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| Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Monster Edition of Plamegate History Part II

        This is part two of my Plamegate history, a version that is far too long. Part one can be found here.  The story to be told here is lengthy and complicated.  I'll do my best to make it clear.

        Our first subject is a man who is alleged to be Abdul Basit Karim.  On April 27th, 1968, a Pakistani named Mohammed Abdul Karim was living in Kuwait with his wife and perhaps other family.  According to Kuwaiti records, Mrs. Karim gave birth that day to a son, Abdul Basit Mahmud Abdul Karim.  Abdul Karim (aka Abdul Basit; I'll call him Abdul Karim consistently).  Abdul grew up in Kuwait, and later attended the West Glamorgan Institute of Higher Education, Swansea, Wales, United Kingdom.  After graduation in 1989, he returned to Kuwait, and got a job in a Kuwaiti ministry.

        On August 2nd, 1990, Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait, which he termed the "nineteenth province of Iraq."  Saddam ordered all embassies out of Kuwait.  This is important, because the Pakistani embassy in Kuwait kept records of Pakistanis resident there.  They should have had records of the Karim family.  But somehow, in the move, the records got lost or stolen — or at least, so says the Paki government.

        As for Kuwait's records of the Karim family, they record that the entire family decided to emigrate on August 26th, and head back to Baluchistan province in Pakistan.  The Iraqis who were now running Kuwait recorded a detailed itinerary of the trip the Karims would supposedly make: to Iraq proper, then to Iran at the Salamchah border crossing point ('Salamchah' is also spelled 'Shalamcheh'), then on to Pakistani Baluchistan from there.  Considering that years after the war many Kuwaitis who had disappeared while Saddam was occupying the place still could not be found, that certainly seems like an awfully detailed record.  Yet later, when the Karim family's whereabouts became of great interest, no one could find them.  With the possible exception of Abdul Basit Karim, no one has seen them since that will admit it, at least as far as I can discover.

        The whereabouts of the Karim family became important because the whereabouts of Abdul Basit Karim had become important, for reasons that will become clear shortly.  The Kuwaiti identity records for Abdul Basit Karim appeared to have been altered.  Some information that was allegedly supposed to be there wasn't, such as copies of Karim's passport.  It's also worth noting that there is considerable (though inconclusive) evidence that someone who isn't Abdul Karim used his identity.  The fingerprints in the Kuwaiti file matched those of the alleged imposter, but Dr. Laurie Mylroie, Ph.D., says that the Guardian reported Karim's fingerprints had been lifted from items he used in Britain, and they bore no resemblance to the prints in Kuwait's file.  Mylroie also reports that the signatures on copies of Karim's 1984 passport differs from that on copies of his 1988 passport.  People in Britain who were shown photos of the alleged imposter, said he resembled Karim, but they felt he probably wasn't really him.  And when Mylroie met two of Karim's old teachers, she asked them how tall he was.  They told her Karim was 5' 6", maybe 5' 8".  The alleged imposter is more than 5' 11&1/2" tall.  Especially significant, for reasons that will appear soon, is the fact that the 1984 passport listed the Karim family's origin in Pakistan as Karachi, in Sindh province, while the 1988 passport shows the family coming from Baluchistan, a Pakistani province to the west of Sindh, up against the Afghan and Iranian borders.  The man who claimed to be Karim is pretty certainly a Baluchi, and the Baluchis are settled in south western Pakistan, eastern Iran, and across the Persian Gulf in Oman.  The Baluchis are Sunni Moslems, and like all Sunnis hate the Shia who control Iran.  (There's been a fair amount of Sunni-Shia violence in Pakistan, for that matter). Dr. Mylroie contends that the Baluchis established close ties with the Saddam regime during the Iran/Iraq war in the 1980s.

        Evidence against all this is a Newsweek story that contends that James Woolsey, former CIA director, went to Swansea, England, on a secret mission in 2001 that obtained fingerprints on file for "Abdul Basit Karim," which turned out to be identical to those of the man claiming to be Karim.  But did the mission actually take place?  If so, why was it secret?  And why did it take eight years to do what seems like a routine check, when the doubts about "Karim's" identity had been out there since '94 or '95?  And given the time lag, could those records have been tampered with?

        Beats me, but this really ought to be clarified.

        So, if the individual who later claimed to be Abdul Basit Karim is not the real Abdul Basit Karim, how did his fingerprints end up in the Kuwaiti government file?  The only answer is that someone got in there and altered them.  And the only likely suspects are the governments of Kuwait and Iraq.  Given that the alleged imposter is a Baluch, given the August 26th, 1990 notation in the Karim family file, and given certain other evidence we'll get too, the government of Iraq is by far the most likely suspect.

        Next, let us backtrack a bit to 1986.   Our subject here is an organization that was based in Peshawar, Pakistan, and known as the Makhtab al Khadimat, the "Office of Services."  (Peshawar, by the way, is in the Northwest Frontier Province, close to the northern border of the Baluchistan province.  Some Baluchis live in Peshawar).  According to a sometimes reliable source, a New York Times story:
        Ms. [Rita] Katz [, a terrorism analyst] says that the Makhtab's journal, Al Jihad (holy war), was initially distributed in the United States in 1986 by the Islamic Center of Tucson.  The center was also listed at the time as the Office of Services' only American branch.

        Two people later associated with the Tucson center — Wael Hamza Jalaidan, its director, and Wadih El-Hage — were eventually linked to Al Qaeda by the authorities.  Last year, the government listed Mr. Jalaidan, who heads the Saudi-based World Muslim League, as a founder of Al Qaeda and its logistics chief.  Mr. El-Hage was convicted more than a decade later in the 1998 conspiracy to bomb American embassies in Africa.

        Investigators learned during the first World Trade Center case that one of the plotters had tried to buy weapons from Mr. El-Hage, who was then living in Dallas but spending much of his time in Afghanistan.

        But law enforcement officials never translated the bomb manuals that were found in 1990 in the apartment of one of Mr. El-Hage's associates, El Sayyid A. Nosair, or analyzed the photographs of such potential targets as the World Trade Center and the Empire State Building, until after the 1993 trade center bombing.

        And why is Makhtab al Khadimat, the "Office of Services," important?  It's now believed to have changed it's name to "the Base," or in Arabic, "al-Qaeda."  Peshawar is still believed to be al-Qaeda's main base.

        So, the terrorists have entered the building.  Now, who is El Sayyid A. Nosair?  In 1990, Nosair murdered Rabbi Meir Kahane, founder of the Jewish Defense League.  Though he'd done it in front of hundreds of witnesses, and was seized on the spot with gun in hand, the jury decided to acquit Nosair of murder charges, but convict him on illegal weapons possession charges.  The judge sent to Attica with the maximum sentence he could impose.

        While in Attica, Nosair was frequently visited by Islamic radicals from New York, who looked on him as a "martyr."  Also in the group was Elam Salem, an Egyptian with ties to Egyptian intelligence, who was informing on the Islamists to the FBI.  In June of 2002, the group decided, at Nosair's urging, to build bombs to be used to kill Nosair's trial judge, an Assemblyman from Brooklyn, and whatever Jews were convenient.

        Unfortunately, the Bureau didn't trust Salem, and severed relations with him in July of that 2002.

        One of the recruits to the plot was Mohammad Salameh, a Palestinian who's grandfather was in the PLO, and whose maternal uncle was imprisoned for terrorism by the Israelis.  The uncle was released from jail in 1986, and deported from Israel.  He went to Baghdad, where he reportedly became the number two man in a PLO terrorist unit called "Western Sector," which was said to be under the influence of Iraq.

        It appears that Mohammad Salameh felt the need of his more experienced uncle's advice concerning terrorism.  On June 10th, 2002, Salameh called his uncle in Baghdad.  In fact, over the next two months, Salameh called Uncle Terrorist forty-six times, running up a phone bill of about four thousand dollars till his service was cut off for lack of payment.

        Eleven days after Salameh's first call, an Iraqi-American showed up at the U.S. embassy in Amman, Jordan.  His name was, and is, Abdul Rahman Yasin.  Abdul Yasin was born in Indiana (his father was a graduate student there), and thus is a native born citizen, even though he was raised in Iraq.  Yasin obtained a U.S. passport from the embassy in Amman.

        On September first, two people arrived at JFK International from Peshawar, Pakistan.  One was Ahmad Ajaj, whose "suitcases were stuffed with fake passports, fake IDs and a cheat sheet on how to lie to US immigration inspectors," plus "two handwritten notebooks filled with bomb recipes, six bomb-making manuals, four how-to videotapes concerning weaponry, and an advanced guide to surveillance training," while his Swedish passport was fraudulent as well.  (Ajaj, by the way, had been in the U.S. before, claiming to be a Palestinian tortured by Israelis).  To top it off, Ajaj made a scene, and was arrested and eventually sentenced to six months for passport fraud.  While in prison, a federal judge ordered Ajaj's bomb making manuals returned to him.  But Ajaj had them given to the other traveler of note that day, a man with what appeared to be a valid Iraqi passport, containing stamps that showed his journey had started in Baghdad.  Ajaj had met the second traveler in reportedly met the second traveler in Afghanistan, where they'd trained as terrorists in a camp just across the border from Peshawar, Pakistan.  The second traveler's Iraqi passport said he was named Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, but "Yousef Ramzi" would later be discovered to be "Karim," that is, the man whose fingerprints are in the Abdul Basit Karim file in Kuwait.

        With apparently valid documents, and with Ajaj making a scene, "Ramzi" was allowed to enter the country, even though he had no visa.  Instead, "Ramzi" was charged with illegal entry, fingerprinted, and allowed to roam free while awaiting a hearing on a request for asylum.

        "Ramzi" immediately traveled to Jersey City, NJ, where he stayed at the apartment of Musab Yasin, the older brother of the previously mentioned Abdul Rahman Yasin (Musab, by the way, had an unlisted phone number under a phony name, "Josie Haddas").  Abdul Yasin soon entered the U.S. too, and stayed with brother Musab.  One of Musab's neighbors in the building was Mohammad Salameh, the Palestinian with terrorist uncle.  Musab and Mohammed were quite friendly:
        Many young Arab men used their two apartments, praying and eating together; relations were so close that the apartments were connected by an intercom.  Once established within this group, Ramzi Yousef befriended Salameh, and the two left to share an apartment elsewhere in Jersey City.  From then on, the impressionable Salameh was under Yousef s wing.

        As noted, Mohammad Salameh was taking part in a terrorist plot to kill Jews and politicians in New York, but "Ramzi" had a better idea: blow up the twin towers of the World Trade Center.  In November, "Ramzi" started buying bomb-making supplies.  During this time, he (or someone) also recruited three more conspirators: Nidal Ayyad, a Palestinian; Mahmud Abu Halima, an Egyptian who was a friend of Kahane-assassin Nosair; and Eyad Ismail, a Palestinian who lived in Dallas.

        In addition to ordering bomb making supplies, "Ramzi" also visited the Jersey City police on November 9th, 2002.  There, he claimed to be "Abdul Basit Karim," and said he'd lost his passport.  A report was filed.

        On December 31st, "Ramzi/Karim" arrived at the Pakistani consulate in New York.  He showed them his photocopies of the "Abdul Basit Karim" passports, plus his copy of the police report, and asked for a new passport.  The Pakistani officials were a bit suspicious, so they compromised.  "Karim" was given a temporary passport, good for six months, and only useful for traveling to Pakistan.  There, he would presumably straighten out his document problem.

        In January of 1993, "Ramzi Yousef" and Mohammad Salameh moved to yet another Jersey City apartment, where they started making their bomb.  Much of the design came out of Ajaj's manuals.

        Meanwhile, down in the Washington area, there was living yet another Pakistani, one Mir Amir Kasi.  Kasi was a Pashtun (a group also known as Pathans), but was born in Quetta, the provincial capital of Pakistan's province of Baluchistan.  Kasi came from a wealth family, and while at Baluchistan University was involved with the left-wing PKAMP, a Pushtun party that wants a separate Pushtun state.  The leader of PKAMP was Mahmoud Khan Achakzai, a Pushtun tribal leader allied with Najibullah, the Soviet backed ruler of Afghanistan.  Further, Achakzai was a backer of Iraq and Saddam during the Gulf War (and Saddam, let us remember, was a member of the Ba'ath Socialist Party or Iraq, and a great admirer of Stalin).  In short, PKAMP was NOT an Islamist organization.  However, Kasi was reported to have worked with the anti-Soviet guerrillas during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan.

        In 1989, Kasi visited Germany, allegedly for a month.  For some years, Germany had been a Mecca for covert travel.  Go to West Germany, go to Berlin, cross into East Germany, travel to Syria, Iran, or wherever without being traced.  Come back the same way, in reverse.  We should also note that Germany played a significant role as a terrorist support base in the '90s.

        Kasi went back to Pakistan, bought fake papers with the name of Mir Aimal Kansi, and left for the U.S. in March of 1991.  He claimed to be a political refugee, in danger because he supported the Baluchi independence movement.

        On January 15th, Kasi purchased a rifle, but apparently didn't like it.  He bought an AK-47 on Friday, January 22nd, two days after Bill Clinton's inauguration.  That same day, a sixty-five minute phone call was made to a business in Islamabad, Pakistan, from the apartment of Musab Yasin.  Remember that Friday is the Muslim Sabbath.  The office was closed for the day, but somebody was there to receive the call.

      On January 25th, Kasi was near the headquarters of the CIA.  As cars pulled up to a stoplight near the gate, Kansi produced the AK, and started shooting.  Two people were killed, three injured.

        The next day, Kasi flew to JFK International, and caught a Pakistani International Airlines flight to Karachi.  From there, he traveled to Quetta, Pakistan.  then slipped north across the border into Afghanistan.  Somewhere in this sequence, Kasi supposedly stayed at the Lahore headquarters of Lashkar-e-Toiba (LeT), the "Army of the Pure," an Islamic terrorist group.

        After Kasi's flight departed JFK, Musab Yasin's phone was once again used to call the business office in Karachi.  This call only lasted five minutes.

        Back in New York, "Ramzi Yousef," Mohammed Salameh, and Abdul Rahman Yasin were working on the bomb.  In fact, Yusef spilled chemicals on his leg while doing this, giving himself a severe burn.

        On February 21st, Eyad Ismail arrived from Dallas.  On the 23rd, Salameh went to a Ryder agency, and rented a van.  Asked for a contact phone number, he gave Musab Yasin's.  On February 26th, 1993, the second anniversary of the end of the Gulf War, Ismail drove the bomb to the underground parking garage of the World Trade Center's North Tower, and left.  Inside was the bomb made by Abdul Yasin, Mohammed Salameh, and "Ramzi Yousef/Abdul Basit Karim."  When it blew, it was supposed to knock down the North Tower, which was in turn supposed to fall into the South Tower and bring it down to.  "Ramzi" hoped to kill twenty-five thousand people that day.  By the grace of God, he only slew six, although a thousand were injured, mostly by smoke inhalation.

        That evening, Salameh drove Eyad Ismail and "Ramzi Yusef" to JFK.  Salameh intended to fly to Jordan, but he didn't have the money for a ticket.  Ismail did fly to Jordan.  "Ramzi" flew to Karachi, on the same PIA flight that Kasi had taken.  He then traveled to Quetta, as Kasi had done, and slipped across the border, as Kasi had done.  Somewhere in this sequence he supposedly sheltered with LeT in Lahore, as Kasi had done.  The only difference was that "Ramzi" went west, across the Iranian border, where there were fellow Baluchis.  This near identical itinerary led Laurie Mylroie to speculate that the CIA shootings and escape were a dry run for "Ramzi's" bombing and escape, which I agree with.

        In New York, investigators had picked up on Salameh's van rental, and were picking up people who might be associated with him.  They got ahold of Abdul Rahman Yasin, thanks to Salameh's use of Masab's phone number.  Abdul Yasin coolly pretended to cooperate with the investigators, telling them where to find the apartment where the bomb was made.  Incredibly, he was released by the cops, and the next day, Yasin too fled the country for Jordan.  Once there, he visited the Iraqi embassy, and almost instantly had a visa for Iraq.  He was soon in Baghdad.

        Eventually, Yasin would be indicted in the U.S. for his part in the bombings.  The Iraqis claimed they arrested Yasin in 1994, were still holding him in 2002, and offered to turn him over to the U.S. twice, without conditions, in 1994 and October of 2001.  The U.S. disputed Iraq's story, saying there were unacceptable conditions attached to the offer.  In June of 2002, Leslie Stahl of Sixty Minutes was allowed to interview Yasin, who admitted to his part in the bombing.  One thing seems certain, though — when the U.S. invaded Iraq, we didn't find Abdul Rahman Yasin imprisoned there.  But we did find documents in Tikrit, Saddam's home town, that said that, far from being imprisoned, the Iraqi government had given Yasin a house and a stipend.  Given that Iraq had also given asylum to Abdul Abbas, terrorist murderer of Leon Klinghoffer, and Abu Nidal, terrorist murderer of seventeen USAmericans, it's seems more likely that Yasin was an honored guest than a prisoner.

        Getting back to New York in 1993: the day after the bombing, February 27th, Musad Yasin's phone was once more calling the business office in Islamabad.  The call was placed at 9:30 PM, Islamabad time, and lasted thirty-seven minutes.  The next day, a fourth Islamabad call was made from Masab's phone, at 10:45 PM Islamabad time.  This call lasted over an hour and a half.  To me, this certainly looks like someone reporting a on successful operation.

        In April of '93, former President Bush visited Kuwait.  While he was there, Saddam attempted to assassinate him.In retaliation, Clinton fired some cruise missiles at an empty Iraqi Intelligence headquarters building.  No member of Iraqi intelligence was hurt, but several missiles missed and killed Iraqi civilians.

        As for "Ramzi Yusef," his trail disappeared for a while, but he turned out to be a very busy terrorist indeed.  During his time in Lahore, "Ramzi" met with fellow terrorist Abdul Hakim Murad, and taught him to make bombs, though not very well.  Murad, by the way, was a trained pilot.  In 1993, "Ramzi" and Murad were in Pakistan, trying to assassinate Prime Minister Banazir Bhutto.  That failed due to the Pakistani police, but "Ramzi" reportedly was part of the attack on the Iman Reza Shrine in Iran, which killed twenty-six pilgrims, and wounded two hundred.  In 1994, he tried to bomb the Israeli embassy in Bangkok, but failed. Later that year he was also back in the Philippines, planning more atrocities.  He intended to assassinate Pope John Paul II and President Bill Clinton; to bomb the U.S. and Israeli embassies in Manila, to blow up eleven U.S. planes in one day over the Pacific, and for good measure to hijack a twelfth plane, and crash it into the Pentagon or CIA headquarters.  The assassination plots failed, and the embassy bombings weren't attempted, but the plane portion was actively underway.  It was called the Bojinka ("Big Bang") Plot.

        "Ramzi" had twice been injured when his bombs exploded accidentally, so he started small this time.  He made a test bomb which he used in a mall in Cebu City, Philippines.  It didn't do much damage, but it was a start.  "Ramzi" also met with "Khalid Sheikh Mohammed," which may be another phony name.  The real Khalid was another Buluchi from Pakistan, and the maternal uncle of Abdul Basit Karim (though Khalid was only three years older than Abdul).  "Khalid" was supposedly the number three man in al-Qaeda at one point.  Another member of the alleged clan is terrorist "Ali Abdul Aziz Ali", said to be the cousin of nephew of "Khalid Mohammed."  There are also two more, "Abdul Karim" and "Abdul Monem," supposedly "Ramzi Yousef/Abdul Basit Karim's" older brothers, and at least one more cousin.  Six terrorist masterminds, all allegedly from the same not-too-extended family of Pakistani Baluchis who grew up in Kuwait, and then hooked up with al-Qaeda. . . . I find it a bit hard to believe.  So, reportedly, did James Fox, the lead FBI investigator of the WTC bombing.  Fox thought the bombing was an Iraqi operation.

        By the way, while "Ramzi" was in the Philippines, who else was there but Terry Nichols, convicted Oklahoma City bomber.  They were both in Cebu City, on the campus of Southwestern University.  Nichols was supposedly there because his Filipino wife was taking classes at Southwestern (or was it Nichol's ex-wife? it isn't clear when they divorced).  Although he and Timothy McVeigh were in the midst of planning the Oklahoma City bombing, he took three months off, allegedly.  "Ramzi" was supposedly recruiting terrorists from the student body.

        Later, after the Oklamhoma City federal building was blown up by a truck bomb, using the same kinds of explosives the WTC bomb used, there were reports of men with Middle Eastern appearance near the site shortly before explosion, supposedly acting suspiciously.  There was a drawing released of "John Doe # 2," sought in connection with the bombing, which turned out to bear a strong resemblance to Jose Padilla, convicted murderer and alleged Muslim terrorist.  The government claims this is just coincidence and mistakes.  I can't say.

        Getting back to the Bojinka Plot, "Ramzi's" second bomb exploded in a Manila theatre.  It worked.  The final test bomb was on Philippine Airlines Flight 434, which ran from Manila to Narita, with a stop at Cebu.  The bomb killed one, and injured ten.  In addition, "Ramzi" and Murad had successfully smuggled components of their bombs onto aircraft.

        The plot was now ready to go.  On January 12th, Pope John Paul was scheduled to visit the Philippines.  The plotters would attempt to assassinate him there.  Later, on January 20th and 21st, "Ramzi," Murad, and others would board planes carrying two bombs each.  The flights were all heading to the U.S., but with stopovers in other Asian countries.  The terrorists would get on, plant one bomb, get off, take a second plane, and plant the second bomb.  The terrorists would then head for Lahore, Pakistan.  Finally, Murad would buy, rent, or hijack a plane, a

        All bombs would go off at about the same time, over the Pacific.  All aboard the flights would die, killing about 4000 people and paralyzing world air traffic for days.  In phase two of the airline portion of the plot, Murad would buy, rent or hijack a small plane, stuff it with explosives, and crash it into CIA headquarters, or alternatively, Murad would hijack a commercial jet and crash that instead.  The plotters also considered hijacking multiple planes and hitting the Sears Tower, the Pentagon, the Capitol, the White House, the Transamerica Tower, and the Twin Towers.  The problem was recruiting enough pilots for suicide missions.

        Ramzi was ready to go, but while he or Murad was mixing bomb chemicals, a fire started — or maybe the Filipino police were suspicious of the men, and deliberately started a fire to drive them out of the apartment.  Whatever is the truth of that, the apartment was searched after the fire, and found suspicious materials; They left, and got a search warrant.  A detailed search showed bomb making equipment and chemicals.

        Murad was captured, but "Ramzi" and "Khalid" got away.  "Ramzi" was arrested in Pakistan in February, and deported to the U.S.  "Khalid" stayed loose for years.  Learning from the experience, he decided to ditch the bomb plan, and instead expand phase II into a separate plan using airliners as weapons.

        In 1998 one Jabir Salem, an Iraqi intelligence officer, was stationed in Prague.  He defected to Britain, and told British intelligence he'd been assigned to blow up the headquarters of Radio Free Europe, then located in Prague.  The plan was to use money supplied from Iraq to buy a truck and explosives, untraceably, then to recruit Islamist terrorists without Iraqi connections to do the actual driving and planting of the bomb.  The similarity to the World Trade Center bombing is intriguing: truck bomb, recruit radicals, Iraqi approval before or after the operation.  There is also of course a resemblance to the Oklahoma City bombing.

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