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Context of 'August 27, 2001: Saudi Family Flees Residence Linked to 9/11 Hijackers'

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A Saudi family abruptly moves out of a Sarasota, Florida, residence linked to individuals who will later be accused of being among the 9/11 hijackers. The residence is owned by a Saudi couple, Esam Ghazzawi and his American-born wife, Deborah, and is occupied by Esam’s daughter, Anoud, and her husband, Abdulaziz al-Hijji. An unnamed counterterrorism officer will, in 2012, describe, “The car registration numbers of vehicles that had passed through the Prestancia community’s North Gate in the months before 9/11, coupled with the identification documents shown by incoming drivers on request, showed that Mohamed Atta and several of his fellow hijackers [Marwan al-Shehhi, Walid al-Shehri, and Ziad Jarrah]—and another Saudi terror suspect still at large [Adnan Shukrijumah]—had visited 4224 Escondito Circle on multiple occasions.” The counterterrorism officer will also say that “link analysis… tracked phone calls—based on dates, times, and length of phone conversations to and from the Escondito house—dating back more than a year before 9/11. And the phone traffic also connected with the 9/11 terrorists—though less directly than the gate logs did.” [Broward Bulldog, 3/12/2012] According to the Broward Bulldog, “The counterterrorism agent said Ghazzawi and al-Hijji had been on a watch list at the FBI and that a US agency involved in tracking terrorist funds was interested in both men even before 9/11.” [Broward Bulldog, 9/8/2011]
Residence Hastily Abandoned - A suspicious neighbor, Patrick Gallagher, will email the FBI on the day of the 9/11 attacks, but apparently the FBI will not investigate until about a month later, after Larry Berberich, senior administrator and security officer of the Prestancia gated community, contacts local law enforcement. According to Berberich and the counterterrorism officer: “[T]here was mail on the table, dirty diapers in one of the bathrooms… all the toiletries still in place… all their clothes hanging in the closet… TVs… opulent furniture, equal or greater in value than the house… the pool running, with toys in it. The beds were made… fruit on the counter… the refrigerator full of food.… It was like they went grocery shopping. Like they went out to a movie.… [But] the safe was open in the master bedroom, with nothing in it, not a paper clip.… A computer was still there. A computer plug in another room, and the line still there. Looked like they’d taken [another] computer and left the cord.” [Broward Bulldog, 9/8/2011] The family also leaves three vehicles and “huge piles of trash in front of the… home.” [Broward Bulldog, 9/13/2011]
Terrorism Links Alleged by FBI Informant - In addition to the visitor logs and call records, FBI informant Wissam Taysir Hammoud will allege that al-Hijji has links to the 9/11 hijackers. In 2004, the FBI and the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office will interview Hammoud at the Hillsborough County Jail. Hammoud will tell them that al-Hijji introduced him to Adnan El Shukrijumah, that al-Hijji considered Osama bin Laden a “hero,” that al-Hijji may have known some of the 9/11 hijackers, that al-Hijji talked about “going to Afghanistan and becoming a freedom fighter,” and that al-Hijji tried to recruit him. At the time of the interview, Hammoud will be serving a 21-year sentence for attempted murder and weapons violations, and is classified as an “International Terrorist Associate” by the US Bureau of Prisons. [Broward Bulldog, 3/12/2012]
Al-Hijji Professes Innocence - Responding to the allegations in email correspondence with the London Daily Telegraph in 2012, al-Hijji will acknowledge having been friends with Hammoud, but will say the other allegations against him are false: “I have neither relation nor association with any of those bad people/criminals and the awful crime they did,” he will say. “9/11 is a crime against the USA and all humankind, and I’m very saddened and oppressed by these false allegations.” [Broward Bulldog, 3/12/2012]
FBI Repeatedly Denies 9/11 Links - Following news reporting on the events, the FBI will say in a prepared statement given to the Tampa Bay Times that the related leads “were resolved and determined not to be related to any threat nor connected to the 9/11 plot,” and that “[a]ll of the documentation pertaining to the 9/11 investigation was made available to the 9/11 Commission” and the Joint Inquiry. [Tampa Bay Times, 9/13/2011] And in a letter denying records requested under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI will say, “At no time during the course of its investigation of the attacks, known as the PENTTBOM investigation, did the FBI develop credible evidence that connected the address at 4224 Escondito Circle, Sarasota, Florida to any of the 9/11 hijackers.” [Broward Bulldog, 2/20/2011]
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Disputes FBI Statements - Senator Bob Graham (D-FL), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, will deny that the Joint Inquiry received information regarding the Saudis and the Escondito Circle address, and will press the FBI to provide the records it says it turned over. The FBI will delay turning these records over for several months, and when it finally does provide two classified documents from 2002 and 2003 to Graham, Graham will say, “An important investigative lead was not pursued and unsubstantiated statements were accepted as truth.” The Broward Bulldog will also report that Graham says, “[T]he agent suggested that another federal agency be asked to join the investigation, but that the idea was ‘rejected.’” Graham will attempt to interview this agent, but find he has been ordered by FBI headquarters not to talk. [Broward Bulldog, 2/20/2011]

Entity Tags: Daniel Robert (“Bob”) Graham, Abdulaziz al-Hijji, Esam Ghazzawi, Anoud al-Hijji, Deborah Ghazzawi, Wissam Taysir Hammoud, Federal Bureau of Investigation

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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.” [Arab News, 9/22/2001; Washington Post, 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; Arab News, 9/18/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001; Daily Telegraph, 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. [Washington Post, 9/20/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001; Guardian, 9/21/2001; Daily Telegraph, 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. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001] He has never lost his passport and finds it “very worrying” that his identity appears to have been stolen. [Daily Telegraph, 9/23/2001] However, there is another Ahmed Alnami who is 10 years younger and appears to be dead, according to his father. [ABC News, 3/15/2002] Ahmed Alnami’s family says his FBI picture is correct. [Washington Post, 9/25/2001]
bullet A man called Abdulrahman Alomari is alive and works as a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines. [New York Times, 9/16/2001; Independent, 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. [CNN, 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. [Los Angeles Times, 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.” [London Times, 9/20/2001; Daily Telegraph, 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; New Yorker, 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.” [Arab News, 9/19/2001; Los Angeles Times, 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. [Arab News, 9/17/2001; ABC News, 3/15/2002] The still-living Waleed M. Alshehri is a pilot with Saudi Airlines, studying in Morocco. [Los Angeles Times, 9/21/2001; Associated Press, 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. [Los Angeles Times, 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. [New York Times, 9/19/2001; Chicago Tribune, 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.” [Associated Press, 9/20/2001; Cox News Service, 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. [Guardian, 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. [Arab News, 9/22/2001]
The Official Account Evolves - The Saudi government insists that five of the Saudis mentioned as 9/11 hijackers are still alive. [New York Times, 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.” [Newsday, 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.” [South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 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.” [London Times, 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. [Associated Press, 11/3/2001; Associated Press, 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.” [Insight, 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]

Entity Tags: Ahmed Alnami, Hamza Alghamdi, Federal Bureau of Investigation, 9/11 Commission, Majed Moqed, Abdulaziz Alomari, Marwan Alshehhi, Khalid Almihdhar, Mohand Alshehri, Mohamed Atta, William Carter, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Robert S. Mueller III, Saeed Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Saud al-Rashid.
Saud al-Rashid. [Source: FBI]A CD-ROM containing a picture of a young Saudi man named Saud al-Rashid is seized in an al-Qaeda safe house in Karachi, Pakistan. The CD also contains the pictures of three 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Abdulaziz Alomari, placed in the same folder with the picture of al-Rashid. The pictures are all passport photos or pages of entry and exit stamps from the same passports. All the computer files of the pictures were saved in May 2001. A senior US official says that investigators “were able to take this piece of information and it showed clear signals or lines that [al-Rashid] was connected to 9/11.” Media reports in 2002 say that the raid takes place on August 15, but an FBI report made public years later will show the raid took place on May 16 but the importance of the CD-ROM’s contents was not discovered until August 15. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526; Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010]
Al-Rashid Escapes Dragnet - On August 21, six days after the files on the CD-ROM are discovered, the US will issue a worldwide dragnet to find al-Rashid. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] But they are unable to catch him because a few days later, he flees from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and turns himself in to the Saudi authorities. The Saudis apparently will not try him for any crime or allow the FBI to interview him. [CNN, 8/26/2002; CNN, 8/31/2002]
Al-Rashid's Background - Al-Rashid was in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001, where he met 9/11 hijacker Ahmed Alhaznawi “once or twice” in a guest house. [New York Times, 7/29/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526] Although detainees identify him as a candidate 9/11 hijacker, he claims not to have met Osama bin Laden or Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), or even to have heard of al-Qaeda. Under interrogation, KSM will say al-Rashid was headstrong and immature and dropped out of the plot after returning to Saudi Arabia for a visa, either due to second thoughts or the influence of his family. However, doubts will be raised about the reliability of KSM’s statements under interrogation (see August 6, 2007). [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 526] Intriguingly, al-Rashid’s father is Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official who paid a salary to Omar al-Bayoumi, an associate of both Almihdhar and Alhazmi who is later suspected of being a Saudi agent. [New York Times, 7/29/2003]
Passport Clue - Also intriguingly, the pictures from Saeed Alghamdi’s and Khalid Almihdhar’s passports show the passports were issued at “Holy Capital.” This may be an indicator placed by the Saudi government to show that the passport holders are radicals. [Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2010]
Other Evidence? - Florida FBI agent Tom Yowell will later mention to the 9/11 Commission that he remembers some other 9/11-related evidence captured in a May 2002 Karachi raid, including mention of the address of a Virginia post office box (see February 19-20, 2001 and April 3-4, 2001 and around) and videos of the 9/11 hijackers. But which hijackers were videotaped, and where and when, is not mentioned. [9/11 Commission, 12/4/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, Omar al-Bayoumi, Tom Yowell, Hamid al-Rashid, Saud al-Rashid, Al-Qaeda, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alhaznawi

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

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