Prime Minister Ariel Sharon authorised the leak of sensitive documents
which reveal America's spy agencies were warned about a terrorist
strike weeks before September 11. The controversial move has now
directly embroiled President George Bush in the 'how-much-did-he-know?'
debate over the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
reaction is a calculated response to growing claims that Mossad
has been running spy operations within the United States and also
reveals a split in the special relationship between the two leaders.
chiefs insist the Israeli spy agency was tracking Osama bin Laden's
terrorists in America before September 11 and that the information
was passed on to the CIA on five separate occasions before the
attacks on the WTC and Pentagon. As late as August 24, less than
two weeks before the attacks, a Mossad warning, confirmed by German
intelligence, BND, said that "terrorists plan to hijack commercial
aircraft to use as weapons to attack important symbols of American
and Israeli culture." The warning alert was passed to the
warning was also passed to MI6 (British Intelligence). The agency
made its own checks and also informed the CIA. Frustrated by its
inability to alert the CIA to an impending attack, the Mossad
arranged on September 1, according to Tel Aviv sources last week,
for Russian intelligence to warn Washington "in the strongest
possible terms of imminent assaults on airports and government
buildings." The Mossad's fury at the failure of the US intelligence
community to act has been compounded by the revelation that the
Bush administration had ordered the FBI only a week before the
September attacks to curtail investigations on two of Osama bin
Laden's close relatives living in Virginia at the time.
Sharon's decision to allow the story of Bush's prior knowledge
of the attack to be leaked comes at a time when Israel is smarting
over what Sharon sees as Bush pressurising the Jewish state into
an accommodation with Arafat.
feeling in Tel Aviv is that Bush's much hyped war on terrorism
does not actually fit into the aggressive policy Israel wants
Sharon has already suffered a humiliating defeat at the hands
of his archrival, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as
the central committee of their Likud Party ruled out the establishment
of a Palestinian State last Sunday.
The party's decision, formalized in a resolution backed by Netanyahu,
directly contradicted Sharon's own stated acceptance of a Palestinian
state as the eventual conclusion of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations.
It came as
Sharon faces mounting domestic and international pressure to find
a way to stop more than 19 months of bloodshed and launch talks
with the Palestinians.
The support he was expecting from America failed to materialise,
said a source close to the Mossad. "Ariel Sharon is furious
because he thinks Bush has not supported him as fully as he could.
His coalition is falling apart, Netanyahu has sneaked ahead of
him and the Israelis are generally fed up of living in fear. Sharon
is quite clear where the blame lies in the White House.
Now he has really stirred things up by putting Bush right at the
centre of this storm by actively allowing these sensitive documents
to be leaked to the world. He feels he needs to teach Bush a lesson
and this will certainly complicate America's peace efforts in
the region," he said.
According to similar documents shown to the Sunday Express,
the Mossad was running a round-the-clock surveillance operation
on some of the September 11 hijackers.
The details, contained in classified papers, reveal that a senior
Mossad agent tipped off his counterpart in the CIA that a massive
terrorist hit was being planned in the US. A handful of the spies
had infiltrated the Al-Qaeda organisation while a staggering 120
others, posing as overseas art students, launched massive undercover
operations throughout America.
Other documents leaked to the Sunday Express from several
intelligence agencies including the Drug Enforcement Agency show
that two Mossad cells of six Egyptian and Yemeni born Jews, trained
at a secret base in Israel's Negev Desert on how to penetrate
Osama bin Laden's Al-Qaeda network.
team flew to Amsterdam and were under the control of the Mossad's
Europe Station. This is based at Schipol Airport within the El
Al complex. They later made contact in Hamburg with Mohammed Atta,
the lead hijacker on September 11.
second group flew directly to New York. From there they travelled
South to Florida and infiltrated the bin Laden organisation. In
August last year, the Mossad team in Europe flew with some of
the Hamburg terrorists into Boston, a month before the attack
on the twin towers.
By then the Mossad team had established an attack on the US was
"imminent". It reported this to its Tel Aviv controller
through the Israeli Embassy in Washington using a system of secure
communications. In early September Mossad Chief Efraim Halevy
sent a warning to the CIA of the possibility of such an attack.
The warning was noted and acknowledged. But CIA chief George Tenet
is understood to have described it as "too non-specific."
The FBI was also informed. Halevy sent a second alert to the CIA
that reached Washington on or around September 7.
spokesman for the FBI refused to discuss specific details of the
Mossad operation but said: "There are Congressional hearings
with regard to possible intelligence failures arising from September
11. We can't verify your information because it is part of an
the DEA or the CIA would comment on the record, but a senior US
intelligence source said: "Anyone can be wise after the event
but it was extremely difficult to act on a non-specific threat
given in a couple of tips from Israeli intelligence. It would
be interesting to know if they could have been more specific with
''Their surveillance teams must have observed Atta and his accomplices
going to flying schools. I guess we might never know the real
The spying operations first came to the attention of the DEA in
January 2001 according to a classified 90-page dossier which has
been seen by the Sunday Express. The names, passport details and
other personal records of some of the Israeli-born spies are also
detailed in the dossier.
THOMAS is the author of forty-three books. Seven of them are major
motion pictures including five times Academy Award-nominated Voyage
of the Damned; Enola
Gay, which won the Emmy Awards Foreign Critics Prize.
books of best-selling David Morton novels are being filmed by
IAC International as a 22-hour television series to be screened
worldwide in 2003. His Gideon's
Spies: Mossad's Secret Warriors became a major documentary
for Channel Four which he wrote and narrated. It followed three
years of research during which he was given unprecedented access
to the Mossad's key personnel. The book has so far been published
in 16 languages.
Thomas lives in Ireland, with his wife.