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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). (Allee 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; (Russakoff 1/3/2003)
Made inquiries to a parts manufacturer about navigational systems for commercial jetliners to be shipped to Egypt in 1999; (Schwanberg 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. (Schwanberg 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. (Schwanberg 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).
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. (Schwanberg 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.” (Allee 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. (Schwanberg 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).
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