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After thirty-one years, the FBI has opened an investigation into the involvement of PLO leader Yasir Arafat in the murders of two U.S. diplomats in Saudi Arabia.
WorldNetDaily.com reports that FBI agents are gathering evidence about Arafat’s culpability in a March 1, 1973, operation in which eight members of Black September, part of Arafat’s Fatah organization, stormed the U.S. embassy in Khartoum, reportedly on Arafat’s orders, taking U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel, diplomat Charge d’Affaires George Curtis Moore and others hostage.
One day later Noel, Moore, and Belgian Guy Eid were killed.
Two agents from FBI headquarters in Washington, Bill McDermott and Kathleen Reed, recently flew to Portland, Oregon, to interview James J. Welsh, the National Security Agency’s Palestinian analyst at the time of the murders.
Welsh has said he intercepted a transmission from Arafat involving an eminent operation in Khartoum, and charges the NSA had tapes of Arafat ordering the executions.
“They called me and said they are reopening an old murder investigation,” Welsh told WorldNetDaily.
“I met with the agents for several hours, gave them a detailed account of everything that happened, and handed over to them original copies of a lot of materials and correspondence I have accumulated over the years. They were supposed to return my things, but I’m still waiting.”
Welsh says he detailed for the agents the communication he intercepted from Arafat, and how within minutes, the director of the NSA was notified and a decision was made to send a rare “FLASH” message – the highest priority – to the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum via the State Department warning of a possible attack.
But Welsh recalled the message didn’t reach the embassy in time. Somewhere between the NSA and the State Department, someone decided the warning was too vague, and the alert was downgraded in urgency.
The next day, the Black September operation took place, and after twenty-six hours of intense negotiations – the gunmen demanded the freeing from Jordan of many Palestinians, including Abu Daoud, a leader of the Black September Organization; the release of Sirhan Sirhan, Robert Kennedy’s killer, from jail in California; and the liberation of “Palestinian women in prison in Israel” – the two U.S. diplomats were murdered.
Many have claimed that Arafat personally sent an order of execution to the terrorists via radio broadcast: “Why are you waiting? The people’s blood in the Cold River cries for vengeance.” “Cold River” reportedly was the code word for executing the captives. Any NSA recordings of that call that may have existed have disappeared.
Arafat reportedly then ordered the eight gunmen to surrender peacefully to the Sudanese authorities. Two were released for “lack of evidence.” Later, in June 1973, the other six were found guilty of murdering the diplomats. They were sentenced to life imprisonment, but released 24 hours later to the PLO.
During their trial, commander Salim Rizak, also known as Abu Ghassan, told the court: “We carried out this operation on the orders of the Palestine Liberation Organization and should only be questioned by that organization.”
Sudanese Vice President Mohammed Bakir said after questioning the six: “They relied on radio messages from Beirut Fatah headquarters, both for the order to kill the three diplomats and for their own surrender Sunday morning.”
Over the years, there have been reports the Israelis also had tapes of Arafat ordering the executions, and that Jerusalem provided copies to President Nixon.
Sources in Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s office told WorldNetDaily that Israeli intelligence provided evidence proving Arafat’s culpability in the murders to the U.S. State Department and White House in March 1973. Sharon also publicly stated in 1995 that Israel shared this evidence with the U.S.
In 1985 and 1986, Congress requested then-Attorney General Ed Meese to investigate Arafat?s complicity in the murders of the diplomats.
But the one critical piece of evidence needed to warrant an indictment – the tape recordings – was not produced by the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency or the State Department.
FBI spokesman Bill Carter would neither confirm nor deny that the case has been reopened, but a source in the FBI’s New York office said, on the condition of anonymity, that an investigation has indeed been initiated at the request of an outside agency. He refused to name the agency.
If Arafat is charged with the murders, a warrant would be issued for his arrest.
Raanan Gissin, chief spokesman for Ariel Sharon, told WorldNetDaily, “This doesn’t come as a surprise. We intercepted the phone calls, and the U.S. also corroborated this on their own.”
Gissin says Israel was not involved in the opening of the case. “This is an internal American affair based on internal considerations.”
Welsh charges the U.S. has always known about Arafat’s culpability in the murders, but that the American and Israeli decision to build Arafat as the legitimate ruler of the Palestinians and a figurehead with whom Israel could ultimately negotiate has forced the U.S. to cover up the incident.
Welsh says that when he watched President Bill Clinton invite Arafat to the White House for negotiations in 1993, and later host the PLO ruler at a 2000 peace summit at Camp David, he was compelled to speak out after so many years of silence.
In an exclusive interview with WorldNetDaily in 2001, Welsh talked for the first time about what happened when he was at the NSA, but the FBI did not respond back then.
“No one wants to touch this thing,” Welsh said at the time. “It’s a hot potato. No one wants to be responsible for derailing the Mideast peace process.”
“It is wonderful news that the U.S. government appears now to be taking seriously the charge that Arafat was complicit in the murder of two American diplomats,” said Daniel Pipes, director of the Middle East Forum.
“And it is testimony to President Bush’s understanding that terrorism must be combated in all theaters. But the three-decade-long delay in bringing Arafat to accountability also shows the high costs of engaging in diplomacy with terrorists.”
Although Sharon and Bush have isolated Arafat to his Ramallah compound for three years, and most countries refuse to meet him, the PLO leader has maintained a tight grip on Palestinian security forces, and Israel charges Arafat is still calling the shots of various terror organizations, including his own Fatah.
Gissin says the FBI case will help to further isolate Arafat. “Arafat’s involvement in this murder is a fact. The case will serve to further tighten the isolation of Arafat by making him a fugitive in the U.S. This should be highly embarrassing to him. Not only is Arafat corrupt, but as we’ve always known, he is also a cold-blooded murderer.”
About the Author: Aaron Klein is a New York Times bestselling author and senior reporter for WND.com. He is also host of an investigative radio program on New York's 970 AM Radio on Sundays from 7 to 9 p.m. Eastern. His website is KleinOnline.com.
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