Western Union Aided Assassins
- FBI and Western Union helped Israel With targeted assassinations
Information from U.S. companies helped Israel locate terror cells
By Shmuel Rosner, Haaretz Correspondent
06/30/06 "Haaretz" -- -- WASHINGTON - From the spring of 2003 until
autumn 2004, the Shin Bet security service tracked down Palestinian
terror cells in the West Bank thanks to information from the Western
Union money transfer service, which was passed on by the FBI.
This fact was disclosed in a book published this week about America's
war on terror after September 11, 2001. In "The One Percent Doctrine,"
author Ron Suskind connects the transfer of intelligence from the FBI
to the Shin Bet with several targeted assassinations carried out by
Israel during this period.
Suskind, who is considered a reliable journalist, describes how major
private companies cooperated with government agencies such as the FBI,
the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Treasury to monitor
communications and financial transfers after September 11, in
operations of questionable legality.
The FBI's most important connection during this period was with First
Data, an Omaha-based electronic fund transfer company with a global
reach. The company offered to assist the U.S. government in the war
FBI Financial Crimes Section chief Dennis Lormel and his colleagues at
other intelligence agencies eventually realized that the information
supplied by the company could be used not only to locate and freeze
the assets of terror groups, but also to track them in real time - in
other words, to follow the money trail directly to the sources and
destinations of the funds.
First Data subsidiary Western Union, with branches throughout the Arab
world and a high volume of money transfers, was in a perfect position
to help. American intelligence agents and company officials cooperated
in tracking the data trail and in monitoring security cameras
installed in Western Union branches in order to see who was picking up
According to the book, then Shin Bet head Avi Dichter, whom Suskind
calls an agent of change in the U.S. war against terror, was briefed
by Lormel on the new monitoring capabilities during one of his
frequent visits to Washington.
In April 2003, Dichter called Lormel to ask for the FBI's help in this
regard. Dichter told officials that the Shin Bet had information about
a courier who was expected to be bringing money to Israel from Lebanon
shortly. The source of the money was known, but not the identity of
the person for whom its was destined.
In early April, 2003, an Islamic Jihad activist went to a Western
Union office in Lebanon and ordered a money transfer to Hebron. The
Justice Department authorized Western Union to release this
information to the FBI and the CIA, and eventually to the Shin Bet.
According to Suskind, all this took just minutes, enabling Israeli
intelligence to track the person who collected the transfer in Hebron
and to uncover the terror cell.
According to the book, this method was used successfully many times
over the next year and a half, until autumn 2004, when Palestinian
operatives realized that their Western Union transfers were being used
to trap them.
Dichter told Haaretz on Wednesday that he has never spoken with Suskind.
Intelligence cooperation between the U.S. and Israel has increased
over the past several years, but until now, Israel's use of
information from American companies had been kept secret.
The Homeland Security Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives
approved a bill last week aimed at further increasing intelligence
ties with Israel and other countries by establishing a new office for
international cooperation programs within the Department of Homeland
This atmosphere of cooperation, Suskind states in his book, has
reinforced the sense that President George Bush wants to assist Israel
and was not disturbed by the military operations that Ariel Sharon's
government authorized in the territories. Suskind quotes Bush as
saying during his first National Security Council meeting that the
U.S. must refrain from active mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian
To then secretary of state Colin Powell's argument that such behavior
could be interpreted by Sharon's government as a green light to apply
force, Bush responded that sometimes a show of force can clarify the
issue at hand.
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