Did Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president of Yemen, nurture the rise of the Al Qaeda organization, and work in concert with its efforts to reign terror in the region? This is just one of the explosive allegations brought forth by Hani Muhammad Mujahid, a former Al Qaeda operative turned informant, and the figure at the center of the new documentary Al Qaeda Informant produced by Al Jazeera.
The film opens with an account of the 2008 bombing and attempted infiltration of the United States embassy in Yemen. The incident resulted in several grisly casualties, including the seven attackers who took their own lives in its aftermath, though the compound itself was not breached. Over the course of the following months, a new al Qaeda faction took credit for the failed mission - the Islamic Jihad of Yemen.
According to Mujahid, he was dispatched by counter-terrorism forces in Yemen to work undercover in this Al Qaeda cell. As he carried out this work, he learned of the planned attack and attempted to warn Yemen security forces in the months leading up to its implementation. Mujahid took his claims to Yemen counter-terrorism organizations not out of a sense of loyalty with the United States, but simply because they were his employers and he expected some degree of reward in return for the information.
These governmental forces failed to act upon this intelligence, leading him to believe that they had ordered, or at least desired, that their mission of terror prevail. When these agencies failed to find value or act upon his intelligence, he tried to approach the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), but was thwarted by his employers before he was able to schedule a meeting.
Frustrated and troubled by the implications of this inaction in the years following, Mujahid traveled to Al Jazeera in hopes of finding a receptive ear. The Al Jazeera Investigates series, led by the director of their investigative journalism unit Clayton Swisher, subsequently spent three days interrogating him in an attempt to verify his incendiary claims. These interrogations make up the bulk of this startling, probing and provoking film.