al-Qaeda operative Willie Brigitte is in solitary at Fleury-Merogis
Prison outside Paris. Under French terrorism laws he can be held without
trial for up to four years. They sent a couple of boys from the Australian
Federal Police to Paris to interview Willie the other day, but the French
wouldnt let them near him. Well, we never, really, needed to actually
talk to him anyway, the AFP spokesman said.
were now hearing about Sydneys thrilling squeak with terrorism
are stories emanating from a source close to the investigation.
The mainstream press have had a field day with the Willie Brigitte Affair
but itll probably fade slowly out of the news, in a carefully
managed sort of way. Which is a pity really. Having allegedly been under
relentless surveillance by French security since 1998, Willie arrived
in Sydney in July on a French passport and the French didn't bother
informing us. He swaggered around the mosques and even Tony Mundines
boxing studio. According to completely unconfirmed reports he put out
feelers to all and sundry
hinting he was a big man from al-Qaeda.
You never know your luck in the big city: the handsome devil attracted
the amorous attentions of an Aussie gal named Melanie Brown and after
the requisite three or four dates they marry in an Islamic ceremony.
Not one of the guests (according to reports) was well known to either
of them. Shes a recent convert to Islam who now calls herself
The official story goes that shortly after the wedding the French consulate
belatedly informed Australian authorities that Willie is a long-standing
terrorist suspect. Our boys pounce, arrest him for overstaying his tourist
visa and working illegally. Interestingly, they dont use their
new anti-terrorism powers. Obligingly we deport him to France. Terror
Unconfirmable leaks link him to top al-Qaeda honchos and even to the
exact same French camcorder that housed the explosives that killed Northern
Alliance leader Ahmed Shah Masoud, a few days before September 11.
On the face of it, its an incredible story about carelessness
by our own spooks and the perfidious French. The Murdoch media descend
on it like ravening wolves.
What do they come up with? Ms Brown is a graduate of Danebank, a second
line Anglican school, who went on to become an Army signaler, serve
in East Timor, and be trained in Arabic. The Murdoch scribblers correctly
point out that signalers often go on to careers in Defence Signals Directorate
(our electronic ears on the world) or Australian Security intelligence
Organisation. The evil terrorists are seducing innocents at the heart
of our security establishment. The matter must be laid bare.
Theres a stirring call for Murdoch press readers to come forward
with more information on Ms Brown ... and what results? Embarrassment
all round. Turns out she previously identified as, er, 1, Jewish ...
and um, 2, Lesbian.
Theres even a picture of the leggy Ms Brown on the 2002 Mardi
Gras float of Dayenu, a Jewish G &L group. Shes wearing high-top
Doc Martens and looks ravishingly butch.
So what? With all those rampaging hormones, a girl can get confused.
But in the light of subsequent events theres possibly an alternative
explanation for this queer escapade: Melanie was, all along, an undercover
Why join a Jewish gay group? Perhaps it was a training exercise of a
type routinely used by security services: Pick a milieu thats
remote from the trainees experience, tell them to penetrate
it, get accepted, then credibly break off contact. She told the folk
from Dayenu she was Jewish on her mums side, told them the army
had sent her to Israel. Strangely, they never saw her with a lesbian
partner. Finally she provoked a total break with the group over abortion.
Perhaps Ms Brown passed the test with flying colours and went on to
riskier assignments, but what of Willie Brigitte?
On the face of it Willie looks like a small time al-Q player. Came to
Paris from the West Indies as a boy and became a social worker, converts
to Islam at the age of 30, and immediately gets involved with a radical
Sunni group. Just afterwards, on the eve of the soccer World Cup, the
French cops round up 70 of his new comrades. But not Willie, they narrowly
miss Willie (or so they say).
Unlike some of his associates, Willie didnt go to Afghanistan
to fight for the Taliban, instead he goes briefly to Yemen to study
the Koran. But just after September 11, he rushes to Pakistan and tries
to cross into Afghanistan to offer his services. He takes a look at
the border security, thinks better of it, and sits out the invasion
in a Lashkar-e-Tayyiba training camp in Pakistan playing with Kalashnikovs
(or so they say he says).
So thats Willie: knows lots of insiders, never gets picked up
by the cops, but he never quite gets to the scene of the action either
(until now). Might be the CV of a minor, not-too-courageous al-Q player,
but it could equally be the CV of an intrepid French secret service
operative. Take your pick.
heres an intriguing speculation that makes just as much sense
as the official yarn: what we really saw was a comedy of errors in the
wilderness of mirrors that is the world of espionage.
Lets say Willie was an agent provocateur sent to pull terrorists
out of hiding. Maybe the French and Australian services were collaborating,
maybe not. Khadija/Melanie might have been an ASIO undercover girl.
Maybe she stumbled on Willie, thought he was the real thing and blew
the whistle. Perhaps she was, by agreement with the French, part of
his cover story. Whatever. At any rate, the operation turns into a fiasco,
Willie looks too much like a spook. The subjects suspect him. A decision
is taken to terminate his mission without blowing his cover. Hes
arrested and whisked off to be debriefed, his bride goes to ground.
Khadija Brigitte is playing it rather professionally. She ain't saying
much, just a few cryptic words to the Herald, never the Tele. She ain't
flying to France to be near Willie and says she's keeping in touch with
hubby via her mum-in-law in Guadeloupe. The story is dying quietly.
Is this just silly speculation? paranoid? fanciful? Perhaps, but undercover
agents exist, fuck-ups happen, governments lie, and things are not always
what were told they are.