Tenet Given Assurances that No al-Qa'ida Cells Infiltrated Lebanon

by Nicholas Nasif
November 28, 2002

[FBIS Translated Text] A security official has recently returned from 
Washington after three days of meetings with CIA Director George Tenet 
and his assistants for terrorism and Middle Eastern affairs. The talks 
dealt with the security cooperation between Lebanon and the United States 
within the framework of the US-led international campaign on terror. 

The meeting was one in a series of periodic meetings held every one or 
two years. The CIA holds such meetings with security officials in the 
countries of the region, especially the Arab countries, in the context of 
a cooperation program that started before 11 September 2001. But after 
this date the program acquired extreme importance and turned into 
organized work, with continuous exchange of information, and with the 
objective becoming more specific: chasing al-Qa'ida Organization. 

In the three days of meetings Tenet and his aides asked the Lebanese 
security official a few questions that, most likely, were also put to 
Syrian security authorities, which hold similar meetings with CIA 
officials, and for the same purpose, but in Damascus. 

The questions were: 

1. Are there active al-Qa'ida cells or cells for other extremist 
fundamentalist organizations like "Usbat al-Ansar" in Lebanon? 

2. Were there any attempts by al-Qa'ida members to flee to Lebanon from 
Afghanistan? The US intelligence monitored attempts by al-Qa'ida members 
to find safe places in many countries in the world to rebuild their 

3. Is Lebanon watching closely the al-Qa'ida cells operating in Lebanon? 

4. The US security officials also inquired about a number of people whom 
the CIA classifies as "international terrorists". These are wanted people 
and they do not number more than five. The Americans wanted to know if 
these people might be living in or frequenting Ayn al-Hulwah camp in 

In the meetings Tenet and his aides also inquired about the security 
situation on the Blue Line on the border between Lebanon and Israel. 

The answers given by the Lebanese security official were as follows: 

1. As for al-Qa'ida Organization, we uncover secret cells from time to 
time. The latest was the cell that the Lebanese intelligence uncovered in 
October. The cell was made up of two Lebanese and a Saudi national. The 
three were arrested and referred to the Public Prosecution. 

2. Members and activities of Usbat al-Ansar are under observation through 
strict military measures the Lebanese Army is taking around Ayn al-Hulwah 
camp in Sidon, the stronghold of this group. The Lebanese intelligence is 
also intensifying its effort to gather information about the group from 
inside and outside the camp to prevent it from carrying out any 
subversive acts in the country. Ayn al-Hulwah camp is almost the only 
point of security weakness in Lebanon. Extremist groups fled to the camp 
to hide from the Lebanese authorities, especially from the judiciary. 
They sought refuge in the camp because they know the Army would not enter 
it for reasons linked to the conflict with Israel and the desire not to 
take any step that would encourage settling the Palestinians in Lebanon 
and depriving them of the right to return to their country. 

Unlike what happened in the meeting that was held two years earlier, 
Tenet and his assistants did not ask why the Lebanese Army does not enter 
the camp. 

3. The Lebanese security services have information that al-Qa'ida members 
might try to sneak into Lebanon from Afghanistan with a view to hiding 
and rebuilding terrorist cells. Lebanon is cooperating in this respect 
with the American and European intelligence agencies, which regularly 
provide Beirut with information about the possibility of such 
infiltration, and sometimes with names of potential infiltrators so that 
they can be pursued. This cooperation is part of Lebanon's effort within 
the international campaign against terrorism and particularly against 
al-Qa'ida Organization. 

Tenet's answer was that the American intelligence is pursuing these 
people with keen interest, that it will not allow them to rest or settle 
anywhere, and that it will prevent, by force, any attempt to reorganize 
the cells of this extremist organization. Tenet also appeared interested 
in showing his country's concern over the relationship and cooperation 
between al-Qa'ida and Usbat al-Ansar. This cooperation, he said, 
threatens Western interests and stability worldwide. 

4. In all the measures it takes and the arrangements in makes Lebanon 
coordinates with the Syrian intelligence. 

5. Lebanon is committed to security and stability on the Blue Line, which 
extends from Al-Naqurah in the west to Al-Wazzani river in the east. 
Stability along this line is guaranteed by the government, Hizballah, and 
the inhabitants. The UN force offers support and information in this 
regard. There is a collective responsibility to prevent any attempt by 
Palestinian groups or any other extremist groups to infiltrate the Blue 
Line or commit violations that would create chaos and trouble in the 
region. But Shab'a Farms are not part of this line because they are 
Lebanese lands occupied by Israel. Lebanon reserves the right to 
resistance against the occupation in the farms with a view to liberating 
them, which is a legitimate right. 

Tenet and his aides asked if Hizballah coordinates his attacks on the 
Israeli army in the Shab'a Farms with any quarter. He was referring to 
the support that the Lebanese Government and Syria provide for these 
attacks. The Lebanese security official replied that Hizballah is so 
politically mature that it can decide on its own the time and type of its 
attacks on the Israeli army. 

The US intelligence officials did not discuss Hizballah's connection with 
international terrorism. Nor did they describe the party as a terrorist 
organization, as it is traditionally described by the US Administration. 
They only asked about the party's activities in the Shab'a Farms. 

As a result of the discussions, Tenet and his aides expressed 
satisfaction with stability in Lebanon and with the cooperation of the 
Lebanese security services with the CIA station in the American Embassy 
in Beirut. This is a constant and accurate cooperation in the fight 
against terrorism. The Lebanese authorities deal seriously with the 
information they receive from the CIA station, and they regularly supply 
the station with information within the anti-terror plan. 

Tenet said the CIA is ready to meet the needs of the Lebanese security 
agencies in terms of technology, expertise, and training within the fight 
against terrorism. 

While discussing this cooperation, Tenet did not hesitate to praise the 
role that the Syrian intelligence is playing through cooperation with the 
CIA and the pursuit of terrorists. He told the Lebanese security official 
that one of his aides, namely the chief of the counter-terrorism bureau, 
will visit Damascus soon to thank the Syrian authorities for the full 
support and assistance they are offering within the international 
anti-terror campaign, especially with regard to the pursuit of al-Qa'ida 
and the gathering of information about the organization. This reflects 
the stability of and clear improvement in the US-Syrian relations, at 
least on the level of security cooperation. 

[Description of Source: Beirut Al-Nahar (Internet Version-WWW) in Arabic 
-- Independent, moderate, centrist, and christian; root URL: