I want to apologize in advance for the length of this post. Nevertheless, I encourage everyone to read this in its entirety.
The press has recently been reporting on the issue of surveillance pertaining to four "key" 9/11 hijackers. Specifically, Congressman Curt Weldon (R-Pa.) has gone public with accusations that the Pentagon had four of the 9/11 hijackers under its surveillance in December of 2000. Initial press accounts detailed that four of the 9/11 hijackers -- al Mihdhar, al Hazmi, al Shehi, and Atta -- were identified by a data mining operation (Project Able Danger) run out of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
The revelation of this new information is astounding for two reasons. First, if true, this would mean that four of the key hijackers in the 9/11 plot were in the cross-hairs of our Pentagon one year prior to the attacks during the summer of 2000. Second, it raises credibility issues surrounding the 9/11 Commission since the Commission’s Final Report does not mention—let alone report upon—the Able Danger operation.
Let’s address the concept that DIA had four 9/11 hijackers identified as al Qaeda operatives in 2000. First, why was this information withheld from the FBI when it was allegedly collected by DIA back in the summer of 2000? Second, if this information was not passed to the FBI, was any of this information passed on to the CIA? Third, what difference would it have made if DIA had informed the FBI about these four al Qaeda targets? Fourth, if it indeed exists, where is the Able Danger chart that allegedly contains Atta’s name, and most importantly, have we capitalized on any other information or names contained in that chart?
Withholding from the FBI:
News reports state that the information regarding the 9/11 hijackers was not passed onto the FBI because Pentagon attorneys believed that the targets of the data-mining operation (the four 9/11 hijackers) were green card holders thereby banning the passage of this information to the FBI since laws were in place during the summer of 2000 that banned domestic surveillance of Americans by the FBI. Of course, the DOD attorneys were patently wrong in their interpretation since the four 9/11 hijackers that were identified were merely U.S. visa holders (some of which had already expired and/or were illegal). These men were not U.S. citizens—therefore, the information could have been readily passed to the FBI with no worry of breaking any rules or laws. Nevertheless, the Able Danger information did not get shared with the FBI. (The identities and whereabouts of the DOD attorneys who provided such wrong legal counsel remains unknown—which raises the obvious question as to whether these individuals are still working at DOD and making the same erroneous and deadly decisions.)
It should be mentioned that two of the men mentioned in the Able Danger operation—al Mihdhar and al Hazmi—were already known by the CIA as al Qaeda operatives by late December 1999. Much like DIA and their failure to share information with the FBI, the CIA also failed to share their information about these two men being inside the United States and planning terrorist activities.
In December 1999, CIA was actively investigating and tracking al Mihdhar and al Hazmi as they traveled to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. While in Kuala Lumpur in early January 2000, al Mihdhar and al Hazmi attended a meeting with other known al Qaeda operatives. The meeting was a planning session for the U.S.S. Cole bombing that occurred in October 2000 and for the 9/11 attacks. Our CIA conducted surveillance on this meeting.
After the meeting in Malaysia, Al Mihdhar and al Hazmi arrived in the United States in January 2000. The CIA knew about the two men coming to America, but chose not to tell the FBI about their presence inside the United States on a number of occasions for the 18 months preceding 9/11. Why? Most likely, because the CIA did not want the FBI stepping on their toes while they were conducting an ongoing surveillance operation on these known al Qaeda operatives. At any rate, the record shows that for 18 months prior to 9/11, the CIA conducted surveillance on these two targets while they were in the United States and failed to tell the FBI about it. The question remains whether DIA and CIA were collaborating on their surveillance operations of these al Qaeda operatives or acting independently.
Why does it matter that the FBI was not given the information?
The four men allegedly under surveillance by Project Able Danger, were four key players in the 9/11 plot. They spent from the spring of 2000 through the summer of 2001 coming into regular contact with the other 9/11 hijackers—namely and most importantly, Hani Hanjour and Ziad Jarrah. Additionally, all four of the identified hijackers had contacts at the same flight school that Zaccarias Moussaoui was arrested at by the FBI in August 2001. The hijackers received numerous wire transfers from known al Qaeda operatives—such as Ramzi Binalshibh. They had ongoing contacts with other known al Qaeda operatives including Osama Bin Laden and Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. They trained in U.S. flight schools. They participated in numerous cross-country practice flights during the summer of 2001. They bought flight control manuals and global positioning equipment, knives and pepper spray. They traveled in and out of this country (sometimes to meet with other al Qaeda operatives) on a number of occasions from the spring of 2000 until the summer of 2001. Had the FBI been told about their presence in the United States, most certainly, the 9/11 attacks would have been prevented. How can I say this with such conviction?
Mohammed Atta was the pilot for Flight 11, the plane that hit WTC 1. Marwan al Shehhi was the pilot of Flight 175, the plane that hit WTC 2. Hani Hanjour was the pilot of Flight 77, the plane that hit the Pentagon. And, Ziad Jarrah was the pilot of Flight 93, the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. Let’s look at the details.
Flight 77—al Mihdhar, al Hazmi, and Hanjour
It should be noted that Hani Hanjour, the pilot of Flight 77, lived with al Hazmi for the 9 months preceding the 9/11 attacks. Recall, that al Hazmi was targeted and identified by CIA and allegedly also DIA by the summer of 2000. Thus, when Hazmi and Hanjour met in December of 2000, surveillance would have been active on Hazmi for approximately 4 months. Both Hazmi and Hanjour attended flight school together in the Phoenix area of Arizona (the same Phoenix that was the subject of the "Phoenix Memo" penned by FBI agent Kenneth Williams in the summer of 2001. Williams’ memo discussed strange patterns of middle-eastern men taking flying lessons in U.S. flight schools but the memo was ignored by FBI Headquarters). In the spring of 2001, both Hazmi and Hanjour moved to the East Coast settling in Virginia and then New Jersey. While on the East Coast, Hazmi and Hanjour came into regular contact with the remaining hijackers—the muscle hijackers--that would help them commandeer Flight 77. From December 2000 until the 9/11 attacks, Al Hazmi and Hanjour were inseparable. Thus, had al Hazmi been under surveillance and identified, it goes without saying that Hanjour would have been likewise identified as an al Qaeda operative.
Once identified, the FBI would have learned that Hanjour did not attend school after entering this country on a student visa in December 2000, thereby violating his immigration status and making him deportable under 8 USC 1227 (a)(1)(B). Necessarily, if deported, Hanjour would have been unable to pilot Flight 77 into the Pentagon. As an aside, al Hazmi would have also been deported since he overstayed the terms of his admission, a violation of immigration laws rendering him deportable under 8 USC 1227 (a)(1)(B).
Flight 93—Ziad Jarrah
Ziad Jarrah, the pilot of Flight 93, was a roommate with Mohammed Atta and Marwan al Shehhi while they lived in Hamburg, Germany. Once in the United States, Jarrah attended flight school in Venice, Florida from the summer of 2000 until the summer of 2001. Likewise, during the summer of 2000, Atta and al Shehhi arrived in Florida to take their flight lessons in Venice, Florida. All three had ongoing and continued contacts with one another for the year preceding the 9/11 attacks, and during the summer of 2001 they came into regular contact with the other muscle hijackers that would help them commandeer each of the flights they piloted on the day of 9/11.
It seems likely that if our CIA and DIA had identified both Atta and al Shehhi, they would have likewise identified Jarrah as an al Qaeda operative. Notably, Jarrah left and returned to the United States six times between the summer of 2000 and the 9/11 attacks. Jarrah also made hundreds of phone calls to his girlfriend who remained overseas in Germany during this time period and he also communicated frequently by email. Thus, there were ample opportunities to gather the kinds of information that both DIA and CIA could capitalize upon while Jarrah was living inside the United States.
Jarrah attended flight school in June 2000 without properly adjusting his immigration status, thereby violating his immigration status and rendering him inadmissible under 8 USC 1182 (a)(7)(B) each of the subsequent six times he re-entered the United States between June 2000 and August 5, 2001. Thus, Jarrah could have been either denied entry or deported had our FBI been aware of his identification as an al Qaeda operative. Whether arrested and deported or barred entry into the country, Jarrah clearly would have been unable to pilot Flight 93 on the morning of 9/11.
Flight 11—Mohammed Atta
Mohammed Atta was the pilot of Flight 11—the plane that flew into the first Tower of the World Trade Center. Atta is widely considered the ringleader of the 9/11 plot. He had ongoing contacts with Ramsi Binalshibh. He received regular wire transfers from known al Qaeda sources like Binalshibh. He traveled abroad at least twice and met with other known al Qaeda operatives throughout the time period of the summer of 2000 until the summer of 2001. He took flight lessons in Venice, Florida along with Marwan al Shehhi (another hijacker allegedly identified by Able Danger). Atta visited and made inquiries to the same flight school that Zaccarias Moussaoui was arrested at by the FBI in August 2001. Had lead-hijacker Atta been under surveillance by the FBI, there is absolutely no plausible way the 9/11 attacks could have been carried out.
Atta failed to present a proper M-1 visa when he entered the United States in January 2001. He had previously overstayed his tourist visa and therefore was inadmissible under 8 USC 1182(a)(7)(B). If he had been arrested and deported, Atta would not have been able to pilot Flight 11 into WTC 1 on the morning of 9/11.
Flight 175—Marwan al Shehhi
The final person allegedly identified by DIA was Marwan al Shehhi. As it turns out, DIA was not the only agency in the U.S. intelligence community that was aware of "Marwan" because in 1999, the German government had provided CIA with the name "Marwan" along with his telephone number. German intelligence had received his name and number as a result of their own surveillance of the Hamburg cell—the same cell that Atta and Jarrah were members.
From the summer of 2000 until the summer of 2001, Al Shehhi took his flight lessons in Florida alongside of Atta. They were inseparable. They opened joint bank accounts and received wire transfers from Binalshibh--a known al Qaeda operative. Together, they came into regular contact with the other hijackers particularly throughout the summer of 2001 when they all were located on the East Coast and making final plans for the 9/11 attacks.
The legality of al Shehhi’s presence in the United States remains questionable. The discrepancy surrounds whether al Shehhi was considered a "student pilot" or a full-blown pilot. If he was considered a "student pilot", his admission as a business visitor was erroneous, and he therefore, could have been barred entry to the country when he re-entered from a trip abroad in January 2001. If barred entry, clearly al Shehhi would have been unable to pilot flight 175 that flew into WTC 2 on the morning of 9/11.
Did Able Danger exist? And, if so, where is the chart that supposedly identifies Atta?
If the Able Danger chart exists, I think our government and its intelligence agencies had best locate it. It would seem that the chart might hold the names of other terrorists bent on murdering Americans. Why would such a chart go missing? Why wouldn’t our intelligence agencies want to utilize the wealth of information contained in that chart? In other words, shouldn’t we want to follow up on the other names listed on the chart? I know I would feel a lot better if I knew as a fact that every name on the chart was investigated, wouldn’t you? Or, if we do have the chart, I wonder if any of the other names on the Able Danger chart match any of the individuals’ identities in Gitmo? Why hasn’t anyone in our government given an accounting of where this chart is and whether the information held within the chart has been properly capitalized upon? Where is the urgency to locate this valuable document that contains another approximately 200 terrorists’ names? (As an aside, I find our entire government’s handling of this issue extremely uncomfortable. If the chart did not exist, then a clear, emphatic statement should have been issued by each entity: the Pentagon, the 9/11 Commission, and the Administration. Think about it. If you genuinely know that something never existed, then you can flatly deny its existence. Unless, it turns up, and then you're on the record denying its existence. It seems to me, that the deafening silence and hedging comments made by all those involved—comments along the lines of "well, if it turns out the chart exists, then…"— are very suspicious and quite disturbing. Its like nobody wants to get caught lying to the American public, but yet, nobody wants to confirm the Able Danger chart’s existence because the implications of the existence of such a chart is so damning. So now we have all of our government leaders and experts clamming up and acting like a bunch of potential criminal teenage boys in Aruba.)
Additionally, some questions have been raised about the ability of DIA to label or "identify" Atta as an al Qaeda operative as early as 2000. To me, it would seem logical that DIA was able to do so, after all, in 2000 Atta was living in Hamburg, Germany and having regular contacts with other known al Qaeda operatives namely Ramzi Binalshibh, Said Bahaji, Zakariya Essabar, Muhammed Zammar, Mounir Motassadeq, Abdelghani Mzoudi, and Mamoun Darkazanli. We know that the German government had Atta’s cell—the Hamburg cell—under surveillance and we also know that our CIA was conducting parallel surveillance during the same time period. Information surrounding the Hamburg cell and the surveillance is documented throughout the German trials of Mzoudi and Mottasedeq—two of the al Qaeda operatives that were prosecuted for their ties to the 9/11 attacks but eventually released after the United States refused to cooperate with the German courts by sharing intelligence evidence linking the men to the 9/11 plot. (Both men are walking the streets of Germany today as free men because our government refused to share evidence linking them to the 9/11 plot—something that frustrates many of the 9/11 families since we have yet to hold one terrorist accountable for the 9/11 attacks.) The surveillance of the Hamburg cell is also mentioned in overseas news reports from both London and Germany. One account even goes so far as to say that the CIA attempted to "flip" one of Atta’s comrades (Darkazanli) into being an informant for the CIA. Clearly, by December 2000, the CIA knew at least that Atta was a person of interest, so why should it seem so hard for the agency and others in our government to understand how DIA was able to do so, too?
Surveillance of the Hijackers—the proof.
The speed by which our government was able to accumulate such a vast amount of information immediately following the 9/11 attacks (in less than 24 hours) is the most persuasive proof that our government had the hijackers under its surveillance. FBI agents descended upon the very flight schools (out of the thousands of flight schools in our country) that the hijackers attended within two hours of the attacks. They were seen removing files from the flight schools buildings. Furthermore, photos of the hijackers and details about their activities in the final days before the attacks were also immediately presented to the American people. I mean you are talking about an intelligence apparatus that according to official accounts was completely in the dark about the plotting and planning of the 9/11 attacks. They — our intelligence agencies — knew nothing about the operatives living in this country—the operatives that were fully imbedded and openly training in our flight schools, partaking in practice flights across this country, receiving wire transfers from al Qaeda sources, and repeatedly traveling in and out of this country to visit other terrorists and terrorist facilities. Yet, for a group of agencies caught completely flat-footed on the day of 9/11, they certainly were able to get their act together at a time when most—if not all-- of this nation’s citizens were brought to their knees.
Additionally, when one carefully reads the 9/11 chronology and information provided in the public record, it becomes increasingly clear that the CIA’s repeated failure to share information with the FBI about two of the 9/11 hijackers—al Mihdhar and al Hazmi-- was purposeful. There exists at least seven instances between January 2000 and September 11th, 2001, that the CIA withheld vital information from the FBI about these two hijackers who were inside this country training for the attacks. Once, twice, maybe even three times could be considered merely careless oversights. But at least seven documented times? To me, that suggests something else. (To read about these instances, I suggest you read 9/11 materials relating to the "watchlisting issue" involving al Mihdhar and al Hazmi which is a story so detailed, that it deserves its own lengthy blog.)
The 9/11 Commission
At a bare minimum, the 9/11 Commission is not being honest with the American people. First, the Commission feigned total ignorance about Able Danger. Then, they admitted that they remembered hearing something about it. Next, they acknowledged that they were briefed about the program but found a discrepancy in the dates provided by the Able Danger informant, and therefore decided that the information was irrelevant to their investigation. Convenient excuses. But, wrong. Because, I happen to be one of the 9/11 widows that received personal commitments from each of the 9/11 Commissioners that they would track down every lead, and turn over every rock so as to provide the most thorough and definitive account of the 9/11 attacks to the American people. Last week’s revelations about Able Danger prove that the Commission has not been above-board with their investigation. Nor has their investigation been anywhere near exhaustive.
Now, legally speaking, the 9/11 Commissioners were mandated to provide a full accounting of the 9/11 attacks to the American people. If the Able Danger operation and its accompanying information turn out to be true, then necessarily each Commissioner has broken the law in that they failed to fulfill their legislative mandate in providing a full and just accounting of the 9/11 attacks to the American people. However, if we also come to learn that Atta’s or any of the other hijackers names were mentioned in the Able Danger chart, I think this nation will have bigger problems to deal with than accusing the 9/11 Commission of not following their mandate in providing a full accounting to the American people. As with most things in life, only time will tell.
Follow Kristen Breitweiser on Twitter: www.twitter.com/kdbreitweiser