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Context of '1996-August 2000: Ahmed Alghamdi and Other Hijackers Reportedly Connected to US Military Base'

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Some fighters opposing the Soviets in Afghanistan begin training in the US. According to journalist John Cooley, the training is done by Navy Seals and Green Beret officers who have taken draconian secrecy oaths. Key Pakistani officers are trained, as well as some senior Afghan mujaheddin. Much of the training takes place in Camp Peary, near Williamsburg, Virginia, which is said to be the CIA’s main location for training spies and assets. Other training takes place at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Harvey Point, North Carolina, and Fort A. P. Hill, Virginia. Subjects are trained in how to detect explosives, surveillance, how to recruit new agents, how to run paramilitary operations, and more. They are taught to use many different weapons as well, including remote-controlled mines and bombs, and sophisticated timers and explosives. Cooley claims that “apparently [no] Arab or other foreign volunteers” are trained in the US. (Cooley 2002, pp. 70-72) However, in the late 1980s, US consular official Michael Springmann will notice fighters from many Middle Eastern nations are getting US visas, apparently to train in the US for the Afghan war (see September 1987-March 1989). Additionally, more training takes place in other countries. For instance, Cooley will note, “By the end of 1980, US military trainers were sent to Egypt to impart the skills of the US Special Forces to those Egyptians who would, in turn, pass on the training to the Egyptian volunteers flying to the aid of the mujaheddin in Afghanistan.” Cooley will further note, “Time and time again, these same techniques reappear among the Islamist insurgents in Upper Egypt and Algeria, since the ‘Afghani’ Arab veterans began returning there in the late 1980s and early 1990s.” (Cooley 2002, pp. 70-72) It is not known how long these training programs continue.

Michael Springmann.Michael Springmann. [Source: Michael Springmann]Michael Springmann, head US consular official in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, later claims that during this period he is “repeatedly ordered… to issue [more than 100] visas to unqualified applicants.” He turns them down, but is repeatedly overruled by superiors. (BBC 11/6/2001; Freedberg 11/25/2001) In one case, two Pakistanis apply for visas to attend a trade show in the US, but they are unable to name the trade show or city in which it will be held. When Springmann denies them a visa, he gets “an almost immediate call from a CIA case officer, hidden in the commercial section [of the consulate], that I should reverse myself and grant these guys a visa.” Springmann refuses, but the decision is reversed by the chief of the consular section. Springmann realizes that even the ambassador, Walter Cutler, is aware of the situation, which becomes “more brazen and blatant” as time goes on. On one occasion Springmann is even told, “If you want a job in the State Department in future, you will change your mind.” (CBC Radio One 7/3/2002; Trento 2005, pp. 344-6) Springmann loudly complains to numerous government offices, but no action is taken. He is fired and his files on these applicants are destroyed. He later learns that recruits from many countries fighting for bin Laden against Russia in Afghanistan were funneled through the Jeddah office to get visas to come to the US, where the recruits would travel to train for the Afghan war. According to Springmann, the Jeddah consulate was run by the CIA and staffed almost entirely by intelligence agents. This visa system may have continued at least through 9/11, and 11 of the 19 9/11 hijackers received their visas through Jeddah (see November 2, 1997-June 20, 2001), possibly as part of this program (see October 9, 2002 and October 21, 2002). (BBC 11/6/2001; Freedberg 11/25/2001; CBC Radio One 7/3/2002; Gedda 7/17/2002 pdf file; Fox News 7/18/2002)

Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman.Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman. [Source: FBI]Despite being on a US terrorist watch list for three years, radical Muslim leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman enters the US on a “much-disputed” tourist visa issued by an undercover CIA agent. (Friedman 3/30/1993; Weaver 5/1996; Lance 2003, pp. 42) Abdul-Rahman was heavily involved with the CIA and Pakistani ISI efforts to defeat the Soviets in Afghanistan, and became famous traveling all over the world for five years recruiting new fighters for the Afghan war. The CIA gave him visas to come to the US starting in 1986 (see December 15, 1986-1989) . However, he never hid his prime goals to overthrow the governments of the US and Egypt. (Weaver 5/1996) FBI agent Tommy Corrigan will later say that prior to Abdul-Rahman’s arrival, “terrorism for all intents and purposes didn’t exist in the United States. But [his] arrival in 1990 really stoke the flames of terrorism in this country. This was a major-league ballplayer in what at the time was a minor-league ballpark. He was… looked up to worldwide. A mentor to bin Laden, he was involved with the MAK over in Pakistan.” The charity front Maktab al-Khidamat (MAK) is also known as Al-Kifah, and it has a branch in Brooklyn known as the Al-Kifah Refugee Center. The head of that branch, Mustafa Shalabi, picks up Abdul-Rahman at the airport when he first arrives and finds an apartment for him. Abdul-Rahman soon begins preaching at Al Farouq mosque, which is in the same building as the Al-Kifah office, plus two other locals mosques, Abu Bakr and Al Salaam. (Lance 2006, pp. 53) He quickly turns Al-Kifah into his “de facto headquarters.” (Weaver 5/1996) He is “infamous throughout the Arab world for his alleged role in the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat.” Abdul-Rahman immediately begins setting up a militant Islamic network in the US. (Friedman 3/30/1993) He is believed to have befriended bin Laden while in Afghanistan, and bin Laden secretly pays Abdul-Rahman’s US living expenses. (Weaver 5/1996; ABC News 8/16/2002) For the next two years, Abdul-Rahman will continue to exit and reenter the US without being stopped or deported, even though he is still on the watch list (see Late October 1990-October 1992).

A suspected terrorism financier enters the US with apparent CIA help. Philippines investigators had begun monitoring and investigating Mohammed Jamal Khalifa, bin Laden’s brother-in-law, earlier in 1994 (see 1994). (Ressa 2003) According to a 1999 book by Richard Labeviere, near the conclusion of this investigation, the Philippine government expedites an order expelling Khalifa from the country. Khalifa gets a visa to the US through the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, with the help of the CIA. The CIA had a history of using that consulate to give US visas to radical Muslim militants dating back to the 1980s (see September 1987-March 1989). (Labeviere 1999, pp. 365; Elegant 10/27/2003) Another account claims his visa “was issued, despite his notoriety, because of a computer error.” When he applied for the visa in August 1994, the address he gave was that of the bin Laden family company. (Lief 5/15/1995) He enters the US on December 1. The report detailing his terrorist connections is released on December 15 (see December 15, 1994). The next day, Khalifa is arrested in the US (see December 16, 1994-May 1995). (Lief 5/15/1995)

After 9/11, there will be media accounts suggesting some of the 9/11 hijackers trained at US military bases (see September 15-17, 2001). According to these accounts, four of the hijackers trained at Pensacola Naval Air Station, a base that trains many foreign nationals. One neighbor will claim that Ahmed Alghamdi lived in Pensacola until about August 2000. This neighbor will claim that Alghamdi appeared to be part of a group of Arab men who often gathered at the Fountains apartment complex near the University of West Florida. She will recount, “People would come and knock on the doors. We might see three or four, and they were always men. It was always in the evening. The traffic in and out, although it was sporadic, was constant every evening. They would go and knock, and then it would be a little while and someone would look out the window to see who it was, like they were being very cautious. Not your normal coming to the door and opening it.” (Firestone and Canedy 9/15/2001) It is not known when Alghamdi is first seen in Pensacola. However, he uses the address of a housing facility for foreign military trainees located inside the base on drivers’ licenses issued in 1996 and 1998. Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami also list the same address as Ahmed Alghamdi on their drivers license and car registrations between 1996 and 1998. Other records connect Hamza Alghamdi to that same address. However, the Pensacola News Journal reports that “The news articles caution that there are slight discrepancies between the FBI list of suspected hijackers and the military training records, either in the spellings of their names or in their birth dates. They also raise the possibility that the hijackers stole the identities of military trainees.” (Gugliotta 9/16/2001; Wheeler, Streater, and Graybiel 9/17/2001) It is unclear if these people were the 9/11 hijackers or just others with similar names. The US military has never definitively denied that they were the hijackers, and the media lost interest in the story a couple of weeks after 9/11.

The 19 hijackers apply and receive a total of 23 visas at five different posts from November 1997 through June 2001. Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami, Saudi citizens, apply twice at Jeddah. Only Hanjour applies for a student visa, others for tourist/business visa. (United States General Accounting Office 10/21/2002 pdf file; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 7-45 pdf file)
bullet The fifteen Saudi hijackers apply for their visas in their home country. Four at the embassy in Riyadh: Hamza Alghamdi (10/17/2000), Mohand Alshehri (10/23/2000), Majed Moqed (11/20/2000) and Satam Al Suqami (11/21/2000). Eleven at the US consulate in Jeddah: Hani Hanjour (11/2/1997 and 9/25/2000), Khalid Almihdhar (4/7/1999 and 6/13/2001), Saeed Alghamdi (9/4/2000 and 6/12/2001), and Ahmed Alnami (10/28/2000 and 4/28/2001), Nawaf Alhazmi (4/3/1999), Ahmed Alghamdi (9/3/2000), Wail Alshehri (10/24/2000), Waleed M. Alshehri (10/24/2000), Abdulaziz Alomari (6/18/2001), Salem Alhazmi (6/20/2001), and Ahmed Alhaznawi (11/12/2000).
bullet Fayez Ahmed Banihammad and Marwan Alshehhi apply in their home country, the United Arab Emirates, respectively at the US embassy in Abu Dhabi on 6/18/2001 and at consulate in Dubai on 1/18/2000.
bullet Mohamed Atta (Egyptian) and Ziad Jarrah (Lebanese) apply, as third-country national applicants, at the US embassy in Berlin, respectively, on May 18 and 25, 2000.

A military report released this year describes the “Joint Vision 2010” program, a series of “analyses, war games, studies, experiments, and exercises” which are “investigating new operational concepts, doctrines, and organizational approaches that will enable US forces to maintain full spectrum dominance of the battlespace well into the 21st century.” “The Air Force has begun a series of war games entitled Global Engagement at the Air War College, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.” The same report mentions that the military is working on a “variety of new imaging and signals intelligence sensors, currently in advanced stages of development, deployed aboard the Global Hawk, DarkStar, and Predator unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs)…” (US Department of Defense 1998) Global Hawk is a technology that enables pilotless flight and has been functioning since at least early 1997. (US Department of Defense 2/20/1997) While it may be mere coincidence, “Air Force spokesman Colonel Ken McClellan said a man named Mohamed Atta—which the FBI has identified as one of the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11—had once attended the International Officer’s School at Maxwell/Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala.” But he adds that “there [was] discrepancies in the biographical data” (mainly the birth date) and that “it may just be a case of mistaken identity” (see also 1996-August 2000 and September 15-17, 2001) (Radelat 9/17/2001; Radelat and Madden 9/20/2001)

The al-Qaeda summit in Malaysia (see January 5-8, 2000) ends and the participants leave. Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar fly to Bangkok, Thailand, with al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash (see January 8, 2000). Other attendees depart to other locales. There have been no media reports that any of the others were followed by intelligence agents. (Sullivan 9/20/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 131 pdf file) Before the summit started the CIA knew one attendee was named Khalid Almihdhar and that another had the first name Nawaf. At the end of the summit the CIA appears to have learned little more, and still does not know Nawaf’s last name is Alhazmi. Around this time, on January 7 and 10, the CIA searches for their names in their databases but get no hits. Yet they don’t ask for a search of the much larger NSA databases, which had vital information on them (see Early 1999). CIA headquarters asks the NSA to put Almihdhar on their watch list so they can pass on more information about him (see Mid-January 2000). However, neither Alhazmi nor Almihdhar are placed on the State Department’s watch list, which would actually prevent them from coming to the US. (9/11 Commission 1/26/2004) The CIA still fails to tell the FBI that Almihdhar has a valid US visa, and in fact seems to go out of their way not to tell the FBI about it (see 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. January 5, 2000, January 6, 2000, Mid-July 2004, and January 5-6, 2000). (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 131 pdf file; Laabs 8/13/2003)

Ahmed Alhaznawi.Ahmed Alhaznawi. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]Several of the Saudis accused of taking part in 9/11 will later be reported to leave home around this time:
bullet Wail and Waleed Alshehri: spring 2000; (Sunday Times (London) 1/27/2002; Sennott 3/3/2002; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002)
bullet Ahmed Alghamdi, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alhaznawi, as well as candidate hijacker Saeed Abdullah Saeed Alghamdi: spring 2000. (Sunday Times (London) 1/27/2002; Sennott 3/3/2002; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002)
bullet Salem Alhazmi: spring 2000; (Khashoggi 9/20/2001; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002)
bullet Ahmed Alnami: 2000. (Khashoggi 9/20/2001; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002)
bullet Mohand Alshehri: More than a year before the attacks. (Khashoggi 9/20/2001)

Wail Alshehri.Wail Alshehri. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]After 9/11, various media will report that a sort of ceremony is held before some of the Saudi hijackers depart for Afghanistan. According to the Boston Globe and the Daily Telegraph, the gathering is at the Seqeley mosque in Khamis Mushayt in the spring of 2000. It is led by Wail Alshehri and attended by Waleed Alshehri, Ahmed Alnami, and Saeed Alghamdi, who swear “an oath commit themselves to jihad.” (Sennott 3/3/2002; Lamb 9/15/2002) The Sunday Times agrees the gathering was led by Wail Alshehri, but says it was attended by five other people whose identities it is unable to ascertain. It speculates they may include Waleed Alshehri, Ahmed Alghamdi, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alhaznawi. (Sunday Times (London) 1/27/2002)

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).

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).

Future 9/11 hijacker Khalid Almihdhar obtains a second US visa from the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 24-25 pdf file) The visa is issued by Shayna Steinger, a consular official who apparently issues the future 9/11 hijackers with 12 visas (see July 1, 2000). (9/11 Commission 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State) 1/30/2003) Almihdhar’s passport, which was issued two weeks previously (see June 1, 2001), lacks an expiry date, but contains an indicator of possible terrorist affiliation used by the Saudi authorities to track suspected radicals (see November 2, 2007). His application form is incomplete, as it lists his occupation as “businessman,” but does not give his employer’s name and address.
Lies on Application Form - The form, which is submitted through the Visa Express program (see May 2001), meaning Almihdhar is not interviewed, contains two lies: Almihdhar says he has never received an American visa or traveled to the US, whereas he received a visa in 1999 (see April 3-7, 1999) and traveled to the US on it in 2000 (see January 15, 2000). As Almihdhar’s first visa was also issued by the Jeddah consulate, through which the CIA sent radical Arabs to the US for training during the Soviet-Afghan war (see September 1987-March 1989), consular officials could discover he is lying, but information about prior visas issuances is not automatically displayed to them.
Known Terrorist - By this time, several intelligence agencies are aware that Almihdhar is an al-Qaeda operative; for example, the CIA (see 9:30 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. January 5, 2000), NSA (see December 29, 1999), FBI (see January 5-6, 2000), a US Army intelligence program (see January-February 2000), the Saudi General Intelligence Presidency (see 1997), Malaysian Special Branch (see January 5-8, 2000), and an intelligence service in the United Arab Emirates (see January 2-5, 2000)).
Parallels to Case of Blind Sheikh - Almihdhar will re-enter the US on the visa three weeks later (see July 4, 2001). The 9/11 Commission will find that the series of missteps preceding the issuance of visas to Almihdhar and the other future 9/11 hijackers has some “eerie parallels” to the “series of exceptional failures” that led to US visas being issued to the “Blind Sheikh,” Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman (see December 15, 1986-1989 and July 1990). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 24-27, 33, 49 pdf file)

A series of articles suggests that at least six of the 9/11 hijackers trained at US military bases. (New York Times 9/15/2001; Wehrfritz, Skipp, and Barry 9/15/2001; Gugliotta 9/16/2001)
bullet Three of the alleged hijackers—Ahmed Alnami, Ahmed Alghamdi, and Saeed Alghamdi—are revealed as having listed the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, as their permanent address on their driver’s licenses and car registrations, between 1996 and 1998. According to military records, the three used 10 Radford Boulevard as their address. This is a base roadway where residences for foreign-military flight trainees are located. Hamza Alghamdi was also connected to the Pensacola base (see 1996-August 2000). (Wehrfritz, Skipp, and Barry 9/15/2001; Gugliotta 9/16/2001; Wheeler, Streater, and Graybiel 9/17/2001)
bullet Air Force spokesman Colonel Ken McClellan states that Saeed Alghamdi also attended the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California. The Washington Post and Time magazine say he graduated from the Defense Language Institute at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. (It is unclear whether Alghamdi therefore attended both Defense Language Institutes, or if this is simply a reporting error.) (Gugliotta 9/16/2001; Radelat 9/17/2001; Cloud 9/24/2001)
bullet According to a high-ranking Pentagon official, another alleged hijacker was a former Saudi Air Force pilot who may have received training in strategy and tactics at the Air War College at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Alabama. (Schrader and Richter 9/15/2001; Wehrfritz, Skipp, and Barry 9/15/2001)
bullet A further hijacker—also said to be a former Saudi Air Force pilot—may have been given language instruction at Lackland Air Force Base. (Schrader and Richter 9/15/2001; Wehrfritz, Skipp, and Barry 9/15/2001)
bullet A man called Abdulaziz Alomari (the same name as one of the suspected Flight 11 hijackers) attended Brooks Air Force Base Aerospace Medical School in San Antonio, Texas. (Gugliotta 9/16/2001; Radelat 9/17/2001)
bullet Ken McClellan says a man with the name Mohamed Atta once attended the US International Officers School at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama (see 1998). (Gugliotta 9/16/2001; Radelat 9/17/2001)
According to Newsweek, it is not unusual for foreign nationals to train at US military facilities. A former Navy pilot tells the magazine that during his years at the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, “we always, always, always trained other countries’ pilots. When I was there two decades ago, it was Iranians. The shah was in power. Whoever the country du jour is, that’s whose pilots we train.” Newsweek adds that the “US has a long-standing agreement with Saudi Arabia… to train pilots for its National Guard.” (Wehrfritz, Skipp, and Barry 9/15/2001) The media stops looking into the hijackers’ possible US military connections after the Air Force makes a less than definitive statement, saying, “Some of the FBI suspects had names similar to those used by foreign alumni of US military courses. However discrepancies in their biographical data, such as birth dates 20 years off, indicate we are probably not talking about the same people.” (Gugliotta 9/16/2001)

An oil worker named Salem Alhazmi claimed the media was using a picture of him and saying it was that of the alleged hijacker of the same name.An oil worker named Salem Alhazmi claimed the media was using a picture of him and saying it was that of the alleged hijacker of the same name. [Source: Saudi Gazette]Reports appear in many newspapers suggesting that some of the people the US initially says were 9/11 hijackers are actually still alive and that the actual hijackers may have used stolen identities:
bullet No media outlet has claimed that Hamza Alghamdi is still alive, but his family says the FBI photo “has no resemblance to him at all.” (Khashoggi and Al-Nayyef 9/22/2001; Murphy and Ottaway 9/25/2001)
bullet CNN shows a picture of a Saudi pilot called Saeed Alghamdi and claims it is the hijacker of the same name. However, the pilot is alive and working in Tunisia. The FBI listed the hijacker’s possible residence as Delray Beach, Florida, where the pilot trained in 1998, 1999, and 2000, which may be why CNN uses a photograph of the wrong person. The pilot returns to Saudi Arabia to avoid problems and CNN apologises for the error. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/14/2001; Ba-Isa and Al-Towaim 9/18/2001; Getter, Mehren, and Slater 9/21/2001; Harrison 9/23/2001; BBC 9/23/2001)
bullet A man named Salem Alhazmi claims he is the alleged hijacker of the same name, but he works in a petrochemical plant and had his passport stolen three years ago in Cairo. He says a picture being used in the media is of him. However, he is a different age to the hijacker, 26 not 21, has a different middle name, Ibrahim not Mohamed, and the photos appear to be of different people. In addition, the FBI does not release official pictures of the hijackers until a week after he makes this claim. The father of the other Salem Alhazmi says his son is missing, as is Salem’s brother and fellow hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi. (Eggen, Lardner, and Schmidt 9/20/2001; Getter, Mehren, and Slater 9/21/2001; Hopkins 9/21/2001; Harrison 9/23/2001; Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/27/2001; Saudi Gazette 9/29/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 191 pdf file; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006)
bullet A man named Ahmed Alnami is alive and working as an administrative supervisor with Saudi Arabian Airlines in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. (Getter, Mehren, and Slater 9/21/2001) He has never lost his passport and finds it “very worrying” that his identity appears to have been stolen. (Harrison 9/23/2001) However, there is another Ahmed Alnami who is 10 years younger and appears to be dead, according to his father. (Mushayt 3/15/2002) Ahmed Alnami’s family says his FBI picture is correct. (Murphy and Ottaway 9/25/2001)
bullet A man called Abdulrahman Alomari is alive and works as a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines. (Sack 9/16/2001; Gumbel 9/17/2001; BBC 9/23/2001) He was a neighbour of Adnan Bukhari and Amer Kamfar, who were both wrongly suspected of involvement in the 9/11 attacks at the start of the investigation. He moved out of his home in Vero Beach, Florida, shortly before the attacks. (Fish 9/14/2001) A man called Abdulaziz Alomari is an engineer with Saudi Telecoms. (BBC 9/23/2001) He claims that his passport was stolen in 1995 while he was living in Denver, Colorado. (Getter, Mehren, and Slater 9/21/2001) He says: “They gave my name and my date of birth, but I am not a suicide bomber. I am here. I am alive.” (Kennedy 9/20/2001; Harrison 9/23/2001) The FBI initially gave two possible birthdates for Abdulaziz Alomari. One is apparently that of the engineer, the other that of the alleged hijacker. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 9/14/2001; Hersh 5/27/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006)
bullet The Saudi government has claimed that Mohand Alshehri is alive and that he was not in the US on 9/11, but no more details are known. (Associated Press 9/29/2001)
bullet The brothers Waleed M. Alshehri and Wail Alshehri are alive. Their father is a diplomat who has been stationed in the US and Mumbai (Bombay), India. A Saudi spokesman says: “This is a respectable family. I know his sons and they’re both alive.” (Ba-Isa 9/19/2001; Getter, Mehren, and Slater 9/21/2001) There is a second pair of Saudi brothers named Wail and Waleed M. Alshehri who may have been the real hijackers. Their father says they have been missing since December 2000. (Al-Buqami 9/17/2001; Mushayt 3/15/2002) The still-living Waleed M. Alshehri is a pilot with Saudi Airlines, studying in Morocco. (Getter, Mehren, and Slater 9/21/2001; Marmie 9/22/2001) He acknowledges that he attended flight training school at Dayton Beach in the United States. (BBC 9/23/2001; Daily Trust (Abuja) 9/24/2001) He was interviewed by US officials in Morocco and cleared of all charges against him (though apparently the FBI is still using his picture). (Embry Riddle Aeronautical University 9/21/2001) The still-living Waleed Alshehri is also apparently a pilot. (Getter, Mehren, and Slater 9/21/2001) He claims he saw his picture on CNN and recognized it from when he studied flying in Florida. But he also says he has no brother named Wail. (As-Sharq Al-Awsat (London) 9/22/2001)
bullet Mohamed Atta’s father says he spoke to his son on the phone on September 12, 2001. (MacFarquahar 9/19/2001; Torriero 9/20/2001)
bullet On September 19, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation distributes a “special alert” to its member banks asking for information about the attackers. The list includes “Al-Midhar, Khalid. Alive.” The Justice Department later calls this a “typo.” (Billeaud 9/20/2001; King and Bhatt 10/21/2001) The BBC says, “There are suggestions that another suspect, Khalid Almihdhar, may also be alive.” (BBC 9/23/2001) The Guardian says Almihdhar is believed to be alive, but investigators are looking into three possibilities. Either his name was stolen for a hijacker alias, or he allowed his name to be used so that US officials would think he died, or he died in the crash. (Jeffery 9/21/2001)
bullet Majed Moqed was last seen by a friend in Saudi Arabia in 2000. This friend claims the FBI picture does not look like Moqed. (Khashoggi and Al-Nayyef 9/22/2001)
The Official Account Evolves - The Saudi government insists that five of the Saudis mentioned as 9/11 hijackers are still alive. (MacFarquhar 9/21/2001) On September 20, FBI Director Robert Mueller says: “We have several others that are still in question. The investigation is ongoing, and I am not certain as to several of the others.” (Riley and Perlman 9/21/2001) On September 27, after all of the revelations mentioned above are reported in the media, Mueller will state, “We are fairly certain of a number of them.” (Lipka 9/28/2001) On September 20, the London Times reports, “Five of the hijackers were using stolen identities, and investigators are studying the possibility that the entire suicide squad consisted of impostors.” (Kennedy 9/20/2001) The mainstream media briefly doubts some of the hijackers’ identities. For instance, a story in The Observer on September 23 puts the names of hijackers like Saeed Alghamdi in quotation marks. (Observer 9/23/2001) However, the story will die down, and it will hardly be noticed when Mueller states on November 2, 2001: “As I have indicated before, one of the initial responsibilities of that investigation was to determine who the hijackers were. We at this point definitely know the 19 hijackers who were responsible for that catastrophe.” (Office of the Press Secretary 11/2/2001) A law enforcement source, speaking on condition of anonymity, will confirm that the hijackers’ names released in late September, on the 28th, are the true identities of all 19 hijackers. The Associated Press story quoting him will add that “the names were those listed on the planes’ passenger manifests and investigators were certain that those were the names the hijackers used when they entered the United States.” But the Saudi Institute, an independent human rights watchdog group that researches the hijackers’ identities, will maintain that Abdulaziz Alomari used someone else’s passport. (Yost 11/3/2001; Gullo 11/3/2002) In 2003, FBI spokesman Bill Carter will say: “There has been no change in thought about the identities of those who boarded those planes. It’s like saying my name is John Smith. There are a lot of people with the name of John Smith, but they’re not the same person.” When asked about Mueller’s comments, Carter will say, “He might have told Congress [about the identity theft], but we have done a thorough investigation and we are confident.” Carter will also comment that the bureau identified the hijackers “[t]hrough extensive investigation,” and say, “We checked the flight manifests, their whereabouts in this country, and we interviewed witnesses who identified the hijackers.” (Maier 6/24/2003) The 9/11 Commission will later endorse the hijackers’ names published by the FBI around this time. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004)

Journalist Seymour Hersh will write in the New Yorker in late September 2001, “After more than two weeks of around-the-clock investigation into the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the American intelligence community remains confused, divided, and unsure about how the terrorists operated, how many there were, and what they might do next. It was that lack of solid information, government officials told me, that was the key factor behind the Bush Administration’s decision last week not to issue a promised white paper listing the evidence linking Osama bin Laden’s organization to the attacks” (see September 23-24, 2001). An unnamed senior official tells Hersh, “One day we’ll know, but at the moment we don’t know.” Hersh further reports, “It is widely believed that the terrorists had a support team, and the fact that the FBI has been unable to track down fellow-conspirators who were left behind in the United States is seen as further evidence of careful planning. ‘Look,’ one person familiar with the investigation said. ‘If it were as simple and straightforward as a lucky one-off oddball operation, then the seeds of confusion would not have been sown as they were.’” The hijackers left a surprisingly obvious trail of clues, even regularly paying for delivered pizzas using credit cards in their own name (see September 11-13, 2001). Hersh further reports, “Many of the investigators believe that some of the initial clues that were uncovered about the terrorists’ identities and preparations, such as flight manuals, were meant to be found. A former high-level intelligence official told me, ‘Whatever trail was left was left deliberately—for the FBI to chase.’” (Hersh 10/8/2001) Many newspaper reports in late September 2001 indicate doubt over the identities of many hijackers (see September 16-23, 2001). The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s 2003 report will strongly suggest that the hijackers at least had numerous accomplices in the US (see July 24, 2003). But the 9/11 Commission’s 2004 report will downplay any suggestions of US accomplices and will indicate no doubts about the hijackers’ identities. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 231, 238-9)

Abdulla Noman, a former employee of the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where 15 of the 19 9/11 hijackers got their visas, says that he took money and gifts to provide fraudulent visas to foreigners. He pleads guilty and is convicted. About 50 to 100 visas were improperly issued by Noman from September 1996 until November 2001, when he was arrested. However, a former visa officer in Jeddah, Michael Springmann, has claimed in the past that the Jeddah office was notorious for purposefully giving visas to terrorists to train in the US (see September 1987-March 1989). (Associated Press 5/21/2002)

Visa applications for the 15 Saudi Arabian hijackers are made public, and six separate experts agree: “All of them should have been denied entry [into the US].” Joel Mowbray, who first breaks the story for the conservative National Review, says he is shocked by what he saw: “I really was expecting al-Qaeda to have trained their operatives well, to beat the system. They didn’t have to beat the system, the system was rigged in their favor from the get-go.” A former US consular officer says the visas show a pattern of criminal negligence. Some examples: “Abdulaziz Alomari claimed to be a student but didn’t name a school; claimed to be married but didn’t name a spouse; under nationality and gender, he didn’t list anything.” “Khalid Almihdhar… simply listed ‘Hotel’ as his US destination—no name, no city, no state but no problem getting a visa.” Only one actually gave a US destination, and one stated his destination as “no.” Only Hani Hanjour had a slight delay in acquiring his visa. His first application was flagged because he wrote he wanted to visit for three years when the legal limit is two. When he returned two weeks later, he simply changed the form to read “one year” and was accepted. The experts agree that even allowing for chance, incompetence, and human error, the odds were that only a few should have been approved. (Mowbray 10/9/2002; Mowbray 10/9/2002; Raddatz 10/23/2002) In response to the revelation, the State Department says, “The fact is that with 20/20 hindsight, I’m sure one can always find a reason that you might have turned down a visa.” (Mowbray 10/10/2002; State Department 10/10/2002)

The General Accounting Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, releases a report asserting that at least 13 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were never interviewed by US consular officials before being granted visas to enter the US. This contradicts previous assurances from the State Department that 12 of the hijackers had been interviewed. It also found that, for 15 hijackers whose applications could be found, none had filled in the documents properly. Records for four other hijackers (the four non-Saudis, i.e., Ziad Jarrah, Mohamed Atta, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, and Marwan Al Shehhi) could not be checked because they were accidentally destroyed. (Mowbray 10/21/2002; United States General Accounting Office 10/21/2002 pdf file; Eggen 10/22/2002) The State Department maintains that visa procedures were properly followed. In December 2002, Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) state in a chapter of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that “if State Department personnel had merely followed the law and not granted non-immigrant visas to 15 of the 19 hijackers in Saudi Arabia… 9/11 would not have happened.” (Associated Press 12/19/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. pp. 653-673 pdf file)

Abdelghani Mzoudi.
Abdelghani Mzoudi. [Source: Public domain]Abdelghani Mzoudi is charged in Germany for an alleged role in the 9/11 plot. The 30-year-old electrical engineering student from Morocco is accused of accessory to murder and membership of a terrorist organization. He was arrested in October 2002 (see October 10, 2002). He is alleged to have trained in Afghanistan, transferred money, and provided other logistical support to his fellow cell members involved in the 9/11 attacks. Mzoudi had known hijacker Mohamed Atta since 1996 and had roomed with Mounir El Motassadeq, another Moroccan who was convicted of the same charges (see February 18, 2003). Mzoudi denies any involvement in the hijacking plans. (Associated Press 5/9/2003; Washington Post 5/10/2003; Finn 8/15/2003) In Mzoudi’s trial, which begins in August 2003, his lawyers say they may explore theories during the trial about how the 9/11 attacks suspiciously served the foreign policy goals of US conservatives. One defense attorney says, “As I take a close look at the results of the investigations through my glasses, I find anomalies that are immediately apparent. They begin with passenger lists that include the Arabic names of people who are still very much alive today.” (see September 16-23, 2001]) (Finn 8/15/2003; Der Spiegel (Hamburg) 9/8/2003)

According to authors Joe and Susan Trento, writing in 2006, the CIA places employees undercover with both airlines and the Federal Air Marshal Service, as a part of a program to allow known terrorists to keep flying (see May 2006). The undercover employees allow the CIA to control arrangements when it wants a terrorist to fly openly without the airlines’ or Marshal Service’s knowledge. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 194) One example of this is travel in 2006 by Rayed Abdullah, an associate of alleged 9/11 pilot Hani Hanjour. Abdullah is allowed to fly to New Zealand for flight training in the hope he will meet al-Qaeda operatives, who will then be put under surveillance (see February-May 30, 2006).

When journalists Joe and Susan Trento obtain a copy of the US international no-fly list, which the Transportation Security Administration uses to prevent known terrorists from flying to the US and other countries, they find that 14 of the alleged 9/11 hijackers are still on it. They are: Satam Al Suqami, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, Hamza Alghamdi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Ahmed Alghamdi, Mohand Alshehri, Majed Moqed, Hani Hanjour, Salem Alhazmi, Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alnami, and Ahmed Alhaznawi. Shortly after 9/11, it was reported that some of the hijackers were still alive (see September 16-23, 2001) and this may be the reason for the apparent error, although the set of hijackers reported to be still alive and the set of 14 hijackers still on the no-fly list only partially overlap. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 189-192) The no-fly list also contains manifold problems and at least one other dead terrorist is on it (see March 2006).

Rayed Abdullah.Rayed Abdullah. [Source: Scoop]Rayed Abdullah, an associate of hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour (see October 1996-December 1997 and October 1996-Late April 1999), enters New Zealand despite being on the watch list there and takes further pilot training. The New Zealand government claims it only ascertains his real identity after he has been in the country several months. Abdullah is then arrested and deported to Saudi Arabia, even though he was traveling on a Yemeni passport. (Associated Press 6/9/2006; Cumming 6/10/2006) However, FBI agents and CIA officers later say that the US released Abdullah after 9/11 in an attempt to use him to spy on al-Qaeda for Saudi Arabia’s intelligence agency. The CIA ensures he is allowed into New Zealand as a part of a joint operation. However, the New Zealanders get cold feet when Abdullah starts flight training again. A CIA official will say: “[W]e know if Rayed was part of the [9/11] plot, someone in al-Qaeda will reach out for him, and we have a chance of making that connection.” An FBI official will comment: “The amazing thing is the CIA convinced itself that by getting [Abdullah] tossed out of New Zealand, he would then be trusted and acceptable to Saudi intelligence and useful in al-Qaeda operations. For this tiny chance of success they put passengers at risk to enter into a partnership with Saudi intelligence.” (Trento and Trento 10/9/2006)

In May 2006, investigative reporters Joe and Susan Trento find that the CIA is continuing a pre-9/11 policy (see July 1990 and January 8, 2000) and deliberately keeping some suspected terrorists off the US international no-fly list, which is aimed at preventing terrorists from traveling to the US and other countries. In addition, it has an agreement with some airlines to allow suspected terrorists who are on the no-fly list to fly anyway. For example, it allows Rayed Abdullah, an associate of alleged 9/11 pilot Hani Hanjour, to fly to New Zealand, where he takes flying lessons (see February-May 30, 2006). The CIA, as well as the Defense Intelligence Agency, keeps some terrorists’ names off the no-fly list because they are already intelligence assets, others are allowed to fly because the CIA hopes to recruit them, and more are allowed to travel just because the CIA wants to see where they are going and who they will meet. In addition, others are kept off the no-fly list at the request of US allies like Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. A former CIA officer says: “I cannot describe to you how reluctant our operational people were to turn over names. Many terrorists act as assets for our case officers. We do deal with bad guys, and, like cops protect snitches, we protect ours, too, and none of those guys is going to show up on the no-fly list anytime soon. So we made a deal. The CIA effectively has the ability to allow people to fly who are on the no-fly list if we deem it in the national interest—just not on domestic airlines.” There are other problems with the no-fly list (see March 2006 and March 2006) and the CIA also penetrates the Federal Air Marshal Service to ensure that terrorists can fly openly without the marshals’ knowledge (see Before 2006). (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. xiii, 187, 192-3)

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