French Hijack Warning 4

There has been something of a stir lately over Le Monde’s revelation that France passed warning to the CIA in 2001 that Bin Laden was planning an aircraft hijacking.

Nobody has paid a great deal of attention to the fact that the French intelligence came from the Uzbek security services.

But the headlines about France warning the US of 9/11 are complete nonsense. The alleged intelligence was about a plan to hijack a plane at Frankfurt airport. Flying the plane into buildings didn’t feature.

There was then (and is) intelligence cooperation between France and Uzbekistan, but in 2001 as now the Uzbek intelligence liaison relationship with Germany and the US was stronger than with France. It seems most improbable that the Uzbeks learnt of a plan to hijack a flight between Germany and the US, and told only the French.

An Associated Press report speculates that the Frankfurt plan was disinformation spread by Al-Qaida to distract attention from the 9/11 plot. is obvious rubbish. Bin Laden would not want to give any indication that he was switching tactics to aircraft hijack, and have people looking at aviation security.

A far more likely explanation is that this was disinformation by the Uzbek security services. I have seen a great deal of intelligence passed on by the Uzbek intelligence services. It is inevitably self-serving, and almost always untrue.

The purpose of the Uzbek intelligence services in passing intelligence to the West is to persuade us that they and the Karimov regime must be supported as a bastion against a massive Islamic terror plot. They seek to portray all domestic opposition as al-Qaeda linked.

It goes wider than that. Consider this – across a huge swathe of the Caucasus and Central Asia, Turkic peoples have been struggling to emerge from colonial occupation. This belt runs from the Chechens of the West through the Tatars, Turkmen, Uzbeks, Kazakh, Kirghiz and Mongols to the Uighurs of China in the East. The wave of struggles for national liberation of these peoples is perhaps the most important political fact since the fall of the iron curtain, yet completely neglected.

The Chechens and Uighurs are being brutally suppressed by the Russian and Chinese imperial powers respectively. Those like the Uzbeks who have achieved nominal nation status are suffering under the fierce regime of the surviving indigenous colonial cadres.

As it happens, these Turkic nations engaged in a struggle for liberation are Muslim. By one of history’s unpleasant chances (and I would argue it is no more than that – there are transactions, but almost no causal relationship either way) their efforts at national re-emergence have coincided with a surge in fringe Islamic radicalism. This has enabled their opponents to attempt to tar them with that brush.

Uzbek intelligence is therefore primarily aimed at portraying Uzbek dissidents as Islamic terrorists, and linking them to Al Qaida and to Chechen and Uighur “terrorists”. The governments of Russia and China are enthusiastic co-participants in building the same story to discredit their own Chechen and Uighur dissidents, and the other authoritarian governments of Central Asia join in too. The most important diplomatic entity in the region – the Shanghai Cooperation Agreement – functions entirely on this principle.

The sad thing is that, such is the appetite of Western intelligence agencies for any material that stokes the so-called “War on Terror”, MI6, the CIA and others accept this self-serving dross as true, even when it is fabricated in Uzbekistan’s notorious torture chambers. That is the issue over which I resigned from the diplomatic service, as detailed in my book “Murder in Samarkand”.

The clue in the 2001 French intelligence causing the current stir is that the Uzbeks claimed that Bin Laden met with Chechen terrorists to plan the Frankfurt hijack. Of course there was no such plot. This so-called Uzbek/French intelligence was just part of the propaganda campaign to link the Chechen cause to Bin Laden.

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4 thoughts on “French Hijack Warning

  • NickW

    Craig, in fairness to the DGSE, they didn't rely solely on the Uzbek secret services, and sought corroboration from other sources which, based on my understanding of the Le Monde artcle, they got.

    'La formulation de la note fran?aise de janvier 2001 indique clairement que d'autres sources corroborent ces renseignements sur les plans d'Al-Qaida. Selon un dispositif bien huil? en Afghanistan, la DGSE ne se contente pas d'?changes avec des services secrets amis. Pour percer les secrets des camps, d'une part elle manipule et "retourne" des jeunes candidats au djihad originaires des banlieues des grandes villes d'Europe. D'autre part, elle envoie des hommes du service action aupr?s de l'Alliance du Nord du commandant Massoud. Sans compter les interceptions des t?l?phones satellitaires.',1-0,36-896448

  • Craig


    I don't see where that could fit in with the Chechens, who are not generally viewed as linked with young jihadists in the suburbs of Europe.

    Besides which, anything linked to the Northern Alliance wasn't a separate corroborating source at all. The Northern Alliance was Uzbek, closely linked to the Uzbek government and Uzbek intelligence services.

    If the French government really had its own telephone intercepts involving people in Europe trying to hijack planes, why was nobody arrested? Sorry, I really don't buy this one at all.

  • NickW

    Craig, French intelligence drew up nine different notes regarding al-Qai'da threats to US interests (including airlines serving Europe) prior to 9/11 – but as is clear no coherent narrative could be established.

    'Et d'abord une surprise : le nombre ?lev? de notes uniquement consacr?es aux menaces d'Al-Qaida contre les Etats-Unis, des mois avant les attaques suicides de New York et de Washington. Neuf rapports entiers sur le sujet entre septembre 2000 et ao?t 2001.'

    The Chechen involment related to only one of the notes. Clearly there were doubts about the reliability of Uzbek intelligence, but still the extra research French intelligence carried out seemed to point towards some sort of hijacking – but it was not clear where and gainst whom.

    However, this fits a pattern emerging in the years following 9/11 that as more enquiries are launched and documents declassified that there was a continual drip-drip-drip of information to the West regarding an Al-Qai'da plot involving hijacked planes.

    Of course elemnts of the suspected plots seem absurd in retrospect, and we shouldn't be blind to the mendacity of the Uzbek security services or the self-interest of Russia regarding Chechnya, but in retrospect the French were in the right ballpark. How close anyone was to uncovering the actual 9/11 plot, we'll never know.

    However, we should probably read the whole report from 'Le Monde' – unfortunately access seems to be restricted to paid subscribers.

  • ChoamNomsky

    Well the DGSE know all about terrorism, having conducted the terrorist bombing of the Rainbow Warrior. At the time Francois Mitterand condemned it as a criminal attack, but in more recent years it has emerged that he personally authorised the operation.

    Not that France is alone in conducting an Al-Qaeda Style terrorist attack (as opposed to the more usual militarism). e.g. There was the CIA-Backed car bombing in Beirut in 1985, which was an attempt to kill Sheik Fadlallah, but actually just resulted in killing 80 civilians.

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