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9.11 investigation

A Dwarf Known as Al Qaeda

Is the threat posed by the group hugely overblown?
The German federal police, the BKA, was once famous for its relentless, coolly efficient pursuit of terrorists. Hundreds of BKA agents eliminated the first three generations of the Red Army Faction, a terror organization that killed scores of politicians and civilians in the 1970s and 1980s. Then the hunt was on for the fourth generation. Hundreds of millions of dollars were invested; again, legions of agents were dispatched.

But finally, in 1997, BKA experts admitted there may never have been a fourth-generation Red Army Faction. The experts had been hunting a phantom. Lone-wolf terrorists or isolated veterans had committed the few, random attacks that occurred.

It was a striking example of how a police force and a whole nation fell for propaganda from the terrorists, which was pumped up by almost obsessive media hype. Looking at the current reporting on Al Qaeda, the question is: Is history repeating itself?

This month, at the BKA's annual conference, Germany's top investigators and international experts discussed what they had discovered since Sept. 11 about Al Qaeda and the international Islamist terror network. The main thing they have learned is that there is less than meets the eye.

Yes, Al Qaeda was once centralized, structured and powerful, but that was before the U.S. pulverized its camps and leadership in Afghanistan.

In other words, this battle in the war on terror might already be over. It's as an ex-CIA agent once said: "I quit the agency at the end of the Cold War because I was tired of politicians making me describe the Soviet Union as a 20-foot giant when it was really only a dwarf."

For more than three years, Al Qaeda has been described by investigators, academics and self-styled experts as an almost uncontrollable menace. It was said to work closely with organized crime, to have access to unlimited funds, to have hidden those funds in gold and diamonds, to be capable of moving its money with a sophisticated finance system to whatever country Osama bin Laden chose to attack next.

The media tended to believe the worst and amplify it. The general idea was that a perfect crime such as 9/11 needed a perfect organization behind it. Most of the descriptions of Al Qaeda proved more legend than fact.

Al Qaeda never had a "macro-financing" structure, said Judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the dean of Europe's anti-terrorism investigators. In fact, analyzing the clusters of activists, he found that there were never large flows of external money financing any attack. In nearly a decade of searching, all Bruguiere was able to find was "micro-financing" activists raising the little money they needed to survive and commit their crimes through credit card or debit card fraud. They turned out to be petty thieves, not grand gangsters.

The terrorists did not need a lot of money to finance the attacks in Madrid, Bali and Tunisia. "They could carry around the money they needed in cash," said Nikos Passas of Northeastern University in Boston.

There is, according to Passas, no evidence that Al Qaeda ever invested in the gold market or in African diamonds. It never moved money around the world through the traditional and untraceable informal money transfer systems known as hawalas. It used Western Union.

That didn't stop the United Nations and the United States from harnessing the hawalas with rigid controls, which hurt the hundreds of small businesses in the United States, the Middle East and Pakistan that rely on them.

Meanwhile, authorities pay little or no attention to much simpler ways to transfer money globally. PayPal, for example, which has become the de facto international bank of the Internet, is open to anyone with a credit card.

All too often, investigators have fallen for myths many times fed by the terrorists themselves. The BKA has constructed profiles of 60 radical Islamists. "There was no pattern, no model ... every activist had individual motives to become radical," a German investigator said.

But being less structured doesn't mean the terrorists are less dangerous or easier to stop. Quite the contrary. The smaller the fish, the tighter the net needed to catch it. "We take every case seriously now precisely because there is no pattern," one German investigator said.

Investigators admit that 3 1/2 years after 9/11, they know next to nothing about the motives of Islamic terrorists. Knowing so little means they have few means to predict or prevent future acts.

~ ~ ~

Dirk Laabs is a journalist based in Germany.

SEE ALSO:

'Al-Qaeda' is a Manufactured Intelligence Front
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/06/291600.shtml
 http://prisonplanet.tv/articles/june2004/062504manufacturedfront.htm

Al-Qaeda, the Mythic Enemy
 http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2003/11/275555.shtml
 http://truthout.org/docs_03/112603C.shtml

homepage: homepage: http://www.guerrillanews.com/headlines/headline.php?id=316

from LA Times, November 30, 2004 02.Dec.2004 20:13

observer

This article apppeared in the LA Times on November 30. Give credit where credit is due.

?? 02.Dec.2004 20:37

..

> It was a striking example of how a police
> force and a whole nation fell for
> propaganda from the terrorists,

Isn't this like saying the Ministry of Love fell for "Emanuel Goldstein's" propaganda in Orwell's "1984"?

"Goldstein is still at large, but don't worry, intrepid Westerners, the brave forces of MiniLuv are gonna smoke him out and deliver his head on a stick any day now. Stay tuned for '60 Seconds of Hate,' 'The Biggest Loser,' and 'More Pseudoaristocratic Decorating Tips' after these important commercial messages ..."

What independent information is there to suggest that, in 2004, any such person as "Osama bin Laden" or organization as "al Qaeda" even exist, much less that they were responsible for the Great American Reichstag Fire of 2001? Aren't these all stories the media is getting FROM THE GOVERNMENT in the first place?

"This article apppeared [sic]" 02.Dec.2004 22:18

credit already given above

author: Dirk Laabs

Dirk Laabs is a journalist based in Germany.


This piece was in the LA Times Commentary section on November 30 03.Dec.2004 00:01

observer

and rats! It's now off of antiwar and I'm not registering with LAT to get it.

So my question is, why is this on pdximc?

Spot the spin... 03.Dec.2004 04:20

Tony Blair's dog

"Yes, Al Qaeda was once centralized, structured and powerful, but that was before the U.S. pulverized its camps and leadership in Afghanistan."

False.

No, "al-Qaeda" has from the start been a fictious enemy
created by the CIA and Mossad to be able to condition
the world population to believe that there exist "terrorists"
who "envies the freedoms of the west".

pesticide 03.Dec.2004 04:27

.

"That didn't stop the United Nations and the United States from harnessing the hawalas with rigid controls, which hurt the hundreds of small businesses in the United States, the Middle East and Pakistan that rely on them."

This was the intention.

The power of nightmares 03.Dec.2004 06:17

test dummy

In case you missed it:

The Power of Nightmares - Part I

In the past our politicians offered us dreams of a better world. Now they promise to protect us from nightmares.

The most frightening of these is the threat of an international terror network. But just as the dreams were not true, neither are these nightmares.

 http://informationclearinghouse.info/video1037.htm

And I guess a jet full of passengers did not slam into the Pentagon either. 03.Dec.2004 08:37

BrStarr

There are various reasons that some groups are spreading disinformation about al Qaeda and 9/11.

Some Muslim groups have been hurt by the War on Terror and much of the WOT is a show to keep the ineterested parties in power.

Right Wing groups want to discredit what we say and therefore plant or spread false stories--they are good at that anyway.

Check it.

Al Qaeda is real. Sorry for the Muslims that have been hurt unfairly. But it's true.

The invasion of Iraq has nothing to do with the WOT. In fact, it has created thousands of recruits for al Qaeda while it drove the US from the position of world's superpower to 2nd after China. We can't even handle 1 more military action without a draft.

We have very knowledgeable economic experts warning of and "Economic Armaggedon" or a Twin Towers like meltdown of our economy See:  http://www.network54.com/Forum/message?forumid=341201&messageid=1101297809 and  http://www.network54.com/Forum/message?forumid=341201&messageid=1101413887 for referenced articles and much of our economic infirmity came from the war to grab Iraq oil and the resulting chaos and overpriced contracts for select Republican campaign donors.

In fact the war on Iraq may have given nuclear weapon grade material to al Qaeda, and freed Iraqi nuclear scientists to work with bin Laden's group. This again is due to the greed and incompetency of the Bush administration.

Al Qaeda is not that large true, and it's core is very small, but it has shown it can kill a lot of people. Lets not confuse the insanity and imperialism of invading Iraq and promising to force the rest of the ME to the neocons' will with this denial from Germany.

As far as I know Germany isn't really in al Qaeda's cross hairs right now.

We are.

Spot the spin... 03.Dec.2004 09:00

Tony Blair's dog

"And I guess a jet full of passengers did not slam into the Pentagon either."

How attentive of you.

"Al Qaeda is real. Sorry for the Muslims that have been hurt unfairly. But it's true."

False.

"In fact the war on Iraq may have given nuclear weapon grade material to al Qaeda, and freed Iraqi nuclear scientists to work with bin Laden's group."

And on what do you base that assumption?

"This again is due to the greed and incompetency of the Bush administration."

How clever you now try to convert your above assumption into fact.
Though not clever enough.

"Al Qaeda is not that large true, and it's core is very small, but it has shown it can kill a lot of people."

Really? Please indulge us into your train of thought.
I note that you did not bother to tell of the fact that, to this day, there has not been
one single "terrorist attack" that could be proven to be of any "al-Qaeda" making.

"As far as I know Germany isn't really in al Qaeda's cross hairs right now.
We are."

Really? And what do you base that statement on?

continuing today's 03.Dec.2004 17:05

history lesson

The economy started "melting down" in early 2000, after floating on bullshit for several years, starting approximately in 1997, when the tax laws changed to "encourage more investment," although you could probably trace it back to 1993 and the "September that never ended," when the internet was permanently commercialized by AOL. "Trailing indicators" like unemployment were in full downswing in the SUMMER of 2001, before the Reichstag burned. The momentary dip in the markets after 9-11-01 was reversed after a few DAYS, and there's not much evidence that a few buildings falling down and longer lines at airports had any significant impact on an economy already gone to hell.