Belle of Liberty

Letting Freedom Ring

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Blinded by the Blind Sheikh

If you had asked me eleven years ago why the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were attacked on 9/11/01, and why the Capitol was the probable destination of Flight 93, I would have told you, “The Blind Sheikh, Omar Abdel-Rahman.”

Living in northern New Jersey, we residents here regard the George Washington Bridge as “our bridge”.  Well, we share with New York, but it’s our main landmark.  We take great offense at anyone who would try to damage it and kill the millions of motorists who cross it every year.

The New York Post, Fox News, and Rep. Peter King (N.Y) have all confirmed, through anonymous, high-level sources, what Glenn Beck’s The Blaze network reported weeks ago, and the State and Justice Departments have vigorously denied:  that negotiations are going on between the U.S. and Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood president to release Omar Abdel-Rahman, “The Blind Shiekh”, from prison in North Carolina after the election in November.

Andrew McCarthy, the former federal prosecutor who put the Blind Sheikh behind bars notes in his book (which I ran right out and bought as soon as it was published), “Willful Blindness,”:  “After all, Osama Bin Laden credits Abdel Rahman with having issued the fatwa approving the 9/11 attacks, the most horrific acts of terrorism in American history, direct from the federal penitentiary I helped put him in.”

Rahman, McCarthy tells us, urged his followers to “turn your gun(s) on Mubarak” then president of Egypt – a loyal dog to the American government.  What the terrorists came to call the “Landmarks Plot” (they’d also played with the title, “Day of Terror” and “Ring of Fire”) involved 12 bombs to be set off more or less simultaneously.  Fortunately, the FBI and JTTF had an informant in the person of Emad Salem.  One of the targets was the World Trade Center.

McCarthy tells us, “The terrorists were not about a single bombing or bomb campaign.  Their leader, the Blind Sheikh, was pressing for jihad [as opposed to ‘talk, talk, talk’] aimed at fulfilling religious duties to punish the United States for interfering in the affairs of Muslim countries and to establish Allah’s law in  America, as well as anyplace else where it did not reign supreme.”

Ramzi Yousef (Abdul Basit) was allowed to enter the United States in spite of some obvious clues that he was a terrorist.   The federal government only traced their tracks after the bombing, however, by which time Yousef had safely left America, unhindered. 

Just before the bombing, McCarthy tells us that Rahman addressed an Islamic conference thus, “[W]e must be terrorists and we must terrorize the enemies of Islam and frighten them and disturb them and shake the earth under their feet.”

Realizing their error in admitting Rahman, the U.S. government tried unsuccessfully to deport him.  Meanwhile, although the original World Trade Center plot had failed, the terrorists were undeterred and were proceeding with their plans for the Landmarks Plot.  Salem informed the FBI and JTTF of what was about to happen and they were arrested in the Jersey City garage where they were making the bombs.  Among the evidence was a tape of the Blind Sheikh being driven through the Holland Tunnel, determining the best spot to detonate the device.

It was on these grounds that the Rahman was arrested and convicted.  The charges of the World Trade Center bombing were added later.  The terrorists found the GW Bridge a difficult target.  They consulted engineers who told them that because it was a suspension bridge, the only way to take it down was from the center column, which is very odd because there’s no “center column” on the bridge, only its east and west towers.  In any case, they didn’t have the knowledge at the time to do it and McCarthy notes that there wasn’t enough concrete evidence to charge the defendants with trying to blow up the bridge.

Still the bridge represented them with a religious motivation – the As-Sirat, the bridge to paradise, thin as a hair and sharp as a knife from which non-believers would fall into the fires of hell.  Buildings and tunnels represent easier targets.

Ramzi Yousef was finally caught and put in jail with the Blind Sheikh and his uncle, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, took up his cause.  KSM was intrigued by the dramatic notion of hijacking airplanes and plowing them into skyscrapers.  Osama Bin Laden, an associate of the Blind Sheikh’s, was willing to underwrite the operation, and they found willing suicide bombers through Al Qaeda, including Mohammed Atta, who held an architectural grudge against the box-like Twin Towers in New York City.  Like the Blind Sheikh, he was also Egyptian.

Atta arrived in the Northeast in May of 2000.  The reason I know that is because my family and I (and many other residents of our area) saw him in Bloomingdale at a local gas station run by a Turkish Muslim.  There was no mistaking that face.  He was staying at the Wayne Inn on Rt. 23, traveling back and forth between his hotel, the city of Paterson, William Paterson University in Wayne, and we think Greenwood Lake Airport (or possibly the even more remote Hilltop Airport), to fly around in a small airplane to get the lay of this part of the land.

About that same time, I was promoted to a job in my company’s Public Relations department as a reporter and erstwhile photographer.  In early September 2001, my assignment was to photograph one of our agents in Fort Lee.  At the time, our company was using a “landmark” theme of its own, to identify agents with large cities.  I thought the George Washington Bridge would make an ideal landmark background (in addition to the usual office shots my boss always insisted upon as back up).

I decided to check out the location before picking up the agent.  However, I didn’t know where I was going and turned right instead of left.  Instead of being above the bridge, I was under it.  But being a windy day, and seeing what fine backdrop the bridges supports made, I decided this was the spot.  I was under pressure from my boss and the head photographer to take “beauty” shots.

The insurance agent told me how the FBI had made raids on storefront mosques only the week before.  I didn’t tell him about the unusual scene when I first turned onto the rutted road, about the group of construction workers who did a crazy Keystone Kops routine when I turned onto the road or about the municipal pick-up truck with New York plates that tried to honk me away from where I had stopped under the bridge.

As I took his picture, with his back to the bridge, he couldn’t see the highly unusual behavior displayed by one of the construction workers.  Nor did he know that I returned to the bridge a third time to get the stock photos my boss would inevitably want and witnessed even more unusual behavior and saw one very familiar and frightening face.  I might have called the police only I suspected they were already there and that I had stumbled upon something I wasn’t supposed to see.  Nothing illegal, I suspected; just very, very stupid.

My guess was the next Tuesday - September 11th.  That was the bridge’s busiest, inbound day when trucks would be making their deliveries to the city and Long Island.  Only the terrorists ran off when they saw my camera.  Maybe it wouldn’t happen, after all.  However, 9/11 did happen and when first reports came out of an aborted attack on the bridge (which law enforcement later disclaimed), I thought I was going to be sick.  And I didn’t even have the developed pictures back yet.  The developer delivered them personally the next day, giving me a very stern look.

Ironically, just moments before and during the attack, seven of my co-workers were stuck on the bridge, and my boss and I were having an incredibly passionate argument (a continuation from the afternoon before, in which I broke down crying most unprofessionally) about whether to use the office photos or the bridge photos.  I argued that we might not have another chance to use them.

Now I had the photos – but it was too late, at least for the Twin Towers.  As I’d stood watching what was happening on the bridge a week earlier, three figures were engaged in an animated discussion – one gesticulating wildly, one standing silent, and the third, a very tall man, the familiar one, nodding avuncularly.  The gesticulator waved up at me (I was observing them through my telephoto lens), and the other two looked up.  I had my finger on the shutter button.  But this was a film camera and I was about to take an unmistakable close-up shot, one that I would own.  I’d never be able to get it developed without impossible trouble of one sort or another.  For all I knew, those guys down there were armed, and I was alone on a deserted road.

I withheld from taking the close-up shot and opted instead for long shots that could be enlarged later from the negatives, if whoever took possession of them wanted to know more.  I knew exactly what had happened and why more targets weren’t hit.  The gesticulator and his boss thought the agent and I were an FBI agent and a reporter.  They decided to take the cautious route and call it off.  The third man, the stern silent one, knew perfectly well I wasn’t an agent or a reporter.  His contact in Bloomingdale knew my whole family.  He had our credit information.

If I said nothing, neither did he.  He never bothered to tell his cohorts, and the 30 or 40 thugs with them that there was no danger of a raid.  The tall guy said something and he nodded.  They knelt down on the girding in prayer, then they all ran like cockroaches.  The tall guy was the last to leave.  Atta went on to do his evil deed, much to the amazement of KSM and Osama Bin Laden.  It wasn’t that he was “braver”; he just knew something they didn’t.  Eventually, I found a way to turn the photos (and the negatives) over to the authorities.

Two of the leaders are dead (at least we assume they are).  The third is awaiting trial, and their Islamic guru is in jail.  Now we learn that the U.S. government is in negotiations with the Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian government to release the Blind Sheikh, on humanitarian grounds.  What will stop the government from releasing KSM on similar grounds, especially if he argues that he’s been arrested for a terrorist act in which he never actually participated, in spite of his own admission?

These men should not – cannot be released.  The Obama Administration is reported not to care; that he’ll release Rahman after the election.   Our State Department, our Justice Department, Congress, and the American people must not allow this thing to happen. 

We don’t know whether the Bush Administration was delivered an ultimatum to release Rahman, which Bush would have rightly rejected.  We don’t know whether the police were trying to capture Osama Bin Laden in the act, and a photographer inadvertently interrupted the operation.  But I do know we must not allow ourselves to be blinded by fear, intimidation, or political correctness. 
Nearly three thousand people died on 9/11, its instigator is about to go free and Glenn Beck is wondering whether he had the “right” to broadcast the truth about the attack in Libya to the people first?  Nearly 3,000 people died on 9/11 and any of us who might know something should fear for our lives?  I was scared to death on Sept. 5, 2001.  I felt sick and  ashamed on Sept. 11, 2001.  I wasn’t at all surprised on Sept. 11, 2012.  I’ll do everything I can to warn you, as many times as necessary, not to let this thing happen.  Justice should not be blind in this case.  It’s Sept. 20, 2012, and I’m furious – and all of you should be, too.





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