By Jamie Glazov
January 27, 2005
Frontpage Interview’s guest today is Peter Lance, a five-time Emmy-winning investigative reporter and author of the bestselling 1000 Years for Revenge: International Terrorism and the FBI -- The Untold Story. He is the author of the new book Cover Up: What the Government Is Still Hiding About the War on Terror.
FP: Mr. Lance, welcome to Frontpage InterviewLance: Great to be talking with you.FP: What motivated you to write this book?
Lance: Cover Up began as an effort to answer the two big unanswered questions left after I had finished 1000 Years of Revenge. To get an overview of my findings in that book, your readers can sample the 32 page illustrated Timeline from 1000 YEARS at my website under “Terrorism.”
Like the book, the Timeline goes back 12 years to 1989 and traces al Qaeda's treacherous development of the 9/11 plot, focusing primarily on the how the New York office of the FBI (NYO) the Osama bin Laden "office of origin," failed repeatedly to interdict the plot.The two big questions, which I sought to answer at the end of that book were:
1) Why did the U.S. Justice Department ignore probative evidence from the Philippines National Police (PNP) in 1995 that Ramzi Yousef, the original World Trade Center bomber, had conspired with his uncle Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) as early as 1994 to set in motion the plot that culminated on 9/11? In the spring of 1995, Col. Rodolfo B. Mendoza, a leading PNP investigator who had interrogated Yousef's lifelong friend and co-conspirator, Abdul Hakim Murad, gave the U.S. Embassy in Manila evidence that Yousef and KSM already had chosen had six targets: the WTC, The Pentagon, CIA HQ at Langley, VA, The Sears Tower in Chicago, the Transamerica Tower in San Francisco and an unnamed nuclear facility. Col. Mendoza also had evidence that up to 10 Islamic radicals were then training in U.S. flight schools. This was 1995.
I found FBI NO/FORN memos from that year proving that the Bureau had this intelligence, but they dropped the ball. I wanted to find out why. It should be noted that the detailed intelligence from Col. Mendoza was for a plot involving the hijacking of airliners that was completely distinct from the Bojinka plot in which Yousef, KSM, Murad and a 4th conspirator, Wali Kahn Amin Shah, planned to plant Casio watch powered-nitroglycerine bomb triggers aboard up to a dozens U.S. jumbo jets exiting Asia with U.S. tourists.
That plot went way beyond the initial plane to hijack a small plane and fly it, laden with explosives, into CIA Headquarters, an early scenario which Murad had discussed with Col. Mendoza in the early days of his 67 day interrogation. Yousef had even undertaken a "west test" bombing of a Casio Nitro device which he planted under a seat in the 26th row of Philippine Airlines Flight #434 on the morning of December 11, 1994.
Planted on the first leg of a two-leg flights, Yousef got on board, pieced together the apparently innocuous components of the bomb and exited the flight after hiding it in the life jacket pouch below seat 26K. He mistakenly believed that the center wing fuel tank of the 747-100 began at the 26th row.
In fact that tank runs below the 17th to 25th rows. So Yousef was a few feet two short.
Nonetheless, after he exiting, while PAL #434 was heading toward Japan, his device exploded with such force that it blew a hole in the passenger floor and killed Haruki Ikegami, a 24 year old Japanese national in seat 26 K.
The heroic pilot was able to get the plane on the ground. But now Yousef knew that if he and his cohorts merely moved the devices FORWARD a few rows, the downward blast would ignite the fuel tanks, turning the jumbo jets into flying bombs. They intended to do this on up to 12 flights when they had a fire in their Manila bomb factory on the night of January 6th, 1995 and the Bojinka plot was foiled.
However, at the same time that they plotted Bojinka (and a third plot to kill the Pope who was to arrive in Manila in early January 1995) Yousef and KSM had well in motion the hijack-airliners-fly-them-into-buildings scenario that culminated on 9/11.
Col. Mendoza, who was the Richard Clarke of The Philippines, when it came to his knowledge of Islamic radicalism, was very clear with the U.S. government and warned our officials in in the spring of 1995 of that PRECISE plot which unfolded six years later.
The Justice Department seemingly failed to pursued this extraordinary warning and I wanted to know why.
2) The second question left unanswered, when I had finished my first book, was why did the FBI and Justice Dept. treat the hunt for KSM so differently than the public hunt for his nephew -- which had successfully brought Yousef to ground? Yousef was arrested in early February, 1995 in a bin Laden controlled guesthouse in Islamabad, Pakistan after a tip to the U.S. State Department from an informant that Yousef had recruited. This young South African (Istaique Parker) wanted the $2 million reward being offered under a program called Rewards for Justice that was the brainchild of the late Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) agent Bradley Smith.
During the two years since Yousef had fled New York on the night of the first WTC attack (February 26th, 1993) he had been the object of a worldwide public manhunt. Newsweek ran stories with banner headlines like The World’s Most Wanted and the State Dept. even printed posters touting the $2 million reward on matchbook covers that they circulated by the thousands through the middle east.
Parker finally gave up Yousef, but the day he was arrested by DSS and DEA agents on February 7, 1995, I recounted in my first book, how an FBI agent got to the 20 room guesthouse late and blew a chance to grab Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who was staying in a ground floor room. In fact, KSM was so audacious that he gave an interview to Time magazine on the Yousef takedown using his own name "Khalid Shaikh." But by the time FBI agent Brad Garrett got there KSM was gone.
This didn't stop Garrett from participating in a 60 Minutes II story in the fall of 2001 in which he took false credit for the Yousef takedown.
Meanwhile, back in 1995, rather than doing a Wild West style worldwide search using the same rewards posters that had brought Yousef down, the Justice Dept. changed tack. For unknown reasons they indicted KSM along with Yousef in 1996 but kept the indictment sealed and his name from the press.
The first mention of KSM came on the inside "jump" page of a New York Times story in Janaury, 1998, on the day after Yousef was sentenced in the Southern District of New York for both the WTC and Bojinka plots. The story covering the sentencing had a cryptic reference to one "Khalad Shaikh" believed to be a relative of Yousef's.
By this time -- by all accounts -- KSM was well into executing the 9/11 plot. The question was, why didn't the Justice Dept. and the FBI make his name public immediately in 1995 when they received evidence from Col. Mendoza that KSM had conspired with his nephew Ramzi to hijack airliners and fly them into buildings? Why seal the indictment and why not make KSM the subject of the same kind of public international dragnet that captured Yousef?
The Feds made a big deal out of grabbing the overweight, bug eyed KSM in March of 2003 in Pakistan, but by my reckoning they had blown at least two chances to grab him earlier before all those people died on 9/11 -- once in 1995 the day Yousef was caught and later in 1996 when the Feds learned KSM was in Doha, Qatar, and cooled their heels waiting while a Qatari official spirited him out of the country to the Czech Republic.
In any case, I got the answer to both of my questions as I was research book two: Cover Up.
FP: In Cover Up, you show that the government has covered up its own counter-terror failures. Tell us a bit about these.
Lance: The second half of Cover Up is a painstaking analysis of the 9/11 Commission and it's effective whitewash. I go into great detail with evidence of how
-the Commission was hopelessly skewed on both the right and the left; -how the staff was riddled with conflicts of interest -- almost half of the staff members were alumni of the very intelligence agencies they were asked to judge;
-how both Democrats and Republicans, cherry picked evidence and limited the scope of the investigation to 1998 forward in order -- I believe -- to ignore the culpability of the FBI, CIA and other agencies for failing to stop Osama bin Laden's 12 year juggernaut;
-how, in effect, the fix was in on this Commission from day one -- there was an intentional decision to limit the damage across three presidential administrations and eliminate ANY accountability or blame for what I call the biggest intelligence failure since The Trojan Horse.
The second half of the book chronicles this whitewash and focuses particularly on Dietrich Dieter Snell, the former Asst. U.S. Attorney (AUSA) who co-prosecuted Yousef in the 1996 Bojinka case.
Snell, who could have answered both of the questions left over at the end of my first book, should have been a WITNESS before the 9/11 Commission, but instead they hired him as Senior Counsel and one of the Team Leaders.
It was Snell who took my "testimony" after I "testified" before the Commission on March 15th, 2004. When I showed up in the closed door conference room at 26 Federal Plaza (the same building that houses the FBI's NYO) Snell was accompanied by Marco Cordero, an FBI agent on loan to the Commission.
No stenographer was present, nor was there a recording device. Snell, merely pulled out a small notebook and started jotting down notes. I was warned ahead of time, by a source inside the Commission that more than 90% of the witness intake was anecdotal like this -- that the image of people like Condi Rice delivering sworn testimony in open session -- was more of an aberration.
Anyway, later in this interview you'll understand what it sham it was for somebody like Dieter Snell to take my "testimony." In my mind he was one of the fixers, hired early on to sanitize the Commission's final report.
FP: Briefly illuminate for us the story of terror mastermind Ramzi Yousef and TWA 800.
Lance: The first half of Cover Up is the most explosive. I present probative evidence that the crash of TWA #800 on July 17th, 1996 which killed 230 people, was an al Qaeda act of terror -- a bombing that was effectively the second biggest mass murder in U.S. history. I prove this using the FBI's own documents: #302 memos, and, for the first time I shatter the FBI/NTSB K-9 theory -- the only explanation for the presence of high explosive residue in the wreckage absent a bomb.
I had eluded to this in 1000 Years of Revenge -- along with a chapter, by the way, which linked Ramzi Yousef and KSM via Terry Nichols to the Oklahoma City bombing. This was long before Jayna Davis' intriguing book The Third Terrorist which was the object of one of your earlier interviews. She agrees with me on the Yousef-Nichols connection, but we disagree as to Yousef's paymaster. She suggests it was Iraq. I say OBL and furnish proof in the form of evidence showing that Yousef's Manila cell was financed directly by bin Laden via his Saudi brother in law Mohammed Jamal Khalifa.
However, in 2003, in neither case -- OKC or TWA #800 did I have the level of evidence I uncovered in the Spring of 2004. Much of it is in the pages of Cover Up or on my website under FBI #302's.
FP: Can you give us some of the specifics?
Lance: In the weeks prior to the downing of TWA 800 the FBI was alerted by Colombo crime family member Gregory Scarpa Jr. that Ramzi Yousef -- who was in a cell next to Scarpa Jr. at New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) -- was arranging to have his al Qaeda cohorts plant a bomb aboard a U.S. airliner. The reason? To provoke a mistrial in the Bojinka case, the first of two federal trials facing Yousef.
Yousef even shared with Scarpa the intricate details of his schematic of the same Casio-nitro bomb trigger device, he had placed aboard PAL #434 in December 1994. Keep in mind that had the Bojinka plot been fufilled, up to a dozen U.S. jumbo jets would have had their center wing fuel tanks blown apart by Casio watch-nitroglycerine bomb triggers placed in the life jacket pouches of seats located over the tanks. Yousef's only mistake with PAL #434 was in bomb placement, not bomb design.
Now, in the spring of 1996, weeks prior to Yousef’s trial for the Bojinka plot, the bomb maker began sending elaborate notes and bomb schematics to inmate Scarpa—who -- unknown to Yousef -- had begun working as an informant for the FBI, and passed them on to his Bureau contacts. His original motivation was to get some downward release time on his sentence if convicted in the RICO trial he was facing. Over the next 11 months from March, 1996 to February, 1997, Scarpa Jr. delivered dozens of copies or photographs of Yousef's notes which the FBI then summarized in their own internal #302 memos.
One note, in which Yousef told Scarpa Jr. that the high explosive RDX could be substituted for nitroglycerine was titled “How to Smuggle Explosives Into An Airplane.” Both the sketch and the note are reproduced in Cover Up and at peterlance.com under FBI #302s.
As proven by these heretofore secret #302 memos also reproduced in the book, Scarpa’s intelligence warned the Feds of Yousef’s impending bomb-on-board plot to effect a mistrial. Worse yet, the Bureau may have facilitated the TWA 800 disaster, by setting up a third party “patch through” system that allowed Yousef to make outside calls. We know that one of the al Qaeda cohorts he reached was KSM, the one remaining Bojinka conspirator at large who knew how to build the Casio-nitro device.
Then, just as the most damning evidence was being entered by federals prosecutors at Yousef’s trial, TWA 800 an identical 747-100 to the PAL 434 aircraft flight, exploded off Long Island. The next day Yousef demanded a mistrial -- just as he had told Scarpa Jr. he would.
In the days that followed, as the FBI recovered 96 percent of the plane's wreckage, Bureau agents found the high explosives RDX, PETN, and nitroglycerine in the area of the 17-25 rows near the center fuel tank.
Keep in mind that nitroglycerine was the essential explosive of Yousef's original Casio-nitro device and RDX was an explosive Yousef had told Scarpa Jr. could be substituted for nitro. By all accounts, the fuel tank’s explosion was the cause of the crash. The only question was: What triggered it?
The FBI was prepared to declare the crash an act of sabotage. Yet on August 22, 1996, Justice Dept. officials emerged from a high-level Washington meeting and did a complete reversal which led the FBI to side instead with the NTSB.
FP: Why did the Justice Dept. make this turn-around?
Lance: The National Transportation Safety Board, almost from day one in the investigation had pushed mechanical failure as the cause. They steadfastly held to this theory even -- though not a shred of forensic evidence was found to support their premise -- that a low voltage spark had somehow ignited jet fuel fumes in the center wing tank.
In the billions of airlines flown by the 747 there had NEVER been a spontaneous fuel tank ignition.But in the end, the FBI caved in and sided with the NTSB's unsupported mechanical theory.Why? As I point out in great detail, using Greg Scarpa Jr. as the Feds’ key prosecution witness in the indictment of Ramzi Yousef for the crash of TWA #800 would have meant declaring the mobster credible.
This would have had the effect of derailing a series of Mafia cases that hung on the false testimony of Greg Jr.'s father, Gregory Scarpa Sr; a notorious Colombo family killer.
Up to 60 Colombo prosecutions in the Eastern District of New York, would have, in the words of one federal judge "unravelled." The feds had invested years and millions of dollars in these cases. Careers of various DOJ and FBI officials hung in the balance.
So, knowing that with both convictions, they would put Yousef away for multiple life sentences -- he ultimately got 240 years -- the Feds made an ends/means decision.
They decided to bury the treasure trove of al Qaeda intelligence which Scarpa Jr. had risked his life to get. Despite not a single homicide conviction, he was sentenced to 40 years for RICO violations. Compare this to Sammy The Bull Gravano who got just 5 years after killing 19 people.The Feds ended up calling Greg Jr.'s intel from Yousef -- material with details that NO WISEGUY ever could have known -- a "hoax" and "a scam."
They allowed a Supervisory Special Agent in the New York office who had been involved in a corrupt relationship with Greg's father to retire with a full pension after he had taken the Fifth and answered "I don't recall" 44 times following a grant of immunity. This was a scandal that would have made the corrupt relationship in Boston between fugitive New England crime boss Whitey Bulger and his FBI handler look like a Disney movie in comparison.
So the FBI came up with the ridiculous theory that the explosives in the TWA #800 wreckage -- which mirrored the forensic evidence from Yousef's PAL #434 bomb -- got there as a result of a K-9 test conducted five weeks earlier while the fatal aircraft was sitting at the end of Concourse C at Lambert St. Louis International Airport. The intent of the officer was to qualify a bomb sniffing dog by placing explosive test aids around the empty aircraft and allowing the dog to retrieve them.
In order for their theory to wash, the K-9 officer would have had to have been grossly negligence and spilled large quantities of the test aids which he spread out in a zigzag pattern around the 747 in order to test the dog. Further, these explosives would have had to survive weeks under water as the plane's wreckage lay in Long Island Sound and survived a power cleaning of the wreckage once it was retrieved by the U.S. Navy.
The amazing thing is that once the FBI floated this K-9 theory everybody bought it -- the New York Times, Newsday, which later won a Pulitzer prize for its coverage of the TWA #800 crash -- they all accepted this.
Nobody -- not even the FBI which had 1,000 agents on Long Island sent anybody to St. Louis to interview the K-9 officer whose name was Herman Burnett. Nobody from any of the New York media sent a reporter to talk to him.
The FBI simply declared that this alleged "negligence" by the officer was the explanation for the presence of nitro, PETN and RDX in the area of the center fuel tank -- an area precisely where it would have been if Ramzi Yousef's Casio-Nitro bomb had detonated.
Nobody seemed to question the fact that the officer Burnett never even used nitroglycerine in his K-9 test. This incredible story simply held all of these years until -- I went to St. Louis and interviewed Herman Burnett, a seasoned veteran of the St. Louis Airport police.
Not only did he insist that he had spilled NO explosive residue the day he had conducted the test, but the evidence which I uncovered PROVES that he did the test on a different 747-100 than the one that became TWA #800.
In effect, I've shattered the FBI/NTSB's only explanation for the presence of high explosives in the TWA #800 wreckage absent a bomb.But back in the fall of 1996, the fix was in and a series of high level DOJ officials of the Clinton Justice Department went on as if it were business as usual, sweeping under the rug, I believe, the biggest act of al Qaeda terror prior to 9/11.
FP: What's the significance of all this at this point?
Lance: The incredible Yousef-Scarpa intelligence from 1996 proves the following:
-that al Qaeda had an active cell in New York City as early as 1996 -- something that contradicts Condi Rice's testimony before the 9/11 Commission that they possessed no "actionable intelligence" of an al Qaeda presence on U.S. soil between the 1993 WTC bombing and 9/11;
-that the FBI could have grabbed Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in 1996 as he plotted the 9/11 attacks. For a contribution of just $2,500.00 more to his commissary account at the MCC, Yousef had offered to put Scarpa's "people" who he believed to be mobsters, in touch with his "people," one of whom was KSM then residing in Qatar. But the Feds failed to take Yousef up on his offer and another opportunity was blown;
-that as early as 1996 Osama bin Laden intended to hijack planes in order to free blind Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman -- one of the spiritual driving forces for the 9/11 plot. This intelligence contained in a Scarpa-Yousef FBI #302 predated identical warnings which showed up in Presidential Daily Briefings to President Clinton in 1998 and the famous August 6, 2001 Crawford, Texas, PDB to President Bush.
-that KSM and al Qaeda may have had a role in the June, 1996 Khobar Towers bombing in Saudi Arabia which was blamed on Iranian members of Hezbollah.
-that Yousef and his al Qaeda cell had an Iranian connection -- not necessarily with the government in Teheran, but certainly with elements, including his own family members living in the Iranian section of Baluchistan -- an Islamic radical no man's land where Yousef and KSM have their roots.
By the way in a speech last fall at Claremont, College in California, 9/11 Commission, John Lehman, the former Secretary of the Navy, let it slip that intelligence indicated that Baluchistan is where OBL was now hiding.What all of this proves is that in an effort to preserve a series of mob prosecutions and, perhaps cover up for their own unwitting complicity in the down of TWA #800 (by connecting Yousef and KSM) the FBI and Justice Department hid a treasure trove of intel about al Qaeda's ACTIVE role in New York City in 1996 and their complicity in the second biggest act of terror in U.S. history.
Further these actions explain why -- in failing to stop KSM in 1995 and 1996 the DOJ sealed his name and kept the hunt for him secret until early January of 1998 when the 9/11 plot was well in motion.
The DOJ/FBI cover up in the late summer of 1996 also explains why lead intelligence officials apparently blew an opportunity to pursue the evidence of Col. Mendoza from the Philippines in 1995.By 1996 it was in the interest of senior DOJ and FBI officials to minimize the importance of Ramzi Yousef as the architect of the 9/11 plot. First, they had him incarcerated and possessed enough evidence to put him away for 240 years. But more importantly, they didn't want the full story to come out about how the FBI could have stopped Yousef in the fall of 1992 prior to his first date with the Trade Center.This was heavily documented in 1000 Years for Revenge.
If your readers just go to peterlance.com and read that 32 page color Timeline they will be blown away at how many opportunities the FBI had to stop Ramzi Yousef -- before the '93 bombing, before the '95 Bojinka plot where he killed a 24 year old Japanese man in his "wet test," in 1996 before he conspired with his uncle to put a bomb aboard TWA #800 killing 230 and many years before 9/11 when almost 3,000 died in New York as a result of Yousef's fiendish plan.On the night of 9/11 -- it was 13 hours ahead in the Philippines. As Col. Mendoza sat working on a report he got an text message on his Nokia cell phone. It said, "urgent turn on CNN." When he did, only to see the South Tower fall, the first words out of his mouth when he called backed his friend were "They have done it. They have DONE it..." That's how certain he was that Yousef's plot exposed to him by Murad in 1995 -- which he had warned the Feds about in the spring of 1995 -- had been executed.
FP: How does all of this tie in to the 9/11 Commission?
Lance: Do you remember Dietrich Dieter Snell, the AUSA who was the co-prosecutor on the Bojinka case. Well, an FBI #302 memo from 3/7/96 on my website shows that he was a direct party to all of the Scarpa-Yousef intelligence on TWA #800. Yet in early April, 2004 when forensic investigators Angela Clemente and Dr. Stephen Dresch, presented these #302's to the 9/11 Commission, not a word of any of this showed up in their final report published in late July, 2004. The report nominated for The National Book Award.
Understand the significance of this. Here is evidence from the FBI's own files of al Qaeda involvement in the second biggest act of terror in U.S. history and the 9/11 Commission -- lead by investigators like Dieter Snell, flushes it all. Furthermore, Snell took all of the evidence from Col. Mendoza in the Philippines, which I presented following my testimony to the Commission in March, 2004 -- evidence which sets the genesis of the plot with Yousef and KSM in the fall of 1994 and he reduced it all to a end note at the end the book pushing the genesis of the plot FORWARD to 1996 and claiming that KSM had acted alone and that only recently had he joined al Qaeda.
My authority was Col. Rodolfo Mendoza, the man who interrogated Abdul Hakim Murad for 67 days. I sent the 9/11 Commission a transcript of my interview with the colonel in March, 2002, the video tape of the interview and multiple declassified PNP memos showing that all of the Yousef-KSM Manila plots 9n 1995-95 -- Bojinka, the plot to kill the Pope and the plot executed on 9/11 -- were funded directly by OBL via his brother in law.
But Dietrich Snell's source for the genesis of the plote in 1996 -- two years later -- in which an alleged lone KSM came up with the plan -- was Khalid Shaikh Mohammed himself.
To me this is like quoting David Berkowitz on the origin of his first Son of Sam murder. In other parts of the 9/11 Report in which KSM is quoted, they note that his handlers paraphrased Churchill in reference to KSM and stated that much of his testimony is accompanied by "a bodyguard of lies."
But Dietrich Snell had the last word.By the way -- if you want the ultimate irony -- 9/11 Citizens Watch and several other truth organizations, fed up with the final 9/11 Commission Report have petitioned New York Attorney General Eliott Spitzer -- perceived by many as one of the few uncompromising prosecutors in America -- with a request to re-open the 9/11 investigation.On the January 10th edition of New York Magazine, Spitzer stands, arms folded, at the head of a human arrow created by the standing members of his staff.The headline asks the question: Is Eliot Spitzer Untouchable? If you look on the cover to Spitzer's extreme right you'll see that the man standing defiantly, with his arms folded, is one of his key staff members: Dietrich Dieter Snell.
FP: Mr. Lance, thank you for joining us today.
Lance: I admire the work you are doing at frontpagemag.com. As Justice Learned Hand, late of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals (aka "The Tenth Justice) used to say, "from a multitude of tongues, comes the truth."