In the late '90s, I worked for a large entertainment distribution company based in the Sacramento area. The information technology guy assigned to my home office in Kansas City was named Ali. Unlike the stereotypical IT guy, Ali was affable and responsive. When I had occasion to call him with a computer question, we'd gossip about our mutual acquaintances and laugh at the antics of the company's quirky founder.
Before I left on a business trip in '98, I shipped my desktop computer to Ali so that he could fix a few bugs and install new software. A box containing the updated computer was on my doorstep when I returned. Before I could even plug it in, I got a call from my boss telling me that Ali had been summoned to New York to testify at a trial. He was subsequently arrested and accused of involvement with the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center.
My pal was Ali A. Mohamed, a.k.a. "Mohamed the American," a key figure in al-Qaida, and one of Osama bin Laden's primary confidants. This detailed newspaper investigation is titled "Bin Laden's Man in Silicon Valley." I shudder when I consider possible scenarios, such as Ali whispering "Osama, I've got to put you on hold. That moronic infidel in Kansas City is calling me again."
Ali was convicted but was never sentenced; he may have cooperated with the United States. His whereabouts are unknown. The computer still works well, but I wish I could ask Ali about that annoying ticking sound.