- The Washington Times - Monday, October 6, 2003

ASSOCIATED PRESS

The FBI was funneling money secretly to suspected Hamas figures to determine whether the militant group would use it for terrorist attacks while President Clinton was trying to broker an elusive peace between Israelis and Palestinians, interviews and court documents show.

The counterterrorism operation in 1998 and 1999 was controlled out of the FBI’s Phoenix office in cooperation with Israeli intelligence and was approved by Attorney General Janet Reno, FBI officials told the Associated Press.

Several thousand dollars in U.S. money was sent to suspected terror supporters during the operation as the FBI tried to track the flow of cash through terror organizations, the FBI said in a rare acknowledgment of an undercover sting that never resulted in prosecutions.

“This was done in conjunction with permission from the attorney general for an ongoing operation, and Israeli authorities were aware of it,” the bureau said.

One of the FBI’s key operatives, who had a falling-out with the bureau, provided an account of the operation at a friend’s closed immigration court proceeding. AP obtained and reviewed the court documents.

Arizona businessman Harry Ellen testified that he permitted the FBI to bug his home, car and office, allowed his Muslim foundation’s activities in the Gaza Strip to be monitored by agents, arranged a peace meeting between major Palestinian activists and gained personal access to Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat during more than four years of cooperation with the FBI.

Mr. Ellen’s FBI handler in the late 1990s was Kenneth Williams, an agent who later became famous for writing a pre-September 11 memo to FBI headquarters warning that Arab pilots were training at U.S. flight schools. The warning went unheeded.


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