Part 1 of Truth, Lies, and The Legend of 9/11: Truth Lies Legend
"The hijackers left no paper trail," proclaimed FBI Director Robert Mueller on April 30, 2002. "In our investigation, we have not uncovered a single piece of paper...that mentioned any aspect of the September 11 plot." Yet in the weeks immediately following September 11, Mueller and his FBI had left the public with a very different impression - an impression that conjured the vision of truckloads of paper documents pointing any number of ways to the culpability of Osama Bin Laden for the events of 9/11. For one, there was the infamous handwritten "checklist" found not only in hijacker Mohamed Atta's abandoned luggage, but also in the car rented in hijacker al-Hazmi's name, discovered at Dulles Airport, and which included lofty Arabic prayers alongside last minute reminders to bring "knives, your will, IDs, your passport, all your papers." But more importantly, the treasure trove in al-Hazmi's glove compartment yielded a paper trail that led all the way to London - and to the arrest of a potentially major suspect.
On September 30, 2001, as reported in the Telegraph by David Bamber, British prosecutor Arvinda Sambir announced that authorities had arrested
Lofti Raissi,whose name was found in al-Hazmi's rental.
A further search of Raissi's apartment had yielded up a video clip starring Raissi with alleged hijacker Hani Hanjour - all in all, another circumstantial slam-dunk in the snowballing case against al-Qaida. Or was it? For by April of 2002 - when Mueller made his "paper trail" declaration - Raissi would go free for want of evidence.
As we will shortly see, Raissi was being set up to play his part
in a prearranged drama, one in which a definitive money trail
leading to al-Qaida would be announced just in time for the October
7, 2001 launch into Afghanistan. Yet a brief, almost innocuous,
article in the October 9 Times of India would lay havoc to this
plan, necessitating a massive cover-up and a search for an
alternative smoking gun that would unveil itself before a skeptical
world audience on December 13, 2001 as the Official Bin Laden
(See Bin Laden Confession -ed.)
An essential player in that original plan was Omar Saeed Sheikh (hereafter Omar Saeed), a 27 year-old London-born man of Pakistani parentage who had attended the London School of Economics before answering the call of militancy, heading off to Bosnia, and from there, to Pakistan, where he would make his "bones" in a 1994 kidnapping, serving time in an Indian prison until being bartered out for hostages in a 1999 airplane hijacking. Packing a lifetime into the next two years, Omar Saeed caught the eye of the so-called militant faction of Pakistan's ISI (the Pakistani CIA), rounding out his curricular vitae by tinkering around with the al-Qaida computer network in Afghanistan.
Omar Saeed made his public post-9/11 debut on September 23, 2001, on the very same day that his pseudonym, Mustafa Ahmad, made its own post-9/11 debut through President Bush's Global Terrorist Executive Order, in which a "Shaykh Sai'id (aka Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad)" was mentioned as a financial operative in al-Qaida, among a list of 27 individuals and entities slated to have their assets frozen. On September 23, Nick Fielding of The Sunday Times reported: "British officials have now asked India for legal assistance in seeking the whereabouts of Omar [Saeed] Sheikh. British security services confirmed this weekend that they wanted him for questioning."
A week later, on September 30, 2001, we found out why, when David Bamber of the Telegraph reported: "Police also believe that ... Omar [Saeed] Sheikh, who is British, trained the terrorists in hijacking techniques." As Bamber implied, Omar Saeed was working in cahoots with Lotfi Raissi, who was just recently arrested and charged with training the hijacker pilots. In other words, in less than three weeks after 9/11, authorities were closing in on Raissi and Omar Saeed, the alleged trainers of the alleged hijackers.
Now all that remained was to furnish a "smoking gun" link to al-Qaida by way of a money trail, all in time for the planned October 7 invasion of Afghanistan. On the very day that the Telegraph outed Raissi and Omar Saeed as the 9/11 trainers, ABC News This Week announced that a $100,000 money trail had been traced in Florida from hijacker Atta to "people linked to Osama bin Laden."
The very next day, on October 1, Judith Miller of the New York Times reported that hijacker Atta received money from someone using the alias "Mustafa Ahmad". Five days later, on October 6, Maria Ressa of CNN, quoting terrorism expert Magnus Ranstorp, officially unveiled Omar Saeed as the pseudonymous 9/11 money man: "He [Omar Saeed] is ... linked to the financial network feeding bin Laden's assets, so therefore he's quite an important person...because he transfers money between various operatives, and he's a node between al Qaeda and foot soldiers on the ground." Ressa went on to report: "Because investigators have now determined that [Omar Saeed] and Mustafa Muhammad Ahmad [the pseudonym] are the same person, it provides another key link to bin Laden as the mastermind of the overall [9/11] plot."
Two days later, on October 8, Ressa revisited the story, this time connecting Omar Saeed to an October 1 attack on the provincial legislature in Kashmir - an incident that led Pakistan and India closer to the brink. October 8, incidentally, was also one of the very last times that CNN touched upon Omar Saeed - at least until he bobbed up a few months later, on February 6, as the FBI's main suspect in the kidnapping of Daniel Pearl. Yet by then, CNN - and Maria Ressa - was stricken by a curious case of amnesia, neglecting to mention that Saeed was previously outed by them as the 9/11 bag-man. Why this sudden silence? And, more to the point, why did Omar Saeed virtually drop off CNN's radar after October 8?
Perhaps the answer lies in an October 9 bombshell, courtesy of the Times of India:
"While the Pakistani Inter Services Public Relations claimed that former ISI [Pakistani intelligence] director-general Lt-Gen Mahmud Ahmad sought retirement after being superseded on Monday, the truth is more shocking. Top sources confirmed here on Tuesday that the general lost his job because of the "evidence" India produced to show his links to one of the suicide bombers that wrecked the World Trade Center. The U.S. authorities sought his removal after confirming the fact that $100,000 were wired to WTC hijacker Mohammed Atta from Pakistan by [Omar Saeed] at the instance of General Mahmud [Ahmad]."
In short, the Times of India revealed that Omar Saeed was acting
under the direct orders of the head of
Pakistani intelligence and not Osama bin Laden. That in itself
could perhaps have been explained away, as it was widely
acknowledged that Islamic elements in the ISI were sympathetic to
the Taliban and their al-Qaida guests. Yet tracing the "smoking
gun" money trail to General
Ahmad created an entirely new smoking gun that led straight
back to Washington, D.C. - for General Ahmad had already been
breakfast in the nation's capital with Senator Bob
Graham and Representative Porter
Goss on the
morning of September 11 (Both Graham and Goss would go on to
co-chair the joint Senate-House 9/11 inquiry). In fact, as early as
September 9 - two days before 9/11, for those who didn't
- Karachi News had weighed in with the following observation:
"ISI Chief Lt-Gen [Mahmud Ahmad's] week-long presence in Washington has triggered speculation about the agenda of his mysterious meetings at the Pentagon and National Security Council... What added interest to his visit is the history of such visits. Last time Ziauddin Butt, [General Ahmad's] predecessor, was here during Nawaz Sharif's government, the domestic politics turned topsy-turvy within days. That this is not the first visit by [General Ahmad] in the last three months shows the urgency of the ongoing parleys."
If ever there was a paper trail leading to the 9/11 conspirators, these articles provided the print-smeared paving. Taken together, they would conjure up the following plausible scenario: Omar Saeed, acting under the direction of General Ahmad and the ISI, had provided money and "training" (as reported in the Telegraph) to the hijackers while "false-flagging" himself to the hijackers as an operative of al-Qaida. The General, on the other hand, may have represented himself to Omar Saeed as acting exclusively under ISI authority, when in fact he was acting under the direction of his American-Anglo handlers. With Omar Saeed seeding the "legend" of a bona fide money trail leading back to bin Laden, the stage would then be set for Omar Saeed to take the fall as the main patsy providing the smoking gun of al-Qaida complicity for 9/11. Yet at some point, this carefully enacted "legend" began to unravel once Indian intelligence was able to establish (or just mischievously leaked) Saeed's link with General Ahmad, forcing a reluctant FBI - or, alternatively, a cooperative element in the FBI outside of the hermetically compartmentalized loop - to go along and confirm the findings.
Naturally, in the light of the Times of India's Oct. 9 bombshell, somebody would have to organize a prophylactic strategy of damage control. Yet where the original money trail "legend" was carefully, even artfully, crafted, the efforts to perform a partial-birth abortion on it were piecemeal, ill-considered, and - most damaging of all- worked to highlight the participation of individual accessories in the cover-up campaign.
A comprehensive cover-up strategy would entail four objectives: i) explaining General Ahmad's "sudden retirement"; ii) gradually minimizing the money trail story while subtly transforming it; iii) providing a new "smoking gun"; and iv) carving out an alternative "legend" for Omar Saeed while finding an alternative paymaster. Of the four objectives, the last one would turn out to be the most convoluted.
Meanwhile, the mainstream media - except for a brief mention by the Wall Street Journal - would largely ignore the October 9 Times of India item. General Ahmad's "sudden dismissal" was accounted for by TIME and The Washington Post as being due to his "pro-Taliban" loyalties - leaving out any mention of an al-Qaida or money trail connection. With General Ahmad thus safely "out of sight", he was also presumably "out of mind." Omar Saeed, on the other hand, represented a trickier problem, as the authorities and the mainstream media - CNN at least - had already gone on record as fingering him as the 9/11 paymaster. Moreover, Omar Saeed had originally been set up to be a major player in the overall 9/11 "legend".
As we will see, many of the players in this carefully plotted, decade-long "legend" - Ramzi Yousef, Mohamed Atta, Ramzi Binalshibh (or bin al-shibh), Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Zacarias Moussaoui, and the paymaster role - were intricately interconnected in a web of activities and unfolding revelations. With the definitive identification of a paymaster now put on hold, the full crystallization of the Official 9/11 Legend would also have to await a more opportune time. In the short term, Omar Saeed would have to disappear, yet due to his prior exposure in the media, and in view of his deep involvement with many of the other players in the legend, his role in all this would ultimately have to be accounted for. And so, Omar Saeed would need to be reintegrated back into the 9/11 picture by way of an alternative legend, most of which would play itself out after September 11.
As for the formerly snowballing money trail story, post-October 9, it was gradually being ushered to a slow death of irrelevance, awaiting its temporary replacement with a new "smoking gun." In the meantime, the "Mustafa Ahmad" pseudonym was being passed on to a new owner - or a number of alternative ones, depending on which media outlet was offering whichever version. In some reports, the paymaster alias would be tagged to an Egyptian "Shayk Saiid". In its November 11, 2001 issue, Newsweek bequeathed the alias to a 33 year-old Saudi named "Shaikh Saiid," who was apparently caught on surveillance video picking up a package in Dubai mailed by hijacker Mohammed Atta. On December 18, 2001, the Associated Press added further details, revealing that "Shaikh Saiid" was also the alias for bin Laden's brother-in-law, Sa'd al-Sharif. Both items, taken together, would mean that we would have an actual video of bin Laden's brother-in-law picking up a package from one of the hijackers - a smoking gun if ever there was one, and just one more example of the incredible carelessness by which these throwaway details were revealed as "evidence." In any case, the original smoking gun - the money trail story - was officially supplanted earlier in that week, on December 13, 2001, with the worldwide release of the Official Bin Laden Videotape Confession.
Now all that remained was to properly dispose of the Omar Saeed "legend." Whether a new "legend" was being crafted for Saeed right after October 9, or considerably later, is a fact that may never be known with certainty. What we do know, however, is that Saeed was later linked to a December 13, 2001 suicide attack on the Indian Parliament in addition to a January 22, 2002 attack on the American Cultural Center in Calcutta.
In fact, January 22, 2002 was a key date for the plan to carve out a new "legend" for Omar Saeed. As we will see, FBI Director Robert Mueller just happened to be on scene in India, awaiting his crucial role in the unfolding drama - just one day before Daniel Pearl disappeared off the streets of Karachi.
Next: Enter Daniel Pearl Truth Lies PearlTruth, Lies, and The Legend of 9/11
Also see... Raissi LoftiDaniel Pearl and the Paymaster of 9/11