Author Topic: The Gamal Abdel-Hafiz story  (Read 792 times)

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Offline Neuromancer

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The Gamal Abdel-Hafiz story
« on: March 26, 2017, 07:53:19 am »
Rewind to 1998

That year, FBI agent Gamal Abdel-Hafiz met a Muslim activist through a friend at the Dar al-Hijrah Islamic Center outside Washington, a hard-line Wahhabi mosque the agent regularly attended at the time, and the same mosque that would later give aid and comfort to some of the 9/11 hijackers. The two men exchanged business cards. Not long afterward, Abdel-Hafiz got a call from al-Arian in Florida.

The Tampa professor and Muslim activist said he got the agent's business card from the mutual acquaintance and wanted to know if he would do him a favor and, among other things, poke around the FBI to see if it had ever opened an investigation into alleged death threats against terrorism researcher Steve Emerson. Al-Arian wanted to try to catch the pro-Israel Emerson possibly exaggerating claims he made in congressional testimony about such threats. Remarkably, Abdel-Hafiz agreed to look into the issue for al-Arian, bureau sources tell me.

Hearing of the encounter, the FBI's Tampa field office asked Abdel-Hafiz to follow up by asking al-Arian several questions related to a counterterrorism case they were building against him -- and secretly record his answers. Abdel-Hafiz agreed to speak to al-Arian by phone but said he would not record the conversation without al-Arian's knowledge. The lead Tampa agent on the case, Barry Carmody, was scandalized by his refusal, calling it "outrageous."

Then Abdel-Hafiz met, unexpectedly, with al-Arian at an American Muslim Council conference in Washington and wrote a summary of their conversation, which he had not coordinated with Tampa. The report he filed was not well received by Carmody and his team of investigators in Tampa -- or by FBI agents John Vincent and Robert Wright, whose Chicago investigation dovetailed with the al-Arian case.

"After Gamal had a conversation with Sami al-Arian, he made a lot of self-serving statements for al-Arian and denigrated the FBI agent (Carmody) who was investigating the case," says Vincent, who also had a run-in with Abdel-Hafiz over his refusal to wear a wire to record another Muslim under terror investigation -- Soliman Biheiri, who is tied to al-Arian (investigators found the his phone number in Biheiri's computer address book). Abdel-Hafiz tried to explain to Vincent that a "Muslim does not record another Muslim."

"So we knew there was a problem," Vincent adds. "We had suspicions about whether Gamal would write down conversations accurately."

What's more, "There were also complaints that he was meeting with subjects of investigations in Washington without advising the Washington field office," he says. Abdel-Hafiz, 46, is a good friend and former college roommate of Biheiri's Washington-based ex-bookkeeper, Abbas Ebrahim, as I first revealed in my book, "Infiltration: How Muslim Spies and Subversives
Have Penetrated Washington."

Agent Carmody says Abdel-Hafiz hurt the al-Arian probe by refusing to record the professor in the bureau's effort to get him to admit financing Palestianian terrorist acts. Al-Arian even bragged to Abdel-Hafiz that the Tampa office did not have a strong case against him -- thanks in large part
to Abdel-Hafiz.

Abdel-Hafiz, a devout Sunni Muslim whose Egyptian father is known as a Quran memorizer, showed a pattern of pro-Islamist behavior, say agents who worked with him. Yet FBI headquarters overlooked it and even promoted him.

Carmody, Vincent, and Wright all complained to headquarters about Abdel-Hafiz twice refusing on religious grounds to tape-record Muslim terrorist suspects. Despite that, he was handpicked in early 2001 by former FBI Director Louis Freeh to become the FBI's deputy legal attache at the U.S. Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia -- a key post in the battle against al-Qaida, which had hit American military barracks inside Saudi and a warship in neighboring Yemen.

After 9/11, when 15 of the 19 hijackers turned out to be Saudi nationals, Abdel-Hafiz was in a prime position to run down leads in the Saudi capital. Only, that didn't happen, at least not as often as headquarters had hoped. Agents back in Washington complained about his performance there, saying they were not getting answers to the hundreds of leads they were sending him in Riyadh. Abdel-Hafiz says he was one of only two people manning the office there and was further hobbled by an antiquated computer system.

But he and his boss Wilfred Rattigan, a black convert to Islam, had nonetheless found time to fly off to Mecca for the hajj, where they surrendered their FBI cell phones to Saudi nationals and were out of contact with officials back in the U.S. who were trying to ring them up about investigations into al-Qaida and 9/11. Both Rattigan and Abdel-Hafiz, who have since been reassigned within the bureau, wore traditional Muslim headgear and robes while on the job in Saudi Arabia, further outraging fellow agents.

When a senior supervisor was sent to the Riyadh office nearly a year after 9/11, she found secret documents strewn all over the office, some even wedged between cabinets. She also found a huge backlog of boxes each filled with three feet of paper containing secret, time-sensitive leads. Much of the materials, including information on Saudi airline pilots, had not been translated or reviewed.

It's anyone's guess how many terror cases were compromised in the Saudi office.
Poster Neuromancer's comments bring a critical but often overlooked historical perspective to key present-day social issues. His underlying goals focus on inspiring curiosity and creativity, sharpening critical analysis of everything from historical texts to today’s news.