The sloppy New York Times is once-again embarrassing itself. In a prominent “fact-check” piece appearing on Friday, cub reporter Zach Montague ripped into Vice President Mike Pence for a series of tweets that described the terror-drenched record of the ex-Quds Force commander, Qassem Suleymani.
At issue was Pence’s account of Suleymani’s links to the September 11, 2001 attacks on America. In one tweet, the vice president noted that Suleymani and his terrorists “assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the Untied States.
This prompted the NY Times to snipe, “How Mr. Pence arrived at this number and this account is unclear” since there was nothing in “public United States intelligence” [sic] linking the two, or indeed, anyone in Iran to the 9/11 attacks.
Montague could have consulted former NY Times Philip Shenon, whose 2008 book about the 9/11 Commission reprised a story I revealed several years earlier about the discovery by Commission staff of some 75 highly classified NSA intercepts that spelled out in great detail the help Iran offered al Qaeda in furtherance of the 9/11 plot.
If he had just Googled, “Iran 9/11 ties,” he would have discovered a July 18, 2004 article by Shenon stating that the final report of the 9/11 Commission would include “information drawn from intelligence reports about Iran’s ties to the al Qaeda hijackers.”
He also would have found another New York Times article, this one dated May 20, 2011, about significant new evidence presented to a federal district court in Manhattan by attorneys on behalf of 9/11 victims about Iran’s direct, material assistance to the al Qaeda hijackers and the 9/11 plot.
(Disclosure: I provided expert testimony in the Iran 9/11 case based on debriefings I conducted with defectors from Iranian intelligence who had personal knowledge of Iran’s ties to al Qaeda and specifically to the 9/11 conspiracy; I also provided historical testimony on Iran’s ties to Sunni terrorist groups.)
Ace reporter Montague could have consulted the 9/11 Commission Report itself. On p. 240 he would have read, “we now have evidence suggesting that 8 to 10 of the 14 Saudi “muscle” operatives traveled into or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001.”
But Montague is fixated on the numbers. “To start, many observers were quick to point out that 19 terrorists, not 12, were involved in the attacks.”
You read that right: a New York Times reporter really is suggesting that the vice president has no clue how many hijackers were involved in 9/11.
My book, Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran, details what the U.S. knew at the time and what was later learned about Iran’s involvement in the 9/11 plot. In addition to the 8 or 10 muscle hijackers who traveled to and from Afghanistan from Iran under the protection of the Quds Force, other operatives cited in the 9/11 Commission report also traveled to Iran, including a Tawfiq bin Attash, aka “Khallad,” and a German-based operative named Ramzi bin al-Shibi. (Hint: that makes 10 to 12).
How do we know this activity was linked to Qassem Suleymani? Because their travel into and out of Iran was coordinated by an individual identified in the 9/11 Commission report as “a senior operative of Hezbollah,” but who we now know was Imad Mugniyeh, a top lieutenant of Suleymani’s from Lebanon. (Mugniyeh was killed in Damascus in February 2008 and has a rap sheet almost as long as Suleymani’s and Osama bin Laden’s).
Mugniyeh never lifted a finger – not in Iraq, not in Lebanon, or in Syria, or Afghanistan or Iran – without Suleymani’s approval. I wrote about Mugniyeh and his role in the 9/11 plot in a 2006 profile that appeared in Reader’s Digest, here.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, Suleymani and his men established a “rat line” to exfiltrate al Qaeda fighters from Afghanistan to Iran.
Hundreds of al Qaeda fighters lived in Iran for many years after 9/11, including top al Qaeda financiers and members of Osama Bin Laden’s own family, under Suleymani’s control.
The Department of Treasury began exposing Iran’s ties to al Qaeda in 2003, when it sanctioned six al Qaeda members working with Abu Musab al-Zarkowi, who headed al Qaeda in Iraq, another group aided by the Quds Force. On the next-to-last day of the Bush 43 administration, Treasury spelled out al Qaeda’s working relationship with Iran in detail.
So there is lots of evidence that Vice President Pence was 100% right – just none of it accessible to the phony newsmen wearing ideological blinders at the New York Times.
When someone pointed out the Times article to me over the weekend, there was a button labeled “suggest a correction,” so I suggested that the reporter look at p. 240 of the 9/11 Commission report, and to be helpful, included a brief quote.
Since then, the Times has removed the correction button, but has not made any corrections. No wonder the President calls them “fake news.”