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New Head of Al-Qaeda Cell on Arabian Peninsula May Have Been Trained by US Contractor

Another Case of Blowback

by WAYNE MADSEN

Saleh Mohammed al Oufi, the new head of "Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula," the group that kidnapped and beheaded American Lockheed Martin helicopter technician Paul Johnson, may have received training from a U.S. military contractor while he was being trained as a Saudi public security non commissioned officer and prison guard. Al Oufi took over as the Al Qaeda Saudi branch leader after Saudi security forces reportedly gunned down his predecessor Abdulaziz al Muqrin. In 1983, Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC), which now owns Dyncorp — another major U.S. private military contractor that is training members of the Iraqi army and police — was awarded a contract by Saudi Arabia to develop the multi-hundred million dollar Saudi Ministry of the Interior System (SAMIS), one of the largest information systems in the world and one that is used by one of the most secretive public security services in the world. SAMIS was also the largest contract CSC had ever received to that point.

During the time el Oufi was rising to the rank of sergeant in the Public Security Service, a part of the Saudi Interior Ministry, he may have received training on the sophisticated CSC computer system that, with its 1000 computer terminals throughout the country, was used to monitor convicts and ex-convicts, those under arrest and jailed for crimes, foreigners, religious pilgrims, and religious "miscreants" (a title used by the Saudis for Shia Muslims, Jews, Christians, and other "infidels.") The system contains the names and addresses of every foreigner in the country legally, something that would be the mother lode of information for any terrorist or would-be terrorist. Al Oufi’s possible knowledge of the system from his time as a Public Security official would give Al Qaeda an unprecedented advantage in its terrorist activities against Westerners, particularly Americans, in Saudi Arabia.

CSC has touted its work for the Saudi Royal Family in a number of its press releases over the years. Based largely on its work in Saudi Arabia, the company was awarded a similar contract in 1991 to rebuild the Kuwaiti Ministry of Interior computer system after was destroyed by invading Iraqi troops in 1990.

SAMIS automated the functions of all the component divisions of the Interior Ministry, including the departments of civil status (identification cards), public security (including prisons), border guards, civil defense, passports, general investigations, special security, and the governates.

Al Oufi was eventually promoted to the rank of sergeant in 1989. During Al Oufi’s tenure within the Public Security Department, CSC began an upgrade of the SAMIS system — a project called SAMIS II. After being dismissed from the Saudi Public Security Department in 1995, Al Oufi went to fight with Islamic rebels in Chechnia. He was badly wounded in the breakaway Russian republic and returned to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment. Subsequently, Al Oufi met with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan prior to the 911 attacks on the United States. He fled Afghanistan and returned to Saudi Arabia after the Taliban regime was ousted by American forces.

El Oufi is thought by many Middle East observers to have continuing contacts within the Saudi security services who may have aided and abetted in terrorist assassinations, assassination attempts, and kidnappings and executions, including Johnson’s. An Islamist web site claimed that the terrorists who kidnapped Johnson were given Saudi security uniforms and vehicles by Saudi public security personnel.

And in a rather tragic irony, Lockheed Martin, the employer of the executed contractor Paul Johnson, is buying Titan, Inc., one of the contractor companies named by U.S. military investigators in the prison abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. It was the abuse of Iraqi prisoners in Iraq that the Saudi Al Qaeda group cited for its beheading of Johnson. Now Johnson’s employer will be taking over the very contract that U.S. Army investigators claim helped facilitate the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

WAYNE MADSEN is a Washington, DC-based investigative journalist and columnist. He served in the National Security Agency (NSA) during the Reagan administration and wrote the introduction to Forbidden Truth. He is the co-author, with John Stanton, of "America’s Nightmare: The Presidency of George Bush II." His forthcoming book is titled: "Jaded Tasks: Big Oil, Black Ops, and Brass Plates."

Madsen can be reached at: WMadsen777@aol.com