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a.k.a. Hani Saleh Hasan Hanjour
In 1986, Maktab al-Khidamat (a.k.a. Al-Kifah), the precursor organization to al-Qaeda, opens its first branch in the US at the Islamic Center of Tucson, in Tucson, Arizona. Counterterrorism expert Rita Katz will later call the Islamic Center, “basically, the first cell of al-Qaeda in the United States; that is where it all started.” The organization’s journal, Al Jihad (Holy War), is initially distributed in the US from there. Other branches around the US soon follow (see 1985-1989). (Yardley and Thomas 6/19/2002)
A number of important future al-Qaeda figures are connected to the Tucson branch in the 1980s and into the early 1990s, including:
Mohammed Loay Bayazid, one of the founders of al-Qaeda two years later.
Wael Hamza Julaidan, another founder of al-Qaeda, and a Saudi multimillionaire. He was president of the Islamic Center starting in 1983 and leaves the US around 1986.
Wadih El-Hage, bin Laden’s future personal secretary, who will later be convicted for a role in the 1998 US embassy bombings (see 10:35-10:39 a.m., August 7, 1998). El-Hage is connected to the murder of a liberal imam at the rival mosque to the Islamic Center in 1990 (see January 1990).
Mubarak al Duri, al-Qaeda’s chief agent attempting to purchase weapons of mass destruction. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 521)
Throughout the 1980s, the mosque provides money, support, and fighters to the mujaheddin fighting in Afghanistan. Around 1991, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour will move to Arizona for the first time (see October 3, 1991-February 1992) and he will spend much of the rest of the decade in the state. He will briefly live in Tucson, but his ties to earlier al-Qaeda connections there remain elusive. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002)
Most of the future 9/11 hijackers are middle class and have relatively comfortable upbringings, even though, after 9/11, some people in Western countries will say one of the root causes of the attacks was poverty and assume that the hijackers must have been poor. The editor of Al Watan, a Saudi Arabian daily, will call the hijackers “middle class adventurers” rather than Islamist fundamentalist ideologues. (Sennott 3/3/2002)
Mohamed Atta grows up in Cairo, Egypt. His father is an attorney, and both Atta and his two sisters attend university. (McDermott 2005, pp. 10-11)
Marwan Alshehhi is from Ras al-Khaimah Emirate in the United Arab Emirates. His family is not particularly wealthy, but his father is a muezzin and one of his half-brothers a policeman. He attends university in Germany on a UAE army scholarship (see Spring 1996-December 23, 2000). (McDermott 2005, pp. 55)
Ziad Jarrah is from Beirut, Lebanon. His father is a mid-level bureaucrat and his mother, from a well-off family, is a teacher. The family drives a Mercedes and Jarrah attends private Christian schools before going to study in Germany. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 4/19/2002; McDermott 2005, pp. 49-50)
Hani Hanjour is from Taif, near Mecca in Saudi Arabia. His family has a car exporting business and a farm, which he manages for five years in the mid-1990s. (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001)
Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi are from Mecca, Saudi Arabia. Their father owns a shop and the family is wealthy. (Khashoggi 9/20/2001; Wright 2006, pp. 378)
Abdulaziz Alomari is from southwestern Saudi Arabia. He is a university graduate (see Late 1990s). He apparently marries and has a child, a daughter, before 9/11. (Sunday Times (London) 1/27/2002; Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232)
Mohand Alshehri is from Tanooma in Asir Province, Saudi Arabia. He attends university (see Late 1990s). (Saudi Information Agency 9/11/2002)
Hamza Alghamdi is from Baha Province, Saudi Arabia. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 231) He works as a stockboy in a housewares shop. (Sennott 3/3/2002)
Fayez Ahmed Banihammad is from the United Arab Emirates. He gives his home address as being in Khor Fakkan, a port and enclave of Sharjah Emirate on the country’s east coast. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) The 9/11 Commission will say he works as an immigration officer at one point. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 20 )
Maqed Mojed is from Annakhil, near Medina in western Saudi Arabia. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 232) He attends university (see Late 1990s).
Ahmed Alhaznawi is from Hera, Baha Province. His father is an imam at the local mosque and he is reported to attend university (see Late 1990s).
Ahmed Alnami is from Abha, Asir Province. His family is one of government officials and scientists, and his father works for the Ministry of Islamic Affairs. He attends university (see Late 1990s). (Lamb 9/15/2002)
Wail Alshehi and Waleed Alshehri are from Khamis Mushayt in Asir Province, southwestern Saudi Arabia. Their father is a businessman and builds a mosque as a gift to the town. They both go to college (see Late 1990s). The Alshehris are from a military family and have three older brothers who hold high rank at the nearby airbase. Their uncle, Major General Faez Alshehri, is the logistical director of Saudi Arabia’s armed forces. (Sennott 3/3/2002) Dr. Ali al-Mosa, a Saudi academic, will later comment: “Most of them were from very rich, top-class Saudi families. The father of the Alshehri boys is one of the richest people in the area and the other families are not far behind him.” (McGeough 10/5/2002)
The social situation of the families of Satam al Suqami, Ahmed Alghamdi, Saeed Alghamdi, and Khaled Almihdhar is unknown. However, Almihdhar is from a distinguished family that traces its lineage back to the Prophet Muhammad. (Wright 2006, pp. 379)
Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour first arrives in the US on October 3, 1991. (US Congress 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 520) Some media accounts have him entering the country in 1990. He apparently is the first hijacker to enter the US. (Cloud 9/24/2001; O'Meilia 10/15/2001; Yardley and Thomas 6/19/2002) He takes an English course in Tucson, Arizona until early 1992. There are some important al-Qaeda operatives currently living in Tucson. However, it is not known if Hanjour has contact with them at this time, or even when he first develops his radical militant beliefs. According to Hanjour’s eldest brother Abulrahman, Hani stays in Arizona for three months then returns to Saudi Arabia, where he spends the next five years managing his family’s lemon and date farm. (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001) FBI Director Robert Mueller also reports his stay as lasting three months. (US Congress 9/26/2002) However, the FBI tells one person that Hanjour may have stayed in the US for as long as 15 months. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002)
By 1990, Arizona became one of the main centers in the US for radical Muslims, and it remains so through 9/11. A number of future al-Qaeda leaders live in Tucson, Arizona, in the early 1990s (see 1986). Around 1991, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour moved to Arizona for the first time (see October 3, 1991-February 1992) and he will spend much of the rest of the decade in the state. The FBI apparently remains largely oblivious of Hanjour, though one FBI informant claims that by 1998 they “knew everything about the guy.” (Yardley and Thomas 6/19/2002; Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 521) In 1994, the Phoenix FBI office uncovers startling evidence connecting Arizona to radical Muslim militants. According to FBI agent James Hauswirth, they are told that a group of “heavy duty associates” of al-Qaeda leader Sheikh Omar Abdul-Rahman have arrived in the area, fleeing New York in the wake of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. They are in the area to train a recruit as a suicide bomber. The recruit apparently is an FBI informant. FBI agent Ken Williams, who will later author the July 2001 “Phoenix memo,” orders surveilance of the training. The informant is driven to a remote stretch of desert and instructed in how to use explosives. A device is thrown at a car, but it fails to explode. The FBI secretly videotapes the entire incident. One of the two men is later positively linked to Abdul-Rahman. But apparently the investigation into the people involved fails to make progress. Hauswirth later blames this on a lack of support from higher-ups in the Phoenix office, recalling, “The drug war was the big thing back then, and terrorism was way on the back burner.” Additionally, also in 1994, a key FBI informant will begin monitoring local radical militants (see October 1996). However, terrorism will remain a low priority for the Phoenix, Arizona, FBI office (see April 2000-June 2001). (Los Angeles Times 5/26/2002; Yardley and Thomas 6/19/2002; Lance 2003, pp. 209-210)
9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour, who returned to his native Saudi Arabia after a previous stay in the US (see October 3, 1991-February 1992), now arrives in the US for the second time, and will spend much of the next three years in the country. Hanjour first stays in Miramar, Florida with a couple that are longtime friends with Abulrahman Hanjour, his eldest brother: Adnan Khalil, a Saudi professor at a local college, and his wife Susan. Susan Khalil later remembers Hani Hanjour as socially inept, with “really bad hygiene.” She says, “Of all my husband’s colorful friends, he was probably the most nondescript. He would blend into the wall.” The Washington Post later reports: “Hanjour’s meek, introverted manner fits a recurrent pattern in the al-Qaeda network of unsophisticated young men being recruited as helpers in terrorist attacks. FBI agents have told people they have interviewed about Hanjour that he ‘fit the personality to be manipulated and brainwashed.’” Yet, Susan Khalil says, “I didn’t get the feeling that he hated me or hated Americans.” Hanjour, she says, “was very kind and gentle to my son, who was 3 years old.” He prays frequently, at their home and at a nearby mosque. After staying for about a month he leaves the Khalil’s, having been accepted at a flight school in California (see April 30-Early September 1996). (Crary 9/21/2001; Allison 10/2/2001; Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 226) Many of the hijackers will later live in this part of Florida. A nearby mosque is run by radical imam Gulshair Shukrijumah, who possibly associates with Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi in 2000 and 2001 (see 2000-2001 and May 2, 2001). (Canedy and Lichtblau 3/22/2003)
Hijacker Hani Hanjour moves from Florida to the San Francisco Bay area in California, staying with an unidentified family. He lives with them from late April to early September. For most of this time he takes English lessons in an intensive program requiring 30 hours of class time per week, at the ELS Language Center at Holy Names College in Oakland. He reportedly reaches a level of proficiency sufficient to “survive very well in the English language.” Yet in 2001, managers at an Arizona flight school will report him to the FAA at least five times, partly because they think his level of English is inadequate for him to keep his pilot’s license. Due to his poor English, it will take Hanjour five hours to complete an oral exam meant to last just two hours (see January-February 2001). At the end of this period, Hanjour enrolls on a rigorous one-year flight training program at the renowned Sierra Academy of Aeronautics, in Oakland. However, he only attends the 30-minute orientation class, on September 8, and then never returns. (Hu 10/10/2001; Finz and Taylor 10/10/2001; Associated Press 10/11/2001; Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/21/2001; Gordon 12/21/2001; Associated Press 5/10/2002)
In late 1996, hijacker Hani Hanjour attends CRM Airline Training Center in Scottsdale, Arizona for three months. This is normally adequate time to earn a private pilot’s certificate, but Hanjour fails to accomplish this. (Williams, Dahlburg, and Reza 9/27/2001) Duncan Hastie, the school’s owner, finds Hanjour a “weak student” who is “wasting our resources.” According to Hastie, “He was not able to fly solo in a small plane, which is equivalent to getting out of a parking space [in a car] and stopping.” Hanjour returns to CRM in December 1997 with two friends: Bandar Al Hazmi, a Saudi like Hanjour, and Rayed Abdullah of Qatar. (There apparently is no family relationship between Bandar Al Hazmi and the two Alhazmi 9/11 hijackers.) Hanjour takes about three lessons, but still fails to complete the coursework necessary for a license to fly a single-engine aircraft. Subsequently, he phones the school about twice per year requesting more lessons, but, according to Hastie, “We didn’t want him back at our school because he was not serious about becoming a good pilot.” The final time Hanjour calls, in 2000, he requests training on a Boeing 757: the kind of plane he is alleged to have flown into the Pentagon on 9/11. (Frank 9/23/2001; Williams, Dahlburg, and Reza 9/27/2001; Haynes 10/2/2001; Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/21/2001; Lombardo 11/2001; Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002)
On several occasion between 1996 and 1999, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour attends flight schools in Arizona (see October 1996-December 1997 and 1998). The 9/11 Commission will later note, “It is clear that when Hanjour lived in Arizona in the 1990s, he associated with several individuals who have been the subject of counterterrorism investigations.” Some of the time, he is accompanied by two friends, Bandar Al Hazmi and Rayed Abdullah. Al Hazmi and Abdullah have been friends with each other in high school in Saudi Arabia, but it is not known if either knew Hanjour before moving to the US. Al Hazmi and Hanjour are roommates for a time. Al Hazmi will finish his training and leave the US for the last time in January 2000 (he apparently will be interviewed overseas in 2004). Abdullah becomes a leader of a Phoenix mosque where he reportedly gives extremist speeches. He will continue to train with Hanjour occasionally through the summer of 2001. The FBI apparently will investigate him in May 2001. He will repeatedly be questioned by authorities after 9/11, then move to Qatar. In 2004, the 9/11 Commission will report that the FBI remains suspicious of Al Hazmi and Abdullah, but neither man is charged with any crime. The 9/11 Commission will also imply that another of Hanjour’s Arizona associates is al-Qaeda operative Ghassan al Sharbi. Al Sharbi will be arrested in Pakistan in March 2002 with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). He apparently is a target of Ken Williams’s “Phoenix memo”(see July 10, 2001). Another associate of Hanjour’s, Hamed al Sulami, is in telephone contact with a radical Saudi imam who is said to be the spiritual advisor to al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. This imam may have a role in recruiting some of the 9/11 hijackers. Abdulaziz Alomari, for instance, was a student of this imam. It seems that al Sulami is also a target of Williams’s memo. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002; US Congress 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 233, 520-521, 529)
Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour begins associating with an unnamed individual who is later mentioned in FBI agent Ken Williams’s famous “Phoenix memo” (see July 10, 2001). Hanjour and this individual train at flight schools in Arizona (see October 1996-December 1997 and 1998). Several flight instructors will later note that the two were associates and may have carpooled together. They are known to share the same airplane on one occasion in 1999, and are at the school together on other occasions. The unnamed individual leaves the US in April 2000. In May 2001, the FBI attempts to investigate this person, but after finding out that he has left the US, it declines to open a formal investigation. The person’s name is not placed on a watch list, so the FBI is unaware that he returns in June and stays in the US for another month. By this time, he is an experienced flight instructor who is certified to fly Boeing 737s. The FBI speculates he may return to evaluate Hanjour’s flying skills or provide final training before 9/11. There is considerable circumstantial evidence placing this person near Hanjour in July 2001. (US Congress 7/24/2003 ) This unnamed individual may be Lofti Raissi, as several details match him perfectly. For instance, Raissi is a flight instructor who left the US in April 2000, is later accused of having shared an airplane with Hanjour in 1999, and is accused of being with Hanjour in July 2001. (Gillan 1/31/2002) In addition, according to FBI investigators, Raissi engages in a number of suspicious activities during this period that will justify scrutiny after 9/11. For example, in June 2000, while training at a British flight school, he reportedly asks, “if a plane flies into a building, whether it is the responsibility of the airline or the pilot,” and warns that “America will get theirs.” (9/11 Commission 1/5/2004) Raissi will be arrested in Britain after 9/11 and accused of training Hanjour and other hijackers how to fly, but the case against him will collapse in April 2002. He will be released, and many of the allegations against him will be withdrawn (see September 21, 2001). No media accounts will report that Raissi was mentioned in the Phoenix memo or wanted for an FBI investigation before 9/11.
The 19 hijackers apply and receive a total of 23 visas at five different posts from November 1997 through June 2001. Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Saeed Alghamdi and Ahmed Alnami, Saudi citizens, apply twice at Jeddah. Only Hanjour applies for a student visa, others for tourist/business visa. (United States General Accounting Office 10/21/2002 ; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 7-45 )
The fifteen Saudi hijackers apply for their visas in their home country. Four at the embassy in Riyadh: Hamza Alghamdi (10/17/2000), Mohand Alshehri (10/23/2000), Majed Moqed (11/20/2000) and Satam Al Suqami (11/21/2000). Eleven at the US consulate in Jeddah: Hani Hanjour (11/2/1997 and 9/25/2000), Khalid Almihdhar (4/7/1999 and 6/13/2001), Saeed Alghamdi (9/4/2000 and 6/12/2001), and Ahmed Alnami (10/28/2000 and 4/28/2001), Nawaf Alhazmi (4/3/1999), Ahmed Alghamdi (9/3/2000), Wail Alshehri (10/24/2000), Waleed M. Alshehri (10/24/2000), Abdulaziz Alomari (6/18/2001), Salem Alhazmi (6/20/2001), and Ahmed Alhaznawi (11/12/2000).
Fayez Ahmed Banihammad and Marwan Alshehhi apply in their home country, the United Arab Emirates, respectively at the US embassy in Abu Dhabi on 6/18/2001 and at consulate in Dubai on 1/18/2000.
Mohamed Atta (Egyptian) and Ziad Jarrah (Lebanese) apply, as third-country national applicants, at the US embassy in Berlin, respectively, on May 18 and 25, 2000.
An American Caucasian Muslim named Aukai Collins later says he reports to the FBI on hijacker Hani Hanjour for six months this year. (Montes 5/24/2002) The FBI later acknowledges they paid Collins to monitor the Islamic and Arab communities in Phoenix between 1996 and 1999. He also was an informant overseas and once had an invitation to meet bin Laden (see Mid-1998). (McWethy 5/23/2002; Montes 5/24/2002) Collins claims that he is a casual acquaintance of Hanjour while Hanjour is taking flying lessons. (Montes 5/24/2002) Collins sees nothing suspicious about Hanjour as an individual, but he tells the FBI about him because Hanjour appears to be part of a larger, organized group of Arabs taking flying lessons. (Collins 5/24/2002) He says the FBI “knew everything about the guy,” including his exact address, phone number, and even what car he drove. The FBI denies Collins told them anything about Hanjour, and denies knowing about Hanjour before 9/11. (McWethy 5/23/2002) Collins later calls Hanjour a “hanky panky” hijacker: “He wasn’t even moderately religious, let alone fanatically religious. And I knew for a fact that he wasn’t part of al-Qaeda or any other Islamic organization; he couldn’t even spell jihad in Arabic.” (Collins 2003, pp. 248) Collins tells the New York Times that he worked with FBI agent Ken Williams, who will write a July 2001 memo expressing concerns about radical militants attending Arizona flight schools (see July 10, 2001). He says that he quarrels with Williams and quits helping him. It is unknown if Williams ever learns about Hanjour before 9/11. (Thomas 5/24/2002) Collins closely matches the description of the informant who first alerted Williams to Zacaria Soubra, a flight student who will be the main focus of Williams’ memo (see April 2000). If this is so, it bolsters Collins’ claims that he knew Hanjour, because many of Soubra’s friends, including his roommate (and al-Qaeda operative) Ghassan al-Sharbi do know Hanjour (see July 10, 2001). After 9/11, Collins will claim that based on his experience with the FBI and CIA, he is 100 percent sure that some people in those agencies knew about the 9/11 attack in advance and let it happen. “Just think about it—how could a group of people plan such a big operation full of so many logistics and probably countless e-mails, encrypted or not, and phone calls and messengers? And you’re telling me that, through all of that, that the CIA never caught wind of it?” (Lempinen 10/17/2002)
In January 1998, future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour and his friend Bandar Al Hazmi, who are now renting an apartment together in Phoenix, Arizona, train together at Arizona Aviation flight school. Hanjour supposedly receives his commercial pilot rating while there. (US Congress 9/26/2002) Later in 1998, Hanjour joins the simulator club at Sawyer School of Aviation in Phoenix. According to the Washington Post, Sawyer is “known locally as a flight school of last resort.” Wes Fults, the manager of the flight simulator, says Hanjour has “only the barest understanding what the instruments were there to do.” After using the simulator four or five times, Hanjour disappears from the school. (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001)
When Hani Hanjour attended flight schools between 1996 and 1998 he was found to be a “weak student” who “was wasting our resources” (see October 1996-December 1997), and when he tried using a flight simulator, “He had only the barest understanding what the instruments were there to do.” (see 1998) Yet, on this day, he is certified as a multi-engine commercial pilot by Daryl Strong in Tempe, Arizona. Strong is one of many private examiners independently contracted with the FAA. A spokesperson for the FAA’s workers union will later complain that contractors like Strong “receive between $200 and $300 for each flight check. If they get a reputation for being tough, they won’t get any business.” Hanjour’s new license allows him to begin passenger jet training at other flight schools, despite having limited flying skills and an extremely poor grasp of English. (Federal Aviation Administration 4/25/2002; Lunney 6/13/2002; Associated Press 6/13/2002) At the next flight school Hanjour will attend in early 2001, the staff will be so appalled at his lack of skills that they will repeatedly contact the FAA and ask them to investigate how he got a pilot’s license (see January-February 2001). After 9/11, the FBI will appear to investigate how Hanjour got his license and question and polygraph the instructor who signed off on his flying skills. The Washington Post will note that, since Hanjour’s pilot skills were so bad, the issue of how he was able to get a license “remains a lingering question that FAA officials refuse to discuss.” (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001; CBS News 5/10/2002) After gaining the license, Hanjour apparently returns to the Middle East. He will arrive back in the US in December 2000 (see (Early 2000-November 2000) and December 8, 2000).
9/11 hijackers Mohamed Atta, Ziad Jarrah, Marwan Alshehhi, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and Nawaf Alhazmi meet to discuss the 9/11 operation at a building known as the “House of Alghamdi” in Kandahar, Afghanistan, according to a statement made by bin al-Shibh in an interview prior to his capture in 2002 (see September 8-11, 2002 and September 11, 2002). Bin al-Shibh will say, “We had a meeting attended by all four pilots including Nawaf Alhazmi, Atta’s right-hand man,” which the Guardian will interpret to mean Alhazmi, and not Hani Hanjour, flew Flight 77, which hit the Pentagon (see (December 2000-January 2001)). (Tremlett 9/9/2002) The 9/11 Commission, based on information obtained from Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) under interrogation, will place Hanjour in Afghanistan in spring 2000, indicating he will arrive some months after this meeting is held, and could not therefore attend it. Please note: information from detainee interrogations is thought to be unreliable due to the methods used to extract it (see June 16, 2004). (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 226) In a substitution for testimony introduced as evidence at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui, KSM will place Hanjour’s arrival at the training camps in Afghanistan in “September or October” of 2000. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia 7/31/2006, pp. 23 )
An FBI timeline compiled shortly after 9/11 will mention that shortly before June 23, 2000, a witness sees hijacker Hani Hanjour in the apartment of Omar al-Bayoumi. Al-Bayoumi is known to have helped hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, and there are allegations he is a Saudi spy. There may be some confusion about the date, since the timeline mentions June 23, 2000 as the date al-Bayoumi moves out of the Parkwood Apartments in San Diego, but in fact he leaves that apartment on June 23, 2001 (see June 23-July 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 70 ) It has also been reported that al-Bayoumi introduces Hani Hanjour to the Muslim community in his San Diego neighborhood in early 2000. (Thornton 9/14/2002) There is evidence Hanjour spends a considerable amount of time in San Diego in 2000 (see (Early 2000-November 2000)). But according to the 9/11 Commission, Hanjour only spends several days in San Diego in December 2000. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 223)
Officially, in 2000, 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour is said to enter the US on December 8, and briefly visit San Diego (see December 8, 2000). However, some reports suggest he may spend a significant amount of time in San Diego earlier in the year. (Williams, Dahlburg, and Reza 9/27/2001; Thornton 9/14/2002)
For example, in the two weeks following 9/11, the FBI will identify him as having lived in San Diego during 2000. (Kelly 9/14/2001; NBC (San Diego) 9/15/2001; Thornton 9/21/2001)
In 2004, court records relating to a local terror probe will include authorities stating that Hanjour, along with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, had regularly dined and prayed with Mohdar Abdullah, a Yemeni university student in San Diego. (Thornton 6/2/2004)
When Alhazmi and Almihdhar attend a San Diego flying school in May 2000 (see May 5 and 10, 2000), they are accompanied by one or even two men called Hani. (KGTV 10 (San Diego) 9/18/2001; Williams, Dahlburg, and Reza 9/27/2001; Lipka 9/28/2001)
A neighbor of Abdussattar Shaikh, a Muslim leader and also undercover FBI asset living in San Diego, later remembers Shaikh having introduced him to a friend called Hani, who he assumes to have been Hanjour. (Brandon 9/30/2001) (Alhazmi and Almihdhar stay with Shaikh during 2000 (see Mid-May-December 2000).) For a short period beginning August 10, another resident at Shaikh’s San Diego house is a Saudi called Yazeed al-Salmi. After 9/11, Al-Salmi will reportedly confide to having known Hanjour and, according to the 9/11 Commission, has “childhood ties” to him. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 222 and 518)
Witnesses see Hanjour in San Diego with suspected Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi at least twice in early 2000 (see Early 2000).
Little else is written about Hanjour’s movements during 2000, but the Washington Post notes that for at least part of the year, he “appears to have been in Saudi Arabia, because it was there that he obtained a student visa to take another English course. He applied in September 2000.” (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001) The 9/11 Commission will claim that Hanjour goes to Afghanistan in spring 2000, where he spends time in al-Qaeda’s Al Farooq training camp. He is then sent to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM) in Karachi, for training in using code words, before returning to Saudi Arabia on June 20, 2000. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 226) However, this account will come mainly from written reports of the interrogation of KSM, with whom the commission has no direct contact. (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 146 and 521) Partly because of the highly coercive interrogation methods used, there will be questions about the reliability of KSM’s information. (New York Times 6/17/2004) According to the 9/11 Commission, the only time Hanjour is in San Diego this year is from December 8-12, before he moves to Arizona. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 223)
Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected Saudi spy, goes to great lengths to help future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar settle in San Diego. Supposedly, al-Bayoumi meets them by chance in a Los Angeles restaurant and encourages them to move to San Diego, but the accounts of the meeting are highly doubtful (see February 1, 2000). The FBI’s “best source” in San Diego will later say that al-Bayoumi “must be an intelligence officer for Saudi Arabia or another foreign power.” A former top FBI official working on the al-Bayoumi investigation claims, “We firmly believed that he had knowledge [of the 9/11 plot], and that his meeting with them that day was more than coincidence.” (Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003)
When Alhazmi and Almihdhar move into apartment 150 in the Parkwood Apartments in San Diego in early February, they indicate on their rental application that they have been staying at al-Bayoumi’s apartment in the same apartment complex since January 15, the day they arrived in the US (see January 15-February 2, 2000). (This would suggest the alleged accidental restaurant meeting never took place.) (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 )
He is the co-signer and guarantor for their rental application, because they do not have established credit. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 )
He pays $1,500 cash for their first month’s rent and security deposit. Some FBI officials claim the hijackers immediately pay him back, others claim they do not. (Isikoff and Thomas 11/24/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003 )
The apartment manager will later claim al-Bayoumi occasionally paid rent for Alhazmi and Almihdhar on other occasions. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/3/2001 )
Shortly after they arrive in San Diego, al-Bayoumi throws a welcoming party to introduce them to the local Muslim community. (Goldstein and Booth 12/29/2001) One attendee will later say an al-Bayoumi party “was a big deal… it meant that everyone accepted them without question.” (Thornton 10/25/2001)
He also introduces hijacker Hani Hanjour to the community a short time later, and Hanjour is seen in his apartment later in the year (see Early 2000). (Thornton 9/14/2002)
Cayson Bin Don, a friend of al-Bayoumi, will later say al-Bayoumi “spent a lot of time at Alhazmi and Almihdhar’s apartment.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/8/2001 )
Al-Bayoumi apparently loans the hijackers his cell phone until they can get phone service in their own apartment. On February 15, 2000, someone trying to call al-Bayoumi on his phone has the call answered by Alhazmi instead. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 516)
He tasks an acquaintance, Mohdar Abdullah, to serve as their translator and help them get driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, information on flight schools, and more. (Thornton 9/14/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003 )
Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar move to San Diego and live there openly. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 ) They move into apartment 150 in the Parkwood Apartments. On their rental application, they indicate they have been staying in Omar al-Bayoumi’s apartment in the same complex since January 15, the day they arrived in the US (see January 15-February 2, 2000). Al-Bayoumi is suspected to be both an advance man and a Saudi spy (see January 15-February 2000). They will stay in that apartment until mid-May 2000, when they move to another place in San Diego (see May 10-Mid-December 2000). Hijacker Hani Hanjour joins them as a roommate in February 2000 but apparently does not stay long. (KGTV 10 (San Diego) 9/18/2001; Thornton 9/21/2001) The hijackers use their real names on their rental agreement (US Congress 9/20/2002) , driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, credit cards (Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002) , car purchase, and bank account. Alhazmi is even listed in the 2000-2001 San Diego phone book. (Lipka 9/28/2001; Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002) Neighbors notice odd behavior: They have no furniture, they are constantly using cell phones on the balcony, constantly playing flight simulator games, keep to themselves, and strange cars and limousines pick them up for short rides in the middle of the night (see February 2000-Early September 2001). (Mcgeary and van Biema 9/24/2001; Cloud 9/24/2001; Goldstein 9/30/2001)
In early April 2000, Arizona FBI agent Ken Williams gets a tip that makes him suspicious that some flight students might be Islamic militants. Williams will begin an investigation based on this tip that will lead to his “Phoenix memo” warning about suspect Middle Easterners training in Arizona flight schools (see July 10, 2001) (Yardley and Thomas 6/19/2002) It appears that Lebanese flight school student Zacaria Soubra has been seen at a shooting range with Abu Mujahid, a white American Muslim who had fought in the Balkans and the Middle East. (Connell 10/28/2001; Sherman 11/2004) Abu Mujahid appears to match Aukai Collins, a white American Muslim who had fought in the Balkans and the Middle East, who also goes by the name Abu Mujahid, and is an FBI informant spying on the Muslim community in the area at the time (see 1998). Collins also claims to have been the informant referred to in the Phoenix memo, which again suggests that Collins was the one at the shooting range with Soubra. (Lempinen 10/17/2002) On April 7, Williams appears at Soubra’s apartment and interviews him. Soubra acts defiant, and tells Williams that he considers the US government and military legitimate targets of Islam. He has photographs of bin Laden on the walls. Williams runs a check on the license plate of Soubra’s car and discovers the car is actually owned by a suspected militant with explosives and car bomb training in Afghanistan who had been held for attempting to enter an airplane cockpit the year before (see November 1999-August 2001). (Graham and Nussbaum 2004, pp. 43-44) On April 17, Williams starts a formal investigation into Soubra. (House 7/24/2003) Williams will be reassigned to work on an arson case and will not be able to get back to work on the Soubra investigation until June 2001 (see April 2000-June 2001). He will release the Phoenix memo one month later. After 9/11, some US officials will suspect Soubra had ties to terrorism. For instance, in 2003, an unnamed official will claim, “Soubra was involved in terrorist-supporting activities, facilitating shelter and employment for people… involved with al-Qaeda.” For a time, he and hijacker Hani Hanjour attend the same mosque, though there is no evidence they ever meet. Soubra’s roommate at the time of Williams’ interview is Ghassan al-Sharbi. In 2002, al-Sharbi will be arrested in Pakistan with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida. While Williams will focus on Soubra, al-Sharbi will also be a target of his memo. (Krikorian 1/24/2003) In 2004, Soubra will be deported to Lebanon after being held for two years. He will deny any connection to Hanjour or terrorism. (Wagner 5/2/2004) Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of the British militant group Al-Muhajiroun, will later admit that Soubra was the leader of Al-Muhajiroun’s branch in Arizona. (Elliott 5/27/2002)
9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar arrive at Sorbi’s Flying Club, a small school in San Diego, and announce that they want to learn to fly Boeing airliners. Alhazmi had previously had a lesson at another nearby flying school (see April 4, 2000). (Goldstein 9/30/2001) They are there with someone named “Hani”—possibly 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour—but only the two of them go up in an airplane. The 9/11 Commission will say that Hanjour is outside the US at this time, although some media reports will place him in San Diego (see (Early 2000-November 2000)). (Lipka 9/28/2001) Instructor Rick Garza says that the dream to fly big jets is the goal of practically every student who comes to the school, but he notices an unusual lack of any basic understanding of aircraft in these two. When he asks Almihdhar to draw the aircraft, Almihdhar draws the wings on backwards. Both speak English poorly, but Almihdhar in particular seems impossible to communicate with. Rather than following the instructions he was given, he would vaguely reply, “Very good. Very nice.” (Brandon 9/30/2001) The two offer extra money to Garza if he will teach them to fly multi-engine Boeing planes, but Garza declines. (Goldstein 9/30/2001) “I told them they had to learn a lot of other things first… It was like Dumb and Dumber. I mean, they were clueless. It was clear to me they weren’t going to make it as pilots.” (Helmore and Vulliamy 10/7/2001 Sources: Rick Garza)
While future 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar live in the house of an FBI informant, Abdussattar Shaikh, the asset continues to have contact with his FBI handler. The handler, Steven Butler, later claims that during the summer, Shaikh mentions the names “Nawaf” and “Khalid” in passing and says that they are renting rooms from him. (Isikoff 9/9/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ; Hettena 7/25/2003; 9/11 Commission 4/23/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 220) In early media reports after 9/11, the two will be said to have moved in around September 2000, but the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will imply that Shaikh lied about this, and they moved in much earlier. Alhazmi stays until December (see December 12, 2000-March 2001); Almihdhar appears to be mostly out of the US after June (see June 10, 2000). (Thornton 9/16/2001; Mollenkamp et al. 9/17/2001; Lipka 9/28/2001; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 157 ) On one occasion, Shaikh tells Butler on the phone he cannot talk because Khalid is in the room. (Isikoff 9/9/2002)
Shaikh Refuses to Reveal Hijackers' Last Names Despite Suspicious Contacts - Shaikh tells Butler Alhazmi and Almihdhar are good, religious Muslims who are legally in the US to visit and attend school. Butler asks Shaikh for their last names, but Shaikh refuses to provide them. Butler is not told that they are pursuing flight training. Shaikh tells Butler that they are apolitical and have done nothing to arouse suspicion. However, according to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, he later admits that Alhazmi has “contacts with at least four individuals [he] knew were of interest to the FBI and about whom [he] had previously reported to the FBI.” Three of these four people are being actively investigated at the time the hijackers are there. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ) The report will mention Osama Mustafa as one, and Shaikh will admit that suspected Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi was a friend. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ; Reza, Connell, and Lopez 7/25/2003) Alhazmi and Shaikh will remain in contact after Alhazmi leaves San Diego in December. Alhazmi will call Shaikh to tell him he intends to take flying lessons in Arizona and that Almihdhar has returned to Yemen. He also will e-mail Shaikh three times; one of the e-mails is signed “Smer,” an apparent attempt to conceal his identity, which Shaikh later says he finds strange. However, Alhazmi will not reply to e-mails Shaikh sends him in February and March of 2001. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 223)
Best Chance to Stop the 9/11 Plot? - The FBI will later conclude that Shaikh is not involved in the 9/11 plot, but it has serious doubts about his credibility. After 9/11 he will give inaccurate information and has an “inconclusive” polygraph examination about his foreknowledge of the 9/11 attack. The FBI will believe he had contact with another of the 9/11 hijackers, Hani Hanjour, but claimed not to recognize him. There will be other “significant inconsistencies” in Shaikh’s statements about the hijackers, including when he first met them and his later meetings with them. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry will conclude that had the asset’s contacts with the hijackers been capitalized upon, it “would have given the San Diego FBI field office perhaps the US intelligence community’s best chance to unravel the September 11 plot.” (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 51 ) The FBI will try to prevent Butler and Shaikh from testifying before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry in October 2002. Butler will end up testifying (see October 9, 2002), but Shaikh will not (see October 5, 2002). (Schmidt 10/11/2002)
While 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi are living with FBI informer Abdussattar Shaikh in San Diego (see May 10-Mid-December 2000), they are apparently visited frequently by hijacker Mohamed Atta, as well as hijacker Hani Hanjour, according to neighbors interviewed after 9/11. (KGTV 10 (San Diego) 9/27/2001; Hettena 9/29/2001; Brandon 9/30/2001; KGTV 10 (San Diego) 10/11/2001; Puit and Kalil 10/26/2001) However, Shaikh will deny Atta’s visits and the FBI will not mention them. (Hettena 9/29/2001) Shaikh will also deny having met Hanjour, but the 9/11 Commission will say that it has “little doubt” Shaikh met Hanjour at least once. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 518) The two San Diego-based hijackers also receive a series of mysterious late night visits at this time (see Mid-May-December 2000).
While in the US, future 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta generally makes phone calls using pay phones with a variety of prepaid calling cards. One day after arriving in New York City on June 3, 2000 (see June 3, 2000), Atta buys a cell phone and calling card at a store in Manhattan. Later in the month, he uses the phone to make more than a dozen calls to al-Qaeda facilitator Ali Abdul Aziz Ali in the Middle East (see June 28-30, 2000). But after about a month, he stops using that phone, and uses pay phones and more difficult to trace prepaid calling cards for his overseas calls. For instance, from February 10 to 12, 2001, he makes a series of calls to his relatives in Egypt (mother, father, sister, and grandfather) from a pay phone in Georgia. At the same time, he generally uses a cell phone to make calls within the US. For instance, he leases a cell phone from January 2001 to the end of May 2001, and he uses others. Other hijackers, like Marwan Alshehhi and Hani Hanjour, also have their own cell phones for calls inside the US. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 69 ; Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 119, 124, 147 ; Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001 ) But the hijackers use pay phones with prepaid calling cards often. Investigators will later determine that the hijackers used at least 133 different prepaid calling cards, making them hard to track. (Bamford 2008, pp. 53)
Yazeed al-Salmi lives with future 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi for about a month in the San Diego house of an FBI informant. Alhazmi has lived in the house with Khalid Almihdhar and FBI informant Abdussattar Shaikh since May 2000 (see Mid-May-December 2000), but Almihdhar left to go overseas in June and did not return to San Diego (see June 10, 2000). Apparently there are no other new roommates for the rest of the time Alhazmi lives at the house until December 2000 except for al-Salmi. Al-Salmi moves in with Alhazmi and Shaikh just three days after arriving in the US on a student visa. Hijacker associate and suspected Saudi spy Omar al-Bayoumi, who nominally reports to al-Salmi’s uncle, Mohammed Ahmed al-Salmi of the Saudi Civil Aviation ministry, helped al-Salmi find the accommodation (see September 1998-July 1999). Curiously, al-Salmi was a childhood friend of 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour in Saudi Arabia. (KGTV 10 (San Diego) 10/11/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 222, 518; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 139 ) In early September, Alhazmi apparently helps al-Salmi cash some checks (see September 5, 2000). After al-Salmi moves out of the house, he moves into a nearby apartment with Modhar Abdullah and others. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 222, 518) After 9/11, there will be reports that both al-Salmi and Abdullah may have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks (see Late August-September 10, 2001).
A total of $1,900 is deposited in 9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi’s Bank of America account from a set of traveler’s checks worth $4,000 that were issued in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on July 16, 2000 to a man named Yazeed al-Salmi. The same day, Alhazmi withdraws $1,900. US investigators will therefore later hypothesize that Alhazmi is just helping al-Salmi cash the checks, since al-Salmi does not open a US bank account of his own until September 11, 2000. Al-Salmi arrived in San Diego on a student visa on August 7, 2000 and moved in with Alhazmi and FBI counterterrorism informant Abdussattar Shaikh three days later, staying for about one month (see August 10-September 2000 and Mid-May-December 2000). After 9/11, the FBI will detain al-Salmi as a material witness and question him because of his contacts with Alhazmi, and he will testify before a grand jury before being deported to Saudi Arabia. However, al-Salmi does not mention the traveler’s checks in the interrogation and the FBI will not find out about them until after he is deported. Also, another associate of the hijackers, Mohdar Abdullah, will later claim that al-Salmi tells him he previously knew hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour as a child in Saudi Arabia (see (Early 2000-November 2000)). When the FBI interviews al-Salmi again, in Saudi Arabia in 2004, he will claim he no longer remembers the $1,900 transaction, and the FBI will fail to ask him about his alleged childhood ties to Hanjour. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 222, 518; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 139 ; Burger 8/22/2004) There are later indications that al-Salmi and some of his associates have some foreknowledge of 9/11 (see Late August-September 10, 2001).
Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour applies for a US tourist/business visa at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Hanjour, who has already spent a good deal of time in the US (see October 3, 1991-February 1992, Spring 1996, October 1996-December 1997, and 1998), uses a passport issued on July 24, 2000. His application is incomplete, as he says he is a student, but fails to give his school’s name and address. After his application is screened, he is referred to a consular officer for an interview. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 13, 174-5 ) This consular officer is Shayna Steinger, who issues a total of 12 visas to the 9/11 hijackers (see July 1, 2000). (9/11 Commission 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State) 1/30/2003) Hanjour’s application is denied as he says he wants to stay in the US for three years, raising concerns he might become an immigrant. Hanjour also says he wants to attend flight school in the US, changing his status to “student” from “tourist” after arrival. However, this is another reason Steinger denies the visa application, “because he has been in the States long enough to decide what he wanted.” Hanjour will return to the consulate two weeks later and successfully obtain a visa from Steinger using a different application (see September 25, 2000). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 13, 174-5 ) Steinger will later give a series of conflicting explanations about why she reversed her decision and issued the visa (see August 1, 2002, January 20, 2003, and December 30, 2003). After 9/11, a former consular official named Michael Springmann will say that while serving in Jeddah during the Soviet-Afghan War he was sometimes pressured to reverse denials of visa applications by the CIA for apparent mujaheddin (see September 1987-March 1989).
Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour again applies for a US visa at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. An application two weeks earlier had been rejected (see September 10, 2000), but he is successful this time. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 13-14 ) The application is dealt with by consular officer Shayna Steinger, who issues a total of 12 visas to the 9/11 hijackers (see July 1, 2000) and who rejected Hanjour’s previous application. (9/11 Commission 12/30/2002, pp. 2; Office of the Inspector General (US Department of State) 1/30/2003) Hanjour apparently applies for a student visa, not a tourist visa, as he had done previously, saying he wishes to attend a language school in California. Steinger will later recall that Hanjour, or someone acting on his behalf, submits an I-20 INS school enrollment form, the documentation required for the visa. She will say: “It came to me, you know, at the end of the day to look at it. I saw he had an I-20 and it [his visa] was issued.” This apparently allows Hanjour to overcome his previous rejection, as the two applications are treated as one case. The INS had approved a change of status for Hanjour to attend the same school in 1996, but Steinger does not know of this. She will later say that, if she had known, she might have denied the visa. Although a photocopy of a student visa in Hanjour’s passport will later be made public, Steinger now enters the visa in the State Department’s records as a business/tourist visa. (Note: the visa in Hanjour’s passport may be changed upon his entry to the US (see December 8, 2000).) (9/11 Commission 12/30/2002, pp. 13-14, 38) Steinger will later give conflicting accounts of her issuance of this visa. She will first falsely claim to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that she issued the visa under the Visa Express program and that Hanjour was not even present during the first application on September 10 (see August 1, 2002), but will later change her story for the State Department’s inspector general (see January 20, 2003) and the 9/11 Commission (see December 30, 2003). After 9/11, a former consular official named Michael Springmann will say that while serving in Jeddah during the Soviet-Afghan War he was sometimes pressured to reverse denials of visa applications by the CIA for apparent mujaheddin (see September 1987-March 1989).
Global Objectives, a British banking compliance company, identifies fifteen of the 9/11 hijackers as high-risk people and establishes profiles for them. The hijackers are regarded as high-risk for loans because they are linked to Osama bin Laden, suspected terrorists, or associates of terrorists. The list of high-risk people maintained by Global Objectives is available to dozens of banks and the hijackers’ files contain their dates and places of birth, aliases, and associates. It is unclear which fifteen hijackers are considered high-risk. It is also unknown if any Western intelligence agencies access this database before 9/11. (Wilson 2/21/2002) According to the 9/11 Commission, US intelligence is only aware of three of the 9/11 hijackers, Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, and Khalid Almihdhar, before the attacks. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 181-2) However, media reports will suggest US intelligence agencies may have been aware of another six: Ziad Jarrah (see January 30, 2000); Marwan Alshehhi (see March 1999 and January-February 2000); Mohamed Atta (see January-May 2000 and January-February 2000); and Ahmed Alghamdi, Satam al Suqami, and Hamza Alghamdi (see September 2000 and Spring 2001).
Hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour opens an account with Citibank in Deira, Dubai, with a deposit of $3,000. Hanjour’s movements between September 25, 2000, when he obtained a US visa in Jeddah, and this date are unclear, but he flies to the US three days later (see December 8, 2000). (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 13-14 ) According to the 9/11 Commission, plot facilitator Ali Abdul Aziz Ali gave him the initial $3,000 and later deposits another $5,000 in the account. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 138 ) However, these deposits will not be mentioned at a military hearing to determine Ali’s combat status, although other transactions between Ali and the hijackers will be (see March 30, 2007). (US Department of Defense 4/12/2007 ) Hanjour uses the money on this account, together with $9,600 that is deposited in his account with the Saudi British Bank, to pay some of his expenses in the US. Hijackers Fayez Ahmed Banihammed (see June 25, 2001), Marwan Alshehhi (see July 1999-November 2000), and possibly Mohamed Atta (see Late October 2001) also have accounts in the UAE through which money is passed to fund the plot. Khalid Almihdhar and Abdulaziz Alomari (see September 7, 2001) also draw on money from Saudi bank accounts. (US Congress 9/26/2002; 9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 138 )
Future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour re-enters the US, flying from Dubai, via Paris to Cincinnati, then on to San Diego, where he joins fellow hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 223) Three months earlier, Hanjour had applied for a four-week course in English at the ELS Language Center in Oakland, where he had studied in 1996 (see April 30-Early September 1996). Using his conditional acceptance letter from ELS, he applied in Saudi Arabia for a student visa to enter the US, which was granted by the US consulate in Jeddah (see September 10, 2000 and September 25, 2000). However, he never turns up for his course. (Associated Press 10/11/2001; Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001; Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002) Hanjour applied for a student visa in Jeddah, but, for some reason, appears to have been granted a tourist visa. However, upon entry the visa is changed to a student visa. The 9/11 Commission will attempt to interview the primary inspector who makes this change. However, it will be unable to do so. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 14, 38 )
9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi move together from San Diego to Mesa, Arizona, just outside Phoenix. (US News and World Report 6/20/2004) While there, Hanjour spends time training at Arizona Aviation flight school, which he previously attended in January 1998 (see 1998). According to the 9/11 Commission, “He wanted to train on multi-engine planes, but had difficulties because his English was not good enough. The instructor advised him to discontinue but Hanjour said he could not go home without completing the training.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 226) He also attends the JetTech flight school in Phoenix (see January-February 2001). In March 2001, Hanjour moves to Paterson, New Jersey, where he rents an apartment with Salem Alhazmi (see March 2001-September 1, 2001).
In January 2001, the Arizona flight school JetTech alerts the FAA about hijacker Hani Hanjour. No one at the school suspects Hanjour of terrorist intent, but they tell the FAA he lacks both the English and flying skills necessary for the commercial pilot’s license he has already obtained. For instance, he had taken classes at the University of Arizona but failed his English classes with a 0.26 grade point average. A JetTech flight school manager “couldn’t believe he had a commercial license of any kind with the skills that he had.” A former employee says, “I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all.” They also note he is an exceptionally poor student who does not seem to care about passing his courses. (Yardley 5/4/2002; CBS News 5/10/2002) An FAA official named John Anthony actually sits next to Hanjour in class and observes his skills. He suggests the use of a translator to help Hanjour pass, but the flight school points out that goes “against the rules that require a pilot to be able to write and speak English fluently before they even get their license.” (Associated Press 5/10/2002) The FAA verifies that Hanjour’s 1999 pilot’s license is legitimate (see April 15, 1999), but takes no other action. However, his license should have been rejected because it had already expired in late 1999 when he failed to take a manadatory medical test. (Kelley 9/15/2001; CBS News 5/10/2002) An Arizona FAA inspector later says, “There should have been a stop right then and there.” He will claim that federal law would have required Hanjour to be re-examined. (Associated Press 6/13/2002) In February, Hanjour begins advanced simulator training, “a far more complicated task than he had faced in earning a commercial license.” (Yardley and Thomas 6/19/2002) The flight school again alerts the FAA about this and gives a total of five alerts about Hanjour, but no further action on him is taken. The FBI is not told about Hanjour. (CBS News 5/10/2002) Ironically, in July 2001, Arizona FBI agent Ken Williams will recommend in a memo that the FBI liaison with local flight schools and keep track of suspicious activity by Middle Eastern students (see July 10, 2001).
9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour practices on a Boeing 737-200 simulator for a total of 21 hours at the JetTech International flight school in Phoenix, Arizona. Hanjour also attends ground school and pays just under $7,500 for the training. Despite only completing 21 of his originally scheduled 34 hours of simulator training, according to the FBI this is the best-trained of the four hijacker pilots (see Spring-Summer 2001). However, an instructor comments: “Student made numerous errors during performance… including a lack of understanding of some basic concepts… Some of the concepts involved in large jet systems cannot be fully comprehended by someone with only small prop plane experience.” (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia; Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ) The school contacts the FAA to warn it of Hanjour’s poor English and flying skills (see January-February 2001).
According to an associate of the 9/11 hijackers, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, and flight school owner Rudi Dekkers, the hijackers have more training on large jets than the FBI will disclose. The FBI will say that the four hijacker pilots never fly real large jets before 9/11 and have a total of approximately 17 sessions on large aircraft simulators, mostly on older models:
Both Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi each take two sessions lasting 90 minutes on a Boeing 727 simulator and one session on a simulator for a Boeing 767, the type of aircraft they fly on 9/11 (see December 29-31, 2000);
Ziad Jarrah, who flies a Boeing 757 on 9/11, has five sessions on 727s and 737s (see December 15, 2000-January 8, 2001);
Hani Hanjour, who flies a Boeing 757 on 9/11, practices for a total of 21 hours on a Boeing 737-200 simulator (see February 8-March 12, 2001).
When he learns what the FBI believes is the extent of the hijackers’ training, bin al-Shibh will complain in a fax sent to a reporter after 9/11: “How do aviation experts evaluate the skill with which the aircraft were flown, especially the Pentagon attack—accurate and professional as it was? Is it credible that the executers had never before flown a Boeing? Is it credible they only had some lessons on small twin-engine aircrafts and some lessons on simulators?” Referring to the period in early 2001 after the pilots spend a few hours practicing on simulators, bin al-Shibh will say, “What they needed was more flying hours, more training on simulators of large commercial planes such as Boeing 747s and Boeing 767s, as well as studying security precautions in all airports.” However, apparently bin al-Shibh does not mention exactly when or where such additional training took place, if in fact it did. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 24-6, 38, 134) Interviewed two days after 9/11, Dekkers, at whose flight school Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi initially trained (see July 6-December 19, 2000), will comment, “After the training they had here they went to another flight school in Pompano Beach and they had jet training there, simulator or big planes, but there is where they conducted the training to do what they had to do.” Dekkers will say that he has heard this “from several directions.” However, the Pompano Beach school is not named. (Dekkers 9/13/2001)
After living together in Phoenix since December 2000, 9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi move to Falls Church, Virginia, where imam Anwar al-Awlaki preaches. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002; 9/11 Commission 1/26/2004) They live only a few blocks from where two nephews of Osama bin Laden with ties to terrorism go to work (see February-September 11, 1996 and June 1, 2004). They continue to live there off and on until around August. They begin attending the Dar al Hijrah mosque. (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002) When they and hijacker Khalid Almihdhar lived in San Diego in early 2000, they attended a mosque there led by al-Awlaki. This imam moved to Falls Church in January 2001, and now the hijackers attend his sermons at the Dar al Hijrah mosque. Some later suspect that al-Awlaki is part of the 9/11 plot because of their similar moves, and other reasons:
The FBI says al-Awlaki had closed door meetings with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar in 2000 while all three of them were living in San Diego (see February-August 2000). (US Congress 7/24/2003 )
Police later find the phone number of al-Awlaki’s mosque when they search “would-be twentieth hijacker” Ramzi bin al-Shibh’s apartment in Germany. (US Congress 7/24/2003 )
The FBI was investigating al-Awlaki for ties to Islamic militant groups in early 2000 (see June 1999-March 2000).
A neighbor of al-Awlaki later claims that, in the first week of August 2001, al-Awlaki knocked on his door and told him he is leaving for Kuwait: “He came over before he left and told me that something very big was going to happen, and that he had to be out of the country when it happened” (see Early August 2001). (Isikoff and Klaidman 7/28/2003)
US officials will allow al-Awlaki to leave the US twice in 2002, but by 2008 they will conclude that he is linked to al-Qaeda attacks (see Early September 2006-December 2007 and February 27, 2008).
9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Salem Alhazmi rent a one-room apartment in Paterson, New Jersey. Hanjour signs the lease. Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Saeed Alghamdi, and Mohamed Atta are also seen coming and going by neighbors. One unnamed hijacker has to be told by a neighbor how to screw in a light bulb. (Weiner and Weiser 9/27/2001; Goldstein 9/30/2001; Associated Press 10/7/2001) The 9/11 Commission’s account of this differs from previous press accounts, and has Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi (instead of his brother Salem) first moving to Paterson in mid-May. Salem Alhazmi, Majed Moqed, Abdulaziz Alomari, Khalid Almihdhar, and probably Ahmed Alghamdi are all seen living there as well during the summer. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 230) Other reports have Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi living periodically in Falls Church, Virginia, over nearly the exact same time period, from March through August 2001 (see March 2001 and After). During this time, Mohamed Atta and other hijackers live in Wayne, New Jersey, a town only one mile from Paterson (see (Before September 2000-12 Months Later)), and Atta purchases a plane ticket to Spain from Apollo Travel in Paterson in early July (see July 8-19, 2001).” (Maddux 9/27/2001; Chadwick 9/27/2001; CNN 10/29/2001; Berry 9/19/2002)
9/11 hijackers Ahmed Alghamdi, Majed Moqed, Hani Hanjour, and Nawaf Alhazmi stay for four days in the Fairfield Motor Inn, Fairfield, Connecticut. They meet with Eyad Alrababah, a Jordanian living in Bridgeport, who has been charged with providing false identification to at least 50 illegal aliens. This meeting takes place about six weeks before the FBI says Moqed and Alghamdi enter the US. (Associated Press 3/6/2002; US Congress 9/26/2002) Alrababah also helps Alhamzi and Hanjour rent an apartment in Virginia (see Early April-Early May, 2001).
According to the 9/11 Commission, soon after settling in the area (see March 2001-September 1, 2001), 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour starts receiving “ground instruction” at Air Fleet Training Systems, a flight school in Teterboro, New Jersey. While there, he flies the Hudson Corridor: “a low-altitude ‘hallway’ along the Hudson River that passes New York landmarks like the World Trade Center.” His instructor refuses a second request to fly the Corridor, “because of what he considered Hanjour’s poor piloting skills.” Soon after, Hanjour switches to Caldwell Flight Academy in Fairfield, New Jersey, about 25 miles from lower Manhattan, from where he rents small aircraft several times during June and July. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 242) In the immediate aftermath of 9/11, Caldwell’s owner will confirm that several suspects sought by the FBI, reportedly including hijacker Mohamed Atta, had rented planes from him, though when they did so is unstated. A search of the Lexis Nexus database indicates there are no media accounts of any witnesses recalling Hanjour or any of the other hijackers attending these schools. (Rudolph, Coscarelli, and Sherman 9/24/2001; Langton and Holliday 9/25/2001)
Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour rent an apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, for about a month, with the help of Eyad Alrababah, a man whom they met at a local mosque. The mosque is run by Anwar al-Awlaki, an associate of Alhazmi’s from San Diego who was investigated by the FBI over terrorism suspicions (see March 2001 and After). Alhazmi and Hanjour had previously lived in Phoenix, Arizona (see December 12, 2000-March 2001) and will later move to Paterson, New Jersey (see March 2001-September 1, 2001). Alrababah will later say that he just happened to meet them after a service in the mosque, when they mentioned they were looking for an apartment and he had a friend who had one to rent. However, given al-Awlaki’s previous association with Alhazmi, some FBI agents will later doubt this and suspect that al-Awlaki told Alrababah to help the hijackers. The 9/11 Commission will comment, “We share that suspicion, given the remarkable coincidence of al-Awlaki’s prior relationship with Alhazmi.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 230)
9/11 hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi is stopped by an Oklahoma police officer for speeding. He is stopped while traveling east on interstate highway 40, near Clinton, Oklahoma. It is likely he is with Hani Hanjour and the two are driving across the US, because they moved out of an apartment in Arizona the day before and will be seen in Virginia several days later (see December 12, 2000-March 2001 and March 2001 and After). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 131-132 ; Clay and Ellis 1/20/2002) Alhazmi’s license information is run through a computer to determine whether there are any warrants for his arrest. There are none, so he is issued a ticket and sent on his way. He is driving the Toyota Corolla that he bought in San Diego the year before (see March 25, 2000). The CIA has known that Alhazmi is an al-Qaeda operative possibly living in the US since March 2000, but has failed to share this knowledge with other agencies. (Clay and Ellis 1/20/2002; Isikoff and Klaidman 6/2/2002) Police do not check his immigration status, which would require a call to an Law Enforcement Support Center hotline. Had such a call been made, it would have revealed he had been in the US illegally since January 2001. (US Congress 9/20/2002; Zeller 3/16/2004) This incident is added to the NCIC, a widely used nationwide police database (see September 5, 2001). (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 131 )
While staying in a flat in Alexandria, Virginia (see Early April-Early May, 2001), 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour tell two roommates that they had thought of going to Afghanistan for jihad. According to the 9/11 Commission, “The al-Qaeda operatives spent little time with their roommates, but did mention at one point that they had considered going to Afghanistan for jihad.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 523) In fact, Alhazmi, an al-Qaeda veteran, has already spent time in Afghanistan (see 1993-1999). Hanjour may also have traveled to Afghanistan already (see (Early 2000-November 2000)). Alhazmi made similar comments when he lived in San Diego (see (Spring 2000)).
The 13 hijackers commonly known as the “muscle” allegedly first arrive in the US. The muscle provides the brute force meant to control the hijacked passengers and protect the pilots. (Goldstein 9/30/2001) Yet, according to the 9/11 Commission, these men “were not physically imposing,” with the majority of them between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 7 tall, “and slender in build.” (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004, pp. 8) According to FBI Director Mueller, they all pass through Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and their travel was probably coordinated from abroad by Khalid Almihdhar. (US Congress 9/26/2002) However, some information contradicts their official arrival dates:
April 23: Waleed Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami arrive in Orlando, Florida. Suqami in fact arrived before February 2001. A man named Waleed Alshehri lived with a man named Ahmed Alghamdi in Virginia and Florida between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). (Telegraph 9/20/2001) Alshehri appears quite Americanized in the summer of 2001, frequently talking with an apartment mate about football and baseball, even identifying himself a fan of the Florida Marlins baseball team. (Associated Press 9/21/2001)
May 2: Majed Moqed and Ahmed Alghamdi arrive in Washington. Both actually arrived by mid-March 2001. A man named Ahmed Alghamdi lived with a man named Waleed Alshehri in Florida and Virginia between 1997 and 2000. However, it is not clear whether they were the hijackers or just people with the same name (see 1999). (Telegraph 9/20/2001) Alghamdi apparently praises Osama bin Laden to Customs officials while entering the country and Moqed uses an alias (see May 2, 2001).
May 28: Mohand Alshehri, Hamza Alghamdi, and Ahmed Alnami allegedly arrive in Miami, Florida. Alnami may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see April 21, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities. The precise state of US knowledge about the indicator at this time is not known (see Around February 1993). The CIA will learn of it no later than 2003, but will still not inform immigration officials then (see February 14, 2003). According to other reports, however, both Mohand Alshehri and Hamza Alghamdi may have arrived by January 2001 (see January or July 28, 2001).
June 8: Ahmed Alhaznawi and Wail Alshehri arrive in Miami, Florida. Alhaznawi may have a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see Before November 12, 2000), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
June 27: Fayez Banihammad and Saeed Alghamdi arrive in Orlando, Florida.
June 29: Salem Alhazmi and Abdulaziz Alomari allegedly arrive in New York. According to other reports, however, Alhazmi arrived before February 2001. Alhazmi has a suspicious indicator of terrorist affiliation in his passport (see June 16, 2001), but this is apparently not noticed by US authorities.
After entering the US (or, perhaps, reentering), the hijackers arriving at Miami and Orlando airports settle in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida, area along with Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, and Ziad Jarrah. The hijackers, arriving in New York and Virginia, settle in the Paterson, New Jersey, area along with Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour. (US Congress 9/26/2002) Note the FBI’s early conclusion that 11 of these muscle men “did not know they were on a suicide mission.” (Rose 10/14/2001) CIA Director Tenet’s later claim that they “probably were told little more than that they were headed for a suicide mission inside the United States” (US Congress 6/18/2002) and reports that they did not know the exact details of the 9/11 plot until shortly before the attack (CBS News 10/9/2002) are contradicted by video confessions made by all of them in March 2001 (see (December 2000-March 2001)).
Some 9/11 hijackers work out at various gyms, presumably getting in shape for the hijacking. Ziad Jarrah appears to train intensively from May to August, and Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi also take exercising very seriously. (Serrano and Dahlburg 9/20/2001; Golden, Mos, and Yardley 9/23/2001) However, these three are presumably pilots who would need the training the least. For instance, Jarrah’s trainer says, “If he wasn’t one of the pilots, he would have done quite well in thwarting the passengers from attacking.” (Serrano and Dahlburg 9/20/2001) From September 2-6, Flight 77 hijackers Hani Hanjour, Majed Moqed, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi show up several times at a Gold’s Gym in Greenbelt, Maryland, signing the register with their real names and paying in cash. According to a Gold’s regional manager, they “seemed not to really know what they were doing” when using the weight machines. (Masters, Smith, and Shear 9/19/2001; Serrano and Dahlburg 9/20/2001; Crary 9/21/2001; Frank 9/23/2001) Three others—Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami— “simply clustered around a small circuit of machines, never asking for help and, according to a trainer, never pushing any weights. ‘You know, I don’t actually remember them ever doing anything… They would just stand around and watch people.’” (Golden, Mos, and Yardley 9/23/2001) Those three also had a one month membership in Florida—whether they ever actually worked out there is unknown. (Serrano and Dahlburg 9/20/2001)
While most evidence places future 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour on the East Coast in the summer of 2001, Hanjour may undergo some flight training in Phoenix, Arizona, as well. Hanjour trained at the Sawyer School of Aviation previously (see 1998), and there is some evidence he returns there. One school document records Hanjour’s name for use of a flight simulator on June 23, 2001, though his name does not appear on payment records. Faisal al-Salmi, Rayed Abdullah, and Lotfi Raissi also use the flight simulator this day. Al-Salmi will later be convicted of lying about his associations with Hanjour (see February 15, 2002). Abdullah had moved with Hanjour from Florida in 1997, and is known for giving extremist speeches at a Phoenix mosque (see October 1996-Late April 1999). Raissi will later be suspected of involvement in the 9/11 plot, then cleared (see September 21, 2001). There are also indications that Hanjour signs up to use a flight simulator in August with three other Muslim men, including al-Salmi. One Sawyer employee is fairly certain she sees Hanjour during the summer. Another witness sees Hanjour with al-Salmi elsewhere in Phoenix. The 9/11 Commission will note that the evidence of Hanjour training in Phoenix during the summer is not definitive, but “the FBI’s Phoenix office believes it is plausible that Hanjour return[s] to Arizona for additional training.” (Thomas 5/24/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 529) On July 10, 2001, Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum to FBI headquarters urging a nationwide check on Middle Eastern students at flight schools (see July 10, 2001), but apparently neither Williams nor anyone else actually conducts any kind of check on Phoenix flight schools at this time (see July 10-September 11, 2001).
9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour attempts to obtain pilot’s certification to fly at night, but is unsuccessful as he fails the test. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 67 ) More details, such as the location of the airfield where the test was taken, are not known, but Hanjour’s flying skills were previously said to be poor (see January-February 2001).
All the hijackers based in New Jersey open at least one bank account there:
Hani Hanjour opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on June 27, 2001;
He opens another account with the same bank three days later, when Nawaf Alhazmi also opens one;
Ahmed Alghamdi, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Majed Moqed open accounts with the Dime Savings Bank on July 9, 2001;
Khalid Almihdhar opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 18, 2001. He closes it on August 31;
Salem Alhazmi opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 21, 2001;
Abdulaziz Alomari opens an account with the Hudson United Bank on July 26, 2001;
Khalid Almihdhar opens an account with the First Union National Bank on August 22, 2001 with a $50 deposit. He changes his contact address on September 5;
Hani Hanjour opens an account with First Union National Bank on August 23, 2001 with a $50 deposit. He then attempts to withdraw $5,000 on September 5 and $4,900 from it on September 7, despite it containing nothing but the original $50. Unable to make the withdrawal, he cashes a $20 check instead. Hanjour closes the account the next day. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ) These hijackers will subsequently fly on three of the planes on 9/11. In its Terrorist Financing monograph the 9/11 Commission will note: “Among other things they used the debit cards to pay for hotel rooms—activity that would have enabled the FBI to locate them, had the FBI been able to get the transaction records fast enough. Moreover, Alhazmi used his debit card on August 27 to buy tickets for himself… and fellow Flight 77 hijacker Salem Alhazmi. If the FBI had found either Almihdhar or Nawaf Alhazmi, it could have found the other. They not only shared a common bank but frequently were together when conducting transactions. After locating Almihdhar and Alhazmi, the FBI could have potentially linked them through financial records to the other Flight 77 hijackers… Nawaf Alhazmi and Flight 77 pilot Hani Hanjour had opened separate savings accounts at the same small New Jersey bank at the same time and both gave the same address. On July 9, 2001, the other Flight 77 muscle hijacker, Majed Moqed, opened an account at another small New Jersey bank at the same time as Nawaf Alhazmi, and used the same address. Given timely access to the relevant records and sufficient time to conduct a follow-up investigation, the FBI could have shown that Hani Hanjour, Majed Moqed, and Salem al Hazmi were connected to potential terrorist operatives Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi.” (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 58-59, 141 ) The hijackers also open several other bank accounts (see June 28-July 7, 2000).
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; Hanley 6/25/2003; Lance 2006, pp. 372-3; Kelly 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; Kelly 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 ; Burger and Bennett 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 ; Kelly 9/11/2006)
Phoenix, Arizona, FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum warning about suspicious activities involving a group of Middle Eastern men taking flight training lessons in Arizona. The memo is titled: “Zakaria Mustapha Soubra; IT-OTHER (Islamic Army of the Caucasus),” because it focuses on Zakaria Soubra, a Lebanese flight student in Prescott, Arizona, and his connection with a terror group in Chechnya that has ties to al-Qaeda. It is subtitled: “Osama bin Laden and Al-Muhjiroun supporters attending civil aviation universities/colleges in Arizona.” (Behar 5/22/2002; House 7/24/2003) Williams’ memo is based on an investigation of Sorba that Williams had begun in 2000 (see April 2000), but he had trouble pursuing because of the low priority the Arizona FBI office gave terror investigations (see April 2000-June 2001). Additionally, Williams had been alerted to suspicions about radical militants and aircraft at least three other times (see October 1996; 1998; November 1999-August 2001). In the memo, Williams does the following:
Names nine other suspect students from Pakistan, India, Kenya, Algeria, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia. (Schrom 10/1/2002) Hijacker Hani Hanjour, attending flight school in Arizona in early 2001 and probably continuing into the summer of 2001 (see Summer 2001), is not one of the students, but, as explained below, it seems two of the students know him. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 ; Smith 7/25/2003)
Notes that he interviewed some of these students, and heard some of them make hostile comments about the US. Additionally, he noticed that they were suspiciously well informed about security measures at US airports. (Schrom 10/1/2002)
Notes an increasing, “inordinate number of individuals of investigative interest” taking flight lessons in Arizona. (Schrom 10/1/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 )
Suspects that some of the ten people he has investigated are connected to al-Qaeda. (US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 ) One person on the list, Ghassan al Sharbi, will be arrested in Pakistan in March 2002 with al-Qaeda leader Abu Zubaida (see March 28, 2002). Al Sharbi attended a flight school in Prescott, Arizona. He also apparently attended the training camps in Afghanistan and swore loyalty to bin Laden in the summer of 2001. He apparently knows Hani Hanjour in Arizona (see October 1996-Late April 1999). He also is the roommate of Soubra, the main target of the memo. (Krikorian 1/24/2003; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 521)
Discovers that one of them was communicating through an intermediary with Abu Zubaida. This apparently is a reference to Hamed al Sulami, who had been telephoning a Saudi imam known to be Zubaida’s spiritual advisor. Al Sulami is an acquaintance of Hanjour in Arizona (see October 1996-Late April 1999). (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 520-521, 529)
Discusses connections between several of the students and a radical group called Al-Muhajiroun. (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002) This group supported bin Laden, and issued a fatwa, or call to arms, that included airports on a list of acceptable terror targets. (Solomon 5/22/2002) Soubra, the main focus of the memo, is a member of Al-Muhajiroun and an outspoken radical. He met with Sheikh Omar Bakri Mohammed, the leader of Al-Muhajiroun in Britain, and started an Arizona chapter of the organization. After 9/11, some US officials will suspect that Soubra has ties to al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. He will be held two years, then deported to Lebanon in 2004. (Connell 10/28/2001; Krikorian 1/24/2003; Wagner 5/2/2004; Sherman 11/2004) Though Williams doesn’t include it in his memo, in the summer of 1998, Bakri publicized a fax sent by bin Laden to him that listed al-Qaeda’s four objectives in fighting the US. The first objective was “bring down their airliners.” (see Summer 1998). (Connell 10/28/2001)
Warns of a possible “effort by Osama bin Laden to send students to the US to attend civil aviation universities and colleges” (Behar 5/22/2002) , so they can later hijack aircraft. (Schrom 10/1/2002)
Recommends that the “FBI should accumulate a listing of civil aviation universities and colleges around the country. FBI field offices with these types of schools in their area should establish appropriate liaison. FBI [headquarters] should discuss this matter with other elements of the US intelligence community and task the community for any information that supports Phoenix’s suspicions.” (House 7/24/2003) (The FBI has already done this, but because of poor FBI communications, Williams is not aware of the report.)
Recommends that the FBI ask the State Department to provide visa data on flight school students from Middle Eastern countries, which will facilitate FBI tracking efforts. (Risen 5/4/2002)
The memo is addressed to the following FBI Agents:
Dave Frasca, chief of the Radical Fundamentalist Unit (RFU) at FBI headquarters;
Elizabeth Harvey Matson, Mark Connor and Fred Stremmel, Intelligence Operations Specialists in the RFU;
Rod Middleton, acting chief of the Usama bin Laden Unit (UBLU);
Jennifer Maitner, an Intelligence Operations Specialist in the UBLU;
Jack Cloonan, an agent on the New York FBI’s bin Laden unit, the I-49 squad; (see January 1996 and Spring 2000).
Michael S. Butsch, an agent on another New York FBI squad dealing with other Sunni terrorists. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 7/10/2001 ; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 )
However, the memo is not uploaded into the FBI’s information system until the end of the month and is apparently not received by all these people (see July 27, 2001 and after). Williams also shares some concerns with the CIA (see (July 27, 2001)). (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002) One anonymous government official who has seen the memo says, “This was as actionable a memo as could have been written by anyone.” (Insight 5/27/2002) However, the memo is merely marked “routine,” rather than “urgent.” It is generally ignored, not shared with other FBI offices, and the recommendations are not taken. One colleague in New York replies at the time that the memo is “speculative and not very significant.” (Schrom 10/1/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. 135 ) Williams is unaware of many FBI investigations and leads that could have given weight to his memo. Authorities later claim that Williams was only pursuing a hunch, but one familiar with classified information says, “This was not a vague hunch. He was doing a case on these guys.” (Mercury News (San Jose) 5/23/2002)
On July 10, 2001, Phoenix FBI agent Ken Williams sends a memorandum to FBI headquarters urging a nationwide check on Middle Eastern students at flight schools (see July 10, 2001), but apparently neither Williams nor anyone else actually conducts any kind of check on Phoenix flight schools at this time. Phoenix flight school managers will later claim that the FBI does not ask them for tips on suspicious students before 9/11. A Sawyer School manager apparently had suspicions about some of his students (though he does not mention alleged Flight 77 pilot Hani Hanjour specifically). He later will say that had he known the FBI was concerned that some students might be Islamic militants, “I would have called someone.” Another flight school manager claims he has a good relationship with the FBI and is surprised he is not asked about Williams’s concerns. He will complain, “Should flight schools be clairvoyant?” (Thomas 5/24/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 529) In fact, although Hanjour left Arizona in March 2001 and lived on the East Coast after that time, there is evidence he comes back for some flight training in the Phoenix area in June and August 2001, including at the Sawyer School (see Summer 2001). The 9/11 Commission will later note that the evidence of Hanjour training in Phoenix during the summer is not definitive, but “the FBI’s Phoenix office believes it is plausible that Hanjour return[s] to Arizona for additional training.” (Thomas 5/24/2002; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 529) It does not appear that Williams or any other FBI official checks flight schools anywhere else in Arizona before 9/11.
9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour rents an aircraft from Caldwell Flight Academy in New Jersey and flies to Montgomery Airpark in Maryland. The route he takes means that he flies near to Washington. He is accompanied by another man the 9/11 Commission will suggest is hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi, whose credit card is used to pay for the aircraft rental, as well as fuel in Maryland. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 242; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 67 )
At least six 9/11 hijackers, including all of those who boarded Flight 77, live in Laurel, Maryland, from about this time. They reportedly include Hani Hanjour, Majed Moqed, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi. Laurel, Maryland, is home to a Muslim imam named Moataz Al-Hallak who teaches at a local Islamic school and has been linked to bin Laden. He has testified three times before a grand jury investigating bin Laden. NSA expert James Bamford later states, “The terrorist cell that eventually took over the airliner that crashed into the Pentagon ended up living, working, planning and developing all their activities in Laurel, Maryland, which happens to be the home of the NSA. So they were actually living alongside NSA employees as they were plotting all these things.” (Masters, Smith, and Shear 9/19/2001; Bamford 6/21/2002)
9/11 hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour is pulled over for speeding on South George Mason Drive in Arlington, Virginia, for going 50-55 miles per hour in a 30 mph zone. He is driving a Chevrolet van rented two days before from Borough Jeep Chrysler in Wayne, New Jersey. He has a Florida driver’s license that gives his address as Miramar, Florida, where he lived in the mid-1990s (see Spring 1996). (Feyerick and Hirschkorn 9/26/2001; CNN 1/9/2002; Roig-Franzia and Davis 1/9/2002; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ) However, according to the 9/11 Commission, he did not have a Florida driver’s license, although he did have a Florida ID card. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 32 ) Three weeks after the stop, Hanjour sends Arlington General District Court a money order for the $70 and $30 court costs. (Roig-Franzia and Davis 1/9/2002) Three other plot leaders are also stopped for speeding in the US (see April 1, 2001).
Hijackers Hani Hanjour and Khalid Almihdhar meet Luis Martinez-Flores, an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, in a 7-Eleven parking lot in Falls Church, Virginia. Martinez-Flores is paid $100 cash to accompany the two to a local Department of Motor Vehicles office and sign forms attesting to their permanent residence in Virginia. Given new state identity cards, the cards are used the next day to get Virginia identity cards for several (five to seven) additional hijackers, including Abdulaziz Alomari, Ahmed Alghamdi, Majed Moqed, and Salem Alhazmi. (Arizona Daily Star 9/28/2001; Goldstein 9/30/2001; Wall Street Journal 10/16/2001)
After being fined for speeding the day before (see August 1, 2001), 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour fails a test to obtain a Virginia driver’s license. Hanjour already has an Arizona driving license and an international driving license. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 32, 44 ) According to the Virginia police, Hanjour also has a Florida driver’s license, although the 9/11 Commission will dispute this (see August 1, 2001).
The lead hijackers meet in Las Vegas for a summit a few weeks before 9/11. Investigators will believe that this is the “most crucial planning in the United States,” but will not understand why the hijackers choose Vegas, since they are all living on the East Coast at this time (see March 2001-September 1, 2001 and August 6-September 9, 2001). One senior official will speculate, “Perhaps they figured it would be easy to blend in.” (van Natta, and Zernike 11/4/2001) At least three of the plot leaders are in Las Vegas at this time. Hani Hanjour and Nawaf Alhazmi fly from Dulles Airport to Los Angeles on an American Airlines Boeing 757, the same sort of plane they hijack on 9/11, and then continue to Las Vegas. Mohamed Atta also flies to Las Vegas from Washington National Airport. This is his second trip to Vegas, which was also previously visited by some of the other hijackers (see May 24-August 14, 2001). A few weeks earlier, Atta had traveled to Spain, possibly with some of the other hijackers, to finalize the plans for the attack with their associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh (see July 8-19, 2001). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 1, 17, 21 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 57-8 ) Alhazmi will later be recalled by a hotel employee, who will say she ran into him at the Days Inn. According to her later account, he is “cold and abrupt,” in Vegas on “important business,” and will soon be traveling to Los Angeles. He asks for a list of Days Inns in Los Angeles, but does not want a reservation to be made. He also claims to be from Florida, although he is only thought to have spent a week there (see June 19-25, 2001). (Puit and Kalil 10/26/2001) A close associate of the hijackers, Ramzi bin al-Shibh, will later say in a 2002 interview that Ziad Jarrah, Marwan Alshehhi, and Khalid Almihdhar are also present in Vegas at this time. (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 137) Newsweek calls Vegas an “odd location” and comments: “They stayed in cheap hotels on a dreary stretch of the Strip frequented by dope dealers and $10 street hookers. Perhaps they wished to be fortified for their mission by visiting a shrine to American decadence. Or maybe they just wanted a city that was easy to reach by air from their various cells in Florida, New Jersey and San Diego.” (Thomas 10/15/2001)
9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour goes to the Freeway Airport in Bowie, Maryland, about 20 miles west of Washington. He wants to rent a single engine Cessna airplane. However, when two instructors take him on three test runs, they find he has trouble controlling and landing the plane. One instructor has to help him land. Due to his poor skills, therefore, he is not allowed to rent one of their planes without more lessons. Further, while Hanjour appears to have logged over 600 hours of flying experience and possesses a valid pilot’s license (though it has in fact expired), he refuses to provide contact information: He gives no phone number and only gives his address as being a hotel in Laurel. In spite of Hanjour’s lack of flying skills, chief instructor Marcel Bernard later claims, “There’s no doubt in my mind that once [Flight 77] got going, he could have pointed that plane at a building and hit it.” (Paprocki 9/19/2001; Furfari 9/21/2001; Frank 9/23/2001; Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001) However, on 9/11, in piloting Flight 77 into the Pentagon, Hanjour would have needed to do much more than simply point the plane at a target. Because Flight 77 at first seemed to overshoot its target, the Washington Post will note that “the unidentified pilot executed a pivot so tight that it reminded observers of a fighter jet maneuver. The plane circled 270 degrees to the right to approach the Pentagon from the west, whereupon Flight 77 fell below radar level.… Aviation sources said the plane was flown with extraordinary skill, making it highly likely that a trained pilot was at the helm.” (Fisher and Phillips 9/12/2001) One Washington air traffic controller will later comment, “The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane.” (News 10/24/2001) One law enforcement official who will study Flight 77’s descent after 9/11 will call it the work of “a great talent… virtually a textbook turn and landing.” (Fainaru and Ibrahim 9/10/2002) Remarkably, the 9/11 Commission will overlook the numerous accounts of Hanjour’s terrible piloting skills (see April 15, 1999 and January-February 2001) and state that 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed assigned the Pentagon target specifically to Hanjour because he was “the operation’s most experienced pilot.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 530)
After Zacarias Moussaoui is arrested, the FBI wishes to search his possessions (see August 16, 2001 and August 23-27, 2001). According to a presentation made by FBI agent Aaron Zebley at Moussaoui’s trial, the belongings are sufficient to potentially connect Moussaoui to eleven of the 9/11 hijackers: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Nawaf Alhazmi, Fayez Banihammad, Ahmed Alhaznawi, Hamza Alghamdi, Satam Al Suqami, and Waleed Alshehri. The connections would be made, for example, through Ramzi bin al-Shibh, who spoke with Moussaoui on the telephone and wired him money (see July 29, 2001-August 3, 2001), and who was linked to three of the hijacker pilots from their time in Germany together (see November 1, 1998-February 2001). Bin al-Shibh also received money from Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, who was connected to hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad (see June 25, 2001). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006) Moussaoui’s notebook contained two recognizable control numbers for the Western Union wire transfers from bin al-Shibh and, according to McClatchy newspapers, a check on these numbers “would probably have uncovered other wires in the preceding days” to bin al-Shibh from al-Hawsawi. (Gordon 9/11/2007) The discovery of the eleven hijackers could potentially have led to the discovery of some or all of the remaining eight plot members, as they were brothers (Wail and Waleed Alshehri, Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi), opened bank accounts together (see May 1-July 18, 2001 and June 27-August 23, 2001), lived together (see March 2001-September 1, 2001), obtained identity documents together (see April 12-September 7, 2001 and August 1-2, 2001), arrived in the US together (see April 23-June 29, 2001), and booked tickets on the same four flights on 9/11 (see August 25-September 5, 2001).
Several deposits are made to the 9/11 hijackers’ accounts. Details are available for some of the deposits for eleven of the nineteen hijackers: Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Ziad Jarrah, Hani Hanjour, Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, Ahmed Alhazmawi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Hamza Alghamdi, Waleed Alshehri, and Satam Al Suqami. Over $40,000 is deposited in their accounts, much in cash. The largest amounts deposited in one day occur on August 24, when $8,000 is split equally between Hamza Alghamdi’s account and a joint account of Atta and Alshehhi, and September 5, when a total of $9,650 is split between Banihammad’s and Hamza Alghamdi’s accounts, and the joint Atta/Alshehhi account. The smallest deposit is $120, paid into Khalid Almihdhar’s First Union National Bank account on September 9. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ) Although it is impossible to trace the exact origins of the deposits, possible sources include withdrawals from other hijackers’ bank accounts, cash and traveler’s checks brought in by the hijackers in the spring/early summer (see January 15, 2000-August 2001), car sales, and money distributed by Atta, who reportedly received around $100,000 in early August (see Early August 2001, Summer 2001 and before, and Mid-July-Mid-August 2001).
9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour successfully conducts “a challenging certification flight supervised by an instructor at Congressional Air Charters of Gaithersburg, Maryland, landing at a small airport with a difficult approach,” according to the 9/11 Commission Report. The instructor, Eddie Shalev, thinks that “Hanjour may have had training from a military pilot because he used a terrain recognition system for navigation.” However, it is unclear what certification the 9/11 Commission thinks Hanjour receives. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 248, 531) Shalev is an Israeli national and has a military background. He began working at Congressional Air Charters in April 2001. (9/11 Commission 4/9/2004) A stipulation used as evidence at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui will mention the flight, but fail to mention any certification Hanjour allegedly receives based on it, merely saying it is a “check ride with a flight instructor.” Hanjour will subsequently rent aircraft from the company on August 26 and 28. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 68 )
In an interview with Al Jazeera journalist Yosri Fouda in 2002 (see April, June, or August 2002), would-be hijacker Ramzi bin al-Shibh will claim that, roughly around this day, he receives a coded chat room message about the 9/11 plot from future hijacker Mohamed Atta in the US. Fouda will later co-write a book, and in it he will allege that bin al-Shibh gave him a computer disc containing the exact message. The message, as translated by Fouda, reads:
“The first semester commences in three weeks. There are no changes. All is well. There are good signs and encouraging ideas. Two high schools and two universities. Everything is going according to plan. This summer will surely be hot. I want to talk to you about some details. Nineteen certificates for private education and four exams. Regards to the Professor. Goodbye.”
Fouda will claim that the message is in code, and that bin al-Shibh discussed with him what the real meaning was. In his book, Fouda says the real meaning is this:
“The zero hour is going to be in three weeks’ time. There are no changes. All is well. The brothers have been seeing encouraging visions and dreams. The Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and Capitol Hill. Everything is going according to plan. This summer will surely be hot. I want to talk to you about some details. Nineteen hijackers and four targets. Regards to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed or Osama bin Laden [Fouda isn’t sure which one is the ‘Professor’]. I will call you nearer the time.”
Bin al-Shibh also tells Fouda that “This summer will surely be hot” is a reference to the damage the attacks will cause. (Tremlett 9/9/2002; Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 138-139, 146)
When Were the Exact Date and Targets Chosen? - Future hijacker Hani Hanjour makes surveillance test flights near the Pentagon and World Trade Center around this time, suggesting the targets for the 9/11 attacks have now been confirmed (see July 20, 2001 and Mid-August 2001). (CBS News 10/9/2002) The FBI will later notice spikes in cell phone use between the hijackers just after the arrest of Zacarias Moussaoui and just before the hijackers begin to buy tickets for the flights they will hijack. (Bernstein et al. 9/10/2002) CIA Director George Tenet will hint that Moussaoui’s arrest a few days earlier (on August 15 (see August 16, 2001)) may be connected to when the date of the attacks is picked. (US Congress 6/18/2002) On the other hand, some terrorists appear to have made plans to flee Germany in advance of the 9/11 attacks on August 14, one day before Moussaoui’s arrest (see August 14, 2001).
From September 2 (or August 23, according to some reports) until the day before the attacks, five of the hijackers stay in Room 343 at the rundown Valencia Motel in Laurel, Maryland. The five men—Khalid Almihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf Alhazmi, Salem Alhazmi, and Hani Hanjour—are later identified as the hijackers of Flight 77. Their suite has only one bedroom, with two double beds. Reportedly, they all leave it at 10 each morning and go out for the day in an old Toyota Corolla with California license plates. The motel’s manager later will state that only two men rented the room for one week, paying $308 for it with a credit card, though several long-term motel residents will remember a larger group. (Masters, Smith, and Shear 9/19/2001; Vozzella 9/20/2001; Heinzmann and Zeleny 9/23/2001; Frank 9/23/2001; Shin 9/28/2001; O'Meilia 10/15/2001) During their time at the motel the five men show up several times at a nearby gym (see May 6-September 6, 2001). However, there are conflicting accounts that Almihdhar, Hanjour, and Nawaf Alhazmi stayed in San Diego until about September 9 (see Early September 2001).
All the 9/11 hijackers book their flights for September 11, 2001, using their apparent real names. The total cost of the tickets is in excess of $30,000:
August 25: Khalid Almihdhar, who was watchlisted two days previously (see August 23, 2001), and Majed Moqed book tickets for American Airlines flight 77 using the AA.com website. They are collected from the American Airlines ticket counter at Baltimore Washington International Airport on September 5. The tickets were not mailed, because the shipping address did not match the credit card address. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 72, 74 )
August 26: Wail Alshehri buys a ticket for American Airlines flight 11 over the phone with his debit card. His brother Waleed buys a ticket for the same flight at the AA.com website using his debit card. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 72 )
August 27: Nawaf Alhazmi, who was watchlisted four days before (see August 23, 2001), buys tickets for himself and his brother Salem for American Airlines flight 77 through Travelocity from a Kinkos computer in Laurel, Maryland, using his debit card (see August 25-27, 2001). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 72 )
August 27: Saeed Alghamdi uses his debit card to purchase tickets for United Airlines flight 93 for himself and Ahmed Alnami from the UA.com website. The tickets are not paid for until September 5, 2001, due to a problem with the debit card. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 72 )
August 27: Fayez Ahmed Banihammad uses his visa card to purchase tickets for himself and Mohamed Alshehri for United Airlines flight 175 over the telephone. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 72-73 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 )
August 28: Mohamed Atta uses his debit card to buy tickets for American Airlines flight 11 for himself and Abdulaziz Alomari from the AA.com website. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 )
August 28: Waleed Alshehri purchases a ticket for Satam Al Suqami for American Airlines flight 11 in person from the company’s counter at Fort Lauderdale Airport. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 73 )
August 28: Marwan Alshehhi purchases a ticket for United Airlines flight 175 from the company’s counter at Miami International Airport. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 73 )
August 29: Hamza Alghamdi books tickets for himself and Ahmed Alghamdi for United Airlines flight 175 from the UA.com website. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 )
August 29: Ahmed Alhaznawi creates a new e-mail account and Travelocity.com account and uses them to book a ticket for himself on United Airlines flight 93. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 74 )
August 30: Ziad Jarrah purchases a ticket for himself for United Airlines flight 93 from the UA website. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 )
August 31: Hani Hanjour purchases a ticket for American Airlines flight 77 from ATS Advanced Travel Services in Totowa, New Jersey, paying in cash. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 )
At least five tickets are one way only. (Getter, Serrano, and Williams 9/18/2001) There are numerous connections between the hijackers booked on the four flights by this point:
Hijackers on different 9/11 flights arrived in the US on the same plane. For example, Salem Alhazmi (Flight 77) arrived with Abdulaziz Alomari (Flight 11), and Fayez Ahmed Banihammad (Flight 175) arrived with Saeed Alghamdi (Flight 93) (see April 23-June 29, 2001);
Two of the pilots, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, train and live together, and have a joint bank account (see (Mid-July 2000 - Early January 2001), July 6-December 19, 2000, and June 28-July 7, 2000);
Hijackers from different planes open bank accounts together (see May 1-July 18, 2001 and June 27-August 23, 2001); and
The hijackers obtain identity documents together (see April 12-September 7, 2001 and August 1-2, 2001).
Six hijackers also provide the same phone number and three use the same address. (Morgan, Kidwell, and Corral 9/22/2001)
The standard accounts place 9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Khalid Almihdhar on the East Coast for the entire time in the weeks before the attacks (see (August 23-September 10, 2001)). (MacFarquhar 9/21/2001; Associated Press 9/21/2001; Frank 9/23/2001; Feyerick and Hirschkorn 9/26/2001; Freedberg 9/27/2001; Lipka 9/28/2001; van Natta and Zernike 11/6/2001; US Congress 9/26/2002) However, neighbors at Parkwood Apartments in San Diego where the three lived in 2000 are clear in their assertions that all three were there until days before 9/11. For instance, one article states, “Authorities believe Almihdhar, Hanjour and Alhazmi… moved out a couple of days before the East Coast attacks.” (KGTV 10 (San Diego) 11/1/2001) Ed Murray, a resident at the complex, said that all three “started moving out Saturday night-and Sunday [September 9] they were gone.” (KGTV 10 (San Diego) 9/14/2001; KGTV 10 (San Diego) 9/20/2001) This is the same day that Alhazmi is reportedly seen in an East Coast shopping mall. (Feyerick and Hirschkorn 9/26/2001) As with previous reports, neighbors also see them getting into strange cars late at night. A neighbor interviewed shortly after 9/11 said, “A week ago, I was coming home between 12:00 and 1:00 A.M. from a club. I saw a limo pick them up. It was not the first time. In this neighborhood you notice stuff like that. In the past couple of months, I have seen this happen at least two or three times.” (Mcgeary and van Biema 9/24/2001) To add to the confusion, there have been reports that investigators think Almihdhar is still alive and the Chicago Tribune says of Alhazmi, Almihdhar, and Hanjour: “The most basic of facts—the very names of the men—are uncertain. The FBI has said each used at least three aliases. ‘It’s not going to be a terrible surprise down the line if these are not their true names,’ said Jeff Thurman, an FBI spokesman in San Diego.” (Brandon 9/30/2001)
The hijackers in the US return money to Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, one of their facilitators in the United Arab Emirates:
September 4: Hijacker Mohamed Atta sends al-Hawsawi a FedEx package from Florida. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ) The package contains hijacker Fayez Ahmed Banihammad’s ATM card and checkbook. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 10 ) The FedEx bill will be found shortly after 9/11 in the trash at the hotel Atta stays at on the night before 9/11 (see September 11-13, 2001);
September 5: $8,000 is wired from Banihammad’s SunTrust bank account to his bank account in the United Arab Emirates, to which al-Hawsawi has access (see June 25, 2001);
September 8: Mohamed Atta sends $2,860 to “Mustafa Ahmed” from a Western Union office in Laurel, Maryland;
September 8: Later that day Atta sends another $5,000 to “Mustafa Ahmed” from another Western Union office in the same town;
September 9: Hijacker Waleed Alshehri sends $5,000 to “Ahamad Mustafa” from a Western Union office at Logan Airport in Boston;
September 10: Hijacker Marwan Alshehhi sends $5,400 to “Mustafa Ahmad” from a Western Union office at the Greyhound Bus Station in Boston;
September 10: Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Hani Hanjour use the name “Rawf Al Dog” to send an express mail package from Laurel, Maryland, to Sharjah, United Arab Emirates. When the FBI intercepts the package at Dulles Airport after 9/11, they find it contains the debit card and PIN for Khalid Almihdhar’s First Union Bank account, which has a balance of $9,838.31. (MSNBC 12/11/2001; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 75 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 76 )
Atta, Alshehhi, and Alshehri also call al-Hawsawi at this time to give him the numbers for the money they are sending. (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 10 ) Although al-Hawsawi admits receiving this money in a substitution for testimony at the trial of Zacarias Moussaoui in 2006 and again at a Guantanamo Bay hearing (see March 21, 2007), some detainees are apparently subjected to torture, which has led some to doubt the reliability and validity of their statements (see June 16, 2004). (US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006, pp. 10 ; US department of Defense 3/21/2007 )
According to a 2002 FBI document about the 9/11 attacks, future 9/11 hijackers Mohamed “Atta, Hani Hanjour, and possibly additional [Middle Eastern] males were observed at [a] Kinkos [store in] Laurel, Maryland, xeroxing passports, cutting and pasting.” There is no further explanation about this or what it might mean. The document will add that video surveillance was retrieved showing “Atta and other individuals.” (Federal Bureau of Investigation 4/19/2002)
9/11 hijackers Hani Hanjour and Majed Moqed fail to cash a check at the First Union Bank, where they are accompanied by an unidentified Middle Eastern male. The unidentified male presents a Pennsylvania driving license to a bank employee. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 265 ) However, there is no record of any of the hijackers obtaining a Pennsylvania driver’s license. For example, no such license is mentioned in the 9/11 Commission’s Terrorist Travel monograph, which lists the documents the hijackers obtained in the US. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 20-33 ) There is only one known instance of any 9/11 hijacker visiting Pennsylvania before 9/11, and that was a three day trip by Ziad Jarrah to Philadelphia in June 2001. Interestingly, Jarrah was seen with an unknown older man during that trip (see June 3-4, 2001). It is unclear whether the unidentified male with Hanjour and Moqed is an associate of the hijackers, or whether one of the hijackers obtained a Pennsylvania driver’s license and the FBI and 9/11 Commission failed to uncover this.
Three hijackers, Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, and Nawaf Alhazmi, check into the same hotel as a prominent Saudi government official, Saleh Ibn Abdul Rahman Hussayen. (Schmidt 10/2/2003) Hussayen originally stayed at a different nearby hotel, but moved to this hotel on the same day the hijackers checked in. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 45) Investigators have not found any evidence that the hijackers met with Hussayen, and stress it could be a coincidence. (Rennie 3/10/2003) However, one prosecutor working on a related case will assert, “I continue to believe it can’t be a coincidence.” (Barrett and Simpson 10/2/2003) An FBI agent will later say that Hussayen “may have had some connection to the attacks and is likely to have met with those funding the hijackers if not the hijackers themselves.” (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 45) Hussayen is interviewed by the FBI shortly after 9/11, but according to testimony from an FBI agent, the interview is cut short when Hussayen “feign[s] a seizure, prompting the agents to take him to a hospital, where the attending physicians [find] nothing wrong with him.” The agent recommends that Hussayen “should not be allowed to leave until a follow-up interview could occur.” (Schmidt 10/2/2003) The agent returns to the hotel the next day, but finds Hussayen unhelpful. After she leaves, Hussayen calls the Saudi embassy, which contacts the FBI. Another, less aggressive agent is sent to talk to Hussayen and finds no additional information, so the FBI says he can leave the US. The first agent does not want him to go without answering her questions, but, according to authors Joe and Susan Trento, “Because of pressure from [Saudi ambassador to the US] Prince Bandar on the Bush administration… the agent’s superiors overruled her.” The superiors are not named. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 45) For most of the 1990s, Hussayen was director of the SAAR Foundation, a Saudi charity that is being investigated for terrorism ties and will be raided in early 2002 (see March 20, 2002). A few months after 9/11 he is named a minister of the Saudi government and put in charge of its two holy mosques. Hussayen had arrived in the US in late August 2001 planning to visit some Saudi-sponsored charities. Many of the charities on his itinerary, including the Global Relief Foundation, Muslim World League, IIRO (International Islamic Relief Organization), IANA (Islamic Assembly of North America), and World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY), have since been shut down or investigated for alleged ties to Islamic militant groups. (Schmidt 10/2/2003) His nephew, Sami Omar Hussayen, will be indicted in early 2004 for using his computer expertise to assist militant groups, and will be charged with administering a website associated with IANA, an organization which expressly advocated suicide attacks and using airliners as weapons in the months before 9/11. Investigators also will claim the nephew was in contact with important al-Qaeda figures. (Schmidt 10/2/2003; Seattle Post-Intelligencer 1/10/2004) The nephew will be acquitted later in 2004 of the terrorism-related charges. The defense will not dispute that he posted messages advocating suicide bombings, but will argue that he had the Constitutional right to do so. The jury will deadlock on most of the counts. (Schmidt 6/11/2004) IANA apparently will remain under investigation, as well as the flow of money from the uncle to nephew. (Rennie 3/10/2003) The uncle is not charged with any crime. (Barrett and Simpson 10/2/2003)
Extremists order “operatives in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and Yemen” to use accounts at the Al-Rajhi Banking & Investment Corp, according to a 2003 CIA report. The Al-Rajhi Bank is one of the biggest Saudi banks, with billions in assets. Who gives this order and when will not be made public. However, some examples of militants using the bank will later be alleged:
When al-Qaeda leader Mamdouh Mahmud Salim is arrested in late 1998 (see September 16, 1998), he is carrying records of an Al-Rajhi account.
When Wadih El-Hage’s house in Kenya is raided in 1997, investigators find contact information in his address book for Salah Al-Rajhi, one of the billionaire co-owners of the bank (see Shortly After August 21, 1997). (Simpson 7/26/2007)
Some of the 9/11 hijackers use the bank. For instance, Hani Hanjour is sent wire transfers from Al-Rajhi bank in Saudi Arabia at least six times in 1998 and 1999. In September 2000, Nawaf Alhazmi uses $2,000 in Al-Rajhi traveler’s checks paid for by an unnamed person in Saudi Arabia. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 19, 31, 33, 34, 41, 87 ) And Abdulaziz Alomari has an account at the bank (see September 7, 2001).
The bank is used by a number of charities suspected of militant links, including the International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO), the Muslim World League, the Saudi branch of Red Crescent, Global Relief Foundation, and the World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). (Mowbray 10/13/2003)
An al-Qaeda affiliate in Spain holds accounts at the bank. According to a fax later recovered by Spanish police, the group’s chief financier tells a business partner to use the bank for their transactions. (Mowbray 10/13/2003)
In 2000, Al-Rajhi Bank couriers deliver money to insurgents in Indonesia to buy weapons and bomb-making materials.
According to a 2003 German report, bank co-founder Sulaiman Abdul Aziz al-Rajhi contributes to a charity front buying weapons for Islamic militants in Bosnia in the early 1990s. He is also on the “Golden Chain,” a list of early al-Qaeda funders (see 1988-1989).
A US intelligence memo from shortly after 9/11 will say that a money courier for al-Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahiri, travels on a visa obtained by the bank.
The 2003 CIA report will state: “Islamic extremists have used Al-Rajhi Banking and Investment Corporation since at least the mid-1990s as a conduit for terrorist transactions.… Senior al-Rajhi family members have long supported Islamic extremists and probably know that terrorists use their bank.” (Simpson 7/26/2007)
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. (Hanley 6/25/2003; Schwanberg 10/20/2003; Lance 2006, pp. 372-4; Kelly 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)
Flight 77 hijacker Hani Hanjour checks in at the American Airlines ticket counter at Washington’s Dulles International Airport some time between 7:25 a.m. and 7:35 a.m., the 9/11 Commission will later estimate. (American Airlines will be unable to locate information confirming his check-in time.) (9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 93)
Hanjour Almost Stopped? - Hanjour is selected for additional scrutiny by airport security under the FAA’s CAPPS program (see (6:20 a.m.-7:48 a.m.) September 11, 2001), but this has no consequences. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28) In 2003, former CIA official Vincent Cannistraro will claim: “This person goes through the metal detection machine and it starts buzzing.… They call the person out so that they can do a hand search. Just as the person was beginning to do that, a pretty woman walks by and the guard looks at her and waves the guy on. Well, that person happened to be Hani Hanjour, and he basically had box cutters and razor blades in his pockets.” (Fouda and Fielding 2003, pp. 143) It is unclear how Cannistraro may have known this, and presumably he is speculating as to what Hanjour has in his pockets.
Alhazmi Brothers Seem Suspicious - The final two Flight 77 hijackers, brothers Nawaf and Salem Alhazmi, check in at approximately 7:29 a.m. The customer service representative makes both of them CAPPS selectees, because one of them cannot provide photo identification and seems unable to understand English, and he finds both of them suspicious. However, the only consequence is that Salem Alhazmi’s luggage is not loaded onto the plane until it is confirmed that he has boarded. Surveillance cameras monitor the security checkpoints at Dulles Airport. According to the 9/11 Commission’s review of security footage, Hanjour passes through the main terminal’s west security screening checkpoint at 7:35 a.m. He proceeds through the metal detector without setting off the alarm, and his two carry-on bags set off no alarms when placed on the X-ray belt. The Alhazmis arrive at the same checkpoint a minute later. Salem Alhazmi successfully clears the metal detector and is permitted through the checkpoint. Nawaf Alhazmi sets off the alarms for both the first and second metal detectors, and is subsequently subjected to a personal screening with a metal detection hand wand before being passed. His shoulder bag is swiped by an explosive trace detector and returned without further inspection. (9/11 Commission 1/27/2004; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 27-28) Immediately after the attacks, when the FAA’s local civil aviation security office investigates the security screening at Dulles on 9/11, it will find the airport’s screeners recall nothing out of the ordinary, and cannot recall any of the passengers they screened having been CAPPS selectees. (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 3; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 93) The 9/11 Commission will later conclude that the Alhazmi brothers’ passports are “suspicious” and could have been linked to al-Qaeda, but it will not explain why or how. (Sullivan 1/27/2004)
The 9/11 Commission says the hijacking of Flight 77 takes place between 8:51 a.m., when the plane transmits its last routine radio communication (see 8:51 a.m. September 11, 2001), and 8:54 a.m., when it deviates from its assigned course (see (8:54 a.m.) September 11, 2001). Based on phone calls made from the plane by flight attendant Renee May (see (9:12 a.m.) September 11, 2001) and passenger Barbara Olson (see (Between 9:15 a.m. and 9:25 a.m.) September 11, 2001), the commission concludes that the hijackers “initiated and sustained their command of the aircraft using knives and box cutters… and moved all of the passengers (and possibly crew) to the rear of the aircraft.” It adds, “Neither of the firsthand accounts to come from Flight 77… mentioned any actual use of violence (e.g., stabbings) or the threat or use of either a bomb or Mace.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 8-9; 9/11 Commission 8/26/2004, pp. 29) People who knew Charles Burlingame, the pilot of Flight 77, will later contend that it would have required a difficult struggle for the hijackers to gain control of the plane from him. (Washington Post 9/11/2002) Burlingame was a military man who’d flown Navy jets for eight years, served several tours at the Navy’s elite Top Gun school, and been in the Naval Reserve for 17 years. (Associated Press 12/6/2001) His sister, Debra Burlingame, says, “This was a guy that’s been through SERE [Survival Evasion Resistance Escape] school in the Navy and had very tough psychological and physical preparation.” (Cohen 12/30/2003) Admiral Timothy Keating, who was a classmate of Burlingame’s from the Navy and a flight school friend, says, “I was in a plebe summer boxing match with Chick, and he pounded me.… Chick was really tough, and the terrorists had to perform some inhumane act to get him out of that cockpit, I guarantee you.” (CNN 5/16/2006) Yet the five alleged hijackers do not appear to have been the kinds of people that would be a particularly dangerous opponent. Pilot Hani Hanjour was skinny and barely over 5 feet tall. (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001) And according to the 9/11 Commission, the “so-called muscle hijackers actually were not physically imposing,” with the majority of them being between 5 feet 5 and 5 feet 7 in height, “and slender in build.” (9/11 Commission 6/16/2004) Senator John Warner (R-VA) later says “the examination of his remains… indicated Captain Burlingame was in a struggle and died before the crash, doing his best to save lives on the aircraft and on the ground.” (White 12/8/2001)
After air traffic controllers at Washington Dulles International Airport notice an unidentified aircraft, later determined to be Flight 77, approaching Washington on their radar screens (see (Between 9:25 a.m. and 9:30 a.m.) September 11, 2001 and 9:32 a.m. September 11, 2001), they initially think it is a military fighter plane, due to its high speed and the way it is being flown. (News 10/24/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 9) Yet the alleged hijacker pilot of Flight 77 has been known for his poor flying skills. (Goldstein 9/30/2001; Yardley 5/4/2002)
Aircraft Performs Elaborate Maneuver - The Dulles controllers are unable to identify the plane because its transponder—which transmits identifying information about an aircraft to radar screens—has been turned off (see 8:56 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Phillips 9/11/2001; Finkel 9/12/2001) It is flying at almost 500 miles per hour while approaching Washington, and then performs a rapid downward spiral, “dropping the last 7,000 feet in two and a half minutes,” before hitting the Pentagon (see 9:34 a.m.- 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (CBS News 9/21/2001; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002)
Moving 'Like a Military Aircraft' - Controller Danielle O’Brien will later recall: “The speed, the maneuverability, the way that he turned, we all thought in the radar room, all of us experienced air traffic controllers, that that was a military plane. You don’t fly a 757 in that manner. It’s unsafe.” (News 10/24/2001) Another controller, Todd Lewis, will recall: “[N]obody knew that was a commercial flight at the time. Nobody knew that was American 77.… I thought it was a military flight. I thought that Langley [Air Force Base] had scrambled some fighters and maybe one of them got up there.… It was moving very fast, like a military aircraft might move at a low altitude.” (MSNBC 9/11/2002)
Alleged Pilot 'Could Not Fly at All' - Yet many people who have met Hani Hanjour, the hijacker allegedly at the controls of Flight 77, considered him to be a very poor pilot (see October 1996-December 1997, 1998, February 8-March 12, 2001, and (April-July 2001)). Just a month previously, an airport refused to rent him a single-engine Cessna plane because instructors there found his flying skills so weak (see Mid-August 2001). (Furfari 9/21/2001; Frank 9/23/2001) And an employee at a flight school Hanjour attended earlier in the year will later comment: “I’m still to this day amazed that he could have flown into the Pentagon. He could not fly at all” (see January-February 2001). (Yardley 5/4/2002)
Flight 77 crashes into the Pentagon. All 64 people on the plane are killed. A hundred-and-twenty-four people working in the building are killed, and a further victim will die in hospital several days later. Hijackers Hani Hanjour, Khalid Almihdhar, Majed Moqed, Nawaf Alhazmi, and Salem Alhazmi presumably are killed instantly. (Typically, they are not included in the death counts.) (CNN 9/17/2001; North American Aerospace Defense Command 9/18/2001; Ellison 10/17/2001; Vogel 11/21/2001; Levin, Adams, and Morrison 8/12/2002; Associated Press 8/21/2002; MSNBC 9/3/2002; ABC News 9/11/2002; CBS 9/11/2002) Flight 77 hits the first floor of the Pentagon’s west wall. The impact and the resulting explosion heavily damage the building’s three outer rings. The path of destruction cuts through Army accounting offices on the outer E Ring, the Navy Command Center on the D Ring, and the Defense Intelligence Agency’s comptroller’s office on the C Ring. (Vogel 2007, pp. 431 and 449) Flight 77 strikes the only side of the Pentagon that had recently been renovated—it was “within days of being totally [renovated].” (US Department of Defense 9/15/2001) “It was the only area of the Pentagon with a sprinkler system, and it had been reconstructed with a web of steel columns and bars to withstand bomb blasts. The area struck by the plane also had blast-resistant windows—two inches thick and 2,500 pounds each—that stayed intact during the crash and fire. While perhaps, 4,500 people normally would have been working in the hardest-hit areas, because of the renovation work only about 800 were there.” More than 25,000 people work at the Pentagon. (Schrader 9/16/2001) Furthermore, the plane hits an area that has no basement. As journalist Steve Vogel later points out, “If there had been one under the first floor, its occupants could easily have been trapped by fire and killed when the upper floors collapsed.” (Vogel 2007, pp. 450)
George Piro and Ken Williams, two agents at the FBI field office in Phoenix, Arizona, visit a flight school in Phoenix to see if any suspicious students have attended it recently and the manager immediately informs them about Hani Hanjour, one of the alleged hijackers of Flight 77. As they watched the terrorist attacks unfolding on television, Piro and Williams decided they wanted to start responding to the crisis on their own initiative, rather than sitting around and waiting for an order. They know Phoenix has the second-highest concentration of flight schools in the nation. Piro therefore looked in the Yellow Pages and found three programs that offer commercial pilot licenses. With this information in hand, the two agents set out to visit some flight schools. The first one they go to is the Sawyer School of Aviation at Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. They ask the manager there if any suspicious students have attended recently. Almost without hesitation, she gives them the file of one such student: Hanjour. (Graff 2011, pp. 325; Graff 5/5/2011) Hanjour received training at the flight school earlier this year and, previously, in 1998 (see 1998 and Summer 2001). (Goldstein, Sun, and Lardner 10/15/2001; Berry 12/29/2001; 9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 529) He allegedly flew Flight 77 into the Pentagon (see 9:37 a.m. September 11, 2001). (Zimmerman 1/7/2016) Just after they are given the file, Piro receives a call on his cell phone from an agent from the FBI’s Boston office. The agent, who is currently at Logan International Airport in Boston, says he has a name from the passenger manifest for Flight 77 that the Phoenix agents should look into: Hani Hanjour. To the agent’s surprise, Piro replies, “I’m holding his file in my hands right now.” Piro and Williams then head back to their office to report their progress. At the office, Piro tells their squad leader, “I’ve identified one of the hijackers.” Incredulous at this news, the squad leader replies, “Get out of here—I don’t have time for jokes today.” (Graff 2011, pp. 325-326; Graff 5/5/2011)
Lotfi Raissi, an Algerian pilot living in Britain, is arrested and accused of helping to train four of the hijackers. An FBI source says, “We believe he is by far the biggest find we have had so far. He is of crucial importance to us.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal 9/29/2001) However, in April 2002, a judge dismisses all charges against him, calling the charges “tenuous.” US officials originally said, “They had video of him with Hani Hanjour, who allegedly piloted the plane that crashed into the Pentagon; records of phone conversations between the two men; evidence that they had flown a training plane together; and evidence that Raissi had met several of the hijackers in Las Vegas. It turned out, the British court found, that the video showed Raissi with his cousin, not Mr. Hanjour, that Raissi had mistakenly filled in his air training logbook and had never flown with Hanjour, and that Raissi and the hijackers were not in Las Vegas at the same time. The US authorities never presented any phone records showing conversations between Raissi and Hanjour. It appears that in this case the US authorities handed over all the information they had…” (Ford 3/27/2002; Guardian 9/26/2005) Raissi later says he will sue the British and American governments unless he is given a “widely publicized apology” for his months in prison and the assumption of “guilty until proven innocent.” (Reuters 8/14/2002) In September 2003, he does sue both governments for $20 million. He also wins a undisclosed sum from the British tabloid Mail on Sunday for printing false charges against him. (Gillan 9/16/2003; BBC 10/7/2003; Wagner 10/14/2003) Declassified documents will later reveal that the British arrested Raissi only days after the FBI requested that the British discretely monitor and investigate him, not arrest him. (Guardian 9/26/2005) Raissi perfectly matches the description of an individual mentioned in FBI agent Ken Williams’ “Phoenix memo” (see July 10, 2001), whom the FBI had attempted to investigate in May 2001 (see 1997-July 2001).
The photos of all 19 of the 9/11 hijackers are released by the FBI for the first time. Some photos have been released by the media already; for instance, a photo of Mohammed Atta became very well known a couple of days after the 9/11 attacks. But this is the first time all of the hijackers are seen. The FBI also gives out some details about the hijackers, but these details are scanty. For instance, the only detail mentioned for Ahmed Alhaznawi is, “Possibly lived in Delray Beach, Florida.” Interestingly, one detail mentioned for Khalid Almihdhar is, “May be an assumed name; there are reports he is still alive.” It also is noted that the identities of Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, Mohand Alshehri, Salem Alhazmi, and Saeed Alghamdi are in dispute, and some of the information about them may be confused with other people with similar names. (CNN 9/27/2001)
Faisal al-Salmi, a Saudi man who knew 9/11 hijacker Hani Hanjour, is convicted of making false statements to the FBI. Al-Salmi, 34, trained at the same Arizona flight school as Hanjour where they both used the flight simulator (see Summer 2001). Al-Salmi denied knowing Hanjour but, according to investigators, they spoke several times and were seen together in the summer of 2001. He is not accused of being involved in the 9/11 plot. Al-Salmi will later receive a six-month sentence. (Margasak 10/13/2001; Cloud 10/28/2001; Press 2/14/2002; New York Times 2/16/2002; Poniewozik 4/20/2002; Marson 7/24/2004)
A suspected al-Qaeda operative named Ahmed Ghulam Rabbani is arrested in a safe house in Karachi, Pakistan, on September 10, 2002. He is a Saudi who later became a Pakistani citizen. Starting in 2000, he began running an al-Qaeda safe house in Karachi. He will be held in Pakistani custody until he is transferred to a US prison in Afghanistan in May 2004. He will be sent to the US-run Guantanamo prison in Cuba in September 2004. His driver, Muhammad Madni, is arrested too, and Madni reportedly quickly reveals the location of other safe houses in Karachi. (US Department of Defense 5/26/2008)
Abdul Rahim Ghulam Rabbani, Ahmed Ghulam Rabbani’s brother, is arrested at one of the safe houses this same day. According to Abdul Rahim’s 2008 Guantanamo file, he is an important al-Qaeda figure because he began running up to six Karachi safe houses, on behalf of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaikh Mohammed (KSM), from early 2000 until his capture. According to his file, many important al-Qaeda leaders stayed at his safe houses and interacted with him or his brother while they were passing through Karachi, including: Saif al-Adel, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Khallad bin Attash, Saad bin Laden, KSM, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, Musaad Aruchi, and Hassan Ghul (who is said to be his brother-in-law). Furthermore, 17 of the 19 9/11 hijackers stayed at his safe houses while coming or going through Pakistan, including Mohamed Atta, Marwan Alshehhi, Hani Hanjour, and Ahmed Alghamdi (the others are not mentioned in his Guantanamo file by name). Abdul Rahim does not admit knowing their mission, but says he picked them up at airports, kept them at safe houses, and transported some of them to their next destinations. He apparently is working on a plot to bomb Karachi hotels used by Westerners, but it is scuttled by the arrests. He is held by Pakistan for two months, then he will be handed to US forces and held in various prisons in Afghanistan until September 2004, when he is transferred to Guantanamo. (US Department of Defense 6/9/2008)
The next day, these other safe houses are raided by the ISI (Pakistan’s intelligence agency). 9/11 hijacker associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh is arrested at one of the safe houses (see September 11, 2002). However, in contrast to the claim that the arrest of Ahmed Ghulam Rabbani led to the arrest of bin al-Shibh and others, there is a claim that an Al Jazeera reporter, Yosri Fouda, interviewed bin al-Shibh and KSM in a Karachi safe house in the middle of 2002 (see April, June, or August 2002), then told the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, where the interview took place, and the emir told the CIA. The CIA then began intensely monitoring Karachi for safe houses, which finally led to these raids (see June 14, 2002 and Shortly After).
Hassan Ali bin Attash, brother of al-Qaeda leader Khallad bin Attash, is arrested at the same safe house as bin al-Shibh. Hassan will later be named by many other Guantanamo prisoners as an al-Qaeda operative, but not nearly as important a one as his brother. He will later say that he was held by the Pakistani government for a few days, then taken to Kabul, Afghanistan, by US forces for a few days, and then sent to Jordan and kept in Jordanian custody for over a year. He will be transferred to Guantanamo in January 2004, and where he subsequently remains. (US Department of Defense 6/25/2008)
One other suspected al-Qaeda operative is arrested at the safe house with bin al-Shibh and bin Attash (located on Tariq Road). The three of them allegedly hold knives to their throats and threaten to kill themselves rather than be captured. But they are overwhelmed after a four-hour stand-off. (US Department of Defense 12/8/2006)
At another safe house, there is a gun battle when it is raided. Two suspected al-Qaeda operatives are killed. One of those killed, Hamza al-Zubayr, is considered an al-Qaeda leader and the leader of the group in the house. The remaining six are arrested. All six will later be transferred to Guantanamo. (US Department of Defense 6/25/2008) All of the above is based on Guantanamo files leaked to the public in 2011 by the non-profit whistleblower group WikiLeaks. There are many doubts about the reliability of the information in the files (see April 24, 2011).
Visa applications for the 15 Saudi Arabian hijackers are made public, and six separate experts agree: “All of them should have been denied entry [into the US].” Joel Mowbray, who first breaks the story for the conservative National Review, says he is shocked by what he saw: “I really was expecting al-Qaeda to have trained their operatives well, to beat the system. They didn’t have to beat the system, the system was rigged in their favor from the get-go.” A former US consular officer says the visas show a pattern of criminal negligence. Some examples: “Abdulaziz Alomari claimed to be a student but didn’t name a school; claimed to be married but didn’t name a spouse; under nationality and gender, he didn’t list anything.” “Khalid Almihdhar… simply listed ‘Hotel’ as his US destination—no name, no city, no state but no problem getting a visa.” Only one actually gave a US destination, and one stated his destination as “no.” Only Hani Hanjour had a slight delay in acquiring his visa. His first application was flagged because he wrote he wanted to visit for three years when the legal limit is two. When he returned two weeks later, he simply changed the form to read “one year” and was accepted. The experts agree that even allowing for chance, incompetence, and human error, the odds were that only a few should have been approved. (Mowbray 10/9/2002; Mowbray 10/9/2002; Raddatz 10/23/2002) In response to the revelation, the State Department says, “The fact is that with 20/20 hindsight, I’m sure one can always find a reason that you might have turned down a visa.” (Mowbray 10/10/2002; State Department 10/10/2002)
The General Accounting Office, the nonpartisan investigative arm of Congress, releases a report asserting that at least 13 of the 19 9/11 hijackers were never interviewed by US consular officials before being granted visas to enter the US. This contradicts previous assurances from the State Department that 12 of the hijackers had been interviewed. It also found that, for 15 hijackers whose applications could be found, none had filled in the documents properly. Records for four other hijackers (the four non-Saudis, i.e., Ziad Jarrah, Mohamed Atta, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, and Marwan Al Shehhi) could not be checked because they were accidentally destroyed. (Mowbray 10/21/2002; United States General Accounting Office 10/21/2002 ; Eggen 10/22/2002) The State Department maintains that visa procedures were properly followed. In December 2002, Senators Jon Kyl (R-AZ) and Pat Roberts (R-KS) state in a chapter of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that “if State Department personnel had merely followed the law and not granted non-immigrant visas to 15 of the 19 hijackers in Saudi Arabia… 9/11 would not have happened.” (Associated Press 12/19/2002; US Congress 7/24/2003, pp. pp. 653-673 )
Anwar al-Awlaki, the imam for three of the 9/11 hijackers in the US, lives openly in Britain.
Growing Suspicions about Al-Awlaki in US - After 9/11, US investigators increasingly suspect that al-Awlaki’s links with hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour in the US were more than just a coincidence. In October 2002, al-Awlaki is briefly detained while visiting the US but is not arrested, even though there is an outstanding warrant for his arrest (see October 2002). The FBI as a whole does not believe he was involved in the 9/11 plot. However, some disagree. One detective tells the 9/11 Commission in 2003 or 2004 that al-Awlaki “was at the center of the 9/11 story.” The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry releases its final report in 2003, and it states that al-Awlaki “was a central figure in a support network that aided [Alhazmi and Almihdhar]” (see August 1-3, 2003).
No Attempt to Arrest Him Living Openly in Britain - Al-Awlaki does not visit the US again, after his near arrest. But he lives openly in Britain, a close US ally. He teaches Islam to students in London and adopts an increasingly religious fundamentalist stance. His lectures grow in popularity, especially through sales of CDs of recorded speeches. He travels widely through Britain giving lectures. But despite growing evidence against him in the US, there is no known attempt to have him arrested in Britain. At some point in 2004, he moves to Yemen to preach and study there. (Shane and Mekhennet 5/8/2010)
After investigating the 9/11 hijackers, the CIA finds that the 19 operatives used a total of 364 aliases, including different spellings of their own names and noms de guerre. Although some examples are made public, the full list is not disclosed. (9/11 Commission 8/21/2004, pp. 1, 5 ; US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, Alexandria Division 7/31/2006 ) However, an FBI timeline of hijacker movements made public in 2008 will mention some of the aliases. For example:
Hani Hanjour and Ahmed Alghamdi rent a New Jersey apartment using the names Hany Saleh and Ahmed Saleh. (Saleh is Hanjour’s middle name.) (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 144, 205 )
Fayez Ahmed Banihammad uses the aliases Abu Dhabi Banihammad and Fayey Rashid Ahmed. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 167, 174 )
Nawaf Alhazmi uses the aliases Nawaf Alharbi and Nawaf Alzmi Alhazmi. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 60 ; Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 248 )
Mohamed Atta frequently likes to use variants of the name El Sayed, for instance calling himself Awaid Elsayed and even Hamburg Elsayed. Marwan Alshehhi also uses the Elsayed alias. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 125, 126 )
When Majed Moqed flies into the US on May 2, 2001, the name Mashaanmoged Mayed is on the flight manifest. (Federal Bureau of Investigation 10/2001, pp. 139 )
In contrast to this, many reports emphasize that the hijackers usually used their own names. For example, the 9/11 Commission will say, “The hijackers opened accounts in their own names, using passports and other identification documents.” (9/11 Commission 7/24/2004, pp. 22 ) In addition, a Commission staffer will tell UPI: “They did not need fake passports. The plotters all used their own passports to get into the country and once here, used US-issued ID documents whenever possible.” (Waterman 8/17/2005)
Mohdar Abdullah is quietly deported to Yemen after spending nearly three years in US prisons. Abdullah was arrested shortly after 9/11 and held as a material witness. He was eventually charged with an immigration violation. He pled guilty to lying on an asylum application and then served a six-month sentence. However, he chose to remain imprisoned so he could fight deportation. He is a Yemeni citizen, and the US wanted to deport him to Yemen, but the Yemeni government would not take him. According to his lawyer, Yemen twice refused to admit him and only finally agreed after intense pressure from the US State Department. (Thornton 5/26/2004)
Suspicious Links to 9/11 Hijackers - Officials said in court documents that Abdullah regularly dined and prayed with 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Hani Hanjour. Additionally, he helped Alhazmi and Almihdhar adjust to life in the US in a variety of ways, including help with: interpreting, computer use, finding a job, finding a place to live, obtaining Social Security cards, and obtaining driver licenses. He also worked with Alhazmi at a gas station where many other radical Islamists worked, including some who had been investigated by the FBI (see Autumn 2000). (Thornton 5/26/2004; Thornton 6/2/2004)
9/11 Commission Not Allowed to Interview Him before Deportation - The 9/11 Commission’s work is almost done by the time that Abdullah is deported; its final report will be released two months later. However, the Commission is not allowed to interview Abdullah even though he is being held in a US prison (and not in Guantanamo or some secret overseas prison). 9/11 Commission co-chair Tom Kean will later say, “He should not have been let out of the country when the 9/11 Commission wanted to interview him.” Kean will not comment on why the Commission does not or is not able to interview him before his deportation. (Myers 9/8/2006)
Justice Department Will Not Delay Deportation to Help Investigation - In late 2003, new evidence emerged that Abdullah may have had foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. But US prosecutors decided not to charge him based on that new evidence, and the Justice Department does not even try to delay his deportation to allow investigators time to pursue the new leads (see September 2003-May 21, 2004).
FBI Will Reopen Investigation into Abdullah - The new evidence suggested that Abdullah may have learned about the 9/11 attack plans as early as the spring of 2000 (see Early 2000). He also seemed to show foreknowledge of the attacks shortly before they occurred (see Late August-September 10, 2001). By October 2004, it will be discovered that he cased the Los Angeles airport with Alhazmi and an unknown man (see June 10, 2000), and this revelation will cause the FBI to reopen its investigation into him—after he is deported (see September 2003-May 21, 2004). In September 2006, it will be reported that the investigation is still continuing. (Myers 9/8/2006)
When journalists Joe and Susan Trento obtain a copy of the US international no-fly list, which the Transportation Security Administration uses to prevent known terrorists from flying to the US and other countries, they find that 14 of the alleged 9/11 hijackers are still on it. They are: Satam Al Suqami, Waleed Alshehri, Wail Alshehri, Abdulaziz Alomari, Hamza Alghamdi, Fayez Ahmed Banihammad, Ahmed Alghamdi, Mohand Alshehri, Majed Moqed, Hani Hanjour, Salem Alhazmi, Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alnami, and Ahmed Alhaznawi. Shortly after 9/11, it was reported that some of the hijackers were still alive (see September 16-23, 2001) and this may be the reason for the apparent error, although the set of hijackers reported to be still alive and the set of 14 hijackers still on the no-fly list only partially overlap. (Trento and Trento 2006, pp. 189-192) The no-fly list also contains manifold problems and at least one other dead terrorist is on it (see March 2006).
On November 25, 2007, the London Times publishes an article about Luai Sakra, an al-Qaeda leader imprisoned in Turkey who allegedly was also a CIA informant before 9/11 (see September 10, 2001). The Times reports, “According to Sakra, [9/11 hijacker] Nawaf Alhazmi was a veteran operative who went on to pilot the plane that hit the Pentagon [Flight 77]. Although this is at odds with the official account, which says the plane was flown by another hijacker, it is plausible and might answer one of the mysteries of 9/11,” namely, why the FBI claims Hani Hanjour was the pilot of that plane, when many reports suggest Hanjour was a bad pilot. (Gourlay and Calvert 11/25/2007) Although none of the official accounts such as the 9/11 Commission report claim that Alhazmi was a pilot, there is considerable evidence to suggest that he was:
In December 1999, Alhazmi was taught how to use a computer flight simulator program while in an al-Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan (see Early December 1999).
On April 4, 2000, Alhazmi took one day’s worth of flying lessons, and his instructor later claims he did quite well and was already almost capable of taking off and landing on his own (see April 4, 2000).
One month later, he took a second one day flying lesson, however his instructor will later call him “dumb” and unskilled (see May 5 and 10, 2000).
Near the end of 2000, he told two unconnected associates that he was in Arizona and learning to fly with Hanjour (see (December 2000-January 2001)).
On March 19, 2001, he bought flight deck videos for Boeing 747s and a Boeing 777 (see November 5, 2000-June 20, 2001).
On March 23, 2001, he bought an aeronautical chart covering the northeastern US (see March 23, 2001).
In July 2001, he and Hanjour appear to have rented an aircraft together in New Jersey. Alhazmi’s credit card was used to pay for the aircraft rental, as well as fuel in Maryland (a072001haninawafflight).
Neighbors will later claim that just days before the 9/11 attacks, Alhazmi was practicing flying on a computer flight simulator program. (KGTV 10 (San Diego) 9/14/2001)
In 2002, al-Qaeda associate Ramzi bin al-Shibh will claim in an interview several months before his arrest that Alhazmi was one of the 9/11 pilots.
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