Tue, Jul 27, 2004 - Page 9 News List

The Pakistan connection and the US silence over an execution

By Michael Meacher  /  THE GUARDIAN , London

Omar Shiekh, a British-born Islamist militant, is waiting to be hanged in Pakistan for a murder he almost certainly didn't commit -- of the Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002. Both the US government and Pearl's wife have since acknowledged that Sheikh was not responsible. Yet the Pakistani government is refusing to try other suspects newly implicated in Pearl's kidnap and murder for fear the evidence they produce in court might acquit Sheikh and reveal too much.

Significantly, Sheikh is also the man who, on the instructions of General Mahmoud Ahmed, the then head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), wired US$100,000 before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to Mohammed Atta, the lead hijacker. It is extraordinary that neither Ahmed nor Sheikh have been charged and brought to trial on this count. Why not?

Ahmed, the paymaster for the hijackers, was actually in Washington on Sept. 11, and had a series of pre-Sept. 11, top-level meetings in the White House, the Pentagon, the National Security Council, and with George Tenet, then head of the CIA, and Marc Grossman, the under-secretary of state for political affairs. When Ahmed was exposed by the Wall Street Journal as having sent the money to the hijackers, he was forced to "retire" by Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

Why hasn't the US demanded that he be questioned and tried in court?

Another person who must know a great deal about what led up to Sept. 11 is Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), allegedly arrested in Rawalpindi on March 1 last year. A joint Senate-House intelligence select committee inquiry the following July stated: "KSM appears to be one of bin Laden's most trusted lieutenants and was active in recruiting people to travel outside Afghanistan, including to the US, on behalf of bin Laden."

According to the report, the clear implication was that they would be engaged in planning terrorist-related activities.

The report was sent from the CIA to the FBI, but neither agency apparently recognized the significance of a bin Laden lieutenant sending terrorists to the US and asking them to establish contacts with colleagues already there. Yet the New York Times has since noted that "American officials said that KSM, once al-Qaeda's top operational commander, personally executed Daniel Pearl ... but he was unlikely to be accused of the crime in an American criminal court because of the risk of divulging classified information."

Indeed, he may never be brought to trial.

A fourth witness is Sibel Edmonds. She is a 33-year-old Turkish-American former FBI translator of intelligence, fluent in Farsi, the language spoken mainly in Iran and Afghanistan, who had top-secret security clearance. She tried to blow the whistle on the cover-up of intelligence that names some of the culprits who orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks, but is now under two gagging orders that forbid her from testifying in court or mentioning the names of the people or the countries involved.

She has been quoted as saying: "My translations of the Sept. 11 intercepts included [terrorist] money laundering, detailed and date-specific information ... if they were to do real investigations, we would see several significant high-level criminal prosecutions in this country [the US] ... and believe me, they will do everything to cover this up."

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