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Peter Bergen, Peter Dale Scott, and Webster Tarpley

9/11 Blogger | August 29 2006

A couple of weeks ago, Peter Bergen did an email Q & A as part of the promotion for CNN's "In the Footsteps of bin Laden."

I asked a couple prominent researchers on 9/11 and "Deep Politics" to submit their opinions about this particular exchange;

Q: If it’s true that bin Laden once worked for the CIA, what makes you so sure that he isn’t still?

BERGEN: This is one of those things where you cannot put it out of its misery.

The story about bin Laden and the CIA—that the CIA funded bin Laden or trained bin Laden—is simply a folk myth. There’s no evidence of this. In fact, there are very few things that bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri and the U.S. government agree on. They all agree that they didn’t have a relationship in the 1980s. And they wouldn’t have needed to. Bin Laden had his own money, he was anti-American and he was operating secretly and independently.

The real story here is the CIA didn’t really have a clue about who this guy was until 1996 when they set up a unit to really start tracking him…

Tarpley's response was highly critical, citing a host of mainstream media news reports that contradict Bergen, as well as the story of David Shayler, framed within the context of his book on Synthetic Terror as an effective counterpoint;

"...The same pattern holds good for al Qaeda as a whole: it is a stable of patsies. MI-5 whistleblower David Shayler has recounted how in 1995 he noticed that his opposite number at MI-6 was in the process of paying denizens of the al Qaeda patsy milieu £100,000 to assassinate Col. Qaddafi of Libya – an operation which failed to hit its main target, although innocent bystanders were slaughtered. The goal here was to simulate an al Qaeda coup in Libya, which would have handed the US and UK a pretext for invading that country and seizing its oil wells – in effect, 9/11 before 9/11. Over the years, al Qaeda’s targets have also been the targets of the US: al Qaeda has worked with NATO’s KLA drug runners to attack Serbia, and with the Chechen butchers of the late unlamented CIA agent Basayev to attack Russia. Since al Qaeda considers all present-day governments in Moslem countries to be illegitimate, it can be used to attack and destabilize any of them: Bin Laden’s adviser and de facto controller, Zawahiri, is a British agent who took part in the 1981 MI-6 assassination of Egyptian President Sadat in October, 1981. Zawahiri lived openly for years in London, and the British government stubbornly refused to extradite this terrorist to Egypt to stand trial. Al Qaeda’s other key commandment is that true believers must kill infidels whenever they meet them. This is ideal for the US and the British, since it means that the embattled Arabs and Moslems will be eternally isolated, unable to make alliances with Europe, Russia, China, Japan, India, South Africa, Venezuela, or anybody else: those who follow al Qaeda will guarantee their own defeat..."

Peter Dale Scott supplied this detailed response;

"The following is a footnoted extract from my book, The Road to 9/11: Wealth, Empire, and the Future of America. It deals with the matter (and quotes from, among others, Peter Bergen). The book will be out next year from University of California Press."

-Peter

In 1981, Casey of the CIA, Prince Turki of Saudi intelligence, and the ISI worked together to create a Foreign Legion of jihadi Muslims or so-called "Arab Afghans" (who in fact were never Afghans and not always Arabs) in Afghanistan.[1] The foreigners were supported by the Services Center (Makhtab al-Khidmat, or MAK) of the Jordanian Palestinian Abdullah Azzam, in the offices of the World Muslim League and Muslim Brotherhood in Peshawar, Pakistan.[2]

This project did not emanate from the Afghan resistance but was imposed on it. According to the Spanish author Robert Montoya, the idea originated in the elite “Safari Club” created by French intelligence chief Alexandre de Marenches in 1976, bringing together other intelligence chiefs such as Gen. Akhtar Abdur Rahman of ISI in Pakistan, and Kamal Adham of Saudi Arabia.[3]

The relationship of the CIA to the Arab Afghans, the MAK, and bin Laden has been much debated. Jason Burke denies the frequently-made claim that “bin Laden was funded by the CIA.”[4] The 911 Commission Report goes further, and asserts that “Bin Ladin and his comrades had their own sources of support and training, and they received little or no assistance from the United States.”[5]

But as we shall explore in the next chapter, MAK Centers in America, such as the al Kifah Center in Brooklyn, were in the 1980s a major source of both recruitment and finance for the MAK, if only because America was one of the few countries in which such recruitment and financing were tolerated and even protected. “Millions of dollars each year” are said to have been raised for the MAK in Brooklyn alone.[6]

In addition Jalaluddin Haqqani, the chief host in Afghanistan to the so-called “Arab Afghans,” “received bags of money each month from the [CIA] station in Islamabad.”[7] (This was an exception to the general rule that CIA aid was funneled through General Zia and the ISI in Pakistan, cited by Jason Burke as the reason why CIA funding “would have been impossible.”)[8]

Peter Bergen, in arguing that the CIA “had very limited dealings” with the Arab Afghans, concedes that “the CIA did help an important recruiter for the Arab Afghans, the Egyptian cleric Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.” Sheikh Rahman, despite his known involvement with Egyptian terrorists, “was issued a visa for the United States in 1987 and a multiple-entry visa in 1990 [and] at least one of the visas was issued by a CIA officer working undercover in the consular section of the American embassy in Sudan.”[9] (This was in addition to the visas reluctantly issued in Jeddah by Michael Springman, as noted earlier.)

John Cooley describes the Sheikh as “helpmate to the CIA in recruiting young zealots, especially among Arab-Americans in the United States, for the jihad in Afghanistan.”[10] Those recruited through the Al Kifah Center in Brooklyn were trained (as we shall see) by a former CIA contract agent, Ali Mohamed, another Egyptian with connections to the same terrorist group as Sheikh Rahman. Eventually both Sheikh Rahman and Ali Mohamed would be convicted for their involvement in 1990s al Qaeda plots. But before that (as we shall see) both men had enjoyed a surprising degree of FBI protection, in Mohamed’s case because he was the FBI’s original informant on al Qaeda.

[1] Steve Coll, Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet Invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin Press, 2004), 156-57.

[2] Rashid, Taliban, 131.

[3] Roberto Montoya, El Mundo (Madrid), 2/16/03, http://www.el-mundo.es/cronica/2003/383/1045404347.html. For more on de Marenches, the Safari Club, and Afghanistan, see Doug Vaughan, Covert Action Quarterly, Fall 1993; John Cooley, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America, and International Terrorism (London: Pluto, 1999), 25-28..

[4] Jason Burke, Al-Qaeda: The True Story of Radical Islam (London: I.B. Tauris, 2004), 59.

[5] 911 Commission Report, 56.

[6] Peter Lance, 1000 Years for Revenge (New York: Regan Books/ Harper Collins, 2003), 41-42.

[7] Coll, Ghost Wars, 157 (host); Crile, Charlie Wilson’s War, 521 (bags of money).

[8] Burke, Al-Qaeda, 59.

[9] Peter L. Bergen, Holy War, Inc.: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (New York: Free Press, 2001), 66-67.

[10] John K. Cooley, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America, and International Terrorism (London: Pluto Press, 1999), 41.

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