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The evaluation stated that Mr. Curran “personally participated in the overseas interview of a potential asset who is in a position to provide valuable intelligence information to the nation’s entire intelligence community.”

While the document made no specific reference to the asset’s proximity to bin Laden, it stated outright that “the development of this asset, as well as the initiation of other investigative techniques, has resulted in the Los Angeles office obtaining significant intelligence information which is not being provided by any other sources and agencies.”

The 1995 inspection report of the Los Angeles office, meanwhile, praised agents for conducting “analysis of asset information received immediately preceding the February 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, which indicated the presence of an active terrorist infrastructure.”

Similarly, Mr. Youssef provided a written set of answers in his own court case that played out years later, during which he confirmed that he had personally groomed an asset who led to the uncovering of two active terrorist cells in California.

Mr. Youssef wrote that he began investigating information in January 1993 — about a month before the first World Trade Center bombing — that an Egyptian man was involved in terrorism activities in the California area and “this effort led me to a source that was initially contacted by another government agency.”

“I quickly developed a scenario to gain the source’s trust, and in a short period of time, I gained the source’s trust,” Mr. Youssef wrote. “During the relatively short recruitment period, it became evident this source was in a unique position to know and provide highly valuable information not just about the main subject but regarding two very active, thriving IG terror cells.”

Missing from the testimony and the record is any mention of what eventually happened to the human asset and whether he was still available to the United States in later years. U.S. officials declined to discuss the source’s whereabouts after 1994.

The more than 500-page official 9/11 Commission report, as well as equally exhaustive reports produced by the House and Senate intelligence committees, and the CIA’s office of inspector general, made no mention of the source or his contributions to thwarting a Los Angeles area terrorist plot.

The 9/11 Commission report broadly outlines how, during the early 1990s, bin Laden was seeking to expand al Qaeda globally — an effort that included “building alliances extended into the United States,” and that “the Blind Sheikh, whom Bin Laden admired, was also in the network.”

But the report downplays the notion that bin Laden was actively plotting or seeking to finance any specific attacks inside the United States as far back as 1993 — two pieces of information that, according to Mr. Curran’s testimony and contemporaneous documents, the FBI’s Los Angeles field office corroborated at the time.

Alternatively, the report outlines how all of the attacks pursued by bin Laden during that period were against U.S. assets outside the United States.

With regard to the one attack inside the U.S. — the first World Trade Center bombing — the report says “bin Laden involvement is at best cloudy.”

Mr. Zelikow said he regards Mr. Youssef as a “valuable FBI agent” and does not doubt the credibility of Mr. Youssef or Mr. Curran.

But he concluded that if the source referred to by Mr. Curran “had remained close to al Qaeda leadership into the Afghan period, I am pretty sure we would have known about that.”

Mr. Hoekstra, however, is not so sure.

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