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Context of 'December 8, 2000: 9/11 Hijacker Hanjour Re-Enters US on Student Visa'

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Hijacker Hani Hanjour moves from Florida to the San Francisco Bay area in California, staying with an unidentified family. He lives with them from late April to early September. For most of this time he takes English lessons in an intensive program requiring 30 hours of class time per week, at the ELS Language Center at Holy Names College in Oakland. He reportedly reaches a level of proficiency sufficient to “survive very well in the English language.” Yet in 2001, managers at an Arizona flight school will report him to the FAA at least five times, partly because they think his level of English is inadequate for him to keep his pilot’s license. Due to his poor English, it will take Hanjour five hours to complete an oral exam meant to last just two hours (see January-February 2001). At the end of this period, Hanjour enrolls on a rigorous one-year flight training program at the renowned Sierra Academy of Aeronautics, in Oakland. However, he only attends the 30-minute orientation class, on September 8, and then never returns. [CBS 5 (San Francisco), 10/10/2001; San Francisco Chronicle, 10/10/2001; Associated Press, 10/11/2001; Cape Cod Times, 10/21/2001; Star-Tribune (Minneapolis), 12/21/2001; Associated Press, 5/10/2002]

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, Sierra Academy of Aeronautics

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The CIA begins an operation to track or question suspected al-Qaeda operatives as they transit the airport in Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE). When it is revealed in 2002 that 9/11 hijacker Ziad Jarrah was questioned in January 2000 as a part of this operation (see January 30-31, 2000), sources from the UAE and Europe describe the operation to CNN, and one of them draws a map of the airport, showing how the operation usually worked and how the people wanted for questioning were intercepted. UAE officials are often told in advance of who is coming in and who should be questioned. Jarrah may be stopped because he is on a US watch list (see January 30, 2000). [CNN, 8/1/2002] In 2011, Dubai airport will be considered one of the top five busiest in the world in terms of international passengers. [Airports Council International, 4/30/2011] In the summer of 1999, the CIA also asks immigration officials throughout the Middle East to stop and question anyone who may be returning from militant training camps in Afghanistan (see Summer 1999).
9/11 Hijackers Pass through the Airport - Almost all the 9/11 hijackers pass through Dubai at some point in the months before 9/11, some repeatedly (see December 8, 2000, April 11-June 28, 2001, and June 2001). One of them, Khalid Almihdhar, has his passport photocopied in Dubai by local authorities and the CIA (see January 2-5, 2000). Also, three of the hijackers, Satam al Suqami, Ahmed Alghamdi, and Hamza Alghamdi, are the subject a US customs investigation at the time they pass through Dubai (see September 2000 and Spring 2001), but it is unknown if there is any attempt to track them through Dubai.

Entity Tags: Central Intelligence Agency, United Arab Emirates, Ziad Jarrah

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A photocopy of Hani Hanjour’s 1999 pilot license.A photocopy of Hani Hanjour’s 1999 pilot license. [Source: FBI] (click image to enlarge)When Hani Hanjour attended flight schools between 1996 and 1998 he was found to be a “weak student” who “was wasting our resources” (see October 1996-December 1997), and when he tried using a flight simulator, “He had only the barest understanding what the instruments were there to do.” (see 1998) Yet, on this day, he is certified as a multi-engine commercial pilot by Daryl Strong in Tempe, Arizona. Strong is one of many private examiners independently contracted with the FAA. A spokesperson for the FAA’s workers union will later complain that contractors like Strong “receive between $200 and $300 for each flight check. If they get a reputation for being tough, they won’t get any business.” Hanjour’s new license allows him to begin passenger jet training at other flight schools, despite having limited flying skills and an extremely poor grasp of English. [Federal Aviation Administration, 4/25/2002; Government Executive, 6/13/2002; Associated Press, 6/13/2002] At the next flight school Hanjour will attend in early 2001, the staff will be so appalled at his lack of skills that they will repeatedly contact the FAA and ask them to investigate how he got a pilot’s license (see January-February 2001). After 9/11, the FBI will appear to investigate how Hanjour got his license and question and polygraph the instructor who signed off on his flying skills. The Washington Post will note that, since Hanjour’s pilot skills were so bad, the issue of how he was able to get a license “remains a lingering question that FAA officials refuse to discuss.” [Washington Post, 10/15/2001; CBS News, 5/10/2002] After gaining the license, Hanjour apparently returns to the Middle East. He will arrive back in the US in December 2000 (see (Early 2000-November 2000) and December 8, 2000).

Entity Tags: Daryl Strong, Hani Hanjour

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Officially, in 2000, 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour is said to enter the US on December 8, and briefly visit San Diego (see December 8, 2000). However, some reports suggest he may spend a significant amount of time in San Diego earlier in the year. [Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001; San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/14/2002]
bullet For example, in the two weeks following 9/11, the FBI will identify him as having lived in San Diego during 2000. [Associated Press, 9/14/2001; NBC (San Diego), 9/15/2001; San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/21/2001]
bullet In 2004, court records relating to a local terror probe will include authorities stating that Hanjour, along with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, had regularly dined and prayed with Mohdar Abdullah, a Yemeni university student in San Diego. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 6/2/2004]
bullet When Alhazmi and Almihdhar attend a San Diego flying school in May 2000 (see May 5 and 10, 2000), they are accompanied by one or even two men called Hani. [KGTV 10 (San Diego), 9/18/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/27/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001]
bullet A neighbor of Abdussattar Shaikh, a Muslim leader and also undercover FBI asset living in San Diego, later remembers Shaikh having introduced him to a friend called Hani, who he assumes to have been Hanjour. [Chicago Tribune, 9/30/2001] (Alhazmi and Almihdhar stay with Shaikh during 2000 (see Mid-May-December 2000).) For a short period beginning August 10, another resident at Shaikh’s San Diego house is a Saudi called Yazeed al-Salmi. After 9/11, Al-Salmi will reportedly confide to having known Hanjour and, according to the 9/11 Commission, has “childhood ties” to him. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222 and 518]
bullet Witnesses see Hanjour in San Diego with suspected Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi at least twice in early 2000 (see Early 2000).
Little else is written about Hanjour’s movements during 2000, but the Washington Post notes that for at least part of the year, he “appears to have been in Saudi Arabia, because it was there that he obtained a student visa to take another English course. He applied in September 2000.” [Washington Post, 10/15/2001] The 9/11 Commission will claim that Hanjour goes to Afghanistan in spring 2000, where he spends time in al-Qaeda’s Al Farooq training camp. He is then sent to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in Karachi, for training in using code words, before returning to Saudi Arabia on June 20, 2000. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 226] However, this account will come mainly from written reports of the interrogation of KSM, with whom the commission has no direct contact. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 146 and 521] Partly because of the highly coercive interrogation methods used, there will be questions about the reliability of KSM’s information. [New York Times, 6/17/2004] According to the 9/11 Commission, the only time Hanjour is in San Diego this year is from December 8-12, before he moves to Arizona. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223]

Entity Tags: Mohdar Abdullah, Khalid Almihdhar, Abdussattar Shaikh, Yazeed al-Salmi, Omar al-Bayoumi, Al Farooq training camp, Nawaf Alhazmi, Hani Hanjour, Osama bin Laden

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Hani Hanjour’s September 10 US visa application, which was rejected. The fact he requested permission to stay in the US for three years is highlighted on the right.Hani Hanjour’s September 10 US visa application, which was rejected. The fact he requested permission to stay in the US for three years is highlighted on the right. [Source: National Review] (click image to enlarge)Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour applies for a US tourist/business visa at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Hanjour, who has already spent a good deal of time in the US (see October 3, 1991-February 1992, Spring 1996, October 1996-December 1997, and 1998), uses a passport issued on July 24, 2000. His application is incomplete, as he says he is a student, but fails to give his school’s name and address. After his application is screened, he is referred to a consular officer for an interview. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13, 174-5 pdf file] This consular officer is Shayna Steinger, who issues a total of 12 visas to the 9/11 hijackers (see July 1, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] Hanjour’s application is denied as he says he wants to stay in the US for three years, raising concerns he might become an immigrant. Hanjour also says he wants to attend flight school in the US, changing his status to “student” from “tourist” after arrival. However, this is another reason Steinger denies the visa application, “because he has been in the States long enough to decide what he wanted.” Hanjour will return to the consulate two weeks later and successfully obtain a visa from Steinger using a different application (see September 25, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13, 174-5 pdf file] Steinger will later give a series of conflicting explanations about why she reversed her decision and issued the visa (see August 1, 2002, January 20, 2003, and December 30, 2003). After 9/11, a former consular official named Michael Springmann will say that while serving in Jeddah during the Soviet-Afghan War he was sometimes pressured to reverse denials of visa applications by the CIA for apparent mujaheddin (see September 1987-March 1989).

Entity Tags: Shayna Steinger, US Consulate, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Office, Hani Hanjour, Michael Springmann

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour again applies for a US visa at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. An application two weeks earlier had been rejected (see September 10, 2000), but he is successful this time. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13-14 pdf file] The application is dealt with by consular officer Shayna Steinger, who issues a total of 12 visas to the 9/11 hijackers (see July 1, 2000) and who rejected Hanjour’s previous application. [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State), 1/30/2003] Hanjour apparently applies for a student visa, not a tourist visa, as he had done previously, saying he wishes to attend a language school in California. Steinger will later recall that Hanjour, or someone acting on his behalf, submits an I-20 INS school enrollment form, the documentation required for the visa. She will say: “It came to me, you know, at the end of the day to look at it. I saw he had an I-20 and it [his visa] was issued.” This apparently allows Hanjour to overcome his previous rejection, as the two applications are treated as one case. The INS had approved a change of status for Hanjour to attend the same school in 1996, but Steinger does not know of this. She will later say that, if she had known, she might have denied the visa. Although a photocopy of a student visa in Hanjour’s passport will later be made public, Steinger now enters the visa in the State Department’s records as a business/tourist visa. (Note: the visa in Hanjour’s passport may be changed upon his entry to the US (see December 8, 2000).) [9/11 Commission, 12/30/2002, pp. 13-14, 38] Steinger will later give conflicting accounts of her issuance of this visa. She will first falsely claim to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that she issued the visa under the Visa Express program and that Hanjour was not even present during the first application on September 10 (see August 1, 2002), but will later change her story for the State Department’s inspector general (see January 20, 2003) and the 9/11 Commission (see December 30, 2003). After 9/11, a former consular official named Michael Springmann will say that while serving in Jeddah during the Soviet-Afghan War he was sometimes pressured to reverse denials of visa applications by the CIA for apparent mujaheddin (see September 1987-March 1989).

Entity Tags: US Consulate, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia Office, Hani Hanjour, Shayna Steinger

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour opens an account with Citibank in Deira, Dubai, with a deposit of $3,000. Hanjour’s movements between September 25, 2000, when he obtained a US visa in Jeddah, and this date are unclear, but he flies to the US three days later (see December 8, 2000). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 13-14 pdf file] According to the 9/11 Commission, plot facilitator Ali Abdul Aziz Ali gave him the initial $3,000 and later deposits another $5,000 in the account. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 138 pdf file] However, these deposits will not be mentioned at a military hearing to determine Ali’s combat status, although other transactions between Ali and the hijackers will be (see March 30, 2007). [US Department of Defense, 4/12/2007 pdf file] Hanjour uses the money on this account, together with $9,600 that is deposited in his account with the Saudi British Bank, to pay some of his expenses in the US. Hijackers Fayez Ahmed Banihammed (see June 25, 2001), Marwan Alshehhi (see July 1999-November 2000), and possibly Mohamed Atta (see Late October 2001) also have accounts in the UAE through which money is passed to fund the plot. Khalid Almihdhar and Abdulaziz Alomari (see September 7, 2001) also draw on money from Saudi bank accounts. [US Congress, 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 138 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Hani Hanjour, Abdulaziz Alomari, Khalid Almihdhar

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Hani Hanjour’s US visa issued September 25, 2000.Hani Hanjour’s US visa issued September 25, 2000. [Source: FBI]Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour re-enters the US, flying from Dubai, via Paris to Cincinnati, then on to San Diego, where he joins fellow hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223] Three months earlier, Hanjour had applied for a four-week course in English at the ELS Language Center in Oakland, where he had studied in 1996 (see April 30-Early September 1996). Using his conditional acceptance letter from ELS, he applied in Saudi Arabia for a student visa to enter the US, which was granted by the US consulate in Jeddah (see September 10, 2000 and September 25, 2000). However, he never turns up for his course. [Associated Press, 10/11/2001; Washington Post, 10/15/2001; Washington Post, 9/10/2002] Hanjour applied for a student visa in Jeddah, but, for some reason, appears to have been granted a tourist visa. However, upon entry the visa is changed to a student visa. The 9/11 Commission will attempt to interview the primary inspector who makes this change. However, it will be unable to do so. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 14, 38 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Hani Hanjour, Nawaf Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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