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Thread: U.S. Officer Tells How Daniel Pearl Was Murdered

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    U.S. Officer Tells How Daniel Pearl Was Murdered

    US officer tells how Daniel Pearl was murdered

    http://www.dawn.com/2007/06/25/top13.htm

    By Anwar Iqbal

    WASHINGTON, June 24: The US security officer who investigated the Daniel Pearl murder case absolves al-Fuqra leader Sheikh Gilani of involvement in the murder of the American journalist.

    In a highly unusual move, the US State Department posted an interview with the officer, Randall Bennett, on the front page of its website this weekend. Mr Bennett was the US Regional Security Officer in Karachi during the time Mr Pearl was kidnapped and later murdered in 2002.

    The interview coincided with the release of a film “A Mighty Heart,” which depicts the kidnapping and murder of the Wall Street Journal reporter.

    “Sheikh Omar, who has quite a history involved in the kidnapping – the hijacking of airplanes out of India and affiliations with various hardcore jihadi organisations – had very carefully plotted and planned this kidnapping of Danny,” said Mr Bennett.

    “He had set it up where he had given Danny information and promised this interview with Sheikh Gilani. Sheikh Gilani, as it turned out, had no idea his name was even being used.”

    Mr Bennett said that Sheikh Omar used the interview to bait Daniel Pearl. “He would throw the bait out and he would reel it back in. So over a period of two weeks, Danny was enticed and then lost the opportunity for the interview.”

    The US officer said Mr Pearl had been looking forward to this interview because it was a very “hot item.”

    The so-called shoe-bomber, Richard Reed, who tried to bomb a Chicago-bound plane in 2002 with explosives hidden in his shoes, dominated the US media in those days and Mr Pearl hoped to get some exclusive information about the bomber from this interview.“So when it came time, after two weeks of baiting and switching, Danny was at the Metropol Hotel standing outside the Village restaurant. His meeting was at 1900 hours, 7:00 pm. At 1911, he received a phone call. The phone call lasted till 1916.

    “So in those five minutes, the investigation later revealed that Sheikh Omar, who was using the name of Bashir at this time, told Danny that ‘I’m sorry, he cannot come to see you again.’ This was maybe the sixth or seventh time they had baited and switched Danny on a meeting.

    “They said, ‘He just cannot get away and we’ve tried and tried and it just hasn’t worked out. If you want the interview, he’s at the madrasah. We’ll pick you up and bring you here and then we’ll take you back, but he’s not going to be able to come and see you there,’” said Mr Bennett.

    He said Mr Pearl had asked him earlier if he could go to a madressah to interview Sheikh Gilani, as his fixer had suggested and “I told him that that was definitely a no-go.”

    He said he explained to Mr Pearl that all madressahs were essentially in dangerous locations. They typically had affiliations to the more radical elements. And for Mr Pearl to go to one of those meant he would be completely cut off from his communication and any safe haven or recourse.

    “And I guess at that moment, Danny had a tough decision to make and he made the decision that he was going to go and do the interview.”

    Mr Bennett said that during the same period three other American citizens were also kidnapped in Karachi and his team and the Karachi Citizen-Police Liaison Committee were able to recover each of them within 24 hours.

    But they could not recover Mr Pearl because they learned about it 12 hours after the kidnapping, which gave the kidnappers the time to take Mr Pearl out of the city.

    In the interview, Mr Bennett also explains how they detained Sheikh Omar’s relatives in Karachi and Rawalpindi to force him to surrender.

    Ultimately, Sheikh Omar surrendered to a relative, a retired intelligence officer, in Lahore who gave him to police after 15 days “and of course, we let (Sheikh Omar’s) family go back to their house immediately.”
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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    The Daniel Pearl Murder -- Part 1: The Understanding

    http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/rls/86410.htm

    QUESTION: Randall, how did you wind up in Iraq?

    MR. BENNETT: Well, I'm a regional security officer for the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, so when the assignments came around, I looked on the list and in the OC positions was senior regional security officer for Baghdad. And that seems to be the ultimate assignment for us and I put in my bid and I got it.

    QUESTION: What year was that?

    MR. BENNETT: I just returned five hours ago, so I just finished serving a one-year tour.

    QUESTION: And what was your main responsibility while you were over there?

    MR. BENNETT: Mainly, the responsibility is all-encompassing. As a senior regional security officer, I have responsibility for all official Americans in the country of Iraq and that includes not just Baghdad, but our regional operations in Irbil, Kirkuk, Tallil, Hilla, and Basra.

    QUESTION: You've gained a bit of notoriety due to one particular act in -- while you were in Iraq. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

    MR. BENNETT: In Iraq or in Karachi?

    QUESTION: In Karachi.

    MR. BENNETT: When I was serving in Karachi as the regional security officer there for the Diplomatic Security Service, the Daniel Pearl case came about. I received a phone call at 7:10 in the morning from a woman named Asra Nomani. And Asra was working with Daniel Pearl. Daniel's wife, Mariane, was at the house where Asra and Danny worked for the Wall Street Journal. They were interested in getting an interview with Richard Reed -- actually, the person that Richard Reed had stayed with in Lahore, Pakistan, a gentleman by the name of Sheikh Gilani. Sheikh Gilani was allegedly the head of a less-known terrorist organization that was actually taken off the terrorist list in 2000 named ul-Fuqra.

    So I received a phone call at 7:10 and they said that Danny had not returned the night before. The day prior, Danny had come to visit me for a security briefing. He had advised me that he was going to be meeting with this Sheikh Gilani at the Village restaurant which is attached to the Metropole Hotel a couple of blocks from the consulate general. And he wanted to know what I knew about ul-Fuqra and about Sheikh Gilani. We knew nothing about them and that's what bothered me when I first spoke to him because a well-known terrorist organization would be something that would be on my list and something that I would follow on a daily basis. The fact that his name had not come up and his organization had not come across my desk in any reporting led me to be concerned that he was being drawn into something that wasn't appropriate.

    So he asked if I felt that it was reasonable for him to go to the interview and I told him that it would be, but that he needed to meet with him in a public place and that public place was the Village restaurant at the Metropole Hotel, very public. He agreed that that would be the case, but he asked me -- he said, "He's the leader of a madrasah," and a madrasah is a religious school. And he -- Danny said, "He might want me to go visit his school. What do you think?"

    And I told him that that was definitely a no-go. All madaris, the plural for madrasah, are essentially in dangerous locations. They typically have affiliations to the more radical elements. And for Danny to go to one of those means he's completely cut off from his communication and any safe haven or recourse. When I told Danny this, he seemed to understand. He seemed to accept it. And as we finished our interview, the understanding we had between the two of us was that he did not intend to do that; he would hold the interview at the Village restaurant, which was the original intent, and that was it.

    The Daniel Pearl Murder -- Part 2: The Meeting

    http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/rls/86476.htm

    MR. BENNETT: Unfortunately, what occurred was that over a two-week period, Sheikh Omar, who has quite a history involved in the kidnapping -- the hijacking of airplanes out of India and affiliations with various hard core Jihadi organizations had very carefully plotted and planned this kidnapping of Danny. He had set it up where he had given Danny information and promised this interview with Sheikh Gilani which Sheikh Gilani, as it turned out, had no idea this -- his name was even being used.

    But he would throw the bait out and he would reel it back in. So over a period of two weeks, Danny was enticed and then lost the opportunity for the interview. And this interview was something that Danny had been looking forward to and it was a very hot item. The Richard Reed shoe bomber incident was extremely hot news. So when it came time, after two weeks of baiting and switching, Danny was at the Metropol Hotel standing outside the Village restaurant. His meeting was at 1900 hours, 7:00 p.m.

    At 1911, he received a phone call. The phone call lasted till 1916, so in that five minutes, the investigation later revealed that Sheikh Omar, who was using the name of Bashir at this time, told Danny that "I'm sorry, he cannot come to see you again." This was maybe the sixth or seventh time they had baited and switched Danny on a meeting. They said, "He just cannot get away and we've tried and tried and it just hasn't worked out. If you want the interview, he's at the madrasah. We'll pick you up and bring you here and then we'll take you back, but he's not going to be able to come and see you there."

    And I guess at that moment, Danny had a tough decision to make and he made the decision that he was going to go and do the interview. But you have to remember that Sheikh Omar was a professional at this. This is what he did for a living. He tricked people. He was a terrorist who prided himself on his ability over a particular period of time to bring somebody into a level of trust and confidence where he could carry out his act and that appears to be the case.

    QUESTION: Was there ever any consideration given to having one of your agents watch the Village restaurant at the time Daniel Pearl was there?

    MR. BENNETT: I did have a surveillance detection team, all Pakistanis, and the truth is that I gave it some thought only because I liked Danny. We didn't carry out this function, we didn't provide these assets or resources for private citizens. This program was designed and still is designed to watch over the official Americans that are in-country who are high profile. I thought about it because I liked Danny and as we finished our interview earlier in the day, he and I had even discussed our two wives getting together and that we would get together for dinner. And I thought maybe just as a precaution, I would do it, but it wouldn't have been appropriate and the decision was made not to do it, not to use U.S. Government resources for private interests.

    QUESTION: How do you know that the sheikh called him and told him to go to the madrarar?

    MR. BENNETT: The madrasah?

    QUESTION: Madrasah.

    MR. BENNETT: Because later, as we started the investigation, we captured certain people. They had knowledge of the phone call and what had taken place.

    QUESTION: So it's fair to say you were one of the last people to see Daniel Pearl alive?

    MR. BENNETT: Yes. There were several that followed me, but I was one of the last.

    QUESTION: What had been your relationship to Daniel Pearl prior to him coming to see you in Karachi the day before his murder to talk about the security system?

    MR. BENNETT: We had actually had no relationship before.

    QUESTION: So it was the first time --

    MR. BENNETT: This was the first time that we had gotten together, but in the hour interview, we just sort of hit it off. He had a really great smile, a good personality, good character, a good-hearted guy who was trying to do what was right. And so we liked each other and we had made plans to get together after.

    The Daniel Pearl Murder -- Part 3: The Capture

    http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/rls/86530.htm

    QUESTION: Following the murder of Daniel Pearl, when you knew he had gone missing the next day, how did the investigation unfold after that and what was the lynchpin that led to the actual capture of the sheikh?

    MR. BENNETT: That's a long story, but immediately following the telephone call from Asra Nomani, in the week prior to this event occurring, there had been three different Americans that had been kidnapped in Karachi through several organizations that we as a group co-opted and affiliated with each other.

    We would -- by phone calls to each other, we would eventually -- we would very quickly, in fact, shut down all the highways leading out of the city. And that would allow the police, who was one of the parties that were involved -- it was the Pakistani police, it was a group called Citizen Police Liaison Committee and myself, we -- and my surveillance detection team, coincidentally. We would shut the streets down and then we would begin a complete search of the area. And in each of those three cases, we had recovered the Americans within 24 hours.

    We had the same hopes that it would happen for Danny. Unfortunately, it had been 12 hours since he had been taken, and as it turned out he was taken outside the circuit of the city. And so by shutting down the streets, it really didn't benefit us the way it did when we had quicker notification of kidnappings.

    QUESTION: Describe the moment of capture of Sheikh Omar.

    MR. BENNETT: Well, Sheikh Omar -- actually, we had gone to see his family. He had some relatives in Karachi. As it turned out, he was in Rawalpindi, which is a sister city of Islamabad. And we had gone to his family and we had brought his family to the police station where we were detaining them, asking them questions about where Sheikh Omar might be. We obtained a phone number for him and we called him. And believe it or not, he answered. And we said, "We have your family here and it would be the proper thing for you to do to turn yourself in and let's talk over the events of the kidnapping and let's get this thing straight."

    He hung up the phone immediately, without a response, and he went to Lahore, where he turned himself in without the knowledge of anyone to a family member who had previously been with the Pakistan intelligence. And for a week, without any of us knowing it, he was essentially under house detention, so to speak, of his relative.

    After a week, we did discover it and he was turned over to the police and, of course, we let the family go back to their house immediately. But that was how the capture came about of Sheikh Omar. We had already captured the three others that helped him plan and carry out the e-mails and the notifications and the kidnapping itself prior to that.

    QUESTION: Did you have the opportunity to interrogate Sheikh Omar?

    MR. BENNETT: Yes, I did, on a number of different occasions.

    QUESTION: What was he like?

    MR. BENNETT: Arrogant. Sheikh Omar was -- he was arrogant, self-righteous, and in some discussions with him he actually made statements to the effect that because he felt that his cause was just that he would have no problem with killing a busload of children in order to get a point across. When you interview somebody who is of such a strict mindset that they would take innocent lives to make a point, it really comes clearly across how dangerous the fundamental terrorists are.

    QUESTION: What was his point, per the sheikh?

    MR. BENNETT: His point was simply exposure and to make a point. It was to show that infidels had no business dealing in their business. There's really no justification to it, and the point is never clear with terrorism. It's a symbolic point that they're trying to make.

    QUESTION: Did he show any remorse for the actual killing of Daniel Pearl when he started to understand that he had a family and what kind of a man he was?

    MR. BENNETT: Sheikh Omar never showed an ounce of remorse, even through the trial.

    QUESTION: Did Marianne Pearl have an opportunity to confront him?

    MR. BENNETT: To the best of my recollection, I don't believe so. We were trying to keep her from any additional trauma.

    QUESTION: Did you then develop a friendship with Marianne Pearl following the death of her husband during her interrogation?

    MR. BENNETT: You know, the significance and the emotional bonding that goes on during an investigation of this nature, it wasn't just between Marianne and I, but yes, our friendship has become stronger. But it's with the senior superintendent of police, the deputy inspector general, the intelligence elements, the FBI elements that were -- agents that were involved. Everybody became very tight.

    In fact, after we had discovered that he had been killed and Marianne had been advised, a couple of days passed and we were all feeling kind of low. Marianne, with the type of strength that he contained, which has always amazed me, and still amazes me today, she planned a dinner for all of us to thank us for the work that we did. And he threw a dinner at the house that had become our operational center. We were crushed that we had not been able to get Danny back for her, and yet two days after she found out this has happened, she pulled herself together and threw a thank you dinner for everybody who had been involved.

    QUESTION: With the release of "A Mighty Heart," this story is about to take on -- you know, about to become very commercial and extremely public. How do you feel about that, having a story of something that is so security oriented in some ways, so diplomatically oriented in some ways? How do you feel having it be made commercial?

    MR. BENNETT: I think it's time. I think the time has come that this story is told publicly, and I think that film is a good way to carry it out. From what I've been told, because I haven't seen the film yet, it's done in a relatively accurate manner, and I'm sure it must be very difficult for actors to portray the type of emotion that goes on in an actual investigation of that complexity. But I'm told that they do it very well.

    So I think this is good for Marianne. Perhaps it's even a point of closure. She has indicated that this is something that she wants her son Adam to be able to see an understand about his father. And I think it's an important thing and I believe it's going to carry over beyond just what we will see from the film. I think it will create a better understanding about terrorism for the entire world.

    QUESTION: What are you wearing to the premiere?

    MR. BENNETT: Black.

    QUESTION: Have you met Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie?

    MR. BENNETT: I have not met either of those and I'm not sure that I ever will, but it would be nice if I got the chance at the premiere.

    QUESTION: Thank you so much.

    MR. BENNETT: Thank you.
    No One Knows Everything. Only Together May We Find The Truth JG


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