Profile: Mohamed el-Atriss
Mohamed el-Atriss was a participant or observer in the following events:
The 9/11 hijackers have links to several people associated with “Blind Sheikh” Omar Abdul-Rahman, the spiritual head of the group that bombed the World Trade Center in 1993. Abdul-Rahman has been in prison since the mid-1990s.
9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi attend a mosque in San Diego that is visited by an unnamed associate of Abdul-Rahman who is under investigation by the Los Angeles FBI (see June 1999-March 2000);
The mosque is also attended by Osama Basnan, who threw a party for Abdul-Rahman in 1992 (see Spring 2000);
9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta is seen with Adnan Shukrijumah, son of Abdul-Rahman’s former translator (see May 2, 2001) and Atta and hijacker Marwan Alshehhi may attend a mosque run by his father (see 2000-2001);
Hijacker Mohand Alshehri is seen near the Minnesota clinic where Abdul-Rahman is being held (see August 2001);
Some hijackers have the same mailing address as Abdul-Rahman and at least one of his associates (see Before September 11, 2001);
Khalid Almihdhar and other hijackers obtain false ID cards from Mohamed el-Atriss, an associate of an unindicted co-conspirator at Abdul-Rahman’s trial (see (July-August 2001)); [Lance, 2006, pp. 373]
In addition, people attending a Bronx mosque are warned to stay away from lower Manhattan on 9/11 (see Early September 2001).
In early 2000, the Able Danger data-mining program apparently identifies Atta, Alshehhi, Alhazmi, and Almihdhar as members of al-Qaeda through their associations with people linked to Abdul-Rahman (see January-February 2000).
FBI Director Robert Mueller will later tell the joint inquiry of Congress that, “In July 2001, Mohamed Atta, Abdulaziz Alomari, Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Ahmed Alghamdi, and Majed Moqed purchased personal identification cards at Apollo Travel in Paterson, New Jersey. Atta purchased a Florida identification card, while the others purchased New Jersey identification cards.” [US Congress, 9/26/2002] Although the travel agency’s owner will be interviewed several times after 9/11 and will mention selling plane tickets to Atta and Nawaf Alhazmi, he will never mention selling them ID cards (see June 19-25, 2001 and March 2001-September 1, 2001). [Bergen Record, 9/27/2001; Bergen Record, 9/27/2001; CNN, 10/29/2001; Newsday, 9/19/2002] Neither the 9/11 Commission or any other body will say any hijacker received an ID card from Apollo. However, the Commission will say that a similar group of hijackers obtained similar ID cards around this time (see (July-August 2001)). [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 27 ] Some of these cards may have been obtained from Mohamed el-Atriss, who will be sentenced to jail for selling the hijackers false ID (see (July-August 2001) and November 2002-June 2003). El-Atriss will be co-operating with the FBI at the time Mueller makes this statement and will have promised to “keep his eyes and ears open” for other terrorists (see September 13, 2001-Mid 2002).
Entity Tags: Ahmed Alghamdi, Salem Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Robert S. Mueller III, Nawaf Alhazmi, Mohamed el-Atriss, Mohamed Atta, Apollo Travel, Khalid Almihdhar, 9/11 Commission, Majed Moqed
Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline, 9/11 Timeline
Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card, recovered from the Pentagon crash site. [Source: US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division] (click image to enlarge)Khalid Almihdhar obtains a fake USA ID card from forger Mohamed el-Atriss. Abdulaziz Alomari also obtains fake ID, an international driver’s license, from el-Atriss, and some of the other hijackers may do as well. [National Public Radio, 8/20/2002; New York Times, 6/25/2003; Lance, 2006, pp. 372-3; Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] USA ID cards are not issued by governmental organizations, as are passports and driver’s licenses, for example. They are marketed by the manufacturer as being suitable for frequent customers to small businesses, such as VIP diners at a restaurant, gym members, and visitors to a check cashing store. [Usaidsystems (.com), 7/1/2007] El-Atriss, who is called seven times by Hani Hanjour and also by another unknown hijacker, is an associate of Waleed al-Noor, a co-conspirator in the 1993 ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot (see June 24, 1993), and will be sentenced to six months in jail after 9/11 despite being of assistance to the FBI (see Before September 11, 2001, September 13, 2001-Mid 2002, and November 2002-June 2003). [Associated Press, 7/3/2003; Lance, 2006, pp. 372-3; Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] An image of Almihdhar’s card, which gives his address as a hotel where he stayed for two nights after returning to the US a few days before, will be reproduced in the 9/11 Commission’s Terrorism Travel Monograph, but the Commission will fail to point out it was a fake. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 192 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 52 ] Five other hijackers obtain USA ID cards around this time: Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Majed Moqed, and Ahmed Alghamdi. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 27-29, 31-32, 34-44 ] Almihdhar’s card is similar to some of these hijackers’ USA ID cards, indicating they may also be fake, although this is not certain. Nawaf Alhazmi’s USA ID card contains the same hotel address and the same expiry date as Almihdhar’s card. [US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006] Salem Alhazmi’s card contains the same expiry date, indicating it was issued at a time Salem Alhazmi was out of the country (see April 23-June 29, 2001). In addition, the serial numbers are similar: the number of Salem Alhazmi’s card, which was supposedly issued on July 1 or 2, is 3408826-A, whereas the number of Almihdhar’s card, which the 9/11 Commission says was issued eight or nine days later, is 3408825-A. [9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 192 ; Time, 8/29/2005] The fake document for Alomari is purchased from el-Atriss’ All Service Plus business in Paterson, New Jersey, by fellow hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi. [CBS News, 7/31/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division, 7/31/2006, pp. 61 ; Bergen Record, 9/11/2006]
The Sphinx Trading sign. [Source: National Geographic]Some of the 9/11 hijackers rent mailboxes from a company called Sphinx Trading, which was also used by ‘Blind Sheikh’ Omar Abdul-Rahman and at least one of his associates. The mailboxes are located in Jersey City, New Jersey, four doors down from the mosque where Abdul-Rahman was imam in the early 1990s. El Sayyid Nosair, who assassinated Rabbi Meir Kahane and was linked to the Islamic militant cell Abdul-Rahman headed (see November 5, 1990 and December 7, 1991), also had a mailbox there before he was arrested in 1990. Sphinx Trading is owned by Waleed al-Noor, who was named an unindicted co-conspirator at the ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot trial (see June 24, 1993). The hijackers will later obtain fake IDs from al-Noor’s partner, Mohamed el-Atriss. The names of the hijackers who had mailboxes there are never given, but in the summer of 2001 el-Atriss interacts with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Abdulaziz Alomari, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour (see (July-August 2001)), at least. [New York Times, 6/25/2003; Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003; Lance, 2006, pp. 372-4; Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] An FBI agent will later comment: “The fact that this location was where Almihdhar, in particular, got his bogus credentials, is not only shocking, it makes me angry. The [Joint Terrorist Task Force] in the [New York Office] had this location back in 1991. In the mid-90s they listed al-Noor, the coowner, as a coconspirator, unindicted in the plot to blow up bridges and tunnels. And now we find out that this is the precise location where the most visible of all the hijackers in the US got his ID? Incredible. All the Bureau’s New York Office had to do was sit on that place over the years and they would have broken right into the 9/11 plot.” [Lance, 2006, pp. 373]
Mohamed el-Atriss produced fake ID cards for the 9/11 hijackers. [Source: Associated Press]Mohamed el-Atriss, who supplied some of the hijackers with fake IDs (see (July-August 2001)), is visited by FBI agents and begins to help them with their inquiries. [Washington Post, 2/5/2003; Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003] El-Atriss turns over his files to the FBI and, according to his lawyer, promises to “keep his eyes and ears open” for other Islamic militants. He tells the FBI he did not know the hijackers’ intentions when he sold them the ID cards. [Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] He is interviewed extensively by federal authorities over the next few months and successfully passes a lie detector test confirming he did not know they intended to hijack a plane. [Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003] However, authorities plant an electronic surveillance device inside a printer he orders, to monitor who he is making documents for. [Bergen Record, 9/11/2006] El-Atriss’ usefulness suffers a setback when a local sheriff raids his business and arrests him in 2002 (see July 31, 2002), apparently without the FBI’s approval (see July 31, 2002 and After).
Passaic County Sheriff Jerry Speziale. [Source: Triborochamber]A business owned by Mohamed el-Atriss, who supplied the 9/11 hijackers with fake IDs (see (July-August 2001)), is raided by the Passaic County Sheriff’s Department. The raids are carried out in a blaze of publicity and are strongly opposed by the US attorney’s office for New Jersey and the FBI, which has a relationship with el-Atriss (see July 31, 2002 and After, September 13, 2001-Mid 2002). [Bergen Record, 8/7/2002] The sheriff is suspicious of el-Atriss and raids his business because, in addition to providing hijackers Abdulaziz Alomari and Khalid Almihdhar with at least two pieces of fake ID, el-Atriss:
Talked repeatedly on the phone to another hijacker (see (July-August 2001));
Is an associate of an unindicted co-conspirator in the 1993 ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot (see Before September 11, 2001);
Wired $29,000 to the Arab National Bank in Mecca in 2002; [Washington Post, 1/3/2003]
Made inquiries to a parts manufacturer about navigational systems for commercial jetliners to be shipped to Egypt in 1999; [Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003]
Downloaded a list of the 9/11 hijackers from the Internet after 9/11, underlined some names, and circled Khalid Almihdhar’s. [Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003]
El-Atriss is not present during the raid, having traveled to Egypt a short time before, but later returns to the US and is arrested at JFK airport in New York. [CBS News, 7/31/2002; BBC, 8/21/2002] He will later say that he came back to the US to clear his name after learning of the raid while in Egypt. He will be charged with over two dozen counts of selling false documents. [Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003] Secret evidence will be used against him at the trial. He will plead guilty to one of charges, while the rest will be dropped. (see November 2002-June 2003).
US attorney for New Jersey Christopher Christie opposed a raid on an associate of the 9/11 hijackers. [Source: Public domain]Both the FBI and the US attorney’s office for New Jersey are highly critical of a raid by the Passaic County sheriff’s office on the business of Mohamed el-Atriss, who supplied the 9/11 hijackers with false IDs (see (July-August 2001) and July 31, 2002). El-Atriss is later arrested and will plead guilty to selling fake IDs (see November 2002-June 2003). According to the sheriff, when US attorney for New Jersey Christopher Christie learns the sheriff intends to hold a news conference about the raid, he tells the sheriff that “he [will] be arrested and the US attorney [will] come down and shut down the Sheriff’s Department.” However, a spokesman for Christie will deny this. [Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003] The FBI also hammers the sheriff in the media after the arrest, calling the raid, in which officers were accompanied by several press representatives, a “shameful media grab” and saying that the sheriff killed an FBI investigation. The Bergen County Record will point out that this is unusual, as “the feds don’t make a habit of lambasting other law enforcement officials publicly or of confirming the existence of secret investigations.” [Bergen Record, 8/7/2002] Federal officials then tell the sheriff’s department not to proceed with any investigations related to el-Atriss until they get clearance from the FBI. [Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003] El-Atriss cooperated with the FBI after 9/11 and promised to “keep his eyes and ears open” for other terrorists (see September 13, 2001-Mid 2002).
Judge Marilyn Clark heard the case of Mohamed el-Atriss. [Source: newjerseycourtsonline]The case of Mohamed el-Atriss, who was arrested for selling false ID cards to two of the 9/11 hijackers (see (July-August 2001)) and was an associate of an unindicted co-conspirator in the ‘Landmarks’ bomb plot trial (see Before September 11, 2001), becomes controversial when secret evidence is used against him at a series of hearings. The evidence is presented without el-Atriss or his attorney being present and such secrecy is said to be unusual even after 9/11. Based on the secret evidence, el-Atriss’ bond is set at $500,000, which the Washington Post calls “an amount consistent with a charge of capital murder—even though most of the charges against him [are] misdemeanors.” The secret evidence rule is invoked for national security reasons based on a request by the sheriff’s office, while el-Atriss is being held in prison for six months. However, the FBI, which has a relationship with el-Atriss (see September 13, 2001-Mid 2002) and does not back the use of the secret evidence, insists that el-Atriss is not connected to terrorism. An appeals judge rules that the secret evidence cannot be used on the say-so of local officials. According to the judge, the secret information is inaccurate and could have been rebutted by el-Atriss if he had seen it. Transcripts of the secret hearings are later released to the media [Washington Post, 2/5/2003; Washington Post, 6/25/2003] In January 2003 el-Atriss pleads guilty to a charge of selling false identification documents to two hijackers, Khalid Almihdhar and Abdulaziz Alomari, and is sentenced to five years’ probation, with credit for the six months in jail he has already served, and a $15,000 fine. Although he admits selling the cards not just to the two hijackers, but also to hundreds of illegal immigrants, the other 26 charges against him are dropped by prosecutors. [Washington Post, 2/5/2003; Newark Star-Ledger, 10/20/2003]
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