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Double Agent Plan
U.S. Attempt to Turn Al Qaeda Suspect Into U.S. Informant Soured by
By Pierre Thomas, Feb. 13 (ABC News) – Exclusive
When a Somali-born computer student was arrested in Minneapolis last
December on suspicion of helping al Qaeda, federal counterterrorism
officials thought they might finally have found what they desperately
need — a way of getting inside Osama bin Laden's shadowy network.
The counterterrorism officials developed a plan to turn the man,
Mohammed Warsame, into a double agent working for the United States,
ABCNEWS has learned.
"We need people inside al Qaeda, talking to us. We need spies," said
Richard Clarke, former counterterrorism official with the Bush
administration. "There's only so much you can get from technology,
from electronics, from pictures."
Warsame's arrest was supposed to be secret. But within days stories
appeared in the Minneapolis Star Tribune about the case — dashing the
government's hopes of gaining greater insight into al Qaeda activities
against the United States.
Federal officials were furious about the apparent leak, and the
Justice Department has launched an investigation to determine how the
information about Warsame's arrest leaked to the media. Senior
officials told ABCNEWS they are very concerned about the implications
of the leak.
Government agents believe that Warsame, a 30-year-old Canadian
citizen, was a potentially dangerous al Qaeda agent, sent to live
quietly in downtown Minneapolis.
Law enforcement officials suspect Warsame has ties to accused Sept. 11
conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui and Fazul Mohammed, suspected of being
a key planner of the 1998 attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa.
Authorities believe Fazul Mohammed is still on the run.
In early December of last year, FBI agents confronted Warsame and
arrested him as a material witness against al Qaeda.
According to recently unsealed FBI affidavits, Warsame acknowledged
that in 2000 and 2001 he trained with al Qaeda in Afghanistan, twice
facing combat in front line units. FBI agents claim Warsame told them
one of the camps was "personally led" by Osama bin Laden.
The FBI said Warsame told agents he once sat next to bin Laden at a
meal, and found the al Qaeda leader to be "inspirational." The
affidavit said that "he [Warsame] was instructed by al Qaeda to return
to North America and that al Qaeda paid the costs of his return." The
group provided Warsame with $1,700 in travel money.
Though they knew it was a longshot, some investigators hoped Warsame
might cooperate after his arrest and become a double agent, perhaps
out of concern for his wife and 6-year-old daughter.
During an appearance in federal court in Minneapolis on Monday,
Warsame pleaded not guilty to a single charge of providing support to
a terrorist organization.
Warsame's supporters say he is not a terrorist and that the FBI is
railroading him with no real evidence. They fear he will not get a
ABCNEWS' Pierre Thomas, Mary Walsh and Jason Ryan contributed to this