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Latest American terrorist should've been old news

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When announcing the arrest and indictment of Christopher Paul, an American al Qaeda member, Kenneth L. Wainstein, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, boasted of the investigation's great success.

"Our persistence and determination in the pursuit of this case should serve as a strong warning to any American who considers joining forces with our enemy," said Wainstein.

What might have been missed amid the backslapping is the fact Paul has been known to the FBI for at least seven years and likely longer. But the investigation only began four years ago, and Paul is only now being charged.

According to the indictment, Abu Malek has been involved with al Qaeda since 1989. In the interim, numerous al Qaeda suspects and informants have been rolled up by the FBI -- and one of them identified Abu Malek as a black American member of al Qaeda in open court back in 2001 (excerpt below).

Kherchtou is the witness described on page four of Paul's indictment as "a former personal pilot for Usama bin Laden," so there's little doubt he was referring to the same person. Kherchtou began talking with the U.S. in the late 1990s and formally became a cooperating witness in 2000.

But the trail goes back even further. According to the indictment, Paul traveled to Croatia at least once in 1993, and in February 1993, he applied for a passport in Vienna claiming his had been lost or stolen.

Paul's travels correspond to trips to Vienna, Bosnia and Croatia in January and February 1993 by Clement Hampton-El, a member of the Brooklyn terrorist cell responsible for the World Trade Center bombing.

Hampton-El was carrying money to and from Bosnia, which was being funneled through al Qaeda-linked charities based in Austria (story).

The trips received some amount of scrutiny from the FBI at the time, but according to media reports, U.S. officials were generally warned off investigating charities sending aid to Bosnia by the Clinton administration, which wanted to provide off-the-books assistance to Muslims in Bosnia who were being slaughtered in ethnic cleansing campaigns during the 1990s.

J.M. Berger is editor of


2 ------------------------------x


4 v. S(7) 98 Cr. 1023

5 USAMA BIN LADEN, et al.,

6 Defendants.

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J.M. Berger is a journalist covering terrorism and extremism. He has produced content for the National Geographic Channel, National Public Radio and more. His first book, "Jihad Joe: Americans Who Go To War In The Name Of Islam," can be pre-ordered through (more...)
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