By Wayne Madsen – October 3, 2005
The one individual who stands tall among those intelligence and law enforcement officers who was aggressively pursuing the criminal network that would carry out 911 was FBI counter-terrorism top man John O’Neill. Ever since the first World Trade Center bombing in 1993, O’Neill’s pursuit of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda had been dogged. After further terrorist attacks at the Khobar Towers barracks in Dharan, Saudi Arabia; the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania; and the USS Cole in Aden harbor, O’Neill’s biggest problem was not Al Qaeda, it was resistance from top officials inside the U.S. government.
According to classified documents from French intelligence, Al Qaeda and Bin Laden had still been under the operational control of U.S. and British “security services” until 1995, fully two years after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. As of 1996, the U.S. State Department continued to refuse to list Al Qaeda as a terrorist organization. After the 1996 bombings of the Khobar Towers that killed nineteen U.S. military personnel, the State Department under Secretary of State Warren Christopher, FBI Director Louis Freeh, and the Saudi government did everything they could to obstruct O’Neill’s investigation.
In his aggressive pursuit of Al Qaeda, O’Neill, according to people who worked closely with him, began to have serious concerns over complicity by those inside the Clinton and Bush administrations. There was the mysterious theft in the summer of 2000 of his briefcase at a Tampa hotel during a retirement seminar where the only other participants were 150 other FBI agents. In the briefcase were a few classified emails and a classified document called the Annual Field Office Report, a summary of the New York FBI’s office counter-terrorist and counter-intelligence operations, including one very sensitive investigation being conducted by another New York counter-intelligence FBI special agent, Michael Dick. Although a lighter, cigar cutter, and expensive pen were stolen, the papers were all accounted for when the briefcase turned up 90 minutes later at another nearby hotel. Ninety minutes, of course, was sufficient time to photocopy the documents and discover what O’Neill knew about both Al Qaeda and their Israeli shadows.
Special Agent Dick, who worked closely with O’Neill, had discovered a troubling ring of Israeli movers operating in the New York and New Jersey areas. Furthermore, some of these Israelis not only had connections with Mossad and other Israeli intelligence agencies but were also shadowing Arab and Muslims that had been under investigation as potential terrorist cells. But the Israelis were acting independently and there was no effort made to inform the FBI or local police of any intelligence they were obtaining on their targets.
Further frustrating Dick’s counter-espionage activities against the Israelis was the fact that they were using communications methods that made it almost impossible to conduct communications surveillance: they used Verizon pre-paid cell phones, two-way Nextel walkie-talkies, and Internet cafes.
At the same time, the DEA had discovered a nationwide ring of Israeli “art students,” many of whom had past connections to Israeli intelligence and military demolition units, were operating in and around New York and New Jersey. What the DEA did not realize was that the art students were also shadowing the very same Arab cells that would later carry out the 911 attacks.
And the DEA had become aware of a drug connection between the Russian-Israeli Mafia in Colombia and the globe trotting Saudi Prince Nayif al Saud. The DEA’s Operation Millennium was directed against this network, which largely took down most of the network in June 1999, when 808 kilograms of cocaine were seized in Paris. Later the DEA, in June 2000, the DEA declassified a “SECRET DEA-6” report from the DEA’s BCO (Bogota Country Office) so that the PCO (Paris Country Office) could share the intelligence on Saudi cocaine smuggling operations with the Paris police. The DEA and French law enforcement had compiled tons of evidence that Prince Nayif was transporting cocaine to support some major event.
The DEA report stated that Nayif stated that Allah had authorized him to sell drugs and that later his reason for selling the drugs would become known. It is significant that Nayif did not use alcohol, tobacco or drugs. Nayif claimed diplomatic immunity and the Saudi government threatened France and the Clinton administration with withholding lucrative contracts if they pursued their prince. Because of O’Neill’s close contacts with DEA, this intelligence would have been made known to him as well. The Saudi cocaine smuggling network involved organized crime elements tied to the Russian-Israeli Mafia in Miami; Medellin, Colombia; Marbella and Barcelona, Spain; Venezuela; Geneva; and the Netherlands. According to the DEA report, Nayif fathered a child with a woman named Doris Salazar, a Colombian national residing in Miami. The report also states that an organized crime figure only identified as “Pepe,” a Cuban American who ran a “large section of the Miami Port” and who came to Florida during the 1978 Mariel boat lift, was involved with Nayif in “protecting narcotic shipments upon arrival in the Miami port.” The declassified SECRET DEA-6 report contains the names of a number of cooperating witnesses in the investigation of Nayif and the cocaine smuggling network and the author takes seriously the statement in the document: “Protect identities of the cooperating defendants.”
The DEA originally became interested in the Israelis because they suspected they were involved in an Israeli Mafia Ecstasy smuggling ring. However, it soon became clear that the DEA had stumbled across something much larger – not only were DEA offices and homes of DEA agents around the country being cased by the Israelis, but they were also targeting Federal judges, U.S. Marshals, Environmental Protection Agency law enforcement officers, and FBI agents for surveillance.
It also became clear to the DEA that the Israeli art students were also involved with certain Colombians. On March 22, 2002, at the Oak Hills Apartment Complex in Irving, Texas, DEA agents arrested Israeli art student Dahan Eldad, along with Elsa Beatriz Africano-Leon, a Colombian national. On March 27, DEA agents arrested four other Israelis in the same apartment complex, including Aran Ofek, who said his father was a retired Israeli army two-star general. A $10,000 bond for another arrested Israeli, Michal Gal, was placed by Ophir Baer, an employee of Israeli telecommunications firm AMDOCS, Inc., a firm with operational access to the telephones being used by FBI agents John O’Neill, Michael Dick, and the DEA agents involved in tracking the Saudi/Mafia cocaine shipments being used to support various terrorist and intelligence cells in the United States and abroad.
On April 11, 2001, a DEA agent and a Fredericksburg, Virginia policeman questioned two female Israeli “art student” nationals at the shopping center in Fredericksburg. The passport for Yael Gavish contained some interesting entry/exit visas: 13 December 2000, entry into Bogota, Colombia and 5 February 2001, exit visa from Bogota. In addition, on 5 February there was a possible entry visa for Panama, which was followed by a 9 March 2001 entry visa in New York City. Gavish’s colleague Meirav Balhams had a New York State identity card listing her address as 354 Paterson Plank Rd., Jersey City, New Jersey. An FBI 9-11 suspect list dated February 22, 2002 lists Dominik Suter, along with an Ornit Levinson, a.k.a., Omit Suter, with an address of 312 Pavonia Avenue, Jersey City. Dominik Suter was the head of Urban Moving Systems of nearby Weehawken, the base of operations for two white vans with the same rear license plate that were seen parked at the Doric Apartments (near Patterson Plank Road) and at Liberty State Park at the same time the first plane struck the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The occupants of both vans, all Israelis, were seen celebrating the attack while dressed in Arab garb. Five Israelis in one of the vans were later arrested by the local police and FBI near Giant Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey in the late afternoon of September 11.
O’Neill’s FBI colleague, Mike Dick, aggressively investigated this Israeli ring before and after 911. But like O’Neill, he soon found himself removed from his duties on the orders of the then-head of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division Michael Chertoff. Dick was very suspicious when Israeli movers quickly moved Zim American Israeli Shipping Company out of its 10,000 square feet of office space on the 17th Floor of the North Tower of the World Trade Center. The partially Israeli state-owned firm forfeited a $50,000 security deposit when it terminated its lease and vacated the building one week prior to 911. According to a non official cover (NOC) CIA source who worked with Dick, Israeli movers moved explosives into the 17th Floor office space after Zim moved out.
After 911, Dick as well as the CIA NOC were harassed by their superiors on orders “from above.” Those orders came from Chertoff. Dick was first relieved of his primary counter-espionage duties, eventually sent to Pakistan to investigate the kidnapping of <>Wall Street Journal<> reporter Daniel Pearl, and eventually buried in a desk job at FBI headquarters in Washington, DC. According to the CIA source, Pearl was murdered because he was getting too close to the money trail that financed 911. The CIA source said, “the same group that beheaded Pearl in Pakistan did the beheadings in Iraq.” The source added that the beheadings were “not Al Qaeda.”
The CIA source, who emphasized his past Republican credentials, emphasized that Al Qaeda was merely a “list” of arms dealers, mercenaries, drug dealers, financiers, and terrorists used by the CIA and Saudis during the Afghan Mujaheddin War against the Soviets. The source also iterated that all the 911 hijackers had fake IDs. During a joint CIA-FBI operation against lead hijacker Mohammed Atta in Fort Lee, New Jersey in 2000, the CIA and FBI team leaders complained to their superiors that their operation was being photographed by Israeli agents, thus compromising the operation. The CIA source affirmed that the Israelis in New Jersey were providing cover for the future hijacker teams.
It was not the first run-in by the CIA operative with the Israelis. He once caught a senior U.S. diplomat with close ties to Israel taking bribes from Moroccan government officials to write favorable reports on Morocco’s continued control over disputed and oil and mineral rich Western Sahara. Attempts to follow the diplomat’s laundered money were rebuffed by Madeleine Albright’s State Department.
The problems at the top of the CIA and FBI, said the source, existed since the Russian/Soviet spies Aldrich Ames and Robert Hanssen were able to penetrate the top levels of both agencies. “They got there with help,” said the source.
O’Neill decided that because his own agency was stymieing his own investigative leads, he relied on DEA to handle his most sensitive inquiries and communications. Although DEA memos later suggested that Israeli telecommunications companies, under contract to the Justice Department, may have penetrated sensitive DEA communications as part of an intelligence operation, O’Neill was sure that his communications at the FBI were totally compromised and forced to rely on the DEA because of both internal political pressure from the FBI and Justice Department leadership and his fear that his communications were being wiretapped.
O’Neill also relied on French intelligence to obtain wiretap information on Al Qaeda cells. O’Neill was certain that the Saudi government and oil industry-centric members of the Bush administration were behind the Al Qaeda network. He was also aware of repeated negotiations between U.S. oil companies like UNOCAL and Halliburton and Taliban representatives dating back to 1996, the same year the Khobar Towers were bombed by the Taliban’s Al Qaeda wards. Although those negotiations ceased after the 1998 embassy bombings in Africa, they began again in earnest after George W. Bush became president.
O’Neill had discovered that some of his Al Qaeda targets were involved in some very un-Islamic fundamentalist activities, including drug smuggling, teenage prostitution, and blood diamond dealing. The financial trail led O’Neill to a network of bank accounts in London, Dubai, the Isle of Man, Guernsey, and Jersey. The network investigated coincided exactly with the activities being carried out by the Russian-Israeli Mafia and its links to diamond, drug, and weapons dealers that was especially active in New York and Florida. The future 911 hijackers and their Israeli “shadows” had more than living in the same neighborhoods and frequenting the same bars, video rental stores, and rental mailbox stores in common.
By the way, John O’Neill died on 9/11, on his first day at work as the new Head of Security at the WTC.
For the record, during my recent interview with Robb Revere I misspoke when I said “Dick Wolf”. I meant to say Mike Dick.