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Context of 'Late September 2001-Summer 2002: British Intelligence Uses Other Informant to Stay in Contact with Informant Abu Qatada While He Pretends to Go into Hiding'

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MI5 headquarters in London.MI5 headquarters in London. [Source: Cryptome]In June and December 1996, and again in February 1997, a British MI5 agent meets with radical Muslim imam Abu Qatada, hoping he will inform on his fellow extremists. Qatada is a Jordanian national who entered Britain in September 1993 using a forged United Arab Emirates passport, and was granted asylum in 1994.
Qatada Promises to Look after British Interests - In his meetings with the MI5 agent he claims to “wield powerful, spiritual influence over the Algerian community in London.” He says he does not want London to become a center for settling Islamic scores, and that he will report anyone damaging British interests. He says the individuals he has influence over pose no threat to British security, and promises that “he would not bite the hand that fed him.” He also promises to “report anyone damaging the interests of [Britain].” The MI5 agent records that “surprisingly enough—[Abu Qatada] revealed little love of the methodology and policies pursued by Osama bin Laden. He certainly left me with the impression that he had nothing but contempt for bin Laden’s distant financing of the jihad.” [Special Immigration Appeals Commission, 1/2004 pdf file; Channel 4 News (London), 3/23/2004; Guardian, 3/24/2004; London Times, 3/25/2004]
Links to Al-Qaeda - Yet Qatada is later described as being a “key [British] figure” in al-Qaeda related terror activity. Around 1996, a highly reliable informer told US intelligence that Qatada is on al-Qaeda’s fatwa (religious) committee (see June 1996-1997). Videos of his sermons are later discovered in the Hamburg flat used by Mohamed Atta. Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, and Zacarias Moussaoui, who is later convicted in connection with the 9/11 attacks, are alleged to have sought religious advice from him. [BBC, 8/11/2005; Guardian, 8/11/2005]
Meetings Apparently Continue - Reportedly, after Qatada’s February 1997 meeting with the British agent, no further such meetings occur. [Special Immigration Appeals Commission, 1/2004 pdf file] However, some French officials later allege that Qatada continues to be an MI5 agent, and this is what allows him to avoid arrest after 9/11 (see Early December 2001). [Observer, 2/24/2002] It will later emerge that Bisher al-Rawi, a friend of Qatada, served as an informant and a go-between MI5 and Qatada in numerous meetings between late 2001 and 2002, when Qatada is finally arrested (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002). Furthermore, al-Rawi says he served as a translator between MI5 and Qatada before 9/11, suggesting that Qatada never stopped being an informant. [Observer, 7/29/2007]

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), Abu Qatada, Bisher al-Rawi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Bisher al-Rawi.Bisher al-Rawi. [Source: Public domain]In late September 2001, Bisher al-Rawi, a long-time friend of London imam Abu Qatada, agrees to become an informant for the British intelligence agency MI5 (see Late September 2001). Al-Rawi mainly works as an intermediary between MI5 and the high-profile imam. He will later explain that he agreed to work as an informant as an attempt to help ease tensions between the government and the Muslim community. Abu Qatada had begun working as an informant for MI5 in 1996 (see June 1996-February 1997), and contrary to some reports, his relationship with that agency had not yet ended. In December 2001, Abu Qatada reportedly disappears just before a new law passes that would allow his indefinite detention (see Early December 2001). British officials claim to have no idea where Abu Qatada is, and at first apparently they really do not. But al-Rawi soon finds out where he is, tells MI5, and begins passing messages back and forth between MI5 and Abu Qatada. [Observer, 7/29/2007] The Independent will later report, “Abu Qatada was completely aware of Mr al-Rawi’s relationship with MI5. Mr al-Rawi carried questions and answers between the parties, served as a translator, and participated in negotiations with Abu Qatada.” Al-Rawi himself will later say, “All I did in Britain was try to help with steps necessary to get a meeting between Abu Qatada and MI5. I was trying to bring them together. MI5 would give me messages to take to Abu Qatada, and Abu Qatada would give me messages to take back to them.” [Independent, 3/16/2006] According to his family members and his lawyer, soon the MI5 agents are coming to his house and calling him so frequently that his relatives complain. As a result, MI5 gives him a cell phone and agrees to meet with him elsewhere. The British government will later acknowledge that al-Rawi served as an unpaid informant in a court document. [Washington Post, 4/2/2006] In the summer of 2002, al-Rawi begins to have doubts about his role and is fired (see Summer 2002). Abu Qatada is arrested in late October 2002, just after coming out of hiding in an attempt to morally justify the 9/11 attacks (see October 23, 2002). In early November, al-Rawi will fly to Gambia and be detained there (see November 8, 2002-December 7, 2002). [Washington Post, 4/2/2006]

Entity Tags: Abu Qatada, UK Security Service (MI5), Bisher al-Rawi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abu Qatada.Abu Qatada. [Source: Public domain]Al-Qaeda religious leader Abu Qatada disappears, despite being under surveillance in Britain. He has been “described by some justice officials as the spiritual leader and possible puppet master of al-Qaeda’s European networks.” [Time, 7/7/2002] He supposedly escapes from his house, which the police are monitoring, in a minivan with his heavily pregnant wife and four children. [London Times, 10/25/2002; O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 108] Qatada had already been sentenced to death in abstentia in Jordan, and is wanted at the time by the US, Spain, France, and Algeria as well. [Guardian, 2/14/2002] In October 2001, the media had strongly suggested that Qatada would soon be arrested for his known roles in al-Qaeda plots, but no such arrest occurred. [London Times, 10/21/2001] In November, while Qatada was still living openly in Britain, a Spanish judge expressed disbelief that Qatada hadn’t been arrested already, as he has previously been connected to a Spanish al-Qaeda cell that may have met with Mohamed Atta in July 2001. [Observer, 11/25/2001] Time magazine will later claim that just before new anti-terrorism laws go into effect in Britain, Abu Qatada and his family are secretly moved to a safe house by the British government, where he is lodged, fed, and clothed by the government. “The deal is that Abu Qatada is deprived of contact with extremists in London and Europe but can’t be arrested or expelled because no one officially knows where he is,” says a source, whose claims were corroborated by French authorities. The British reportedly do this to avoid a “hot potato” trial. [Time, 7/7/2002] A British official rejects these assertions: “We wouldn’t give an awful lot of credence [to the story].” [Guardian, 7/8/2002] Some French officials tell the press that Qatada was allowed to disappear because he is actually a British intelligence agent. [Observer, 2/24/2002] It appears that Qatada held secret meetings with British intelligence in 1996 and 1997, and the British were under the impression that he was informing on al-Qaeda (though there is disagreement if he was misleading them or not) (see June 1996-February 1997). Qatada will be arrested in London on October 23, 2002 (see October 23, 2002).

Entity Tags: Algeria, Al-Qaeda, Abu Qatada, United Kingdom, Mohamed Atta, Central Intelligence Agency, Jordan, France, Spain

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Bisher al-Rawi, an informant for the British intelligence agency MI5, begins to have doubts about his informant work. He is mostly helping MI5 communicate with imam Abu Qatada, another MI5 informant who is pretending to be hiding from the authorities (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002). Al-Rawi is concerned that he might incriminate himself by talking to people who have links to terrorism, and is also concerned that his role as an informant could be publicly exposed. He suggests holding a meeting between his MI5 handlers and a private attorney, and specifically suggests using human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce. However, his MI5 handlers refuse and instead have him meet with an MI5 lawyer known only by the alias “Simon.” Simon assures him that MI5 would come to his aid if he is compromised or has other problems. Al-Rawi will later recall: “[Simon] gave me very solid assurances about confidentiality. He promised they would even protect me and my family if they had to. He said that, if I was ever arrested, I should cooperate with the police. If a matter got to court, he would come as a witness and tell the truth.” Some agents are beginning to have doubts that he is carrying out all their orders, and he brings up the idea of ending the relationship. Then one day one of his MI5 handlers calls him and terminates his MI5 work. [Independent, 3/16/2006; Observer, 7/29/2007] Several months later, MI5 will betray him and turn him over to the CIA to be interrogated in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo (see December 8, 2002-March 2003 and March 2003-November 18, 2007).

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), Abu Qatada, Bisher al-Rawi, “Simon”

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

It will later be alleged that in August 2002, radical imam Abu Qatada calls Spanish militant Moutaz Almallah and asks him to live with him in London. Almallah does move to London one month later. For most of 2002, Qatada is supposedly hiding in London, but in fact British intelligence knows where he is (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002 and Summer-Early November 2002), and he has a history of being an British informant (see June 1996-February 1997). The account of Moutaz moving to London comes from the estranged wife of his brother Mouhannad Almallah. Shortly after the Madrid bombings, she will tell a Spanish judge about the call and much more. She will say both brothers had frequent contact with Abu Qatada before moving. Spanish authorities also are aware that the brothers are linked to Barakat Yarkas, who frequently traveled to London to meet with Abu Qatada for many years (see 1995-February 2001). Abu Qatada will be arrested in October 2002, not long after Moutaz moves there (see October 23, 2002), but Moutaz will continue to live in London while making occasional trips back to Spain. Moutaz will be arrested in Britain in 2005. He will be extradited to Spain for a role in the 2004 Madrid train bombings, but will not have been put on trial by July 2007. In 2007, Mouhannad will be sentenced to 12 years for his role in the bombings (see October 31, 2007). [El Mundo (Madrid), 7/28/2005]

Entity Tags: Mouhannad Almallah’s wife, Abu Qatada, Barakat Yarkas, Mouhannad Almallah, Moutaz Almallah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

London imam Abu Qatada is arrested at a house in South London by Scotland Yard and MI5 officials. Intelligence agencies in eight countries, including Italy, France, and Germany, have claimed that Qatada has extensive al-Qaeda links, and he is believed to be a member of al-Qaeda’s fatwa (religious) committee (see June 1996-1997). Using anti-terrorist laws passed in December 2001, he is held at the Belmarsh high security prison without charge. He “disappeared” hours before the new laws went into effect (see Early December 2001). Several days before his arrest, Qatada came out of hiding to release a new document justifying the 9/11 attacks. He posted a ten-page document on the Internet entitled “The Legal Vision for the September 11 Events.” In it, he outlined the “moral” case for the attacks and praised Osama bin Laden for challenging the US. [London Times, 10/25/2002] Another radical London imam, Sheik Omar Bakri Mohamed, tells the press that Abu Qatada was arrested after family members visited his house and one of them used a cell phone that was apparently traced by the authorities. [New York Times, 10/26/2002] Qatada worked as an MI5 informant beginning in 1996 (see June 1996-February 1997).

Entity Tags: Abu Qatada, UK Security Service (MI5), Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Jamil al-Banna and Bisher al-Rawi have been helping the British intelligence agency MI5 communicate with al-Qaeda linked imam Abu Qatada. Al-Rawi had a formal informant relationship but was fired (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002), while al-Banna has been only helping a little on a casual basis (see Summer-Early November 2002). They are planning to travel together to Gambia for business purposes. On October 31, the day before they are to leave, al-Banna is visited by MI5 agents and British police. According to an MI5 memo later given to his lawyers, they attempt to formally recruit him as an informant. They tell him that he could “start a new life with a new identity” and acquire British citizenship (he is a long-time British resident). He turns down the offer. The agents tell him that he can travel to Gambia without a problem and return to Britain when they are done. MI5 records confirm that they are given permission to travel. [Washington Post, 4/2/2006; Observer, 7/29/2007] Al-Banna and al-Rawi leave for their trip the next day (see November 1-7, 2002).

Entity Tags: Bisher al-Rawi, UK Security Service (MI5), Jamil al-Banna

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Bisher al-Rawi, Jamil al-Banna, and Abdullah El-Janoudi are scheduled to fly from London to Gambia on November 1, 2002. They are going to help al-Rawi’s brother start a peanut factory there. Al-Rawi had worked as an informant for the British intelligence agency MI5, helping them communicate with imam Abu Qatada, but he was fired several months earlier (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002 and Summer 2002). Al-Banna had also been informally helping MI5 with Abu Qatada, but the day before their trip he had turned down an offer to formally work as an MI5 informant (see Summer-Early November 2002 and October 31, 2002). El-Janoudi is a friend and a British citizen, while the other two men are long-time British residents. At Gatwick Airport in London, the three men are detained by security agents. For four days, they are questioned by police about their luggage and their ties to Abu Qatada. In particular, they are interested in a device al-Rawi has. But on closer inspection, it turns out to be a modified store-bought battery charger. Their houses are also searched for evidence. Finally they are cleared and let go. While they are being held, MI5 contacts the CIA and warns that the three men are about to go to Gambia. MI5 calls al-Rawi an “Iraqi extremist” linked to Abu Qatada and says the battery charger is a timing device for a bomb, even though MI5 already knows this is not true. They fail to mention that al-Rawi and al-Banna have been working as MI5 informants. By the time the three men can get another flight to Gambia, seven days have passed. The Washington Post will later note that this “has led to [later] speculation by the men’s attorneys and families that the delay gave the CIA time to position operatives in Gambia.” [Washington Post, 4/2/2006; Observer, 7/29/2007] The CIA, believing the false information sent by MI5, will detain the three men as soon as they arrive in Gambia on November 8 (see November 8, 2002-December 7, 2002).

Entity Tags: UK Security Service (MI5), Abu Qatada, Central Intelligence Agency, Bisher al-Rawi, Abdullah El-Janoudi, Jamil al-Banna

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

Wahab al-Rawi.Wahab al-Rawi. [Source: Public domain]Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil al-Banna, both long-time British residents, and Abdullah El-Janoudi, a British citizen, fly from London to Gambia. They are planning to help al-Rawi’s brother, Wahab al-Rawi, set up a mobile peanut oil processing company. But before they left, they were detained for several days by police. Meanwhile, the British intelligence agency MI5 sent the CIA false information about them, for instance alleging that al-Rawi was traveling with a timing device for a bomb, even though MI5 had already inspected it and determined it was simply a battery charger (see November 1-7, 2002). MI5 asks the CIA to detain and question them when they arrive in Gambia. Wahab al-Rawi is already in Gambia, and when he and a friend arrive to greet the three men, all five of them are detained by Gambian agents. [Washington Post, 4/2/2006; Observer, 7/29/2007] But the men are moved to hidden locations and safe houses around the capital. Technically, they are held by the NIA, the Gambian intelligence agency, but CIA agents act as if they are in charge. They are intensively interrogated for many days, and one American using the alias Lee leads the questioning. Al-Rawi and al-Banna had recently worked as informants for MI5, helping them communicate with the radical imam Abu Qatada, who was said to be in hiding but was really an MI5 informant himself (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002 and Summer-Early November 2002). However, MI5 has given the CIA the impression that they were not informants but were plotting with Qatada. Al-Rawi will later say, “From the beginning, the questions made it plain that the Americans had been given the contents of my own MI5 file, which was supposed to be confidential. Lee even told me the British were giving him information. I had agreed to help MI5 because I wanted to prevent terrorism, and now the information I had freely given them was being used against me in an attempt to prove that I myself was some kind of terrorist.” [Observer, 7/29/2007] When Wahab refuses to cooperate and asks either for a lawyer or a representative from the British high commission, the Gambian agents laugh and tell him it was the British who ordered the arrests. [Guardian, 7/11/2003] According to Amnesty International, one of them is warned that if he does not cooperate he will be turned over to the Gambian police who will “beat and rape him.” [Amnesty International, 8/19/2003] The Washington Post will later report, “The primary purpose of this elaborate operation, documents and interviews suggest, was not to neutralize a pair of potential terrorists—authorities have offered no evidence that they were planning attacks—but to turn them into informers.” Al-Rawi’s lawyer will later speculate, “Either it was an attempt to put these guys at risk and to use them to find evidence that would implicate Abu Qatada, or it was an attempt to bring them within the closer control of MI5.” Just a day before leaving Britain, MI5 agents asked al-Banna to become a full-time informant and he had turned them down (see October 31, 2002). After about a month, all but Bisher al-Rawi and al-Banna are freed and allowed to return to Britain. The two of them, however, are flown to the US prison in Bagram, Afghanistan, where harsher interrogation methods can be used on them. [Washington Post, 4/2/2006] Before they leave Gambia, one of their US interrogators tells al-Rawi that they now realize the two of them were MI5 informants, but they will be sent to Bagram anyway. “He told me: ‘We know you were working for MI5’, and said if I told the truth I would get out.” [Observer, 7/29/2007]

Entity Tags: Jamil al-Banna, Central Intelligence Agency, Abdullah El-Janoudi, Wahab al-Rawi, “Lee”, Bisher al-Rawi, UK Security Service (MI5)

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Bisher al-Rawi.Bisher al-Rawi. [Source: Craig Hibbert]In February 2003, British residents Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil al-Banna are transferred from Bagram in Afghanistan to the Guantanamo prison. They spend their first month in isolation. Al-Rawi’s head and beard are shaved off as has allegedly already happened to al-Banna during his detention at Bagram. Al-Banna is put in a cell next to detainee Asif Iqbal. “[S]oon after,” Iqbal will later recall, al-Banna “began to deteriorate.” At Guantanamo, according to Iqbal, “al-Banna was in constant pain from his joints because he suffered from rheumatism and he was diabetic.” [Rasul, Iqbal, and Ahmed, 7/26/2004 pdf file] Al-Rawi and al-Banna had served as informants for the British intelligence agency MI5, helping MI5 communicate with radical imam Abu Qatada, who also was an MI5 informant (see Late September 2001-Summer 2002 and Summer-Early November 2002). First in Gambia and then in Bagram, they were pressured to resume being informants, but they refused (see November 8, 2002-December 7, 2002 and December 8, 2002-March 2003). After about six months in Guantanamo, an MI5 officer visits al-Rawi and again asks him if he wants to resume being an informer. Later, one of his previous MI5 handlers comes to visit him. He will recall: “I suppose he was nice enough. He asked if I wanted anything. I asked for a book on base jumping. He never came back, and I never got the book.” Eventually, two other previous handlers visit him and try to recruit him yet again. “They said, “You know, Bisher, if you agree to work for us when you get back to Britain, we’ll get you out.” They promised to return, but never did.” When al-Rawi faces a tribunal in September 2004 to determine if his detention is justified, he asks for his previous MI5 handlers to corroborate that he had been an informant. The British government refuses to help in any way, and the tribunal decides that he should continue to be imprisoned. The two of them grow increasingly bored and depressed, and face harsh conditions. For instance, after three detainees commit suicide in June 2006, the jailers retaliate by keeping the air conditioning turned to maximum for months. “We were freezing the whole time. Other times they made it scorching hot,” al-Rawi says. Al-Banna is not even allowed to phone his sick mother just before she dies. [Washington Post, 4/2/2006; Observer, 7/29/2007] Al-Rawi will finally be freed and flown back to Britain on April 3, 2007. Al-Banna will be freed and returned to Britain on November 18, 2007.

Entity Tags: Bisher al-Rawi, Asif Iqbal, Jamil al-Banna, UK Security Service (MI5)

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

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