The FBI “Kamikaze Pilots” Case
Tuesday, 1. February 2011
In a public statement issued on Monday, January 31, members of the 9/11 Family Steering Committee demanded a prompt response from the former Chairman and the Executive Director of the 9/11 Commission regarding Former FBI Language Specialist Behrooz Sarshar’s censored testimony to the Commission. The former commissioners failed to respond to this request.
In February 2004 Behrooz Sarshar provided the 9/11 Commission’s investigators with specific documents and names of the related witnesses, including the full name and contact information of the key “FBI Asset/Informant” in an FBI case titled ‘Kamikaze Pilots.’ However, the commission chose not to contact or interview any of these witnesses, including FBI Director Robert Mueller. The Commission’s final report did not mention a single word of this documented testimony, and their recently released memorandum omitted the entire interview with no explanation provided.
The following information was provided by Mr. Sarshar to several Congressional offices and investigators, including staff of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the Committee’s leading Democrat at the time, Senator Patrick Leahy, and the Justice Department’s Inspector General Office. I was present during at least four meetings where the briefings were recorded and documented. While working at the Bureau I was briefed on this case by not only Mr. Sarshar but another firsthand witness, and I saw the actual 302 forms filed with the unit’s squad supervisor (FBI language specialists get to keep a copy of their reports/forms). Further, I personally briefed the 9/11 commission investigators on the details of this particular case, which is confirmed by the commission’s memorandum.
I have only deleted sensitive personal information related to the FBI informant-Asset, and as you’ll see every single deleted item (by me-indicated as S.E.) has been indicated in bold-italics. Other than that, the information below is exactly what was recounted by Mr. Sarshar on four occasions:
FBI File Name: “Kamikaze Pilots”
In the early 90s the Bureau hired an Iranian man as an informant, placed him on its payroll at approximately fifteen hundred dollars per month, and used him and his information in several criminal, counterintelligence and counterterrorism operations and investigations. Over time this informant, a man in his (Informant’s Age Information Deleted by S.E.), proved to be extremely reliable, and his information was found to be trustworthy.
This man had been the head of SAVAK, Iran’s main Intelligence agency, counterintelligence unit during the Shah’s regime. His area of operations involved the East and Southeastern region of Iran, and the countries under him were Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. He also managed the unit’s intelligence gathering operations in Sistan and Baluchistan, two semi-independent regions on the border with Afghanistan. Unlike U.S. agencies, the intelligence agency in Iran conducted most, if not all, of its surveillance and information gathering operations via human intelligence and sources. The man, the informant, was very good at what he did; he had established a large number of sources and informants scattered in the strategically most important areas within these countries.
Immediately after the Islamic Revolution, he planned his escape out of the country. All former SAVAK and military intelligence had been placed on the black list of the new regime, and death warrants had been issued for them. He successfully escaped Iran, and then spent several years in (Names of the informant’s previous residences/countries deleted by S.E.) where he tried to obtain a U.S. visa and come to the states, where many of his relatives and friends had already settled. In the late (date of Informant’s US entry deleted by S.E.) he succeeded and moved to the United States.
His reputation and his fame of having a wealth of resources for information all over the world had somehow reached the FBI by the early 1990s – around 1991-1992. Via a middleman, the Bureau was able to contact the man and persuade him to become an informant. He was placed on the payroll and began providing the Bureau with extremely useful and reliable information. The Bureau was so pleased with his performance that it began using him both as an informant and as an asset. On a regular basis, almost monthly, agents from the FBI HQ and WFO would meet with him at … and …and … (Meeting locations Deleted by S.E.) to obtain information and intelligence on various on-going operations and investigations.
Since the informant didn’t speak English very well, was by no means considered fluent, often if not always, the agents took an interpreter, a translator, with them to these regular monthly meetings. This is where Amin and I came into the picture. For these sessions the agents would have either Amin or me accompany them. By sheer coincidence, I happened to recognize the man during the first meeting from a gathering I frequented. I knew where he lived, and I had his phone number.
Around the end of April, 2001, I was asked to accompany two special agents from the FBI-WFO, Tony and John, to a meeting arranged with this informant; we hooked up with him somewhere near the (Meeting Location Deleted by S.E.). The agents and I were working on a particular criminal investigation that was going to court in (Possible sensitive date deleted by S.E.), and the informant’s information played an extremely important role in building the case.
We met the informant in this park-like area and spent nearly an hour discussing the case, asking detailed questions, and of course, with me translating the communication which went back and forth. Once we were finished with the session and ready to head back to the WFO, the informant urged us to stay for a few minutes and listen to something very important and alarming he had recently received from his sources. We looked at one another and sat down on the bench; we were all ears.
The informant said:
‘Listen, I was recently contacted by two extremely reliable and long-term sources-neither one Iranian; one in Afghanistan; the other in Pakistan’s border region with Afghanistan. In the past, these guys had provided me with inside information and intelligence that was extremely hard to come by, considering the tightly-based networks and groups they were able to enter and penetrate. They notified me that an active mujahideen group led by Bin Laden had issued an order to attack certain targets in the United States, and were planning the attack as we spoke.’
Now the informant had our full attention; the agents seemed very alarmed, since their main unit of operation was under the WFO Counterterrorism division. They asked the guy to stop, asked him to repeat that again, and ordered me to take verbatim notes as I translated. They too took notes.
The informant continued:
‘According to my guys, Bin Laden’s group is planning a massive terrorist attack in the United States. The order has been issued. They are targeting major cities, big metropolitan cities; they think four or five cities; New York City, Chicago, Washington DC, and San Francisco; possibly Los Angeles or Las Vegas. They will use airplanes to carry out the attacks. They said that some of the individuals involved in carrying this out are already in the United States. They are here in the U.S.; living among us, and I believe some in US government already know about all of this (I assumed he meant the CIA or the White House).’
Tony, one of the agents asked ‘did they say when? Did they give any specific dates? Did they say how they were going to use airplanes; bombs or high jacking?’
The informant paused for a second:
‘No specific dates; not any that they were aware of. However, they said the general timeframe was characterized as ‘very soon.’ They think within the next two or three months.’ He then added: ‘As far as how they are going to use the planes to attack; your guess is as good as mine. My bet, it will be bombs; planting bombs inside these planes, maybe the cargo, then have them blown up over the populated cities.’
The agents nodded and took extensive notes. I took my notes in Farsi; I usually did that, and later after returning to the office, sat down and translated them verbatim. We stood up and were ready to leave, when the informant urged us to report this immediately and act on it:
‘If I were you guys, I’d take this extremely seriously. If I had the same position I had in SAVAK, I’d put all my men on this around the clock. I can vouch for my sources; their reliability. Make sure you put this in the hands of the top guys in Counterterrorism.’
The agents nodded and thanked him for the information. We drove back in silence. After we parked the car, while walking to the elevators, the agents were discussing the best person, the top person; they should submit this warning to. They decided on Special Agent in Charge (SAC) Thomas Frields, who was in charge of the WFO Counterterrorism division and who used to lead the division that dealt with Iran’s Hostage Crisis in 1980s. I reminded them that although the informant was Iranian, his sources were not; and that they were in Pakistan and Afghanistan; not in Iran; Bin Laden was not Iranian but a Saudi. They acknowledged that, but made the point that Frields was in charge of the Counterterrorism unit in the WFO.
Once we got to the office, I went straight to my cubicle and began translating the entire conversation verbatim and typing it into a formal report. The agents went to their section and filled out the necessary 302 forms. These forms, the 302s, are forms used by agents to report information gathered from the Bureau’s assets and or informants. The agents, Tony and John, filled out two sets of 302 forms; one for the ongoing criminal case and the informants’ information related to that; the other, on the warning, with the initial code name ‘Kamikaze Pilots,’ as information related to Counterterrorism operations.
The agents called me up on my extension and asked me to escort them inside the language unit. I walked them over to my desk, where we sat, compared notes, and finalized and coordinated our report. They had me make several copies of the translation report for them to be submitted with their report. I took it upon myself to make a set of copies of their 302 forms for my own file; my own record. At the end of the day, around five o’clock, they submitted the 302 forms and my translation report. They submitted the warning report to SAC Frields; with a note, a yellow stick-up, on the top saying ‘VERY URGENT: Kamikaze Pilots’
Neither of us heard back from Frields or the Counterterrorism division. No one asked for any follow-ups or additional information. Two months went by. Around the end of June 2001, I accompanied the two agents to another meeting with the Iranian Informant. This time we met in (Location Details Deleted by S.E.).
After going over the target criminal investigation; now only …(Specific Date Deleted by S.E.), as we were ready to turn around and leave, he stopped us:
‘What did you do with the information I gave you two months ago? Did you report it to your bosses?’
The agents nodded. One of them said: ‘Yes; we sent it up. We submitted it to the top guy.’
The informant was animated now,
‘Well; are they going to do something about it? Because, three days ago I heard back from one of those two sources; in Pakistan. He swore the attack was on its way; any time now; a month or two max.’
Tony said: ‘I know; I hear what you are saying, man; but doing something about this won’t be up to us. Plus, we don’t have enough information to take any action here. We don’t know when, how, or exactly where. The only thing we have is: Mujahideen, Kamikaze Pilots, Bin Laden, five cities, and airplanes. That ain’t enough.’
The informant reasoned:
‘I’ve been thinking about this; trying to make more sense out of it myself. The source mumbled something about tall buildings. Maybe they will blow up the plane over some tall buildings; I don’t know. Maybe the FBI can get more specifics from the Pakistanis; ISI. Have they tried? After all they are your guys, and they already know all about this.’
The agents were getting exasperated and impatient, ‘We’ve got to go; we have a lot of work back there. We have done all we could. We reported it to the guy in charge; now, it is up to them.’
As we turned around and walked away, the informant yelled in Farsi:
‘Why don’t you discuss it with the CIA? They know. Tell the White House. Don’t let ‘them’ sit on this until it is too late…’
I asked Tony, ‘Maybe sharing this with other agencies is not a bad idea. What do you think?’
He rolled his eyes ‘not up to us Behrooz. As far as the White House goes, the HQ guys will include it in their briefings; I’m sure they’ve already done so. Frields is obligated to submit what he got, everything he gets under Counterterrorism, to the HQ guys in charge of Whitehouse National Security Briefings. He always does. So, the White House and other agencies have already heard about this. Let’s drop this man; will ya?’
That was the last time we ever discussed this case before the 9/11 attacks took place. The only other person I told this to and showed the 302 forms and the translation report, before September 11, was Amin here. Then, on that Tuesday morning on September 11 everything came back to me and hit me on the head like several tons of bricks.
That morning, we heard the news, and all of us ran out to the next unit to watch the CNN footage on the TV screens installed out there. As soon as I saw the planes hitting those buildings I said to myself: ‘Oh my God, oh dear God; we were warned about this; we were told about this; very specifically’ I almost fainted; I kept hearing the informant’s words; I kept hearing his last warnings begging us to do something fast. And we had done NOTHING. Now it was already way too late. I felt nauseous; I felt sick.
A few minutes later I saw one of the two agents; I started making my way into the crowd gathered in front of the TV screens, hundreds of people, and walked toward the agent. He spotted me before I got to him; we locked eyes; knowing eyes. He felt what I was feeling; he knew what I knew; he thought what I was thinking; we were responsible for this. Someone in the FBI would be hung for this.
When I got close to him I asked ‘what are we going to do? What should we do next?’ He shook his head and whispered: ‘I don’t know. I cannot even think straight right now. I don’t know Behrooz. We fucked this up; the Bureau fucked our country. Why?! Oh God; we let this happen.’ With that said he ran out of the room. I went back to check my drawer and make sure that I still had everything: the 302 forms, from both meetings, my translation reports; both of them. They were all there.
A few days later, when I got together with both agents and Amin to go over an assignment, I brought up the topic. They avoided eye contact with me. I asked the agents what they were going to do; if they’d already done something. At first they were evasive. Then, after I insisted, one of them, Tony, said: ‘Listen; Frields called us into his office and gave us an order; an absolute order.’ I asked them what the order was. He said ‘we never got any warnings. Those conversations never existed; it never happened; period. He said this is very sensitive…and that no one should ever mention a word about this case; period.’
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