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KSM's Sleeper Agents Posed A Serious Threat

Peter Bergen v. The CIA

12:00 AM, Sep 11, 2009 • By THOMAS JOSCELYN
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You would think the identification and arrest of sleeper agents working for al Qaeda mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), and operating on U.S. soil in 2003, is a success story our intelligence and law enforcement agencies can rightly trumpet, no? Not according to Peter Bergen, who is a senior fellow at the New America Foundation and a national security analyst for CNN.

Writing about the inspector general's report on the CIA's detention and interrogation program and two other CIA analyses released on August 24, Bergen wrote the following on CNN.com:

Of the terrorists, alleged and otherwise, cited by the CIA inspector general that [Khalid Sheikh Mohammed] fingered during his coercive interrogations, only Ohio truck driver Lyman (sic) Faris was an actual al Qaeda foot soldier living in the United States who had the serious intention to wreak havoc in America. However, he was not much of a competent terrorist: In 2002 he researched the feasibility of bringing down the Brooklyn Bridge by using a blowtorch, an enterprise akin to demolishing the Empire State Building with a firecracker.

Bergen made the same arguments in a piece for Foreign Policy.

Simply put, Bergen is wrong by a wide margin on both counts.

Iyman (not Lyman) Faris was not the only worrisome al Qaeda sleeper agent living on U.S. soil and identified by Khalid Sheikh Mohammed during questioning. Bergen does not explain how he reached this conclusion in the face of substantial contradictory evidence; he just says it. And Bergen's dismissal of Iyman Faris as an incompetent is so obtuse that one has to wonder if Bergen is even casually familiar with Faris's case.

The newly declassified documents, as well as other evidence, make it clear that intelligence gained during KSM's coercive interrogations led to the identification of at least three al Qaeda sleeper agents who operated on U.S. soil. They are: Uzair Paracha, Adnan El Shukrijumah and Iyman Faris.

There may have been more, but we cannot know for certain because substantial portions of the documents released on August 24 remain redacted. In any event, we know a fair amount about these three and, contrary to Bergen's claim, Faris was not the only one of them who intended to "wreak havoc in America."

Uzair Paracha lived in Brooklyn and worked in Manhattan at the time of his arrest in late March 2003--just weeks after KSM was captured. KSM gave up information that led to the identification of not only Uzair, but also his father, Saifullah Paracha, who lived in Pakistan at the time. This father-son duo was plotting with KSM to execute attacks on American soil.

To facilitate al Qaeda's carnage, KSM intended to use the Paracha's import-export business as a front for smuggling explosives into the U.S. Saifullah, who is a wealthy man and is now detained at Guantanamo, operated an international textile business. As a memo produced for his case at Guantanamo notes, Saifullah "discussed a plan with al Qaeda operatives for al Qaeda to use [his] textile business to smuggle explosives into the United States." The plan, which was conceived by KSM, "involved shipping explosives in containers [Saifullah] used to ship clothes he sold in the United States." Ominously, Saifullah "agreed to this plan."

And who was to coordinate the American end of this al Qaeda smuggling operation? On the receiving end was Saifullah's son, Uzair, who had an office in the Garment District of Manhattan.