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Militant Islam Monitor > Articles > Emerson Vermaat: "I Was The First Journalist To Write About Osama Bin Laden In A Book And The CIA Tipped Me Off"

Emerson Vermaat: "I Was The First Journalist To Write About Osama Bin Laden In A Book And The CIA Tipped Me Off"

Dutch Investigative Journalist Warned About The Threat Posed By OBL In 1997 Book
May 8, 2018


I was the first journalist to write about Osama bin Laden in a Dutch book that appeared on March 7, 1997. The full title of that book was"‘In Naam van Allah…" Islamitisch Fundamentalisme en Terrorisme"' ("‘In the Name of Allah…" Islamic Fundamentalism and Terrorism"') published in Utrecht, the Netherlands, by "De Banier." The same publisher also published the doctoral dissertation written by former Dutch military intelligence officer and Sovietologist Marcel de Haas.

But it was a secret source in the CIA that wanted me to write this book on radical Islam. His specific request was to focus as much as possible on Osama bin Laden (in 1995 and 1996), Ayman al-Zawahiri (in the summer of 1996) and dubious Islamic charities which channel money to radical Muslims and their organizations and mosques.

With the assistance of the same source I also wrote a chapter on Iran's involvement in the killing of Kurdish opponents (from the "Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran" or KDPI) in a Greek restaurant called "Mykonos" in Berlin in September 1992 and the subsequent Mykonos Trial in Berlin. He provided me with translations from Arab newspapers, Al-Hayat of August 24, 1995, for example. (All other references to Arab newspapers in my book are from the same CIA source, by the way.) I also paid attention to the so-called "Mykonos Affair in a TV broadcast of the Dutch current affairs program"2Vandaag," on December 9, 1996 and interviewed Otto Schily, a prominent Social Democrat and Iran critic who would later be an excellent Interior Minister. The viewer's rate of my TV-program on that day was more than one million.

First CIA warnings about Osama bin Laden in the summer and autumn of 1995

In my Dutch book on Islamic terrorism and fundamentalism I devoted four pages to Osama bin Laden, the so-called "Banker of Islamic Jihad." I also mentioned his former ally Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a notorious war criminal who used to throw acid in the faces of women he didn't like. (The CIA made a very serious mistake when they supported Hekmatyar for more than decade, regardless of the warnings from American Afghanistan expert Rosanne Klass whom I knew quite well.)

"During the Afghan war (against the Soviets, between 1979-1988) bin Laden financed the trips of Islamic extremists," I wrote in my Dutch book. He later settled in Sudan, where he set up training camps, but returned to Afghanistan in May 1996. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, an extremely dangerous Muslim terrorist from Egypt, who would later be bin Laden's deputy, is also mentioned in my book. He was one of the many so-called "returnees from Afghanistan," also referred to as "Arab Afghans." (Arab jihadists who fought in Afghanistan.) Al-Zawahiri had also joined the jihad against the Soviet occupiers in the 1980s. In this context I quoted from the Egyptian newspaper een Al-Majallah (dated July 22, 1995). This article had also been translated by the CIA.

But the very first time that my secret CIA source told me about Osama bin Laden was in 1995 (!), at the end of July (or early August). He gave me a series of articles on bin Laden which somehow had been faxed from Langley to the American Embassy in The Hague, the Netherlands, on the morning of July 27, 1995. "Do take note of Osama bin Laden," I was told, not once but several times in the summer and autumn of 1995. "We want you to mention him in a book. It must be a Dutch book, you are not allowed to use any of this material in the United States." (The CIA is formally prohibited from planting stories in the "domestic" American press, so I was told.) Most of the articles were translations from the Arab press. For example, there was a lengthy article in the Egyptian Daily Rose El Youssef on "Asama (=Osama) Ben (=bin) Laden Establishes Media Organization and Printing House to Support Fundamentalism"in London. This article appeared on May 15, 1995 and was later confirmed by other sources. Bin Laden was in Sudan at the time, but he had two special representatives in London, namely Khaled Al-Fawwaz (from Saudi Arabia) and Mustafa Setmariam Nasar (from Syria). Both were known to MI5, the British Security Service.

The first article on Osama bin Laden that I got from my CIA source in the summer of 1995 was a copy of the April 10, 1994, issue of The New York Times: "Saudis Strip Citizenship from Backer of Militants." "Saudi Arabia has responded slowly to complaints from Arab countries victimized by Islamic violence, particularly Egypt, Tunesia and Algeria, which asked that it reign in its rich fundamentalists." (There is nothing new under the sun, by the way…)

I received another series of articles on bin Laden at the end of November 1995. This included the above mentioned Rose El Youssef article. Some other articles were also originally in English, for example an article from the "Arab Press Service Organization" (APS), dated May 22, 1993. This article mentioned Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak's warning against "fund raising by private groups which could channel money to Islamic militants" and the dubious role of Osama bin Laden, "who is thought to be one of the main financiers of the Arab Afghans." I quoted this article in Chapter 3 of in my latest book "De Geheime Oorlog Tegen Terreur: De Rol van de CIA, the NSA en de Mossad" ("The Secret War on Terror: The role of the CIA,the NSA and the Mossad"), writing that "it was as early as 1993 that Mubarak warned against Osama bin Laden."

CIA "Backgrounder" on Mubarak's warnings against liberal European asylum policies

It was in April 1996 that my source gave me the "Backgrounder: No Safe Haven." It was also about Mubarak, who obviously was quite worried about too liberal European asylum policies. "Egyptian President Mubarak has called for an international conference on terrorism. High on his agenda for the conference are measures that would deprive terrorists of their safe havens. All too often terrorists take refuge behind false claims of political persecution. Mubarak expects a positive response from the countries accross Europe and the Middle East that are already tackling the thorny issues of extradition and criminal prosecution."

"Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was not satisfied with the summit of the peacemakers. Representatives of 29 countries gathered in the Egyptian resort of Sharm El Sheikh on March 13 (1996) in the wake of a series of terrorist bombings in Israel." "Mubarak said he had warned in 1986 that regional terrorism would spread. Now that it had, he expressed the hope that more international cooperation on terrorist issues would take place. Mubarak singled out the need to deprive terrorists of their safe havens. He accused Sudan and ‘certain nations' of giving wholesale aid and comfort to terrorists. However, Mubarak had also criticism for European nations, especially Great Britain, which have given political asylum to Egyptians wanted in Egypt on charges of terrorism."

"Interior Minister Al-Alfi welcomed remarks by British Prime Minister John Major made shortly after the Sharm El Sheikh meeting. As a sign that Britain is rethinking its asylum policies. Major said it was time to look at not only those who commit terrorist acts but also those who take advantage of political asylum to foster terrorism elsewhere."

Major, however, did not keep his word. Nevertheless, when Osama bin Laden himself tried to apply for asylum in Britain, his request was flatly turned down by Interior Minister John Howard. This was shortly before the notiorious Saudi terrorist planned to move to London. "His presence (in the United Kingdom) was not conducive to the public good," Howard said in January 1997, according to the excellent TV-documentary "Sudan Are They Training Terrorists?" from Journeyman, London.

Nothing wrong with secret sources

As a journalist, I did not object to using information from a secret source. And I still feel justified about it, because the information provided to me was basically correct and I was one of the very few journalists in Europe who received detailed and largely reliable information on Osama bin Laden and his network already in 1995, 1996 and 1997.

But the last time I met my source was on September 27, 1997. After that date I didn't meet anyone from the CIA, except two former CIA officers whom I interviewed for "2Vandaag TV" (Bob Baer) or a Dutch newspaper.

I do not doubt for one moment that there are many other journalists who also received information from intelligence sources, including from sources linked to the American intelligence community. The Washington Post, The New York Times and Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel's lagest daily newspaper, would not be able to write many of their stories without frequent access to secret intelligence sources from the United States or Israel.

Read, for example, Bob Woodward's fascinating book "Obama's Wars." He quotes from a TOP SECRET Presidential Daily Brief (PDB), "North American Al-Qaeda trainees may influence targets and tactics in the United States and Canada." This PDB was dated May 26, 2009.

Or read Ronen Bergman's book "Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations."

His version of the killing of high level Hezbollah operative Imad Mugniyeh, however, contradicts the findings of Gordon Thomas, another reliable Mossad expert.

Back in 1997 I sent my book to the Arabist Dr. Hans Jansen, an authoritative scholar on militant Islam and the life of Mohammed. His favorable reaction encouraged me. He was aware of the fact that I quoted many Arab newspapers and he did not point out to me that there were any errors in these quotes. What Jansen and my Dutch publisher in Utrecht did not know was that a secret source in the CIA had provided me with a lot of material on bin Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Islamic charities, Sudan and Iran. Was that wrong? Once again, I don't think so.

Emerson Vermaat, MA (International Law, Leiden University) is an investigative reporter in the Netherlands specialized in crime,terrorism, anti-Semitism and the Holocaust. His latest (Dutch) book is"De Geheime Oorlog Tegen Terreur: De Rol van de CIA, de NSA en de Mossad" ("The Secret War on Terror: The Role of the CIA, the NSA and the Mossad") which appeared on February 19, 2018. This well-documented study was published by "Aspekt Publishers," Soesterberg, the Netherlands. In the same book the author reveals for the first time that a secret source in the CIA provided him with detailed information on Osama bin Laden. This was as early as the summer of 1995. Some of the documents given to the author by that CIA source have now been published as an appendix at the end of the book. (27 July and 22 November 1995.)


J.A. Emerson Vermaat, ‘"In Naam van Allah…" Islamitisch Fundamentalisme and Terrorisme' (Utrecht: De Banier Publishers, 1997) pp. 59-73, "De Mykonos-Affaire", Al-Hayat, August 24, 1995, on expulsions of Iranian diplomats in Germany in the summer of 1995 who were supected of having supported other hired killers. "Zij zouden huurmoordenaars hebben willen inschakelen om politieke tegenstanders uit de weg te ruimen." (See page 65.); pp. 101-107, Osama bin Laden: "Bankier van islamitische jihad bewegingen." "Het geval bin Laden staat niet op zichzelf. Er is een vast patroon van rijke conservatieve islamitische geldgevers uit Saoedi-Arabië die grote giften aan humanitaire en liefdadigheids instellingen overmaken."; pp. 109, 110, "Teruggekeerden uit Afghanistan." "Eén van hen was arts Ayman Al-Zawahiri." "In 1985 vertrok hij naar het Pakistaanse Peshawar."; p. 120, Al-Majallah, July 22, 1995, "Returnees from Afghanistan."

Marcel de Haas, Veiligheidsbeleid en Airpower onder Jeltsin and Putin (Utrecht: De Banier Publishers 2004) doctoral dissertation. Neither Dr. De Haas, nor publisher De Banier or my employer in Hilversum knew anything about my secret CIA source.

Emerson Vermaat, 2Vandaag TV (now 1Vandaag), December 9, 1996. On the killings by Iranian secret agents in the Berlin Restaurant "Mykonos."

Emerson Vermaat, De Geheime Oorlog tegen Terreur: De Rol van de CIA, de NSA en de Mossad (Soesterberg, The Netherlands: Uitgeverij Aspekt, February 2018). ("The Secret War on Terror: The Role of the CIA, the NSA and the Mossad"). Chapter two discusses information on Osama bin Laden given to me by my secret CIA source in July and November 1995. (See pp. 25-39, "Let op Osama bin Laden!") See also the appendices on pp. 232-247 (documents/material on bin Laden from the CIA, for example an article from Rose El Youssef (Egypt), May 15, 1995: "Asama (=Osama) Bin Laden Establishes Media Organization and Printing House to Support Fundamentalism" (in London). This article and other Arab articles have been translated by the CIA. On Mubarak's warnings back in 1993, see, pp. 41-44, 247 (document) "Mubarak waarschuwde al in 1993 voor Osama bin Laden."

The Times (London), September 29, 2005, The Day When Osama bin Laden Applied for Asylum in Britain. See also pp. 32-34, 248 of my book on "De Geheime Oorlog tegen Terreur."

Journeyman Pictures Limited (Esher, Surrey, UK)), Sudan – Are They Training Terrorists?, A 40 Minute International Script, p. 18, April 14, 1997.

Bob Woodward, Obama's Wars: The Inside Story (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2010), pp. 120-123.

Ronen Bergman, Rise Rise and Kill First: The Secret History of Israel's Targeted Assassinations. (New York: Random House, 2018). On the killing of Mugniyeh, code named "Maurice," see pp. 588-609.

Gordon Thomas, The Independent (London), February 22, 2010. See also: Gordon Thomas, A Deadly Vengeance, published in: Patrick Cockburn and journalists of The Independent, Terrorism in Europe: In the Crosshairs Again (London/Miami: The Independent, Mango Publishing Group, 2016), pp. 172-183.

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