This is a very interesting reprint from http://www.thenewamerican.com on what advanced
intelligence the FBI and CIA had on the
1993 World Trade Center Bombing...it is
appropriate today if you believe the modus
operandi is the same
Enemies and "Assets"
by William Norman Grigg
The World Trade Center bombers had some curious connections
Recommend this article to a friend.
and email addresses are not harvested from this feature. We respect
your privacy and as such you will not be added to an email list.
the outbreak of communist revolutions across Europe in 1848, Frederic
Bastiat, a French champion of free enterprise, took note of the fact
that many of his government's supposedly anti-communist policies were
actually creating communist-style controls over the economic and
political life of his country. As a member of the French Assembly,
Bastiat chided his government for "concocting the antidote and the
poison in the same laboratory" and for devoting "half of its resources
to destroying the evil it has done with the other half."
own federal government's ever-escalating "war" on terrorism displays
similar dynamics. The same Clinton Administration that urges the
expansion of federal power -- and the contraction of personal liberties
-- in the struggle against terrorism has eagerly courted the Syrian
terror regime and has played host to representatives of the IRA, the
Russian mafia, the Red Chinese arms-smuggling industry, and Muslim
terrorist factions. This same bizarre duality is apparent in the
Administration's domestic "anti- terrorism" initiatives. As the
November 11th Washington Post reported, "Since the Oklahoma City
bombing [of] April 19, 1995, the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and
Firearms (ATF), and other federal law enforcement agencies have
embarked on a preemptive strategy to uncover domestic terrorist
conspiracies while they are in the planning stages. This strategy
requires aggressive and potentially controversial tactics as
investigators infiltrate groups and bring charges on the basis of
allegedly criminal plans that are conceived but not carried out."
new federal anti-terrorism strategy has resulted in the arrest,
prosecution, and (in some cases) conviction of militia members on
conspiracy charges in Georgia, Arizona, Washington, and West Virginia.
However, it has also produced convincing evidence that the federal
informants have acted as agents provocateurs, urging militia members to
undertake potentially criminal actions.
In the case of the
"Viper Team" in Phoenix, for example, it was a "confidential informant"
who infiltrated the militia and suggested that the group rob banks in
order to finance its activities. (For more on the "Viper" case, see
page 19.) In the Georgia militia case, federal informants who had
infiltrated the militia urged its leaders to manufacture pipe bombs;
after failing to win support for their idea, the informants planted
pipe-bomb components on property belonging to the militia group's
In the more recent case of the Mountaineer Militia
in West Virginia, an FBI informant -- posing as an arms dealer -- asked
militia leader Floyd Ray Looker to sell him plans of a local FBI
computer facility for $50,000. Although U.S. Attorney William D.
Wilmoth has acknowledged that "the facility itself was never in any
direct danger" from the Mountaineer Militia, seven members of the group
were arrested on terrorism charges on October 11th in what the
Washington Post called an "unprecedented use of a new anti-terrorism
law...." None of the militias targeted for "preemptive" federal action
has a track record of violence. What would happen if federal agents
were to use the same tactics on an authentic terrorist cell -- one
composed of genuinely ruthless people possessing both the will and the
means to carry out lethal acts of political violence?
Bungling or Abetting?
answer was provided by the February 26, 1993 bombing of the World Trade
Center in New York City, an attack that killed six Americans, wounded
more than a thousand others, inflicted $500 million in damage, and
dispelled America's sense of immunity to international terrorism. The
leaders of the radical Islamic network responsible for the bombing, who
later planned a campaign of urban terrorism which could have claimed
the lives of thousands of Americans, were given financial aid and
training by the CIA. Furthermore, at several critical junctures where
the conspiracy could have been exposed and its leaders arrested,
federal law enforcement either ignored that network or actually
provided crucial help to it.
The central figure of that
terrorist network was Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the "spiritual leader"
of the Egyptian extremist group Gama al-Islamiya. In January 1996,
Sheik Omar was convicted of "seditious conspiracy" and sentenced to
life in prison for his part in planning the bombing; his nine
co-conspirators were handed sentences ranging from 25 years to life.
The sheik's defense team attempted to depict the prosecution of their
client as an instance of anti-Muslim persecution. However, Sheik Omar's
religious vocation, unlike that of the vast majority of devout,
peaceful Muslims, was steeped in violence and hatred.
Omar and his followers were arrested in June 1993, six months after the
Trade Center bombing; at the time of the arrest, some of the plotters
were literally mixing chemicals to manufacture bombs. Following the
January 1996 convictions of Sheik Omar and his disciples, Assistant
U.S. Attorney Andrew C. McCarthy declared, "There is a support system
for terrorism in the United States whose designer is Sheik
Abdel-Rahman.... [It would be] naive to think it has been destroyed."
According to Two Seconds Under the World, an account of the Trade
Center bombing by New York Newsday's Pulitzer Prize-winning
investigative team of Jim Dwyer, David Kocieniewski, Deidre Murphy, and
Peg Tyre, Sheik Omar's followers have established cells in Texas,
California, Illinois, and Michigan. Although Sheik Omar may have been
the "designer" of this terrorist network, its "support system," as we
will see, included the CIA, the U.S. Army, and -- arguably -- federal
law enforcement agencies.
who was accused of complicity in the plot to assassinate Anwar Sadat,
has devoted his adult life to the overthrow of the secular Egyptian
government and the propagation of his variety of Islam. In 1987, the
U.S. State Department placed Sheik Omar's name on its "watch list" of
non-Americans believed to be involved in terrorism. However, this did
not prevent the CIA from enlisting Sheik Omar as a "valuable asset" in
covert operations involving the Afghan mujahideen during the 1980s.
1980 and 1989, the CIA pumped more than $3 billion in aid into the
mujahideen, the Islamic resistance to the Soviet occupation of
Afghanistan. The mujahideen's rank and file was composed of brave and
motivated men who displayed astonishing courage in their effort to
evict the Soviets from Afghanistan. However, as veteran foreign
correspondent Kurt Lohbeck documented in his study Holy War, Unholy
Victory: Eyewitness to the CIA's Secret War in Afghanistan, the CIA
invested most of its aid in the least combat-worthy and most
anti-American factions of the mujahideen. Among the CIA's dubious
beneficiaries was Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman.
Writing in the May
1996 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, foreign correspondent Mary Anne
Weaver pointed out that it was in Peshawar, Pakistan in the late 1980s
that Sheik Omar "became involved with U.S. and Pakistani intelligence
officials who were orchestrating the war" against the Soviets, and that
the "sixty or so CIA and Special Forces officers based there considered
him a 'valuable asset' ... and overlooked his anti-Western message and
incitement to holy war because they wanted him to help unify the
Sheik Omar and his associates created an
institution in Peshawar, Pakistan called the Service Office, which
recruited Muslims from around the world as volunteers to fight the
Soviets in Afghanistan. However, as Weaver pointed out, "Money flowed
into the Service Office from the Muslim Brotherhood" -- one of the most
radical and violently anti-Western factions of the Pan-Islamic
movement. Along with hundreds of millions of dollars from Saudi Arabia,
Muslim Brotherhood money was distributed through branches of the
Service Office in Europe and the United States, thereby providing a
ready slush fund for terrorists and anti-Western agitators. While the
Service Office sluiced money into the coffers of terrorists, Sheik Omar
preached his gospel of jihad in Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and
in Islamic population centers in Turkey, Germany, England, and even the
United States -- despite his listing on the State Department's "watch
list." Sheik Omar's CIA-aided access to the United States continued
after the Soviets vacated Afghanistan in 1989.
On May 10,
1990, Sheik Omar was granted a one-year visa from a CIA agent posing as
an official at the U.S. Consulate in Khartoum, Sudan, and he arrived in
New York in July 1990. In November of the same year Sheik Omar's visa
was revoked, and the State Department advised the Immigration and
Naturalization Service to be on the lookout for him. So attentive was
the INS to this advisory that it granted Sheik Omar a green card just
five months later.
American-based radicals who sponsored Sheik Omar's 1990 trip to the
U.S. included Mahmud Abouhalima, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood and
a CIA-supported veteran of the Afghan campaign. Abouhalima had
networked with radical Muslims and American Black Panthers since the
mid- 1980s. Also helping to make arrangements for the sheik's visit was
Mustafa Shalabi, the Brooklyn-based director of Alkifah, a support fund
for mujahideen fighters. Another leader of Sheik Omar's American
network was El Sayyid Nosair, an Egyptian expatriate who was later
acquitted of the 1990 murder of Jewish militant Rabbi Meir Kahane.
and Nosair were eventually among those convicted of conspiring with
Sheik Omar to wage urban warfare in the United States, and in that
campaign they made use of skills imparted to them by the CIA and the
U.S. military. During the conspiracy trial, attorneys for Sheik Omar
and his disciples introduced a file documenting that in 1989, the U.S.
Army had sent Special Forces Sergeant Ali A. Mo hammed to Jersey City
to provide training for mujahideen recruits, including Abouhalima and
Nosair. But even as Abouhalima and Nosair underwent that training,
according to Two Seconds Under the World, the FBI had them under
surveillance as possible terrorists. Although Sheik Omar provided
"spiritual" guidance to his network, the Abu Nidal-trained Nosair was
the conspiracy's field commander, and Abouhalima was his most important
The FBI engaged in a curiously timed fit of
incompetence when the opportunity arose for a preemptive strike against
Sheik Omar's network. Following the shooting of Rabbi Meir Kahane in
November 1990, the FBI seized and impounded 49 boxes of documents from
Nosair's New Jersey apartment; the cache included bomb-making
instructions, a hit list of public figures (including Kahane),
paramilitary training materials, detailed pictures of famous buildings
(including the World Trade Center), and sermons by Sheik Omar urging
his followers to "destroy the edifices of capitalism."
the FBI made none of the evidence available to New York City Assistant
District Attorney William Greenbaum, who prosecuted the case. In fact,
the FBI ignored the material until after the Trade Center bombing in
1993. Veteran radical lawyer William Kunstler offered his services as
Nosair's defense attorney. Kunstler deployed his entire arsenal of
sophistries, and presiding Judge William Schlesinger of the New York
State Supreme Court granted Kunstler extraordinary procedural latitude
(including the privilege of dismissing white potential jurors on racial
grounds). Schlesinger's penchant for Kunstler was so pronounced that he
invited the notorious Marxist barrister to a Christmas party in his
chambers during jury deliberations.
Hamstrung by the FBI's
decision to withhold the evidence collected at Nosair's apartment, and
stymied by Judge Schlesinger's visible partiality toward the defense,
prosecutor Greenbaum was unable to secure a murder conviction against
Nosair. When the verdict was announced on December 20, 1991, Kunstler
was carried triumphantly away from the courtroom on the burly shoulders
of Muslim Brotherhood terrorist Mahmud Abouhalima. Nosair, who was
convicted on lesser firearms-related charges, began a seven-year term
in Attica prison, where he continued to direct the affairs of Sheik
Omar's terrorist network.
The violence pulsating through
Sheik Omar's network was not directed solely at predictable enemies
like Kahane. By March 1991, Sheik Omar and his associates had seized
control of the Alkifah fund, which had by then swollen to an estimated
$2 million -- and Shalabi, the fund's manager, was found murdered
shortly after a confrontation with three of Sheik Omar's disciples. The
CIA-originated fund helped finance Nosair's trial defense. It was also
used to procure many of the bomb components that were assembled under
the expert supervision of Afghan terrorist Ramzi Yousef, who was
imported by the Sheik Omar network in late 1992.
was convicted on September 8, 1996 of plotting a 48-hour campaign of
bombings against American commercial flights over the Pacific Ocean.
The campaign would have targeted a total of 12 jetliners and as many as
4,000 passengers. Yousef is also accused of carrying out the December
11, 1994 bombing of a Philippine jetliner that killed a Japanese
passenger, as well as plotting to assassinate Pope John Paul II. Yousef
met Abouhalima in Afghanistan in 1988, and it was Abouhalima who
brought the Afghan terrorist to the United States in September 1992 on
behalf of Sheik Omar's network.
Shortly after Yousef's
arrival, the FBI subpoenaed two dozen of Sheik Omar's followers and
questioned them about the sheik, Nosair, and Abouhalima. However, no
arrests were made, no grand jury investigation was launched, and the
FBI chose to downgrade its scrutiny of Omar's network -- just as plans
were being finalized for the Trade Center bombing. This curious
decision is even more peculiar in light of the fact that the FBI had
obtained intelligence on the network's capabilities and intentions from
Emad A. Salem, a former Egyptian Army officer and FBI informant who
served as Omar's security guard.
Salem's relationship with
the FBI was turbulent, and there were suggestions of impropriety in his
personal contacts with FBI handler Nancy Floyd. However, he had
repeatedly warned the FBI that Nosair was running a terrorist ring out
of his prison cell, and he had supplied detailed descriptions of the
Sheik Omar network's plans. But the FBI was doubtful of Salem's
reliability and severed its contacts with him seven months before the
In the aftermath of the Trade Center bombing, the
FBI renewed its association with Salem, paying him a reported $1
million to infiltrate Sheik Omar's group once again. Salem secretly
recorded many of his conversations with law enforcement agents,
including exchanges in which it was revealed that the FBI had detailed
prior knowledge of the Trade Center bomb plot. According to Salem, the
FBI had planned to sabotage the Trade Center bomb by replacing the
explosive components with an inert powder. The October 28, 1993 New
York Times reported that in one conversation Salem recalled assurances
from an FBI supervisor that the agency's plan called for "building the
bomb with a phony powder and grabbing the people who [were] involved in
[the plot]." However, the supervisor, in Salem's words, "messed it up."
recalled that when he expressed a desire to lodge a protest with FBI
headquarters, he was told by special agent John Anticev that "the New
York people [wouldn't] like the things out of the New York office to go
to Washington, DC." Unappeased, Salem rebuked Anticev: "... you saw
this bomb went off and you ... know that we could avoid that.... You
get paid, guys, to prevent problems like this from happening."
the most remarkable illustration of the depth of the FBI's knowledge of
the Sheik Omar network came after the World Trade Center bombing, when
the Bureau employed Salem's services as an informant once again. As the
Wall Street Journal reported, from March to June 1993 Salem "helped
organize the 'battle plan' that the government alleged included plots
to bomb the United Nations and FBI buildings in New York, and the
Holland and Lincoln tunnels beneath the Hudson River. Working with a
charismatic Sudanese man named Siddig Ali, a follower of Sheik Omar,
Mr. Salem recruited seven local Muslims to scout targets, plan tactics
and obtain chemicals and electrical parts for bombs...." By the time
the FBI closed in on the plotters on June 23rd, it had literally hours
of videotapes documenting the conspiracy in intimate detail --
including footage of conspirators mixing fertilizer and diesel fuel to
build a bomb.
Predictably, defense attorneys for Sheik Omar
and his followers insisted that Salem's actions amounted to entrapment.
While the court rejected this defense, the FBI's proficiency at using
Salem to assemble a radical Muslim terrorist cell is unsettling, to say
the least. Clearly, Salem knew his way around the sheik's network, and
was well-versed in the techniques of terrorism; just as clearly, the
FBI knew how to make use of Salem's abilities. It is difficult to
believe that the FBI was incapable of cracking down preemptively on the
sheik's followers before the Trade Center bombing.
Poison and Antidote
the fact that Sheik Omar's network consistently benefited from the
actions of the federal government -- from direct CIA aid to instances
of peculiar neglect by the FBI -- suggests that the cabal should be
considered as much a creature of our federal government as it was a
creation of a particular strain of Muslim extremism. Furthermore, the
influence and activities of Sheik Omar's co-conspirators are not
limited to the United States.
As Mary Anne Weaver pointed out
in The Atlantic Monthly, "the CIA helped to train and fund what
eventually became an international network of highly disciplined and
effective Islamic militants -- and a new breed of terrorists as well."
According to Weaver, the CIA's handiwork is on display across the
Middle East -- in the December 1995 car bomb attack in a crowded market
in Peshawar, Pakistan that killed 36 people and wounded 120 more, and
also in two nearly identical car bombings in November 1995 that
targeted U.S. military advisers in Saudi Arabia and the Egyptian
Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan. The same network could also be
considered a prime suspect in last summer's unsolved terrorist attack
on U.S. troops in Daharan, Saudi Arabia, terrorist bombings in Algeria
and the Philippines, and perhaps even the downing of TWA Flight 800.
Weaver quoted a former U.S. diplomat who told her, "The common element
in all these attacks -- whether in Cairo or Riyadh, Islamabad or
Algiers, Europe or New York -- is today's equivalent of the Abraham
Lincoln Brigade" -- namely, a CIA-trained terrorist network.
intelligence analysts describe the emergence of that network as an
example of "blowback" -- unintended negative fallout from a covert
operation. However, a more accurate analysis might make use of Frederic
Bastiat's metaphor of government creating the poison and the antidote
in the same laboratory. The same power elite that created the "poison"
of the post-Afghanistan terrorist network stands poised with an equally
dreadful "antidote." As Richard Haass, director of national security
programs at the influential Council on Foreign Relations, asserted in a
Washington Post op-ed column, the war against terrorism will require "a
willingness to compromise some of our civil liberties, including
accepting more frequent phone taps and surveillance. Those who would
resist paying such a price should keep in mind that terrorism could
well get worse in coming years."
In such fashion, American citizens will pay the price for evils nurtured by a government that poses as their protector.