The Library Tower “Plot”: Unraveling the Lies

From Holden:

It has become obvious that Chimpy’s Liberty Library Tower terror story was rushed out as a defense of his illegal warrantless spying without much thought beforehand by the Bush Assministration.

Here again is Frances Fragos Townsend, Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, describing the plot last week.

Khalid Shaykh Muhammad was the individual who led this effort. He initiated the planning for the West Coast plot after September 11th, in October of 2001. KSM, working with Hambali in Asia, recruited the members of the cell. There was a total of four members of the cell. When they — KSM, himself, trained the leader of the cell in late 2001 or early 2002 in the shoe bomb technique. You all will recall that there was the arrest of the shoe bomber, Richard Reid, in December of 2001, and he was instructing the cell leader on the use of the same technique.

After the cell — the additional members of the cell, in addition to the leader, were recruited, they all went — the cell leader and the three other operatives went to Afghanistan where they met with bin Laden* and swore biat — that is an oath of loyalty to him — before returning to Asia, where they continued to work under Hambali.

The cell leader was arrested in February of 2002, and as we begin — at that point, the other members of the cell believed that the West Coast plot has been canceled, was not going forward. You’ll recall that KSM was then arrested in April of 2003 — or was it March — I’m sorry, March of 2003.

[snip]

Q [Y]ou said that the cell leader of the West Coast plot had been arrested. What about the other cell members? Can you give us any further details, number one? And, number two, you talked about the need and great successes of international cooperation. Can you comment in any way on recent events in Yemen, when perhaps the international cooperation fell down a little bit?

MS. TOWNSEND: Sure. I should have said it, and Mark, thank you for reminding me. All of the cell leaders were ultimately arrested and taken into custody. So there are none of the remaining — none of the four are at large.

So, to summarize, Townsend said:

1) Khalid Shaykh Muhammad “led the effort”.

2) KSM organized a cell of four men, one of which was the “cell leader”.

3) The “cell leader” was captured in February 2002.

4) All four “cell members” were captured, “none of the four are at large”.

Some of Townsend’s claims are contradicted by this AP story that was published over the weekend.

A Malaysian recruited by al-Qaida to pilot a plane in a second wave of Sept. 11-style attacks on the United States has been in custody in his homeland since December 2002, Southeast Asian security officials said yesterday.

The recruit, Zaini Zakaria, pulled out of the plot after seeing the carnage at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and was unwilling to die as a martyr for Islam, the officials said.

[snip]

Zaini, a 38-year-old engineer, was among three men al-Qaida was preparing to take part in an attack on the U.S. West Coast, according to security officials and terrorism experts in Southeast Asia.

The two other men implicated in the alleged plans were Zacarias Moussaoui, who is now in U.S. custody, and Abderraouf Jdey, who remains at large.

[snip]

But Zaini apparently was never told what his mission would be. When he saw media coverage of the Sept. 11 attacks, he severed his ties with the militants, according to the official.

Zaini told Malaysian interrogators that he “didn’t want that kind of jihad,” the official said.

Zaini, a native of the northeastern state of Kelantan, was doing some odd jobs before he surrendered to Malaysian authorities in Kelantan in 2002, apparently because he was worried about an ill relative, said his former lawyer Saiful Izham Ramli.

[snip]

The possible “second wave”attack was mentioned in a June 2004 U.S. National Commission report on the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

The report quoted Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the reputed Sept. 11 mastermind who was captured in 2003, as saying “three potential pilots were recruited for the alleged second wave.” It identified them as Moussaoui, Jdey and Zaini.

The AP contradicts Townsend by reporting that one of the alleged cell members, Abderraouf Jdey, remains at large. A second suspect, Zaini Zakaria, “pulled out of the plot after seeing the carnage at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon” while a third “cell member” was Zacharias Moussaoui who was detained by the FBI on August 16, 2001. Therefore Townsend’s claim that the plot was disrupted when the “cell leader” was arrested in February 2002 just doesn’t wash. One “cell member” (Moussaoui) had been detained six months prior to that arrest while a second (Zakaria) pulled out shortly after the September 11th attacks.

This “plot” fell apart on its own, it’s hardly a shining example of how Dear Leader bravely protected America from the awful terrorists.

It seems to me that Towsend is basing her claims on information revealed by Khalid Shaikh Mohammed during interrogation. We know KSM was waterboarded during his interrogation, and there no better demonstration of the fact that torutre produces false information.

*As I noted last week, Townsend later admitted during the briefing that they did not actually know if the “cell” met bin Laden.