Sunday, March 18, 2007

Did Plaza Bank have same architects as Hotel Bristol?

YOU have got to give it to US intelligence. OK, they and their spy satellites and all Washington's armies have not yet caught Osama Bin Laden, or managed to capture Radovan Karadzic, and nor could they find any Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, though you'd have thought the Western companies that supplied Saddam Hussein had kept copies of their invoices.

But four years and many extraordinary renditions since they went to war with Iraq, the US authorities were able to greet the anniversary of that continuing bloody conflict brandishing a great result from the war on terror - a confession after four years in captivity, including six months at Guntanamo, from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who says he masterminded the September 11 attacks.

In fact, KSM reckons he was behind pretty well everything - the Richard Reid shoe bombing attempt to blow up an airliner over the Atlantic Ocean, the Bali nightclub bombing in Indonesia, the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing, the murder of kidnapped American journalist Daniel Pearl and altogether more than thirty plots, both failed and successful.

He has not claimed the bombing of a Cuban airliner off Barbados, because everyone knows that was done by two CIA assets; and nor is he old enough to have masterminded events in Dallas, November 1963, unlike the man arrested causing a street disturbance in Harlesden, north-west London, while wearing a set of lace curtains, and complaining about some cooking oil, in 1967, who told police "If you are looking for the guy who killed Kennedy, I dunnit".

Nor has he claimed the Oklahoma city bombing, which the FBI and other agencies insist was the work of one man, Timothy McVeigh, despite evidence of right-wing US involvment. When the evidence points away from those the government are pursuing, the police agencies know better than to look for a conspiracy.

KSM, who was captured in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, on March 1, 2003, by Pakistani ISI agents and handed over to US custody, is believed to have been born in Baluchistan, but spent some of his formative years in Kuwait, where he joined the Muslim Brotherhood at 16, before returning to Pakistan, then studying in the United States, before going to Afghanistan in the 1980s to join the US-backed fight against Soviet forces. He is said to have become an al Qaida member back in the Gulf states.

That KSM is an al Qaida leader seems feasible. That some of his confessed part in planning attacks may be true likewise. He does appear on video of the Daniel Pearl beheading. But the only trouble is the Pakistan authorities had already named someone else as chiefly responsible for that action.

That's not all. In his confession KSM names a whole number of well-known buildings which al Qaida was planning to attack in a follow-up wave after 9/11, including Big Ben and Canary Wharf in London, the Sears Roebuck building in Chicago, and "I was responsible for planning, training, surveying, and financing for the New (or Second) Wave of attacks against the following skyscrapers after 9/11: ...Plaza Bank, Washington state"

The trouble is, Plaza Bank was not founded until 2006, three years after KSM was captured. Two skyscrapers in Seattle, Washington state, have been suggested as likely targets.
"Since al-Qaida targeted tall, high-profile targets it may be a reference to the 76-story Columbia Center, the tallest building in Washington.
The document is the censored transcript of the closed-door tribunal at Guantanamo Bay for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It says he confessed to planning Nine Eleven and 30 other plots. Another downtown Seattle bank is the "Bank of America Fifth Avenue Plaza."
Seattle F-B-I agent Ray Lauer says he could not comment on what Mohammed might have meant or whether the FBI was previously warned to take any special precautions involving such a bank".

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Neither of these suggestions really explains the odd confession. Planning to attack a bank before it even exists may show remarkable foresight, or ...

It reminds me of something. It is like a mirror image of what a defendent-witness in the infamous 1936-7 Moscow Trials confessed. The witness, Holtzmann, said that in 1932 he had gone to the Hotel Bristol in Copenhagen, and while there met Leon Sedov, Trotsky's son, who had taken him to an apartment in the Danish capital where Trotsky was staying.

The trouble with this detail was not just that Leon Sedov was in Paris at the time and had been unable to get a visa to meet his father in Copenhagen. But the famous Hotel Bristol where Holtzman was supposed to have stayed had actually been torn down in 1917, as a report in the Danish Social Demokraten
noted. (The Hotel Bristol subsequantly disappeared from a version of the trial report published by the British Communist Party, though, as Brian Pearce recalls, it reappeared in the ditty "I'm the man that does the dirty work for Trotsky", sung by CP students, who were evidently not embarassed enough to let the truth spoil a jolly song.)

How can a man stay at a hotel that has been demolished? Or plot with fellow-conspirators to blow up a bank that has not yet been founded? Well, it all depends on how much information your interrogators want to hear, what lengths they go to, to make you confess, and whether perhaps you decide to say "yes" to all sorts of questions, figuring that you may not only put them off the scent, but provide a signal to your friends and others that your confession is not to be taken without at least a good measure of sodium chloride.

I'm not saying the KSM confession is all lies. But some probably is. And the similarity with confessions made in other times and places may tell us something about the methods used by the investigators.



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