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After 9/11, al-Qaeda planned attacks on Israeli dance clubs, recently they released information shows. US interrogators exposed the non-torture conspiracy and undermined the arguments that such methods are essential to obtaining information, writes Bruce Riedel. This article originally appeared in Lawfare.
Recently released information from the very first interrogation of a suspected high-ranking al-Qaeda agent who launched a major attack in Israel after the 11th, a move that underscores his obsession with the Arab-Israeli conflict and the US support for Israel equates. The attack was foiled at the last minute. Why does this only come to light 20 years later?
Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, also known as Abu Zubaydah, was arrested in Pakistan in March 2002. Abu Zubaydah is a Saudi Arabia-born Palestinian who was allegedly involved in travel preparation and documentation for many al-Qaida activists. Not actually a member of the group, he had access to a lot of information about their planning.
In the opening minute of the first interrogation meeting after his arrest, Abu Zubaydah blurted out that he was working on a plan to carry out attacks on several dance clubs in Tel Aviv at the same time , with the aim of killing hundreds of Israelis. It was all news for US intelligence.
The lead interrogator was FBI agent Ali Soufan, a Lebanese American who speaks fluent Arabic. He wrote about the interrogation in his book “The Black Banners: How Torture Derailed the War on Terror After 9/11”. Soufan believes that due to his fluent native Arabic language, Abu Zubaydah may have suffered the false impression that Soufan was from the Mossad. In the book, the target country of the attack plan is withheld at the request of the national security screening process. It is only identified as a country that is “closely allied with the United States”.
It is now clear that the land is Israel. According to Abu Zubaydah, the operation was very much Bin Laden’s project that he was very much looking forward to. It began before September 11 after al-Qaeda received a donation of $ 100,000 from a Saudi source to carry out an attack in Israel with the likelihood of more to follow if successful. Soufan no longer knows about the money. Ironically, a key al-Qaeda agent involved in the conspiracy was captured in Iran after escaping Afghanistan on September 11, but the conspiracy continued. The actual suicide bombers were Palestinians and the attack was imminent.
In March 2002, Israel was in the middle of the second intifada. On the 27th of the month Hamas committed a suicide attack in Netanya, in which 30 Israeli civilians were killed. Had al-Qaeda carried out multiple simultaneous attacks, the already explosive situation in the region would have been even worse.
The information was immediately passed on to the Israelis, who trapped the team in the areas that should make it. Abu Zubaydah may have got the impression that they had been arrested before his arrest and had outed him to the CIA.
The conspiracy was likely kept secret for years because it showed that the FBI had failed to produce results from the interrogations of Abu Zubaydah Received waterboarding and other torture methods. That would, of course, undermine Vice President Dick Cheney’s argument that torture is essential for information gathering. The cover-up was about protecting the use of torture. The Israelis had their own interest in silence because they did not want to publicly highlight the links between al-Qaeda and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In fact, the Palestinian conflict and American support for Israel were and are the driving force behind the al – Qaeda leadership. Bin Laden and his deputy and successor Ayman Zawahri have stated this repeatedly before and after 9/11, as I wrote in my book “The Search for Al-Qaeda”. In fact, bin Laden wanted the attacks to take place in the United States when then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon visited the White House in June 2001 to dramatize the Israeli connection. The kidnappers weren’t ready, however, and the date shifted to September.
The details of the Tel Aviv conspiracy were kept secret until a recent New York court order. Soufan recently spoke to an Israeli newspaper about it. Apparently, moving in administration from the pro-torture Trump team to President Joe Biden and Central Intelligence Agency director William Burns helped bring the truth to light.
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On September 14th, Vanda Felbab-Brown will participate at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology for the discussion“ US, Afghanistan, 9/11: Finished or Unfinished Business? ”.