Coordinated Intelligence Efforts Led to Terror Suspect

By Marc Perelman

Published November 18, 2005, issue of November 18, 2005.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Information pieced together by the Forward from documents and interviews provide a rare glimpse into the hunt for a dead terrorist suspect, featuring cooperation and tensions between intelligence services and investigators as well as a possible cover-up operation by Hezbollah.

In late 1999, Argentina launched secret operation “Gaviota,” with the aim of recruiting informants within Hezbollah to provide information about the presence of radical Islamist networks in the lawless tri-border area where Argentina, Paraguay and Brazil meet.

After a former Hezbollah operative living in the area gave U.S. intelligence some information about a 1985 plot against a TWA plane, Argentine officials asked their American counterparts to pump their source for information about the bombing of the AMIA community center, Argentine intelligence and judicial sources said. The Americans acceded to the demand, prompting Argentina’s intelligence service to launch another operation, “Centauro.”

The informant was sent to his native Lebanon and came up with a potential asset in the persons of a cousin nicknamed Caiman and a disgruntled former member of Hezbollah. Both men were monitored, investigated and polygraphed, and eventually the informant lured Caiman to South America, where he agreed to collaborate. In June 2001, Argentine officials and an FBI agent in Montevideo, Uruguay, debriefed him.

At that meeting, held in a safe house June 9 and 10, Caiman, identified in Argentine documents as Bassam Nassri Chamas, told his interlocutors that a senior Hezbollah official had told him years before that Berro was the suicide driver who blew up the AMIA building, according to a copy of the transcript of an affidavit signed by Caiman that was obtained by the Forward. He identified the Hezbollah official as Abu Mohamad Yassin and said they had lived in the same town in Lebanon; he also said that the Hezbollah agent told him that a certain “Brru” was the suicide bomber who carried out the AMIA attack.

When Chamas countered that Brru had in fact been killed in an operation in South Lebanon, Yassin repeated his assertion about his role in the AMIA operation and explained Hezbollah’s deception operations, according to the transcript. Yassin also said the suicide driver and other members of the team that carried out the AMIA bombing had used European passports for their travels.

Caiman was sent back to Lebanon to gather additional information. He was to be paid a $1,500 per month stipend.

But the operation was aborted due to a government change in Argentina and a nasty internecine fight between competing sectors of the country’s intelligence service. This dispute led to a breakdown in relations with the CIA after the picture of its station chief in Buenos Aires was leaked to the press.

In recent years, cooperation with the Americans picked up again, leading to last week’s announcement.






Find us on Facebook!
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. http://jd.fo/q3Iaj Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • Vered Guttman doesn't usually get nervous about cooking for 20 people, even for Passover. But last night was a bit different. She was cooking for the Obamas at the White House Seder.
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.