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 resumé 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."