al-Qaida operatives in Bosnia killed an FBI mole who met with Osama bin Laden and provided intelligence on al-Qaida after suspecting he was with the CIA, but the man’s death came several years before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorism attacks and the FBI did not report the informant’s existence to investigators.
The dead informant, was a Los Angeles-based “driver and confidante” of “Blind Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman, the cleric in prison for masterminding the first attempt on the World Trade Center in 1993, NBC News reported Thursday.
Because the mole died at least six years before the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Congressional investigators or the 9/11 Commission never learned about the Sudanese man.
NBC reported the news of the mole’s death one day after it reported the man’s existence, saying the informant had been been recruited by the FBI years ago and had even met with bin Laden a full eight years prior to the Sept. 11 attacks.
The mole revealed a great deal of information to the FBI, including revealing a plan that helped stop a bin Laden plan to destroy a Masonic lodge in Los Angeles in the mid-1990s, according to courtroom testimony by Ed Curran, who was the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s L.A. office then.
Sources told NBC the informant was recruited in 1993 after learning he was a known associate of the Blind Sheikh, who had been an FBI target since 1990 when follower El Sayyid Nosair, shot and killed radical Rabbi Meir Kahane in a Manhattan hotel.
The Sheikh moved to Los Angeles, where the future mole lived and became his driver.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service tipped off the FBI about the driver, and the federal agency learned that he was on a terrorism watch list. INS tried to deport him, and his status as a potential terrorist made it difficult to move him. Jordan took him and put him jail for three months, and eventually, the driver ended up in Yemen, where the FBI recruited him.
The first World Trade Center attack also occurred at about time, when a truck filled with explosives detonated in an underground garage on Feb. 26, 1993.
FBI agent Bassem Youssef, the bureau’s highest-ranking Arabic speaker, approached the informant as a friend, saying he could reunite the man with his family in California.After several meetings with Youssef and other agents, he agreed to provide information and started talking about al Qaeda.
The man also provided about a dozen U.S. and Canadian passports, with the original photos being replaced with those of al-Qaida operatives.
The driver also met with bin Laden, who one Justice Department official said “was not that hard to get to” because he was not yet famous.
After the Blind Sheikh was arrested in 1993, the informant continued working with the FBI, but in 1994, a woman working for the CIA was able to convince him to work with the CIA.
The CIA sent him to Bosnia in 1994 or 1995, but the FBI didn’t know its informant was working for the other agency or why he disappeared.
Youssef started asking al-Qaida sources what had happened to the man, and learned that operatives in Bosnia killed him because they suspected he was working for the CIA.
The mole’s existence was actually first revealed in 2010, when Youssef sued the FBI, claiming discrimination and accusing the agency of passing him over for promotion.
Former FBI agent Ed Curran, in testimony during the discrimination trial, revealed Youssef developed the mole, reported The Washington Times during the trial.
“It was the only source I know in the bureau where we had a source right in al-Qaida, directly involved,” Curran testified, noting the mole was “tight, close” with al-Qaida leadership.
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By Sandy Fitzgerald