FORT BRAGG, N.C. – A former Army sergeant who was a close adviser to Usama bin Laden took sensitive documents that showed plans of special operations units, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported Tuesday.
Ali A. Mohamed, a trainer in bin Laden's Al Qaeda network, was stationed at Fort Bragg for more than two years. Special operations troops from the post are engaged in Afghanistan today.
From 1987 to 1989, Mohamed acquired sensitive documents describing how special operations units work and a detailed plan for a special operations training exercise, according to court documents.
The exercise was for an attack on Baluchistan, a part of Pakistan wedged between Afghanistan and the Arabian Sea.
Among those who served at The John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School while Mohamed was there, there is disagreement over whether the documents would hurt U.S. military efforts in Afghanistan, the newspaper reported.
"There is no doubt that his proximity, in hindsight, was very harmful," said one former Special Forces officer who spoke on the condition that he not be identified. "Does this hurt our efforts now? Absolutely."
But another officer who worked on the Baluchistan exercise said he didn't think knowledge of the late-1980s training exercise or documents used to plan it would jeopardize the U.S. military.
"We pulled that exercise out of the air," said retired Lt. Col. Lonnie R. Poole of Stockdale, Texas. "You can get more accurate information by going off post and buying a training book."
From 1981 until his arrest in 1998, Mohamed was a key member of Egyptian Islamic Jihad, and he belonged to Al Qaeda through the 1990s. He is in prison in an undisclosed location awaiting sentencing for his role in planning the 1998 car-bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Kenya, which killed 224 people and injured 4,500.
During his guilty plea in federal court, Mohamed said he taught terrorists about military operations, intelligence and explosives.
Court files show Mohamed obtained numerous documents, some top secret, from Fort Bragg.
In 1990, the FBI found Army documents that Mohamed gave to an Islamic extremist later convicted in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing conspiracy. Included were documents from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commander in chief of the Army's Central Command, according to an FBI inventory.
Mohamed's background made him an ideal spy for Islamic extremists. As a major in the Egyptian military's special operations forces, he took an officer training course for Green Berets at Fort Bragg in 1981. The U.S. military offered the course to dozens of foreign soldiers each year.
About the same time, he joined Egyptian Islamic Jihad, a group dedicated to overthrowing the government of Egypt and responsible for the 1981 assassination of Egyptian President Anwar Sadat.
In 1984, Mohamed moved to the United States, joined the U.S. Army and was attached to the Fifth Special Forces -- presumably because of his fluency in Arabic and familiarity with the Middle East. He wasn't a member of the Special Forces, but taught Green Berets.