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Why America’s Best Spy Will Die In Prison
August 20, 2009 - WND.com
In her eminently readable new book, Mafia Son, Sandra Harmon fleshes out the life of the man who may have been America’s best spy, Gregory Scarpa, Jr.
Barring the unforeseen, Scarpa will spend the rest of his days in America’s most secure prison, the ADMAX facility in Florence, Colorado. What he did to get there is the subject of Harmon’s inquiry.
Amazingly, other than Peter Lance, author of the recently re-released Triple Cross, no mainstream reporter has touched the information that Scarpa delivered.
The investigators who first unearthed the FBI documentation, the late Stephen Dresch and Angela Clemente, have rightly called Scarpa’s information “the single most significant Al-Qaeda intelligence in U.S. History, prior to 9-11.”
Awaiting trial in 1996 in New York’s Metropolitan Correctional Center (MCC) on racketeering charges, Scarpa turned down a 17-year plea offer in the hope that he could finesse information out of a few of his fellow prisoners and trade it for a reduced sentence.
Those prisoners included Ramzi Yousef, Abdul Hakim Murad, and Wali Khan Amin Shah Shah, all awaiting trial on what is known as the Bojinka plot, and Eyad Ismail, who was awaiting trial for the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center along with Yousef.
Scarpa’s gangster father, Greg Scarpa, Sr., had long been an FBI informant. Gregory knew how the system worked. Or at least he thought he did.
On March 7, 1996, Scarpa initiated a meeting with assistant U.S. Attorneys Valerie Caproni and Patrick Fitzgerald and his own attorney, Larry Silverman, to formalize the arrangement. For more than a year, Scarpa would report to the authorities on what he learned.
Two days before the meeting, Yousef had told Scarpa, “If you’re interested, I’ll teach you things nobody knows.” A charmer and a schemer, Scarpa had already gotten Yousef and his buddies to trust him.
Yousef saw himself as something of a teacher. He seemed eager to instruct Scarpa on the ways to smuggle explosives on board an airplane, even within the heel of a shoe, and the techniques for assembling the same.
“Yousef wants to blow things up but he does not say why,” Scarpa would tell his handlers. Yousef was fully capable of such mischief. In 1994, hehad planted a bomb on a Philippine Airlines 747 as something of a test and killed the Japanese national who was sitting above it.
Yousef was also keen on hijacking. As Scarpa reported in February 1997, “Yousef advised that [Islamic terrorists] will like hijacking airplanes so much that they will become addicted to them.”
In January 1995, Yousef’s Manila apartment caught fire just weeks before he and his co-conspirators were to unleash Bojinka, the plot to blow up a dozen American airliners over the Pacific. He was apprehended a month later.
The Bojinka trial ran from May 29, 1996 to September 5, 1996, the period Clinton advisor Dick Morris has aptly called “the terror summer of 1996.” Yousef had comments on all major incidents that summer.
On July 2, a week after the truck-bombing of Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia killed 19 American Air Force personnel, Yousef assigned responsibility to bin Laden with whom he was then collaborating.
Yousef was sure, Scarpa reported, “because he [Yousef] was originally sent on the mission to check out security measures and that a tanker truck was discussed at the time.” The authorities fully ignored this lead.
Yousef was not a random glory seeker. After the Olympic Park bombing in late July of that year, he denied responsibility. His people would never have been so stupid, he told Scarpa, to either plant a bomb where there were security cameras or to call 9-1-1.
Neither of these two incidents affected the trial. A third incident had the potential to do so, the destruction of TWA Flight 800 off the coast of Long Island on July 17, which, as Harmon astutely notes, was the “thirty-fifth anniversary of Iraq’s Liberation Day.”
As early as April 11, 1996, according the official FBI 302s, Scarpa was telling his handlers, “Ismail stated that Yousef had something in mind to seriously disrupt the upcoming trial.”
In May, Scarpa reported that “during the trial [Yousef et al.] had a plan to blow a plane up to show they are serious.”
As July 17 approached, according to Scarfa, Yousef was warning friends not to fly on TWA or American Airlines on the morning of July 18.
On the night of July 17, after the explosion, Yousef kept pressing to use Scarpa’s cell phone, which he did not know was part of an FBI sting.
As I previously reported, Yousef called 9-11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed that night, saying, "What had to be done has been done, TWA 800" (last two words unintelligible).
I had two separate sources within the NSA confirm that Yousef made this call in his native Baluchi. This fits the Scarpa intel. Yousef had earlier advised Scarpa that “when he [Yousef] speaks on the phone and needs to get a message out he speaks in three languages.”
A week after the blast, Scarpa reported, “Murad feels that they may get a mistrial from the publicity surrounding the TWA explosion.” By this time, Yousef had already appealed for one and been turned down.
Unlike Khobar or the Olympics, Yousef was totally mum on TWA Flight 800. On July 24, the FBI reported, “Scarpa advised that Yousef has been avoiding any conversation pertaining to the explosion.”
Within days of the TWA 800 crash, the same U.S. attorney who was managing the Scarpa sting, Valerie Caproni, illegally took the crash investigation away from the National Transportation Safety Board and gave it to the FBI.
For the next five weeks, the FBI led the media to believe a bomb had destroyed TWA Flight 800. This culminated in the August 23 New York Times headline, “Prime Evidence Found That Device Exploded in Cabin of Flight 800.”
Given the intelligence Caproni had gotten from Scarpa, she would have had to suspect that Yousef’s people on the outside were responsible for the presumed bombing.
And yet there is no evidence in the available FBI documents to suggest that any pressure was brought to bear on either Yousef or Scarpa to cough up information. There are several possible reasons why.
The most obvious is that from day one the FBI knew that a missile, not a bomb, had taken down the airplane. The leaking of “bomb” evidence was a conscious misdirection.
The less obvious reason is that Caproni and the FBI had come to see Scarpa as a liability. If they publicly gave him credit for his intelligence work, it would be hard to deny his corroboration of the charge that his father, Greg Scarpa, Sr., had a lethally corrupt relationship with his FBI handler, Lin DeVecchio.
Some 75 trials of New York-area mob figures hinged on DeVecchio’s integrity. If that were impeached, there would be chaos in the courts. This is the story that Harmon tells.
Gregory Scarpa, Jr. received no credit for his intelligence work. At the end of the day, the authorities called it a “hoax and scam.” Caproni herself tried Scarpa on a non-lethal RICO charge and saw to it that he got a preposterous hard 40 at the Florence ADMAX.
Caproni called the conviction one of her " proudest accomplishments." She is now chief counsel for the FBI.
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