complex and often uneasy relationship between Israel's Mossad
and the U.S. intelligence community is emerging as a prime reason
for the catastrophic failure of the CIA and FBI to act on advance
warnings of an impending attack on America.
Eight days before the September 11 attack, Egypt's senior
intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, informed the CIA station chief
in Cairo that "credible sources" had told him that
Osama bin-Laden's network was "in the advanced stages
of executing a significant operation against an American target."
Prior to that, the FBI whistleblower Coleen Rowley had revealed,
there was a similar warning from French intelligence.
Both warnings, Globe-Intel has established, originally came from
The Israeli intelligence service chose to pass on its own intelligence
to Washington through its contacts in French and Egyptian intelligence
agencies because it did not believe its previous warnings on an
impending attack by the bin-Laden network had been taken seriously
enough in Washington.
Part of the reason has already emerged by President Bush acknowledging
for the first time there had been a serious breakdown between
the twin pillars of the U.S. intelligence community – the
FBI and CIA.
terms of whether or not the FBI and the CIA were communicating
properly, I think it is clear that they weren't,"
he has said.
Behind this admission is the long-standing suspicion that both
the FBI and CIA have about Mossad and its ongoing activities in
the United States.
Ostensibly, Israel denies it has ever spied on its most powerful
ally. But the reality is otherwise. Both the FBI and CIA regard
Mossad as a clear and present danger to U.S. national security.
It places the Israeli spy agency just below the espionage totem
pole that has China's Secret Intelligence Service at its
A full ten months before Mossad started to sound its own warnings
against bin-Laden, senior officials in both the FBI and CIA saw
them as "blowing smoke" to divert attention from Mossad's
own activities in the United States.
Evidence of this may well be contained in the more than 350,000
documents that the CIA has already turned over to the hearings
of the Senate and House of Representatives intelligence committees.
These are now underway in sound-proofed rooms before 37 members
of those committees.
Already, in the atmosphere of leak and counter-leak in Washington,
the consensus is emerging on Capitol Hill that the U.S. intelligence
community had enough data to have been able to prevent the September
Richard Shelby, the senior Republican on the Senate intelligence
committee has spoken about "a massive intelligence failure."
A hint of the extent of that failure has come from Egypt's
President Hosni Mubarak. He has spoken of "a secret agent
who was in close contact with the bin-Laden organisation."
Globe-Intel has been told that the "agent" was in
fact the senior Mossad source who tipped off Egypt's intelligence
chief, Omar Suleiman, that an attack on America was coming.
During last year, senior Egyptian officials have told Globe-Intel
there were five separate contacts between Suleiman and his Mossad
counterpart, Efraim Halevy.
Understandably, Israeli government sources in Tel Aviv have denied
But an official close to Mubarak have confirmed that they did
Mubarak's public statements on the matter – the first
ranking statesman to break cover over the building controversy
of who-knew-what-and-when, will at minimum be seen as clear indications
that there were lapses in the interpretations of both the CIA
Coupled to the warnings that Mossad arranged to be passed through
French intelligence and which Coleen Rowley has used to lambaste
her chief, FBI director Robert Mueller, the failure to act assumes
The revelations make a mockery of George Tenet's claim that
he was "proud" of the CIA's record. Its embattled
director, currently in Israel trying to broker a doomed peace
deal, has found in his absence that his own staff are admitting
of the problem is that the CIA and FBI are loath to share vital
information with each other, or with other government agencies
because they have this deep-seated fear of compromising their
own sources," a senior State Department analyst told Globe-Intel.
But in the coming days the relationship between Mossad and the
CIA and FBI will become the subject of close scrutiny in the closed
hearings of the intelligence committees picking their way through
the mass of documents now in their possession.
It is beginning to emerge that intelligence relating to pre-September
11 stopped at the desk of National Security Adviser, Condoleezza
The question as to why the President was not fully briefed has
led to others. Had a decision been taken by Rice in consultation
with Secretary of Defense and other high-ranking members of the
Bush Administration to effectively not inform Bush of what was
developing because they did not trust his limited experience in
dealing with global terrorism – or a major threat of any
Officially such a question is dismissed around the White House
as nonsensical. Yet it persists within the State Department –
where Secretary of State Colin Powell remains outside the charmed
inner circle surrounding Bush.
There, senior officials point to the fact that the CIA briefing
to Bush last August, less than a month before the attacks on the
World Trade Center and Pentagon, turned out to be conspicuous
by what was not said.
Yet, at that time the CIA knew of the impending threat. There
are other pointers that the President may have been kept out of
Within his own circle there is a determination to distance him
from taking the advice of his father. President George Bush Snr
is seen by some in the White House as being out of touch with
todays world. And that the advice he proffers his son during their
Texas cookouts is out-moded.
All this may go some way to explain why President Bush has now
publicly acknowledged there was an intelligence failure. Much
else will flow from that.
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.