May 7, 2007, - 2:53 pm
By Debbie Schlussel
We’ll likely never really know if the explosion today in the garage of the Luxor Hotel and Casino was an act of Islamic terrorism. Why won’t we know?
Well, Vegas Mayor (and Mafia lawyer) Oscar Goodman has repeatedly denied the very valid story of how members of the Detroit Terror Cell had cased Vegas. In fact, Vegas was one of the American sites that the four Detroit Al-Qaeda terrorists planned to blow up, and reportedly had scenes of Vegas in their “tourism” videos. They considered Vegas, “the City of Satan.”
That’s why in 2004, around New Year’s Eve and until the end of January, the Homeland Security color alert level was raised to Orange and several other security precautions were taken in and around Vegas airports. The Detroit FBI office took the threats seriously, as did the Vegas FBI office.
But they were under pressure from Mayor Goodman to deny the whole thing. That’s because Mayor Goodman didn’t want to see tourism and gambling in Vegas decreased–and he was more concerned about that than the safety of countless American tourists to his city.
The whole story played out in the Detroit papers, with Goodman denying it was a serious threat–because he got caught with his pants down trying to cover it up and jeopardize American lives–and differing FBI and local law enforcement offices arguing whether it was. My friend, Richard Convertino, the prosecutor of the Detroit Terror cell disclosed this information to Associated Press. Convertino went out of his way to urge law enforcement officials in Detroit and Vegas to take the terrorist threat to Los Vegas seriously:
When the Justice Department (search) obtained two videos suggesting terrorists had cased Las Vegas casinos, the discussions didn’t center on public alerts or heightened security. Rather, authorities worried about the effects on tourism and the casinos’ legal liabilities, internal memos show.
One of the tapes, found in Spain in 2002, shows Al Qaeda’s European operatives casing Las Vegas casinos in 1997, engaging in casual conversation that included an apparent reference to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (search), the mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.
The other tape found in a Detroit terror cell’s apartment had eerily similar footage of the MGM Grand, Excalibur and New York, New York casinos ‚Äî three hotels within a short distance of each other on the Las Vegas strip with a combined total of 11,000 rooms.
Though the FBI offered, most local law enforcement and casino security officers declined an invitation to view the footage after it was obtained in 2002, according to the memos and one of the prosecutors in the Detroit case.
One document obtained by The Associated Press quotes a federal prosecutor in Las Vegas as saying the city’s mayor [DS: Oscar Goodman] was concerned about the “deleterious effect on the Las Vegas tourism industry” if the evidence became public. The mayor said Monday he was never told of the footage.
Another memo states the casinos didn’t want to see the footage for fear it would make them more likely to be held liable in civil court if an attack occurred.
“The information, unfortunately, was not taken as seriously as we believed it to have been,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Convertino told AP in an interview, recounting how only two local police officers accepted the FBI agent’s offer to see the tape.
“The reason that he (the FBI agent) was given for the low turnout was because of liability, that if they heard this information they would have to act on it. It was extraordinarily unacceptable and absolutely outrageous,” Convertino said.
The prosecutor said he later asked a Las Vegas police officer who had seen the tape and flown to Detroit to help why more wasn’t done. “This officer told me that the amount of money that travels through Las Vegas on a daily, weekly and monthly basis ‚Äî if something doesn’t go boom, nothing is going to be done,” he said. . . .
Knowledge of the tapes reached the highest levels of Justice. The department’s terrorism chief, Barry Sabin, referenced the casino footage in a memo to the FBI.
In late summer 2002, FBI agents discovered the casino footage when they belatedly decoded a European surveillance tape found a year earlier in the Detroit terror cell’s apartment. A few weeks later, a Justice expert provided prosecutors similar surveillance that Spanish authorities had recovered from an Al Qaeda cell in Madrid.
When FBI supervisory agent Paul George flew to Las Vegas to show the Detroit tape, “the FBI, casino representatives, Clark County Sheriff’s Department and the JTTF (joint terrorism task force) declined to attend,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Keith Corbett wrote.
“No one showed up except for two Metro officers,” Corbett added. “Indeed, the casinos informed Agent George that they did not want to show up because of concerns about liability.”
In a series of e-mails, Convertino pleaded with Assistant U.S. Attorney Sharon Lever in Las Vegas to take the video footage seriously, even though local officials were cool to it. He noted two experts had concluded the tape matched other Al Qaeda surveillance.
“While I understand your previously stated concerns that the mayor of Las Vegas, the local sheriff and others believe our indictment may temporarily have a deleterious effect on the Las Vegas tourism industry, it is unconscionable that any reasonable person would assert that anyone here possessed a cavalier attitude toward the tape,” Convertino wrote.
Prosecutors were allowed in spring 2003 to show the Detroit tape to jurors, but were kept by their superiors from introducing the Spanish tape.
Both tapes showed the three same hotels. The Excalibur, in fact, “was both shot inside and out, daytime and nighttime,” according to one Justice document.
The Detroit tape had struck Justice’s terror experts because it switched back and forth from scenes of Las Vegas to pre-Sept. 11 scenes of New York that included the World Trade Center and a hotel across from the twin towers.
A Justice expert wrote that both tapes followed the Al Qaeda training manual because “surveillance is inserted into seemingly innocent tourist videos” to disguise it.
A cooperating prosecution witness in Detroit told authorities that one member of the alleged terror cell described Las Vegas as the “City of Satan” and boasted “the brothers are going to destroy it.”
Documents provided to U.S. authorities from Spain say the tape found in Madrid was taken by an Al Qaeda operative in August 1997 and later sent via courier to Al Qaeda’s leaders in Afghanistan.
For his concern for American lives and prosecuting these terrorists, now Convertino, himself, is being lynched, er . . . prosecuted. And the terrorists are mostly free. Welcome to America’s “War on Terror.”
So, in this case, when they tell you, today, that what happened at the Luxor was not terrorism, can you really believe them?
If you do, I’ve got some land underneath the Luxor to sell you. What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas . . . and remains a secret if Mayor Goodman has anything to do with it.
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