Monday, May 03, 2004

On Further Review...

I've had the opportunity to re-read Dick Clarke's book, "Against all Enemies", this time a bit more critically than on my first quick pass. On a second reading, you get the sense of many incomplete tidbits of information that (presumably by editorial necessity) Mr. Clarke relies on the reader to pursue further. One such passage that jumped out at me was a description of a golden opportunity for understanding the nature of the al Qaeda organization:
Then in the spring of 1996, two chess pieces moved. Bin Laden flew to Afghanistan, closing some of his Khartoum companies and houses. After he left, Jamal al-Fadl, who had been privy to much of the "bin Laden network" based in Sudan, sought U.S. protection. He had been siphoning off funds and feared al Qaeda would kill him. Fadl's interrogation the size and shape of the network. And that's the only mention of al-Fadl in Clarke's book. Just this past weekend, an article buried in the Sunday New York Times revealed how important al-Fadl really was:
One of its first members when he swore allegiance around 1990, he held a position of confidence with Mr. bin Laden that included helping to manage his payroll, testimony has shown. Mr. Fadl had access to the files of each of the group's members, knew their aliases and was privy to details of Mr. bin Laden's global financial network. He developed an intimate knowledge of Mr. bin Laden's businesses, which prosecutors said were fronts for terrorism, and was able to describe how Al Qaeda used false passports, smuggled arms and tried to buy components for nuclear weapons.

In 1996, Mr. Fadl fled the organization after he embezzled about $110,000 from one of Mr. bin Laden's companies, eventually walking into an American embassy in Africa and offering his services in the fight against Al Qaeda. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges in a closed 1997 proceeding, and until he testified, prosecutors referred to him in court papers only as CS-1, for confidential source.

In February 2001, wearing a white skullcap, an open-neck shirt and blue jeans, Mr. Fadl identified himself in a Manhattan courtroom and began several days of riveting testimony against four men charged with conspiring in the embassy attacks, in which more than 200 people died, and in the killings of 18 American soldiers in Somalia in 1993.
So, you can see that al-Fadl was more than just your typical squealer, and because of his former position within bin Laden's organization, federal marshals placed him in the witness protection program. He was apparently deposed / debriefed during the course of many video conferences, some of which were taped. Ultimately, al-Fadl helped convict the four men. The problem is, video taping anyone in the witness protection program is against policy. The line of thinking is that such videos could reveal the identity of the witness. And more importantly, when the trials began in 2001 on John Ashcroft's watch, federal marshals did not reveal the existence of the videos to the prosecution. So, now the prosecution is trying to get the convictions overturned, and secure a new trial for the defendants.

Damn the discovery process.

But anyway, out of this whole bag of worms, Clarke described the opportunity in a few short words. And this is where many people fail to grasp the connected nature of many of the events that Clarke describes in his book. Lastly, the post-squealer treatment of al-Fadl seems to almost be Chalabi-esque in nature:
As officials press him for help, he presses back, asking them to fix his car, buy him a house and give him money, for himself and for his parents back in Sudan. The authorities, it becomes clear, have taken responsibility not just for a witness, but for an entire family. Indeed, testimony in the bombings trial showed that the government had spent almost $1 million on Mr. Fadl and his relatives.Too bad al-Fadl wasn't peddling porn. Then he could have really cut a sweet deal with Ashcroft's crew.