|08/08/04||ROUND UP THE USUAL SUSPECTS: Evidence Mounts That Bush Officials Are Leaking Old CIA Files to Impact Election by Mark G. Levey|
Leaks Disrupt Allied Surveillance Operations Against Al-Qaeda
Cells Had Been Detected Years Ago by US, UK and Pakistan
British MI5 Issues Protest
Confirms TNR Pre-Election “Surprise” Scenario
WASHINGTON, DC, August 8, 2004
Bush Administration figures claim that the arrests have stopped a plot they say was in the works to disrupt the U.S. elections in November. Such an attack would now have to be in the latter stages of preparation, with personnel and equipment in place inside the U.S. and planning nearly completed. Facts instead point to a well-timed roundup of figures long ago identified in old counterintelligence sting operations. Unlike the months preceding 9/11, this time there is no solid, multi-source evidence warning of an imminent attack.
In his weekly radio address Saturday, President Bush all but admitted that the US intelligence has long known details about the alleged plot. Bush said, “Information from arrests in Pakistan, taken together with information gathered by the U.S. intelligence community, indicated that al-Qaida has cased financial targets in New York, New Jersey and Washington, D.C . . . This information was buttressed by other information we already had.” [See, www.msnbc.msn.com/ID/5626850]
There has been no showing of recent significant preparations for the type of pre-election attack described by President Bush and other Administration sources.
Instead, arrests in Britain and Pakistan precipitated by U.S. pressure have merely disrupted allied surveillance operations. Massive publicity after the arrest of Mohammed Naeem Noor Khan, an alleged Al Qaeda communications operative in Pakistan, forced British intelligence to prematurely wrap up an operation against a cell operating in England that had been observed communicating with operatives in the Middle East.
After the monitoring operation was blown, MI5 decided to round up 12 known associates of Mr. Khan in Britain this past week. One of these, Abu Issa al-Hindi, visited the U.S. in 2000 and 2001, allegedly at the behest of senior Qaeda leaders to carry out a reconnaissance operation of potential targets, now identified as the New York, New Jersey and Washington, DC offices of U.S. financial institutions. He was, in fact, already the focus of British surveillance.
The Times reported, “For reasons still not entirely clear, Mr. Hindi was under surveillance by the British authorities – believed to be acting on information supplied by the United States – even before he is said to have been identified as an operative in the surveillance of American financial institutions.” [See, www.nytimes.com/2004/08/08/politics/08plot.html]
Mr. Khan, it turns out, may have been a mole or double-agent working for Pakistani intelligence (ISI) at the time the U.S. disclosed his arrest, according to a report from Reuters. [See, www.alertnet.org/printable.htm?URL=/thenews/newsdesk/L06455251.htm]
The Pakistani publication, The Daily Times, further clarifies that Khan was actually arrested by the ISI in mid-July, and had been working with Pakistani intelligence against Al-Qaeda. [See, www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_8-8-2004_pg7_42 ]
One can thus reasonably conclude this latest terrorism scare to be little more than a sloppy dusting of the shelves of old surveillance operations. Another suspect rounded up by the British, Babar Ahmed, was apparently the subject of an American sting operation dating back to 2001. Mr. Ahmed is now accused of receiving communications from someone representing himself to be a U.S. sailor sympathetic to Al-Qaeda. That unidentified U.S. service person was never arrested.
Today's NYT report goes on to state, “Among those in custody is a suspect named Babar Ahmed, who was arrested in Britain this week at the request of the United States. Whatever his role in the surveillance, the authorities now say that Mr. Ahmed obtained detailed information about the movements of the Navy aircraft carrier Constellation, including information about the formations used by the carrier and its escort vessels in maneuvers like its passage through the Strait of Hormuz in the Middle East in 2001.”
As these developments unfold, they seem to belatedly confirm the thesis laid out in a New Republic article, “July Surprise?”, that revealed the Bush Administration was putting extreme pressure on Pakistan to deliver top al-Qaeda leaders and intelligence before the election. [See, www.tnr.com/doc.mhtml?i=20040719&s=aaj071904 – 41k – Aug 6, 2004]
According to the account in TNR, Pakistan's General Musharraf is eager to accommodate, as he sees his regime's interests better served by Bush than by a Democrat.
By its lastest actions, this Administration has proven that it can no longer address counterterrorism matters without provoking sharp questions about its own motives, credibility and competence. For the sake of the safety of the American people, Bush needs to be replaced.