Jamal Ahmed Al-Fadl still has his face but not much else of his original identity. He was once a trusted lieutenant in the Jihadist organization of Osama bin Laden. For the past five years, he has been known in the corridors of the FBI only as CS1--Confidential Source 1. Now he has a completely new identity under the federal witness-protection program, because he is spilling the beans on the world's most-wanted terrorist.
Al-Fadl sat in a New York City courtroom last week telling the world the intimate details he has been revealing to U.S. investigators over the years, about how bin Laden's Jihadist organization, called al Qaeda (the Base), works and how its terror conspiracies evolve. He is the dramatic first witness in the trial of four alleged minions of bin Laden's accused of conspiring to bomb two U.S. embassies in East Africa in 1998, setting off twin blasts that killed 224 people, 12 of them Americans. Al-Fadl is not the only star witness expected to finger the Saudi-born financier, whom Washington calls "the most immediate and serious [terrorist] threat" to U.S. security today, for his nonstop terror attempts. Soon to come is Ali Mohamed, another Jihadist turned songbird seeking security in U.S. hands because he can tie bin Laden and several of his top lieutenants directly to the Nairobi bombing.
So far, Al-Fadl's testimony is riveting stuff, revealing the anatomy of a sophisticated terrorist organization. The 38-year-old Sudanese spent two years in the U.S. in the mid-1980s before going off to join the mujahedin fighting Soviet occupation in Afghanistan. But he was an unknown "walk-in" the day he presented himself at the visa office of an American embassy in mid-1996, saying he sought not to receive a visa but to betray his terrorist boss. He said he had been a member of a group in Afghanistan that "wanted to make war against your country," until he stole organizational funds for himself and had to flee for his life. Now he wanted to warn his new protectors that bin Laden's outfit "might try to do something inside the U.S." or "try to make bomb against some embassy."
That vague warning came two years before the explosions in Kenya and Tanzania. But from that moment, investigators began painstakingly corroborating the tale told them by CS1, which was based on his years as a founding member of al Qaeda. He told of traveling to a secret hideaway in Afghanistan where he swore his bayat, or complete allegiance, as the third member in the group bin Laden was setting up around 1990 to transform the Afghan rebellion into an anti-American jihad.