October 07, 2002
THE ART STUDENT STORY RESURFACES,
THE ART STUDENT STORY RESURFACES, AGAIN
Two estimable blog owners, Charles Johnston and the Shark himself, have been gulled by a German Die Zeit piece Sharkansky has had translated here. It's basically a retelling of the leaked DEA memo about an Israeli fraud ring involving fake "art students" that was working in the U.S. in early 2001. The full memo's here. This was previously used by Justin Raimondo of antiwar.com and others to prove their wild-assed theories about Israeli involvement in the Sept. 11 attacks. The Shark is now citing it as evidence that the Mossad at least knew, and hence U.S. intelligence probably did as well, about Mohammed Atta and friends. This is somewhat more sane, but given the quality of the evidence, hardly compelling. Here's a few of the obvious problems with the Die Zeit piece:
Die ZEIT obtained the 61-page final report, according to which, 120 Israelis, organized into cells of four to six persons, formed a tightly organized and efficient espionage network.
The memo never concludes that the art student ring was definitely an espionage network. That's Die Zeit talking. The memo lists 125 names in an appendix at the back... not all are "art students." The memo says they were actually organized in groups of 8-10, not 4-6.
The Israelis were arrested, interrogated and subsequently deported.
Many Israelis without proper documents were deported following Sept. 11. There is no public evidence how many, if any of those students previously identified as part of the "art ring" were among them, even if they were still in the country at that time. Few, if any, were arrested or deported for their activities prior to Sept. 11, and certainly none for "espionage."
Both [Sept. 11 conspirators Atta and Al-Shehi] lived in Hamburg before they settled in Hollywood, Florida in order to plan the attacks.
Atta and Al-Shehi lived in Hollywood, Florida for a little over one month in all, arriving in early May, 2001 and leaving on June 13. That's not "settling," and the planning of the attacks was obviously well underway by that point.
A Mossad team was also operating in the same town. The leader, Hanan Serfati, had rented several dwellings. "One of Serfati's apartments was located on the corner of 71st St. and 21st Ave. in Hollywood, right near the apartment of Atta and al-Shehi.", French intelligence reported later.
There is no 71st St. and 21st Avenue intersection in Hollywood, to start with. As you can read below, the DEA picked up a group of Israelis for questioning on March 1, 2001, including Hanane Sarfati, 24 (also referred to as Hanan Serfaty in the DEA memo; the French report has yet another spelling), Eli Cohen, 23, and Oshirt Zaguri, 23. Cohen and Zaguri gave their addresses as apartments 207 and 4205 respectively in the building at 701 S. 21st Street. Apparently French intelligence has trouble understanding American address nomenclature. Anyway, two and a half months later, on May 13, Atta and Al-Shehi moved into their own rented apartment at 1818 Jackson Street, a half mile south west of the place Cohen and Zaguri had been staying at. (They apparently picked the place after a couple nights at the Bimini Motel Apartments, several kilometres east). There is no evidence the two pairs of Mediterranean tourists were ever renting their respective apartments at the same time: obviously spying on Atta when Atta was actually IN TOWN would have been too easy for these highly trained Mossad SpyKids (23? Come on...), so they decided to do their spying months before he even ARRIVED.
The chief Israeli agent was staying right near the post office where the terrorists had a mailbox.
This was the piece of info that got Justin Raimondo convinced the Israelis were behind Sept. 11. For the record, four of the terrorists who arrived in June used the Mailbox Rentals store at 3389 Sheridan, in Hollywood, as their address while in the U.S. Mr. Sarfati (or whatever) was living in an apartment at 4220 Sheridan, about half a mile west, when the DEA picked him up in March.
Here once again, is the story of how that "tightly organized and efficient Mossad team" was fingered and picked up by the brilliant police work of the DEA, according to the DEA's own report. Note the particularly clever spylike behaviour bolded below. It can be hard to fathom the complex workings of these superspies, who were in this country cleverly disguised as stupid petty criminals. I know it would be easy to conclude from the paragraphs below that these were really a bunch of kids working a simple con game, who then turned scared and witless after they were picked up by the cops, but you have to realize that's all part of their cunning, secret-squirrel plan, the details of which only a supergenius of Justin Raimondo's calibre could derive from the raw field report details below. If it helps, try humming the "Mission Impossible" theme in your head while you read it:
"76. On March 1, 2001, at approximately 3:00 p.m., SA Kevin McLaughlin of theTampa DO [DEA office] responded to a knock at one of the fifth floor office doors. (It should be noted that the Tampa DO occupies the fourth and fifth floors of a First Union bank Office building. The reception area is on the fourth floor, with the fifth floor doors being locked, and possessing no signs of identification.) At the door was a young female who immediately identified herself as an Israeli art student who had beautiful art to sell. She was carrying a crudely made portfolio of canvas, matted, but unframed pictures... When asked her name, she identified herself as Bella POLLCSON, and pointed out one of the paintings was signed by that name. She then changed her story and said that the paintings were not for sale, but that she was there to promote an art show in Sarasota, FL, and asked for the agents' business cards so that information regarding the show could be mailed to them. She was not able to say when, or where the show would take place. After this discrepancy, the agents began to question her more closely, and her responses were evasive at best. When asked whom she was with, she stated that she was dropped at this office building by her Team Leader, who knew everything and could answer more questions. The Team Leader was described as a male driving a red van, dropping off this female, with another four females and a male.
"77. Tampa DO agents then began searching the area around the Tampa DO office and found the individuals described by the young female. Two of the girls were on a street corner near another busy office complex area and as agents were speaking with them, the red van pulled up. All were escorted to the Tampa DO for questioning.
"78. Agents from the Tampa DO then interviewed each of the subjects. Through identification that was produced, it wat revealed that the female who approached the Tampa DO and identified hersclf as Bella POLLCSON, was now identified as Inbal VAKSHI. The other subjects were: Sussie OSHRA, Keren KUZNITZ, Keren MATATIA, Livnat SELLA, Eli COHEN, Oshirt ZAGURI, Rachel KENDEL, and Hanan SERFATY. SERFATY, the driver of the red van, was identified as the Team Leader. All of the subjects gave ambiguous answers to the agents, but keeping to the story that they were Israeli art students.
79, VAKSHI produced an Israeli identification card, an Israeli passport, a student identification card, and a Florida driver's license for Sarah Minna SASSOON. VAKSI stated that she had received the license from a friend of hers who was no longer living in Florida.
"80. S/A David Keikin interviewed subject Hanan SERFATY. SERFATY stated that he served in the Israeli military between the ages of 18-21. He further indicated that he arrived in the U.S. approximately one year ago at the age of 23. When questioned as to what he did between the ages of 21 and 24, he refused to answer. The interviewing agent indicated that SERFATY's command of the English language was excellent, even the utilization of slang words. SERFATY indicated that he resides in Hollywood, FL, with a phone number of (954) 478-1006. He further related that he purchases the paintings from an Anglo male, TOM for $8.00-$15.00/piece, In turn, each piece of artwork is subsequently sold for $50-80. TOM allegedly resides in Hollywood/Ft. Lauderdale area, and reportedly has a storage unit in south Florida where he keeps the artwork to be picked up.
"81. It should be noted that in SERFATY's possession were deposit and withdrawal slips for Washington Mutual Bank account #038300002297689, dating, from December 19, 2000 through February 21, 2001. The fifty-one (51) slips were for transactions at various banks in Dade and Broward County, FL, banks, specifically in Coral Gables, Miami, Hollywood, Aventura, and Tamarac, The deposits for the timeframe totaled $93,252,00, with withdrawals totaling $86,000. Also in SERFATY's possession were four (4) deposit slips for First Union Bank account #1010017986436, from February 26, 2001 through March 1, 2001, totaling $14,250."
The DEA memo goes on to state that checking with local police showed that this group had been canvassing parts of the Tampa-Fort Lauderdale area with their phony art for at least a week previously. As I said back in May, the DEA efficiently identified the ringleader of all these silly groups of Israeli kids (Serfaty's team was one of many, it's true) as Michael Calmanovic, a resident of Irving, TX, current phone number 972-252-4504. So if Congress or anyone else really thought this was ever worth their time (Charles? Shark?), it wouldn't be hard.
You can read more about this Israeli fraud ring, and how people have mistaken it for something else, in the Flit entries for May 15.
IMPORTANT PIECE FROM ROBERT WRIGHT,
IMPORTANT PIECE FROM ROBERT WRIGHT, AND A GREAT COMEBACK
Commenting on the new American global strategy document, in the Times. Best quote:
One thing that creates hatred of America is resentment of its wealth, so the Bush strategy's emphasis on spreading prosperity is welcome. But another big source of hatred is resentment of American power. So the president's insistence that America remain unchallenged global hegemon, and his willingness to attack nations unilaterally even in the absence of clear provocation, is a stance peculiarly ill-suited to the global technological environment that is taking shape.
Meanwhile, Jeff Goldberg comes right back at Wright's attack on him which Flit pointed to last week. His counterargument to the above would be that, in his experience, the wider world will hate Americans until it gets more civilized anyway, so 'tis better to be feared than loved in the meantime. This is rarefied intellectual duelling we're seeing now... I'm hoping for another couple rounds of this.
SCHMIDT'S LAWYERS KEEP GNAWING AWAY
SCHMIDT'S LAWYERS KEEP GNAWING AWAY AT AMERICAN SENTIMENT
In other news, the wife of American pilot Harry "Psycho" Schmidt, the killer of 4 Canadian soldiers in a friendly fire incident earlier this year, is hitting the talk show circuit. His legal defence fund's website is here, in case you're curious.
The defense seems to be centred on failures by the AWACS and ground controllers that the dual American and Canadian inquiries are covering up:
Upon initially spotting the surface-to-air fire, the aircrew queried AWACS on whether or not there were “friendlies” in the area, but AWACS was unable to readily provide that information to the pilots. The failure to provide the aircrew with information concerning the friendly training exercise is a command and control failure, not a pilot failure or error... The failure of the CAOC and AWACS to pass the live-fire training information to the aircrew in a timely manner was not listed as a cause or even a contributing factor in the investigation.
Timely manner? Here's what I wrote previously on this point... (I'd link to the American report itself from which these facts are taken, but the Centcom site is down at this moment for some reason):
The inquiries found that from identification of a possible target to communication back to the pilots using this procedure [consult with ground control before shooting] took an average of five minutes. In this particular case it would take just 157 seconds [before the "friendliness" of the target was established, during which Schmidt and Umbach's planes were in no conceivable danger]. But as one can see from the transcript below, "Psycho" Schmidt only gave his controllers 90 seconds, before deciding to act regardless.
The defense fund website also claims:
Both Harry Schmidt and [wingman] Bill Umbach honestly and reasonably believed that they were taking ground fire from an unknown source and that they were required to suppress that fire in self-defense.
As has been clearly established in posts ad infinitum on this weblog, a reasonable belief that they were required to act out of self-defense that night is impossible. At the altitude they were flying at the time, no conceivable ground fire, even if it had been aimed upwards, could have possibly affected them. As for an honest, but unreasonable, belief (which I would agree would still be a mitigant) the Canadian inquiry listed its 13 reasons why it believed the American pilots were not being fully truthful after the incident when they claimed Schmidt fired in honest self-defence, as opposed to citing self-defence in order to justify his thoughtless bomb release.
Continues the lawyers' site:
The decision to pursue criminal charges against a combat aircrew making life or death decisions under the stress and uncertainty of combat conditions sets a dangerous precedent: In the future, combat aircrews may hesitate to exercise the right of self-defense, rightly believing that their decision will later be second-guessed by others who have the luxury of unlimited time, deliberation, and hindsight to question decisions required to be made on the spot under the stress of combat. This will likely cause unnecessary American casualties and have a deleterious effect on our military capabilities.
As stated before, on any other night of the week, when the 101st Airborne was using that range, that would have been 4 "unnecessary" dead Americans instead of Canadians. It's true this case will set a dangerous precedent, but only if these pilots win. Their defense is that no pilot can ever be responsible for a friendly fire death, even if their disobedience of operating procedure and direct orders is the direct cause of that loss of life... even if no split-second decision was required of them by any means... even if they drop a bomb on a rifle range at an American base abroad on an otherwise entirely quiet and combat-free night.
Would you want your son or daughter to join today’s U.S. military knowing this can happen?
How about this: would you want your son or daughter to join today's U.S. army if the pilots above them are given an entirely unrestricted license to kill? Because that's what Schmidt's lawyers are asking for here.
PROBLEMATIC It appears that American
It appears that American foot-dragging is in part responsible for the continuing imprisonment in Saudi Arabia, under threat of capital punishment, of an apparently innocent Canadian. Wouldn't want to upset their legal system, now, it might disrupt their fragile sharia culture, I suppose... I really do wish the Americans would value their democratic allies a little ahead of their authoritarian, repressive, demon-state ones, but I never cease to be disappointed on that score. Pity: it would make it easier for us to see their point of view on other things.
"endearingly macho" -- Mark Steyn
"wonderfully detailed analysis" -- John Allemang, Globe and Mail
"unusually candid" -- Tom Ricks, Foreignpolicy.com
Bill & Bob
Ghosts of Alex