The Sept 11 commission’s report, due out on Thursday, says Iran may have facilitated the 2001 attacks on the United States by providing eight to 10 Al-Qaeda hijackers with safe passage to and from training camps in Afghanistan, media reports said yesterday.
Time and Newsweek – in similar reports quoting congressional, commission and government sources – said Iran relaxed border controls and provided ‘clean’ passports for the hijackers to transit via Iran to and from Osama bin Laden’s camps between October 2000 and February 2001.
According to Time, the report also says that Iran at one point proposed collaborating with Al-Qaeda on attacks against the United States.
Osama declined, however, saying he did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia.
Newsweek said the Iranian finding in the commission’s report is based largely on a December 2001 memo discovered buried in the files of the US National Security Agency.
The memo, according to Newsweek, said: ‘Iranian border inspectors were instructed not to place stamps in the passports of Al-Qaeda fighters from Saudi Arabia who were travelling from bin Laden’s camps through Iran.’
Time said commission investigators ‘found that Iran had a history of allowing Al-Qaeda members to enter and exit Iran across the Afghan border’, a practice that they said dated back to October 2000.
Iranian officials, Time said, issued ‘specific instructions to their border guards…not to put stamps in the passports of Al-Qaeda personnel and otherwise not harass them and to facilitate their travel across the frontier’.
Newsweek said the new discovery about Iran’s assistance to Al-Qaeda is ‘among the most surprising new findings’ in the 500-page report compiled by the non-partisan commission.
The New York Times said the commission report would also recommend the creation of the post of intelligence czar – a Cabinet-level position that would take power from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the National Security Council and the Pentagon.
The new national intelligence director will oversee intelligence- gathering said to have been lacking before and after Sept 11.
The proposal is likely to face especially fierce opposition from the Pentagon and the CIA, which would both have to cede significant authority over the estimated US$40 billion (S$68.7 billion) annual intelligence budget and other policy matters. — AFP
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