Some of the names and events appearing in the blacked-out 28 pages of the congressional report on the September 11, 2001, come up in the main body of the document and will be familiar to American newspaper readers. However, DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence experts note that this panel was the first to dig as far back as 10 years ago and delve into the root-causes of the 9/11 calamity.
Its authors fix on late 1991, early 1992 as the starting line. It was then that the Afghan mujaheddin fighting against the Russians were converted from a pro-American to an anti-American combat force.
In the late 1980s, word was already going round the medressas of Peshawar and the bazaars of the Middle East that the brilliant guerrilla commander, whom Saudi intelligence had head-hunted for the CIA, Osama bin Laden, was going around saying that the force of fundamentalist Islam that had been potent enough to defeat the Communist empire was equal to taking on American imperialism.
In the early nineties, the 28 censored pages reveal, those words became deeds.
Here comes the most sensitive section of the blacked pages.
At the time, Saudi security and the Pakistani military intelligence were casting about for a military-religious force to install a stable Sunni Muslim regime in Kabul that would squash the endless internecine warfare between tribes and sects. Such a regime was needed above all as a buffer against the radical ayalloyahs in Tehran who threatened to export their Shiite Muslim revolution to Pakistani Shiites, especially in Baluchistan, to the Saudi Shiites who inhabit the oil regions of the kingdom, and to the Shiites of Lebanon. The princes of Riyadh took fright from the creation of Tehran’s first military Shiite terror force, the Hizballah, in Lebanon and its threat to the stability of Gulf regimes in general.
Against this backdrop, Saudi intelligence created, funded and armed the Taliban army of Afghanistan.
The report does not explain how Osama bin Laden and his militia came to be integrated in the formation of the Taliban. Two possibilities are suggested: Anti-American factions at the Saudi court or inside Saudi intelligence provided Saudi-born bin Laden with hefty sums of money to establish a base of influence and control over the Taliban leaders. The unpublished section of the report rules out the prevalent theory that the Saudi-born terrorist financed the project out of his own pocket. Alternatively, a leading world intelligence agency antagonistic to the United States gave bin Laden his first leg up.
Double Agents Wrought Damage from Within
The report speaks of the artful use of double agents operating clandestinely inside the CIA and FBI and names some who were recruited by the United States in the years between the 1980s and the mid-1990s. Some of these double agents were accepted by US elite units, such as the 82nd Airborne Division, the Rangers and even the Delta Force, as instructors or regular troops, while at the same time providing military training for bin Laden’s followers in their Afghan bases. The American turncoat Aldrich Ames, who was captured in 1994 and sentenced to life imprisonment for spying for the Soviet Union and later Russia, was one of those double agents and a prime mover in weaving these agents into the United States armed forces, claiming they contributed to America’s most vital intelligence interests.
He was not the only one, only the most notorious.
The dual action of these penetration agents enabled Osama bin Laden to truthfully boast to his Saudi and Pakistani sponsors as well as his Taliban partners that his organization enjoyed the most sophisticated American training resources – a tremendous prestige booster at the time.
The congressional report goes on to reveal that the double agents were fully apprised of the plan the al Qaeda founder developed in 1992 for his first act of terror inside America – the initial attempt to bring down New York’s Twin Towers in February 1993.
He had come up with the monstrous notion of locating a truck in a space under one of the towers and loading it with the exact amount of explosives required for rocking the tower inward so that it crashed into the second one, bringing both down. Already then, he was looking forward to the deaths of thousands of Americans.
In the event, bin Laden miscalculated the quantity of explosives and the Twin Towers were saved.
In 1994, his followers came up with a bolder plan, to hijack in one day 12 Boeing 747 airliners full of passengers from Far Eastern airports, fly them to North America and crash them over strategic locations, like the White House, Capitol Hill, New York’s Trade Center. That attempt was aborted, but the lawmakers who penned these 28 pages ask why, after that episode, US intelligence failed to connect the relevant events with the related intelligence data and come up with al Qaeda’s ultimate goal, the September 11, 2002 hijackings. All the signs were present and there to see and pointed to the bin Laden organization’s three objectives:
1. The destruction of New York’s Trade Center.
2. Attacks on strategic sites in Washington DC
3. The taking of the highest possible number of American lives.
DEBKA-Net-Weekly‘s intelligence sources reveal that the compilers of the congressional report offer some answers to their question.
Bin Laden Gathers Momentum
The first cause was the efficiency of anti-American double agents planted inside US intelligence in opening the door of America and its intelligence agencies to clandestine penetration by bin Laden’s undercover men. They were equally efficient in covering these penetration agents’ tracks and keep them safe from exposure. When a protege was discovered, the double agent protecting him – often a trusted American intelligence officer, like Ames – would be on hand to prevent him being brought to book, arguing that his fall would blow an entire vital American counter-intelligence network somewhere in the world, e.g. Southeast Asia, the Middle East, the Persian Gulf .
The result was an intelligence fraud of staggering proportions. Under the guise of recruiting agents able to undermine the enemy, hostile elements were introduced into key departments of American intelligence and US elite forces, where they dedicated themselves to betrayal and destroying these services from within. The fraudulent sell was achieved by putting a reverse spin on key figures and events.
The Osama bin Laden manifestation, for instance, was long presented by the double agents working under cover against the United States as a brilliant American intelligence penetration of the fundamentalist Islamic labyrinth. The transition of his headquarters and main force from Afghanistan to Sudan in 1994 won praise as a feat pulled off by Washington and Riyadh to persuade the Taliban to expel hostile extremists. US-based double agents and bin Laden’s men were given permission to help plan and execute the move.
Some of those penetration agents later jumped the fence and returned to their real master, bin Laden. The real significance of the Islamist network’s relocation was that it was spreading its wings and gathering momentum to spring on two goals: A. To amalgamate with the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, an operational partnership that gave the organization its most vibrant operational arm which functions to this day. B. To lift al Qaeda out of the narrow confines of Afghanistan and open up new terrain in the Horn and East Africa where jumping of bases were set up for operations in Arabia, Egypt and the Middle East at large.
The networks established in al Qaeda’s years in Sudan are at peak operational strength in 2003.