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Context of 'September 5, 2001: Hijacker Alhazmi Is in Police and Motor Vehicle Databases, but FBI Agent Fails to Find His Records'

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9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar pay $3,000 for a 1998 Toyota Corolla in San Diego. Three days later, the California vehicle registration is made in Almihdhar’s correct name, but a false San Diego address is used. In June 2000, Almihdhar will transfer ownership of the car to Alhazmi just before Almihdhar leaves the US. Alhazmi will buy insurance for the car in October 2000. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 55, 67, 90 pdf file; Cox News Service, 10/21/2001] Alhazmi will get a speeding ticket while driving the car through Oklahoma in April 2001 (see April 1, 2001). The car’s license plate will be queried by police in New Jersey in July 2001 (see July 7, 2001). The car will be found outside Dulles Airport in Washington one day after 9/11 (see September 11-13, 2001). However, shortly before 9/11, an FBI agent assigned to find out if Alhazmi and Almihdhar are in the US will fail to find any records relating to this car, even though information on Alhazmi’s ownership of the car is in nationwide police and motor vehicle databases. He will also fail to check vehicle registration and license plate databases (see September 4-5, 2001 and September 5, 2001).

Entity Tags: Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A poor photocopy of Nawaf Alhazmi’s US driver’s license.A poor photocopy of Nawaf Alhazmi’s US driver’s license. [Source: FBI]9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi is stopped by an Oklahoma police officer for speeding. He is stopped while traveling east on interstate highway 40, near Clinton, Oklahoma. It is likely he is with Hani Hanjour and the two are driving across the US, because they moved out of an apartment in Arizona the day before and will be seen in Virginia several days later (see December 12, 2000-March 2001 and March 2001 and After). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 131-132 pdf file; Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/2002] Alhazmi’s license information is run through a computer to determine whether there are any warrants for his arrest. There are none, so he is issued a ticket and sent on his way. He is driving the Toyota Corolla that he bought in San Diego the year before (see March 25, 2000). The CIA has known that Alhazmi is an al-Qaeda operative possibly living in the US since March 2000, but has failed to share this knowledge with other agencies. [Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/2002; Newsweek, 6/2/2002] Police do not check his immigration status, which would require a call to an Law Enforcement Support Center hotline. Had such a call been made, it would have revealed he had been in the US illegally since January 2001. [US Congress, 9/20/2002; GovExec, 3/16/2004] This incident is added to the NCIC, a widely used nationwide police database (see September 5, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 131 pdf file]

Entity Tags: National Crime Information Center, Hani Hanjour, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi is mugged outside of his apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, by an “unknown black male.” He files a police report about this and gives his correct name and local address. He reports that he had seen his alleged assailant outside of his apartment almost every day for the previous two weeks. This information in inputted into the NCIC, a widely used nationwide police database. In August 2001, Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar will be watchlisted and an FBI agent will begin looking for them in the US (see September 4-5, 2001). But, as one news report will later note, the agent “never perform[s] one of the most basic tasks of a police manhunt. He never [runs] Almihdhar or Alhazmi through the NCIC computer” (see September 5, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 139 pdf file] A police officer takes a statement from Alhazmi in his apartment, but Alhazmi signs a release indicating he does not want the incident investigated. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/27/2002] He has been in the country illegally since January 2001. [US Congress, 9/20/2002]

Entity Tags: National Crime Information Center, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Police officer Dave Agar in South Hackensack, New Jersey, is searching the parking lots of cheap motels, looking for suspicious cars. He submits the license plate number of a 1988 Toyota parked outside the Jade East motel to the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), a computer database frequently used by every level of law enforcement. He discovers that Nawaf Alhazmi owns the car. The computer record shows no outstanding warrants for Alhazmi (though it does give other information, including his address in San Diego). Agar makes a record of his search and continues his patrol. It is later discovered that Abdulaziz Alomari registered a room in the Jade East motel from July 6-13, and Khalid Almihdhar stayed most of that week with Alhazmi at the nearby Congress Inn. It is also discovered that Almihdhar, Alhazmi, and two or three other men had dinner together at a local diner. Police speculate the hijackers were holding a meeting to discuss their plot. One officer later says, “You wonder what would have happened if the check had turned up something on Alhazmi. We certainly would have brought him in for questioning.” [Bergen Record, 7/11/2002; Bergen Record, 5/18/2004] In late August, an FBI agent will look for Alhazmi and Almihdhar in the New York City area, but he will fail to check NCIC or car registration records that would have revealed the record of Agar’s search mentioning Alhazmi’s name (see September 5, 2001 and September 4-5, 2001).

Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Abdulaziz Alomari, Dave Agar, National Crime Information Center

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A car rented by 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi is queried by police in Totowa, New Jersey. This incident is inputted into the NCIC, a widely used nationwide police database. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 236 pdf file] Alhazmi rented the car, a Chrysler Concorde, on August 20 in nearby Wayne, New Jersey. He used his Florida driver’s license for ID. He stays in the area until September 1, when he returns the car and goes to Maryland. [CNN, 9/26/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 229, 247 pdf file] Alhazmi had been put on a terrorist watch list several days earlier along with his companion Khalid Almihdhar (see August 23, 2001), and the FBI has been tasked to search for them in the US. On September 5, 2001, FBI agent Robert Fuller will allegedly search the NCIC database, although evidence suggests he does not actually do so (see September 5, 2001). It is unknown how quickly this incident is added to the database and if it would be there in time for Fuller to discover.

Entity Tags: Robert Fuller, National Crime Information Center, Nawaf Alhazmi

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

NCIC logo.NCIC logo. [Source: NCIC] (click image to enlarge)FBI agent Robert Fuller has been tasked to find out if hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar are in the US, now that their names have been added to a terrorist watch list (see September 4-5, 2001). Fuller later claims that he requests a criminal history check in the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) database, a computer database frequently used by every level of law enforcement. However, the Bergen Record will later report: “[H]e 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.” Fuller also allegedly requests that a national motor vehicle index be searched. [Bergen Record, 7/11/2002; Bergen Record, 5/18/2004; US Department of Justice, 11/2004] A government webpage about the NCIC database posted before 9/11 boasts that it has an enhanced name search capability, returning results of phonetically similar names and name derivatives. [National Criminal Information Center, 5/5/2001] According to an FBI timeline assembled shortly after 9/11, the following incidents are in the NCIC database:
bullet April 1, 2001. Nawaf Alhazmi receives a speeding ticket from Oklahoma State Highway Patrol in Clinton, Oklahoma (see April 1, 2001). He is driving the Toyota Corolla he bought in San Diego the year before. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 131 pdf file; Daily Oklahoman, 1/20/2002]
bullet Alhazmi tells police in Alexandria, Virginia, that he was mugged. Even though he declines to press charges, this incident is added to the NCIC database (see May 1, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 139 pdf file]
bullet July 7, 2001. Alhazmi’s Corolla is queried by police in South Hackensack, New Jersey. The incident is added to the motor vehicle index as well as the NCIC database (see July 7, 2001). One newspaper will later comment that a search of the NCIC “would have told the agent a local cop… had already spotted Alhazmi in [the New Jersey town of] South Hackensack.” [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 179 pdf file; US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file; Bergen Record, 5/18/2004]
bullet August 28, 2001. A rental car rented by Alhazmi is queried by police in Totowa, New Jersey (see August 28, 2001). [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 236 pdf file] While this incident will be in the NCIC database when the FBI searches it after 9/11, it is unknown if it is accessible by Fuller when he searches it.
If Fuller really does check both the NCIC and motor vehicle databases, it is not clear why he fails to find any of these incidents and thus prove that Alhazmi was in the US.

Entity Tags: Nawaf Alhazmi, Robert Fuller, National Crime Information Center, Khalid Almihdhar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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