A conversation with James Corbett - 6th December 2011
In our latest conversation, James Corbett of The Corbett Report and I discussed some of the examples of triple agents and their implications for our understanding of security and intelligence services.
The main figure that we discussed was Ali Mohamed, an Egyptian-American who was involved with the Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian Islamic Jihad on the one hand, and the CIA, FBI and US Army Special Forces on the other. His story is too convoluted to outline here but the HistoryCommons timeline on Ali is pretty comprehensive without being unreasonably long. Also, the timeline from the book Triple Cross by Peter Lance, pdf available here, summarises Lance's investigation and his take on the case. The other useful summary of the Ali story comes in the form of a National Geographic show, also called Triple Cross. Though the show presents a tale of a dastardly Islamic radical who infiltrated US intelligence it does contain some significant interviews.
Another figure that we talked about is Luai Sakra, a Syrian-Turkish militant who was convicted for masterminding the 2003 Istanbul bombings, but was also an informant for Turkish intelligence, Syrian intelligence and the CIA. As noted in his HistoryCommons timeline, he appears to have given information to the CIA via his Syrian handlers on the eve of the 9/11 attacks, warning of an imminent major attack involving planes and buildings. To my knowledge there are no major documentaries or books about Sakra, though he is a fascinating subject.
One aspect of the Istanbul bombings story that we did not get into, but is worthy of your attention, is Operation Sledgehammer. A major trial, due to formally begin in about a week, charges nearly 200 military figures in Turkey of planning a covert operation (Sledgehammer) that would stage terrorism as the means of bringing about a coup d'etat and a military takeover. Many of the allegations revolve around documents that describe the coup plan, said to have originated in a military seminar in March 2003, prior to the Istanbul bombings. According the to the defendants, the documents are fakes, altered versions of wargame papers from the seminar.
The trial is likely to be explosive and I will be writing more as it progresses and further details become available but for the time being an extremely useful FAQ is available here. This is from a blog asserting (with some good reasons) that the documents are fake and that the case against the defendants is wrong. You can also watch a video outlining this argument below:
Exactly what will come out of this trial is not at all certain - it is possible we are looking down the barrel at a covert operation that included false flag terrorism, but it is also possible we are looking at a miscarriage of justice.
And therein lies the key problem in studying double/triple agents. The fog of war is extremely thick when it comes to those people who work for multiple covert organisations at the same time. We encounter layers upon layers, conspiracies wrapped in mysteries covered in lies, but the existence of these agents is of crucial importance to understanding how and why terrorist attacks happen, and ultimately who is responsible. As such, we should not shirk the responsibility of looking into these characters and trying to ask the hard questions about who they were really working for, and why.
Two other figures touched on in the conversation were Mohammed Junaid Babar, the subject of an Investigating the Terror e-book, and David Headley, whose case is covered in the document archive. From these four people we can draw up a provisional profile for potential triple agents working in the world of international terrorism. Agents of this type are typically dual-nationality, have often been educated at military schools, are usually associated with networks like Al Muhajiroun and the Maktab al Khidhamat, and perhaps most importantly enjoy seeming immunity from investigation by the authorities, at least while they complete their alotted missions. Headley was a high-functioning heroin addict, and Sakra was arrested with medication for mental illness, so it appears another desireable quality in potential double/triple agents is emotional instability and dependence. It is important for researchers to remember these attributes when looking into the figures in the background of terrorist plots and attacks.