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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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From American soil, Uzair also committed various forms of identity fraud in service of Majid Khan, an al Qaeda operative who KSM planned to use in attacks inside America. (Khan was detained just a few days after KSM, but the precise intelligence used to locate Khan is not clear.) Khan had lived in the U.S. for years, but was having trouble getting back into his one-time home country. Thus, Uzair posed as Khan and engaged in other acts of identity fraud that were intended to secure the paperwork necessary to sneak Khan back in. Once back in America, Khan was to have participated in a plot against a variety of targets, including gas stations, on the East Coast. Khan had worked at his family's stateside gas station, and KSM figured this gave Khan an advantage in trying to set such facilities ablaze--most likely using explosives smuggled into the country by the Parachas.

Therefore, contrary to Bergen's unsupported assertion, Uzair Paracha was clearly an al Qaeda foot soldier "living in the United States who had the serious intention to wreak havoc in America." A U.S. court even found Uzair guilty and sentenced him to thirty years in prison for it. Bergen, of course, doesn't get into any of this in his analyses (if we can call them that) of the subject. He mentions the Parachas briefly, but seems remarkably unconcerned with their plotting.

But at least Bergen mentions the Parachas. Adnan El Shukrijumah does not even receive a passing reference. Perhaps this is because, somewhat curiously, the un-redacted portions of the inspector general's report do not mention him. But another CIA document released on August 24 does: "KSM has also spoken at length about operative Jafar al Tayar, admitting that al Qaeda had tasked al Tayar to case specific targets in New York City in 2001."

Jafar al Tayar (or Jafar "the Pilot") is El Shukrijumah's al Qaeda nom de guerre. Before KSM's interrogations, U.S. authorities had heard from other al Qaeda detainees that Jafar was likely to lead the next round of attacks on American soil. But the FBI and CIA did not know Jafar's real identity. During KSM's questioning they were able to piece it together. KSM even identified Jafar as El Shukrijumah when shown his photo.

The FBI then issued a "Be on the Lookout" (BOLO) alert for Shukrijumah on March 20, 2003--again, just weeks after KSM was captured. Press reports at the time, citing FBI officials (who are hardly defenders of the CIA's interrogation program), pointed to the key role that KSM's interrogations played in identifying El Shukrijumah. FBI officials also said that El Shukrijumah was one of the top five terrorists the Bureau was worried about in the context of al Qaeda's next round of attacks on the continental U.S.

A massive manhunt for El Shukrijumah on American soil ensued. He had lived in Florida for years and may have been in the U.S. at the time. The FBI did not know, in March 2003, where El Shukrijumah was exactly. Subsequent reports suggest that he may have slipped out of the country at some point. In any event, the added scrutiny that followed the FBI's alert may very well have made it impossible for El Shukrijumah to become the next Mohammed Atta--as was widely feared.

Oddly, Bergen is silent on all of this. The story of the hunt for El Shukrijumah, and KSM's key role in that hunt, is not even mentioned in Bergen's two pieces. But while Bergen may not think much of the El Shukrijumah story, the FBI still does. More than six years after KSM's identification, El Shukrijumah remains one of the principal al Qaeda personalities the FBI is
seeking information on.

Bergen's silence, it turns out, is preferable to his attempts at analysis. In just a few words, Bergen managed to butcher the story of Iyman Faris beyond recognition.

Faris, who had met personally with Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan, was introduced to KSM by Majid Khan, the aforementioned al Qaeda plotter who was attempting to sneak back into the U.S. It was KSM who first proposed the idea of bringing down the Brooklyn Bridge using "gas cutters." KSM asked Faris to investigate the possibility.