FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

The Kuala Lumpur Deceit

The possible link between pre-9/ 11 Israeli warnings and the watch-listing of the hijackers Mihdhar and Hazmi was pointed out in late 2004 by a retired top corporate lawyer named Gerald Shea, who compiled a 166-page memo detailing the alleged operations of the Israeli groups in New Jersey, Florida and elsewhere. In the Memo, which is drawn from publicly available source material and which he sent to members of the 9/11 Commission and the joint House and Senate intelligence committees, Shea notes that neither the 9/11 Commission’s final report nor the joint report of the intelligence committees “specifically mentions any such [warnings] from the Israeli government”. Instead, both reports, hewing closely to the CIA’s public stance, attribute the watch-listing of Mihdhar and Hazmi solely to the bumbling work of U.S. intelligence. But a review of the alleged facts in this route to the watch list, Shea insists, makes one doubt their veracity. “The issue is important”, Shea argues, “because any downplaying of Israeli warnings draws attention away” from the surveillance role the Israeli groups may have played.

The key element in the CIA’s account is the claim that in January 2001 the agency had identified an operational link between the Mihdhar-Hazmi duo and one of Bin Laden’s most trusted lieutenants, Khallad, a.k.a. Tawfiq bin Attash, who was suspected of masterminding the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. According to the CIA, Mihdhar, Hazmi and Khallad had together attended a high-level al-Qaeda meeting in Kuala Lumpur in January 2000. This meeting was historic in the annals of Islamic terrorism, for it was here that the germ of 9/11 was seeded. The significance of the establishment of the link with Khallad was such that CIA Director George Tenet lauded the discovery in his testimony before the Joint Inquiry of Congress in 2002, noting that “this was the first time that CIA could definitively place al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar with a known al-Qaeda operative [Khallad]”. Khallad, it was claimed, had been identified in January 2001 from photographs taken at Kuala Lumpur. That identification was noted officially in an alleged January 5, 2001, CIA cable.

According to the CIA, in the spring of 2001 there were reported threats of al- Qaeda attacks on U.S. interests abroad. A CIA agent whom the Commission calls “John” ­- who was later identified as agent Tom Wilshire by New Yorker writer Lawrence Wright ­- “wondered where the attacks might occur”. Wilshire was particularly interested in cable traffic relating to the Kuala Lumpur meeting the previous year, specifically the January 5, 2001, cable that identified Khallad as having been present at that January 2000 meeting. It was Wilshire’s efforts, beginning in May of 2001, that the CIA claims led to the watch-listing of Mihdhar and Hazmi on the eve of the attacks.

Yet a mile-wide hole quickly appears in this account, because the purported “definitive” identification of Khallad in January 2001 had been entirely mistaken. In other words, George Tenet in his statement before the Joint Inquiry was either lying or woefully uninformed. According to the CIA’s account, the identification of Khallad, which occurred a year after the actual Kuala Lumpur meeting, came as the result of an FBI/CIA source, who reportedly was able to pinpoint the photographs of Khallad taken at the meeting.

But, according to the CIA’s own Jan. 5, 2001, cable on the matter, the FBI/CIA source was said to have been shown photographs only of Mihdhar and Hazmi. He was not shown a photograph of Khallad. According to the Joint Inquiry report, it was later discovered, after Sept. 11, 2001, that the supposed photograph in question — the one reviewed by the informant in January 2001 — was not of Khallad but of Hazmi himself. And in fact the source erroneously identified Hazmi as Khallad. Or so the Joint Inquiry report claims. But in fact there is substantial doubt as to whether even a mistaken identification was ever made. Three people were said to have been present when the FBI/CIA source made the identification. These included the questioning CIA agent, an FBI agent observing, and the joint source. But, according to the 9/11 Commission’s own staff statements, the FBI agent later said that he was unaware of any identification of Khallad. And the CIA agent, who supposedly conducted the interview, “does not recall this particular identification [at all]”, according to the Commission’s staff statements.

So it turns out no one who was said to have witnessed the pivotal identification of Khallad actually recalls any such identification as having been made at all. This in turn suggests it may never have happened.

Indeed, when in May 2001 CIA agent Tom Wilshire allegedly asked another agent, whom the 9/11 Commission does not identify but whom we can here dub “Alice”, to review the cable traffic relating to the Kuala Lumpur meeting, Alice later “could [even] recall this work”, according to the Commission’s staff statements. (The reference to Alice’s failed memory was later deleted, without explanation, from the Commission’s final report.) In late July or sometime early in August, the CIA’s account continues, Wilshire, still inspired by the purported identification of Khallad in the January 2001 cable, asked another agent, “Mary”, to “resume” the work that Alice could not recall. Mary is said then to have discovered, on August 21, 2001, that Mihdhar, and possibly Hazmi, were in the United States. They were both placed on the watch list on August 24 in a tortuous culmination of CIA work that supposedly began with Tom Wilshire in the spring.

Given the litany of unlikelihoods in the CIA’s account — not least of which is the “uncertain, unwitnessed, unremembered” identification of Khallad, as Gerald Shea notes — the reported Mossad warnings appear to lead a far straighter course to the watch-listing of Mihdhar and Hazmi.

See Also:

What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks? by CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM

Ketcham’s Story: Coming in From the Cold by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair

CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM is a freelance journalist who has written for Harper’s and Salon. Many of his writings, including his groundbreaking story on the Israeli art students, can be read on his website www.christopherketcham.com. He can be reached at: cketcham99@mindspring.com

 

 

More articles by:

Christopher Ketcham is the author of the forthcoming “This Land: How Cowboys, Capitalism and Corruption are Ruining the American West,” out in July 2019 from Viking-Penguin.  He can be reached at cketcham99@mindspring.com.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

April 25, 2019
Marc Levy
All My Vexes Are in Texas
Jim Kavanagh
Avoiding Assange
Michael D. Yates
The Road Beckons
Julian Vigo
Notre Dame Shows the Unifying Force of Culture, Grenfell Reveals the Corruption of Government
Ted Rall
Democratic Refusal to Impeach Could Be Disastrous
Tracey Harris
Lessons Learned From the Tiny House Movement
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Human Flourishing (Eudaimonia): an Antidote to Extinction?
Dana Johnson
Buyer Beware: Hovercraft Ruling Deals a Major Blow to Land Conservation in Alaska
Norman Solomon
Joe Biden: Puffery vs. Reality
Jen Marlowe
The Palestine Marathon
Binoy Kampmark
Lethal Bungling: Sri Lanka’s Easter Bombings
Michael Slager
“Where’s Your Plan?” Legalized Bribery and Climate Change
Jesse Jackson
Trump Plunges the US Deeper Into Forgotten Wars
George Wuerthner
BLM Grazing Decision Will Damage the Owyhee Canyonlands Wilderness
April 24, 2019
Susan Babbitt
Disdain and Dignity: An Old (Anti-Imperialist) Story
Adam Jonas Horowitz
Letter to the Emperor
Lawrence Davidson
A Decisive Struggle For Our Future
John Steppling
The Mandate for Israel: Keep the Arabs Down
Victor Grossman
Many Feet
Cira Pascual Marquina
The Commune is the Supreme Expression of Participatory Democracy: a Conversation with Anacaona Marin of El Panal Commune
Binoy Kampmark
Failed States and Militias: General Khalifa Haftar Moves on Tripoli
Dean Baker
Payments to Hospitals Aren’t Going to Hospital Buildings
Alvaro Huerta
Top Ten List in Defense of MEChA
Colin Todhunter
As the 2019 Indian General Election Takes Place, Are the Nation’s Farmers Being Dealt a Knock-Out Blow?
Charlie Gers
Trump’s Transgender Troops Ban is un-American and Inhumane
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Just Another Spring in Progress?
Thomas Knapp
On Obstruction, the Mueller Report is Clintonesque
Elliot Sperber
Every Truck’s a Garbage Truck
April 23, 2019
Peter Bolton
The Monroe Doctrine is Back, and as the Latest US Attack on Cuba Shows, Its Purpose is to Serve the Neoliberal Order
David Schultz
The Mueller Report: Trump Too Inept to Obstruct Justice
Geoff Beckman
Crazy Uncle Joe and the Can’t We All Just Get Along Democrats
Medea Benjamin
Activists Protect DC Venezuelan Embassy from US-supported Coup
Patrick Cockburn
What Revolutionaries in the Middle East Have Learned Since the Arab Spring
Jim Goodman
Don’t Fall for the Hype of Free Trade Agreements
Lance Olsen
Climate and Forests: Land Managers Must Adapt, and Conservationists, Too
William Minter
The Coming Ebola Epidemic
Tony McKenna
Stephen King’s IT: a 2019 Retrospective
David Swanson
Pentagon Claims 1,100 High Schools Bar Recruiters; Peace Activists Offer $1,000 Award If Any Such School Can Be Found
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
April 22, 2019
Melvin Goodman
The NYTs Tries to Rehabilitate Bloody Gina Haspel
Robert Fisk
After ISIS, a Divided Iraq, Wounded and Grief-Stricken
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange as Neuroses
John Laforge
Chernobyl’s Deadly Effects Estimates Vary
Kenneth Surin
Mueller Time? Not for Now
Cesar Chelala
Yemen: The Triumph of Barbarism
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail