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Jewish World Review Oct. 29, 2002 / 25 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Michael Ledeen

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The Angleton Dialogues, Contnued: What George Tenet doesn’t know | I figured it was time to check in with the last great figure in the history of American counterintelligence, so I plugged in the Ouija board and got through to the late James Jesus Angleton on the first try. There were probably fewer people talking to their ancestors once the snipers were rounded up, or maybe it was because the president was off at the ranch, talking to our Chinese buddies. In any case it was a fine connection, and he was in fine humor.

ML: I have to give you credit; you were the only person who said, early on, that the odds were good that there was no white van. And voilà, it was a blue car from New Jersey instead.


I think it's helpful not to watch television. And you'll notice that some of the old hands from the FBI understood from the beginning that it was more likely to be a Muslim killer than an angry white man, and since most American Muslims are black, the odds were that it was a black Muslim. They got a bonus, so to speak, when there were two of them.

ML: So what strikes you now?

JJA: Well, I hope that somebody's working very hard on this case, because it has many fascinating elements. Mr. John Allen Muhammad is most interesting, isn't he?

ML: Yes, he sure is. Even the biographical snippets we have so far are intriguing.

JJA: Right. A failed military officer, a failed husband, and a failed father. A perfect target for recruitment. And then, without any obvious explanation, he turns up with money and starts traveling outside the United States, where it's harder for us to watch him...not that anyone seems to have been paying particular attention, of course.

ML: Yes, that foreign travel is suggestive, isn't it?

JJA: I'm struck by his many trips to Antigua, number one. That requires money, and there's no obvious source of funds from what we know about him, I mean, even his karate joint venture failed, didn't it? But he's flying around, he takes his three kids and runs off to Antigua, and what does he do with them there? He enrolls them in a private school, Greensville Primary School, and he enchants the principal, Ms. Janet Harris, to the point where she helped him get an Antigua passport.

ML: Yes, the Seattle Times reported that the Antiguan Foreign Ministry is investigating Muhammad "for ties to a smuggling and fake-document operation." And so I ask myself, and of course yourself, whether we shouldn't consider the possibility that Muhammad is part of something bigger, something more organized, something more frightening. And I remembered that you were tantalized by the possibility that this was some sort of test case, a probe.

JJA: As always in real life, there are contradictory elements. On the one hand, you have behavior typical of the psychotic serial killer who secretly, desperately, wants to be caught: the communications — the provocations, I would call them — with the police, including, incredibly, a credit-card number, and also including, incredibly, an invitation to meet him at the Ponderosa Restaurant, although maybe that message didn't get through until it was too late. And there's also the call to the Catholic priest in Virginia, which the idiot didn't report. That's one side of Muhammad, and it fits with the poor grammar, the sloppy spelling, and all that. Let's call it the stupid side.

On the other hand, he's not stupid at all. He plays chess, which, whatever else you may think (yes, I know you're a bridge player, but bridge requires four people and he didn't want to drive around with three others in tow, one was enough), shows a certain IQ level, doesn't it? And he is constantly showing up with false travel documents, which suggests some kind of support organization. And then, at least according to newspaper stories — which often is not the most reliable information — he isn't talking, and the 17-year old accomplice isn't talking either. That also suggests serious preparation, maybe even training.

ML: Kind of like the guys at Guantanamo Bay?

JJA: Uh-huh.

ML: So suppose somebody asked you to write a movie treatment for Muhammad, what would it look like?

JJA: Pure fiction, right? Not serious counterintelligence, just the most stimulating theory?

ML: I promise we won't give it to Tenet.

JJA: OK, then. Let's say I'd make a movie about a black man with lots of ambition, flashes of real insight and imagination, beset with a series of problems in his personal life that finally overwhelm him. He's spotted by a sleeper terror network, and recruited ideologically. He's converted to Islam, he signs up with Farrakhan (in many ways, I must tell you, the most intriguing thing about Muhammad is that that he didn't change his name right away, as if he were trying to hide his religious identity; normally the converts change their name at once), and then, over time, he's manipulated. First they use him to organize the infiltration of Jamaicans and Antiguans into the United States, then they induce him to terrorize Washington D.C., and they tell him if he's caught he must remain silent, or go directly to hell for all eternity.

ML: I'll suggest it to Spielberg.

JJA: Fair enough, but there's more...........

At which point the connection went bad, I heard snippets of a conversation between someone who called herself Hillary and an older woman named Eleanor, and then the whole thing was overwhelmed by static.

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JWR contributor Michael Ledeen is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute and author of, most recently, The War Against the Terror Masters. Comment by clicking here.


10/24/02: The Iranian Comedy Hour: In the U.S., the silence continues
10/16/02: Sniper, Saboteur, or Sleeper? Channeling James Jesus Angleton
10/01/02: The real foe
09/27/02: The Iranian String Quartet: The mullahs get increasingly nervous
09/25/02: The Dubya Doctrine
09/23/02: Intelligence? What intelligence?
09/12/02: America's revenge: To turn tyrannies into democracies
09/10/02: Iran & Afghanistan & Us: We'll have to deal with the mullahcracy, sooner or later
09/04/02: Iran, according to the Times: All the nonsense that's fit to print
08/21/02: Life and death of Abu Nidal tells us a great deal about our enemies
08/08/02: Can You Keep a Secret?: The media silence on Iran
08/06/02: Fantasy Reporting: The latest disinformation from the Washington Post
08/02/02: Propping Up the Terror Masters: Europe's Solana on tour
07/16/02: Bush vs. the Mullahs: Getting on the side of the Iranian freedom fighters
07/12/02: The State Department Goes Mute: It's official: State has no message
07/09/02: History being made, but the West appears clueless
06/05/02: Is George Tenet endangering peace in Israel?
06/03/02: Ridiculous, even for a journalist
05/20/02: So how come nobody's been fired yet?
05/14/02: Open doors for thugs
04/20/02: Iran on the Brink … and the U.S. does nothing
04/16/02: It’s the war, stupid … someone remind Colin Powell
04/08/02: Gulled: In the Middle East, Arafat doesn't matter
04/02/02: Faster, Please: The war falters
03/26/02: The Revolution Continues: What's brewing in Iran
03/18/02: Iran simmers still: Where's the press?
03/05/02: We can't lose any more ground in Iran
02/14/02: The Great Iranian Hoax
02/12/02: Unnoticed Bombshell: Key information in a new book
01/31/02: The truth behind the Powell play
01/29/02: My past with "Johnny Jihad's" lawyer
01/21/02: It's Munich, all over again
01/08/02: What's the Holdup?: It's time for the next battles in the war against terrorism
12/11/01: We must be imperious, ruthless, and relentless
12/06/01: Remembering my family friend, Walt Disney
11/28/01: The Barbara Olson Bomb: Understanding the war
11/13/01: How We're Doing: The Angleton Files, IV
11/06/01: A great revolutionary war is coming
10/25/01: How to talk to a terrorist
10/23/01: Creative Reporting: Learning to appreciate press briefings
10/19/01: Not the Emmys: A Beltway award presentation
10/15/01: Rediscovering American character
10/11/01: Somehow, I've missed Arafat's praise of the first stage of our war on terrorism
10/04/01: What do we not know?
09/28/01: Machiavelli On Our War: Some advice for our leaders
09/25/01: No Room for the U.N.: Keeping Annan & co. out of the picture
09/21/01: Creative destruction
09/14/01: Who Killed Barbara Olson?
08/22/01: How Israel will win this war
08/15/01: Bracing for war
08/09/01: More Dithering Democrats
08/02/01: Delirious Dems
07/31/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit, cont'd
07/19/01: Be careful what you wish for
07/17/01: Consulting a legendary counterspy about Chandra and Condit
07/05/01: Let Slobo Go
05/30/01: Anybody out there afraid of the Republicans?
05/09/01: The bad guys to the rescue
05/07/01: Bye-bye, Blumenthal
04/20/01: Handling China
04/11/01: EXAM TIME!
04/05/01: Chinese over-water torture
03/27/01: Fighting AIDS in Africa is a losing proposition
03/14/01: Big Bird, Oscar, and other threats
03/09/01: Time for a good, old-fashioned purge
03/06/01: Powell’s great (mis)adventure
02/26/01: The Clinton Sopranos
02/20/01: Unity Schmoonity: Sharon is defying the will of the people
01/30/01: The Rest of the Rich Story
01/22/01: Ashcroft the Jew
01/11/01: A fitting close to the Clinton years
12/26/00: Continuing Clinton's shameful legacy
12/21/00: Clinton’s gift for Bush

© 2001, Michael Ledeen