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1986-October 1999: New Jersey Firm Investors List Is ‘Who’s Who of Designated Terrorists’
BMI Inc., a real estate investment firm based in Secaucus, New Jersey, is formed in 1986. Former counterterrorism “tsar” Richard Clarke will state in 2003, “While BMI [has] held itself out publicly as a financial services provider for Muslims in the United States, its investor list suggests the possibility this facade was just a cover to conceal terrorist support. BMI’s investor list reads like a who’s who of designated terrorists and Islamic extremists.” Investors in BMI include: [US Congress, 10/22/2003]
- Soliman Biheiri. He is the head of BMI for the duration of the company’s existence. US prosecutors will later call him the US banker for the Muslim Brotherhood, a banned Egyptian militant group. Biheiri’s computer will eventually be searched and found to have contact information for Ghaleb Himmat and Youssef Nada, leaders of the Al Taqwa Bank, which is founded two years after BMI (see 1988). After 9/11, the US and UN will designate both Himmat and Nada and the Al Taqwa Bank as terrorist financiers, and the bank will be shut down (see November 7, 2001). US prosecutors say there are other ties between BMI and Al Taqwa, including financial transactions. Biheiri also has close ties with Yousuf Abdullah Al-Qaradawi. Qaradawi is said to be a high-ranking member of the Muslim Brotherhood, a shareholder in Al Taqwa, and has made statements supporting suicide bombings against Israel. In 2003, US investigators will accuse Biheiri of ties to terrorist financing. He will be convicted of immigration violations and lying to a federal agent (see June 15, 2003). [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003; Forward, 10/17/2003] Biheiri will be convicted of immigration fraud in 2003 and then convicted of lying to federal investigators in 2004 (see June 15, 2003).
- Abdullah Awad bin Laden, a nephew of Osama bin Laden. He invests about a half-million dollars in BMI real estate ventures, earning a profit of $70,000. For most of the 1990s he runs the US branch of a Saudi charity called World Assembly of Muslim Youth (WAMY). He is investigated by the FBI in 1996 (see February-September 11, 1996), and WAMY will be raided by US agents in 2004 (see June 1, 2004). The raid is apparently part of a larger investigation into terrorism financing. In 2001, at least two of the 9/11 hijackers will live three blocks away from the WAMY office (see March 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003; Washington Post, 4/19/2004]
- Nur and Iman bin Laden, two female relatives of Osama bin Laden. Abdullah Awad bin Laden will invest some of their money in a BMI real estate project. While their bin Laden family ties are intriguing, neither have been accused of any knowing connections to terrorist financing. [Washington Post, 4/19/2004]
- Mousa Abu Marzouk. He has identified himself as a top leader of Hamas. The US declares him a terrorist in 1995 (see July 5, 1995-May 1997). BMI makes at least two transactions with Marzouk after he is declared a terrorist. [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003]
- Yassin al-Qadi, a Saudi multimillionaire. His lawyers will later claim he has no terrorism ties and had only a passing involvement with BMI and liquidated his investment in it in 1996. However, another company operating from the same office as BMI is called Kadi International Inc. and lists its president as al-Qadi. Al-Qadi is also a major investor in the suspect computer company Ptech (see 1994; 1999-After October 12, 2001). Al-Qadi and BMI head Biheiri have financial dealings with Yaqub Mirza, a Pakistani who manages a group of Islamic charities in Virginia known as the SAAR network (see July 29, 1983). These charities will be raided in March 2002 on suspicions of terrorism ties (see March 20, 2002). Shortly after 9/11, the US will officially declare al-Qadi a terrorist financier (see October 12, 2001). [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003]
- Saleh Kamel. BMI allegedly receives a $500,000 investment from the Dallah Al-Baraka banking conglomerate, which is headed by Kamel. For many years before 9/11, Omar al-Bayoumi, an associate of 9/11 hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, will receive a salary from Dallah, despite apparently doing no work. Some will accuse al-Bayoumi of involvement in funding the 9/11 plot, but that remains to been proven (see August 1994-July 2001). Kamel reportedly founded a Sudanese Islamic bank which housed accounts for senior al-Qaeda operatives. He is a multi-billionaire heavily involved in promoting Islam, and his name appears on the Golden Chain, a list of early al-Qaeda supporters (see 1988-1989). He denies supporting terrorism. [US Congress, 10/22/2003; Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004]
- The Kuwait Finance House. According to Clarke, this organization is alleged to be a BMI investor and the “financial arm of the Muslim Brotherhood in Kuwait. Several al-Qaeda operatives have allegedly been associated with the Kuwaiti Muslim Brotherhood, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, Suliman abu Ghaith, Wadih El-Hage, and Ramzi Yousef.” In 2003, an apparent successor entity to the Kuwait Finance House will be designated as a terrorist entity by the US. A lawyer for the Kuwait Finance House will later say the bank has never let its accounts be used for terrorism. [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003; US Congress, 10/22/2003; Wall Street Journal, 4/20/2005]
- Tarek Swaidan. He is a Kuwaiti, an associate of al-Qadi, and a leading member of the Kuwaiti branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. It is unknown if he has made any denials about his alleged associations. [Wall Street Journal, 9/15/2003]
- Abdurahman Alamoudi. For many years he runs the American Muslim Council, a lobby group founded by a top Muslim Brotherhood figure. US prosecutors say he also is in the Brotherhood, and has alleged ties to Hamas. In 2004, the US will sentence him to 23 years in prison for illegal dealings with Libya (see October 15, 2004). [Wall Street Journal, 6/21/2004; Washington Post, 10/16/2004]
- The International Islamic Relief Organization (IIRO) and the Muslim World League, closely connected Saudi charities suspected of financing terrorism. They give BMI $3.7 million out of a $10 million endowment from unknown Saudi donors. The Financial Times will later note, “While it is not clear whether that money came from the Saudi government, [a 2003] affidavit quotes a CIA report that says the Muslim World League ‘is largely financed by the government of Saudi Arabia.’” Both organizations consistently deny any support of terrorism financing, but in early 2006 it will be reported that US officials continue to suspect them of such support (see January 15, 2006). [Financial Times, 8/21/2003] In 1992, a branch of the IIRO gives $2.1 million to BMI Inc. to invest in real estate. The money disappears from BMI’s books. In October 1999, BMI goes defunct after it is unable to repay this money to the IIRO branch. The IIRO branch gives BMI the rest of the $3.7 million between 1992 and 1998. BMI will use the money to buy real estate (see 1992). Eventually, some of this money will be given to Hamas operatives in the West Bank and spent on violent actions against Israel. This will eventually lead to legal action in the US and a seizure of some of the money. [Wall Street Journal, 11/26/2002; Washington Post, 8/20/2003; Washington Times, 3/26/2004; Washington Post, 4/19/2004] By 1992, BMI has projected revenues in excess of $25 million, based largely on their real estate investments in the US. [US Congress, 10/22/2003] In early 1999, months before BMI goes defunct, the FBI hears evidence potentially tying BMI to the 1998 US embassy bombings (see August 7, 1998), but an investigation into this will not be pursued (see Early 1999). It should be noted that BMI had many investors, and presumably most BMI investors would have had no suspicions that their money might be used to fund terrorism or other types of violence.
August 1994-July 2001: Possible Terrorist Front Man with Saudi Backing Settles in San Diego
A Saudi named Omar al-Bayoumi arrives in San Diego, California. He will later become well known for his suspicious connections to both some 9/11 hijackers and the Saudi government, although the 9/11 Commission asserts that it received no evidence that he was involved in terrorism or the 9/11 attacks. [9/11 Commission, 6/16/2004] Acquaintances in San Diego long suspect he is a Saudi government spy reporting on the activities of Saudi-born college students. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/14/2002; Newsweek, 11/22/2002; San Diego Magazine, 9/2003] Says one witness, “He was always watching [young Saudi college students], always checking up on them, literally following them around and then apparently reporting their activities back to Saudi Arabia.” [Newsweek, 11/24/2002] Just prior to moving to the US, he worked for the Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation, headed by Prince Sultan. His salary in this job is approved by Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official whose son, Saud al-Rashid, is strongly suspected of al-Qaeda ties (see August 15, 2002). [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] Once in San Diego, al-Bayoumi tells people that he’s a student or a pilot, and even claims to be receiving monthly payments from “family in India” (despite being Saudi). However, he is none of those things [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, UK), 10/21/2001; Wall Street Journal, 8/11/2003] In fact, as he tells some people, he receives a monthly stipend from Dallah Avco, a Saudi aviation company that has extensive ties to the same Saudi Ministry of Defense and Aviation. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002; Newsweek, 11/24/2002] From early 1995 until 2002, he is paid about $3,000 a month for a project in Saudi Arabia even though he is living in the US. According to the New York Times, Congressional officials believe he is a “ghost employee” doing no actual work. The classified section of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report notes that his payments increase significantly just after he comes into contact with two hijackers in early 2000. [New York Times, 8/2/2003] The FBI is investigating possible ties between Dallah Avco and al-Qaeda. [Newsweek, 10/29/2001] The firm’s owner, Saudi billionaire Saleh Abdullah Kamel, has denied the accusation. [Newsweek, 7/28/2003]
June 1998: Saudi Benefactor Offers Funding for Mosque if Suspected Advance Man Is Retained as Building Manager
An Unknown Saudi benefactor pays a Saudi, Saad Al-Habeeb, to buy a building in San Diego, California, for a new Kurdish community mosque. However, the approximately $500,000 will only be given on the condition that Omar al-Bayoumi be installed as the building’s maintenance manager with a private office at the mosque. After taking the job, al-Bayoumi rarely shows up for work. [Newsweek, 11/24/2002; San Diego Magazine, 9/2003] This means he has two jobs at once. The people in the mosque eventually begin a move to replace al-Bayoumi, but he moves to Britain in July 2001 before this can happen. [Newsweek, 11/24/2002] An anonymous federal investigator states, “Al-Bayoumi came here, set everything up financially, set up the San Diego [al-Qaeda] cell and set up the mosque.” An international tax attorney notes that anyone handling business for a mosque or a church could set it up as a tax-exempt charitable organization “and it can easily be used for money laundering.” [San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/27/2001; San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/22/2002]
September 1998-July 1999: FBI Conducts Inquiry of Suspected Al-Qaeda Advance Man
The FBI conducts a counterterrorism inquiry on Omar al-Bayoumi, suspected al-Qaeda advance man, and possible Saudi agent. The FBI discovers he has been in contact with several people also under investigation. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] The FBI is given a tip that he was sent a suspicious package filled with wire from the Middle East, and that large numbers of Arab men routinely meet in his apartment. His landlord notices that he switches from driving a beat up old car to a new Mercedes. [Newsweek, 7/28/2003] According to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, the FBI notes that al-Bayoumi has “access to seemingly unlimited funding from Saudi Arabia.” For instance, an FBI source identifies him as a person who has delivered about $500,000 from Saudi Arabia to buy a mosque in June 1998 (see June 1998). However, the FBI closes the inquiry “for reasons that remain unclear .” [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] Also in 1999, al-Bayoumi is working as an employee of the Saudi company Dallah Avco but apparently is doing no work. Someone in the company tries to fire him and sends a note to the Saudi government about this, since the company is so closely tied to the government. However, Mohammed Ahmed al-Salmi, the Director General of Civil Aviation, replies that it is “extremely urgent” his job is renewed “as quickly as possible,” and so he keeps his job. [Wall Street Journal, 8/11/2003]
December 4, 1999: Saudi Ambassador’s Wife Gives Funds that Are Possibly Passed to 9/11 Hijackers
Princess Haifa bint Faisal, the wife of Prince Bandar, the Saudi ambassador to the US, begins sending monthly cashier’s checks of between $2,000 and $3,500 (accounts differ) to Majeda Dweikat, the Jordanian wife of Osama Basnan, a Saudi living in San Diego. Accounts also differ over when the checks were first sent (between November 1999 and about March 2000; a Saudi government representative has stated December 4, 1999 [Fox News, 11/23/2002] ). Basnan’s wife signs many of the checks over to her friend Manal Bajadr, the wife of Omar al-Bayoumi. The payments are made through Riggs Bank, a bank which appears to have turned a blind eye to Saudi embassy transaction and also has longstanding ties to covert CIA operations (see July 2003). [Newsweek, 11/22/2002; Newsweek, 11/24/2002; Guardian, 11/25/2002; Washington Times, 11/26/2002] Some later suggest that the money from the wife of the Saudi ambassador passes through the al-Bayoumi and Basnan families as intermediaries and ends up in the hands of the two hijackers. The payments from Princess Haifa continue until May 2002 and may total $51,000, or as much as $73,000. [Newsweek, 11/22/2002; MSNBC, 11/27/2002] While living in the San Diego area, al-Bayoumi and Basnan are heavily involved in helping with the relocation of, and offering financial support to, Saudi immigrants in the community. [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2002] In late 2002, al-Bayoumi claims he did not pass any money along to the hijackers. [Washington Times, 12/4/2002] Basnan has variously claimed to know al-Bayoumi, not to know him at all, or to know him only vaguely. [ABC News, 11/25/2002; Arab News, 11/26/2002; ABC News, 11/26/2002; MSNBC, 11/27/2002] However, earlier reports say Basnan and his wife were “very good friends” of al-Bayoumi and his wife. Both couples lived at the Parkwood Apartments at the same time as the two hijackers; prior to that, the couples lived together in a different apartment complex. In addition, the two wives were arrested together in April 2001 for shoplifting. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/22/2002]
January-May 2000: Hijacker Associate Frequently Calls Saudi Government Officials
According to Sen. Bob Graham (D), co-chair of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, during this time Omar al-Bayoumi has an “unusually large number of telephone calls with Saudi government officials in both Los Angeles and Washington.” Graham will note this increased communication corresponds with the arrival of hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar into al-Bayoumi’s life. He will see this as evidence of Saudi government involvement in the 9/11 plot. [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 168-169]
January 15-Early February 2000: Suspected Advance Man Helps 9/11 Hijackers Settle in San Diego
Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar arrive in Los Angeles and stay there for two weeks. Omar al-Bayoumi, a suspected al-Qaeda advance man and possible Saudi agent, arrives in Los Angeles and visits the Saudi Consulate there. According to Newsweek, “Law-enforcement officials believe al-Bayoumi may [have] a closed-door meeting with Fahad al Thumairy, a member of the consulate’s Islamic and Culture Affairs Section.” [Newsweek, 7/28/2003] (In March 2003, al Thumairy is stripped of his diplomatic visa and barred from entry to the US, reportedly because of suspected links to terrorism. [Washington Post, 11/23/2003] ) Later that same day, al-Bayoumi goes to a restaurant and meets Alhazmi and Almihdhar. Al-Bayoumi later claims that this first contact with the hijackers is accidental. However, one FBI source later recalls that before he drives to Los Angeles that day he says he is going “to pick up visitors.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file; Newsweek, 7/28/2003] Al-Bayoumi returns to San Diego after inviting the two hijackers to move there; Alhazmi and Almihdhar follow him there shortly thereafter. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] The FBI’s “best source” in San Diego says that al-Bayoumi “must be an intelligence officer for Saudi Arabia or another foreign power.” A former top FBI official working on the al-Bayoumi investigation claims: “We firmly believed that he had knowledge [of the 9/11 plot], and that his meeting with them that day was more than coincidence.” [Newsweek, 7/28/2003] Al-Bayoumi helps Alhazmi and Almihdhar settle in the US. After meeting them in Los Angeles and after bringing them to San Diego, he finds them a place to live. Al-Bayoumi lives at the Villa Balboa apartments with a wife and children, and the two hijackers move into the Parkwood apartments directly across the street. [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, UK), 10/21/2001; Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002] It appears the lease was actually signed by Alhazmi a few months earlier. Al-Bayoumi cosigns the lease and pays $1,500 cash for their first month’s rent and security deposit. Some FBI officials claim the hijackers immediately pay him back, others claim they do not. [Newsweek, 11/24/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] Within days of bringing them from Los Angeles, al-Bayoumi throws a welcoming party that introduces them to the local Muslim community. [Washington Post, 12/29/2001] One associate later says an al-Bayoumi party “was a big deal… it meant that everyone accepted them without question.” [San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/25/2001] He also introduces hijacker Hani Hanjour to the community a short time later. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/14/2002] He tasks an acquaintance, Modhar Abdallah, to serve as their translator and help them get driver’s licenses, Social Security cards, information on flight schools, and more [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/14/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file]
Spring 2000: Payments to Suspected Hijacker Associate Increase Significantly
According to leaks from the still-classified part of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, monthly payments to Omar al-Bayoumi increase significantly at this time. Al-Bayoumi has been receiving a salary from the Saudi civil authority of about $500 a month. However, shortly after hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar move to San Diego, al-Bayoumi’s salary increases to about $3,000 to $3,500 a month [New York Times, 7/29/2003] It is not clear whether this pay spike is from his Dallah Avco job, or an additional payment by the Saudi government [New York Times, 7/29/2003; New York Times, 8/2/2003] , but the pay spike appears to be a separate stream of money, because another report indicates his Dallah Avco job started with $3,000 a month payments and remained consistent. [Wall Street Journal, 8/11/2003] It also fits in with his claims to acquaintances at the time that he is receiving a regular government scholarship. [Los Angeles Times, 9/1/2002]
May 10-Mid-December 2000: FBI Asset Fails to Share Valuable Information on Hijackers
While hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar live in the house of an FBI asset, Abdussattar Shaikh, the asset continues to have contact with his FBI handler. The handler, Steven Butler, later claims that during the summer Shaikh mentions the names “Nawaf” and “Khalid” in passing and that they are renting rooms from him. [Newsweek, 9/9/2002; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 51 pdf file; Associated Press, 7/25/2003; 9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 220] In early media reports, the two are said to have moved in around September, but the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry implies that Shaikh lied about this, and they moved in much earlier. Alhazmi stays until December; Almihdhar appears to be mostly out of the US after June. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 9/16/2001; Wall Street Journal, 9/17/2001; South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 9/28/2001; US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 157 pdf file] On one occasion, Shaikh tells Butler on the phone he cannot talk because Khalid is in the room. [Newsweek, 9/9/2002] Shaikh tells Butler they are good, religious Muslims who are legally in the US to visit and attend school. Butler asks Shaikh for their last names, but Shaikh refuses to provide them. Butler is not told that they are pursuing flight training. Shaikh tells Butler that they are apolitical and have done nothing to arouse suspicion. However, according to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, he later admits that Alhazmi has “contacts with at least four individuals [he] knew were of interest to the FBI and about whom [he] had previously reported to the FBI.” Three of these four people are being actively investigated at the time the hijackers are there. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 51 pdf file] The report mentions Osama Mustafa as one, and Shaikh admits that suspected Saudi agent Omar al-Bayoumi was a friend. [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 51 pdf file; Los Angeles Times, 7/25/2003] Alhazmi and Shaikh remain in contact after Alhazmi leaves San Diego in December. Alhazmi calls Shaikh to tell him he intends to take flying lessons in Arizona and that Almihdhar has returned to Yemen. He also e-mails Shaikh three times; one of the e-mails is signed “Smer,” an apparent attempt to conceal his identity, which Shaikh finds strange. However, Alhazmi does not reply to e-mails Shaikh sends him in February and March of 2001. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 223] The FBI later concludes Shaikh is not involved in the 9/11 plot, but they have serious doubts about his credibility. After 9/11 he gives inaccurate information and has an “inconclusive” polygraph examination about his foreknowledge of the 9/11 attack. The FBI will believe he had contact with hijacker Hani Hanjour, but claimed not to recognize him. There are other “significant inconsistencies” in Shaikh’s statements about the hijackers, including when he first met them and later meetings with them. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry later concludes that had the asset’s contacts with the hijackers been capitalized upon, it “would have given the San Diego FBI field office perhaps the US intelligence community’s best chance to unravel the September 11 plot.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003, pp. 51 pdf file] The FBI later tries to prevent Butler and Shaikh from testifying before the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry in October 2002. Butler ends up testifying, but Shaikh does not. [Washington Post, 10/11/2002]
Summer 2000: San Diego Hijackers Meet Atta and Al-Bayoumi
Anonymous government sources later claim that Mohamed Atta visits fellow hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi, Khalid Almihdhar, and Omar al-Bayoumi. These same sources claim al-Bayoumi is identified after September 11 as an “advance man” for al-Qaeda. [Washington Times, 11/26/2002] Other reports have suggested Atta visited Alhazmi and Almihdhar in San Diego, but the FBI has not confirmed this. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file]
September 5, 2000: Alhazmi Helps Housemate Cash Checks? FBI Later Flubs Investigation
A total of $1,900 is deposited in Nawaf Alhazmi’s Bank of America account from a set of traveler’s checks worth $4,000 that were issued in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on July 16, 2000 to a man named Yazeed al-Salmi. The same day, Alhazmi withdraws $1,900. US investigators will therefore later hypothesise that Alhazmi is just helping al-Salmi cash the checks, since al-Salmi does not open a US bank account of his own until September 11, 2000. Al-Salmi arrived in San Diego on a student visa on August 7, 2000 and moved in with Alhazmi and FBI counterterrorism informant Abdussattar Shaikh three days later, staying for about one month (see Mid-May-December 2000). Hijacker associate Omar al-Bayoumi, who nominally reports to al-Salmi’s uncle, Mohammed Ahmed al-Salmi of the Saudi Civil Aviation ministry, found him the accommodation (see September 1998-July 1999). After 9/11, the FBI will detain al-Salmi as a material witness and question him because of his contacts with Alhazmi, and he will testify before a grand jury before being deported to Saudi Arabia. However, al-Salmi does not mention the traveler’s checks in the interrogation and the FBI will not find out about them until after he is deported. Also, another associate of the hijackers, Mohdar Abdullah, will later claim that al-Salmi tells him he previously knew hijacker pilot Hani Hanjour as a child in Saudi Arabia (see (Early 2000-November 2000)). When the FBI interviews al-Salmi again, in Saudi Arabia in 2004, he will claim he no longer remembers the $1,900 transaction and the FBI will fail to ask him about his alleged childhood ties to Hanjour. [9/11 Commission, 7/24/2004, pp. 222, 518; 9/11 Commission, 8/21/2004, pp. 139 pdf file; Time, 8/22/2004] There are later indications that al-Salmi and some of his associates have some foreknowledge of 9/11 (see Late August-September 10, 2001).
September 21-28, 2001: Suspected Hijacker Associate Is Arrested in Britain, Then Released
Omar al-Bayoumi, suspected al-Qaeda advance man and possible Saudi agent, is arrested, and held for one week in Britain. He moved from San Diego to Britain in July 2001 and is a studying at Aston University Business School in Birmingham when he is taken into custody by British authorities working with the FBI. [San Diego Union-Tribune, 10/27/2001; Washington Post, 12/29/2001; MSNBC, 11/27/2002] During a search of al-Bayoumi’s Birmingham apartment (which includes ripping up the floorboards), the FBI finds the names and phone numbers of two employees of the Saudi embassy’s Islamic Affairs Department. [Newsweek, 11/24/2002] “There was a link there,” a Justice Department official says, adding that the FBI interviewed the employees and “that was the end of that, in October or November of 2001.” The official adds, “I don’t know why he had those names.” Nail al-Jubeir, chief spokesperson for the Saudi embassy in Washington, says al-Bayoumi “called [the numbers] constantly.” [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2002] They also discover jihadist literature, and conclude he “has connections to terrorist elements,” including al-Qaeda. [Washington Post, 7/25/2003] However, he is released after a week. [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2002; Newsweek, 11/24/2002] British intelligence officials are frustrated that the FBI failed to give them information that would have enabled them to keep al-Bayoumi in custody longer than the seven days allowed under British anti-terrorism laws. [London Times, 10/19/2001; KGTV 10 (San Diego), 10/25/2001] Even FBI officials in San Diego appear to have not been told of al-Bayoumi’s arrest by FBI officials in Britain until after he is released. [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, UK), 10/21/2001] Newsweek claims that classified sections of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry indicate the Saudi Embassy pushed for al-Bayoumi’s release— “another possible indicator of his high-level [Saudi] connections.” [Newsweek, 7/28/2003] A San Diego FBI agent later secretly testifies that supervisors fail to act on evidence connecting to a Saudi money trail. The FBI is said to conduct a massive investigation of al-Bayoumi within days of 9/11, which shows he has connections to individuals who have been designated by the US as foreign terrorists. [Sunday Mercury (Birmingham, UK), 10/21/2001; US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file; Newsweek, 7/28/2003] But two years later witnesses connecting him to Saudi money apparently are not interviewed by the FBI. Al-Bayoumi continues with his studies in Britain and is still there into 2002, and yet is still not rearrested. [Newsweek, 10/29/2001; Washington Post, 12/29/2001] He disappears into Saudi Arabia by the time he reenters the news in November 2002. [San Diego Magazine, 9/2003]
August 15, 2002: Son of Saudi Official Associated with Hijackers
The picture of a young Saudi man named Saud al-Rashid is discovered on a CD-ROM that also contains the pictures of four 9/11 hijackers in an al-Qaeda safe house in Pakistan. A senior US official says that investigators “were able to take this piece of information and it showed clear signals or lines that he was connected to 9/11.” [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] Rashid was in Afghanistan in 2000 and 2001. [New York Times, 7/29/2003] Six days later, the US issues a worldwide dragnet to find him. [Associated Press, 8/21/2002] But they are unable to catch him because a few days later, he flees from Egypt to Saudi Arabia and turns himself in to the Saudi authorities. The Saudis apparently will not try him for any crime or allow the FBI to interview him. [CNN, 8/26/2002; CNN, 8/31/2002] Intriguingly, Al-Rashid’s father is Hamid al-Rashid, a Saudi government official who paid a salary to Omar al-Bayoumi, an associate of two hijackers who is later suspected of being a Saudi agent. [New York Times, 7/29/2003]
August 22-November 2002: Possible Hijacker Associate Is Arrested, Then Deported
Osama Basnan, an alleged associate of 9/11 hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, and his wife are arrested for visa fraud. [Newsweek, 11/22/2002; Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2002] One report says he is arrested for allegedly having links to Omar al-Bayoumi. [Arab News, 11/26/2002] On October 22, Basnan and his wife, Majeda Dweikat, admit they used false immigration documents to stay in the US. [KGTV 10 (San Diego), 10/22/2002] Possible financial connections between Basnan and al-Bayoumi, Alhazmi and Almihdhar, and the Saudi royal family are known to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry (as well as the FBI and CIA) at this time. Remarkably, Basnan is deported to Saudi Arabia on November 17, 2002. His wife is deported to Jordan the same day. [Washington Post, 11/24/2002] Less than a week after the deportations, new media reports make Basnan a widely known suspect. [Newsweek, 11/22/2002]
November 22, 2002: Newsweek Reports Saudi Royals Sent Money to Hijackers’ Associates
Newsweek reports that hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar may have received money from Saudi Arabia’s royal family through two Saudis, Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan. Newsweek bases its report on information leaked from the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry in October. [Newsweek, 11/22/2002; Newsweek, 11/22/2002; New York Times, 11/23/2002; Washington Post, 11/23/2003] Al-Bayoumi is in Saudi Arabia by this time. Basnan was deported to Saudi Arabia just five days earlier. Saudi officials and Princess Haifa immediately deny any connections to Islamic militants. [Los Angeles Times, 11/24/2002] Newsweek reports that while the money trail “could be perfectly innocent… it is nonetheless intriguing—and could ultimately expose the Saudi government to some of the blame for 9/11…” [Newsweek, 11/22/2002] Some Saudi newspapers, which usually reflect government thinking, claim the leak is blackmail to pressure Saudi Arabia into supporting war with Iraq. [MSNBC, 11/27/2002] Senior US government officials claim the FBI and CIA failed to aggressively pursue leads that might have linked the two hijackers to Saudi Arabia. This causes a bitter dispute between FBI and CIA officials and the intelligence panel investigating the 9/11 attacks. [New York Times, 11/23/2002] A number of senators, including Richard Shelby (R), John McCain (R), Mitch O’Connell (R), Joe Lieberman (D), Bob Graham (D), Joseph Biden (D), and Charles Schumer (D), express concern about the Bush administration’s action (or non-action) regarding the Saudi royal family and its possible role in funding Islamic militants. [Reuters, 11/24/2002; New York Times, 11/25/2002] Lieberman says, “I think it’s time for the president to blow the whistle and remember what he said after September 11—you’re either with us or you’re with the al-Qaeda.” [ABC News, 11/25/2002] FBI officials strongly deny any deliberate connection between these two men and the Saudi government or the hijackers [Time, 11/24/2002] , but later even more connections between them and both entities are revealed. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file]
July 24, 2003: 9/11 Congressional Inquiry Suggests Hijackers Received Considerable Assistance Inside US
The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s final report concludes that at least six hijackers received “substantial assistance” from associates in the US, though it’s “not known to what extent any of these contacts in the United States were aware of the plot.” These hijackers came into contact with at least 14 people who were investigated by the FBI before 9/11, and four of those investigations were active while the hijackers were present. But in June 2002, FBI Director Mueller testified: “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.” CIA Director Tenet made similar comments at the same time, and another FBI official stated, “[T]here were no contacts with anybody we were looking at inside the United States.” These comments are untrue, because one FBI document from November 2001 uncovered by the Inquiry concludes that the six lead hijackers “maintained a web of contacts both in the United States and abroad. These associates, ranging in degrees of closeness, include friends and associates from universities and flight schools, former roommates, people they knew through mosques and religious activities, and employment contacts. Other contacts provided legal, logistical, or financial assistance, facilitated US entry and flight school enrollment, or were known from [al-Qaeda]-related activities or training.” [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] The declassified sections of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry’s final report show the hijackers have contact with:
- Mamoun Darkazanli, investigated several times starting in 1993 (see 1993; Late 1998); the CIA makes repeated efforts to turn him into an informer (see December 1999).
- Mohammed Haydar Zammar, investigated by Germany since at least 1997 (see 1996), the Germans periodically inform the CIA what they learn.
- Osama Basnan, US intelligence is informed of his connections to Islamic militants several times in early 1990s but fails to investigate (see April 1998).
- Omar al-Bayoumi, investigated in San Diego from 1998-1999 (see September 1998-July 1999).
- Anwar Al Aulaqi, investigated in San Diego from 1999-2000 (see June 1999-March 2000).
- Osama “Sam” Mustafa, owner of a San Diego gas station, and investigated beginning in 1991 (see Autumn 2000).
- Ed Salamah, manager of the same gas station, and an uncooperative witness in 2000 (see Autumn 2000).
- An unnamed friend of Hani Hanjour, whom the FBI tries to investigate in 2001.
- An unnamed associate of Marwan Alshehhi, investigated beginning in 1999.
- Hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar, who had contact with Basnan, al-Bayoumi, Aulaqi, Mustafa, and Salamah, “maintained a number of other contacts in the local Islamic community during their time in San Diego, some of whom were also known to the FBI through counterterrorist inquiries and investigations,” but details of these individuals and possible others are still classified. [US Congress, 7/24/2003 pdf file] None of the above people have been arrested or even publicly charged with any crime associated with terrorism, although Zammar is in prison in Syria.
August 2003: FBI and CIA Reopen Investigation Into Saudi Link to 9/11
In the wake of the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry report, and “under intense pressure from Congress,” as the Boston Globe puts it, the FBI and CIA reopen an investigation into whether Saudi Arabian officials aided the 9/11 plot. [Boston Globe, 8/3/2003] In early August, Saudi Arabia allows the FBI to interview Omar al-Bayoumi. However, the interview takes place in Saudi Arabia, and apparently on his terms, with Saudi government handlers present. [New York Times, 8/5/2003; Associated Press, 8/6/2003] Says one anonymous government terrorism consultant, “They are revisiting everybody. The [FBI] did not do a very good job of unraveling the conspiracy behind the hijackers.” [Boston Globe, 8/3/2003] But by September, the Washington Post reports that the FBI has concluded that the idea al-Bayoumi was a Saudi government agent is “without merit and has largely abandoned further investigation… The bureau’s September 11 investigative team, which is still tracking down details of the plot, has reached similar conclusions about other associates named or referred to in the congressional inquiry report.” [Washington Post, 9/10/2003] Yet another article claims that by late August, some key people who interacted with al-Bayoumi have yet to be interviewed by the FBI. “Countless intelligence leads that might help solve” the mystery of a Saudi connection to the hijackers “appear to have been underinvestigated or completely overlooked by the FBI, particularly in San Diego.” [San Diego Magazine, 9/2003] Not only were they never interviewed when the investigation was supposedly reopened, they were not interviewed in the months after 9/11 either, when the FBI supposedly opened an “intense investigation” of al-Bayoumi, visiting “every place he was known to have gone, and [compiling] 4,000 pages of documents detailing his activities.” [Newsweek, 7/28/2003]
March 24, 2004-May 2004: FBI Says Saudi Associates of Hijackers Not Involved in Plot; This Conclusion Is Disputed
It is reported that the FBI has closed down their investigation into Saudis Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan. The Associated Press reports, “The FBI concluded at most the two Saudi men occasionally provided information to their kingdom or helped Saudi visitors settle into the United States, but did so in compliance with Muslim custom of being kind to strangers rather than out of some relationship with Saudi intelligence.” [Associated Press, 3/24/2004] Sen. Bob Graham (D) had cochaired the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that found considerable evidence tying these two men to two 9/11 hijackers and also to the Saudi government. When he sees this news report, he contacts the FBI and is told the report is not correct and that the investigation into the two men is still ongoing. A month later, FBI Director Robert Mueller tells Graham that the report was correct, and the case has been closed. Graham asks Mueller to speak to the two FBI agents who reached this conclusion and find out why they reached it. He asks that he should be allowed the same access to them that the Associated Press had been given. Both Mueller and Attorney General John Ashcroft refuse to give clearance for the agents to speak to Graham. Graham then writes a letter with Sen. Arlen Specter (R), again asking for clarification and the right to meet with the agents. Their request is denied. Graham concludes that this is something it “seems that neither the FBI nor the Bush administration wants the American people to find out about.” [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004, pp. 224-227]
September 7, 2004: Senator Bob Graham Claims Cover Up of Saudi Connection to Two 9/11 Hijackers
Senator Bob Graham (D) alleges that the White House has covered up possible Saudi Arabian government connections to hijackers Nawaf Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar. In an interview to promote his new book entitled “Intelligence Matters,” he contends that evidence relating to these two hijackers who lived in San Diego “present[s] a compelling case that there was Saudi assistance” to the 9/11 plot. He also concludes that President Bush directed the FBI “to restrain and obfuscate” investigations into these ties, possibly to protect US-Saudi relations. The San Diego Union-Tribune notes, “Graham co-chaired the exhaustive congressional inquiry into the Sept. 11 attacks and is privy to still-classified information about the probe.” Graham claims that Omar al-Bayoumi and Osama Basnan are Saudi intelligence agents. He also claims that the FBI deliberately blocked his inquiry’s attempts to interview Abdussattar Shaikh, the FBI asset who was a landlord to the above-mentioned hijackers (see November 18, 2002). The questions the inquiry wanted to ask Shaikh went unanswered because of FBI maneuvering. [Graham and Nussbaum, 2004; Copley News, 9/7/2004]