Tuesday, August 20, 2002

The Moussaoui case is throwing off a few sparks:

  1. The case makes little sense, and there appears to be no evidence that Moussaoui was a member of the nineteen September 11 terrorists. The nineteen ostentatiously hung out together, and the government apparently has no evidence connecting Moussaoui to any of them. In fact, the only real evidence that Moussaoui is a terrorist is that he is said to have received money from Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, allegedly a former roommate of Mohamed Atta. Al-Shibh is said to have wire transferred the money to Moussaoui from the United Arab Emirates (or possibly Germany). Al-Shibh's German phone number was also found in Moussaoui's laptop. Al-Shibh had allegedly also wired money to Marwan al-Shehhi, the pilot of one of the planes that flew into the World Trade Center. Moussaoui claims that the person he received the money from is not al-Shibh, and has now tendered proof from the government's own files that the name of the alias allegedly used by al-Shibh, Ahad Sabet, is the name of a doctor working in Phoenix whose identity was stolen when he was on vacation in Spain a few years ago. If this is so, how can the government, which has the onus of proving its case, prove that the money which came from 'Ahad Sabet' actually came from al-Shibh? I assume that Moussaoui is going to be convicted regardless of what the facts are, but the prosecution case against Moussaoui is incredibly weak. (I note that the FBI also claims that Moussaoui got funding from Yazid Sufaat, an alleged al-Qaeda operative in Malaysia who previously had met with two of the 19 hijackers.)

  2. The local FBI agents were not allowed to search the contents of Moussaoui's laptop due to the resistance of the Washington FBI and Department of Justice officials. The resistance was so peculiar, and so lacking in any conceivable rational explanation, that local FBI investigators even started to suspect some sort of conspiracy. Now a whistle-blower, Sibel Edmonds, a former wiretap translator in the Washington field office of the FBI, is alleging that one of her co-workers, another translator, had connections with a foreign government official subject to FBI surveillance, and this co-worker even failed to translate important intelligence-related information, presumably to shield the target from proper investigation. When Sibel Edmonds complained about this and other problems, she was fired. She now has a whistle-blower action underway against the government. The really interesting point is that she alleges that she was approached to join the group for which the co-worker was working. In other words, she was approached to become a spy. What jumps out at you from the reports of all this is the coyness with which the matter is described. Nowhere is the country involved ever named. You would think that if it were an Arab intelligence agency the reports would not hesitate to point that out. For that reason, some have surmised that it must be Israel that had compromised FBI security. An article was written by Justin Raimondo accusing Israel, and then sort of retracted, leaving us with the statement "that the country in question may not be Israel." However, common sense would lead us to the conclusion that it is very unlikely to be any country other than Israel. It doesn't surprise me that Israel has spies in the U. S. government, and it may not even be very important. What does interest me is the possibility that the resistance to inspection of Moussaoui's laptop may have been inspired by Israeli concerns. Why would Israel not want Moussaoui's laptop to be inspected? Is is possible that Moussaoui was acting as an Israeli operative? French intelligence had a thick file on Moussaoui, as he appeared to have connections to radical Islam in London, Chechnya, and Afghanistan. Somone like that might have been a very useful double-agent, and whatever group was running him may have feared that inspection of the laptop might have traced back to them.

  3. Moussaoui claims to have sent an e-mail six weeks before September 11 inquiring about a University of Minnesota cropdusting course. His argument is that if he had planned to start a 6 month to 1 year course on cropdusting he could hardly have been planning to be involved in the September 11 terrorism. This is interesting for two reasons. First, it parallels the rather odd interest of the terrorists in Florida in cropdusting, an interest that went all through August and even into September 2001 and makes absolutely no sense if the terrorists were planning to die in early September. As I have written, this interest seems to indicate that the terrorists were unaware of the timing or the nature of the actual attack until the last minute (I still have to write about why this timing issue is so important). Secondly, the prosecutor's response to Moussaoui's argument seems to be that most of the hijackers did not know the nature or timing of their mission until just before they carried it out. The problem with this is that Moussaoui was arrested in mid-August, when the other hijackers were still interested in cropdusting, and so presumably did not then know what the nature of the attack was to be. Could Moussaoui be found guilty for something that he may have conspired to do had he not been arrested? Moussaoui's prosecution is beginning to sound like a bad law school exam question.

  4. It strikes me as being utterly outrageous, but the prosecution apparently plans to present to Moussaoui's jurors, during both the guilt and the penalty phases of the trial, videos of the burning and collapsing World Trade Center, family pictures of victims, and cockpit voice recordings from United Flight 93. Given the extraordinarily slim evidence of Moussaoui having any connection to the nineteen hijackers, the prosecution appears to be trying to buttress its case by introducing the jury to extremely prejudicial material. What is interesting is that the prosecution is also planning to play recordings from the cockpit of an executive jet that tracked Flight 93 on September 11. This is the first we've officially heard of this jet, which was owned by NetJets, a company which sells part ownership interests in executive jets. Since the whole nature of the crash of Flight 93 has been shrouded in mystery, it is very interesting that the government is now admitting to a possible witness. NetJets is owned by Warren Buffett, who has often been rumored to have intelligence connections, but it seems ridiculous for anyone to use a NetJets plane for any surreptitious activity, as owning an interest in such a jet is not protected by any secrecy. It is almost certainly a coincidence that the plane was in the area, but it is interesting that we are hearing about it only in the context of the plans of the prosecution in Moussaoui's case. Warren Buffett himself was oddly busy in Nebraska on the morning of September 11.