Former FBI Agent Claims US Helped Israel in Preventing Major Al-Qaeda Attack
02:52 GMT 04.09.2021 (Updated: 17:24 GMT 15.01.2023)
Soufan has been well known as an expert commentator on a variety of international issues since he quit his post as an FBI special agent in 2005, publicly criticizing his colleagues at the CIA for nondisclosure of intelligence and the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" or tortures, aimed at the prisoners of Guantanamo.
The infamous terrorist group al-Qaeda* planned a large terrorist strike on Israeli dance clubs in 2002, but it was foiled with the help of US intelligence operatives, Israeli newspaper Yediot Acharonot reported on Friday.
The information about the plot was obtained by operatives during interrogations of a Palestinian man apprehended in Afghanistan, an ex-FBI agent, Ali Soufan, who with other agents had followed al-Qaeda for the FBI both before and after the 9/11 attacks in September 2001, told the outlet.
The alleged terrorist who disclosed the plot, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, also known simply as Abu Zubaydah, was being held at a CIA site presumably for fighting alongside al-Qaeda there. The former agent stated that the attack was well underway when the tip was received, resulting in the arrests of many involved.
Al-Qaeda reportedly expected that roughly 200 people would have been killed in the attacks, which were to take place at numerous clubs at the same time.
© AFP 2023 / ALEXANDRE FUCHS In this file photo the rubble of the twin towers of the World Trade Center smoulder following a terrorist attack in lower Manhattan, New York on September 11, 2001.
In this file photo the rubble of the twin towers of the World Trade Center smoulder following a terrorist attack in lower Manhattan, New York on September 11, 2001.
© AFP 2023 / ALEXANDRE FUCHS
Soufan was reportedly one of the first to interrogate Abu Zubaydah once he was apprehended. The former agent attempted to include his lists from the same investigation in a book on his experiences on the job, but the CIA Information Security Unit disqualified that section, which was just recently allowed to be published.
According to Soufan, he first met Zubaydah at a CIA "black site" – secret prisons held by the agency for terrorism suspects in different countries. Soufan has claimed he is still unable to tell in which country Zubaydah was being held.
He reportedly asked the alleged terrorist what he believed was the mistake he committed that prompted him to land in the custody of American special services, to which Zubaydah allegedly replied that it was clear to him Israeli intelligence had already apprehended a terrorist cell in the country.
However, at the time, US intelligence was reportedly unaware of any major planning for an al-Qaeda attack in Israel, according to Soufan.
"Luckily we were able to stop them at the last minute," he added.
According to the report, it was the terrorist group's largest effort to carry out a terror attack in Israel, with the first being Richard Reid, subsequently known as the "Shoe Bomber," who arrived in Israel in June 2001 to examine the possibilities of blowing up an El Al jet using an explosive device buried in his shoes.
In light of the security precautions at the Israeli airline, Reid returned to his al-Qaeda commanders and proposed choosing another target, which he attempted to blow up in December.
Abu Zubaydah is to this day held in a detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, along with other terrorism suspects. According to previously published documents, torture was used against him, in particular waterboarding, but he has never been charged with any crime.
*Al-Qaeda is an outlawed terrorist group banned in Russia and many other states.