Omar Nasiri was a Moroccan who spent 6 years spying on Al Qaeda for several European intelligence agencies. In this episode I review his autobiography Inside the Jihad, including the year he spent in Afghan training camps in the mid-1990s. Focusing on his relationships with French and British intelligence I examine the strange case of agent provocateur Ali Touchent, and ask why Nasiri wasn’t used to try to stop the 9/11 attacks.
Omar Nasiri (not his real name) was born in Morocco in the 1960s, the eldest son of six brothers and three sisters. When he was three years old his father moved to Belgium for work, with the rest of the family following him there two years later. It wasn’t long before doctors realised that young Omar had tuberculosis, so he spent much of his youth at a sanitarium outside Brussels. From the age of 10 to 15 he lived with a foster family in a castle, where he spent a lot of his time watching old WW2 movies (most of which were supported by the Pentagon).
At 15 he and his family moved back to Tangier and while Omar was looking forward to seeing his homeland again, when he arrived he felt like an outsider having grown up in Europe. His friends teased him that he smelled like a Christian, because his mother used fabric softener which was unheard of in Morocco. Omar’s father was abusive to his mother, and it reached a peak after the family returned to Morocco, resulting in Omar physically throwing his father out of the house.
His parents divorced and his mother moved back to Belgium, but Omar stayed in Morocco, sometimes homeless, sometimes living out of hotels when he had the money. He worked as a tourist guide and helped hustle customers for the local rug salesmen, before graduating to being a middleman for hashish dealers. Before long he was helping arrange deals for hundreds of kilos of the stuff, as well as acting as a fixer for journalists who wanted his help getting access to dangerous and controversial stories.
When he was 26 his youngest brother was killed in an accident with a gun at his school in Belgium. A few weeks later Omar ran into his oldest brother, Hakim, on the streets of Tangier. Hakim had come back to Morocco to bury the young brother, and Omar was shocked to see Hakim was now a very serious Muslim, with the long beard and wearing a djellaba. Hakim started talking to him about jihad – a topic Omar had learned about having spent weeks in Paris at the Pompidou Centre watching films about the Soviet-Afghan War. While Hakim was full of praise for Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Omar thought he was a disgrace because he spent as much time killing other Muslims as he spent fighting the Soviets. By contrast, Omar was a big fan of Ahmed Shah Massoud, a mujahideen leader from Northern Afghanistan who had been targeted by Hekmatyar’s forces.
Omar realised he was getting sick of his life in Morocco and wanted to return to Europe. Hakim suggested they join the jihad in Bosnia (this was all happening in 1993, in the midst of the Bosnian war). Omar agreed, not because he had any real intention of going to Bosnia but because he saw Hakim as a way of getting back to Europe. A month later they went back to Belgium.
On his arrival Omar discovered that his mother’s home in Brussels had become a local hub for GIA activity. For those of you who don’t recall – the GIA were the Armed Islamic Group in Algeria, who were carrying out an extremely bloody civil war after the 1992 Algerian elections were nullified by the ruling military junta. The elections would have resulted in an Islamist government taking power so the Algerian army cancelled the final round, provoking a backlash. Over the following several years the GIA killed tens of thousands of Algerian citizens – some estimates put the death toll even higher.
The GIA published a newsletter called Al Ansar, which was produced and distributed from Nasiri’s mother’s home in Belgium. The house also served as a communications base, with numerous faxes arriving from sympathisers all over the world. Omar had no job, so when two of the GIA supporters who were hanging out at the house asked him to buy bullets for them, he saw a way to make money.
Over the following several months Omar tapped into the illegal arms trade in Brussels, buying bullets and guns and even explosives and detonators. He skimmed money for himself, and provided hundreds of weapons and many thousands of bullets which presumably went to the GIA in Algeria.
Around four months after his return to Belgium Omar came home one day to find his mother’s house full of boxes and people. The two guys he’d been dealing with – Amin and Yasin – had lost their flat so they had moved into the house, bringing all their stuff with them. They also brought a couple of other men – one known as Tarek – who also lived in the house. When Omar realised they were using his mother’s home to store weapons and ammunition, he hatched a plan to get rid of them.
Omar knew that the DGSE – France’s equivalent of MI6 – were a ruthless bunch, and he figured he needed ruthless people to help get rid of the GIA support network that had set up home in his mother’s house. So he went to the French consulate and offered his services as a spy, telling them what was going on in the house and telling them all about the men who were staying there. The DGSE hired him, and he reported to his handler Gilles on a regular basis.
Not long after, the GIA hijacked an Air France flight while it was on the ground in Algeria, before flying it to France with the intention of either blowing it up over Paris or crashing it into the Eiffel Tower. The group at the house watched the events unfolding on the TV, transfixed. Omar wondered if his guns and bullets were used by the hijackers. Just a matter of days after the French special forces stormed the plane while it was refuelling in Marseille, a recording from inside the plane turned up in the house in Brussels, showing just how close they were to the GIA terrorists.
Early in 1995, Hakim asked Omar to drive a car loaded with guns and explosives to Morocco. Omar reported this back to his handler, who approved the mission. But it was a total farce – the car kept breaking down and overheating, partly due to being stuffed to the gills with contraband. As one point when Omar and his co-driver broke down in Spain, the Spanish police helped tow the car to a nearby village so they could find a mechanic. After a very tetchy time getting through the port security in Morocco he managed to deliver the car to his contact.
Not long after this there was a huge car bombing in Algier, which Omar believed was carried out using the explosives he’d smuggled into the country. Dozens were killed, but Omar’s handler wasn’t especially bothered.
A couple of weeks later and his DGSE handler Gilles introduced Omar to Thierry, who worked for Belgian intelligence. Thierry showed Omar various photographs, asking him if he knew these men and what they were up to. Omar had already explained all this to Gilles, and quickly figured out that Thierry was Belgian intelligence and they were planning to arrest everybody. Things took a turn for the worse when Thierry showed Omar a photo of his brother Nabil, who Omar had always maintained wasn’t involved in the GIA activities and was completely innocent.
This eroded Omar’s trust in his handlers, because they were clearly planning to arrest everyone (including Nabil) but were lying to him about it. So Omar took a radical step – he told Hakim, Amin and Yasin that he was working for French intelligence, but made out that he was doing so to learn about the enemy from the inside. For reasons that are never made clear in the book, the trio did nothing in response to the news. They could have killed Omar, but they didn’t.
Not long after this, the police raided Omar’s mother’s house and arrested everyone, including the innocent brother Nabil. Omar was furious about this, and told Gilles he had been betrayed. Gilles had promised to tell Omar if they planned to arrest anyone, and Gilles hadn’t said a word. He tried to convince Omar to go to prison with the others so he could keep spying on them, but Omar refused, figuring it was just a way to get rid of him and that Gilles didn’t trust him. So instead he got a different mission – to infiltrate the camps in Afghanistan where Amin and Yasin had been trained.
Omar goes to Afghanistan
Initially, Omar was tasked with infiltrating the jihadi scene in Turkey but he found nothing but ordinary Muslims who weren’t doing anything. His descriptions of Istanbul are great, he clearly has a love for the city, but Omar wanted to do something important to try to help in the struggle against the GIA and other Islamic terror gangs. It was Omar who kept pushing Gilles to let him go to Afghanistan, and eventually Gilles agreed, giving him $15,000 and telling him to be back within 7 months.
So in the summer of 1995 Omar flew to Pakistan with orders to infiltrate the training camps and find out what was going on there, and who was involved. He wouldn’t return to Europe for a year.
On the plane he met a man who was clearly a pious Muslim, so Omar told him he was going to Pakistan for the jihad. The man gave him an address in Islamabad, telling him to go there. But it turned out to be a ruse, or an attempt to divert Omar away from the path of jihad. When he got to the address he found it was a centre for the Tabligi Jamaat, who we talked about in the last episode on Mubin Shaikh. The organisation is strictly peaceful, and is a kind of missionary troop who go around trying to reconnect Muslims with their faith.
After wasting several weeks at the Tabligh centre Omar left and headed for Peshawar, having learned in Rambo III that there was a crossing into Afghanistan through the nearby Khyber Pass. At a refugee camp near Peshawar he found people connected with the camps, and used Amin and Yasin’s names to prove he was bona fide. While others were often vetted for months before being allowed to gain access to the camps, Omar managed to get into them in a matter of days.
While in the refugee camp he stayed at a house that appears to have belonged to Abu Zubaydah, the alleged number 3 in Al Qaeda who was a kind of gatekeeper for the camps. He recruited young men, vetted them, and even kept hold of their passports while they were in the training camps, to maintain some degree of control over them. Zubaydah was captured shortly after 9/11 and tortured, including losing his left eye in the process. Ali Soufan, who was part of the FBI team who interrogated Zubaydah, described the CIA’s interrogation of him as torture. While numerous allegations have been made at various times, it isn’t clear exactly how involved Zubaydah was in the formal Al Qaeda organisation.
At the house near Peshawar Omar describes reading training manuals produced in the United States. It isn’t clear if he’s talking about military manuals but if he is then they most likely came via Ali Mohamed, who stole numerous documents while he was Fort Bragg a few years earlier. After he got to Khalden camp he received training from an ‘Egyptian Army colonel’ – again, most likely a reference to Ali Mohamed. He also mentions how an 8,000 page manual used at the camps – most likely the notorious ‘Encyclopedia of the Afghan Jihad’ – used pictures from US training manuals.
Most of the book is devoted to this period between the summer of 1995 and the summer of 1996, when Omar was in Khalden camp and later in Darunta. Khalden was very much an entry-level training camp while Darunta was for more experienced trainees. I’m not going to go through all the details but Omar describes various kinds of training – very tough early-morning runs in the mountains, all sorts of guns and other handheld weapons, how to make and test explosives. Unlike Aimen Dean it seems he was never involved in the efforts to develop chemical weapons, though he does describe cages full of rabbits that were used for testing.
It is clear that the double life he was leading put Omar in a strange position – he was somewhat seduced by the atmosphere and culture in the camps. Despite the terrible food and living conditions, including using pebbles in place of toilet paper, Omar calls this period one of the happiest of his life, and something he missed after he left. From what I can tell it was a lot like being a cult, where despite the unpleasantness he was surrounded by like-minded individuals who reinforced his sense of belonging and purpose and being special.
During his early period at Khalden news came in of a bombing on the Paris Metro – one of a string of attacks committed by the GIA. While many in the camp celebrated, this moment reminded Omar that he was a spy, and why he was a spy. While he enjoyed the Islamic teachings and the weapons training and many of the camp activities, Omar never believed in terrorism as a moral or just thing to do. He had a similar moment when word came in of a bombing on the Egyptian embassy in Islambad, carried out by the Blind Sheikh’s group after he was convicted and sentenced for his role in WTC93.
The camps had an interesting cross-section of people – some from North or East Africa, some Yemenis and other Arabs, a handful of Kashmiris who had been sent there by Pakistani intelligence, and (of course) the Chechens. The first war in Chechnya was taking place while Omar was at Khalden, and he enjoyed the company of the Chechens despite the fact they were crazy, and two accidentally blew themselves up during explosives training. Omar saw the Chechen jihad as legitimate, because it was a fight against the Russians who had invaded Afghanistan and then repressed and ultimately declared war on Chechnya. He harboured ambitions of going to Chechnya to take part in the fight against the Russian army.
Just as a quick aside – I find it deeply hypocritical that while Putin is referred to as the Butcher of Grozny, Yeltsin’s war in Chechnya (which was much more bloody) is overlooked because he was pro-Western. It makes a mockery of any claim by Western governments to give a damn about the rights of Chechens, when clearly their suffering is merely weaponised as a means of making Russia look bad.
Indeed, the loyalties and values of those in the camps were a real hodgepodge, just like in any ideological or political organisation. They believed in the jihad in Bosnia, but hated Bosniaks because they saw them as fake Muslims. Nasiri also refers to an idea that appears in Aimen Dean’s book as well – that the US were actually on the side of the Serbs in Bosnia, and only intervened against the Serbs once they’d claimed large sections of Bosnian territory.
This is totally untrue, and highlights how the Bosnian mujahideen didn’t know that they were being covertly supported by the US, among other Western nations. They thought they were fighting a noble jihad against Serbian oppressors, when in reality they were an instrument of NATO’s plan to destroy Yugoslavia. But because Israel were on the side of the Serbs, the Afghan mujahideen believed the US were secretly on that side too, due to the anti-semitism and conspiracy theories that are so common in the jihad movement.
They also hated the Taliban, in part because at this time the camps were a hangover from the Soviet-Afghan war, and were servicing the mujahideen factions in Afghanistan who were fighting against the Taliban for control of the country. This is especially true of Darunta – a former Soviet base that was captured and taken over by Hezb-i-Islami, Hekmatyar’s group. Hekmatyar hated the Taliban, and his followers saw them as ‘innovators’ – people who were subverting true Islam for their own purposes.
Meanwhile, they saw the Chechen mujahideen leader Shamil Basayev as a hero, fighting the good fight. Again, they were totally unaware that Basayev was effectively a US government asset, and that the Chechens were covertly supported by British and American intelligence as a harassment mechanism against the Russian government.
Darunta is also where Omar learned the truth about Abu Hamza – who claimed to have lost both hands and his eye while clearing landmines in Afghanistan. The reality is that he made a mistake in a class where they were mixing nitroglycerine, ran outside with it and the sudden heat made it explode. We’ll come back to this.
One other recurring theme in this period is the question of spies. As far as I can tell Omar Nasiri and Aimen Dean never met, they weren’t at Darunta at the same time and in any case this is before Dean flipped and started working for MI6. Nonetheless there were frequent rumours and suspicions about spies infiltrating the camps, and one of the boys Omar met who he knew by the name ‘Hamza’ turned out to be Abdurahman Khadr. He was captured shortly after 9/11 and sent to Guantanamo Bay. He flipped and started working for the CIA, initially as a spy inside GITMO and then later in Bosnia. At the time Omar Nasiri’s book was being written, there were news reports that Khadr’s story was going to be made into a Hollywood movie, though that project died in development.
After several months in Darunta Omar completed his training, and was sent back to Europe to set up a jihadi cell to raise funds and recruit more young men to send to the camps. This was well beyond the 7 months Gilles had given Omar before he had to report back, so as he travelled back to Europe he didn’t know what he was going to face when he got there.
Omar Nasiri and Al Muhajiroun
He shouldn’t have worried – Gilles was very pleased to see him. He’d made a bet with the other embassy staff in Istanbul that Omar would return, and joked that he’d cut off his right hand if Omar didn’t show. For months he’d endured mockery and jokes from the other staff, so he was very happy that Omar had come back, and with such useful information.
French intelligence arranged for Nasiri to go to Senegal to get a new French passport, but when he picked it up it had his jihadi name – Abu Iman al-Mughrabi – in it. Omar felt this was an attempt to stop him from travelling anywhere and another means of the DGSE maintaining control over him. When he travelled to Paris and met up with Gilles again he confronted him, and Gilles tried to pass it off as a joke.
This is one of the things I like about Omar Nasiri – he never really trusted his handlers and played all sorts of pranks and games with them to let them know he wasn’t just their puppet. He was committed to the anti-terrorist cause, and risked his life multiple times, but he wasn’t just a stooge following orders.
Omar then spent several weeks enjoying himself in Paris while meeting with Gilles for regular debriefings. This is when he first met the woman who would later become his wife, and the way Omar describes things it was love at first sight.
After the raids in Belgium the government had cracked down on the entire GIA support operation in the country, and those who weren’t arrested mostly fled to London. So the decision was made that London would be Omar’s next mission, he was to go there and establish himself, link up with British intelligence, and infiltrate the ‘Londonistan’ scene.
So he moved to the UK and Gilles introduced him to a British intelligence officer named Daniel, who comes across as a real prick. When they first met and Omar tried to ask him some questions about what he’d be doing, Daniel told him to shut up and said he was asking the questions. So Omar pretended to be unwell, and forced Daniel to draw a map with directions so Omar could find his doctor. It seems Gilles was quite amused by this.
One of the problems was that Omar was being run as a joint DGSE-MI6/MI5 asset and they’d never done anything like this before, so there were no established protocols for how it would all work. Nonetheless, Omar quickly located and infiltrated the emerging Al Muhajiroun scene in the UK, though this was in the autumn of 1996, before that organisation was formed. He describes attending the Regent’s Park mosque and the Finsbury Park mosque and listening to speeches and debates involving Omar Bakri, Abu Qatada and Abu Hamza.
Omar distinguishes between Hamza – a blowhard who exhorted jihad but had no knowledge of the Koran – and Qatada who was more scholarly but had no experience of the camps in Afghanistan. During his time in London Omar met several men who he said had the look and mannerisms of those who had been to the camps – a kind of weary serenity, whereas Qatada showed no such signs.
While Omar was more interested in Qatada, because he felt his greater command of Islamic law and history meant he posed a greater danger, his handlers wanted him to focus on Abu Hamza because he was the more obviously radical in his speeches. At one point British intelligence simply told Nasiri to stop attending Qatada’s meetings, which he assumed was because they had other spies keeping an eye on him (he was right about this). He also notes that Daniel never asked him about the training camps in Afghanistan, and again assumed this was because they had other spies in the camps.
One day, at a Qatada meeting at the Four Feathers social club he recognised a man who was hanging around with two men Omar had identified as extremists who had been to the camps. He immediately called his handler and told him they needed to start surveillance on this man, but he couldn’t figure out where he had seen him before or why he felt the man was so important. A few hours later when he met with Gilles and Daniel, Gilles told him it was Tarek, from Brussels, one of the men who’d moved into his mother’s house. Gilles said Tarek was behind the Paris Metro bombings.
However, Daniel had some bad news – they’d lost sight of him in a cafe and didn’t know where he was. Omar was astounded by this, that they’d let such an important figure slip through their fingers. A few weeks later, there was another bombing on the Paris Metro.
So who was Tarek? He is better known as Ali Touchent, the son of an Algerian police commissar and an agent of Algerian intelligence who was high up in the GIA. It is now quite widely accepted that he functioned as an agent provocateur whose job was to get the GIA to attack France – just like his boss and the head of the GIA, Djamel Zitouni. The idea was to cause the French government to turn against the GIA and support the ruling military junta, as a means of stopping the attacks on their citizens.
Is this why MI5 let him go? Were there some sort of orders preventing them from following and apprehending this terrorist mastermind, because he was working for a state intelligence agency? If not, it seems like a ludicrous screw-up.
Interestingly, Qatada was the first of the major al Muhajiroun figures to break with the GIA due to their excessive violence, and in particular their violence against Muslims. As I’ve touched on before, the GIA committed most of their violence against supporters of the FIS – the Islamist party that were due to win the elections. In doing so they not only killed off much of that party’s support, weakening the Islamist cause, they also provoked many others to oppose the Islamist uprising and support the government. A report by the Hoggar Institute concluded that the GIA had been heavily infiltrated and were being directed by Algerian military intelligence so they’d destroy themselves. Which is what happened.
Nonetheless, Abu Hamza maintained his ties to the GIA for months after Abu Qatada broke with them, and Omar’s depiction of al Muhajiroun is one of a conflicted rabble, constantly arguing with each other. At one point Omar told Abu Hamza that he knew the real story behind how Hamza lost his hands – the accident with the nitroglycerine – and Hamza looked ashamed and asked him not to repeat that to anyone. Amusingly, Hamza later asked Omar to get him a new phone and fax machine for his office, which were supplied by MI5.
Omar also said that al Muhajiroun was ‘crawling with spies’, which is pretty much my conclusion, even spotting several men that he felt were working for British intelligence. In a future episode I’ll get into the story of Reda Hassaine, an Algerian who worked for British intelligence at the same time Nasiri did, also spying on Abu Hamza.
Then, the embassy bombings happened. For a while Omar had been telling his handlers that since Al Muhajiroun weren’t planning attacks in the UK that his work was a bit boring and pointless, and he wanted to go back to the camps. His handlers strung him along, saying ‘maybe next year’ but after the bombings they appeared to have changed their mind. They sent Omar to Dakar to prepare to travel back to Afghanistan but then changed their minds again and cancelled the mission.
I suspect that this is because Aimen Dean had just been recruited by MI6. In the wake of the embassy bombings and the airstrikes on some of the camps in Afghanistan, he changed his mind about Al Qaeda and soon began working for British intelligence. On the other hand, Dean spent around a year in London before shipping out to Afghanistan, so I do wonder if there was yet another British spy inside Al Qaeda at this time.
In any case, Omar’s relationship with British intelligence was coming apart, and he wanted to go to Germany to marry Fatima and live a normal life. This was apparently agreed, but when he got to Germany he had all sorts of problems with getting official papers needed to find a job, and he quickly gave up on the German intelligence officials who were supposed to be helping him.
Indeed, during his final meeting with his French handlers, who tried to bribe him into carrying on being a spy, he refused point blank and said he was out. So his handler gave him a notebook he’d used during his time at the Darunta training camp, full of explosives recipes and other highly incriminating material. Once more, Omar saw through the ruse, realising if he took the notebook they could arrest him and throw him in prison. Despite all he had done for them, French intelligence still didn’t trust him, but also didn’t want to let him go.
So there Omar’s career as a spy ended, in the year 2000. He married Fatima, but without official papers struggled to find anything but the most menial jobs. He says this is one of the reasons he wrote the book, and I’m inclined to believe him.
Then, of course, 9/11 happened, and Omar instantly recognised it as the work of al Qaeda. It was 18 months since he’d had any contact with German intelligence but he phoned up one of his handlers and told him he knew who had done it, who these people were, how they thought, and that he wanted to help. His handler replied, ‘We’ll call you back if we need you’ and hung up. He never heard from them again.
Outstanding Questions about Omar Nasiri
I have a few questions about this story that I’m going to try to answer for you. The first is ‘what does this have to do with Al Qaeda?’ After all, Omar spent most of his time spying on the GIA and Al Muhajiroun, and when he was in the camps in Afghanistan this was before Bin Laden went back to Afghanistan and started using the camps to recruit Al Qaeda operatives. Bin Laden basically doesn’t appear in this story.
Nonetheless he did meet a couple of significant people who would later be called key nodes in the Al Qaeda network. We’ve talked about Abu Zubaydah, who never actually swore any kind of oath to Bin Laden and was helping run camps that did a lot more than just provide Al Qaeda with recruits.
The other is Ibn Sheikh al-Libi, the emir of the Khalden training camp. Omar describes him in quite warm terms, and he seems to have had a sense of humour. There are a number of funny dialogues between him and Omar in the book. Ibn Sheikh was one of the first Al Qaeda members captured after the invasion of Afghanistan, though during his initial interrogations by the FBI at Bagram Air Base he was cooperative and helpful.
Then he was transferred to the CIA’s custody, and one CIA officer was overheard saying to him, ‘You know where you are going. Before you get there, I am going to find your mother and fuck her.’ They sent him to Egypt, who tortured him and continued his interrogations. Ibn Sheikh told them that Saddam Hussein’s government in Iraq had provided Al Qaeda with chemical weapons training. Even though both the CIA and DIA cast doubt on this, it was referenced in Colin Powell’s infamous speech at the UN.
According to the book this was entirely deliberate – Ibn Sheikh wanted the US to invade Iraq because he hated Saddam, and also because he saw Iraq as a fertile ground for jihad. Obviously, he was right. Omar says that part of the training in the camps was how to feed false information to interrogators, and that Ibn Sheikh was a very intelligent man.
Exactly what happened to Ibn after this is sad and mysterious. He spent some time in Guantanamo Bay, was then moved to Morocco and then repatriated back to Libya, it seems. This is when Gaddafi was cooperating with the war on terror and his government were torturing people on behalf of the CIA and MI6. In April 2009 he was visited by a team from Human Rights Watch, and the following month it was reported that he had committed suicide by hanging himself in his jail cell. Years later, Ayman Zawahiri would add his voice to those claiming that Libya had tortured al Libi to death. Whatever the truth, the man was a serious embarrassment for the Bush administration and the CIA and I’m sure they were glad to see the back of him.
Another question I have is about 9/11. In the summer of 2001 Aimen Dean returned from the camps saying that something big was about to happen – a major attack. Not only did British intelligence not send him back to Afghanistan to find out more, they didn’t offer him to the CIA either. At this point the CIA’s counterterrorism people were going batshit because they felt a massive attack was about to happen, and were asking friendly intelligence agencies if they had any assets inside Al Qaeda.
So why wasn’t Omar Nasiri contacted? He’d proven his ability to infiltrate the camps and other jihadi scenes, and while Aimen Dean was told not to come back to Afghanistan Nasiri hadn’t been to Afghanistan for several years, and could easily have pretended he was reconnecting after spending several years in Europe. MI5 had given him small amounts of money to send to Abu Zubaydah so he still had some credibility and could have played on that to work his way back in. But not only did no one bother to call him in the summer of 2001, no one bothered to call him back when he offered his help after 9/11.
This is the most important part of the story for me, because it fits in with several other stories we’ve looked at in this Alternative History. The CIA complain that it is very difficult to get sources and assets inside terrorist groups, and that they had no one prior to 9/11 who was inside the camps and close to Bin Laden. But the British had both Aimen Dean and Omar Nasiri who had proven highly capable of doing precisely that. While I do think the primary focus in the 9/11 intelligence story should be on Alec Station, I am slightly baffled not only by why MI6 never offered their spies to the CIA but also why no one has pieced this together and asked these questions.
Before we finish I will say that there is an extended interview with Omar Nasiri on youtube, which was done by Newsnight in 2006 and it is quite interesting. It was conducted by Gordon Corera, who also wrote the afterword to Nasiri’s book. The introduction was written by none other than Michael Scheuer, who curiously never asks the important questions about 9/11.