An American accused in court papers of having ties to Osama bin Laden is now working for the Iraqi government’s Foreign Ministry, U.S. officials and a former CIA counterterrorism chief say.
Iraqi-born Tarik A. Hamdi was the “American contact” for one of bin Laden’s front organizations and gave a satellite telephone battery to a bin Laden aide in Afghanistan for a phone used by the terrorist leader, according to an affidavit from Customs Agent David Kane.
The affidavit was unsealed this week in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., along with a federal indictment charging Hamdi with lying on immigration and mortgage loan applications.
Hamdi, formerly of Herndon, Va., is now working at Iraqi diplomatic offices in Turkey, said Vince Cannistraro, a former CIA official who has known Hamdi for years and remains in contact with him through e-mail.
Two U.S. law enforcement officials said they also have been told Hamdi is working for the Iraqi Foreign Ministry in Turkey. They spoke on condition of anonymity because of the charges pending against Hamdi.
The State Department declined to comment. Newsweek first reported Hamdi’s employment status in its online edition Wednesday.
Hamdi has been under federal investigation and surveillance for several years, stemming from his work at the International Institute of Islamic Thought in northern Virginia. The affidavit was filed in March 2002 to obtain a search warrant for Hamdi’s home in Herndon, Va.
Prosecutors have contended at least since 2002 that Hamdi had “established links” to bin Laden and other members of al-Qaida, according to a court filing in the case against Zacarias Moussaoui.
Hamdi’s role in supplying parts for a satellite telephone has been known to U.S. authorities at least since the 2001 trial of those accused of bombing U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.
At the time of the Afghanistan trip, Hamdi was working to facilitate an interview of bin Laden by former ABC News correspondent John Miller, according to the affidavit and Cannistraro, an ABC consultant. The 1998 interview was the most recent of bin Laden by a western journalist.
“I was the one who made the arrangements for the interview. He had the contacts to the contacts,” said Cannistraro. The FBI “knew all about it at the time.”
Miller, who now oversees counterterrorism investigations for the Los Angeles Police Department, is on vacation this week, a police spokeswoman said. In a twist, Miller has been offered a job running the FBI’s communications division, according to the bureau and Los Angeles police officials.
Cannistraro said he is troubled that prosecutors made public the allegations in the affidavit when they lacked the evidence to charge Hamdi with any terror-related crimes.
“They’re making a prejudgment they are not capable of making,” he said.
On the Net:
The indictment and affidavit: http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/vae/pressroom.html