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Context of '(June 28-December 2000): 9/11 Hijacker Jarrah Trains at Venice, Florida, Flight School'

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The Marienstrasse building.The Marienstrasse building. [Source: Associated Press]Future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta, al-Qaeda operatives Said Bahaji and Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, and others in the al-Qaeda Hamburg cell move into a four bedroom apartment at 54 Marienstrasse, in Hamburg, Germany, and some of them stay there until February 2001. Investigators will later believe this move marks the formation of the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell. [Los Angeles Times, 1/27/2002; New York Times, 9/10/2002] Up to six men at a time live at the apartment, including, at times, 9/11 hijacker Marwan Alshehhi and cell member Zakariya Essabar. Alshehhi moves out after the first month; it is unclear why. [New York Times, 9/15/2001] During the 28 months Atta’s name is on the apartment lease, 29 Middle Eastern or North African men register the apartment as their home address.
Surveillance of Bahaji - From the very beginning, the apartment is under surveillance by German intelligence, because of investigations into businessman Mamoun Darkazanli that connect to Bahaji. [Washington Post, 10/23/2001] The Germans also suspect connections between Bahaji and al-Qaeda operative Mohammed Haydar Zammar. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Bahaji is directly monitored for at least part of 1998, but German officials will not disclose when the probe began or ends. This investigation is dropped for lack of evidence (see (Late 1998)). [Associated Press, 6/22/2002; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] Bahaji moves out in July 1999 and gets married a few months later (see October 9, 1999). [Der Spiegel (Hamburg), 8/29/2011]
Surveillance of El Motassadeq - German intelligence monitors the apartment off and on for months, and wiretaps Mounir El Motassadeq, an associate of the apartment-mates who will later be convicted for assisting the 9/11 plot, but apparently it does not find any indication of suspicious activity (see August 29, 1998). [Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002]
Surveillance of Zammar - Zammar, a talkative man who has trouble keeping secrets, does not live at the apartment, but he is a frequent visitor to the many late night meetings there. [Miller, Stone, and Mitchell, 2002, pp. 259-60; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Chicago Tribune, 9/5/2002] He even lives in the apartment for a time in February 1999 (see February 1999). Zammar is the focus of an investigation that began in 1997 and continues until early 2000 (see March 1997-Early 2000). Interest in monitoring him increases in late 1998 (see October 2, 1998).
Surveillance of Atta - The CIA also allegedly starts monitoring Atta in early 2000 while he is living at the apartment, and does not tell Germany of the surveillance (see January-May 2000). Atta leaves Germany to live in the US in June 2000 (see June 3, 2000).
No Direct German Surveillance of the Apartment? - Yet, even though people like Zammar who frequently phone and visit the apartment are monitored, German officials will later claim that the apartment itself is never bugged. An unnamed senior German security official will later say that some surveillance of associated people gives “the impression that the people living there were fanatical believers. At the BfV [Germany’s domestic intelligence agency], we had to decide whether to ask permission to place a wiretap on the line at 54 Marienstrasse itself. We discussed this every day.” But he will claim that they ultimately decide they will not be able to get legal permission for a wiretap because there is no evidence that the apartment’s occupants are breaking any laws. [Vanity Fair, 11/2004] This claim that the apartment was not directly monitored seems contradicted by reports that Bahaji was the target of a surveillance investigation when he was living in the Marienstrasse apartment in late 1998 (see (Late 1998)).
What Would More Surveillance Have Uncovered? - It will later be clear that investigators could have found evidence if they looked more thoroughly. For instance, one visitor will recall Atta and others discussing attacking the US. [Knight Ridder, 9/9/2002] 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed is in Hamburg several times in 1999 and comes to the apartment. However, although there is a $2 million reward for Mohammed since 1998, the US apparently fails to tell Germany what it knows about him (see 1999). [Newsweek, 9/4/2002; New York Times, 11/4/2002] 9/11 Hijacker Waleed Alshehri also apparently stays at the apartment “at times.” [Washington Post, 9/14/2001; Washington Post, 9/16/2001] Remarkably, shortly after 9/11, the German government will claim it knew little about the Hamburg al-Qaeda cell before 9/11, and nothing directed it towards the Marienstrasse apartment. [Daily Telegraph, 11/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Mamoun Darkazanli, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Said Bahaji, Marwan Alshehhi, Central Intelligence Agency, Mohamed Atta, Mounir El Motassadeq, Al-Qaeda, Mohammed Haydar Zammar, Zakariya Essabar, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Bundesamt fur Verfassungsschutz

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Huffman Aviation.Huffman Aviation. [Source: FBI]Huffman Aviation, the Venice, Florida flight school later attended by Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi (see July 1-3, 2000) is sold to Naples-based flight school Ambassador Airways, which is owned by Wally Hilliard and Rudi Dekkers. Although Hilliard finances the purchase, Dekkers becomes the sole stockholder. Dekkers is a Dutch national with a highly questionable past. The St. Petersburg Times will later comment, he “seems to have benefited from the same type of casual scrutiny of visa applicants that let the 9/11 hijackers live and train here [in the US].” Even before 9/11, he has “a long history of troubled businesses, run-ins with the Federal Aviation Administration and numerous lawsuits… It is the kind of checkered history, experts say, that should have raised questions both before and after the 9/11 attacks about Dekkers’ fitness to run a school that trained pilots.” Having previously run a computer company in the Netherlands that went bankrupt, he’d moved to Naples, Florida in 1992. After running a computer chip exporting company, he’d started Ambassador Airways. Yet he’d been so late on some of his bills there that at one point the Naples airport refused to sell him aviation fuel, even if he paid cash. At some point in 1999 the FAA revoked his pilot’s license for 45 days—a severe penalty—for several violations, including “operating an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner.” In spite of Dekkers’ dubious history and the fact that his Ambassador Airways is struggling, Wally Hilliard, a prominent retired businessman, loans him $1.7 million to buy Huffman Aviation. Dekkers says he plans spending $60,000 per year promoting the school, advertising extensively in Germany and other European countries. [Venice Gondolier Sun, 5/29/1999; Venice Gondolier Sun, 1/25/2003; St. Petersburg Times, 7/25/2004] Huffman Aviation is just up the road from Florida Flight Training Center, where Ziad Jarrah, the alleged pilot of Flight 93, will begin flying lessons in summer 2000 (see (June 28-December 2000)). [Associated Press, 9/9/2002] Dekkers will close Ambassador Airways in December 2001, due to financial difficulties, and sell Huffman Aviation in January 2003. [Naples Daily News, 1/25/2003; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 1/28/2003]

Entity Tags: Ambassador Airways, Rudi Dekkers, Wally Hilliard, Huffman Aviation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ramzi bin al-Shibh.Ramzi bin al-Shibh. [Source: FBI]During these months, Hamburg al-Qaeda cell member Ramzi bin al-Shibh tries several times to get a US visa, but all his attempts fail, some possibly due to a link to the USS Cole bombing. In 2000, he tries to a get a visa three times from Germany, and once from Yemen, but all these attempts fail. He may also make a fifth attempt in May 2001, although the 9/11 Commission will not include that in their final report. One of the applications says he will be visiting Agus Budiman, a Hamburg associate, in Washington (see October-November 2000). [Los Angeles Times, 10/24/2001; Australian, 12/24/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 11-15 pdf file; McDermott, 2005, pp. 209] Most accounts claim that bin al-Shibh is refused a visa on economic grounds based on fears that he will overstay his visa and work in the US. One official later suggests it was “only by luck” that he was turned down. [CBS News, 6/6/2002; Washington Post, 7/14/2002] However, Bin al-Shibh is in Yemen during the two months before the bombing of the Cole in that country, and investigators later conclude that he may have been involved in that attack (see October 10-21, 2000 and October 12, 2000). Possibly for this reason other accounts note that, as the London Times will put it, he was “turned down on security grounds.” [London Times, 9/9/2002] Newsweek will later report, “One senior law-enforcement official told Newsweek that bin al-Shibh’s efforts to obtain a US visa were rebuffed because of suspicions that he was tied to the bombing of the USS Cole.” [Los Angeles Times, 10/21/2001; Newsweek, 11/26/2001; BBC, 9/14/2002] In addition, Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda will say that according to his US intelligence sources, bin al-Shibh’s visas were “turned down because he was implicated in the USS Cole attack.” [TBS Journal, 10/2002] But no journalist will ever question why this information didn’t lead to the unraveling of the 9/11 plot. Not only is there the obvious visa connection to Ziad Jarrah while he is training at a US flight school, but also during this same time period bin al-Shibh wires money to Marwan Alshehhi, Zacarias Moussaoui, and others, sometimes using his own name. [CBS News, 6/6/2002] It is unclear how the US would know about his ties to the bombing at this time, though it’s possible that the consular official who reviews his fourth attempt in Berlin in October/November 2000 sees that al-Shibh entered Yemen one day before the attack and leaves shortly after it (see October 10-21, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 15 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Agus Budiman, Ziad Jarrah, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Zacarias Moussaoui, Marwan Alshehhi, Yosri Fouda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ziad Jarrah, with dark blue shirt and sunglasses, leaning against an airplane. He is surrounded by his fellow flight school students.Ziad Jarrah, with dark blue shirt and sunglasses, leaning against an airplane. He is surrounded by his fellow flight school students. [Source: History Channel]9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah attends the Florida Flight Training Center (FFTC) in Venice, Florida, where he takes lessons in a Cessna 152. According to the FBI, he finishes his training there in December 2000. [Der Spiegel, 2002, pp. 12; US Congress, 9/26/2002] The school’s owner, Arne Kruithof, later says Jarrah is enrolled there until January 15, 2001. [Longman, 2002, pp. 91] The 9/11 Commission says he studies there until January 31, 2001. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 12 pdf file] However, these latter two accounts conflict with other reports, according to which Jarrah is elsewhere at the same time (see Late November 2000-January 30, 2001). According to the 9/11 Commission, in early August, just weeks after commencing training, Jarrah gains a single-engine private pilot certificate. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224] However, Arne Kruithof says that although Jarrah eventually receives his private pilot license and instrument rating, he does not do so while at FFTC. Kruithof later claims that Jarrah becomes an “average” pilot, saying, “We had to do more to get him ready than others. His flight skills seemed to be a little bit out there.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 91] At the same time as Jarrah is in Venice, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi attend Huffman Aviation, which is just up the road from FFTC. [Associated Press, 9/9/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224] Yet no reports describe him ever meeting them while they are so near to each other. Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who shared an apartment in Hamburg with Mohamed Atta (see November 1, 1998-February 2001), is supposed to join Jarrah at FFTC, wiring the school a $2,200 deposit in August 2000, but is repeatedly unable to obtain the necessary US visa (see May 17, 2000-May 2001). [US Congress, 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 225]

Entity Tags: Florida Flight Training Center, Ziad Jarrah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Huffman Aviation logo.Huffman Aviation logo. [Source: Huffman Aviation]9/11 hijackers Marwan Alshehhi and Mohamed Atta attend Huffman Aviation, a flight school in Venice, Florida and enroll in its Accelerated Pilot Program, aiming to get commercial pilot licenses. According to the school’s owner Rudi Dekkers, Atta already has a private pilot’s license—though where and how he gained this is unstated—and wants to obtain a commercial license. Alshehhi wants to obtain both licenses. They begin their training in a Cessna 172 with instructor Thierry Leklou. According to the 9/11 Commission, by the end of July both are already taking solo flights. However, in August Leklou complains to Chief Flight Instructor Daniel Pursell that the two are failing to follow instructions and have bad attitudes. Pursell considers expelling them, but, according to Dekkers, after a warning they improve their behavior and continue without further problems. [US Congress, 3/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224, 227; St. Petersburg Times, 7/25/2004] Yet Pursell later testifies that the school’s instructors breathed “a collective sigh of relief” when the two left Huffman. [Associated Press, 3/23/2006] Furthermore, reportedly, “Atta and al-Shehhi would rent a plane from Huffman and be gone for days at a time, Pursell said. They could fly to 20 airports across the state and never be noticed.” [St. Petersburg Times, 7/25/2004] Mark Mikarts, another of the school’s instructors, says Atta has “big problems with authority,” and doesn’t take instructions well. [Wall Street Journal, 9/17/2001; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 17 pdf file] Susan Hall, Huffman’s office manager, refers to Atta as “the little terrorist” while he is at the school, because, she later says, “I just didn’t like the aura he gave off.” [Reuters, 3/22/2006] In the middle of their training, in late September, Atta and Alshehhi enroll at another flight school, in nearby Sarasota. However, they are soon asked to leave it, and return to Huffman in October (see Late September-Early October 2000). While Atta and Alshehhi attend Huffman Aviation, another of the alleged hijackers, Ziad Jarrah, is taking lessons at a flight school just down the road from them (see (June 28-December 2000)). Yet no reports describe the three ever meeting up while they are all in Venice. According to official accounts, Atta and Alshehhi complete their schooling at Huffman on December 19, 2000, when they take their commercial pilot license tests. Rudi Dekkers says that after returning to the school to settle their bills, they leave and are never seen there again. [US Congress, 3/19/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 17 pdf file] Yet Daniel Pursell will later allege that early in 2001 the two are still connected with Huffman, being reported to the school for practicing nighttime landings in one of its planes at another Florida airport (see Between January and February 2001).

Entity Tags: Huffman Aviation, Daniel Pursell, Susan Hall, Mohamed Atta, Thierry Leklou, Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A close associate of future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in San Diego helps Alhazmi contact a flight school in Florida. An unnamed FBI team leader of the 9/11 investigation will later be interviewed by the 9/11 Commission. This FBI agent will say that Mohdar Abdullah knew that both Alhazmi and Almihdhar were interested in learning to fly. At one point, Abdullah calls an unnamed flight school in Florida for Alhazmi. Alhazmi presumably needs help because his English isn’t very good. Abdullah is about to use the phone inside the Texaco gas station where he and Alhazmi work (see Autumn 2000), but Alhazmi asks him to call from outside, so he uses a pay phone next to the station. This FBI agent will also say that he doubts Abdullah was a witting part of the 9/11 plot, but he believes that if anyone in San Diego had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks, it would be Abdullah. Abdullah helped the two hijackers with many tasks in San Diego, and he may have known in early 2000 that they were planning to crash a plane into a building (see Early 2000). [9/11 Commission, 11/18/2003] It will not be mentioned when this incident takes place, but the autumn of 2000 is likely, since this is when Alhazmi and Abdullah both work at the gas station (see Autumn 2000). Hijackers Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah are attending flying school in Florida at the time (see July 6-December 19, 2000 and (June 28-December 2000)).

Entity Tags: Khalid Almihdhar, Mohdar Abdullah, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Two images of Ziad Jarrah. The photo on the right is from the wreckage of Flight 93. 
Two images of Ziad Jarrah. The photo on the right is from the wreckage of Flight 93. [Source: FBI]There is some evidence indicating hijacker pilot Ziad Jarrah transits Dubai on January 30, 2001 after spending two months in Afghanistan (see January 30, 2001). [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 12/13/2001; CNN, 8/1/2002] However, the Florida Flight Training Center, where Jarrah has been studying for the previous six months, later says he is in school there until January 15, 2001. His family later reports he arrives in Lebanon to visit them on January 26, five days before he supposedly passes through Dubai. His father had just undergone open-heart surgery, and Jarrah visits him every day in the hospital until after January 30. Pointing out this incident, his uncle Jamal Jarrah later asks, “How could he be in two places at one time?” [Longman, 2002, pp. 101-02] Other accounts place Jarrah in Dubai one year earlier, not in 2001 (see January 30, 2000). If the 2001 version is correct, this is not the only example of Jarrah being in two places at the same time—there is also evidence he was in different places at once from March 1995-February 1996 (see March 1995-February 1996). Additionally, records seem to indicate that Jarrah flies out of the US on December 26, 2000, and then again on December 28, 2000 (see December 26-28, 2000), and then twice on the same day on July 25, 2001 (see July 25, 2001).

Entity Tags: Florida Flight Training Center, Jamal Jarrah, Ziad Jarrah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ziad Jarrah standing next to a Cessna in Florida.Ziad Jarrah standing next to a Cessna in Florida. [Source: National Geographic]9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah is said to obtain a commercial pilot’s license around this time by flight school owner Arne Kruithof, although neither the FBI nor any other official body will confirm this. Jarrah obtained a private pilot’s license from Florida Flight Training Center (FFTC) (see (June 28-December 2000)) in 2000 and then spent a few hours on Boeing simulators later in 2000 (see December 15, 2000-January 8, 2001). FFTC owner Kruithof will later say that he was told Jarrah obtained a commercial license: “He was supposed to come back and finish his commercial pilot license, but he did not. Later, I found out that he did it somewhere else.” However, there is no mention of where he may have obtained such additional training. [Fouda and Fielding, 2003, pp. 133]

Entity Tags: Arne Kruithof, Ziad Jarrah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The man in the picture on the left is supposed to be bin Laden in October 2001. The picture on the right is undisputendly bin Laden in DecemberThe man in the picture on the left is supposed to be bin Laden in October 2001. The picture on the right is undisputendly bin Laden in December [Source: Reuters]Following the release of a home video in which Osama bin Laden apparently confesses to involvement in 9/11 (see Mid-November 2001), some commentators question its authenticity, as a number of strange facts about the video soon emerge. For example, all previous videos had been made with the consent of bin Laden, and usually released to the Arabic television channel Al Jazeera. This video was supposedly recorded without his knowledge, found in a house in Afghanistan, and then passed to the CIA by an unknown person or group. Experts point out that it would be possible to fake such a video. So many people doubt the video’s authenticity that President Bush soon makes a statement, saying it was “preposterous for anybody to think this tape was doctored. Those who contend it’s a farce or a fake are hoping for the best about an evil man.” [Guardian, 12/15/2001] Some commentators will suggest that the person thought to be bin Laden is not actually the al-Qaeda leader. For example, arabist Kevin Barrett will say that the person in the video is “at least 40 or 50 pounds heavier, and his facial features [are] obviously different.” [Capital Times (Madison), 2/14/2006] The man said to be bin Laden also makes some questionable statements in the video:
bullet “I was thinking that the fire from the gas in the plane would melt the iron structure of the building…” [US Department of Defense, 12/13/2001 pdf file] The jet fuel spilled from the planes burned up about 10 minutes after impact (see 8:57 a.m. September 11, 2001), the towers’ structure did not melt (see September 12, 2001-February 2002), and the towers were not made of iron, but steel. [National Institute of Standards and Technology, 9/2005, pp. 6] Bin Laden had studied civil engineering at university and had experience as a construction contractor. [Burke, 2004, pp. 47; Laden, 2005, pp. xii-xiii] It is unclear why he would think the towers were made of iron.
bullet “We did not reveal the operation to [the brothers who conducted the operation] until they are there and just before they boarded the planes.” [US Department of Defense, 12/13/2001 pdf file] All the hijackers purchased tickets for the 9/11 flights about two weeks in advance (see August 25-September 5, 2001). The six plot leaders had flight training (see July 6-December 19, 2000, (June 28-December 2000), January-February 2001, and May 5 and 10, 2000), and some of the other 13 are thought to have assisted with target surveillance and casing flights (see May 24-August 14, 2001, August 1, 2001, June 2001 and August 2001).
bullet “Those who were trained to fly didn’t know the others. One group of people did not know the other group.” [US Department of Defense, 12/13/2001 pdf file] The opposite is true: the pilots intermingled with the muscle and the teams for the various planes mixed (see April 23-June 29, 2001, April 12-September 7, 2001, and June 27-August 23, 2001).
There are reports that bin Laden had from four to ten look-alike doubles at the time. [Agence France-Presse, 10/7/2001; London Times, 11/19/2001]

Entity Tags: Bush administration (43), Kevin Barrett, Central Intelligence Agency, George W. Bush, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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