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In December 1994, defense attorney Roger Stavis is preparing to defend his client El Sayyid Nosair in the upcoming landmarks trial. He discovers the top secret US military training manuals found in Nosair’s house and begins investigating Ali Mohamed, the US soldier (and double agent) who stole the manuals and gave them to Nosair. Stavis wants to defend Nosair on the basis that since Nosair was trained by Mohamed, who worked for the CIA and US military, the US government should share culpability for Nosair’s crimes. He writes up a subpoena for Mohamed. Stravis later recalls, “I wanted him. And I tried everything to find him.” But Mohamed has disappeared and not even his wife in California knows where he is. However, US intelligence is secretly monitoring him (see Autumn 1993) and they know he is in Kenya. An FBI agent calls him there and tells him to come back to be interviewed. Mohamed immediately returns to the US and on December 9 he is interviewed by FBI agent Harlan Bell and Assistant US Attorney Andrew McCarthy, one of the prosecutors for the upcoming trial (see December 9, 1994). Mohamed stays in touch after the interview, for instance talking to McCarthy on the phone on December 22. But when the trial starts on January 30, 1995, Stavis is told that Mohamed cannot be found and never responded to the subpoena. In 1999, Ibrahim El-Gabrowny, Nosair’s cousin, will find himself in a jail cell next to Mohamed. El-Gabrowny will later allege that he asked why Mohamed never showed up in court to support Nosair. Mohamed supposedly responds that he did get the subpoena, but that McCarthy advised him to ignore it and not testify and that McCarthy would cover up for him. Had Mohamed testified, McCarthy would have had a more difficult time getting a conviction, and the revelations of Mohamed’s ties to the CIA, FBI, and US military would have been highly embarrassing. Author Peter Lance will later note also that had Mohamed testified in the high profile trial, he would have become too well known to continue working as an informant and double agent. (Lance 2006, pp. 171-178)
Prosecutors in the “Landmarks” bombing trial want to speak with Ali Mohamed. FBI agents, working through an intermediary, track him to an al-Qaeda safe house in Nairobi. Mohamed will later testify in US court: “In late 1994, I received a call from an FBI agent who wanted to speak to me about the upcoming trial of United States vs. Abdul Rahman. I flew back to the United States, spoke to the FBI, but didn’t disclose everything that I knew.” (Aita 5/15/2001; Waldman 11/26/2001; 9/11 Commission 6/16/2004) FBI agent Harlan Bell conducts the interview in the presence of Assistant US Attorney Andrew McCarthy, a prosecutor for the upcoming trial. Mohamed tells them that he is working in Kenya in the scuba diving business, when in fact he is helping the al-Qaeda cell there. He also says he went to Pakistan in 1991 to help Osama bin Laden move from Afghanistan to Sudan (see Summer 1991). Despite admitting this tie to bin Laden, there will apparently be no repercussions for Mohamed, aside from his name appearing on the trial’s unindicted co-consipirators list (see February 1995). (Lance 2006, pp. 173-174) He will not appear at the trial, and it will be alleged that McCarthy told him to ignore a subpoena and not testify (see December 1994-January 1995). Mohamed will recall that after the interview, “I reported on my meeting with the FBI to [al-Qaeda leader Mohammed Atef] and was told not to return to Nairobi.” (Aita 5/15/2001)
US prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald and FBI agents Jack Cloonan and Harlan Bell, all members of the I-49 squad, take Ali Mohamed out for dinner at a restaurant in Sacramento, California (he has recently moved there from Santa Clara, California). Fitzgerald pays for Mohamed’s meal. Cloonan will later recall, “The purpose in us going to meet Ali at that point in time is that we wanted to gain his cooperation. We knew of his long history having been connected to al-Qaeda, and what we desperately wanted was to convince Ali Mohamed to cooperate with us that night.” During the several-hour-long meeting, Mohamed says the following:
He “loved” bin Laden and “believes in him.” (Williams and McCormick 11/4/2001; Lance 2006, pp. 274-276)
He organized bin Laden’s move from Afghanistan to Sudan in 1991 (see Summer 1991).
He was in Somalia training militants to fight US soldiers in 1993. He claims “bin Laden’s people were responsible” for the killing of 18 US soldiers there (see 1993).
He trained bin Laden’s personal bodyguards in 1994 and he lived in bin Laden’s house while doing so (see Shortly After February 1994). (Lance 2006, pp. 274-276)
He says he trained people in “war zones, and… war zones can be anywhere.” (Waldman 11/26/2001)
He asserts he doesn’t need a religious edict to make war on the US since it is “obvious” that the US is “the enemy.” Author Peter Lance will later note these words clearly “amounted to treason.”
Cloonan will recall, “He said that he was in touch with hundreds of people he could call on in a moment’s notice that could be, quote, ‘operational,’ and wage jihad against the United States. Very brazenly, he said, ‘I can get out anytime and you’ll never find me. I’ve got a whole network. You’ll never find me.”
After dinner, Cloonan will recall that Fitzgerald turned to him and said, “This is the most dangerous man I have ever met. We cannot let this man out on the street.” But Lance will later note, “But that’s just what he did. Patrick Fitzgerald allowed Ali Mohamed to go free”—even though Mohamed firmly rejected the offer to cooperate. During the dinner, other agents break into Mohamed’s house and bug his computer (his phone is already tapped (see Late 1994). Mohamed will continue to live in California for nearly a year and won’t be arrested until after the August 1998 African embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). The FBI apparently makes a report based on Mohamed’s comments at this meeting (see After October 1997). But no evidence has come to light that Mohamed’s confession is shared with top US officials or spread widely within US intelligence before 9/11. (Lance 2006, pp. 274-276) In 2003, Fitzgerald will testify before a Senate committee and claim that when he had to make the decision after the embassy bombings whether or not to arrest Mohamed (see September 10, 1998), the “decision to arrest was made partly in the dark” because prosecutors could “not learn what information [the FBI] had gathered” on Mohamed. Fitzgerald will fail to mention that he was sitting with FBI agents when Mohamed gave this startling confession. (US Congress 10/21/2003)
Double agent Ali Mohamed gives a hint about the upcoming African embassy bombings to an FBI agent. Harlan Bell, one of the FBI agents who met with Mohamed at an October 1997 dinner where Mohamed detailed his al-Qaeda ties (see October 1997), is apparently continuing to regularly talk to him on the phone (though it is not known what they discuss). Bell begins recording these phone calls (which are presumably being recorded by others as well since all of Mohamed’s communications are being monitored by this time (see October 1997-September 10, 1998)). FBI agent Jack Cloonan, who works with Bell in the I-49 bin Laden squad, will later recall that after the embassy bombings Bell will replay one of these taped conversations. “It became apparent from listening to one of those tapes that Ali was talking about a possible target in East Africa. He never specifically said the embassy or that he knew an attack was imminent, but he was giving this up in a sense before the attack took place.” (Lance 2006, pp. 207-208)
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