Middle East Intelligence Bulletin
Jointly published by the United States Committee for a Free Lebanon and the Middle East Forum
  Vol. 3   No. 6 Table of Contents
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June 2001 


Iraqi Complicity in the World Trade Center Bombing and Beyond
by Laurie Mylroie

Laurie Mylroie has taught at Harvard University and the US Naval War College. Presently, she is the publisher of Iraq News and the Vice-President of "Information for Democracy." She is the author of Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America

World Trade Center bombing
On February 26, 1993, a massive bomb exploded in the parking garage of the north tower of the World Trade Center building in New York City, killing six people and leaving a crater six stories deep in the building's basement floors. The mastermind of the bombing, Ramzi Yousef, later boasted that he had hoped to kill 250,000 people. Two years later, Yousef was involved in a plot to bomb a dozen US airplanes flying over the Pacific.1

Yousef's bombing plots gave rise to the notion that a new form of international terrorism had emerged that was not state-sponsored, but said to consist of "loose networks" of militant Muslims, not backed by states.2 Yet, as The Washington Post recently noted, "some critics have disputed this approach, contending that rogue nations like Iraq have managed to slip intelligence operatives in and out of bomb conspiracies, leaving the FBI to chase and catch the small fish that the skilled men left behind."3

Indeed, there is considerable evidence that the Trade Center bombing was a case of Iraqi intelligence directing a major terrorist operation and leaving behind a few minor figures to be arrested and take the blame.

A Procedural Problem: The Chinese Wall

If early arrests are made after a terrorist bombing, the national security bureaucracies will receive little, if any, of the information that is produced by the FBI investigation. A "Chinese wall" stands between the Justice Department and the national security bureaucracies. Since the Trade Center bombing, efforts have been made to improve the flow of information from the Justice Department to the national security bureaucracies, but turf battles remain. Grand jury secrecy laws limit the information that the national security bureaucracies can receive,4 ostensibly to protect the privacy of individuals while they are under investigation and until their trials are completed.

However, such an approach is highly problematic when dealing with major acts of terrorism. The results of an FBI investigation will generally be made available to the defendants and their lawyers in a terrorism trial. If one of the defendants happens to be a foreign intelligence agent, that information can end up in the hands of the government for which he works, even as it is denied to the US national security agencies.

This can also lead to a situation in which the national security question of possible state sponsorship is entirely subordinated to the criminal question of determining the guilt or innocence of the individuals charged with the terrorist attack. And that is what seems to have happened with the Trade Center bombing. The FBI refused to share the evidence it collected during its investigation with the national security agencies, maintaining that this might "taint" the evidence. Thus, the national security agencies were forced to determine whether the Trade Center bombing was state-sponsored solely on the basis of the information they gathered, technically called intelligence.

Jim Fox
However, available intelligence often does not point in the right direction when a terrorist attack occurs. For example, intelligence did not link Libya to the bombing of Pan Am 103; the intelligence was irrelevant. It was evidence collected by investigators - a tiny microchip, half the size of a man's thumbnail - that tied the bomb that brought down the plane to Libya.

Because there were early arrests in the Trade Center bombing, the FBI was the only bureaucracy with the evidence from the investigation. But the FBI was not well-equipped to evaluate the question of state sponsorship, for it is primarily a domestic law enforcement agency, oriented toward arresting and trying individual perpetrators. Moreover, the FBI lacks Middle East expertise. As will be discussed below, the New York office of the FBI and its head, Jim Fox, suspected that Iraq was behind the Trade Center bombing, but did not have the resources to handle that issue. As Fox later pointed out to me, crime did not stop in New York just because there was a big bombing - the New York FBI had other demands on its time.

The FBI's National Security Division (NSD) in Washington was supposed to address the question of state sponsorship, but disagreed with the New York FBI. NSD claimed that the Trade Center bombing was a case of "International Radical Terrorism," or "IRT." As a NSD report stated, "IRT, also known as international extremism, is a transnational phenomenon. Its adherents generally overcome traditional national differences by concentrating on a common goal of achieving social change, under the banner of personal beliefs, through violence . . . IRT adherents may not consider themselves to be citizens of any particular country, but instead seek common political, social, economic or personal objectives which transcend nation-state boundaries. The World Trade Center bombing provides an excellent example of this aspect of IRT."5

The NSD's concept of "IRT," developed in the wake of the Trade Center bombing, seemed dubious on its face, but for an expert opinion, I called Jim Fox, who had spent his FBI career in counter-intelligence. Fox said he was not familiar with the acronym IRT and was shocked when I began reading from the report. Vince Cannistraro, former director of CIA Counterterrorism Operations, had the same reaction when I read the report, interrupting me and asking incredulously, "Is that in the report?"

The FBI's National Security Division failed to recognize the structure in which the people who carried out the bombing operated. Thus, its explanation of the attack was reduced to violent individuals, and when it sought to elaborate on that, the explanation made little sense. Yet it was the NSD's account of the bombing that gave rise to the notion that a new kind of terrorism not involving states had emerged.

The following account of the bombing is based on a very careful examination of the documents introduced into evidence by the prosecution in the first Trade Center bombing trial. That material was used for the purpose of securing criminal convictions (i.e. demonstrating to the jury that the defendants participated in a plot to bomb the World Trade Center), but the same information can also be used to address the national security question of state sponsorship. The evidence from that trial consists of thousands of pages of telephone records, passports, consular documents, airplane manifests, etc. In and of themselves, the documents mean very little. They are dauntingly dense. Only a tedious, time-consuming analysis causes the meaningful information to become evident.6 Gil Childers, lead prosecutor in the Trade Center bombing trial, has praised Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America, the book upon which this article is based, as work that should have been done by the U.S. government.

The Origins of the World Trade Center Bombing

Mohammed Salameh, a Palestinian Muslim extremist who was 25 years old at the time of the Trade Center bombing, is notorious for the circumstances of his arrest. He was picked up six days after the bombing when he returned to the Ryder agency from which he had rented the van that carried the bomb to get his deposit back. That, of course, was incredibly dumb, but Salameh was very naïve and gullible.7

Mohammed Salameh
Salameh's phone records suggest the origins of the Trade Center bombing conspiracy. In the spring of 1992, the New York FBI employed an Egyptian informant, Emad Salem, to gather intelligence on local Islamic extremists. El Sayyid Nosair, who had been sent to Attica prison on charges related to the November 1990 murder of Meir Kahane, was a hero to many of them. Subsequently, his supporters visited him in prison and Salem inserted himself among them.

In prison, Nosair sought revenge. He persuaded some of those who visited him to carry out a pipe-bombing plot against twelve targets he had chosen. Some targets were individuals involved in his trial and conviction; others were Jewish targets. Salem was to make the bombs, and Salameh was recruited into the plot.

In June 1992, Salameh's phone bill went through the roof, rising from $128.41 in May to $1,401.00 in June. Indeed, on June 10, Salameh made the first of forty-six calls to Iraq, before his phone service was cut-off on July 9 for non-payment.8 The vast majority of these calls to Iraq were to his maternal uncle, Kadri Abu Bakr. Abu Bakr had been number two in the "Western Sector," a terrorist unit established within the PLO after the 1967 war, when the PLO was based in Jordan. It operated in the area west of the Jordan River. Abu Bakr was arrested by Israeli authorities for terrorism in 1968 and sentenced to twenty years in prison. He was released in 1986 and deported from the West Bank, whence he made his way to Iraq, where he came to work at the PLO office in Baghdad.

Although the content of these conversations is not known, it is likely that some of the conversations related to the exciting new enterprise in which Salameh had become engaged. And it is likely that Iraqi intelligence learned of the plot, either because Abu Bakr's phone was tapped or because Abu Bakr told them about it.

Some two weeks after Salameh's calls to his uncle began, Abdul Rahman Yasin, who would later become an indicted fugitive in the Trade Center bombing, appeared at the US embassy in Jordan. Yasin was a thirty-two year old Iraqi, living in Baghdad, but he had been born in the United States. On June 21, Yasin requested a US passport and received one.

But in New York, Emad Salem was not cooperating with the FBI. Salem had originally been involved in an intelligence investigation. Yet after he proposed carrying out criminal activity - building pipe bombs - it would become a criminal investigation. For that, Salem would have to wear a body-wire, so he could tape his conversations with the conspirators, and otherwise be prepared to testify as a witness in their trial. Salem refused to do so and the FBI dropped him, thinking that was the end of the matter.

The Bombing and its Aftermath

Yet another party stepped in. The Trade Center bombing mastermind arrived at New York's JFK airport on September 1, 1992, traveling on an Iraqi passport bearing the name Ramzi Yousef. Yousef claimed that he was persecuted in Iraq and asked for asylum. He was admitted into the country, pending a later asylum hearing. Abdul Rahman Yasin arrived at roughly the same time. Yasin went to stay with his brother, Musab, who lived in Jersey City, in the same building as Mohammed Salameh, whom Musab knew well. Yousef also came to live in the same building. Yousef befriended Salameh, and the two soon moved out to live together in various Jersey City apartments for the duration of the conspiracy.

The final green light for the bombing seems to have been given after George Bush lost the November 1992 elections, as shortly thereafter Yousef began making calls to obtain the chemicals for the bomb. The plot proceeded and the bomb went off shortly after noon on February 26. That night, Yousef left New York for Karachi with an onward flight to Quetta. Salameh was left behind, as he needed money for a plane ticket (that is why he foolishly returned to the Ryder rental agency for his deposit).

Salameh's arrest led to the arrest of other conspirators, who, like Salameh, had no good plan to flee. Salameh's close friend, Nidal Ayyad, a 26-year old Palestinian, was arrested ten days later. A third conspirator, a 33-year-old Egyptian, Mahmud Abu Halima, fled to his family's home in the Nile delta. Egyptian police found him easily, interrogated him under torture, found out what he could tell them, and then turned him over to US authorities. Indeed, the FBI learned of Yousef's existence and the key role he had played through Abu Halima's interrogation.

Abu Halima had known Yousef as an Iraqi and Egyptian officials concluded after interrogating him that Iraq was behind the bomb. They were surprised when US officials did not seem to reach that conclusion.9

Abdul Rahman Yasin

Along with Yousef, Yasin was the only individual indicted for the bombing to flee successfully. On March 4, the day Salameh was arrested, the FBI did a sweep of sites associated with him. Salameh had used the Yasins' phone number, when he rented the Ryder van. Abdul Rahman was in his brother's Jersey City apartment, when the FBI arrived that afternoon, and he was taken in for questioning by New Jersey FBI.

Yasin was not a Muslim fundamentalist and New Jersey FBI considered him very helpful. They released him that evening. The next day Yasin was on a flight to Amman, from where he went on to Baghdad. A dispute subsequently emerged between New York and New Jersey FBI. New Jersey FBI believed that Yasin was their great find. New York FBI suspected Yasin was involved in the bombing.

After Abdul Rahman Yasin returned to Baghdad, New Jersey FBI regularly brought Musab Yasin to its office to call his brother in Iraq. Abdul Rahman would always say that he would return to the US to answer the FBI's questions, only he had some business to finish up first.10 As Fox remarked, even after Abdul Rahman had successfully fled, he continued to fool some FBI agents.11 In August, Yasin was indicted, charged with helping to mix chemicals for the bomb.12

In the spring of 1994, a Jordanian stringer working for ABC News spotted Abdul Rahman Yasin outside his father's house in Baghdad and learned from neighbors that he worked for the Iraqi government. After that news was broadcast, Iraqi authorities took Yasin and the other men in the house to an unknown location. His sixty-five-year-old mother, ill with cancer, was allowed to visit them, until she died in October 1994, in a hospital run by Iraqi security.13 As recently as May 1998, FBI director Louis Freeh affirmed that Yasin was in Iraq.

Yet the Clinton administration made no serious attempt to secure Yasin's extradition. Baghdad might well have refused to turn him over, but the US could have used Yasin's presence in Iraq to isolate and condemn the Iraqi regime. It was as if the administration did not want to draw attention to aspects of the case which suggested an Iraqi link to the Trade Center bombing.

A "False Flag" Operation?

In intelligence parlance, a "false flag" operation is one in which a party carries out an action in such a manner as to make it look like others were responsible. For example, if Mehmet Ali Agca, the Turk who tried to kill the Pope in 1981, had been recruited by a Soviet-bloc intelligence agency, as some believe, then the attempted assassination would have been a false flag operation.

After the Trade Center bombing, that was one of the first ideas that occurred to investigators in New York. As FBI agents searched for Abdul Rahman Yasin before they realized that he had fled to Baghdad, an agent, John Anticev, speculated to Emad Salem:

Do you ever think that Iraqi intelligence might have known of these people who were willing to do something crazy, and that Iraqi intelligence found them out and encouraged them to do this as a retaliation for the bombing of Iraq? . . . So the people who are left holding the bag here in America are Egyptian . . . or Palestinians? . . .

But the other people we are looking for, Abdul Rahman, he is gone. . . I hate to think what's going to happen if this guy turns out to be, if this turns out to be an Iraqi intelligence operation . . . and these people were used . . .

If he's out of the country, then that is a very big indication that he is directly involved in this and he, and he split.
14

Speaking with another FBI agent, Salem remarked in broken English, "Is lot of suspicious about Iraqi intelligence involve." She replied, "Yeah."15 As the New York Times reported, the ease with which the suspects were arrested, "suggested a conspiracy in which others masterminded the attack."16

And those arrested, or at least some of them, came to the same conclusion. Another Egyptian extremist, who cooperated with the government, Abdul Rahman Haggag, explained that Mahmud Abu Halima had told him the following:

Ramzi Yousef showed up on the scene and brought a number of individuals together and escalated the initial plot. Mahmud stated that Ramzi Yousef used himself and others as pawns and then immediately after the blast left the country. Mahmud advised that the initial plot was not as large as what happened and that Ramzi Yousef was responsible for bringing the individuals responsible together and making it happen. Mahmud also made reference that law enforcement authorities would not be able to catch Yousef. [Haggag] questioned why, and Mahmud responded, "Don't ask."17

As Abu Halima's younger brother explained, "Mohammed Salameh had dealt with Iraqi intelligence."18

Evidence against Iraq

"Evidence," according to Webster's dictionary, means "something that indicates," as in "your reaction was evidence of innocence." Several points cited above are evidence of an Iraqi link to the bombing: Salameh's calls to his uncle; the involvement of an Iraqi who came from Baghdad and returned there; even the sheer size of the bomb. And more points could be cited.19

Ramzi Yousef
But the most important evidence linking the bombing to Iraq involves the passport on which Ramzi Yousef fled on the night of the attack. Yousef left on a Pakistani passport in the name of Abdul Basit Karim. He obtained that passport by going to the Pakistani consulate in New York in December 1992 with the xerox copies of the expired (1984) passport of Abdul Basit and the current (1988) passport. Yousef, claiming to be Abdul Basit, said that he had lost his passport, and asked for a new one. The consulate did not like the documentation Yousef presented, as there was no original document, but it gave him a temporary passport in the name of Abdul Basit Karim.

There really was an individual named Abdul Basit Karim. He was born in Kuwait in 1968 and raised there, as his father worked in the Sheikhdom. After Abdul Basit graduated from high school, he went to Britain, where he studied for three years. He returned to Kuwait in June 1989, after which he obtained a job in Kuwait's planning ministry - and he was in Kuwait when Iraq invaded a year later.

As Abdul Basit was a permanent resident of Kuwait, Kuwait's Interior Ministry maintained a file on him. That file appears to have been tampered with. Information that should have been in the file is not there. A xerox copy of the front page of Abdul Basit's passport is missing. Kuwaiti authorities attributed that to the Iraqi occupation. Yet they did not consider the possibility that the entire file might have been corrupted.

Moreover, there is information in Abdul Basit's file that should not be there. Above all, there is a notation that Abdul Basit and his family left Kuwait on August 26, 1990, traveling from Kuwait to Iraq, crossing from Iraq to Iran at Salamcheh (a crossing point), on their way to Pakistani Baluchistan, where they live now.20

Who put that information into Abdul Basit's file and why? It is not the kind of information a traveler gives authorities when he crosses a border. He reports where he came from and the country to which he is going. He does not give his whole itinerary.

Moreover, there was no Kuwait government on August 26, 1990, as Iraq had occupied the country three weeks earlier. Hundreds of thousands of people were fleeing Kuwait and Iraq at the time. It is doubtful than an Iraqi bureaucrat sat in Kuwait's Interior Ministry, recording the travel plans of everyone who left Kuwait.

Finally, Yousef's fingerprints are in Abdul Basit's file in Kuwait. Yousef was fingerprinted when he entered the US, and American authorities later sent his fingerprints to Kuwait. The fingerprints matched and in September 1993, Kuwaiti authorities reported that Yousef's real identity was Abdul Basit.

But Yousef does not seem to be Abdul Basit. Above all, they are of two different heights. Yousef is 6' feet tall. That is what a prosecutor, reading off the FBI arrest card, told this author.21 Yet, according to all available evidence, Abdul Basit was only 5'8."22

Yet if Yousef is not Abdul Basit, how did his fingerprints get into Abdul Basit's file in Kuwait? The fingerprint cards must have been switched. Someone had to have taken the card with Abdul Basit's prints on it out of the file and substituted a card with Yousef's prints. And the only party that reasonably could have done so is Iraq, while it occupied Kuwait, in order to create a false identity for Ramzi Yousef. Indeed, creating a false identity for agents involved in "wet" operations is a standard practice of Soviet-style intelligence agencies.

Yet, US law enforcement missed this critical point. Jim Fox had not credited the Kuwaiti claim that Yousef's real identity was Abdul Basit, but he did not ask himself how the fingerprints of Yousef and Abdul Basit could have matched, if they were two different people. When this author discussed the matter with him, Fox was stunned. He agreed that it was indeed the smoking gun.23 I subsequently met with Itamar Rabinovich, then Israel's ambassador to Washington, and showed him copies of the two Abdul Basit passports that Yousef had presented to the Pakistani consulate to obtain the passport on which he fled (evidence from the trial), and pointed out how the signatures on the two documents were entirely different, as if one had been doctored, suggesting that Yousef could not reproduce Abdul Basit's signature. I also explained how the file in Kuwait had been tampered with. Rabinovich agreed that this was the decisive evidence against Iraq. This author also went through the same exercise with a senior Saudi official, who agreed about the significance of this point.

The question of whether Yousef is or is not Abdul Basit is extremely important. The matter could be resolved easily enough simply by bringing individuals who knew Abdul Basit prior to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait to the prison where Yousef is held and ask them to determine whether the master terrorist is or is not the person they knew as Abdul Basit. The American government has refused to do this, maintaining that Yousef was, in fact, Abdul Basit. Yet that claim was belied by the trial judge who asserted at Yousef's sentencing hearing, "We don't even know what your real name is."

The Second New York Bombing Conspiracy

It is necessary to consider briefly the second New York bombing conspiracy, in the late spring of 1993, which targeted the United Nations, New York's federal building, and two tunnels. It, too, is widely misunderstood and the misunderstanding of this plot has also contributed to promoting the notion that a new kind of terrorism, not involving states, has emerged.

Following the Trade Center bombing, New York FBI reconciled with its informant, Emad Salem, and employed him in an undercover operation to infiltrate local Muslim extremists. Salem infiltrated among them, proposing to carry out another bombing. A Sudanese émigré, Siddig Ali, picked up the bait, and his first target was a Manhattan armory. But Ali had two "friends" in Sudan's UN mission - intelligence agents. They suggested that he bomb the United Nations and offered to provide him diplomatic plates, so he could get a bomb-laden vehicle into the UN parking garage. Subsequently, they suggested the other targets. Ali and his co-conspirators readily agreed.

Salem directed the "bomb" making activity in a garage in Queens. Of course, the FBI would not let real explosives be made. The conspirators thought they were making a bomb, but their mixture would never have exploded. And when the FBI had the evidence it needed, above all video of them making what they believed to be a bomb, it arrested them.

Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman
Since the FBI was running the conspiracy, the US government was aware of the involvement of Sudanese intelligence in picking the targets for the bombing. But the Clinton administration said nothing at the time about Sudan's involvement - just as it had said nothing about the suspected involvement of Iraq in the first plot.

And that lead to a general confusion. Several New York politicians felt that such large bombing conspiracies must have involved something bigger than the ragtag group of militants arrested after each plot. But they were wrong in identifying the source of the problem. They called for the head of Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric who was in the US illegally, living in Jersey City.

Indeed, the FBI and Salem, who had ties to Egyptian intelligence, had tried to implicate Sheikh Abdul Rahman, but the Sheikh was not really interested in carrying out terrorism in the United States. His goal was to overthrow the Egyptian government. For example, Salem pressed him to approve the idea of bombing the United Nations. But Sheikh Abdul Rahman hesitated, saying, "It would not be forbidden, but it would muddy the waters for Muslims." Salem then asked, "Do we do it?" Sheikh Abdul Rahman replied, "No, find a plan to inflict damage on the army, the American army, because the United Nations would harm Muslims, harm them tremendously."24 The Sheikh was a contemptible figure, but he did not really endorse the conspirators' plans and Jim Fox did not want to arrest him. Fox wanted to deport him and, in fact, Abdul Rahman had already been ordered deported.

But that did not satisfy the New York politicians. They wanted Sheikh Abdul Rahman arrested on charges related to the bombing conspiracies. And the US Attorney's Office in New York found a law under which it might be able to convict him - seditious conspiracy. The notion underlying that charge was that Sheikh Abdul Rahman, through his fiery rhetoric, had inspired some of the individuals who participated in the Trade Center bombing and some of the individuals who participated in the second conspiracy. The charge was entirely consistent with the first bombing plot being an Iraqi intelligence operation and the second being an FBI undercover operation, in which Sudanese intelligence became involved. But few people understood the charge against the Sheikh and what had really happened in New York.

The Clinton Administration's Handling of the Two Bombing Conspiracies

The Clinton administration separated the national security question of state involvement in the bombing conspiracies from the criminal question of the guilt or innocence of the individual defendants. The latter was dealt with very publicly, through trials. The former was dealt with surreptitiously, or so it would seem.

The Clinton administration seemed to recognize that it was unlikely that Sudan was acting alone in the second bombing conspiracy. The plot was practically open warfare and US-Sudanese relations were not that bad then. Indeed, Sudan was not even on the official US list of terrorist states. It appears that the administration thought Sudan was fronting for another country. It thought in terms of fundamentalism and thought that Sudan was fronting for Iran.

Was Iran really the state operating behind Sudan? Iran had no quarrel with the United Nations. For Iran, the most important thing regarding its dealings with the United Nations, particularly then, was the UN-brokered cease-fire that ended the Iran-Iraq war. Security Council Resolution 598 identified Iraq as the aggressor in the war and said that Iraq owed Iran tens of billions of dollars.

Iraq, of course, had a very big quarrel with the United Nations, under whose auspices the Gulf War was fought and sanctions imposed. And Sudanese-Iraqi relations were (and still are) very close. Sudan supported Iraq during the Gulf War and, afterwards, Iraqi intelligence established Khartoum as a major base for its operations.25 Iraq makes a lot more sense than Iran as the hidden hand in a conspiracy whose first target was the United Nations.

On June 24, the FBI arrested the conspirators in the second conspiracy. Two days later, President Bill Clinton launched a cruise missile attack on Iraqi intelligence headquarters, saying that it was punishment for Iraq's attempt to kill former president George Bush when he had visited Kuwait in April. The day after the US strike, in an article entitled, "The Missiles' Message," the New York Times' Thomas Friedman wrote that White House officials "had not only the Iraqi audience in mind, but also the intelligence services of countries suspected of sponsoring terrorism, like the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York."

That is the only public suggestion that official Washington suspected state involvement in the Trade Center bombing, which, after all, was supposed to be the work of a "loose network." Friedman continued,

By attacking the Iraqi intelligence headquarters with cruise missiles, the Administration was trying to signal that those involved in state-sponsored terrorism would be personally targeted in response. "We were planning all along to retaliate against Iraq, if and when we had conclusive proof that it was responsible for the assassination attempt on Bush," said one senior official. "But the situation in New York was very much on our mind and an explicit part of the discussions. We hoped that the response would send a message to those who work in the intelligence business that there is a danger, a danger to them personally, if they get involved in state-sponsored terrorism."

Apparently, the Clinton administration believed that the strike would deter Iraq from carrying out further acts of terrorism and impress Sudan and Iran with what the US could do. In August, Sudan was added to the list of state sponsors of terrorism, further stressing the point. By dealing with state involvement in the New York bombing conspiracies in this way, the administration avoided the risk that the American public might have demanded that it do a lot more, had it really understood what had happened in New York.

This, at least, is this author's suspicions about how the Clinton administration believed it had taken care of the question of state involvement in the New York bombing conspiracies. Those suspicions were reinforced after a December 1994 meeting with Martin Indyk, who had first brought me to Washington. He wanted to know about my work. I stated my argument, as detailed here, in the most provocative way possible, as I had long given up hope that he would do anything to address the problem. I concluded, asserting that the White House believed that the strike on Iraqi intelligence headquarters would take care of Saddam, but it only stopped him temporarily. To all of what I said, Indyk replied with a one word question, "Temporarily?" "Sure Martin, " I replied. " One strike on an empty building at night is not going to stop Saddam forever." Indeed, even as we spoke Ramzi Yousef was engaged in another major terrorist bombing conspiracy.

Conclusion

The bombing plots do not appear to stem directly from "loose networks" of terrorists, as Iraq was involved in all three. And all that it suffered was a late night attack on its intelligence headquarters. How likely is it that Saddam subsequently gave up on terrorism?

Of course, it is extremely unlikely. Once Sheikh Omar was arrested, and as the terrorism continued, the new "face of terror" became Osama bin Ladin. Fantastic capabilities are regularly ascribed to him. It is rarely asked: How is it possible for one man do all the things that are attributed to him?

It is highly probable that Iraqi intelligence is working with bin Ladin.26 Some time ago - before the idea took hold that a new, stateless form of terrorism had been into being - bin Ladin would have come to be seen as a "front organization." But the concept scarcely seems to exist any more.

When enough time has passed so that the Gulf War can be viewed with the dispassion of history, it will be recognized that the one thing that Iraq could do to retaliate against the United States (and other members of the Gulf War coalition) was carry out acts of terrorism. A great deal of Iraq's energy and resources has, almost certainly, gone into that effort. And it is not all that difficult to recognize. What is absent is a willingness to do so and a resolve to address the problem. That this is so despite the consequences - the deaths of Americans and others - says, perhaps, a very great deal about the times in which we live.

Notes

  1 Yousef planned the bombing in January 1995 while based in Manila. He had developed a liquid explosive that could pass through airport metal detectors. Yet while mixing explosives in the kitchen of his Manila apartment, Yousef accidentally started a fire. He was forced to flee abruptly, leaving behind a computer containing information that led to his arrest a month later in Pakistan.
  2 The journalist Steven Emerson was the first to publicly use the phrase in an article published some six weeks after the bombing, when, in fact, very little was known about it. Among other things, the existence of a shadowy mastermind, Ramzi Yousef, was not known and Emerson identified a bit player, Mahmud Abu Halima, as the mastermind. See Steven Emerson, "A Terrorist Network in America?" The New York Times, 7 April 1993.
  3 Lorraine Adams (Washington Post staff writer, with staff writers David A Vise and Charles Trueheart and staff researcher Alice Crites), "The Other Man," The Washington Post Magazine, 20 May 2001.
  4 An FBI agent recently advised this author that because there remained an outstanding fugitive in the Trade Center bombing, the national security agencies still could not be given the results of the FBI investigation. (Of course, they could go to New York and get that part of the FBI investigation which had been entered into evidence in the trials).
  5 Terrorist Research and Analytical Center, National Security Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Terrorism in the United States, 1994, p. 14.
  6 Yousef's phone records provide a good example of what can be done with the government's evidence, but which was not done by the FBI. Yousef made thousands of phone calls. Calls to other conspirators or to places like chemical companies were clearly meaningful, but what about the other calls?
  Yousef's phone bill states that he had conference calling. But the phone records do not indicate which calls are conference calls. That emerges from looking at the time a call begins; noting how long it lasts; and observing when the next call begins. If the next call begins before the previous call ends, then it is a conference call.
  In December 1992, Yousef made a series of conference calls to a residence in Iranshahr (eastern Iran) with numbers in Oman, Karachi, and two other towns in eastern Iran. He also made a conference call to Quetta (western Pakistan) and yet another town in eastern Iran. Someone knowledgeable about the Middle East would immediately recognize that region--eastern Iran and western Pakistan--as Baluchistan. Moreover, the numbers in Oman and Karachi belonged to Baluch, as was learned by calling them.
  A look at a map of the area suggests that the calls might constitute points on Yousef's escape route: flying to Karachi, with an onward flight to Quetta, as Yousef's plane ticket indicates, and then traveling west across Pakistani Baluchistan into Iranian Baluchistan, south to the Gulf of Oman, and then to Oman, where the telephone trail ends. Most of that territory is extremely desolate and would make a good place to hide. While in New York, Yousef claimed to be an Iraqi and was known as "Rashid the Iraqi." Who would look for an Arab in Baluchistan? If that were Yousef's escape route, it would have been very clever. Moreover, the timing of the calls seemed related to other preparations that Yousef made for his flight from the US.
  Thus, prior to Yousef's arrest, this author suggested that Yousef had ties to the Baluch and might well be Baluch himself. And when Yousef was arrested, it turned out that he was indeed Baluch.
  7 A neighbor remarked that Salameh was laughed at for being "stupid," while an acquaintance remarked, "Someone could have set him up - a very strong person . . . He's very innocent." Los Angeles Times, 8 March 1993.
  8 Government Exhibit 824, United States v. Mohammed Salameh et. al..
  9 This was reported by Newsweek's Christopher Dickey. See Laurie Mylroie, Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein's Unfinished War Against America (Washington DC: American Enterprise Institute Press, 2000), p. 116.
  10 That Musab was calling his brother in Baghdad from an FBI office was reported by The New York Times, 10 June 1993. This author spent that summer in Iraqi Kurdistan and had the opportunity to discuss this with Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdish Democratic Party. The son of the legendary Mullah Mustapha, Massoud had been his father's intelligence chief and has an excellent understanding of the Iraqi regime.
  Massoud thought that what the FBI was doing was laughable. That Musab Yasin would call his brother from an FBI office strongly suggested that Abdul Rahman worked for Iraqi intelligence and Musab knew that. Iraqi authorities would be extremely suspicious of any individual who participated in a major bombing plot. If Abdul Rahman had done so in New York, he might do the same in Baghdad. And they would haul Abdul Rahman in for a very harsh and brutal interrogation - unless, of course, he worked for Iraqi intelligence.
  Since Musab's calls from New York were almost certainly monitored by Iraq, Musab would not have made them unless he understood that his brother was involved in the bombing at the direction of the Iraqi government. Musab was a US citizen and nothing the FBI could do to him would approach what Iraqi intelligence might do to his brother. Hence, the whole exercise, in the eyes of Massoud Barzani was silly. It suggested a radical ignorance on the part of at least some in US law enforcement about how the Iraqi regime operated.
  11 Jim Fox, to author, 1 December 1994.
  12 Perhaps significantly, the decision to indict Abdul Rahman Yasin was made in New York, and Washington was merely informed of it, as the lead prosecutor, Gil Childers, explained to this author.
  13 This was told to the author by an Iraqi relative of Yasin's, living in London. Mylroie, op.cit., p. 112.
  14 Salem taped all his phone calls, and they became public, as a result of the trials. The tapes were undated. The transcription of this call is identified as "Source Tape No. 31," p. 9.
  15 Source Tape No. 37, p.7.
  16 New York Times, 14 March 1993.
  17 Statement of Abdul Rahman Haggag to New York law enforcement, Government Exhibit 35119-E, United States v. Omar Abdul Rahman, et. al.
  18 FD-302, of Abdul Rahman Haggag, on August 11-12 1994, p. 3.
  19 They include long-standing ties between Iraqi intelligence and the Baluch; the fact that when Yousef was arrested, it was learned that he was not a Muslim extremist, and other points detailed in Mylroie, op. cit.
  20 Kuwaiti official, to author, in Mylroie, op. cit., p. 62.
  21 The man said that Yousef was "a titch" under 6'. This author asked if that meant closer to 5'11" or to 6' and the man replied, 6'.
  22 In February 1996, I met with two people who had taught Abdul Basit in Britain. Both had a clear memory of him and did not think that the student they had known was the master terrorist. Abdul Basit had been a pleasant, hard-working young man, with no strong political or religious beliefs. The two teachers remembered Abdul Basit as a short person. They first suggested he was 5'6." I had information suggesting he was 5'8", and Abdul Basit's teachers agreed that might have been his height. But when asked if Abdul Basit could have been 6' tall, they both said no. They were confident of that. They asked themselves, "Did you look up at him or did you look down at him?" They agreed that they had looked down at Abdul Basit and that he was significantly shorter than 6'. Five years later, a senior national security figure in Washington, intrigued by this question, met with Abdul Basit's teachers. They told him the same thing. For more details see Chapter 16, Mylroie, op.cit.
  23 Fox was truly a very big and generous man. I had met him two times before and he had been rather aloof. That is typical of law enforcement, and particularly counter-intelligence. They are suspicious of strangers.
The third time we met - following this discussion, Fox's reserve disappeared. As I entered his office, he rose from behind his desk, emerged in his stocking feet, with a grin on his face and his arm extended to congratulate me. Subsequently, we became friends, as he assisted with this work, and it was a great loss when he passed away suddenly in May 1997, at the age of 59.
  24 Government's Memorandum of Law in Opposition to Defendants' Pretrial Motions (Phase 1), United States v. Omar Abdul Rahman et. al., pp. 35-6.
  25 Mylroie, op. cit., p. 194.
  26 See Mylroie, op. cit., Chapter 18.


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