In a startling disclosure, a former CIA agent Marc Polymeropoulos revealed how a jihadi-turned-informant duped the US Intelligence Services to unleash a terror attack that left 7 CIA agents dead.
While speaking to CBS during the episode of ‘Intelligence Matters’, Marc Polymeropoulos talked about slain jihadi Humam Khalil Abu-Mulal al-Balawi who worked as a double agent for the Al-Qaeda as well as the CIA. Balawi, a doctor by profession, first came to the notice of Jordanian security agencies after he was found speaking against the West and hailing jihadist attacks on chat forums. Since Jordan is a counter-terrorism partner of the United States, Balawi was apprehended for exhibiting extremist tendencies by the agencies.
The Recruitment of Balwai to infiltrate Al-Qaeda
Marc Polymeropoulos stated that the Middle Eastern security agencies do not work like the CIA. “The Middle Eastern services are not necessarily like us in terms of our ability to kind of throw around a lot of money and it would almost be, using a different set of kind of motivations for recruitment. And a lot of it has to do with being a coercive threat against the family. It’s something that Middle Eastern services actually are quite effective at, especially the Jordanians,” he emphasised.
Polymeropoulos informed that Balawi was recruited by the Jordanian authorities to work for them and the CIA. He revealed, “It was relatively quick. I think it was probably not a lot of personal meetings. It was jailhouse recruitment and then it was some more meetings after his release and getting ready to deploy. Ultimately, it’s again, it’s not something unusual for a Middle Eastern service because the belief is always that they have leverage over an individual due to family members still being present.”
Balawi passes key information about Al-Qaeda
Balawi was then sent to South Waziristan in Pakistan in 2009 to infiltrate the Islamist terror outfit Al-Qaeda. He spent months growing his contacts with other jihadis so much so that the Pakistani Taliban invited him to stay with them.
The former CIA agent recounted, “He (Balawi) actually sends a video which shows him sitting next to a senior al-Qaeda member close to the leadership circles and in touch, this was pretty solid evidence. That one would hope to have received, that it had gained the trust of the rank and file, also of senior al-Qaeda.” Interestingly, Balawi had made an impact on the Al-Qaeda terrorists that there were chances of him treating Ayman al-Zawahiri, an Egyptian terrorist and leader of Al-Qaeda since 2011.
His inputs also corroborated with what the CIA and Jordanian authorities already suspected about Zawahiri’s medical condition. “Think about the hunt for Zawahiri was of such critical importance to the entire kind of global war on terrorism. And at that point, you start thinking that this is the best lead we’ve had to al-Qaeda’s senior leadership in years,” stated Marc Polymeropoulos.
Over-reliance and Security lapse on the part of CIA
However, over-reliance of Balawi proved fatal for the CIA. He turned out to be a double-agent. “The security protocols broke down and he was treated as almost a visiting dignitary,” the ex CIA agent remembered. As such, Balawi was successful in carrying out a suicide attack in Camp Chapman at a CIA base near Khost in Afghanistan on December 30, 2009.
“We let our guard down on this and how it happened is just something that I think we’ll never know. And I say this painfully, too, because I knew all the officers involved. There were top-notch people on the ground,” Marc Polymeropoulos emphasised. He added, “Right, so again, there were several rings of security where he should have been searched. He wasn’t. He comes up to a location in which I believe a dozen officers were present at that point. Our security team did ask for him to step out of the car and they were going to search him.”
Former CBI agent recounts the horror of 2009
“The problem is this was far too close to the kind of a team that was on the ground. And before they could disarm him in any fashion, he had a suicide vest on. He detonated himself and seven of them were killed. I’ve been to that location at coast base. In fact, I was there a year later and there was still shrapnel holes kind of in the car gated steel roof. I slept in a guest house right there on-site, which was certainly difficult psychologically for me. There was an attempt to search him at the last moment but it was far too late.”
The former CBI agent concluded, “He should have been searched by not only by U.S. personnel, frankly, by Afghan personnel in the outer ring of security. That should have been done far earlier and that was kind of normal protocols that for whatever reason, to this day, no one can really understand why they were not followed…”