CBS’ 60 Minutes Exposes “The Arafat Papers”

On Sunday, September 29, 2002, 60 Minutes broadcast a highly informative segment (see transcript below) called “The Arafat Papers.” An interview with Israeli intelligence officer Colonel Miri Eisin presented evidence from documents found in Arafat’s compound proving that Iran and Iraq have provided planning, training and funding for some of the many Palestinian terrorist attacks inside Israel and the territories.

Encourage the media to advance this story, particularly as more of the hundreds of documents that Israel seized become avialable to the public.

60 Minutes is to be commended for this very informative and in-depth segment on the connection of Iran and Iraq to terrorists operating against Israel.

The transcript appears below:

60 Minutes
Sunday, September 29, 2002

LESLEY STAHL: Unbeknownst to the rest of the world, when the Israelis surrounded Yasser Arafat’s compound in Ramallah earlier this year to dismantle the Palestinian Authority and confiscate weapons, they also sent in intelligence collection teams to scoop up top secret files. What they were looking for was proof of Arafat’s personal involvement in terrorism, but that was the least of what they found. What they found, they told us, was a paper trail of terror leading from both Iran and Iraq. The Israelis claim that they now have proof that the supposedly homegrown Palestinian uprising, known as the intifada, is neither an uprising, nor homegrown. It is, they claim, violence planned, funded, and directed largely from Iran and Iraq, and they showed us some of the documents they’d seized to make their case.

The Israelis captured tens of thousands of documents when they bulldozed into Arafat’s compound in Ramallah, in March. Now, the Palestinian Authority’s most sensitive secrets are stacked in a sea of boxes in an Israeli army hanger.

ISRAELI COLONEL MIRI EISIN: It’s basically all of their files, all of their documents, everything that we could take out.

STAHL: Colonel Miri Eisin is a senior intelligence officer in the Israeli army. She oversees analysis of the documents the Israelis rolled up and carted away from Yassir Arafat’s government.

EISIN: We went into what is the equivalent of the Palestinian CIA, the Palestinian FBI, the Palestinian Bureau of Education, and the Palestinian Treasury.

STAHL: And you’re going through these methodically looking for what, acts of terrorism, bank accounts, weapons, that kind of thing?

EISIN: Anything we can find. It can be files about terrorism, it can be descriptions of terrorist acts.

STAHL: How would you describe this?

EISIN: We’ve taken their mind to a certain degree. We took their database.

STAHL: And in it, she said, the Israelis were surprised to find connections between Arafat and a terrorist in Iraq. The database, she said, is filled with smoking guns. Smoking gun number one: that Iraq has infiltrated teams of operatives and weapons into Israel for what Israeli intelligence considers mega-terrorism. This puts Iraq in the terror business to a far greater degree than the Israelis had realized. Ido Hecht, a senior Israeli intelligence official, told us that the Israelis have caught and interrogated members of a Palestinian terrorist cell, who admit they were trained in Iraq by Iraqis this past June.

IDO HECHT: They were trained in an Iraqi base near Tikrit, Saddam’s hometown.

STAHL: Tikrit, right.

HECHT: And a Republican Guard installation; the Republican Guard, Saddam Hussein’s bodyguard. They were trained by people from the Iraqi intelligence. So, this was an operation that was… that had full Iraqi backing.

STAHL: What kind of training? What were they trained specifically to do?

HECHT: Fire arms of various types, R.P.G. anti-tank rockets, how to manufacture explosives, how to make those explosives into actual bombs…

STAHL: And most alarmingly, he said, they were taught how to shoot down an airliner.

HECHT: The training included use in shoulder-launched anti- aircraft missiles, equivalent to the American Stinger S-18.

STAHL: Were they given instructions, specific instructions to shoot down what, a civilian aircraft, a military aircraft?

HECHT: We don’t know about the specific instructions, but they were operating in the area of Ramallah. They had information about Ben-Gurion Airport. Ben-Gurion airport is a civilian airport. Ramallah is next to Ben-Gurion Airport, so the obvious target would be a civilian airliner.

STAHL: He says the group was recruited by Abul Abbas, the notorious international terrorist of the 1970s and ’80s, who Saddam Hussein has reactivated in Baghdad. Among other things, Abul Abbas hijacked the cruise ship “Achille Lauro” in 1985 and killed an American hostage. But what’s the connection between him and Yasser Arafat?

HECHT: He provides money for Abul Abbas’ operations. We have one document that we captured which has Arafat’s signature on it, providing money for 50 members of Abul Abbas’ organization, so that we know that there is a connection.

STAHL: Something else the Israelis say they discovered in the Arafat documents: that Saddam Hussein has been using the Palestinian Authority as a middle man in his illegal selling of oil. So Saddam Hussein was using the Palestinian Authority — Arafat– to smuggle oil, and giving them what, kickbacks?

EISIN: That would be the term, that’s true. It’s kickback money.

STAHL: Do you know how much money the Palestinian Authority made that way?

EISIN: We don’t know exact sums, but it’s certainly in the millions, and probably in double digit numbers.

STAHL: The Israelis claim the money went to buy these weapons, and many more, that they seized from a cargo ship in January, everything from rockets to landmines, machine guns and guided missiles run remotely with a joy stick. Just as troubling were the tons of explosives.

EISIN: This is how they came in.

(As Stahl begins to reach for object) EISIN: Don’t touch it. This is the notorious C-4 plastic explosive. It almost bends. And essentially, I’d be putting it into a suicide belt and around my whole body. You will just be putting in different pieces in and around. On a belt, you could have ten, fifteen, maybe twenty slots to put in these bricks.

STAHL: You’re saying that’s ten kilos. And they sent how many tons?

EISIN: Two tons of C-4. Stahl: Two tons, and one suicide bomber just takes 20 kilos. We’re talking about supplying suicide bombers for I don’t even want to think how long.

STAHL: The weapons may have been paid for by Iraqi oil money, but they came from Iran, another country in President Bush’s axis of evil. Iraq is a threat, but Israel considers Iran an even bigger and more immediate threat. That’s because of its links to va rious terrorist organizations, like Hizballah. We’re on an Israeli army post in the north, only a stone’s throw from positions manned by Hizballah guerillas, who’ve been firing rockets into Israel from southern Lebanon. This is the border right here. This is the electric fence, what they call “the blue line.” Those men behind me are Hizballah. They are said by the Israelis to be owned and operated by Iran. When we got here, Hizballah lookouts came out into the open to look us over. And then some senior Hizballah military officers arrived.

Hello? They won’t talk to us. At one point, another group drove up in a late model $45,000 Ford Expedition. So this is how close the two sides are: eyeball-to-eyeball, Israel to Hizballah. Major General Benny Ganz, head of Israel’s northern command, told us that Iran funds, equips, and trains Hizballah, and tells it what to do. He says Iranians are even operating here.

MAJOR-GENERAL BENNY GANZ: A few weeks ago, we had Iranian patrols, you know, like supervisors or experts, that came with Hizballah and patrolled the entire area from the mountain to the ocean, along the border.

STAHL: Right here?

GANZ: Absolutely. Stahl: Iranians themselves here? General Gantz: Iranians with Hizballah all along this area.

STAHL: But what they’re doing along the border is only part of the picture. Iran supports other militant organizations inside Israel and the territories. The captured documents spell out how much money Iran spends to do that.

EISIN: $400,000, $700,000. These are huge sums of money to buy weapons, to train, to fund, to educate.

STAHL: Are the Iranians doing training themselves?

EISIN: We have been interrogating hundreds, thousands of Palestinians, from April of this year, and talking to them we have found some that have been trained in Iran.

STAHL: Trained for what, for suicide?

EISIN: Let’s put it this way, they weren’t taught chemistry 101.

STAHL: No, but for what, bomb making?

EISIN: Explosives…some of the divers we’ve had, divers in the Gaza Strip trying to get into Israel proper through the sea, they were taught their diving capability in Iran.

STAHL: Iran provides planning and funding for the terrorist organization this man belongs to. Haj Ali Safuri, now in Israeli custody, admitted that he helped plan suicide attacks.

HAF ALI SAFURI: I did arrange martyrdom operations inside the territory of Palestine. I don’t dispute any of that.

STAHL: Haj Ali is a leader of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another Iranian proxy. He’s already been through intensive interrogations, and is now in this maximum security Israeli prison. I have some documents from the Palestinian Authority. I read to him his description in the document as ” prominent terrorist leader.”

HAJ ALI SAFURI: Truthfully, I mean, how did you get this from the Palestinian Authority? These are secret documents. They’re not supposed to be disclosed.

STAHL: But now those secret documents are in the possession of the Israelis. And they say the man you are looking at masterminded and set in motion at least 10 suicide attacks. I quoted to him from one of the documents taken from Arafat’s compound which says you played an important role in preparing explosive belts, explosive charges…

HAJ ALI SAFURI: I would defend my people in every manner at my disposal, whether by explosive belts, explosive charges, or by opening fire.

STAHL: Did you?

HAJ ALI SAFURI: I did, I did prepare them.

STAHL: According to the documents, Haj Ali’s group and other militant organizations funded by Iran were instructed by Iran to commit their terrorist attacks at critical junctures. This is Arafat’s handwriting?

EISIN: Yes, it is, here at the bottom of the page.

STAHL: Colonel Eisin showed us a document from Arafat’s files about meetings of terrorist groups in late October, 2001, just six weeks after 9/11. Iran sent a message telling the groups, “You must not allow a calming down at this period, carry out suicide attacks against Israeli targets in Gaza, in the West Bank, and inside Israel.” What do you think is Iran’s main motive in asking that they increase the violence here after 9/11?

EISIN: 9/11 is a watershed day in the world, certainly for those who are for violence, because for them, they are now the focus as the axis of evil.

STAHL: What we certainly have seen is a diversion from what happened at the World Trade Center, and at the Pentagon, to the violence in Israel.

EISIN: What we have here is a document from the Iranians which says —let’s divert the attention from us, the Iranians — I think the Iraqi document says — from us, the Iraqis, to the Palestinian issue. Sadly, I can say that they’ve almost made it work. I think the world’s attention has been diverted, that the Palestinian issue is the problem. And everybody has sort of forgotten that the Iranians fund it, that the Iraqis fund it, that they’ve sent in these terrorists, and that they’ve trained them from afar.

STAHL: Israeli intelligence continues to mine their treasure of Arafat’s database, and to keep the Bush administration informed. In fact, Israeli intelligence officers were at the White House just this week to brief the administration. People in the states are going to want to know why you’re putting this information out now. And a question will come to mind whether this is meant as ammunition for President Bush to go after Iraq.

EISIN: The Iraqi documents we’ve only had for around six weeks. So for us, it’s a question of bringing them out as we study them and understand them.

STAHL: But you know that people are going to think that.

EISIN: Should we, because of that, keep it under wraps? It’s important to show the whole picture of what’s going on here in the Palestinian Authority areas.

STAHL: In the past, Arafat accused the Israelis of fabricating evidence against him — forging documents. I wouldn’t be surprised if he claims that you’ve created these documents.

EISIN: Two months ago, they officially requested for us to give back all of these archives.

STAHL: And your answer?

EISIN: These are parts of what we call the booty here to stay — we have no intention of giving them back.

STAHL: In those meetings with the Bush administration earlier this week, top Israeli intelligence officials also shared evidence about contacts between Al Qaeda and senior members of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath party. And the Israelis briefed the administration on yet another threat from another country: Libya, they say, is getting close to having chemical weapons and the long-range missiles that deliver them.

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