It’s been more than eight years since 9/11, but the fallout continues to reverberate throughout today’s New York. The Obama administration’s waffling over how to try Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the attack’s mastermind, and the continuous, embarrassing delay in rebuilding the towers downtown have kept 9/11 more in the headlines than usual.
Now, as those political battles roll on, a new story about the run-up to 9/11 has emerged—a previously undisclosed, covert C.I.A. effort to recruit a spy to penetrate Al Qaeda a year and a half before the planes crashed into the towers.
The development is intriguing in part because the informant they were after was thought to be secretly gay—a fact that gave intelligence agents leverage in their efforts to turn him against his conservative Islamist circle. But the case may also help answer one of the long-standing mysteries of the 9/11 narrative: why a terrorist known to one part of the U.S. government wasn’t captured by other parts before he boarded a plane and helped carry out the most devastating attacks on the country.
Intelligence officials tell The Observer that the character at the center of the intrigue was an enigmatic but jovial man named Ahmad Hikmat Shakir, or “Shakir el Iraqi.” “He was tall as a mushroom, fat and gay,” one source familiar with the case told The Observer, “and the idea was to exploit him as an agent against Al Qaeda…. >>>