In new video, CIA bomber says he lured targets with doctored intelligence

By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, March 1, 2010

The suicide bomber behind the Dec. 30 attack on a CIA base in eastern Afghanistan claims in a posthumously released recording that he lured U.S. and Jordanian intelligence officers into a trap by sending them misleading information about terrorist targets as well as videotapes he made of senior al-Qaeda leaders.

The bomber, a Jordanian physician named Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi, also claims that he intended to kidnap only a single Jordanian intelligence officer, but then stumbled on an unexpected opportunity to attack a large group of Americans and their Jordanian allies at once.

"It wasn't planned this way," Balawi says in an undated, 44-minute videotape released Sunday by as-Sahab, the media arm of al-Qaeda. He attributes the change to "the stupidity of Jordanian intelligence and the stupidity of American intelligence" services that invited him to Afghanistan to help set up a strike against al-Qaeda targets.

The video, if authentic, would be the second recorded statement to surface in which Balawi talks of his plan to penetrate Forward Operating Base Chapman, a highly secure CIA base in eastern Afghanistan's Khost province. A Taliban group in January released a taped message in which Balawi says he was avenging the death of Baitullah Mehsud, a Taliban commander killed last year in a CIA missile strike. U.S. officials have acknowledged that Balawi was a double agent who provided valuable intelligence over several months before being allowed to meet with U.S. operatives at Chapman. Six Americans and three others were killed in the deadliest attack on the U.S. intelligence agency's staff in a quarter-century.

In the new video, the 32-year-old Balawi gives an animated account of his journey from doctor to suicide bomber, at one point brandishing what he says is a block of C4 military explosive that he intended to use in the attack. Wearing military garb and holding a rifle in his lap, he mocks his Jordanian handlers for thinking that he could be lured into spying on al-Qaeda and the Taliban.

"They tried to entice me with money and offered me amounts reaching into the millions of dollars," he says, according to an English translation by IntelCenter, a private intelligence company that monitors jihadist Web sites. The Arabic-language video was provided to The Washington Post by SITE Intelligence Group, another private intelligence firm.

Balawi says the Jordanians spent thousands of dollars to settle him in Pakistan, and claims he intended from the beginning to strike a blow against the pro-U.S. Jordanian government. Balawi says he initially planned to capture or kill the Jordanian officer who served as his handler, but called off the plan. Meanwhile, he was enticing the Jordanians with videos. "The bait fell in the right spot, and they went head over heels with excitement," Balawi says.

To further solidify his handlers' trust, he sent coordinates of Taliban and al-Qaeda positions to the CIA, he says. Some of the information was erroneous, but Balawi says he would "throw in some accurate information which we thought the enemy probably already had knowledge of."

The CIA declined to comment publicly on the video. One U.S. counterterrorism official familiar with its contents suggested that Balawi's account overstated the damage that the spy inflicted on U.S. capabilities in the region.

"The fact that Balawi was a murderer and a terrorist is already well known, as is the fact that he did not stop -- not even for an instant -- precise and effective operations against al-Qaeda, the Taliban and their violent allies," the official said.

Staff researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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