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Tuesday, March 20, 2007
 

New Link Emerges Between Ali Mohamed and September 11

Another link has emerged between the September 11 attacks and Ali Mohamed, al Qaeda's ultimate sleeper spy.

I've already written extensively about Mohamed's connections to the 9/11 network and plotters. There was one particular connection I have long suspected, and it came out in yesterday's transcript release from the military tribunal hearing of Tawfiq bin Attash, the senior al Qaeda coordinator sometimes known as Khallad.

Khallad closely supervised the final stages of the 1998 East African embassy bombings. In the new transcript, he confessed to playing the same role in the attack on the USS Cole in October 2000.

What the tribunal not-so-mysteriously failed to address was Khallad's role in 9/11. He was one of the people who attended the infamous planning summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in January 2000. Among the other attendees were two 9/11 hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi.

It's not surprising that the U.S. would want to forget about the Kuala Lumpur summit. The CIA had monitored the meeting -- it has become emblematic of the intelligence failures that allowed 9/11 to happen.

But it's a little worse this time, because the FBI and the CIA had ample reason to watch Khallad, and a good source sitting right in their midst -- Ali Mohammed.

According to the tribunal hearing, a U.S. government intelligence source met Khallad "in Afghanistan (and) stated he also saw the detainee at the al Farouq training camp. The source stated the detainee worked for an important person in al Qaeda and the detainee was a bodyguard for Osama bin Laden."

It's highly likely the "source" in this transcript was Ali Mohamed.

When he wasn't serving in the U.S. Army or as an FBI informant, Mohamed worked as an al Qaeda trainer at the al Farouq camp. And he personally trained bin Laden's bodyguard detachment during the 1990s, when Khallad would have been a member.

So yet another key player in the 9/11 plot traces back to Mohamed, who is being secretly detained as a "cooperating witness" after pleading guilty to several counts connected and adjacent to the embassy bombings.

What's even worse, however, is that Mohamed apparently alerted the U.S. government to Khallad's importance before 9/11. According to the Christian Science Monitor, in an 2004 article titled "Four moments when 9/11 might have been stopped" (emphasis added):
One of the conspirators of the Cole attack told an FBI investigator in January 2001 that his boss was "Khallad." That name, which means silver in Arabic, was familiar to the FBI investigator. He'd heard about Khallad from another source, who had told both the FBI and CIA that Khallad was close to Osama bin Laden. Khallad's name had also come up during the investigation into the 1998 bombings of the two US embassies in Africa.

The FBI investigator obtained a photograph of the boss and forwarded it to the FBI/CIA joint source, who confirmed that it was indeed Khallad bin Attash, a high-level Al Qaeda operative (who had attended the Kuala Lumpur meeting). As some of this information flowed into the CIA's bin Laden unit in the Counterterrorist Center, its officers began to wonder if Khallad wasn't the same person as Khalid al-Midhar, the possible Al Qaeda operative identified at the 2000 meeting in Kuala Lumpur.

They sent surveillance photos of that January meeting to the same joint source. The source was not able to identify Mr. Midhar, but said he was 90 percent certain the other person in the photos was Khallad bin Attash.

Was this joint source Ali Mohamed?

UPDATE AND EDIT: No, it wasn't. According to an FBI Inspector General report on the handling of intelligence related to Khallad, the source was overseas in 2000, and an FBI legat was "unable to converse in any of the source's languages." Mohamed spoke English and several other languages, and he was in U.S. custody at the time of the interviews. So this specific source almost certainly was someone else. An object lesson in presuming too much from an incomplete record. However, there's nothing in the transcript which demands that this source be the same as the source who placed Khallad at al Farouq, so Ali Mohamed is certainly still in play for this equation.

END UPDATE/EDIT


While it's impossible to know exactly how much Mohamed told his interrogators over the years, there are already several documented examples (detailed in my earlier article) where Mohamed provided valuable information to U.S. intelligence which was not effectively exploited.

The story of Khallad is beginning to look like one more example of how Mohamed's deep links to the 9/11 network were not effectively exploited to prevent the attack. At minimum, the transcript provides one more link in the already substantial chain of connections between Mohamed and the most devastating terrorist attack in history.

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INTELWIRE is a web site edited by J.M. Berger. a researcher, analyst and consultant covering extremism, with a special focus on extremist activities in the U.S. and extremist use of social media. He is a non-resident fellow with the Brookings Institution, Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World, and author of the critically acclaimed Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, the only definitive history of the U.S. jihadist movement, and co-author of ISIS: The State of Terror with Jessica Stern.

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