4 Threat Matrix: From the new Gitmo files: Al Qaeda and anthrax
Written by Thomas Joscelyn on April 25, 2011 12:25 AM to 4 Threat Matrix
Available online at: http://www.longwarjournal.org/threat-matrix/archives/2011/04/from_the_gitmo_files_al_qaeda.php
Abdu Ali Sharqawi. Image from the JTF-GTMO Detainee Assessment.
Wikileaks has begun releasing hundreds of documents on Guantanamo detainees. Major news organizations such as The New York Times and NPR have begun reporting on them. The documents are assessments of individual detainees written by analysts working for JTF-GTMO. A careful reading of the assessments released thus far demonstrates how difficult the intelligence game can be, especially when working with human sources who have significant incentives to avoid being truthful.
Analysts sometimes get tidbits that they can't confirm, too. On that note, I would point to this passage from an assessment written for top al Qaeda facilitator Abdu Ali Sharqawi [footnotes and detainee reference numbers omitted, emphasis added]:
According to Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi...[Sharqawi] was one of two main al-Qaida facilitators in Pakistan, the other being Omar al-Hadrami. Al-Hadrami was in charge of operations in Lahore, while detainee ran operations in Karachi. (Analyst Note: Al-Hadrami was in charge of facilitation operations in Lahore, PK. Al-Hadrami also had knowledge of the individuals suspected of being responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, and al-Hadrami provided information about the attacks to [Sharqawi].)
I've heard from US intelligence officials previously that they have received information from al Qaeda detainees concerning the 2001 anthrax attacks. But they have stressed that they cannot confirm the information -- it is fragmentary and they are missing some important pieces.
Moreover, the FBI is convinced that Dr. Bruce Ivins executed the attacks alone. The Bureau came to this conclusion after the most expensive and labor-intensive investigation in its history.
I'm not about to argue that al Qaeda was really responsible. So with that rather large grain of salt, let's examine the passage above, detailing the al Qaeda roles played by each personality mentioned.
First, as mentioned, the passage comes from a JTF-GTMO assessment of Abdu Ali Sharqawi. Also known as "Riyadh the Facilitator," Sharqawi sat at the crossroads of al Qaeda's operations, including the 9/11 attacks, because he was tasked with moving money and recruits around the world. Sharqawi was loyal to Osama bin Laden for years, and al Qaeda's CEO trusted him to take care of sensitive tasks, including recruiting bin Laden's bodyguards.
According to this memo, it appears that Sharqawi relayed a secondhand report from another al Qaeda operative, Omar al Hadrami, who was a major al Qaeda operative in Lahore. It was al Hadrami who "had knowledge of the individuals suspected of being responsible for the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States" and "provided information about the attacks to" Sharqawi.
In the first line of the passage excerpted above, former Gitmo detainee Ayman Saeed Abdullah Batarfi is mentioned as identifying al Hadrami and Sharqawi as the "two main al-Qaida facilitators" in Pakistan. Interestingly, Batarfi has his own ties to al Qaeda's anthrax program. [See LWJ report, Yemeni detainee at Gitmo to be freed.]
Batarfi conceded during his hearings at Gitmo that he purchased $5,000 worth of medical equipment (including blood testing devices) for a "Malaysian microbiologist." That individual is Yazid Sufaat, who was in charge of al Qaeda's pre-9/11 anthrax program. [See LWJ report, Al Qaeda's anthrax scientist.]
So where does this leave us? We can't say -- this is all entirely speculative. But someone thought it was worthwhile to include a summary of Sharqawi's statements with respect to the anthrax attacks in his July 2008 assessment.