WELCOME TO TERRORLAND -- MOHAMED ATTA & THE 9-11 COVER-UP IN FLORIDA
Half-way through our investigation into the people and organization operating at the Venice Airport, our efforts took on a certain urgency, after it became apparent that somebody was trying to kill the 'Magic Dutch Boys'.
Rudi Dekkers and Arne Kruithof the targets of our investigation; had also been targeted in ways less benign.
Less than five months apart, Kruithof and Dekkers were involved in separate air accidents. Kruithof in a Cessna on his way (supposedly) to Cancun and Dekkers in his helicopter on his way to a showdown meeting with his now-estranged partner Wally Hilliard. Aviation observers said the crashes could have-or should have-killed both men.
Neither man had any history of air crashes. It was enough to remind some -- certainly the conspiracy-minded -- of the suspicious deaths of Kennedy assassination witnesses, who no longer had any comment on what they'd seen, because they were no longer with us.
"Paging Miss Dorothy Kilgallen."
So even though we'd made some headway in understanding what was going on, and in the process unearthed evidence of a large and on-going 9/11 cover-up in Florida, it might not be enough to meet our unstated goal: aiding a successful effort to compel sworn testimony from people assisting the terrorist conspiracy while they were in this country.
Because if there was a 9/11 clean-up crew at work in Florida, its activities could instantly make all our efforts unavailing.
We were playing Beat the Clock with the Grim Reaper.
Dekkers' brush with death happened with such inauspicious timing that eyebrows were raised allover Florida.
On Friday morning, January 24, 2003, Rudi and his helicopter 'splashed down' at the mouth of a river spilling into the Gulf. He had been en route to a showdown over Huffman Aviation with his erstwhile partner Wally Hilliard, with whom he had been publicly feuding.
Just a few short months earlier it had been fellow Magic Dutch Boy Arne Kruithof's turn. Kruithof was one of three men who barely survived the crash of their Twin Beech D-18, which plummeted from 100 feet in the air to a runway at the Venice Airport. The men were able to drag themselves out of the mangled fuselage and dash to safety moments before the plane's 300 gallons of fuel exploded in a fireball.
It made for a great picture in the next-day's Venice Gondolier.
When the tumultuous Dekkers crashed his helicopter into the Caloosahatchee River, his latest misadventure made the news everywhere from Sarasota to South Africa. The coverage revealed an abiding and continuing public curiosity about him, even in the face of the official blackout.
What was most revealing about Dekkers' crash was that before he took off for what was to be a showdown with Hilliard, he had been seriously worried about having an in-flight 'mishap.'
Although the flight from the Naples-Fort Myers area to Venice takes barely half an hour, Dekkers prevailed on another helicopter pilot headed in the same direction, Tony Douangdara, to fly along side him in an effort, as he explained it, unconvincingly, "to stave off boredom."
Either Dekkers was psychic, or he was afraid someone might want him dead. Something clearly was going very wrong for Rudi Dekkers even before his chopper began experiencing difficulties.
The first sign of trouble-to-come came when one of the helicopters began pulling away. When his more powerful helicopter surged ahead, pilot Tony Douangdara told the Venice Gondolier; Dekkers seemed remarkably upset.
"He was calling me on he radio saying 'slow down, slow down!"' said Douangdara. "Then, just a couple of minutes later, I heard him say 'I'm going down!"'
Douangdara seemed to be suggesting he'd been recruited to be nearby if something went wrong. He circled back to see what had happened.
"'Oh, shit! I'm going down," Douangdara heard Dekkers cry out over the radio. "I thought it was a joke at first," he told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. "But when I couldn't hear the motor or any rotor noise, I knew he was in trouble. He was in bad shape and in no condition to swim. He was just hanging onto (his craft's) skid to stay afloat."
"The helicopter he (Dekkers) was in flipped over and crashed into the Caloosahatchee River near downtown Fort Myers at 7:25 a.m.," reported the January 25, 2003 Miami Herald.
"Dekkers climbed on part of his helicopter that had not sub- merged. He then grabbed the landing runners on Douangdara's helicopter and was pulled from the river."
Once ashore, Dekkers hopped into a nearby swimming pool to warm up, said news accounts. "After Douangdara took Dekkers to a nearby home (actually someone's back yard in a quick drop) he went into the pool to wash off the fuel that was stinging his skin."
Startled at the sight of a fully-dressed Magic Dutch Boy floating in his pool, the homeowner called 911. Strangely, by the time officers arrived, Dekkers had left. "The sopping wet Dekkers braved the 30-degree weather, wandering down the streets in search of help," said the Sarasota paper.
Odd. He'd been trying to flag people down to take him to the hospital, he said later. But he had a hard time getting people to believe his story. Because if Dekkers was seeking medical attention, he didn't tell the people who owned the oil-slicked pool. He was clearly in a hurry: taking a dip in a pool, then disappearing. Was he worried about compensating the homeowner for the cost of having jet fuel sopped from their swimming pool? He went wandering down the street, soaking wet...
"Dekkers received another lucky turn: Rescue crews, on their way to the crash scene, spied him and rushed him to Lee Memorial Hospital in Fort Myers," said the Tribune. "Dekkers was treated and released about 11:30 a.m. By early afternoon (he) was apparently feeling well enough to hold business meetings at Huffman Aviation."
Rudi Dekkers' unexplained helicopter crash came while he was on his way to a Venice meeting to sign papers relinquishing control of terror flight school Huffman Aviation to Wally Hilliard.
The two simultaneous events -- the crash, and being forced out of business by his partner -- weren't linked by law enforcement. But the strange timing added another bizarre twist to the saga of the 46 year-old Dutch national, who had already achieved international notoriety.
When we checked both men's FAA records for previous crashes, they hadn't shown any. But the search proved fruitful anyway: records obtained from the Naples Airport Authority reveal that Rudi Dekkers has received numerous citations for negligence, non- payment of bills, leaving a helicopter running with no one at the controls, numerous noise complaints, and a lot of suspicious low flying well-below safe limits.
But no previous plane crashes.
Dekkers was in the middle of a fairly rough patch. In the space of little more than a week he learned he would be arrested on felony fraud by the state attorney's office, crashed his helicopter into the Caloosahatchee River, and signed over the flight school that gave him his 15 minutes of fame.
Told he was about to be arrested for fraud, Dekkers told the Venice Gondolier, "Wow, I'm surprised."
After overcoming his incredulity, however, he called the charge "political," heaping some thinly- veiled scorn on the man prosecuting him, State's Attorney Jonathon Greene, for not knowing that everything had been taken care of already.
"We're drawing the paperwork as we speak that resolves the deal," Dekkers told reporters defiantly. "We have a deal, we know about it. Everybody knows about it except the state attorney."
He said: "We don't have problems anymore."
Wally Hilliard, present at the contract signing the afternoon of Rudi's crash, was agreeable to dismissing the suit, confirmed Jim Beach, director of operations for Triple Diamond Jet Center, the new owners of Huffman Aviation.
One of Hilliard's ventures, for example, is called Oryx, LLC. An "Oryx" is a kind of African gazelle, we learned. And a British mining company in Africa named Oryx was accused by the BBC of having links to Al Qaeda and trading blood diamonds.
Not so fast, said State's Attorney Jonathon Greene.
"Wally Hilliard called me and asked for a waiver of prosecution," he told us. "But I told him that nothing has changed on our end. We're going forward with the charges."
The charges would keep Dekkers in the U.S. for a year, preserving the hope that investigators will have the opportunity to question him.
We asked about Rudi's 'rap sheet.' We'd wanted to know since our first day in Venice, when we were told his police file had been confiscated by the FBI. State's Attorney Greene indicated Dekkers' prior record included a number of 'blemishes;' like owing $3 million in the Netherlands, for example, the result of the same criminal activity he'd just been charged with again -- pledging assets he didn't own to secure loans he didn't plan to repay.
A Dutch court had adjudged him guilty of acting "in a manifestly improper fashion," according to documents we had translated. They said his "manifest failure to properly manage the company was an important cause of bankruptcy" of an Ede, Netherlands-based company Dekkers had stripped of its assets before fleeing to the U.S.
Rudi Dekkers was a repeat offender. Not just a fraudster, but a professional fraudster. Many people with his history are assumed to be working with organized crime.
When he completed the sale of Huffman, Dekkers expected his problems to go away, he'd indicated. His legal woes would end when Hilliard dropped his lawsuit, an action he believed would trigger the dismissal of the criminal fraud charge, which concerned a $200,000 loan from a crony of Hilliard's in Wisconsin 'secured' with a mortgage on property in the name of a company which didn't own the property being used as security.
This must be what people mean when they say, "Nice work if you can get it."
Yet despite settling his lawsuit with now-former partner Hilliard, his woes appeared to be just beginning. Now someone in the government was saying 'wait a minute.' In the two years since the 9/11 disaster, it was the first time officials had taken action that wasn't designed to pass over 'inconvenient details' of the 9/11 attack.
The second Magic Dutch Boy, Arne Kruithof kept a much lower profile. So it was somewhat surprising to discover that his plane crash was even more life-threatening than Dekkers'. Arne and two others barely survived the crash of their private plane on Wednesday, June 26, 2002, when it nose-dived to earth after a troubled take-off from the Venice Airport.
From over a hundred feet in the air the plane plunged onto the runway of the Venice Airport. And subsequent events left aviation observers wondering if Kruithof's near brush with death was an accident ... or something more sinister.
Onboard, along with co-pilot Kruithof were the pilot, Glenn Goodman, and a passenger, John Mills. The men told investigators they were on their way for a pleasure trip to Cancun.
They were "shaken up, but essentially without injuries," according to a Venice Police spokesman, who also said: "They were really lucky to walk away from this."
Coming just months after Rudi Dekker's helicopter crash, Kruithof's plunge had observers wondering out loud if the crash was just an accident. Local observers were skeptical. While 'mechanical failure' was believed to be responsible, there were suspicions the plane had been sabotaged.
Citing a commonly used method of provoking plane crashes, one wag at the Airport asked: "Did they check the fuel tanks for rubber balloons?"
And that was before the plane's wreckage was towed out of the Airport and destroyed in an unseemly and possibly criminal haste, before investigators had even determined the cause of the crash.
If someone were attempting to ensure Kruithof's ultimate silence in front of Congressional investigators, a plane crash, historically, would be the way to go.
Did someone want the Magic Dutch Boys dead?
Glenn Goodman's plane was uninsured when it went down, supposedly on the way to Cancun ferrying parts for another plane that had broken down there. But one of the men, John Mills, was wearing his mechanic's coveralls in the cockpit of a plane flying to Mexico in sweltering late June. It was like flying to Hawaii wearing a three-piece suit, someone told us.
Then, too, going to Cancun to spend a weekend in July is like taking a three-day vacation in February in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
We could hear in our head the slow drawl of our friend the Southern lawman, who sometimes spoke so slow he made two words out of one. When he said, "Its un-tidy," you could drive a truck between "un" and "tidee."
There were suspicious irregularities in the official investigation into Kruithof's plane crash that observers at the airport said had never before happened. Without any finding on the cause of the crash ... before investigators were even able to get a look at the downed plane, the wreckage was gone.
Things like that weren't supposed to happen.
"Even though the FAA hadn't yet determined the cause for the crash," said one shocked observer, "the plane was almost immediately dragged off to be compacted."
He looked stunned. "That's not just irregular. It's highly irregular. We're all kind of wondering just what the hell's going on."
Though both Dekkers and Kruithof got a free ride from the national press, they didn't get one from their aviation peers; in the community of aviation professionals in southwest Florida, there was a cloud of suspicion hanging over them already, even before their near-disasters.
One concern we heard voiced was that the two schools had catered almost exclusively to international students. Dekkers told reporters he'd trained more than 800 foreign students during just the past two years. And Venice residents said the city's other flight school, Florida Flight Training, had numerous international students as well.
Speculation about Kruithof centered on his relationship with Rudi Dekkers, and also to another partner, Pascal Schreier.
A German national living in Munich, Schreier and Kruithof had a co-venture, called Aviation Aspirations. According to its literature the company provided financial assistance and a "Mentor Programme."
About their "mentoring programme," the company's literature said: "The help is both financial and practical. We now provide one- to-one practical assistance from experienced Professional Pilots (our Mentors) whom we have established throughout the world."
'Mentor' sounded a lot like 'handler' to us. Were we being too cynical? French newspaper Le Monde had reported that Osama Bin Laden's brother Yeslam sent student pilots to Venice for training. Nothing more about this mechanism has surfaced. Was Aviation Aspirations the vehicle that had been used to insert Yeslam bin Laden's pilots into the Venice flight schools?
Schreier's job was recruiting flight students from his Munich base. Had he recruited in Hamburg? We didn't know. We did know that the company's motto was "Better training because we care." Who was Pascal Schreier, and why did he care?
"Pascal Schreier has an inferiority complex," Venice Airport insider Max Burge told us. "He's 6'2" blond, good-looking, German, and you could see it in him. Rudi and Arne, too."
We didn't get to meet him, but we learned a few interesting tidbits to share. "Pascal Schreier is married to a lady who took over the 135 School at Port Charlotte," said one aviation source.
We checked it out. It was true. Small world.
Pascal's wife, Sandra K. Hamouda, who was half-French and half-Tunisian, now owned the flight school in Punta Gorda once known as Professional Aviation, the one which went bankrupt in February 2001, while Mohamed Atta and all those Tunisians were there.
Now it appeared that they'd kept the school in the family.
Later we learned that the new owners of Huffman Aviation were from the largest flight school in the Netherlands, which used to train up in Lakeland, Florida. It was near Rotterdam, the city from which Arne Kruithof hailed.
Pascal Schreier was also apparently involved with Wally and Rudi's failed aviation ventures. The true name of their flop airline, which flew as Florida Air, was Sunrise Airlines. And Pascal Schreier owned a company called Florida Sunrise with an address at the Venice Airport. It was too close for coincidence.
Kruithof's plane crash also threw a spotlight on the pilot of the downed plane, Glenn Goodman, the pilot at the controls of the downed Beech D-18. Goodman and Kruithof were partners in Arne's flight school at the Venice Airport, just like Rudi and Wally were in theirs.
Goodman received praise for controlling the crash, and keeping the plane from flipping end over end down the runway. Some credited his skillful flying for the three men still being alive.
Who is Glenn Goodman? Goodman, we learned, is the scion of the Budweiser distributor family in nearby Tampa. His family also owns the Sarasota Yacht Club, which attests to a certain level of attainment. Glenn, however, lived on the floor of a cabin out at Eagle's Point Landing, we were told.
We asked someone who knew him to describe him. Was Goodman eccentric? "Glenn Goodman has a gold mine in the Caribbean, and owns a sailboat he sometimes lives on at Marathon Key," said the source. "He looks like Howard Hughes with a ponytail."
We took that for a 'yes.'
Kruithof and Goodman formed "Florida Flight Maintenance," in July of 2000, just as Mohamed Atta and Marwan began training at the Venice Airport. Goodman also owned a DC-3 that sat at the Venice Airport for two years before being donated to an air museum in July, 2000, called the "Florida Military Aviation Museum."
This was a major red flag. Donating planes and then getting them back from air museums is a ruse which has been used to provide planes over the years to a rich and colorful crop of elite deviants with intelligence connections.
A Military flight museum was the same venue used by the CIA in the past to 'liberate' military planes and helicopters in various sordid paramilitary schemes. It was being used right next door in Charlotte County, we remembered, to "re-assign" 23 helicopters to new billets.
Also troubling was the fact that Goodman's company was closed involuntarily by the State of Florida on September 21, 2001.
Was it's closure 9/11-related?
Known as N90079, Inc., the company was named for the "N-Number" of the business's sole asset, the aging DC-3. Because the company never filed an annual report, much about it remains a mystery.
When we ran the plane's registration, or "N" number, we discovered that the plane's colorful history has included long stints in exotic locales. It spent quite a bit of time, for example, back in the 80s, in Manuel Noriega's Panama.
The DC-3 could be traced back to an infamous South Florida Customs airplane 'bone yard,' where 'planes with checkered pasts' sit in a fenced storage yard, like the sister ship to the famous C-123 shot down over Nicaragua in 1986 with Eugene Hasenfus aboard.
Probably just a coincidence.
We heard a funny 'only in Florida' anecdote about another proud local owner of a DC-3, a man reputed to be in the 'import-export business' and apparently as colorful as Goodman's impersonation of Howard Hughes with a pony tail. 'Any time I need cash," said this aviatior, "I go out in the back yard and dig up a Mason jar."
The most interesting thing we heard about Glenn Goodman was that the DEA -- surprisingly active at the tiny Venice Airport -- had asked a local Confidential Informant of theirs to follow him around.
Maybe the aborted Cancun trip had something to do with it. Even more incredible was that the DEA informant being asked to keep an eye on a guy walking around looking like Howard Hughes with a ponytail was involved in other events in our story as well, and had his own colorful history ...
"He set up people in Fort Lauderdale and was given some of their toys," said an airport insider. "He rolled on the Whittingtons."
The Whittingtons? Those Whittingtons?
We were momentarily speechless. We thought: wow. Who knew?
When we finally interviewed Wally Hilliard, it came after we'd dropped into his offices unannounced. It got us an audience.
We began by asking him to explain the numbers of Arab students 'marching across the tarmac at his flight schools.
"I'm sorry, what you are saying is grossly untrue," Hilliard stated, angrily denying reports about the number of suspected terrorists who had flocked to his two Dekker's-run flight schools.
"I believe that there were two Arab students, not 22, only two," Hilliard told us, dismissive and emphatic. "There were two, period. Two total."
If we were speaking of Dekkers, we'd say he was lying. But Mr. Hilliard, as an elder, deserves a touch more respect, we figure.
Hilliard wasn't lying. He was just mistaken.
In point of fact, the revelation of an additional four terror suspects (in Chap. 14) had brought just the already-known total of 9/11 cadre terrorists enrolled at flight schools owned by Dutch nationals Rudi Dekkers and Arne Kruithof to eight.
Rudi Dekker's toll alone was five. And counting.
What made Dekkers more than a run-of-the-mill con man and quick-fading historical footnote is something which remains unacknowledged, except obliquely, by U.S. officials.
When the Hamburg cadre made their fateful leap across the Atlantic, it was Rudi Dekkers assigning them bunks on the Left Side of the Big Pond. Dekkers sat at the critical nexus where the terrorist conspiracy met the United States of America.
If Dekkers had been lying while claiming to be an innocent business owner victimized by wily terrorists -- an action we've documented him taking with an awe-inspiring regularity -- the conclusion is unavoidable that Mohamed Atta didn't 'just happen' to stumble onto Venice, Florida.
And if Atta didn't 'stumble' on Venice, then we have stumbled ... onto the fabled Global Network, and flatly contradicted the FBI's scenario that the terrorists received no outside help while they were in the U.S. ... a position they have held tenaciously during the two years since the disaster. Even though it's wrong, the position has allowed the Bureau to discourage speculation about the anomalies visible in the terrorists' workplace. In their milieu.
The FBI probably figures -- and rightly -- that when you're playing for time, every little bit helps.
Within spitting distance of communities of 'retired' CIA agents, large numbers of Middle Eastern men were enrolled as students at flight schools operated by people reeking with shady and clandestine connections.
In the indifferently-motivated September 11th investigations so far, the one really burning question hasn't even come up ...
"What's been going on in Florida?"
When Rudi Dekkers turned himself in to be arrested on the fraud charge, local observers said they were disappointed that there hadn't been a 'perp walk.' It would have been, all in all, small satisfaction.
But then, small satisfaction is better than none.
By this point in our investigation we had proved to our satisfaction that it was not mere happenstance that led Mohamed Atta and his Hamburg cadre to Huffman Aviation in Venice. Things were not what they seemed in Florida. And the FBI's full attention seemed to have been engaged -- not in investigating what had happened -- but in suppressing evidence and even intimidating the witnesses who had seen and heard things that fly in the face of the 'official story,' everyone from Mohamed Atta's American girlfriend to the Sarasota Fire Captain who witnessed four Arab men attempt to get close to President George W. Bush on the morning of September 11, have been subjected to sometimes ham-handed efforts to keep them silent.
There is a demonstrable, provable, and massive federally-supervised cover-up in place in Florida. But the real question, of course, is: What are they covering up? What's the reason for it?
Late in our investigation, we found a piece of it.
On at least three occasions during the last six weeks of his life, terrorist ringleader Mohamed Atta left the jazzier precincts of Miami to travel across the state to the retirement community of Venice.
The FBI has said nothing about this. The FBI says Atta didn't live there anymore. The FBI says Atta was nine months gone.
The FBI is lying.
Who was Atta meeting with in Venice? We realized that this is one thing the FBI might be eager to hide. Because this discovery would lead inexorably to identifying the organization, or global network, that so clearly smoothed the progress of Atta's Hamburg cadre through America.
And then ... then we would know just who in the United States was doing business with Osama bin Laden's thugs -- on this end, the U.S. end -- while they were here.
That this knowledge "might could" prove highly explosive was driven home to us with a vengeance when, by lucky accident, we stumbled onto a piece of what the FBI is covering up in Florida, evidence which indicates that -- whatever the reason for the attack on America on September 11, 2001 -- the enemy is still inside the gates.
During the month before the 9/11 attack, Mohamed Atta was seen meeting in Venice with 'flight school owner' and international con man Rudi Dekkers, who has sworn in testimony before Congress that he never saw Atta again after he 'left' his flight school nearly nine months earlier, in December, 2000.
This awful truth should have come from our taxpayer-minded federal investigative agency, the FBI, charged with the responsibility of solving the mass murder of 3,000 people on American soil. The conclusion is unmistakable: Somebody is 'protecting' Rudi Dekkers.
Sadly, it appears the FBI's investigation was slanted -- or jimmied -- in the same way U.S. intelligence estimates were twisted in the run up to the war in Iraq, in order to present the American people the idea that it was the next logical step in America's 'War on Terror.'
For what's it worth, we feel that America's "War on Terror" is wholly-justified. Lying to the American people in matters pertaining to the deaths of 3,000 people, on the other hand, is not.
We found numerous credible eyewitnesses to Atta's presence in Venice in the final days of the terrorist conspiracy: a rent-a-car agent who took a call from Atta from there ... a deli clerk who served him a sub ... the owners of a restaurant just a half block from Atta and Marwan's rental home ... a cab driver who had him as a fare ...
Their eyewitness testimony is clear proof of a massive government 9/11 coverup in Florida.
Becky Cover works in the deli of Publix supermarket, a mile from the Venice Airport. She says Mohamed Atta was in Venice just one week before the attack.
"On September 11, I was on the phone with my mother-in-law the time the buildings got hit," she told us. "They showed pictures of three different guys -- Atta was one of them -- on TV. And immediately I recognized the faces and I told my husband, 'My God, those are the three guys! They were just in the store a week ago! The week before, they were in the store. They got subs."'
The FBI never spoke with her.
Tom and Rene Adorna also saw Mohamed Atta in Venice -- along with Marwan Al-Shehhi and a third, unidentified man -- just a few weeks before the attack. For reasons which will soon become clear, they have vivid memories of his visit to their eatery a month before the attack. So when reporters showed up the day after September 11, Rene Adorna says she immediately knew why they were there ...
"Right after the incident happened, we had newspapers come down, and right away I knew what it was about, because I remembered the table. Tommy knew, Jeff knew, and we said right away, and they showed us one picture and we knew immediately."
Why did she vividly remember Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi? Because they caused a scene in her restaurant, she told us. "They were loud, making comments, one was pounding his hand on the table, saying: 'We're talking $200,000! We have to answer to the family!"'
"There were three of them," Rene recounted. "And they all looked of the Egyptian persuasion, dark skin, dark hair, lots of jewelry, lots of jewelry. They were dressed in Florida type shirts -- the silk, you know, with the pattern, that kind of thing -- and I could have sworn there was a cross, the one guy had a big cross, the big gaudy gold cross thing, I thought, but you know, I'm not sure now, but I know he had the big watch on."
Gold jewelry, expensive watches, and silk shirts. Not exactly a description of Islamic fundamentalists.
"I thought they were Mafia," said Rene.
This comment may not be too far afield, either. What they were arguing about -- the disposition of a 'loose' pile of nearly a quarter million dollars -- not the proper interpretation of the Koran.
She confirmed what numerous other women who we met who knew Atta had said about him. Atta wouldn't talk to her, Rene said. "He barely spoke a word to me, but when I'd come over I'd feel like, jeez, what's his problem, because he had that really mean, mean look on his face all the time, like he was very unhappy."
Marwan, as always, served as buffer and go-between. "Then there was the other guy, the heavier- set guy, he did all the talking, with me, anyway. He was very outgoing, very pleasant actually."
It was Marwan loudly arguing with Atta, we learned to our surprise. "The big guy ... actually he, the big guy, was yelling at the other guy (Atta). I tried to stay away from the table pretty much, and then went and told the owner and the manager, 'you better watch his table, they're getting a little out of hand."
Her husband Tom came out front to see what the trouble was about. "He (Marwan) was a pretty big guy," he said. "And he was doing most of the talking. He kept saying stuff to them, about money, we kept hearing about money. The other guy (Atta), I guess, was the main guy, but he wasn't saying a word, he just sat there with a look on his face and he didn't say anything."
Their restaurant, the Pelican Alley, is a block from the rented home which Atta and Marwan supposedly vacated the prior December. Both Tom and Rene Adorna remain surprised that the FBI hadn't bothered to interview them. When we told them they were in good company, they sounded slightly mollified. "Two newspapers came by," said Tom. "That was it. And they (the terrorists) were living right down the street, right down the block. But they (the FBI) never came over here to see us."
"I did think it was strange," added Rene. She shrugged. "We thought like they might want some information. But maybe they had everything that they needed."
Brad Warrick, owner of Warrick's Rental Car in Pompano Beach, also knows that Atta was in Venice in the weeks before the attack because he says they used his rental car to drive there. Warrick said he called the FBI on Wednesday afternoon, the day after the attack, after he recognized a picture of Atta on television.
"They rented two cars over three different contracts, a total of about five weeks," Warrick told us. "They picked up that car at about closing time, and that one was going to be for two weeks, he told me it was going to be for two weeks. And he told me he had to go over to the west coast of Florida and he wanted to know if that would be a problem."
"While he was gone during those two weeks he called me from Venice, I saw it on the caller ID," stated Warrick. "I thought oh, wonderful. I've got a car broke down over on the west coast of Florida. He had called because the service engine soon light was on."
During his questioning by the FBI, Warrick said he learned details of the attack which the Bureau has chosen not to tell the American people. "The FBI told me that Marwan almost missed the building. Marwan was flying one hundred miles per hour faster than Atta, they said. And that's why he flew into the building deeper and that's why that building came down first, because there was so much fuel deeper into the building."
"Their explanation was Atta was very cool, calm, collected, just zeroed right in on it, just bingo. And Marwan on the other hand, ten years younger, was just scared to death and he flew erratic, and at the last minute nearly missed the building."
This illustrates how little we have been told about what really happened.
Brad Warrick's description of Mohamed Atta makes him sound like a perfect spy. "He had Allstate Insurance," said Warrick. "The address on his insurance card matched his drivers license. He was a perfect customer."
"Mohamed dressed to the nines," said Warrick. "Nice, nice pants and shirt. Nice clothes, business like. He carried a briefcase and he had all the credentials he needed ... credit card, drivers license, and proof of insurance and he had that, everything matched."
When they returned their last rental car days before the attack, Atta and Marwan exhibited behavior at his rental agency when they showed up to return the car, Warrick said, that seems flatly inconsistent with two men on their way to meet their fate.
"If they were on a suicide mission, and knew they were going to be gone in a couple of days, why did they go to the trouble to return their rental car to us two days before? Why didn't they just leave the car at the airport? Why would they care?"
But not only did Atta and Marwan politely return the car, they engaged in a contest to see who would pay for the rental. "On the last contract, we already had a signed credit card slip for Mohamed, " Warrick explained. "But Marwan said no, don't put it on his credit card. 'Here, put it on mine."'
"Well in order to take it on somebody else's credit card for the contract, you have to be on the contract. So that means he had to give us his drivers license, and he had to sign everything. We had to tear up the contract and write out a new one," stated Warrick.
"He (Marwan) gave us his drivers license, got on the contract. We tore up Mohamed's credit card slip, and charged it on Marwan."
Warrick paused, looking pained, then said, slowly, "Why go to all this trouble? What difference does this make if you are going to be dead in a couple of days?
It was a question he has contemplated often since.
We learned that Mohamed Atta was meeting with terror flight school owner Rudi Dekkers in Venice in the month before he crashed American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower of the World Trade Center through a lucky cab ride in Venice taken by a friend and associate who had come down to spend a few weeks assisting the investigation.
Lois Battliello, a researcher whose considerable assistance can be seen throughout the pages of this book, was spending an extended fortnight in Venice, when one day she needed to take a cab across town.
And that's how she met 'Bob the cabbie.' Her cabdriver, who she got to know over the course of a week, was a retired Navy man named Bob Siropson, who had seen duty during the '80s off the coast of Libya, among other places. Simpson comes from a law enforcement background: his father was Chief of Police in a mid-sized town in California, his brother is a cop, and an uncle works for the DEA. He appears neither mentally disordered nor suicidal. These factors will be important in evaluating his report of what he saw.
"Bob asked me why I was in town," Lois explained, telling how their conversation began. "And I said to probe around a bit into September 11. I said I was helping someone who was writing a book."
Bob said, "Atta was here, he was right in this cab, and so was the other guy, Marwan, and right here is where I would pick them up." He indicated a convenience store, then across the street, the apartment building where he was dropping her off to come and meet us. We live there. It was the building we have lived in for over a year in Venice. Atta had been a frequent visitor to our apartment building in downtown Venice, Burgundy Square.
"I had the FBI come over and question me about them," the cabbie continued. "They (the FBI) had videotape of me with them (Atta and Marwan) taken at Orlando Executive Airport; they said they went through the film on security cameras at the Airport and saw my cab number. That's how the FBI knew to contact me and they let me know that I was just an innocent cab driver even before they asked me questions."
"That apartment where you're staying, their best friend used to live upstairs on the second floor," stated Simpson. "I saw Atta and Al-Shehhi there. Most of the time, I'd be called by their friend, who owned the convenience market across the street, or they would call saying pick them up there at the market."
The owner of the convenience store was "their best friend here," he said. "They were always hanging out together at the store." He knew this, he said, because he would stop in his cab and give Atta and Al-Shehhi a lift to Huffman, during the time they were students at the flight school.
Atta's friend, the man who owned the market across the street, a KwikChek, disappeared immediately after the attack, we learned, and has not been seen since.
According to Venice Yellow Cab employees interviewed by the FBI three days after the attack, Atta took numerous cab rides in August 2001 to and from Huffman Aviation as well as other locations in Venice.
Yellow Cab driver Bob Siropson, who was the only cabbie on the day shift in Venice, stated that on two of these occasions Atta was accompanied by Rudi Dekkers. "They knew each other well, really well. They were friends. They were going to a nightclub in Sarasota, talking and very sociable with each other. He and Atta were friends, you could tell."
Could Simpson be mistaken in his identification? Not likely; he knew Rudi Dekkers well, he said, from numerous trips to Huffman Aviation to pick up arriving flight students.
"He (Dekkers) would walk them out to the cab, and give me the address to take them to," states Siropson. "Then a lot of times, with a new flight student, Rudi would take them over to Sharkey's for lunch, and I'd get the call to pick them up. Dekkers also regularly used our cabs to do things like go to lunch, because he usually flew in by helicopter and didn't have a car at the Venice Airport."
Simpson said he first took Atta and Dekkers from Huffman Aviation to James' Place, a restaurant in downtown Venice. Then on a second occasion he picked the two up at the Pompano Road residence of former Huffman employee Charlie Voss, and took them to a Sarasota nightclub Atta is known to have frequented. It was Voss, we recalled, whose home was made available to Atta and Marwan when they arrived in Venice.
The Yellow Cab office manager in Sarasota confirmed that the trips were recorded in the firm's cab logs, and said the FBI had also expressed a keen interest in cab rides Atta had taken with the company's other driver, who worked nights.
Atta's presence in Venice during final preparations for the attack directly contradicts the FBI's official chronology of his movements in the month before September 11, and totally contradicts numerous statements made by Dekkers to the news media.
In sworn testimony in front of the House Judiciary Committee in March 2002, Dekkers insisted his relationship with the terrorist ringleader had been distant, and ended the previous December, nine months before the attack.
Dekkers told the hearing about complaints from his staff that Atta and Al-Shehhi had behavioral problems, that they were not following instructions, and that they also had bad attitudes. "On December 24th, 2000, Atta and Al-Shehhi rented a Warrior (N555HA) from Huffman Aviation for a flight," the Dutch national stated, telling of his last encounter with Atta.
"Atta and Al-Shehhi returned to Huffman Aviation to make final payments on their outstanding bills. Because they were not taking any more flying lessons, they were asked to leave the facility due to their bad attitudes and not being liked by staff and clients alike. Huffman never heard about or from them again until September 11th, 2001."
Speaking with reporters, he had been more colloquial. "They did not socialize with anyone," Dekkers said three days after the attack. "They did not go to the bar with us. That Atta guy was an asshole."
On Friday, Sept. 14, three days after the Sept. 11 attack, cab driver Simpson was contacted by the FBI, who questioned him closely about an associate of Atta's, a Middle Eastern man who owned the convenience store across the street from the apartment building where Simpson said he picked him up. Simpson elaborated:
"I heard a voice say 'this is Special Agent Joe Anderson from the FBI calling,"' remembers Simpson. "My heart sort of skipped a beat. Then he said, 'don't worry, you haven't done anything wrong,' and asked if I'd seen pictures of the terrorists, and if I had, wanted to know if I recognized any."
"I said yes, I recognized Mohamed Atta,"' Simpson continued. "I'm the day driver for Yellow Cab in Venice, and he was in my cab a bunch of times in August, 2001. The night driver had him even more than I did."
So the FBI clearly knew -- much earlier than we -- that Atta was in Venice just before the attack.
"They were especially interested in a rich Saudi guy that I'd been sent to pick up at the Orlando Executive Airport. They said they already knew that he'd ridden in my cab because they'd gotten my cab number from a surveillance camera there."
The FBI agents asked specific and direct questions focused on several trips to the Orlando Executive Airport beginning in December 2000, said Simpson.
Simpson told the FBI he had been asked to drive to Orlando by a convenience store owner in Venice, a Middle Eastern man who was an associate of Atta's, and who left town shortly after the attack.
"I took the store owner, and when he got to Orlando Executive Airport, we waited together for a flight to come in. Then out comes this really wealthy Saudi businessman, dressed in Armani and shades, as well as his wife, who was wearing traditional Arab clothing."
"The store owner knew him really well. They hugged, and I am sure he was bringing the store owner a lot of money, because you could tell that he had a lot of money. The first thing they wanted to do was go to a good restaurant, so there we were, steak, lobster, everything. The guy had a lot of money. I just know this meeting had to do with this wealthy Saudi businessman bringing him money."
After dinner they proceeded back to the Venice apartment of the convenience store owner, the one where Simpson said he picked up Atta several times. "I took them back to Venice, and to the apartment, where I had to carry in luggage. I guess this wealthy Saudi businessman stayed there at the apartment too, at least that's where I left him."
Six weeks later, Siropson said, he drove the wealthy Saudi's wife back to the Orlando Airport, once again leaving from the convenience store owner's Venice apartment. When he arrived to pick up the fare, he was asked to help carry a chest down to the cab.
The chest was so heavy, he said, it took two people to carry. The man who helped him carry it down the stairs to the cab, says Siropson, was Zacharias Moussaoui, the so-called 20th hijacker. "He was a big bald guy, and he helped me with the chest."
Simpson's identification of Moussaoui in Venice added confirmation to the story we'd heard about the second "Magic Dutch Boy," Arne Kruithof, being grilled for two days at the Sarasota, Florida, Courthouse about his connections to Moussaoui by a Justice Dept. Asst. Attorney General and top-level officials from the FBI, there taking depositions from potential witnesses in Moussaoui's upcoming trial. So Moussaoui was in Venice too. The FBI has said nothing about it.
Also of major significance was Simpson's statement that on several occasions he drove Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi from Venice to the Orlando Executive Airport, a considerable distance, on one-way trips. This places the two men at the same scene where Huffman Aviation's true owner, Wally Hilliard, lost a Lear jet after it was discovered to have 43 pounds of heroin onboard. Hilliard also owns a flight school and commuter airline in Orlando as well.
Was Mohamed Atta flying out of Orlando Executive Airport for Wally Hilliard? Dekkers' partner in their failed airline venture, Richard Boehlke, told a reporter that Dekkers proposed using flight students to ride along as co-pilots as a way to save money.
"The thought that terrorists might have been allowed access to secure airport facilities is chilling," said Boehlke.
As we've seen, in the official chronology of this period January to April, 2001 -- FBI investigators state they are not sure where Atta and Al-Shehhi were, suggesting they may have traveled back to Germany, since Atta reportedly received a visitor's visa in Hamburg and reentered the United States during this time.
Once again we have heard eyewitness testimony which indicates the FBI is lying. So is Rudi Dekkers. If Dekkers is lying about his relationship with Mohamed Atta, this concerns material evidence in the deaths of 3,000 people. Why hasn't he been arrested? Why have federal authorities as yet done nothing about it? Why is he still walking the streets a free man?
When we called a man we know who used to work at something like the CIA, to ask him what could have been in that chest that was so heavy, his reply was swift and immediate, and seemed to put everything going on in Florida in its proper perspective ...
"Gold," he said firmly. "There was gold in that chest."
Who deals in heroin? Who deals in gold?
Or Islamic spooks.