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
Sport
sportWWE latest including Sting vs Triple H, Brock Lesnar vs Roman Reigns and The Undertaker vs Bray Wyatt
Arts and Entertainment
Louis Theroux: By Reason of Insanity takes him behind the bars again
tvBy Reason of Insanity, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Cassetteboy's latest video is called Emperor's New Clothes rap
videoThe political parody genius duo strike again with new video
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark, TV review
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Designer - Client Liaison

£6 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join a gro...

Recruitment Genius: Service Delivery Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Service Delivery Manager is required to join...

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A opportunity has arisen for a ...

Ashdown Group: Practice Accountant - Bournemouth - £38,000

£32000 - £38000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A successful accountancy practice in...

Day In a Page

Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

The only direction Zayn could go

We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

Spells like teen spirit

A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

Licence to offend in the land of the free

Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

From farm to fork in Cornwall

One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

Robert Parker interview

The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

How to make your own Easter egg

Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

Cricket World Cup 2015

Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing