Monday, May 8, 2006, updated Friday, May 12, 2006
Bush CIA Nominee Turned Blind Eye As Arms Flowed To Al Qaeda In 1994, 1995
Michael V. Hayden's European Command Failed To Interdict Military Supplies To Bin Laden Terror Network in Bosnia
By J.M. Berger
to 1995, money, arms and expertise flooded from the United States to al Qaeda
military networks in Bosnia-Herzegovina -- all under the watchful eye of Gen.
Michael V. Hayden -- then chief of U.S. military intelligence in the region and named Monday as President Bush's nominee to take over the CIA. (related story)
as director of the U.S.
European Command Intelligence Directorate, based in Stuttgart, Germany, from May 1993 to October 1995. He
subsequently went on to lead the secretive National Security Agency from 1999
Hayden's role at the NSA has commanded the lion's share of media coverage so far, in part due to his involvement in the controversial wiretapping program and a telephone database program disclosed Thursday in USA Today (link). But equally serious questions exist about his involvement with U.S. initiatives that directly aided al Qaeda and may have even helped fund the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
role in Bosnia is far from clear, but his name has been linked repeatedly to
allegations that the American government provided arms and other support to al Qaeda-linked militants
inside Bosnia support that continued even after investigations stemming from the World Trade Center bombing revealed a direct link between the Bosnia initiative and terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
accompanied U.S. envoy Richard Holbrooke on a trip to Croatia in November 1994, during which Holbrooke told the Bosnian government that the U.S. would encourage third-party countries to make covert shipments of arms and supplies for the use
of al Qaeda's Bosnian network, in violation of a U.N. embargo.
months after the meeting, mysterious nighttime airlifts of arms and
supplies to Bosnian Muslims began to pass through Hayden's intelligence
apparatus unhindered, prompting U.N. observers to accuse the U.S. of
deliberately allowing the so-called "black flights" to pass.
- The official representing Bosnia at the November 1994 meeting (in which Holbrooke gave explicit approval to violations of the embargo) also sat on the board of a Vienna charity funded by Osama bin Laden. That
charity the Third World Relief Agency directly shipped arms from the Sudan to Bosnian
militants and also sent more than $40,000 in cash to the New York
terrorist cell responsible for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.
"had access to virtually all intelligence" generated by the U.S.,
U.N. and NATO regarding military activity in the Balkans, according to a 450-page
report commissioned by the Dutch government to document a wide range of intelligence
activity in Bosnia.
Qaeda operatives openly exploited U.S. political support for Bosnian Muslims to
spearhead a global expansion of Osama bin Laden's anti-American jihad thoughout
Hayden's entire tenure as senior military intelligence commander in the region.
watch, illegal arms ran through the U.N. embargo like water through a sieve,
with the implicit or explicit blessing of the U.S. government, and arms and
other supplies frequently ended up in the hands of known al Qaeda members. U.S. support for the arms shipments and Hayden's failure to enforce the embargo continued even
after a high-profile member of the Bosnian network was convicted of plotting to
blow up U.N. headquarters in New York City.
intelligence apparatus somehow failed to interdict the "black
flights" in which 132-foot wide, 155-ton cargo planes (accompanied by
fighter jet escorts) transported arms and supplies from Sudan and Iran to mujahideen forces fighting on behalf of the Bosnian government.
pointing to Hayden's role and the overall context of al Qaeda's Bosnian network
include a 1996 Senate Select Committee probe of the arms shipments, al Qaeda
documents and videotapes describing the activities of the Bosnian mujahideen, court
transcripts related to the New York City terror cell, and additional court
documents related to al Qaeda's misuse of charity funding.
Hayden has never
been compelled to publicly testify about the events that took place in Bosnia during his time on station, yet many significant and disturbing questions remain questions
which are exponentially magnified by the prospect he could take the reins
of the CIA.
FLIGHTS' DROP ARMS IN TUZLA IN EARLY 1995
1995, U.N. peacekeepers reported sighting nighttime flights into the Tuzla airbase in Croatia. The flights were not logged according to normal procedure for
friendly aircraft. Under cover of darkness, Hercules C-130 aircraft were escorted
by fighter jets to Tuzla, where they deposited crates of arms and supplies in
violation of a U.N. weapons embargo on the region. Sightings of the "black
flights" were reported by British and Norwegian military officers, among
dropped in Tuzla, the arms were shipped by land or air into Bosnia, destined for the Bosnian Muslim army, which included both official and irregular mujahideen
regiments with extensive links to al Qaeda. The shipments included "weapons,
ammunition, uniforms, helmets, new anti-tank weapons and Stingers,"
according to the Dutch intelligence survey.
the mission was carried out by powers capable of neutralizing the radar
surveillance or it was made with the consent and support of the authorities
commanding the assets in the area at the time," wrote Lt. Col. Christopher
Le Hardy in a British Intelligence report dated Feb. 15, 1995. The "black
flights" took place during period when only American planes were
monitoring the Tuzla region. Le Hardy was pressured to change his report after U.S. officials protested.
European U.N. observers believed the operation was either conducted or condoned
by the U.S. military intelligence apparatus, then commanded by Hayden. "They
were American arms deliveries," said a British general with access to that
country's Tuzla intelligence. "No doubt about that."
investigation has ever reached a public finding regarding the origins of the
flights themselves. However, the contents of the arms shipments were another
matter. Both directly and indirectly, a significant portion of the supplies
shipped to Bosnian Muslim fighters would be traced back to U.S. soil.
U.S. PLEDGES SUPPORT FOR EMBARGO VIOLATIONS
Many of the
arms shipments are believed to have originated in Iran. The LA Times reported
in April 1996 that "President Clinton secretly gave a green light to
covert Iranian arms shipments into Bosnia in 1994." The most infamous "green
light" incident eventually became the subject of a 1996 Senate probe.
to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence:
April 1994, Croatian President Tudjman asked the U.S. Government what its view
would be if Croatia resumed transshipment of arms to Bosnia (which U.S. officials knew would come primarily from Iran). National Security Advisor Tony Lake told the
Committee that the U.S. decision to have Ambassador Galbraith reply that he had
'no instructions' was taken in the belief that this would likely result in
Croatia going ahead with the resumed arms flow, and with that specific intent."
"no instructions" instruction trickled down the line, its effect
magnifying into overt assurances during the next several months.
1994, Richard Holbrooke the Clinton Administration's diplomatic envoy to Bosnia traveled to Zagreb, Croatia, accompanied by Gen. Hayden. During
the trip, Holbrooke met with Bosnian Prime Minister Haris Silajdzic. (The
record does not reflect whether Hayden attended the meeting.)
proposed to Silajdzic that the Bosnians accept the arms embargo for the next
six months, in exchange for which the U.S. would encourage third-party
countries to violate the arms embargo and ship additional military supplies to
"black flight" arms shipments to Tuzla began just three months later.
Gen. Hayden's intelligence apparatus failed to interdict and purportedly failed
even to detect the covert shipments.
1995, U.S. government officials (including Holbrooke) abandoned all pretense of
enforcing the embargo and signed off on specific shipments of rockets to Bosnia, after inspecting the weapons at the request of Croatian officials.
newspaper accounts charged that Hayden's colleague, deputy of the European Command
Gen. Charles Boyd, also agreed to help facilitate covert assistance to Bosnian
Muslims. The assurance was allegedly made during a secret meeting with the Bosnian
Army's 6th Corps some time prior to November 1994. Holbrooke, who also attended
the Boyd meeting, asserted to the Senate Select Committee under oath that no
secret deal had been arranged, and the panel recorded that assertion as the whole
of its investigation into the allegation.
"green light" meeting in Zagreb took place more than 18 months after
the U.S. government arrested members of the Bosnian mujahideen network for
taking part in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil.
immediately after the outbreak of hositilities in the region, al Qaeda group sent
operatives into Bosnia with explicit orders to create a European base.
From the beginning, al Qaeda's intention was to launch military operations
inside Bosnia, in support of the Bosnian Muslim government, and terrorist
operations outside Bosnia.
In the fall
of 1992, al Qaeda sent an operative named Jamal al-Fadhl (who later turned
government informant) to Zagreb, Croatia, in order to collect intelligence and
investigate business opportunities on behalf of Osama bin Laden.
meetings with al Qaeda members,
al-Fadhl was told that the Chicago-based Benevolence International Foundation had
funded weapons purchases for the mujahideen, with the assistance of
Mohamed Loay Bayazid, aka Abu Rida al-Suri, an Syrian-American and one of al
Qaeda's founding members.
inventories of covert supplies, including weapons, received by the Bosnian
the conflict closely correlate with receipts for non-weaponry military supplies
paid for by the Benevolence International Foundation.
The non-weapons supplies documented by BIF included new uniforms and boots for
But some of
the most devastating evidence of the Bosnian terror connection would surface
far closer to home.
AND THE WORLD TRADE CENTER BOMBING
City native Clement
Hampton-El fought with the mujahideen in Afghanistan in 1988. During his
time in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Hampton-El met several members of the nascent
al Qaeda organization. Hampton-El returned to New York later that year, where
he involved himself in various jihadist causes.
In August 1992,
Hampton-El agreed to help recruit operatives to fight in Bosnia and to train other mujahideen for the effort. Over the course of 1993, members of
Hampton-El's training group were arrested and indicted for complicity in the
February bombing of the World Trade Center and a subsequent plot to bomb the
U.N. and other New York City landmarks.
discovered that, in January and February of 1993, Hampton-El made at least
three trips to a Bosnia-related charity in Vienna, where he received large cash
payments that he took back to New York.
received more than $40,000 in cash from Third World Relief Agency,
a Vienna-based charity with deep ties to Osama bin Laden, which was also
directly implicated in the covert arms shipments to Bosnia. He smuggled the
money back to New York over the course of three trips, where it was used by the
New York terrorist cell led by Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman.
founded by al-Fatih Ali Hassanein, a Sudanese diplomat directly tied to bin
Laden and Rahman. In addition to the $40,000 payment couriered by Hampton-El,
TWRA distributed videotapes of Rahman's sermons widely across Europe. 
Rahman made several phone calls to the TWRA offices during the period before
his arrest. TWRA had been funded directly by Osama bin Laden as well as other
wealthy Saudi patrons of jihad, to the tune of $300 million.
fact that TWRA had been linked to the World Trade Center bombing as early as
1993, the State Department made overt efforts throughout the 1990s to protect
TWRA from the scrutiny of investigators.
were told [by Washington] to watch them but not interfere," an unnamed
Western diplomat told the Washington Post. "Bosnia was trying to get weapons from anybody, and we weren't helping much. The least we
could do is back off. So we backed off."
of supporters and board of directors boasted several Bosnia dignitaries
including Haris Silajdzic, the Bosnian official who received assurances that the U.S. would encourgage violations of the arms embargo during Holbrooke and Hayden's November 1994 trip to Zagreb.
In 1992, Silajdzic
had traveled to Vienna to issue a bank guarantee for Hassanein.
That same year, TWRA helped smuggle arms into Bosnia not just from Iran, but from Khartoum, Sudan, where Osama bin Laden was in the process of relocating al Qaeda. The
arms were eventually shipped to the Bosnians via Tuzla. 
Related Story: What Did Hayden Know About the Srebrenica Massacre?
article is the first in a series on U.S. support for al Qaeda in the Balkans.