Egypt Says It Warned of Major Al-Qaida Plot
In an interview with The New York Times, Mubarak said an Egyptian secret agent in close contact with the bin Laden terrorist network tried to foil the operation.
“We started to use them, to tell them, ‘can you stop this, or delay this now, the time is not suitable,’ trying to give ourselves time to realize what may take place,” he said.
Mubarak said his officers did not know what the target would be, or what form the attack would take.
“We thought it was an embassy, an airplane, something, the usual thing,” he said.
The White House was quick to cast doubt on whether such advance notice took place. Spokesman Ari Fleischer said the United States had no information to support the Egyptian president’s statements.
However, Mubarak’s comments are the first time a foreign leader has said there was intelligence infiltration into the al-Qaida network. The Egyptian president said he did not know what steps were taken after the warning, but that security at the United States Embassy in Cairo was tightened in early September.
Mubarak, who is traveling to Washington this week, has tried to portray Egypt as a valuable intelligence partner in the war against terrorism, a notion he said some in the U.S. Congress question.
“Maybe some congressmen were thinking, ‘What is Egypt doing?’” Mubarak said in the interview. “There are so many things we cannot say. Mainly intelligence information. We did a lot, but sometimes you have to do it quietly.”
The CIA has a long history of working with the Egyptian intelligence organization on counter-terrorism efforts in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. According to Mubarak, it was Egypt that warned the United States about a plot to kill world leaders at an economic summit in Genoa, Italy last July. The warning put American intelligence agencies at a high state of alert but no attack took place during the conference.
Meanwhile, the CIA refuted reports that the agency did not share information about two al-Qaida operatives it was tracking ahead of Sept. 11. A CIA official said there were e-mail messages from January 2000 showing that the intelligence agency had told some FBI officials about the two suspects who later took part in the attack on the Pentagon.
On Tuesday, President Bush said the two organizations are now communicating effectively and urged Congress not to set up too many investigative committees because it would drain resources from the war on terrorism.