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Profile: Neil Herman

Neil Herman was a participant or observer in the following events:

Garrett Wilson, a paramilitary trainer and gun seller working as an FBI informant, had made an agreement to give weapons training to a group of radical militants, but the FBI canceled the plan at the last minute after FBI superior Carson Dunbar worried the FBI could be training future terrorists. Wilson had made the arrangement with Clement Rodney Hampton-El and Abu Ubaidah Yahya, both of whom are connected to the Al-Kifah Refugee Center, which is linked to al-Qaeda and the CIA (see 1986-1993). But while the training has been canceled, Wilson’s cover as an informant has not been blown yet and his FBI handlers realize that Wilson would still have to give Hampton-El some equipment he’d bought for him. His FBI handlers Tommy Corrigan and John Liguori proposes that Wilson meet Hampton-El so the FBI can monitor the meeting and see where the trail leads. This time, they avoid Dunbar and get permission from a different supervisor, Neil Herman. Wilson goes to meet Hampton-El at a New Jersey hotel on January 15, 1993. Hampton-El isn’t there, but Yahya is, along with two others that Wilson does not know. Wilson hands off the equipment (weapons and military manuals) and quickly leaves, and then the FBI tails the others as they leave. Yahya returns in one car to the Al-Kifah office, where he is the security chief. The others go in another car to the apartment where the Blind Shiekh, Shiekh Omar Abdul-Rahman, lives. The FBI quickly determines the other two men at the meeting are Abdo Mohammed Haggag, Abdul-Rahman’s speechwriter, and Siddig Siddig Ali, Abdul-Rahman’s Sudanese translator. Corrigan, Liguori, and other FBI agents are stunned by the connections to Abdul-Rahman, who is a well-known public figure. But they will only be allowed to follow up for several days before the surveillance operation is canceled. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 87-90]

Entity Tags: Carson Dunbar, Tommy Corrigan, Abdo Mohammed Haggag, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, Omar Abdul-Rahman, Siddig Siddig Ali, John Liguori, Clement Rodney Hampton-El, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Garrett Wilson, Abu Ubaidah Yahya, Neil Herman

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Neil Herman.Neil Herman. [Source: Paul Schneck Photography]The Al-Kifah Refugee Center is bin Laden’s largest fundraising group in the US and has offices in many cities (see 1986-1993 and 1985-1989). Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later call it “al-Qaeda’s operational headquarters in the United States.” [Emerson, 2006, pp. 436] Nearly every figure involved in the 1993 WTC bombing has a connection to the Al-Kifah branch in Brooklyn, New York. [Newsweek, 3/29/1993] Bob Blitzer, a former FBI terrorism chief who heads the FBI’s first Islamic terrorism squad, is stunned to discover the number of militants connected to Al-Kifah who have left the US to fight for Muslim causes overseas. He will later remember thinking, “What the hell’s going on?” Neil Herman, head of the FBI’s WTC bombing investigation, will comment, “It was like a modern underground railroad.” But no effort is made to keep track of who has gone overseas to fight, even though many of the WTC bombers had gone overseas to fight then came back to use their training to plan an attack in the US. Furthermore, the Al-Kifah office in Brooklyn shuts itself down, but all the other branch offices remain open. US News and World Report will later note that the offices “were left largely intact [and] helped form the nucleus of bin Laden’s al-Qaeda network.” Herman will say, “They certainly continued on, but were somewhat fragmented.” Over time, the other branches generally go underground. Soon their functions are largely replaced by a network of Islamic charities. For instance, the functions of the Brooklyn branch, including its newsletter and website, are directly taken over by a new Boston-based charity called Care International (see April 1993-Mid-2003). Another charity is the Benevolence International Foundation (BIF), run by Enaam Arnaout, who is a veteran of the Al-Kifah Brooklyn office. [US News and World Report, 6/2/2002] The US will not freeze the assets of Al-Kifah until shortly after 9/11, long after all the US branches have dissolved (see September 24, 2001). There is evidence to suggest that the CIA had ties to Al-Kifah and blocked FBI investigations of it (see Late 1980s and After).

Entity Tags: Enaam Arnaout, Al-Kifah Refugee Center, Benevolence International Foundation, Care International (Boston), Neil Herman, Bob Blitzer, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

US intelligence learns of ties between Ramzi Yousef and bin Laden. FBI official Neil Herman, head of the WTC bombing investigation, will later say, “The first connection with bin Laden came in connection with some phone records overseas, connecting either Yousef or possibly one of his family members.” But Herman adds that bin Laden was just “one of thousands of leads that we were trying to run out.” Bin Laden will later praise Yousef but say, “Unfortunately, I did not know him before the incident.” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 47-48]

Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Neil Herman, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abdul Rahman Yasin.Abdul Rahman Yasin. [Source: CBS News]A week after the WTC bombing, an Iraqi-American is questioned by the FBI and then allowed to leave the country, despite evidence tying him to the bombing. Abdul Rahman Yasin is a US citizen but spent most of his life in Iraq until 1992, when he returned to the US. Two of the major WTC bomb plotters, Ramzi Yousef and Mohammed Salameh, lived in the apartment directly above Yasin’s. Several days after Salameh is arrested, the FBI searches Yasin’s apartment. They find traces of bomb explosives on a scale, a tool box, and a shirt. In the trash, they find jeans with an acid hole burned in them, and torn pieces of a map showing the route to Yousef’s other apartment. Yasin is taken to an FBI office and interrogated by Neil Herman, head of the FBI’s WTC bombing investigation, and others. Yasin gives information about Salameh, Yousef, and other participants in the bomb plot. Agents observe a chemical burn on his right thigh, making them suspect that he was involved in mixing the chemicals used in the bombing. The next day, he drives FBI agents to the apartment where the bomb was made. Yet Yasin will later be interviewed and claims that the FBI never asked him if he was involved in the bomb plot. Later that evening, he flies to Iraq. Herman will later say, “There was not enough information to hold him and detain him. And the decision was made, and he was allowed to leave.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/12/2001] In 2002, Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz will recall, “I have to tell you that we fear[ed] that sending Yasin back to Iraq… was a sting operation [for the US to] tell people later on, look, this man who participated in that event now is in Iraq, etc., and use it as they are doing now, using many false pretexts, you see, to hurt Iraq in their own way.” [60 Minutes, 6/2/2002] Yasin will be indicted in August 1993 for his role in the WTC bombing and the US later puts a $2 million bounty on his head. In October 2001, that will be increased to $25 million. In 2002, Yasin will be interviewed by CBS News in Iraq and will confess to involvement in the WTC bombing but says he was not an Iraqi government agent. Iraqi authorities will tell CBS that Yasin is still imprisoned without charge and has been in prison since 1994, but this has not been independently confirmed. Some continue to point to Yasin as evidence that Iraq was behind the WTC bombing. [Los Angeles Times, 10/12/2001; 60 Minutes, 6/2/2002]

Entity Tags: Tariq Aziz, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ramzi Yousef, Mohammed Salameh, Neil Herman, Abdul Rahman Yasin

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

February 7, 1995: Ramzi Yousef Rendered to US

After Ramzi Yousef is arrested in Pakistan (see February 7, 1995), he is rendered to the US. He is read his rights before he boards the rendition flight and, as author Peter Lance will later comment, “at that time, in February 1995, the Justice Department was still quite scrupulous about the due process issues, so much so that after Yousef was led onto the plane [US agents] read him his Miranda warnings a second time.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 203] The aircraft used for the rendition belongs to the US Air Force and the operation is run by FBI manager Neil Herman. The plane is moved to a “quiet area” of Islamabad airport and, according to author Simon Reeve, Yousef is then “bundled on to the jet.” [Reeve, 1999, pp. 107] National Security Council official Daniel Benjamin will explain why Yousef and Mir Aimal Kasi (see January 25, 1993) are not extradited in the normal manner, but rendered: “Both were apprehended in Pakistan, whose leaders decided that the nation would rather not have those two—folk heroes to some—sitting in jail, awaiting extradition. Pakistan’s leaders feared that cooperating with the United States would be dangerously unpopular, so they wanted the suspects out of the country quickly.” [Washington Post, 10/21/2007] Yousef makes a partial confession while being flown to the US (see February 8, 1995).

Entity Tags: Mir Aimal Kasi, Peter Lance, Neil Herman, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Ramzi Yousef, Daniel Benjamin

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Complete 911 Timeline

Peter Bergen.Peter Bergen. [Source: Peter Bergen]Author and former war correspondent Peter Bergen writes that in the run-up to the Iraq war, most Americans believed wholeheartedly that Saddam Hussein and Iraq were behind the 9/11 attacks. Bergen writes: “[T]he belief that Saddam posed an imminent threat to the United States amounted to a theological conviction within the administration, a conviction successfully sold to the American public. So it’s fair to ask: Where did this faith come from?” One source is the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a neoconservative think tank who has placed many of its fellows in the Bush administration, including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, and John Bolton. But, Bergen notes, none of the AEI analysts and writers are experts on either Iraq or the Middle East. None have ever served in the region. And most actual Middle East experts both in and out of government don’t believe that Iraq had any connection to the 9/11 attacks. The impetus for the belief in a 9/11-Iraq connection in part comes from neoconservative academic Laurie Mylroie.
Mylroie Supplies Neoconservatives with Desired Rationale - A noted author with an impressive academic resume, Mylroie, Bergen writes, “was an apologist for Saddam’s regime, but reversed her position upon his invasion of Kuwait in 1990, and, with the zeal of the academic spurned, became rabidly anti-Saddam.” In 1993, Mylroie decided that Saddam Hussein was behind the World Trade Center bombings, and made her case in a 2000 AEI-published book, Study of Revenge: Saddam Hussein’s Unfinished War Against America (see October 2000). Mylroie’s message was evidently quite popular with AEI’s neoconservatives. In her book, Mylroie blamed every terrorist event of the decade on Hussein, from the 1993 WTC bombings (a theory Bergen calls “risible”) to the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 into Long Island Sound (see July 17, 1996-September 1996), the 1998 embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998), the 2000 attack on the USS Cole (see October 12, 2000), and even the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings (see 8:35 a.m. - 9:02 a.m. April 19, 1995). Bergen calls her a “crackpot,” and notes that it “would not be significant if she were merely advising say, [conservative conspiracy theorist] Lyndon LaRouche. But her neocon friends who went on to run the war in Iraq believed her theories, bringing her on as a consultant at the Pentagon, and they seem to continue to entertain her eccentric belief that Saddam is the fount of the entire shadow war against America.”
Complete Discrediting - Bergen, after detailing how Mylroie ignored conclusive evidence that both the 1993 and 9/11 attacks were planned by al-Qaeda terrorists and not Saddam Hussein, quotes former CIA counterterrorism chief Vincent Cannistraro, who says Mylroie “has an obsession with Iraq and trying to link Saddam to global terrorism.” Cannistraro is joined by author and former CIA analyst Ken Pollack; Mary Jo White, the US attorney who prosecuted the 1993 WTC bombings and 1998 embassy attacks; and Neil Herman, the FBI official who headed the 1993 WTC investigation, who all dismiss Mylroie’s theories as absolutely baseless and thoroughly disproven by the evidence.
Belief or Convenience? - Apparently such thorough debunking did not matter to the AEI neoconservatives. Bergen writes that they were “formulating an alternative vision of US foreign policy to challenge what they saw as the feckless and weak policies of the Clinton administration. Mylroie’s research and expertise on Iraq complemented the big-think strategizing of the neocons, and a symbiotic relationship developed between them.” Whether the neoconservatives actually believed Mylroie’s work, or if “her findings simply fit conveniently into their own desire to overthrow Saddam,” Bergen isn’t sure. Perle later backed off of supporting Mylroie’s theories, calling them less than convincing and downplaying her role in developing arguments for overthrowing Hussein even as he suggests she should be placed in a position of power at the CIA. It is known that after 9/11, former CIA Director James Woolsey, a prominent neoconservative, went to Britain to investigate some of Mylroie’s claims (see Mid-September-October 2001). And in September 2003, Vice President Cheney called Iraq “the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault for many years, but most especially on 9/11,” an echoing of Mylroie’s own theories. Mylroie’s latest book, Bush vs. the Beltway: How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror, accuses those agencies of suppressing information about Iraq’s role in 9/11, again contradicting all known intelligence and plain common sense (see July 2003).
Zeitgeist - Bergen concludes that in part because of Mylroie’s theories and their promulgation by Bush, Cheney, and prominent neoconservatives in and out of the administration, the US has been led into a disastrous war while 70 percent of Americans believe that Hussein had a role in the 9/11 attacks. “[H]er specious theories of Iraq’s involvement in anti-American terrorism have now become part of the American zeitgeist.” Perhaps the most telling statement from Mylroie comes from a recent interview in Newsweek, where she said: “I take satisfaction that we went to war with Iraq and got rid of Saddam Hussein. The rest is details.” Bergen retorts sourly, “Now she tells us.” [Washington Monthly, 12/2003; Unger, 2007, pp. 216]

Entity Tags: Kenneth Pollack, John R. Bolton, Clinton administration, Bush administration (43), American Enterprise Institute, Al-Qaeda, Vincent Cannistraro, Saddam Hussein, Neil Herman, Richard (“Dick”) Cheney, James Woolsey, Mary Jo White, Lyndon LaRouche, Peter Bergen, Laurie Mylroie, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle

Timeline Tags: Neoconservative Influence

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