Archive | 9/11 RSS feed for this section

Refugees and the tired and huddled masses

19 Nov
A shorter version of this appeared yesterday at the Daily Caller.

Despite the opposition of the majority of the nation’s Governors, President Obama is determined to import, at taxpayer expense, hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees, who despite his administration’s assurances, they are totally incompetent to vet.  Like most Democrats advocating suicidal policies for America, Obama attempts to seize the moral high ground, accusing critics of selfishness, racism, and turning away from American traditions like the sentiments engraved on the Statue of Liberty.

Progressives have generally fallen right in line with this.  Only one lone voice, Kevin Drum at Mother Jones, has called for not mocking people worried about terrorists entering the country through the refugee process, but instead for designing a tighter, better regulated process.

Sadly, as with the Iran Deal, a number of prominent libertarian writers are supporting Obama, quoting boilerplate about the “tired and huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”  Although if one reads the replies they are getting from their own libertarian readers, they are being told they are full of it.  And the most libertarianish of the presidential candidates, Senator Rand Paul, has called for a moratorium on accepting Syrian refugees in the United States.

Libertarians have been defending open borders and freely given green cards, work permits, work Visas, and even permanent residency (most don’t defend easy citizenship and voting rights) for some time.  The libertarian CATO Institute has one nice, bright young man, Alex Nowrasteh, a recent graduate of the London School of Economics, who does nothing but publish op-eds and policy papers advocating freedom of immigration.  I’ve never looked closely at his work, which I assume is mainly the standard completely valid arguments about the gains of trade, in this case free trade in labor.  I suspect Milton Friedman‘s thoughts on free immigration are truer – that you can’t have completely free immigration when you have a welfare state.  While Mr. Nowrasteh is no doubt correct that immigrants increase the GDP generally, lowering the price of software or landscaping or motel cleaning for the population as a whole, I suspect they impose high costs on specific communities where their children fill up the public schools and the whole family fills up the emergency rooms.  Sacrificing some communities and the taxpayers in them to the GDP of the nation seems to me collectivist and utilitarian – the greatest benefit for the greatest number – not individualist and libertarian.
But that’s about immigration generally.  Not immigration in a time of terrorism.  This week other libertarians – my fellow libertarians – made two sets of howlingly idiotic arguments about Syrian refugees.
Sarah Harvard is a young Muslim libertarian writer lots of people are going to hear about one suspects.  Barely out of American University, where I knew her as an undergraduate, she decided to become a political journalist despite a stereotypical Asian tiger mom’s desire that she be a medical doctor.  In her early 20s, Ms. Harvard has already interned at Slate, and now is a staff writer at The Atlantic and Teen Vogue.  In the wake of the November 13 terrorist attacks in Paris, Ms. Harvard shared her fears about Islamophobia on social media:
After seeing all the anti-Muslim attacks and to the extent of how far racialized Islamophobia has gone in this society, I’m reminded — once again — of my privilege as someone who is racially ambiguous. ‪#‎AmbiguouslyMuslim‬
Since I don’t wear the hijab and I don’t “look” Muslim, I don’t hold the same fear as my friends who do. I don’t have to worry about being stabbed when someone asks me if I’m Muslim. I don’t have to worry about someone threatening to behead me and throw a metal trash can in the street of New York City. I don’t have to worry about someone shouting slurs at me while riding on the subway.
Whether you identify as Sikh, Muslim, Arab, or South Asian, please be careful in our fragile and hostile world. Your bravery and resilience inspires me.
When I told Ms. Harvard I thought she had lost touch with reality (asking her where it was that a Muslim had been beheaded recently by a non-Muslim), she provided me with three links to stories – of which I was unaware – of Muslims or Arabs being stabbed in the U.S.   Three stories.   Over the past couple of decades. The first of which, a Daily Beast article on a Muslim immigrant killed in Dallas, said “Now there’s no specific evidence yet that he was murdered because he was Muslim.”  As he had, like many immigrants, moved into a violent, crime ridden neighborhood.  Which makes it sound to me like gun control, not Islamophobia, killed him.

Likewise, the almost always brilliantly balanced house libertarian at the AtlanticConor Friedersdorf, chides conservative writers for whipping up anti-Muslim sentiment.  We wouldn’t want a racist backlash, now would we?

One marvels at the lack of cognitive contact with reality.  There was no anti-Muslim pogrom after 9/11, when 3,000 people were killed in the U.S. by 19 Moslem terrorists.  Where do Democrats, progressives – or libertarians – get off on guilt tripping Americans for being concerned about letting floods of people into the country among which terrorists may be hiding, given the amazingly tolerant and liberal attitudes of Americans so far?  Given that only a few decades ago a Democrat President progressives still worship as a deity was turning away boatloads of Jews fleeing Nazism while he was also putting Japanese Americans in internment camps, they have no moral right to even speak.

The other line of ludicrous libertarian argument this week is that no terrorist has ever entered the U.S. as a refugee, made by two different very nice people, both very bright, reason magazine’s science writer Ronald Bailey, and also by Niskanen Center policy analyst Dan Bier in The Freeman.  (Bier then also appeared Wednesday morning at a meeting of D.C. conservatives pitching his argument, and again received hostile questions.)  Both were slapped by their libertarian readers, who pointed out that the Tsarnaev brothers were the children of asylum seekers.  Amazingly, Bailey replied with some semantic hair splitting about what the meaning of is “is,”  as did Bier at the conservative meeting.  Being children of a Moslem refugee, who as children were never “vetted” by Obama’s State Department, proves to Bier that the vetting works.  Their readers, recognizing that in this case the blood stains on the blue dress will be blood, not other precious bodily fluids, were not persuaded.

Elsewhere some libertarians made some perfectly valid points both about ISIS having as aims that the West reject Moslems seeking freedom and that it separate Moslem refugees from Christians and other Westerners and about Arabs being radicalized when (American, French, or Russian) bombs or drones fall on them without them having any idea why.

But none of those points explain why we should accept people who might want to kill us as neighbors, especially at taxpayer expense.

In 2007 I was a refugee – from Washington, D.C. and its godawful Department of Motor Vehicles, to Annapolis, Maryland.  My driver’s license was suspended and the DMV ‘crats could not tell me why or what to do, and that tipped my decision to rent a (second) apartment in Annapolis, and attempt to get a Maryland driver’s license.  Being a home owner in D.C. I had not rented anything in years, especially from a large corporate landlord.  I had to complete a background check so the landlord would not later face litigation from my neighbors if it turned out I was a rapist,  pedophile, etc.

The Obama administration is now importing refugees who it will place in public schools other Americans are actually legally forced to attend, and house on public property in many cases, and transport on public infrastructure everyone has to use (as it’s a monopoly with no alternatives).  These refugees aren’t people brought in by local churches and synagogues or mosques who might be held accountable for their behavior.  You can’t sue the federal government easily.  If even one tenth of one percent of a 100,000 refugees are terrorists, that’s 100 terrorists – five times the number who committed 9/11 and ten times the number who just killed 120 people in Paris.

The U.S. gives Israel and Egypt each a billion dollars a year to follow America’s foreign policy agenda.  Rather than spend tax money to import refugees – which is bizarrely what these libertarians are defending – we could just as easily pay Turkey, or Jordan, or Pakistan – or Madagascar – to accept them.

Before Obama Wagged the Dog Today: Whistleblower James Bamford on the History of the NSA

17 Jan
President Obama just finished a long, long disquisition on the NSA, which most critics viewed as an attempt to distract from this week’s revelations about his Benghazi cover up, the continued economic crisis, and Obama’s plummet in the polls.


James Bamford, an earlier NSA whisteblower, gave a great talk about the NSA at the National Press Club last night. In questions afterwards he stated that Obama was worse than Bush on civil liberties, we now live in a turnkey totalitarian state where everything is set up to turn on totalitarian control at any time, and that the left is mainly silent because Democrats are elected. It will be on C Span soon.

 
Local Libertarian Jason Scheurer is writing it up for publication later today maybe at Breitbart.  Here is Jason asking a question.

(If you are still seeing this note, we are still uploading video so come back again later.)





Susan Rice and 9/11

11 Sep
INVESTIGATION

The Osama Files

September 11 might have been prevented if the U.S. had accepted Sudan’s offers to share its intelligence files on Osama bin Laden and the growing al-Qaeda threat. Recently unearthed documents reveal that the Clinton administration repeatedly rejected the help of a country it unwisely perceived as an enemy.

In a squat, red-brick building next to Khartoum’s presidential palace, the agents who serve the Mukhabarat, Sudan’s intelligence division, keep their secrets in pale manila files. “Those guys know what they’re doing,” says a retired longtime C.I.A. Africa specialist. “They tend to be thorough. Their stuff is pretty reliable.”
And sometimes very important. Sudan’s Mukhabarat spent the early to mid-1990s amassing copious intelligence on Osama bin Laden and his leading cohorts at the heart of the al-Qaeda terrorist network—when they were still little known, and their activities were relatively limited. Some of the files at Mukhabarat headquarters identify individuals who played central roles in the suicide bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in August 1998; others chart the backgrounds and movements of al-Qaeda operatives who are said to be linked directly to the atrocities of September 11. In the wake of those attacks, President Bush and the F.B.I. issued a list of the world’s 22 most wanted terrorists. Sudan has kept files on many of them for years.
From the autumn of 1996 until just weeks before the 2001 attacks, the Sudanese government made numerous efforts to share this information with the United States—all of which were rebuffed. On several occasions, senior agents at the F.B.I. wished to accept these offers, but were apparently overruled by President Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, and her assistant secretary for Africa, Susan Rice, both of whom would not comment for this story after repeated requests for interviews. Vanity Fair has obtained letters and secret memorandums that document these approaches. They were made directly to the State Department and the F.B.I., and also via a series of well-connected U.S. citizens who tried to warn America that the Sudanese offers were serious and significant.
By definition, September 11 was an intelligence failure. As the C.I.A. man puts it, “We didn’t know it was going to happen.” Some of the reasons for that failure were structural, systemic: the shortage of Arabic-speaking agents, the inability of C.I.A. officers to go underground in Afghanistan.
This one was more specific. Had U.S. agencies examined the Mukhabarat files when they first had the chance in 1996, the prospects of preventing al-Qaeda’s subsequent attacks would have been much greater. Tim Carney, the last U.S. ambassador to Sudan, whose posting ended in 1997, says: “The fact is, they were opening the doors, and we weren’t taking them up on it. The U.S. failed to reciprocate Sudan’s willingness to engage us on serious questions of terrorism. We can speculate that this failure had serious implications—at the least for what happened at the U.S. Embassies in 1998. In any case, the U.S. lost access to a mine of material on bin Laden and his organization.”
How could this have happened? The simple answer is that the Clinton administration had accused Sudan of sponsoring terrorism, and refused to believe that anything it did to prove its bona fides could be genuine. At the same time, perceptions in Washington were influenced by C.I.A. reports that were wildly inaccurate, some the result of deliberate disinformation. The problem, Carney says, was “inadequate vetting and analysis by the C.I.A. of its own product.” That, in turn, was being conditioned by the Clinton administration’s hostility to Sudan’s Islamic regime: “Despite dissent from the State Department’s own Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. intelligence failed because it became politicized.”
Osama bin Laden, his four wives, his children, and numerous “Afghan Arab” followers who had helped drive the Soviets from Afghanistan went to Sudan from Saudi Arabia early in 1991. They chose Sudan for two main reasons. First, the restless, radicalized veterans of the Afghan war were unwelcome in most Arab countries, but Sudan left its doors open. Second, bin Laden liked Sudan’s politics. The Islamic radicalism of the government’s then ideological leader, the philosopher Hassan al-Turabi, who had come to power in a coup d’état in 1989, was at its bracing zenith. The Sudanese, in turn, welcomed bin Laden as an investor. His family had built most of Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure, and they saw his wealth and experience as an engineer as valuable resources in developing Sudan.
Al-Qaeda, with its secretive structure and oath of allegiance to bin Laden, had been founded two years earlier. In Sudan, however, much of bin Laden’s energy went into business: a contract, funded by the Saudis, to build the airport at Port Sudan; agricultural projects; and al-Hijra, a joint venture with the Sudan government to build a 185-mile road northward from Khartoum. Abu Ibrahim, the Iraqi engineer who became al-Hijra’s C.E.O., says bin Laden took a strong interest in the project’s technical details. In bin Laden’s large house in an affluent part of Khartoum, they spent hours together, discussing which diggers, graders, and other items the firm ought to buy. On his visits to the site, Ibrahim says, bin Laden showed “he knew how to drive every piece of machinery.” Ibrahim had known bin Laden during the Afghan war. “When we were in Afghanistan, everything was jihad, jihad, jihad,” he says. “Here in Sudan we saw his many other aspects—construction, family life. He was settling down.”
However, bin Laden also found time to begin a fierce propaganda campaign against the Saudi government, furious that it had allowed the U.S. military to build bases on Saudi soil. By 1994 that campaign had led to the removal of his Saudi citizenship. He was also fostering contacts with other Muslim extremists—some of whom were very dangerous indeed.
As we sat on gray-green leather sofas in his office, Yahia Hussien Ba-viker, the Mukhabarat’s deputy chief since 1998, disclosed a nugget from 1992. In that year, the Mukhabarat learned that bin Laden had played host for a lengthy visit by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad—a fundamentalist group behind many armed attacks on Egyptian government ministers and officials, including the 1981 assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat.
The Mukhabarat had monitored Egyptian Islamic Jihad for years. “If anyone in the world understands the Egyptian side of this network, it’s Sudan,” the C.I.A. source says. Events have served to demonstrate the significance of that meeting in 1992: Egyptian Islamic Jihad has effectively merged with al-Qaeda. Al-Zawahiri, now No. 2 on the F.B.I.’s “most wanted” list, serves as bin Laden’s doctor and adviser in Afghanistan. Other Egyptians occupy core positions within the al-Qaeda network, many of them known to the Mukhabarat since the 1980s. “These files on the Egyptians could have been of great value to U.S. intelligence,” Baviker says. “If we’d had communication with the U.S., we could have been on the same wavelength. We could have exchanged notes.”
All foreigners in Sudan were subject to some degree of surveillance. Disclosure of bin Laden’s link with Egyptian Islamic Jihad led the Mukhabarat to watch him and his Afghan Arab followers more closely. Lieutenant General Gutbi al-Mahdi, Mukhabarat director general from 1997 until 2000, says the service started keeping tabs on “the entire bin Laden clique.… We had a lot of information: who they are, who are their families, what is their education. We knew what they were doing in the country, what is their relationship with Osama bin Laden. And photographs of all them.”
Not long into the 1990s, Sudan’s Islamic fervor was already being tempered by pragmatism. Desperate for investment, especially to develop its vast reserves of oil, the government submitted to the stringent economic medicine prescribed by the World Bank, slashing inflation and privatizing state-owned industries. (Osama bin Laden himself became the Sudan agent for the British firm Hunting Surveys, which plays a large role in oil prospecting and whose military division makes about a fifth of the West’s Trident nuclear missiles.) In 1994 it tried to assert its anti-terrorist credentials by assisting France in the capture of Illich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as “Carlos the Jackal,” the notorious Venezuelan-born terrorist who claims to have killed 83 people, now serving a life sentence in France.
The U.S., however, remained convinced that Sudan was sponsoring terrorism. Toward the end of 1995, the then U.S. ambassador, Don Petterson, was instructed to deliver an unsigned, secret note to the spiritual leader, Hassan al-Turabi, and President Omar al-Bashir. It said the U.S. was “aware of Sudan’s involvement in terrorist plots against us,” and warned that if such a plot came to fruition there would be a harsh reaction. It could result in “the international isolation of Sudan, in the destruction of your economy, and in military measures that would make you pay a high price.”
Continued (page 2 of 4)
Yet whatever these supposed plots the C.I.A. thought it had uncovered were, they had nothing to do with bin Laden. Ambassador Petterson says, “My recollection is that when I made representations about terrorist organizations Osama bin Laden did not figure. We in Khartoum were not really concerned about him.”
Afocus on the wrong enemy was not the only mistaken feature of U.S. intelligence on Sudan. In 1993 the U.S. Embassy sent home all nonessential staff, spouses, and children, because the C.I.A. claimed it had evidence that Americans were at risk of terrorist attack. One report even claimed that there was a plot to bomb a party for the children of Khartoum’s American embassy workers. None of these threats were real. Petterson says, “There’s no question there were mistaken reports.” President Clinton’s national-security adviser, Tony Lake, was uprooted with his family from his home and kept under Secret Service guard at Blair House, the presidential guest quarters across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. The reason was another bogus C.I.A. claim that Sudanese agents were planning to murder him in Washington. Finally, at the beginning of 1996, just after Petterson had come to the end of his tour, the embassy was emptied of Americans altogether, again because of unspecified “security threats.” His successor, Tim Carney, would somehow have to do his job based a thousand miles away, in Nairobi, Kenya. This was unjustified, Petterson says.
The veteran C.I.A. Africa specialist says that this inaccurate intelligence was the product of disinformation, fed by an organized ring whose motives were a mixture of malice and greed. All these reports cost the C.I.A. money. One of its members, a Tunisian, Ali bin Mustafa Homed, was convicted of espionage in Sudan last summer and given a 14-year jail sentence. Yahia Baviker, the Mukhabarat deputy chief, confirmed that feeding disinformation to foreign intelligence agencies formed one of the charges against Homed.
Sudan was aghast at these developments. However, the radical wing of the government, led by the philosopher Dr. al-Turabi, was losing ground to the pragmatist moderates, who wanted good relations with the West. (In 1998, al-Turabi was placed under arrest, where he remains.) So when, in February 1996, Carney began to convey America’s demand that Sudan expel bin Laden, mainly because of his campaign against the Saudis, his audience was surprisingly receptive. Gutbi al-Mahdi, the former Mukhabarat boss, who was then serving as the Sudanese president’s senior adviser, says Sudan did not object on principle. The arguments he and his colleagues used were more practical: “We said, ‘Here he is under control, and we know everything about him. Here in Sudan he is under our supervision.’” Once bin Laden was expelled, al-Mahdi adds, “he had absolutely no choice other than to become a full-time radical.” About 300 Afghan Arabs went with him. According to an Egyptian intelligence source, “Most of them now are terrorists.”
Bin Laden was expelled in May 1996. Despite this evidence of Sudan’s willingness to cooperate, the U.S. appeared to have no interest in seeing what it could learn from Sudan. Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, now the information minister, went to Washington as Sudan’s ambassador in February 1996. A long-standing Americophile, he had been educated in Michigan and California: “I like the country, I like the people. I went as ambassador for three years, with a positive view that America was open, free, open for dialogue. What I found was a major surprise and disappointment.” Mohamed spent three years trying to get a meeting with the State Department’s assistant secretary for Africa, Susan Rice, only to find himself fobbed off on junior officials. He was no more successful in his efforts to see the National Security Council’s Tony Lake, or his successor, Sandy Berger. The N.S.C. staff continued to accuse Sudan of harboring terrorists. Mohamed begged the officials to make a specific allegation, but they refused. “I said, ‘Give me any information about any terrorists, any camps, as you believe it to be, and we will take it very seriously.’ The response was ‘Your government knows. You must know. We don’t like to expose our sources.’”
Ambassador Mohamed conveyed an open offer: the C.I.A. and F.B.I. could send a joint investigative team, which could travel freely throughout the country. “I used to say, ‘Go anywhere, take a plane from Khartoum and say where you want to go once we’re in the air.’” It was not taken up. In February 1997, the offer was repeated in a letter from President al-Bashir to Clinton. Al-Bashir suggested “a mission tasked to investigate allegations that the government of Sudan trains or shelters terrorists,” with “freedom of movement and contact and unrestricted choice of suspected terrorist sites.” Clinton never replied.
It began to dawn on the Sudanese that one way of convincing America that they were serious about fighting terrorists was to offer U.S. investigators access to the Mukhabarat files on bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Frustrated in their efforts to invite America in through the front door, they resolved to try a back channel—the multimillionaire Pakistani-American businessman and fund manager Mansoor Ijaz. Then a big donor to the Democratic Party, Ijaz was on personal terms with Clinton, Berger, and Al Gore. He was also fearful of the likely result of U.S. refusal to engage with Islamic regimes, such as Sudan: “As an American Muslim, I had a terrifying vision of what could go wrong. I wanted to do whatever I could to stop that happening.”
As an investor, Ijaz was interested in Sudan’s oil, but he also shared “a fundamental sense of injustice” at the way the country was being treated. From July 1996 until August 1997, he made six trips to Khartoum, meeting Dr. al-Turabi, President al-Bashir, the Mukhabarat chief, Gutbi al-Mahdi, and other officials. He succeeded in convincing them that it was worth making a further effort to persuade the U.S. of Sudan’s sincerity—partly by drawing America’s attention to the intelligence on al-Qaeda. His initiative produced its most dramatic result in a letter dated April 5, 1997, from President al-Bashir to Lee H. Hamilton, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It stated, “We extend an offer to the FBI’s Counter-terrorism units and any other official delegations which your government may deem appropriate, to come to the Sudan and work with our External Intelligence Department in order to assess the data in our possession and help us counter the forces your government, and ours, seek to contain.” (My italics.) According to Ijaz, Hamilton took the letter to both Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger, neither of whom replied.
Ijaz also wrote memorandums on his mission for Sandy Berger, and in a series of conversations he spelled out exactly what the Sudanese offer meant. He told Berger, “That phrase [in the letter to Hamilton], ‘to assess the data in our possession,’ was an explicit reference to the data on bin Laden. The reference to ‘the forces we seek to contain’ was an explicit reference to the attempt to stop al-Qaeda spreading.” Ijaz and his family had shared their Christmas dinner in the White House with the Clintons. However good his access, he could not budge U.S. policy on Sudan.
The Sudanese did not give up. Beginning in the autumn of 1997, they made use of another private go-between, Janet McElligott, a lobbyist who had worked at the White House under George H. W. Bush. Like Ijaz before her, she assumed that rational statecraft would, in the end, prevail. In this she was mistaken. On February 5, 1998, her efforts helped produce perhaps the smokiest of all the smoking guns in this story: a letter direct from Gutbi al-Mahdi of the Mukhabarat to David Williams, chief of the F.B.I.’s Middle East and Africa desk. It read, “I would like to express my sincere desire to start contacts and cooperation between our service and the F.B.I. I would like to take this opportunity with pleasure to invite you to visit our country. Otherwise, we could meet somewhere else. Till then I remain, yours truly.”
Eighteen days later, on February 23, 1998, Osama bin Laden issued his bloodcurdling fatwa from his hideout in Afghanistan, calling on all Muslims to kill Americans and Jews, adding that civilians were now to be regarded as targets. McElligott followed up the letter with a personal appeal: “I told them, ‘You do realize bin Laden lived there and they have files on his main people?’ There is simply no doubt the F.B.I. knew what was available. The guy I dealt with said, ‘I’d give anything to go in there, but they’—meaning the State Department—‘won’t let us.’”
Continued (page 3 of 4)
David Williams did not reply to al-Mahdi’s letter for another four months. “Unfortunately,” he wrote on June 24, “I am not currently in a position to accept your kind invitation.” He hoped “future circumstances” might allow it, but for now the offer had to be rejected. Six weeks after that, bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network succeeded in exploding two pickup trucks at the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. They were reduced to piles of bloody rubble in which 224 people lay dead or dying.
There were still a few twists of this bitter farce to come. A few days after the bombings, as NBC first reported in 1999, Sudan arrested two suspects who had arrived in Khartoum from Kenya. They were carrying Pakistani passports and using the names Sayyid Nazir Abbass and Sayyid Iskandar Suliman. They had rented an apartment overlooking the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and appeared to be reconnoitering it for a possible future attack. The material gathered between 1991 and 1996 led the Mukhabarat to believe that the two men were members of al-Qaeda; what is certain is that they had stayed in the Hilltop Hotel in Nairobi—the base used by other members of the embassy-bombings conspiracy. The Mukhabarat cabled the F.B.I. in Washington, offering to extradite them. Without consulting the F.B.I., the U.S. Departments of State and Defense replied by bombing the al-Shifa factory in Khartoum, claiming—on the basis of what is now acknowledged to have been yet more faulty intelligence—that it was owned by bin Laden and was making VX nerve gas. In fact, al-Shifa had no connection to bin Laden. It made vaccines and medicine, and had contracts with the U.N.
U.S.-Sudan relations then reached their nadir. The Mukhabarat sent the suspects “Abbass” and “Suliman” to Pakistan, where they were promptly lost to view. Ambassador Mohamed was withdrawn from Washington. Just before his departure, Janet McElligott arranged a meeting at her home between him and a senior F.B.I. official. McElligott says the F.B.I. man expressed his deep regret for what had happened and said he hoped that in time the politicians would allow his agency to examine the Sudanese intelligence.
A few months later, in yet another attempt to induce a thaw, the Mukhabarat chief, Gutbi al-Mahdi, invited McElligott to Khartoum. He gave her a handwritten note, which she delivered to the office of the then F.B.I. director, Louis Freeh. It related the circumstances of the two suspects’ arrest and the offer to send them to America, adding, “The bombardment of the pharmaceutical factory blew up the link we established with the FBI and the cooperation that developed on the situation.” However, their interrogation had revealed “some information,” and, as McElligott reminded the F.B.I., the Mukhabarat al-Qaeda files still awaited inspection. Through McElligott, the F.B.I. tentatively suggested a meeting with al-Mahdi in Europe. Before it could take place, the State Department vetoed it.
In Sudan, the ongoing U.S. attitude produced bewilderment. “We felt it was an irrational attitude,” al-Mahdi says. “We were extending our hand to someone who badly needed help, for our mutual benefit, and it was being rejected.” He goes on to echo the claim made by Ambassador Carney: “If [the F.B.I.] had taken up my offer in February 1998, they could have prevented the bombings. They had very little information at that time: they were shooting in the dark. Had they engaged with the Sudan, they could have stopped a lot of things.”
It is hard to conceive of a more serious allegation, and it appears to stand up to scrutiny. As late as the end of 1995, Osama bin Laden was not judged important enough by the C.I.A. or F.B.I. for anyone to mention him to Ambassador Petterson when he went to talk to the Sudanese about terrorism. It seems reasonable to infer that the U.S. knew little about his organization or lethal capability. Yet the Mukhabarat had all the main players taped. Besides bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, there was Muhammad Atef, said to be al-Qaeda’s military commander, the man who seems to have orchestrated the 1998 bombings and, reportedly, the September 11 attacks. (In November, Atef was reportedly killed in Afghanistan.) Every time Abu Ibrahim, bin Laden’s former C.E.O., visited his Khartoum home, Atef was there: Ibrahim also recalls seeing Atef “with Osama in Afghanistan, by his side when he delivers his messages on TV.”
How useful might the files on them have been? Sitting by the pool at the Khartoum Hilton, I asked a senior officer from Egyptian intelligence, who has worked closely with the Mukhabarat, and who asked not to be named. He said, “They knew all about them: who they were, where they came from. They had copies of their passports, their tickets; they knew where they went. Of course that information could have helped enormously. It is the history of those people.”
There are also some inescapable specifics. During the New York trial of the four men recently convicted of the 1998 bombings, the court heard a lot about a man called Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who also appears on the most-wanted list. He set the embassy plot rolling by making two journeys to Nairobi in the spring of 1998—from Khartoum, where, the Mukhabarat believed, he was working for al-Qaeda. If F.B.I. officials had accepted the offer made by al-Mahdi that February, they would have known this too, and at some point during his subsequent murderous odyssey, when he rented a villa in Kenya, gathered the bombers at the Hilltop Hotel, or helped stuff a pickup truck with TNT, they might have stepped in and smashed the conspiracy. The Mukhabarat also kept files on another wanted embassy bomber, the Egyptian Saif al-Adel, who also appears on the list of most wanted. He is believed to be in Afghanistan.
If the 1998 plot had been foiled, perhaps there would have been no September 11. In any event, Sudan had other intelligence that would have made al-Qaeda’s burgeoning growth less likely. Wadih al-Hage, bin Laden’s former private secretary, now serving life without parole after his conviction in New York for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings, was logged and photographed in Sudan. He is said to have moved among bin Laden cells across four continents. How much easier it might have been to cramp al-Qaeda’s style had his importance been grasped in 1996. Another subject of a Mukhabarat file is Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, a Sudanese born to Iraqi parents, an Afghan-war veteran who worked for two bin Laden companies in Sudan until 1995. He provides a link with the New York suicide hijackers. From 1995 until 1998, he made frequent visits to Germany, where a Syrian trader, Mamoun Darkazanli, had signing powers over his bank account. Darkazanli has been reported to have procured electronic equipment for al-Qaeda. Both men attended the same Hamburg mosque as Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, who flew the two planes into the World Trade Center.
‘In the end,” says the former ambassador to the U.S. Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, “when there is enough suspicion, nothing anyone says can convince you.” This is what Ambassador Carney’s phrase “politicized intelligence” means: the message from Sudan did not fit conventional wisdom at the State Department and the C.I.A., and so it was disregarded, again and again.
It was not until May 2000 that the Clinton administration responded to pressure from the U.S. intelligence community and agreed to send a joint F.B.I.-C.I.A. team to Sudan. Even then its mission was not to examine the Mukhabarat files but to ascertain whether Sudan was really sponsoring terror. In the summer of 2001 the team gave the country a clean bill of health. There were no “training camps” or sanctuaries for murderers after all. Gutbi al-Mahdi, the former Mukhabarat chief, says that a few weeks before September 11 the American team finally asked to examine the Sudanese material on al-Qaeda. Events suggest that by then it was too late.
There are uncomfortable historical parallels. By the spring of 1941 the Soviet Union’s “Red Orchestra” spy ring had been warning Stalin for months that Nazi Germany was about to break its pact with the Soviet Union and invade. Convinced that Hitler remained his ally, he ignored them, so that when the Nazi troop trains began to roll, and the dive-bombers began their deadly blitzkrieg, they found themselves attacking an almost undefended country. Leopold Trepper, the spy ring’s leader, wrote an autobiography, published after 20 million Soviets had died in the Second World War: “He who closes his eyes sees nothing, even in the full light of day.… The generalissimo preferred to trust his political instinct rather than the secret reports piled up on his desk.”
Continued (page 4 of 4)
“He who closes his eyes sees nothing.” In the case of Sudan, 1996 through 2000, Madeleine Albright and her assistant secretary for Africa, Susan Rice, apparently preferred to trust their instincts that Sudan was America’s enemy, and so refused to countenance its assistance against the deepest threat to U.S. security since 1945. Ambassador Carney quoted Talleyrand, the 18th-century father of modern diplomacy. This saga was “pire qu’un crime, c’était une bêtise.” He provided his own translation. “It was worse than a crime. It was a fuckup.”
David Rose is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.

Susan Rice and 9/11

11 Sep
INVESTIGATION

The Osama Files

September 11 might have been prevented if the U.S. had accepted Sudan’s offers to share its intelligence files on Osama bin Laden and the growing al-Qaeda threat. Recently unearthed documents reveal that the Clinton administration repeatedly rejected the help of a country it unwisely perceived as an enemy.

In a squat, red-brick building next to Khartoum’s presidential palace, the agents who serve the Mukhabarat, Sudan’s intelligence division, keep their secrets in pale manila files. “Those guys know what they’re doing,” says a retired longtime C.I.A. Africa specialist. “They tend to be thorough. Their stuff is pretty reliable.”
And sometimes very important. Sudan’s Mukhabarat spent the early to mid-1990s amassing copious intelligence on Osama bin Laden and his leading cohorts at the heart of the al-Qaeda terrorist network—when they were still little known, and their activities were relatively limited. Some of the files at Mukhabarat headquarters identify individuals who played central roles in the suicide bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya in August 1998; others chart the backgrounds and movements of al-Qaeda operatives who are said to be linked directly to the atrocities of September 11. In the wake of those attacks, President Bush and the F.B.I. issued a list of the world’s 22 most wanted terrorists. Sudan has kept files on many of them for years.
From the autumn of 1996 until just weeks before the 2001 attacks, the Sudanese government made numerous efforts to share this information with the United States—all of which were rebuffed. On several occasions, senior agents at the F.B.I. wished to accept these offers, but were apparently overruled by President Clinton’s secretary of state, Madeleine Albright, and her assistant secretary for Africa, Susan Rice, both of whom would not comment for this story after repeated requests for interviews. Vanity Fair has obtained letters and secret memorandums that document these approaches. They were made directly to the State Department and the F.B.I., and also via a series of well-connected U.S. citizens who tried to warn America that the Sudanese offers were serious and significant.
By definition, September 11 was an intelligence failure. As the C.I.A. man puts it, “We didn’t know it was going to happen.” Some of the reasons for that failure were structural, systemic: the shortage of Arabic-speaking agents, the inability of C.I.A. officers to go underground in Afghanistan.
This one was more specific. Had U.S. agencies examined the Mukhabarat files when they first had the chance in 1996, the prospects of preventing al-Qaeda’s subsequent attacks would have been much greater. Tim Carney, the last U.S. ambassador to Sudan, whose posting ended in 1997, says: “The fact is, they were opening the doors, and we weren’t taking them up on it. The U.S. failed to reciprocate Sudan’s willingness to engage us on serious questions of terrorism. We can speculate that this failure had serious implications—at the least for what happened at the U.S. Embassies in 1998. In any case, the U.S. lost access to a mine of material on bin Laden and his organization.”
How could this have happened? The simple answer is that the Clinton administration had accused Sudan of sponsoring terrorism, and refused to believe that anything it did to prove its bona fides could be genuine. At the same time, perceptions in Washington were influenced by C.I.A. reports that were wildly inaccurate, some the result of deliberate disinformation. The problem, Carney says, was “inadequate vetting and analysis by the C.I.A. of its own product.” That, in turn, was being conditioned by the Clinton administration’s hostility to Sudan’s Islamic regime: “Despite dissent from the State Department’s own Bureau of Intelligence and Research, U.S. intelligence failed because it became politicized.”
Osama bin Laden, his four wives, his children, and numerous “Afghan Arab” followers who had helped drive the Soviets from Afghanistan went to Sudan from Saudi Arabia early in 1991. They chose Sudan for two main reasons. First, the restless, radicalized veterans of the Afghan war were unwelcome in most Arab countries, but Sudan left its doors open. Second, bin Laden liked Sudan’s politics. The Islamic radicalism of the government’s then ideological leader, the philosopher Hassan al-Turabi, who had come to power in a coup d’état in 1989, was at its bracing zenith. The Sudanese, in turn, welcomed bin Laden as an investor. His family had built most of Saudi Arabia’s infrastructure, and they saw his wealth and experience as an engineer as valuable resources in developing Sudan.
Al-Qaeda, with its secretive structure and oath of allegiance to bin Laden, had been founded two years earlier. In Sudan, however, much of bin Laden’s energy went into business: a contract, funded by the Saudis, to build the airport at Port Sudan; agricultural projects; and al-Hijra, a joint venture with the Sudan government to build a 185-mile road northward from Khartoum. Abu Ibrahim, the Iraqi engineer who became al-Hijra’s C.E.O., says bin Laden took a strong interest in the project’s technical details. In bin Laden’s large house in an affluent part of Khartoum, they spent hours together, discussing which diggers, graders, and other items the firm ought to buy. On his visits to the site, Ibrahim says, bin Laden showed “he knew how to drive every piece of machinery.” Ibrahim had known bin Laden during the Afghan war. “When we were in Afghanistan, everything was jihad, jihad, jihad,” he says. “Here in Sudan we saw his many other aspects—construction, family life. He was settling down.”
However, bin Laden also found time to begin a fierce propaganda campaign against the Saudi government, furious that it had allowed the U.S. military to build bases on Saudi soil. By 1994 that campaign had led to the removal of his Saudi citizenship. He was also fostering contacts with other Muslim extremists—some of whom were very dangerous indeed.
As we sat on gray-green leather sofas in his office, Yahia Hussien Ba-viker, the Mukhabarat’s deputy chief since 1998, disclosed a nugget from 1992. In that year, the Mukhabarat learned that bin Laden had played host for a lengthy visit by Ayman al-Zawahiri, the founder of Egyptian Islamic Jihad—a fundamentalist group behind many armed attacks on Egyptian government ministers and officials, including the 1981 assassination of President Anwar el-Sadat.
The Mukhabarat had monitored Egyptian Islamic Jihad for years. “If anyone in the world understands the Egyptian side of this network, it’s Sudan,” the C.I.A. source says. Events have served to demonstrate the significance of that meeting in 1992: Egyptian Islamic Jihad has effectively merged with al-Qaeda. Al-Zawahiri, now No. 2 on the F.B.I.’s “most wanted” list, serves as bin Laden’s doctor and adviser in Afghanistan. Other Egyptians occupy core positions within the al-Qaeda network, many of them known to the Mukhabarat since the 1980s. “These files on the Egyptians could have been of great value to U.S. intelligence,” Baviker says. “If we’d had communication with the U.S., we could have been on the same wavelength. We could have exchanged notes.”
All foreigners in Sudan were subject to some degree of surveillance. Disclosure of bin Laden’s link with Egyptian Islamic Jihad led the Mukhabarat to watch him and his Afghan Arab followers more closely. Lieutenant General Gutbi al-Mahdi, Mukhabarat director general from 1997 until 2000, says the service started keeping tabs on “the entire bin Laden clique.… We had a lot of information: who they are, who are their families, what is their education. We knew what they were doing in the country, what is their relationship with Osama bin Laden. And photographs of all them.”
Not long into the 1990s, Sudan’s Islamic fervor was already being tempered by pragmatism. Desperate for investment, especially to develop its vast reserves of oil, the government submitted to the stringent economic medicine prescribed by the World Bank, slashing inflation and privatizing state-owned industries. (Osama bin Laden himself became the Sudan agent for the British firm Hunting Surveys, which plays a large role in oil prospecting and whose military division makes about a fifth of the West’s Trident nuclear missiles.) In 1994 it tried to assert its anti-terrorist credentials by assisting France in the capture of Illich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as “Carlos the Jackal,” the notorious Venezuelan-born terrorist who claims to have killed 83 people, now serving a life sentence in France.
The U.S., however, remained convinced that Sudan was sponsoring terrorism. Toward the end of 1995, the then U.S. ambassador, Don Petterson, was instructed to deliver an unsigned, secret note to the spiritual leader, Hassan al-Turabi, and President Omar al-Bashir. It said the U.S. was “aware of Sudan’s involvement in terrorist plots against us,” and warned that if such a plot came to fruition there would be a harsh reaction. It could result in “the international isolation of Sudan, in the destruction of your economy, and in military measures that would make you pay a high price.”
Continued (page 2 of 4)
Yet whatever these supposed plots the C.I.A. thought it had uncovered were, they had nothing to do with bin Laden. Ambassador Petterson says, “My recollection is that when I made representations about terrorist organizations Osama bin Laden did not figure. We in Khartoum were not really concerned about him.”
Afocus on the wrong enemy was not the only mistaken feature of U.S. intelligence on Sudan. In 1993 the U.S. Embassy sent home all nonessential staff, spouses, and children, because the C.I.A. claimed it had evidence that Americans were at risk of terrorist attack. One report even claimed that there was a plot to bomb a party for the children of Khartoum’s American embassy workers. None of these threats were real. Petterson says, “There’s no question there were mistaken reports.” President Clinton’s national-security adviser, Tony Lake, was uprooted with his family from his home and kept under Secret Service guard at Blair House, the presidential guest quarters across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House. The reason was another bogus C.I.A. claim that Sudanese agents were planning to murder him in Washington. Finally, at the beginning of 1996, just after Petterson had come to the end of his tour, the embassy was emptied of Americans altogether, again because of unspecified “security threats.” His successor, Tim Carney, would somehow have to do his job based a thousand miles away, in Nairobi, Kenya. This was unjustified, Petterson says.
The veteran C.I.A. Africa specialist says that this inaccurate intelligence was the product of disinformation, fed by an organized ring whose motives were a mixture of malice and greed. All these reports cost the C.I.A. money. One of its members, a Tunisian, Ali bin Mustafa Homed, was convicted of espionage in Sudan last summer and given a 14-year jail sentence. Yahia Baviker, the Mukhabarat deputy chief, confirmed that feeding disinformation to foreign intelligence agencies formed one of the charges against Homed.
Sudan was aghast at these developments. However, the radical wing of the government, led by the philosopher Dr. al-Turabi, was losing ground to the pragmatist moderates, who wanted good relations with the West. (In 1998, al-Turabi was placed under arrest, where he remains.) So when, in February 1996, Carney began to convey America’s demand that Sudan expel bin Laden, mainly because of his campaign against the Saudis, his audience was surprisingly receptive. Gutbi al-Mahdi, the former Mukhabarat boss, who was then serving as the Sudanese president’s senior adviser, says Sudan did not object on principle. The arguments he and his colleagues used were more practical: “We said, ‘Here he is under control, and we know everything about him. Here in Sudan he is under our supervision.’” Once bin Laden was expelled, al-Mahdi adds, “he had absolutely no choice other than to become a full-time radical.” About 300 Afghan Arabs went with him. According to an Egyptian intelligence source, “Most of them now are terrorists.”
Bin Laden was expelled in May 1996. Despite this evidence of Sudan’s willingness to cooperate, the U.S. appeared to have no interest in seeing what it could learn from Sudan. Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, now the information minister, went to Washington as Sudan’s ambassador in February 1996. A long-standing Americophile, he had been educated in Michigan and California: “I like the country, I like the people. I went as ambassador for three years, with a positive view that America was open, free, open for dialogue. What I found was a major surprise and disappointment.” Mohamed spent three years trying to get a meeting with the State Department’s assistant secretary for Africa, Susan Rice, only to find himself fobbed off on junior officials. He was no more successful in his efforts to see the National Security Council’s Tony Lake, or his successor, Sandy Berger. The N.S.C. staff continued to accuse Sudan of harboring terrorists. Mohamed begged the officials to make a specific allegation, but they refused. “I said, ‘Give me any information about any terrorists, any camps, as you believe it to be, and we will take it very seriously.’ The response was ‘Your government knows. You must know. We don’t like to expose our sources.’”
Ambassador Mohamed conveyed an open offer: the C.I.A. and F.B.I. could send a joint investigative team, which could travel freely throughout the country. “I used to say, ‘Go anywhere, take a plane from Khartoum and say where you want to go once we’re in the air.’” It was not taken up. In February 1997, the offer was repeated in a letter from President al-Bashir to Clinton. Al-Bashir suggested “a mission tasked to investigate allegations that the government of Sudan trains or shelters terrorists,” with “freedom of movement and contact and unrestricted choice of suspected terrorist sites.” Clinton never replied.
It began to dawn on the Sudanese that one way of convincing America that they were serious about fighting terrorists was to offer U.S. investigators access to the Mukhabarat files on bin Laden, al-Qaeda, and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Frustrated in their efforts to invite America in through the front door, they resolved to try a back channel—the multimillionaire Pakistani-American businessman and fund manager Mansoor Ijaz. Then a big donor to the Democratic Party, Ijaz was on personal terms with Clinton, Berger, and Al Gore. He was also fearful of the likely result of U.S. refusal to engage with Islamic regimes, such as Sudan: “As an American Muslim, I had a terrifying vision of what could go wrong. I wanted to do whatever I could to stop that happening.”
As an investor, Ijaz was interested in Sudan’s oil, but he also shared “a fundamental sense of injustice” at the way the country was being treated. From July 1996 until August 1997, he made six trips to Khartoum, meeting Dr. al-Turabi, President al-Bashir, the Mukhabarat chief, Gutbi al-Mahdi, and other officials. He succeeded in convincing them that it was worth making a further effort to persuade the U.S. of Sudan’s sincerity—partly by drawing America’s attention to the intelligence on al-Qaeda. His initiative produced its most dramatic result in a letter dated April 5, 1997, from President al-Bashir to Lee H. Hamilton, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. It stated, “We extend an offer to the FBI’s Counter-terrorism units and any other official delegations which your government may deem appropriate, to come to the Sudan and work with our External Intelligence Department in order to assess the data in our possession and help us counter the forces your government, and ours, seek to contain.” (My italics.) According to Ijaz, Hamilton took the letter to both Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger, neither of whom replied.
Ijaz also wrote memorandums on his mission for Sandy Berger, and in a series of conversations he spelled out exactly what the Sudanese offer meant. He told Berger, “That phrase [in the letter to Hamilton], ‘to assess the data in our possession,’ was an explicit reference to the data on bin Laden. The reference to ‘the forces we seek to contain’ was an explicit reference to the attempt to stop al-Qaeda spreading.” Ijaz and his family had shared their Christmas dinner in the White House with the Clintons. However good his access, he could not budge U.S. policy on Sudan.
The Sudanese did not give up. Beginning in the autumn of 1997, they made use of another private go-between, Janet McElligott, a lobbyist who had worked at the White House under George H. W. Bush. Like Ijaz before her, she assumed that rational statecraft would, in the end, prevail. In this she was mistaken. On February 5, 1998, her efforts helped produce perhaps the smokiest of all the smoking guns in this story: a letter direct from Gutbi al-Mahdi of the Mukhabarat to David Williams, chief of the F.B.I.’s Middle East and Africa desk. It read, “I would like to express my sincere desire to start contacts and cooperation between our service and the F.B.I. I would like to take this opportunity with pleasure to invite you to visit our country. Otherwise, we could meet somewhere else. Till then I remain, yours truly.”
Eighteen days later, on February 23, 1998, Osama bin Laden issued his bloodcurdling fatwa from his hideout in Afghanistan, calling on all Muslims to kill Americans and Jews, adding that civilians were now to be regarded as targets. McElligott followed up the letter with a personal appeal: “I told them, ‘You do realize bin Laden lived there and they have files on his main people?’ There is simply no doubt the F.B.I. knew what was available. The guy I dealt with said, ‘I’d give anything to go in there, but they’—meaning the State Department—‘won’t let us.’”
Continued (page 3 of 4)
David Williams did not reply to al-Mahdi’s letter for another four months. “Unfortunately,” he wrote on June 24, “I am not currently in a position to accept your kind invitation.” He hoped “future circumstances” might allow it, but for now the offer had to be rejected. Six weeks after that, bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network succeeded in exploding two pickup trucks at the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam. They were reduced to piles of bloody rubble in which 224 people lay dead or dying.
There were still a few twists of this bitter farce to come. A few days after the bombings, as NBC first reported in 1999, Sudan arrested two suspects who had arrived in Khartoum from Kenya. They were carrying Pakistani passports and using the names Sayyid Nazir Abbass and Sayyid Iskandar Suliman. They had rented an apartment overlooking the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum and appeared to be reconnoitering it for a possible future attack. The material gathered between 1991 and 1996 led the Mukhabarat to believe that the two men were members of al-Qaeda; what is certain is that they had stayed in the Hilltop Hotel in Nairobi—the base used by other members of the embassy-bombings conspiracy. The Mukhabarat cabled the F.B.I. in Washington, offering to extradite them. Without consulting the F.B.I., the U.S. Departments of State and Defense replied by bombing the al-Shifa factory in Khartoum, claiming—on the basis of what is now acknowledged to have been yet more faulty intelligence—that it was owned by bin Laden and was making VX nerve gas. In fact, al-Shifa had no connection to bin Laden. It made vaccines and medicine, and had contracts with the U.N.
U.S.-Sudan relations then reached their nadir. The Mukhabarat sent the suspects “Abbass” and “Suliman” to Pakistan, where they were promptly lost to view. Ambassador Mohamed was withdrawn from Washington. Just before his departure, Janet McElligott arranged a meeting at her home between him and a senior F.B.I. official. McElligott says the F.B.I. man expressed his deep regret for what had happened and said he hoped that in time the politicians would allow his agency to examine the Sudanese intelligence.
A few months later, in yet another attempt to induce a thaw, the Mukhabarat chief, Gutbi al-Mahdi, invited McElligott to Khartoum. He gave her a handwritten note, which she delivered to the office of the then F.B.I. director, Louis Freeh. It related the circumstances of the two suspects’ arrest and the offer to send them to America, adding, “The bombardment of the pharmaceutical factory blew up the link we established with the FBI and the cooperation that developed on the situation.” However, their interrogation had revealed “some information,” and, as McElligott reminded the F.B.I., the Mukhabarat al-Qaeda files still awaited inspection. Through McElligott, the F.B.I. tentatively suggested a meeting with al-Mahdi in Europe. Before it could take place, the State Department vetoed it.
In Sudan, the ongoing U.S. attitude produced bewilderment. “We felt it was an irrational attitude,” al-Mahdi says. “We were extending our hand to someone who badly needed help, for our mutual benefit, and it was being rejected.” He goes on to echo the claim made by Ambassador Carney: “If [the F.B.I.] had taken up my offer in February 1998, they could have prevented the bombings. They had very little information at that time: they were shooting in the dark. Had they engaged with the Sudan, they could have stopped a lot of things.”
It is hard to conceive of a more serious allegation, and it appears to stand up to scrutiny. As late as the end of 1995, Osama bin Laden was not judged important enough by the C.I.A. or F.B.I. for anyone to mention him to Ambassador Petterson when he went to talk to the Sudanese about terrorism. It seems reasonable to infer that the U.S. knew little about his organization or lethal capability. Yet the Mukhabarat had all the main players taped. Besides bin Laden and al-Zawahiri, there was Muhammad Atef, said to be al-Qaeda’s military commander, the man who seems to have orchestrated the 1998 bombings and, reportedly, the September 11 attacks. (In November, Atef was reportedly killed in Afghanistan.) Every time Abu Ibrahim, bin Laden’s former C.E.O., visited his Khartoum home, Atef was there: Ibrahim also recalls seeing Atef “with Osama in Afghanistan, by his side when he delivers his messages on TV.”
How useful might the files on them have been? Sitting by the pool at the Khartoum Hilton, I asked a senior officer from Egyptian intelligence, who has worked closely with the Mukhabarat, and who asked not to be named. He said, “They knew all about them: who they were, where they came from. They had copies of their passports, their tickets; they knew where they went. Of course that information could have helped enormously. It is the history of those people.”
There are also some inescapable specifics. During the New York trial of the four men recently convicted of the 1998 bombings, the court heard a lot about a man called Fazul Abdullah Mohammed, who also appears on the most-wanted list. He set the embassy plot rolling by making two journeys to Nairobi in the spring of 1998—from Khartoum, where, the Mukhabarat believed, he was working for al-Qaeda. If F.B.I. officials had accepted the offer made by al-Mahdi that February, they would have known this too, and at some point during his subsequent murderous odyssey, when he rented a villa in Kenya, gathered the bombers at the Hilltop Hotel, or helped stuff a pickup truck with TNT, they might have stepped in and smashed the conspiracy. The Mukhabarat also kept files on another wanted embassy bomber, the Egyptian Saif al-Adel, who also appears on the list of most wanted. He is believed to be in Afghanistan.
If the 1998 plot had been foiled, perhaps there would have been no September 11. In any event, Sudan had other intelligence that would have made al-Qaeda’s burgeoning growth less likely. Wadih al-Hage, bin Laden’s former private secretary, now serving life without parole after his conviction in New York for his role in the 1998 embassy bombings, was logged and photographed in Sudan. He is said to have moved among bin Laden cells across four continents. How much easier it might have been to cramp al-Qaeda’s style had his importance been grasped in 1996. Another subject of a Mukhabarat file is Mamdouh Mahmoud Salim, a Sudanese born to Iraqi parents, an Afghan-war veteran who worked for two bin Laden companies in Sudan until 1995. He provides a link with the New York suicide hijackers. From 1995 until 1998, he made frequent visits to Germany, where a Syrian trader, Mamoun Darkazanli, had signing powers over his bank account. Darkazanli has been reported to have procured electronic equipment for al-Qaeda. Both men attended the same Hamburg mosque as Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, who flew the two planes into the World Trade Center.
‘In the end,” says the former ambassador to the U.S. Mahdi Ibrahim Mohamed, “when there is enough suspicion, nothing anyone says can convince you.” This is what Ambassador Carney’s phrase “politicized intelligence” means: the message from Sudan did not fit conventional wisdom at the State Department and the C.I.A., and so it was disregarded, again and again.
It was not until May 2000 that the Clinton administration responded to pressure from the U.S. intelligence community and agreed to send a joint F.B.I.-C.I.A. team to Sudan. Even then its mission was not to examine the Mukhabarat files but to ascertain whether Sudan was really sponsoring terror. In the summer of 2001 the team gave the country a clean bill of health. There were no “training camps” or sanctuaries for murderers after all. Gutbi al-Mahdi, the former Mukhabarat chief, says that a few weeks before September 11 the American team finally asked to examine the Sudanese material on al-Qaeda. Events suggest that by then it was too late.
There are uncomfortable historical parallels. By the spring of 1941 the Soviet Union’s “Red Orchestra” spy ring had been warning Stalin for months that Nazi Germany was about to break its pact with the Soviet Union and invade. Convinced that Hitler remained his ally, he ignored them, so that when the Nazi troop trains began to roll, and the dive-bombers began their deadly blitzkrieg, they found themselves attacking an almost undefended country. Leopold Trepper, the spy ring’s leader, wrote an autobiography, published after 20 million Soviets had died in the Second World War: “He who closes his eyes sees nothing, even in the full light of day.… The generalissimo preferred to trust his political instinct rather than the secret reports piled up on his desk.”
Continued (page 4 of 4)
“He who closes his eyes sees nothing.” In the case of Sudan, 1996 through 2000, Madeleine Albright and her assistant secretary for Africa, Susan Rice, apparently preferred to trust their instincts that Sudan was America’s enemy, and so refused to countenance its assistance against the deepest threat to U.S. security since 1945. Ambassador Carney quoted Talleyrand, the 18th-century father of modern diplomacy. This saga was “pire qu’un crime, c’était une bêtise.” He provided his own translation. “It was worse than a crime. It was a fuckup.”
David Rose is a Vanity Fair contributing editor.

Government Failure and 9/11

11 Sep
(The author is a personal friend.)

Pipeline News ^ | 10 July 2004 | Janet McElligott 


Washington, DC – PipeLineNews – Bill Clinton’s My Life memoir is being hawked as part confessional and part policy tome. I had hoped that, at least as far as the historical reflections on terrorism and his eight-year presidency was concerned, it would at least be partly factual.

Instead, “My Life,” which The New York Times described as, “sloppy, self- indulgent and eye-crossingly dull” is at odds with the record as it is developing. The book contradicts the findings of the Sept. 11 commission, Clinton’s own prior admissions on a myriad of issues and, using my own knowledge of his administration’s dealings – or lack thereof – with the Sudanese regarding Osama bin-Laden case.

I know the last point to be true because I witnessed it firsthand.

In 1996, I became what Vanity Fair magazine called in January 2002, the bin-Laden case’s “accidental emissary,” because I ended up in the position of shuttling between the FBI and representatives of the Sudanese intelligence service.

This was not a role I sought; rather, it all came about because I was in Sudan trying to arrange to bring its ancient treasures from the Meroe pyramids – known as the Gold of Queen Amanishakhete – to the United States for a public tour.

Queen Amanishakhete lived during Sudan’s Kush period, in 4th century B.C. At the end of the 19th century, European explorers uncovered artifacts to what may be the world’s most powerful matriarchal dynasties, which is what drew me to Sudan initially.

What kept me coming back was trying to stop Osama bin-Laden.

Gutbi el Mahdi, the chief of Sudanese intelligence, had placed bin-Laden and all his guests under close surveillance when they began developing close ties with known Egyptian terrorist groups.
Gutbi personally read every fax, phone transcript and daily report on activities where bin-Laden was concerned.

When the Clinton administration demanded that Sudan expel bin-Laden – which took place on May 18, 1996 – the Sudanese knew that a refusal to cooperate could have dire consequences. The demand for expulsion had first been raised in early 1996 by U.S. Ambassador Tim Carney, a respected career diplomat.

On Carney’s last night in Sudan – Feb. 6, 1996 – he was invited to the home of Foreign Minister Ali Osman M. Taha, who asked Carney what could be done to dissuade the United States from its hard-line view on Sudan.

It was at this dinner that a substantive discussion between the two countries on terrorism occurred. This resulted in the Sudanese government beginning, for the first time, to consider handing Osama bin-Laden over to the U.S. authorities.

Seeking to pursue this option, the Sudanese sent their State Minister of Defense, Maj. Gen. Elfatih Erwa, to Washington in March 1996.

Erwa believed he could reason with the administration. At a hotel in Rosslyn, Va., just across the river from Georgetown, he participated in a meeting with David Shinn, chief of the State Department’s Africa Desk, Carney and other U.S. government officials.

Unfortunately, they were not – as Erwa hoped – willing to listen. Instead, they handed him a memorandum dated March 8, 1996, that outlined a list of U.S. demands of the Sudanese.

Item No. 2 on the list was a demand for information about bin-Laden.

Intead, Erwa offered to hand bin-Laden to the United States on a silver platter – just as the Sudanese had done when the gave Carlos the Jackal to the French – but the representatives of the United States told Erwa the United States only wanted bin-Laden out of Sudan.

Clinton himself confirmed this on Feb. 15, 2002, while speaking in Woodbury, N.Y. Asked about terrorism, Clinton said: “We tried to be quite aggressive with (terrorists). We got — uh — well, Mr. bin-Laden used to live in Sudan. He was expelled from Saudi Arabia in 1991, and then he went to Sudan. And we’d been hearing that the Sudanese wanted America to start dealing with them again.

“They released him. At the time, 1996, he had committed no crime against America so I did not bring him here because we had no basis on which to hold him, though we knew he wanted to commit crimes against America. So I pleaded with the Saudis to take him, ’cause they could have. But they thought it was a hot potato and they didn’t and that’s how he wound up in Afghanistan.”

After the United States bombed Sudan’s only pharmaceutical plant, El Shifa, in August of 1998 in response to the leveling of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania by al-Qaida, I flew to Khartoum with Dr. Bob Arnott, then the chief medical correspondent for NBC.

We landed in Khartoum with a German cameraman, an Egyptian soundman and plenty of questions for the Sudanese about Clinton’s accusations that El Shifa was a chemical weapons facility with connections to bin-Laden.

We found that the United States had fired six cruise missiles at the El Shifra facility. One hit the administration building, one the loading dock, one the bottling plant, one the storeroom, one the hallway and one was a dud.

The plant was still burning when we arrived. Surveying the damage, Sudanese Interior Minister Abdul Rahim M. Hussein said to us: “It is amazing what America can do. I wish we could do this, we might be able to end our civil war, but we can’t fight this. Mr. Clinton could kill every Sudanese and we could do nothing to stop him.”

Days before the two U.S. embassies in Africa were destroyed, two men deplaned from Kenya Air Flight 322, traveling between Nairobi and Cairo, when it landed in Khartoum. Gutbi had the two men watched because they used the name of bin-Laden’s former tannery manager as the reference on their visa applications.

Gutbi had them followed and, when they attempted to rent an apartment overlooking the empty U.S. Embassy in Khartoum, had them arrested.

During their interrogations, the Sudanese learned the men were Afghan Arabs traveling on illegal Pakistani passports who had just come from the Hilltop Hotel in Kenya, where the operatives who attacked the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi had stayed. The men were carrying lots of cash and their passports were full of stamps indicating they had been in and out of the world’s major banking centers.

All the pieces fell into place, Gutbi told me later, after the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were demolished. He called me and said, “Tell your people we have something for them but they have to go to Khartoum to get it.”

By “your people,” he meant only one thing, the FBI.

I contacted an agent who, coincidentally enough, had been selected for the team being sent to Nairobi to investigate the embassy bombings. He said he would “run it up the flagpole.” He wanted more details, specifically what I thought the message really meant. I could only tell him that the head of Sudanese intelligence didn’t call me everyday. It had to be something “big,” because Gutbi had risked a phone call.

In spite of the rather cryptic invitation, the FBI was eager to go to Khartoum, my agent contact said, because its objective was to follow every lead and bring the terrorists to justice.

The effort ground to a halt, however, when – unbelievably – the U.S. State Department refused to permit the FBI to travel to Khartoum.

It was not one of the United States’ brighter moments.

FBI Director Louis Freeh was on the outs with the Clinton White House because he had pushed ahead with an investigation of campaign fundraising. No one in the administration was going to go out on a limb for the FBI.

Shortly after the request was denied, Secretary of State Madeline Albright declared, “We do not deal with terrorists,” publicly referring the Sudanese who were, at that time, on the department’s list of state terror sponsors.

Gutbi held onto the two al-Qaida members in his custody while others in the government would not let him engage in an attempt to hand them over to the United States directly. They remained in Sudanese custody until Sept. 4, 1998, when they were handed over to the ISI, the Pakistani intelligence service, at the Karachi airport.

Gutbi later found them – this time well out of reach – in bin-Laden’s Afghan terrorist training camps.
The next time he and I met it was after I finished work in Kazakhstan. He told me about the embassy bombing suspects, showed me the files compiled during their interrogations, and let me examine a virtual treasure trove of other information in the hands of the Sudanese pertaining to al-Qaida.

“I can give these to the FBI,” Gutbi told me referring to the information spread out before me, “if only they will talk to me.”

“We don’t trust the CIA. They are listening to liars and fabricators, but the FBI is based on law. We can deal with them. Go back to Washington and help us. I will give you something to convince them,” he said.

As I left for the airport that night, an armed courier arrived at my hotel with an envelope. Inside was a six-page, handwritten note to FBI Director Louis Freeh detailing the movements of the two suspects they’d caught coming in from Nairobi. He told Freeh their names, movements, and much more — information that could possibly get me killed if anyone else knew I had it in my possession.

I met with my “people,” as the Sudanese continued to call them, at the FBI. They told me they again wanted to meet with the Sudanese. From January through May of 1999, I shuttled Washington, Khartoum and Cairo, trying to arrange the meeting.

In May – while in Khartoum putting the last pieces in place – I received word from the FBI that the State Department had stopped the meeting. What’s more, the U.S. Department of the Treasury had previously issued a “cease and desist” order with my name on it, commanding that I cease all contact with the Sudanese government.

Additionally, Steven Schwartz, of the State Department’s Sudan Desk, acting – I was told – on orders from above, threatened to have me arrested for “running around the world conducting personal diplomacy.”
That summer I gave up. I’d been run ragged but no one seemed to believe me. Soon afterward Gutbi moved on to a different, more senior position within the Sudanese government, putting an end to the urgency of the whole thing.

I was advised to forget the whole thing and, until Sept. 11, 2001, I tried.

After the planes hit the towers, it all came racing back in one phone call from a staff aide working for the Bush National Security Council. Diligently – in my view – they were digging under every rock they could find for information about al-Qaida. They had reached out to me because, I thought, they wanted help getting the bin-Laden files that had several times been offered to but not accepted by the previous administration.

The aide had no idea what I was talking about when I said, “Finally, someone cares. So, do you want the bin-Laden files?” My name had only surfaced because of the Treasury Department’s attempt to sanction me for dealing with the Sudanese government, not because of what those dealings had been about.
Incredibly, in my view, the information from the Clinton White House about the Sudanese offers of information about al-Qaida had not been passed along to the incoming Bush administration.

I told my story yet again to the Bush aide, who thanked me for my time and input. This time, however, the government acted – and swiftly.

Only minutes later, the phone rang again. This time it was Ambassador Robert Oakley, the head of the counter terrorism office inside the State Department. He introduced himself and said, “I understand you may be able to help us.”

I said I would call the new head of the Sudanese intelligence service, Yahia Hussein Babiker, and attempt to persuade him to call Oakley, since official U.S. protocol prohibited Oakley from reach out to the Sudanese government.

Less than an hour after I hung up with Yahia , my phone rang again. It was Oakley. “I called to thank you,” he told me. “I think we may be on the right track with this.” Almost before I could say anything, my cell phone rang. It was Yahia, calling to tell me that he had done as I had asked.

Oakley laughed and said, “In my 40 years in government I don’t think I’ve met anyone quite like you. I know I’ve never met anyone so efficient.”

If only that were true. It had taken five years for me to get someone, anyone at the higher levels of the U.S. government to take the Sudanese offer of assistance seriously. And I know because, as I said at the beginning, I was there throughout the process. Even today I can’t let go of the images of people trapped in the towers and wonder if I could have done more. Rightly or wrongly I carry with me the thought of “what if.”

Clinton’s book tells a different story, one that I do not recognize. And nowhere close to what I witnessed, firsthand, as a participant in the events as they occurred. I can only conclude that Clinton did not tell the American people the truth about what happened with the Sudanese — he probably didn’t tell the Bush administration the whole truth either. And I sincerely doubt he feels my pain.

(Janet McElligott is president of McElligott Associates, an international consulting company. She served on the staff of three members of the U.S. Senate and on the White House staff in the administration of George H.W. Bush. In 1997, she was a registered foreign agent for the Sudanese government and in 1998 for the government of Kazakhstan. She most recently served as spokeswoman for the Intergovernmental Governmental Agency for Development-sponsored Sudan Peace talks.) 

Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein grills Ron Paul Institute

24 Apr
No need to fear that hiring ex-reason editor Tim Cavanaugh to manage The Daily Caller will temper its neoconservative impulses.  Editor Jamie Weinstein does a borderline hatchet job on the new Ron Paul Institute, selecting several board members and variously asserting or implying that they are 9/11 truthers or have unAmerican and unpatriotic revisionist views of Abe Lincoln.  

It may not be Weinstein’s best performance, at least not as journalism.  It looks like the only person he actually contacted, and that only via email, is the new Institute director.  The various academics, whose views are certainly fair game for questioning, he seems not to have contacted, but simply to have quoted, possibly not fully in context, from assorted articles they’ve written in the last decade.  It’s especially ironic that Weinstein seems scandalized that anyone might suggest that the federal government may have hidden aspects of 9/11 (if nothing more than its culpability by acts of omission), during a week when it is clear that the government is lying, if only to cover up its incompetence, in both the Bhenghazi murders and the Boston marathon bombing.

On the other hand, Ron Paul may have damaged his own career, in a way Rand Paul has not, by speaking to anyone who’d listen, back when the media had consigned him to the waste lands, even if these associates were kooky on issues other than the areas of agreement.  It may not be the DC’s intent, but Ron Paul could be more careful now about who he has at his Institute.

Having been on the receiving end of this kind of treatment from the leftovers, I’m not that sympathetic.  Why pussy foot around and imply people are kooks or anti-Semites (including the Jews among the board members mentioned) by implication because they don’t share the establishment views of things?  Just say it outright.  I think our problem today is more government lies and coverups, and media that enable them, than dippy conspiracy theorists.

Here’s Mr. Weinstein’s piece:

  
The academic board for former Rep. Ron Paul’s recently unveiled Institute for Peace and Prosperity includes at least one 9/11 Truther and two of the most well-known apologists for Iran’s theocratic government in the United States.
In Washington last week, Ron Paul launched his policy institute, with the goal of mobilizing “colleagues and collaborators of Dr. Paul’s to participate in a broad coalition to educate and advocate for fundamental changes in our foreign and domestic policy,” according to its website.
One of the academic board members for the institute is Eric Margolis, an independent journalist who has questioned whether Osama bin Laden was behind the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and wondered in writing whether the attacks were not instead really orchestrated by “America’s far right or Israel.”
“After 9/11, Secretary of State Colin Powell promised Americans the State Department would issue a White Paper detailing bin Laden’s guilt. Afghanistan’s Taliban government asked for this document before it would extradite bin Laden, as the U.S. was demanding,” Margolis wrote in a 2010 article entitled, “9/11. The Mother of all Coincidences.”
“The White Paper was never produced, and the U.S. ignored proper legal procedure and invaded Afghanistan. We still wait for evidence,” the journalist asserted.
“I remain uncertain that Osama bin Laden was really behind the attacks. Much circumstantial evidence points to him and al-Qaida, but conclusive proof still lacks,” he continued.
In the article, Margolis propagated the conspiratorial notion that the 9/11 attacks could very well have been President George W. Bush’s Reichstag fire.
“On 28 February, 1933, fire, set by a Dutch Jew, ravaged the Germany’s parliament, the Reichstag,” he wrote.
“While the Reichstag’s ruins were still smoking, Adolf Hitler’s government declared a war against ‘terrorism.’ A ‘Decree for the Protection of People and State’ was promulgated suspending all legal protections of speech, assembly, property, and personal liberties. The Reichstag fire allowed the government to round up ‘terrorism’ suspects without due process of law and made police powers near absolute. Sound familiar?”
“I’ve seen no hard evidence to date that 9/11 was a plot by America’s far right or by Israel or a giant cover-up,” Margolis concluded. “Just, perhaps, the Mother of All Coincidences. In the end, it may just have been 19 angry Arabs and a bumbling Bush administration looking for someone else to blame.”

Read more: http://dailycaller.com/2013/04/23/academic-board-of-new-ron-paul-institute-includes-911-truther-other-radicals/#ixzz2RNzRlRjO