While the imputation by the latest article in the Jane Intelligence Review 01/2002 on “Al-Qaeda: The Asian Connection” that Malaysia could have prevented the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States if the Malaysian authorities had arrested one of the suicide hijackers when he visited the country has been rightly dismissed out-of-hand by the Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, as it is so far-fetched and baseless, the Malaysian authorities, Members of Parliament and ordinary citizens should be concerned about the article as it reinforced mounting concerns that the Malaysian intelligence and security authorities had been rather sloppy and even unprofessional in their responsibility to protect the nation from the threats of international terrorist activities.
The Jane Intelligence Review article had said:
“Had Malaysa disrupted the Al-Qaeda cell in Kuala Lumpur in December 2000 visited by one of the suicide hijackers, Khalid al-Midhar, Al-Qaeda’s multiple attacks against US targets on Sept. 11 may have been prevented. The cell Khalid visited was responsible for planning and preparing the Al-Qaeda attack on the USS Cole in October 2000.
“Although Khalid was videotaped by a Malaysian surveillance team and it was turned over to the Central Intelligence Agency, both governments failed to arrest him. Malaysia believed that by watching him, they would discover more about his associates in Malaysia.
“Despite being put on a watch-list, the US Immigration and Naturalisation Service did not detect Khalid’s entry to the US. Finally, he flew on the fatal American Airlines Flight 77 under his own name to participate in the biggest terrorist attack in human history.”
It is ridiculous for the Jane Intelligence Review to partly blame Malaysia for not arresting Khalid al-Midhar and nipping the September 11 terrorist attacks in the bud, when it should point-blank indict the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for the worst failure of intelligence in US history - simply looking in the wrong direction because it was stuck in the Cold War mindset preoccupied with rogue missiles and chemical attacks rather than the idea of suicide bombers.
I repudiate without hesitation the far-fetched assumption of the Jane Intelligence Review that Malaysia could have averted the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, as there is no guarantee that the arrest of Khalid al-Midhar in Malaysia would have averted the September 11 terrorist mass murders.
But I am very concerned about the Jane Intelligence Review article as it is a further confirmation that there had been a host of contradictory statements by government and police officials in the past few months about KMM and Al-Qaeda in Malaysia, which raise serious questions about the professionalism of Malaysian security and intelligence to protect Malaysia from the threats of international terrorism.
The Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai had on Friday also rebutted the allegation that Malaysia could have helped to avert the September 11 terrorist attacks if it had acted against two of the suspected terrorists involved when they were seen in Kuala Lumpur in December 2000.
Norian said on Friday: “The allegation is baseless as the authorities here had kept close tabs on the two. Information on all their movements, activities, photographs, passports and other details were handed over to the United States.
“The two, who were also on the intelligence list of other countries, were here as tourists. We did our part by giving the relevant country the details they needed for action.”
So far, so good. Except that when CNN first reported a few days after the September 11 terrorist attacks that one of the suicide hijackers, Khalid Al-Midhar, had been seen on a surveillance tape from Malaysia meeting with a man whom American officials suspect played a hand in the attack on the warship USS Cole in October 2000, Deputy Prime Minister, Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi told the world that he knew nothing about it!
Why was the Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister denied this important information as to put him and the Malaysian government in a very bad light in the eyes of foreign governments and the international intelligence community?
The Jane Intelligence Review article also raised many disturbing questions,
It would appear that it is not only the American intelligence which had committed a colossal failure resulting in the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington causing the death of over 3,000 innocent lives from over 80 countries, there had also been grave lapses by the Malaysian intelligence as well in not knowing about the presence of Al Qaeda networks and cells in Malaysia when it is quite an open knowledge in the international intelligence community.
Malaysians must find it most unsatisfactory that they have to depend on overseas sources for information about Al-Qaeda networks, cells and activities in Malaysia.
DAP is asking for a briefing from the Inspector-General of Police, Tan Sri Norian Mai on the Jane Intelligence Review report, the al-Qaeda terrorist networks, cells and activities in Malaysia and the overall threat of terrorism faced by the country as this is not a political or partisan but national issue of concern to all Malaysians.