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Thursday, April 12, 2007
Latest American Al Qaeda Was Known To FBI For Years Before ArrestWhen announcing the arrest and indictment of Christopher Paul, an alleged American al Qaeda member, Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, boasted of the investigation's great success.
"Our persistence and determination in the pursuit of this case should serve as a strong warning to any American who considers joining forces with our enemy," said Wainstein.
"This case exemplifies the necessity of cooperation in order to fight terrorism," said U.S. Attorney Gregory Lockhart. "The sharing of information was crucial to this effort."
What might have been missed amid all this backslapping is the fact that Paul has been known to the FBI for at least seven years and likely longer. But the investigation only began four years ago, and Paul is only now being charged.
According to the indictment, Abu Malek has been involved with al Qaeda since 1989. In the interim, numerous al Qaeda suspects and informants have been rolled up by the FBI -- and one of them identified Abu Malek as a black American member of al Qaeda in open court in the 2001 case of U.S. v. bin Laden (excerpt below).
Kherchtou is the witness described on page four of the indictment as "a former personal pilot for Usama bin Laden." Kherchtou began talking with the U.S. in the late 1990s and formally became a cooperating witness in 2000.
But the trail goes back even further. According to the indictment, Paul traveled to Croatia at least once in 1993, and in February 1993, he applied for a passport in Vienna claiming his had been lost or stolen.
Paul's travels correspond to trips to Vienna, Bosnia and Croatia in January and February 1993 by Clement Hampton-El, a member of the Brooklyn terrorist cell responsible for the World Trade Center bombing.
Hampton-El was carrying money to and from Bosnia, which was being funneled through al Qaeda-linked charities based in Austria.
The trips received some amount of scrutiny from the FBI at the time, but according to media reports, U.S. officials were generally warned off investigating charities sending aid to Bosnia by the Clinton administration, which wanted to provide off-the-books assistance to Muslims in Bosnia who were being slaughtered in ethnic cleansing campaigns during the 1990s.
1 UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
SOUTHERN DISTRICT OF NEW YORK
3 UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
4 v. S(7) 98 Cr. 1023
5 USAMA BIN LADEN, et al.,
New York, N.Y.
9 February 26, 2001
2 Q. What about, there were a number of black Americans who
3 were in Khartoum in those years, is that correct?
4 A. Americans?
5 Q. Some black Americans?
6 A. Yes.
7 Q. One of them was Abu Malek?
8 A. No, he wasn't in Khartoum.
9 Q. He was not in Khartoum?
10 A. I don't know him.
11 Q. Was he in Afghanistan or Pakistan?
12 A. I knew a guy called Abdouh Malek, an American, but he was
13 in Pakistan and since then -- he didn't visit Sudan.
14 Q. Was he Al Qaeda?
15 A. I believe so.
16 Q. But you are not sure?
17 A. No.
18 Q. In fact, you told the agents when they asked you about Abu
19 Malek that you did not know whether he was an Al Qaeda member.
20 A. Abu Malek or Abdou Malek?
21 Q. I guess there might be two people. There is an Abu Malek?
22 A. Abu Malek, I don't know him.
23 Q. There is an Abdou Malek?
24 A. Abdou Malek yes.
25 Q. Did you tell the government when you first were talking
SOUTHERN DISTRICT REPORTERS (212) 805-0300
Kherchtou - cross
1 about different people who were members of the Al Qaeda, who
2 you did not think were members of Al Qaeda, who you did not
3 know were members of Al Qaeda, you said to the government that
4 you did not whether Abdou Malek was a member of Al Qaeda, is
5 that correct?
6 A. I don't remember that. If I said, that is correct.
7 Q. So you don't know if he was, is that correct?
8 A. Yes.
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ISIS: THE STATE
Jessica Stern and J.M. Berger co-author the forthcoming book, "ISIS: The State of Terror," from Ecco, an imprint of HarperCollins. The book, which will debut in early 2015, will examine the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, its potential fall, how it is transforming the nature of extremist movements, and how we should evaluate the threat it presents. Jessica Stern is a Harvard lecturer on terrorism and the author of the seminal text Terror in the Name of God: Why Religious Militants Kill. J.M. Berger is author of the definitive book on American jihadists, Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go to War in the Name of Islam, a frequent contributor to Foreign Policy, and editor of Intelwire.com.