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Arafat's Terrorist Past
By Reed Irvine
May 10, 2002


President Bush's recent characterization of Ariel Sharon as a "man of peace" stirred skeptical reporters to bombard officials and members of Congress with questions, asking if they agreed with Bush, leaving the impression that they didn't. At a press conference given by Hasan Abdel Rahman, the Chief Representative of the Palestinian Authority in the U.S. on May 9, a largely sympathetic group of journalists asked questions that evoked condemnation of Israel and Sharon, and none that required a defense of Arafat's record as a terrorist.

These reporters might have taken a different tack had they known more about Yasser Arafat's terrorist past. His record is so shocking and reprehensible that they would have been justified in asking why the United States has any dealings with him at all. Very few people know that thirty years ago Arafat's Al Fatah had a terrorist arm called Black September which was responsible for the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics, a brutal deed that shocked the world. Still fewer know that in March 1973, Arafat ordered a Black September attack on the Saudi embassy in Sudan, where our Ambassador Cleo Noel, our Deputy Chief of Mission George C. Moore and Belgian diplomat Guy Eid were taken hostage at a reception. They were brutally murdered, said to have been shot in a way that made their deaths especially agonizing.

These murders were front-page news for days, but Arafat's role is little known because it was discovered in super-secret communications intercepts of the National Security Agency (NSA). It was kept secret for years until James J. Welsh, who was the NSA's Palestinian analyst, decided that his obligation to let the truth be known outweighed his pledge to keep his work secret. He revealed that he worked on the intercepts of Arafat ordering the murder. First reported in WorldNetDaily more than a year ago, what he has disclosed has been almost completely ignored by both the media and by the Bush administration. The tapes of Arafat giving the order to carry out the attack and the murders have never surfaced, even during a mid-1980s Justice Department investigation of Arafat's role in the operation.

Welsh said that in 1973, Arafat's number two man had ordered the Black September operation and that NSA learned just the day before it took place that the Saudi embassy in Khartoum was to be taken over during a reception that was being held there. A warning was sent to our embassy via the State Department, but for some reason it was delayed and the takeover of the Saudi Embassy was successful. NSA then picked up two more communications, including one from Arafat confirming the execution order. His calls came from the Shatila refugee camp in Lebanon, which was the site of the PLO headquarters and a known terrorist training facility. The Black September murderers surrendered to Sudanese authorities, but they were later released to the PLO and flown out of the country.

This, if correct, means that for thirty years the U.S. government has known that Yasser Arafat was personally directly responsible for the cowardly murder of our ambassador to Sudan, a senior U.S. diplomat, and a Belgian diplomat. Early efforts to maintain secrecy could be explained by the government's need to protect the sources and methods of acquiring this information, but it is hardly a secret these days that we listen in on the communications of terrorist organizations like the PLO.

What is less understandable is the evidence that the official records in the National Archives have been purged to keep the information about Arafat's despicable deeds from being known by the American people. Russ Braley, a retired foreign correspondent, recently found documentary proof confirming Welsh's account of Arafat's role in the 1973 murders. His search was frustrated by a lack of cooperation from the Archives, where the relevant records had been purged.

He says, "I found only about a dozen telegrams on the Khartoum developments themselves, not the stack of papers I expected for an event of this magnitude." He finally found a CIA report quoted in a telegram from Secretary of State William Rogers to selected embassies that had escaped the purge. It said in part, "No significant distinction now can be made between BSO (Black September) and Fatah...Fatah leader Yasir Arafat has now been described in recent intelligence reports as having given approval to the Khartoum operation prior to its inception." He was a terrorist leader then, and the suicide bombings show that he is one today.

Reed Irvine can be reached at ri@AIM.org.