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An al Qaeda operative at Fort Bragg
Scripps Howard News Service ^ | 11.13.01 | JOHN SULLIVAN and JOSEPH NEFF

Posted on 11/13/2001 11:05:59 AM PST by callisto

Raleigh News & Observer
November 13, 2001

FORT BRAGG, N.C. - A former sergeant at Fort Bragg who became a close adviser to Osama bin Laden obtained sensitive documents describing how U.S. special operations units function.

Ali A. Mohamed, a trusted trainer in bin Laden's al Qaeda network, walked the halls of the U.S. military's top warfare planning center at Fort Bragg for more than two years as an Army sergeant.

From 1987 to 1989, he acquired sensitive documents describing how special operations units work and a detailed plan for a special operations training exercise, court documents say. The exercise was for an attack on Baluchistan, a part of Pakistan wedged between Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea.

From 1981 until his arrest in 1998, Mohamed was a key member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and he belonged to al Qaeda through the 1990s. He is in prison in an undisclosed location awaiting sentencing for his role in planning the 1998 car bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, which killed 224 people and injured 4,500.

Among those who served at The John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School while Mohamed was there, there is disagreement over the quantity of the documents he obtained and over the extent to which that information may compromise the U.S. military effort in Afghanistan.

But court files make clear that Mohamed did obtain numerous documents from Fort Bragg, including some labeled "top secret."

In 1990, the FBI found Army documents that Mohamed gave to an Islamic extremist later convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspiracy. Included were top-secret documents identified as belonging to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief of the Army's Central Command, according to an FBI inventory.

"There is no doubt that his proximity, in hindsight, was very harmful," said one former Special Forces officer who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. "Does this hurt our efforts now? Absolutely."

But another officer who worked on the Baluchistan exercise said he didn't think knowledge of the late-1980s training exercise or documents used to plan it would jeopardize the U.S. military.

"We pulled that exercise out of the air," said retired Lt. Col. Lonnie R. Poole, who lives in Stockdale, Texas. "You can get more accurate information by going off post and buying a training book."

Mohamed's background made him an ideal spy for Islamic extremists at Fort Bragg. As a major in the Egyptian military's special operations forces, he took an officer training course for Green Berets at Fort Bragg in 1981. The U.S. military offered the course to dozens of foreign soldiers each year.

About the same time, he joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a group dedicated to overthrowing the government of Egypt and responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.

In 1984, after obtaining a degree in psychology, Mohamed immigrated to the United States, joined the U.S. Army and was attached to the Fifth Special Forces - presumably because of his fluency in Arabic and familiarity with the Middle East. Though he was not a member of the Special Forces, he spent much of his time teaching Green Berets and others in special operations.

From 1981 until his arrest in September 1998, Mohamed was in contact with the U.S. government. He tried, without apparent success, to sign up as a CIA operative.

"He was an active source for the FBI, a double agent," said Larry Johnson, a former CIA agent and director of counterterrorism at the State Department during the first Bush administration.

For a military spy such as Mohamed, there would be few better places to be than the JFK School in the late 1980s.

At the time, the U.S. military was combining the special operations units from all service branches under one command. For months, planners at Fort Bragg worked to create the new command structure.

"The JFK School was the architect for the structure -how it would operate the missions it would undertake and how it would train," said retired Gen. David J. Baratto of Alexandria, Va., who was in charge of developing the command.

Several officers recalled that Mohamed showed a keen interest in the Baluchistan training exercise, called the Special Operations Staff Officer Course Command Post Exercise, or SOSOC CPX.

The exercise was designed to help Special Forces officers learn how to fight a guerrilla leader staging an insurgency in Baluchistan. The scenario had the leader taking over the region and threatening U.S. interests.

"The exercise was designed to use Special Forces, Psychological Operations and Civil Affairs," Poole said.

Baratto and others disagree on the value of the information. He said the guidelines for how the forces operate would not change, but much else would.

"I know as much about Special Forces as anyone, and I could not lay out for you a scenario with any accuracy about what is being done in Afghanistan today," he said.

Baratto acknowledged that the exercise serves as the foundation for off-the-shelf plans, and that means much of the way the military operates in them would be the same in the exercise as in the plan.

Chester Richards, a retired Air Force Reserve colonel and military strategist, said bin Laden's forces would love to get their hands on a Command Post Exercise or the documents that go into one.

"It would be out of date," Richards said, "but it would be quite valuable and give him some insight, allow him to get inside our minds and how we do battle."

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: 1998; baluchistan; bragg; chesterrichards; egyptian; eij; fortbragg; islamicjihad; kenya; mohamed; usembassiesbombings

1 posted on 11/13/2001 11:05:59 AM PST by callisto
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To: callisto
Doesn't seem to have done bin Laden much good, has it?
2 posted on 11/13/2001 11:19:45 AM PST by scooter2
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To: scooter2
How does somebody named Mohammed get top secret clearance? Even we idiots in the general public have winced at military officials with names like Vladimir or Mikhael. Was this PC only, or was it more of the same cram-it-down-our throats heavy handedness toward the CIA, FBI, et al?
3 posted on 11/13/2001 2:45:55 PM PST by steenkeenbadges
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To: callisto
How many more of these operatives are moles in the military? See the thread about defective parachutes.
4 posted on 10/02/2002 9:25:56 AM PDT by hattend
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To: steenkeenbadges
How does somebody named Mohammed get top secret clearance?

A lack of derogatory information in his background check--which is pretty thorough for a TS.

How did a guy named John Walker get a top secret clearance?

5 posted on 10/02/2002 9:28:47 AM PDT by Poohbah
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