Transcript: BFP Interview with Paul Thompson-Part 1

BFPPodcastThe following is the transcript for our podcast interview with Paul Thompson. We would like to thank Nicholas Filippelli for transcribing this informative interview. You can listen to the interview here: The Boiling Frogs Presents Paul Thompson-Part I

Peter B Collins: Our guest today is Paul Thompson, he is the author of the Terror Timeline, he is an alumnus, a graduate of Stanford university, and he has been researching 9/11 and related issues for many years. Paul Thompson, welcome to the Boiling Frogs.

Paul Thomspon: Hey, thanks for having me.

PC: I just wanted to mention as we delve into the complex issues of the events of September 11, 2001, that there were 2 key bits that prompted me to become skeptical or curious, and follow your lead in many respects to question the official story and seek the truth about 9/11. The first was when a friend who was a medical doctor and a private pilot came to me and talked to me about the disconnect between the Federal Aviation Agency and NORAD on 9/11. We may get into those details but, suffice to say, it was a sad comedy of errors and it piqued my interest. But it wasn't until I saw the timelines that were developed by people like you, and there was some others who did similar work, that really showed the glaring inconsistencies in the official narrative and led to ask questions about the role of some of the individuals in the Bush administration, and the level of honesty, or of lack of it that we have had to encounter, including the way 9/11 Commission was used to "firm up", the myth that had been launched right after the 9/11 attacks. Now, Paul Thompson, in recent weeks Richard Clarke, who was a key counterterrorism advisor to George W. Bush in the Bush White House, was the subject of an interview that was actually conducted a couple of years ago, but was broadcast on a public television station in Colorado. And it includes some very interesting new allegations from Clarke, essentially that he was kept in the dark on one specific piece of information regarding two of the individuals who were later alleged to have been hijackers on 9/11. Why don't you recap for our listeners what Clarke said, and why it makes news about these issues.

PT: Well, I recommend people go check out the interview with Clarke for themselves. It’s at, and it’s about 12 minutes long, so it’s not too much information to take in, and I think the whole thing was very interesting. But in short, he was the 'counterterrorism czar' at the time of 9/11 and for a few years before that, and that means he was the highest counterterrorism official in the United States. So he really was the top dog, and all information, all important information, was supposed to come through him, to get to his desk. And, so in this interview he says, 'you know, there were these two hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almidhar, and it looks now in retrospect, that for a long time, people in the CIA knew a lot about those guys, those two hijackers, and that information did not come across my desk.' He says he was in contact with Tenet, talking to him on the phone, three, four times a day, any time there was any little bit of information, he would get a phone call from Tenet. He was receiving over 100 CIA reports a day and looking them over. There was a steady flow of information and it's hard to think before 9/11, what would be a bigger red flag than having 2 known al-Qaeda operatives actually inside the United States? And for all of this time, nobody told him that, he claims. And so he's quite shocked about this and quite dismayed, and he ends up coming up with a theory to explain why that happened.

PC: And his theory essentially is that the CIA was trying to work with these two Saudis, and convert them to CIA assets. And in order to 'flip' them, they kept this very tightly held. The other theory that surfaces for me though, Paul, is that as you mentioned Richard Clarke had served in the Clinton administration and was a holdover into the Bush White House, one of the few.

PT: Mm-hmm.

PC: And my sense is that he was not entrusted with the darkest secrets of the Republican inner circle that arrived determined to attack Iraq and Afghanistan.

PT: Well, I think to some extent that’s true, he was certainly kind of demoted, allowed to keep his job but sort of not in the inner circle. He wasn't meeting with the principals anymore, meaning cabinet-level people like he had been in the Clinton administration. But you have to remember also that George Tenet was a holdover from the Clinton administration and he

PC: Yep.

PT: he was the head of the CIA all the way back to 1997, and this is really a lot about Tenet and the CIA hiding this information. So, you've got two Clinton holdovers really, who are at the center of this.

PC: Mm-hmm.

PT: And to some extent he was privy to some of this stuff that the Bush administration was doing. I had heard this interview with Richard Clarke and I was driving down the road, and I practically drove off the road I was so shocked, this was a few years ago, where he mentioned in an interview with NPR radio that around, I think it was around April, May 2001...basically, top Bush people were sitting around a table and discussing ways to have some kind of provocation to go to war with Iraq. And they were kind of brainstorming different ideas on ways to have a casus belli

PC: Mm-hmm.

PT: you know, some sort of excuse for the war. They talked about things like flying an airplane over Iraq and making sure it got shot down by the Iraqi forces, so they could use that as an excuse. So that’s some pretty wild stuff that most of the American public has never heard about and people

PC: That particular idea that was floated by, apparently, George W. Bush was in a conversation with Tony Blair. And it was British, I believe, Sir David Manning, the British Ambassador to Washington who ultimately revealed that.

PT: Mm-hmm.

PC: And it does show that they were looking for a pretext and possibly it wasn’t the first one that they had thought about or activated.

PT: Right.

PC: So Paul, as we heard this interview with Richard Clarke, many other questions come up because he does make a very precise allegation, which is, on September 4th of 2001, there was a principals meeting in the White House, and, he was not told, the principals were not told, that the CIA had informed the FBI about the presence in the united states of Alhazmi and Almidhar. And he says, 'if they had told us, we would have found those assholes', and he talks about what they would have done first to launching an investigation into malfeasance by the CIA for not sharing this information and secondly, that he said, 'we would have put it out on the Associated Press and found those guys.'

PT: Mm-hmm. Well, I'd kind of like to go the whole way back to the beginning and talk about the whole story of these two guys. I think their story has not really been understood or appreciated by the American people as the importance that it really needs to have. But to just kind of mention just a little bit about what you were saying...that very day that that meeting happened, which was September 4th, one week before the 9/11 attacks; There's a very strange mystery because there was, in the couple weeks right before 9/11 there was some information about these 2 hijackers that was finally given to the FBI after they had, the CIA, had known about these guys for 2 years.
And there was this very inexperienced FBI agent by the name of Robert Fuller, who was given the job of finding these two hijackers. The hijackers, these 2 guys, were not living under cover, using aliases, using all kinds of clever spy tactics...they were living completely openly in the United States. One of them even had his name in the San Diego phone book for crying out loud. They had bank accounts, they had credit cards, they had car registrations, they had traffic tickets...all down the line, everything in their own name. So, at that time, the United States had developed over the years a lot of databases. For instance, you can look up police database that would have anybody’s traffic tickets or arrests in there, and Alhazmi had actually been arrested a couple times for minor things. You can look up credit checks, you can look up the motor vehicle index, they have all these great, sort of private companies collecting incredible amounts of information about people, like Choicepoint was one of these. They had the hijackers’ names and addresses in that. So, he had all of these databases to look at, something like ten different databases, and he supposedly he didn't find the names of these 2 hijackers in any of the databases which just doesn’t make any sense at all.

Immediately after 9/11, other people did checks and they found these names in pretty much all of these databases. And interestingly enough, we have a mention that says that he asked permission from someone else, from a higher up, to search the credit card database for the names of these 2 people and he was told that was not advisable, 'not prudent, to do so at this time.' So, you can see, there's something very strange going on there, why on earth would they not want to be looking at databases to see if these people are in the United States. What would be the possible excuse to be telling this agent not to do that? So I would like to go all the way back to the beginning and kind of tell the whole story about these 2 hijackers.
PC: Well, go right ahead, we are all ears. So how far back would you like to go?

PT: I want to go all the way back. I think another really great, untold story, in which I have to sort of give the highlights of, is how much the United States intelligence community knew about al Quaeda before 9/11. I just want to mention something that I found, it was from a report, about 6 months after 9/11 that shows just how jaw dropping this was. And this was from a Washington Post article that talked about the capture of Abu Zubayda who supposedly is an al Quaeda big wig and he was arrested early in 2002. And I'll quote from the article, "'When agents found Zubaydas laptop computer', a senior law enforcement source said, 'They discovered that the vast majority of people he had been communicating with were being monitored under Visa warrants or international spying efforts.' 'Finally we got some comfort that surveillance efforts are working', said a government official familiar with Zubaydas arrest." So this is quite remarkable because there's been a lot of controversy about Zubayda; was he really some important al Quaeda guy or not?

Some people think he was mentally ill. But there's no doubt that he was sort of like a travel agent and he was in communication with a vast number of people. One of the people who said he was kind of crazy and not as important as people say, an FBI agent by the name of Dan Coleman, he said that even though he was crazy, he was constantly on the telephone talking to people all around the world. He was kind of being used, perhaps as someone who is expendable if they got caught, because he did have these mental issues. So, all around the world, all these al Quaeda operatives, we find that the vast majority of them were actually under surveillance at this time, just a short time after 9/11. So, to me, that's a story that's never been told, how is that al Quaeda has been able to operate as successfully as they were when they were being monitored so closely?
PC: Well, that’s a lingering question that we are going to have to deal with. So, take us back to Alhazmi and Almidhar first became evident, or, we first became aware of them as we look back forensically.

PT: Right, well, I think we have to go even further back than that. If you go all the way back to the early 1990's, you have Osama bin Laden living in Sudan rather openly. And we know that way back then, the US intelligence community already started monitoring his satellite phone. In fact, according to one report, even way back then, they developed a technology that they got enough of his vocal recognition, so that if he called on any telephone, they would be able to go through their incredible NSA database and match that phone call with his voice. So he didn't even have to be using his phone, any voice they'd be able to figure out that was an Osama bin Laden call.

So anyway, so he's living there and around 2006 (1996?), this other al Quaeda operative, who's a long time close personal friend of Osama bin Laden, starts this hub in Yemen, and this is going to play a very important role in the story of Alhazmi and Almidhar. And what was happening was that a lot of the countries where al Quaeda was operating like Afghanistan, Egypt, Somalia, different countries, the governments there, they were trying to prevent phone calls being made by militants from one country to another. So for instance, Egypt didn't allow anybody in Egypt to call Afghanistan. They would block all those calls that they could. There was a lot of these blockages, so what a lot of the al Quaeda operatives around the world did was they used this Yemen hub as basically an al Quaeda switchboard.
They would call that hub and say, 'I'm looking for so-and-so somewhere, and my friend’s over in Europe', and connect me with that person. So this was just of incredible importance, this hub. Osama bin Laden himself called the hub many, many times. And what happened was the NSA, the FBI, the CIA, they all realized the great importance of this hub. So much so, that they not only monitored phone calls from the hub, but they actually physically planted bugs inside the building, and they even had a satellite in the sky that was dedicated to the hub, that would take satellite photos of anybody coming and going from the building.
This goes way back to the 1990s when they were doing this. What they also did was they had a big map of the world that they put on the wall somewhere, some FBI agents, and every time there would be a call from that hub to somewhere in the world, they would put a pin in the location to where that call was going. And so over time, they were able to map al Quaedas operations all around the world.
So you can start to see why, from this Washington Post article, they were able to say that they had the vast majority of all al Quaeda operatives around the world under surveillance. It was mostly because of this hub.

So now lets get to the Alhazmi-Almidhar part of this. It turns out that the person who owned this building and ran that hub, was actually the father in law of Khalid Almidhar, one of the hijackers. And so, Khalid Almidhar lived in the hub, his wife lived in the hub. Of course he would be off doing various operations, but he would come back from time to time, visit his wife and his extended family which was all pretty much living in that hub. And everyone in that family was pretty much al Quaeda. One report says that practically half of all of the really dangerous operatives in Yemen were all related to this one family. So, this was just like a laser being shone on this hub, on these phone calls and people in the hub, it just couldn’t be any more important. And then, at the end of, well actually all through 1999, Khalid Almidhar was coming and going, NSA was recording phone calls, the fact that he was living there. They got his name, they got the name of his good friend Nawaf Alhazmi, and then it reached a climax at the end of 2009 (1999?) when there was a series of phone calls, basically another high ranking al Quaeda leader named Khalad bin Attash, called up at the hub, called Khalid Almidhar there, and said 'there's an important meeting coming up in Malaysia, we want you to attend'. And he said 'OK'. And there was also a call to Nawaf Alhazmi saying the same thing, 'Come to the meeting in Malaysia', and there was a call also to Salem Alhazmi, Nawafs’ brother who's another 9/11 hijacker. He was also told to come to the meeting. All of these calls are all being recorded by the NSA. And so, they realized with the other US intelligence agencies 'something really important is happening in Malaysia. Let's track these guys to the meeting, record the meeting, find out what's going on there. And that’s exactly what they do. On the way to the meeting Khalid Almidhar stops by in Dubai in the middle east and his passport, his photograph, secretly, might have been by some local people there, might have been some people breaking into this hotel room and photographing it, but for whatever reason they got his passport and it revealed that he had a Visa to come to the United States; and this is huge. Can't get any more important information than that, because they've never really had any solid link of al Quaeda doing something, planning some kind of attack in the United States. This was the first really big break. So, this brings us all the way up to the Malaysia Summit.
PC: And before we go there, Paul, can I just ask you a couple of things about this hub in Yemen? Because Michael Scheuer, who was heading the Alec station, that was the al Quaeda desk, and it was named for his son Alec. He told me, and I believe he also told James Bamford that he tried to get the NSA to share transcripts of these intercepted satellite phone calls that were coming into the hub in Sanaa, in Yemen

PT: Mm-hmm.

PC: and that the NSA refused. And apparently CIA was able to get one portion of the call. Let’s just say that it’s the part originating from Yemen going up to the bird. And he even made a transcript of the one side of the call that CIA was able to intercept, sent it over to NSA and said, 'well now will you please give us the rest of it?', and they declined. So some of this in fighting between intelligence agencies on the US side is of interest to me, because it once again suggests, as Richard Clarke has, that the top CIA officials were keeping some information about key al Quaeda operatives very, very tightly held.

PT: Right. Well, I'd say that, sort of the main explanation that people give when they talk about this kind of thing, is they talk about the infighting between these various agencies and, 'isn't a shame that there was so much infighting, and that's really what prevented US intelligence from stopping the 9/11 attacks', and certainly there was a tremendous amount of infighting that was going on. And what Richard Clarke said is that the infighting excuse is not enough; it wasn't simply that FBI and CIA couldn't play ball together and so forth, that there is such an egregious amount of hiding of information about these 2 hijackers that that alone doesn't explain it. And I think that's what I'm going to try to argue here, as we go along, is that yes there was this infighting but that alone does not explain what's going on here. And certainly with the Yemen hub there's a tremendous amount of hoarding of information. The NSA hardly shared anything that they were getting about this.

So, what's interesting is that all 3 of those agencies, NSA, CIA, FBI, they realized how important this hub was, and they pretty much independently created their own ways of getting information about the hub so they wouldn't have to rely on the other agencies. I think the CIA actually went so far as to build their own satellite antenna in the Indian ocean so that they could get the information from this hub. So, we follow that about not sharing of information, but we have to be mindful that in a way that doesn't really apply to things, because they were gathering their own information independently of each other.
PC: Mm-hmm. And I think I may have misstated his name, it was Scheuer, Michael Scheuer. Ok, so with that said, continue your narrative and let's go to Malaysia.

PT: I'd also like to point out that Scheuer, he left the CIA bin Laden Unit in the middle of 1999, so he is not really privy to what happens afterwards.

PC: Mm-hmm.

PT: Which is, we're getting at the very end of '99. So they've tracked these 2 people, Alhazmi and Almidhar, to the Malaysia summit. It's not really clear if Salem Alhazmi ever attended or not, although he did go on to participate in the 9/11 attacks. Malaysia was a great place to meet because the Malaysian government, wanting to be friendly with middle eastern governments, didn't even require a Visa from most countries to come to that country, so people could just drift in very easily. And what seems to have happened was it was kind of like an 'al Quaeda all-star team' arrived at this summit, and there's some dispute over exactly who attended, and I think there's been a deliberate obfuscation all the way until today about just who was at that meeting, but I believe that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the "9/11 mastermind" was at that summit.

For instance, there's a lot of newspaper reports to that effect, and recently I came across some Wikileaks documents that came out that indicated that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed lived for a whole week with Alhazmi and Almidhar in Malaysia at that time, which would seem to confirm that he was there. Then you've got Hambali, who's sort of al Quaedas biggest man in Southeast Asia. He worked with Khalid Sheikh Mohammed on the Bojinka plot in 1995 which was kind of an early version of the 9/11 attacks which could have killed up to 4,000 people. Very major terrorist; he was known to be a major terrorist by the time of the summit. Then you've got Ramzi bin Alshibh; now he's a very interesting case because he was a member of the Hamburg cell with Mohammed Atta, and some of the other 9/11 pilots who seem to have come to this summit. German intelligence says they have credit cards of him being in Malaysia at the time, there were photographs of him taken at the summit. So that's a big 'what if?'. How is it that he goes to the summit and that doesn't somehow lead to the Hamburg cell in Germany being wrapped up? Because the summit is being very heavily monitored by intelligence agencies. We'll get back to that. But anyways, so then you've got him, you've got Alhazmi and Almidhar, the host of the summit is a person named Yazid Sufaat, who's seemingly head of al Quaedas biological weapons program; it's being held in his apartment. You've got Khalad bin Attash who's a major operational planner, you've got another guy al-Nashiri, major operational planner, about a dozen guys in all. Very, very important, I don't think there was probably ever a time before 9/11 where there was such a collection of individuals outside of Afghanistan. It was just an unparalleled intelligence opportunity.

So all these guys are gathering at this apartment of Yazid Sufaat, and what the CIA did apparently was instead of monitoring these summit attendees themselves, they had the Malaysian Special Branch, their intelligence agency in Malaysia, do the monitoring. And so the Malaysian Special Branch took photographs, the first day they actually recorded a lot of video footage, but the story is they never got into the apartment where the summit was held. They never had any audio recordings, they were only taking pictures of these people as they wandered around town, they were staying at hotels, they were going to restaurants visiting internet cafes, so on and so on. But they never actually knew what going on in the summit. Now, I don't know if I believe that, but be that as it may, they've got this recording of all this going on, and at the time it was considered so important that people at the cabinet-level in the United States were being updated on a daily basis. The head of the FBI, George Tenet, head of the CIA, the National Security Advisor; it doesn't seem it actually got all the way up to the level of president Clinton, but certainly very top level people were being told on a daily basis as this summit went on. It was a 4 day meeting. Every day they would be getting updates on what was happening at that summit. And another very important point is that this is at the very time where fear about al Quaeda was hitting a peak, because this summit just happened a few days after January 1 2000, and there was a great fear that there would be millennium attacks, to be timed at the start of the new millennium. There had been an al Quaeda operative captured as he tried to enter the US in Seattle just a couple weeks before. And so there was this great fear that al Quaeda might be planning some attacks to happen very soon in the United States. So you have this incredible worry and focus and you have all these al Quaeda big wigs all meeting right there in Yemen (Malaysia?) So, you would think that after all that, 2 of the 9/11 hijackers attending, the 9/11 mastermind is it possible that they don't just wrap up the whole 9/11 plot based on the surveillance of the summit? That's one of the big mysteries that's never been explained.
PC: And so, without asking you to form some hardened conclusion, as you recite these things, is it your suspicion that the Bush administration allowed it to happen, or was some way involved in orchestrating it with these characters that they certainly had under surveillance?

PT: Well, you know, I don't like to speculate along those lines, I don't even think speculation is necessary, because I think as we go into more details of this Malaysia summit and these hijackers and so forth, you can put forward 3 theories: you can say there was some sort of incompetence; people dropped the ball, that there was an al Quaeda operation going forward and the Bush administration let it happen, or that they actually helped make it happen. But I think the least worst of those would be the incompetence, obviously. When you really look at this, it would have to be such a level of incompetence where you just have this right in your face over and over and over again, that that would have to be criminal incompetence, which should lead to jail terms in my opinion.

So you're kind of, those different theories, it's almost a moot point where you're kind of arguing just how long do these people go to jail, you know? I kind of put it, I like to think of it in terms of a bank robbery.

Where you can think, OK, you can have a person standing there as a security guard, and the bank robber runs down the street runs into the bank; so what is the security guards role? He could be working to help the person rob the bank, it could be part of the team, or, he could be just letting it happen because he wants to see that bank robbed. Or, he could be totally incompetent and do nothing while massive amount of time goes by, and the bank gets robbed. And that's just as bad as the other two pretty much! I mean, wouldn't that security guard be locked up for a long time if he just waited an hour knowing that the bank is being robbed and he didn't do anything about it? Didn't tell anybody about it? To me, it's just as bad, really.
PC: Mm-hmm.

PT: So, I see it as kind of-- you can’t really know, you can't really go inside these people’s heads, we don't have enough data to really know everything, but we know enough that I think if there were to be, to this to actually come to the US courts, that people would go to jail for something. Because there's no good excuse for why these various attacks were allowed to go forward.

Sibel Edmonds: Well, actually it even gets more confusing and complex than that, and that's the fact that both the CIA and the State Department, because a lot of these operatives at the CIA, they worked under State Department titles. And a study from 1995, 1996, these same actors were working with, back then they were not called al Quaeda, at least not by the FBIs' definition or the wiretaps collected at the scene, --foreign targets of the State Department. But, the same actors that we are talking about, our government people within the State Department and the CIA, this is during the Clinton years, were working with these people in Chechnya, in the Balkans, in the central Asian Caucasus. And I'm talking about working together.

PT: Right, well

SE: OK, and so the question that comes up is, they are our partners, they were our partners, in the Balkans, you know, with the conflict in Bosnia, and also in Kosovo. They were our partners with what we did with Chechnya, with Russia. They were our partners with some of the assassinations and the plots they were carrying out in places like Azerbaijan. The same people, bin Laden, Zawahiri, even some of the actors involved in this
PT: Mm-hmm.

SE: And yet, we were also monitoring them as terrorists while we were actually working with them. That's

PT: Yeah, it's sort of crazy when you think about it. I mean, I think that if you really start looking at the Machiavellian workings of what the US government and other governments were doing, they kind of saw things in terms of "good terrorists" and "bad terrorists". Where you have terrorists who for whatever reason, these people are somehow doing our bidding, they are helping us out, they're helping us achieve our goals, either wittingly or unwittingly.
A good example would be Chechnya, where, for a long time the US had a great quagmire in Viet Nam, and they liked to sort of think of Chechnya as Russia’s' Viet Nam, and this is a big quagmire for them. They've got to be dealing with these Islamist militants and fighting there constantly, year after year, sapping their economy.
SE: Exactly.

PT: They're a traditional enemy of the United States, so the more Chechnya can sap them, the more the American foreign policy experts and officials are saying, 'hey this is a really good thing, so why would we want to stop any potential Islamist militant from going to Chechnya and fight there? Hey, instead of stopping them, let's pretty much give them the plane tickets, have them go there, because that’s helping us out, right?'

SE: Exactly. Right.

PT: And so that’s not just with Chechnya, but that happened in a lot of other places around the world. So, you have this idea where one man’s terrorist is another persons freedom fighter, right? It's all these labels you throw on these people, these very loaded words, I try not to use words like 'terrorists' if I can, because you never know exactly who really these people are, who they're working for, really what's going on there? It often turns out there's double agents and all kinds of intrigue going on, like some sort of exciting spy novel. But anyways, you've got these good terrorists, you've got these bad terrorists, and it's clear to me that there were a lot of people before 9/11 who were 'good terrorists' in the eyes of the United States because they were doing something that the United States thought was helpful.

In fact there’s a famous quote by Zbigniew Brzezinski, if I can get his name right, who's the National Security Advisor way back under Carter, and he was asked in 1998 about starting the whole war in Afghanistan way back in the 1970s, because really, it looks now that the CIA kind of goaded the Soviets into attacking by putting some operatives in there, and kind of stirring people up and creating a lot of chaos. So he said, let's see if I can find his quote here, what he said...I can't find his exact quote offhand, but it was something to the effect of 'what's more important, defeating the Soviet Union or a few stirred up Muslims?' So the idea is that in a very Machiavellian way, thinking that 'I'm using these people to get at the Soviets and to achieve our foreign policy goals, so we certainly don't want to stop these people, we actually want to help them, fund them, train them in some cases...
SE: Exactly.

PT: And we could go way back and look at a long history of US covert support for Islamist militants around the world.

SE: Right! And let's say just in the 1990s, starting from the mid-1990s to 2000, and we are talking about during the Clinton administration, and we are talking about the 2 guys who are left over from that administration. We are talking about Tenet, and we are talking about Clarke. And Tenet and Clarke were also aware, not only aware, they were involved, both through the diplomatic; working through State Department, but also through these 'black ops' and operations in Central Asia and the Balkans. So we have those 2 guys involved in that.

PT: Mm-hmm, yea. These two people particular people, Alhazmi and Almidhar, they have a very long history of working with al Quaeda, and it goes all the way back to the Bosnian conflict in the early 1990s,

SE: Exactly.

PT: it appears that they were involved n that. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed also appears to have fought in Bosnia in the early 1990's, and then it appears that later on that they made attempts at least and probably went to fight in Chechnya as well, these two: Alhazmi and Almidhar.

SE: Mm-hmm.

PT: So it could be that they might have had linkages you know, there's a whole other story about US support working with al Qaeda

SE: They were not even called al Qaeda, at least not in the FBI. This is one of the things I kept emphasizing during my testimony with the 9/11 Commission. The Arabic unit that worked, and that includes the bombing in Nairobi, because some of the translators, with FBI agents actually went in there, I'm not going to get too deep into the details of those, but they did not even emphasize a title, the name al Qaeda.

PT: Mm-hmm.

SE: So this is the interesting from the FBI side: you mean al Qaeda did not, even though we have this stuff, yea, al Quaeda came up again in 1997, FBI didn't even have an al Quaeda unit. And these cases, the filings for these cases were not even under 'al Quaeda.'

PT: Mm-hmm.

SE: The al Quaeda became popular after 9/11.

PT: Right.

SE: Became a brand, it was not even being used as a title for this group, or these groups. And that’s another interesting point, at least for the FBI.

PT: Well, I don't think the title is so important. Obviously bin Laden, he didn't really like al Quaeda, he came up with some other long winded names for his group that he wanted to use, and eventually he kind of got, just had to acknowledge that the media was using around the world 'al Quaeda' so much,

SE: Exactly, US media made it like (inaudible)

PT: he said, 'OK, we're al Quaeda', but that was pretty much after 9/11. It's not really so much important what these people are called, is what they were doing and who they're working with, in my opinion. And you can see these 2 hijackers in particular, have a long history going way back to the 1990s. I don't want to get too much into the Bosnian conflict, but there's good evidence the US was working hand in hand with Osama bin Laden and his supporters in Bosnia at that time. So these guys may well have had some sort of contacts with that, going way back. So when Richard Clarke in his interview says, 'maybe they were trying to turn them', maybe they thought that they'd already turned them, or maybe they thought that, 'well these guys, we know them, we know all about them, these are great candidates to turn.' I don't know, we can just kind of speculate. (laughs) So anyways, to kind of get back to the thread of what happened at the Malaysia summit and so forth...So what's really interesting is that, sort of the bombshell out of this, all of the summit stuff, was the fact that Khalid Almidhar had a Visa to come to the United States. And actually, Nawaf Alhazmi did too, but apparently they didn't know about that right at that point in time. Even as the summit was going on, there were efforts to prevent the FBI from knowing about that.

SE: Before you go further, one question, because I don't have that information. Do you know where the Visa was obtained, which embassy, where?

PT: I'm pretty sure it was in Jeddah, in Saudi Arabia, if I remember.

SE: OK, thank you.

PT: Which is kind of a whole other story, because that, at least historically had been used in the Afghan war to have the Mujahedeen who were fighting in Afghanistan, to get Visas for them to come to the Unites States to be secretly trained and supported over there. So, it's, (laughs) the more you dig into this stuff, the more interesting it gets.

SE: Right, because I have a State Department whistleblower, he hasn't been really that public and vocal, but he worked, he was actually in charge of the Visa office in Jeddah.

PT: Mm-hmm.

SE: Until, I believe 2000-2001, and he also went to the Commission and he spoke a little bit about this stuff. He still hasn't gotten into the names, but he actually filed complaints about people who actually they knew were confirmed terrorists, candidates, lists. Because many of these CIA operatives worked through the embassy there in Jeddah. Every time they brought it up, they would be overridden by the CIA guys in the embassy of there in Jeddah.

PT: Right.

SE: That was why I was asking.

PT: Right, so anyway you get these hijackers at the summit, then the summit starts to break up, and these people start to be scattered to the four winds. At that time, it would make sense that, normally, the CIA would normally say, 'OK, FBI, you're interested in what's going on in the United States. We have information that one of these people at the summit, Khalid Almidhar, he has a Visa to come to the United States. He's almost certainly going to use it and probably be involved in some sort of attack there.' They knew for instance, he was involved in the embassy bombings and some other big attacks already.

That does not happen. In fact, there is somebody who drafts a cable to be sent to the FBI saying just that, that he has this Visa. His superior over rid him and basically said, 'you can't send that cable, you're not allowed to send it.' He tried later, another week or two later again and told, 'you're not allowed to send it.' That same superior who told him not to send the cable turned around and sent a cable within the CIA telling everybody that the FBI had been told. You can see right there, you really see some duplicity. It goes even further than just the FBI and the CIA not getting along. We have evidence, for instance, of the CIA branch in Thailand, because these guys Alhazmi and Almidhar, they went from the Malaysian meeting, they went to Thailand. The CIA branch in Malaysia kind of asked the Thai branch, 'what's going on with these guys? Do you know what happened to them there in Thailand?' And the Thai branch said, 'we'll have to get back to you, we don't know what's going on.' Where at that point we know that the Thai was aware about this US Visa. So even within the United States, within the CIA, one branch is lying to the other branch about what they knew about these 2 particular hijackers. It's not just a FBI/CIA turf battle kind of thing that's going on here.

So anyway, so after about a week after the summit, these 2 hijackers, they're from Thailand, they get on a plane, and they fly to the United States, and they immediately start living in San Diego. And Nawaf Alhazmi at least, he spends the next 2 years, basically he never leaves the United States from that point on. He just lives openly in San Diego, he's got his number in the phone book and everything. It would be so easy to find him. Khalid Almidhar after a while, he leaves, and he actually --because as I've said, his father-in-law was a person who runs that Yemen hub, he actually goes back to the Yemen hub where his wife is, and he lives there for at least a month. Now remember that that hub is so monitored, anybody coming and going their picture is taken, there's bugs inside the house, there's so much that has not been revealed. How is it possible for Khalid Almidhar to back to that hub and live there for an entire month? He thinks that he's with fellow al Quaeda people that he can trust. Would he not be talking about his time in the United States and what he is doing there, and the whole 9/11 plot that he's a part of, in this very building that is a focus point of US intelligence collection efforts? How is it possible that this 9/11 plot isn't discovered? And then you've got the fact that Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, when they're living in San Diego, they're making calls back and forth to this hub all the time. And they're making other calls around, but you know, at least those calls are being monitored and recorded by the NSA. Again, how is it possible that some people don't say, 'hey, these 2 people are living in the United States, and probably up to no good there.'
PC: And Paul, what was the source of the funding that paid for their housing, paid for their expenses, while they were living in San Diego?

PT: (laughs) Yea, again there are just so many threads to this. I think what happens is that it's such a complicated story that people kind of lose the thread after a while, because there's so many tangents and things. But, it turns out that while those 2 hijackers were living in San Diego, there seems to have been a lot of money coming through the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. into sort of the wife of a friend, and it seems to have increased right when the hijackers got there. A lot of people believe that that money was actually helping to pay their living expenses, and there's a tremendous amount of other information about these hijackers having ties with the Saudis while they were there, and by Saudis I don't just mean Saudi citizens, I mean Saudi intelligence agents. They went to the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles, you know, hooked up with people there, some of whom were very radical, militant minded themselves, who were working at that consulate.

There was one particular guy named Omar al-Bayoumi, who's a very important figure, because he was living in San Diego, and he really seems to have been some sort of Saudi intelligence agent. He had no visible means of support, yet he had some ghost job with some Saudi government kind of related company, and he was being paid a tremendous amount of money for doing no work. And he had this habit of wandering around the mosques and places where Saudis were living in the United States congregate. You have the video camera and a microphone on the camera, and he'd just be recording people willy nilly, and talking into the microphone making his observations about all the things that he was recording. Everybody in town who was in that Saudi community had basically knew that he was a Saudi government agent, and his job pretty much --you would think that the Saudi government has always been very worried about radical Islamics who come along who want to overthrow the Saudi government.

People like Osama bin Laden, who's said all kinds of things about how they want to overthrow the Saudi royalty. So, in sort of most towns, they would have somebody like Omar al-Bayoumi, who was keeping an eye to make sure that there weren't anti-Saudi government insurrections going on amongst Saudi students who were scattered all over the world. So, this guy, and when you go back to the Richard Clarke interview, he puts forth the theory, and he says, 'well maybe when Alhazmi and Almidhar were living in the United States, maybe the CIA kind of handed off surveillance of these 2 people to the Saudis, and so somebody like Omar al-Bayoumi running around with his video camera would be a likely person to be keeping close eyes on these guys.
He did have all kinds of ties with these 2 people, they even lived at his place for a couple weeks when they first got there. I've found that there's good evidence that Alhazmi knew that al-Bayoumi was a Saudi intelligence agent and he disliked him and tried to stay away from him, and sort of was very wise to what this al-Bayoumi guy was doing. If the CIA was trusting monitoring these 2 incredibly important al Quaeda operatives to some guy who's just wandering around openly known as a Saudi intelligence agent, walking around with a video camera all the time, I mean that just doesn't seem to make any sense. Why would you do that? How could you learn any secrets about these people when you're so openly advertising yourself as a Saudi intelligence agent?
PC: Well, and Paul, it begs the question about the role of Saudi Arabia and the royal family in funding al Quaeda, supporting their efforts. We know that the bulk of the alleged hijackers were Saudi citizens, and yet, the Bush administration gave Saudi Arabia a virtual complete pass

PT: Right.

PC: in any investigation into these events. We went into Afghanistan to distract people from Saudi Arabia.

PT: You know, there's so many different threads in this story, and one thing that I've always been interested in is not only the possible whatever role the United States government and other western governments had in linkages with al Quaeda and so forth, but also, there were a lot of supporters of groups like al Quaeda in the Muslim world. People, even higher ups, billionaires in Saudi Arabia and other countries were very kind of ideological, same thinking as Osama bin Laden, and so they would be supporting these groups with a lot of money and other kinds of support. You see all along that Osama bin Laden would never have been able to keep up, even though he had some money from his inheritance from his big, rich family. It was estimated that al Quaeda cost about 30 million dollars to run every year. Not so much all these operatives running around, but sort of the training camps and there's a whole sort of network you have to have, before you can even have any operative taking part in everything. You have to be recruiting people and so forth. So you sort of have this big operation that costs 30 million dollars a year, he would have run out of money pretty quickly. He had all these rich Sheiks living in the Middle East who were giving him a lot of money. So the question is, may have some of these Saudi contacts been aware of the 9/11 plot? May have they actually been funding some of the 9/11 hijackers? That's a very interesting story, but I think it's kind of a tangential story to the other story we're talking about today, which is why doesn't the CIA do something about these guys. What do they know about these guys and why don't they do something about them?

One of the things about the Saudis is that the CIA knew way back that the Saudi intelligence agency had been very compromised by their support for al Quaeda. There was some people from another intelligence agency, I think the Jordanian intelligence agency one day went into the headquarters of the Saudi intelligence agency and looked around, and they saw on the computers a lot of the people actually had pictures of bin Laden as their screensavers on their computers because they were big supporters of bin Laden.
SE: Now here is another contradiction Paul, because all this time we keep hearing from the both from the media, but also from various supposed speeches by bin Laden, that he was actually a threat to the Saudi establishment, that he was absolutely feared and hated by the Saudis, and basically his number one goal was to basically get rid of the US bases from Saudi Arabia, and also the kingdom. So how do they work together? I mean you're looking at two now almost contradictory concepts here in terms of the relationship between bin Laden and the Saudis.

PT: Well it's so complicated, and it's a very parallel situation in Pakistan, where you see tremendous support from Pakistan, even from the Pakistani intelligence agency to al Quaeda and related groups. And at the same time, these groups are often attacking Pakistani government buildings, and killing lots of people in Pakistan. In Saudi Arabia, it seems even royal members, high ranking members of the royal family are supporting bin Laden and al Quaeda, and Osama bin Laden's saying, 'down with the royal family.' So I think a lot of this kind of ends up being intrigues and politics, where for instance you might have one faction of the Saudi royal family who thinks, 'I would like to be king one day, and if I can use the fact that there are a huge number of people in Saudi Arabia who are supportive of bin Laden and bin Laden-type extremists, Wahabist religious beliefs, and ally with that whole faction, then that could help me get to power.'
And the same kind of thing happening in Pakistan, where you have various playing off against each other and using these militant groups as a way to get an edge. In fact, in Pakistan there are times where one faction would actually hire people like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Ramzi Yousef, his nephew for instance, to kill --there was an attempt where those guys tried to kill Benazir Bhutto back in the 1990s. So they're very much involved in the intrigues and the politics of these countries which get very complicated, and people working sometimes at cross purposes, or trying to kill each other and so forth.
SE: That makes a lot of sense, especially with what you said with the divided kingdom, as far as Saudi Arabia is concerned. And I think one of the dividers there is the attitude or the stand when it comes to Israel, because where you have the old timers, you have the top layer, that actually behind the scenes, they do have good relationship with Israel. Then you have the segment there within the Saudi kingdom who are absolutely against Zionism and what's happening in Israel. So that itself is just one other example of how divided they are within their own kingdom.

PT: Right. So to kind of keep trying make sure we stay on the focus of these Alhazmi and Almidhar characters...Richard Clarke, he's saying that these guys may have been monitored by Saudi Arabia, but to get back to the point that I made a minute ago, that the CIA was so leery of the support that a lot of people in the Saudi intelligence agency had for al Quaeda, that they had put out a notice a couple years prior to all these events saying basically, 'don't trust the Saudi intelligence agency about anything having to do with bin Laden.' So how could they then turn around and say, 'oh, let's just leave these 2, the first 2 al Quaeda people we ever really knew who were living in the United States, we'll just trust the Saudi intelligence agency to keep an eye on them. I mean, that just doesn't make any sense to me. I don't buy Richard Clarkes' theory there. So, if you don't buy that theory, then that leaves a gaping hole. Well, who's looking after these 2 people when they're living for 2 years in the United States? Did they just drop the ball so badly that they just said, 'oh, I wonder whatever happened to those guys.' (laughs) No one checked on them for 2 years. I don't buy that.

SE: Neither do I.

PC: Well, at this point, I'm going to pause here and conclude part 1 of our conversation with Paul Thompson, and this'll make it easier for our listeners to listen to and absorb, and we will continue in part 2, which will be released in short order after part 1, so that you can get all this information and listen to them at your convenience.

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