Israeli Intelligence Agents Watched and Filmed 9/11 Attacks
- from The Insider -
Information Bulletin -
(February 21, 2004)
intelligence operatives watched and made video recordings of the 9-11 attacks as
they happened. Positioned at a safe distance from the twin towers of the World
Trade Centre, five Mossad agents were caught filming the whole episode.
Israel evidently had prior knowledge of the events of 11 September 2001, because
they knew the time and place of the incident. Why did nobody intervene to
prevent the attacks? Did the Israeli intelligence service do more than just
Nobody gained more from 9-11 than Israel, not even the US President and his
Sunday Herald (UK), "Five Israelis were seen filming as jet liners ploughed
into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001", 2 Nov 02.[
Were they part of a massive spy ring which shadowed the 9/11 hijackers and knew
that al-Qaeda planned a devastating terrorist attack on the USA?
Neil Mackay investigates.
THERE was ruin and terror in Manhattan, but, over the Hudson River in New
Jersey, a handful of men were dancing. As the World Trade Centre burned and
crumpled, the five men celebrated and filmed the worst atrocity ever committed
on American soil as it played out before their eyes.
Who do you think they were? Palestinians? Saudis? Iraqis, even?
Al-Qaeda, surely? Wrong on all counts. They were Israelis – and at least two of
them were Israeli intelligence agents, working for Mossad, the equivalent of MI6
or the CIA.
Their discovery and arrest that morning is a matter of indisputable fact. To
those who have investigated just what the Israelis were up to that day, the case
raises one dreadful possibility: that Israeli intelligence had been shadowing
the al-Qaeda hijackers as they moved from the Middle East through Europe and
into America where they trained as pilots and prepared to suicide-bomb the
symbolic heart of the United States. And the motive? To bind America in blood
and mutual suffering to the Israeli cause.
After the attacks on New York and Washington, the former Israeli Prime Minister,
Benjamin Netanyahu, was asked what the terrorist strikes would mean for
US-Israeli relations. He said: “It’s very good.” Then he corrected himself,
adding: “Well, it’s not good, but it will generate immediate sympathy [for
Israel from Americans].”
ABC News (US), "The White Van: Were Israelis Detained on Sept. 11 Spies?", 21
Millions saw the horrific images of the World Trade Center attacks, and those
who saw them won't forget them. But a New Jersey homemaker saw something that
morning that prompted an investigation into five young Israelis and their
possible connection to Israeli intelligence.
Maria, who asked us not to use her last name, had a view of the World Trade
Center from her New Jersey apartment building. She remembers a neighbor calling
her shortly after the first plane hit the towers.
She grabbed her binoculars and watched the destruction unfolding in lower
Manhattan. But as she watched the disaster, something else caught her eye.
Maria says she saw three young men kneeling on the roof of a white van in the
parking lot of her apartment building. "They seemed to be taking a movie," Maria
The men were taking video or photos of themselves with the World Trade Center
burning in the background, she said. What struck Maria were the expressions on
the men's faces. "They were like happy, you know … They didn't look shocked to
me. I thought it was very strange," she said.
She found the behavior so suspicious that she wrote down the license plate
number of the van and called the police. Before long, the FBI was also on the
scene, and a statewide bulletin was issued on the van.
The plate number was traced to a van owned by a company called Urban Moving.
Around 4 p.m. on Sept. 11, the van was spotted on a service road off Route 3,
near New Jersey's Giants Stadium. A police officer pulled the van over, finding
five men, between 22 and 27 years old, in the vehicle.
The men were taken out of the van at gunpoint and handcuffed by police.
The arresting officers said they saw a lot that aroused their suspicion about
the men. One of the passengers had $4,700 in cash hidden in his sock. Another
was carrying two foreign passports. A box cutter was found in the van. But
perhaps the biggest surprise for the officers came when the five men identified
themselves as Israeli citizens.
‘We Are Not Your Problem’
According to the police report, one of the passengers told the officers they had
been on the West Side Highway in Manhattan "during the incident" — referring to
the World Trade Center attack. The driver of the van, Sivan Kurzberg, told the
officers, "We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our
problems. The Palestinians are the problem." The other passengers were his
brother Paul Kurzberg, Yaron Shmuel, Oded Ellner and Omer Marmari.
When the men were transferred to jail, the case was transferred out of the FBI's
Criminal Division, and into the bureau's Foreign Counterintelligence Section,
which is responsible for espionage cases, ABCNEWS has learned.
One reason for the shift, sources told ABCNEWS, was that the FBI believed Urban
Moving may have been providing cover for an Israeli intelligence operation.
After the five men were arrested, the FBI got a warrant and searched Urban
Moving's Weehawken, N.J., offices.
The FBI searched Urban Moving's offices for several hours, removing boxes of
documents and a dozen computer hard drives. The FBI also questioned Urban
Moving's owner. His attorney insists that his client answered all of the FBI's
questions. But when FBI agents tried to interview him again a few days later, he
Three months later 2020's cameras photographed the inside of Urban Moving, and
it looked as if the business had been shut down in a big hurry. Cell phones were
lying around; office phones were still connected; and the property of dozens of
clients remained in the warehouse.
The owner had also cleared out of his New Jersey home, put it up for sale and
returned with his family to Israel.
‘A Scary Situation’
Steven Gordon, the attorney for the five Israeli detainees, acknowledged that
his clients' actions on Sept. 11 would easily have aroused suspicions. "You got
a group of guys that are taking pictures, on top of a roof, of the World Trade
Center. They're speaking in a foreign language. They got two passports on 'em.
One's got a wad of cash on him, and they got box cutters. Now that's a scary
But Gordon insisted that his clients were just five young men who had come to
America for a vacation, ended up working for a moving company, and were taking
pictures of the event.
The five Israelis were held at the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn,
ostensibly for overstaying their tourist visas and working in the United States
illegally. Two weeks after their arrest, an immigration judge ordered them to be
deported. But sources told ABCNEWS that FBI and CIA officials in Washington put
a hold on the case.
The five men were held in detention for more than two months. Some of them were
placed in solitary confinement for 40 days, and some of them were given as many
as seven lie-detector tests.
Plenty of Speculation
Since their arrest, plenty of speculation has swirled about the case, and what
the five men were doing that morning. Eventually, The Forward, a respected
Jewish newspaper in New York, reported the FBI concluded that two of the men
were Israeli intelligence operatives.
Vince Cannistraro, a former chief of operations for counterterrorism with the
CIA who is now a consultant for ABCNEWS, said federal authorities' interest in
the case was heightened when some of the men's names were found in a search of a
national intelligence database.
Israeli Intelligence Connection?
According to Cannistraro, many people in the U.S. intelligence community
believed that some of the men arrested were working for Israeli intelligence.
Cannistraro said there was speculation as to whether Urban Moving had been "set
up or exploited for the purpose of launching an intelligence operation against
radical Islamists in the area, particularly in the New Jersey-New York area."
Under this scenario, the alleged spying operation was not aimed against the
United States, but at penetrating or monitoring radical fund-raising and support
networks in Muslim communities like Paterson, N.J., which was one of the places
where several of the hijackers lived in the months prior to Sept. 11.
For the FBI, deciphering the truth from the five Israelis proved to be
difficult. One of them, Paul Kurzberg, refused to take a lie-detector test for
10 weeks — then failed it, according to his lawyer. Another of his lawyers told
us Kurzberg had been reluctant to take the test because he had once worked for
Israeli intelligence in another country.
Sources say the Israelis were targeting these fund-raising networks because they
were thought to be channeling money to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, groups that are
responsible for most of the suicide bombings in Israel. "[The] Israeli
government has been very concerned about the activity of radical Islamic groups
in the United States that could be a support apparatus to Hamas and Islamic
Jihad," Cannistraro said.
The men denied that they had been working for Israeli intelligence out of the
New Jersey moving company, and Ram Horvitz, their Israeli attorney, dismissed
the allegations as "stupid and ridiculous."
Mark Regev, the spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, goes even
further, asserting the issue was never even discussed with U.S.officials.
"These five men were not involved in any intelligence operation in the United
States, and the American intelligence authorities have never raised this issue
with us," Regev said. "The story is simply false."
Despite the denials, sources tell ABCNEWS there is still debate within the FBI
over whether or not the young men were spies. Many U.S. government officials
still believe that some of them were on a mission for Israeli intelligence. But
the FBI told ABCNEWS, "To date, this investigation has not identified anybody
who in this country had pre-knowledge of the events of 9/11."
Sources also said that even if the men were spies, there is no evidence to
conclude they had advance knowledge of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11. The
investigation, at the end of the day, after all the polygraphs, all of the field
work, all the cross-checking, the intelligence work, concluded that they
probably did not have advance knowledge of 9/11," Cannistraro noted.
As to what they were doing on the van, they say they read about the attack on
the Internet, couldn't see it from their offices and went to the parking lot for
a better view. But no one has been able to find a good explanation for why they
may have been smiling with the towers of the World Trade Center burning in the
background. Both the lawyers for the young men and the Israeli Embassy chalk it
up to immature conduct.
According to ABCNEWS sources, Israeli and U.S. government officials worked out a
deal — and after 71 days, the five Israelis were taken out of jail, put on a
plane, and deported back home.
While the former detainees refused to answer ABCNEWS' questions about their
detention and what they were doing on Sept. 11, several of the detainees
discussed their experience in America on an Israeli talk show after their return
Said one of the men, denying that they were laughing or happy on the morning of
Sept. 11, "The fact of the matter is we are coming from a country that
experiences terror daily. Our purpose was to document the event."
ABCNEWS' Chris Isham, John Miller, Glenn Silber and Chris Vlasto contributed to
The Forward (US), "Spy Rumors Fly on Gusts of Truth", 15 March 2003.
Americans Probing Reports of Israeli Espionage Despite angry denials by Israel
and its American supporters, reports that Israel was conducting spying
activities in the United States may have a grain of truth, the Forward has
Sources emphasized that the release of all the Israelis under investigation
indicates that they were cleared of any suspicion that they had prior knowledge
of the September 11 attacks, as some anti-Israel media outlets have suggested.
The resulting tensions between Washington and Jerusalem, sources told the
Forward, arose not because of the operations' targets but because Israel
reportedly violated a secret gentlemen's agreement between the two countries
under which espionage on each other's soil is to be coordinated in advance.
According to one former high-ranking American intelligence official, who asked
not to be named, the FBI came to the conclusion at the end of its investigation
that the five Israelis arrested in New Jersey last September were conducting a
Mossad surveillance mission and that their employer, Urban Moving Systems of
Weehawken, N.J., served as a front.
After their arrest, the men were held in detention for two-and-a-half months and
were deported at the end of November, officially for visa violations.
However, a counterintelligence investigation by the FBI concluded that at least
two of them were in fact Mossad operatives, according to the former American
official, who said he was regularly briefed on the investigation by two separate
law enforcement officials.
"The assessment was that Urban Moving Systems was a front for the Mossad and
operatives employed by it," he said. "The conclusion of the FBI was that they
were spying on local Arabs but that they could leave because they did not know
anything about 9/11."
However, he added, the bureau was "very irritated because it was a case of
so-called unilateral espionage, meaning they didn't know about it."
Spokesmen for the FBI, the Justice Department and the Immigration and
Naturalization Service refused to discuss the case. Israeli officials flatly
dismissed the allegations as untrue.
However, the former American official said that after American authorities
confronted Jerusalem on the issue at the end of last year, the Israeli
government acknowledged the operation and apologized for not coordinating it
The five men — Sivan and Paul Kurzberg, Oded Ellner, Omer Marmari and Yaron
Shmuel — were arrested eight hours after the attacks by the Bergen County, N.J.,
police while driving in an Urban Moving Systems van. The police acted on an FBI
alert after the men allegedly were seen acting strangely while watching the
events from the roof of their warehouse and the roof of their van.
In addition to their strange behavior and their Middle Eastern looks, the
suspicions were compounded when a box cutter and $4,000 in cash were found in
the van. Moreover, one man carried two passports and another had fresh pictures
of the men standing with the smoldering wreckage of the World Trade Center in
The Bergen County police immediately handed the suspects to the INS, which
turned them over to a joint police-FBI terrorism task force set up after
September 11 to deal with all possible links with the attacks.
The five Israelis were detained in the high-security Metropolitan Detention
Center in Brooklyn in solitary confinement until mid-October. On September 25,
they all signed papers acknowledging violations of U immigration law. At the end
of October, the INS issued a deportation order which was enforced a month later
after a review by the Justice Department and prodding by Jewish and Israeli
However, the former official said, this is just the official story.
In fact, he said, the nature of the investigation changed after the names of two
of the five Israelis showed up on a CIA-FBI database of foreign intelligence
operatives, he said. At that point, he said, the bureau took control of the
investigation and launched a Foreign Counterintelligence Investigation, or FCI.
FBI investigations into possible links to the September 11 attacks are usually
carried by the bureau's counterterrorism division, not its counterintelligence
"An FCI means not only that it was serious but also that it was handled at a
very high level and very tightly," the former official said.
That view was echoed by several former FBI officials interviewed.
Steven Gordon, an American lawyer hired by the families to help secure their
release, said he could not confirm which FBI division was in charge of the
investigation. However, he acknowledged that "there were a lot of people
involved, including counterintelligence officials from the FBI."
The men all underwent at least two polygraph tests each, the lawyer added. He
said one of the Israelis took the test seven times, a very unusual total
according to several polygraph experts interviewed by the Forward.
After the men were arrested, FBI agents searched the warehouse of Urban Moving
Systems in Weehawken, N.J., seizing computer hard drives and documents. The
warehouse was closed on September 14, said Ron George, a spokesman for the New
Jersey State Division of Consumer Affairs.
On December 7, a New Jersey judge ruled that the state could seize the goods
remaining inside the warehouse. The state also has a lawsuit pending against
Urban Moving Systems and its owner, Dominik Otto Suter, an Israeli citizen.
The FBI questioned Mr. Suter once. However, he left the country afterward and
went back to Israel before further questioning. Mr. Suter declined through his
lawyer to be interviewed for this article.
Earlier this year, the New York State Department of Transportation revoked Urban
Moving System's license after discovering that the company's midtown Manhattan
base was only a mailing address.
Mr. Ellner, one of the five Israelis, said on two occasions in recent weeks that
the five men had decided not to grant any interviews right now "because we went
through a very difficult period and we are not ready for this."
Their Israeli lawyer, Ram Horwitz, told the Forward he was still waiting for the
results of the medical tests undertaken by the men in Israel to make a decision
on an eventual lawsuit in the United States for mistreatment.
Charlene Eban, a spokeswoman for the FBI in Washington, and Don Nelson, a
Justice Department spokesman, said they had no knowledge of an Israeli spying
"If we found evidence of unauthorized intelligence operations, that would be
classified material," added Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the FBI in New York.
One leading expert in American intelligence operations, Chip Berlet, a senior
analyst at the Boston-based Political Research Associates, explained that there
"is a backdoor agreement between allies that says that if one of your spies gets
caught and didn't do too much harm, he goes home. It goes on all the time. The
official reason is always a visa violation."
CBS News (US), "9/11 Chair: Attack Was Preventable", 17 December 2003.
For the first time, the chairman of the independent commission investigating the
Sept. 11 attacks is saying publicly that 9/11 could have and should have been
prevented, reports CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston.
"This is a very, very important part of history and we've got to tell it right,"
said Thomas Kean.
"As you read the report, you're going to have a pretty clear idea what wasn't
done and what should have been done," he said. "This was not something that had
Appointed by the Bush administration, Kean, a former Republican governor of New
Jersey, is now pointing fingers inside the administration and laying blame.
"There are people that, if I was doing the job, would certainly not be in the
position they were in at that time because they failed. They simply failed,"
To find out who failed and why, the commission has navigated a political
landmine, threatening a subpoena to gain access to the president's top-secret
daily briefs. Those documents may shed light on one of the most controversial
assertions of the Bush administration – that there was never any thought given
to the idea that terrorists might fly an airplane into a building.
"I don't think anybody could have predicted that they would try to use an
airplane as a missile, a hijacked airplane as a missile," said national security
adviser Condoleeza Rice on May 16, 2002.
"How is it possible we have a national security advisor coming out and saying we
had no idea they could use planes as weapons when we had FBI records from 1991
stating that this is a possibility," said Kristen Breitweiser, one of four New
Jersey widows who lobbied Congress and the president to appoint the commission.
The widows want to know why various government agencies didn't connect the dots
before Sept. 11, such as warnings from FBI offices in Minnesota and Arizona
about suspicious student pilots.
"If you were to tell me that two years after the murder of my husband that we
wouldn't have one question answered, I wouldn't believe it," Breitweiser said.
Kean admits the commission also has more questions than answers.
Asked whether we should at least know if people sitting in the decision-making
spots on that critical day are still in those positions, Kean said, "Yes, the
answer is yes. And we will."
Kean promises major revelations in public testimony beginning next month from
top officials in the FBI, CIA, Defense Department, National Security Agency and,
maybe, President Bush and former President Clinton.
Fox News (US), "What did the Mossad know in advance about September 11 (and not
pass on to USA allies?)", 12 December 2001.[
Carl Cameron Reports
BRIT HUME, HOST: It has been more than 16 years since a civilian working for the
Navy was charged with passing secrets to Israel. Jonathan Pollard pled guilty to
conspiracy to commit espionage and is serving a life sentence. At first, Israeli
leaders claimed Pollard was part of a rogue operation, but later took
responsibility for his work.
Now Fox News has learned some U.S. investigators believe that there are Israelis
again very much engaged in spying in and on the U.S., who may have known things
they didn't tell us before September 11. Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron has
details in the first of a four-part series.
CARL CAMERON, FOX NEWS CORRESPONDENT: Since September 11, more than 60 Israelis
have been arrested or detained, either under the new patriot anti-terrorism law,
or for immigration violations. A handful of active Israeli military were among
those detained, according to investigators, who say some of the detainees also
failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged surveillance activities
against and in the United States.
There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but
investigators suspect that they Israelis may have gathered intelligence about
the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said
there are "tie-ins." But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe
them, saying, "evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot
tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It's classified information."
Fox News has learned that one group of Israelis, spotted in North Carolina
recently, is suspected of keeping an apartment in California to spy on a group
of Arabs who the United States is also investigating for links to terrorism.
Numerous classified documents obtained by Fox News indicate that even prior to
September 11, as many as 140 other Israelis had been detained or arrested in a
secretive and sprawling investigation into suspected espionage by Israelis in
the United States.
Investigators from numerous government agencies are part of a working group
that's been compiling evidence since the mid '90s. These documents detail
hundreds of incidents in cities and towns across the country that investigators
say, "may well be an organized intelligence gathering activity."
The first part of the investigation focuses on Israelis who say they are art
students from the University of Jerusalem and Bazala Academy. They repeatedly
made contact with U.S. government personnel, the report says, by saying they
wanted to sell cheap art or handiwork.
Documents say they, "targeted and penetrated military bases." The DEA, FBI and
dozens of government facilities, and even secret offices and unlisted private
homes of law enforcement and intelligence personnel. The majority of those
questioned, "stated they served in military intelligence, electronic
surveillance intercept and or explosive ordinance units."
Another part of the investigation has resulted in the detention and arrests of
dozens of Israelis at American mall kiosks, where they've been selling toys
called Puzzle Car and Zoom Copter. Investigators suspect a front.
Shortly after The New York Times and Washington Post reported the Israeli
detentions last months, the carts began vanishing. Zoom Copter's Web page says,
"We are aware of the situation caused by thousands of mall carts being closed at
the last minute. This in no way reflects the quality of the toy or its
salability. The problem lies in the operators' business policies."
Why would Israelis spy in and on the U.S.? A general accounting office
investigation referred to Israel as country A and said, "According to a U.S.
intelligence agency, the government of country A conducts the most aggressive
espionage operations against the U.S. of any U.S. ally."
A defense intelligence report said Israel has a voracious appetite for
information and said, "the Israelis are motivated by strong survival instincts
which dictate every possible facet of their political and economical policies.
It aggressively collects military and industrial technology and the U.S. is a
high priority target."
The document concludes: "Israel possesses the resources and technical capability
to achieve its collection objectives."
(END VIDEO CLIP)
A spokesman for the Israeli embassy here in Washington issued a denial saying
that any suggestion that Israelis are spying in or on the U.S. is "simply not
true." There are other things to consider. And in the days ahead, we'll take a
look at the U.S. phone system and law enforcement's methods for wiretaps. And an
investigation that both have been compromised by our friends overseas.
HUME: Carl, what about this question of advanced knowledge of what was going to
happen on 9-11? How clear are investigators that some Israeli agents may have
CAMERON: It's very explosive information, obviously, and there's a great deal of
evidence that they say they have collected none of it necessarily conclusive.
It's more when they put it all together. A bigger question, they say, is how
could they not have known? Almost a direct quote.
HUME: Going into the fact that they were spying on some Arabs, right?
HUME: All right, Carl, thanks very much.
BBC News (UK), "Report details US 'intelligence failures'", 2 October 2002.
The American intelligence agency, the CIA, could have prevented the 11 September
attacks if it were not for systematic failures, according to the German
newspaper Die Zeit.
Just a month before the deadly attacks, the paper said, Mossad handed over to
the Americans a detailed report naming several suspects they believe were
preparing an attack on the United States.
The paper also claims that the CIA failed to inform the German authorities that
Ramzi Binalshibh, a key logistics man for the attacks, had attended a high level
meeting of al-Qaeda activists in Malaysia over 18 months before 11 September.
9/11 - What Really Happened?
[ http://www.whatreallyhappened.com ]
The Insider - The Real News
[ http://www.theinsider.org ]
Saturday, February 21, 2004 09:38:52 -0800