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*** A special CELEBRATION in ISRAEL for 3000 dead goyim on 911 at the Mo


From: stj911
Subject: *** A special CELEBRATION in ISRAEL for 3000 dead goyim on 911 at the Mossad Central HeadQuarters , lots of Russian girls ***
Date: 7 Mar 2007 14:30:30 -0800
User-agent: G2/1.0

A SPE CIAL ... cele bray shen in ... Iz ray el for the 3000 dead goyim
on 911

March 7, 2007

A CounterPunch Special Investigation
High-Fivers and Art Student Spies
What Did Israel Know in Advance of the 9/11 Attacks?
By CHRISTOPHER KETCHAM

On the afternoon of September 11, 2001, an FBI bulletin known as a
BOLO ­- "be on lookout" -- was issued with regard to three suspicious
men who that morning were seen leaving the New Jersey waterfront
minutes after the first plane hit World Trade Center 1. Law
enforcement officers across the New York-New Jersey area were warned
in the radio dispatch to watch for a "vehicle possibly related to New
York terrorist attack":

White, 2000 Chevrolet van with 'Urban Moving Systems' sign on back
seen at Liberty State Park, Jersey City, NJ, at the time of first
impact of jetliner into World Trade Center Three individuals with van
were seen celebrating after initial impact and subsequent explosion.
FBI Newark Field Office requests that, if the van is located, hold for
prints and detain individuals.

At 3:56 p.m., twenty-five minutes after the issuance of the FBI BOLO,
officers with the East Rutherford Police Department stopped the
commercial moving van through a trace on the plates. According to the
police report, Officer Scott DeCarlo and Sgt. Dennis Rivelli
approached the stopped van, demanding that the driver exit the
vehicle. The driver, 23-year-old Sivan Kurzberg, refused and "was
asked several more times [but] appeared to be fumbling with a black
leather fanny pouch type of bag". With guns drawn, the police then
"physically removed" Kurzberg, while four other men ­- two more men
had apparently joined the group since the morning ­- were also removed
from the van, handcuffed, placed on the grass median and read their
Miranda rights.

They had not been told the reasons for their arrest. Yet, according to
DeCarlo's report, "this officer was told without question by the
driver [Sivan Kurzberg],'We are Israeli. We are not your problem.Your
problems are our problems. The Palestinians are the problem.'" Another
of the five Israelis, again without prompting, told Officer DeCarlo ­-
falsely ­- that "we were on the West Side Highway in New York City
during the incident". From inside the vehicle the officers, who were
quickly joined by agents from the FBI, retrieved multiple passports
and $4,700 in cash stuffed in a sock. According to New Jersey's Bergen
Record, which on September 12 reported the arrest of the five
Israelis, an investigator high up in the Bergen County law enforcement
hierarchy stated that officers had also discovered in the vehicle
"maps of the city with certain places highlighted. It looked like
they're hooked in with this", the source told the Record, referring to
the 9/11 attacks. "It looked like they knew what was going to happen
when they were at Liberty State Park."

The five men were indeed Israeli citizens. They claimed to be in the
country working as movers for Urban Moving Systems Inc., which
maintained a warehouse and office in Weehawken, New Jersey. They were
held for 71 days in a federal detention center in Brooklyn, New York,
during which time they were repeatedly interrogated by FBI and CIA
counterterrorism teams, who referred to the men as the "high-fivers"
for their celebratory behavior on the New Jersey waterfront. Some were
placed in solitary confinement for at least forty days; some were
given as many as seven liedetector tests. One of the Israelis, Paul
Kurzberg, brother of Sivan, refused to take a lie-detector test for
ten weeks. Then he failed it.

Meanwhile, two days after the men were picked up, the owner of Urban
Moving Systems, Dominik Suter, a 31- year-old Israeli national,
abandoned his business and fled the United States for Israel. Suter's
departure was abrupt, leaving behind coffee cups, sandwiches, cell
phones and computers strewn on office tables and thousands of dollars
of goods in storage. Suter was later placed on the same FBI suspect
list as 9/11 lead hijacker Mohammed Atta and other hijackers and
suspected al-Qaeda sympathizers, suggesting that U.S. authorities felt
Suter may have known something about the attacks. The suspicion, as
the investigation unfolded, was that the men working for Urban Moving
Systems were spies. Who exactly was handling them, and who or what
they were targeting, was as yet uncertain.

It was New York's venerable Jewish weekly The Forward that broke this
story in the spring of 2002, after months of footwork. The Forward
reported that the FBI had finally concluded that at least two of the
men were agents working for the Mossad, the Israeli intelligence
agency, and that Urban Moving Systems, the ostensible employer of the
five Israelis, was a front operation. Two former CIA officers
confirmed this to me, noting that movers' vans are a common
intelligence cover. The Forward also noted that the Israeli government
itself admitted that the men were spies. A "former high-ranking
American intelligence official", who said he was "regularly briefed on
the investigation by two separate law enforcement officials", told
reporter Marc Perelman that after American authorities confronted
Jerusalem at the end of 2001, the Israeli government "acknowledged the
operation and apologized for not coordinating it with Washington".
Today, Perelman stands by his reporting. I asked him if his sources in
the Mossad denied the story. "Nobody stopped talking to me", he said.

In June 2002, ABC News' 20/20 followed up with its own investigation
into the matter, coming to the same conclusion as The Forward. Vincent
Cannistraro, former chief of operations for counterterrorism with the
CIA, told 20/20 that some of the names of the five men appeared as
hits in searches of an FBI national intelligence database. Cannistraro
told me that the question that most troubled FBI agents in the weeks
and months after 9/11 was whether the Israelis had arrived at the site
of their "celebration" with foreknowledge of the attack to come. From
the beginning, "the FBI investigation operated on the premise that the
Israelis had foreknowledge", according to Cannistraro. A second former
CIA counterterrorism officer who closely followed the case, but who
spoke on condition of anonymity, told me that investigators were
pursuing two theories. "One story was that [the Israelis] appeared at
Liberty State Park very quickly after the first plane hit. The other
was that they were at the park location already". Either way,
investigators wanted to know exactly what the men were expecting when
they got there.

Before such issues had been fully explored, however, the investigation
was shut down. Following what ABC News reported were "high-level
negotiations between Israeli and U.S. government officials", a
settlement was reached in the case of the five Urban Moving Systems
suspects. Intense political pressure apparently had been brought to
bear. The reputable Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported that by the last
week of October 2001, some six weeks after the men had been detained,
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and two unidentified
"prominent New York congressmen" were lobbying heavily for their
release. According to a source at ABC News close to the 20/20 report,
high-profile criminal lawyer Alan Dershowitz also stepped in as a
negotiator on behalf of the men to smooth out differences with the
U.S. government. (Dershowitz declined to comment for this article.)
And so, at the end of November 2001, for reasons that only noted they
had been working in the country illegally as movers, in violation of
their visas, the men were flown home to Israel.

Today, the crucial questions raised by this matter remain unanswered.
There is sufficient reason ­- from news reports, statements by former
intelligence officials, an array of circumstantial evidence, and the
reported acknowledgment by the Israeli government -­ to believe that
in the months before 9/11, Israel was running an active spy network
inside the United States, with Muslim extremists as the target. Given
Israel's concerns about Islamic terrorism as well as its long history
of spying on U.S. soil, this does not come entirely as a shock. What's
incendiary is the idea -­ supported, though not proven, by several
pieces of evidence ­- that the Israelis did learn something about 9/11
in advance but failed to share all of what they knew with American
officials. The questions are disturbing enough to warrant a
Congressional investigation.

Yet none of this information found its way into Congress's joint
committee report on the attacks, and it was not even tangentially
referenced in the nearly 600 pages of the 9/11 Commission's final
report. Nor would a single major media outlet track the revelations of
The Forward and ABC News to investigate further. "There weren't even
stories saying it was bullshit", says The Forward's Perelman.
"Honestly, I was surprised". Instead, the story disappeared into the
welter of anti-Israel 9/11 conspiracy theories.

It's no small boon to the U.S. government that the story of 9/11-
related Israeli espionage has been thus relegated: the story doesn't
fit in the clean lines of the official narrative of the attacks. It
brings up concerns not only about Israel's obligation not to spy
inside the borders of the United States, its major benefactor, but
about its possible failure to have provided the U.S. adequate warning
of an impending devastating attack on American soil. Furthermore, the
available evidence undermines the carefully cultivated image of
sanctity that defines the U.S.- Israel relationship. These are all
factors that help explain the story's disappearance, and they are
compelling reasons to revisit it now.


Torpedoing the FBI Probe

All five future hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77, which rammed
the Pentagon, maintained addresses or were active within a six-mile
radius of towns associated with the Israelis employed at Urban Moving
Systems. Hudson and Bergen counties, the areas where the Israelis were
allegedly conducting surveillance, were a central staging ground for
the hijackers of Flight 77 and their fellow al-Qaeda operatives.
Mohammed Atta maintained a mail-drop address and visited friends in
northern New Jersey; his contacts there included Hani Hanjour, the
suicide pilot for Flight 77, and Majed Moqed, one of the strongmen who
backed Hanjour in the seizing of the plane. Could the Israelis, with
or without knowledge of the terrorists' plans, have been tracking the
men who were soon to hijack Flight 77?

In public statements, both the Israeli government and the FBI have
denied that the Urban Moving Systems men were involved in an
intelligence operation in the United States. "No evidence recovered
suggested any of these Israelis had prior knowledge of the 9/11
attack, and these Israelis are not suspected of working for Mossad",
FBI spokesman Jim Margolin told me. (The Israeli embassy did not
respond to questions for this article.) According to the source at ABC
News, FBI investigators chafed at the denials from their higher-ups.
"There is a lot of frustration inside the bureau about this case", the
source told me. "They feel the higher echelons torpedoed the
investigation into the Israeli New Jersey cell. Leads were not fully
investigated". Among those lost leads was the figure of Dominik Suter,
whom the U.S. authorities apparently never attempted to contact.
Intelligence expert and author James Bamford told me there was similar
frustration within the CIA: "People I've talked to at the CIA were
outraged at what was going on. They thought it was outrageous that
there hadn't been a real investigation, that the facts were hanging
out there without any conclusion."

However, what was "absolutely certain", according to Vincent
Cannistraro, was that the five Israelis formed part of a surveillance
network in the New York- New Jersey area. The network's purpose was to
track radical Islamic extremists and/or supporters of militant
Palestinian groups like Hamas and Islamic Jihad. The former CIA
counterterrorism officer who spoke anonymously told me that FBI
investigators determined that the suspect Israelis were serving as
Arabic-speaking linguists "running technical operations" in northern
New Jersey's extensive Muslim communities. The former CIA officer said
the operations included taps on telephones, placement of microphones
in rooms and mobile surveillance. The source at ABC News agreed: "Our
conclusion was that they were Arab linguists involved in monitoring
operations, i.e., electronic surveillance. People at FBI concur with
this". The ABC News source added, "What we heard was that the Israelis
may have picked up chatter that something was going to happen on the
morning of 9/11".

The former CIA counterterrorism officer told me: "There was no
question but that [the order to close down the investigation] came
from the White House. It was immediately assumed at CIA headquarters
that this basically was going to be a cover-up so that the Israelis
would not be implicated in any way in 9/11. Bear in mind that this was
a political issue, not a law enforcement or intelligence issue. If
somebody says we don't want the Israelis implicated in this ­- we know
that they've been spying the hell out of us, we know that they
possibly had information in advance of the attacks, but this would be
a political nightmare to deal with."


The Israeli "Art Student" Spies

There is a second piece of evidence that suggests Israeli operatives
were spying on al-Qaeda in the United States. It is writ in the
peculiar tale of the Israeli "art students", detailed by this reporter
for Salon.com in 2002, following the leaking of an internal memo
circulated by the Drug Enforcement Administration's Office of Security
Programs. The June 2001 memo, issued three months before the 9/11
attacks, reported that more than 120 young Israeli citizens, posing as
art students and peddling cheap paintings, had been repeatedly ­- and
seemingly inexplicably -­ attempting to penetrate DEA offices and
other law enforcement and Defense Department offices across the
country. The DEA report stated that the Israelis may have been engaged
in "an organized intelligence gathering activity", but to what end,
U.S. investigators, in June 2001, could not determine. The memo
briefly floated the possibility that the Israelis were engaged in
trafficking the drug ecstasy. According to the memo, "the most
activity [was] reported in the state of Florida" during the first half
of 2001, where the town of Hollywood appeared to be "a central point
for these individuals with several having addresses in this area".

In retrospect, the fact that a large number of "art students" operated
out of Hollywood is intriguing, to say the least. During 2001, the
city, just north of Miami, was a hotbed of al-Qaeda activity and
served as one of the chief staging grounds for the hijacking of the
World Trade Center planes and the Pennsylvania plane; it was home to
fifteen of the nineteen future hijackers, nine in Hollywood and six in
the surrounding area. Among the 120 suspected Israeli spies posing as
art students, more than thirty lived in the Hollywood area, ten in
Hollywood proper. As noted in the DEA report, many of these young men
and women had training as intelligence and electronic intercept
officers in the Israeli military -­ training and experience far beyond
the compulsory service mandated by Israeli law. Their "traveling in
the U.S. selling art seem[ed] not to fit their background", according
to the DEA report.

One "art student" was a former Israeli military intelligence officer
named Hanan Serfaty, who rented two Hollywood apartments close to the
mail drop and apartment of Mohammed Atta and four other hijackers.
Serfaty was moving large amounts of cash: he carried bank slips
showing more than $100,000 deposited from December 2000 through the
first quarter of 2001; other bank slips showed withdrawals for about
$80,000 during the same period. Serfaty's apartments, serving as crash
pads for at least two other "art students", were located at 4220
Sheridan Street and 701 South 21st Avenue. Lead hijacker Mohammed
Atta's mail drop was at 3389 Sheridan Street--approximately 2,700 feet
from Serfaty's Sheridan Street apartment. Both Atta and Marwan al-
Shehhi, the suicide pilot on United Airlines Flight 175, which smashed
into World Trade Center 2, lived in a rented apartment at 1818 Jackson
Street, some 1,800 feet from Serfaty's South 21st Avenue apartment.

In fact, an improbable series of coincidences emerges from a close
reading of the 2001 DEA memo, the 9/11 Commission's staff statements
and final report, FBI and Justice Department watch lists, hijacker
timelines compiled by major media and statements by local, state and
federal law enforcement personnel. In at least six urban centers,
suspected Israeli spies and 9/11 hijackers and/or al-Qaeda­connected
suspects lived and operated near one another, in some cases less than
half a mile apart, for various periods during 2000­01 in the run-up to
the attacks. In addition to northern New Jersey and Hollywood,
Florida, these centers included Arlington and Fredericksburg,
Virginia; Atlanta; Oklahoma City; Los Angeles; and San Diego.

Israeli "art students" also lived close to terror suspects in and
around Dallas, Texas. A 25-year-old "art student" named Michael
Calmanovic, arrested and questioned by Texas-based DEA officers in
April 2001, maintained a mail drop at 3575 North Beltline Road, less
than a thousand feet from the 4045 North Beltline Road apartment of
Ahmed Khalefa, an FBI terror suspect. Dallas and its environs,
especially the town of Richardson, Texas, throbbed with "art student"
activity. Richardson is notable as the home of the Holy Land
Foundation, an Islamic charity designated as a terrorist funder by the
European Union and U.S. government in December 2001. Sources in 2002
told The Forward, in a report unrelated to the question of the "art
students", that "Israeli intelligence played a key role in helping the
Bush administration to crack down on Islamic charities suspected of
funneling money to terrorist groups, most notably the Richardson,
Texas-based Holy Land Foundation, last December [2001]". It's
plausible that the intelligence prompting the shutdown of the Holy
Land Foundation came from "art student" spies in the Richardson area.

Others among the "art students" had specific backgrounds in electronic
surveillance or military intelligence, or were associated with Israeli
wiretapping and surveillance firms, which prompted further concerns
among U.S. investigators. DEA agents described Michael Calmanovic, for
example, as "a recently discharged electronic intercept operator for
the Israeli military". Lior Baram, questioned near Hollywood, Fla., in
January 2001, said he had served two years in Israeli intelligence
"working with classified information". Hanan Serfaty, who maintained
the Hollywood apartments near Atta and his cohorts, served in the
Israeli military between the ages of 18 and 21. Serfaty refused to
disclose his activities between the ages of 21 and 24, including his
activities since arriving in the U.S.A. in 2000. The French daily Le
Monde meanwhile reported that six "art students" were apparently using
cell phones that had been purchased by a former Israeli vice consul in
the U.S.A.

Suspected Israeli spy Tomer Ben Dor, questioned at Dallas-Fort Worth
Airport in May 2001, worked for the Israeli wiretapping and electronic
eavesdropping company NICE Systems Ltd. (NICE Systems' American
subsidiary, NICE Systems Inc., is located in Rutherford, New Jersey,
not far from the East Rutherford site where the five Israeli "movers"
were arrested on the afternoon of September 11.) Ben Dor carried in
his luggage a print-out of a computer file that referred to "DEA
Groups". How he acquired information about so-called "DEA Groups" ­-
via, for example, his own employment with an Israeli wiretapping
company -­ was never determined, according to DEA documents.

"Art student" Michal Gal, arrested by DEA investigators in Irving,
Texas, in the spring of 2001, was released on a $10,000 cash bond
posted by Ophir Baer, an employee of the Israeli telecommunications
software company Amdocs Inc., which provides phone-billing technology
to clients that include some of the largest phone companies in the
United States as well as U.S. government agencies. Amdocs, whose
executive board has been heavily stocked with retired and current
members of the Israeli government and military, has been investigated
at least twice in the last decade by U.S. authorities on charges of
espionage-related leaks of data that the company assured was secure.
(The company strenuously denies any wrong-doing.)

According to the former CIA counterterrorism officer with knowledge of
investigations into 9/11-related Israeli espionage, when law
enforcement officials examined the "art students" phenomenon, they
came to the tentative conclusion that "the Israelis likely had a huge
spy operation in the U.S. and that they had succeeded in identifying a
number of the hijackers". The German daily Die Zeit reached the same
conclusion in 2002, reporting that "Mossad agents in the U.S. were in
all probability surveilling at least four of the 19 hijackers". The
Fox News Channel also reported that U.S. investigators suspected that
Israelis were spying on Muslim militants in the United States. "There
is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9/11 attacks,
but investigators suspect that the Israelis may have gathered
intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it", Fox
correspondent Carl Cameron reported in a December 2001 series that was
the first major exposé of allegations of 9/11-related Israeli
espionage. "A highly placed investigator said there are 'tie-ins'. But
when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying,
'evidence linking these Israelis to 9/11 is classified. I cannot tell
you about evidence that has been gathered. It's classified
information.'"

One element of the allegations has never been clearly understood: if
the "art students" were indeed spies targeting Muslim extremists that
included al-Qaeda, why would they also be surveilling DEA agents in
such a compromising manner? Why, in other words, would foreign spies
bumble into federal offices by the scores and risk exposing their
operation? An explanation is that a number of the art students were,
in fact, young Israelis engaged in a mere art scam and unknowingly
provided cover for real spies. Investigative journalist John Sugg, who
as senior editor for the Creative Loafing newspaper chain reported on
the "art students" in 2002, told me that investigators he spoke to
within FBI felt the "art student" ring functioned as a wide-ranging
cover that was counterintuitive in its obviousness. DEA investigators,
for example, uncovered evidence connecting the Israeli "art students"
to known ecstasy trafficking operations in New York and Florida. This
was, according to Sugg, planted information. "The explanation was that
when our FBI guys started getting interested in these folks [the art
students] ­- when they got too close to what the real purpose was ­-
the Israelis threw in an ecstasy angle", Sugg told me. "The argument
being that if our guys thought the Israelis were involved in a
smuggling ring, then they wouldn't see the real purpose of the
operation". Sugg, who is writing a book that explores the tale of the
"art students", told me that several sources within the FBI, and at
least one source formerly with Israeli intelligence, suggested that
"the bumbling aspect of the art student thing was intentional."

When I reported on the matter for Salon.com in 2002, a veteran U.S.
intelligence operative with experience subcontracting both for the CIA
and the NSA suggested a similar possibility. "It was a noisy
operation", the veteran intelligence operative said. The operative
referred me to the film Victor, Victoria. "It was about a woman
playing a man playing a woman. Perhaps you should think about this
from that aspect and ask yourself if you wanted to have something that
was in your face, that didn't make sense, that couldn't possibly be
them". The intelligence operative added, "Think of it this way: how
could the experts think this could actually be something of any value?
Wouldn't they dismiss what they were seeing?" U.S. and Israeli
officials, dismissing charges of espionage as an "urban myth", have
publicly claimed that the Israeli "art students" were guilty only of
working on U.S. soil without proper credentials. The stern denials
issued by the Justice Department were widely publicized in the
Washington Post and elsewhere, and the endnote from officialdom and in
establishment media by the spring of 2002 was that the "art students"
had been rounded up and deported simply because of harmless visa
violations. The FBI, for its part, refused to confirm or deny the "art
students" espionage story. "Regarding FBI investigations into Israeli
art students", spokesman Jim Margolin told me, "the FBI cannot comment
on any of those investigations." As with the New Jersey Israelis, the
investigation into the Israeli "art students" appears to have been
halted by orders from on high. The veteran CIA/NSA intelligence
operative told me in 2002 that there was "a great press to discredit
the story, discredit the connections, prevent [investigators] from
going any further. People were told to stand down. You name the
agency, they were told to stand down". The operative added, "People
who were perceived to be gumshoes on [this matter] suddenly found
themselves hammered from all different directions. The interest from
the middle bureaucracy was not that there had been a security breach
but that someone had bothered to investigate the breach. That was
where the terror was".


Choking off the press coverage

There was similar pressure brought against the media venues that
ventured to report out the allegations of 9/11- related Israeli
espionage. A former ABC News employee high up in the network newsroom
told me that when ABC News ran its June 2002 exposé on the celebratory
New Jersey Israelis, "Enormous pressure was brought to bear by pro-
Israeli organizations"--and this pressure began months before the
piece was even close to airing. The source said that ABC News
colleagues wondered, "how they [the pro-Israel organizations] found
out we were doing the story. Pro- Israeli people were calling the
president of ABC News. Barbara Walters was getting bombarded by calls.
The story was a hard sell but ABC News came through the management
insulated [reporters] from the pressure".

The experience of Carl Cameron, chief Washington correspondent at Fox
News Channel and the first mainstream U.S. reporter to present the
allegations of Israeli surveillance of the 9/11 hijackers, was perhaps
more typical, both in its particulars and aftermath. The attack
against Cameron and Fox News was spearheaded by a pro-Israel lobby
group called the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in
America (CAMERA), which operated in tandem with the two most highly
visible powerhouse Israel lobbyists, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL)
and the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (itself currently
embroiled in a spy scandal connected to the Defense Department and
Israeli Embassy). "CAMERA pep- pered the shit out of us", Carl Cameron
told me in 2002, referring to an e-mail bombardment that eventually
crashed the Fox News.com servers. Cameron himself received 700 pages
of almost identical e-mail messages from hundreds of citizens (though
he suspected these were spam identities). CAMERA spokesman Alex Safian
later told me that Cameron's upbringing in Iran, where his father
traveled as an archeologist, had rendered the reporter "very
sympathetic to the Arab side". Safian added, "I think Cameron,
personally, has a thing about Israel"--coded language implying that
Cameron was an anti-Semite. Cameron was outraged at the accusation.

According to a source at Fox News Channel, the president of the ADL,
Abraham Foxman, telephoned executives at Fox News' parent, News Corp.,
to demand a sit-down in the wake of the Cameron reportage. The source
said that Foxman told the News Corp. executives, "Look, you guys have
generally been pretty fair to Israel. What are you doing putting this
stuff out there? You're killing us". The Fox News source continued,
"As good old boys will do over coffee in Manhattan, it was like, well,
what can we do about this? Finally, Fox News said, 'Stop the e-
mailing. Stop slamming us. Stop being in our face, and we'll stop
being in your face--by way of taking our story down off the web. We
will not retract it; we will not disavow it; we stand by it. But we
will at least take it off the web.'" Following this meeting, within
four days of the posting of Cameron's series on Fox News.com, the
transcripts disappeared, replaced by the message, "This story no
longer exists".

What did Mossad know and tell the U.S.?

Whether or not Israeli spies had detailed foreknowledge of the 9/11
attacks, the Israeli authorities knew enough to warn the U.S.
government in the summer of 2001 that an attack was on the horizon.
The British Sunday Telegraph reported on September 16, 2001, that two
senior agents with the Mossad were dispatched to Washington in August
2001 "to alert the CIA and FBI to the existence of a cell of as many
as 200 terrorists said to be preparing a big operation". The Telegraph
quoted a "senior Israeli security official" as saying the Mossad
experts had "no specific information about what was being planned".
Still, the official told the Telegraph, the Mossad contacts had
"linked the plot to Osama bin Laden". Likewise, Die Zeit correspondent
Oliver Schröm reported that on August 23, 2001, the Mossad "handed its
American counterpart a list of names of terrorists who were staying in
the U.S. and were presumably planning to launch an attack in the
foreseeable future". Fox News' Carl Cameron, in May 2002, also
reported warnings by Israel: "Based on its own intelligence, the
Israeli government provided 'general' information to the United States
in the second week of August that an al-Qaeda attack was imminent".
The U.S. government later claimed these warnings were not specific
enough to allow any mitigating action to be taken. Mossad expert
Gordon Thomas, author of Gideon's Spies, says German intelligence
sources told him that as late as August 2001 Israeli spies in the
United States had made surveillance contacts with "known supporters of
bin Laden in the U.S.A. It was those surveillance contacts that later
raised the question: how much prior knowledge did Mossad have and at
what stage?"

According to Die Zeit, the Mossad did provide the U.S. government with
the names of suspected terrorists Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-
Hazmi, who would eventually hijack the Pentagon plane. It is worth
noting that Mihdhar and Hazmi were among the hijackers who operated in
close proximity to Israeli "art students" in Hollywood, Florida, and
to the Urban Moving Systems Israelis in northern New Jersey. Moreover,
Hazmi and at least three "art students" visited Oklahoma City on
almost the same dates, from April 1 through April 4, 2001. On August
24, 2001, a day after the Mossad's briefing, Mihdhar and Hazmi were
placed by the CIA on a terrorist watch list; additionally, it was only
after the Mossad warning, as reported by Die Zeit, that the CIA, on
August 27, informed the FBI of the presence of the two terrorists. But
by then the cell was already in hiding, preparing for attack.

The CIA, along with the 9/11 Commission in its adoption of the CIA
story, claims that Mihdhar and Hazmi were placed on the watch list
solely due to the agency's own efforts, with no help from Mossad.
Their explanation of how the pair came to be placed on the watch list,
however, is far from credible and may have served as a cover story to
obscure the Mossad briefing [See Ketcham's sidebar story -- "The Kuala
Lumpur Deceit"]. This brings up the possibility that the CIA may have
known about the existence of the alleged Israeli agents and their
mission, but sought, naturally, to keep it quiet. A second, more
troubling scenario, is that the CIA may have subcontracted to Mossad,
given that the agency was both prohibited by law from conducting
intelligence operations on U.S. soil, and lacked a pool of competent
Arabic-fluent field officers. In such a scenario, the CIA would either
have worked actively with the Israelis or quietly abetted an
independent operation on U.S. soil. In his 9/11 investigative book,
The Looming Tower, author Lawrence Wright notes that FBI
counterterrorism agents, infuriated at the CIA's failure to fully
share information about Mihdhar and Hazmi, speculated that "the agency
was shielding Mihdhar and Hazmi because it hoped to recruit them". The
two al-Qaeda men, Wright notes, "must have seemed like attractive
opportunities; however, once they entered the United States they were
the province of the FBI..." Wright further observes that the CIA's
reticence to share its information was due to a fear "that
prosecutions resulting from specific intelligence might compromise its
relationship with foreign services". When in the spring of 2002 the
scenario of CIA's domestic subcontracting to foreign intelligence was
posed to the veteran CIA/NSA intelligence operative, with whom I spoke
extensively, the operative didn't reject it out of hand. The operative
noted that in recent years the CIA's human intelligence assets, known
as "humint" ­- spooks on the ground who conduct surveillances, make
contacts, and infiltrate the enemy ­- had been "eviscerated" in favor
of the NSA's far less perilous "sigint", or signals intelligence
program, the remote interception of electronic communications. As a
result, "U.S. intelligence finds itself going back to sources that you
may not necessarily like to go back to, but are required to", the
veteran intelligence operative said. "We don't like the fact, but our
humint structures are gone. Israeli intel's humint is as strong as
ever. If you have an intel gap, those gaps are not closed overnight.
It takes years and years of diligent work, a high degree of security,
talented and dedicated people, willing management and a steady hand.
It is not a fun business, and it's certainly not one without its
dangers. If you lose that capability, well organizations find
themselves having to make a pact with the devil. The problem [in U.S.
intel] is very great".

If such an understanding did exist between CIA and Mossad with regard
to al-Qaeda's U.S. operatives, the complicity would explain a number
of oddities: it would explain the CIA's nearly incoherent, and perhaps
purposely deceptive, reconstruction of events as to how Mihdhar and
Hazmi joined the watch list; it might even explain the apparent
brazenness of the Israeli New Jersey cell celebrating on the morning
of 9/11 (protected under the CIA wing, they were free to behave as
they pleased). It would also explain the assertion in one of the
leading Israeli dailies, Yedioth Ahronoth, that in the months prior to
9/11, when the Israeli "art students" were being identified and
rounded up, the CIA "actively promoted their expulsion". The
implication in the Yedioth Ahronoth article was that the CIA was
simply being careless, not trying to spirit the Israelis safely out of
the country. At this point we cannot be certain.

Israeli spying against the U.S. is of course hotly denied by both
governments. In 2002, responding to my own questions about the "art
students", Israeli embassy spokesman Mark Regev issued a blanket
denial. "Israel does not spy on the United States", Regev told me. The
pronouncements from officialdom are strictly pro forma, as it is no
secret that spying by Israel on the United States has been wide-
ranging and unabashed. A 1996 General Accounting Office report, for
example, found that Israel "conducts the most aggressive espionage
operation against the United States of any U.S. ally". More recently,
a former intelligence official told the Los Angeles Times in 2004 that
"[t]here is a huge, aggressive, ongoing set of Israeli activities
directed against the United States". It is also routine that Israeli
spying is ignored or downplayed by the U.S. government (the case of
convicted spy Jonathan Pollard, sentenced to life in prison in 1986,
is a dramatic exception). According to the American Prospect, over the
last 20 years at least six sealed indictments have been issued against
individuals allegedly spying "on Israel's behalf", but the cases were
resolved "through diplomatic and intelligence channels" rather than a
public airing in the courts. Career Justice Department and
intelligence officials who track Israeli espionage told the Prospect
of "long-standing frustration among investigators and prosecutors who
feel that cases that could have been made successfully against Israeli
spies were never brought to trial, or that the investigations were
shut down prematurely".

The Questions That Await Answers

Remarkably, the Urban Moving Systems Israelis, when interrogated by
the FBI, explained their motives for "celebration" on the New Jersey
waterfront a celebration that consisted of cheering, smiling, shooting
film with still and video cameras and, according to the FBI, "high-
fiving" ­- in the Machiavellian light of geopolitics. "Their
explanation of why they were happy", FBI spokesman Margolin told me,
"was that the United States would now have to commit itself to
fighting [Middle East] terrorism, that Americans would have an
understanding and empathy for Israel's circumstances, and that the
attacks were ultimately a good thing for Israel". When reporters on
the morning of 9/11 asked former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu about the effect the attacks would have on Israeli- American
relations, he responded with a similar gut analysis: "It's very good",
he remarked. Then he amended the statement: "Well, not very good, but
it will generate immediate sympathy [for Israel from Americans]".

What is perhaps most damning is that the Israelis' celebration on the
New Jersey waterfront occurred in the first sixteen minutes after the
initial crash, when no one was aware this was a terrorist attack. In
other words, from the time the first plane hit the north tower, at
8:46 a.m., to the time the second plane hit the south tower, at 9:02
a.m., the overwhelming assumption of news outlets and government
officials was that the plane's impact was simply a terrible accident.
It was only after the second plane hit that suspicions were aroused.
Yet if the men were cheering for political reasons, as they reportedly
told the FBI, they obviously believed they were witnessing a terrorist
act, and not an accident.

After returning safely to Israel in the late autumn of 2001, three of
the five New Jersey Israelis spoke on a national talk show that
winter. Oded Ellner, who on the afternoon of September 11 had, like
his compatriots, protested to arresting officer Sgt. Dennis Rivelli
that "we're Israeli", admitted to the interviewer: "We are coming from
a country that experiences terror daily. Our purpose was to document
the event". By his own admission, then, Ellner stood on the New Jersey
waterfront documenting with film and video a terrorist act before
anyone knew it was a terrorist act.

One obvious question among many comes to mind: If these men were
trained as professional spies, why did they exhibit such outright
oafishness at the moment of truth on the waterfront? The ABC network
source close to the 20/20 report noted one of the more disturbing
explanations proffered by counterintelligence investigators at the
FBI: "The Israelis felt that in some way their intelligence had worked
out ­- i.e., they were celebrating their own acumen and ability as
intelligence agents".

The questions abound: Did the Urban Moving Systems Israelis, ready to
"document the event", arrive at the waterfront before the first plane
came in from the north? And if they arrived right after, why did they
believe it was a terrorist attack? What about the strange tale of the
"art students"? Could they have been mere hustlers, as they claimed,
who ended up repeatedly crossing paths with federal agents and living
next door to most of the 9/11 hijackers by coincidence? Did the
Israeli authorities find out more about the impending attacks than
they shared with their U.S. counterparts? Or did the Israeli spies on
the ground only intercept vague chatter that, in their view, did not
warrant breaking cover to share the information? On the other hand,
did the U.S. government receive more advance information about the
attacks from Israeli authorities than it is willing to admit? What
about the 9/11 Commission's eliding of reported Israeli warnings that
may have led to the watch- listing of Mihdhar and Hazmi? Were the
Israeli warnings purposely washed from the historical record? Did the
CIA know more about pre-9/11 Israeli spying than it has admitted?

The unfortunate fact is that the truth may never be uncovered, not by
officialdom, and certainly not by a passive press. James Bamford, who
in a coup of reporting during the 1980s revealed the inner workings of
the NSA in The Puzzle Palace, points to the "key problem": "The
Israelis were all sent out of the country", he says. "There's no nexus
left. The FBI just can't go knocking on doors in Israel. They need to
work with the State Department. They need letters rogatory, where you
ask a government of a foreign country to get answers from citizens in
that country". The Israeli government will not likely comply. So any
investigation "is now that much more complicated", says Bamford. He
recalls a story he produced for ABC News concerning two murder
suspects -- U.S. citizens ­- who fled to Israel and fought extradition
for ten years. "The Israelis did nothing about it until I went to
Israel, knocking on doors, and finally found the two suspects. I think
it'd be a great idea to go over and knock on their doors", says
Bamford.

The suspects are gone. The trail is cold. Yet many of the key facts
and promising leads sit freely on the web, in the archives, safe in
the news-morgues at 20/20 and The Forward and Die Zeit. An
investigator close to the matter says it reminds him of the Antonioni
film "Blow-Up", a movie about a photographer who discovers the
evidence of a covered-up murder hidden before his very eyes in the
frame of an enlarged photograph. It's a mystery that no one appears
eager to solve.

See Also:

The Kuala Lumpur Deceit: a CIA Cover Up 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:
address@hidden



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