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Profile: Peter Lance
Peter Lance was a participant or observer in the following events:
One of the Calverton surveillance photographs introduced as evidence in court (note that some faces have been blurred out). [Source: National Geographic]FBI agents photograph Islamic radicals shooting weapons at the Calverton Shooting Range, on Long Island, New York. The group is secretly monitored as they shoot AK-47 assault rifles, semiautomatic handguns, and revolvers for four successive weekends. The use of weapons such as AK-47’s are illegal in the US, but this shooting range is known to be unusually permissive. Ali Mohamed is apparently not at the range but has been training the five men there: El Sayyid Nosair, Mahmud Abouhalima, Mohammed Salameh, Nidal Ayyad, and Clement Rodney Hampton-El. Nosair will assassinate Rabbi Meir Kahane one year later (see November 5, 1990), and the others except for Hampton-El will be convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), while Hampton-El will be convicted for a role in the “Landmarks” bombing plot (see June 24, 1993). Some FBI agents have been assigned to watch some Middle Eastern men who are frequenting the Al-Kifah Refugee Center in Brooklyn. Each weekend, Mohamed’s trainees drive from Al-Kifah to the shooting range, and a small FBI surveillance team follows them. The FBI has been given a tip that some Palestinians at Al-Kifah are planning violence targeting Atlantic City casinos. By August, the casino plot fails to materialize, and the surveillance, including that at the shooting range, comes to an end. Author Peter Lance will later say that why the FBI failed to follow up the shooting sessions is a “great unanswered question.” [Lance, 2003, pp. 29-33; New York Times, 10/5/2003]
Andrew McCarthy. [Source: Front Page Magazine]In December 1994, defense attorney Roger Stavis is preparing to defend his client El Sayyid Nosair in the upcoming landmarks trial. He discovers the top secret US military training manuals found in Nosair’s house and begins investigating Ali Mohamed, the US soldier (and double agent) who stole the manuals and gave them to Nosair. Stavis wants to defend Nosair on the basis that since Nosair was trained by Mohamed, who worked for the CIA and US military, the US government should share culpability for Nosair’s crimes. He writes up a subpoena for Mohamed. Stravis later recalls, “I wanted him. And I tried everything to find him.” But Mohamed has disappeared and not even his wife in California knows where he is. However, US intelligence is secretly monitoring him (see Autumn 1993) and they know he is in Kenya. An FBI agent calls him there and tells him to come back to be interviewed. Mohamed immediately returns to the US and on December 9 he is interviewed by FBI agent Harlan Bell and Assistant US Attorney Andrew McCarthy, one of the prosecutors for the upcoming trial (see December 9, 1994). Mohamed stays in touch after the interview, for instance talking to McCarthy on the phone on December 22. But when the trial starts on January 30, 1995, Stavis is told that Mohamed cannot be found and never responded to the subpoena. In 1999, Ibrahim El-Gabrowny, Nosair’s cousin, will find himself in a jail cell next to Mohamed. El-Gabrowny will later allege that he asked why Mohamed never showed up in court to support Nosair. Mohamed supposedly responds that he did get the subpoena, but that McCarthy advised him to ignore it and not testify and that McCarthy would cover up for him. Had Mohamed testified, McCarthy would have had a more difficult time getting a conviction, and the revelations of Mohamed’s ties to the CIA, FBI, and US military would have been highly embarrassing. Author Peter Lance will later note also that had Mohamed testified in the high profile trial, he would have become too well known to continue working as an informant and double agent. [Lance, 2006, pp. 171-178]
Mohammed Jamal Khalifa. [Source: CBS News]Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, a brother-in-law to bin Laden, is arrested in the US. He is held for visa fraud, but he is believed to be a major terrorist. His arrest takes place at a Holiday Inn in Morgan Hill, California. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] That is only about 20 miles from Santa Clara, where double agent Ali Mohamed is running an al-Qaeda cell (see 1987-1998). Counterterrorism expert Steven Emerson will later say of Khalifa and Mohamed, “It seems to me that they were probably in contact. I’m basing that only intuitively on the fact that they were in the same area, they were close to bin Laden, and they would’ve had an incentive to stay together.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 167] According to one account, Khalifa is arrested on behalf of the government of Jordan, because he is on trial there. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001] Another account claims that Philippine authorities “tipped off Federal authorities on Khalifa’s movements.” [Filipino Reporter, 4/27/1995] He is traveling on a Saudi passport. He’d flown into the US from London on December 1 and has papers indicating he would be heading back to the Philippines. [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159] It has been claimed that the CIA helped him get his US visa (see December 1, 1994). There are many reasons for US authorities to suspect Khalifa is a major terrorist figure:
He is arrested with Mohammed Loay Bayazid, one of the dozen or so original members of al-Qaeda. Bayazid had attempted to purchase nuclear material for bin Laden the year before (see December 16, 1994).
Philippine investigators had recently completed a secret report on terrorist funding. The report focuses on Khalifa, and says his activities in the Philippines strongly link with Muslim extremist movements in Iraq, Jordan, Turkey, Russia, Malaysia, the United Arab Emirates, Romania, Lebanon, Syria, Pakistan, Albania, the Netherlands, and Morocco. It calls a charity which Khalifa runs a “pipeline through which funding for the local extremists is being coursed.” Perhaps not coincidentally, the report was released just one day before Khalifa’s arrest in the US (see December 15, 1994).
His possessions, which are quickly examined and translated, include a handwritten manual in Arabic detailing how to set up a terrorist curriculum at a school in the Philippines, giving lessons in bomb-making and assassination. [San Francisco Chronicle, 10/24/2001]
Khalifa’s business card was discovered in a search of the New York City residence of Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman in 1993 (see August 1993).
He is an unindicted coconspirator in the “Landmarks” bombings plot, which would have killed thousands in New York City. The trial is getting underway at this time. Abdul-Rahman will be convicted and sentenced to over 300 years in prison (see June 24, 1993).
A State Department cable from days after his arrest states Khalifa is a “known financier of terrorist operations and an officer of an Islamic NGO in the Philippines that is a known Hamas front.”
An alias is found in his personal organizer that was also used in a bomb-making manual brought into the US by Ahmad Ajaj, Ramzi Yousef’s travel partner, when the two of them came to the US to implement the 1993 World Trade Center bombing (see September 1, 1992).
Bojinka plotter Wali Khan Amin Shah’s phone number is found in Khalifa’s possessions. The Bojinka plot, if successful, also would have killed thousands (see January 6, 1995). [Lance, 2006, pp. 158-159]
A number in Pakistan that Ramzi Yousef had used to call the Philippines is found as well. Author Peter Lance will later note that such numbers “should have led the FBI directly to Ramzi Yousef, the world’s most wanted man” at the time. [Lance, 2006, pp. 160]
However, despite this wealth of highly incriminating material, within weeks of his arrest the US will decide to deport him to Jordan (see January 5, 1995). Over the next four months, even more of his links to terrorist activity will be discovered (see Late December 1994-April 1995). But Khalifa will be deported anyway (see April 26-May 3, 1995), and then soon freed in Jordan (see July 19, 1995).
Entity Tags: Ramzi Yousef, Steven Emerson, US Department of State, Wali Khan Amin Shah, Philippines, Ahmad Ajaj, Peter Lance, Mohammed Loay Bayazid, Ali Mohamed, Osama bin Laden, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Jordan, Omar Abdul-Rahman
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline
Following his arrest after the Bojinka plot was shut down by Philippine police (see January 6, 1995), Abdul Hakim Murad is allegedly tortured. He is reportedly subjected to sleep and food deprivation in the first few hours, and his lawyer will also claim that he is subjected to electric shocks, force-fed, and waterboarded. However, according to author Peter Lance, “these techniques only cause[d] Murad to stonewall.” The interrogation is then turned over to Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza of the Philippine police, who elicits information from Murad using two methods: First, Mendoza ensures that he is extremely hungry when the first interrogation starts, and takes a McDonald’s hamburger, French fries, and a Coke into the interrogation room, placing them in front of Murad. Mendoza says that he must give him some additional information before he can eat. Secondly, Mendoza threatens him by saying that he could be handed over to the Mossad, and claims that fellow Bojinka conspirator Wali Khan Amin Shah is already in their hands, even though Shah is still a fugitive (see January 13, 1995). These techniques are much more successful and Murad provides a good deal of additional information (see January 20, 1995, February 1995-1996, and February-Early May 1995). [Lance, 2006, pp. 181-3]
Colonel Rodolfo Mendoza. [Source: Australian Broadcasting Corporation]As Colonel Mendoza, the Philippines investigator, continues to interrogate Operation Bojinka plotter Abdul Hakim Murad, details of a post-Bojinka “second wave” emerge. Author Peter Lance calls this phase “a virtual blueprint of the 9/11 attacks.” Murad reveals a plan to hijack commercial airliners at some point after the effect of Bojinka dies down. Murad himself had been training in the US for this plot. He names the ten or so buildings that would be targeted for attack:
An unidentified nuclear power plant.
The Transamerica Tower in San Francisco.
The Sears Tower in Chicago.
The World Trade Center.
John Hancock Tower in Boston.
The White House. [Washington Post, 12/30/2001; Lance, 2003, pp. 278-280; Playboy, 6/1/2005]
Murad continues to reveal more information about this plot until he is handed over to the FBI in April (see April-May 1995). He also mentions that ten suicide pilots have already been chosen and are training in the US (see February 1995-1996). Mendoza uses what he learns from Murad and other sources to make a flow chart connecting many key al-Qaeda figures together (see Spring 1995). Philippine authorities later claim that they provide all of this information to US authorities, but the US fails to follow up on any of it. [Lance, 2003, pp. 303-4] Sam Karmilowicz, a security official at the US embassy in Manila, Philippines during this time period, will later claim that just before Murad was deported to the US in early May, he picked up an envelope containing all that the Philippine government had learned from Murad. He then sent the envelope to a US Justice Department office in New York City. He believes Mike Garcia and Dietrich Snell, assistant US attorneys who will later prosecute Murad, almost certainly had access to this evidence (see Early 1998). [CounterPunch, 3/9/2006]
Entity Tags: Al-Qaeda, Ramzi Yousef, Rodolfo Mendoza, Hambali, Peter Lance, Dietrich Snell, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, Mike Garcia, Abdul Hakim Murad
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
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).
An immigration judge approves the deportation of Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, saying “his presence in the United States would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences.” Khalifa reportedly leaves the US for Jordan on May 3, although there is some evidence he remains in US custody until August (see May 3, 1995-August 31, 1995). [United Press International, 5/5/1995] He will quickly be retried in Jordan, pronounced not guilty of all charges, and set free (see July 19, 1995). Jacob Boesen, an analyst at the CIA’s Counter Terrorism Center, will later recall, “I remember people at the CIA who were ripsh_t at the time. Not even speaking in retrospect, but contemporaneous with what the intelligence community knew about bin Laden, Khalifa’s deportation was unreal.” [San Francisco Chronicle, 4/18/1995; Associated Press, 4/26/1995; New York Times, 5/2/2002; Lance, 2003, pp. 233-35] Author Peter Lance will later comment, “If this arrest had been properly followed up by the FBI and the Justice Department, it could have led to the seizure of both Ramzi Yousef and his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, and stopped the 9/11 plot dead in its tracks.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 158]
Defense counsel for El Sayyid Nosair, one of the militants accused in the “Landmarks” bomb plot (see June 24, 1993) along with the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman, applies for a missing witness instruction for double agent Ali Mohamed. The counsel, Roger Stavis, believes that it would benefit his client to have Mohamed testify, because Mohamed worked for militants connected to Abdul-Rahman as well as the FBI (see 1990), CIA (see 1984), and US army (see 1986). Therefore, Stavis might be able to use Nosair’s connection with Mohamed to convince the jury that Nosair was acting on the instructions of an agent of the US government. Stavis has been attempting to contact Mohamed with no success for some time, although the prosecution is in contact with him where he lives in California (see December 1994-January 1995). Under federal law, a trial judge can give a missing witness instruction if one party at a trial wants a witness to testify but cannot find him, whereas the other party can find him but does not seem to want him to testify. Based on such an instruction, the jury can then decide that the party that could find him, but did not get him to testify, did so deliberately because it thought the testimony would be damaging to it. Author Peter Lance will later comment that, given the circumstances, “Stavis had every right to expect that jury charge,” but Judge Michael Mukasey merely responds, “I don’t think a missing witness charge on that gentleman is warranted and I am not going to give one.” Lance will comment that by failing to grant the missing witness instruction, Mukasey helps “bury the significance” of Mohamed, and conceal his role in Islamic militancy from the public. [Lance, 2006, pp. 208; Raw Story, 9/25/2007] President Bush will later appoint Mukasey to be the US attorney general (see November 8, 2007).
Wali Khan Amin Shah. [Source: Peter Lance]While al-Qaeda operative Jamal al-Fadl gives a treasure trove of useful information on al-Qaeda to US intelligence (see June 1996-April 1997), one person he describes in detail is Wali Khan Amin Shah. Shah was one of the plotters of the Operation Bojinka plot (see February 7, 1995). Al-Fadl reveals that Shah has al-Qaeda ties. Author Peter Lance notes that US intelligence should have concluded that Shah’s fellow Operation Bojinka plotter, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), also has al-Qaeda ties. However, there is no new effort to find KSM, and he later goes on to mastermind the 9/11 attacks. [Lance, 2003, pp. 330-31]
FBI agent Jack Cloonan, a member of the FBI’s I-49 bin Laden squad, will tell author Peter Lance after 9/11 that another FBI agent belonging to I-49 named Frank Pellegrino saw some of the surveillance photos taken of the al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia several months earlier (see January 5-8, 2000 and January 5-8, 2000 and Shortly After). Cloonan will say, “Pellegrino was in Kuala Lumpur,” the capital of Malaysia. “And the CIA chief of station said, ‘I’m not supposed to show these photographs, but here. Take a look at these photographs. Know any of these guys?’” But Pellegrino does not recognize them, as he is working to catch Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) and apparently is not involved in other cases. However, there have been numerous reports that KSM was at the summit (see January 5-8, 2000). Further, Lance will note that if Pellegrino could not identify KSM, he could have recognized Hambali, another attendee of the summit. Pellegrino was in the Philippines in 1995 and worked with local officials there as they interrogated Abdul Hakim Murad, one of the Bojinka bombers (see February-Early May 1995). During this time, Murad’s interrogators learned about Hambali’s involvement in a front company called Konsonjaya and passed the information on to US officials (see Spring 1995). Further, an FBI report from 1999 shows the FBI was aware of Hambali’s ties to Konsonjaya by that time (see May 23, 1999). [Lance, 2006, pp. 340-341]
Prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald testifies before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary about post-9/11 legislative changes, and says that the removal of the “wall” was a significant step forward for US counterintelligence. The wall was a set of procedures which regulated the passage of intelligence information within the FBI and from the FBI to prosecutors (see July 19, 1995). Fitzgerald says the removal of the wall represented “the single greatest change that could be made to protect our country.” He cites four cases that he says are examples of how the wall and other such obstacles have hampered counterterrorism efforts:
The arrest of Ali Mohamed. Fitzgerald claims it would have been “far less difficult” to arrest al-Qaeda operative Ali Mohamed for his involvement in the attacks on US embassies in East Africa (see September 10, 1998) had it not been for the wall. [US Congress, 10/21/2003] However, author Peter Lance will point out, “But Fitzgerald neglected to tell the senators that… prosecutors and FBI agents had been monitoring the bombing cell members for two years or that they’d had multiple face-to-face meetings with Mohamed himself.” Mohamed, who was called a “key figure” in the Day of Terror plot in the US press in early 1995 (see February 3, 1995), had actually met Fitzgerald a year before the arrest and told him that he had trained bin Laden’s bodyguards, lived in bin Laden’s house, loved and believed in bin Laden, and that he didn’t need a fatwa to attack the US, as it was obvious the US was the enemy (see After October 1997). [Lance, 2006, pp. 274-6, 299-300]
The Day of Terror conspiracy. After the partial success of the World Trade Center bombing (see February 26, 1993), the conspirators planned to attack other targets in New York, but were arrested by the FBI, which had penetrated their cell. All of the arrested plotters were successfully convicted. However, Fitzgerald tells the committee, “Prosecutors were in the dark about the details of the plot until very late in the day.” [US Congress, 10/21/2003; Lance, 2006, pp. 118-9]
The Millennium Alert. Fitzgerald says that in 1999, investigations into suspected millennium plots were hampered because “criminal prosecutors received information only in part and with lag time so as not to breach the wall.” All attacks planned for the millennium failed, including one plot to bomb the Los Angeles airport (see December 31, 1999-January 1, 2000).
Sharing Wadih El-Hage’s grand jury interview. In 1997, Al-Qaeda operative El-Hage provided information about bin Laden and his associates to a grand jury. Fitzgerald wanted to pass some of this information along to intelligence investigators (see September 24, 1997) but was unable to because grand jury information cannot be shared with intelligence investigators. To get around this restriction, an FBI agent had to get El-Hage to repeat the information outside the grand jury room. (Note: this example is not directly related to the “wall” under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but rather to a similar obstacle governing the passage of information in the opposite direction—from criminal agents to intelligence agents). [US Congress, 10/21/2003]
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