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Monday, January 31, 2011

What does Omar Suleiman know about Al Qaeda and the assassination of Sadat?

On the SkyDancing blog, bostonboomer has offered a must-read background briefing on Omar Suleiman, the former head of Egypt's intelligence service picked by Hosni Mubarak to function as his vice president and all-but-official successor. Although we need not reiterate all of the research available on the afore-linked post, we should note this quote from Jane Mayer's recent New Yorker article:
As I described in my book “The Dark Side,” since 1993 Suleiman has headed the feared Egyptian general intelligence service. In that capacity, he was the C.I.A.’s point man in Egypt for renditions—the covert program in which the C.I.A. snatched terror suspects from around the world and returned them to Egypt and elsewhere for interrogation, often under brutal circumstances.
Bostonboomer confirms the point with passages from Stephen Grey's book Ghost Plane and a Wikileaks release of a dispatch from the Cairo embassy, which reveals that Egyptian police use electroshock torture to attain "confessions" from bloggers who have annoyed authorities.

Why won't our mainstream media discuss the man's background? True, the New Yorker is mainstream. True, one can read about Suleiman's reputation as torturer-in-chief in a number of other places, primarily in articles published in foreign journals. But how many talking heads on cable news have the courage to talk about Suleiman's history with CIA torture flights?

That history is not disputed -- it is simply not discussed. Go to Google News and type in the words "Suleiman" and "torture." You'll find this fine piece by Jeff Sparrow, of Australia's ABC News. But you won't find similar reporting on America's ABC News.

Why? What is wrong with our media, our society, that our best-known journalists feel uncomfortable saying things that would make our political leaders uncomfortable?

Here's another question which no-one seems willing to ask of Omar Suleiman: What does he know about Ali Abdul Saoud, a.k.a. Ali A. Mohammed?

The Saoud story remains one of the most perplexing genuine mysteries to come to light after the 9/11 attacks. Saoud, a former key aide to Osama Bin Laden, pled guilty in 2000 on conspiracy charges stemming from the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. Patrick Fitzgerald called him one of the most dangerous men in the world.

Yet he also worked for both American and Egyptian intelligence.

We know that Saoud spent part of the 1990s training Al Qaeda jihadists -- teaching them, among other arcane arts, how to hijack a plane using boxcutters. But to whom was he loyal -- Bin Laden or the CIA? That's the key question.

His remarkable Wikipedia entry puts the matter in the least controversial fashion:
Ali Abdul Saoud Mohamed, (علي محمد) (born June 3, 1952) is a double agent[1] who worked for both the CIA and Egyptian Islamic Jihad simultaneously, reporting on the workings of each for the benefit of the other.
As this piece makes clear, he seems to have been America's man all along. Forgive the lengthy quotes, but I urge you to read instead of skimming, because this is damned fascinating stuff. The emphases were added by me:
Ali Mohamed was a central actor in major terrorist events of the 1980s and '90s. He is the key to many of the nagging questions about our nation's repeated, spectacular, inexplicable security lapses with regard to terrorist threats. And for the past several years, the federal government has been going to incredible lengths to cover up all information about Ali Mohamed. Why?
The most amazing thing about Ali Mohamed's story is that he carried out his audacious, deadly role as globe-trotting spy master/terrorist while working with, and inside, the very U.S. government organizations that are supposed to be protecting us from the likes of him: the CIA, the U.S. Army Special Forces, the FBI, and the Justice Department. And he carried out this long-running ruse in spite of numerous tip-offs from foreign governments and warnings from alert personnel within our own agencies.
Ali Mohamed first showed up on the radar in 1981 as a 29-year-old Egyptian Army Special Forces officer who was at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, training with U.S. Special Forces. He was at Fort Bragg when fellow Egyptian soldiers who were members of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad (EIJ) terror group assassinated Egyptian President Anwar Sadat. Mohamed stunned American soldiers by expressing approval of the assassination.
That last bit has a special resonance. Given the man's history as a double agent, we cannot be sure that his vocal approval of the assassination represented his genuine beliefs. But let us, for the moment, so stipulate.

Sadat was killed by Special Forces members during a military parade. (YouTube has the video, although not the unedited version, which was aired in the U.S. only once.) Saoud belonged to the unit which carried out the attack.

Although Saoud/Mohammed allegedly "quit" the Egyptian Special Forces in 1984, this was a ruse which allowed him to penetrate the Islamic Jihad. At that time, Egypt lent him to the CIA. Omar Suleiman (the point man in CIA-Egyptian relations) must have known all about him. Suleiman has been the keeper of the most secret files held by Egyptian intelligence since at least 1991, and probably earlier.

It is thus fair to presume a covert relationship between Suleiman and the officer who applauded Sadat's murder. As you ponder that relationship, ask yourself: Who benefited from the assassination of Anwar Sadat?

Not the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. They are credited with carrying out the attack, but they did not gain from it.

(It is worth mentioning that one theory holds that the true organizer of the attack was the "blind sheik" Omar Abdel-Rahman, then a leader within a competing terrorist organization. More than a decade later, he was convicted for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Saoud/Mohammed trained several of the jihadists responsible for the 1993 event.)

Hosni Mubarak, backed by the United States, glided with supernal ease into Sadat's position. One must point out that Mubarak was wounded in the attack. EIJ tried to kill Mubarak in 1995; the attempt failed -- thanks, it is said, to Suleiman. Ever since, Suleiman has used his network of penetration agents to keep the various Egyptian Islamic movements at war with each other.

Update: If this issue intrigues you, check out this Egyptian blog.
In fact there is enough evidence in this case to bring charges against Mubarak, Abu Ghazala and tens of coconspirators. Mubarak once admitted implicitly killing Sadat.
At this time, I can't determine from English-language sources what Suleiman's exact position was in the Egyptian military intelligence heirarchy at the time of Sadat's death. But was already a respected figure and a rising star -- the sort of person that American intelligence usually seeks out.

Sadat himself was a CIA asset, having been recruited (according to the Toronto Sun) as early as 1952, when Egypt was still in the Soviet orbit. Although he became very popular in the United States, many Egyptians despised him. The CIA trained Sadat's guards -- and they did a notably poor job on the day he was killed.

Why would anyone at the Agency want Sadat gone? I can't answer. We do know that the CIA had Sadat's home and offices covertly wired; perhaps they heard something they did not like.

Joseph Trento brings Saoud/Mohammed directly into the assassination story:
Trento also reports that Sadat's vice president Hosni Mubarak had been on the CIA payroll in the late 70s, and that he had been having his palms greased by a weapons delivery company called EATSCO, a CIA front/side company run by the notorious Edwin P. Wilson. According to Trento, Anwar Sadat had, by 1980, started an investigation into Mubarak's corrupt involvement with EATSCO. Both the CIA and Mubarak had motives to have Sadat dead. The CIA of course, having the contract to protect Sadat, possessed the means, at least to leave a critical security door open. As a "master spy" who spoke four languages, as an officer in the very unit that assassinated Sadat, and as someone who at the very time of Sadat's assassination in 1981 had been part of a U.S.-Egypt officer exchange program to Fort Bragg (the seat of U.S. Special Forces), it is not a stretch to infer that Ali Mohamed had been among CIA station chief Buckley's "vast array of spies within Sadat's Regime". Mohamed's (apparent) extremist leanings, and his status as an officer raise the possibility that he knew about the assassination plot while also being a "liason" to the CIA.

Throughout his career, Lance shows, Mohamed would often play the role of "emissary" or "liason". Where the CIA and Sadat's assassination are concerned, with the hypothesis that Mohamed could have played such a role, a more descriptive term would be "block cut-out", or someone whose apparent ideology and behavior (in this case as a member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad) made him into a trusted inside member of a criminal/terrorist cell, but who was actually taking orders from, and/or passing information to, another party, in this case, the CIA.
I summarize the following from the above-linked sources and from a September 21, 2001 investigative piece published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

In the mid-1980s, Saoud/Mohammed married an American woman -- possibly to acquire a green card -- and moved to the Bay Area. Later, without his wife, he spent time at Fort Bragg, where he trained Special Forces officers in Middle Eastern culture. Then he joined the American army, and was tasked to train jihadists fighting in Afghanistan. Among his pupils was terrorist El Sayyid Nosair. Throughout much of the 1990s, he led two lives -- as a suburbanite security consultant in Silicon Valley (working for defense-related companies), and as an Al Qaeda warrior in Afghanistan.

From the Chronicle piece:
According to his acquaintances, he began spending months abroad, saying he had found work in Egypt. For long periods he was out of touch.

His wife "would say he's in the desert, and he can't call me," one acquaintance recalled.

For some of his overseas jobs, Mohamed seemed not to be paid in money. Instead, "he'd bring back 24-karat gold bracelets," the acquaintance recalled.

And at one point in the early 1990s, Mohamed's wife told one of the acquaintances that her husband was in Afghanistan, training people for a man named bin Laden. At the time the name was virtually unknown in this country, and it seemed to mean nothing to the wife.
L'Houssaine Kherchtou, a onetime bin Laden guerrilla who turned U.S. government witness in the embassy bombing trial, said he had met Mohamed -- he called him "Amriki" -- in 1991 at a camp near Peshawar, Pakistan.

Mohamed, he said, was a high-ranking member of al Qaeda, a "very, very strict and not gentle" taskmaster who trained cadre members in how to reconnoiter targets for terror bombings.

Mohamed told the judge that in 1992 he had been in Afghanistan, providing "military and basic explosives training" to bin Laden's terrorists. The curriculum also included intelligence trade craft: "I taught my trainees how to create cell structures that could be used for operations," he said.

There were other tasks as well. In 1991, Mohamed said, he helped relocate bin Laden from Afghanistan to the African nation of Sudan, where the multimillionaire set up another network of paramilitary camps.
Despite being placed on a terrorist watch list as early as 1984, he managed to fly in and out of the United States with remarkable ease. Let us return to this piece, which offers a key quote:
Nevertheless, the following year, in 1985, Mohamed easily entered the United States on a commercial flight, unhindered by the Watch List status. This was the beginning of what would become a long list of troubling “anomalies” lending support to speculation that Ali Mohamed is a “protected” asset of the CIA or another U.S. intelligence agency. Time and again invisible hands seemed to intervene to allow him to continue his deadly course of penetrating our nation’s vital organs. While many U.S. officials and journalists attribute Ali Mohamed’s incredible successes to audacity, intelligence, and steel nerves on his part, and stunning ineptitude on the part of U.S. intelligence agencies, other observers have rightfully noted that the succession of FBI, CIA, and Defense Department “failures” regarding Mohamed is so extensive and outrageous as to defy probability.
Back to Wikipedia:
Mohamed's commanding officer, Lt. Col. Robert Anderson, said he wrote detailed reports aimed at getting Army intelligence to investigate Mohamed — and have him court-martialed — but the reports were ignored.

"I think you or I would have a better chance of winning Powerball, than an Egyptian major in the unit that assassinated Sadat would have getting a visa, getting to California ... getting into the Army and getting assigned to a Special Forces unit," he said. "That just doesn't happen."

It was equally unthinkable that an ordinary American GI would go unpunished after fighting in a foreign war, he said.

Anderson said all this convinced him that Mohamed was "sponsored" by a U.S. intelligence service. "I assumed the CIA," he said.
Saoud/Mohammed seems to have been particularly interested in al-Zawahiri and his ambitions to rule Egypt. The following comes from Israeli/American intelligence officer Yossef Bodansky:
In the first half of 1997, Ayman al-Zawahiri . . . met a man called Abu-Umar al-Amiki [a likely alias for Ali Mohamed] at a camp near Peshawar on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. High level Islamist leaders insist that in this meeting, Abu-Umar al-Amriki made Zawahiri an offer: The US will not interfere with nor intervene to prevent Islamists' rise to power in Egypt if the Islamist Mujahedin currently in Bosnia-Herzegovina refrain from attacking the US forces. Moreover, Abu-Umar el-Amriki promised a donation of $50 million (from undefined sources) to Islamist charities in Egypt and elsewhere.
If true, this is astonishing. Ayman al-Zawahiri, the "emir" of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, has been described as the "real brains' behind Al Qaeda.

(Even if Saoud did make such an offer, I can't believe that the Clinton administration would have tolerated the rise of Zawahiri in Egypt. However, resolving the crisis in the former Yugoslavia demanded Muslim cooperation, or at least quiescence. $50 million and a few breakable promises were a cheap price to pay.)

As noted above, Saoud/Mohammed was arrested and tried for participation in the Embassy bombings. Unlike the poor souls in Suleiman's clutches, he was not placed in rough detention -- in fact, he went into the Witness Relocation Program until his trial.
In fact, there is no publicly available information from the court record to show that Ali Mohamed was ever sentenced. Although he has been held in a prison, he has been in the witness protection section.
He was sentenced to a mere five years. Frankly, I've seen no evidence that he served any part of that time. He is now a free man, using another name.

Given this history, one can only smirk at anyone who suggests that Saoud/Mohammed/Whomever was Bin Laden's man inside American intelligence. His loyalties, I feel certain, went in the other direction.

Omar Suleiman -- the man who will surely rule Egypt, if Mubarak is not overthrown -- must know the truth about Saoud. And that means he knows things that ordinary mortals do not know about Osama Bin Laden, about Zawahiri, about Islamic Jihad, and about any possible subterranean links between Islamic terrorists and certain actors within our own intelligence services.

My argument comes down to this: When spooks penetrate a group, they can manipulate that group. As a general principle, that statement should not be considered very controversial.

Which means that we may justifiably ask: Who really assassinated Anwar Sadat?
Comments:
Which means that we may justifiably ask: Who really assassinated Anwar Sadat?

And perhaps even: Who really did 911?
 
The widespread assumption at the time was that the military, secret police -- and Mubarak -- were complicit in the Sadat assassination.

How short is our collective memory.
 
Hey ... doncha just love BB?

Here's something else you may want to check out:

http://www.propublica.org/blog/item/egypt-u.s.-rendition-program-and-the-italian-job
 
Witness relocation or buried in an irrigation ditch?
If it's the former then he still has some value to the group that was running him.
What are the chances he shows back in Egypt as part of the new government.
On a side note why haven't gas prices skyrocketed yet?
What with all the talk about the Suez.
 
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