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Context of 'April 2002: CIA Promotes False Hijacker ‘Superman’ Theory'

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In February 1999, Nabil al-Marabh moves to Tampa, Florida. He gets a Florida driver’s license and begins driving taxis in Tampa, just as he did previously in Boston. According to an apartment complex manager, from February 1999 to February 2000 he lives in an apartment with another Arab man with a different last name. Investigators later will wonder if al-Marabh was an advance man for the Florida-based 9/11 hijackers. Tampa is about 50 miles north of Venice, where several 9/11 hijacker pilots will attend flight schools beginning in July 2000 (see July 1-3, 2000). While immigration records indicate Mohamed Atta will first arrive in the US in June 2000, there is some evidence of him being in the US before then (see Late April-Mid-May 2000; April 2000), and he may arrive in Florida by September 1999 (see September 1999). [New York Times, 9/18/2001; ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] Most of the information on al-Marabh’s taxi license application is fraudulent, including where he lived and worked from 1994 to 1999. [ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] In May 1999, a potential al-Qaeda sleeper agent named Ihab Ali Nawawi is arrested in Orlando, Florida, about 80 miles from Tampa. Nawawi had been working as a taxi driver and was in contact with top al-Qaeda leaders. While the similarity between him and al-Marabh is intriguing, there is no known reported connection in Florida between the two men (see May 18, 1999). In the early 1990s, both worked for the Pakistani branch of the Muslim World League, a charity with suspected terrorism ties (see 1989-1994). [St. Petersburg Times, 10/28/2001] Al-Marabh also apparently goes to Afghanistan some time in 1999 or early 2000. [Canadian Press, 10/11/2001]

Entity Tags: Nabil al-Marabh, Muslim World League, Ihab Ali Nawawi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Mohamed Atta and another of the 9/11 hijackers (presumably Marwan Alshehhi) rent rooms in New York City, according to a federal investigator. These rooms are in the Bronx and Brooklyn. Following 9/11, Atta is traced back to Brooklyn by a parking ticket issued to a rental car he was driving. However, immigration records have Mohamed Atta entering the US for the first time on June 3, 2000 (see June 3, 2000). The Associated Press article on this subject does not specify if Atta first stayed in New York before or after that date. [Associated Press, 12/8/2001] According to a brief mention in the 9/11 Commission’s final report, in the month of June, “As [Atta and Marwan Alshehhi] looked at flight schools on the East Coast, [they] stayed in a series of short-term rentals in New York City.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224; Washington Post, 8/13/2005] Earlier in 2000, a US Army intelligence program called Able Danger identified an al-Qaeda terrorist cell based in Brooklyn, of which Atta is a member (see January-February 2000). Also, a number of eyewitnesses later report seeing Atta in Maine and Florida before this official arrival date (see April 2000; Late April-Mid-May 2000).

Entity Tags: Able Danger, Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Around this time, 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi boasts of planning an attack to a librarian in Hamburg, Germany. He says, “There will be thousands of dead. You will think of me.” He also specifically mentions the WTC. [Agence France-Presse, 8/29/2002; New York Times, 8/29/2002] “You will see,” Alshehhi adds. “In America something is going to happen. There will be many people killed.” [New York Times, 9/10/2002] The Guardian notes that this “demonstrates that the members of the Hamburg cell were not quite as careful to keep secret their plans as had previously been thought. In addition, it appears to bury for good the theory that the pilots were informed of their targets only hours before they took off. Not least, though, Marwan Alshehhi’s boast provides a key element for the reconstruction of the plot—a date by which the terrorists had decided on their target.” [Guardian, 8/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Johnelle Bryant.Johnelle Bryant. [Source: ABC News]9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta reportedly has a very strange meeting with Johnelle Bryant of the US Department of Agriculture. Incidentally, this meeting takes place one month before the official story claims he arrived in the US for the first time. According to Bryant, in the meeting Atta does all of the following:
bullet He initially refuses to speak with one who is “but a female.”
bullet He asks her for a loan of $650,000 to buy and modify a crop-dusting plane.
bullet He mentions that he wants to “build a chemical tank that would fit inside the aircraft and take up every available square inch of the aircraft except for where the pilot would be sitting.”
bullet He uses his real name even as she takes notes, and makes sure she spells it correctly.
bullet He says he has just arrived from Afghanistan.
bullet He tells about his travel plans to Spain and Germany.
bullet He expresses an interest in visiting New York.
bullet He asks her about security at the WTC and other US landmarks.
bullet He discusses al-Qaeda and its need for American membership.
bullet He tells her bin Laden “would someday be known as the world’s greatest leader.”
bullet He asks to buy the aerial photograph of Washington hanging on her Florida office wall, throwing increasingly large “wads of cash” at her when she refuses to sell it. [ABC News, 6/6/2002]
bullet After Bryant points out one of the buildings in the Washington photograph as her former place of employment, he asks her, “How would you like it if somebody flew an airplane into your friends’ building?”
bullet He asks her, “What would prevent [me] from going behind [your] desk and cutting [your] throat and making off with the millions of dollars” in the safe behind her.
bullet He asks, “How would America like it if another country destroyed [Washington] and some of the monuments in it like the cities in [my] country had been destroyed?”
bullet He gets “very agitated” when he isn’t given the money in cash on the spot.
bullet Atta later tries to get the loan again from the same woman, this time “slightly disguised” by wearing glasses. Three other terrorists also attempt to get the same loan from Bryant, but all of them fail. Bryant turns them down because they do not meet the loan requirements, and fails to notify anyone about these strange encounters until after 9/11. Government officials not only confirm the account and say that Bryant passed a lie detector test, but also elaborate that the account is consistent with other information they have received from interrogating prisoners. Supposedly, failing to get the loan, the terrorists switched plans from using crop dusters to hijacking aircraft. Other department employees also remember the encounter, again said to take place in April 2000. The 9/11 Commission has failed to mention any aspect of Johnelle Bryant’s account. [Washington Post, 9/25/2001; ABC News, 6/6/2002; London Times, 6/8/2002] Compare Atta’s meeting with FBI Director Mueller’s later testimony about the hijackers: “There were no slip-ups. Discipline never broke down. They gave no hint to those around them what they were about.” [CNN, 9/28/2002]

Entity Tags: Robert S. Mueller III, Mohamed Atta, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Al-Qaeda, US Department of Agriculture, 9/11 Commission, Johnelle Bryant

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A portion of Mohamed Atta’s US visa obtained in May 2000.
A portion of Mohamed Atta’s US visa obtained in May 2000. [Source: 9/11 Commission]9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta supposedly arrives in the US for the first time, flying from Prague to Newark on a tourist visa issued May 18 in Berlin. [Miami Herald, 9/22/2001; Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 11/12/2001] Official investigations will late assume that this is the first time Atta was in the US. However, there are reports that he was in the US before this (see September 1999, April 2000, and Late April-Mid-May 2000).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

CIA Deputy Director for Operations James Pavitt says of the hijackers: “The terror cells that we’re going up against are typically small and all terrorist personnel… were carefully screened. The number of personnel who know vital information, targets, timing, the exact methods to be used had to be smaller still.… Against that degree of control, that kind of compartmentalization, that depth of discipline and fanaticism, I personally doubt—and I draw again upon my thirty years of experience in this business—that anything short of one of the knowledgeable inner-circle personnel or hijackers turning himself in to us would have given us sufficient foreknowledge to have prevented [9/11].” An FBI official calls this “the superman scenario.” [New Yorker, 5/27/2002] The media repeats this notion. For instance, later in the year, the Chicago Tribune will comment, “The operational discipline surrounding Sept. 11 was so professional, and impenetrable, that intercepted telephone conversations, or even well-placed spies, might not have made a difference.” [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002] But even in the same article that quotes Pavitt, a senior FBI official states that serious and potentially fatal errors were made by the hijackers. The article also notes that the hijackers did not maintain tight compartmentalization and discipline. [New Yorker, 5/27/2002] Eventually, more and more details will come out proving the “superman” notion false. The hijackers even told vital details of their plot to complete strangers (see April-May 2000; Late April-Mid-May 2000).

Entity Tags: James Pavitt

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Michael Rolince, head of counterintelligence at the FBI’s Washington office, says of the 9/11 hijackers, “These guys were pros. For us to have done anything, these guys had to make a mistake. And they didn’t. Could we have generated enough information-ever-to keep them off those planes? I doubt it.” [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] In 2002, an FBI agent called this kind of argument “the Superman scenario.” The notion that the hijackers made no mistakes had been discredited well before Rolince’s comments (see April 2002).

Entity Tags: Michael Rolince

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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