Tapes reveal role of FBI in bombing: Leaked phone taps are embarrassing investigators during the World Trade Center trial

THE World Trade Center bombing trial, now in its second month, is bedevilled by leaks from the sleazy world of an FBI informer.

Despite a gagging order by the judge on hundreds of pages of phone taps, reporters have been obtaining a steady stream of transcripts, each one more embarrassing to the investigators than the last. The tapes were made with the help of the FBI's key informer, Emad Salem, a former Egyptian army commando who infiltrated the group of Muslims charged with the bombing that killed six people and injured more than 1,000 on 26 February.

In the latest leak federal agents allowed Mr Salem last May to buy a timing device for a bomb to make his undercover work more credible. Then they stole it back from the group's garage hideout and then, reconsidering the plight of their informer, put the device back in the garage. Or so the tapes say.

This particular farce unfolds in a series of conversations, taped in May, between Mr Emad and his FBI minders as the government investigation into the Trade Center blast extended into a second plot to blow up the United Nations, the Holland Tunnel and other New York landmarks.

The FBI agent is identified only as John. He tells Mr Salem: 'All right, there are two sides to this, Emad, but . . . the law says that we cannot allow that timer to be out of control, ok?' John says it is one thing to 'think Middle East', as Mr Salem has been urging the agents to do, but then adds: 'We have to think American, you also have to be concerned about that location being burglarised . . . nothing is safe today.'

'You finished?' interrupts Mr Salem. 'Can I talk?' He argues that he bought the timer for dollars 18 (pounds 12) in Manhattan's Chinatown on the instructions of Siddig Ibrahim Siddig Ali, a Sudanese later charged as ringleader of the second, thwarted, bomb plot.

It was the same shop, Mr Salem says, where he bought a timer for what was to become the Trade Center bomb, but he threw the device away after he and the FBI had a tiff, apparently over money.

According to reports, he will receive up to dollars 500,000 for his work on the Trade Center bombing and for his key role in unearthing the second plot for which another group, allegedly led by Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Egyptian cleric, is held responsible. Mr Abdel-Rahman is awaiting trial.

None of these tapes has yet been introduced as evidence in court where the prosecution has been concentrating on the task of identifying the scattered parts of the rented van it says was used to carry the bomb into the basement of the Trade Center, the world's second tallest building. There are no witnesses who saw any of the four defendants planting the bomb, or in the vicinity of the Trade Center. The prosecution's case is almost entirely built on circumstantial evidence.

The serial number on one of the van's engine parts apparently led the FBI to Mohammed Salameh, a Jordanian who rented the van in New Jersey. He claims the van was stolen the day before the bomb blast. Others charged with him are Mahmud Abouhalima, an Egyptian and Afghan war veteran named as the mastermind of the Trade Center bomb, Nidal Ayyad, a chemical engineer, who is charged with ordering the chemicals for the bomb, and Ahmad Ajaj, who is accused of entering the US last year with a false passport, bomb making manuals and materials. Two other defandants named in the case are still on the run.

Exactly how the investigators traced the others, after finding Mr Salameh, could be crucial for the defence, which argues that the government built its case to fit a predetermined theory and may have entrapped some of the defendants.

Parts of the tapes already revealed in the media suggest the investigation was not as originally portrayed - that it did not result solely from the identification of the van and then of Mr Salameh. The tapes even suggest that the FBI may have known of the bombing before it happened from Mr Salem. 'Did the FBI Blow It?' asked one headline.

In one FBI tape an agent says to Mr Salem: 'When they pushed this before, the information they had about this is that nothing was done about it . . . if it had been handled correctly we should have been . . .'

'Yeah,' Mr Salem interrupts.

'Able to intervene,' the agent says.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks