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Context of 'Mid-September 2001: Private Consumer Databases Reveal Large Credit Card Debt, Multiple Residences of 9/11 Hijackers'

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Ziad Jarrah flying in Florida in 2000.Ziad Jarrah flying in Florida in 2000. [Source: Der Speigel]After entering the United States (see June 27-28, 2000), Ziad Jarrah lives in Venice, Florida, while taking flying lessons (see (June 28-December 2000)). According to the 9/11 Commission, he stays with some of his flight school’s instructors. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224] Other accounts describe him “spending most of the time sleeping on a sofa in the apartment the other students shared,” or simply as rooming “with three others.” [Longman, 2002, pp. 91; Corbin, 2003, pp. 155] For six weeks, Thorsten Biermann, a 23-year-old fellow flight student from Germany, rooms with Jarrah. According to Biermann, Jarrah keeps another apartment in Venice, but does not sleep in it. [Los Angeles Times, 10/23/2001; Longman, 2002, pp. 91-92] As well as paying for his flying lessons, Jarrah’s family in the Lebanon regularly wires him generous pocket money. He buys himself a car, which he lets other flight students borrow, and often cooks for his flatmates. During his time in the US, Jarrah maintains close contact with his girlfriend Aysel Senguen who is in Germany, phoning her hundreds of times and frequently e-mailing her. [Corbin, 2003, pp. 155; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 224-225]

Entity Tags: Ziad Jarrah, Thorsten Biermann

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Charles Voss.Charles Voss. [Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune]Having arrived in Venice, Florida, to take flying lessons, 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi rent a room in the south Venice home of Charles Voss, a bookkeeper at Huffman Aviation, and his wife Drucilla. They arrive in a rental car, but later in the week buy a red 1989 Pontiac, which they register to the Voss’s address. They are found to be unpleasant and messy guests, and after a week are asked to leave. Drucilla Voss later says, “We never talked. They ate all their meals out and really spent all their time in their room.” She describes them as “very sarcastic,” and says, “They gave me the impression they didn’t care much for women.” [Charlotte Sun, 9/13/2001; Charlotte Sun, 9/13/2001; Chicago Sun-Times, 9/16/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/2001; Wall Street Journal, 10/16/2001]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Charles Voss, Drucilla Voss, Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Steve Kona.Steve Kona. [Source: Sarasota Herald Tribune]While attending Huffman Aviation flight school in Venice, Florida, alleged 9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi move into a small, furnished two-bedroom house in Nokomis, about ten miles north of Venice, which they rent for $550 per month. Noting that Atta and Alshehhi also drive a ten-year-old car, Steve Kona, who owns the house, later says, “This house is nothing extravagant at all… It’s not like they were living in a $3,000-a-month rental home and driving a Mercedes.” [Wall Street Journal, 9/20/2001; St. Petersburg Times, 9/27/2001] Kona says, “Atta I never met.” But he talks to Alshehhi “two or three times because I’d go to mow the grass. He was very friendly.” The pair refuses Kona’s offer of free cable TV, don’t use the house’s air conditioning, even in the middle of summer, and leave the place in spotless condition. Although they rent the house for as long as six months, Jeff Duignan, who lives next door, later says, “I never saw them, and when you don’t see them you don’t worry about them.” [St. Petersburg Times, 9/14/2001; Miami Herald, 9/15/2001; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/16/2001; Sarasota Herald-Tribune, 9/10/2006] This apparent absence could be explained by the fact that, according to several witnesses, over about this same duration they live in an apartment in Venice (see (Mid-July 2000 - Early January 2001)). Atta and Alshehhi were evicted from their previous address, in Venice (see Early July 2000). When Rudi Dekkers, the owner of Huffman Aviation, testifies before Congress in 2002, he will claim, “After their eviction there was no mention of where they were staying.” [US Congress, 3/19/2002] No explanation is ever given as to why they have two separate residences at the same time. However, a private consumer database will later reveal that Atta had 12 addresses, including two places where he lived and ten safe houses, so the Nokomis address could possibly be one of these safe houses (see Mid-September 2001). Interestingly, another hijacker, Ziad Jarrah, also has a second residence he never stays at while he attends flight school in Venice (see (June 28-December 2000)).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Jeff Duignan, Steve Kona

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In 2003, New Jersey state police officials say 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta lived in the Wayne Inn, in Wayne, New Jersey, for an unspecified 12-month period prior to 9/11. He lives with one other hijacker who is presumably his usual partner hijacker Marwan Alshehhi. (Alshehhi is seen eating in nearby restaurants with Atta.) [Bergen Record, 6/20/2003] In 2004, an unnamed whistleblower involved in the Able Danger program will claim that prior to 9/11, Able Danger discovered that Atta and Alshehhi were renting a room at the Wayne Inn, and occasionally meeting with Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar at the inn or near it (see (Before September 2000)). From March 2001 onwards, other hijackers, including Alhazmi and Almihdhar, live in Paterson, New Jersey, only one mile away from Wayne (see March 2001-September 1, 2001). Nawaf Alhazmi and Salem Alhazmi rent mailboxes in Wayne at some unknown point before 9/11. Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour rent cars from a Wayne car dealership between June and August 2001. There is also evidence Nawaf Alhazmi and Marwan Alshehhi shop in Wayne. [CNN, 9/26/2001; New York Times, 9/27/2001] The 9/11 Commission does not mention any hijacker connection to Wayne. This long-term stay in Wayne is surprising because Atta and Alshehhi have generally been placed in Florida most of the time from July 2000 until shortly before 9/11. However, this discrepancy may be explained by one account which states Atta had “two places he lived and 10 safe houses” in the US (see Mid-September 2001).

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The apartment building in Paterson, New Jersey, where some of the hijackers lived.The apartment building in Paterson, New Jersey, where some of the hijackers lived. [Source: Associated Press]9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Salem Alhazmi rent a one-room apartment in Paterson, New Jersey. Hanjour signs the lease. Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Saeed Alghamdi, and Mohamed Atta are also seen coming and going by neighbors. One unnamed hijacker has to be told by a neighbor how to screw in a light bulb. [New York Times, 9/27/2001; Washington Post, 9/30/2001; Associated Press, 10/7/2001] The 9/11 Commission’s account of this differs from previous press accounts, and has Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi (instead of his brother Salem) first moving to Paterson in mid-May. Salem Alhazmi, Majed Moqed, Abdulaziz Alomari, Khalid Almihdhar, and probably Ahmed Alghamdi are all seen living there as well during the summer. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 230] Other reports have Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi living periodically in Falls Church, Virginia, over nearly the exact same time period, from March through August 2001 (see March 2001 and After). During this time, Mohamed Atta and other hijackers live in Wayne, New Jersey, a town only one mile from Paterson (see (Before September 2000-12 Months Later)), and Atta purchases a plane ticket to Spain from Apollo Travel in Paterson in early July (see July 8-19, 2001).” [Bergen Record, 9/27/2001; Bergen Record, 9/27/2001; CNN, 10/29/2001; Newsday, 9/19/2002]

Entity Tags: Mohamed Atta, Saeed Alghamdi, Majed Moqed, Salem Alhazmi, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Ahmed Alghamdi, Apollo Travel, Abdulaziz Alomari, Hani Hanjour

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

FBI agent Robert Fuller in 2009.FBI agent Robert Fuller in 2009. [Source: Associated Press]The FBI’s New York office opens a full field intelligence investigation to locate Khalid Almihdhar. New York FBI agent Robert Fuller, new to the international terrorism squad, is the only person assigned to the task. The New York office had been given a “heads up alert” about Almihdhar on August 23, but the search only begins after the FBI decides on August 28 to conduct an intelligence investigation instead of a criminal investigation (see August 29, 2001). Another agent had labeled the search request “routine,” meaning that Fuller has 30 days to find his target. However, Fuller will be busy with another matter and won’t begin work on finding Almihdhar until September 4 (see September 4-5, 2001). [US Department of Justice, 11/2004]

Entity Tags: Robert Fuller, Nawaf Alhazmi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Khalid Almihdhar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The FBI opens an intelligence investigation to find future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar, despite protests from the FBI New York field office that FBI headquarters has wrongly insisted on an intelligence investigation, when a criminal investigation would be more appropriate and have a better chance of finding him. The Justice Department’s office of inspector general will later conclude that “the designation of the Almihdhar matter as an intelligence investigation, as opposed to a criminal investigation, undermined the priority of any effort to locate Almihdhar.” Upon learning of the decision, Steve Bongardt, an investigator working on the USS Cole bombing investigation, writes to headquarters agent Dina Corsi to express his frustration. He points out that she is unable to produce any solid documentary evidence to support her view of the “wall,” a mechanism that restricts the passage of some intelligence information to criminal agents at the FBI (see Early 1980s and July 19, 1995), and that her interpretation of the “wall” is at odds with the purpose for which it was established. He adds: “Whatever has happened to this—someday someone will die—and wall or not—the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain ‘problems.’ Let’s hope the [Justice Department’s] National Security Law Unit will stand behind their decisions then, especially since the biggest threat to us now, UBL [Osama bin Laden], is getting the most ‘protection.’” [US Congress, 9/20/2002; New York Times, 9/21/2002; US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 307-9 pdf file; New Yorker, 7/10/2006 pdf file] Both the Justice Department’s office of inspector general and the 9/11 Commission will later back Bongardt and say the investigation should have been a criminal investigation, as the “wall” procedures did not apply. The inspector general will comment that Bongardt “was correct that the wall had been created to deal with the handling of only [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] information and that there was no legal barrier to a criminal agent being present for an interview with Almihdhar if it occurred in the intelligence investigation.” [US Department of Justice, 11/2004, pp. 351 pdf file] The 9/11 Commission will remark that Corsi “misunderstood” the wall and that, “Simply put, there was no legal reason why the information [Corsi] possessed could not have been shared with [Bongardt].” It will conclude: “It is now clear that everyone involved was confused about the rules governing the sharing and use of information gathered in intelligence channels. Because Almihdhar was being sought for his possible connection to or knowledge of the Cole bombing, he could be investigated or tracked under the existing Cole criminal case. No new criminal case was needed for the criminal agent to begin searching for [him]. And as the NSA had approved the passage of its information to the criminal agent, he could have conducted a search using all available information. As a result of this confusion, the criminal agents who were knowledgeable about al-Qaeda and experienced with criminal investigative techniques, including finding suspects and possible criminal charges, were thus excluded from the search.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 271, 539]

Entity Tags: Osama bin Laden, Steve Bongardt, Usama bin Laden Unit (FBI), Office of the Inspector General (DOJ), National Commision on Terrorist Attacks, Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, Dina Corsi, FBI Headquarters, Khalid Almihdhar, FBI New York Field Office

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A portion of Khalid Almihdhar’s New York identification card. The address is a Ramada Inn hotel, which was owned by Marriott at the time.
A portion of Khalid Almihdhar’s New York identification card. The address is a Ramada Inn hotel, which was owned by Marriott at the time. [Source: 9/11 Commission]The FBI’s New York office technically began an investigation to locate 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar on August 29, but in fact the one inexperienced agent assigned to the search, Robert Fuller, is busy for several days and only begins the search at this time (see August 29, 2001). Within a day, Fuller identifies connections between Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, and widens the search to look for both of them. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004; New York Observer, 11/28/2004] The FBI will later claim that it searches aggressively. An internal review shortly after 9/11 will find that “everything was done that could have been done” to find them. [Los Angeles Times, 10/28/2001] However, FBI agents familiar with the search will later describe it as unhurried and routine. A report by the Office of the Inspector General completed in late 2004 will conclude, “[T]he FBI assigned few resources to the investigation and little urgency was given to the investigation.” [US Department of Justice, 11/2004] In conducting his search, Fuller takes the following steps on September 4-5:
bullet He requests that Almihdhar’s name bed added to the INS watch list, called LOOKOUT. He describes Almihdhar as a potential witness in a terrorist investigation. He later claims that he identifies him only as a witness, not a potential terrorist, to prevent overzealous immigration officials from overreacting. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
bullet He contacts the Customs Service and verifies that Almihdhar has been placed on its watch list. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
bullet He requests a local criminal history check on Almihdhar and Alhazmi through the New York City Police Department. The request turns up nothing. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
bullet He will claim that he requests a criminal history check in the NCIC, which is a computer database frequently used by every level of law enforcement. However, the Bergen Record will report that he “never performed one of the most basic tasks of a police manhunt. He never ran Almihdhar or Alhazmi through the NCIC computer. That simple act would have alerted local cops to look for the suspected terrorists.” At least four separate incidents involving Alhazmi were recorded in the NCIC database (see September 5, 2001). [Bergen Record, 7/11/2002; Bergen Record, 5/18/2004; US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
bullet He requests a credit check. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
bullet He requests that a national motor vehicle index be searched. However, a July 2001 police query on Alhazmi’s car that is in that index is not found (see September 5, 2001).
bullet On September 5, Fuller and another agent contact the Marriott hotels in New York City, since Almihdhar had indicated when he entered the US in July 2001 that his destination was a Marriott hotel in New York. Later this same day he is told Almihdhar had never registered as a guest at any of the six Marriott hotels there. [US Department of Justice, 11/2004]
bullet He will claim that he conducts a search in the ChoicePoint database, a commerical databases on personal information about US citizens. He will claim he searches the database and fails to find any information on them, but the chairman of ChoicePoint will later confirm the database did have information on the hijackers before 9/11, but the FBI did not ask to search the database until shortly after 9/11 (see September 4, 2001). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 539; US Department of Justice, 11/2004; New York Observer, 11/28/2004]
bullet There are additional searches he could make that he apparently fails to do. For instance, he apparently fails to check car registration databases. Alhazmi did own a car (see March 25, 2000), and the 9/11 Commission will note: “A search on [his] car registration would have unearthed a license check by the South Hackensack Police Department that would have led to information placing Alhazmi in the [greater New York City] area and placing Almihdhar at a local hotel for a week in early July 2001. The hijackers actively used the New Jersey bank accounts, through ATM, debit card, and cash transactions, until September 10.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 539]
bullet Additionally, even though the two were known to have previously entered the US through Los Angeles, drivers’ license records in California are not checked.
bullet He also fails to check national credit card and bank account databases.
All of these would have had positive results. Alhazmi’s name was even in the 2000-2001 San Diego phone book, listing the address where he and Almihdhar may have been living up to as late as September 9, 2001 (see Early September 2001). [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001; Los Angeles Times, 10/28/2001; Newsweek, 6/2/2002] There appears to be no further mention of any further work on this search after September 5, except for one request to the Los Angeles FBI office made on September 10 (see September 10, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will note: “We believe that if more resources had been applied and a significantly different approach taken, Alhazmi and Almihdhar might have been found. They had used their true names in the United States. Still, the investigators would have needed luck as well as skill to find them prior to September 11.… Many FBI witnesses have suggested that even if [they] had been found, there was nothing the agents could have done except follow [them] onto the planes. We believe this is incorrect. Both Alhazmi and Almihdhar could have been held for immigration violations or as material witnesses in the Cole bombing case. Investigation or interrogation of them, and investigation of their travel and financial activities, could have yielded evidence of connections to other participants in the 9/11 plot. The simple fact of their detention could have derailed the plan. In any case, the opportunity did not arise.” [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 272]

Entity Tags: Robert Fuller, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nawaf Alhazmi, 9/11 Commission, Khalid Almihdhar, ChoicePoint

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

In a 2002 speech, former President Bill Clinton will relate information he says he learned from a close friend who works at Acxiom, the world’s largest processor of consumer data. According to this friend, a couple of days after 9/11, FBI agents arrive at Acxiom and discover information about five of the 9/11 hijackers in Acxiom’s computer databases. Clinton relates, “One of the men who flew an airplane into the World Trade Center [presumably either Marwan Alshehhi or Mohamed Atta] had 30 credit cards, a quarter of a million of dollars in debt, and a consolidated payout schedule of $9,800 a month.… Mohamed Atta, the ring leader, had 12 addresses, two places he lived and 10 safe houses, under the names Mohamed Atta, Mohammed J. Atta, J. Atta, and his middle initial spelled out.” [Clinton, 12/3/2002; Fortune, 2/9/2004] No information like this will be revealed by any subsequent official 9/11 investigations, except for a vague one sentence reference in a 9/11 Commission Report footnote that “Searches of readily available databases could have unearthed” valuable information on at least some of the hijackers. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 539] The chairman of ChoicePoint, another large data brokerage company, will state that his company had data on some of the hijackers before 9/11, but he won’t provide any details. After two of the hijackers are put on a no-fly list in late August 2001, an FBI agent will apparently fail to check if their names appear in the ChoicePoint database, though he claims to have done so (see August 29, 2001). [New York Observer, 11/28/2004]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, Mohamed Atta, Acxiom

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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