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Context of 'May 14, 1994: Future Hijackers’ Landlord in San Diego Becomes FBI Informant'

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Abdussattar Shaikh.Abdussattar Shaikh. [Source: Fox News]Abdussattar Shaikh, a San Diego resident, is recruited by a local FBI special agent as an “asset,” or informant. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 260 pdf file] Shaikh will later offer rooms in his house in Lemon Grove, California, to two of the future 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, but it will be unclear how much information he shares about them with his FBI handler, Steven Butler (see May 10-Mid-December 2000). Despite much scrutiny after 9/11, little information will emerge on Shaikh’s background or why he came to the FBI’s notice. Shaikh was born in India and came to the US in 1959. [New York Times, 10/24/2001] He became a US citizen in 1976. [9/11 Commission, 4/23/2004] Presumably, he is of interest to the FBI because he is a member of the local Muslim community. A report by the Justice Department’s inspector general will say: “The FBI had interviewed the asset in connection with a bombing investigation several years before.… Initially the asset was not paid. In July 2003, the asset was given a $100,000 payment and closed as an asset.” The report will provide little additional information as to Shaikh’s activities on behalf of the FBI. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 260 pdf file] It is also not entirely clear how Shaikh makes a living. Press reports after 9/11, including a report in a local magazine to which he gave a rare interview, will describe him as as retired professor of English at San Diego State University. [San Diego Magazine, 2/2002] Another profile will not identify which institutions he is affiliated with, and describes him as primarily an English as a second language teacher to Saudi military officers and their families. [New York Times, 10/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Abdussattar Shaikh, Steven Butler, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Abdussattar Shaikh.
Abdussattar Shaikh. [Source: courtesy Daniel Hopsicker]While future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar live in the house of an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, the asset continues to have contact with his FBI handler. The handler, Steven Butler, later claims that during the summer, Shaikh mentions the names “Nawaf” and “Khalid” in passing and says that they are renting rooms from him. [Newsweek, 9/9/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 51 pdf file; Associated Press, 7/25/2003; 9/11 Commission, 4/23/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 220] In early media reports after 9/11, the two will be said to have moved in around September 2000, but the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will imply that Shaikh lied about this, and they moved in much earlier. Alhazmi stays until December (see December 12, 2000-March 2001); Almihdhar appears to be mostly out of the US after June (see June 10, 2000). [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/16/2001; Wall Street Journal, 9/17/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 157 pdf file] On one occasion, Shaikh tells Butler on the phone he cannot talk because Khalid is in the room. [Newsweek, 9/9/2002]
Shaikh Refuses to Reveal Hijackers' Last Names Despite Suspicious Contacts - Shaikh tells Butler Alhazmi and Almihdhar are good, religious Muslims who are legally in the US to visit and attend school. Butler asks Shaikh for their last names, but Shaikh refuses to provide them. Butler is not told that they are pursuing flight training. Shaikh tells Butler that they are apolitical and have done nothing to arouse suspicion. However, according to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, he later admits that Alhazmi has “contacts with at least four individuals [he] knew were of interest to the FBI and about whom [he] had previously reported to the FBI.” Three of these four people are being actively investigated at the time the hijackers are there. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 51 pdf file] The report will mention Osama Mustafa as one, and Shaikh will admit that suspected Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi was a friend. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 51 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 7/25/2003] Alhazmi and Shaikh will remain in contact after Alhazmi leaves San Diego in December. Alhazmi will call Shaikh to tell him he intends to take flying lessons in Arizona and that Almihdhar has returned to Yemen. He also will e-mail Shaikh three times; one of the e-mails is signed “Smer,” an apparent attempt to conceal his identity, which Shaikh later says he finds strange. However, Alhazmi will not reply to e-mails Shaikh sends him in February and March of 2001. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223]
Best Chance to Stop the 9/11 Plot? - The FBI will later conclude that Shaikh is not involved in the 9/11 plot, but it has serious doubts about his credibility. After 9/11 he will give inaccurate information and has an “inconclusive” polygraph examination about his foreknowledge of the 9/11 attack. The FBI will believe he had contact with another of the 9/11 hijackers, Hani Hanjour, but claimed not to recognize him. There will be other “significant inconsistencies” in Shaikh’s statements about the hijackers, including when he first met them and his later meetings with them. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will conclude that had the asset’s contacts with the hijackers been capitalized upon, it “would have given the San Diego FBI field office perhaps the US intelligence community’s best chance to unravel the September 11 plot.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 51 pdf file] The FBI will try to prevent Butler and Shaikh from testifying before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry in October 2002. Butler will end up testifying (see October 9, 2002), but Shaikh will not (see October 5, 2002). [Washington Post, 10/11/2002]

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Omar al-Bayoumi, Osama (“Sam”) Mustafa, Nawaf Alhazmi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Steven Butler, Abdussattar Shaikh

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The New York Times reports that the FBI is refusing to allow Abdussattar Shaikh, the FBI informant who lived with 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in the second half of 2000 (see May 10-Mid-December 2000), to testify before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. The FBI claims Shaikh would have nothing interesting to say. The Justice Department also wants to learn more about him. [New York Times, 10/5/2002] The FBI also tries to prevent Shaikh’s handler Steven Butler from testifying, but Butler will end up testifying before a secret session on October 9, 2002 (see October 9, 2002). Shaikh will not testify at all. [Washington Post, 10/11/2002] Butler’s testimony will uncover many curious facts about Shaikh. [New York Times, 11/23/2002; US News and World Report, 12/1/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003; San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/25/2003]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, Nawaf Alhazmi, Steven Butler, Khalid Almihdhar, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Abdussattar Shaikh, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

San Diego FBI agent Steven Butler reportedly gives “explosive” testimony to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry. Butler, recently retired, has been unable to speak to the media, but he was the handler for Abdussattar Shaikh, an FBI informant who rented a room to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. Butler claims he might have uncovered the 9/11 plot if the CIA had provided the FBI with more information earlier about Alhazmi and Almihdhar. [US News and World Report, 12/1/2002] He says, “It would have made a huge difference.” He suggests they would have quickly found the two hijackers because they were “very, very close.… We would have immediately opened… investigations. We would have given them the full court press. We would… have done everything—physical surveillance, technical surveillance, and other assets.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file; San Diego Union-Tribune, 7/25/2003] Butler discloses that he had been monitoring a flow of Saudi Arabian money that wound up in the hands of two of the 9/11 hijackers, but his supervisors failed to take any action on the warnings. It is not known when Butler started investigating the money flow, or when he warned his supervisors. [US News and World Report, 12/1/2002] The FBI had tried to prevent Butler from testifying, but was unsuccessful. [Washington Post, 10/11/2002] Following Butler’s testimony, Staff Director Eleanor Hill “detail[s] his statements in a memo to the Justice Department.” The Justice Department will decline comment on the matter, saying Butler’s testimony is classified. [US News and World Report, 12/1/2002] This testimony doesn’t stop the US government from deporting Basnan to Saudi Arabia several weeks later. [Washington Post, 11/24/2002]

Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Khalid Almihdhar, 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, Abdussattar Shaikh, Steven Butler

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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