Could the events of September 11 been avoided? Perhaps so...
The French daily Le Monde (The World) reported yesterday that French intelligence services, on the trail of Osama bin Laden since at least 1995, had specific warnings about the intent of his terror network to hijack American planes, most likely between Frankfurt and the
Reporters from Le Monde were allowed to review 328 pages of intelligence information compiled between July 2000 and October 2001. Nine entire reports are included in that reviewed material. The information that the reporters were allowed to preview showed a high number of memos and notes devoted entirely to al Qaeda threats against the
One five page report, dated January 5, 2001 – and titled Airplane Hijacking Plans by Radical Islamists revealed tactical discussions conducted between Osama bin Laden and his Taliban allies from the beginning of 2000 on the subject of hijacking American commercial airliners.
An intimate of Pierre Brochand, the present DGSE boss, assured us that the service had "an Osama bin Laden cell" from at least 1995. Consequently, the January 5 alert was based on a tried and tested system. Alain Chouet, after asking that we specify that he was not expressing himself in the name of French institutions, remained laconic, but clear: "It is unusual to pass a paper on without double-checking." All the more so in that the paper in question follows and precedes many DGSE reports buttressing the credibility of Osama bin Laden's warrior incantations.
As with all intelligence mentioning risks against American interests, the memo was passed on to the CIA by the DGSE's service for foreign relations, responsible for cooperation between allies (since renamed liaisons service). Its first recipient is Paris CIA Station Head Bill Murray
Beyond that, the most staggering thing about reading the DGSE's 328 pages comes perhaps from the juxtaposition of the memos that warn of certain threats - like that of January 2001 - with those that describe the organization's operation very early on and in minute detail. As of July 24, 2000, with the redaction of a thirteen-page report entitled "Osama bin Laden's Networks," the gist appears in black on pale yellow - the color of DGSE originals. The context, anecdotal details, and all strategic aspects related to al-Qaeda are already there. Quite often, subsequent documents settle for firming them up. Thus, the theory of bin Laden's death - which enjoyed a certain success in September 2006 - in this memo of July 24, 2000, takes on the intonations of a well-known, but nonetheless well-founded refrain: "The former Saudi, who has lived for several years under precarious conditions, unceasingly moving from camp to camp, also suffers from renal and dorsal problems.... Recurrent rumors declare his imminent death, but he seems not to have changed his habits up until now."
(As for me, I’ll be myself and back to more regular posting in a couple of days. I’m an academic you know – and everyone has their hair on fire right now.)