A long-buried Central Intelligence Agency report, found in the National Archives by a historian chronicling President Nixon’s career, shows the agency, former Secretary of State William Rogers and many other officials were aware of Yasser Arafat’s involvement in the 1973 murders of two U.S. diplomats by Arab terrorists.
The files were discovered by Russ Braley, author of “Bad News: The Foreign Policy of The New York Times” and a Nixon researcher who has plumbed the National Archives “Nixon Project,” created when Congress took control of the late president’s papers, for bits of information about the administration not released to the general public and press.
Braley recently found several boxes of documents related to the 1973 kidnap-murders in Khartoum, Sudan, of U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel and Charges d’Affaires George Curtis Moore, along with Belgian diplomat Guy Eid by Arab terrorists. Though the files had been, according to Braley, thoroughly purged of information regarding intercepts of Arafat giving the explicit order for the machine-gun murders of the diplomats, one surviving CIA report, found in NSA box 666 and enclosed in a message from Rogers to some 40 U.S. embassies, shows Arafat’s complicity in the terrorist crimes. (See a copy of the report: page 1, page 2 and page 3.)
The embassies were instructed to convey the information to foreign governments “orally only,” due to its sensitivity:
“Begin text. The Black September Organization (BSO) is a cover term for Fatah’s terrorist operations executed by Fatah’s intelligence organization, Jihaz al-Rasd. The collapse of Fatah’s guerrilla efforts led Fatah to clandestine terrorism against Israel and countries friendly to it. Fatah’s funds, facilities and personnel are used in these operations. There is evidence that the ‘BSO’ operation in Khartoum was carried out with substantial help from Fatah’s Khartoum office and applauded by Fatah radio stations in Cairo and Beirut. In addition, Fatah Deputy Chief Salah Khalaf, chief of the ‘BSO,’ gets an independent subsidy from the Libyan government.
“For all intents and purposes no significant distinction now can be made between the BSO and Fatah. Four of Fatah’s 10-man command, including Khalaf, the planner and director of the Munich and Khartoum operations, are idenitified as ‘BSO’ leaders. Fatah leader Yasser Arafat has now been described in recent intelligence reports as having given approval to the Khartoum operation prior to its inception.
“Arafat continues to disavow publicly any connection between Fatah and terrorist operations. Similarly, Fatah maintains its pretense of moderation vis-?-vis the Arab governments, a pose which most of these governments find convenient for their public position toward the Palestinian cause. It seems certain also that some elements within Fatah are opposed to terrorism, and the chaotic state of the whole fedayeen movement assures factionalism, power struggles, and unclear lines of command. Nonetheless, the Fatah leadership including Arafat now seem clearly committed to terrorism. End text.”
There is nothing in the new documents specifically or directly referring to telephone intercepts made of Arafat giving the orders for the execution of the diplomats.
Greg Sullivan, a State Department spokesman on Middle East affairs, agreed to look at the latest documents but said his understanding of the 1973 incident was that links to Arafat were not conclusive.
“My understanding is that there was never conclusive evidence,” he said. “I’m unaware of any proof, so I would not want to speculate on how it would affect policy.”
Asked if proof was made available to the State Department of Arafat’s complicity in the murder of U.S. diplomats in 1973, how Middle East policy might be affected, Sullivan declined again to speculate.
Calls to the White House press office went unreturned.
Last year, WorldNetDaily broke the story of the former National Security Agency operative, James J. Welsh, who claims to be a witness to such a communication intercept. Welsh was the NSA’s Palestinian analyst at the time.
On Feb. 28, 1973, Welsh says he was summoned by a colleague about a communication intercepted from Arafat involving an imminent Black September operation in Khartoum.
Within minutes, Welsh recalls, the director of the NSA was notified and the decision was made to send a rare “FLASH” message – the highest priority – to the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum via the State Department.
But the message didn’t reach the embassy in time. Somewhere between the NSA and the State Department, someone decided the warning was too vague. The alert was downgraded in urgency.
The next day, eight members of Black September, part of Arafat’s Fatah organization, stormed the Saudi embassy in Khartoum, took Noel, Moore and others hostage. A day later, on March 2, 1973, Noel, Moore and Eid were machine-gunned to death – all, Welsh charges, on the direct orders of Arafat.
Welsh, who left the Navy and NSA in 1974, speaking publicly for the first time to WorldNetDaily, accused the U.S. government of a 29-year-old cover-up of Arafat’s role in the planning and execution of the attack.
“Over the years I have kept my silence about what I know about this tragic episode,” Welsh told WorldNetDaily. “But recently I began to wonder how recent administrations could overlook something as terrible as this in our dealings with Yasser Arafat.”
When President Clinton invited Arafat to the White House for direct negotiations on the Middle East, Welsh says, that was the last straw. He has been on a personal one-man mission to uncover the tape recordings and transcripts of those intercepts between Arafat and Khalaf, also known as Abu-Iyad, in Beirut and Khalil al-Wazir in Khartoum.
Welsh cannot fathom how and why the U.S. has continued to promote Arafat as a partner for peace while knowing of his involvement in these murders. Further, he has been stymied in efforts, using the Freedom of Information Act, to secure copies of the recordings or transcripts of them.
“No one wants to touch this thing,” Welsh says. “It’s a hot potato. No one wants to be responsible for derailing the Mideast peace process.”
But Welsh thinks the American people, who are footing much of the bill for Arafat’s current activities, have a right to know about his personal responsibility for the murder of two Americans. And he is the first American involved directly in the affair to charge publicly what has long been rumored – that Arafat ordered the embassy takeover and the murders of the American diplomats.
“I have decided that my oaths of secrecy must give way to my sense of right and wrong,” he told WorldNetDaily.
Welsh believes the initial cover-up of the communications breakdown and the role of Arafat was launched to prevent embarrassment to the State Department and White House. President Nixon, he points out, was in the death throes of the Watergate scandal at the time. The last thing he needed, Welsh speculates, was an international scandal to deal with on the front page of the Washington Post.
Later, after Nixon was gone, Welsh believes the whole matter of the Arafat tapes was kept quiet to protect the future viability of signals intelligence intercepts of this kind. And, finally, he says, the cover-up persists to foster Arafat’s role as a “peacemaker” and leader of the Palestinian cause.
“Yet, there is no statute of limitations on murder,” Welsh says. “Obviously the United States cannot go after Yasser Arafat and put him on trial. But the American people deserve to know the truth about a man and his associates to whom we now give millions, if not billions of taxpayer dollars.”
In fact, in 1985 and 1986, Congress requested then-Attorney General Ed Meese to investigate Arafat’s complicity in the murders of the diplomats.
On Feb. 12, 1986, some 47 U.S. senators, including Al Gore, who later became vice president, petitioned Meese “to assign the highest priority to completing this review, and to issue an indictment of Yasser Arafat if the evidence so warrants.”
However, the one critical piece of evidence needed to warrant an indictment – the tape recordings – was not produced by the NSA, the CIA or the State Department.
“These tapes do exist,” claims Welsh. “I participated in their production. But no one has ever been willing to come forward and acknowledge their existence.”
Back in 1973, Welsh had received spontaneous transcripts of the dialogue between Arafat and his subordinates. But, under NSA protocol, he was not permitted to keep copies. Under normal procedure, he expected copies of the final transcripts and tapes to arrive on his desk for further analysis. They never came.
Over the years, there have been reports that the Israelis also had tapes of Arafat ordering the executions of the U.S. diplomats and that Jerusalem provided copies to Nixon. Gen. Ariel Sharon said in 1995 that Israeli intelligence gave tapes proving Arafat’s culpability in the murders to the U.S. State Department and White House in March 1973.
Arafat reportedly 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 three diplomats. They were sentenced to life imprisonment and released 24 hours later to the Palestine Liberation Organization.
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.”
Before surrendering, the Khartoum terrorists demanded the release of Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, the convicted assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, as well as others being held in Israeli and European prisons. Nixon refused to negotiate.
“I know Yasser Arafat was a direct player in the murder of our diplomats and so has every U.S. administration since Richard Nixon’s,” says Welsh.
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