The Secret Service Mole
Earlier the NRC newspaper already quoted out of the justice investigation report the secret service mole, Othman Ben Amar (Alternative spelling: Outman Ben Amar). Last Monday the first preliminary court hearing revealed even more facts. The court rejected the request of the prosecution to hold a secret trial. The justice department is still investigating and the trial is to expect to start in April.
The double agent
Othman Ben Amar, born in 1970 in Beni Abdellah (Alternative spelling Beni Abdella) in Morroco, is now 34 years old. Othman did come to Holland when he was 4 years old. He has three brothers: Kadir, Mustapha and Soliman, who all live in Holland and all work for the Dutch government. Othman is married with, Hafida Bentala Ben Amar, a Moroccan from Beni Bougahie near Nador. Together they have a two year old daughter, named Armi. They have their domicile at at De Wellenkamp in the city of Nijmegen. His neighbor says he is not a fanatic Muslim, "He was equally fanatical religious as someone who only goes with Christmas to church". His wife, 33 years old, studied medical Biology in the city of Groningen. The Telegraaf reports that secret service sources say she comes from a notorious family.
After his study Arabic language and culture at the Radboud University (KUN) in Nijmegen Othman he worked for several Dutch travel agencies and worked as an Arabist at the department of Immigration and Naturalization (IND) in the city of Nijmegen (Internet rumours say he also worked for the "Arbeidsbureau" Employment office in the city of Roermond). With some co-workers, Moroccans and a Dutch convert he started the "Moslim Media Group", to stimulate a more balanced reporting about Muslims and the Islam in The Netherlands. He thought that after the 9/11 attacks, the reporting about Muslims was "incomplete and tendentious". Adviser of the group was the well-known Imam Adbullah Hazelhoef. According to the groups chairman Sjoerd Moenander he quit and told them that he had no time because he had become the travel agent and director of Chafarintours, organizing holiday tours to Morocco.
On 1 October 2003 he stopped his work as "consulting assistant" for the department of immigration and naturalization (IND) and joined the Dutch secret service, called AIVD. A relative had helped him to enter the AIVD and after a screening and a short introduction course he started as an interpreter. A little more than a year later he was arrested on 30 September 2004 and is being charged of spreading illegally secret service information. A unique and unprecedented case for the Dutch secret service who suspended him. So far they filed three times charges against him. Othman him self denies the charges, he is confident and angry. He finds it all deeply offending: "this is very unjust". He is now imprisoned and labeled an enemy of the state. He is not allowed to have any contact with the outside world, watch TV or read newspapers. But still he managed to send a letter from his prison to one of the three other suspects, by using a name of another prisoner.
His layers are Michiel Pestman and Britta Bohler. Britta Bohler, owner of the law firm, is well known for defending left wing extremist and terrorists. As former Green Peace chairman she has said in an interview that she used to have great sympathy for the extreme left Rote Armee Fraction(RAF) terrorists in Germany. Her office also defended animal rights activist Volkert van der G. who assassinated politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002.
During the first preliminary court sitting the lawyers complained that it was not possible to defend their client. In a letter of 9 November 2004 the secret service warned Othman that he would commit a crime if he would talk about his AIVD work, even in confidential conversations with his layers. The layers will also commit a crime if they tell this information to the Judge. The lawyers asked immunity from prosecution. But the prosecutor did not want to give immunity. The court will rule in this issue in two weeks.
Lawyer Pestman is allied with the notorious left wing, anti government and secret service research group: "Jansen en Jansen". He put some of the leaked AIVD material, part of his clients dossier, here online.
Center of Islamic Terrorism
A month after the 9/11 attack in New York the secret service (AIVD) started a new department: The Center of Islamic Terrorism (CIT). On 6 October the CIT started with fulfilling its task to research if such attack could happen in The Netherlands and to research if they could prevent such an attack. Soon after its start the involved CIT teams focused on 100 to 150 targets, persons or networks all are some how connected to radical Islamic terrorism. Othman went to work for the CIT.
Othman was a translator of wiretaps made by the CIT. The department had a huge shortage of people who had command of Arabic and other dialects that the radical Muslims used. Othman could do his work with much freedom in this busy department. He is quoted in the justice files as saying: "I had to determine for my self if a conversation was important. I noticed that only a quarter of all material was processed. This also happened with material of the other co-workers. It has occurred that when a co-worker was on sick leave, the wiretap conversations where not processed at all, not even on a later point in time".
Code name: Vuursche
The CIT like all European secret services is hunting a group of Marrocan terrorist with the name: Groupe Islamique Combattant Marocain (GICM). The GICM was responsible for the 11 March 2004 train bombing in Madrid and the Casablanca bombing in May 2003. The dutch secret service was investigating a cell of the GCIM under the code name "Vuursche", also known as the Utrechtse terror investigation. The monitored group of Islamic friends under investigation met regularly in the Omar al Faroek-mosque (Utrecht) and El Tawheed (Amsterdam).
One of the members of the group is Othman his brother in law, former prison guard, Nadir B.(17-may-1976,Marocco). But the AIVD was not aware of this fact. In July 2004 Othman was put "suddenly and fairly abrupt" on the so-called Vuurche-case according to the justice file. For this case Othman needed suddenly to work on 15 wiretaps and he got very busy. He complained about this to his team leaders and said he could not handle it all, but they answered that he should solve it himself.
Central in this investigation is the 37 year old Morrocan and former Schiphol airport security guard, Hassan O. (1967,Morocco). In tapped recordings he was speaking about the Holly War, the explosives he would use for it and the bomb he had hidden for later use. "One time BOOM! And a big city is gone" by an attack of 50 suicide bombers, was the literal text in the AIVD transcription of an phone conversation he had with Iraqi Mohammed T.
The AIVD did want to know what Hassan O. did and what he was planning. The intelligence service determined that on 2 june 2004, he and Mohamed T. had taken pictures of the British and US embassies, the parliament and the Royal palace Noordeinde (All located in the city of Denhaag). Also Hassan O. his travel to Belgium where important for the investigation because there he contacted other cells and had looked at video tapes of the resistance in Pakistan and Iraq.
On Sunday 26 September 19.00 the police raided the house of Hassan O. and the house of his ex-wife, both in the city of Utrecht. They arrested him on the suspicion of possession and transportation of explosives. That same evening the police also raided the house of the Moroccan family Mbarki, in the Bucheliusstraat in the city of Utecht. Police searched the house for explosives. The Mbarki family, man, woman and their 8 and 18 year old sons, where arrested and two days later released. The police did not find any explosives and said they no longer did suspect the family.
The searching of the house and the arrest of the Mbarki family led too much commotion in the media. Parliament expressed there worries and questions where asked by the green party (Groenlinks) and D66. Burgomaster Brouwer of Utrecht signed a complain letter together with 40 Moroccans that condemn the stigmatization of the Moroccan people. The family took a lawyer to get indemnification.
Hassan O. and the son Khalid (18) of the Mbarki family had worked together as security guards at Schiphol airport. Together they traveled to Belgium where they met the 30 year old Aziz M. a brother of the mother of Khalid. Aziz M. studied French in Belgium and would be arrested on 2 October 2004 (later 3 others would be arrested in Belgium as well). The search for the GICM explosives continued.
The stolen documents
But during the raid on Hassan O. the AIVD found two typed letters that contained information from a secret service briefing of week 31. These state secrets where part of a 10 pages long AIVD report about the current knowledge in the Vuursche case that. The possible Islamic terror network in the city of Utrecht, they where monitoring since 2002. On one of the letters was written "Mouchabarad", Arabic for secret service. The address on the envelope, in which the two documents where send, was hand written and was posted in the city of Nieuwegein.
An internal AIVD investigation showed that Othman was responsible for sending the envelope with information that classifies as "state secrets". He was arrested four days later, on 30 September 2004, on his work the AIVD head office in Leidschendam. That same day also Abdel Aziz B.(17-nov-1969, Morocco), Rachid C. (14-sept-1973,Morocco) and his brother in law Nadir B. where arrested in connection with this case. Abdel Aziz B. a relative of the family living at the Bucheliusstraat in Utrecht and was arrested on Schiphol airport, he was planning to leave for Saudi Arabia.
In an interview in the AD (newspaper) of 20 November 2004, Abdel Aziz B. and Rachid C. say that they received the information half August in a letter without the name of the sender. Rachid C. his envelope contained 2 letters. Abdel Aziz B. says his letter contained a letter with a description of a meeting between him, Rachid C., Hassan O. and two others. Before they received the letters they did not know they where under surveillance. They took the letter to their Mosque and showed it to their friend Nadir B. The letters seem to be compilations of phone taps and observations. The reports describe them as dangerous, but they claim not to be radicals, they are just pious Muslims. They both have beards and wear traditional Muslim clothing. Abdel Aziz B. traveled to Pakistan in 1997, but at that time I was not yet religious, he says.
The justice investigation showed that the handwriting on the envelopes was the same as Othman's handwriting, DNA test did not give a positive but neither a negative result. Aziz B. and Rachid C. have given testimonials in which they say that they heard that similar information has gone to Amsterdam and Denhaag (The cities in which the Hofstad terror group operated). In December police commissioner J. van Kastel already said in the NRC newspaper that there where contacts between the "Hofstad" terror group and the Vuursche group. Nadir B., Abdel Aziz B. and Rachid C. where released from custody after 5 weeks, due to a lack of evidence. Hassan O. was released from custody on 8 November 2004. They are not allowed to leave the country.
It was not very surprising that the service found out of Othman's actions. Four weeks before his arrest, he told a co-worker that his brother in law Nadir B. knew some targets in the Vuursche investigation. He meant Rachid C. and Abdel Aziz B. of which his brother in law told him. Maybe it was a good idea to ask Nadir B. as an informant, he told this same co-worker. Four weeks had past when Othman heard that they had done nothing with his suggestion, they told him they where researching it and they would let him know. A week later he was arrested.
After the arrest of Hassan O. an investigation with code name "Walcheren" was started to search for the AIVD mole. This search leads to the arrest of Othman, his house was searched and they found an AIVD wiretap report of January 2004. A copy of the same document was found in his desk at his Leidschendam office. In both cases the code name of the person who printed was erased with tipex like correction ink. But when put under a bright light they found the code name: AB1BE. The AIVD code name of Othman Ben Amar.
They also found in his house a pocket agenda and fax machine. In his agenda they found post-it notes with the names and addresses of people whom where part of AIVD research in Den Haag, Amsterdam and Utrecht (Vuurche/GICM and Hofstad group). One of the names found was that of Achmed H. who was living together with an other Hofstad member Mohammed Bouyeri. Only one month later, on 2 November, would Mohammed assassinated Theo van Gogh. Achmed H. was arrested after the murder on Theo van Gogh and now says he received the wiretap report in a closed envelope on his old living address, where his ex-wife lives. The Hofstad group also received information from a secret service briefing that informed about the current state of the investigation of the Hofstad group. Othman did not answer questions about his connection with Achmed H. who is seen as the financial man of the Hofstad group.
In the computer of Othman they found deleted e-mail messages that mention AIVD research and on an other location they also found a AIVD wiretaps report written by Othman. The contents of the messages and report are not part of the Justice report due to open investigations. They also found proof of sabotage, they found wiretap reports of which Othman had claimed that the contained no usefull information.
The Telegraaf newspaper revealed that the website chafarinastours.com (miror, webarchive) that Othman ran as agent of Cherafinas from his home office, was used to spread messages via a method called Stegonography. User of this technique can place messages into pictures and even can send complete blueprints of a potential target undetected. A program especially developed by the FBI to detect these messages triggered an alarm when it was used to investigate the website. Two of the pictures were labeled 'very suspicious' by the software. This is very unusual since the program usually never triggers alarms when it is used on randomly selected websites.
The police is also investigating his work at the department of Immigration and Naturalization (IND). From 1999 till 2003 he was working there as a "beslis" (decision) civil servant, who does decide independently about who is, an who's not, allowed to stay in Holland. Police is investigating at least one case, where he is believed to have provided an illegal Turkish national with a residence permit.
AIVD in trouble
The boss of the secret service, Sybrand van Hulst, was outraged when he first hearth of the case. He called it "a drama" and said: "I thought: oh no! I got a feeling of shame. This is very annoying for the service and for our image".
Van Hulst also said there was nothing wrong with the way the service screens new personnel and that up scaling had the risk of infiltration. "We screen very carefully but mistake can be made. Also: if we screen today, that does not mean that he is still loyal two years later". Earlier Sybrand said in a press release that the service keeps hiring Islamic and Moroccan people because the service needs to be a representation of Dutch society. He added: The AIVD will not discriminate.