August 7, 2004


Bin Laden Sent Suspect to U.S., Officials Say: Officials now believe that Issa al-Hindi was dispatched to the U.S. in early 2001 to case potential targets in New York City. (DOUGLAS JEHL and WILLIAM K. RASHBAUM, 8/07/04, NY times)

American intelligence officials now believe that Issa al-Hindi, the alleged Qaeda operative now in British custody, was dispatched to the United States in early 2001 by the mastermind of the Sept. 11 plot at the direction of Osama bin Laden to case potential targets in New York City, senior government officials said Friday.

The officials said that Mr. Hindi was the same person as the figure identified in the Sept. 11 commission report as Issa al-Britani. The account of Mr. Hindi's being dispatched to New York was based on claims by the mastermind, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, while in American custody, the report said. But American officials said on Friday that it is consistent with other evidence that Mr. Hindi headed a three-man team that surveyed the New York Stock Exchange and other buildings in New York, probably in early 2001.

Senior government officials said that Mr. Hindi - the name is thought to be an alias - was believed to have visited the United States several times in 2000 and 2001, the same period in which reconnaissance of financial institutions in New York, New Jersey and Washington that was discovered last week is believed to have taken place.

The Joint Terrorist Task Force of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the New York Police Department was working on Friday to track Mr. Hindi's movements in New York, focusing on where he lived, anyone with whom he might have come into contact and how long he was there. One law enforcement official said investigators had identified some people in photographs that were included in the surveillance package and those people were being interviewed.

"It's fair to say there is an investigation ongoing to determine specifically where and when he was here," said Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. [...]

Mr. Mohammed was the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, but law enforcement and intelligence officials said on Friday that they did not believe Mr. Hindi had been involved in that operation, and suspected that he would not have personally carried out any future attack that might be in the works.

"There was classic compartmentalization taking place," one of the officials said, adding, "This guy doesn't know who was doing the operation."

Even so, senior American officials said they now regarded Mr. Hindi's arrest in Britain on Tuesday as the most significant capture of a Qaeda figure in at least a year, since the arrest in August 2003 of the Southeast Asian operative known as Hambali and the arrest of Mr. Mohammed in March 2003.

While the case reports now believed to have been prepared by Mr. Hindi and others are more than three years old, American officials continue to describe their existence as providing ample reason for current alarm against the backdrop of separate but more general intelligence suggesting that Al Qaeda may be preparing to carry out a major attack soon in the United States.

Obviously it's great that we're winning the war on terror but what's most instructive here is the reaction of the Democrats and the press. Even after 9-11 they still question how serious this threat and others are and portray it as mere domestic politics. Now, imagine how ballistic they would have gone if a president had arrested twenty people and launched a unilateral war on the Taliban any time before 9-11? Sad but true that finally facing the Islamicists down required a successful attack on our soil and thousands of dead. And, even afterwards, most of the usual suspects on the Left have already transitioned back to their standard oppositional pose.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 7, 2004 8:37 AM

To te left, there can be no credible threat of terrorism issued by the United States government so long as George W. Bush is president. The ironic thing is, of course, that the terror threat to the U.S. is greatest in the areas of the country where the left tends to live in the greatest numbers, so t his attitude puts their lives in danger more than it does those living in the Red States,away from the terrorists' most likely targets on the east and west coasts.

Posted by: John at August 7, 2004 8:50 AM

Providential, not ironic.

Posted by: oj at August 7, 2004 9:16 AM

I blame John Ashcroft.

Posted by: Jeff Brokaw at August 7, 2004 11:12 AM