Ten Years After 9/11 The Law Suit For Millions The Families Of The Victims Have Filed In A New York Court Is Revealing Classified Information That Could Change Everything We Have Thought About The Most Dreadful Terror Attack In History – Al Qaeda Did Not Act Alone – Iranian Intelligence Aided Them. If So, Was The Invasion Of Iraq A Mistake? And Will The Americans Now Need To Act Directly Against Iran? Ronen Bergman, Who Was Asked To Testify In Court As An Expert Witness, Reveals What Washington Would Prefer To Keep Secret – The Secret Connection Between 9/11 And Iran, And How The Footprints Also Lead To Hizbullah.
“ We must prevent these barbarians from harming the US and the world in the future.”
“Ellen Saracini, the widow of one the of the jet pilots who was killed on 9/11, and one of the prime movers behind the law suit against Iran:
In July 2004, the members of the official investigating commission for examining the events of 9/11 were sitting in a pressure cooker. The original deadline had passed, and they obtained a 60 extension, and this also was about to expire. And only a week or so before the final deadline some of the members of the commission heard rumors about new information, a real cascade of valuable intelligence actually.
It turns out that inside the famous building with dark windows in Fort Mead, where the headquarters of the National Security Agency is located, there is one particularly interesting room. The NSA is responsible for intercepting conversations and data from around the world, and it maintains in this room tens of thousands of conversation transcripts, all of which deal with one thing – the tie between Iranian intelligence and Al Qaeda starting in the 1990s up through 9/11. Within the piles of material – a gold mine for any investigative commission – are also 75 intelligence documents marked “critical” for understanding the tie between Teheran and Bin Laden.
The commission members did not know what to do. On one hand this discovery represented a completely new investigative direction. On the other hand it was impossible to process the mountain of material in a few days. “This was really the last moment of the commission’s existence, just before publication of our final report,” recalls Dietrich Snell, one of the heads of the commission’s research team. Meanwhile the Bush administration is breathing down their necks. The US Army was already deep in Iraq for a year, in response to the terror attack. If the commission discovered this was not the right address – and Iran is to blame – not Iraq – what will the president say to his voters, to the bereaved families, to the countries included in the coalition, to the Iraqi people? Oops, we made a mistake?
In the final analysis the commission decided on an interim solution, which turned out to be the worst of all – they condensed some of the information into three pages that were written very quickly, they ignored most of the information, and essentially never answered the big question. “It was a big mess,” recounts one of the research assistants for the commission. “I think this was the commission’s biggest mistake. We almost completely overlooked the testimony about Iran.” Commission member Janice Kapart, who was in charge of the investigation and reconstruction of the route the suicide terrorists took into the US, said in an affidavit: “the commission learned very late that Iran was behind the planning of the travels of at least eight out of ten of the Saudi terrorists in the months before 9/11.” Finally the commission noted in the report that “the matter deserves deeper examination by the administration.” Such an examination was never conducted, and it is likely it never would have been conducted, and this whole episode, including the surprising testimonies of the members of the investigating commission, would have remained buried in those three pages of the commission report – if not for one courageous woman by the name of Ellen Saracini. Saracini isn’t an intelligence analyst or a counter terrorism expert, she is the widow of Capt. Victor Saracini, the Boeing pilot who took off from Boston in United flight 175, which was hijacked and crashed into the Twin Towers. Saracini was astonished and hurt and she was not prepared that the death of her husband and father to her two daughters would end in just two lines in the report of the investigating commission, and she took the matter into her own hands.
She turned to attorney Tom Mellon, one of the most highly respected attorneys in the US, who is an expert in suing large corporations and other bodies for huge amounts of money. Mellon for example was one of the attorneys involved in suing the US tobacco companies, and he also dealt with suits against car manufacturers and drug companies too.
Ground Zero was still clouded with dust when Mellon called together a team of attorneys and investigators who started to examine who Saracini could sue, recounts one of the investigators. “The entire country was still in shock. We held the meetings at a hotel near Ground Zero and we heard the trucks filled with earth beeping as they backed up amid the rubble. All the time we heard the trucks beeping and we knew they were filled with debris and human remains. I could not sleep on account of this beeping. To this day when I hear a truck beeping when it backs up I get the chills. We felt we had to do something for the widows and orphans and make the guilty pay to the full extent of the law.”
This wasn’t the only legal team that started working after 9/11 to search for the guilty parties and a proper address for a civil suit. Other teams pointed to Iraq, for example. But the fact that the US invaded Iraq, and also one of its ships, did not leave much room for financial damages, and there was also no proof tying Saddam Hussein to Al Qaeda. Others tried to work out a connection to Saudi Arabia from which some of the terrorists departed, but the Saudis were extremely sensitive about the matter, and they hired defense attorneys at a cost of millions, in order to block any claim. In most cases the Saudis were victorious.
Then all of a sudden a new figure started appearing in the material that Mellon and his investigating team brought together – who until that moment practically no one tied to the events of 9/11 – Iran.
Mellon’s team continued investigating. They met potential witnesses, interviewed intelligence experts, CIA agents, Iranian ex-pats, a French judge and more. They also travelled to Israel. The investigation pressed on, and delved deep into the dark regions of intelligence and international terrorism. After ten years, Mellon and his team are convinced they have the smoking gun that ties Iran to 9/11.
Out of the piles of documents they have gathered they have composed a tremendous indictment, larger than any that has come before, that was recently filed with the Manhattan district court, and bears the banal legal title “Saracini versus the Islamic Republic of Iran and others.” But the case itself is far from banal. A dramatic claim lies at the heart of the case: It states simply that they have clear and unequivocal evidence that the responsibility for the 9/11 terror attacks in the US is not only attributable to Al Qaeda, but also to the Islamic Republic of Iran and Hizbullah.
The evidence proves that Iran provided logistical aid to Al Qaeda from the beginning of the 1990s, and even more significant assistance just before the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and other targets.
Since the beginning of the investigation more and more families of 9/11 victims have joined Ellen Saracini. Today there are a few dozen petitioners, but the legal team expects the number to rise into the hundreds. The larger the disaster, the larger the law suit. It is a matter of damages in the billions and the largest law suit of its kind in US history, against Iran for terrorism. In all the previous suits Iran lost and was ordered to pay damages amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.
The repercussions of the current suit are even greater however, and on account of which the US government isn’t rushing to examine the transcripts in the National Security Agency. If a US government official, or the court, determines that Iran is tied to the 9/11 attacks, the government is facing a serious dilemma. On one hand they cannot ignore this revelation but on the other hand what exactly should they do with it? Will they attack Iran the way they invaded Afghanistan or Iraq? If the US has learned one lesson in the decade since 9/11it is that occupying territory from which a terrorist attack emanated isn’t necessarily the ideal solution.
In any event, this hot potato was recently delivered to the chambers of Judge Frank Nass in Manhattan district court. Dozens of boxes containing affidavits and other documents including sworn testimony and corroborating evidence were brought to Judge Nass. Hearings will begin soon. By court order much of the testimony is classified, also at the request of third parties, including the US government. Among the classified testimony is testimony from three Iranian ex-pats who were senior figures in the intelligence ministry in Iran and from former members of the Revolutionary Guards.
All of these parties, as the suit claims, came together in one remarkable network: beginning in the 1990s Iran and Hizbullah aided Osama bin Laden and his deputy Ayman El Zawahiri to establish a new terrorist organization at first comprised of graduates from Afghanistan and Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Iran trained the terrorists in the new organization, equipped them with high technology apparatus, freedom of movement, terrorism knowhow, and the experience Hizbullah had already accumulated in terrorist actions against Israel and the US. Later on, according to the law suit, Iran aided in actual preparations for 9/11. If Mellon and his team prove all this it is clear that everything we thought we knew about 9/11 will change forever.
The Blue Trolls File
According to the legal materials in the Saracini file, the tie between Iran and Al Qaeda began around the beginning of the 1990s in Sudan. At that time Sudan became the second country in the world after Iran to be ruled by extremist Islam. Its spiritual leader was Dr. Hassan El Turabi, a religious figure and graduate of Oxford. The regime itself switched hands between a series of generals, headed by Omar Al Bashir.
Iran hastened to propose petroleum supplies to the new regime in Khartoum and comprehensive aid in developing infrastructure. In return Sudan became a clear tentacle of the Ayatollah regime and a transfer point for Iranian weapons sent to extremist Islamic groups. Hundreds of Revolutionary Guards soon made their homes in Khartoum. The regime of Al Bashir and El Turabi provided shelter and training camps to the men of bin Laden’s organization, to Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and to fanatics from Egypt, side by side with graduates of the war against the Soviets in Afghanistan, who were idle and looking for action. In the 90s more than a dozen training camps were set up in Sudan for hundreds of Islamic fanatic terrorists. The Iranians provided the training and guidance via Revolutionary Guards and the supervision of the Iranian defense and intelligence ministry. Starting in the 1990s Israeli intelligence identified large weapon shipments that came from Iran and were unloaded in Port Sudan.
According to the testimony of senior CIA officials included in the law suit, in December 1991 Iranian president Rafsanjani visited Sudan, along with intelligence minister Ali Flahian, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, and another figure who was well known to Israeli intelligence – Imad Morghnia, the head of Hizbullah’s military wing. All these figures promised to aid Sudan’s rulers to help Jihadist movements in the Middle East.
Palestinian terrorists were also creeping around the Sudanese desert, including Mahmoud El Mabhuh, who fled there after the murders of IDF soldiers Saadon and Sasportas. Mabhuh was recently eliminated in Dubai in an operation attributed in foreign newspapers to the Mossad.
When it became clear that Sudan was becoming a new terrorism arena, army intelligence, the Mossad and Shin Beit activated electronic and human intelligence gathering operations in Sudan. The file of data they collected is called in Israel “Blue Trolls” and contains a rich assortment of information on the way the core group for World Jihad crystallized itself in Sudan.
When Saracini’s lawyers asked for the government of Israel’s aid in obtaining the “Blue Trolls” file, they were told that the information was collected with the cooperation of a foreign party, and that only with this party’s permission would it be possible to turn over the file. Until now permission has not been received.
What it is possible to disclose today is that Israeli intelligence identified at that time very close ties between extremist Islamic terror figures in Egypt, mainly from the Islamic Jihad organization and the Jemaa El Islamiya organization, and “Department 15” in the Iranian intelligence ministry. “Department 15” is responsible for exporting the revolution to other Arab countries, for the purpose of destroying the foundations of their governments and establishing Islamic regimes in their place.
Amid this confusion of activity in Sudan the Mossad managed to identify one central terrorist leader. He is Ayman el Zawahiri, from the Egyptian Jihad, who completed his jail sentence in Egypt for his part in assassinating president Sadat. Years passed before his name was well known. El Zawahiri become Al Qaeda’s chief strategist, bin Laden’s deputy and his successor. The FBI placed a $25 million bounty on his head.
El Zawahiri found refuge in Sudan like many other terrorists, and continued planning a revolution in Egypt. In April 1991 El Zawahiri made a secret visit to Teheran and asked for Iranian help in executing a revolution in Cairo. At the end of the meeting the parties agreed on a number of steps for support and assistance from Department 15 to El Zawahiri’s organization through funds and training. El Zawahiri sent many of his men to train in Iranian camps, mainly Hizbullah camps in Lebanon under the supervision of Imad Morghnia.
During his visit in Iran, El Zawahiri became convinced of the tremendous power of suicide attacks as an effective method of action. In a few years he also understood that if a terrorist blowing himself up is effective, then a terrorist who crashes a Boeing jet into the Twin Towers is ten times as effective.
Osama Something Or Other
From the law suit’s perspective the next important event took place on 7 July 1995. Near Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa the convoy of Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak was attacked, and Mubarak’s life was spared by a miracle. The attack against the president’s convoy was one of the first acts of terrorism on the part of World Jihad. Mubarak accused Iran of trying to kill him, He was certain of what he said, but behind the scenes the Egyptians asked the CIA to aid in the investigation. The Egyptians suggested the possibility that the action came out of Sudan. The CIA had little to go on in that country, so they turned for aid to Israeli intelligence. When they completed their findings army intelligence handed the CIA and the Egyptians a fat notebook, and they thought the Israelis were dreaming.
Israeli intelligence determined that the assailants were Egyptian citizens who came to Ethiopia from Sudan with the assistance and financing of Iran. The head of the terror cell was Rifai The, the operational commander of El Jemaa El Islamiya in Egypt. His subordinate as field commander was Abu Haum, whose real name was Mustafa Hamza. Despite the disclosure of these details the Israelis understood that something in the chain was missing. After additional investigation it emerged that beside El Zawahiri and his group there was another large group of Muslim fanatics in Sudan, including some graduates of the guerilla war the Americans conducted in Afghanistan against the Soviet invasion in the 1980s.
Who was the leader of these graduates of Afghanistan? How did he operate? Where did his financing come from? The Israeli investigation continued and from time to time information began to appear about a Saudi contractor who was deported from Saudi Arabia and became a sort of VIP in Afghanistan and then in Sudan, while his real estate dealings provided camouflage for his secret terror activities. His name started to appear in intelligence reports – Osama bin Laden, and one of his building companies was called Al Qaeda (the base).
Israeli intelligence also learned that bin Laden was friends with El Zawhiri and was involved in the assassination attempt on Mubarak. This was the period in which bin Laden and El Zawahiri became very close and El Zawahiri, a surgeon by profession, became bin Laden’s personal physician. As a result of this close association between the two fundamentalists bin Laden decided to send some of his aides to train in Iran and in Hizbullah camps in Lebanon. This is how the foundations of Al Qaida were established.
Something Big Is Being Cooked Up
In 1998 a soldier from the Marines, a native Egyptian, by the name of Ali Muhamad was arrested on suspicion of involvement in the explosions of the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya. In his testimony he said that in 1989 he traveled to Afghanistan and joined Islamic Jihad and bin Laden. He further confessed that he trained Al Qaeda terrorists in employing normal and high grade explosives, and intelligence gathering techniques for use in attacks against American targets. Muhamad testified that he personally “prepared the security arrangements for the meeting in Sudan between Morghnia, Hizbullah’s military head, and bin Laden.” After these meetings “Hizbullah provided Al Qaeda and Islamic Jihad instruction in the use of explosives. Iran also used Hizbullah to provide explosives in the form of large rocks.” Graduates of the Lebanon war know these explosive devices very well.
Muhamad testified that “many of the training sessions were conducted in a camp in Iran operated by the intelligence ministry.” On the basis of material from the Blue Trolls file discovered in the basement of the NSA, the official investigating commission stated that “since they were in Sudan senior members of Al Qaeda received instruction and training from Hizbullah”. These are important testimonies for the suit Ellen Saracini is conducting – if Hizbullah equals Iran, and bin Laden’s men received training from Hizbullah – there is a basis for identifying a tie between Iran and Al Qaeda.
The group that was located in Sudan did not only deal in actions against Egypt and actions inside Sudan, but kept close contacts with Afghanistan graduates around the world and worked constantly to create networks and relationships that spanned the globe, through passing through military and explosives training, fund raising, building infrastructure and more. “The feeling was that something very big was cooking up here, something different than anything we had known before,” says a source in the Israeli intelligence community. “It was not a matter of a country that sends out terrorists, but an organization that gave birth to itself.” Someone in Israeli intelligence saw this was a new phenomenon and called it World Jihad. Shortly thereafter a special intelligence gathering desk was established in intelligence that dealt with the matter. Army intelligence and the Mossad were essentially the first to understand the danger.
Revelations about the involvement of bin Laden and El Zawahiri in Mubarak’s attempted assassination caused an increase in international pressure on Sudan’s ruler El Turabi, who was finally forced to expel the Jihadists from his country. Iran and bin Laden transported the so-called Refugees of Sudan to five other countries: Yemen, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and Lebanon. Bin Laden himself re-established his command center in Afghanistan, and in new camps he established the Al Qaeda organization was born as we know it today.
The First Burning Skyscraper
25 June 1996. The Saudi city of Dahran. A tremendous explosion rocks the Khobar Towers in this important petroleum city. 19 American soldiers were killed, 500 wounded. Perhaps it was here that the 9/11 terrorists learned about the powerful effect, also in terms of sheer experience and in the media, of blowing up a skyscraper. Officially, until today, no one knows who executed this attack.
In the framework of the law suit there is testimony from the former head of the FBI Louis Freeh, who states that it was an Iranian initiative executed by Hizbullah and Al Qaeda. Senior CIA figures Claire Lopez and Bruce Tappet say that the NSA intercepted conversations from bin Laden that prove direct relationship to the attack. In the law suit they will use these testimonies to show that already at this early stage in the establishment of Al Qaeda, Iran was in the picture.
In February 1998, terrorists from Egyptian Islamic Jihad, headed by Ayman El Zawahiri, joined ranks with his good friend’s group Al Qaeda and they formed the World Islamic Jihad Front Against Jews And Crusaders. From then on the group was known in the West as Al Qaeda.
The new organization did not wait long before going into action and blowing up the US Embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, only months after joining ranks. But they mainly dealt with establishing infrastructure.
According to other testimony that reached attorney Mellon’s team, El Zawahiri traveled to Iran again and again as the guest of the defense and intelligence minister Flahian and the head of Iranian operations abroad, Ahmed Wahidi. According to the information in the legal file El Zawahiri transferred to Al Qaeda men and equipment from Iran to Afghanistan. The Revolutionary Guards soldiers provided financial and logistical assistance to Al Qaeda’s terror cell that operated in Hamburg, Germany. Hizbullah from its command centers located not far from Israel’s northern border, was an intermediary for some of these activities.
Mellon’s team has obtained thousands of documents that demonstrate how Iran aided Al Qaeda to become an effective and lethal terrorist organization throughout the 1990s. According to American law this is enough to take the Iranian regime to court and there is no need to prove direct involvement in 9/11. But Mellon’s people decided not to take chances and presented the court with proof of Iran’s direct involvement in the attacks.
From the start of the work of the official commission for investigating 9/11 it became clear that the matter of travels, transfer approvals, and visas was a central component in the episode. “Terrorists need to move around secretly in order to meet, train, plan and build targets and create access to the target,” says commission investigator Kaparat, who will also testify in court. “Travel in the world represents a big danger for them because they need to pass safely through check points, procedures and normal questioning from border control officials or try to bypass them somehow.”
Indeed, according to the documents filed with the court, before 9/11 there were tremendous arrangements that made it possible to undertake the many travels the operation required. The investigating commission called this The Terrorist Travels Operation. The reason is obvious – only a well oiled organization of flights and secret border passages could succeed in allowing the terrorists to leave and enter the US and come and go from Afghanistan. Anyone who has tried to obtain a visa to the US knows this is not simple at all, A passport stamp from a country that supports terrorism on the US list will make him automatically suspect.
So how did the 19 terrorists manage to enter the US? How is it possible that officials in the immigration department that allowed them through in Germany or Saudi Arabia did not suspect any of them? This question remained unanswered until the treasury of documents was discovered in the NSA basement. It emerged that a large part of the participants went from Afghanistan to Iran, but Iranian intelligence ordered the border control officials not to stamp their passports – not entering or leaving. The other hijackers passed on their numerous travels through Beirut., where Hizbullah men pulled strings for them. Mellon’s team hopes that this is also where the smoking gun is hidden that ties Iran directly to 9/11. If Iran did not know about and was not involved in the attacks, how come they avoided stamping the passports?
But this isn’t all. The intelligence data that was filed with the court includes another smoking gun – in some of the flights the terrorists were accompanied by men whose names – evidently fictitious – are identical to the false names which Imad Morghnia used, along with some of his aides. This will be difficult to attribute to strange circumstances.
Version X Y Z
The American investigating commission into 9/11 concluded what it knew about Iran’s involvement: “We did not find any proof that Iran or Hizbullah knew about the plans for what was known later as 9/11.” However since they did not manage to process the information hidden in that room in the NSA, the members of the commission left the matter open. The members of the committee did manage to send an urgent request to the army intelligence investigators and the CIA at Guantanamo, where senior Al Qaeda members Ramzi Ben Elshiv and Khaled Sheikh Muhamad are in jail, and cooperated partially to check with them what they know about Iranian involvement. Commission member Segal in his affidavit said: “the two prisoners gave information that conformed with the material already in our hands…on the central role of Iran in preparations prior to the 9/11 attacks…in conclusion on the basis of my experience as an investigator, a prosecutor and a senior member of the investigating team into 9/11, I believe that Iran and Hizbullah were involved in executing the attacks.”
The two former CIA officials, Lopez and Tappet, who for years dealt with secret operations for the Agency state in their affidavit: “Imad Morghnia, the most dangerous terrorist in the world in his day, and also an Iranian agent and a senior Hizullah official, organized the international transit of some of the 9/11 hijackers into Iran, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and probably other places too. This support made possible two vital elements in the operation: 1. Long term training of the hijackers in Afghanistan and Iran and securing an American visa for them. 2. Entry into the US.
“We have determined that the substantial aid from Iran and Hizbullah to Al Qaeda before and after 9/11 included, among other things, planning, recruitment, training, finances, professional guidance, houses of refuge, providing forged documents, communications equipment, facilities, weapons, explosives, and transport.” If the court accepts this determination, it is nothing less than an intelligence earthquake.
Among the many documents collected for the law suit there are three rare testimonies from three ex-pats from Iranian intelligence marked as witnesses X Y and Z. There videotaped testimony represents an unusual insight into the inner workings of the evil empire. For hours they tell about their childhoods and upbringing in Teheran, how they obtained entry into their prestigious jobs and the work they did in the headquarters of Iranian intelligence. Then they start to talk about the thing itself: the ties between Iran, Hizbullah and Al Qaeda.
The witness X talks about Iran’s prior knowledge of the plan to crash passenger jets into strategic targets in Washington and New York. He talks further about visiting training facilities for Sunni terrorists inside Iran and adds many details about the use Iranian intelligence made of legitimate Iranian organizations, like their shipping company and the airlines company, for terror purposes. The witness Y talks about the personal involvement of Imad Morghnia in training the 9/11 hijackers and the refuge Iran gave to the Al Qaeda terrorists after the catastrophe. The witness Z says he was present in a number of meetings senior Al Qaeda officials held with local intelligence figures and Morghnia’s men in the months before 9/11.
Following 9/11 many senior Al Qaeda officials (including Saad, bin Laden’s son) found refuge in Iran. Teheran denied their existence for a long time, but afterward admitted that hundreds of Al Qaeda people were present in Iran, according to them, “under house arrest.”
The Iranian regime has not commented on the pending law suit. It’s likely that as in the past the case will be decided in the presence of only one side. The court will give the money for damages to the petitioners out of frozen Iranian funds.
This is exactly what Saracini hopes will happen. “Money is the root of all evil,” she states in a poster she published. “Money fuels terrorism, We are hoping to prevent them from ever committing frightful attacks against innocent people…I am positive my late husband Victor did everything to prevent 9/11. Victor like all the loved ones we lost, was strong, determined and brave. I am positive he would be very pleased with what we are doing now.”
In another two weeks, Ellen Saracini, a prime mover behind the law suit against Iran and the widow of pilot, Capt. Victor Saracini, will mark ten years since 9/11 in a series of ceremonies, some of which she herself initiated, in her native city, Yarby Florida, Yarby lost nine of its residents in the destruction of the Twin Towers. It is the city with the largest number of victims, next to Manhattan. Constantly in the company of her two attorneys who have devoted tremendous effort to investigating the case, Tom Mellon and Timothy Fleming, Saracini makes the rounds of the memorial ceremonies for the deceased from 9/11.
“Even ten years later the nation remembers the 3000 victims”, she says. “The tenth anniversary is a difficult day for America, but not the families. For us every day is a day of remembrance, every day is difficult. Because of the disaster the families who have filed the law suit came together for one purpose: to prevent these barbarians from committing attacks against the US, and other crimes against humanity. We swore an oath that more families will not go through the nightmare we go through every day and every hour for the last ten years.
At the end of a ten year investigation, attorney Tom Mellon and his team are convinced they have the smoking gun that ties Iran to 9/11.
Translation by yonatan silverman firstname.lastname@example.org