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Posted: Oct 11 2007, 11:57 PM
If you're a troll, you get dead air from me.
Member No.: 856
Joined: 4-November 06
Author: Bush nominee helped mask FBI's pre-9/11 failures and kept al Qaeda's infiltration of US intelligence from view
Published: Tuesday September 25, 2007
This is the first of two op/ed exposes by Peter Lance, the best-selling author of Triple Cross, which will be released by HarperCollins in a new edition next month.
In the coverage of Michael B. Mukasey, President Bush's nominee to replace Alberto Gonzales, the line in his resume that has resonated the most with the media is his experience presiding over the 1995 terrorism trial of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.
The blind Sheikh, a top al Qaeda confederate who was cited in the infamous Crawford Texas PDB just weeks before 9/11, was convicted with nine others in the so-called "Day of Terror Plot" to blow up New York's bridges and tunnels, the U.N. and the FBI's New York office.
Citing the trial in a Sept. 20 New York Times piece that lionized the ex-judge, reporter Adam Liptak described how Mukasey, with "a few terse, stern and prescient remarks," sentenced the blind sheik to life in prison:
"Judge Mukasey said he feared the plot could have produced devastation on 'a scale unknown in this country since the Civil War' that would make the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which had left six people dead, 'almost insignificant by comparison.'"
Liptak was correct in citing the 1993 Twin Towers bombing in his story, but he failed to mention that the "Day of Terror" trial was really a desperate attempt by the FBI's New York office and prosecutors for the Southern District of New York (Mukasey's old office) to mop up after their failure to stop the blind Sheikh's "jihad army" prior to its first two attacks on U.S. soil: the murder of Rabbi Meier Kahane in 1990 and the Trade Center bombing on Feb. 26, 1993.
Worse, during the 1995 trial, Judge Mukasey helped bury the significance of Ali A, Mohamed, a shadowy figure who was working at the time for both Osama bin Laden and the FBI.
If Mohamed had been called to the stand and cross-examined in open court, defense lawyers could have ripped open the scandal of how the FBI failed to stop the first Trade Center attack. More important, they could have exposed the depth and breadth of al Qaeda's shocking plan to attack America, six years before 9/11.
Al Qaeda's master spy
An ex-Egyptian Army intelligence officer, Mohamed succeeded in infiltrating the CIA in 1984, the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg from 1987-89 and the FBI itself -- where he served as an informant on the West Coast from 1992.
Known to his jihadi brothers as "Ali Amiriki," aka "Ali the American," Mohamed not only moved bin Laden and his entourage from Afghanistan to the Sudan in 1991 but he set up most of al Qaeda's training camps in Khartoum, trained Osama's personal bodyguard, and literally wrote the "manual on terror."
Mohamed actually slipped Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri -- bin Laden's number two -- into the US on a fund raising tour of US mosques in the early 1990s.
This feat of deception was roughly the equivalent of a German spy smuggling Heinrich Himmler, the head of Hitler's dreaded S.S., into America at the dawn of World War II to raise deutschmarks on a tour of German-American churches.
All of this is chronicled in my book Triple Cross, due out in an updated edition from HarperCollins next month. The book flings the door open on a closet in Judge Mukasey's past -- a dark little room where one enormous skeleton lives.
It's the story of how New York prosecutors Andrew McCarthy and Patrick Fitzgerald (later CIA leak Special Prosecutor) went out of their way to keep Ali Mohamed out of the "Day of Terror" trial.
Why would they do that? Because Mohamed had penetrated three of the Big Five intelligence agencies, and defense attorneys like Roger L. Stavis believe that once he was on the stand, under oath, the truth would have come out.
"In Ali Mohamed," says Stavis, "You have a man that's working for us and being paid by us at the same time as he's working for Osama bin Laden who is the greatest enemy that this country has had since 1941. We had him, and he played us... The last thing federal prosecutors wanted back in 1995 was to have that story exposed."
Training the "jihad army"
At the time, the Feds were in possession of shocking evidence that Mohamed had trained two of the very members of the "jihad army" sitting in front of Judge Mukasey's bench: El Sayyid Nosair, the pill-popping Egyptian emigre who'd murdered Kahane four years earlier, and Clement Rodney Hampton-El, a U.S. Muslim and Afghan war veteran known as "Dr. Rashid."
Worse, as we'll see, the FBI had those two terrorists under surveillance from as early as 1989, when they'd also begun tracking additional Ali Mohamed trainees: Mahmoud Abouhalima, a six foot two inch red-headed Egyptian cab driver, Mohammed Salameh, a diminutive Palestinian, and Nidal Ayyad, a Kuwaiti Rutgers grad, all three of them later convicted in the WTC bombing.
So the potential for "blowback" and embarrassment to the Feds was enormous -- holding open the potential of derailing the "Day of Terror" prosecution itself.
And if those revelations weren't enough to inspire federal prosecutors to hide their "informant," Mohamed -- who'd been captured in 1993 by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police trying to smuggle an al Qaeda terrorist into the US -- was later released on the word of an FBI agent. Once set loose, he began to plan the devastating East African Embassy bombings executed in 1998.
After getting sprung from the Mounties on the word of Special Agent John Zent, Mohamed traveled to Kenya where he took the surveillance pictures of the US Embassy that Osama bin Laden personally approved in 1994, pinpointing the precise spot where a truck bomb would detonate four years later, killing 212.
Mohamed himself would later run the Kenyan bombing cell while he commuted back and forth to the US, all the while keeping in touch with New York prosecutors and FBI agents on both coasts.
Ali's first sit down with the Feds
In December, 1994, as he was setting up the Embassy bombing cell, Mohamed was summoned back to his home in Santa Clara, California for a meeting with Andy McCarthy and FBI agent Harlan Bell. The Feds had deemed him so important to the upcoming trial that he'd been named as an un-indicted co-conspirator along with bin Laden himself.
At the time, Roger L. Stavis, Nosair's attorney, was prepping a subpoena to compel Ali's testimony. "I wanted him," Stavis told me for Triple Cross, "and I tried everything to find him."
Jack Cloonan, the ex-FBI agent who later debriefed Mohamed after his 1998 arrest, noted that "If Ali would have been put on [the stand] at that point in time, [he] would have been viewed as an agent provocateur... Maybe there would have been an issue of entrapment raised. It wouldn't have helped the Government's case... That subpoena became "a huge, huge issue for Ali" as well.
Stavis was prepared to argue that the Feds had been winking at Mohamed for years as he trained the Sheikh's "army" to wreak havoc for the Jihad in New York City. But after McCarthy's Santa Clara sit down with him, Ali mysteriously went missing.
Later, Ibrahim El-Gabrowny, Nosair's cousin and a "Day of Terror" co-defendant, argued in an appeal that Ali had told him to his face that the Feds had urged him to duck the subpoena.
McCarthy denies this, but he stayed in touch with Mohamed after their Santa Clara meeting and Ali never showed up at trial.
Mukasey jokes about "the missing witness"
In the course of the proceedings, unable to produce the phantom spy, Stavis had shown a videotape of Ali shot at Fort Bragg, in which he was literally training top Green Beret officers.
While an active duty U.S. Army sergeant, Mohamed had been commuting on weekends up from North Carolina to New York, where he schooled Nosair, Hampton-El, Abouhalima, Salameh and Ayyad in small arms and automatic weapons training.
Before leaving Fort Bragg, Ali would rifle the files at the JFK Special Warfare Center, stealing intelligence to pass on to his al Qaeda "brothers" in New York, including top secret memos from the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He would stay at Nosair's house in Cliffside Park, N.J., where FBI agents later recovered the highly secure documents the night of the Kahane murder.
One memo, which can be downloaded from my website, even contained the positions of all Special Forces and Navy SEAL units worldwide on Dec. 5, 1988 -- a nugget of intel that the Soviets would have paid a fortune for at the height of the Cold War.
As I noted in Triple Cross:
El Sayyid Nosair's attorney Roger Stavis was doing his best to keep Mohamed's presence alive in the "Day of Terror" case. On Sept. 1, 1995, an exasperated Stavis requested a "missing witness instruction [to the jury] with regard to Ali Mohamed."
He reminded Judge Michael B. Mukasey that "Mohamed, was the person who came from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, who was assigned to the United States Army Special Forces."
At that point the judge quipped, "Yes, we saw him on that splendid videotape." But Stavis countered, "When we attempted to find Ali Mohamed, we could not bring him in."
Yet Mohamed was in the country during much of the eight-month trial. According to an affidavit filed by the FBI after his 1998 arrest, Mohamed had two meetings with DIS investigators in August 1995 and one on November 8th. In each instance he was home in Santa Clara.
Under federal law, a trial judge has the discretion to give a missing witness instruction "if a party has it peculiarly within his power to produce witnesses whose testimony would elucidate the transaction."
If such a person does not appear and one of the parties -- the Feds in this case -- has some special ability to produce him, the law permits the jury to draw an inference, namely that the missing witness would have given testimony damaging to that party.
Ali Mohamed was an un-indicted co-conspirator. Judge Mukasey was aware of his infiltration of the US Army at Fort Bragg. Andy McCarthy had visited him in the presence of an FBI agent within months of the trial. So Stavis had every right to expect that jury charge.
Mukasey's response? "I don't think a missing witness charge on that gentleman is warranted and I am not going to give one."
By Oct. 1, 1995, the issue of Mohamed's absence in the trial was rendered moot. Characterized by the New York Times as "the biggest terrorism trial in US history," it ended with guilty verdicts for Sheikh Rahman and the nine remaining co-defendants. AUSAs McCarthy, Fitzgerald, and Robert Khuzami even succeeded in convicting El Sayyid Nosair for the murder of Meier Kahane.
The skeleton in Mukasey's closet
Why does it matter now that Judge Mukasey, touted by the New York Times for his prowess as an anti-terror judge, made light of Ali Mohamed's failure to show at the "Day of Terror" trial? Because if Ali had testified, lawyers like Stavis would have ripped the lid off the years of failure by the FBI to stop bin Laden's juggernaut.
Al Qaeda's capabilities, their bench strength and sheer resolve to strike again at New York might have been exposed years before 9/11, giving other agencies like CIA and DIA a chance to examine the intel being gathered by Bureau agents in this country.
At a minimum, Mohamed's exposure at trial would have blown his cover as a double agent and interdicted his supervision of the Embassy bombing cell. But Judge Mukasey, the man President Bush wants to run the Justice Department, didn't want to tip the jury to the significance of his absence. "
Author: Bush's nominee for Attorney General is primed to keep lid on Qaeda spying disaster; Patrick Fitzgerald's missing witness
Published: Tuesday September 25, 2007
" In Part One, Peter Lance described how Bush nominee for Attorney General Judge Michael B. Mukasey prevented defense lawyers from telling the full story of FBI informant and al Qaeda master spy Ali Mohamed at the 1995 "Day of Terror" trial. Today he reveals how a full vetting of the Ali Mohamed story in 1995 might have ripped the lid off the FBI's failure to stop the first World Trade Center attack. Lance provides even more details with declassified FBI memos and other documents in the new edition of his latest HarperCollins investigative book, Triple Cross.
In this piece, he also reveals how then-New York attorney Patrick Fitzgerald -- later the CIA leak czar -- also kept Mohamed off the stand -- while the Feds cut a deal to keep Qaeda's "master spy" in a witness protection program.
The ex-federal prosecutor and judge President Bush wants to run the Justice Department has repeatedly supported tweaking the constitutional guarantees of privacy and due process when it comes to the all-encompassing "war on terror."
In a New York Times piece on September 18th, Phil Shenon and Ben Weiser described how "Mr. Mukasey now in private practice in Manhattan, has repeatedly spoken out to support the administration's claim to broad powers in pursuing terrorism threats, especially surveillance of terrorism suspects and imprisoning them before trial."
But as I've chronicled now in three investigative books focusing on the failures of the two "bin Laden offices of origin" the SDNY and the FBI's NYO none of the post-9/11 draconian counter-terrorism initiatives (including The Patriot Act) would have been necessary, if the Feds had simply utilized the intelligence they had in their own files.
That's not just my opinion: It's a conclusion admitted to last week by Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell, who told members of the House Judiciary Committee that "9/11 should have and could have been prevented it was an issue of connecting information that was available."
Al Qaeda's New York cell circa 1989
Mukasey's most significant terror-related resumι credit as touted by his supporters was his role as judge in the 1995 trial of blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman and nine other defendants.
As noted yesterday in Part One of my series, the blind Sheikh was accused by prosecutors for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) of leading a "jihad army" in a plot to blow up a series of New York "landmarks" from the United Nations building to 26 Federal Plaza, the FBI's New York Office (NYO) not to mention the bridges and tunnels leading into Manhattan. As reported in the Times coverage of the trial on February 8th, 1995, as early as July of 1989 the FBI had spent four weekends in surveillance of two of the blind Sheikh's co-defendants: El Sayyid Nosair and Clement Rodney Hampton-El.
Both of those terrorists had been trained by al Qaeda's master spy, Ali Mohamed, an ex-Egyptian intelligence officer who had infiltrated the CIA in 1984 and the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center at Fort Bragg, N.C. from 1987-89.
Ali was strangely absent from the trial, despite the attempts of defense attorney Roger L. Stavis to subpoena him. But as noted by the Times, Judge Michael B. Mukasey was presented with some startling evidence that should have provoked him to write a bench warrant to get Mohamed on the stand.
It came during the testimony of FBI agent Robert Fogle, who had been part of a black bag surveillance team from the FBI's elite Special Operations Group (SOG), which had followed five Middle Eastern men (dubbed "ME's") from the al Farooq mosque on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn to a shooting range at Calverton, Long Island.
Photographing Ali's Trainees
In dozens of color photos, the SOG team captured Nosair, Hampton and three other terrorists later convicted for the World Trade Center bombing Mahmoud Abouhalima, Mohammed Salameh and Nidal Ayyad as they fired AK-47's, pistols and semi-automatic weapons.
The Times piece also noted that a "crucial witness" in the "Day of Terror" trial before Judge Mukasey would be another Egyptian intelligence officer named Emad Salem.
Wrote Times reporter Richard Bernstein, "In 1993, after the trade center attack, Mr. Salem recorded conversations he had with his F.B.I. contacts in which he seemed to scold them for ignoring his warnings that a terror attack was being planned."
FBI's chance to break the Blind Sheikh's cell
As I reported in the first of my three 9/11 investigative books, 1000 Years For Revenge, Salem had been recruited in 1991 by FBI Special Agent Nancy Floyd, a Texan who worked Russian Foreign Counter Intelligence in the FBI's New York Office.
Risking his life for $500.00 a week, Salem got so close to the blind Sheikh that he became his bodyguard. For more than half a year he burrowed into the al Qaeda-funded cell around Abdel Rahman, interacting with Hampton-El and regularly visiting Nosair, then in Attica for the Kahane murder, as well as reporting back to SA Floyd an incipient al Qaeda plot to blow up "12 Jewish locations" in New York, including the Diamond District in midtown Manhattan.
Meanwhile, while she chased Russian spies during the day, the tenacious Nancy Floyd had to work double duty debriefing Salem each night.
It seems that Salem's two "control" agents, NYPD Detective Lou Napoli and Special Agent John Anticev, were rarely around when he needed to talk to them. Since Salem wasn't wearing a wire, he had to spill his guts each night to Floyd, playing for time as he sought to defuse the bombing plot.
Then, in the summer of 1992, Salem was effectively forced out of his undercover job by Carson Dunbar, an Assistant Director In Charge (ADIC) of the FBI's New York Office who had zero terrorism experience.
Once Salem withdrew from the cell, Sheikh Rahman contacted Pakistan and Ramzi Yousef, an engineer trained in Wales, was shipped to N.Y. to begin building a real weapon of mass destruction.
Starting in early September, 1992, in the waning days of the first Bush presidency, Yousef connected with Abouhalima, Salameh and Ayyad, all trained by Ali Mohamed, whom the FBI's elite SOG had under surveillance three years earlier.
The "lone gunman" shooting
Incredibly, way back in 1990, the red-headed Abouhalima and Salameh had been the getaway drivers on the night Ali Mohamed's other Egyptian trainee, El Sayyid Nosair, gunned down Rabbi Meier Kahane. They'd even been taken into custody the night of the killing at Nosair's Cliffside Park, N.J. home where the FBI recovered top secret memos stolen by Mohamed from the John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg.
The murder of Kahane, a world figure, had international conspiracy written all over it, especially when the Feds recovered bomb formulas and pictures of the World Trade Center from the home.
But the very next day, after the NYPD declared the murder a "lone gunman" shooting, "The Red" and Salameh were released. Over the next two years, Det. Lou Napoli and SA John Anticev made some attempt to track the six foot, two inch Abouhalima, born with red hair, as his fellow jihadis would joke, because of his "Crusader's Blood."
Posing as Con Ed workers, they searched his Brooklyn apartment, and he later bragged that he led them on wild goose chases up into Connecticut where he continued his gun training.
One of the most astonishing discoveries I made in researching Triple Cross, was an FBI #302 memo written by Napoli a member of the NYO's Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) just days after the Kahane murder in November of 1990. In an interview with the officer of the shooting range in Connecticut, Napoli learned that every weekend for two years, a group of "Mid-Easterners" had been seen firing up to 1,000 rounds per day at silhouette targets vs. bullseyes.
Think about that. Napoli's office had 1989 surveillance photos of Abouhalima, Ali Mohamed's trainee, firing an AK-47 at a Calverton, Long Island range. The next year, Abouhalima was the getaway driver for Nosair, the Egyptian killer of a world figure like Meier Kahane, and a few days into the murder investigation, Napoli learned that up to 15 "Mid-Easterners" were firing two thousands rounds each weekend in Connecticut, one of the most densely populated states in the Northeast.
Later, he and his partner FBI agent Anticev attempted to follow "The Red" on those shooting sprees into the Nutmeg State, but they failed, somehow, to connect the dots.
In an episode of CSI, the cops would have wrapped that one up in a tight little package and gone to a grand jury. But, this, please understand, was the New York Office of the FBI which spent 12 years from the 1989 Calverton surveillance to 9/11 seemingly disconnecting the dots on al Qaeda's New York cell.
The Way They Got Gotti?
Flash forward to early September of 1992, just weeks after Yousef's arrival in New York. Napoli and Anticev summoned Abouhalima and a number of other "ME's" down to 26 Federal Plaza in a ham-handed attempt to shake them.
They had the Egyptians fingerprinted. Next they showed them pictures of the Calverton surveillance and demanded details of the Kahane homicide, asking them if they knew Nosair or the blind Sheikh. Anticev warned them that eventually the Feds would get Sheikh Rahman the same way theyd gotten John Gotti.
But Abouhalima, a hardened Ali Mohamed-trained operative, just thumbed his nose at the Feds and went back to New Jersey to help Ramzi Yousef morph the "12 Jewish locations" plot into the World Trade Center bombing conspiracy.
Later, in a bomb factory on Pamrapo Avenue in Jersey City, with Salameh's help, they constructed the 1,500 pound device that they later planted on the B-2 level beneath the WTC's North Tower.
"Don't call me when the bombs go off"
By this time, Emad Salem, Nancy Floyd's asset, was out of the cell. But the FBI continued to pay him through the summer, weaning him until he got a new job.
In October, 1992 he met Floyd at a Subway sandwich shop near 26 Federal Plaza to get his last cash payment of $500. During the brief encounter, Salem tried to warn her. He'd caught wind that something was being planned, and he begged her to follow Nosair's two getaway drivers, Abouhalima and Salameh.
But Floyd's hands were tied. She told Salem that in the weeks since he'd left, she'd been frozen out of the terrorism investigation by ASAC Dunbar. She would try and pass on the word and encourage the surveillance, but there was little else she could do.
Still, insistent that something terrible was about to happen, Salem issued a chilling warning. If the FBI wouldn't follow "The Red and Salameh," as he'd warned, them, then they shouldn't "bother to call" him "when the bombs go off."
Floyd passed on Salem's warning, but the FBI made no effort to track Salameh and "The Red." If they had, they would have led federal agents straight to Yousef and the bomb.
Later, when I asked Det. Lou Napoli why they'd dropped the ball and failed to follow the highly visible red-headed Abouhalima, he said, "Abouhalima beat feet on us... We were trying to locate him but he went to Jersey. You've got to remember, there are boundaries. The Hudson River separates New York and New Jersey."
But as anybody who watched The Sopranos knows, that's absurd: The Feds have multi-state jurisdiction to track terrorists.
Yousef's first WTC attack
Around noon on Feb. 26, 1993, after the FBI's New York Office had ignored Salem's warning, Ramzi Yousef's gigantic urea-nitrate device went off, blowing through four floors of eleven-inch thick rebarred concrete beneath the Twin Towers. Six people died, including a pregnant woman. A thousand were injured.
The night of the blast, as I reported for the first time in 1000 Years For Revenge, a worried Mary Jo White about to become the U.S. Attorney for the SDNY was pacing in the office of James Fox, then Assistant Director in Charge (ADIC) of the FBI's New York Office.
At that moment the FBI was putting word out to the press that they suspected "Serbian terrorists" in the blast. But Napoli and Anticev knew the truth, so they mentioned to White that they'd had an asset "that was very close to these people."
"Asset? What asset?" snapped White. When told of Emad Salem, she immediately demanded that Napoli and Anticev "get him in here."
"Well," said Lou, "We were paying him, like, five hundred a week. This time, you know, considering what's happened, he's probably gonna want a million dollars."
"I don't give a damn what he wants," she shot back. "If he can deliver, give it to him."
Going back undercover
Within days the SDNY prosecutors coaxed Salem into going back under, this time wearing a wire.
Over the next three months, he uncovered the "Day of Terror" plot, later testifying in front of Judge Mukasey as the star witness for prosecutors Andrew McCarthy and Patrick Fitzgerald.
Salem was ultimately paid one and a half million dollars by the Feds for doing what he could have done in the summer of 1992 if FBI officials like Carson Dunbar hadn't forced his withdrawal.
So the "Day of Terror" case which is one of the biggest hash marks on Judge Mukasey's c.v. was really nothing more than a "make good" for the Justice Department's earlier negligence. Worse, Mukasey's refusal to shine a light for the jury (and the press) on Ali Mohamed, the bin Laden spy who had trained the bombing cell, gave the Feds an excuse for disconnecting dots that didn't come together until Ramzi Yousef's second date with the Twin Towers on 9/11.
As reported in 1000 Years For Revenge, as far back as 1994 in Manila, Yousef had hatched the "planes as missiles" plot. It was merely executed by his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed after Ramzi's capture in 1995. But Yousef was the real "mastermind."
And by the fall of '95, after the Feds' "sweeping victory" in the blind Sheikh's trial, Ali Mohamed was planning al Qaeda's next attack.
"The Most Dangerous Man"
Desperate to get him to turn, the Southern District Feds scheduled their second California sitdown with Ali in the fall of 1997.
By then, Patrick Fitzgerald was directing I-49 the bin Laden Squad in the FBI's New York Office. He actually flew across the country to meet Mohammed face to face.
Keep in mind that Fitzgerald had convicted "the blind Sheikh" of seditious conspiracy in the "Day of Terror" case before Judge Mukasey.
But in a Sacramento restaurant, in the presence of FBI agents, Mohamed professed that he "loved" bin Laden and didn't need a fatwa to attack the US (his adopted country). Further, he admitted to having a network of sleepers who he could make operational at any moment.
For a naturalized citizen and Army vet who had sworn oaths to protect and defend America, Ali's threat to attack the United States was sedition on its face. But the handcuffs never came out.
Fitzgerald left the meeting shaken and told FBI agent Cloonan, "Ali Mohamed is the most dangerous man I have ever met. We cannot let this man out on the street."
And yet Fitzgerald and the Feds left him on the street for another ten months, even though they'd linked him directly to the Kenyan Embassy bombing cell. Only after the bombs went off in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam, killing hundreds, was Mohamed finally arrested.
We can only wonder if that carnage might have been prevented if the President's nominee for Attorney General had pushed for Ali Mohamed's testimony in 1995. Clearly Mohamed would have been outed, terminating his ability to slip in and out of Africa unheeded.
Keeping Ali off the stand again
In 2001, when Patrick Fitzgerald convicted the Embassy bombing co-conspirators, paving the way for his appointment as U.S. Attorney in Chicago and the CIA leak czar, Ali Mohamed was, once again, strangely absent from the stand.
The former Egyptian army officer-turned-spy was the one man in custody who could personally identify bin Laden as the person who had fingered the position of the suicide truck bomb in Nairobi.
Under an exception to the hearsay rule for co-conspirator testimony, Ali's eyewitness testimony would have been both admissible and highly probative. Yet in the trial against Osama bin Laden, the man who was arguably the most important single adversary to the United States since Adolf Hitler, Fitzgerald risked losing the case rather than using Mohamed, his best witness.
His motivation in hiding Ali from public view may have been similar to that of Andrew McCarthy, who'd sought to keep Ali off the stand before Judge Mukasey.
"Mohamed would have been opened up by defense lawyers and told the whole sad tale of how he'd used the Bureau and the CIA and the DIA for years," says retired says retired special agent Joseph F. O'Brien. "The Bureau couldn't risk that kind of embarrassment."
The Ali Mohamed Enigma
Ultimately, the Feds cut a deal with Mohamed. In return for his silence, he would be spared the death penalty and end up in custodial witness protection. Today, his case file remains one of the most tightly sealed in the history of the "war on terror."
As commentator Rory O'Connor later described the Feds' handling of Mohamed, "it was a conspiracy to cover up incompetence."
As the new attorney general, Judge Michael B. Mukasey could change all of that. He could push to get Mohamed's file unsealed so that the public could finally get a full vetting of the Justice Department's track record when it came to stopping al Qaeda in the 12 years from when the FBI began tracking its New York cell up through the attacks of 9/11.
But how likely is that, given Judge Mukasey's pedigree as an SDNY veteran who joked about Ali's significance as far back as 1995?
Time for Hardball Questions on Mukasey
It's time for Democrats to start reading the transcript of the "Day of Terror" trial. It says more than the 9/11 Commission Report about how the New York Feds and the FBI's New York Office allowed a top al Qaeda spy to eat their lunch for years.
It speaks reams about the judgment of the man Mr. Bush wants to put in charge of a Justice Department hemorrhaging from the U.S. Attorney scandal and reports of unauthorized wiretaps.
Where was Michael Mukasey when he had a chance to put a bona fide al Qaeda terrorist on the stand and connect the dots on bin Laden's decade-long plan to attack this country?
He was cozying up to his former colleagues in the Southern District, letting in just enough evidence to get a conviction, but not enough to tip reporters and the public to the sheer failure of the FBI to stop the first Trade Center attack.
He ought to be remembered as the man who kept the Ali Mohamed skeleton in the Justice Department's closet. Perhaps now, as Mukasey's confirmation hearings approach, some lawmakers will have the courage to open the door and shine a light in. "