Monday, February 24, 2003

I've written about Ali Mohamed, the Islamic fundamentalist convicted for his involvement in the U. S. embassy bombings. Ali Mohamed was an Egyptian Islamic fundamentalist, a Sergeant in the U. S. Army, a probable Army intelligence operative, and a member of al-Qaeda. Was he all these things serially or concurrently? Did he start as a fundamentalist, decide to become an American patriot, and then get 'turned' back to become an anti-American fundamentalist again? Or is it possible to be all these things at the same time? I believe that the story of Ali Mohamed is useful in understanding what happened on September 11, 2001:

  1. I've described much of the strange story of Ali Mohamed before. The oddest parts are the radical transitions back and forth. While in the Egyptian Army he took an officer training course for Green Berets at Fort Bragg in 1981 (similar to the type of training that some of the 9-11 terrorists appear to have had, and it is difficult not to see this type of training as an opportunity for recruitment). He was forced out of the Egyptian Army for being too much of an Islamic fundamentalist (he was in the army unit that later killed Anwar Sadat). When he was out of the Egyptian Army he approached the CIA about working for them, but was rejected by the CIA after about a month of contact on the basis that he was 'unreliable'. The CIA was so disturbed about him that they had him put on the State Department watch list (sound familiar?), and warned other U.S. government agencies about Mohamed and urged them to detain him if possible. Despite this, a year later he obtained a visa to come to the United States (sound familiar?). He flew to the U. S., married an American woman he met on the plane (!), joined the U. S. army at a relatively late age, and worked his way up to Sergeant (he received a level "secret" security clearance). So a major in the Egyptian army unit that killed President Anwar Sadat was given a visa to come to the U.S., was accepted into the U. S. Army, and worked his way up to Sergeant. He made no secret of the fact that he was a fanatical Islamic extremist. In the late 80's he started to disappear from the United States, and it was commonly thought by those who know him that he was assisting the CIA in their use of the mujahedeen in fighting the Russians in Afghanistan. He actually made a completely unauthorized and illegal trip to Afghanistan, it being illegal for an active-duty U.S. soldier to fight in a foreign war, returning with a trophy belt from a Russian he claimed to have killed. His superior wrote him up and expected him to be disciplined, but nothing happened (this situation where someone does what would always result in punishment but no punishment occurs is highly suspicious, and indicates that his 'unauthorized' activities were actually authorized). When he officially left the Army, he continued to go to Afghanistan, and again his friends assumed he continued to work for Army intelligence.

  2. In 1989, the U.S. Army sent Ali Mohamed to Jersey City to provide training for mujahedeen recruits, including El Sayyid Nosair, the man who killed Rabbi Meir Kahane in November 1990, and Mahmud Abouhalima, later to be a convicted World Trade Center bomber (although the Official Story now seems to be that Mohamed was sneaking off to do this training, it is more likely that it was an authorized part of his training potential mujahedeen recruits). At a trial in 1995, it was revealed that Special Forces documents Ali Mohamed had stolen turned up in the possession of Nosair (actually, they found the documents in investigating the Kahane assassination, but only connected them to Mohamed after the first World Trade Center bombing). Despite this, nothing was done to him at the time (leading me to wonder whether they were really 'stolen', or just removed as part of an authorized training operation).

  3. Ali Mohamed had joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad, the group led by Ayman al-Zawahiri, while he was still in the Egyptian Army. Ayman al-Zawahiri made at least one, and probably two, 'fundraising' tours of the United States in the 1990's (one in the early 90's and one in late 1994). This is particularly odd as he is now best known as the second-in-command of al-Qaeda and bin Laden's right-hand man, and had been known as a terrorist since the early 1980's, having spent three years in jail in Egypt for his association with those involved in the assassination of Sadat. What's even odder is that his tour guide for his trips to America was none other than Ali Mohamed!

  4. Ayman al-Zawahiri is reported to have been in Albania participating in the KLA offensive against
    Serbia. He had been tried in absentia in Egypt for terrorist acts, but still managed to get out of Albania and to Afghanistan (indeed, it is possible that the embassy bombings were a response to the CIA-led campaign to capture the fundamentalists in exile in Albania and ship them to Egypt for trial). A man called Abu Mohamed al-Amriki ('Mohamed the American') had supposedly acted as a go-between between al-Zawahiri and the CIA, and had asked the CIA for $50 million early in the 1990's to stage a coup in Egypt, with the assurance that the United States would not interfere with an Islamicist takeover of Egypt, and allegedly proposed a modus vivendi between U.S. forces and the Islamicists in the Balkans. Abu Mohamed al-Amriki is almost certainly Ali Mohamed:

    • it makes sense that someone named Mohamed who came from the United States would be known as 'Mohamed the American', and the description of the man exactly matches what we know of Mohamed

    • we know that Mohamed assisted al-Zawahiri in his visit to the United States

    • Ali Mohamed was originally from Egypt, and had to leave the Egyptian Army because of his radical Muslim views

    • Ali Mohamed was in the American Army, lectured Special Forces, and worked for the Americans in Afghanistan in their operation against the Russians using the mujahedeen, a CIA-led operation

    • A Wall Street Journal article actually says that Ali Mohamed was known as 'Abu Mohamed al Amriki', and there was testimony to this effect at the embassy bombing trial.

    This is a very odd story. For one thing, it assumes that al-Zawahiri was in negotiations with the CIA, using Ali Mohamed as an intermediary. It also assumes that the CIA would consider providing $50 million to overthrow the government of Egypt and turn it into an Islamic fundamentalist state. Of course, the fact that all this is highly implausible doesn't mean that Ali Mohamed didn't think that it was possible. It is also possible that Ali Mohamed, wearing his U. S. intelligence agent hat, was using false CIA promises to lead al-Zawahiri on.

  5. Ali Mohamed worked smuggling illegal aliens into the United States from Vancouver. At the same time, he was acting as an FBI informant, reporting on the illegal smuggling of aliens into the United States! In 1993, he was the first man to inform the FBI of an organization called 'al-Qaeda'. In the same year, he got out of detention in Vancouver by having an FBI agent vouch for him when he was caught after a bin Laden aide was arrested trying to enter the United States with Mohamed's driver's license and a false passport (from this incident I think we can conclude that there is an understanding between the RCMP and the FBI that some alien smuggling has U. S. government authorization). He told the RCMP he hoped the incident wouldn't hurt his chances of getting a job as an FBI interpreter. Actually, his whole life seems to have been lived with the same insouciance towards authority that we've also seen in some of the September 11 hijackers:

    • while in the Egyptian Army he joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad

    • while on a U. S. State Department 'watch list', he managed to obtain a visa to come to the United States

    • his military personnel files shows that he underwent a curiously incomplete Army background check in 1987

    • while in the U. S. Army, in 1988, he went off on an unauthorized trip to fight in a foreign war, came back to boast about it, was written up by his superior, but received no punishment

    • while in the U. S. Army he was training Islamic fundamentalists in New Jersey (also while in the Army, he received at least two U.S. Army medals and a commendation for "patriotism")

    • he stole written materials from Fort Bragg, materials which were found in the possession of a man who was the assassin of Rabbi Kahane and an associate of a later convicted World Trade Center bomber, but received no punishment for providing these materials to terrorists

    • he was detained in Canada in 1993 for smuggling an illegal alien but told the RCMP to phone a contact with the FBI, and was released after this call

    • also in 1993, he told the FBI that he had trained bin Laden followers in intelligence and anti-hijacking techniques in Afghanistan

    • he was named on a list of 118 potential unindicted co-conspirators in the 1994 and 1995 World Trade Center bombing trials

    • in January 1995, he applied for a U. S. government security clearance so he could work as a security guard at a defense contractor, and claimed in three interviews with Defense Department officials, who conducted a background check on him, that he had never been a terrorist

    • in 1997, he told FBI agents that he had trained bin Laden's bodyguards, and claimed he loved bin Laden and believed in him

    • in August 1998, after the embassy bombings, he told the FBI that he knew who did it, but refused to provide the names, and still nothing was done to him!

    • he was finally arrested two weeks later, only after he lied to a U.S. grand jury investigating the bombings.

  6. The reason Ali Mohamed is in jail is his involvement in the embassy bombings. He is supposed to have trained the bombers and scouted the embassy in Nairobi on their behalf (I note that there is some debate over whether this was an al-Qaeda operation). What is interesting about this is the complete incompetence of the scouting and the bombing. The Dar es Salaam embassy was the former embassy of Israel, and was built like a bunker in anticipation of some sort of bomb attack. It was so well constructed that only 11 people died in the bomb attack, none of them Americans. In the case of the Nairobi bombing, the bombers drove up to the front entrance of the embassy, as it was the front of the embassy that was the most vulnerable. Unfortunately for the bombers, the guard stationed at the front gate wouldn't let them through, and they had to drive around to the back of the building to set off the explosion (in fact, they were prevented by a guard at the back from entering the underground parking garage). The explosion still did a massive amount of damage, and killed many people, but only 12 Americans. An attack on the front of the embassy would have killed many more. In both cases, the scouting was completely incompetent. Ali Mohamed should have been able to tell the bombers that the Dar es Salaam embassy was a terrible target, and that there was no way to attack the front of the Nairobi embassy. Since Ali Mohamed was very competent in everything else he did, we have to wonder whether his incompetent scouting of the two embassies was intentional.

  7. L'Houssaine Khertchou testified that al-Qaeda leader Mohamed Atef refused to let Ali Mohamed know what name and passport he was traveling under as he was afraid that Ali Mohamed was working for the United States or other governments.

  8. Although he was a Muslim, at least L'Houssaine Khertchou did not regard him as a good practitioner of Islam. It is decidedly odd that an Islamic fundamentalist would not be devout (of course, we know that Mohamed Atta also was not a good Muslim).

  9. Even the trial of Ali Mohamed was weird. He entered into a plea bargain whereby he would agree to give the U. S. investigators information and would agree to make a statement on his role in the terrorism, and in return would get 25 years. Everything went smoothly until the judge was about to pass sentence in accordance with the plea bargain. At that point the defense objected to the sentencing, and the judge in fact never specified the length of the potential prison term (the page of the transcript where this is discussed - page 17 - is under seal!). What kind of a plea bargain is that? Even odder perhaps is the fact that he had been expected to testify at the trial of his fellow terrorists but did not, and that his plea bargain and many of the court documents and much of the testimony was sealed.

Just about any of the odd facts about Ali Mohamed would give one pause, but the cumulative total of them is unbelievable. When all this is topped off by the extraordinary way his court case was treated, it becomes impossible not to see Ali Mohamed as a U. S. Army intelligence agent. If he was a U. S. Army intelligence agent, and was protected by the U. S. government even after his participation in terrorist activities, he proves that it is possible to simultaneously be a U. S. agent and a member of al-Qaeda. This is the model I've been trying to build for Mohamed Atta.