Fort Hood, KSM & Anwar al-Awlaki Part Two

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Fort Hood & the KSM trial- Part II: The al Qaeda Spy Who Could Be the Best Witness vs. KSM in NY.

Why Didn’t the Feds Get the 9/11 Plot out of Ali Mohamed?
A week after the September 11th attacks, FBI Special Agent Jack Cloonan flew back from Yemen to New York where convicted al Qaeda spy Ali Mohamed had been brought up from custodial witness protection in Florida to the M.C.C. (federal jail) in Lower Manhattan.
Rushing from the airport and desperate to learn what Ali might have known about the attacks that killed 2,976, Cloonan got to the prison around 11:00 p.m.
“I walked in and I had him pulled out,” Cloonan said in an interview for my Ali Mohamed biography Triple Cross. “I said, ‘How’d they do it?’ and he wrote the whole thing out—the attack, as if he knew every detail of it. He [had] conducted training for Al Qaeda on how to hijack a plane.
“’This is how you get a box cutter on board. You take the knife, you remove the blade and you wrap it in [redacted] and put it in your carry-on luggage.’ They’d read the FAA regulations. They knew four inches wouldn’t go through. ‘This is how you position yourself,’ he said. ‘I taught people how to sit in first class. You sit here and some sit here.’ He wrote the whole thing out.”
On 9/11 the hijackers who flew AA Flight 77 into the Pentagon were reported to have used box cutters. Three of the muscle hijackers who stormed the cockpit and took that plane were Khalid al-Midhar and the al-Hazmi brothers, Nawaf and Salim. Later it was revealed that Khalid and Salim had obtained their fake ID’s (used to board the plane) at Sphinx Trading, the same tiny Jersey City Mailbox store that had been on Patrick Fitzgerald’s radar since the 1995 “Day of Terror” trial. (see Part 1)
As bin Laden’s trusted security advisor Ali Mohamed almost certainly knew of the planes-as-missiles operation that KSM was executing by 1998. Khalid Sheikh’s nephew, Ramzi Yousef, had conceived the plot in Manila in 1994; the year Ali stayed in bin Laden’s own house in Khartoum as he trained his bodyguards. By 1997 Mohamed was living part time in Kenya with Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s personal secretary.
So why couldn’t Patrick Fitzgerald and the elite agents of the FBI’s Bin Laden squad have squeezed the plot out of him in the year 2000 when Ali copped a plea that spared his life? That’s one of the most important questions that could be answered if the trial of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed goes forward in New York. And if the Feds don’t have the inclination to ask that question, the defense attorneys surely will.
The baseless fears of the KSM trial critics
A media storm erupted from the moment the Justice Department announced that the 9/11 “mastermind” would face a jury in the Southern District of New York. The critics have ranged from Rudi Guiliani to N.Y. Gov. David Paterson and now, even 9/11 Commission chairman Gov. Tom Kean has chimed in.
KSM at Guantanamo
Many predict that the trial will be a “circus,” and a threat to U.S. security. But they seem to forget that the SDNY Feds have locked up two of the most lethal al Qaeda terrorists in the world: Ramzi Yousef and Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman after separate New York trials that were models of civility.
So far in five SDNY trials, not a single al Qaeda terrorist has escaped justice. The 1994 WTC bombing trial, the 1995 Day of Terror Trial, the 1996 Bojinka trial, the second WTC bombing trial in 1997 and the Embassy bombing trial in 2001 all proceeded to convictions without incident. Except for a few raucous protests outside the New York Supreme Court trial of El Sayyid Nosair, the killer of Rabbi Meier Kahane, none of the trials turned into the “circus” the critics are predicting.
What about the threat to the U.S. homeland some critics say will increase if KSM is allowed to venture out of the confines of Gitmo? Hogwash. Ramzi Yousef and most of the principal al Qaeda convicts are serving life sentences at the Supermax in Florence, Colorado, the most hardened Federal prison in the system. The blind Sheikh, reported near death in 2007, is locked down at the Butner Federal Medical Facility in North Carolina.
As to critics like John Yoo (architect of the DOJ’s water-boarding rationale) who warned in the Wall Street Journal that KSM’s trial would represent a “bonanza” of intelligence for al Qaeda, I refer him to Ali Mohamed’s stunning track record uncovering the inner secrets of the FBI and Green Berets during his 11 year run as al Qaeda’s spy.
Thanks to Ali Amiriki, (aka “Ali the American”) the FBI informant and U.S. Army sergeant embedded at Fort Bragg, there is little or nothing about the Government’s “sensitive sources and methods,” that might come out at this trial that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri don’t already know.
Thanks to Ali Amiriki, (aka “Ali the American”) the FBI informant and U.S. Army sergeant embedded at Fort Bragg, there is little or nothing about the Government’s “sensitive sources and methods,” that might come out at this trial that bin Laden and al-Zawahiri don’t already know.
Mohamed in Fort Bragg video
The likelihood KSM will walk? Zero to none
There’s little doubt that KSM will be convicted. Even if all of the “testimony” he vomited out during his months of water boarding is suppressed, he openly admitted to his role as “the executive director of 9/11” last December in the Gitmo military trial at of Salim Hamdan, bin Laden’s driver.
“Due to my work as…a military official in al Qaeda,” KSM boasted, “my job is to oversee all of the al Qaeda cells aboard.” And he coughed up even more culpable details in March of 2007 at another Guantanamo hearing. Back then he actually boasted that he “was responsible for the 9/11 operation, from A to Z.”
KSM then went on to list 29 al Qaeda terror operations that he either ran or was a co-conspirator in planning; including both attacks on the WTC: the 1993 bombing and 9/11, the separate 1994 plots to assassinate President Bill Clinton and Pope John Paul II in the Philippines, the notorious “Bojinka” plot (hatched by his nephew Ramzi Yousef) to smuggle improvised explosive devices aboard a dozen U.S. bound airliners exiting Asia in 1995, the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl and the Bali nightclub bombing that same year which left 202 dead.
So when he goes on trial in New York, while any statements made under “enhanced” interrogations will no doubt get suppressed, those admissions made freely in open court in Guantanamo will sink him for sure.
What are the unanswered questions about the FBI’s failure to stop 9/11 that the trial of KSM in New York could reveal? And how could Ali Mohamed impact the possible prosecution of alleged Fort Hood killer Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan?
The most important reason for bringing KSM before a civilian jury in New York is the potential his trial has for connecting the dots on the negligence of U.S. intelligence agencies prior to 9/11. The responsibility for that job was squandered by the 9/11 Commission, half the staff of which were alumni of the very agencies they were charged with auditing.
That’s why nobody in the counter-intel community was held accountable for failing to miss the “planes as missiles plot,” hatched by Ramzi Yousef and his uncle in Manila in 1994 – a plot that the Philippines National Police had warned the N.Y. Feds about as early as 1995. No wonder ex-New Jersey Gov. Tom Kean, the 9/11 Commission Chairman, doesn’t want to go back down that road.
However, in this upcoming legal showdown with KSM in New York, his ego suggests that he’ll take the stand. After all, his nephew Ramzi represented himself during his 1996 Bojinka trial (for which he was convicted). Once he starts talking, Khalid Shaikh could trigger the answers to a number of questions that were side-stepped or ignored by the 9/11 Commission and the Congressional Joint Inquiry:
1) Isn’t it true that Osama bin Laden and al-Zawahiri had established what amounted to an al Qaeda headquarters at the al Farooq mosque in Brooklyn as far back as 1989 and directly bankrolled the first WTC bombing by Yousef?
The 9/11 Commission claimed that the 1993 WTC bombing was the work of “loosely based group of Sunni Islamists.” Even Patrick Fitzgerald, the man Vanity Fair called “the bin Laden brain” told a documentary crew in 2005 that he wasn’t sure whether al Qaeda was involved in the bombing that killed six and injured 1000 a month into Clinton’s presidency.
But if the trail of culpability for the FBI leads all the way back to their 1989 surveillance of Ali Mohamed’s trained cell at a Long Island shooting range (see Part I) ( Highlight ‘Part I’: link it to Part I) that will make three separate presidential administrations (both Bushes and Clinton’s) responsible for failing to stop the al Qaeda juggernaut.
2) After secretly indicting KSM in January, 1996, why did the Feds wait until January 2008 to unseal the indictment?
Yousef’s $2 million matchbook want poster
In 1995 they’d brought KSM’s nephew Ramzi to ground the old fashioned way: with a $2 million reward plastered on want posters and matchbook covers from Bangkok to Islamabad where he was finally busted after a young South African accomplice ratted him out.
KSM want posters distributed in early 1998
But the Feds didn’t go public with their worldwide hunt for KSM until early 1998 and by then he was in Hamburg, well on his way to executing the “planes operation” he and Ramzi had set in motion back in Manila in 1994. Why did SDNY prosecutors wait so long to seek the public’s help in capturing Khalid Shaikh?
3) How much assistance did KSM get from Khalid bin Abdullah al-Thani, a member of the ruling family of Qatar who reportedly got Khalid Sheikh a new I.D. and smuggled him off to the Czech republic in 1996 after an FBI sting of Yousef revealed his uncle’s presence in Doha.
According to Paul Thompson who runs a remarkable website, KSM even returned to Qatar two weeks after 9/11 and stayed there “with the knowledge of some Qatari royals.”
Why is the possible participation of the Qataris in the 9/11 plot a crucial question? Because since 2002 the forward headquarters for CENTCOM, the United States Central Command has been located at Camp As Sayliyah in Doha. The entire invasion of Baghdad and the Iraqi campaign was coordinated out of this facility.
KSM could be the one man with insight into just how cozy the al-Thanis are with al Qaeda’s leadership. Talk about an irony, the U.S. invades Iraq on the false pretext that Saddam Hussein was linked to the 9/11 attacks and our principal strategic ally in the region may have been responsible for helping the “mastermind,” KSM slip through the FBI’s fingers five years before the attacks.
The importance of Ali Mohamed to the Hasan case
Bringing this story full circle; apart from the lessons the U.S. Army should have learned about sheltering Islamic radicals during Ali Mohamed’s service at Fort Bragg, it’s quite possible that if he’s convinced to talk, al Qaeda’s master spy could be helpful to the prosecution of Maj. Hasan.
Why? Because of the disturbing evidence that seems to grow each day of Hasan’s relationship with radical imam Anwar al Awlaki. Months ago the FBI learned that Hasan and al Awlaki communicated “10 to 20 times,” but no formal investigation was every launched by the Bureau.
Terrorism analyst Thompson has done ground-breaking investigative work on al Awlaki; proving that he interacted directly with 9/11 hijackers al-Midhar and al Hazmi in San Diego, then helped them along after the imam moved to the Dar al Hijrah Islamic Center in Falls Church, Virginia in 2000.
                                                                     Mohamed                 Hasan               al-Awlaki
We now know that Maj. Hasan held his mother’s funeral at that mosque in May of 2001. In one of the emails, monitored by the FBI six months before the Fort Hood massacre, Maj. Hasan told al Awlaki “I can’t wait to join you” in the afterlife.
Two degrees of separation between Maj. Hasan and KSM
In 2004 U.S. News reported that post 9/11, German authorities found the phone number of al Awlaki’s Dar al Hijrah mosque in the apartment of Ramzi Binalshibh, Khalid Shaikh’s Number Two, who will also go on trial in New York.
While no evidence has surfaced that al -Awlaki ever met KSM, the link between the Fairfax mosque and Ramzi Binalshibh makes for two degrees of separation between the 9/11 “executive director,” Khalid Shaikh and the fanatical U.S. Army psychiatrist who allegedly left 13 dead and 30 wounded at Fort Hood.
There’s also a disturbing parallel between the FBI’s failure to detect Ali Mohamed as a threat to U.S. security and the Bureau’s lapses in monitoring Maj. Hasan.
The Weekly Standard quoted the FBI as admitting that Hasan came to their attention “in December 2008” and that the Joint Terrorism Task Force “reviewed … communications between…Hasan and (al-Awlaki) and deemed them “consistent with research being conducted by Maj. Hasan…” Contrast that with the London Telegraph’s report: in one outburst at Walter Reed Army Hospital, Hasan declared that non-believers should be beheaded and “have boiling oil poured down their throats;” hardly the view of a serious medical researcher.
As documented in Part I, Ali Mohamed not only exhibited openly hostile jihadist views while serving as an E5 sergeant at the JFK Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, the Army even used him to make a training video in which he articulated his radical Islamic beliefs. 20 years ago an actual agent of al Qaeda had burrowed into a highly secure Army facility and after he was discovered and arrested a decade later, the Army didn’t seem to learn its lesson.
A revelation or another cover up?
The continuing Hasan investigation will shed new light on whether the Bureau has sufficiently reformed in the years since the 9/11. The question is, will federal prosecutors have the courage to come clean on years of negligence by the two “Bin Laden offices of origin” and put the man who snookered them on the stand as the chief witness against KSM?
Ali Mohamed remains the greatest enigma in the war on terror. Locked away somewhere in custodial witness protection there are seals upon seals on his case. Having skirted the fate that awaits KSM, can the convicted spy now be persuaded to testify about what he knows of the 9/11 plot and Khalid Shaikh’s role in it?
If he does, he could be to terrorism what Sammy “the bull” Gravano was to organized crime – the most lethal witness ever against the 9/11 “executive director.” A full, unexpurgated vetting of FBI/DOJ blunders at that trial could be the kind of kick in the ass the Bureau needs to finally begin its reform.
There’s little time to lose. The FBI’s failure to identify Ali Mohamed as a threat two decades ago at Fort Bragg and their recent lapses in stopping the wide-eyed shooter at Ford Hood are proof positive that the Bureau has miles to go before Americans can feel protected from the metastasizing threat of radical Islam.
*******
Peter Lance is a five-time Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter and former correspondent for ABC News. He has covered hundreds of stories worldwide for 20/20, Nightline, and World News Tonight. Peter is the author of 1000 Years for Revenge, Cover Up, and Triple Cross. For more details visit Peter’s website. (photo by Paul Wellman.)

UPDATE: On September 3oth, 2011 al-Awlaki was killed in Yemen by a U.S. drone. CLICK for BBC storyr.

 

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