It was the African embassy trial that tipped bin Laden off to the fact that we were following his calls on his satelite phone. In fact it is an example of how the "lawfare" strategy favored by antiwar Democrats has actually hurt our efforts to keep up with bin Laden and al Qaeda. As one of the links below shows bin Laden made no secret of his use of the phone, actually using it to call the BBC in 1998. It was the trial that made him aware that the US was tracing his calls and had tied him to the bombing. That is the problem with public trials of terrorist. The enemy can discover what we know about them and how we got it. That is why the US has refused to produce terrorist who are in custody for trials in Germany and Spain. It is why the terrorist rights lobby of the Democrat party is so wrong on issues like the Patriot Act.
Paul McKay in the Ottawa Citizen, September 29, 2001 indicates that records from bin Laden's satelite phone call were introduced into the African Embassy bombing trial.
Two imprisoned men, separated by half a planet and what amounts to a royal fortune, may hold the key to unlocking the secret of how Osama bin Laden finances his global terrorist network. But both are staying stone silent.
Khalid al-Fawwaz is an otherwise undistinguished former Nairobi car importer who lived in a nondescript London apartment and ran an obscure war relief group called the Advice and Reformation Committee (ARC) in London. Now being held in Britain's maximum-security Belmarsh prison, he faces criminal charges in the United States for abetting the 1998 terrorist bombings of embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, which killed or wounded nearly 4,800 people.
Khalid bin Mahfouz is a controversial, Yemeni-born tycoon worth an estimated $2.5 billion U.S. He founded and ran the world's largest private bank until 1999, when the Saudi royal family quietly arranged for a government investment fund to buy out his 50-per-cent stake in the National Commercial Bank, then forced his dismissal. After a financial audit of the bank's $21-billion assets, Mr. Mahfouz was confined to a military hospital in Taef, Saudi Arabia. Some $2 billion has been reported missing. One of his sisters is married to Mr. bin Laden.
Wiretap evidence, satellite-phone and fax records confirmed that calls were made to or from the now-convicted African embassy bombers and Mr. bin Laden's military lieutenant in Pakistan, Mohammed Atef (who is charged with Mr. bin Laden in the African embassy bombings). Seized bank records showed that Mr. Fawwaz held the signing authority for a Barclay's account for ARC.
The U.S. court records, and testimony from former bin Laden insiders, also indicate that Mr. Fawwaz purchased mobile phone technology that Mr. bin Laden or his aides used to make 140 calls to London and the Kenya bomb group from Afghanistan.
Seizures in Nairobi turned up phone bills for Mercy International in Mr. Fawwaz's name, and calls to that office from Mr. bin Laden's satellite phone. Much of the evidence used to convict four of the embassy bomb plotters in a later U.S. trial was found at the charity's Kenya office.
...After Clinton retaliated for the African embassy bombing, near the end of August 1998, in the BBC story on the attacks there is this:
It does not sound like bin Laden is making a secret of his phone. (Emphasis added.)
Mr bin Laden, a Saudi millionaire dissident, spoke to the BBC by satellite phone one hour before the attack, denying involvement in the embassy bombings.
However, he said he would continue his war against the Americans and the Jews until the liberation of the Islamic holy places.
This story from TCM Breaking News out of Ireland, about the African Embassy trail nails the bin Laden Satelite phone story:
...This 2002 story from the Sunday Times (UK) indicates the satelite phone records came to light at the trial of the African embassy bombers.
Evidence presented during a six month trial of four bin Laden followers in a New York court, just four blocks from the twin towers, included the following:
:: A computer report showing a Kenyan cell of bin Laden’s organisation was responsible for killing US military personnel in Somalia in 1993.
:: Testimony of a terrorist turncoat who said he was ordered by bin Laden to survey potential US, British, French and Israeli targets in Nairobi in 1993.
:: Records and testimony that show bin Laden used a satellite phone in February 1998 to issue an order to kill American civilians. (Emphasis added.)
Al-Fadl also testified that bin Laden spent thousands of dollars to buy a satellite phone. Investigators found the number for bin Laden’s satellite phone in the address books of known terrorists.
The phone ‘‘gives you a window into how it is that al-Qaida operates,’’ prosecutor Kenneth Karas told jurors.
‘‘It’s the phone that they used to communicate the fatwa in February 1998 that says kill all American civilians.’’
There is this from a May 2, 2001 CNN story on the trial of the African Embassy bombers:
Karas (the prosecuter in the case) also argued the conspiracy can be traced, in part, in a series of telephone call records in evidence.
Karas told the jury that telephone records showed al-'Owhali made phone calls after the bombing to a friend in Yemen, who then called bin Laden's satellite phone in Afghanistan in an attempt to rescue al-'Owhali. A witness has testified al-'Owhali received a wire for $1,000 but al-'Owhali was arrested in Kenya two weeks later.
Claims for the embassy bombings -- in the name of the Islamic Army for the Liberation of the Holy Places -- were transmitted from bin Laden's Afghanistan base to a cell in Baku, Azerbaijan to a London cell, phone records showed. The claims protested U.S. troop presence in Saudi Arabia, home to the holiest Muslim cities, Mecca and Medina.
People are still blaming the knowledge of the calls on a Washington Times story. The short term memory of the current media is remarkable. Perhaps, bin Laden's satelite phone call to the BBC in 1998 should put that charge to rest.