Richard Clarke’s denials of Iraq’s terror ties don’t ring true. From Laurie Mylroie in Opinion Journal, confirmation of what I have been saying for years: that we are not facing a small, isolated band, but a global terror operation. (Thanks to Ming.)
The credibility of Clinton counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke has come under withering fire. He has been caught in error after error, omission after omission. I can attest to one error more: a highly revealing error that tells us a great deal about who Richard Clarke really is.
Mr. Clarke singles me out for special criticism in his book, “Against All Enemies.” This is not surprising. He believes that Islamic terrorism is the work of a few individual criminals, many of them relatives. I have for years gathered the evidence that shows that terrorism is something more than a mom-and-pop operation: that it is supported by powerful states, very much including Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Mr. Clarke is a man famously intolerant of those who disagree with him. When he cannot win the argument, he cheats. And that is what he has done again in the pages of his book. In order to explain why he opposed the war with Iraq, Mr. Clarke mischaracterizes the arguments of those of us who favored it. The key mischaracterization turns on an important intelligence debate about the identity of the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. This mastermind goes by the name of “Ramzi Yousef.” But who was “Ramzi Yousef”?
The evidence suggests that “Ramzi Yousef” had close connections to the Iraqi security services. This evidence has impressed, among others, former CIA chief James Woolsey, and Richard Perle, former head of the Defense Policy Board. Mr. Clarke calls the Yousef-Saddam connection an “utterly discredited” theory, unworthy of serious debate. He likes the phrase so much, he even uses it on the dust jacket of his book. But let’s review the facts:
“¢ Fact No. 1: “Ramzi Yousef” entered the U.S. in September 1992 on an Iraqi passport, with stamps showing a journey beginning in Baghdad. This fact is attested by the inspector who admitted Yousef into the U.S. Yet Mr. Clarke contends that Yousef entered the U.S. without a passport.
“¢ Fact No. 2: The sole remaining fugitive from the 1993 bombing, Abdul Rahman Yasin, is an Iraqi. After the attack, Yasin fled to Iraq. The Iraqi regime rewarded Yasin with a house and monthly stipend. Yet Mr. Clarke claims, incredibly, that the Iraqis jailed Yasin.
“¢ Fact No. 3: Seven men were indicted in the 1993 attack. Two of the seven, Yousef and Yasin, have Iraqi connections. Yet Mr. Clarke inflates the number of participants to 12, so as to create the impression that the presence of one or two men with Iraqi connections was no big deal.
“¢ Fact No. 4: The truth is, we don’t really know much about the prisoner bearing the name “Ramzi Yousef.” Judge Kevin Duffy, who presided over Yousef’s two trials, observed at sentencing: “We don’t even know what your real name is.” Yet Mr. Clarke claims to know what the judge did not: Yousef, he writes, “was born Abdul Basit in Pakistan and grew up in Kuwait where his father worked.”
To reach this conclusion, Mr. Clarke has to ignore a forest of awkward facts. In late 1992, according to court documents, Yousef went to the Pakistani consulate in New York with photocopies of the 1984 and 1988 passports of Abdul Basit Karim (those documents have Karim born in Kuwait). Yousef claimed to be Karim, saying he had lost his passport and needed a new one to return home. He received a temporary passport, in the name of Abdul Basit Karim, which he used to flee New York the night of the Trade Center bombing.
Karim was, indeed, a real person, a Pakistani reared in Kuwait. After completing high school in Kuwait, Karim studied for three years in Britain. He graduated from the Swansea Institute in June 1989 and returned home, where he got a job in Kuwait’s Planning Ministry. He was there a year later, when Iraq invaded.
Kuwait maintained an alien resident file on Karim. That file appears to have been altered to create a false identity or “legend” for the terrorist Yousef. Above all, the file contains a fingerprint card bearing Yousef’s prints. But Yousef is not Karim–as Judge Duffy implied–for many reasons, including the fact that Yousef is 6 feet tall, while Karim was significantly shorter, according to his teachers at Swansea. They do not believe their student is the terrorist mastermind. Indeed, according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper, latent fingerprints lifted from material Mr. Karim left at Swansea bear “no resemblance” to Yousef’s prints. They are two different people.
The fingerprint card in Mr. Karim’s file had to have been switched. The original card bearing his prints was replaced with one bearing Yousef’s. The only party that reasonably could have done so is Iraq, while it occupied Kuwait, for the evident purpose of creating a “legend” for one of its terrorist agents.
The debate over Yousef’s identity has enormous implications for the 9/11 strikes. U.S. authorities now understand that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed masterminded those attacks. But Mohammed’s identity, too, is based on Kuwaiti documents that predate Kuwait’s liberation from Iraq. According to these documents, Mohammed is Ramzi Yousef’s “uncle,” and two other al Qaeda masterminds are Yousef’s “brothers.”
A former deputy chief of Israeli Military Intelligence, Amos Gilboa, has observed that “it’s obvious” that these identities are fabricated. A family is not at the core of the most ambitious, most lethal series of terrorist assaults in U.S. history. These are Iraqi agents, given “legends,” on the basis of Kuwait’s files, while Iraq occupied the country.
When Mr. Clarke reported, six days after the 9/11 strikes, that no evidence existed linking them to Iraq, or Iraq to al Qaeda, he was reiterating the position he and others had taken throughout the Clinton years. They systematically turned a blind eye to such evidence and failed to pursue leads that might result in a conclusion of Iraqi culpability. These officials were charged with defending us “against all enemies.” Their own prejudices blinded them to at least one of our enemies and left the nation vulnerable.