REPORT OF THE JOINT INQUIRY INTO THE TERRORIST ATTACKS OF SEPTEMBER 11, 2001
The Joint Inquiry received testimony from the Director of Central Intelligence and the Directors of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency, and also examined the records of these agencies, to determine what the Intelligence Community knows now about the September 11 attacks. FBI Director Mueller described efforts by the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement communities "to find out everything we could about the hijackers and how they succeeded."
Usama Bin Ladin came to the FBI's attention after the first attack on the World Trade Center in February 1993. While the FBI has not linked that attack directly to Bin Ladin, the investigation developed information that Muslim men, including participants in the attack, had been recruited at the al-Kifah refugee office in Brooklyn, New York and sent to training camps in Afghanistan - first to fight the Soviet army and later to engage in a jihad against the United States. In 1993, the FBI also learned of a plot to blow up bridges, tunnels, and landmarks in New York. That investigation led to the conviction of Omar Abdul al-Rahman, the "Blind Sheikh," for soliciting others to commit all of those acts of terrorism in 1993. Bin Ladin's fatwas and press statements later called for avenging the Blind Sheikh's imprisonment.
The FBI has identified at least two Bin Ladin connections in Ramzi Yousef's 1995 conspiracy, centered in the Philippines, to blow up twelve U.S. airplanes flying East Asian routes to the United States. Mohamed Jamal Khalifah, the alleged financier of the plot, is Bin Ladin's brother-in-law. Ramzi Yousef was arrested at a Bin Ladin guesthouse in Pakistan to which Yousef had fled after the plot had been uncovered. Yousef was a principal in the first World Trade Center attacks, for which he was tried and convicted upon being returned to the United States. [Page 135]
George Tenet, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI), testified that "a common thread runs between the first attack on the World Trade Center in February 1993 and the 11 September attacks." The thread is Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, also known as Mukhtar or "the Brain." According to the DCI, Muhammad, "a high-ranking al-Qa'ida member," was "the mastermind or one of the key planners of the 11 September operation." The DCI noted that Mukhtar is Ramzi Yousef's uncle, and, after the World Trade Center attack, Muhammad joined Yousef in the 1995 airplane plot, for which Muhammad has been indicted by a federal grand jury.
In August 1996, Bin Ladin issued the first fatwa declaring jihad against the United States. A second fatwa in February 1998 proclaimed: "to kill the Americans and their allies - civilian and military is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it." Bin Ladin repeated these threats in a May 1998 press interview. The bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania followed in August.
In June 1998, the Department of Justice obtained a sealed indictment in the Southern District of New York against Bin Ladin as the sole named defendant in a "conspiracy to attack defense utilities of the United States." Among other overt acts, the indictment charged that in October 1993 "members of al-Qa'ida participated with Somali tribesmen in an attack on United States military personnel serving in Somalia [which] killed a total of 18 United States soldiers and wounded 73 others." The indictment was unsealed after the East African embassy bombings and was followed by a series of superseding indictments that charged Bin Ladin and others with a conspiracy to "murder United States nationals anywhere in the world, including in the United States."
The U.S. Government produced proof in the embassy bombing trials of Bin Ladin's direct connections to the attacks. Mohamed al- whali, who was to have been a suicide passenger in the Kenya bombing, ran from the bomb truck moments before it exploded. After his arrest in Kenya, al-Owhali confessed and admitted that he had been given a telephone number in Sana'a, Yemen, which he called before and after the bombing. Telephone records for calls to that number led to the bomb factory for the Nairobi attack in a house occupied by a ranking al-Qa'ida [page 136] member and training camp veteran. Calls from Bin Ladin's satellite phone to the Yemen number were made the day of the attack and the day after when al- Owhali called that number for help. Al-Owhali also confessed that he had asked Bin Ladin for a
mission, a request that led to his being in the bomb truck. According to al-Owhali, the suicide driver had been present with him at Bin Ladin's May 1998 press conference.
U.S. investigators have also described Bin Ladin's connection to the October 2000 attack on the United States Navy's ship, USS Cole. The [ ], which figured in the East Africa embassy bombings, was also used in planning the attack on USS Cole. In addition, Tawfiq bin Attash, known as Khallad, who had been a trainer at an al-Qa'ida camp in Afghanistan, prepared an introduction in the summer of 1999 for Abdel Rahim al-Nashiri addressed to Jamal al-Badawi, who had trained under Khallad. Al-Nashiri is believed to be a long-time Bin Ladin operative and a first cousin of the suicide driver who attacked the U.S. Embassy in Kenya. Khallad appears to have directed the Cole operation from Afghanistan or Pakistan, while al-Nashiri was its local manager.
Investigators believe that Khallad's letter set in motion plans to attack another U.S. Navy ship. Following al-Nashiri's introduction, Badawi obtained the boat that would be used in the failed attack on USS The Sullivans in January 2000. The same boat was used later that year in the attack against USS Cole.
[In testimony to the Joint Inquiry, the DCI explained that, after September 11, 2001, CIA learned [ ] that "in 1996, Bin Ladin's second- in-command, Muhammad Atif, drew up a study on the feasibility of hijacking U.S. planes and destroying them in flight." Khalid Shaykh Muhammad proposed to Bin Ladin that the World Trade Center "be targeted by small aircraft packed with explosives." Bin Ladin reportedly suggested using even larger planes].
According to the DCI, Muhammad Atif "chose the hijackers from young Arab men who had no previous terrorist activities." After Bin Ladin had approved the selection, Khalid Shaykh [page 137] Muhammad "trained them and instructed them on acquiring pilot training" and "supervised the 'final touches' of the 11 September operation."
In addition to Afghani-based al-Qa'ida roots of the September 11 attacks, the FBI reports that "[t]he operational planning for the September 11th attacks took place in overseas locations, most notably Germany, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates."
Two principal hijackers in the September 11 attacks, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al- Hazmi, entered the United States on a flight from Bangkok on January 15, 2000, a week after leaving a meeting in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Three other principals, Mohammed Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah, entered the United States in May and June 2000 from or through Europe. Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah had lived in Hamburg, Germany where they associated with each other in various ways. A sixth principal, Hani Hanjour, had been in the United States off and on since October 1991.
In June 18 testimony at a Joint Inquiry hearing, the DCI described al-Hazmi and al- Mihdhar as "al-Qa'ida veterans." They had been involved with al-Qa'ida for six years before September 11, 2001, "having trained and fought under al-Qa'ida auspices in three different countries."
Al-Hazmi first traveled to Afghanistan in 1993 as a teenager and came into contact with a key al-Qa'ida facilitator in Saudi Arabia in 1994. In 1995, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar traveled to Bosnia to fight with other Muslims against the Serbs. Al-Hazmi probably came into contact with al-Qa'ida leader Abu Zubaydah when Zubaydah visited Saudi Arabia in 1996 to convince young Saudis to attend al-Qa'ida camps in Afghanistan. Sometime before 1998, al-Hazmi returned to Afghanistan and swore loyalty to Bin Ladin. He fought against the Northern Alliance, possibly with his brother Salem, another of the hijackers, and returned to Saudi Arabia in early 1999, [page 138] where, [ ], he disclosed information about the East Africa embassy bombings.
Al-Mihdhar's first trip to the Afghanistan training camps was in early 1996. [
]. In 1998, al-Mihdhar traveled to Afghanistan and swore allegiance to Bin Ladin.
In April 1999, Nawaf al-Hazmi, Salem al-Hazmi, and Khalid al-Mihdhar obtained visas through the U.S. Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi then traveled to Afghanistan and "participated in special training," which, according to the DCI, may have been "facilitated by Khallad" (Tawfiq bin Attash who also directed the USS Cole operation). A USS Cole suicide bomber also participated in that training.
From Yemen, al-Mihdhar traveled to Kuala Lumpur, arriving on January 5, 2000. There he met al-Hazmi, who had traveled to Malaysia from Pakistan. In Malaysia, the two met Khallad at a condominium owned by Yazid Sufaat, who later signed letters of introduction on behalf of Zacarias Moussaoui that were found in Moussaoui's possessions after the September 11 attacks. Malaysian police arrested Sufaat in December 2001 after they developed information that he had procured four tons of bomb material, ammonium nitrate, for an Indonesian jihad cell.
In testimony before the Joint Inquiry, DCI Tenet described the significant characteristics that were shared by Muhammad Atta, Marwan al-Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah - the September 11 hijackers who most likely piloted the airplanes that the groups they were part of commandeered. The three were intelligent, spoke English and were proficient in several other languages, and were familiar with Western society. They were also educated in technical subjects and had [page 139] mastered skills necessary to pilot planes. Of particular note, the three were part of a group of young Muslim men in Hamburg, Germany, who came from different countries and backgrounds, but attended the same mosques, shared acquaintances, and were drawn together by Islamist views and disenchantment with the West.
Atta was born in Egypt in 1968. He graduated from Cairo University with a degree in Architectural Engineering in 1990 and began attending the Technical University in Hamburg in 1992. Between 1996 and 1998, Atta traveled in the Middle East and then returned to Germany.
Al-Shehhi was born in the United Arab Emirates in 1978. A sergeant in the UAE Army, he was sent to Germany for technical studies in 1996. In 1997 and 1998, he studied English at the University at Bonn and electrical engineering at the Technical University in Hamburg.
Jarrah was born in Lebanon in 1975. He attended the Fachhochschule, a technical University in Hamburg from 1996 to 2000, studying aircraft construction and maintenance.
While in Germany, Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah, according to FBI documents, kept company with a loosely organized group of associates comprised of roommates, co-workers and mosque colleagues." Three associates, Ramzi Bin al-Shibh, Said Bahaji, and Zakariya Essabar, became subjects of post-September 11 German arrest warrants for alleged membership in a terrorist organization and for murder and aircraft piracy. A fourth, Mounir el Motassadeq, is on trial in Hamburg on those charges.*
Bin al-Shibh, who was born in Yemen in 1972 and entered Germany in 1995, is described as a "supporting conspirator" in the Moussaoui indictment. In August 2000, Jarrah attempted to enroll Bin al-Shibh in the Florida Flight Training Center, where Jarrah was taking lessons. On August 15, Bin al-Shibh sent a $2200 wire transfer to the school for tuition, and in July and September, he transferred funds to al-Shehhi in Florida. Between May and October 2000, Bin al-Shibh unsuccessfully attempted four times -- three in Germany and once in Yemen [page 140] - to obtain a visa to travel to the United States. Between December 2 and 9, 2000, Bin al-Shibh was in London. Moussaoui flew from London to Pakistan on December 9.
FBI Director Mueller testified that Bin al-Shibh was a "significant money person." The Moussaoui indictment charges that Bin al-Shibh received $15,000 in wire transfers from the UAE on or about July 30 and 31, 2001 and that he wired $14,000 to Moussaoui in Oklahoma on or about August 1 and 3 from train stations in Dusseldorf and Hamburg.
[DCI Tenet testified that, after September 11, 2001, CIA received reports identifying Bin al-Shibh "as an important al-Qa'ida operative." The agency suspects that, "unlike the three
* Motassadeq was convicted in Germany on February 19, 2003 of being a member of a terrorist organization and accessory to over 3,000 murders in New York and Washington.
Hamburg pilots, he may have been associated with al-Qa'ida even before moving to Germany in 1995." Bin al-Shibh flew to Spain in early September 2001. He disappeared until an interview with al-Jazeera was aired in September 2002, and he was captured in Pakistan on September 11, 2002. Bin al-Shibh is now being held [ ] at an undisclosed location].
Atta lived at Marienstrasse 54 in Hamburg with Bin al-Shibh, Essabar, and Bahaji. Director Tenet testified that, after Bin al-Shibh failed to obtain a U.S. visa, "another cell member," Essabar, "tried [on two occasions in December 2000] and failed to obtain a visa in January 2001" to travel to Florida while Atta and al-Shehhi were there. Uncorroborated sources report that Essabar was in Afghanistan in late September 2001. Bahaji left Germany on September 3, 2001 for Pakistan. Uncorroborated sources also placed him in Afghanistan in late September 2001.
DCI Tenet testified that Muhammad Heydar Zammar was an acquaintance of members of Atta's circle in Hamburg, where Zammar lived. Zammar, a German citizen born in Syria in 1961, was described by DCI Tenet as "a known al-Qa'ida associate," active in Islamic extremist circles since the 1980s, who trained and fought in Afghanistan in 1991 and in Bosnia in 1995 and returned to Afghanistan a number of times between 1995 and 2000.
It has been reported that U.S. and German officials believe that Zammar is a pivotal figure in understanding the genesis of the September 11 attacks. DCI Tenet told the Joint [page 141] Inquiry that Zammar "was taken into custody by the Moroccans [ ]" when he traveled to Morocco to divorce his wife and that he was "moved from Morocco into Syrian custody, where he has remained." It has also been reported that Zammar has provided details about the September 11 attacks to U.S. investigators. According to the DCI, Zammar has said that he met Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah in the late 1990s in Hamburg's al-Qods mosque and he "persuaded them to travel to Afghanistan to join the jihad."
DCI Tenet testified that Atta may have traveled to Afghanistan for the first time in early 1998. In June 1998, he applied for a new passport in Egypt, although his old one had not expired. This suggested, according to the DCI, "that he might have been trying to hide evidence of his travel to Afghanistan." On November 29, 1999, Atta flew from Hamburg to Istanbul and then to Karachi. He left Pakistan to return to Hamburg on February 25, 2000.
In the fall of 1999, al-Shehhi stayed at Bin Ladin's Qandahar guesthouse while awaiting transportation to Pakistan for medical treatment. He returned to Germany in January 2000. According to FBI information, Atta and al-Shehhi "were both present at Bin Ladin facilities in Kandahar in December 1999." The DCI noted that "Jarrah's travel at this time mirrored Atta's," as Jarrah flew from Hamburg to Karachi on November 25, 1999 and stayed in Pakistan for two months.
There are indications that Bin al-Shibh was in Afghanistan in 1998 and had been seen at the Khalden Camp or guesthouse in late 1998. The Moussaoui indictment alleges that Moussaoui had been present at the Khalden Camp in or about April 1998.
On January 15, 2000, one week after leaving Malaysia, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al- Hazmi flew to Los Angeles from Bangkok and settled in the San Diego area. In April 2000, al- Hazmi took an introductory flying lesson at the National Air College in San Diego. A week [page 142] later, al-Hazmi received a $5000 wire transfer through a third party sent from the United Arab Emirates. In May, al- ihdhar and al-Hazmi took flight training in San Diego, and in June, al-Mihdhar left the U.S. on a Lufthansa flight from Los Angeles to Frankfurt, connecting to Oman. Al-Mihdhar did not return to the United States until thirteen months later in July 2001.
Al-Hazmi remained in the United States, staying in the San Diego area until December 2000 when he moved to Arizona with Hani Hanjour who had just returned to the United States. The DCI testified that Hanjour went to Afghanistan for six weeks in 1989 when he was 17 to participate in a jihad. He first entered the United States in October 1991 from Saudi Arabia to attend an English language program at the University of Arizona in Tucson. When he left the U.S. in early 1992 for Saudi Arabia, he was a "different person," according to a brother who spoke to the media. According to the DCI, Hanjour then "wore a full beard, cut his past social ties, and spent most of his time reading books on religion and airplanes." Hanjour returned to the United States in April 1996. After residing in Florida for a month, he moved to Oakland, California, where he took an English language course. In the summer, he began flight training, and in September, he moved to Arizona where he took flight lessons for a month in Scottsdale.
Hanjour left the U.S. for Saudi Arabia in November 1996, returning to the United States in November 1997.
Hanjour left the United States again in April 1999, after receiving an FAA commercial pilot certificate. In September, after an initial denial, he obtained a student visa in Jeddah and returned to the United States. Then in November 2000, having stayed in Florida for a month, he met al-Hazmi in California and traveled with him to Arizona in early December. On December 12, he took up residence in Mesa, Arizona with al-Hazmi and resumed aviation training. He took Boeing groundwork and simulator training in February and March 2001, when he and al-Hazmi left Arizona for northern Virginia.
Atta returned to Germany from Afghanistan through Pakistan in February 2000. On March 1, he sent the first of a series of e-mails to pilot training schools in Lakeland, Florida and Norman, Oklahoma. Claiming that his passport had been lost, Atta obtained a new Egyptian passport in Hamburg in May 2000 and a visa for travel to the United States. He crossed over to the Czech Republic by bus [page 143] and flew to Newark in June 2000. Al-Shehhi had arrived several days earlier on a flight from the United Arab Emirates through Brussels to Newark. He obtained a new passport, apparently in Pakistan before leaving for Germany at the beginning of January 2000. Later that month, he obtained a ten-year multiple entry visa at the U.S. consulate in Dubai. Atta and al-Shehhi stayed in the New York area, renting apartments together until the beginning of July when they flew to Oklahoma City for a short visit to the Airman Flight School in Norman. They proceeded to Florida, opened a joint account at Sun Trust Bank (depositing $7000), and began training at Huffman Aviation in Venice.
In the meantime, Jarrah arrived in the U.S. on June 27 at Atlanta, Georgia. Earlier in the year, he reported losing his Lebanese passport, and in May he obtained a five-year B1/B2 multiple entry visa. On arriving in the United States, Jarrah proceeded to Venice, Florida, where he began training at the Florida Flight Training Center.
In Fall 2000, Atta and al-Shehhi obtained instrument certifications and commercial pilot licenses while at Huffman Aviation. They also spent a brief period at Jones Aviation in Sarasota, Florida. From December 29 through 31, Atta and al-Shehhi received Boeing flight simulator training at Sim Center and Pan Am International in Opalocka, Florida. The FBI reports that that
both men "requested training on "executing turns and approaches" but not other training normally associated with the course.@ In the meantime, Jarrah continued flight training until December 2000 where he had begun it, the Florida Flight Training Center. In mid- December and in early January 2001, he took Boeing flight simulator lessons at the Aeroservice Aviation Center in Virginia Gardens, Florida.
In December 2000, al-Shehhi flew to Hamburg and then on to the United Arab Emirates, returning for the December flight simulator training with Atta. On January 4, 2001, Atta flew from Tampa through Miami to Madrid, returning to Miami on January 10. The DCI testified that the purpose of Atta's trip to Spain "may have been to meet with another al-Qa'ida operative to pass along an update on the pilots' training progress and receive information on the supporting hijackers who would begin arriving in the U.S. in the spring." DCI Tenet testified that "Atta may also have traveled outside of the U.S. in early April 2001 to meet an Iraqi intelligence officer, although we are still working to [page 144] corroborate this." Atta may have traveled under an unknown alias: the CIA has been unable to establish that he left the United States or entered Europe in April under his true name or any known alias.
On April 18, al-Shehhi, who traveled outside the United States three times, flew to Egypt by way of Amsterdam and returned to Miami from Egypt through Amsterdam on May 2. In Egypt, al-Shehhi visited Atta's father and returned to the U.S. with Atta's international driver's license. Apart from that, the DCI testified, "nothing else is known of al-Shehhi's activities while traveling outside the U.S." Jarrah traveled even more frequently, taking at least five trips outside the United States to visit his family in Lebanon, and to visit his girl friend in Germany.
After al-Shehhi returned from Morocco in January 2001, he and Atta moved to Georgia for flight training. In February, they traveled to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where they opened a mailbox account. A crop duster pilot in Belle Glade, Florida identified Atta as inquiring about the purchase and operation of crop dusters while Atta was living in the Atlanta area.
The thirteen remaining hijackers, the "muscle," whose role was to overcome pilots and control passengers, began arriving in the United States in April 2001. Except for one threesome, they arrived in pairs, the last in June. Twelve of the thirteen were from Saudi Arabia, and one was from the United Arab Emirates. Salem al-Hazmi, Nawaf's brother, obtained his visa as early as April 1999; seven obtained visas from September to November 2000; three, as late as June 2001. As FBI Director Mueller noted, these hijackers arrived in the United States "within a fairly short window," each transiting through the United Arab Emirates.
Many in the group knew each other. There were two pairs of brothers, the al-Hazmis and al-Shehris, in addition to networks of friends. Many came from southwest Saudi Arabia, and they represented a range of socioeconomic levels. A few had higher education. Others had little education. Some had struggled with depression or alcohol abuse. Some, according to DCI Tenet, "never exhibited much religious fervor, before apparent exposure to extremist ideas - through family members, friends, [page 145] or clerics - led to an abrupt radicalization and separation from their families;" some spoke of "their desire to participate in jihad conflicts such as the war in Chechnya, and some appear to have used this as a cover for traveling to Afghanistan." The DCI also testified that "[a]s part of their commitment to militant Islam, these young Saudis traveled to Afghanistan to train in the camps of their exiled countryman Usama Bin Ladin." Most supporting hijackers went to Afghanistan for the first time in 1999 or 2000. Notwithstanding the experience in Afghanistan, the CIA does not believe that the supporting hijackers became involved in the plot until late 2000. Their early travel may have "added these young men to the ranks of operatives that al-Qa'ida could call upon to carry out future missions," but DCI Tenet said he does not believe that al-Qa'ida leadership wanted the supporting hijackers to know about the plot any sooner than necessary: "they probably were told little more than that they were headed for a suicide mission inside the United States."
Al-Mihdhar, who left the United States a year before, obtained a visa in Jeddah in June 2001, using a new Saudi passport. According to DCI Tenet, he "spent the past year traveling between Yemen and Afghanistan, with occasional trips to Saudi Arabia." Al-Mihdhar traveled to New York in July 2001 from Saudi Arabia, six days after the last of the supporting hijackers had flown to the United States. FBI Director Mueller testified that "al-Mihdhar's role in the September 11 plot between June 2000 and July 2001 - before his re-entry into the United States - may well have been that of the coordinator and organizer of the movements of the non-pilot
hijackers. This is supported by his apparent lengthy stay in Saudi Arabia and his arriving back in the United States only after the arrival of all the hijackers."
Beginning in May 2001, each of the four pilot hijackers flew across the United States. FBI Director Mueller described these trips: "With their training complete, it appears that the pilots began conducting possible surveillance flights as passengers aboard cross-country flights transiting between the Northeast United States and California." On May 24, al-Shehhi flew from New York to San Francisco on a Boeing 767 (seated in first class), leaving immediately on a Boeing 757 (seated in first class) to Las Vegas. On May 27, al-Shehhi left Las Vegas to San Francisco, continuing to New York on a Boeing 767 (seated in first class). On June 7, Jarrah flew from Baltimore via Los Angeles to Las [page 146] Vegas, returning to Baltimore on June 10. On June 28, Atta flew from Boston to San Francisco, continuing to Las Vegas, departing there on July 1 through Denver to Boston. On August 13, Atta flew a second time across country from Washington to Las Vegas on a Boeing 757 (seated in first class), returning on August 14 to Ft. Lauderdale. On August 13, Hanjour and al-Hazmi (seated in first class) flew from Dulles to Las Vegas via Los Angeles. They left Las Vegas on August 14 on a flight to Minneapolis (close to Eagan, Minnesots, where Moussaoui had started flight lessons the day before), connecting an hour and a half later to a flight to Baltimore.
Director Mueller noted the Las Vegas layovers:
Each of the return flights for these hijackers had layovers in Las Vegas. To date, the purpose of these one-to-two day layovers is not known. However, with respect to travel to Las Vegas, we know that at least one hijacker on each of the four hijacked airplanes traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada sometime between May and August of 2001. This travel consisted of an initial transcontinental trip from an east-coast city to a west-coast city, and a connection in that west-coast city to a Las Vegas-bound flight.
Atta flew to Zurich from Miami in July 2001, continuing on to Madrid. He checked out of a Madrid hotel on July 9 and rented a car that he returned on July 19, after having driven 1,908 kilometers. For the days immediately following July 9, Atta's whereabouts are unknown until he checked into a hotel in Tarragona on Spain's east coast on July 16. On July 9, Bin al- Shibh flew from Hamburg to Tarragona, where he checked out of a hotel on July 10. His
whereabouts from July 10 to 16 are unaccounted for, "roughly the same period during which Atta's movements are unknown," suggesting, according to DCI Tenet, that "the two engaged in clandestine meetings on the progress of the plot." Atta returned to the United States on July 19, arriving in Atlanta. Jarrah traveled to Germany from Newark on July 25, returning on August 5, a trip that may have permitted further contact with Bin al-Shibh. Director Mueller also testified that "[d]uring the summer of 2001, some of the hijackers, specifically Mohamed Atta and Nawaf al-Hazmi appear to have met face-to-face on a monthly basis to discuss the status of the operation, and ultimately the final preparation for the attack." In an interview with al-Jazeera shortly before his capture, Bin al-Shibh described al-Hazmi as Atta's "right hand."
As the supporting hijackers arrived, they divided between Florida and New York before moving to three staging areas. The two who arrived in Virginia and the two who arrived in New York joined Nawaf al-Hazmi and Hanjour in Paterson, New Jersey. The four who arrived in Orlando and the five who arrived in Miami joined Atta, al-Shehhi, and Jarrah in the Fort Lauderdale, Florida area.
The nineteen hijackers began to book September 11 flights on August 26. Al-Mihdhar and Majed Moqed, hijackers on the Pentagon flight, were unable to buy tickets on August 24 because their address could not be verified. They finally purchased them with cash on September 5 at the American Airlines counter in the Baltimore/Washington International Airport. The hijackers in the Fort Lauderdale area also booked flights to locations in the Boston, Newark, New Jersey, and Washington, D.C. areas where the teams for each September 11 flight assembled.
The FBI estimates that the September 11 attacks cost $175,000 to $250,000. According to Director Mueller and Bureau documents, "the funding mechanism behind the conspiracy appears to center around Marwan al-Shehhi and individuals providing financial support primarily" through the "banking and wire service infrastructure" of the United Arab Emirates.
In Hamburg, al-Shehhi received substantial transfers from the UAE by wire from Mohamed Yousef Mohamed Alqusaidi, whom the FBI believes to be al-Shehhi's brother. In July 1999, al-Shehhi opened a checking account in the UAE and soon after granted a power of
attorney over the account to Alqusaidi. From July 1999 to November 2000, about $100,000 moved through the account. While they were in Germany, al-Shehhi transferred funds to Atta.
In July 2000, al-Shehhi and Atta opened a joint account at Suntrust Bank in Venice, Florida, which received, according to the FBI, Awhat appears to be the primary funding for the conspiracy,@ four transfers from the UAE totaling approximately $110,000 from Ali Abdul Aziz Ali using a variety of aliases. In June 2000, al-Shehhi also received $5,000 by Western Union wire from Isam Mansour. In [page 148] April, Ali wired $5,000 to al-Hazmi in San Diego. Several hijackers, including Hanjour and al-Mihdhar, supplemented their financing with credit cards drawn on Saudi and UAE banks.
Transfers to Bin al-Shibh on July 30 and 31, 2001, which preceded his transfers to Moussaoui, were from Hashem Abdulraham, whom FBI Director Mueller identified as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, "the Brain."
There was also an important flow of money back to the UAE immediately before September 11. FBI documents state that funds "were returned to the source because the hijackers would not have wanted to die as thieves, therefore they returned the money that was provided to them." Three hijackers, including Atta and al-Shehhi, sent funds to Mustafa Ahmed Alhawsawi in the UAE. Al-Hazmi sent an Express Mail package to a UAE post office box rented in Alhawsawi's name that contained al-Mihdhar's debit card for an account in which $10,000 remained. Alhawsawi also had power of attorney over accounts of several hijackers in the UAE.
At approximately 7:59 a.m., on September 11, American Airlines Flight 11, bound for Los Angeles, was cleared for takeoff from Logan International Airport in Boston. On board were 81 passengers and 11 crew members. Two hijackers were in the first two seats in First Class, from which the cockpit doors were easily accessible. According to Director Mueller, the hijackers "apparently using commonly available box cutters" seized the aircraft and diverted its
course at about 8:13 a.m. At 8:45 a.m. Flight 11 crashed into the World Trade Center's North Tower, which collapsed at 10:25 a.m.
Atta is believed to have been the pilot because he was the only Flight 11 hijacker known to have had flight training. He spent the night before the attacks in Portland, Maine, flying to Boston on the morning of September 11. Atta's luggage did not make the connection to Flight 11. The FBI Director testified that a search "revealed a three page letter handwritten in Arabic which, upon translation, was found to contain instructions on how to prepare for a mission applicable, but not specific, to the September 11 operation."
At approximately 7:58 a.m., United Airlines Flight 175, also bound for Los Angeles, left Logan with 65 passengers and crew members. At 9:05 a.m., Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center's South Tower, which collapsed at 9:55 a.m. Marwan al-Shehhi is believed to have been the pilot.
As of December 2002, the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner of the City of New York reported that 2792 persons are reported as missing as a result of the attacks on the World Trade Center, including persons on the ground and passengers and crew of the two planes. Of this number, 2743 death certificates have been issued. The Chief Medical Examiner has periodically revised the death toll based on continuing forensic and other determinations.
At approximately, 8:20 a.m., American Airlines Flight 77 left Dulles International Airport for Los Angeles with 58 passengers and six crew members. The last routine radio contact with the plane was at 8:50 a.m. A few minutes later the plane made an unauthorized turn. At 9:39 a.m., Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon's southwest side. In addition to the passengers and crew, 125 military and civilian Pentagon employees died. The pilot is believed to have been Hani Hanjour. A copy of the letter in Atta's luggage was found in a car registered to al-Hazmi that had been parked at Dulles.
At approximately 8:42 a.m., United Airlines Flight 93 left Newark International Airport for San Francisco with 37 passengers and seven crew members. Ziad Jarrah was the only one of four hijackers aboard known to have a pilot's license; therefore, he is believed to have been the
pilot. At approximately 10:03 a.m., Flight 93 crashed into the ground at Stoney Creek Township in southwestern Pennsylvania.
Telephone calls from passengers and crew to family and friends described attempts by passengers and crew to retake the plane prior to the crash. One call described three hijackers wearing bandanas and armed with knives, with one hijacker claiming to have a bomb strapped to his waist. Two hijackers entered the cockpit and closed the door behind them. The passengers were herded to the back of the plane. The captain and co-pilot were seen lying on the floor of the First Class section, possibly [page 150] dead. At the words, "Let's roll," passengers rushed forward. As described by the FBI Director, the cockpit tape-recorder indicates that a hijacker, minutes before Flight 93 hit the ground, "advised Jarrah to crash the plane and end the passengers attempt to retake the airplane."
A copy of the letter found in Atta's baggage and al-Hazmi's car was also found at the Flight 93 crash site. The FBI notes that some of the Arabic on the cockpit tape, "such as supplications to Allah, conforms to the suicide preparation instructions" in that letter.
In the UAE, Alhawsawi, the plot financier, consolidated in his bank account funds the hijackers had returned, to which he added funds he withdrew from one of their accounts just hours before the September 11 attacks. He then flew to Karachi, Pakistan. His whereabouts are unknown.
[In late 1999, the Intelligence Community launched a worldwide effort to disrupt terrorist operations that were planned to occur during the Millennium celebrations. A CIA officer told the Joint Inquiry that, as the Intelligence Community reviewed information from the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings, "a kind of tuning fork . . . buzzed when two individuals reportedly planning a trip to Kuala Lumpur were linked indirectly to what appeared to be a support element . . . involved with the Africa bombers." One traveler, Khalid al-Mihdhar, started his journey to Malaysia from the Middle East, where, according to Joint Inquiry testimony from DCI Tenet, he
had been at a "suspected al-Qa'ida logistics facility." The other, Nawaf al-Hazmi, began his trip to Malaysia from Pakistan. Initially, only the travelers' first names were known. From the outset, information circulated throughout the Intelligence Community that identified them as "terrorist operatives." For example, a CIA cable stated, "Nawaf's travel may be in support of a terrorist mission]."
The intelligence preceding the Malaysian meeting also showed that a person whose first name was Salem would attend. An intelligence analyst observed at the time that "Salem may be Nawaf's younger brother," and that observation was reported to other Intelligence Community agencies.
The Kuala Lumpur meeting took place between January 5 and 8, 2000. There has been no intelligence about what was discussed at the meeting, but, according to DCI Tenet, surveillance [ ] that began with al-Mihdhar's arrival on January 5 "indicated that the behavior of the individuals was consistent with clandestine activity."
It was later determined that Khallad bin-Atash, a leading operative in Bin Ladin's network, also attended the meeting. According to DCI Tenet, Khallad was "the most important figure at the Kuala Lumpur meeting" and he would later become "a key planner in the October 2000 USS Cole bombing."
The principal location of the meeting was a condominium owned by Yazid Sufaat, who DCI Tenet identified to the Joint Inquiry as "a Malaysian chemist . . . directed by a terrorist leader to make his apartment available." Later in 2000, Sufaat signed letters of introduction for Zacarias Moussaoui as a representative of his company, letters Moussaoui took with him to the United States.
DCI Tenet testified that, "[i]n early January 2000, we managed to obtain a photocopy of al-Mihdhar's passport as he traveled to Kuala Lumpur." This gave the CIA al-Mihdhar's full name, his passport number, and birth information. It also showed that al-Mihdhar held a U.S. visa, issued in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia in April 1999, that would not expire until April 2000. These
facts were verified at the U.S. consulate in Jeddah before the meeting started. The DCI told the Joint Inquiry:
We had at that point the level of detail needed to watchlist [al-Mihdhar] - that is, to nominate him to State Department for refusal of entry into the US or to deny him another visa. Our officers remained focused on the surveillance operation and did not do so.
Surveillance photographs of the meeting were taken by the [ ] and transmitted to CIA Headquarters. When the meeting ended, al- ihdhar, al-Hazmi, and Khallad (under a different name) flew to Thailand seated side by side.
Soon after the travelers left Malaysia on January 8, the CIA received evidence that Nawaf's last name might be al-Hazmi when it learned that someone with that last name had been seated next to al-Mihdhar on the flight from Malaysia. That information could have led to Nawaf al-Hazmi's watchlisting.
Unknown to the CIA, since early 1999 the National Security Agency had information associating al-Hazmi by his full name with the Bin Ladin network, information it did not disseminate. NSA Director Hayden, told the Joint Inquiry:
We did not disseminate information we received in early 1999 that was unexceptional in its content except that it associated the name of Nawaf al-Hazmi with al-Qa'ida. . . . At the time of the meeting in Kuala Lumpur, we had the al- Hazmi brothers, Nawaf and Salem, as well as Khalid al-Mihdhar, in our sights. We knew of their association with al-Qa'ida, and we shared this information with the Community. I've looked at this closely. If we had handled all of the above perfectly, the only new fact that we could have contributed at the time of Kuala Lumpur was that Nawaf's surname (and perhaps that of Salem, who appeared to be Nawaf's brother) was al-Hazmi.
Although NSA did not disseminate this information to the Intelligence Community before September 11, it was available in NSA databases. However, no one at CIA or elsewhere asked NSA before September 11 to review its database for information about Nawaf al-Hazmi.
Knowledge of Nawaf's last name also pointed to his brother Salem's last name, which meant that the Intelligence Community had in its grasp the full names of three of the future hijackers. In addition, the State Department had in the records of its Jeddah consulate the fact
that Nawaf and Salem al-Hazmi had obtained U.S. visas in April 1999, several days before al- Mihdhar obtained his U.S. visa at that consulate.
Thus, at the time of the Malaysia meeting, the CIA had passport information regarding al- Mihdhar, including his U.S. visa. A CIA officer, who was working as a CTC Supervisor, testified before the Joint Inquiry that a CTC cable in early 2000 noted that al-Mihdhar's passport information had been "passed to the FBI," but the CIA was unable to "confirm either passage or receipt of the [page 153] information" and, thus, could not identify "the exact details . . . that were passed." The Joint Inquiry found no record of the visa information at FBI Headquarters.
While the Malaysia meeting was in progress, a CIA employee sent an e-mail to a CIA colleague describing "exactly" the briefings he had given two FBI agents on al-Mihdhar's activities. The CIA employee had been assigned to the FBI's Strategic Information Operations Center to deal with problems "in communicating between the CIA and the FBI." The e-mail did not mention that al-Mihdhar held a U.S. visa, but did report that the CIA employee told the second FBI agent the following:
This continues to be an [intelligence] operation. Thus far, a lot of suspicious activity has been observed but nothing that would indicate evidence of an impending attack or criminal enterprise. Told [the first FBI agent] that as soon as something concrete is developed leading us to the criminal arena or to known FBI cases, we will immediately bring FBI into the loop. Like [the first FBI agent] yesterday, [the second FBI agent] stated that this was a fine approach and thanked me for keeping him in the loop.
An e-mail from the second FBI agent to FBI Headquarters discussed the conversation with the CIA employee. This e-mail also did not mention al-Mihdhar's visa information. None of the participants in these communications now recalls discussing the visa information.
[For six weeks, CIA sought to locate al-Mihdhar in Thailand. It was unsuccessful, however, because, according to a CIA officer's testimony, "[w]hen they arrived [in Thailand] we were unable to mobilize what we needed to mobilize." Nonetheless, in February 2000, CIA rejected a request from foreign authorities to become involved because CIA was in the middle of an investigation "to determine what the subject is up to]."
[In early March 2000, CIA Headquarters, including CTC and its Bin Ladin unit, received a cable from a CIA station in [ ] noting that Nawaf al-Hazmi had traveled to Los Angeles on January 15, 2000. The cable was marked "Action Required: None, FYI [For Your Information]." The following day, another station, which had been copied on the cable by the originating station, cabled [page 154] CTC's Bin Ladin unit that it had read the cable "with interest," particularly "the information that a member of this group traveled to the U.S. following his visit to Kuala Lumpur." No action resulted at CIA].*
Once again, the CIA did not add Nawaf al-Hazmi's name to the State Department's watchlist for denying admission to the United States. It also did not notify the FBI that a "terrorist operative," as al-Hazmi was described in January, had entered the United States. The CIA did not consider the possibility that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, who had flown together to Thailand, continued on together to the United States. In fact, al-Mihdhar had flown with al- Hazmi to the United States on January 15, 2000.
The CIA Headquarters employee who had direct responsibility for tracking the movement of the attendees at the Malaysia meeting does not recall either the March 5 or March 6, 2000 messages concerning al-Hazmi's travel to the United States. The CTC Supervisor, referred to earlier, testified before the Joint Inquiry:
It's very difficult to understand what happened with [the March 5] cable when it came in. I don't know exactly why it was missed. It would appear that it was missed.
* This occurred even though CTC had republished guidance reminding personnel of the importance of watchlisting in December 1999. (see Appendix, "CTC Watchlisting Guidance - December 1999").
DCI Tenet also testified about this omission: "Our receipt of the information in March should have triggered the thought to watchlist al-Hazmi, but no CTC officer recalls even having seen the cable on his travel to LA when it arrived." In fact, the DCI explained: "[n]obody read that cable in the March time frame." Summing up these early watchlisting failures, the DCI told the Joint Inquiry:
During the intense operations to thwart the Millennium and Ramadan threats, the watchlist task in the case of these two al- Qa'ida operatives slipped through. The error exposed a weakness in our internal training and an inconsistent understanding of watchlist thresholds.
By February 2000, al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi had settled in San Diego, California where they used their true names on a rental agreement. They did the same in obtaining California driver's licenses.
[In May 2000, they took flight lessons in San Diego. While in San Diego, the two had numerous contacts with a long-time FBI counterterrorism informant].
On June 10, al-Mihdhar flew from Los Angeles to Frankfurt, and then on to Oman. Al- Hazmi remained in the United States. On July 12, two days before the expiration of the sixmonth visa he had been granted on arriving in January, al-Hazmi applied to the INS for an extension, using the address of the San Diego apartment he had shared with al-Mihdhar.
The INS does not have a record of any additional extension request by al-Hazmi, who remained in the United States illegally after his extension expired in January 2001. In December 2000, al-Hazmi moved to Mesa, Arizona, with Hani Hanjour, another hijacker.
On October 12, 2000, two Al Qa'ida terrorists attacked USS Cole as the destroyer refueled in Yemen. In investigating the attack, the FBI developed information that Khallad bin
Attash had been a principal planner of the bombing and that two other participants in the Cole conspiracy had delivered money to Khallad in Malaysia at the time of the Malaysia meeting. The FBI shared this information with the CIA, whose analysts decided to conduct a review of what was known about the meeting.
In January 2001, CIA concluded, based on statements by a joint CIA/FBI human source, that Khallad appeared in one of the surveillance photos taken during the Malaysia meeting. The CIA recognized that Khallad's presence at the meeting was significant because it meant that the other attendees, including al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi, had been in direct contact with the key planner of the Cole attack for Bin Ladin's network. DCI Tenet described the import of this development to the Joint Inquiry: [page 156]
The Malaysian meeting took on greater significance in December 2000 when the investigation of the October 2000 USS Cole bombing linked some of Khalid al- Mihdhar's Malaysia connections with Cole bombing suspects. We further confirmed the suspected link between al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi and a person thought to be one of the chief planners of the Cole attack, via a joint FBI-CIA [human] asset. This was the first time that CIA could definitively place al-Hazmi and al- Mihdhar with a known al-Qa'ida operative.
Although al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi had now been "definitively" placed "with a known al-Qai'ida operative," the CIA once again did not act to add them to the State Department's watchlist. In January 2001, Khalid al-Mihdhar was abroad, his visa had expired, and he would have to clear a watchlist check before obtaining a new visa to re-enter the United States.
The DCI testified that the information about Khallad resulted from a "joint case" the FBI and the CIA were conducting. The CTC Chief at the time also testified that the CIA ran "a joint operation with the FBI to determine if a Cole suspect was in a Kuala Lumpur surveillance photo":
Both agencies wanted to find out who killed our sailors. Both agencies were working to bring those terrorists to justice. We were in the business of providing information to the FBI, not withholding it.
The day after the photo identification by the joint CIA/FBI human source in January 2001, the asset's identification of Khallad in the photo was reported to CIA Headquarters. However, the Joint Inquiry found no information showing that the FBI representative on the scene, who also worked with that source, was told about the identification or that the information
was provided to FBI Headquarters. To the contrary, contemporary documents over the next month strongly suggest that the FBI did not know of this development. It was not until August 30, 2001, that CIA Headquarters transmitted to the FBI a memorandum stating, "We wish to advise you that, during a previously scheduled meeting with our joint source," Khallad was identified in a surveillance photo.
On May 15, 2001, the CTC Supervisor, who had just been detailed to the FBI, sent a request to CIA Headquarters for the surveillance photographs of the Malaysian meeting. In a May 18 e-mail to a CIA analyst, the CIA officer described the basis for his interest:
. . . the reason (aside from trying to find a photo of the second Cole bomber) I'm interested is because Khalid Mihdar's two companions also were couriers of a sort, who traveled between [the Far East] and Los Angeles at the same time (hazmi and salah).
"Salah" was the name under which Khallad traveled during the Malaysian meeting. Thus, information about al-Hazmi's travel to the United States began to attract attention at CIA at least as early as May 18, 2001.
Toward the end of May 2001, a CIA analyst contacted an Intelligence Operations Specialist (IOS) at FBI Headquarters about the surveillance photographs. The CIA wanted the FBI to review the photographs to determine whether a person in the custody of [ ] officials in connection with the FBI's Cole investigation, who had carried money to Southeast Asia for Khallad in January 2000, could be identified. When interviewed, the FBI IOS explained to the Joint Inquiry that the CIA had told her that the photographs had been taken during the Malaysia meeting, but had said nothing about al-Mihdhar's potential travel to the United States. The CIA also did not tell the FBI IOS that the photographs were of a meeting Khallad had attended.
[On June 11, 2001, the CIA analyst and FBI IOS traveled to New York to meet with FBI criminal case agents handling the Cole investigation. The New York agents were shown, but not given copies of [ ] of the [ ] surveillance photographs taken in Malaysia and were asked if they could identify anyone in them. A New York FBI agent testified to the Joint Inquiry that the agents pressed for information about the photographs and asked: "Why were you
looking at this guy? You couldn't have been following everybody around the Millennium. What was the reason behind this?" Nonetheless, the agent said, "at the end of the day we knew the name Khalid al-Mihdhar but nothing else." The agent testified that he was told that "the information could not be passed" at that time, but might be "in the days and weeks to come." However, no additional information was transmitted for use in a criminal case until after September 11].
In addition to not being told why al-Mihdhar was being surveilled, the New York agents were not told about his U.S. visa, Nawaf al- Hazmi's travel to the United States, the January 2001 photo identification of Khallad, or the fact that the analyst had come upon material in a CIA database that led him to conclude that "Al-Hazmi was an experienced [Mujahadeen]." The FBI IOS had none of that information, but the CIA analyst who attended the New York meeting acknowledged to the Joint Inquiry that he had seen all of it. In fact, he had received an e-mail just three weeks earlier that referred to al-Hazmi's travel to the United States. That information, he related in a Joint Inquiry interview, "did not mean anything to him," since he was interested in terrorist connections to Yemen. The CIA analyst explained to the Joint Inquiry that the information was operational in nature and he would not disclose it outside CIA unless he had prior authority to do so.
Summing up the New York meeting and all that preceded it, the same CTC Supervisor on detail to the FBI, who did not attend the meeting but knew of it testified:
[E]very place that something could have gone wrong in this over a year and a half, it went wrong. All the processes that had been put in place, all the safeguards, everything else, they failed at every possible opportunity. Nothing went right.
On June 13, 2001, al-Mihdhar obtained a new U.S. visa in Jeddah, using a different passport than the one he had used to enter the United States in January 2000. On his visa application, he checked "no" in response to the question whether he had ever been in the United States. On July 4, al-Mihdhar re-entered the United States.
In early July 2001, the same CTC Supervisor located in a CIA database the cable for which he had been searching that contained information the CIA had acquired in January 2001 about Khallad's attending the Malaysia meeting. He told the Joint Inquiry that Khallad's presence at the meeting deeply troubled him and he immediately sent an e-mail from FBI Headquarters to CTC stating, " Khallad] is a major league killer, who orchestrated the Cole attack and possibly the Africa bombings."
A review was launched at CIA of all cables regarding the Malaysia meeting. The task fell largely to an FBI analyst assigned to CTC. On August 21, 2001, the analyst put together two key pieces of information: the intelligence the CIA received in January 2000 that al- ihdhar had a multiple entry visa to the United States, and the information it received in March 2000 that al- Hazmi had traveled to the United States. Working with an INS representative assigned to CTC, the analyst learned that al-Mihdhar had entered the United States on January 15, 2000, had departed on June 10, and had re-entered the United States on July 4, 2001. Suspicions were further aroused by the fact that al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi had arrived in Los Angeles in January 2000, when Ahmed Ressam would have been in Los Angeles to conduct terrorist operations at Los Angeles Airport, but for his apprehension at the U.S./Canada border in December 1999.
On August 23, 2001, the CIA sent a cable to the State Department, INS, Customs, and FBI requesting that "Bin Ladin-related individuals," al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi, Khallad, and one other person at the Malaysia meeting, be watchlisted immediately and denied entry into the United States "due to their confirmed links to Egyptian Islamic Jihad operatives and suspicious activities while traveling in East Asia." Although the CIA believed that al-Mihdhar was already in the United States, placing him on the watchlist would enable authorities to detain him if he attempted to leave. The CIA cable stated that al-Hazmi had arrived in Los Angeles on January 15, 2000 on the same flight as al-Mihdhar and that there was no record of al-Hazmi's departure. On August 24, the State Department watchlisted al-Mihdhar, al-Hazmi, and the others listed in the CIA cable. On August 27, it revoked the visa that al-Mihdhar had obtained in June.
FBI Headquarters promptly sent to the FBI New York field office a draft communication recommending the opening of "an intelligence investigation to determine if al-Mihdhar is still in
the United States." It stated that al-Mihdhar's "confirmed association" with various elements of Bin Ladin's terrorist network, including potential association with two individuals involved in the attack on USS Cole, "make him a risk to the national security of the United States." The goal of the intelligence [page 160] investigation was to "locate al-Mihdhar and determine his contacts and reasons for being in the United States."
That communication precipitated a debate between FBI Headquarters and New York field office personnel as to whether to open an intelligence or criminal investigation on al- Mihdhar. A New York FBI agent tried to convince Headquarters to open a criminal investigation, given the importance of the search and the limited resources available in intelligence investigations, but Headquarters declined to do so. An e-mail exchange between Headquarters and the New York agent described the debate:
o From FBI Headquarters:
"If al-Midhar is located, the interview must be conducted by an intel [intelligence] agent. A criminal agent CAN NOT be present at the interview. This case, in its entirety, is based on intel. If at such time as information is developed indicating the existence of a substantial federal crime, that information will be passed over the wall according to the proper procedures and turned over for follow-up criminal investigation. (Emphasis in original.)
o From the New York agent:
Whatever has happened to this - someday someone will die - and wall or not - the public will not understand why we were not more effective and throwing every resource we had at certain 'problems.' Let's hope the [FBI's] National Security Law Unit (NSLU) will stand behind their decisions [about the "wall"] then, especially since the biggest threat to us now, UBL, is getting the most 'protection.'"
The agent was told in response: "we (at Headquarters) are all frustrated with this issue," but "[t]hese are the rules. NSLU does not make them up."
The former head of the FBI's International Terrorism Operations Section explained to theJoint Inquiry why the search for al-Mihdhar was conducted as an intelligence, rather than a criminal matter: "Although we certainly suspect, and rightfully so, that they were probably
engaged in . . . criminal acts, the information brought to us came essentially in total in the intelligence channel, so an intelligence investigation was opened."
The FBI contacted the Bureau of Diplomatic Security at the State Department on August 27, 2001 to obtain al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi's visa information. This was provided to the FBI on August 29 and revealed that, on entering the United States in July 2001, al-Mihdhar claimed that he would be staying at a Marriott hotel in New York City. An FBI agent determined on September 5 that al-Mihdhar had not registered at a New York Marriott. The agent checked computerized national and New York criminal and motor vehicle indices on al-Mihdhar and al- Hazmi, but those checks were negative. On September 11, the agent sent an electronic communication to the FBI's Los Angeles Field Office, asking it to look for al-Mihdhar and to check airline records.
In the days following the September 11 attacks, the FBI received additional photographs from the surveillance of the Malaysia meeting. One of these, the FBI quickly learned, was a photograph of Khallad. The Bureau also learned that the January 2001 photo identification of Khallad by the joint FBI/CIA asset had been mistaken. The person thought to be Khallad was actually Nawaf al-Hazmi. The conclusion that Khallad had attended the Malaysian meeting was nonetheless correct.
Later in September, the FBI prepared an analysis of Bin Ladin's responsibility for the September 11 attacks to help the State Department develop a "White Paper" that could be shared with foreign governments:
Even at this early stage of the investigation, the FBI has developed compelling evidence [the analysis concluded] which points to Bin Ladin and al-Qa'ida as the perpetrators of this attack. By way of illustration, at least two of the hijackers met with a known senior al-Qa'ida terrorist, the same al-Qa'ida terrorist which reliable information demonstrates orchestrated the attack on USS Cole and who was involved in the planning of the East Africa Embassy Bombings.
The two hijackers were al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. The senior al-Qa'ida terrorist was Khallad. The place they met was Malaysia. The facts linking al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi to Khallad and therefore to [page 162] Bin Ladin became the crux of the case the State Department made to
governments around the world that Bin Ladin should be held accountable for the September 11 attacks.
[In the fall of 1998, NSA began to focus its analysis on a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East. That facility had been associated with al-Qa'ida activities against U.S. interests. [ ].
[In early 1999, NSA analyzed communications involving a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East, some of which were associated with Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khaled [ ], who NSA now believes to have been Khalid al-Mihdhar. [ ]. These communications were the first indication NSA had of a link between al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi. They were not disseminated in NSA SIGINT reporting because the persons were unknown and the subject matter did not meet NSA reporting thresholds. Those thresholds vary, depending on the judgment of the NSA analyst who is reviewing the intercept and the subject, location, and content of the intercept].
[In early 1999, another organization obtained the same or similar communications and published the information in a report it gave to NSA. NSA's practice was to review such reports and disseminate those responsive to U.S. intelligence requirements. For an undetermined reason, NSA did not disseminate the [ ] report. It was not until early 2002 during the Joint Inquiry that NSA realized that it had the [ ] report in its databases and subsequently disseminated it to CIA and other customers].
[No additional activity of counterterrorism interest was associated with the suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East until summer 1999 when NSA analyzed additional communications involving Khaled, that is, al-Mihdhar, [page 163] and [
[NSA analyzed communications associated with a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East from later in the summer of 1999. These communications also involved the names of Khaled and others. None of this information was disseminated because the subject matter did not meet NSA reporting thresholds].
[In late 1999, NSA analyzed communications associated with a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East involving Nawaf al-Hazmi, Khaled, and, for the first time, Salem. It was thought at the time that Salem might be al-Hazmi's younger brother, and this was later confirmed].
[In early [ ] 2000, NSA analyzed what appeared to be related communications concerning a Khaled [ ]. NSA reported this information in early January to CIA, FBI, and other counterterrorism customers].
[After this NSA report [ ], CIA submitted a formal request to NSA in early 2000 for approval to share information in the report with [ ] foreign intelligence liaison services, along with the fact that Khaled may have been connected to a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East that had previously been linked to al-Qa'ida's activities against U.S. interests. CIA wanted to cite these connections to enlist liaison assistance [ ]. NSA allowed the information to be released].
[On January 10, the Counterterrorist Center (CTC) at CIA gave NSA information regarding the [ ] Kuala Lumpur meeting, including information about al-Mihdhar [ ]; the name of the person who assisted him in Kuala Lumpur; the fact that al-Mihdhar's primary purpose in coming to Malaysia appeared to have been to meet with others [ ]; and other information
On January 13, NSA received CIA operational reporting from CTC. [ ].
[In mid-January 2000, NSA queried its databases for information concerning Khaled [ ]. These queries remained active until May 2000, but did not uncover any information].
[In early 2000, NSA analyzed communications involving Khaled and a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East linked to al-Qa'ida activities directed against U.S. interests. The FBI determined, based on toll records it obtained after September 11, that Khaled had been in the United States at the time. [ ]. Some of these communications met NSA reporting thresholds and were reported to FBI, CIA, and other customers, but some did not. [ ].
[NSA analyzed additional communications in the summer of 2000 that were associated with a suspected terrorist facility in the Middle East, Salem and Khaled. [ [page 165] ]. NSA did not believe this provided any new information, and there was no dissemination].
[Two September 11 hijackers, Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi, lived in San Diego, California, beginning in February 2000. Al Mihdhar left San Diego in June 2000, while al-Hazmi remained until December 2000, when he moved to Arizona. During the time they were in San Diego, these two hijackers had numerous contacts with a long-time FBI counterterrorism informant. A third hijacker, Hani Hanjour, may have had more limited contact with this individual in December 2000].
CIA and FBI Headquarters had information tying al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi to al-Qa'ida as early as January 2000 and later received information that they were in the United States. The San Diego FBI field office received none of this information before September 11. As a result, the informant was not asked to collect information about the hijackers.
[An FBI written response to the Joint Inquiry acknowledges questions about the informant's credibility, but the Administration and the FBI have objected to the Joint Inquiry's request to interview the informant and have refused to serve a Committee subpoena and notice of deposition on the informant. As suggested by the FBI, the Joint Inquiry submitted written interrogatories for response by the informant. Through an attorney, the informant declined to respond and indicated that, if subpoenaed, the informant would require a grant of immunity prior to testifying. Thus, this section has been prepared without access to the informant and in reliance on FBI documents, interviews of FBI personnel, and FBI representations about the informant].
[In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, the San Diego FBI field office determined that a long-time FBI counterterrorism informant had numerous contacts with Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar].
[After the September 11 attacks, the informant's FBI handling agent interviewed the informant about contacts with al-Hazmi and al- Mihdhar. Due to suspicions that the informant might have been involved in the attacks, the informant was interviewed multiple times by a number of FBI agents about the informant's contacts with the hijackers. According to the FBI handling agent, the informant admitted having numerous contacts with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, but denied knowledge of the plot and initially expressed disbelief that the two were involved].
[The informant provided the FBI with information concerning the informant's contacts with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar. The informant subsequently told the FBI slightly different stories concerning the initial contact and provided different dates for the contacts with them].
[The informant told the FBI that during the contacts with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, the informant observed no signs that they were involved in terrorist activity. The informant said that at the time the informant thought that [page 167] the two were good, religious Muslims. They did not act in a peculiar manner and did nothing to arouse the informant's suspicions. .
[The informant told the FBI that based on the informant's contacts with al-Hazmi and al- Mihdhar, they did not work, yet they always seemed to have money. Although they did not fit the profile of rich Saudis, the informant never questioned them about finances].
[During one of the informant's final contacts with al-Hazmi in San Diego, al-Hazmi was [page 168] with someone the informant had not previously met. The informant described the person as 27 years old, 5'8", 130 to 140 pounds, fair complexion, and of either Saudi or Yemeni ancestry. The FBI has determined that Hani Hanjour, who fits this general description, arrived in San Diego from Dubai on December 8, 2000, and left San Diego with al-Hazmi for Arizona several days later. The two future hijackers lived together in Arizona. The informant was shown a picture of Hanjour and stated this was not the person that the informant had met].
[After September 11, the informant gave the FBI a list of individuals the informant understood had contacts with al-Hazmi and al-Midhar while they were in San Diego.
[Four of the persons had been the subject of FBI investigations; three of them had been under active FBI investigation during the time that the future hijackers were in San Diego. The FBI opened counterterrorism investigations on other individuals on the list after September 11].
[The informant's handling agent described his relationship with the informant in a Joint Inquiry hearing:
At some points, I would speak to the informant several times a day for hours at a times, while there were also periods that I did not speak with the informant for several months. Our discussions were not only about substantive matters of interest to the FBI, but also about personal matters such as the informant's health, family, and general well being…[D]uring…a debriefing in the summer of 2000 the informant told me that the informant met two individuals the informant described as] good Muslim Saudi youths who were legally in the [page 169]United States to visit and attend school. According to the informant, they were religious and not involved in criminal or political activities…At some later point, but before September 11, the informant told me their names were Nawaf and Khalid. The informant did not tell me their last names prior to September 11, 2001].
[According to the handling agent, the informant did not mention that al-Hazmi was pursuing flight training until after September 11. The handling agent told the Joint Inquiry that he did not consider the informant's information about these individuals unusual:
[The FBI handling agent said he "did not document the information provided by the informant on these two persons in FBI files before September 11". This was because the
informant "provided this information during a discussion of personal matters and not because the informant believed it had any investigative significance:"
As required by the Attorney General Guidelines, I only recorded information about persons with some nexus to international terrorism, foreign counterintelligence or criminal activity. I was unaware prior to September 11 of 2001 that these persons had any such ties].
[The handling agent said in Joint Inquiry interviews that none of the information provided by the informant about the hijackers before September 11 raised concerns. The fact that the two individuals were Saudi was not a concern before September 11 because Saudi Arabia was considered an ally. The FBI confirmed this in its written response].
[The agent noted that [ ]. He also explained that, if the informant had told him about [page 170] contacts between the two and persons under investigation or if he had received derogatory information about them from Headquarters, he could have taken some action. However, the informant did not tell the FBI about al-Hazmi's and al-Mihdhar's contacts with persons under investigation until after September 11. In addition, the FBI's San Diego field office did not learn until after September 11 that the CIA had information that al- Hazmi and al-Mihdhar were affiliated with al-Qa'ida and had been linked to persons connected to the Cole bombing].
[FBI interviews of the informant after September 11 confirm the FBI handling agent's account and add some context. [ ]. The informant confirmed that the two individuals were only mentioned in passing during a conversation with the handling agent. The informant recalls identifying the two only by their first names because the informant did not consider them suspicious. The informant told the FBI that other details were not provided prior to September 11 because the informant did not consider the information important or significant].
[When the San Diego office realized that the informant had numerous contacts with the two hijackers, FBI personnel became suspicious that the informant may have been involved in the plot. San Diego personnel interviewed by the Joint Inquiry, including senior managers and case agents, now believe that the informant was an unwitting observer with no role in the attacks because:
o The informant made no effort to hide the hijackers or their identities from the FBI handling agent.
o The informant has cooperated fully since September 11, agreeing to FBI interviews and to being polygraphed by the FBI. Although the informant's responses during the polygraph examination to very specific questions about the informant's advance knowledge of the September 11 plot were judged to be "inconclusive," the FBI asserts this type of result is not unusual for such individuals in such circumstances.
o The informant provided the FBI with extensive details after September 11 on the informant's contacts with the hijackers and their associates in the San Diego area].
[In a written response to a Joint Inquiry staff statement, the FBI provided additional reasons for concluding that the informant was not a conspirator. [
[The FBI handling agent attributed inconsistencies in the informant's reporting to the informant's personality.
Despite these characteristics, the FBI handling agent testified that the informant was "very credible, highly reliable, very, very credible, very useful." In the FBI handling agent's opinion, the informant was "duped" by the hijackers and was not suspicious of them at all].
[The FBI's written response notes that the informant did not report on the hijackers' association with others the informant knew were of interest to the FBI because the associations known to [page 172] the informant appeared innocuous. For example, al-Hazmi and al- Mihdhar associated with a local imam ostensibly because the "two hijackers attended religious services at the mosque where the imam preached." In addition, the informant "has advised that…neither al- Hazmi nor al-Mihdhar conducted themselves in a manner which [the informant] subjectively viewed as suspicious nor has FBI investigation to date developed any evidence that [the informant's] lack of suspicion was not objectively reasonable]."
[Based on Joint Inquiry interviews of San Diego FBI personnel involved with the informant before September 11 or in assessing the informant's credibility after the attacks and reviews of thousands of Bureau documents, several unresolved questions about the informant's credibility remain. Although the informant did not recognize hijacker Hani Hanjour in photographs shown to the informant by the FBI after September 11, there are indications that Hanjour was in the San Diego area with al-Hazmi in December 2000 and probably met the informant:
o [[page 173] ].
[FBI personnel believe it likely that the informant met Hanjour in December 2000 and are unable to explain why the informant failed to identify Hanjour].
[The informant's credibility is called into question in other important ways:
o The informant made a variety of inconsistent statements to the FBI during the course of multiple interviews. The informant has provided the FBI with many different dates as to the informant's numerous contacts with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar and their initial contact. The FBI acknowledged that "San Diego agrees with [the] Joint Inquiry…that there are significant inconsistencies" in the informant's reports.
o Some of the informant's statements are not consistent with information developed through investigation concerning the dates of the contacts. The FBI concedes that the hijackers may have known the informant months earlier than the informant admitted. [
o [[page 174]].
o The informant told the FBI after September 11, 2001 that al-Hazmi had told the informant that he was moving to Arizona for flight training and never mentioned flight training he received while living in San Diego.
In its written response, the FBI acknowledges "unexplained inconsistencies" in the informant's reporting which continue to warrant ongoing FBI investigation].
[The CIA was aware in January 2000 that al-Mihdhar had a U.S. visa and in March 2000 that al-Hazmi had traveled to California. The FBI handling agent testified that, if he had access to the CIA intelligence concerning al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi when they were in San Diego]:
It would have made a huge difference. We would have immediately opened [ ] investigations. We had the predicate for a [ ] investigation if we had that information.… [page 175] We would immediately go out and canvas the sources and try to find out where these people were. If we locate them, which we probably would have since they were very close - they were nearby - we would have initiated investigations immediately….We would have done everything. We would have used all available investigative techniques. [We] would have given them the full court press. We would…have done everything - physical surveillance, technical surveillance and other assets.
[FBI Headquarters became aware in late August 2001 that al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar were in the United States. The San Diego field office did not receive this information until after September 11. The FBI handling agent stated that he believes that San Diego could have located the two hijackers, and he was critical of Headquarters' failure to share information]:
We'd have immediately gone out to various assets who already work in the streets for us. We'd basically run the names by them and find out - we'd locate them…I'm sure. I'm sure we could have located them and we could have done it within a few days.
[The San Diego office was also generally unaware of the al-Qa'ida threat. As the FBI handling agent testified]:
We knew [al-Qa'ida] was an important person or organization. But we didn't have any presence. We didn't have any cases and we didn't have any source information that indicated that these guys were here in San Diego at that time.
[The FBI handling agent said that he did not discuss Bin Ladin or al-Qa'ida with the informant before September 11 because that was:
. . . not an issue in terms of my assignments. .
[In a written response, the FBI took issue with the contention that the FBI was not treating al-Qa'ida as a serious threat in San Diego, citing an internal document dated March 15, 1999 which identified:
[Usama Bin Ladin as the number one priority of the U.S. Intelligence [page 176] Community. .
The Assistant Special Agent in Charge in San Diego told the Joint Inquiry that, upon assuming his duties in June 2000, he met with the counterterrorism squad to review this communication and emphasize the stated priorities].
The FBI response also noted that "there was no known al-Qaeda presence in San Diego before 9/11/2001." However, the record confirms that future hijackers al-Mihdhar, al Hazmi, and perhaps Hanjour, were in the San Diego area and unknown to the FBI during the time they were there.
In June 2002 testimony before the Joint Inquiry, DCI Tenet and FBI Director Mueller asserted, in explaining how the September 11 hijackers had avoided the notice of the Intelligence Community, that the conspirators intentionally avoided actions or associations that would have attracted law enforcement attention during their time in the United States. The DCI said:
Once in the U.S., the hijackers were careful, with the exception of minor traffic violations, to avoid drawing law enforcement attention and even general notice that might identify them as extremists. They dressed in Western clothes, most shaved their beards before entering the U.S., and they largely avoided mosques.
FBI Director Mueller appeared to concur:
While here, the hijackers effectively operated without suspicion, triggering nothing that would have alerted law enforcement and doing nothing that exposed them to domestic coverage. As far as we know, they contacted no known terrorist sympathizers in the United States.
The former Assistant Director for the FBI's Counterterrorism Division also emphasized this point in his testimony: [page 177]