London: A computer expert was paid more than GBP 13 million (about USD 21 million) after he fooled the CIA that he developed software to stop al Qaeda attacks, a media report said.
Officials were so convinced by Dennis Montgomery that, acting on a tip-off from him, former president George Bush ordered passenger jets flying from London to be turned back over the Atlantic amid fears they were being hijacked, Daily Mail reported on Sunday.
There was even talk of shooting down the jets because it was feared the `hijackers` would crash them into US targets in 2003.
But the information, like other tip-offs supplied by Montgomery, 57, was false.
On that occasion French officials were so angry at the supposed lapse in their security - one of the planes was headed for France - that they carried out their own probe into Montgomery`s technology and found it was a hoax.
One former CIA official said they realised then that they were conned and said: "We got played".
But even as late as 2008 he claimed to have picked up intelligence that Somalia terrorists were planning to disrupt President Obama`s inauguration in Washington DC.
The programmer was given contracts worth over GBP 13 million after convincing the CIA and US Air Force that his software could decipher coded messages being sent among terrorists, according to the Mail.
Montgomery claimed his codes were able to find terrorist plots hidden in TV broadcasts made by the Arab network Al Jazeera.
He also said his software could identify terror leaders from photographs taken by aerial drones and detect noise from enemy submarines - and he claimed that his software "could save American lives".
But an inquiry by The New York Times has revealed him as a fraud and, it is claimed, court documents that would prove the software failed are being kept secret by the US Justice Department to prevent embarrassment to spy chiefs.
Montgomery has not faced criminal charges over his deception or been ordered to pay back the money.
He is awaiting trial in Nevada on unrelated charges of passing bad cheques worth GBP 1.1 million to Las Vegas casinos, the Mail said.