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Context of 'Late 2002: FBI Hinders Customs Investigation into Bin Laden Associate in Texas'

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Satam Al Suqami.Satam Al Suqami. [Source: FBI]In the wake of the foiled al-Qaeda plot to blow up hotels in Jordan during the millennium celebrations, Jordan gives tips to the US that launch a Customs investigation into one of the plotters, Raed Hijazi, and his US connections. “Customs agents for months traced money flowing from several Boston banks to banks overseas, where officials believe the funds were intended for bin Laden’s network.” In September and October 2000, Jordanian officials gave US investigators evidence of financial transactions connecting Raed Hijazi, Nabil al-Marabh, and future 9/11 hijacker Hamza Alghamdi (see September 2000; October 2000). By spring 2001, Custom agents further connect al-Marabh and Hijazi to financial deals with future 9/11 hijackers Ahmed Alghamdi and Satam Al Suqami. The Washington Post will later note, “These various connections not only suggest that investigators are probing ties between bin Laden and the hijackers, but also that federal authorities knew about some of those associations long before the bombings.” [Washington Post, 9/21/2001] It appears that the money flowed from al-Marabh to Alghamdi and Al Suqami. [Cox News Service, 10/16/2001; ABC News 7 (Chicago), 1/31/2002] While accounts of these connections to Alghamdi and Al Suqami will be widely reported in the media in the months after 9/11, a Customs Service spokesman will say he can neither confirm nor deny the existence of the inquiry. [New York Times, 9/18/2001] It appears that the two hijackers are not put on any kind of watch list and are not stopped when they arrive in the US on April 23, 2001, and May 2, 2001, respectively (see April 23-June 29, 2001). British newspapers will note that Alghamdi was one of several hijackers who should have been “instantly ‘red-flagged’ by British intelligence” but in fact is not when he passes through Britain sometime in early 2001 (see January-June 2001). The 9/11 Commission Final Report will fail to mention the Customs investigation and will give no hint that these hijackers’ names were known in the US before 9/11.

Entity Tags: Satam Al Suqami, Raed Hijazi, 9/11 Commission, Nabil al-Marabh, US Customs Service, Jordan, Ahmed Alghamdi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Ahmed Alghamdi praised Osama bin Laden to a US immigration official.Ahmed Alghamdi praised Osama bin Laden to a US immigration official. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division]9/11 hijackers Majed Moqed and Ahmed Alghamdi arrive in Washington, DC, on the same flight from London. Alghamdi tells the immigration inspector that Osama bin Laden is a good Muslim and that the media distorts facts about him, but is nevertheless allowed into the country. This incident will not be mentioned in the main 9/11 Commission Report or the Commission’s Terrorist Travel Monograph, but is mentioned in an FBI timeline of hijacker movements that the 9/11 Commission will frequently use as a source. Both Alghamdi and Moqed declare over $10,000 in cash, but the customs inspector who processes Alghamdi does not fill out the documentation required when a person brings in more than $10,000. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 139 pdf file; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 528; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 22 pdf file] Shortly after 9/11, the New York Times, Washington Post, and other newspapers will report that by the spring of 2001, US customs was investigating Alghamdi and two other future 9/11 hijackers for their connections to known al-Qaeda operatives (see Spring 2001). One British newspaper will note that Alghamdi should have been “instantly ‘red-flagged’ by British intelligence” as he passed through London on his way to the US because of a warning about his links to al-Qaeda (see April 22-June 27, 2001). It will not be explained how Alghamdi is able to pass through Britain and US customs, even as he is openly praising bin Laden. Majed Moqed apparently is not stopped while passing through customs. However the FBI will later note that he uses the alias Mashaanmoged Mayed on the flight manifest before returning to the Moqed name when passing through customs. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 10/2001, pp. 139 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Ahmed Alghamdi, US Customs Service, Majed Moqed

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

The Customs Service intercepts a package sent via Federal Express from the Associated Press bureau in Manila to the AP office in Washington, and turns the contents over to the FBI. The FBI keeps the material, all unclassified and previously publicly disclosed, and fails to inform AP about this. It is claimed they do so to prevent the reporters from reporting their story, which is about government foreknowledge of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, and ties with Ramzi Yousef and other Islamic militants in the Philippines. [Associated Press, 3/12/2003]

Entity Tags: US Customs Service, Federal Express, Associated Press, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Joe Webber.Joe Webber. [Source: US Customs]Joe Webber, running the Houston office of the Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, starts investigating a man believed to be raising money for Islamic militants. The suspect is in direct contact with people who are known to be associated with Osama bin Laden. Webber has good cooperation with the local FBI office, federal prosecutors in Houston, and Justice Department officials in Washington. However, he claims that FBI headquarters officials tell him point blank that he will not be allowed to conduct his investigation. After many months of delays from the FBI, friends from within the bureau tell him that headquarters will not allow the investigation to proceed because it is being run by Customs and not by the FBI. Webber is so upset that he eventually becomes a whistleblower. Sen. Charles Grassley and other politicians support his case and say there are other instances where the FBI impedes investigations because of turf battles. Asked if the FBI would put a turf battle above national security, Webber says, “That’s absolutely my impression. You would think, in a post-9/11 environment, that an event like that wouldn’t occur. But it did.” [MSNBC, 6/3/2005]

Entity Tags: US Customs Service, Joe Webber, Charles Grassley, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Federal investigators with the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, are placed on standby to fly to the devastated region “within hours of the hurricane making landfall.” [Newsweek, 9/14/2005]

Timeline Tags: Hurricane Katrina

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