Monday, September 30, 2002

If you think about the total amount of money that must have been required to operate the September 11 hijacking operation - millions of dollars - the $100,000 that Atta supposedly received from Omar Saeed Sheikh, who apparently was passing along money received from Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmed of Pakistan's ISI, comes into perspective. $100,000 would barely cover the expenses for Atta's 'lingerie model' girlfriend, lap dances and bar tabs. Why then is so much made of it? It obviously connects Omar Saeed Sheikh to Atta, and thus provides a connection between Atta and Islamic fundamentalism and even to bin Laden himself. It also connects the September 11 terrorism to the Pakistani ISI. I have said before that I find this extremely odd. Why would the ISI have used a British Islamic fundamentalist living in Pakistan to transfer money to Atta? Why wouldn't they have transferred the money directly, and used a method that couldn't be traced back to them? How in fact do we know that Omar Saeed Sheikh obtained the money from the ISI (I'm not suggesting he didn't, but would like to know how the Indians and the FBI, supposedly using knowledge of Sheikh's cell phone number, managed to make the connection unless it was fed to them by someone in the Pakistani government who wanted them to make the connection)? If we consider the relative unimportance of the amount of money, the whole transaction smells like a set up. It was enough money to be noticeable and was conveniently traceable by the FBI back to a known Islamic fundamentalist who could be connected to al-Qaeda, but wasn't necessary for the terrorist operation as it is clear that it was receiving a lot of funding from another source. Omar Saeed Sheikh became famous when he was arrested for the murder of Daniel Pearl, but may have even been set up by the ISI to take the rap for the Pearl murder in order to further his reputation as an Islamic fundamentalist. This is all too neat, particularly if you regard the ISI as simply being the local branch of the CIA. Given the recent history of arrests of fundamentalists in Pakistan, the ISI seems to be prepared to sacrifice prominent people in order that the Pakistani government continue its good and prosperous relations with the United States. When you think how all this has worked itself out, even given the 'embarrassment' of the discovery of the involvement of Lt. Gen. Mahmud Ahmed in the payment to Atta, both the ISI and the Pakistani elites have done very well for themselves, and the Islamic fundamentalists have been played for fools.