Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bend resident becomes spook

Its just like James Bond, with a few major exceptions:

At the convenience store where he worked in this central Oregon resort town before he became an undercover operative for the FBI in California, Naseem Khan was known to his co-workers as "Mike."

The picture of Khan that emerges from interviews with friends, co-workers and landlords in Bend, a picturesque former logging town of 70,000 in the shadow of snow-capped Mt. Bachelor, is of a quiet, hard-working, mostly solitary young man with an interest in law enforcement.

Khan is now the key witness in the terrorism trial of a Lodi, Calif., ice cream truck driver and his son. Last week, he shocked the Sacramento courtroom when he said he saw Al Qaeda's No. 2 figure in 1999 at a mosque in the San Joaquin Valley farming community. He is expected to take the stand today for the first time since he made that claim, which terrorism experts discount as highly improbable.

Khan was first approached by FBI agents in October 2001 in Bend after someone reported him as a possible terrorism suspect, according to friends and court testimony. "He was originally a target," recalled Anne Kimler, who describes herself as a close friend. "They even confiscated his computer."

Quickly cleared of those suspicions, the $7-an-hour manager of the K Market convenience store was hired by the FBI to infiltrate the large Muslim community in Lodi, where he once lived, and was paid more than $200,000 in salary and expenses for his three-year undercover assignment.

The name is Khan, Mike Khan.

I don't think James Bond pulled a stint at the convenience store (although that is a little Simpsonesque), but infiltration and undercover FBI spy type stuff are all the rage with the Ian Fleming crowd. $200K over three years isn't exactly getting rich, but its nothing to sneeze at.

Khan is now a key witness in a anti terror trial in Lodi--and claims to have seen Al Qaida's #2 guy at a mosque in Lodi, too. Terrorism experts think that the Al Qaida claim is highly improbable.

Either way...Oregon seems to be a hotbed of spying and activity of interest to the feds.