The Twin Towers and the Five Dancing Israelis
Twin Towers, 9-11, Five Dancing Israelis, Mossad, Donald Trump, ABC News, 20/20
The following is an
ABC News report about "five dancing Israelis" who filmed the twin towers
on 9-11, and according to multiple witnesses appeared to be laughing, dancing, high-fiving and
otherwise congratulating each
other. The 20/20 report was co-hosted by Barbara Walters and John Miller. One of
the arresting officers, Scott DeCarlo, has confirmed some of the details in
public statements which can be found on YouTube and elsewhere on the Internet.
Is this the source of the report Donald Trump remembers hearing about people
celebrating the 9-11 attacks? If so, it's ironic that the only police report of
people celebrating that day in America turned up five Israeli Mossad agents. Why
would Mossad agents celebrate such a vicious attack? Because they knew the
attack would cause the United States to attack Israel's enemies, which of course
is exactly what happened when the United States invaded Iraq. The Owner of Urban
Moving Systems, an Israeli citizen named Dominick Suter, left the United States
after the arrests, and abandoned his business entirely.
SHOW: 20/20 (10:00 PM ET)
June 21, 2002 Friday
HEADLINE: Five Israeli men arrested soon after 9/11 might have been working for
Israeli intelligence, but likely did not know beforehand about the attacks
ANCHORS: BARBARA WALTERS; JOHN MILLER
Announcer: From Times Square in New York, Barbara Walters and John Miller.
BARBARA WALTERS, co-host: Good evening, and welcome to 20/20. Tonight, a very
important 20/20 investigation into a very ugly story that's made its way around
the world since September 11th. The story is that Israel knew more than it would
like to admit about the terrorist attack in this country. It's a rumor, but in
some Arab countries--including Saudi Arabia, which I visited earlier this
year--even educated people told me that they believe it is absolutely true. So
how could such a rumor take hold? And John, I know that you have been looking
into this now for months.
JOHN MILLER, co-host: We have. And when you try to trace the roots of this
rumor, all roads seem to lead to the arrest of of group of Israeli men on the
very day of the attacks, men who seemed coincidentally to be in the right place
at the right time, and behaving strangely. Why did they become the focus of
months of investigation by the FBI and the CIA? Why were they repeatedly asked
by the FBI if they had any advance knowledge of the attacks, and in fact, did
they? Surprisingly, the tip that led to the arrests of these five men did not
come from a spy satellite, it came from a New Jersey housewife. (VO) On the
morning of September 11th, Maria--who asked us not to use her last name--was
home preparing for her day, when she got a call from a friend who lived upstairs
in the same New Jersey high-rise.
MARIA: She was sitting when she heard a noise, at the same time she felt like
it--it shook--like the building shook, she said. She called me immediately. She
said, 'You know, there's--there's something wrong, look at your window by the
twin towers.' So I grab my binoculars and I could see the towers from my window.
And this is where I, you know, I'm looking. I saw the smoke from the top, just
from the top of the towers.
MILLER: (VO) After watching for a little while, something caught Maria's
attention in the parking lot below her window.
MARIA: Like a few minutes must have gone on, and all of a sudden down there I
see this van park. And I see three guys on top of the van, and I'm trying, you
know, to look at the building but what caught my attention, they seemed to be
taking a movie.
MILLER: (VO) Maria says the three young men were kneeling on the roof of a white
van. It was parked right here. They were taking pictures of each other with the
World Trade Center burning in the background.
MARIA: And I could see that they were, like, happy, you know? They--they--they
weren't--they didn't look shocked to me, you know? They didn't look shocked. I
thought it was very strange.
MILLER: (VO) Maria found the behavior so suspicious she wrote down the license
plate number. She and her husband, Pat, called the police. Soon police and the
FBI were on the scene. The license plate was traced to a van owned by a company
called Urban Moving. A state-wide alarm was transmitted over the police radio.
Deputy Chief ROBERT DEL PRIORE (Weehawken Police Department): It stated in--in
effect, to be on the lookout for an Urban Movers van with a license plate number
that was given out.
MILLER: (VO) Around 4 PM that day, this white Chevy van was stopped by police
near Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Inside it were five men, all in their 20s.
These grainy photos of the event were taken by a man who witnessed the scene
from a nearby hotel.
(OC) The van was stopped right here. Police pulled the five men out at gun point
and handcuffed them. And almost immediately, police say, there was plenty to be
suspicious of. One of the men had $4700 in cash hidden in his sock. Another was
carrying two foreign passports. A box cutter was found in the van. But perhaps
the biggest surprise for police was when the five men identified themselves as
(VO) According to Officer Scott DeCarlo's police report, one of the passengers
told him, "We were on the West Side Highway in New York City during the
incident," not behind Maria's apartment building in New Jersey. The driver told
them, 'We are Israeli. We are not your problem. Your problems are our problems.
The Palestinians are the problem.' The men ranged in age from 22 to 27. The
driver was Sivan Kurzberg. The other passengers included his brother, Paul
Kurzberg, Yaron Shmuel, Oded Ellner and Omer Marmari. The men, who all said they
worked for Urban Moving, were taken to this new Jersey State Police Station and
questioned by the FBI.
(OC) ABC News has learned that after the five men were taken to jail, the entire
case was transferred out of FBI's criminal division and into its foreign
counterintelligence section, which is responsible for espionage cases. One
reason for the shift, according to our sources, is that the FBI believed Urban
Moving may have provided a cover for agents of Israeli intelligence. Urban
Moving is owned by Dominic Suter (ph), an Israeli businessman. After the five
men were arrested in one of his vans, the FBI got a warrant and searched the
Ms. PAULINE STEPKOVICH: (ph) The FBI was here hours. Hours.
MILLER: (VO) Pauline Stepkovich, who lives right across the street from Urban
Moving, watched as federal investigators went in and out of the building.
Ms. STEPKOVICH: Two SUVs were filled up with between nine and 12 boxes and
MILLER: (VO) Dominic Suter's attorney confirms that the FBI removed boxes of
documents and a dozen computer hard drives from Urban Moving. He insists his
client answered all of the FBI's questions. But a few days later, when the FBI
wanted to interview Mr. Suter again, he was gone. Our 20/20 cameras took these
pictures inside Urban Moving some three months later. And as you can see, it
looked like Suter shut down the business in a big hurry. Cell phones and
personal effects were lying around Suter's office, the phones were still
connected with hundreds of messages waiting. There were job applications to be
processed, and the property of dozens of families packed in the warehouse.
Dominic Suter's company closed down in such a hurry, some of their customers,
like Frank Crisp (ph), were left hanging.
Mr. FRANK CRISP: They were--they were really short on the--on the phone, and it
was like they wanted to get off and--and get out.
MILLER: (VO) Dominic Suter cleared out of his New Jersey home, too, and he'd put
it up for sale. Suter and his family had returned to Israel. We called him
there, but he refused to talk to us about Urban Moving. Was Israeli intelligence
using Urban Moving as a cover?
(OC) And if not, why did the company suddenly shut down after the five employees
were arrested? Why did the owner abruptly leave the country, leaving behind a
significant investment, a thriving business, and a lot of unhappy customers? The
FBI needed answers to three important questions: Who were these men? What
brought them to that parking lot on the morning of September 11th? And did they
have any advanced knowledge of what was going to happen that day?
Mr. STEVE GORDON: So you got a group of guys that are taking pictures on top of
a roof, of the World Trade Center, they're speaking a foreign language, they got
two passports on them, one's got a wad of cash on him and they've got box
cutters. Now that's a scary situation.
MILLER: (VO) Steve Gordon was the attorney for the five Israeli detainees. We
interviewed him back in October, shortly after 20/20 began investigating this
incident. (OC) So who are these kids, and how did they get entangled in this?
Mr. GORDON: They're five young kids who--who left Israel, tried to leave a war
zone, if you so will. They came to America. They came here, initially, for a
vacation. They came here to work and they started work for a moving company.
MILLER: Now, the witness that we interviewed said that they were acting very
Mr. GORDON: If her story is to be believed, then of course I don't believe I nor
anybody else would--would condone any type of behavior.
MARIA: You know, they're laughing. They're laughing. One of them, I noticed,
distinctively, put his hand on top of the other guy why they're filming, on top
of his shoulder.
Mr. GORDON: Indeed, I did ask them about that, and they denied celebrating, they
MILLER: So were they horsing around?
Mr. GORDON: They were not horsing around. And the very first question that I
asked Mr. Ellner was, 'Tell me what--what happened.' He said, 'We were taking
pictures.' Were they smiling in those photographs? Perhaps they were smiling.
MILLER: (VO) Sources tell 20/20 the FBI developed film from a camera taken from
the Israelis, and that it shows the three on top of the white van were smiling
and appeared to be clowning around. The five Israelis were held at this federal
jail for allegedly overstaying their visas.
(OC) In fact, within two weeks, an immigration judge routinely ordered them
deported. But that is when, according to sources who spoke to 20/20, the FBI and
CIA put a hold on the case. And over the next two months, some of the men were
held in solitary confinement, questioned repeatedly and some of them were given
up to seven lie detector tests. Clearly this was more than your average
(OC) So when they were being questioned and when they were being polygraphed,
what were the questions they were being asked?
Mr. GORDON: I believe the questions surrounded what they were doing in America,
what were they--were doing on September 11th with regard to whether or not they
actually had any involvement in the World Trade Center incident. They were asked
questions if they had ever been approached by or hired by any non-United States
MILLER: (VO) Since their arrest, there has been plenty of speculation and rumor
about who these men were and what they were doing that morning. Eventually
The Forward, a respected Jewish newspaper in New York, reported that the
FBI concluded that at least two of them were Mossad operatives. That is, agents
of Israeli intelligence.
Mr. VINCE CANNISTRARO: When the federal investigators checked the names of the
people who had been arrested through a national intelligence database, some of
the names came up as hits.
MILLER: (VO) Vince Cannistraro is a former chief of operations for
counter-terrorism with the Central Intelligence Agency. Now he's a consultant
with ABC News. He says many in the US intelligence community believe that some
of the men arrested in the white van were in the US working for Israeli
intelligence. They speculate that Urban Moving was being used by Israel as an
Mr. CANNISTRARO: ...set up or exploited for the purpose of launching an
operation, an intelligence operation, against radical Islamics in the area,
particularly in the New Jersey/New York area.
MILLER: (VO) Under the scenario, the spying operation was not aimed against the
United States, but at penetrating or monitoring radical fund-raising and support
networks in Muslim communities like Patterson, New Jersey, which was one of the
places where several of the hijackers lived in the months prior to 9/11.
Mr. CANNISTRARO: Israeli government has been concerned about activity of radical
Islamic groups in the United States. There could be a support apparatus to Hamas
and Islamic Jihad, two groups which are conducting the majority of the suicide
bombings in Israel.
MILLER: (VO) The suspicion that some of the young men might be with Israeli
intelligence, coupled with the account of their odd behavior on the van, raised
serious questions for investigators.
Mr. CANNISTRARO: The fear of some of the FBI investigators in this particular
case was that this group had some advanced knowledge of what was going to happen
on 9/11. And once they understood that there was an Israeli connection--an
Israeli intelligence connection--they became very disturbed, because the
implication was that the Israelis may have had some advanced knowledge of the
events of 9/11 and hadn't told us.
MILLER: (VO) For the FBI, deciphering the truth about the five Israelis proved
to be difficult. One of them, Paul Kurzberg, refused to take a lie detector
test. But after 10 weeks in jail he did take the polygraph and failed it. One of
his lawyers later told us Kurzberg had been reluctant to take the test because
he had once work for Israeli intelligence in another country. Later, he took a
second polygraph test. His lawyer says the results were more favorable. Sources
tell 20/20, after high-level negotiations between Israeli and US government
officials, a settlement was worked out. And after 71 days, the five Israelis
were taken out of jail, put on a plane and deported back home. 20/20 traveled to
Israel to try and meet the five young men and ask them, were they part of an
Israeli intelligence operation in the United States. We went to a small town
outside of Jerusalem to meet Paul Kurzberg.
Mr. PAUL KURZBERG: (Through translator) I went to work over there because, I
don't know, the situation here is not the best.
MILLER: (VO) This is Kurzberg's younger brother, Sivan, who was one of the three
men on top of the van that morning.
Mr. SIVAN KURZBERG: (Through translator) They took away two months of my life.
During that time I was supposed to be on a trip that I had planned when I
started my military service.
MILLER: (VO) Although Paul and Sivan would not talk with us about the incident,
Sivan and two of the other detainees did go on an Israeli talk show after their
return. Oded Ellner denied they were laughing or happy that today.
Mr. ODED ELLNER: (Through translator, from Israeli talk show) Nothing of the
kind, the fact of the matter is, we are coming from a country that experiences
terror daily. Our purpose was to document the event.
MILLER: (VO) Ellner also complained that they had been mistreated and subjected
to repeated interrogations.
Mr. ELLNER: (Through translator, from Israeli talk show) And at that point, we
were taken for another round of questioning, this time related to our allegedly
being members of Mossad.
MILLER: (VO) Their attorney in Israel is Ram Horvitz.
Mr. RAM HORVITZ: This story about the five boys being connected with Israeli
intelligence is the most stupid and ridiculous story that I ever heard, and it
is nonsense. I don't know who invented this story.
Mr. MARK REGAV: These men were not involved in any way in any intelligence
operation in the United States.
MILLER: (VO) Mark Regav, the spokesman for the Israeli embassy in Washington,
goes even further to say the issue was never even discussed with the US
Mr. REGAV: These five Israelis were not involved in any intelligence operation
in the United States. And the Americans, the American intelligence authorities,
have never raised this issue with us. The story is simply false.
MILLER: (VO) Source tell 20/20 there is still debate within the FBI over whether
or not the young men were spies. But many in the US intelligence community
believe that some of the men were engaged in espionage for Israel. However,
sources also tell us, even if they were spies, there was no evidence to conclude
they had advanced knowledge of the terrorist attacks of 9/11.
Mr. CANNISTRARO: The investigation, at the end of the day, after all of the
polygraphs, all of the field work, all of the cross-checking, the intelligence
work, concluded that they probably did not have advanced knowledge of 9/11.
WALTERS: John, so the FBI has concluded that these men did not have any advanced
knowledge of the attack on the Trade Center.
MILLER: And they seem to be comfort with that conclusion.
WALTERS: OK. Then what were they doing looking at the World Trade Center then?
MILLER: They say that they read about the attack on the Internet, went to the
roof of the moving company, couldn't really see it, and then went to the higher
ground to get a better view and to take pictures.
WALTERS: Well, all right, but why were they smiling?
MILLER: Well, that's been the most difficult question. And the only explanations
we've had, both from the lawyer and from the Israeli government, is chalking
that up just to immature conduct.
WALTERS: But the bottom line is, that there is no evidence that these men knew
about the attacks in advance.
MILLER: No. And I think the FBI and the CIA spent a great deal of time trying to
drill down to that answer and found no proof of that.
WALTERS: Well, I hope that we have put this rumor to rest once and for all.
MILLER: We've certainly tried.
WALTERS: We'll be right back.