(A post by See-Dubya, cross-posted at JYB)
Risen and Lichtblau and Keller (and Clarke), backpedaling furiously, would now have us believe that everyone but you and me knew about the “closely held” SWIFT surveillance program. Well, you, me, and Hambali the Bali Bomber, whom we arrested in 2003:
Among the successes was the capture of a Qaeda operative, Riduan Isamuddin, better known as Hambali, believed to be the mastermind of the 2002 bombing of a Bali resort, several officials said. The Swift data identified a previously unknown figure in Southeast Asia who had financial dealings with a person suspected of being a member of Al Qaeda; that link helped locate Hambali in Thailand in 2003, they said.
Let’s look at the public record and put a name to one of those “persons”, shall we? A while back I just happened to post about the arrests of several Canadians on charges of plotting terrorism, and mentioned a CBC broadcast about the strange journeys of an apparent Al-Qaeda bag man, Canadian Mohammed Mansour Jabarah, who helped Hambali plan the Bali nightclub bombing in 2002:
In November 2001, Jabarah went to City One Plaza in Kuala Lumpur several times to meet al-Qaeda’s chief financial officer in Southeast Asia. He received $10,000 US on each visit, which he transferred to the men who were to carry out the bombings.…
After the arrests in Singapore, Hambali met with Jabarah in Thailand, says Rohan Gunaratna. Hambali knew how important Jabarah was and that he would be identified and picked up if he remained in Southeast Asia.
Hambali urged Jabarah to leave Southeast Asia immediately for the Middle East, which he did.
According to the FBI Interrogation report, Hambali gave Mohammed Mansour Jabarah a critical piece of information in that Bangkok meeting. He said that Al Qaeda would now move on to attacking undefended targets such as “nightclubs frequented by Westerners” in Indonesia and elsewhere.
“Why did Hambali tell this information to Jabarah?” says Gunaratna. “Because Jemaah Islamiyah was dependant on al-Qaeda money, and that money, $70,000 was provided to Jemaah Islamiyah by al-Qaeda through Jabarah.”
It looks like Jabarah and the unnamed Al-Qaeda money man in Kuala Lumpur may have been the other two parties identified by Swift surveillance, and that Jabarah was the “link” who met with Hambali in Thailand and tipped off the authorities. In which case that makes at least four terrorists identified by the program.The fourth being (according to Risen and Lichtblau) Uzair Paracha, a Pakistani man arrested in Manhattan in 2003 and thought to be a financial conduit for Al-Qaeda. Curiously, authorities attributed Paracha’s arrest to information received from the interrogation of Al-Qaeda mastermind Khaled Sheikh Mohammed*, and not to the surveillance of the Swift data, the closely-held open secret that everybody knew about, except for you, me, and four terrorists (apparently including Al-Qaeda’s chief financial officer in Southeast Asia, whom you would think would know about this sort of thing if anybody would.)
Oh, maybe we should make that five, because Paracha’s father Saifullah Paracha, was arrested in Thailand and is now in Guantanamo:
According to American investigators, Saifullah Paracha, 58, who is being held at the Guantanamo Bay prison camp in Cuba for suspected terrorist ties, urged Al Qaeda operatives to acquire nuclear weapons for use against US troops. The allegation, contained in documents filed recently in US District Court in Washington, also identifies Saifullah Paracha, who has an import business in New York, as a participant in a plot to smuggle explosives into the United States and to help Al Qaeda hide “large amounts of money,” according to newspaper reports.
So maybe the authorities thought that if the program had already caught three money men, a courier, and a major terrorist organizer there might be one or two more Al-Qaeda operatives somewhere in the world who hadn’t gotten the memo about the Swift program surveillance…and so it might be a good idea to keep it a secret.
Oh, well: they’ve heard of it now. Thanks, New York Times!
(*I get the feeling that a lot of the cool sources and methods the government would rather not blab about get attributed to the “interrogation of captured Al-Qaeda figures”.)
UPDATE: You know, looking back over that CBC story linked above, I notice that Mohammed Mansour Jabarah’s brother Abdul Rahman Jabarah was also an Al Qaeda operative who was killed by Saudi police in 2003. His father told him in 2002 that the Canadian police were looking for him. Since Mohammed Jabarah was apparently discovered through Swift monitoring, and was being tracked and followed, and both brothers were wanted by the time they met in Dubai in January 2002, it seems logical that Swift surveillance of one Jabarah brother led to the revelation of the other as well—bringing the total to six terrorists probably identified and/or stopped by the secret Swift program. How many more leads these six that we know about turned up, we’ll never know—especially since all of their associates are now busily covering their tracks now that they realize how the Crusader Infidel Army as been tracking them down and picking them off.