RealNews

Videotapes of a Qaeda Informer Offer Glimpse Into a Secret Life

It was an extraordinary coup: in the late 1990’s, federal prosecutors sat down to interview their first major informer against Al Qaeda — Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl, a former payroll manager for Osama bin Laden who would become the government’s chief witness in its first trial of Qaeda operatives. But it was followed by an extraordinary blunder: for two years, even as the authorities cloaked Mr. Fadl in the secrecy of the federal witness-protection program, keeping him in undisclosed locations and communicating with him in videoconferences through a special telephone hookup, many hours of those conversations were recorded on videotape. The taping, which the government says was done by someone in the federal marshals service and discovered in 2002 by prosecutors and the F.B.I., violated the established practice and the very mission of witness protection. Such recordings are not made because they could reveal deadly clues about the identity and location of the informer — particularly one as high risk as Mr. Fadl, who is unharmed but still hidden and may be called again to testify in terrorism trials. Full Story

OODA Analyst

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