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April 12, 2004


Patrick R. Sullivan

As usual, Mr. Drum is factually challenged:


Clarke book has errors about arrest of Ahmed Ressam

Was it "shaking trees" or shaking knees that led to the arrest of convicted millennium terrorist Ahmed Ressam?

As former White House counterterrorism chief Richard Clarke tells it in his book "Against All Enemies," an international alert to be on the lookout for terrorists played a role in Ressam's capture at a Port Angeles ferry terminal in December 1999, his car loaded with bomb-making material.


Disputing Clarke's claim, Rice testified customs agents "weren't actually on alert."

At least one of the agents who helped apprehend Ressam sides with Rice's version of events.

Moreover, others involved in the Ressam case say Clarke's book contains factual errors and wrongly implies national-security officials knew of Ressam's plan to set a bomb at Los Angeles International Airport long before they actually did.


According to a former customs agent who was involved, Clarke's version, laid out in one chapter of his book, wrongly implies they were on "heightened alert" and somehow looking for terrorists.

"No," was the terse reply of Michael Chapman, one of the customs agents who arrested Ressam, when asked if he was aware of a security alert.

"We were on no more alert than we're always on. That is a matter of public record," said Chapman, now a Clallam County commissioner.


agents thought Ressam was smuggling drugs when they opened the trunk of his rental car and found bags of white powder buried in the spare-tire well. Only after finding several plastic black boxes, containing watches wired to circuit boards, did anyone suspect a bomb.

[Customs Agent] Dean has said repeatedly she singled Ressam out for a closer look because he was nervous, fumbling and sweating. Ressam has since told agents he was sick, and federal sources have confirmed Ressam had apparently gotten malaria while at terrorist-training camps in Afghanistan.

Clarke's version of that night contains other errors. Some of them are minor. But one implies national-security officials knew more about Ressam's plans than they could have at the time:


Clarke wrote that agents had found "explosives and a map of the Los Angeles International Airport" in the car, implying the threat to the airport was known almost immediately.

There was no map in the car. A map of Greater Los Angeles was found days later in Ressam's apartment in Montreal. Nobody had a clue for nearly 11 months that Los Angeles was a target.

Circles scrawled on the map around three L.A.-area airports weren't found until October 2000, after the document had been turned over to the FBI. It wasn't until Ressam began cooperating in May 2001 that his actual target was known for sure.

In fact, in the weeks after Ressam's capture, officials in Seattle were so unsure about his actual target that then-Mayor Paul Schell canceled the city's popular New Year's Eve celebration at Seattle Center, thinking the Space Needle could be a target.

• Clarke reported Canadians had somehow "missed" the existence of Ressam's cell of radical Algerian Muslims in Montreal and that, after Ressam's arrest, the Canadian government cooperated.

According to testimony at Ressam's trial and interviews with Canadian intelligence officials, Ressam and the cell in Montreal had been under surveillance for at least two years before Ressam's arrest. But the Canadian Security Intelligence Service never told anyone.

U.S. prosecutors have complained bitterly about Canada's foot-dragging as the Ressam case proceeded. Canadian prosecutors blocked U.S. access to at least one crucial witness — an Algerian who gave Ressam a gun and talked about blowing up Jews in Montreal.

Indeed, the U.S. came within hours of dropping charges against Ressam on the eve of his March 2001 trial because the Canadian government attempted to withdraw the witnesses.



I have to say I am pretty disappointed by Kevin on this one. He has put up lots of posts since that one, so he is not off for the weekend; I am quite certain he is aware of the weak factual foundation for his post; and I don't see any update to it or any kind of follow-up.

Which is fine - as long as Dems cling to the fallacious Clinton comparison, they are playing a (possibly) strong hand very badly. And it is reassuring, in some repsects, to know that folks on the left won't even listen to lying, crooked Reps like me - it means the current post gets a free pass.


You mean John, not Paul (or George or Ringo).


Thanks. Brainlock - I once knew a John O'Neill, and could never see him at the FBI.

I'm going to fix it quietly to enhance the cryptic nature of these comments.

Paul Zrimsek

The mistake is understandable. Counter-terrorism is probably just one of the programs Paul O'Neill was trying to run by remote control, at the expense of his actual job at the Treasury.


Prior to Sept. 11, 2001, The Manchester Guardian calculated that Mr. Bush, in his first seven months of office spent 42 percent of his time on holiday, "a whopping 54 days at his Texas ranch, 38 days at the presidential retreat at Camp David and four more at his parents' place in Kennebunkport, Maine."

That changed when the job became fundamentally more serious after the terrorist attacks. But Mr. Bush still rests, although his month-long retreat of August 2001 – the longest presidential vacation in 32 years – is no longer politically prudent while the war on terrorism is being waged.



Hmm, the BGGW didn't look look so wild yesterday.

Patrick R. Sullivan

John O'Neill left the FBI to take a job that paid twice what he was making in government. Richard Clarke wanted to move into a cybersecurity position, and recommended O'Neill for his counterterrorism spot, but O'Neill said no.


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