Bin Laden in Iran, Documentary Claims

Monday, 26 Apr 2010 05:35 PM

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A new documentary film premiering at the prestigious Tribeca film festival in New York this week presents stunning new evidence that al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden is living in Iran, where the Iranian regime is sheltering him.

The film, “Feathered Cocaine,” began as a simple documentary of the illicit trade in hunting falcons to Middle East desert sheikhs. But as filmmakers Thorkell (Keli) Hardarson and Örn Marino Arnarson delved deeper into their subject, they discovered a dark underworld in which terrorism and falcon smuggling met with astonishing regularity.

In March 2008, the filmmakers ventured into Afghanistan and the former Soviet republics along with Alan Parrot, the head of the Union for the Conservation of Raptors, a conservationist group that seeks to protect wild falcons, to interview a smuggler they code-named “T-2.”

For three days, the team waited in a mountain village while the smuggler kept them under surveillance from afar. Satisfied that they hadn’t been followed, he granted them a 55-minute interview — only if they agreed to disguise his voice and his appearance.

“He was suspicious of the cameras – probably because he had seen too many movies about the CIA and was afraid we might be able to identify him,” Hardason told Newsmax.

“T-2” told the filmmakers that he met bin Laden by chance in late November 2004 at a falcon-hunting camp in northeastern Iran.

“I met him five times after 2004,” he said. “The last time we met was in October 2007. Every time, it was in Iran.”

Newsmax was given exclusive access to the interview last year and interviewed a U.S. intelligence official who confirmed that the United States had electronic intercepts indicating the presence of a very important person in the region at the dates “T-2” mentioned.

Iranian authorities were moving the VIP from Tehran to Zahedan, a center of the falcon-hunting grounds, which were closed off to all foreign visitors for security reasons.

“There was no doubt in my mind that they were expecting a big shot, and it makes sense to think it was bin Laden,” the U.S. official said.

“Feathered Cocaine” includes excerpts from the footage with “T-2,” as well as interviews with lawyer John Loftus, former CIA clandestine officer Bob Baer, and others, including this reporter and former Washington Post reporter and terrorism expert Steve Coll.

Loftus revealed that “T-2” provided the filmmakers with the specific frequencies of small transmitters bin Laden had strapped to the backs of his hunting falcons so he could find them if they failed to return to base.

Loftus said the CIA could use that information to track bin Laden and capture him, and that he offered it to the director of the Central Intelligence Agency and to the heads of other U.S. intelligence agencies at the request of the filmmakers, with no response.

Last year, they approached “Rewards for Justice,” the State Department office that is offering a $50 million reward for information leading to bin Laden’s capture, but never received any acknowledgement of their information.

Speaking to a packed house after the Tribeca premier on Friday, Parrot was asked to speculate about why “T-2” agreed to talk to the filmmakers, because the details surely would allow bin Laden to guess his identity.

“I believe that bin Laden wanted ‘T-2’ to send a message through us,” Parrot said. “He wanted the world to know that he was in Iran, but that he couldn’t leave.”

In the movie, Parrot said the Iranian regime is giving bin Laden “a long leash” but is holding his family hostage in Tehran in the event bin Laden revealed his relationship to them. “This was confirmed by one of bin Laden’s sons last year,” Parrot said.

Omar bin Laden, who married a British woman and broke with his father before the 9/11 attacks, revealed in December 2009 that seven of his siblings were living in Tehran and seeking to leave the country.

The story of American-born falconer Alan Howell Parrot lies at the center of this extraordinary tale and lends it credibility. Parrot began breeding falcons and selling them to the king of Saudi Arabia and then to the president of the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) in the late 1970s, and was a frequent guest at their royal palaces and elaborate hunting camps in the wilds of southern Afghanistan.

In the late 1990s, so was renegade Saudi financier Osama bin Laden. Parrot described the royal hunting camps “al-Qaida’s board room,” because they gave bin Laden the opportunity to spend weeks of quality time with wealthy backers from the U.A.E. and other gulf states.

Parrot alleges that bin Laden’s royal backers transferred “hundreds of millions of dollars” in cash to him during these hunting expeditions, as well as military equipment and off-road vehicles. The movie includes footage of a U.A.E. military C-130 transport plane landing at a makeshift airstrip in western Pakistan to deliver equipment to the hunting camps.

“I see bin Laden as a falcon smuggler,” Parrot states in the film, “and in that capacity I went after him. All the locals in Kandahar hated bin Laden because he stole all the falcons.”

After al-Qaida blew up two U.S. embassies in Africa in July 1998, the CIA also began hunting for bin Laden in earnest. Local agents in Afghanistan spotted him at a royal hunting camp near Kandahar in February 1999, according to an account that appeared in the final report of the 9/11 Commission.

CIA Director George Tenet asked the White House for permission to launch a cruise missile strike on the camp on Feb. 8, 1999, but soon ran into interference from an unusual source: Richard Clarke, the top counter-terrorism adviser to President Clinton.

As the 9/11 Commission report concluded, "policymakers were concerned about the danger that a strike would kill an Emirati prince or other senior officials who might be with bin Laden or close by,” so they called off the strike.

On March 7, 1999, Richard Clarke called Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, the U.A.E. defense minister, to "express his concerns about possible associations between Emirati officials and bin Laden," the 9/11 Commission report states.

It is not clear whether Clarke told Mohammed that U.S. intelligence had evidence that U.A.E. officials were with bin Laden in Afghanistan, but after the call, bin Laden and his patrons quickly dispersed and the camps were dismantled.

Clarke claims the CIA approved the tip-off call. However, former CIA official John Mayer III told the commission it was "almost impossible" for the CIA to have approved Clarke's move.

"When the former bin Laden unit chief found out about Clarke's call, he questioned CIA officials, who denied having given such a clearance," the report states. "Imagery confirmed that, less than a week after Clarke's phone call, the camp was hurriedly dismantled and the site was deserted."

Asked by Newsmax to comment on his reported tip-off to the U.A.E. sheikh, Clarke said, "I'm not going to get into that. What I said to the 9/11 Commission is what I said to the 9/11 Commission." He similarly declined repeated requests from Parrot and his documentary film team to talk about the hunting camps on camera.


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