The FBI placed a source in contact with Usama bin Laden in 1993 and established that the Al Qaeda leader was attempting to finance terror attacks in the United States, according to a new report by The Washington Times.
The Times report is based on testimony in an employment discrimination lawsuit brought against the FBI in 2010 by an agent in the bureau's Los Angeles office. It also contradicts the conclusion of the 9/11 Commission that there is no evidence that bin Laden was plotting or seeking to finance terror attacks inside the U.S. in the early 1990s.
According to Edward J. Curran, a former top official in the Los Angeles office, FBI agent Bassem Youssef had developed a confidential source close to Omar Abdel-Rahman, the so-called "Blind Sheik" who masterminded the 1993 bombing of New York's World Trade Center. The source was able to go overseas and meet with bin Laden.
When he returned to the United States, the source indicated to Youssef that bin Laden had already selected a Masonic lodge in the Los Angeles area as an attack target. The source, whose identity and whereabouts are not accounted for after 1994, also revealed that two terror cells were operating in Los Angeles and San Diego. The planned Los Angeles attack never took place, thanks in part to the information provided by the source.
"It was the only source I know in the bureau where we had a source right in Al Qaeda, directly involved," Curran said, according to court documents. According to the Times, Youssef's lawsuit stemmed from an admission by FBI supervisors that the agent was "blocked from his job" on the mistaken belief that he was a Muslim whose loyalty was in doubt after the September 11, 2001 attacks. In fact, Youssef is a Coptic Christian. According to the Times, he remains with the FBI as a telephone intercept analysis supervisor.
The court case appears to have been the first public disclosure of FBI contact with bin Laden at such an early date. Attorney Stephen Kohn, who represented Youssef in the case, told the Times that he did not know about the contact until it was revealed during testimony because the information had been kept classified. Kohn claims that the FBI censored the information about Youssef's source to keep the information from the public.
According to the Times, there is also no mention of the source in either the 9/11 Commission's official report, published in 2004, or in any other report produced by congressional intelligence committees or by the CIA's Inspector General. An FBI official told the paper that the bureau gave the commission access to "all relevant information," "pertinent documents," and "knowledgeable personnel." It is not clear that Youssef was ever contacted by the commission.