By Ali Younes
A former Al Qaida fighter who was present in Afghanistan before and during the September, 11 attacks, said that he is convinced today that the CIA had prior knowledge of the impending attacks on the World Trade Center and on Washington and they did not nothing to prevent it. He recounted to me, during my conversations with him last month in Amman, Jordan how the atmosphere in Afghanistan a month or two before the attacks took place, was teaming with information, debates and rumors of a very big attack on the United States that was about to happen. He spoke to me while stressing that he does not want his name to be revealed or published because he had put that dark history behind him and is now trying to build a new life for himself even though he is still very religious. I also sensed that he was very worried about the reaction of the Jordanian intelligence service, the “Mukhabarat” if they discovered that he was talking publically about the things he knew from his past. He told me that he was interrogated by the Jordanian intelligence before.
He speculated rather with a high degree of certainty that the CIA must have known about the September 11 attacks, and let it happen for its own reasons. Although his assertions sounded like the familiar and discredited conspiracy theory that was floated in the aftermath of September 11, which holds that the US government or the CIA knew or even facilitated the attacks against its own country in order to lay the blame against Muslims in order to justify its future attacks or wars against Arab and Muslim countries.
The basis of his speculations,, however, were rooted in his thinking that Al Qaida leaders, before September 11 were so “arrogant, stupid and careless that the impending attacks on the US were very much a public knowledge in Afghanistan, and thus an intelligence agency must have known about it.”
He also faulted Bin Laden for running Al Qaida much “like a company or a business,” as opposed to being religious, albeit militant, organization.
According to a 2006 AP report that was published in the Washington Post, a meeting between then CIA director George Tenet and his counter terrorism chief J. Cofer Black took place with Condoleezza Rice George Bush’s National Security advisor, where he informed her of the CIA intelligence that Al Qaida was planning an attack on the US. The meeting took place in July of 2001, two months before the attack.
“Tenet had been losing sleep over the recent intelligence he’d seen. There was no conclusive, smoking-gun intelligence, but there was such a huge volume of data that an intelligence officer’s instinct strongly suggested that something was coming.” Tenet and Black were seeking an immediate action from the administration to address their “strategic warnings”. “Tenet had the NSA review all the intercepts and the agency concluded they were of genuine al-Qaeda communications. On June 30, a top-secret senior executive intelligence brief contained an article headlined “Bin Laden Threats Are Real.” According to the report, Rice did not take Tenet’s warning very seriously and failed to alert the president of the seriousness of CIA’s intelligence.
The 9-11 Commission report stated that “The 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were far more elaborate, precise, and destructive than any of these earlier assaults. But by September 2001, the executive branch of the U.S. government, the Congress, the news media and the American public had received clear warning that Islamist terrorists meant to kill Americans in high numbers.”
Although he has long put that life behind him, the Ex-Al Qaida fighter is still angry that Al Qaida leaders have caused the unnecessary death of scores of Muslims and wasted the lives of thousands of young and naïve men who believed their claims about Jihad as being pure and credible.
“Al Qaida was run by crazy and stupid people” he said. “They destroyed the lives of many people, and on top of it all, they destroyed the Taliban state, the country that gave them shelter and a place to stay.”
Because the plan to attack the US was so publically talked about in Afghanistan, he argued that the CIA and many other intelligence agencies “for sure” must have known about and did nothing to prevent it.
He also said that all of Al Qaida senior leadership had opposed the attacks on US including the Taliban leader Mullah Omar. He said that Bin Laden either lied to Mullah Omar or violated his pledge of allegiance to obey him as the “Emir” of the Taliban’s Islamic Emirate. He argued that the sentiments in Afghanistan were that a direct and huge attack inside the United States would bring an unnecessary war with the US that Al Qaida will pay a very heavy price for.
He also said that “only three people supported attacking the United States. They were, Osama Bin Laden, Khaled Sheikh Mohammad, (KSM) and Ayman Zawaheri.” He added that “all of Al Qaida senior leaders including the entire Egyptian leaders in the organization opposed the attacks.”
Meanwhile, I checked his story with a senior Jihadist leader in Amman who was and still is ideologically, not organizationally however, aligned with Al Qaida today, he agreed with the ex-fighter. He also said that the September 11 attacks on the United States were debated within Al Qaida and were almost a public knowledge in Afghanistan that many people knew about it. But he also said that “no one was expecting the attacks would be in the magnitude of hijacking planes and then collide them heads on with the twin towers in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.” He added, moreover, that Mullah Omar did not have advance knowledge about the September 11 attack. “Had Mullah Omar known about the attacks on the United States, he would have prevented it.”
Ali Younes is the Editor of the Arab Daily News. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org, and on twitter@ clearali
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