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Excerpt: CIA Director Tenet on Anthrax & Al Qaeda

Book Excerpt: Former CIA Director Tenet on Anthrax and Al Qaeda


Submitted By Ross Getman

"Another key Al-Qa'ida connection to biological weapons was Yazid Sufaat, the Jemaah Islamiya associate who hosted the first operational meeting of the 9/11 hijackers at his apartment in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in January 2000. In fact, Sufaat had provided commercial cover for Zacarias Moussaoui's trip to the United States. Sufaat was also the self-described "CEO" of al-Qai'da's anthrax program. U.S. educated and with a Malaysian military background, Sufaat had impeccable extremist credentials. In 2000 he had been introduced to Ayman al-Zawahiri personally, by Hambali, as the man who was capable of leading al-Qai'da's biological weapons program.

Al-Qa'ida spared no effort in its attempt to obtain biological weapons. In 1999, al-Zawahiri had recruited another scientist, Pakistani national Rauf Ahmad, to set up a small lab in Khandahar, Afghanistan, to house the biological weapons effort. In December 2001, a sharp WMD analyst at CIA found the initial lead on which we would pull and, ultimately, unravel the al-Qa'ida anthrax networks. We were able to identify Rauf Ahmad from letters he had written to Ayman al-Zawahiri. Later, we uncovered Sufaat's central role in the program. We located Rauf Ahmad's lab in Afghanistan. We identified the building in Khandahar where Sufaat claimed he isolated anthrax. We mounted operations that resulted in the arrests and detentions of anthrax operatives in several countries.

The most startling revelation from this intelligence success story was that the anthrax program had been developed in parallel to 9/11 planning. As best as we could determine, al-Zawahiri's project had been wrapped up in the summer of 2001, when the al-Qaida deputy, along with Hambali, were briefed over a week by Sufaat on the progress he had made to isolate anthrax. The entire operation had been managed at the top of al-Qai'da with strict compartmentalization. Having completed this phase of his work, Sufaat fled Afghanistan in December 2001 and was captured by authorities trying to sneak back into Malaysia. Rauf Ahmad was detained by Pakistani authorities in December 2001. Our hope was that these and our many other actions had neutralized the anthrax threat, at least temporarily."

- George Tenet, in At the Center of the Storm: My Years at the CIA, at 278-279 (April 30, 2007)

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Mr. Getman maintains the website http://www.anthraxandalqaeda.com

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