida also means addressing the serious threat posed by its affiliates and adherents operating outside South Asia.  This does not require a “global” war, but it does require a focus on specific regions, including what we might call the periphery—places like Yemen, Somalia, Iraq, and the Maghreb.  This is another important distinction that characterizes this strategy.  As the al-Qa’ida core has weakened under our unyielding pressure, it has looked increasingly to these other groups and individuals to take up its cause, including its goal of striking the United States.

To destroy al-Qa’ida, we are pursuing specific and focused counterterrorism objectives.  
For example:

    We are protecting our homeland by constantly reducing our vulnerabilities and adapting and updating our defenses.
    We are taking the fight to wherever the cancer of al-Qa’ida manifests itself, degrading its capabilities and disrupting its operations.
    We are degrading the ability of al-Qa’ida’s senior leadership to inspire, communicate with, and direct the operations of its adherents around the world.
    We are denying al-Qa’ida any safe haven—the physical sanctuary that it needs to train, plot and launch attacks against us.
    We are aggressively confronting al-Qa’ida’s ideology, which attempts to exploit local—and often legitimate—grievances in an attempt to justify violence.
    We are depriving al-Qa’ida of its enabling means, including the illicit financing, logistical support, and online communications that sustain its network.
    And we are working to prevent al-Qa’ida from acquiring or developing weapons of mass destruction, which is why President Obama is leading the global effort to secure the world’s vulnerable materials in four years.

In many respects, these specific counterterrorism goals are not new.  In fact, they track closely with the goals of the previous administration.  Yet this illustrates another important characteristic of our strategy.  It neither represents a wholesale overhaul—nor a wholesale retention—of previous policies.

President Obama’s approach to counterterrorism is pragmatic, not ideological.  It’s based on what works.  It builds upon policies and practices that have been instituted and refined over the past decade, in partnership with Congress—a partnership we will continue.  And it reflects an evolution in our understanding of the threat, in the capabilities of our government, the capacity of our partners, and the tools and technologies at our disposal.        

What is new—and what I believe distinguishes this strategy—is the principles that are guiding our efforts to destroy al-Qa’ida.

First, we are using every lawful tool and authority available.  No single agency or department has sole responsibility for this fight because no single department or agency possesses all the capabilities needed for this fight.  This is—and must be—a whole-of-government effort, and it’s why the Obama Administration has strengthened the tools we need.

We’ve strengthened intelligence, expanding human intelligence and linguistic skills, and we’re constantly working to improve our capabilities and learn from our experiences.  For example, following the attack at Fort Hood and the failed attack over Detroit, we’ve improved the analytic process, created new groups to track threat information, and enhanced cooperation among our intelligence agencies, including better information sharing so that all threats are acted upon quickly.  

We’ve strengthened our military capabilities. We increased the size of our Special Forces, sped up the deployment of unique assets so that al-Qa’ida enjoys no safe haven, and ensured that our military and intelligence professionals are working more closely than ever before.

We’ve strengthened homeland security with a multi-layered defense, bolstering security at our borders, ports and airports; improving partnerships with state and local governments and allies and partners, including sharing more information; increasing the capacity of our first responders; and preparing for bioterrorism.  In taking these steps, we are finally fulfilling key recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

Learning the lessons of recent plots and attempted attacks, we’ve increased aviation security by strengthening watchlist procedures and sharing information in real-time; enhancing screening of cargo; and—for the first time—ensuring 100 percent screening of all passengers traveling in, to, and from the United States, which was another recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.  And we are constantly assessing and improving our defenses, as we did in replacing the old color-coded threat system with a more targeted approach that provides detailed information about specific, credible threats and suggested protective measures.

In addition, we are using the full range of law enforcement tools as part of our effort to build an effective and durable legal framework for the war against al-Qa’ida.  This includes our single most effective tool for prosecuting, convicting, and sentencing suspected terrorists—and a proven tool for gathering intelligence and preventing attacks—our Article III courts.  It includes reformed military commissions, which at times offer unique advantages.  And this framework includes the recently renewed PATRIOT Act.  In short, we must have a legal framework that provides our extraordinary intelligence, counterterrorism, and law enforcement professionals with all the lawful tools they need to do their job and keep our country safe.  We must not tie their hands.

For all these tools to work properly, departments and agencies across the federal government must work cooperatively.  Today, our personnel are working more closely together than ever before, as we saw in the operation that killed Usama bin Laden.  That success was not due to any one single person or single piece of information.  It was the result of many people in many organizations working together over many years.  And that is what we will continue to do.

Even as we use every tool in our government, we are guided by a second principle—the need for partnership with institutions and countries around the world, as we recognize that no one nation alone can bring about al-Qa’ida’s demise.  Over the past decade, we have made enormous progress in building and strengthening an international architecture to confront the threat from al-Qa’ida.  This includes greater cooperation with multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, our NATO allies, and regional organizations such as the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the African Union.

Over the past two and a half years, we have also increased our efforts to build the capacity of partners so they can take the fight to al-Qa’ida in their own countries.  That is why a key element of the President’s strategy in Afghanistan is growing Afghan security forces.  It’s why we’ll soon begin a transition so that Afghans can take responsibility for their own security.  And it’s why we must continue our cooperation with Pakistan.

In recent weeks we’ve been reminded that our relationship with Pakistan is not without tension or frustration.  We are now working with our Pakistani partners to overcome differences and continue our efforts against our common enemies.  It is essential that we do so.  As frustrating as this relationship can sometimes be, Pakistan has been critical to many of our most significant successes against al-Qa’ida.  Tens of thousands of Pakistanis—military and civilian—have given their lives in the fight against militancy.  And despite recent tensions, I am confident that Pakistan will remain one of our most important counterterrorism partners.

These kinds of security partnerships are absolutely vital.  The critical intelligence that allowed us to discover the explosives that AQAP was shipping to the United States in those cargo planes was provided by our Saudi Arabian partners.   Al-Qa’ida in Iraq has suffered major losses at the hands of Iraqi security forces, trained by the United States.  Despite the ongoing instability, our counterterrorism cooperation with Yemen continues, and I would argue that the recent territorial gains made by militants linked to AQAP only makes our CT partnership with Yemen more important.

Around the world, we will deepen our security cooperation with partners wherever al-Qa’ida attempts to take root, be it Somalia, the Sahel or Southeast Asia.  For while al-Qa’ida seeks to depict this fight as one between the world’s Muslims and the United States, it is actually the opposite—the international community, including Muslim-majority nations and Muslim communities, united against al-Qa’ida.

This leads to the third principle of our strategy—rather than pursuing a one-size fits-all approach, we recognize that different threats in different places demand different tools.  So even as we use all the resources at our disposal against al-Qa’ida, we will apply the right tools in the right way and in the right place, with laser focus.

In some places, such as the tribal regions between Afghanistan and Pakistan, we will deliver precise and overwhelming force against al-Qa’ida.  Whenever possible, our efforts around the world will be in close coordination with our partners.  And, when necessary, as the President has said repeatedly, if we have information about the whereabouts of al-Qa’ida, we will do what is required to protect the United States—as we did with bin Laden.

In some places, as I’ve described, our efforts will focus on training foreign security services.  In others, as with our Saudi Arabian and Gulf state partners, our focus will include shutting down al-Qa’ida’s financial pipelines.  With longtime allies and partners, as in Europe, we’ll thwart attacks through close intelligence cooperation.  Here in the United States—where the rule of law is paramount—it’s our federal, state, and local law enforcement and homeland security professionals who rightly take the lead.  Around the world, including here at home, we will continue to show that the United States offers a vision of progress and justice, while al-Qa’ida offers nothing but death and destruction.

Related to our counterterrorism strategy, I would also note that keeping our nation secure also depends on strong partnerships between government and communities here at home, including Muslim and Arab Americans, some of whom join us today.  These Americans have worked to protect their communities from al-Qa’ida’s violent ideology and they have helped to prevent terrorist attacks in our country.  Later this summer, the Obama Administration will unveil its approach for partnering with communities to prevent violent extremism in the United States.  And a key tenet of this approach is that when it comes to protecting our country, Muslim Americans are not part of the problem, they’re part of the solution.    

This relates to our fourth principle—building a culture of resilience here at home.  We are doing everything in our power to prevent another terrorist attack on our soil.  At the same time, a responsible, effective counterterrorism strategy recognizes that no nation, no matter how powerful—including a free and open society of 300 million Americans—can prevent every single threat from every single individual who wishes to do us harm.  It’s not enough to simply be prepared for attacks, we have to be resilient and recover quickly should an attack occur.

So, as a resilient nation, we are constantly improving our ability to withstand any attack—especially our critical infrastructure, including cyber—thereby denying al-Qa’ida the economic damage and disruption it seeks.  As a resilient government, we’re strengthening the partnerships that help states and localities recover quickly.  And as a resilient people, we must remember that every one of us can help deprive al-Qa’ida of the success it seeks.  Al-Qa’ida wants to terrorize us, so we must not give in to fear.  They want to change us, so we must stay true to who we are.

Which brings me to our final principle, in fact, the one that guides all the others—in all our actions, we will uphold the core values that define us as Americans.  I have spent more than thirty years working on behalf of our nation’s security.  I understand the truly breathtaking capabilities of our intelligence and counterterrorism communities.  But I also know that the most powerful weapons of all—which we must never forsake—are the values and ideals that America represents to the world.

When we fail to abide by our values, we play right into the hands of al-Qa’ida, which falsely tries to portray us as a people of hypocrisy and decadence.  Conversely, when we uphold these values it sends a message to the people around the world that it is America—not al-Qa’ida—that represents opportunity, dignity, and justice.  In other words, living our values helps keep us safe.

So, as Americans, we stand for human rights.  That is why, in his first days in office, President Obama made it clear that the United States of America does not torture, and it’s why he banned the use of enhanced interrogation techniques, which did not work.  As Americans, we will uphold the rule of law at home, including the privacy, civil rights, and civil liberties of all Americans.  And it’s because of our commitment to the rule of law and to our national security that we will never waver in our conviction that the United States will be more secure the day that the prison at Guantanamo Bay is ultimately closed.

Living our values—and communicating to the world what America represents—also directly undermines al-Qa’ida’s twisted ideology.  When we remember that diversity of faith and background is not a weakness in America but a strength, and when we show that Muslim Americans are part of our American family, we expose al-Qa’ida’s lie that cultures must clash.  When we remember that Islam is part of America, we show that America could never possibly be at war with Islam.

These are our principles, and this is the strategy that has enabled us to put al-Qa’ida under more pressure than at any time since 9/11.  With allies and partners, we have thwarted attacks around the world.  We have disrupted plots here at home, including the plan of Najibullah Zazi, trained by al-Qa’ida to bomb the New York subway.

We have affected al-Qa’ida’s ability to attract new recruits.  We’ve made it harder for them to hide and transfer money, and pushed al-Qa’ida’s finances to its weakest point in years.  Along with our partners, in Pakistan and Yemen, we’ve shown al-Qa’ida that it will enjoy no safe haven, and we have made it harder than ever for them to move, to communicate, to train, and to plot.

Al-Qa’ida’s leadership ranks have been decimated, with more key leaders eliminated in rapid succession than at any time since 9/11.  For example, al-Qa’ida’s third-ranking leader, Sheik Saeed al-Masri—killed.  Ilyas Kashmiri, one of al-Qa’ida’s most dangerous commanders—reportedly killed.  Operatives of AQAP in Yemen, including Ammar al-Wa’ili, Abu Ali al-Harithi, and Ali Saleh Farhan—all killed.  Baitullah Mahsud, the leader of the Pakistani Taliban—killed.  Harun Fazul, the leader of al-Qa’ida in East Africa and the mastermind of the bombings of our embassies in Africa—killed by Somali security forces.

All told, over the past two and half years, virtually every major al-Qa’ida affiliate has lost its key leader or operational commander, and more than half of al-Qa’ida’s top leadership has been eliminated.  Yes, al-Qa’ida is adaptive and resilient and has sought to replace these leaders, but it has been forced to do so with less experienced individuals.  That’s another reason why we and our partners have stepped up our efforts.  Because if we hit al-Qa’ida hard enough and often enough, there will come a time when they simply can no longer replenish their ranks with the skilled leaders they need to sustain their operations.  And that is the direction in which we’re headed today.

Now, with the death of Usama bin Laden, we have struck our biggest blow against al-Qa’ida yet.  We have taken out al-Qa’ida’s founder, an operational commander who continued to direct his followers to attack the United States and, perhaps most significantly, al-Qa’ida’s symbolic figure who has inspired so many others to violence.  In his place, the organization is left with Ayman al-Zawahiri, an aging doctor who lacks bin Laden’s charisma and perhaps the loyalty and respect of many in al-Qa’ida.  Indeed, the fact that it took so many weeks for al-Qa’ida to settle on Zawahiri as its new leader suggests possible divisions and disarray at the highest levels.

Taken together, the progress I’ve described allows us—for the first time—to envision the demise of al-Qa’ida’s core leadership in the coming years.  It will take time, but make no mistake, al-Qa’ida is in its decline.  This is by no means meant to suggest that the serious threat from al-Qa’ida has passed; not at all.  Zawahiri may attempt to demonstrate his leadership, and al-Qa’ida may try to show its relevance, through new attacks.  Lone individuals may seek to avenge bin Laden’s death.  More innocent people may tragically lose their lives.

Nor would the destruction of its leadership mean the destruction of the al-Qa’ida network.  AQAP remains the most operationally active affiliate in the network and poses a direct threat to the United States.  From the territory it controls in Somalia, Al-Shabaab continues to call for strikes against the United States.  As a result, we cannot and we will not let down our guard.  We will continue to pummel al-Qa’ida and its ilk, and we will remain vigilant at home.

Still, as we approach the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, as Americans seek to understand where we stand a decade later, we need look no further than that compound where bin Laden spent his final days.  There he was, holed-up for years, behind high prison-like walls, isolated from the world.  But even he understood the sorry state of his organization and its ideology.

Information seized from that compound reveals bin Laden’s concerns about al-Qa’ida’s long-term viability.  He called for more large-scale attacks against America, but encountered resistance from his followers and he went for years without seeing any spectacular attacks.  He saw his senior leaders being taken down, one by one, and worried about the ability to replace them effectively.

Perhaps most importantly, bin Laden clearly sensed that al-Qa’ida is losing the larger battle for hearts and minds.  He knew that al-Qa’ida’s murder of so many innocent civilians, most of them Muslims, had deeply and perhaps permanently tarnished al-Qa’ida’s image in the world.  He knew that he had failed to portray America as being at war with Islam.  In fact, he worried that our recent focus on al-Qa’ida as our enemy had prevented more Muslims from rallying to his cause, so much so that he even considered changing al-Qa’ida’s name.  We are left with that final image seen around the world—an old terrorist, alone, hunched over in a blanket, flipping through old videos of a man and a movement that history is leaving behind.

This fight is not over.  But guided by the strategy we’re releasing today, we will never waver in our efforts to protect the American people.  We will continue to be clear and precise about our enemy.  We will continue to use every tool at our disposal, and apply them wisely.  We will continue to forge strong partnerships around the world and build a culture of resilience here at home.  And as Americans, we will continue to uphold the ideals and core values that inspire the world, define us as people and help keep us safe.  

President Obama said it best last week—we have put al-Qa’ida on a path to defeat, and we will not relent until the job is done.  Thank you all very much.

U.S. Counter-terrorism Strategy to Rely on Surgical Strikes, Unmanned Drones

U.S. Counter-terrorism Strategy to Rely on Surgical Strikes, Unmanned Drones

By Ken Dilanian
June 30, 2011″LA Times”

The Obama administration has concluded in a newly released counter-terrorism strategy that precision strikes and raids, rather than large land wars, are the most effective way to defeat Al Qaeda.

“Al Qaeda seeks to bleed us financially by drawing us into long, costly wars that also inflame anti-American sentiment,” John Brennan, President Obama’s counter-terrorism advisor, said in a speech Wednesday unveiling the new strategy. “Going forward, we will be mindful that if our nation is threatened, our best offense won’t always be deploying large armies abroad but delivering targeted, surgical pressure to the groups that threaten us.”

Brennan, a longtime former CIA officer, spoke at the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University in Washington, as the White House posted the new strategy on its website.

The strategy codifies policies the administration has been pursuing for 2 1/2 years, and much of it mirrors the practices of the Bush administration, Brennan said.  But at its core is a repudiation of the thinking that sent large numbers of American troops to Iraq and Afghanistan. Al Qaeda’s leadership has been decimated, Brennan said, thanks not to the wars but to “unyielding pressure” from U.S. operations to kill the group’s leaders one by one in the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region.

The more acute threats to the U.S. these days come from Al Qaeda affiliates in Yemen and perhaps Somalia, U.S. officials have said, and no one is contemplating sending large numbers of American troops to those countries.

Instead, the U.S. will pursue a war in the shadows, one relying heavily on missile strikes from unmanned aerial drones, raids by elite special operations troops, and quiet training of local forces to pursue terrorists.

Brennan said the recently announced troop reduction in Afghanistan would have no impact on U.S. counter-terrorism strategy in that country and Pakistan, where, he said, the U.S. has been delivering “precise and overwhelming force” against militants.

In the peculiar dance that marks the administration’s discussions of this issue, Brennan did not explicitly mention the vast expansion of drone strikes the U.S. has undertaken in Pakistan since January 2009— 213 of them, according to the New America Foundation, which counts them through media reports. That is because the program technically is secret, even though it is widely discussed and openly acknowledged by U.S. and Pakistani officials in private.

Later, when asked whether a policy of targeted killing was appropriate for the United States, Brennan responded that the U.S. is “exceptionally precise and surgical in terms of addressing the terrorist threat. And by that I mean, if there are terrorists who are within an area where there are women and children or others, you know, we do not take such action that might put those innocent men, women and children in danger.”

He added that in the last year, “there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency, precision of the capabilities that we’ve been able to develop.”

Brennan presumably was referring to covert strikes by the CIA and the Joint Special Operations Command, because in April, two American servicemen were killed by a Hellfire missile fired from a military drone after apparently being mistaken for insurgents moving to attack another group of Marines in southern Afghanistan.

Brennan’s willingness to boast about the precision of the drone strikes without actually acknowledging them underscores one of the implications of the Obama counter-terrorism strategy: It will be conducted largely in secret, without public accountability. When the military makes a mistake in a drone strike, as it has done in Afghanistan, there is an investigation and some transparency.

But when it comes to targeted killing by the CIA or clandestine special operations units, government officials are able to avoid public scrutiny, citing the need for secrecy. They are willing to make claims about limited civilian casualties, but are not willing to document those claims by, for example, releasing the video taken of each strike.

While members of Congress briefed on the drone program, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), back the administration’s claims that civilian casualties are minimal, other experts, including Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer and Obama advisor, question how officials can be so sure.

Asked about this, the White House declined to comment.

The case of Muhammad Haidar Zammar


The case of Muhammad Haidar Zammar1

By Elias Davidsson (January 2014)

How German leaders conspired with the U.S. and Syria in covering-up a secret operation

1. Who is Zammar?

Muhammad Haidar Zammar (also written Mohammad or Mohammed Haydar) was born in Aleppo, Syria in 1961. He moved to Germany with his family when he was ten years old and became a German citizen in 1982. According to intelligence services, he participated in the war against the occupation of Afghanistan by Soviet forces and in the civil war in ex-Yugoslavia, on the Bosnian side. According to these sources, Zammar decided in 1991 to dedicate himself fully to “jihad”, whatever that means.

2. Why is Zammar’s case relevant for understanding the conduct of Mohammed El Amir Atta?

The reason for examining thoroughly the case of Zammar, is that he reportedly claimed to have recruited Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah, three of the alleged suicide-pilots of 9/11,into the Al Qaeda network and induced them go to Afghanistan for military training.1While Zammar’s claims have not been confirmed independently, U.S. and German authorities have not denied these claims. According to unnamed U.S. investigators, Zammar is indeed believed to have recruited Mohamed Atta and his Hamburg group to become “suicide attackers”.2

Should that have been the case, the question would arise whether he acted on his own or as an operative for “higher-ups”. In the latter case, discovering the identity of these “higher-ups” would help explain the role played by Mohamed El Amir Atta and his friends, in relation to 9/11.

The present study demonstrates that Zammar was no marginal figure in relation to the group around Mohamed Atta; that the German government was aware of his key role long before 9/11; that it facilitated his departure from Germany after 9/11; and that it remains determined to hide the true function of Zammar.

3. Zammar was monitored by German intelligence long before 9/11

According to the German weekly Der Spiegel, unnamed officials said that Zammar, who obtained a German passport in 1982, had been already known to Germany’s Federal Office of the Protection of the Constitution (Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz, or BfV) since the end of the 1980s as a militant Muslim and recruiter for “jihad”.3 According to diverse mainstream sources, German and U.S. intelligence services had Zammar under extensive observation at least since 19984, probably earlier.5They reportedly interceptedhis phone calls6, monitored his meetings7 and surveilled his movements.8 Information about the surveillance of Zammar “from the files of various German police and intelligence agencies”, was provided to the New York Times “by someone with official access to the files of the continuing investigation into the events leading to the Sept. 11 attacks.”9 German officials did not dispute the authenticity of these documents.

According to the German weekly Der Spiegel,10 the newspaper Stuttgarter Nachrichten11 and a later Spiegel article12, Turkish authorities informed their German colleagues already in 1996 that Zammar had flown more than 40 times through Istanbul and Ankara on the way to, or back from war zones. This fact was withheld from the Commission of Inquiry of the Bundestag (COI) and was not mentioned in the commission’s final report.Yet, such extensive travel by an unemployed person who depended on welfare payments, should have raised immediate alarms.

A German investigator, EKHK Kröschel, was asked by the Commission of Inquiry what was known to German intelligence about Zammar before 9/11. As part of his answer, he read from a dossier on Zammar from the Hamburg Office for the Protection of the Constitution (LfV), that predates 9/11:

“On the base of numerous information, Zammar is known to the Hamburg Office of the Protection of the Constitution as a follower of Osama bin Laden and is considered as belonging to the network of ‘Arab Afghans’. According to his own wish, Zammar underwent already in 1991 military training as a Mujahedeen in the use of infantry weapons and explosives in Pakistan and participated thereafter in combat in Afghanistan. He had presumably personal contact to Osama bin Laden, whom he admires.”

According to an unnamed investigator quoted by Der Spiegel, Zammar acted as a kind of “travel agency to Afghanistan.”Long before 9/11, it was suspected by German intelligence that Zammar organized military training for wanabee German “jihadists” in Bin Laden’s camps. According to Azam Irschid, deputy director of the Al-Muhadjirin mosque in Hamburg, Zammar was known within the Islamic community in Hamburg as a full-fledged apostle of “jihad”.13

According to Der Spiegel, the BfV tried to recruit Zammar in 1996 as an informant, an offer he supposedly declined: He was said not to serve Westerners, “only Allah and the jihad.”14He reportedly claimed to have been militarily trained in a “mujahedeen” camp already in 1991 and had got to know Bin Laden personally. Zammar, however, supposedly said that Al Qaeda considered him of little value.15 His statements cannot be independently verified. No open-source evidence exists regarding the period of surveillance, its extent, purpose and nature. There is, however, no plausible reason why mainstream media would fabricate evidence of Zammar’s surveillance by intelligence agencies, nor why such agencies would wish to promote Zammar’s bluster. In fact, when reports appeared about pre-9/11 surveillance of the Hamburg group in general and that of Zammar in particular, Germany’s intelligence agencies tried to downplay the significance of its surveillance. Yet, according to the German weekly STERN, German investigators informed the CIA about their surveillance of Zammar, suggesting thereby that they considered his activities sufficiently significant to report them to their U.S. colleagues.16

The name of Haydar Zammar did never appear in German media prior to 9/11. Public evidence of his existence appeared in German media only after he left Germany with the knowledge of the German authorities in the end of October 2001.

4.  What was the purpose of monitoring Zammar?

There is no public evidence that Zammar was questioned by German criminal investigators prior to 9/11. Had he been considered as a security threat – as later claimed by German authorities – they would have possessed at least five good reasons to invite him for questioning prior to 9/11: (1)Three Yemeni men, suspected of being members of Islamic Jihad, were arrested in Torino, Italy, on October 2, 1998, alleged to have prepared attacks on U.S. facilities in Europe. On their address list, Italian authorities found contacts of Mohamed Haydar Zammar;17 (2) The arrest of Al Qaeda suspect Mamduh Mahmud Salim in Munich in the fall of 1998, equally led to Zammar;18 (3) Zammar’s modest financial means (he was on welfare) were not commensurate with his extensive international travel of which intelligence agencies were aware; (4) After he was detained in Jordan in July 2001 and expelled from there to Germany, there existed ample grounds to debrief him;19 (5) other known “suspected extremists” or “Al Qaeda sympathizers” among Hamburg’s Muslims, monitored from as early as 1996,20 included the group around Mohamed Atta and were in permanent contact with Zammar.21If such questioning or debriefing did not take place, German intelligence and investigative authorities owe the public an explanation. Was it the result of gross negligence, or were they ordered to leave him alone? If such questioning or debriefing had taken place before 9/11, the question would arise why this fact is being suppressed and what did these interrogations reveal.

After mainstream media revealed the extensive surveillance of Zammar by German intelligence agencies prior to 9/11, German officials did not issue a denial but rather tried to downplay the significance and the extent of the surveillance. They claimed that Zammar was then not considered as an “extremist”; that “what we did not see, were concrete signs for such a violent act as occurred in New York”;22 that the surveillance had been a “routine operation,”23that intercepted phone calls did not allow to determine the identities of the later “9/11 terrorists” because callers used only first names;24 that at the time, German officials were not overly concerned of a threat emanating from Osama bin Laden25; and that nothing Zammar did was illegal at the time. As a “final proof” of Zammar’s benign intentions, Spiegel’s journalists presented the fact that he did not attempt to flee from Germany after 9/11.26

The above explanations revealed themselves later as contrived: According to Der Spiegel 45/2002, Zammar admitted in interrogations conducted in Syria, that he planned in 1998, together with several other “Islamists”, to carry out a bombing attack in Hamburg, Germany. He and his colleaguesreportedly surveilled the target to be bombed but ultimately found the attacks too risky to carry out because of security considerations. If he actually made this admission, it is surprising that nothing of these plans had transpired in the massive surveillance to which he was subjected. If his statement was the result of torture, the question arises why it was presented by Der Spiegel as a genuine admission.

5. Why was Zammar detained in Jordan in July 2001?

The German authorities reportedly knew that Zammar had been detained in July 2001 in Jordan for several days and expelled to Germany.27 He most probably was debriefed by German officials upon his return to Germany. It is, therefore, surprising that the German authorities did never mention such debriefing (or explained the lack thereof).The reasons for his detention in Jordan have never been clarified. Surprisingly, the 1460-page report by the Commission of Inquiry of the Bundestag (COI), does neither mention Zammar’s detention in Jordan nor his alleged admission to have planned a terrorist attack in Hamburg.

6. Zammar was interrogated after 9/11 in Germany and released immediately

The German authorities interrogated Zammar already six days after 9/1128. He reportedly admitted to a German judge that he had previously distributed Osama bin Laden’s “Declaration of War against the Americans” to Muslims in Germany.29 It was not clear why he was presented to a judge. According to Der Spiegel journalist Holger Stark, this was no mere interrogation but actually a “trial”, which was “not open to the public”.30 At the time he made the aforementioned admission, Osama bin Laden was already widely considered as the instigator of the 9/11 attacks. German officials knew after 9/11 that Zammar had in the past entertained “intensive contacts” with the alleged perpetrators of 9/11, i.e. to Atta, Alshehhi and Jarrah, as well as to the fugitive Ramzi Binalshibh.31 The authorities also knew that Zammar travelled extensively but had not the financial means to pay for his travel himself. The fact that Zammar was interrogated shortly after 9/11 was not reported at the time in German media. Yet, Der Spiegel was apparently informed of Zammar’s interrogation, for it interviewed Zammar four days later.32 But Der Spiegel mentioned its interview only in 2002. In its extensive report regarding the Hamburg group published on October 15, 2001, Der Spiegel did not mention Zammar at all.33 The contents of Der Spiegel’s interview with Zammar were never published.

It took four weeks after Zammar’s interrogation for Germany’s Attorney General’s Office to initiate a criminal investigation of Zammar as a suspected supporter of a terrorist organisation. The evidence prompting this criminal investigation included – in addition to what the authorities knew before 9/11 –incomplete and untrue statements made by Zammar to the judge on September 17, particularly about his contacts withthe alleged perpetrators of 9/11.34 It was revealed in 2007 that the investigation of Zammar, initiated in 2001, had not yet been closed.35

It was revealed in the report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Bundestag, that merely hours after the 9/11 attacks, the decision was adopted by the German Federal Criminal Police (BKA) to establish a special unit, entitled “Besondere Aufbauorganisation USA” (BAO USA) – a peculiar name given to that unit – whose role was to “take the appropriate measures regarding the investigations by the Office of the Attorney General in relation to the attacks of 9/11 and to ensure national and international obligations of informational cooperation.”36The unit employed at times more than 600 people37, and hosted at one time fifteen FBI agents.38 The then director of the Office of the Chancellor, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, told to the Commission of Inquiry: “It was and remains for me entirely self-evident that we cooperate – within our law – with the USA.The USA together with our European partners are and remain allies, also and particularly in the struggle against international terrorism.”39

Manfred Klink, who headed in 2001 the BAO-USA task force, informed the Commission of Inquiry, that Zammar was considered at the time “a very dangerous islamist fundamentalist, who could be expected at any time to participate in plotting new terrorist attacks.”40 Due to the alleged dangerousness of Zammar, the Office of the Attorney General also instituted after 9/11 a covert and systematic observation of Zammar. On the base of this observation, German officials learned that Zammar had booked a flight to Morocco.The Attorney General kept Germany’s Chancellor’s Office informed about both the investigation and the surveillance.41 Germany’s leaders manifestly considered Zammar as a key player in a murky operation.

Yet, officials explained later that the evidence on Zammar they possessed was not sufficient for detaining him as a suspect.Transcripts of his interrogations by German officials have not been released to the public, though The New York Times somehow obtained a copy of one such transcript from which it selectively quoted certain phrases.42

7. Officials allowed Zammar to leave Germany while he was under investigation

Germany’s Office of the Attorney General (OAG) was aware early on, that Zammar, while being investigated in relation to 9/11,planned to travel abroad, allegedly for personal reasons.On the base of surveillance, the OAG knew that Zammar inquired on October 17, 2001 about travel plans at the Hamburg airport.The OAG was also aware that on October 18, Zammar – claiming that he had lost his passport43 – attempted to obtain a temporary replacement passport, booked on October 24 a return flight from Hamburg to Casablanca and applied and obtained on that same day a temporary passport. The chief of the Customer Service Center at Hamburg North, Ms. Wolter, whose competence includes the issuance of passports, testified before the Commission of Inquiry that immediately after Zammar left the Center, a police officer came and told her that Zammar was under police observation. The officer wanted to know what Zammar was doing there.44

The authorities admit that they did not attempt to impede or at least delay Zammar’s travel, although he was under criminal investigation in relation to the mass-murder of 9/11. The German Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) was actually advised by the OAG that in the case of Zammar’s departure from Germany, he should not be arrested,45 suggesting thereby the need to override an existing injunction to ban Zammar’s departure from Germany.

According to Kay Nehm, who served in 2001 as Germany’s Attorney General, he claimed before the Commission of Inquiry, that the authorities possessed in 2001 no legal means to prevent Zammar’s departure from the country.46 His claim was endorsed by the former head of the German “FBI” (BKA), Dr. Ulrich Kersten.47 This claim was, however, rejected as ludicrous by members of the opposition.48 Mounir el-Motassadeq, for example, who in the fall of 2001 was also designated by German authorities as a suspect by virtue of his friendship with Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, was actually arrested and detained in order to prevent him from leaving Germany. Yet, in his case, no evidence existed at the time – or at any time later – of any connections between him and Osama bin Laden or Al Qaeda. The differential treatment of Mounir el Motassadeq and Zammar suggests that German authorities were not truthful about their alleged inability to prevent or delay Zammar’s departure from Germany.

The President of the BfV (Germany’s domestic intelligence service), Heinz Fromm, asked by members of the Commission of Inquiry why the authorities let Zammar, a “dangerous suspect”, leave Germany, gave the curious answer that “when he is not here, he cannot do much damage.”49 It was not reported whether the Commission’s members sniggered.

According to the German newspaper Welt Online, Zammar left Germany for Morocco on October 27, 2001. His car was reportedly found abandoned in a [Hamburg] street.50

Dr. Hansjörg Geiger, who at the time served as the Chief of the Ministry of Justice, told the Commission of Inquiry that Kay Nehm informed him on October 25, 2001 of the impending departure of Zammar from Germany scheduled two days later.51 In parallel, the coordinator of the German BND (Federal intelligence service),, Ernst Uhrlau, informed the Office of the Chancellor on October 22 or 23 about Zammar’s plans to leave Germany.52 A discussion about Zammar’s impending departure from Germany took place on October 26, 2001 at the Office of the Chancellor.53 Such high level interest in the movements of Zammar and the reluctance to arrest him, suggests that he was as a key government asset.

Another person connected to the group surrounding Mohamed Atta, who was also under surveillance by German intelligence, was Sa’eed Bahaji. He also left Germany while under observation. An unidenfied official of the BfV, using the pseudonym Jürgen Lindweiler, testified in Mounir el Motassadeq’s trial in 2003, that border control officials had to notify the BfV, should Bahaji leave Germany. He was not to be arrested but his departure date had to be immediately notified to the BfV. Yet, when Bahaji left Germany, the system surprisingly failed because the BfV was not notified about his departure.54 Was Bahaji’s departure from Germany also facilitated by the authorities?

8. German officials informed Dutch, Moroccan and U.S. intelligence services in advance about Zammar’s travels

The German authorities informed on October 26, 2001, Dutch55, Moroccan56 and U.S. authorities57 about Zammar’s travel plans, flight numbers, etc., and requested that they check whether he actually carried out his flights.58 The Moroccan authorities were reportedly informed by their German counterparts that Zammar was under criminal investigation in Germany for allegedly supporting a terrorist organisation and that he was known to have had contact with the fugitives Bahaji, Binalshibh and Essebar, accused to have been indirectly involved in the mass-murder of 9/11.59 Mr. Kröschel, who testified before the Commission of Inquiry, claimed that the main reason for informing the Moroccan authorities of Zammar’s travel was to warn the Moroccans: “Beware, here comes someone who is suspected here to have had strong contacts with the perpetrators of 9/11! He is suspected and accused here to be a supporter. Beware!”60 On November 26, 2001, German officials transmitted to the FBI information about Zammar’s family circumstances, in addition to travel details.61 It is not known what was the purpose of providing such information to the FBI.

German officials claim that they could not have envisaged at the time that, should Zammar leave Germany, he might be abducted by U.S. officials and “rendered” to a third country.62 Yet, according to a report by the Special Expert of the European Council on U.S. renditions, Dick Marty, U.S. allies were informed at a secret meeting held at the fringe of the NATO Council, as early as on October 2, 2001, about the U.S.rendition practice.63 The European chief of the CIA, Tyler Drumheller, corroborated in an interview with the German weekly STERN of March 11, 2008, that European governments and intelligence services were aware of the renditions’ practice already in the fall of 2001.64 He emphasized that he knows both Ernst Uhrlau, the then President of the BND and Dr. Steinmeier, personally, whom he said he met in the Chancellor’s Office in the fall of 2001. According to him the Germans expressed their displeasure at the time about unilateral U.S. “renditions” of terrorists from European soil, carried out without the permission of the respective governments. The CIA had then, according to Drumheller, “promised to involve our allies in the operations.” German officials, including Uhrlau and Steinmeier, emphatically rejected Drumheller’s allegations. Uhrlau said he “does not remember” having met Drumheller in the fall of 2001 but remembers having met him in Russia during a conference in 2002.65 However, he denied to have discussed renditions with him. Dr. Steinmeier, for his part, denied to have ever known, let alone met, Mr. Drumheller.66 Due to the status of Tyler Drumheller,as the chief of CIA in Europe,it is difficult to take these denials at face value.

9. Zammar disappears

Zammar was supposed to return from Morocco to Germany on December 8th, 2001. However, he did not show up to his flight. He later, when he was in Syrian detention, told a German consular official that he had been arrested in Morocco on December 8th, 2001, held there for 23 days and moved to Syria in the beginning of 2002.67

On December 13, 2001, an official of the BKA, Mr. Calame, learned that Zammar had been arrested by the Moroccan authorities.68 Yet, upon requests for information, the Moroccan authorities lied repeatedly to their German counterparts about Zammar’s fate: First, they denied that Zammar entered Morocco on October 27, 2001.69 Then they told the Germans that Zammar had left Morocco on August 15, 2001, i.e.long before his current entry into Morocco (there was no evidence that Zammar had at all traveled to Morocco in August 2001).70 Zammar was then said to have left Morocco through Agadir airport.71 Another time, that he left for Spain.72 A third time that he was expelled to Spain.73 A fourth time that he left for an “unknown destination.”74 Although aware of Morocco’s lies regarding Zammar, German officials refrained from asking their Moroccan counterparts about the circumstances of Zammar’s arrest.75 German leaders – previously anxious to be informed about the movements of that particular individual – allegedly refrained to inquire about Zammar’s fate.76 On June 5, 2002 – five months after his “rendition” – the Moroccan authorities informed the BKA that Zammar was expelled to Spain on December 27, 2001 and was now in Syria.77

According to a Spiegel report of January 8, 2007, based on a memorandum from the German embassy in Washington, D.C., representatives of the State Department told German embassy officials that Germany “should not undertake steps against Morocco regarding Zammar because Morocco had acted expressly at the request of the United States.“78 Asked whether to his opinion Germany had been lied to by ”friendly partners”, Mr. Uhrlau admitted that this had been the case.79 He added that one cannot always expect from partners truthful answers to questions.80 Indeed, “friendly partners” are not necessarily true friends.

At this point, it might be useful to recall that Zammar was a German citizen who was at the time under investigation in Germany as a extremist Muslim with an Al Qaeda background, and a friend of the alleged perpetrators of 9/11.The officially displayed disinterest in seeking information about the fate of Zammar was therefore most likely contrived.

At no time then or thereafter, did German officials criticize Morocco for the arrest and the kidnapping of Zammar.Not in the least offended by Moroccan lies, a delegation of the BKA that comprised the vice-president of the agency, Bernard Falk, visited Morocco between April 8 and 12, 2002 in order to strengthen the cooperation between the BKA and the respective Moroccan agency.81 Between May 14 and 17, 2002, a delegation of the Moroccan DGST (the Moroccan secret services), visited the headquarters of the BKA in Meckenheim (Germany), to further develop intelligence cooperation.82 These meetings did not – according to testimonies before the Commission of Inquiry – yield information about the fate of Zammar.83 Officials of the DGST claimed they had no idea of hisfate.

10. Zammar was “rendered” by the CIA to Syria

In June 2002, it was reported for the first time that Zammar had been “rendered” by the CIA from Morocco to Syria after being detained by the Moroccan authorities. The exact circumstances of his transfer to Syria were not revealed. The Commission of Inquiry of the Bundestag concluded in their final report that, in spite of questioning hundreds of witnesses, including high officials, it could not determine when and where Zammar was arrested and when and how he was transferred to Syria.84 Were German officials unable to obtain this information from Morocco and the U.S. or did they suppress their knowledge while testifying before a parliamentary commission?

Yet, three months earlier, in March 2002, a delegation of the BND visited Syria and was given a five-page “study” on Zammar. The “study” was not released to the Commission of Inquiry because its release would – so the German government – endanger Germany’s the state’s welfare (Staatswohl).85 One may be justified in asking what prompted the BND to travel to Syria in March 2002, and what prompted the Syrian government to hand such a “study” to the BND. According to a BKA memorandum of June 20, 2002, cited in the Commission’s report, the Zammar “study” contains “detailed information to his personal surroundings, in relation to his presence in Hamburg and his contacts there. The study also designates Zammar as a recruiter of the 9/11 perpetrators and their supporters who lived in Hamburg.”86 No further details of the “study” are included in the Commission’s report. German officials, interviewed by the Commission, purported not to know who compiled the Zammar” study” and on which basis it was compiled.

Another delegation, headed by the President of the BND, visited Syria on May 16/17, 2002 to further develop intelligence cooperation.87 This was followed by a week-long visit in Germany between July 6 to July 13, 2002, by a Syrian delegation headed by General Asef Shaukat, vice-chairman of Syria’s military intelligence service, who is apparently also the brother-in-law of Syria’s president.88 At this meeting, the German side did not request to obtain access to Zammar. Those who participated in the meeting said that the case of Zammar was not discussed.89

Shortly thereafter, a delegation headed by Dr. Kersten, president of the BKA, visited Damascus between July 29 to 31, 2002. The declared purpose of the visit was to ameliorate the cooperation between the countries in the fight against illegal migration and the struggle against “islamist terrorism”.90 The case Zammar was only mentioned as an aside.Cooperation between Germany and Syria in police and security matters began decades ago and continued at least until the year 2012:Syrian refugees in Germany, including teenagers, were routinely deported to Syria, in the knowledge that they might be arrested and tortured in their home country.91 According to a CIA official, cited by Dick Marty, “when one wishes to have prisoner seriously interrogated, one sends him to Jordan. When one wants him to be tortured, one sends him to Syria.When one wishes him to disappear from this earth, one sends him to Egypt.”92 The German BND, incidentally, cooperates also with the Egyptian secret services.

Another delegation from Germany, composed of representatives from the BND, the BfV and the BKA, visited Syria weeks later, in order to continue its discussions on intelligence cooperation between the countries.93Not much is known about the real purpose of that particular visit.Asked whether the German delegation requested from the Syrian side that Zammar be allowed to be questioned in Germany, Fromm told the Commission of Inquiry that he does not remember whether this was mentioned. He said: “I guess that this issue was not pursued, perhaps the idea did not even occur [to us], because it appeared unrealistic at this juncture to make this demand.”94

According to media reports that appeared in 2002, possibly based on the Zammar “study”, Zammar claimed to have recruited Mohamed Atta and other members of the “Hamburg group” as volunteers for training in Osama bin Laden’s camps in Afghanistan.95 On that ground alone, Germany’s judicial authorities should have possessed a vital interest in having him testify before a German court. Their aversion to such a deposition indicates that, on the contrary, their vital interest(and that of the German leadership) resided in keeping Zammar beyond the reach of German courts and media.

Indeed, after learning that Zammar was detained in Syria, German authorities undertook no efforts to have this German citizen returned to Germany, even in the knowledge that he might be tortured and could be sentenced to death.

At the time, Germany held in custody two Syrian nationals, who were arrested in December 200196 and accused of spying on Syrian nationals living in Germany.97 Under pressure from Syria, the German government waived criminal charges against these two Syrian intelligence agents and accepted to upgrade its intelligence cooperation with Syria. German officials emphatically denied that their decision to free these agents had anything to do with Syria’s cooperation regarding Zammar (whatever the nature of this cooperation!)98, Germany Ministry of Justice advised on July 22, 2002, that lifting the charges against the Syrians agents was related to the “geopolitical situation concerning the war on terrorism”, whatever that meant.99 The former Director of the Ministry of Justice, Dr. Geiger, testified before the Commission of Inquiry that the decision not to press the charges against the Syrian agents was based on an “overriding public interest”, whatever that meant.100 He said that the Zammar case did not play any role in lifting the charges. The sole reason for doing so were “the security considerations of the German Federal Republic”, whatever that meant.101

11. Germany acquiesces to Zammar’s incarceration and torture in Syria

German authorities knew that political detainees in Syria are routinely tortured but did not ask the Syrian authorities to spare Zammar from torture. They accepted to interview Zammar in the knowledge that he may have been tortured. Before they met to interview Zammar in November 2002, they Syrian authorities had for three days “prepared Zammar for questioning to make him sufficiently cooperative.”102 as formulated in the report of the Commission of Inquiry. German officials were allowed to meet him on November 21, 22 and 23, 2002 for a total of 13 hours and 20 minutes in the presence of a Syrian official.103 The report by the Commission does not explain what was the nature of Zammar’s three-day “preparation” and apparently no Commission member was curious to know. German officials interviewed by the Commission conceded that torture is practiced routinely in Syria, but argued that Germany must also cooperate, including on intelligence and police matters, with countries that practice torture.104 According to Dr. Hanning, the only possibility to interrogate Zammar was that provided by the Syrians on Syrian soil:“Zammar was deemed one of the main threats in the Hamburg environment and we possessed therefore an overriding interest, from a security perspective, to access Zammar and question him.” German officials did not provide details about the content of their questioning of Zammar; in their testimony to the Commission of Inquiry the mainly described Zammar’s outward appearance, demeanor and willingness to talk, and the logistics surrounding the interrogations.105

According to Amnesty International, Zammar was described in October 2004 in a “skeletal” physical condition as a result of “three years’ incommunicado detention in Far’ Falastin without charge, in prolonged, solitary confinement in cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions.”106 In 2006, the Syrian Higher State Security Court sentenced Zammar to life imprisonment, commuted to 12 years, accused of being a member of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.107 Apparently the Syrian prosecutors used information provided by German services, including evidence of Zammar’s stints in training camps in Afghanistan and Bosnia, to convict Zammar.108 According to German officials, they did not attend Zammar’s trial. According to a report by Amnesty International from 2005, Zammar has not been seen by any outsider, including family members and representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross, after German officials saw him last in November 2002.109

12.German court is denied protocols of Zammar’s interrogations

The BND sent to the Syrian secret service on July 20, 2002, a catalogue of questions to submit to Zammar and repeatedly received results from interrogations carried out by Syrian officials.110

On January 29, 2003, counsel for Mounir el Motassadeq, who was standing trial in Hamburg, requested that (1) Zammar be allowed to testify as witness for the defense and that (2) the protocols of the interrogations of Zammar as well as the answers to the catalogue of questions submitted to the Syrian interrogators, be entered as exhibits to the trial.111 Counsel argued that Zammar’s testimonies might exculpate their client.

On February 3, 2003, the Office of the German Chancellor sent to the Attorney General, the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Justice and the BND, a declaration in which it justifies its endorsement of BND’s refusal to release to the court evidence and documents relative to Zammar.112 The main justification for the refusal was that it would cause “disadvantage to the welfare of the Federal Republic of Germany”, whatever that means. According to the Chancellor’s Office, the BND is entitled to withhold from the court information about the whereabouts of Zammar, as well as the contents and the source of documents about him. On the same day, the Ministry of Interior issued a similar paper.113

One day later, on February 4, 2003, the Hamburg court– having presumably been informed of the above documents –issued two Decisions. In its first Decision,114 it rejected the request by defense counsel for the protocols of Zammar’s interrogations that took place in Morocco.The court claimed that such protocols do not exist.

In its second Decision,115 the court rejected the request by defense counsel to produce Zammar as a witness and to produce the protocols of Zammar’s interrogations in Germany and Syria. The court claimed that Zammar’s testimony is not necessary for establishing the truth in the case before trial. The court also argued that it is unlikely that Syria would permit Zammar to testify, even if this were done through a simultaneous video transmission. The court based its conclusion on the decisions by Germany’s Office of the Chancellor and by the Ministry of Interior of January 30, 2003 and February 3, 2003 to refuse access to documents concerning the interrogations of Zammar in Syria.The court added that, on the base of Zammar’s interrogation of September 17, 2001 in Germany, it appears unlikely that Zammar, even if he were allowed to testify, would provide new information relevant to the present trial, for in theinterrogation of September 17, 2001, Zammar refused to answer questions regarding Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah, three of the alleged suicide-pilots of 9/11. In that interrogation – according to the court’s Decision – Zammar claimed that he did not know Binalshibh and Essabar.Should he have lied about these facts in October 2001 – so the court – he would certainly refuse to contradict his former statements and thus incriminate himself in perjury.It was therefore unlikely, so the court, that Zammar would make any statements that might exculpate the accused. The court thus reasoned, that his appearance before the court would be superfluous!

On appeal by defense counsel to the Federal Administrative Court (FAC), the FAC upheld on February 10, 2003116 the lower court’s refusal to ask for the appearance of Zammar and for the release of the protocols of his interrogations, arguing that the German authorities had pledged to the Syrian services strict confidentiality. The FAC uncritically espoused the government’s position that releasing such information to the court would “significantly harm the “welfare of the Federal Republic of Germany”, whatever that means.117 The FAC argued that if the confidentiality promise were breached, Germany would be excluded from further information exchange between intelligence services in the so-called war on terrorism and particularly from cooperation with Syria.118 The FAC did not explain in its ruling how the release of protocols of Zammar’s interrogation, in so far as they relate to the particular court case, could harm the welfare of the nation.The decision by the FAC did not, incidentally, spell out the limits beyond which it would be unlawful or even treasonous for German government officials to promise foreign governments total confidentiality and thereby undermine their democratic accountability to their own citizens.

13. Zammar and Germany’s alleged national interest

A central argument proffered by the German government in support of its suppression of information obtained from Zammar, was that it pledged to the Syrian government not to reveal this information. To violate this pledge would endanger intelligence cooperation with Syria and more generally the credibility of German intelligence agencies. Syria, said Dr. Steinmeier, “belonged at the time to the allies of the West in the war on terror” and was no longer a “rogue state” because it condemned the 9/11 attacks and announced its readiness to participate in the “war against terrorism”. “We needed Syria’s active cooperation,“ said Steinmeier, “because the perpetrators of 9/11 maintained contacts to members of the Syrian Muslim brothers” and “we needed Syria as a constructive partner to prevent an explosion of the Middle East conflict after 9/11.”119The former president of the BND, Dr. Hanning, also emphasized to the Commission of Inquiry the importance of intelligence cooperation with Syria in the war on terror. Syria played a very important role in this matter, he said.120 He did not specify the nature of that “very important role.”

More generally, the German administration, through its various departments, argued that intelligence cooperation with other countries would suffer grave damage, if information transmitted confidentially by foreign services to German intelligence agencies, would be provided to “third parties”, including judicial authorities.

The Commission of Inquiry repeatedly requested, through the Syrian Embassy in Germany, to be allowed to interview Zammar. The Embassy reportedly did not answer a single request. Was this refusal solely based on Syrian domestic considerations or did the governments of the United States and Germany ask Syria to ignore these requests”The fact that the United States kidnapped Zammar and forcefully transferred him to Syria and that German authorities did not press for his return to Germany, suggests, however, a collusion between the three governments.

14. Why do German authorities want Zammar outside the reach of German courts?

As shown above, every move by the German authorities in relation to Zammar demonstrates the existence of a policy, adopted at the highest echelons of German politics, to remove Zammar from the reach of German courts and media. The interest shown by the highest echelons of German politics to the case of Zammar indicates that he was certainly not a “marginal figure” from their perspective.

If Zammar was no “marginal figure”, what was his role? He either was an Al Qaeda operative believed by the German authorities to be highly dangerous, or an asset of German and/or American intelligence services, whose role was to induce Muslims to become “jihadists” and spend some time in an alleged Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan or Pakistan. After their return home, they would become ideal targets for a media-savvy “war on terrorism.”

Had Zammar been regarded by the German authorities as a highly dangerous Al Qaeda operative, the question would arise why they did not interrogate or detain him before 9/11 and why they let him leave Germany after 9/11, although they had known virtually everything about him for years, including his alleged radical views, his contacts with suspected terrorists, his trips to Afghanistan and his lack of means to finance his frequent trips. Apologists for the German government, such as journalists of Der Spiegel, argue that before 9/11 “no one was concerned about Al Qaeda” and that those who listened to Zammar’s phone calls before 9/11 did not “connect the dots”. This explanation is tenuous and does not explain why he was not arrested after 9/11, when it transpired that he may have facilitated the travel of the alleged perpetrators of 9/11 to Afghanistan.After the bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998 – the largest terrorist attacks committed anywhere in that year – the U.S. designated Osama bin Laden as the main suspect for these attacks. As a U.S. ally, the German authorities would have certainly been asked to cooperate in the investigation by monitoring and interrogating individuals residing in Germany suspected of connections to Al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden. Zammar was known at the time as one of the most prominent contacts to Al Qaeda living in Germany. His contacts to other “jihadists”, as mentioned above, provided further reasons for the German authorities to consider him, even before 9/11, a dangerous person, had he been a genuine “jihadist.”

The failure of the German authorities to act on Zammar’s alleged menace, both before and after 9/11, strongly suggests that Zammar played a radically different role from that attributed to him by government officials.

Is it possible, for instance, that Zammar actually accepted the reported proposal of the German BfV in 1996 to act as an informant (see above)”In that case, he would have been an asset in a covert strategy managed by U.S. and German intelligence and abetted by Moroccan and Syrian services. His role would have been to pose as a true “jihadist” and induce young Muslims to go for training to Pakistan or Afghanistan in camps led by Osama bin Laden. In order to understand the rationale for such a policy, we must briefly digress from our subject and point out what strategical benefits the West would gain by such a policy.

Around 1990, the Soviet bloc imploded. For over 40 years, the Warsaw Pact, led by Moscow, served as the main threat to the West, contributed to NATO’s political cohesion and justified a high level of military expenditures by the United States and its allies. The disappearance of that external perceived threat threatened to make NATO redundant and severely affect the revenues of the extremely profitable military-industrial complex. While the majority of ordinary people could then hope to enjoy the “peace dividend”, those dependent upon an external threat for their profit, searched for a new epochal threat that would maintain their revenues. In addition, the United States – now the sole remaining super-power – faced a unique historical opportunity to secure its long-term global hegemony. To do so, however, required the support of the American public and such support depended upon public perception of an external existential threat. It was thus both imperative and urgent for U.S. strategists to find a credible “threat” that would profitably supplant the Red Threat. No single state or group of states could at that time be credibly regarded as fulfilling this role. An alternative was therefore sought. It was found in the guise of an “Islamic global terrorist network” that would be manufactured and nurtured.121 This invention was a genial – and Machiavellian – strike of the mind:As most oil resources in the world lie under the feet of Muslims, the quest to control these resources by military means could be usefully be concealed behind policing efforts to battle “Islamic terrorists” hosted in such countries. Another advantage of this mythical construction was that authorities in Western nations could justify increased “security” measures, such as mass surveillance of telephone and internet communications, by the need to discover potential “Islamic terrorists” among the Muslims living in the particular country.

To successfully implement this strategy, Western intelligence agencies need to maintain an large pool of wannabe terrorists, agents provocateurs, hate preachers and big-mouthed jihadists, whose mainly verbal feats are useful media feed and help to promote the myth of Islamic terrorism. The initial “raw material” for that mythical network – trade-marked Al Qaeda – were the so-called Arab Afghans, who after the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan, found themselves unemployed and looking for new sponsors. Their new sponsors were Western intelligence agencies, acting behind the façade of Saudi and Pakistani handlers, in order to conceal their own hands.122 In order to maintain the supply of such “jihadists”, recruiters ensure a continuous flow of wannabe fighters to training camps in Afghanistan and Pakistan, who could later be arrested as terrorist suspects and ensure regular media coverage of the “terrorist threat.”It is beyond the scope of this study to elaborate upon this development. This network – financed and managed by Saudi and Pakistani intelligence services, but ultimately serving a Western strategical concept – is now operating globally in furtherance of imperial design (the most recent example being Syria).

The conduct of German officials strongly suggests that Mohammad Haydar Zammar played a role within this covert strategy.He reportedly said he ensured that Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi and Ziad Jarrah would go to Afghanistan for training. These three persons were famously accused by the United States authorities to have flown three of the four aircraft that allegedly crashed on 9/11. There is, however, no evidence whatsoever, that they boarded these aircraft.123

For two of them – Atta and Alshehhi – there is no reliable evidence, that they ever went to the United States.124 By inducing them to make a stint in a training camp in Afghanistan, they could later be linked to Al Qaeda. Their presence in Afghanistan was indeed relied upon by the Hamburg Higher Regional Court (Oberlandsgericht) in the case of Mounir el Motassadeq in order to “prove”, as it were, their terrorist inclination.125 Had this been one of Zammar’s roles, it would explain why he had to be removed from German jurisdiction, maintained outside the reach of German courts and media and why the intercepts of his phone calls, surveillance logs and protocols of his interrogations are kept secret.

The present case provides a glimpse into the systematic deception of the tax-paying public carried by German intelligence agencies, the absence of effective parliamentary control of these agencies, the lack of independence of German judicial authorities, and the deplorable deference of German leaders to Washington’s imperial strategy.


1. Acronyms used in this chapter:

BAO USA: Besondere Aufbauorganisation USA

BfV: Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz

BKA: Bundeskriminalamt (German Federal Criminal Police Office)


COI: Commission of Inquiry of the German Parliament (Bundestag) set up to investigate the cooperation of German government bodies with CIA “renditions” of alleged terror suspects

FAC:Bundesverwaltungsgericht (Federal Administrative Court)

OAG:Bundesstaatsanwalt (Germany’s Office of the Attorney General)

1. Klaus Brinkbäumer et al, “Attas Armee”, Der Spiegel, 2 September 2002, p. 9

2. DW, “Plante er den 11. September?”Welt Online, 13 June 2002

3. Andreas Ulrich, “Operation Zartheit”, Spiegel Online, 15. July 2002

4. Desmond Butler, “Germans were tracking Sept. 11 conspirators as early as 1998, documents disclose”, The New York Times, January 18, 2003

5. According to Ulrich – supra n. 3 –, German officials started already in 1997a monitoring operation of Zammar and his contacts, entitled Operation Tenderness (Operation Zartheit). According to Dominik Cziesche, Georg Mascolo and Holger Stark, “Das Puzzle lag auf dem Tisch”, Der Spiegel, 3 February 2003, the German BfV intercepted telephone communications of the group surrounding Mohamed Atta since 1996.According to Peter Finn (“Hamburg’s Cauldron of Terror”, Washington Post, 11 September 2002), Brinkbäumer (supra n. 1) and Ulrich (supra n. 3), German intelligence placed Zammar under surveillance after being tipped by Turkish authorities that he had passed Istanbul and Ankara on his way to various war zones over 40 times. According to Vanity Fair (“The Price of Failure”, November 2004), the BfV was tipped off by Turkish intelligence in 1996 that Zammar had been traveling the globe to trouble spots: more than 40 journeys in all, to such places as Bosnia and Chechnya.

6. Butler, supra n. 4

7. Ibid.

8. Ibid.

9. Ibid.

10. Ulrich, supra n. 3

11. Franz Feyder, “11. September Geheimdienst – Operation Zartheit”, Stuttgarter Nachrichten, 8 September 2011

12. Klaus Brinkbäumer et al, “Atta’s Army”, Der Spiegel Online, 23 November 2006

13. Peter Finn, Hamburg’s Cauldron of Terror, Washington Post, 11 September 2002

14. Dominik Cziesche, Georg Mascolo and Holger Stark, “Das Puzzle lag auf dem Tisch”, Der Spiegel, 3 February 2003; and Feyder, supra n. 11

15. Cziesche et al, supra n. 14

16. Finn, supra n. 13

17. Feyder, supra n. 11

18. “Früher Verdacht”, Der Spiegel, 29 October 2001

19. DW, supra n. 2

20. Cziesche et al, supra n. 14

21. Butler, supra n. 4

22. Comment by Peter Frisch, former head of the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV); and Finn, supra n. 13

23. Cziesche et al, supra n. 14

24. Ibid.

25. Ibid.

26. Brinkbäumer, supra n. 1

27. “Atta von Deutsch-Syrer angeworben”, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 13 June 2002; also DW, supra n. 2

28. According to Butler (supra n. 4), “10 days after the attacks” of 9/11.According to DW (supra n. 2) “in the middle of October [2001]”.Ultimately, it was revealed in an address to the German parliamentary commission that Zammar was made to appear before a judge on September 17, 2001, that is six days after 9/11.See infra n. 29, p. 217.

29. Final Report of the Commission of Inquiry of the Bundestag (“Beschlussempfehlung und Bericht des 1. Untersuchungsausschusses nach Artikel 44 des Grundgesetzes”)Berlin, 18 June2009, Document 16/13400, p. 217

30. Private communication to the author of June 8, 2012

31. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 217

32. Dominik Cziesche, Georg Mascolo and Gerhard Spörl, “Die zweite Welle”, Der Spiegel, 24 June 2002

33. Klaus Brinkbäumer et al, Anschläge ohne Auftrag, Der Spiegel, 15 October 2001

34. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 218

35. N/A

36. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 58

37. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 58.In October 2001 that number had already reached 615 (source: Brinkbäumer, supra n. 33)

38. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 222

39. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 59

40. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 218

41. Final Report (…),supra n. 29,p. 218

42. Butler, supra n. 4

43. “Geheimdienste: Ausser Kontrolle”, Stern, 8 Mai 2006

44. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 220

45. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 218

46. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 218-219

47. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 219

48. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 442-3

49. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 866

50. DW, supra n. 2

51. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 219

52. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 866

53. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 221

54. Oliver Schröm and Dirk Laabs, “Unser Mann in der Moschee”, Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, 2 February 2003

55. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 443

56. “Geheimdienste: Ausser Kontrolle”, supra n. 43; and, Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 443

57. The BKA informed a FBI investigator about Zammar’s return date, two weeks in advance (“Geheimdienste: Ausser Kontrolle”, supra n. 43)

58. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 221-222. The U.S. authorities were informed about Zammar’s travel plans on the day on which he booked his flight (p. 925)

59. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p.444

60. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 222

61. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 926

62. Renditions is the term used for the practice by the CIA to abduct alleged terror suspects and transfer them to various secret prisons around the world, or deliver them to certain states in order to be tortured or “eliminated.”This unlawful and criminal practice has called forth widespread outrage.

63. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 445

64. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 445; also Uli Rauss and Oliver Schröm, “Ex-CIA Mann belastet deutsche Kollegen”, Stern, 11 März, 2008

65. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 62

66. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 457

67. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 925

68. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 867

69. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 225

70. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 228

71. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 867

72. Final Report (…),supra n. 29,p. 228; and DW, supra n. 2

73. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 228.In a latter communication from the Moroccan Ministry of Interior, January 22, 2002, Zammar was said to have been “deported” from Morocco, but the destination was not anymore given as Spain.It was unspecified; see also Georg Mascolo and Holger Stark, “Mysteriöse Auskunft”, Der Spiegel, 15 April 2002

74. Mascolo et al, supra n. 731

75. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 868

76. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 867

77. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 232

78. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 932

79. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 229

80. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 232

81. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 231

82. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 231

83. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 231-2

84. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 226

85. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 230

86. Final Report (…),supra n. 295, p. 230

87. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 238

88. “Geheimdienste: Ausser Kontrolle”, supra n. 43

89. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 239

90. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 242

91. Hans Georg, “Deutsch-syrische Kooperation begann schon in den frühen 50er Jahren”, Neue Rheinische Zeitung, 6 April 2011

92. Ibid,footnote 16

93. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 243

94. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 245

95. “Atta von Deutsch-Syrer angeworben”, supra n. 27; also DW, supra n. 2

96. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 239

97. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 446

98. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 238

99. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 240

100. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 240

101. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 241

102. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 931

103. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 250

104. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 245

105. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 250-256

106. Amnesty International: Muhammad Haydar Zammar

107. “Terror suspect Zammar gets twelve years”, Der Spiegel, 12 February 2007

108. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 934

109. Amnesty International: Muhammad Haydar Zammar

110. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 927

111. Antrag des Strafverteidiger von el Motassadeq vom 29. Januar 2003

112. Bundeskanzleramt, Sperrerklärung, 3 Februar 2003

113. Bundesministerium des Inneren, Sperrerklärung, 3 Februar 2003

114. Beschluss des OLG Hamburg, Anlage 96, 4. Februar 2003

115. Beschluss des OLG Hamburg, Anlage 95, 4. Februar 2003

116. Antrage auf Übergabe von Akten des BND and das OLG Hamburg im Motassadeq-Prozess abgelehnt, Pressemitteilung des Bundesverwaltungsgerichts, 10. Februar 2003

117. Ibid.

118. Ibid.

119. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 235

120. Final Report (…),supra n. 29, p. 236

121. No empirical evidence has ever been produced by NATO, the United Nations and Western governments, that international terrorism is a serious threat to any Western nation, let alone to “world peace”. More people did in the Western world from lightning strikes than in terrorist attacks.More people are killed yearly in the U.S. alone than worldwide in terror attacks.In Germany, home to approximately four million Muslims, no German national has ever been killed in Islamic terrorism. Yet, the myth of the terrorist threat is regularly promoted by the authorities and by complying media.

122. See, for example, Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed, “The War on Truth: 9/11, Disinformation and the Anatomy of Terrorism”, Interlink Pub Group (2005)

123. See, in particular, Elias Davidsson, “Hijacking America’s Mind on 9/11”, Algora Publishers (New York, 2013), pp. 29-58

124. Ziad Jarrah, however, credibly pursued flight training in the United States prior to 9/11.

125. Court documents in the case of Mounir El Motassadeq (in German)


The Ongoing bin Laden Saga: Can Americans Be Unplugged?

The Ongoing bin Laden Saga: Can Americans Be Unplugged?

By Dr. Paul Craig Roberts
Global Research, May 16, 2011

“The Matrix is a system, Neo. That system is our enemy. But when you’re inside, you look around, what do you see? Businessmen, teachers, lawyers, carpenters. The very minds of the people we are trying to save. But until we do, these people are still a part of that system, and that makes them our enemy. You have to understand, most of these people are not ready to be unplugged. And many of them are so inured, so hopelessly dependent on the system, that they will fight to protect it.”

The ever-changing, ever-growing bin Laden story becomes ever more preposterous. The cowardly bin Laden is now the vain bin Laden, the terror mastermind who has nothing to do but to sit and watch videos of himself.

Washington released a video of an alleged bin Laden indulging in self-admiration, but there is no sound. Why? Was the video made without sound? Did Washington delete the audio? The video seems to show the alleged bin Laden speaking to someone in the room. Is the voice not bin Laden’s? Is the alleged bin Laden referring to the image on the screen in the third person, as not himself? Why would bin Laden have a video made of himself watching videos of himself? Why is a video of bin Laden watching bin Laden a headline story? Is it meant to substitute for the absence of a corpse?

As one reader put it, “The government is playing with us, experimenting to see if there is any tall tale we won’t believe.”

The story keeps changing as to whether “bin Laden’s compound,” no longer a million dollar luxury mansion, had Internet and communications or relied on couriers. The latest installment is that bin Laden was online. Washington says that the raid delivered into its hands bin Laden’s emails and diary, which, Washington claims, show an active bin Laden directing his terror network to carry out more plots. If bin Laden was online, why did Obama have to find him by trailing a courier?

Somehow the SEALs grabbed bin Laden’s diary and emails, but left all sorts of other documents that allegedly have fallen into Pakistani hands. These left-behind documents now serve as a pretext for more disputes with Pakistan and another excuse for ignoring Pakistan’s protests about the military operations the US carries out in Pakistan, violating the sovereignty of the country.

Why would the SEALs leave behind so many precious documents? First they kill for no reason the mastermind who could have revealed the world of terror; then they depart, leaving terror records behind. Some will say that this is typical US government incompetence. So how did such an incompetent government find bin Laden?

Any documents left behind were most likely carried in by the SEALs as plants. Has anyone independent of Washington examined the alleged bin Laden diary and confirmed that it was in bin Laden’s handwriting? These kind of questions are the kind the media, back when we had one, used to ask.

The bin Laden story is now such a fable with so many contradictory bits that people can pick and choose to suit the telling. Time magazine likes it all, except the part about an all-powerful bin Laden, still in control, rejecting an underling’s proposal “to fit a tractor with rotating blades to use to ‘mow down the enemies of Allah.’” Time prefers a bin Laden who was unsettled by his realization that he had lost his “historic significance” prior to losing his life to the US Navy SEALs.

If bin Laden had lost his significance, why did Obama get such a boost in the polls from his claim that he found bin Laden and had him killed?

The American Empire cannot do without bin Laden. The next installment of the fable will be that bin Laden escaped, leaving behind a double, and is abroad carrying out more terror plots.

As the fable continues, try to rescue from the Memory Hole the fact that we were presented with a death without a corpse and that Washington has no explanation for why an unarmed, undefended, frail man, who was a font of terrorist information, was murdered and not captured.

No substance to Blair’s new evidence against Al Qaeda

No substance to Blair’s new evidence against Al Qaeda

By Chris Marsden
19 November 2001

Last week, Britain’s Prime Minister Tony Blair, announced that the dossier of evidence supposedly linking Osama bin Laden’s Al Qaeda network with the September 11 terrorist attacks had been updated and strengthened.

The dossier had initially been presented on October 4 in an attempt to justify the bombing of Afghanistan in the face of widespread opposition in Muslim countries and considerable disquiet in Britain itself.

The World Socialist Web Site subjected the original document to a detailed critique and found that it contained nothing of substance proving a link between bin Laden, Al Qaeda or the Taliban to the September 11 outrages. It was not simply that the document fell short of the standards of proof required in a court of law; it did not even come close. It was made up largely of claims regarding Al Qaed past involvement in terror attacks against the US, quotes relating to bin Laden’s anti-American views and the unsubstantiated assertion that three of the hijackers had proven links with the Al Qaeda network.

Anyone demanding more concrete proof was told that this existed, but to reveal it may threaten national security by endangering agents or exposing informers. We concluded that Britain’s dossier should be viewed as providing a pretext for a decision to bomb Afghanistan that had already been taken and for reasons unrelated to September 11?the desire to establish US dominion over Central Asia and its reserves of oil and gas.

Fully seven weeks later, the update of the original document contains nothing that requires a revision of the position originally taken by the World Socialist Web Site. No fresh evidence is presented, merely fresh assertions and an extended quotation that proves nothing.

Blair claimed in parliament that a hitherto unpublicized videotaped interview with bin Laden showed him claiming responsibility for the terror attacks and even gloating over them. In emotive language, he declared, “Far from hiding their guilt, they gloat about it.”

He went on to claim British intelligence now had proof that a majority of the 19 hijackers were linked to Al Qaeda, as opposed to the earlier claim of three confirmed conspirators.

British officials said the video was recorded on October 20, but not broadcast on Al Jazeera, the Arabic-language television network based in Qatar. Instead it had been circulated as a recruiting and propaganda device amongst Al Qaed supporters.

Once again, there is no evidence cited to back up the claim that an unspecified number?now a majority?of the hijackers had links with Al Qaeda. We are asked to take this on trust.

The language used is vague: “Many of them had previous links with Al Qaeda or have so far been positively identified as associates of Al Qaeda.” What is meant by “many”, “previous links” and “associates? is not specified.

Again the claim is made, “There is evidence of a very specific nature relating to the guilt of bin Laden and his associates that is too sensitive to release.” And further, “The document does not contain the totality of the material known to HMG [Her Majestx’s Government], given the continuing and absolute need to protect intelligence sources.”

In contrast to Blair’s assertion in parliament that bin Laden had admitted responsibility for September 11, the actual document is more guarded. It states in point 63, “In addition, Osama bin Laden has issued a number of public statements since the US strikes on Afghanistan began. The language used in these, while not an open admission of guilt, is self-incriminating.”

There follows a list of rhetorical excesses by bin Laden that prove little other than his pedigree as an Islamic fundamentalist and hostility to the US.

In the un-broadcast October 20 interview, bin Laden is supposed to have said, “It is what we instigated for a while, in self-defence. And it was in revenge for our people killed in Palestine and Iraq. So if avenging the killing of our people is terrorism, let history be a witness that we are terrorists.”

He adds later, according to British intelligence, “The battle has been moved inside America, and we shall continue until we win this battle, or die in the cause and meet our maker.”

Not only does bin Laden not directly admit responsibility for September 11, as Blair claimed he did, but the three sentences are presented in isolation so that it is impossible to judge precisely what he is speaking of.

In the end, all that we are left with is yet another bald assertion: “No other organisation has both the motivation and the capability to carry out attacks like those of the 11 September?only the Al Qaeda network under Osama bin Laden.”

To paraphrase the old song, “Is that all there is to proving bin Laden’s guilt?

Yet Blair’s parliamentary speech and the documents additions were dutifully and uncritically reported by the US and British media and presented as good coin. Not one newspaper saw fit to challenge the validity of Blair’s claims, let alone question the government’s motives in issuing the revised document.

In this regard, one of the most sinister aspects of the dossier is the repeated insistence that substantive evidence cannot be made public due to the possible impact on national security.

As this web site has pointed out, the recently proposed anti-terror legislation in Britain and the US cites this same consideration as a pretext to withdraw the legal right to a fair trial for people accused of a connection with terrorist groups or offenses.

In Britain, once new legislation is passed, the home secretary will be able to issue an international terrorist certification against a foreign national thought to be involved in planning or conducting terrorist offences or having links with terrorist groups. Those so identified can be interned without charge for up to six months, and then brought before a Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC), held in secret with the suspects denied the right to hear the evidence against them. They then face being deported.

Last week President Bush issued an executive order allowing for the use of special military courts to try suspected terrorists. The trials will be held in secret and the military prosecutors will not be required to reveal any information about proceedings, that can end in the execution of the defendant, to the public. Just as with the bin Laden dossier, proof of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is not required and the tribunals will not be obliged to follow established rules of evidence.

In both cases, the standard of proof one can expect to apply is indicated by Britain’s published efforts to excuse a war that has already led to the deaths of thousands of innocent men, women and children.

Bush Signs Bill Authorizing Detainee Interrogations, Military Commissions

It appears that two alleged Al Qaeda leaders accused of masterminding 9/11 will be brought before military tribunals.  One of them, Ramzi Binalshibh, was arrested in September 2002. The other, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, was apparently arrested in March 2003. They have been kept in a secret location since then until September 2006. What happened to them in this secret location is anyone’s guess.  
Bush Signs Bill Authorizing Detainee Interrogations, Military Commissions

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 17, 2006; 10:52 AM

Invoking the memory of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, President Bush today signed into law a bill that allows tough interrogation of terrorist suspects and establishes military commissions to try them.

In a speech before signing the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Bush said the new law "is one of the most important pieces of legislation in the war on terror" and "will save American lives."

He said it will allow the CIA to continue a previously secret program to detain and interrogate terrorist suspects in clandestine prisons abroad, a program he called "one of the most successful intelligence efforts in American history" and one that "has helped prevent attacks on our country."

The new law also will "allow us to prosecute captured terrorists for war crimes," bringing to justice the al-Qaeda operatives who plotted the Sept. 11 attacks, the October 2000 suicide bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen and the August 1998 truck bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, Bush said.

The legislation was approved by Congress late last month after a debate in which opponents charged that a key provision — ruling out habeas corpus petitions for foreigners held in the war on terrorism — was unconstitutional. A key foe of that provision, Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, tried unsuccessfully to delete it, but ended up voting for the overall bill anyway on grounds that the Supreme Court would be likely to strike the provision down. The writ of habeas corpus, which is enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, allows people to challenge in court the legality of their detention, essentially meaning that they cannot be held indefinitely without charge or trial.

The new law authorizes the president "to establish military commissions for the trial of alien unlawful enemy combatants engaged in hostilities against the United States for violations of the law of war and other offenses. . . ." Under the rules in the bill, statements obtained from a detainee by torture would not be admissible as evidence, but information extracted using harsh interrogation methods that violate a ban on "cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" would be allowed if they were obtained before the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 went into effect on Dec. 30 and if a judge found them to be reliable and in the "interests of justice."

The legislation also sets the parameters for interrogating terrorism suspects. It bars the president from authorizing any interrogation techniques that amount to war crimes, which it says include torture, murder, mutilation or maiming, rape, sexual abuse, serious bodily injury, hostage-taking, biological experiments and cruel or inhuman treatment. However, the president could "interpret the meaning and application" of Geneva Convention standards regarding less severe interrogation methods.

Under a compromise with three recalcitrant Republican senators, the bill omitted a provision sought by Bush that interpreted U.S. obligations under Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions. Critics said that provision amounted to redefining a key part of the conventions and would put captured U.S. troops at risk if an enemy decided to do the same.

In today’s statement in the East Room of the White House, Bush declared, "With the bill I’m about to sign, the men our intelligence officials believe orchestrated the murder of nearly 3,000 innocent people will face justice." He mentioned specifically Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and Ramzi Binalshibh, a top al-Qaeda member allegedly involved in planning the attacks. They were among 14 detainees who were transferred to the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, last month after being held and interrogated by the CIA in secret detention facilities overseas.

Among those attending the signing ceremony today were Vice President Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, CIA director Michael V. Hayden and Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Bush said the new law "sends a clear message: This nation is patient and decent and fair, and we will never back down from the threats to our freedom. . . . will meet our obligation to protect our people. And no matter how long it takes, justice will be done."

He said the law "allows for the clarity our intelligence professionals need to continue questioning terrorists and saving lives," adding that it "provides legal protections that ensure our military and intelligence personnel will not have to fear lawsuits filed by terrorists simply for doing their jobs."

Bush hailed what he described as successes of the CIA detention program. "Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al-Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland," he said. "By allowing our intelligence professionals to continue this vital program, this bill will save American lives."

The military commissions "will provide a fair trial in which the accused are presumed innocent, have access to an attorney and can hear all the evidence against them," Bush said. "These military commissions are lawful, they are fair, and they are necessary."

Saying that the bill "reaffirms our determination to win the war on terror," he concluded by announcing he was signing it "in memory of the victims of September the 11th."

Is Al Qaeda Just a Bush Boogeyman?

Robert Scheer: Is Al Qaeda Just a Bush Boogeyman?

"Is it conceivable that Al Qaeda, as defined by President Bush as the center of a vast and well-organized international terrorist conspiracy, does not exist?

To even raise the question amid all the officially inspired hysteria is heretical, especially in the context of the U.S. media’s supine acceptance of administration claims relating to national security. Yet a brilliant new BBC film produced by one of Britain’s leading documentary filmmakers systematically challenges this and many other accepted articles of faith in the so-called war on terror.

"The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear," a three-hour historical film by Adam Curtis recently aired by the British Broadcasting Corp., argues coherently that much of what we have been told about the threat of international terrorism "is a fantasy that has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It is a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services and the international media."

Stern stuff, indeed. But consider just a few of the many questions the program poses along the way:
? If Osama bin Laden does, in fact, head a vast international terrorist organization with trained operatives in more than 40 countries, as claimed by Bush, why, despite torture of prisoners, has this administration failed to produce hard evidence of it?
? How can it be that in Britain since 9/11, 664 people have been detained on suspicion of terrorism but only 17 have been found guilty, most of them with no connection to Islamist groups and none who were proven members of Al Qaeda?
? Why have we heard so much frightening talk about "dirty bombs" when experts say it is panic rather than radioactivity that would kill people?
? Why did Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claim on "Meet the Press" in 2001 that Al Qaeda controlled massive high-tech cave complexes in Afghanistan, when British and U.S. military forces later found no such thing?

Consider, for example, that neither the 9/11 commission nor any court of law has been able to directly take evidence from the key post-9/11 terror detainees held by the United States. Everything we know comes from two sides that both have a great stake in exaggerating the threat posed by Al Qaeda: the terrorists themselves and the military and intelligence agencies that have a vested interest in maintaining the facade of an overwhelmingly dangerous enemy." – LA Times (01/11/05)

Al Qaeda publishes a newsletter !

"Al-Qaeda doesn’t operate like a terrorist organization anymore," Gabriel Weimann (chairman of the communications department at the University of Haifa in Israel) said, speaking at the New American Foundation in Washington yesterday. "They don’t live together, they don’t train together, sometimes they don’t even meet." They don’t need human interaction as long as they can communicate, he added.  Al-Qaeda’s publication Al Battar, or The Sword, is an online training camp for its network around the world, Weimann noted. Edition 9 of the publication was devoted to kidnappings.
Terrorists rely on tech tools, researcher finds

News Story by Emily Kumler

JULY 08, 2004 – WASHINGTON — The Internet has become the new Afghanistan for terrorist training, recruitment, and fund-raising, an academic said.

Terrorist groups are exploiting the accessibility, vast audience and anonymity of the Internet to raise money and recruit new members, said Gabriel Weimann, chairman of the communications department at the University of Haifa in Israel. The number of terrorists’ Web sites has increased by 571% in the past seven years, Weimann says.

"Al-Qaeda doesn’t operate like a terrorist organization anymore," Weimann said, speaking at the New American Foundation in Washington yesterday. "They don’t live together, they don’t train together, sometimes they don’t even meet." They don’t need human interaction as long as they can communicate, he added.

Online Training

Al-Qaeda’s publication Al Battar, or The Sword, is an online training camp for its network around the world, Weimann noted. Edition 9 of the publication was devoted to kidnappings. It suggests methods, potential targets, negotiating tactics and even directions on how to videotape the beheading of victims and post the video on the Web. That issue was posted before the recent round of kidnappings and beheadings in Iraq.

The latest edition, No. 13, was posted to al-Qaeda’s Web site yesterday. Weimann said it’s not yet fully translated, but its central theme is weaponry.

Referring to the recent beheadings, Weimann said that such acts are very low tech, while videotaping and posting the killings on the Internet are very high tech. Terrorists thus use a combination of primitive and sophisticated measures in their attacks.

"Cyberterrorism is a dark cloud on the horizon," he said of potential future actions.

Terrorists who use the Web to promote their causes operate the same way most savvy marketers do, Weimann said. They inform their audience based on what they think most appeals to different groups of people.

For example, Weimann cited a Web site about the terrorist group Hezbollah. The English version and the Arabic version initially appeared identical. But closer inspection revealed places where the text of the two sites differed.

This is a challenge to governments, Weimann argued. "They need people who can go deep into the text, who can read the metaphors, not those who just passed Arabic 101."

Games and Glamour

The Colombian terrorist organization FARC, which Weimann called one of the most violent groups in South America, has a home page that at first glance looks like an agricultural resource.

Many terrorists’ sites are geared toward children, he added. The Hezbollah site provides links to downloadable games. "These games are training children to play the role of terrorists, to be suicide bombers and to actually kill political leaders," Weimann said.

The Hamas organization also has a kids’ section that features cartoonlike stories meant to recruit young people.

Another strong recruiting tool consists of glamorizing those who have died for the cause. The Hamas site shows pages and pages of pictures of terrorist martyrs, together with their names and the dates of their suicide missions.

"This is a rewarding medal," Weimann said. "It glorifies the people who have done it and also recruits new ones."

Other terrorists’ sites display falsified pictures of Prime Minister Tony Blair and President George W. Bush shot or lying in caskets. Often, such sites provide detailed instructions on how to make a detonation device out of a cell phone, how to make a bomb, or how to deliver poison through the mail.

Spying Online?

Why doesn’t the U.S. shut down these sites that spread dangerous information in cyberspace?

Many observers believe that the U.S. government monitors these sites and benefits from having them available for "sniffing out" information, Weimann said. In addition, some people worry that shutting down even terrorists’ sites constitutes censorship.

Weimann suggested a third reason: "No one can totally block you out," he said of the sites. "They can always re-emerge." He cautioned that we have not yet experienced any real cyberterrorist attacks.

He also saw irony in the terrorists’ savvy use of the Internet. "Exactly those who are critical of modernity and America are using it to their advantage," he said.

US evidence to NATO ‘oral without slides or documents’

NATO said today that the United States had provided ”clear and compelling proof” that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization was behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In response, the alliance said it was ready to fight at the side of the United States should it ask for such help from its 18 NATO allies…The briefings [to the NATO Council] were oral, without slides or documents, did not report any direct order from Mr. bin Laden, nor did they indicate that the Taliban knew about the attacks before they happened.

A NATION CHALLENGED: THE EVIDENCE; NATO Says U.S. Has Proof Against bin Laden Group

Suzanne Daley
3 October 2001

New York Times

BRUSSELS, Oct. 2 – NATO said today that the United States had provided ”clear and compelling proof” that Osama bin Laden’s terrorist organization was behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. In response, the alliance said it was ready to fight at the side of the United States should it ask for such help from its 18 NATO allies.

The alliance decision amounted to a final stamp of approval for an attack on Mr. bin Laden, his Al Qaeda network and the Taliban government that harbors him in Afghanistan and was one of several signals that some sort of military strike is imminent.

In Washington, Pentagon officials said they were devising a war plan that would use bases in Central Asia and the Persian Gulf, as well as aircraft carriers, to avoid extensive deployment of American troops in Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment is strong.

In Britain, Prime Minister Tony Blair gave a stern speech suggesting that a diplomatic solution was impossible in waging the new war on terror. He warned the terrorists, and particularly the Taliban, that they faced a military strike.

For all who oppose terrorism, Mr. Blair said, the choice is to ”defeat it or be defeated by it.”

”This is a battle with only one outcome: our victory, not theirs,” he said. Mr. Blair said actions would aim to eliminate military hardware, cut off finances and disrupt supplies. ”The action we take will be proportionate, targeted; we will do all we humanly can to avoid civilian casualties.” [Page B1.]

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, in an interview today with The New York Times, said administration officials had been briefing allies on what he called ”pretty good information” establishing the link between the airplane attacks and Mr. bin Laden. But, he added, ”it is not evidence in the form of a court case.”

Secretary Powell alluded to past crimes attributed to Al Qaeda and Mr. bin Laden, who has been indicted in the United States for the bombings of two American Embassies in East Africa in August 1998 and is suspected of masterminding the bombing of the destroyer Cole in Yemen harbor last October.

The secretary said the briefings spanned ”the history of the organization and the fact that we have every right to go after them because they’ve already been indicted, al Qaeda and Osama bin Laden, for past crimes against the United States and against civilization.”

The briefings also included evidence showing what Secretary Powell called ”additional activities since those indictments that have caused them to become very suspect.” Finally, the briefings contained what the secretary said was ”pretty good information that links them to the events of the 11th of September.”

NATO’s secretary general, Lord Robertson, referring to the evidence presented by Frank X. Taylor, the United States ambassador at large, as ”classified,” said only that ”the facts are clear and compelling.”

”We know that the individuals who carried out these attacks were part of the worldwide terrorist network of Al Qaeda, headed by Osama bin Laden and his key lieutenants and protected by the Taliban,” he said.

One Western official at NATO said the briefings, which were oral, without slides or documents, did not report any direct order from Mr. bin Laden, nor did they indicate that the Taliban knew about the attacks before they happened.

A senior diplomat for one closely allied nation characterized the briefing as containing ”nothing particularly new or surprising,” adding: ”It was descriptive and narrative rather than forensic. There was no attempt to build a legal case.”

The evidence was built not only on information from the United States, but also on what some allies have discovered, including the Germans, an official in Europe said.

While NATO deemed the evidence sufficient to make the case for an attack, Pakistan appeared to find it less convincing. The United States ambassador to Pakistan, Wendy Chamberlin, briefed the Pakistani president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, today on the links established between Mr. bin Laden and the attacks.

But Riaz Muhammad Khan, the spokesman for the Pakistan Foreign Ministry, said the American envoy had not provided conclusive proof.

Lord Robertson was reticent about the kind of military action being contemplated.

”The United States are still developing their thinking and they will come back to the alliance in due course when that thinking is crystallized,” he said.

At a NATO meeting last week, some European nations pressed for evidence that would justify attacks on Mr. bin Laden. A compelling case is considered crucial by many diplomats if America is to keep its support for a military campaign, particularly from countries like as Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, whose rulers face skeptical Muslim populations.

But just how much information to share has been the subject of debate among Mr. Bush’s advisers. Some European officials suggested that Washington was still withholding some information about aspects of the case.

NATO moved swiftly to offer political support the day after the Sept. 11 attacks. It said then that it would invoke the mutual defense clause for the first time in the alliance’s 52-year history ”if it was determined that the attack was directed from abroad.” The clause, devised during the cold war as a mechanism to bring the United States automatically to Europe’s defense in the event of a Soviet invasion, considers an attack on one member an attack on them all.

Today’s action effectively removed the if from the Sept. 12 statement.

Whether Washington will ask for military support from NATO remains an open question.

Just last week, Paul D. Wolfowitz, the deputy defense secretary, suggested it was unlikely that Washington would turn to NATO. ”If we need collective action, we will ask for it,” he said after meeting with NATO members in Brussels. ”We don’t anticipate that at the moment.”

Mr. Blair’s tone today suggested that Britain intended to be part of any military action, a pattern that fits with previous strikes against Iraq and the air war over Kosovo.

Britain is one of the few European countries with special forces trained to do the quick, surgical missions that analysts believe the United States will want to conduct against targets like terrorist training camps in Afghanistan.

Otherwise, military analysts say, NATO members may actually have very little to offer the United States, particularly because they largely lack the equipment and resources to fight a war far from home.

The NATO command structure also proved unwieldy during the war over Kosovo. Getting a consensus on targets to bomb proved long and difficult. Nor was it easy, with 19 representatives involved, to keep them secret.

Instead, the United States may pick and choose among its allies, fashioning the moral authority of an international coalition without having to deal with the problems of the whole alliance.

Even with the invocation of the mutual defense clause, called Article 5 in the founding treaty, any decision to embark on joint military action would require further deliberation. But NATO officials said each member country was now morally bound to help the United States if asked.

In Brussels for two days of talks with officials of NATO and the European Union, President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said he did not need to see the American presentation to be satisfied that Mr. bin Laden was behind the attacks on the United States.

”For us it is already clear,” he told reporters after a meeting with Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt of Belgium. ”The only thing we do not know is the exact role he played.”

Mr. Putin, who in a switch in Russia’s traditional tactics has swiftly thrown his political support behind the United States, said he was prepared to ”profoundly change” Moscow’s relationships with both NATO and the European Union’s fledgling security bodies in the global battle against terrorism.


Photo: NATO’s secretary general, Lord Robertson, at a news conference in Brussels. He called the case against Osama bin Laden compelling. (Associated Press)(pg. B4)

How Neo-Cons Sabotaged Iran’s Help on al Qaeda

How Neo-Cons Sabotaged Iran’s Help on al Qaeda

Gareth Porter*

WASHINGTON, Feb 21, 2006 (IPS) – The United States and Iran were on a course to work closely together on the war against al Qaeda and its Taliban sponsors in Afghanistan in late 2001 and early 2002 — until Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld stepped in to scuttle that cooperation, according to officials who were involved at the time.

 After the Sep. 11 attacks, U.S. officials responsible for preparing for war in Afghanistan needed Iran’s help to unseat the Taliban and establish a stable government in Kabul. Iran had organised resistance by the "Northern Alliance" and had provided arms and funding, at a time when the United States had been unwilling to do so.

 "The Iranians had real contacts with important players in Afghanistan and were prepared to use their influence in constructive ways in coordination with the United States," recalls Flynt Leverett, then senior director for Middle East affairs in the National Security Council (NSC), in an interview with IPS.

 In October 2001, as the United States was just beginning its military operations in Afghanistan, State Department and NSC officials began meeting secretly with Iranian diplomats in Paris and Geneva, under the sponsorship of Lakhdar Brahimi, head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Leverett says these discussions focused on "how to effectively unseat the Taliban and once the Taliban was gone, how to stand up an Afghan government".

 It was thanks to the Northern Alliance Afghan troops, which were supported primarily by the Iranians, that the Taliban was driven out of Kabul in mid-November. Two weeks later, the Afghan opposition groups were convened in Bonn under United Nations auspices to agree on a successor regime.

 At that meeting, the Northern Alliance was demanding 60 percent of the portfolios in an interim government, which was blocking agreement by other opposition groups. According to U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan James Dobbins, Iran played a "decisive role" in persuading the Northern Alliance delegate to compromise. Dobbins also recalls how the Iranians insisted on including language in the Bonn agreement on the war on terrorism.

 The bureaucracy recognised that there was an opportunity to work with Iran not only on stabilising Afghanistan but on al Qaeda as well. As reported by the Washington Post on Oct. 22, 2004, the State Department’s policy planning staff had written a paper in late November 2001 suggesting that the United States should propose more formal arrangements for cooperation with Iran on fighting al Qaeda.

 That would have involved exchanging intelligence information with Tehran as well as coordinating border sweeps to capture al Qaeda fighters and leaders who were already beginning to move across the border into Pakistan and Iran. The CIA agreed with the proposal, according to the Post’s sources, as did the head of the White House Office for Combating Terrorism, Ret. Gen. Wayne A. Downing.

 But the cooperation against al Qaeda was not the priority for the anti-Iranian interests in the White House and the Pentagon. Investigative journalist Bob Woodward’s book "Plan of Attack" recounts that Deputy National Security Advisor Stephen J. Hadley, who chaired an inter-agency committee on Iran policy dealing with issues surrounding Afghanistan, learned that the White House intended to include Iran as a member of the "Axis of Evil" in Bush’s State of the Union message in January.

 Hadley expressed reservations about that plan at one point, but was told by Bush directly that Iran had to stay in. By the end of December, Hadley had decided, against the recommendations of the State Department, CIA and White House counter-terrorism office, that the United States would not share any information with Iran on al Qaeda, even though it would press the Iranians for such intelligence, as well as to turn over any al Qaeda members it captured to the appropriate home country.

 Soon after that decision, hardliners presented Iranian policy to Bush and the public as hostile to U.S. aims in Afghanistan and refusing to cooperate with the war on terror — the opposite of what officials directly involved had witnessed.

 On Jan. 11, 2002, the New York Times quoted Pentagon and intelligence officials as saying that Iran had given "safe haven" to fleeing al Qaeda fighters in order to use them against the United States in post-Taliban Afghanistan. That same day, Bush declared "Iran must be a contributor in the war against terror."

 "Our nation, in our fight against terrorism, will uphold the doctrine of ‘either you’re with us or against us’," he said.

 Officials who were familiar with the intelligence at that point agree that the "safe haven for al Qaeda" charge was not based on any genuine analysis by the intelligence community.

 "I wasn’t aware of any intelligence support that charge," recalls Dobbins, who was still the primary point of contact with Iranian officials about cooperation on Afghanistan. "I certainly would have seen it had there been any such intelligence. Nobody told me they were harbouring al Qaeda."

 Iran had already increased its troop strength on the Afghan border in response to U.S. requests. As the Washington Post reported in 2004, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Javad Zarif brought a dossier to U.N Secretary-General Kofi Annan in early February with the photos of 290 men believed to be al Qaeda members who already been detained fleeing from Afghanistan.

 Later hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban detainees were repatriated to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and other Arab and European countries, according to news reports.

 The hardliners would complain that the Iranians did not turn over any top al Qaeda leaders. But the United States had just rejected any exchange of information with the very officials with whom it needed to discuss the question of al Qaeda — the Iranian intelligence and security ministry.

 The same administration officials told the Times that Iran was seeking to exert its influence in border regions in western Afghanistan by shipping arms to its Afghan allies in the war against the Taliban and that this could undermine the interim government and Washington’s long-term interests in Afghanistan.

 But in March 2002, Iranian official met with Dobbins in Geneva during a U.N. conference on Afghanistan’s security needs. Dobbins recalls that the Iranian delegation brought with it the general who had been responsible for military assistance to the Northern Alliance during the long fight against the Taliban.

 The general offered to provide training, uniforms, equipment and barracks for as many as 20,000 new recruits for the nascent Afghan military. All this was to be done under U.S. leadership, Dobbins recalls, not as part of a separate programme under exclusive Iranian control.

 "The Iranians later confirmed that they did this as a gesture to the United States," says Dobbins.

 Dobbins returned to Washington to inform key administration officials of what he regarded as an opportunity for a new level of cooperation in Afghanistan. He briefed then Secretary of State Colin Powell, National Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Rumsfeld personally. "To my knowledge, there was never a response," he says.

 *Gareth Porter is an historian and national security policy analyst. His latest book, "Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam", was published in June 2005. (END/2006) 

Oral presentation only to NATO on Al-Qaeda involvement

Homemade Enemies

There is not and may never be conclusive proof as to who was behind the terrible bombings in New York and Washington, D.C., on September 11, 2001. No point would be served here by making a detailed review of the facts that have so far emerged into the public record. Suffice it to say that the accounts provided by the United States government simply do not add up.
        The October 3 [2001] edition of the New York Times recounted the definitive briefing by a US ambassador to NATO officials on the alleged facts as follows:

One Western official at NATO said the briefings, which were oral, without slides or documents, did not report any direct order from Mr. Bin Laden, nor did they indicate that the Taliban knew about the attacks before they happened.
        A senior diplomat for one closely allied nation characterized the briefing as containing `nothing particularly new or surprising,’ adding: `It was rather descriptive and narrative rather then forensic. There was no attempt to build a legal case.’

In other words, there was no real case against Al Qaeda, Bin Laden, and the Taliban government of Afghanistan. Such was the conclusion of senior diplomats from friendly nations who attended the so-called briefing. . . .
        Secretary of State Colin Powell publicly promised that they were going to produce a `White Paper’ documenting their case against Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda organization concerning September 11. . . . We never received a `White Paper’ produced by the Untied States government as publicly promised by Secretary Powell, who was later overridden by President Bush Jr. What we got instead was a so-called White Paper produced by British Prime Minister Tony Blair . . . — neither an elected or administrative official of the U.S. government, not even an American citizen. . . .
        The Powell/Blair White Paper fell into that hallowed tradition of a `White Paper’ based upon insinuation, allegation, rumors, propaganda, lies, half-truths, etc. Even unnamed British government officials on an off-the-record basis admitted that the case against Bin Laden and Al Qaeda would not stand up in court. . . .
[Note that the preamble to this white paper — "Responsibility for the terrorist atrocities in the United States," 10/4/01 — explicitly confirms Professor Boyle’s assertion:

    "This document does not purport to provide a prosecutable case against Usama Bin Laden in a court of law. Intelligence often cannot be used evidentially, due both to the strict rules of admissibility and to the need to protect the safety of sources. But on the basis of all the information available HMG is confident of its conclusions as expressed in this document."

Al Qaeda Detainee’s Mysterious Release

Al Qaeda Detainee’s Mysterious Release
Moroccan Spoke Of Aiding Bin Laden During 2001 Escape

By Craig Whitlock
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, January 30, 2006; Page A01

RABAT, Morocco — For more than a decade, Osama bin Laden had few soldiers more devoted than Abdallah Tabarak. A former Moroccan transit worker, Tabarak served as a bodyguard for the al Qaeda leader, worked on his farm in Sudan and helped run a gemstone smuggling racket in Afghanistan, court records here show.

During the battle of Tora Bora in December 2001, when al Qaeda leaders were pinned down by U.S. forces, Tabarak sacrificed himself to engineer their escape. He headed toward the Pakistani border while making calls on Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone as bin Laden and the others fled in the other direction.
Abdallah Tabarak, an al Qaeda member captured as he fled Afghanistan, was freed from U.S. detention at Guantanamo in August 2004. He still faces minor charges in Morocco. (By Karim Selmaoui — Le Journal Hebdomadaire)

Tabarak was captured and taken to the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where he was classified as such a high-value prisoner that the Pentagon repeatedly denied requests by the International Committee of the Red Cross to see him. Then, after spending almost three years at the base, he was suddenly released.

Today, the al Qaeda loyalist known locally as the "emir" of Guantanamo walks the streets of his old neighborhood near Casablanca, more or less a free man. In a decision that neither the Pentagon nor Moroccan officials will explain publicly, Tabarak was transferred to Morocco in August 2004 and released from police custody four months later.

Tabarak’s odyssey from Afghanistan to Guantanamo and back to his native land illustrates the grit and at times fanatical determination of one bin Laden recruit. Yet his story also shows how little is known publicly about al Qaeda figures who were captured after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and the Pentagon. Major gaps remain in his account, and terrorism experts and intelligence officials continue to debate whether he was a member of al Qaeda’s inner circle or its rank and file.

His case also highlights mysteries of U.S. priorities in deciding who to keep and who to let go. As the Pentagon gears up to hold its first military tribunals at Guantanamo after four years of preparations, it has released a prisoner it called a key operative. At the same time, it retains under heavy guard men whose background and significance are never discussed.

Eighteen months after he left Guantanamo, Tabarak, 50, still faces minor criminal offenses in Rabat, the capital, such as passport forgery and conspiracy. But his attorney predicts that it’s only a matter of time before the case is dropped and all allegations of terrorist activities are dismissed.

The attorney, Abdelfattah Zahrach, said his client’s importance as an al Qaeda figure has been exaggerated, although he acknowledged that Tabarak knew bin Laden and worked for one of his companies.

"He was in bin Laden’s environment, but he didn’t play an operational role," Zahrach said. "Do you think that if he was really the bodyguard of bin Laden that the Americans would have let him come back to Morocco?"

A Family Affair

A review of Moroccan court documents, including records of his interrogations by Moroccan investigators, shows the U.S. military had good reason to consider Tabarak a valuable catch. In addition to his firsthand knowledge of how bin Laden survived Tora Bora, he had worked for the al Qaeda leader since 1989 and was often at his side as he built the terrorist network from bases in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Sudan.

According to the documents, details of which other foreign intelligence officials confirmed, Tabarak served as a jack-of-all-trades for members of the inner circle. For several years, he received his orders and a regular salary from Saeed Masri, an al Qaeda financier, military training camp leader and relative of bin Laden.

Tabarak also dedicated his family to the cause. One daughter, Asia, married a top al Qaeda operations commander, Abu Feraj Libi, who was captured in Pakistan in May 2005 and is blamed for assassination plots against Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

A son, Omar, fought alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan in late 2001 and was captured by Afghan allies of the Americans. When he was released in a prisoner swap, bin Laden threw a feast to celebrate, according to Tabarak’s statements to interrogators.

Defense Department officials declined to say why Tabarak was released from Guantanamo, in August 2004, when he and four other Moroccan detainees were handed over to authorities in Rabat. "The decision to transfer or release a detainee is based on many factors, including whether the detainee is of further intelligence value to the United States and whether the detainee is believed to pose a continuing threat to the United States if released," said Navy Lt. Cmdr. J.D. Gordon, a Pentagon spokesman.
According to interviews in Rabat with people who are familiar with Tabarak’s case, however, Moroccan officials had pressed the U.S. military for many months to hand over Tabarak, arguing that they would have a better chance of persuading him to reveal secrets about al Qaeda.

Moroccan interrogators visited Tabarak and other Moroccan detainees at Guantanamo on two occasions and urged them to cooperate, according to his attorney and two fellow prisoners. "They came to see us and brought us coffee and sandwiches," said Mohammed Mazouz, one of the Moroccans who was later released with Tabarak. "But the Americans, they would just abuse us."

During a courtroom appearance in Rabat last year, Tabarak looked gaunt and wore a black baseball cap low on his forehead. After consenting to an interview through his attorney, he changed his mind at the last minute; guards in the courthouse audibly warned him not to speak with an American reporter.

In interviews with Arab journalists, Tabarak has given conflicting accounts, sometimes denying membership in al Qaeda or ties to bin Laden. But interrogation records show that he has described in detail to authorities a long and intimate connection with the network.

He left Morocco in 1989, he has said, on the advice of a mentor from a Casablanca mosque who urged him to become involved with Islamic fighters who were battling the communist-backed Afghan government.

After first making a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, Tabarak recounted, he traveled to Pakistan, a staging area for guerrillas fighting in Afghanistan, and joined bin Laden’s network. He received military training at two camps near Khost, Afghanistan, and met with bin Laden at a guest house in the Pakistani city of Peshawar.

Tabarak told his interrogators that he received the equivalent of $250 a month to help funnel foreign fighters into Afghanistan. When Pakistani authorities decided to crack down on outsiders in their country, he followed bin Laden to Sudan. There he worked on a farm raising cattle, served as a bodyguard and performed other tasks.

By the time bin Laden returned to Afghanistan in 1996, Tabarak was taking on more important roles. He said he worked for a while in a "precious stones" smuggling operation that raised money for al Qaeda. Eventually, he joined bin Laden’s personal security detail, accompanying the Saudi on trips across the country to meet with other figures from al Qaeda and the Taliban movement.

Escape From Tora Bora

Tabarak said he had no warning of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but helped protect bin Laden after U.S. forces went to war in Afghanistan the following month. He said he spent 20 days hiding with bin Laden and other al Qaeda leaders in Tora Bora, in rugged mountainous terrain near the Pakistani border, as U.S. forces and their Afghan militia proxies closed in.

According to Moroccan and other foreign intelligence officials, Tabarak sacrificed himself so the others could escape. He took bin Laden’s satellite phone, which the al Qaeda leader apparently assumed was being tracked by U.S. spy technology, and walked toward the Pakistani border as the al Qaeda leadership fled in the opposite direction. The ruse worked, although Tabarak and others were captured.

"I escaped as part of a group that included mostly Saudis and Yemenis towards Pakistan, until we were arrested by Pakistani authorities at a border crossing point and then afterwards handed over to American authorities," he told Moroccan interrogators in August 2004.

Zahrach, Tabarak’s attorney, confirmed that his client was caught near the border and handed over to the U.S. military. But he denied Tabarak helped bin Laden escape from Tora Bora. He dismissed the interrogation reports as forgeries. He said Moroccan officials have no evidence for their allegations but are too embarrassed to admit it.
"They have to charge him with something in Morocco to prevent him from talking," Zahrach said. "They have to keep him tied up in court and keep him under pressure." Tabarak’s next scheduled court appearance is Friday in Rabat. Officials with the Moroccan Communications Ministry declined to comment on the case.

Mohammed Darif, a Moroccan terrorism analyst and political science professor, said Moroccan intelligence officials have overstated Tabarak’s role in al Qaeda. He said bin Laden relied almost exclusively on fellow Saudis and tribal relatives from Yemen to provide for his personal safety and was unlikely to accept an uneducated, poor Moroccan into his inner circle.

"People who have known him all along say that Tabarak was a serious player but that perhaps his reputation is a little overblown," said Darif, who interviewed Tabarak after his release from Guantanamo. "He may have been a loyal worker, but he’s not sophisticated. When you talk to him, you see pretty clearly that the guy does not have a strong personality."

But other intelligence sources in Europe and the Middle East suggest that his behavior at Guantanamo is further confirmation of his importance. There, they say, he developed a reputation as a tough-minded leader among the detainees. Moroccan officials have described him as an "emir" of the camp who resisted his American interrogators and catalyzed hunger strikes among prisoners.

Defense Department memos obtained by The Washington Post in 2004 show that Guantanamo officials repeatedly prevented inspectors from the International Committee of the Red Cross from seeing Tabarak.

Although the Red Cross was supposed to have access to all persons in military custody, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller told Red Cross inspectors on Oct. 9, 2003, that they could not visit Tabarak or three other detainees "because of military necessity," according to the memos. On a follow-up visit Feb. 2, 2004, Miller informed Red Cross officials that they could see anyone at the base, except Tabarak. Miller once again cited "military necessity." A Defense Department spokesman declined to comment on the memos.

Tabarak has told his attorney and other detainees that he was kept in an isolation cell during most of his stay at Guantanamo. For about one year, he said, he was interrogated only while blindfolded, so he could not see his captors or even know for certain if he was in Cuba or another country.

Staff writer Scott Higham and researcher Julie Tate in Washington contributed to this report.

Rumsfeld: We will not only target Al Qaeda

Secretary Rumsfeld Interview with Fox News Sunday

<!– START HEADER DoD News Briefing Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld Sunday, Sept. 16, 2001 – 9:05 a.m. EDT END HEADER (14 lines) –>

(Interview with Tony Snow, Fox News Sunday, 16 September 2001)
(see full interview under Documents)

Snow: Now joining us, our first guest, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Secretary Rumsfeld, you’ve heard the president describe Osama bin Laden as the prime suspect. How important is bin Laden in the overall fight against terrorism?

Rumsfeld: There’s no question but that he is a prime suspect. The al Qaeda organization, however, is a large, multi-headed effort that probably spans 60 countries, including the United States. And it is much bigger than one person. And the problem is much broader. It is not just the al Qaeda organization. There are other terrorist organizations in the world that have made it their business to wreak great damage on others.


Is Al Qaeda Just a Bush Boogeyman?

Is Al Qaeda Just a Bush Boogeyman?
By Robert Scheer
11 January 2005

Is it conceivable that Al Qaeda, as defined by President Bush as the center of a vast and well-organized international terrorist conspiracy, does not exist?

To even raise the question amid all the officially inspired hysteria is heretical, especially in the context of the U.S. media’s supine acceptance of administration claims relating to national security. Yet a brilliant new BBC film produced by one of Britain’s leading documentary filmmakers systematically challenges this and many other accepted articles of faith in the so-called war on terror.

"The Power of Nightmares: The Rise of the Politics of Fear," a three-hour historical film by Adam Curtis recently aired by the British Broadcasting Corp., argues coherently that much of what we have been told about the threat of international terrorism "is a fantasy that has been exaggerated and distorted by politicians. It is a dark illusion that has spread unquestioned through governments around the world, the security services and the international media."

Stern stuff, indeed. But consider just a few of the many questions the program poses along the way:

?  If Osama bin Laden does, in fact, head a vast international terrorist organization with trained operatives in more than 40 countries, as claimed by Bush, why, despite torture of prisoners, has this administration failed to produce hard evidence of it?

?  How can it be that in Britain since 9/11, 664 people have been detained on suspicion of terrorism but only 17 have been found guilty, most of them with no connection to Islamist groups and none who were proven members of Al Qaeda?

?  Why have we heard so much frightening talk about "dirty bombs" when experts say it is panic rather than radioactivity that would kill people?

?  Why did Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld claim on "Meet the Press" in 2001 that Al Qaeda controlled massive high-tech cave complexes in Afghanistan, when British and U.S. military forces later found no such thing?

Of course, the documentary does not doubt that an embittered, well-connected and wealthy Saudi man named Osama bin Laden helped finance various affinity groups of Islamist fanatics that have engaged in terror, including the 9/11 attacks. Nor does it challenge the notion that a terrifying version of fundamentalist Islam has led to gruesome spates of violence throughout the world. But the film, both more sober and more deeply provocative than Michael Moore’s "Fahrenheit 9/11," directly challenges the conventional wisdom by making a powerful case that the Bush administration, led by a tight-knit cabal of Machiavellian neoconservatives, has seized upon the false image of a unified international terrorist threat to replace the expired Soviet empire in order to push a political agenda.

Terrorism is deeply threatening, but it appears to be a much more fragmented and complex phenomenon than the octopus-network image of Al Qaeda, with Bin Laden as its head, would suggest.

While the BBC documentary acknowledges that the threat of terrorism is both real and growing, it disagrees that the threat is centralized:

"There are dangerous and fanatical individuals and groups around the world who have been inspired by extreme Islamist ideas and who will use the techniques of mass terror ? the attacks on America and Madrid make this only too clear. But the nightmare vision of a uniquely powerful hidden organization waiting to strike our societies is an illusion. Wherever one looks for this Al Qaeda organization, from the mountains of Afghanistan to the ‘sleeper cells’ in America, the British and Americans are chasing a phantom enemy."

The fact is, despite the efforts of several government commissions and a vast army of investigators, we still do not have a credible narrative of a "war on terror" that is being fought in the shadows.

Consider, for example, that neither the 9/11 commission nor any court of law has been able to directly take evidence from the key post-9/11 terror detainees held by the United States. Everything we know comes from two sides that both have a great stake in exaggerating the threat posed by Al Qaeda: the terrorists themselves and the military and intelligence agencies that have a vested interest in maintaining the facade of an overwhelmingly dangerous enemy.

Such a state of national ignorance about an endless war is, as "The Power of Nightmares" makes clear, simply unacceptable in a functioning democracy.

Al Qaeda suspect al-Libbi bound for U.S.


Al Qaeda suspect bound for U.S.
Musharraf says terror group’s power is reduced

June 1, 2005 

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan will send top al Qaeda terrorist suspect Abu Farraj al-Libbi to the United States, according to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

Al-Libbi, captured on May 2, is believed to have masterminded two assassination attempts against Musharraf and is widely regarded as the No.3 man in al Qaeda.

Speaking via a video link from Islamabad, Musharraf told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer: "I presume he may already have been deported to the United States."

Musharraf then said he did not know that for sure, but "we don’t want him in Pakistan".

The Pakistan president, who was addressing a CNN conference in Atlanta, said Pakistan had extracted "all the intelligence" from al-Libbi and had no further need for him.

Musharraf also said that al Qaeda no longer existed in Pakistan as a "homogenous body" and its members were reduced to operating in small bands.

Al-Libbi, who was believed responsible for the terror group’s global operations, was captured in northwest Pakistan near the border with Afghanistan on May 2.

At the time, U.S. President George W. Bush hailed the arrest of al-Libbi and that of 10 other suspected al Qaeda members as a "critical victory in the war on terror."

U.S. and Pakistani officials said al-Libbi and other al Qaeda suspects were arrested after a gunbattle in Mardan, a city in the country’s northwest province.

U.S. intelligence reports have said the same province is where al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and his top deputy, Egyptian surgeon Ayman al-Zawahiri, are believed to be hiding.

While al-Libbi has been described as al Qaeda’s No. 3 after bin Laden and al-Zawahri, he does not appear on the FBI list of the world’s most-wanted terrorists.

Musharraf said al-Libbi did not provide any useful information about Osama bin Laden.

"He says he is not in contact with Osama bin Laden."

U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in Washington on Tuesday that the United States was talking to Pakistan about al-Libbi but had not yet discussed his extradition.

Asked if he could confirm that al-Libbi was to be transferred to the United States, Boucher said, " No at this point."

"I don’t think there’s a formal process under way at this point," he added.

Al-Libbi, a Libyan, had a $10 million bounty on his head. He is blamed for masterminding two assassination attempts against Musharraf in December 2003, in the second of which 17 people died.

"He was the most wanted man in Pakistan, and he’s a big catch," Pakistani Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmad said at the time. "It’s a good sign and we are going in the right direction."

Bush said after news of the arrest was released that "al-Libbi was a top general for bin Laden. He was a major facilitator and a chief planner for the al Qaeda network. His arrest removes a dangerous enemy who was a direct threat for America."

Bush praised the Pakistan government for its "strong cooperation in the war on terror."

Intelligence officials said al-Libbi was engaged last year in coded communication with al Qaeda operatives in both the United States and Britain.

U.S. counterterrorism officials believe al-Libbi took on the role of No. 3 in al Qaeda following the March 2003 capture of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in Pakistan. They said al-Libbi was responsible for plotting attacks against the U.S. homeland.

Captured Al-Qaeda kingpin al-Libbi is case of ?mistaken identity?

The Sunday Times – World,,2089-1602568,00.html

 Captured Al-Qaeda kingpin is case of “mistaken identity?

May 08, 2005  

THE capture of a supposed Al-Qaeda kingpin by Pakistani agents last week was hailed by President George W Bush as “a critical victory in the war on terror”. According to European intelligence experts, however, Abu Faraj al-Libbi was not the terrorists? third in command, as claimed, but a middle-ranker derided by one source as “among the flotsam and jetsam” of the organisation.

Al-Libbi’s arrest in Pakistan, announced last Wednesday, was described in the United States as “a major breakthrough? in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden.


Bush called him a “top general” and “a major facilitator and chief planner for the Al- Qaeda network”. Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state, said he was “a very important figure”. Yet the backslapping in Washington and Islamabad has astonished European terrorism experts, who point out that the Libyan was neither on the FBI?s most wanted list, nor on that of the State Department “rewards for justice? programme.

Another Libyan is on the FBI list ? Anas al-Liby, who is wanted over the 1998 East African embassy bombings ” and some believe the Americans may have initially confused the two. When The Sunday Times contacted a senior FBI counter-terrorism official for information about the importance of the detained man, he sent material on al-Liby, the wrong man.

“Al-Libbi is just a “middle-level? leader,” said Jean-Charles Brisard, a French intelligence investigator and leading expert on terrorism finance. “Pakistan and US authorities have completely overestimated his role and importance. He was never more than a regional facilitator between Al-Qaeda and local Pakistani Islamic groups.”

According to Brisard, the arrested man lacks the global reach of Al-Qaeda leaders such as Ayman al-Zawahiri, Bin Laden’s number two, Khalid Shaikh Mohammad, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks, or Anas al-Liby.

Although British intelligence has evidence of telephone calls between al-Libbi and operatives in the UK, he is not believed to be Al-Qaed commander of operations in Europe, as reported.

The only operations in which he is known to have been involved are two attempts to assassinate Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, in 2003. Last year he was named Pakistan’s most wanted man with a $350,000 (

Al-Qaida suspect abu Qatada ‘hidden by UK agents’

Al-Qaida suspect ‘hidden by UK agents’

London Guardian 07/08/02: Vikram Dodd

Original Link:,11017,751102,00.html

The alleged spiritual leader of the al-Qaida terrorist network is living with his wife and children in northern England, in a safe house paid for by the intelligence services, it was claimed yesterday.
Abu Qatada, a Muslim cleric believed by several European countries to be a pivotal figure in international terrorism, disappeared from his west London home in December, before a round up of alleged terrorist suspects. It was rumoured that he had fled abroad.

Time magazine’s sensational but bizarre claim is attributed to senior members of European intelligence services.

The report says that Mr Qatada, claimed by some to be Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, and his wife and family are being fed and clothed by British intelligence.

Time quoted a senior European intelligence source as saying: "The deal is that Abu Qatada is deprived of contact with extremists in London and Europe, but can’t be arrested or expelled because no one officially knows where he is."

The magazine says that the French authorities corroborated these claims. Their source added: "The British win because the last thing they want is a hot potato they can’t extradite for fear of al-Qaida reprisals, but whose presence contradicts London’s support of the war on terror."

A British government official described the report as "crap" and added: "We wouldn’t give an awful lot of credence to it." A Home Office spokeswoman said she could not comment on intelligence matters.

Videos of Mr Qatada’s speeches were found in the Hamburg flat of Mohamed Atta, who is believed to have been the leader of the September 11 hijackers.

Mr Qatada, 40, settled in London with his wife and four children eight years ago when he was given asylum after claiming that he had been persecuted in Jordan for his religious beliefs.

In his absence he was convicted in Jordan of funding a bombing campaign, and sentenced to 15 years in jail.

Pakistan seizes alleged ‘al Qaeda No. 3’ man, al Libbi

Pakistan seizes alleged Al-Qaeda No 3 man
Updated: 2005-05-05 11:41

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan has captured the alleged Al-Qaeda number three and mastermind behind two bids to kill President Pervez Musharraf, a development hailed as a key victory against the terror network.

A picture released by the Pakistani Interior Ministry shows Abu Faraj al-Libbi, the alleged Al-Qaeda No 3 man. [AFP]

Libyan national Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who has a five-million-dollar US bounty on his head, was seized on Monday after a brief shootout in northwestern Pakistan, government and security officials said.

Pakistani and US officials say the Libyan, considered a close associate of Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden, ranks third in the current hierarchy after bin Laden and his Egyptian-born deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri.

US President George W. Bush welcomed al-Libbi’s capture, calling it "a critical victory" in the global war on terrorism declared by Washington after Osama bin Laden’s network carried out the September 11 attacks.

"Al-Libbi was a top general for Bin Laden, he was a major facilitator and chief planner for the Al-Qaeda network. His arrest removes a dangerous enemy who is a direct threat to America and to those who love freedom," he added.

Pakistan had posted a reward of 20 million rupees (333,333 dollars) for al-Libbi’s arrest. The United States Central Intelligence Agency also offered a five-million-dollar reward, Pakistani and US officials told AFP.

"He is a very important catch, he was wanted in several high-profile acts of terrorism. He was also wanted in the assassination attacks on President Musharraf," information minister Sheikh Rashid told AFP.

Officials said al-Libbi took over Al-Qaeda operations in Pakistan and the position of third in command after the arrest in March 2003 of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the key planner of September 11.

A US counter-terrorism official said it was the biggest coup since the capture of Mohammed, who has since been extradited to the United States. He indicated that American intelligence played a key behind-the-scenes role.

"He’s number three in Al-Qaeda after Bin Laden and Zawahiri," said the official.

A photograph taken after his capture shows al-Libbi as an exhausted-looking, bearded man with hooded eyes and blotchy facial markings standing against a background of blue tiles.

Interior Minister Aftab Sherpao said the arrest could lead to the dismantling of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan. "A follow up operation is going on. His capture is definitely a big dent in Al-Qaeda hierarchy," he told AFP.

A senior Pakistani security official involved in the hunt for Al-Qaeda militants said al-Libbi may even help the authorities track down Bin Laden himself.

"He is one of his closest confidants and he should be able to provide new leads about both Osama and Ayman Al-Zawahiri," the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

Al-Libbi was being interrogated by Pakistan security forces at an undisclosed location, Rashid added. Islamabad has handed over hundreds of Al-Qaeda suspects to Washington but Rashid said al-Libbi would remain in Pakistan.

Military leader Musharraf has previously named al-Libbi as the ringleader in the attempts to assassinate him in December 2003.

In the first, militants blew up a road bridge as he drove past while the second happened on Christmas Day, when suicide bombers detonated their vehicles near his motorcade, killing more than a dozen.

Police sources said the militant was captured in a dramatic encounter when he and another man riding a motorcycle near a shrine in the town of Mardan were intercepted on an intelligence tip off.

"The men opened fire and tried to escape but were chased and both were captured," a police official in Mardan told AFP.

Officials said that last year security officers surrounded al-Libbi in a town in northwestern Pakistan but he escaped after another shootout.

Pakistani officials last year told the Daily Telegraph that a deciphered email from another captured militant revealed that al-Libbi was coordinating terrorist efforts in the United States before the November presidential election.

They also said he was communicating with sleeper cells in Britain on future attacks there.

The capture of al-Libbi is the latest in a string of key arrests by Pakistan since Musharraf allied himself with Washington after September 11.

In July 2004 Pakistani forces arrested Tanzanian Ahmad Khalfan Ghailani, wanted by the FBI for the 1998 bombing of US embassies in East Africa.

Last year Pakistani forces killed Al-Qaeda kingpin Amjad Farooqi, who was indicted in the 2002 murder of US reporter Daniel Pearl and suspected of involvement in one of the Musharraf assassination bids.