Magazine article Newsweek

Tracking Bin Laden: A Talk with a Key Suspect in an Anti-American Plot

Magazine article Newsweek

Tracking Bin Laden: A Talk with a Key Suspect in an Anti-American Plot

Article excerpt

The Kafkafa security prison sits high on a summit among the craggy hills of northern Jordan. It's visiting hour, and Khalil Deek is smiling broadly through an iron-mesh screen dividing prisoners from their families. "Thank you for taking an interest in the case," he says, fingering his bushy black beard. The "case" places Deek, a naturalized American citizen born in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, at the center of a conspiracy to attack American and Israeli tourists in Jordan last New Year's. With a wave of his hand, Deek dismisses the charges as "all this hocus-pocus." A devout Muslim, he says he had been living a quiet life in Anaheim, Calif., working as a computer technician and designing Islamic-culture Web sites when, in 1997, he traveled to the Pakistani-Afghan border. Not, he says, to join Al Jihad, but to preserve the writings of a revered Muslim cleric on CD-ROM. "America is a homeland to me," he says, "more than any other country."

Evidence gathered by the FBI and Jordanian intelligence suggests a much darker tale. Police say the CD-ROM they seized from Deek's home near the Afghan border, for instance, didn't contain sacred writings, but elaborate bomb-building instructions. And Jordanian agents say they penetrated a cell that included Deek just in time to thwart the millennium attack on tourists. That successful operation, in turn, produced a windfall of new intelligence about a global campaign of terror against Americans. Most important, FBI sources say, Deek's arrest offers a crucial link in the chain of evidence directly tying Saudi fugitive Osama bin Laden to attacks against American targets. "We've pinned the tail on the donkey," says one senior law-enforcement official.

Deek claims he has never met the notorious Saudi who allegedly masterminded the attacks in 1998 on two U.S. embassies in Africa: "I know him [only] from the media. …

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