July 14, 2008 — FBI dive team ordered away from USS Cole attack site
FBI sources have confirmed that the FBI team led by the late John P. O’Neill was prevented from diving below the stricken USS Cole after it was hit in a terrorist explosion on October 12, 2000. Specifically, the FBI’s Underwater Search and Evidence Response Teams, or USERTS, were prevented by the U.S. Navy from recovering evidence on the harbor floor in Aden, Yemen following the attack on the Cole.
FBI sources told WMR that the Navy said the FBI dive teams would interfere with Navy divers who were recovering bodies and Navy material from in, around, and under the Cole. However, it was U.S. ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine who did everything possible to interfere with the investigation of O’Neill and his FBI team while they were in Yemen. Eventually, O’Neill and his team has their country clearance pulled by Bodine and they were forced to depart Yemen, leaving a number of questions unanswered as to the actual perpetrators of the attack Cole. O’Neill died in the attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11 after having accepted the job as head of World Trade Center security by owner Larry Silverstein and his executive staff.
The FBI USERT team had never before had problems working with the Navy at disaster sites. In 1996, the FBI dive teams assisted the Navy in recovering the remains of all of TWA 800’s 230 victims and 96 percent of the aircraft from a 40-square mile swath of ocean floor off the coast of Long Island.
A CIA source who worked with O’Neill in the New York Joint Terrorism Task Force previously told WMR that the Cole was attacked in a “false flag” operation by a Popeye cruise missile fired from an far over-the-horizon Israeli submarine. O’Neill wanted to obtain evidence from the harbor floor in Aden as well as DNA evidence from the clothing and remains of two Yemenis in a small boat who were reported to have bombed the Cole in a suicide attack a few weeks before the US presidential election that saw George W. Bush and Dick Cheney win the White House under dubious circumstances.
The alleged ringleader of the Cole attack, Jamal al-Badawi, was secretly released from a Yemeni prison in late 2007 after having previously escaped from jail twice. On February 3, 2006, the Cole defendants being held in a Yemeni jail escaped, including Badawi, escaped from a tunnel they had reportedly dug to a nearby mosque. In early 2007, another alleged Cole attack planner, Fajd al-Quso, was secretly freed by Yemeni authorities.
President George W. Bush has steadfastly refused to meet with the families of the Cole sailors who died in the attack. Two Guantanamo detainees, Abd-al Rahim al-Nashiri and Tawfiq bin Attash, both Saudis, have confessed to involvement in the Cole attack but Nashiri says his confession was obtained through torture.
In the months after the Cole attack, the Bush administration and the neo-con media began pushing the story that it was not Al Qaeda that hit the Cole but a joint operation between Lebanon’s Hezbollah, which was accused of building a sophisticated SEMTEX cone-shaped charge, and the government of Iran.
The BBC reported on October 19, 2000, that before the FBI investigators had been kicked out of Yemen an examination of samples of the explosives taken from the Cole showed them to be from a type available only in the United States, Israel, and two Arab countries.
In an interview conducted by Newsweek’s Lally Weymouth of Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, which was published on December 18, 2000, the Yemeni President mentioned Israel as a possible perpetrator of the attack on the Cole:
WEYMOUTH: What was the aim of the terrorists who attacked the Cole, and who were they?
SALEH: According to our information, they were targeting American ships in general. We can say with 80 percent certainty that the perpetrators of the operation were born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, but are of Yemeni origin and were trained in Afghanistan. [We have arrested six] but we are still searching for one or two persons in order to disclose who is ultimately responsible for the crime. Is it [Osama] bin Laden, Israeli intelligence or someone else?
WEYMOUTH: Do you really think it might be Israeli intelligence?
SALEH: We can’t confirm it, but we’re just wondering. We are looking for the man who gave instructions to the two people who executed the operation. His name is Muhammed Omar al-Harazi.
WEYMOUTH: Does he work with bin Laden?
SALEH: We can’t confirm that bin Laden is behind it. We are still saying it might be Israel or a regional intelligence agency–those who are trying to spoil the U.S.-Yemeni relationship.
WEYMOUTH: Bin Laden says he wants U.S. troops out of Saudi Arabia. Does that make him a logical suspect in the Cole bombing?
SALEH: Everything is possible. Israel is possible–bin Laden as well.
WMR has previously reported on collusion between Israeli and Saudi intelligence. When President Saleh mentioned Israel or Bin Laden being responsible for the Cole attack, he more than likely also realized it could be both.