23 February 2007

Thoughts stirred on the connectivity of al Qaeda in 9/11

Yes, my letters tend to go long and often turn into complete posts in and of themselves! So it is with one I sent to Instapundit on the piece he posted to look at Edward Jay Epstein's column at Opinionjournal on terrorism and connectivity in the Madrid Bombing case. Needless to say I have put forth a bit on the connectivity problem before and took time so put that together into a letter thanking Mr. Reynolds on his post to that article.

As always the letter is presented 'as is' with all spelling and syntax errors completely due to the deficiencies of the writer.


Dear Mr. Reynolds,

Indeed the Spanish prosecutor is quite right to call into question this idea that al Qaeda isolates operations in the way described by KSM and Binalshibh. My own look at how transnational terrorist networks work and how Nation States play a supporting, but not guiding role, I have gone over in: Template of Terror and The Web of the Supernote. Those are practical understandings of how different terror organizations work together in something stronger than a loose affiliational set-up, to disperse knowledge, weapons, skills and suppliers. I tend to concentrate on Iran, due to its more obvious methods that get noticed in places like South America, the Balkans and Turkey, as I did a look at with 6 months of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty archives from 2000. My recent review of Iranian influence in Bosnia, went a bit deeper than that and uncovered some connections that you may be interested in as you have also pointed out to the deadliness of Algerian terrorists. Way down in that article I cite the testimony of Ralf Mutschke, Interpol's Assistant Director, Criminal Intelligence Directorate to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Crime on 13 DEC 2000 as seen at Globalsecurity and theantidrug websites:

I would like to draw the particular attention of the Committee to the Groupe Islamique Armé (GIA) , considering the events of December last year. On 14 December 1999, Ahmed Ressam, was arrested near Port Angeles, Washington State, while trying to enter the United States from Canada. He was in possession of a timing device, explosive materials and false identification documents. Ahmed Ressam is known to have shared a Montreal (Canada) apartment with Said Atmani, a known document forger for the GIA. It has been established that before Ressam attempted to enter the US, he was in the company of Abdelmajid Dahoumane in Vancouver (Canada) for a 3 to 4 week period . An Interpol Red Notice was issued regarding the latter. The investigation has revealed links between terrorists of Algerian origin and a criminal network established in Montreal and specializing in the theft of portable computers and mobile telephones. The group in Montreal was in contact with individuals involved in terrorist support activity in France, and with several Moudjahidin groups who are active in Bosnia.

Subsequent to the arrest of Ressam, the Montreal police arrested twelve persons who were committing theft of valuable goods in cars in the Montreal downtown area. The proceeds of these criminal activities were sent to an international network with links to France, Belgium, Italy, Turkey, Australia and Bosnia.

The events in Canada and the United States should be seen in a wider perspective. Indeed, intelligence shows that several Algerian terrorist leaders were present at a meeting in Albania, which could also have been attended by Usama bin Laden , who was believed to be in Albania at that time. It was during this meeting that many structures and networks were established for propaganda and fund raising activities, and for providing Algerian armed groups with logistical support. The arrest at the Canada-US border in December 1999 may indicate that the Algerian terrorists are prepared to take their terrorism campaign to North America.

Here we have 2000 testimony warning that bin Laden's contacts with GIA may have not only been behind the Millenium bombing plot, but part of a plan to increase terrorism in North America.
Apparently the 9/11 Commission never bothered to look at *other* al Qaeda attacks or connections of other groups to al Qaeda. They complained about failing to 'connect the dots' and did, themselves, fail to do so. Further into his testimony, Mr. Mutschke gives us this:
Finally, Albanian criminal groups frequently engage in burglaries, armed robberies and car theft in Europe and the United States.

There might still be links between political/military Kosovar Albanian groups (especially the KLA) and Albanian organized crime. Of the almost 900 million DM which reached Kosovo between 1996 and 1999, half was thought to be illegal drug money. Legitimate fundraising activities for the Kosovo and the KLA could have been be used to launder drug money. In 1998, the U.S. State Department listed the KLA as a terrorist organization, indicating that it was financing its operations with money from the international heroin trade and loans from Islamic countries and individuals, among them allegedly Usama bin Laden . Another link to bin Laden is the fact that the brother of a leader in an Egyptian Djihad organization and also a military commander of Usama bin Laden, was leading an elite KLA unit during the Kosovo conflict . In 1998, the KLA was described as a key player in the drugs for arms business in 1998, "helping to transport 2 billion USD worth of drugs annually into Western Europe". The KLA and other Albanian groups seem to utilize a sophisticated network of accounts and companies to process funds . In 1998, Germany froze two bank accounts belonging to the "United Kosova" organization after it had been discovered that several hundred thousand dollars had been deposited into those accounts by a convicted Kosovar Albanian drug trafficker.
Thus connections between bin Laden, KLA, Islamic Jihad and GIA are seen happening in Bosnia and Albania with the facilitation of Albanian organized crime groups. Beyond that he then puts together an extensively internetworked listing of how terrorist and criminal organizations have cooperated on a transnational scale:
In order to smuggle their illicit products into the U.S., Colombian drug cartels began forming alliances with Mexican groups, who have a well-developed smuggling infrastructure for transporting drugs across the vast border with the United States. As Mexicans began to charge more for their services, Colombians established relationships with various Dominican, Jamaican, Puerto Rican, and African-American groups which act as smugglers and retailers for Colombian wholesale cocaine. Colombians have also formed an alliance with some of the Nigerian drug trafficking groups based on product exchange. In the early 1990s, Nigerian groups supplied heroin to Colombian drug traffickers in exchange for cocaine. Colombians were able to develop their own heroin market, while Nigerians started selling cocaine in Western Europe. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, an important alliance was formed between Colombian drug cartels and the Sicilian Mafia. Since the cocaine market in the U.S. was saturated, and because cocaine could be sold with higher profit margins in Europe, Colombians wanted to enter the European drug market. The Cosa Nostra's well established heroin network was easily applicable to cocaine. In addition, the Sicilians had an excellent knowledge of European conditions and were able to neutralize law enforcement officials through bribery and corruption more effectively than the Colombians . From the Sicilian perspective, the alliance with Colombians was an opportunity to regain part of the market that had been lost to Chinese heroin traffickers. In recent years, South American drug cartels have been forming alliances with East European/Russian Organized Crime Groups in order to support and diversify their operations. East European groups have offered drug cartels access to sophisticated weapons that were previously not available. Helicopters, surface-to-air missiles, rocket-propelled grenades, and even submarines are on the drug cartels' "shopping list." The East European groups provided new drug markets in Russia, the former Soviet Republics, and Eastern Europe, while consumption was decreasing in the U.S. In 1993, Russian police intercepted a ton of South American cocaine which had been shipped to St. Petersburg by one Russian crime syndicate working with a Colombian drug cartel. In another example, a Russian crime leader was arrested in January 1997 in Miami by U.S. agents for the exportation of cocaine from Ecuador to St. Petersburg (Russia) and then to the United States . In exchange for these services, drug cartels pay for transactions with high quality cocaine. East European/Russian crime syndicates and corrupt military officers are supplying sophisticated weapons to Colombian rebels in exchange for huge shipments of cocaine. Although the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) receives most of the arms, some of them are distributed to Hezbollah factions.
And with previously cited Iranian influence in Bosnia in my post, the continued presence of them thereafter along with al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad, we can see that the ability to be facilitated to other groups via criminal associates, allows for an interweaving of terrorism and crime organizations, while still allowing each to have separate goals and identities. How else can Hezbollah operate in South America that is distinctly the territory of FARC, Shining Path, local drug kinpins, organized crime syndicates and emerald gangs? Terrorists can go 'shopping' via organized crime and also supply those organizations with other suppliers so that a multimodal transport system can be evolved for continual supply of arms and other goods to terrorist organizations that are remote from each other. These are not suspicions, as many cases against terrorists utilizing criminal capabilities have been recorded across South America and Europe. FARC has its own narcotics set up and works that in cooperation with other drug syndicates, all the while still having terrorist goals.

You noted with this post that to go to Bill Roggio's post on Coutnerterrorism Blog on a topic that became fact on the ground and demonstrates how the transfer of skills happens, in this case with Hezbollah:
Hezbollah's actions on the battlefields of southern Lebanon should give the Israelis, the West and neighboring Arab governments reason to worry. In just two weeks, Hezbollah has been fighting the Israeli military to an effective standstill on the ground (remember that time is not on Israel's side due to pressure to accept a cease fire). Not only is Hezbollah fighting at the platoon and company level, but fighting effectively during the initial engagements. al-Qaeda in Iraq (3 years of fighting) and the Taliban in Afghanistan (almost 5 years of fighting) have yet to reach such a level of effectiveness on the battlefield.

Iran has trained a proxy army that now sits on the border with Israeli, an army that cannot be dealt with from the air. If this problem is kicked down the road, Hezbollah will be that much more dangerous. And everything we think we know about Iran's conventional military capabilities needs to be rethought.
That is when I finally realized that Hezbollah was a Foreign Legion of Iran with multiple groups, as seen in my 2000 analysis, in South America, Turkey, Bosnia, Chechnya. And because their connectivity was a given, their trainers were obvious: FARC. They have gotten some help, no doubt, from other groups, but FARC is the closest thing to a military organization that is based on terrorism and their South American tactics were seen put to poor use in the desert climate of Lebanon. Staying and hoping that one's over-run position will not be noticed is not too bad in heavy vegetation, but is a death-trap in deserts. Yet, Hezbollah cowered in their bunkers hoping the IDF would just overlook them...

Now since ETA has *also* been operational in South America and would find it hard to do so without indigenous supplies. The Terror Knowledgebase lists a short grouping for ETA, including one of the ubiquitous Red groups (Red Flag in Venezuela, now working hard to go semi-legit in the anti-Chavez mode). But to operate in Chile ( 1999) or Costa Rica (1983) requires some entree to local groups and ensuring that those sent there have at least tacit recognition that their work will not be seen as a direct threat to a local group, say Shining Path or one of the Revolutionary groups in Costa Rica. Thus the entire web of connection then can be seen as snaking *back* into the Iberian Peninsula by indigenous connectivity in South America and the Caribbean and the connectivity there to the more localized groups.

It is this sort of internetworking, sharing of contacts, training, skills and resources that is a fundamental problem on non-Nation State based terrorism. The 9/11 Commission overlooked this to our collective peril by trying to sight in on one group, when it is the internetworking of these groups on both the terrorist and criminal side of things that is the long-lasting and continuous danger to the Union. In part of my look at The Volunteer Fifth Column I dug up every terrorist event aimed at the US as a Nation that would have been a casus belli in a previous century and came up with a long, long list just during the Clinton Administration with a light gathering from late in the Bush-41 Administration, too. These are illegitimate acts of war by non-National actors, not mere criminal events. The 9/11 Commission wants to straddle that and make only al Qaeda look to blame when, in point of fact, the US has been in the cross-hairs by a long listing of organizations that think it is a good idea to target the US with aims to destroy its Foreign Policy, kill Ambassadors and go after our Armed Forces. It has been far more than al Qaeda and dates back from before al Qaeda was even *formed*.

We ignored those dangers and the increasing body count and destruction as they mounted over time.

Now we are paying a bit of interest on that bill of lost National Sovereignty.

And those wanting to hand us the entire bill want to do so for keeps.

I thank you for pointing that article out, and hopefully a few more will read it and start to get an inkling of what we are facing as a Nation.

[Name Withheld]
A Jacksonian


That is it, just some of the things I put together at the spur of the moment.

This stuff has been going on for years and running across Congressional testimony on the threat of al Qaeda prior to 9/11 is chilling, in the extreme. The 9/11 Commission did a grave disservice to the Nation in over-simplifying al Qaeda, its connectivity and its ability to utilize other groups to do its work. And that threat exists across the entire transnational terrorist internetwork and its organized crime connections for aid and support.

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