By Joseph Farah
January 17, 2001
blows whistle in 73 killings of American diplomats in Sudan embassy
On Feb. 28, 1973, James J. Welsh,
the National Security Agency’s Palestinian analyst, was summoned by a colleague
about a communication intercepted from Yasser Arafat involving an imminent
Black September operation in Khartoum, Sudan.
Within minutes, Welsh recalls,
the director of the NSA was notified and the decision was made to send
a rare “FLASH” message — the highest priority — to the U.S. Embassy in
Khartoum via the State Department.
But the message didn’t reach the
embassy in time. Somewhere between the NSA and the State Department, someone
decided the warning was too vague. The alert was downgraded in urgency.
The next day, eight members of
Black September, part of Arafat’s Fatah organization, stormed the Saudi
embassy in Khartoum, took U.S. Ambassador Cleo Noel, diplomat Charge d’Affaires
George Curtis Moore and others hostage. A day later, on March 2, 1973,
Noel, Moore and Belgian Guy Eid were machine-gunned to death — all, Welsh
charges, on the direct orders of Arafat.
Welsh, who left the Navy and NSA
in 1974, speaking publicly for the first time to WorldNetDaily, accuses
the U.S. government of a 28-year-old cover-up of Arafat’s role in the planning
and execution of the attack.
“Over the years I have kept my
silence about what I know about this tragic episode,” Welsh told WorldNetDaily.
“But recently I began to wonder how recent administrations could overlook
something as terrible as this in our dealings with Yasser Arafat.”
When President Clinton invited
Arafat to the White House for direct negotiations on the Middle East, Welsh
says, that was the last straw. He has been on a personal one-man mission
to uncover the tape recordings and transcripts of those intercepts between
Arafat and Fatah leader Salah Khalaf, also known as Abu-Iyad, in Beirut
and Khalil al-Wazir in Khartoum.
So far, Welsh has not found many
allies among members of the U.S. Congress — in either party.
“No one wants to touch this thing,”
Welsh says. “It’s a hot potato. No one wants to be responsible for derailing
the Mideast peace process.”
But Welsh thinks the American people,
who are footing much of the bill for Arafat’s current activities, have
a right to know about his personal responsibility for the murder of two
Americans. And he is the first American involved directly in the affair
to charge publicly what has long been rumored — that Arafat ordered the
embassy takeover and the murders of the American diplomats.
“I have decided that my oaths of
secrecy must give way to my sense of right and wrong,” he told WorldNetDaily.
“I was particularly outraged as I had spent four years following these
individuals and, at the moment of our greatest intelligence coup against
them, an uninformed GS level had pooh-poohed our work and cost the lives
of two U.S. diplomats,” he recalls.
Welsh immediately began demanding
answers about the breakdown in communication that led to the tragedy.
“After some effort, I was told
that the choice was mine: Shut up or lose my clearance and get ready for
Fleet Oiler duty within 48 hours,” he said. “I gave in.”
Welsh believes the initial cover-up
of the communications breakdown and the role of Arafat was launched to
prevent embarrassment to the State Department and White House. President
Nixon, he points out, was in the death throes of the Watergate scandal
at the time. The last thing he needed, Welsh speculates, was an international
scandal to deal with on the front page of the Washington Post.
Later, after Nixon was gone, Welsh
believes the whole matter of the Arafat tapes was kept quiet to protect
the future viability of signals intelligence intercepts of this kind. And,
finally, he says, the cover-up persists to foster Arafat’s role as a “peacemaker”
and leader of the Palestinian cause.
“Yet, there is no statute of limitations
on murder,” Welsh says. “Obviously the United States cannot go after Yasser
Arafat and put him on trial. But the American people deserve to know the
truth about a man and his associates to whom we now give millions, if not
billions of taxpayer dollars.”
In fact, in 1985 and 1986, Congress
requested then-Attorney General Ed Meese to investigate Arafat’s complicity
in the murders of the diplomats.
On Feb. 12, 1986, some 47 U.S.
senators, including now-Vice President Al Gore, petitioned Meese “to assign
the highest priority to completing this review, and to issue an indictment
of Yasser Arafat if the evidence so warrants.”
However, the one critical piece
of evidence needed to warrant an indictment — the tape recordings — was
not produced by the NSA, the Central Intelligence Agency or the State Department.
“These tapes do exist,” claims
Welsh. “I participated in their production. But no one has ever been willing
to come forward and acknowledge their existence.”
Welsh recently received responses
from the three separate agencies to Freedom of Information Act requests
for the recordings or transcripts.
“I had written them (CIA, State
and NSA) on three different dates,” says Welsh. “Guess what? All three
agencies just happened to have all written their replies on the same date
— Dec. 21, 2000.”
Back in 1973, Welsh had received
spontaneous transcripts of the dialogue between Arafat and his subordinates.
But, under NSA protocol, he was not permitted to keep copies. Under normal
procedure, he expected copies of the final transcripts and tapes to arrive
on his desk for further analysis. They never came.
“Things were recorded but never
arrived at my desk,” he recalls. “I know they were recorded because I was
receiving simultaneous reports from a collection site. The warning I drafted
for the State Department was based on those reports.”
Over the years, there have been
reports that the Israelis also had tapes of Arafat ordering the executions
of the U.S. diplomats and that Jerusalem provided copies to Nixon. Gen.
Ariel Sharon said in 1995 that Israeli intelligence gave tapes proving
Arafat’s culpability in the murders to the U.S State Department and White
House in March 1973.
Arafat reportedly ordered the eight
gunmen to surrender peacefully to the Sudanese authorities. Two were released
for “lack of evidence.” Later, in June 1973, the other six were found guilty
of murdering the three diplomats. They were sentenced to life imprisonment
and released 24 hours later to the PLO.
During their trial, commander Salim
Rizak, also known as Abu Ghassan, told the court: “We carried out this
operation on the orders of the Palestine Liberation Organization and should
only be questioned by that organization.”
Sudanese Vice President Mohammed
Bakir said, after questioning the six: “They relied on radio messages from
Beirut Fatah headquarters, both for the order to kill the three diplomats
and for their own surrender Sunday morning.”
“I know Yasser Arafat was a direct
player in the murder of our diplomats and so has every U.S. administration
since Richard Nixon’s,” says Welsh.
Before surrendering, the Khartoum
terrorists demanded the release of Sirhan Bishara Sirhan, the convicted
assassin of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, as well as others being held in Israeli
and European prisons. Nixon refused to negotiate.
Will the full story of the Khartoum
diplomatic murders ever be fully told? Will the tapes ever be released
by American officials?
“When Arafat dies, possibly the
tapes will be acknowledged, but not released,” predicts Welsh. “Oil, oil,
oil. That’s the big fear. If Arafat were to be destroyed politically —
and this would do it — the Arab world would reply with a boycott we would
not be able to deal with.”
What’s the lesson from this 28-year-old
tale of murder and international intrigue?
“I guess there may be no statute
of limitations on murder, but there is a statute of importance,” says Welsh.
“If you can evade justice for your crime long enough, then it will be forgiven
if you are an important person. So much for the honor of our government.”