The controversial Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose political network was designated a foreign terrorist organization by the U.S. State Department, had many enemies. But he made perhaps his most consequential foe when he spoke at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in the mid-1980s.
In the audience that day was an “enraged” Khalid Shaikh Mohammed—al-Qaeda’s operational mastermind who planned, among countless others, the 9/11 attacks. The description of KSM, as he is known, comes from Richard Miniter, the investigative journalist who has just published Mastermind: The Many Faces of the 9/11 Architect, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed. Miniter makes the case that KSM may in fact have been behind Kahane’s 1990 assassination in New York City. (Note: I will be conducting a broad interview with Miniter this week on the book and KSM—so, much more to come on KSM.)
Miniter suggests that when KSM bragged to his interrogators in 2003 that he was behind Kahane’s murder he was telling the truth, not just blowing hot air, as the CIA assumed:
“Virtually all of the players in the 1990 Kahane assassination would reappear in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, which KSM funded and his nephew orchestrated. This cannot be a coincidence, yet to this day it has largely been ignored by investigators.”
Kahane was shot by El Sayyid Nosair as he was leaving the stage after a speech at Manhattan’s Marriot East Side Hotel on November 5, 1990. When Nosair ran out into the street, he looked for his driver Mahmud Abouhalima—who was also the driver for the first World Trade Center bombers in 1993. Also involved in the 1993 bombing was the “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdel Rahman, who had met KSM in the early 1990s in Pakistan and for whom Abouhalima was also a driver. Four days before he shot Kahane, Nosair was seen with Rahman.
The 1993 World Trade Center bombing was supervised by Ramzi Yousef—KSM’s nephew who always took direction from KSM. One of the men working with Yousef on the bombing, Mohammed Salameh, was identified via video in the audience at Kahane’s speech.
Abouhalima and Salameh were never charged. Miniter notes that the detectives, instead of consciously abandoning the effort to widen the net, could have looked into these connections:
“Instead, the NYPD detectives treated the Kahane murder as the act of a random crackpot. So, the more than forty boxes of evidence that police collected from Nosair’s Cliffside, New Jersey, apartment were not translated for his trial and were never presented in court.”
Because of bureaucratic infighting, Miniter says, much of the evidence sat unexamined for years. When it finally was examined, investigators found bomb-making instructions and stolen U.S. Special Forces training manuals. Miniter also notes that Rahman’s 1992 fatwa recommending the World Trade Center as a target first gave KSM the idea to bomb that location. Miniter concludes:
“Is it possible that KSM passed along the idea of targeting Kahane to [Rahman], who in turn told Nosair and Abouhalima? There is an old saying in t intelligence circles: there are no coincidences.”
Miniter fails to mention one more connection between the two. Nosair was found not guilty of Kahane’s murder (the jury was missing out on the evidence not yet analyzed; nonetheless, the judge was flabbergasted by the verdict), but was convicted of other related charges. However, Nosair was found guilty of Kahane’s murder in the 1995 trial of the World Trade Center bombing because, as CNN reported, “Prosecutors were able to retry Nosair for the murder because the federal [World Trade Center bombing] indictment includes the [Kahane] killing as part of the alleged terrorist conspiracy.”