Orange Code Terror Alert based on Fabricated Intelligence.

by Michel Chossudovsky

On December 21st, the country was put on High Terror Alert by the Department of Homeland Security.

Based on "credible" intelligence sources, presumed Al-Qaeda and Taliban terrorists were planning to hijack an Air France plane and "crash it on US soil in a suicide terror strike similar to those carried out on September 11, 2001."

Air France Christmas flights out of Paris were grounded. F-16 fighters were patrolling the skies.

Following the investigation by the French authorities, the Al Qaeda terrorists turned out to be a five year old boy, an elderly Chinese lady and a Welsh insurance salesman.

A routine case of "mistaken identity" had contributed to breaking the Spirit of Christmas, across the Land.

Based on erroneous intelligence, an entire Nation had been brought under Orange Code terror alert.

Was it incompetence or was it deliberate? Either way, a public inquiry into the workings of the Homeland Security Department is long overdue.

It is now official: the stand down orders on Air France's Christmas flights from Paris to Los Angeles were based on fabricated information. The latter was used to justify Code Orange Alert during the Christmas holiday.

Prime Minister Raffarin had ordered the cancellation of the Christmas flights following pressures from Washington .

In fact Colin Powell had called up his French counterpart Minister Dominique de Villepin, who then communicated with Prime Minster Jean Pierre Raffarin.

But the whole thing turned out to be a hoax.

According to the official version of events, Washington had identified six members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban on the Air France passenger list:

"U.S. counter-terrorism officials said their investigation was focusing on the "informed belief" that about six men on Air France Flight 68, which arrives in Los Angeles daily at 4:05 p.m., may have been planning to hijack the jet and crash it near Los Angeles, or along the way.

That belief, according to one senior U.S. counter-terrorism official, was based on reliable and corroborated information from several sources. Some of the men had the same names as identified members of al-Qaida and the Taliban, a senior U.S. official said.

One of the men is a trained pilot with a commercial license, according to a senior U.S. official.

U.S. law-enforcement officials said the flights were canceled in response to the same intelligence that prompted the federal Department of Homeland Security last week to ratchet up the nation's terror-alert level to orange, the second-highest level.

Other U.S. law-enforcement officials said authorities at Charles de Gaulle Airport in Paris detained some of the 200 passengers and crew from Flight 68 for questioning. There were conflicting reports about whether any were arrested.

High-ranking U.S. government officials have held near round-the-clock meetings in recent days to sift through intelligence reports that suggest the possibility of terrorist activity in the United States this holiday week. U.S. officials, saying California is the location of highest concern, expressed fears over the use of a range of devices that included biological or chemical weapons, and a radiological or "dirty bomb."

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said investigators became interested in Flight 68 after intercepted "chatter" among suspected terrorists led U.S. intelligence to believe an attack might be imminent. The chatter included a specific reference to the flight, according to one federal law-enforcement source.


With that information, U.S. authorities contacted French intelligence about the possibility that suspected terrorists might be on the flight. They prevailed upon Air France to cancel Flight 68, as well as others bound for Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), because the original intelligence information warned of more than one flight being commandeered. (Seattle Post Intelligence, 25 December 2003)

Meanwhile, orange code terror alert stories had been fed into the news chain.

The Washington Post reported on Christmas day that there "may have been a plot to hijack an Air France plane and crash land it in Vegas."

Other media confirmed that "the reports gathered by American agencies were 'very, very precise'" Meanwhile Fox News pointed to the possibility that al Qaeda was "trying to plant disinformation, among other things to cost us money, to throw people into panic and perhaps to probe our defenses to see how we respond?" (Fox News, 28 December 2003). The fact that Al Qaeda remains a CIA "intelligence asset", involved in US sponsored covert operations, is not deemed relevant. (For further details, see How to Unseat the War Criminals and Reverse the Tide of War? Expose the Links between Al Qaeda and the Bush Administration, by Michel Chossudovsky, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO303D.html

"Mistaken Identity"

Needless to say these fabricated media reports served to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation during the Christmas holiday. Los Angeles International airport was on "maximum deployment" with counter-terrorism and FBI officials working around the clock.

Yet following the French investigation, it turned out that the terror alert was a hoax. The information was not "very very precise" as claimed by Us intelligence.

The six Al Qaeda men turned out to be a five year old boy, whose name had been mistaken for an alleged Tunisian terrorist, an elderly Chinese lady who used to run a restaurant in Paris, a Welsh insurance salesman and three French nationals. (Le Monde and RTBF TV, 2 January 2004)

On January 2nd, the French government confirmed that the intelligence communicated by Washington was erroneous. The French authorities declared there "was not a trace of Al Qaeda among the passengers."

But in fact these "inconsistencies" regarding US intelligence had already been uncovered on the 23d of December by France's antiterrorist services, which had politely refuted the so-called "credible sources" emanating out of the US intelligence apparatus.

France's counter-terrorism experts were extremely "sceptical" of their US counterparts:

"we [French police investigators] showed [on 23 December] that their arguments simply did not make sense, but despite this the flights were cancelled... The main suspect [a Tunisian hijacker] turned out to be a child". (quoted in the Le Monde, 3 January 2003).

We really had the feeling of unfriendly treatment [by US officials] (ils nous appliquent un traitement d'infamie). The information was not transmitted through normal channels. It wasn't the FBI or the CIA which contacted us, everything went through diplomatic channels..." (Ibid)

In the words of another French investigator:

"how is possible that in such sensitive areas of intelligence, the Americans were mistaken in relation to the identity of a relatively large number of names [of passengers] (quoted in Liberation, 3 January 2003)

In subsequent developments, British Airways cancelled one of its January 2 flights from London to Washington, based on "credible" 0US and British intelligence information. This followed the escorting of British Airways Flight BA 223, on New Year's day into Dulles airport by USAF F16 fighter jets. Flight 223 was seized by the FBI when it landed in Dulles airport.

Meanwhile, the office of the Mexican president, issued a communiqué to the effect that "US intelligence that led to the aborting of two of their [AeroMexico] services was 'unconvincing'."

Was it Incompetence?

The decision to cancel the six Air France flights was taken after 2 days of negotiations between French and American officials.

Had the information been "credible", Air France would have immediately taken the initiative to cancel its flights, without further ado. But that is not what happened.

The flights were cancelled on the orders of the French Prime minister following consultations with Sec. Colin Powell. This decision was taken following the completion of theFrench investigation, which demonstrated unequivocally that the US information regarding the terror suspects on the passenger lists was inconsistent.

Despite the fact that the information had been refuted, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge insisted on maintaining the stand-down order. If Air France had not complied, it would have been prevented from using US air space, namely banned from flying to the US.

Needless to say, had the flights not been cancelled, the Administration's justification for Orange Code Alert would no longer hold.

In other words, Homeland Security needed to sustain the lie over the entire Christmas holiday, despite the fact that "its very very precise information" had been refuted by French investigators.

It was only on January 2nd, that the US authorities admitted that they were in error, claiming that it was a unavoidable case of "mistaken identity." While tacitly acknowledging their error, Homeland Security insisted that "the cancellations were based on solid information."

Meanwhile, a routine case of "mistaken identity" had contributed to breaking the Spirit of Christmas, across the Land.

Based on erroneous intelligence, an entire Nation had been brought under Orange Code terror alert.

Was it incompetence or was it deliberate? Either way, a public inquiry into the workings of the Homeland Security Department is long overdue.

Manufacturing disinformation to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation is not only a criminal act, it is an act of treason because it emanates from the highest levels of the State.

[Source: Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Can, 03Jan04 visitada el 09Jan04]

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This document has been published on 12ene04 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights, in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.