Latest Findings Raise New Questions about Hijackers and Suggest Incomplete Investigation
A contributor to the History Commons has obtained a 298-page document entitled Hijackers Timeline (Redacted) from the FBI, subsequent to a Freedom of Information Act request. The document was a major source of information for the 9/11 Commission’s final report. Though the commission cited the timeline 52 times in its report, it failed to include some of the document’s most important material.
The printed document is dated November 14, 2003, but appears to have been compiled in mid-October 2001 (the most recent date mentioned in it is October 22, 2001), when the FBI was just starting to understand the backgrounds of the hijackers, and it contains almost no information from the CIA, NSA, or other agencies. This raises questions as to why the 9/11 Commission relied so heavily on such an early draft for their information about the hijackers.
Specific new information:
- New evidence suggests that some of the hijackers were assisted by employees of the Saudi government. It has previously been reported that Omar al-Bayoumi, a Saudi who was paid by the Saudi government despite not doing any work, assisted hijackers Khalid Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi when they first moved to the US. The FBI timeline shows that when these two hijackers moved into their first San Diego apartment, they indicated that they had been living with Bayoumi in the apartment next door for the previous two weeks. In fact, they had been with him in that apartment since January 15, 2000, the very day they first flew into the US, arriving in Los Angeles. The timeline also reveals that hijacker Hani Hanjour was seen in Bayoumi’s apartment.
- The new book The Commission by New York Times reporter Philip Shenon published last week further reveals that Bayoumi had close ties to Fahad al-Thumairy, a radical imam working in the Saudi consulate in Los Angeles. For instance, Bayoumi frequently called al-Thumairy while living next door to the two hijackers, and also frequently called the Saudi embassy in Washington, D.C. The book also reveals that the 9/11 Commission was aware of “explosive” revelations about the ties between Bayoumi, Thumairy, and the two hijackers, but the commission’s final report omitted “virtually all of the most serious allegations against the Saudis,” due to diplomatic considerations. Now, thanks to this FBI timeline, we are discovering more of this suppressed evidence relating to Saudi Arabia.
- Security camera footage obtained by the FBI after 9/11 indicated that Khalid Almihdhar and possibly Salem Alhazmi cased Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C., the evening before 9/11. This fits the account of a security guard , related in Unsafe at Any Altitude by Joe and Susan Trento, who independently claimed to have seen two hijackers, Salem’s brother Nawaf and Marwan Alshehhi, casing Dulles Airport the night before 9/11. This guard claims the two hijackers were part of a group of five men, three of whom were dressed in United Airlines ramp worker uniforms, that behaved suspiciously. Despite a lawsuit by 9/11 victims’ relatives against United Airlines and others for negligence, the US government has never revealed the existence of this video footage which might support claims that the hijackers had inside help.
- Hijackers Marwan Alshehhi and Hamza Alghamdi purchased hundreds of dollars of “pornographic video and sex toys” in Florida. They spent $252 on video and toys in early July 2001, and then another $183 later that month. Furthermore, Satam Al Suqami likely paid for a sex escort in Boston on September 7, 2001. Alshehhi was also recognized by six dancers at Cheetah’s, a nightclub in Pompano Beach, Florida. This fits in with other evidence of the hijackers drinking alcohol, paying for lap dancers, watching pornographic videos, etc…—hardly the expected behavior of religious radicals.
- On March 20, 2000, either Khalid Almihdhar or Nawaf Alhazmi used a phone registered to Alhazmi to make a call from San Diego to an al-Qaeda communications hub in Sana’a, Yemen, run by Almihdhar’s father-in-law. The call lasted 16 minutes. According to the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, the call was intercepted by the NSA, which had been intercepting Alhazmi and Almihdhar’s calls for over a year, but the FBI was not informed of the hijackers’ presence in the US. The call is only briefly mentioned as a family phone call by the 9/11 Commission in a endnote, and it is not mentioned that the call was monitored.
- When hijacker Satam Al Suqami’s passport was recovered on 9/11 on the street near the World Trade Center, it was “soaked in jet fuel.”
- Hijacker Hamza Alghamdi booked several flights after 9/11. He booked a continuation from Los Angeles to San Francisco later on the day of the attacks. Then, on September 20, he planned to fly from Rome to Casablanca, to Riyadh, to Damman, Saudi Arabia.
- It has been widely assumed that the hijackers did everything using their real names, or aliases close to their real names. But a still-classified CIA report found that the hijackers used 364 aliases and name variants. The FBI’s timeline discloses what some of them were. For example, Hani Hanjour and Ahmed Alghamdi rented a New Jersey apartment using the names Hany Saleh and Ahmed Saleh. Fayez Ahmed Banihammad used the aliases Abu Dhabi Banihammad and Fayey Rashid Ahmed. Mohamed Atta frequently liked to use variants of the name El Sayed, for instance calling himself Awaid Elsayed and even Hamburg Elsayed. And when Majed Moqed flew into the US on May 2, 2001, the name Mashaanmoged Mayed was on the flight manifest. This suggests that some travel and actions of the hijackers could have been missed when they used unlikely aliases.
- An ATM video still of Hani Hanjour (left) and Majed Moqed (right). [Source: FBI] There has been very little video footage released of the hijackers. So far, the only known footage has been two video stills of Hani Hanjour and Majed Moqed using an ATM machine, one still each of Waleed Alshehri and Satam Al Suqami, several stills of Mohamed Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari in Portland the night before 9/11, and a few more stills and footage of several hijackers in airports on the morning of 9/11. But the FBI’s timeline reveals there is more video footage that has never even been publicly hinted at: Mohamed Atta used an ATM in Palm Beach, Florida, on July 19, 2001. Salem Alhazmi and Ahmed Alghamdi used an ATM in Alexandria, Virginia, on August 2. Hanjour and Mojed used a Kinko’s for half an hour in College Park, Maryland, on August 10. Moqed and Nawaf Alhazmi shopped at an Exxon gas station in Joppa, Maryland, on August 28. Waleed and Wail Alshehri wandered around a Target store in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on September 4. Atta and Abdulaziz Alomari were in a Florida bank lobby on September 4, and the audio of Atta calling Saudi Arabia was even recorded in the process. Fayez Ahmed Banihammad used an ATM on September 7 in Deerfield Beach, Florida. Salem Alhazmi was at the Falls Church DMV on September 7. Low quality surveillance video at the Milner Hotel in Boston showed Alshehhi and possibly Mohand Alshehri on multiple occasions in the days just before 9/11. Ziad Jarrah and possibly Saeed Alghamdi were videotaped using a Kinko’s for about an hour near Newark on September 10.
- Some credit cards used by the hijackers were still used in the US after 9/11. For instance, a credit card jointly owned by Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi was used twice on September 15. This helps confirm news reports from late 2001 that hijacker credit cards were used on the East Coast as late as early October 2001. At the time, a government official said that while some of the cards might have been stolen, “We believe there are additional people out there” who helped the hijackers.
- The FBI timeline shows other intriguing hints that the hijackers had associates in the US. For instance, on September 8, 2001, hijackers Majed Moqed and Hani Hanjour went to a bank with an unnamed Middle Eastern male. This man presented a Pennsylvania driver’s license for identification, but none of the 9/11 hijackers have been reported to have a driver’s license from that state. There is also a highly redacted section hinting that a woman in Laurel, Maryland, was helping Middle Eastern men and may have had links to hijackers Mohamed Atta and Ziad Jarrah.
- Around 10:00 a.m. on the morning of 9/11, a housekeeper at the Park Inn in Boston went to clean the room that hijackers Wail and Waleed Alshehri used the night before. She was confronted by a foreign male who told her that someone was still sleeping in the room and that she should come back around 1:00 p.m. The FBI was obviously puzzled by this, as the FBI’s timeline entry for this event ends with five question marks.
- It has previously been reported that shortly before 9/11, hijackers Nawaf Alhamzi and Khalid Almihdhar left a bag at a mosque in Laurel, Maryland, with a note attached to it saying, “Gift for the brothers.” The FBI’s timeline identifies this mosque as the Ayah Islamic Center. But the only contents mentioned in the bag were pilot log books, receipts, and other evidence documenting the brief flight training that Alhazmi and Almihdhar underwent in San Diego in early 2000. It is unclear why they would have kept the receipts, some mentioning their names, for over a year and then left them at a mosque to be found. After 9/11, a former high-level intelligence official told journalist Seymour Hersh that “Whatever trail was left [by the hijackers] was left deliberately—for the FBI to chase.”
- On June 11, 2001, hijackers Saeed Alghamdi, Ahmed Alnami, Marwan Alshehhi, and Mohamed Atta checked in to the Deluxe Inn, in Dania, Florida. The manager of the hotel later identified Saeed Alghamdi as having been there at the time with the others. However, travel records indicate Alghamdi did not arrive in the US until June 27. Other previously released evidence has suggested that many other hijackers were in the US before they officially arrived.
- Several months ago, the London Times reported on an al-Qaeda leader imprisoned in Turkey named Luai Sakra. Sakra claims to have trained six of the hijackers in Turkey, including Satam Al Suqami. The FBI’s timeline supports his account, because Al Suqami’s passport record indicates he spent much of his time between late September 2000 and early April 2001 in Turkey. Furthermore, Sakra claimed that Al Suqami was one of the hijacker leaders, and not just another “muscle” hijacker as US investigators have alleged. The FBI’s timeline supports this, because it shows that Al Suqami was frequently on the move from 1998 onwards, flying to Syria, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Malaysia, as well as Turkey, and he travelled to most of these countries more than once. This is particularly important because contributors to the History Commons have put together evidence suggesting that Sakra was a CIA asset before 9/11, which would suggest that Al Suqami and other hijackers were actually trained by a CIA asset.
- When Ahmed Alghamdi arrived in the US from London on May 5, 2001, an immigration inspector apparently noted that Alghamdi commented to him that the media was distorting the facts about Osama bin Laden and that bin Laden was a good Muslim. Alghamdi also indicated that he was travelling with more than $10,000 worth of currency. Shortly after 9/11, the New York Times, Washington Post, and other newspapers reported that by the spring of 2001, US customs was investigating Alghamdi and two other future 9/11 hijackers for their connections to known al-Qaeda operatives. One British newspaper even noted that Alghamdi should have been “instantly ‘red-flagged’ by British intelligence” as he passed through London on his way to the US because of a warning about his links to al-Qaeda. It has not been explained how Alghamdi was able to pass through British and US customs, even as he was openly praising bin Laden.
- Hijacker Nawaf Alhazmi was mugged outside of his apartment in Alexandria, Virginia, by an “unknown black male” on May 1, 2001. He filed a police report about this and gave his correct name and address. In August 2001, Alhazmi and Khalid Almihdhar were watchlisted by the CIA, and an FBI investigator began looking for them in the US. But, as one news report later noted, the investigator “never performed one of the most basic tasks of a police manhunt. He never ran Almihdhar or Alhazmi through the NCIC computer,” a widely used police database that should have listed this mugging, as well as a speeding ticket Alhazmi had received the month before.
- On August 26, 2001, Nawaf Alhazmi’s car was queried by police in Totowa, New Jersey, just a few miles from where he was living in Paterson. Police took down details of his rental car and put all the information in the NCIC database. On August 29, with Alhazmi still living in Paterson, an FBI agent was assigned to look for him. But as mentioned above, he didn’t search the NCIC database. On September 2, this agent did search a national motor vehicle database, and this, the mugging, and other encounters Alhazmi had with police should have shown up there as well, but for some inexplicable reason the agent still did not discover that Alhazmi was in the US.
- Hijacker Abdulaziz Alomari lost his plane ticket just before 9/11. He reported it lost on September 8, and picked a replacement ticket up from the American Airlines terminal at Logan airport in Boston the next day. The US government has generally promoted what one FBI official has called “the Superman scenario” – the idea that the hijackers made no mistakes. For instance, in 2004 one FBI official claimed, “These guys were pros. For us to have done anything, these guys had to make a mistake. And they didn’t.”
A completely redacted page from the FBI’s timeline. [Source: Public domain] Unfortunately, much of the FBI timeline is heavily censored, with entire pages sometimes being completely redacted. But from what we do know, this timeline indicates that many questions remain about the hijackers and the 9/11 attacks. We know that the FBI’s timeline was available to the 9/11 Commission, so why did the commission fail to mention any of the information listed above?
It’s interesting to compare the results of the 9/11 Commission with the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry that proceeded it. For instance, while the 9/11 Commission downplayed any possible ties between the hijackers and the Saudi government, the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry wrote an entire chapter on the topic. Unfortunately, all 28 pages of that chapter were censored. But Sen. Bob Graham, co-chair of the inquiry, later claimed that evidence relating to the two hijackers who lived in San Diego “presented a compelling case that there was Saudi assistance” to the 9/11 plot. He alleged that Omar al-Bayoumi in fact was a Saudi intelligence agent. He also concluded that President Bush directed the FBI “to restrain and obfuscate” investigations into these ties.
Now, we’re finally beginning to see some of what was in those missing 28 pages. One anonymous official who has seen the pages claims: “We’re not talking about rogue elements. We’re talking about a coordinated network that reaches right from the hijackers to multiple places in the Saudi government.”
The 9/11 Commission also downplayed the idea that the hijackers had any assistance in the US. The 9/11 Congressional Inquiry, by contrast, noted that many people who interacted with the hijackers in the US, including Omar al-Bayoumi, were under FBI investigation even before 9/11.
Unfortunately, neither the 9/11 Commission nor the 9/11 Congressional Inquiry was a complete and unbiased investigation. If this timeline reflects just some of what only the FBI knew about the hijackers one month after the attacks, one can only guess at how much more all the US agencies combined know about the hijackers now. Why is that information being kept secret?
FBI Hijackers Timeline, cover sheet, pages 1-105
FBI Hijackers Timeline, pages 106-210
FBI Hijackers Timeline, pages 211-297
FBI Hijackers Timeline, zip file of whole document