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Context of 'February 11, 2010: Secret US Cable Discusses Previously Unknown Possible 9/11 Accomplices'

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Three Qatari men—Meshal Al Hajri, Fhad Abdulla, and Ali Al Fehaid—behave curiously in the weeks before 9/11, leading to later suspicions that they could have had some link to the 9/11 attacks.
Suspicious Behavior - The men fly from London to New York on August 15, 2001, and travel around the East Coast together. They visit the World Trade Center, the Statue of Liberty, the White House, and various parts of Virginia, but it is unclear if they are simply tourists or are conducting surveillance on potential targets. On August 24, they fly from Washington to Los Angeles and check into a single room at a hotel near the airport. They pay with cash and are booked to leave on September 10, which they do. They spend about a week traveling within California with a United Arab Emirates man named Mohamed Al Mansoori. The hotel staff grow suspicious of the men because they notice pilot uniforms, laptops, and cardboard boxes addressed to Syria, Afghanistan, and Jordan in their room. This may not be that unusual, since pilots frequently stay at the hotel due to its proximity to the airport. But, according to a later US government document, the men also “had a smashed cellular phone in the room and a cellular phone attached by wire to a computer. The room also contained pin feed computer paper print outs with headers listing pilot names, airlines, flight numbers, and flight times.” Suspicions are further aroused because on the last few days of their stay, the men request that their room should not be cleaned. The staff are not alarmed enough to alert police, however. The men are scheduled to board American Airlines Flight 144 on September 10, from Los Angeles to Washington. This flight will be reassigned Flight 77 the next day and will crash into the Pentagon in the 9/11 attacks. However, the men do not take the flight, but instead fly directly from Los Angeles to London on a British Airways flight the same day, and then back to Doha, Qatar. [Daily Telegraph, 2/1/2011]
Link to 'Convicted Terrorist'? - In 2010, the names of the three men and Mansoori will appear in a State Department cable suggesting that they are still being investigated for a possible role in the 9/11 attacks (see February 11, 2010). The cable will state, “A subsequent FBI investigation revealed that the men’s plane tickets were paid for and their hotel reservations in Los Angeles, CA, were made by a convicted terrorist.” This is likely a reference to Fahed Alhajri, a Qatari who lived in Chesapeake, Virginia. News reports in 2002 will call Alhajri a suspected terrorist because of some items found in his possession when he is arrested as part of a visa fraud scheme that same year. For instance, he has photos of Osama bin Laden and the World Trade Center in his apartment, as well as a datebook with only one entry, written on 9/11 with the cryptic words, “Trackd the World Trade Center or the Pentagon Trackd for the Plane.” According to these news reports, he paid for the Los Angeles hotel room and plane fare of his brother Meshal Alhajri and two friends. Alhajri is one of the three Qatari men, and the friends presumably are the other two. But Fahed Alhajri cannot be called a “convicted terrorist,” because in 2003 he is convicted of visa fraud, not terrorism, and then he is deported. [New York Times, 5/10/2002; MSNBC, 2/2/2011]
Terrorists or Tourists? - The names of the three men will be included on an FBI list of over 300 people wanted for questioning in connection with the 9/11 attacks that is accidentally made public in late 2001 (see October 3, 2001). However, they never are questioned by the FBI, apparently because they left the US the day before 9/11 and never came back. Mansoori’s name is not on that list, but he will remain in the US, and he will be questioned by the FBI as part of a years-long investigation into his activities. The FBI will never come up with enough evidence to charge him, but he will be deported several years after 9/11. One US official will say, “I don’t think people were in love with him,” implying the FBI continued to have suspicions about him. In 2011, the 2010 cable mentioning the men will be made public, and The Telegraph will write: “It is not known whether the FBI believe that the men were simply assisting the hijackers or were a fifth cell who pulled out at the final moment. Alternatively, they may have been planning an attack on the West Coast of America or even London which was abandoned or went wrong.” But there is also the possibility they may simply have been tourists. [Daily Telegraph, 2/1/2011; MSNBC, 2/2/2011]

Entity Tags: Fhad Abdulla, Ali Al Fehaid, Central Intelligence Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Fahed Alhajri, US Department of Homeland Security, US Department of State, Meshal Al Hajri, Mohamed al Mansoori

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

A confidential list of people suspected of helping the al-Qaeda terrorist network leaks out on the Internet. The list of 370 individuals was put together by the FBI and European security agencies, and had been circulated to central banks and government financial authorities cooperating in the fight against terrorism. The 22-page document is posted on the website of Finland’s Financial Supervision Authority, RATA. [Daily Telegraph, 10/5/2001; United Press International, 10/11/2001] It is the most extensive list of its kind yet made public by authorities anywhere in the world. [Helsingin Sanomat, 10/5/2001] Some of its entries include only a name. [United Press International, 10/11/2001] But, in many cases, aliases, last known addresses, dates of birth, and sometimes phone numbers are given. Many of the addresses are in the United States—with Florida featuring extensively—or Germany, particularly Hamburg. [Helsingin Sanomat, 10/4/2001; Daily Telegraph, 10/5/2001] More than 300 of the names on the list came from US sources, and are listed with US addresses or Social Security numbers. Out of the 370 individuals, all of whom have Arab names, the FBI and other security authorities have identified the nationalities of 163. Saudi Arabians form the largest group, with 59 being on the list. The FBI has been unable to identify the nationality of the other 207 individuals. According to UPI: “With the exception of the two Americans [on the list], all of those listed would have had to apply for American visas in their home countries to enter the United States legally. Yet the spreadsheet’s sparse information seemed to indicate that the FBI apparently had been unable to locate the information that these applications normally would contain.” At least 77 of those on the list lived near flight schools. Many of the individuals have aliases, with some having up to 20. [United Press International, 10/11/2001] The list includes all 19 of the alleged 9/11 hijackers, who are mostly listed as “possibly deceased.” It also includes al-Qaeda conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui. It will be removed from the RATA website within 24 hours, at the recommendation of the Finnish data protection commissioner. The London Daily Telegraph cautions, “Like any police intelligence file,” the list “is based on hearsay and unverified leads, and should have been kept strictly confidential to protect those falsely accused. It is far from clear whether the telephone numbers or email addresses are reliable.” For example, “A random call to a suspect in Vero Beach, Florida, was answered by the receptionist of a commercial law firm, who angrily slammed down the receiver.” [RATA, 10/3/2001 pdf file; Daily Telegraph, 10/5/2001; Helsingin Sanomat, 10/5/2001]

Entity Tags: Federal Bureau of Investigation, RATA, Al-Qaeda

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline

Deforest B. Soaries Jr.Deforest B. Soaries Jr. [Source: MSNBC]On July 6, John Kerry named John Edwards as his running mate. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 pdf file] This produced a slight increase in the opinion polls and a media focus on the Kerry campaign. [MSNBC, 6/4/2007] Two days later, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge warns that “Al-Qaeda is moving forward with its plans to carry out a large-scale attack in the United States in an effort to disrupt our democratic process.” [Department of Homeland Security, 7/8/2004] Officials cite “alarming” intelligence about a possible al-Qaeda strike inside the United States this fall and admit they are reviewing a proposal that could allow for the postponement of the November presidential election in the event of an attack. Officials point to the recent Madrid train bombings as an attempt by al-Qaeda to influence the political process in a democratic nation (see 7:37-7:42 a.m., March 11, 2004). Intercepted chatter leads one analyst to say, “they want to interfere with the elections.” It is reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) recently asked the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to analyze the necessary legal steps that would permit the postponement of the election were an attack to take place. [Newsweek, 7/19/2004] The head of the US Election Assistance Commission, Deforest B. Soaries Jr., confirms he has written to Tom Ridge to discuss this prospect. [MSNBC, 6/4/2007] Soaries notes that, while a primary election in New York on September 11, 2001 was suspended by the State Board of Elections after the attacks, “the federal government has no agency that has the statutory authority to cancel and reschedule a federal election.” Soaries advises Ridge to seek emergency legislation from Congress that would grant such power to the DHS. DHS spokesman Brian Roehrkasse says, “We are reviewing the issue to determine what steps need to be taken to secure the election.” [Newsweek, 7/19/2004] A top European spy says of the threat, “I am aware of no intelligence, nothing that shows there will be an attack before the US presidential election.” No attack will materialize and no further information on the threat will be presented to the public. [Rolling Stone, 9/21/2006 pdf file] Ridge will later concede that he had no “precise knowledge” of the attack he warned against, and he never made plans to raise the color-coded threat level. [Rich, 2006, pp. 146]

Entity Tags: US Election Assistance Commission, Deforest B. Soaries Jr., John Edwards, John Kerry, Tom Ridge, Brian Roehrkasse

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 2004 Elections

A State Department official sends a secret cable from the US Embassy in Doha, Qatar, to the FBI, CIA, and Department for Homeland Security in Washington, DC. The contents of the cable will be made public by the Daily Telegraph and WikiLeaks in early 2011. The cable recommends that a United Arab Emirates man named Mohamed al Mansoori be watchlisted because he is “currently under investigation by the FBI for his possible involvement in the [9/11 attacks]. He is suspected of aiding people who entered the US before the attacks to conduct surveillance of possible targets and providing other support to the hijackers.” The cable mentions that Mansoori’s US visa had been revoked at some earlier point. Mansoori spent about a week with three Qatari men—Meshal Al Hajri, Fhad Abdulla, and Ali Al Fehaid—several weeks before 9/11. The three men traveled in the US for several weeks and left the day before 9/11. Their behavior raised suspicions amongst the staff at one Los Angeles hotel, and their trip was funded by Al Hajri’s brother, who was living in Virginia but later would be suspected as a terrorist and deported (see August 15-September 10, 2001). [Daily Telegraph, 2/1/2011] In 2011, law enforcement officials will tell NBC News that the cable was prompted because the three Qataris were planning to return to the US. The Qataris ended up not coming to the US, but Mansoori presumably was added to the watchlist. These officials will also claim that there is no active investigation of Mansoori or the Qataris. No hard evidence has linked any of them to the 9/11 plot. However, an official claims that Mansoori was deported from the US several years after 9/11, and the FBI apparently continued to have suspicions about him. [MSNBC, 2/2/2011]

Entity Tags: Meshal Al Hajri, Ali Al Fehaid, Central Intelligence Agency, Fhad Abdulla, US Department of Homeland Security, Federal Bureau of Investigation, US Department of State, Mohamed al Mansoori

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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