Part 5 of Truth, Lies, and The Legend of 9/11: Truth Lies Legend
In the immediate aftermath of September 11, the mainstream newspapers were replete with items implicating Argenbright security (which was charged with overall security at Logan Airport) with lax procedures, thereby largely giving a "free pass" to the two companies that actually handled passenger screening for the hijacked planes out of Logan.
Besides Huntleigh, the other security company at Logan screening passengers was Burns Security, through its subsidiary, Globe Security. Burns Security, the former employer of Timothy Mc Veigh and suspected al-Qaida member Mohamed Abdi (connected by authorities to attempted "millennial" bomber Ahmed Ressam), also happened to make the news in the most high profile incident preceding September 11. Just a few days before the Twin Towers came down, a disgruntled Burns security guard by the name of Joseph Ferguson went on a murderous rampage, killing, among several others, his supervisor at Burns - a Ukrainian immigrant by the name of Nikolay Popovich, in the Sacramento suburb of Rancho Cordova. Before Ferguson turned his gun on himself, he claimed that he was inspired to follow in the footsteps of Timothy Mc Veigh and Nikolay Soltys, a Ukrainian immigrant who, only a couple weeks before Ferguson, had went on his own mass murder rampage in the suburb of Rancho Cordova. In Ferguson's home, authorities found right wing militia literature, particularly that of the World Church of the Creator. The Ferguson episode also caused a temporary disruption in Burns' West Coast operations, forcing many of its employees to steer clear of work, out of harm's way, until Ferguson could be apprehended.
A post-script on Nikolay Soltys, the Sacramento mass murderer who inspired Ferguson's rampage: on February 12, 2002, Soltys' lawyer, Tommy Clinkenbeard, revealed in an Associated Press article that a Sacramento County social services agency was tracking Soltys before the slayings, and that Clinkenbeard was barred by court order from seeing all of Soltys' social services records, which were sealed. Clinkenbeard said that he intended to subpoena those records, but Soltys was found hanging in his jail cell the very next day. His cell had been under 24-hour surveillance.
What, if any, was the connection here to September 11? Were these copy-cat mass murder episodes just a random occurrence - or perhaps indicative of a far more murky, complex drama playing out just below the surface? Yet none of this would have merited any notice in chronicling the Legend of 9/11, had there not been a crucial Burns/Al-Qaida/Right Wing Militia/Sacramento nexus in the millennial lead-up to 9/11.
In the weeks leading up to January 1, 2000, the news media were swamped with speculations of impending catastrophe. We had already experienced the domestic terror wrought by Timothy Mc Veigh (representing the right wing militia set) and Ted Kaczynski alias the "Unabomber" (representing the lone wacko set). Now we were told to expect an apocalyptic meltdown of our technological infrastructure by way of the Y2K "bug", or, alternatively, an attack by America's self-declared Number One Enemy - Osama bin Laden. The expected catastrophe came 21 months later than expected, with the blow struck in New York City. (See Bin Laden -ed.)
Yet according to the Official 9/11 Legend, the expected millennial catastrophe was actually averted two weeks before the new year, with the arrest in Seattle of al-Qaida operative Ahmed Ressam. Ressam, as was later discovered, was on his way to mastermind a massive terror attack on the West Coast - at Los Angeles International Airport, a facility secured through the services of Burns Security. After September 11, authorities arrested a former Burns security guard named Mohamed Abdi in Washington, D.C., on the pretext that he was connected to Ressam.
Ten days before Ressam was arrested - on December 4, 1999 - two right wing "militiamen" were arrested on charges of plotting to blow up, on the new year, a Suburban Propane facility at Elk Grove near Sacramento. It was thought that had they succeeded, hundreds of casualties might have resulted. It is thus on the West Coast, in the lead-up to the millennial new year, that we have the convergence of a pre-existing domestic threat (i.e. the militias stoked through the legends of Waco and Ruby Ridge) and a pre-existing foreign threat (i.e. the bin Laden minions stoked through the legends of Gulf War '91 and World Trade Center '93). As we shall see later in this article, these two threats had actually converged for the first time back in April 1995, with Timothy Mc Veigh's destruction of the FBI Murrah building in Oklahoma.
Sacramento, though by no means the only West Coast city with an alleged al-Qaida connection, did seem to have a magnetic pull for this type of convergence. An al-Qaida graduate of Cal State, Sacramento, Raed Hijazi, was charged with plotting to blow up a Jordanian hotel on the millennial new year, while another al-Qaida operative, Ali A. Mohamed - a former Sacramento resident who was also a U.S. Army sergeant in Fort Bragg, N.C. - had pleaded guilty to the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Africa (the bombings that had garnered bin Laden his most widespread notice up until the U.S.S. Cole attack in October 2000). On the domestic terror front, Sacramento was also the scene of the notorious racist attacks on local synagogues by the Williams brothers.
In The Propaganda Preparation For 9/11, I posited the existence of two key domestic operative cliques - one based in New York City and the other in Florida (particularly in Tampa, by Mac Dill Air Force base). But the crucial question is this: was a West Coast operative clique also to play a role on September 11 - and if so, then at what point was the West Coast aspect of these operations scotched?
Alternatively, perhaps the West Coast millennial operations were a bluff - a diversion meant to take the exclusive focus off of New York, and perhaps lay the psychological groundwork for the eventual assignment of blame for 9/11. Toward that end, the pre-millennial Ahmed Ressam episode was a key pivot point in the Official 9/11 Legend, as Ressam provided the crucial links to the networks that the authorities would later use in constructing the case against al-Qaida for the September 11 attacks. It was through Ressam that authorities allegedly got a peek at the upper structures of al-Qaida, with Ressam detailing the operational role of senior al-Qaida man Abu Zubaydah (subsequently the first "big fish" caught in the War On Terror in March 2002). The Ressam episode also provided a close-up view as to how those all-important connections were made, and, most importantly, by whom.
As chronicled in a multi-part Seattle Times investigation, The Terrorist Within, by Hal Bernton, immediately after Ressam was arrested on December 14, 1999, John O'Neill called up the Seattle-based FBI agent assigned to the investigation, Fred Humphries, and hooked Humphries up with O'Neill's friend, the powerful French anti-terror prosecutor, Jean-Louis Bruguiere. Humphries, who seemed to be "out of the loop" as regards the complexities of the terror networks, was taken by the hand by Bruguiere, and pointed in the "right" direction - that is, toward the evidence showing the full depth of Ressam's connections. On the very night that Humphries first met up with Bruguiere in New York City, O'Neill orchestrated a four-alarm, razzle-dazzle show of FBI authority that could not have failed to make an impression on the novice agent Humphries:
"That evening, O'Neill took them out on the town, requisitioning a SWAT team for security and roaring off in a black SUV, lights flashing and sirens echoing along Manhattan's skyscraper canyons.
At Cit?, a fashionable steakhouse, the SWAT team checked for danger, then set up a guard post outside while the trio dined in style."
Thereafter, Bruguiere led Humphries to his associates in the Canadian intelligence service, who furnished Humphries with the evidence of Ressam's Montreal "cell." Then Bruguiere provided Humphries and his assistant a refresher course in the Terror Story, bringing them to Paris where they could likewise be fed the latest information from the "official" French intelligence dossiers. Back stateside, Bruguiere kept on with the Ressam case, furnishing the prosecution - and the media - his expert take on Ressam's fit in the overall al-Qaida puzzle.
To the casual observer, there is absolutely nothing nefarious in any of this. It would make sense that a highly esteemed international expert and prosecutor of terror would be so intimately involved in such an important case. Yet, as in so much of this tale, it is the overall context that one must consider when evaluating the specific elements of the 9/11 Legend. Proceeding on the hypothesis that O'Neill would theoretically be the most well-placed operative to assemble the various global elements implicating al-Qaida in 9/11 - and in view of the fact that O'Neill was at the improbable center of far too many coincidences - one could judge O'Neill's involvement here in the Ressam episode as one plausible example by which O'Neill (along with his colleague, Bruguiere) could use his authority and prestige in order to "structure" an investigation in a certain direction. In this respect, Humphries would be playing the role of any number of people in his position - trusting in the expert opinion of a superior authority, and honestly taking his leads where directed. In such a manner do literally thousands of decent law enforcement folk become party to a set-up managed by the few in the upper echelons, reinforcing among one another the perception that the truth is known among a wide swath of their colleagues - a "herd mentality" that is as prevalent in the realm of law enforcement as it is in government and media.
If Bruguiere had given Humphries the initial impression that Humphries was receiving a fully independent assessment from the Canadian intelligence service, well, that wasn't exactly the case either. As chronicled in Bernton's Seattle Times investigation, only a few years before - back in the summer of 1996 - it was Bruguiere who had first contacted the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), informing them of his belief that "terrorists had formed a 'cell' in Montreal. In particular, Bruguiere told CSIS, watch for a man named Fateh Kamel."
Bruguiere led the skeptical Canadians to an apartment he dubbed the "appartement de conspiracie", among whose occupants was the aforementioned Fateh Kamel and his protege, Ahmed Ressam. At Bruguiere's urging, the Canadians proceeded to monitor the apartment for a period of two years, amassing a "400-page file on the men who came and went from the apartment." Though impressively thick, the file contained little more than the macho rantings of men whom the Canadians considered to be petty thieves and immigrant visa violators at the worst. All the same, Ressam's voice made it on to the "record" in "nearly 400 wire-tapped conversations." Once the Canadians ended their fruitless two-year surveillance in 1998, Ressam was off to Afghanistan - the finishing school for his terrorist education. The Canadians had apparently lost interest, and subsequently, the denizens of the "appartement de conspiracie" had moved on.
Phase Two: almost one year later, in February 1999, Ressam returned to Montreal, now presumably indoctrinated and trained in the al-Qaida brand of covert terror. In one of those recurring synchronicities we tend to find popping up in the Legend of 9/11, Bruguiere - after more than two years of laying low - decided that now was the time to make his move on the aforementioned Fateh Kamel, who he just happened to find in Jordan, and subsequently prodded the Jordanians to arrest him and extradite him to France to face charges of abetting terror. As chronicled in the Seattle Times investigation, Bruguiere made his next move several weeks later - requesting that the Canadians question Kamel's former apartment mates in Montreal, among them the newly returned Ressam.
Now, pay special attention to the timing: Ressam, upon his recent return to Montreal, moved into a new apartment on Sherbrooke Avenue. The Canadians, however, showed up at the old "appartement de conspiracie", now bereft of its alleged conspirators, who had moved on in the past year. Bruguiere continued to harangue the Canadians. A few months later, they finally tracked down the address of Ressam's Sherbrooke Avenue lodgings. Only problem was, Ressam was no longer officially lodging there. In the interim, he had moved on to another apartment on Rue du Fort (what may, in retrospect, be considered as a "safe house" in more ways than one). However, Ressam "occasionally spent the night at his old apartment on Sherbrooke, where his friends still lived." As happenstance would have it, on one of those overnight stays, at the tender hour of a quarter past six in the morning, the Canadian authorities showed up in the foyer of the building and dialed up Ressam's old apartment, waiting to be "buzzed in." Bruguiere had been given the heads-up for this raid, though he did not join in. Here is what happened next, as chronicled by the Seattle Times: "At the sound of the bell, Ressam bolted from the apartment and out a back door into an alley. The door was unguarded. He got away."
Nevertheless, the Canadians did find inside the "dingy apartment" some photographs of the aforementioned Fateh Kamel, along with a conveniently placed black address book left in Ressam's presumably abandoned knapsack, which contained the phone number of Abu Zubaydah (relatively unknown by then) and the address for Evergro Products, an agricultural-supply store in British Columbia (later to be tagged as Exhibit A for the prosecution). As reported in the Seattle Times, it was all pretty much Greek to the Canadian corporal who led the raid, and who subsequently "made a copy of the book and sent it off to Bruguiere in Paris to figure out."
And where did Ressam run off to? Back to his Rue du Fort apartment (or "safe house"), where he reportedly proceeded that night to plan his explosive attack on the Los Angeles International Airport in the weeks ahead. Oddly, it did not occur to him that the authorities might also track him down to this apartment as well (from the perspective of a man who was apparently alert enough - and prescient - to bolt from his overnight lodgings at the first toll of a bell in the wee hours of dawn). But as fate - or perhaps Bruguiere? - would have it, the authorities would not pick up on Ressam's trail again until that designated day in December 1999 when he was pulled over with the "smoking gun" explosives at customs in Seattle.
On that fateful day, Ressam had almost gone out of his way to draw suspicion on himself, as reported in the Seattle Times:
"Driving through the island city of Victoria to get to Seattle from mainland Canada was a bizarre choice; understandable for a tourist, maybe, but not for a business trip."
Even so, Ressam's car was allowed on to the ferry to Seattle. Stateside, with his car the last in line off the ferry at customs, Ressam put on a sweaty, "jittery" show for the benefit of the discerning customs inspector, who this time got the message and proceeded to do a standard search of Ressam's car. The rest, as they say, is history. By the time agent Humphries was handed the case, the Canadians now had a fully documented dossier on Ressam waiting for him.
Though the Seattle Times investigation kept fairly close to the contours of the Official 9/11 Legend, the obvious anomalies in a simple reading of the Ressam episode fairly scream out for more attention. Was this all a well-timed set-up, orchestrated by Bruguiere, using the unwitting Canadian authorities - and, subsequently, Agent Humphries - to give the general impression that Ressam's activities were being ferreted out by a virtual army of independent investigators? In short, through just the prism of the Ressam episode, might we detect the inner workings of a covert legend-in-progress?
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