KSM Had the CIA Believing in Black Muslim Convert Jihadist Arsonists in Montana for 3 Months

Before I get into the weeds, let me be clear: there are almost no black Muslims in Montana. Just 0.6% of Montana’s roughly 1 million people are African American, or about 6,100 total. Just 0.034 Montanans identify as Muslim (or around 345 people). Montana has both the fewest African Americans and fewest Muslims. It is almost certainly the least likely state to find black Muslims seeking to wage jihad.

Nevertheless, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had the CIA believing he was going to send Dhiren al-Barot (an Indian Muslim Brit whom KSM did have case out actual US terrorist targets in 2000) to Montana to recruit African American converts to Muslim to start forest fires.

On March 17, 2003, KSM stated that, prior to the September 11, 2001, attacks, he tasked Issa[al-Hindi, whose real name is Dhiren Barot] to travel to the United States to “collect information on economic targets.” On March 21, 2003, KSM was waterboarded for failing to confirm interrogators’ suspicions that KSM sought to recruit individuals from among the African American Muslim community. KSM then stated that he had talked with Issa about contacting African American Muslim groups prior to September 11, 2001 The next day KSM was waterboarded for failing to provide more information on the recruitment of African American Muslims. One hour after the waterboarding session, KSM stated that he tasked Issa “to make contact withblack U.S. citizen converts to Islam in Montana,” and that he instructed Issa to use his ties to Shaykh Abu Hamza al-Masri, a U.K.-based Imam, to facilitate his recruitment efforts.KSM later stated that Issa’s mission in the United States was to surveil forests to potentially ignite forest fires.1502

It took the ALEC Station team over 3 months to conclude that KSM’s plan to send an Indian Muslim to Montana to recruit virtually non-existent African American Muslim converts to start forest fires was a fabrication, in part because they first spent a week after he recanted this claim believing it was an attempt to trick them again.

On June 22, 2003, CIA interrogators reported that “[KSM] nervously explained to debriefer that he was under ‘enhanced measures’ when he made these claims” about terrorist recruitment in Montana, and “simply told his interrogators what he thought they wanted to hear.”1505 A CIA Headquarters response cable stated that the CIA’s ALEC Station believed KSM’s fabrication claims were “another resistance/manipulation ploy” and characterized KSM’s contention that he “felt ‘forced’ to make admissions” under enhanced interrogation techniques as “convenient excuses.” As a result, ALECStation urged CIA officers at tiie detention site to get KSM to reveal “who is the key contact person in Montana?”1506 [citing a June 26, 2003 ALEC Station cable] By June 30, 2005, ALEC Station had concluded that KSM’s reporting about African American Muslims in Montana was”an outright fabrication.”

A year after CIA decided KSM was not really going to have a non-existent cell of black Muslims start forest fires, the FBI nevertheless warned a bunch of Rocky Mountain states, including Montana, to be on guard for the threat.

I can think of many more useful things the national security establishment could be doing than chasing ghosts — non-existent black Muslim jihadist ghosts, in the forests of Montana. But by torturing, we signed up to a ghost chase.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

6 replies
  1. Ron says:

    On the other hand, it’s quite possible that he didn’t fool them at all. If, as many believe based on considerable evidence, that the CIA was involved in setting up 9/11, and as a followup wanted to spread as much fear as possible throughout the US in order to justify their aggressions throughout the Middle East and the construction of a police state at home.

  2. Don Bacon says:

    Thierry Meyssan makes the point here that the detainees were conditioned to say certain things. They didn’t confess and they didn’t fabricate, they parroted.

    [The report] states that the CIA did not question the detainees, but it conditioned them to confess to acts of which they knew nothing. The Commission states that the CIA agents did not even look to see what the detainees had confessed during previous interrogations with the authorities who arrested them.

    And his includes the supposed role of al Qaeda in 9/11:

    Following the publication of excerpts from this report, it appears that all the evidence cited in the report of the Presidential Commission of Inquiry into the September 11 attacks connecting these to al-Qaeda is false. There no longer exists to date a shred of evidence for attributing the attacks to Al Qaeda: There is no evidence that the 19 people accused of being airline pirates could have been found that day in one of the four planes, and none of the former members of Al Qaeda’s testimonials confessing to the attacks is genuine.

  3. prostratedragon says:

    I’d think they’d have known early on that KSM is a graduate of North Carolina A&T. In fact, I only know because it was made public early on. A moment of deadpan from KSM? You have to want to believe some things.

  4. bsbafflesbrains says:

    Dick Cheney has a “compound” in Wyo so this threat had legs from the get go. Malignant Narcissists with severe paranoia and a persecution comp[lex can believe anything no matter what facts are in evidence.

  5. qweryous says:

    If you wanted to write a script and guarantee a happy ending, there is a certain genius to preventing scary “Black Muslim Convert Jihadist Arsonists in Montana” plots.

    Mission Accomplished! (You just have to know the mission.)

    (Can you imagine the panic if KSM had implicated the klukkers or AN in his fictional plots?)

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