8 September 2008
Mr. Jason Burke, Esq.
c/o Penguin Publishers
Dear Mr. Burke,
I have read with great interest your seminal book Al Qaeda [third edition, 2007] and appreciate the independent and critical spirit emanating from your book.
As a scholar in international law and a keen student of contemporary events, including what goes under the name of the “war on terror”, I feel the need to convey to you a number of observations and questions with the hope to hear from you.
Here it goes.
1. Page 16: “Intelligence services lie, cheat and deceive. Propaganda is one of their primary functions.” I fully concur with that view. Yet, it appears to me that a great deal of facts presented in the book emanate from intelligence services. At a minimum, the reader cannot verify the credibility of the facts presented, particularly if they only reflect a private interview with a person that cannot be located.
2. Page 24: Holy warriors are “proud, strong, deserving of respect and prestige.” Yet, having followed many cases of detained terror suspects in various countries, when presented to a judge, they mostly deny the allegations of intending to commit terrorism and do not at all act as proud jihadists. A number of them are even willing to make plea bargains by falsely accusing other Muslims. This would hardly be the case with true believers in their cause.
3. Page 39: “Bin Laden’s gripping and powerful pre-recorded video clip, delivered before the US air raids on Afghanistan and shown by al-Jazeera within hours of their inception, epitomized the inadequacy of the response the most powerful state of the world could muster in the face of basic modern telecommunications used well.” Leaving aside the question whether the video clip was authentic, I think it is a wide-believed error to attribute to terrorists the skills of communications. Neither Al Jazeera nor CNN is owned by a terrorist organisation (at least in the accepted meaning of the word “terrorist organisation”). No terrorist dictates to these corporate media what, when and how to broadcast a report. Corporate media are notorious in refusing to report important facts that might embarass corporations or governments. The fame of Osama bin Laden is entirely due to the coverage given him by corporate media and cannot be attributed to his communication skills. There are many people around the world who possess equal or better communication skills than OBL but are excluded from the media because they speak out the truth to power.
4. Page 104 discusses Ali Mohammed without mentioning that he worked simultaneously for the CIA and the FBI and for Osama bin Laden and that he worked as an instructor at the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg (the “US military’s top warfare planning center”) while spending his weekends at a jihadist center in Brooklyn. One of his supervisors is Col. Norvell De Atkine actually contributes articles to a staunch Pro-Israel journal edited by Daniel Pipes. While working for the US government, Ali Mohammed trained most 1993 bombers of the World Trade Center, with the full knowledge of the FBI. In 1989 Mohamed was discharged honorably from the US army with commendations, including for “patriotism, valor, fidelity and professional excellence.” In 1990 Ali became an informant for the FBI and maintained connections with the FBI for much of the rest of the 1990s. Apparently Ali also helps in 1991 to move Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan. According to US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald, Ali Mohammed “trained most of al-Qaeda’s top leadership – including Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri – and most of al-Qaeda’s top trainers.” (Source: 9/11 Commission). According to Nabil Sharef, a university professor and former Egyptian intelligence officer, “for five years [Ali Mohammed] was moving back and forth between the US and Afghanistan. It’s impossible the CIA thought he was going there as a tourist. If the CIA hadn’t caught on him, it should be dissolved and its budget used for something worthwhile.” (Source: Wall Street Journal, 26 Nov., 2001). At one time, in June 1993, Ali Mohamed is detained in Vancouver, Canada by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. After he tells them to call his FBI handler, John Zent, he is released. An article published in the Boston Globe on February 3, 1995 exposes Ali Mohamed, calling him “a shadowy individual described by defense attorneys as a key figure in the largest terrorism trial in US history.” In spite of such publicity, US law-enforcement authorities do not touch him. In October 1997 Ali Mohamed tells about his extensive Al-Qaeda links to US officials of the FBI in California but is not arrested. In 1998, Ali Mohamed tells the FBI who the East-Africa embassy bombers but is not arrested even though he does not offer names. Ali Mohamed is allegedly arrested in September 1998 and will in October 2000 apparently plead guilty to five counts of conspiracy but will never be publicly sentenced. The nature of the plea agreement made between Ali Mohamed and the US Goverenment remains secret. He refused to testify in his trial. His whereabouts are unknown. His role as an agent of US intelligence remains mysterious.
5. In your book you at various points deny that the United States actually funded, let alone trained, the “Arabs” brought to fight in Afghanistan. Yet, according to various other sources, more than 100,000 Islamic militants were trained in Pakistan between 1986 and 1992, in camps overseen by the CIA and MI6, with the [British special forces unit] SAS training future al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters in bomb-making and other black arts. Their leaders were trained at a CIA camp in Virginia. [Guardian, 9/20/2003]. Michael Springmann, former official at the U.S. Consultate at Jeddah, also reported that dozens of Arabs were brought into the U.S. in order to be trained to fight in Afghanistan.
6. Discussing the WTC bombing in 1993, your book does not mention a crucial fact, namely that an undercover agent of the FBI, Emad Salem, testified under oath in a New York court that the FBI knew about the attack beforehand and told him they would thwart it by substituting a harmless powder for the explosives. However, an FBI supervisor called off this plan, and the bombing was not stopped. (Sources: New York Times, 28. Oct. 1993 and Court documents).
7. A whole chapter of the Al Qaeda book devoted to 9/11. Yet, the U.S. government has not produced the slighest evidence that links 9/11 to Al Qaeda. In order for such a link to exist, it must be shown that the persons who actually perpetrated the mass killing of 9/11 were related to, sympathetic to, linked to, or members of Al Qaeda. However, the US government failed to prove that any Al-Qaeda related person actually boarded any of the airliners that crashed on 9/11. The names of the alleged hijackers do not appear on any authentic passenger list; their boarding cards stubs cannot be found; no person saw them actually board onto the airliners; in fact no person at all testified to have witnessed the boarding of these airliners; there exist no video recordings of the boarding process; and the bodily remains of these alleged terrorists were not identified. There is thus not a shred of evidence locating these particular individuals at the crime scene. Additionally, the FBI has admitted in June 2006 to possess no “hard evidence” linking Osama bin Laden to 9/11. This is the reason, according to the FBI, why 9/11 is not mentioned on their website offering a financial prize for that person.
In the book Al Qaeda, numerous statements refer to the events of 9/11 as the work of Al Qaeda and its operators. Yet, there is no evidence to support such statements. I wonder whether you possess evidence that no one else possesses and if so, what is that evidence. It goes without saying that statements by Osama bin Laden, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed or Zacarias Moussaoui, according to which Al Qaeda operators perpetrated the crime of 9/11, would not constitute incriminating evidence, even if the statements were made in good faith, for the simple reason that neither of these persons was an eyewitness and because the US authorities, possessing access to all documents, have failed to prove that presence of the 19 alleged hijackers at the scene of murder.
All the above observations, based on verifiable statements and facts, demonstrate the existence of covert links between the US government and Al Qaeda since the 1980s, links which continue until this very day. I believe that the international community is entitled to know the full truth on 9/11 and on the real nature of the terrorist threat that, we are constantly told, represents a real danger to world peace. For, if we are being lied to and Al Qaeda were to be exposed as a covert operation of Western intelligence agencies (as it appears to be), I am afraid that the deceivers will one day have to pay a high price for their deception that has helped spawn two wars of aggression and over a million deaths. Meanwhile, those who cherish the truth are invited to include all relevant facts – including those which may suggest government malfeasance – in their writings on international issues.