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WASHINGTON – The FBI is refusing to return the files of a former National Security Agency whistleblower who agreed to help agents launch a new investigation into the involvement of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat in the 31-year-old murders of two U.S. diplomats in Sudan.
As WorldNetDaily reported earlier this month, two agents from FBI headquarters in Washington, Bill McDermott and Kathleen Reed, flew to Oregon this summer to interview James J. Welsh, the NSA’s Palestinian analyst at the time of the 1973 terrorist murders of U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel, diplomat Charge d’Affaires George Curtis Moore and Belgian diplomat Guy Eid.
The three were taken captive by the Black September terrorist organization, part of Arafat’s Fatah faction of the Palestinian Liberation Organization.
Welsh has said he intercepted a transmission from Arafat involving an imminent operation in Khartoum, and charges the NSA has had tapes of Arafat ordering the executions, a story first reported by WND in 2001.
After Welsh retired from the NSA, he made his personal mission to see that justice was done.
When the two FBI agents met with him last June, he was encouraged that the FBI was showing renewed interest in the old murders. However, now he is complaining to FBI Director Robert Mueller that the agents are refusing to return his files on the case.
“We met for about three hours and at the end of our meeting, they asked if they might photocopy my material,” Welsh wrote to Mueller. “I said that there were a lot of documents and that I would have no objection if they just took the materials, made copies and then mailed them back to me.”
The agents said the documents would be returned within a week. However, now more than three months later, Welsh still does not have his files and doesn’t believe the FBI has any intentions of returning them.
“Why should I worry,” Welsh said. “These are FBI agents. They are honest and honorable folks.”
After about two months, Welsh called the agents, left voice messages and wrote letters reminding them about their promise to return the materials. Several days later, one of the agents called Welsh and told him the files would be returned within a few days. Another month has come and gone since then.
“Frankly, I don’t believe anything will ever be returned,” he says.
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 26 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 assassin, from jail in California; and the liberation of “Palestinian women in prison in Israel” – the two U.S. diplomats were murdered.
According to Welsh and others, 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” was reportedly the code word for executing the captives. Supposed NSA recordings of that call 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 WND 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.
On Feb. 12, 1986, some 47 U.S. senators, including Al Gore, petitioned Meese “to assign the highest priority to completing this review, and to issue an indictment of Yasser Arafat if the evidence so warrants.”
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.
Bill Carter, a spokesperson for the FBI in Washington would neither confirm nor deny that the case has been reopened, but a source in the FBI’s New York office told WND on condition of anonymity that an investigation has indeed been initiated at the request of an outside agency. He refused to name the agency.
Raanan Gissin, chief spokesperson for Ariel Sharon, told WND, “This doesn’t come as a surprise. We intercepted the phone calls, and the U.S. also corroborated this on their own.”
Arafat deputy and chief negotiator Saeeb Erakat, who was first informed about the FBI investigation by WND, said, “President Arafat was not involved in these murders. He visited Washington more than 24 times since the Khartoum events! This is just part of the political campaign being waged against President Arafat.”
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 WND 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.”
After Arafat turned down at Camp David an Israeli offer of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza and the eastern section of Jerusalem, and instead launched an intifada against the Jewish state, the domestic and international tide of public opinion has turned against the PLO ruler, and Welsh says the U.S. is “finally interested in making the truth about this man known.”
Although Sharon and Bush have isolated Arafat in 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 that Arafat is still calling the shots of various terror organizations, including his own Fatah.
In Welsh’s letter to FBI Director Mueller, he says he is greatly disappointed in the agency’s behavior.
“What prompts me to write this letter is the subject of integrity,” he wrote. “I would assume that the object of their interest is the person who committed the crime. I assembled my materials that your organization has apparently found to be of interest in this investigation. I had no reason to doubt these agents’ promises to return the documents (all legally obtained). It appears my trust was misplaced.”
Welsh said he has heard of other cases when the FBI has mistreated people who have provided aid in criminal investigations before and believes this kind of action by the agency will make others “highly suspicious of future cooperation with law enforcement agencies.”
“If you can’t trust the FBI, who can you trust?” he wrote.
Calls to the FBI by WorldNetDaily were not returned.
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