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He asked the witness to publicly recant his testimony, in exchange for which the CIA official promised to provide him with fresh passports for himself and his family under new identities, as well as a job and two year’s salary guarantee.
The second attempt, in December 2010, was even more audacious. This time, another individual claiming to be a CIA official showed a different witness confidential documents that clearly had been stolen from the legal consortium, then took him into a U.S. embassy and grilled him for five hours.
The stolen documents included internal Havlish memos, PowerPoint presentations, and an excerpt from the videotaped testimony of one of the witnesses. None of these documents had ever been made public nor were they in possession of the witnesses themselves. Havlish took great care to protect these documents out of concern for the security of our witnesses. The CIA officer then asked that the witness retract his testimony and offered him a substantial monetary payment in exchange.
After I reported those attempts at witness tampering to a Congressional oversight committee, they ceased.
In the past six months the intelligence community, under new leadership, has begun to take a hard look at what it actually knew about Iran and al Qaeda prior to the 9/11 attacks. From what I’ve been hearing, what they’re finding is coming as a big shock to a lot of people, especially those who bought into the conventional wisdom that the Shiite fundamentalist regime in Iran would never cooperate with Sunni extremists such as al Qaeda (or Hamas, for that matter).
Recent events in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the U.S. military has publicly cited Iran for providing weapons, money, and military training to the Taliban and other insurgent groups to kill Americans, has helped to change the mindset. So have the announcements over the past two years by the Department of Treasury that Iran is arming and training al Qaeda and the Taliban. Most recently, Treasury designated a group of al Qaeda financiers they revealed were operating out of Iran.
But the big question remains: now that we can begin to appreciate the extent of Iran’s involvement in the 9/11 attacks – and in the ongoing attacks that are killing Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan – what are we going to do about it?
Kenneth R. Timmerman is president and CEO of the Foundation for Democracy in Iran, and returns to FPM with this essay. His latest book, St. Peter’s Bones, explores the origins of Islam and the persecuted church in Iraq. He was awarded the Reed Irvine Accuracy in Media prize for Investigative Journalism in February 2011.
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