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Full text of "The 9/11 Commission report [electronic resource] : final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks upon the United States"

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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE 
AMERICAN HOMELAND 

5.1 TERRORIST ENTREPRENEURS 

By early 1999, al Qaeda was already a potent adversary of the United States. 
Bin Ladin and his chief of operations, Abu Hafs al Masri, also known as 
Mohammed Atef, occupied undisputed leadership positions atop al Qaeda's 
organizational structure. Within this structure, al Qaeda's worldwide terrorist 
operations relied heavily on the ideas and work of enterprising and strong- 
willed field commanders who enjoyed considerable autonomy. To understand 
how the organization actually worked and to introduce the origins of the 9/11 
plot, we briefly examine three of these subordinate commanders: Khalid Sheikh 
Mohammed (KSM), Riduan Isamuddin (better known as Hambali), and Abd 
al Rahim al Nashiri. We will devote the most attention to Khalid Sheikh 
Mohammed, the chief manager of the "planes operation." 

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 

No one exemplifies the model of the terrorist entrepreneur more clearly than 
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the principal architect of the 9/11 attacks. KSM 
followed a rather tortuous path to his eventual membership in al Qaeda. 1 
Highly educated and equally comfortable in a government office or a terror- 
ist safehouse, KSM applied his imagination, technical aptitude, and managerial 
skills to hatching and planning an extraordinary array of terrorist schemes. 
These ideas included conventional car bombing, political assassination, aircraft 
bombing, hijacking, reservoir poisoning, and, ultimately, the use of aircraft as 
missiles guided by suicide operatives. 

Like his nephew RamziYousef (three years KSM s junior), KSM grew up 
in Kuwait but traces his ethnic lineage to the Baluchistan region straddling Iran 
and Pakistan. Raised in a religious family, KSM claims to have joined the Mus- 
lim Brotherhood at age 16 and to have become enamored of violent jihad at 
youth camps in the desert. In 1983, following his graduation from secondary 

145 



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146 



THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 



Detainee Interrogation Reports 

Chapters 5 and 7 rely heavily on information obtained from captured al 
Qaeda members. A number of these "detainees" have firsthand knowl- 
edge of the 9/11 plot. 

Assessing the truth of statements by these witnesses — sworn enemies 
of the United States — is challenging. Our access to them has been 
limited to the review of intelligence reports based on communications 
received from the locations where the actual interrogations take place. 
We submitted questions for use in the interrogations, but had no con- 
trol over whether, when, or how questions of particular interest would 
be asked. Nor were we allowed to talk to the interrogators so that we 
could better judge the credibility of the detainees and clarify ambigui- 
ties in the reporting. We were told that our requests might disrupt the 
sensitive interrogation process. 

We have nonetheless decided to include information from captured 
9/11 conspirators and al Qaeda members in our report. We have evalu- 
ated their statements carefully and have attempted to corroborate them 
with documents and statements of others. In this report, we indicate 
where such statements provide the foundation for our narrative. We have 
been authorized to identify by name only ten detainees whose custody 
has been confirmed officially by the U.S. government. 2 



school, KSM left Kuwait to enroll at Chowan College, a small Baptist school 
in Murfreesboro, North Carolina. After a semester at Chowan, KSM transferred 
to North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University in Greensboro, 
which he attended with Yousef s brother, another future al Qaeda member. 
KSM earned a degree in mechanical engineering in December 1986. 3 

Although he apparently did not attract attention for extreme Islamist beliefs 
or activities while in the United States, KSM plunged into the anti-Soviet 
Afghan jihad soon after graduating from college. Visiting Pakistan for the first 
time in early 1987, he traveled to Peshawar, where his brother Zahid introduced 
him to the famous Afghan mujahid Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, head of the Hizbul- 
Ittihad El-Islami (Islamic Union Party). Sayyaf became KSM's mentor and pro- 
vided KSM with military training at Sayyaf s Sada camp. KSM claims he then 
fought the Soviets and remained at the front for three months before being 
summoned to perform administrative duties for Abdullah Azzani. KSM next 
took a job working for an electronics firm that catered to the communications 
needs of Afghan groups, where he learned about drills used to excavate caves 
in Afghanistan. 4 

Between 1988 and 1992, KSM helped run a nongovernmental organization 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 147 

(NGO) in Peshawar and Jalalabad; sponsored by Sayyaf, it was designed to aid 
young Afghan mujahideen. In 1992, KSM spent some time fighting alongside 
the mujahideen in Bosnia and supporting that effort with financial donations. 
After returning briefly to Pakistan, he moved his family to Qatar at the sug- 
gestion of the former minister of Islamic affairs of Qatar, Sheikh Abdallah bin 
Khalid bin Hamad alThani. KSM took a position in Qatar as project engineer 
with the Qatari Ministry of Electricity and Water. Although he engaged in 
extensive international travel during his tenure at the ministry — much of it in 
furtherance of terrorist activity — KSM would hold his position there until early 
1996, when he fled to Pakistan to avoid capture by U.S. authorities. 5 

KSM first came to the attention of U.S. law enforcement as a result of his 
cameo role in the first World Trade Center bombing. According to KSM, he 
learned of RamziYousef s intention to launch an attack inside the United States 
in 1991 or 1 992, when Yousef was receiving explosives training in Afghanistan. 
During the fall of 1992, while Yousef was building the bomb he would use in 
that attack, KSM and Yousef had numerous telephone conversations during 
which Yousef discussed his progress and sought additional funding. On 
November 3, 1992, KSM wired $660 from Qatar to the bank account of 
Yousef's co-conspirator, Mohammed Salameh. KSM does not appear to have 
contributed any more substantially to this operation. 6 

Yousef's instant notoriety as the mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Cen- 
ter bombing inspired KSM to become involved in planning attacks against the 
United States. By his own account, KSM's animus toward the United States 
stemmed not from his experiences there as a student, but rather from his vio- 
lent disagreement with U.S. foreign policy favoring Israel. In 1994, KSM 
accompanied Yousef to the Philippines, and the two of them began planning 
what is now known as the Manila air or"Bojinka" plot — the intended bomb- 
ing of 12 U.S. commercial jumbo jets over the Pacific during a two-day span. 
This marked the first time KSM took part in the actual planning of a terrorist 
operation. While sharing an apartment in Manila during the summer of 1994, 
he and Yousef acquired chemicals and other materials necessary to construct 
bombs and timers. They also cased target flights to Hong Kong and Seoul that 
would have onward legs to the United States. During this same period, KSM 
and Yousef also developed plans to assassinate President Clinton during his 
November 1994 trip to Manila, and to bomb U.S. -bound cargo carriers by 
smuggling jackets containing nitrocellulose on board. 7 

KSM left the Philippines in September 1994 and met up with Yousef in 
Karachi following their casing flights. There they enlisted Wali Khan Amin 
Shah, also known as Usama Asmurai, in the Manila air plot. During the fall of 
1994,Yousef returned to Manila and successfully tested the digital watch timer 
he had invented, bombing a movie theater and a Philippine Airlines flight en 
route to Tokyo. The plot unraveled after the Philippine authorities discovered 
Yousef's bomb-making operation in Manila; but by that time, KSM was safely 



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148 



THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 




Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, mastermind of the 9/1 1 plot, at the time of his 
capture in 2003 



back at his government job in Qatar. Yousef attempted to follow through on 
the cargo carriers plan, but he was arrested in Islamabad by Pakistani authori- 
ties on February 7, 1995, after an accomplice turned him in. 8 

KSM continued to travel among the worldwide jihadist community after 
Yousef s arrest, visiting the SudanYemen, Malaysia, and Brazil in 1995. No clear 
evidence connects him to terrorist activities in those locations. While in Sudan, 
he reportedly failed in his attempt to meet with Bin Ladin. But KSM did see 
Atef, who gave him a contact in Brazil. In January 1996, well aware that U.S. 
authorities were chasing him, he left Qatar for good and fled to Afghanistan, 
where he renewed his relationship with Rasul Sayyaf. 9 

Just as KSM was reestablishing himself in Afghanistan in mid-1996, Bin 
Ladin and his colleagues were also completing their migration from Sudan. 
Through Atef, KSM arranged a meeting with Bin Ladin inTora Bora, a moun- 
tainous redoubt from the Afghan war days. At the meeting, KSM presented the 
al Qaeda leader with a menu of ideas for terrorist operations. According to 
KSM, this meeting was the first time he had seen Bin Ladin since 1989. 
Although they had fought together in 1987, Bin Ladin and KSM did not yet 
enjoy an especially close working relationship. Indeed, KSM has acknowledged 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 149 

that Bin Ladin likely agreed to meet 'with him because of the renown of his 
nephew, Yousef 10 

At the meeting, KSM briefed Bin Ladin and Atef on the first World Trade 
Center bombing, the Manila air plot, the cargo carriers plan, and other activi- 
ties pursued by KSM and his colleagues in the Philippines. KSM also presented 
a proposal for an operation that would involve training pilots who would crash 
planes into buildings in the United States. This proposal eventually would 
become the 9/11 operation. 11 

KSM knew that the successful staging of such an attack would require per- 
sonnel, money, and logistical support that only an extensive and well-funded 
organization like al Qaeda could provide. He thought the operation might 
appeal to Bin Ladin, who had a long record of denouncing the United States. 12 

From KSM's perspective, Bin Ladin was in the process of consolidating his 
new position in Afghanistan while hearing out others' ideas, and had not yet 
settled on an agenda for future anti-U.S. operations. At the meeting, Bin Ladin 
listened to KSM's ideas without much comment, but did ask KSM formally to 
join al Qaeda and move his family to Afghanistan. 13 

KSM declined. He preferred to remain independent and retain the option 
of working with other mujahideen groups still operating in Afghanistan, 
including the group led by his old mentor, Sayyaf. Sayyaf was close to Ahmed 
Shah Massoud, the leader of the Northern Alliance. Therefore working with 
him might be a problem for KSM because Bin Ladin was building ties to the 
rival Taliban. 

After meeting with Bin Ladin, KSM says he journeyed onward to India, 
Indonesia, and Malaysia, where he met with Jemaah Islamiah's Hambali. Ham- 
bali was an Indonesian veteran of the Afghan war looking to expand the jihad 
into Southeast Asia. In Iran, KSM rejoined his family and arranged to move 
them to Karachi; he claims to have relocated by January 1997. 14 

After settling his family in Karachi, KSM tried to join the mujahid leader Ibn 
al Khattab in Chechnya. Unable to travel through Azerbaijan, KSM returned to 
Karachi and then to Afghanistan to renew contacts with Bin Ladin and his col- 
leagues. Though KSM may not have been a member of al Qaeda at this time, he 
admits traveling frequently between Pakistan and Afghanistan in 1997 and the first 
half of 1998, visiting Bin Ladin and cultivating relationships with his lieutenants, 
Atef and Sayf al Adl, by assisting them with computer and media projects. 15 

According to KSM, the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Nairobi 
and Dar es Salaam marked a watershed in the evolution of the 9/11 plot. 
KSM claims these bombings convinced him that Bin Ladin was truly com- 
mitted to attacking the United States. He continued to make himself useful, 
collecting news articles and helping other al Qaeda members with their out- 
dated computer equipment. Bin Ladin, apparently at Atef's urging, finally 
decided to give KSM the green light for the 9/11 operation sometime in late 
1998 or early 1999. 16 



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150 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

KSM then accepted Bin Ladin's standing invitation to move to Kandahar 
and work directly with al Qaeda. In addition to supervising the planning and 
preparations for the 9/11 operation, KSM worked with and eventually led al 
Qaeda s media committee. But KSM states he refused to swear a formal oath 
of allegiance to Bin Ladin, thereby retaining a last vestige of his cherished 
autonomy. 17 

At this point, late 1998 to early 1999, planning for the 9/11 operation began 
in earnest. Yet while the 9/11 project occupied the bulk of KSM's attention, 
he continued to consider other possibilities for terrorist attacks. For example, 
he sent al Qaeda operative Issa al Britani to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to learn 
about the jihad in Southeast Asia from Hambali.Thereafter, KSM claims, at Bin 
Ladin's direction in early 2001, he sent Britani to the United States to case 
potential economic and "Jewish" targets in New York City. Furthermore, dur- 
ing the summer of 2001, KSM approached Bin Ladin with the idea of recruit- 
ing a Saudi Arabian air force pilot to commandeer a Saudi fighter jet and attack 
the Israeli city of Eilat. Bin Ladin reportedly liked this proposal, but he 
instructed KSM to concentrate on the 9/11 operation first. Similarly, KSM's 
proposals to Atef around this same time for attacks in Thailand, Singapore, 
Indonesia, and the Maldives were never executed, although Hambali's Jemaah 
Islamiah operatives did some casing of possible targets. 18 

KSM appears to have been popular among the al Qaeda rank and file. He 
was reportedly regarded as an effective leader, especially after the 9/11 attacks. 
Co-workers describe him as an intelligent, efficient, and even-tempered man- 
ager who approached his projects with a single-minded dedication that he 
expected his colleagues to share. Al Qaeda associate Abu Zubaydah has 
expressed more qualified admiration for KSM's innate creativity, emphasiz- 
ing instead his ability to incorporate the improvements suggested by others. 
Nashiri has been similarly measured, observing that although KSM floated 
many general ideas for attacks, he rarely conceived a specific operation him- 
self. 19 Perhaps these estimates reflect a touch of jealousy; in any case, KSM 
was plainly a capable coordinator, having had years to hone his skills and build 
relationships. 

Hambali 

Al Qaeda s success in fostering terrorism in Southeast Asia stems largely from 
its close relationship with Jemaah Islamiah (JI). In that relationship, Hambali 
became the key coordinator. Born and educated in Indonesia, Hambali moved 
to Malaysia in the early 1980s to find work. There he claims to have become 
a follower of the Islamist extremist teachings of various clerics, including one 
named Abdullah Sungkar. Sungkar first inspired Hambali to share the vision of 
establishing a radical Islamist regime in Southeast Asia, then furthered Ham- 
bali's instruction in jihad by sending him to Afghanistan in 1986. After under- 
going training at Rasul Sayyaf's Sada camp (where KSM would later train), 
Hambali fought against the Soviets; he eventually returned to Malaysia after 18 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 1 5 1 

months in Afghanistan. By 1998, Hambali would assume responsibility for the 
Malaysia/Singapore region within Sungkar's newly formed terrorist organiza- 
tion, the JI. 20 

Also by 1998, Sungkar and JI spiritual leader Abu Bakar Bashir had accepted 
Bin Ladin's offer to ally JI with al Qaeda in waging war against Christians and 
Jews. 21 Hambali met with KSM in Karachi to arrange for JI members to receive 
training in Afghanistan at al Qaeda 's camps. In addition to his close -working 
relationship with KSM, Hambali soon began dealing with Atef as well. Al 
Qaeda began funding JI's increasingly ambitious terrorist plans, which Atef and 
KSM sought to expand. Under this arrangement, JI would perform the nec- 
essary casing activities and locate bomb-making materials and other supplies. 
Al Qaeda would underwrite operations, provide bomb-making expertise, and 
deliver suicide operatives. 22 

The al Qaeda— JI partnership yielded a number of proposals that would marry 
al Qaeda's financial and technical strengths with JI's access to materials and local 
operatives. Here, Hambali played the critical role of coordinator, as he distrib- 
uted al Qaeda funds earmarked for the joint operations. In one especially notable 
example, Atef turned to Hambali when al Qaeda needed a scientist to take over 
its biological weapons program. Hambali obliged by introducing a U.S.- 
educated JI member, Yazid Sufaat, to Ayman al Zawahiri in Kandahar. In 2001, 
Sufaat would spend several months attempting to cultivate anthrax for al Qaeda 
in a laboratory he helped set up near the Kandahar airport. 23 

Hambali did not originally orient JI's operations toward attacking the 
United States, but his involvement with al Qaeda appears to have inspired him 
to pursue American targets. KSM, in his post-capture interrogations, has taken 
credit for this shift, claiming to have urged the JI operations chief to concen- 
trate on attacks designed to hurt the U.S. economy. 24 Hambali's newfound 
interest in striking against the United States manifested itself in a spate of ter- 
rorist plans. Fortunately, none came to fruition. 

In addition to staging actual terrorist attacks in partnership with 
al Qaeda, Hambali and JI assisted al Qaeda operatives passing through Kuala 
Lumpur. One important occasion was in December 1999^January 2000. Ham- 
bali accommodated KSM's requests to help several veterans whom KSM had 
just finished training in Karachi. They included Tawfiq bin Attash, also known 
as Khallad, who later would help bomb the USS Cole, and future 9/11 hijack- 
ers Nawaf al Hazmi and Khalid al Mihdhar. Hambali arranged lodging for them 
and helped them purchase airline tickets for their onward travel. Later that year, 
Hambali and his crew would provide accommodations and other assistance 
(including information on flight schools and help in acquiring ammonium 
nitrate) for Zacarias Moussaoui, an al Qaeda operative sent to Malaysia by Atef 
and KSM. 25 

Hambali used Bin Ladin's Afghan facilities as a training ground for JI 
recruits. Though he had a close relationship with Atef and KSM, he maintained 
JI's institutional independence from al Qaeda. Hambali insists that he did not 



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152 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

discuss operations with Bin Ladin or swear allegiance to him, having already 
given such a pledge of loyalty to Bashir, Sungkar's successor as JI leader. Thus, 
like any powerful bureaucrat defending his domain, Hambali objected when al 
Qaeda leadership tried to assign JI members to terrorist projects without noti- 
fying him. 26 

Abd al Rahim al Nashiri 

KSM and Hambali both decided to join forces with al Qaeda because their 
terrorist aspirations required the money and manpower that only a robust 
organization like al Qaeda could supply. On the other hand, Abd al Rahim al 
Nashiri — the mastermind of the Cole bombing and the eventual head of al 
Qaeda operations in the Arabian Peninsula — appears to have originally been 
recruited to his career as a terrorist by Bin Ladin himself. 

Having already participated in the Afghan jihad, Nashiri accompanied a 
group of some 30 mujahideen in pursuit of jihad in Tajikistan in 1996. When 
serious fighting failed to materialize, the group traveled to Jalalabad and 
encountered Bin Ladin, who had recently returned from Sudan. Bin Ladin 
addressed them at length, urging the group to join him in a "jihad against the 
Americans." Although all were urged to swear loyalty to Bin Ladin, many, 
including Nashiri, found the notion distasteful and refused. After several days 
of indoctrination that included a barrage of news clippings and television doc- 
umentaries, Nashiri left Afghanistan, first returning to his native Saudi Arabia 
and then visiting his home in Yemen. There, he says, the idea for his first ter- 
rorist operation took shape as he noticed many U.S. and other foreign ships 
plying the waters along the southwest coast ofYemen. 27 

Nashiri returned to Afghanistan, probably in 1997, primarily to check on rel- 
atives fighting there and also to learn about the Taliban. He again encountered 
Bin Ladin, still recruiting for "the coming battle with the United States." Nashiri 
pursued a more conventional military jihad, joining the Taliban forces in their 
fight against Ahmed Massoud s Northern Alliance and shuttling back and forth 
between the front and Kandahar, where he would see Bin Ladin and meet with 
other mujahideen. During this period, Nashiri also led a plot to smuggle four 
Russian-made antitank missiles into SaudiArabia fromYemen in early 1998 and 
helped an embassy bombing operative obtain aYemeni passport. 28 

At some point, Nashiri joined al Qaeda. His cousin, Jihad Mohammad Ali 
al Makki, also known as Azzam, was a suicide bomber for the Nairobi attack. 
Nashiri traveled between Yemen and Afghanistan. In late 1998, Nashiri pro- 
posed mounting an attack against a U.S. vessel. Bin Ladin approved. He directed 
Nashiri to start the planning and send operatives to Yemen, and he later pro- 
vided money. 29 

Nashiri reported directly to Bin Ladin, the only other person who, accord- 
ing to Nashiri, knew all the details of the operation. When Nashiri had diffi- 
culty finding U.S. naval vessels to attack along the western coast ofYemen, Bin 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 153 

Ladin reportedly instructed him to case the Port of Aden, on the southern 
coast, instead. 30 The eventual result was an attempted attack on the USS The 
Sullivans in January 2000 and the successful attack, in October 2000, on the 
USS Cole. 

Nashiri's success brought him instant status within al Qaeda. He later was 
recognized as the chief of al Qaeda operations in and around the Arabian 
Peninsula. While Nashiri continued to consult Bin Ladin on the planning of 
subsequent terrorist projects, he retained discretion in selecting operatives and 
devising attacks. In the two years between the Cole bombing and Nashiri's cap- 
ture, he would supervise several more proposed operations for al Qaeda. The 
October 6, 2002, bombing of the French tanker Limburg in the Gulf of Aden 
also was Nashiri's handiwork. Although Bin Ladin urged Nashiri to continue 
plotting strikes against U.S. interests in the Persian Gulf, Nashiri maintains that 
he actually delayed one of these projects because of security concerns. 31 Those 
concerns, it seems, were well placed, as Nashiri's November 2002 capture in 
the United Arab Emirates finally ended his career as a terrorist. 

5.2 THE "PLANES OPERATION" 

According to KSM, he started to think about attacking the United States after 
Yousef returned to Pakistan following the 1993 WorldTrade Center bombing. 
LikeYousef, KSM reasoned he could best influence U.S. policy by targeting the 
country's economy. KSM and Yousef reportedly brainstormed together about 
what drove the U.S. economy. New York, which KSM considered the eco- 
nomic capital of the United States, therefore became the primary target. For 
similar reasons, California also became a target for KSM. 32 

KSM claims that the earlier bombing of the WorldTrade Center taught him 
that bombs and explosives could be problematic, and that he needed to grad- 
uate to a more novel form of attack. He maintains that he and Yousef began 
thinking about using aircraft as weapons while working on the Manila 
air/Bojinka plot, and speculated about striking the World Trade Center and 
CIA headquarters as early as 1995. 33 

Certainly KSM was not alone in contemplating new kinds of terrorist oper- 
ations. A study reportedly conducted by Atef, while he and Bin Ladin were still 
in Sudan, concluded that traditional terrorist hijacking operations did not fit 
the needs of al Qaeda, because such hijackings were used to negotiate the 
release of prisoners rather than to inflict mass casualties. The study is said to 
have considered the feasibility of hijacking planes and blowing them up in 
flight, paralleling the Bojinka concept. Such a study, if it actually existed, yields 
significant insight into the thinking of al Qaeda's leaders: (1) they rejected 
hijackings aimed at gaining the release of imprisoned comrades as too com- 
plex, because al Qaeda had no friendly countries in which to land a plane and 



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154 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

then negotiate; (2) they considered the bombing of commercial flights in 
midair — as carried out against Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland — 
a promising means to inflict massive casualties; and (3) they did not yet con- 
sider using hijacked aircraft as weapons against other targets. 34 

KSM has insisted to his interrogators that he always contemplated hijack- 
ing and crashing large commercial aircraft. Indeed, KSM describes a grandiose 
original plan: a total often aircraft to be hijacked, nine of which would crash 
into targets on both coasts — they included those eventually hit on September 
11 plus CIA and FBI headquarters, nuclear power plants, and the tallest build- 
ings in California and the state of Washington. KSM himself was to land the 
tenth plane at a U.S. airport and, after killing all adult male passengers on board 
and alerting the media, deliver a speech excoriating U.S. support for Israel, the 
Philippines, and repressive governments in the Arab world. Beyond KSM's 
rationalizations about targeting the U.S. economy, this vision gives a better 
glimpse of his true ambitions. This is theater, a spectacle of destruction with 
KSM as the self-cast star — the superterrorist. 35 

KSM concedes that this proposal received a lukewarm response from al 
Qaeda leaders skeptical of its scale and complexity. Although Bin Ladin listened 
to KSM's proposal, he was not convinced that it was practical. As mentioned 
earlier, Bin Ladin was receiving numerous ideas for potential operations — 
KSM's proposal to attack U.S. targets with commercial airplanes was only one 
of many. 36 

KSM presents himself as an entrepreneur seeking venture capital and peo- 
ple. He simply wanted al Qaeda to supply the money and operatives needed 
for the attack while retaining his independence. It is easy to question such a 
statement. Money is one thing; supplying a cadre of trained operatives willing 
to die is much more. Thus, although KSM contends he would have been just 
as likely to consider working with any comparable terrorist organization, he 
gives no indication of what other groups he thought could supply such excep- 
tional commodities. 37 

KSM acknowledges formally joining al Qaeda, in late 1998 or 1999, and 
states that soon afterward, Bin Ladin also made the decision to support his pro- 
posal to attack the United States using commercial airplanes as weapons. 
Though KSM speculates about how Bin Ladin came to share his preoccupa- 
tion with attacking America, Bin Ladin in fact had long been an opponent of 
the United States. KSM thinks that Atef may have persuaded Bin Ladin to 
approve this specific proposal. Atef s role in the entire operation is unquestion- 
ably very significant but tends to fade into the background, in part because Atef 
himself is not available to describe it. He was killed in November 2001 by an 
American air strike in Afghanistan. 38 

Bin Ladin summoned KSM to Kandahar in March or April 1999 to tell him 
that al Qaeda would support his proposal. The plot was now referred to within 
al Qaeda as the "planes operation." 39 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 155 

The Plan Evolves 

Bin Ladin reportedly discussed the planes operation -with KSM and Atef in a 
series of meetings in the spring of 1999 at the al Matar complex near Kanda- 
har. KSM s original concept of using one of the hijacked planes to make a media 
statement was scrapped, but Bin Ladin considered the basic idea feasible. Bin 
Ladin, Atef, and KSM developed an initial list of targets. These included the 
White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Pentagon, and the World Trade Center. 
According to KSM, Bin Ladin wanted to destroy the White House and the Pen- 
tagon, KSM wanted to strike the World Trade Center, and all of them wanted 
to hit the Capitol. No one else was involved in the initial selection of targets. 40 

Bin Ladin also soon selected four individuals to serve as suicide operatives: 
Khalid al Mihdhar, Nawaf al Hazmi, Khallad, and Abu Bara al Yemeni. During 
the al Matar meetings, Bin Ladin told KSM that Mihdhar and Hazmi were so 
eager to participate in an operation against the United States that they had 
already obtained U.S. visas. KSM states that they had done so on their own after 
the suicide of their friend Azzam (Nashiri's cousin) in carrying out the Nairobi 
bombing. KSM had not met them. His only guidance from Bin Ladin was that 
the two should eventually go to the United States for pilot training. 41 

Hazmi and Mihdhar were Saudi nationals, born in Mecca. Like the others 
in this initial group of selectees, they -were already experienced mujahideen. 
They had traveled together to fight in Bosnia in a group that journeyed to the 
Balkans in 1995. By the time Hazmi and Mihdhar were assigned to the planes 
operation in early 1999, they had visited Afghanistan on several occasions. 42 

Khallad was another veteran mujahid, like much of his family. His father had 
been expelled from Yemen because of his extremist views. Khallad had grown 
up in Saudi Arabia, where his father knew Bin Ladin, Abdullah Azzam, and 
Omar Abdel Rahman (the "Blind Sheikh"). Khallad departed for Afghanistan 
in 1994 at the age of 15. Three years later, he lost his lower right leg in a bat- 
tle with the Northern Alliance, a battle in which one of his brothers died. After 
this experience, he pledged allegiance to Bin Ladin — whom he had first met 
as a child in Jeddah — and volunteered to become a suicide operative. 43 

When Khallad applied for a U.S. visa, however, his application was denied. 
Earlier in 1999, Bin Ladin had sent Khallad to Yemen to help Nashiri obtain 
explosives for the planned ship-bombing and to obtain a visa to visit the United 
States, so that he could participate in an operation there. Khallad applied under 
another name, using the cover story that he would be visiting a medical clinic 
to obtain a new prosthesis for his leg. Another al Qaeda operative gave Khal- 
lad the name of a person living in the United States whom Khallad could use 
as a point of contact on a visa application. Khallad contacted this individual to 
help him get an appointment at a U.S. clinic. While Khallad was waiting for 
the letter from the clinic confirming the appointment, however, he was 
arrested by Yemeni authorities. The arrest resulted from mistaken identity: Khal- 
lad was driving the car of another conspirator in the ship-bombing plot who 
was wanted by the Yemeni authorities. 44 



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156 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

Khallad -was released sometime during the summer of 1999, after his father 
and Bin Ladin intervened on his behalf. Khallad learned later that the al Qaeda 
leader, apparently concerned that Khallad might reveal Nashiri's operation 
while under interrogation, had contacted a Yemeni official to demand Khal- 
lad s release, suggesting that Bin Ladin would not confront the Yemenis if they 
did not confront him. This account has been corroborated by others. Giving 
up on acquiring a U.S. visa and concerned that the United States might learn 
of his ties to al Qaeda, Khallad returned to Afghanistan. 45 

Travel issues thus played a part in al Qaeda's operational planning from the 
very start. During the spring and summer of 1999, KSM realized that Khallad 
and Abu Bara, both of whom were Yemenis, would not be able to obtain U.S. 
visas as easily as Saudi operatives like Mihdhar and Hazmi. Although Khallad 
had been unable to acquire a U.S. visa, KSM still wanted him and Abu Bara, as 
well as another Yemeni operative from Bin Ladin s security detail, to partici- 
pate in the planes operation.Yet because individuals with Saudi passports could 
travel much more easily than Yemeni, particularly to the United States, there 
were fewer martyrdom opportunities for Yemenis. To overcome this problem, 
KSM decided to split the planes operation into two components. 46 

The first part of the planes operation — crashing hijacked aircraft into U.S. 
targets — would remain as planned, with Mihdhar and Hazmi playing key roles. 
The second part, however, would now embrace the idea of using suicide oper- 
atives to blow up planes, a refinement of KSM's old Manila air plot.The oper- 
atives would hijack U.S. -flagged commercial planes flying Pacific routes across 
East Asia and destroy them in midair, possibly with shoe bombs, instead of fly- 
ing them into targets. (An alternate scenario apparently involved flying planes 
into U.S. targets in Japan, Singapore, or Korea.) This part of the operation has 
been confirmed by Khallad, who said that they contemplated hijacking several 
planes, probably originating in Thailand, South Korea, Hong Kong, or 
Malaysia, and using Yemenis who would not need pilot training because they 
would simply down the planes. All the planes hijacked in the United States and 
East Asia were to be crashed or exploded at about the same time to maximize 
the attack s psychological impact. 47 

Training and Deployment to Kuala Lumpur 

In the fall of 1999, the four operatives selected by Bin Ladin for the planes oper- 
ation were chosen to attend an elite training course at al Qaeda's Mes Aynak 
camp in Afghanistan. Bin Ladin personally selected the veteran fighters who 
received this training, and several of them were destined for important opera- 
tions. One example is Ibrahim alThawar, or Nibras, who would participate in 
the October 12, 2000, suicide attack on the USS Cole. According to KSM, this 
training was not given specifically in preparation for the planes operation or 
any other particular al Qaeda venture. Although KSM claims not to have been 
involved with the training or to have met with the future 9/11 hijackers at Mes 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 157 

Aynak, he says he did visit the camp while traveling from Kandahar to Kabul 
with Bin Ladin and others. 48 

The Mes Aynak training camp was located in an abandoned Russian cop- 
per mine near Kabul. The camp opened in 1999, after the United States had 
destroyed the training camp near Khowst with cruise missiles in August 1998, 
and before the Taliban granted al Qaeda permission to open the al Faruq camp 
in Kandahar.Thus, for a brief period in 1999, Mes Aynak was the only al Qaeda 
camp operating in Afghanistan. It offered a full range of instruction, including 
an advanced commando course taught by senior al Qaeda member Sayf al Adl. 
Bin Ladin paid particular attention to the 1999 training session.When Salah al 
Din, the trainer for the session, complained about the number of trainees and 
said that no more than 20 could be handled at once, Bin Ladin insisted that 
everyone he had selected receive the training. 49 

The special training session at Mes Aynak was rigorous and spared no 
expense. The course focused on physical fitness, firearms, close quarters com- 
bat, shooting from a motorcycle, and night operations. Although the subjects 
taught differed little from those offered at other camps, the course placed 
extraordinary physical and mental demands on its participants, who received 
the best food and other amenities to enhance their strength and morale. 50 

Upon completing the advanced training at Mes Aynak, Hazmi, Khallad, and 
Abu Bara went to Karachi, Pakistan. There KSM instructed them on Western 
culture and travel. Much of his activity in mid-1999 had revolved around the 
collection of training and informational materials for the participants in the 
planes operation. For instance, he collected Western aviation magazines; tele- 
phone directories for American cities such as San Diego and Long Beach, Cal- 
ifornia; brochures for schools; and airline timetables, and he conducted 
Internet searches on U.S. flight schools. He also purchased flight simulator soft- 
ware and a few movies depicting hijackings. To house his students, KSM rented 
a safehouse in Karachi with money provided by Bin Ladin. 51 

In early December 1999, Khallad and Abu Bara arrived in Karachi. Hazmi 
joined them there a few days later. On his way to Karachi, Hazmi spent a night 
in Quetta at a safehouse where, according to KSM, an Egyptian named 
Mohamed Atta simultaneously stayed on his way to Afghanistan for jihad 
training. 52 

Mihdhar did not attend the training in Karachi with the others. KSM says 
that he never met with Mihdhar in 1999 but assumed that Bin Ladin and Atef 
had briefed Mihdhar on the planes operation and had excused him from the 
Karachi training. 53 

The course in Karachi apparently lasted about one or two weeks. According 
to KSM, he taught the three operatives basic English words and phrases. He 
showed them how to read phone books, interpret airline timetables, use the Inter- 
net, use code words in communications, make travel reservations, and rent an 
apartment. Khallad adds that the training involved using flight simulator com- 



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158 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

puter games, viewing movies that featured hijackings, and reading flight sched- 
ules to determine which flights would be in the air at the same time in different 
parts of the world.They used the game software to increase their familiarity with 
aircraft models and functions, and to highlight gaps in cabin security. While in 
Karachi, they also discussed how to case flights in Southeast Asia. KSM told them 
to watch the cabin doors at takeoff and landing, to observe whether the captain 
went to the lavatory during the flight, and to note whether the flight attendants 
brought food into the cockpit. KSM, Khallad, and Hazmi also visited travel agen- 
cies to learn the visa requirements for Asian countries. 54 

The four trainees traveled to Kuala Lumpur: Khallad, Abu Bara, and Hazmi 
came from Karachi; Mihdhar traveled from Yemen. As discussed in chapter 6, 
U.S. intelligence would analyze communications associated with Mihdhar, 
whom they identified during this travel, and Hazmi, whom they could have 
identified but did not. 55 

According to KSM, the four operatives were aware that they had volun- 
teered for a suicide operation, either in the United States or in Asia. With dif- 
ferent roles, they had different tasks. Hazmi and Mihdhar were sent to Kuala 
Lumpur before proceeding to their final destination — the United States. 
According to KSM, they were to use Yemeni documents to fly to Malaysia, then 
proceed to the United States using their Saudi passports to conceal their prior 
travels to and from Pakistan. KSM had doctored Hazmi's Saudi passport so it 
would appear as if Hazmi had traveled to Kuala Lumpur from Saudi Arabia via 
Dubai. Khallad and Abu Bara went to Kuala Lumpur to study airport security 
and conduct casing flights. According to Khallad, he and Abu Bara departed for 
Malaysia in mid-December 1999. Hazmi joined them about ten days later after 
briefly returning to Afghanistan to attend to some passport issues. 56 

Khallad had originally scheduled his trip in order to receive a new prosthe- 
sis at a Kuala Lumpur clinic called Endolite, and Bin Ladin suggested that he 
use the opportunity to case flights as well. According to Khallad, Malaysia was 
an ideal destination because its government did not require citizens of Saudi 
Arabia or other Gulf states to have a visa. Malaysian security was reputed to be 
lax when it came to Islamist jihadists. Also, other mujahideen wounded in com- 
bat had reportedly received treatment at the Endolite clinic and successfully 
concealed the origins of their injuries. Khallad said he got the money for the 
prosthesis from his father, Bin Ladin, and another al Qaeda colleague. 57 

According to Khallad, when he and Abu Bara arrived in Kuala Lumpur they 
contacted Hambali to let him know where they were staying, since he was to 
be kept informed of al Qaeda activities in Southeast Asia. Hambali picked up 
Khallad and Abu Bara and brought them to his home, enlisting the help of a 
colleague who spoke better Arabic. Hambali then took them to the clinic. 58 

On December 31, Khallad flew from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok; the next 
day, he flew to Hong Kong aboard a U.S. airliner. He flew in first class, which 
he realized was a mistake because this seating assignment on that flight did not 
afford him a view of the cockpit. He claims to have done what he could to case 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 159 

the flight, testing security by carrying a box cutter in his toiletries kit onto the 
flight to Hong Kong. Khallad returned to Bangkok the following day. At the 
airport, the security officials searched his carry-on bag and even opened the toi- 
letries kit, but just glanced at the contents and let him pass. On this flight, Khal- 
lad waited until most of the first-class passengers were dozing, then got up and 
removed the kit from his carry-on. None of the flight attendants took notice. 59 

After completing his casing mission, Khallad returned to Kuala Lumpur. 
Hazmi arrived in Kuala Lumpur soon thereafter and may even have stayed 
briefly with Khallad and Abu Bara at Endolite. Mihdhar arrived on January 5, 
probably one day after Hazmi. All four operatives stayed at the apartment of 
Yazid Sufaat, the Malaysian JI member who made his home available at Ham- 
bali's request. According to Khallad, he and Hazmi spoke about the possibility 
of hijacking planes and crashing them or holding passengers as hostages, but 
only speculatively. Khallad admits being aware at the time that Hazmi and 
Mihdhar were involved in an operation involving planes in the United States 
but denies knowing details of the plan. 60 

While in Kuala Lumpur, Khallad wanted to go to Singapore to meet Nibras 
and Fahd al Quso, two of the operatives in Nashiri's ship-bombing operation. 
An attempt to execute that plan by attacking the USS The Sullivans had failed 
just a few days earlier. Nibras and Quso were bringing Khallad money from 
Yemen, but were stopped in Bangkok because they lacked visas to continue on 
to Singapore. Also unable to enter Singapore, Khallad moved the meeting to 
Bangkok. Hazmi and Mihdhar decided to go there as well, reportedly because 
they thought it would enhance their cover as tourists to have passport stamps 
from a popular tourist destination such as Thailand. With Hambali's help, the 
three obtained tickets for a flight to Bangkok and left Kuala Lumpur together. 
Abu Bara did not have a visa permitting him to return to Pakistan, so he trav- 
eled to Yemen instead. 61 

In Bangkok, Khallad took Hazmi and Mihdhar to one hotel, then went to 
another hotel for his meeting on the maritime attack plan. Hazmi and Mihd- 
har soon moved to that same hotel, but Khallad insists that the two sets of oper- 
atives never met with each other or anyone else. After conferring with the 
ship-bombing operatives, Khallad returned to Karachi and then to Kandahar, 
where he reported on his casing mission to Bin Ladin. 62 

Bin Ladin canceled the East Asia part of the planes operation in the spring 
of 2000. He evidently decided it would be too difficult to coordinate this attack 
with the operation in the United States. As for Hazmi and Mihdhar, they had 
left Bangkok a few days before Khallad and arrived in Los Angeles on January 
15,2000. 63 

Meanwhile, the next group of al Qaeda operatives destined for the planes 
operation had just surfaced in Afghanistan. As Hazmi and Mihdhar were 
deploying from Asia to the United States, al Qaeda s leadership was recruiting 
and training four Western-educated men who had recently arrived in Kanda- 
har.Though they hailed from four different countries — Egypt, the United Arab 



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160 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

Emirates, Lebanon, and Yemen — they had formed a close-knit group as stu- 
dents in Hamburg, Germany. The new recruits had come to Afghanistan aspir- 
ing to wage jihad in Chechnya. But al Qaeda quickly recognized their 
potential and enlisted them in its anti-U.S. jihad. 

5.3 THE HAMBURG CONTINGENT 

Although Bin Ladin, Atef, and KSM initially contemplated using established al 
Qaeda members to execute the planes operation, the late 1999 arrival in Kan- 
dahar of four aspiring jihadists from Germany suddenly presented a more 
attractive alternative. The Hamburg group shared the anti-U.S. fervor of the 
other candidates for the operation, but added the enormous advantages of flu- 
ency in English and familiarity with life in the West, based on years that each 
member of the group had spent living in Germany. Not surprisingly, 
Mohamed Atta, Ramzi Binalshibh, Marwan al Shehhi, and Ziad Jarrah would 
all become key players in the 9/11 conspiracy. 

Mohamed Atta 

Mohamed Atta was born on September 1, 1968, in Kafr el Sheikh, Egypt, to a 
middle-class family headed by his father, an attorney. After graduating from 
Cairo University with a degree in architectural engineering in 1990, Atta 
worked as an urban planner in Cairo for a couple of years. In the fall of 1991, 
he asked a German family he had met in Cairo to help him continue his edu- 
cation in Germany. They suggested he come to Hamburg and invited him to 
live with them there, at least initially. After completing a course in German, Atta 
traveled to Germany for the first time in July 1992. He resided briefly in 
Stuttgart and then, in the fall of 1992, moved to Hamburg to live with his host 
family. After enrolling at the University of Hamburg, he promptly transferred 
into the city engineering and planning course at the Technical University of 
Hamburg-Harburg, where he would remain registered as a student until the fall 
of 1999. He appears to have applied himself fairly seriously to his studies (at least 
in comparison to his jihadist friends) and actually received his degree shortly 
before traveling to Afghanistan. In school, Atta came across as very intelligent 
and reasonably pleasant, with an excellent command of the German language. 64 
When Atta arrived in Germany, he appeared religious, but not fanatically 
so. This would change, especially as his tendency to assert leadership became 
increasingly pronounced. According to Binalshibh, as early as 1995 Atta sought 
to organize a Muslim student association in Hamburg. In the fall of 1997, he 
joined a working group at the Quds mosque in Hamburg, a group designed 
to bridge the gap between Muslims and Christians. Atta proved a poor bridge, 
however, because of his abrasive and increasingly dogmatic personality. But 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 161 

among those who shared his beliefs, Atta stood out as a decisionmaker. Atta's 
friends during this period remember him as charismatic, intelligent, and per- 
suasive, albeit intolerant of dissent. 65 

In his interactions with other students, Atta voiced virulently anti-Semitic 
and anti-American opinions, ranging from condemnations of what he 
described as a global Jewish movement centered in New York City that sup- 
posedly controlled the financial world and the media, to polemics against gov- 
ernments of the Arab world. To him, Saddam Hussein was an American stooge 
set up to give Washington an excuse to intervene in the Middle East. Within 
his circle, Atta advocated violent jihad. He reportedly asked one individual close 
to the group if he was "ready to fight for [his] belief" and dismissed him as too 
weak for jihad when the person declined. On a visit home to Egypt in 1998, 
Atta met one of his college friends. According to this friend, Atta 
had changed a great deal, had grown a beard, and had "obviously adopted fun- 
damentalism" by that time. 66 



Ramzi Binalshibh 

Ramzi Binalshibh was born on May 1, 1972,inGhaylBawazir,Yemen.There does 
not seem to be anything remarkable about his family or early background. A friend 
who knew Binalshibh in Yemen remembers him as "religious, but not too reli- 
gious." From 1987 to 1995, Binalshibh worked as a clerk for the International 
Bank ofYemen. He first attempted to leave Yemen in 1995, when he applied for 
a U.S. visa. After his application was rejected, he went to Germany and applied 
for asylum under the name Ramzi Omar, claiming to be a Sudanese citizen seek- 
ing asylum. While his asylum petition was pending, Binalshibh lived in Hamburg 
and associated with individuals from several mosques there. In 1997, after his 
asylum application was denied, Binalshibh went home to Yemen but returned to 
Germany shortly thereafter under his true name, this time registering as a student 
in Hamburg. Binalshibh continually had academic problems, failing tests and cut- 
ting classes; he was expelled from one school in September 1998. 67 

According to Binalshibh, he and Atta first met at a mosque in Hamburg in 
1995. The two men became close friends and became identified with their 
shared extremist outlook. Like Atta, by the late 1990s Binalshibh was decrying 
what he perceived to be a "Jewish world conspiracy." He proclaimed that the 
highest duty of every Muslim was to pursue jihad, and that the highest honor 
was to die during the jihad. Despite his rhetoric, however, Binalshibh presented 
a more amiable figure than the austere Atta, and was known within the com- 
munity as being sociable, extroverted, polite, and adventuresome. 68 

In 1998, Binalshibh and Atta began sharing an apartment in the Harburg sec- 
tion of Hamburg, together with a young student from the United Arab Emi- 
rates named Marwan al Shehhi. 69 



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162 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

Marwan al Shehhi 

Marwan al Shehhi was born on May 9, 1978, in Ras al Khaimah, the United 
Arab Emirates. His father, who died in 1997, was a prayer leader at the local 
mosque. After graduating from high school in 1995, Shehhi joined the Emi- 
rati military and received half a year of basic training before gaining admis- 
sion to a military scholarship program that would fund his continued study in 
Germany. 70 

Shehhi first entered Germany in April 1996. After sharing an apartment in 
Bonn for two months with three other scholarship students, Shehhi moved in 
with a German family, with whom he resided for several months before mov- 
ing into his own apartment. During this period, he came across as very reli- 
gious, praying five times a day. Friends also remember him as convivial and "a 
regular guy," wearing Western clothes and occasionally renting cars for trips to 
Berlin, France, and the Netherlands. 71 

As a student, Shehhi was less than a success. Upon completing a course in 
German, he enrolled at the University of Bonn in a program for technical, 
mathematical, and scientific studies. In June 1997, he requested a leave from his 
studies, citing the need to attend to unspecified "problems" in his home coun- 
try. Although the university denied his request, Shehhi left anyway, and conse- 
quently was compelled to repeat the first semester of his studies. In addition to 
having academic difficulties at this time, Shehhi appeared to become more 
extreme in the practice of his faith; for example, he specifically avoided restau- 
rants that cooked with or served alcohol. In late 1997, he applied for permis- 
sion to complete his course work in Hamburg, a request apparently motivated 
by his desire to join Atta and Binalshibh.Just how and when the three of them 
first met remains unclear, although they seemed to know each other already 
when Shehhi relocated to Hamburg in early 1998. Atta and Binalshibh moved 
into his apartment in April. 72 

The transfer to Hamburg did not help Shehhi's academic progress; he was 
directed by the scholarship program administrators at the Emirati embassy to 
repeat his second semester starting in August 1998, but back in Bonn. Shehhi 
initially flouted this directive, however, and did not reenroll at the University 
of Bonn until the following January, barely passing his course there. By the end 
of July 1999, he had returned to Hamburg, applying to study shipbuilding at 
the Technical University and, more significantly, residing once again with Atta 
and Binalshibh, in an apartment at 54 Marienstrasse. 73 

After Shehhi moved in with Atta and Binalshibh, his evolution toward 
Islamic fundamentalism became more pronounced. A fellow Emirati student 
who came to Hamburg to visit Shehhi noticed he no longer lived as comfort- 
ably as before. Shehhi now occupied an old apartment with a roommate, had 
no television, and wore inexpensive clothes. When asked why he was living so 
frugally, Shehhi responded that he was living the way the Prophet had lived. 74 
Similarly, when someone asked why he and Atta never laughed, Shehhi 
retorted, "How can you laugh when people are dying in Palestine?" 75 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 1 63 

Ziad Jarrah 

Born on May 11, 1975, in Mazraa, Lebanon, Ziad Jarrah came from an afflu- 
ent family and attended private, Christian schools. Like Atta, Binalshibh, and 
Shehhi, Jarrah aspired to pursue higher education in Germany. In April 1996, 
he and a cousin enrolled at a junior college in Greifswald, in northeastern Ger- 
many. There Jarrah met and became intimate with Aysel Senguen, the daugh- 
ter of Turkish immigrants, who was preparing to study dentistry 76 

Even with the benefit of hindsight, Jarrah hardly seems a likely candidate 
for becoming an Islamic extremist. Far from displaying radical beliefs when he 
first moved to Germany, he arrived with a reputation for knowing where to 
find the best discos and beaches in Beirut, and in Greifswald was known to 
enjoy student parties and drinking beer. Although he continued to share an 
apartment in Greifswald with his cousin, Jarrah was mostly at Senguen's apart- 
ment. Witnesses interviewed by German authorities after 9/1 1, however, recall 
that Jarrah started showing signs of radicalization as early as the end of 1996. 
After returning from a trip home to Lebanon, Jarrah started living more strictly 
according to the Koran. He read brochures in Arabic about jihad, held forth to 
friends on the subject of holy war, and professed disaffection with his previous 
life and a desire not to leave the world "in a natural way" 77 

In September 1997, Jarrah abruptly switched his intended course of study 
from dentistry to aircraft engineering — at the Technical University of 
Hamburg-Harburg. His motivation for this decision remains unclear. The 
rationale he expressed to Senguen — that he had been interested in aviation 
since playing with toy airplanes as a child — rings somewhat hollow. In any 
event, Jarrah appears already to have had Hamburg contacts by this time, some 
of whom may have played a role in steering him toward Islamic extremism. 78 

Following his move to Hamburg that fall, he began visiting Senguen in 
Greifswald on weekends, until she moved to the German city of Bochum one 
year later to enroll in dental school. Around the same time, he began speaking 
increasingly about religion, and his visits to Senguen became less and less fre- 
quent. He began criticizing her for not being religious enough and for dress- 
ing too provocatively. He grew a full beard and started praying regularly. He 
refused to introduce her to his Hamburg friends because, he told her, they were 
religious Muslims and her refusal to become more observant embarrassed him. 
At some point in 1999, Jarrah told Senguen that he was planning to wage a 
jihad because there was no greater honor than to die for Allah. Although Jar- 
rah's transformation generated numerous quarrels, their breakups invariably 
were followed by reconciliation. 79 

Forming a Cell 

In Hamburg, Jarrah had a succession of living accommodations, but he appar- 
ently never resided with his future co-conspirators. It is not clear how and 
when he became part of Atta s circle. He became particularly friendly with 
Binalshibh after meeting him at the Quds mosque in Hamburg, which Jarrah 



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164 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

began attending regularly in late 1997. The worshippers at this mosque featured 
an outspoken, flamboyant Islamist named Mohammed Haydar Zanimar. A 
well-known figure in the Muslim community (and to German and U.S. intel- 
ligence agencies by the late 1990s), Zammar had fought in Afghanistan and rel- 
ished any opportunity to extol the virtues of violent jihad. Indeed, a witness 
has reported hearing Zammar press Binalshibh to fulfill his duty to wage jihad. 
Moreover, after 9/11, Zammar reportedly took credit for influencing 
not just Binalshibh but the rest of the Hamburg group. In 1998, Zammar 
encouraged them to participate in jihad and even convinced them to go to 
Afghanistan. 80 

Owing to Zammar s persuasion or some other source of inspiration, Atta, 
Binalshibh, Shehhi, and Jarrah eventually prepared themselves to translate their 
extremist beliefs into action. By late 1999, they were ready to abandon their 
student lives in Germany in favor of violent jihad. This final stage in their evo- 
lution toward embracing Islamist extremism did not entirely escape the notice 
of the people around them. The foursome became core members of a group 
of radical Muslims, often hosting sessions at their Marienstrasse apartment that 
involved extremely anti-American discussions. Meeting three to four times a 
week, the group became something of a "sect" whose members, according to 
one participant in the meetings, tended to deal only with each other. 81 Atta's 
rent checks for the apartment provide evidence of the importance that the 
apartment assumed as a center for the group, as he would write on them the 
notation "Dar el Ansar," or "house of the followers." 82 

In addition to Atta, Binalshibh, Shehhi, and Jarrah, the group included other 
extremists, some of whom also would attend al Qaeda training camps and, in 
some instances, would help the 9/11 hijackers as they executed the plot: 

• Said Bahaji, son of a Moroccan immigrant, was the only German cit- 
izen in the group. Educated in Morocco, Bahaji returned to Germany 
to study electrical engineering at the Technical University of 
Hamburg-Harburg. He spent five months in the German army 
before obtaining a medical discharge, and lived with Atta and Binal- 
shibh at 54 Marienstrasse for eight months between November 1998 
and July 1999. Described as an insecure follower with no personality 
and with limited knowledge of Islam, Bahaji nonetheless professed his 
readiness to engage in violence. Atta and Binalshibh used Bahaji's com- 
puter for Internet research, as evidenced by documents and diskettes 
seized by German authorities after 9/1 1. 83 

• Zakariya Essabar, a Moroccan citizen, moved to Germany in Febru- 
ary 1997 and to Hamburg in 1998, where he studied medical tech- 
nology. Soon after moving to Hamburg, Essabar met Binalshibh and 
the others through a Turkish mosque. Essabar turned extremist fairly 
suddenly, probably in 1999, and reportedly pressured one acquain- 
tance with physical force to become more religious, grow a beard, and 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 165 

compel his wife to convert to Islam. Essabar s parents were said to have 
made repeated but unsuccessful efforts to sway him from this lifestyle. 
Shortly before the 9/11 attacks, he would travel to Afghanistan to 
communicate the date for the attacks to the al Qaeda leadership. 84 

• Mounir el Motassadeq, another Moroccan, came to Germany in 1993, 
moving to Hamburg two years later to study electrical engineering at 
the Technical University.A witness has recalled Motassadeq saying that 
he would kill his entire family if his religious beliefs demanded it. One 
of Motassadeq's roommates recalls him referring to Hitler as a "good 
man" and organizing film sessions that included speeches by Bin 
Ladin. Motassadeq would help conceal the Hamburg group's trip to 
Afghanistan in late 1999. 85 

• Abdelghani Mzoudi, also a Moroccan, arrived in Germany in the 
summer of 1993, after completing university courses in physics and 
chemistry. Mzoudi studied in Dortmund, Bochum, and Muenster 
before moving to Hamburg in 1995. Mzoudi described himself as a 
weak Muslim when he was home in Morocco, but much more devout 
when he was back in Hamburg. In April 1996, Mzoudi and Motas- 
sadeq witnessed the execution of Atta's will. 86 

During the course of 1999, Atta and his group became ever more extreme 
and secretive, speaking only in Arabic to conceal the content of their conver- 
sations. 87 When the four core members of the Hamburg cell left Germany to 
journey to Afghanistan late that year, it seems unlikely that they already knew 
about the planes operation; no evidence connects them to al Qaeda before that 
time. Witnesses have attested, however, that their pronouncements reflected 
ample predisposition toward taking some action against the United States. 88 In 
short, they fit the bill for Bin Ladin, Atef, and KSM. 

Going to Afghanistan 

The available evidence indicates that in 1999,Atta,Binalshibh, Shehhi, and Jar- 
rah decided to fight in Chechnya against the Russians. According to Binal- 
shibh, a chance meeting on a train in Germany caused the group to travel to 
Afghanistan instead. An individual named Khalid al Masri approached Binal- 
shibh and Shehhi (because they were Arabs with beards, Binalshibh thinks) and 
struck up a conversation about jihad in Chechnya. When they later called Masri 
and expressed interest in going to Chechnya, he told them to contact Abu 
Musab in Duisburg, Germany. Abu Musab turned out to be Mohamedou 
Ould Slahi, a significant al Qaeda operative who, even then, was well known 
to U.S. and German intelligence, though neither government apparently knew 
he was operating in Germany in late 1999. When telephoned by Binalshibh 
and Shehhi, Slahi reportedly invited these promising recruits to come see him 
in Duisburg. 89 

Binalshibh, Shehhi, and Jarrah made the trip. When they arrived, Slahi 



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166 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

explained that it was difficult to get to Chechnya at that time because many 
travelers were being detained in Georgia. He recommended they go to 
Afghanistan instead, where they could train for jihad before traveling onward 
to Chechnya. Slahi instructed them to obtain Pakistani visas and then return 
to him for further directions on how to reach Afghanistan. Although Atta did 
not attend the meeting, he joined in the plan with the other three. After obtain- 
ing the necessary visas, they received Slahi's final instructions on how to travel 
to Karachi and then Quetta, where they were to contact someone named Umar 
al Masri at the Taliban office. 90 

Following Slahi's advice, Atta and Jarrah left Hamburg during the last week 
of November 1999, bound for Karachi. Shehhi left for Afghanistan around the 
same time; Binalshibh, about two weeks later. Binalshibh remembers that when 
he arrived at the Taliban office in Quetta, there was no one named Umar al 
Masri. The name, apparently, was simply a code; a group of Afghans from the 
office promptly escorted him to Kandahar. There Binalshibh rejoined Atta and 
Jarrah, who said they already had pledged loyalty to Bin Ladin and urged him 
to do the same. They also informed him that Shehhi had pledged as well and 
had already left for the United Arab Emirates to prepare for the mission. Binal- 
shibh soon met privately with Bin Ladin, accepted the al Qaeda leader's invi- 
tation to work under him, and added his own pledge to those of his Hamburg 
colleagues. By this time, Binalshibh claims, he assumed he was volunteering for 
a martyrdom operation. 91 

Atta, Jarrah, and Binalshibh then met with Atef, who told them they were 
about to undertake a highly secret mission. As Binalshibh tells it, Atef 
instructed the three to return to Germany and enroll in flight training. Atta — 
whom Bin Ladin chose to lead the group — met with Bin Ladin several times 
to receive additional instructions, including a preliminary list of approved tar- 
gets: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the U.S. Capitol. 92 The new 
recruits also learned that an individual named Rabia al Makki (Nawaf al 
Hazmi) would be part of the operation. 93 

In retrospect, the speed with which Atta, Shehhi, Jarrah, and Binalshibh 
became core members of the 9/11 plot — with Atta designated its operational 
leader — is remarkable.They had not yet met with KSM when all this occurred. 
It is clear, then, that Bin Ladin and Atef were very much in charge of the oper- 
ation. That these candidates were selected so quickly — before comprehensive 
testing in the training camps or in operations — demonstrates that Bin Ladin 
and Atef probably already understood the deficiencies of their initial team, 
Hazmi and Mihdhar.The new recruits from Germany possessed an ideal com- 
bination of technical skill and knowledge that the original 9/11 operatives, vet- 
eran fighters though they were, lacked. Bin Ladin and Atef wasted no time in 
assigning the Hamburg group to the most ambitious operation yet planned by 
al Qaeda. 

Bin Ladin and Atef also plainly judged that Atta was best suited to be the 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 1 67 

tactical commander of the operation. Such a quick and critical judgment invites 
speculation about whether they had already taken Atta's measure at some ear- 
lier meeting. To be sure, some gaps do appear in the record of Atta's known 
whereabouts during the preceding years. One such gap is February— March 
1998, a period for -which there is no evidence of his presence in Germany and 
when he conceivably could have been in Afghanistan. 94 Yet to date, neither 
KSM, Binalshibh, nor any other al Qaeda figure interrogated about the 9/11 
plot has claimed that Atta or any other member of the Hamburg group trav- 
eled to Afghanistan before the trip in late 1999. 

While the four core Hamburg cell members were in Afghanistan, their asso- 
ciates back in Hamburg handled their affairs so that their trip could be kept 
secret. Motassadeq appears to have done the most. He terminated Shehhi's 
apartment lease, telling the landlord that Shehhi had returned to the UAE for 
family reasons, and used a power of attorney to pay bills from Shehhi's bank 
account. 95 Motassadeq also assisted Jarrah, offering to look after Aysel Senguen 
in Jarrah's absence. Said Bahaji attended to similar routine matters for Atta and 
Binalshibh, thereby helping them remain abroad without drawing attention to 
their absence. 96 

Preparing for the Operation 

In early 2000, Atta, Jarrah, and Binalshibh returned to Hamburg. Jarrah arrived 
first, on January 31, 2000. 97 According to Binalshibh, he and Atta left Kanda- 
har together and proceeded first to Karachi, where they met KSM and were 
instructed by him on security and on living in the United States. Shehhi appar- 
ently had already met with KSM before returning to the UAE. Atta returned 
to Hamburg in late February, and Binalshibh arrived shortly thereafter. She- 
hhi's travels took him to the UAE (where he acquired a new passport and a 
U.S. visa), Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and one or more other destinations. Shehhi 
also returned to Germany, possibly sometime in March. 98 

After leaving Afghanistan, the hijackers made clear efforts to avoid appear- 
ing radical. Once back in Hamburg, they distanced themselves from conspic- 
uous extremists like Zammar, whom they knew attracted unwanted attention 
from the authorities. 99 They also changed their appearance and behavior. Atta 
wore Western clothing, shaved his beard, and no longer attended extremist 
mosques. Jarrah also no longer wore a full beard and, according to Senguen, 
acted much more the way he had when she first met him. And when Shehhi, 
while still in the UAE in January 2000, held a belated wedding celebration (he 
actually had been married in 1999), a friend of his was surprised to see that he 
had shaved off his beard and was acting like his old self again. 100 

But Jarrah's apparent efforts to appear less radical did not completely con- 
ceal his transformation from his Lebanese family, which grew increasingly con- 
cerned about his fanaticism. Soon after Jarrah returned to Germany, his father 
asked Jarrah's cousin — a close companion from boyhood — to intercede. The 



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168 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

cousin's ensuing effort to persuade Jarrah to depart from "the path he was tak- 
ing" proved unavailing. 101 Yet Jarrah clearly differed from the other hijackers 
in that he maintained much closer contact with his family and continued his 
intimate relationship with Senguen. These ties may well have caused him to 
harbor some doubts about going through with the plot, even as late as the sum- 
mer of 2001, as discussed in chapter 7. 

After leaving Afghanistan, the four began researching flight schools and avi- 
ation training. In early January 2000, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali — a nephew of KSM 
living in the UAE who would become an important facilitator in the plot — 
used Shehhi's credit card to order a Boeing 747-400 flight simulator program 
and a Boeing 767 flight deck video, together with attendant literature; Ali had 
all these items shipped to his employer's address. Jarrah soon decided that the 
schools in Germany were not acceptable and that he would have to learn to 
fly in the United States. Binalshibh also researched flight schools in Europe, 
and in the Netherlands he met a flight school director who recommended 
flight schools in the United States because they were less expensive and 
required shorter training periods. 102 

In March 2000, Atta emailed 31 different U.S. flight schools on behalf of a 
small group of men from various Arab countries studying in Germany who, 
while lacking prior training, were interested in learning to fly in the United 
States. Atta requested information about the cost of the training, potential 
financing, and accommodations. 103 

Before seeking visas to enter the United States, Atta, Shehhi, and Jarrah 
obtained new passports, each claiming that his old passport had been lost. Pre- 
sumably they were concerned that the Pakistani visas in their old passports 
would raise suspicions about possible travel to Afghanistan. Shehhi obtained his 
visa on January 18, 2000; Atta, on May 18; and Jarrah, on May 25. 104 Binal- 
shibh's visa request was rejected, however, as were his three subsequent appli- 
cations. 105 Binalshibh proved unable to obtain a visa, a victim of the 
generalized suspicion that visa applicants from Yemen — especially young men 
applying in another country (Binalshibh first applied in Berlin) — might join 
the ranks of undocumented aliens seeking work in the United States. Before 
9/11, security concerns were not a major factor in visa issuance unless the 
applicant already was on a terrorist watchlist, and none of these four men was. 
Concerns that Binalshibh intended to immigrate to the United States doomed 
his chances to participate firsthand in the 9/11 attacks. Although Binalshibh 
had to remain behind, he would provide critical assistance from abroad to his 
co-conspirators. 

Once again, the need for travel documents dictated al Qaeda's plans. 

Travel 

It should by now be apparent how significant travel was in the planning under- 
taken by a terrorist organization as far-flung as al Qaeda.The story of the plot 
includes references to dozens of international trips. Operations required travel, 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 1 69 

as did basic communications and the movement of money. Where electronic 
communications were regarded as insecure, al Qaeda relied even more heavily 
on couriers. 

KSM and Abu Zubaydah each played key roles in facilitating travel for al 
Qaeda operatives. In addition, al Qaeda had an office of passports and host 
country issues under its security committee. The office was located at the 
Kandahar airport and was managed by Atef. The committee altered papers, 
including passports, visas, and identification cards. 106 

Moreover, certain al Qaeda members were charged with organizing pass- 
port collection schemes to keep the pipeline of fraudulent documents flow- 
ing. To this end, al Qaeda required jihadists to turn in their passports before 
going to the front lines in Afghanistan. If they were killed, their passports were 
recycled for use. 107 The operational mission training course taught operatives 
how to forge documents. Certain passport alteration methods, which included 
substituting photos and erasing and adding travel cachets, were also taught. 
Manuals demonstrating the technique for "cleaning" visas were reportedly cir- 
culated among operatives. Mohamed Atta and Zakariya Essabar were reported 
to have been trained in passport alteration. 108 

The purpose of all this training was twofold: to develop an institutional 
capacity for document forgery and to enable operatives to make necessary 
adjustments in the field. It was well-known, for example, that if a Saudi trav- 
eled to Afghanistan via Pakistan, then on his return to Saudi Arabia his pass- 
port, bearing a Pakistani stamp, would be confiscated. So operatives either 
erased the Pakistani visas from their passports or traveled through Iran, which 
did not stamp visas directly into passports. 109 



5.4 A MONEY TRAIL? 

Bin Ladin and his aides did not need a very large sum to finance their planned 
attack on America. The 9/11 plotters eventually spent somewhere between 
$400,000 and $500,000 to plan and conduct their attack. Consistent with the 
importance of the project, al Qaeda funded the plotters. KSM provided his 
operatives with nearly all the money they needed to travel to the United States, 
train, and live. The plotters' tradecraft was not especially sophisticated, but it 
was good enough. They moved, stored, and spent their money in ordinary ways, 
easily defeating the detection mechanisms in place at the time. 110 The origin 
of the funds remains unknown, although we have a general idea of how al 
Qaeda financed itself during the period leading up to 9/11. 

General Financing 

As we explained in chapter 2, Bin Ladin did not fund al Qaeda through a 
personal fortune and a network of businesses in Sudan. Instead, al Qaeda 
relied primarily on a fund-raising network developed over time. The CIA 



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170 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

now estimates that it cost al Qaeda about $30 million per year to sustain its 
activities before 9/11 and that this money was raised almost entirely through 
donations. 111 

For many years, the United States thought Bin Ladin financed al Qaeda s 
expenses through a vast personal inheritance. Bin Ladin purportedly inherited 
approximately $300 million when his father died, and was rumored to have had 
access to these funds to wage jihad while in Sudan and Afghanistan and to 
secure his leadership position in al Qaeda. In early 2000, the U.S. government 
discovered a different reality: roughly from 1970 through 1994, Bin Ladin 
received about $1 million per year — a significant sum, to be sure, but not a 
$300 million fortune that could be used to fund jihad. 112 Then, as part of a 
Saudi government crackdown early in the 1990s, the Bin Ladin family was 
forced to find a buyer for Usama's share of the family company in 1994. The 
Saudi government subsequently froze the proceeds of the sale. This action had 
the effect of divesting Bin Ladin of what otherwise might indeed have been a 
large fortune. 113 

Nor were Bin Ladin s assets in Sudan a source of money for al Qaeda. When 
Bin Ladin lived in Sudan from 1991 to 1996, he owned a number of businesses 
and other assets. These could not have provided significant income, as most 
were small or not economically viable. When Bin Ladin left in 1996, it appears 
that the Sudanese government expropriated all his assets: he left Sudan with 
practically nothing. When Bin Ladin arrived in Afghanistan, he relied on the 
Taliban until he was able to reinvigorate his fund-raising efforts by drawing on 
ties to wealthy Saudi individuals that he had established during the Afghan war 
in the 1980s. 114 

Al Qaeda appears to have relied on a core group of financial facilitators 
who raised money from a variety of donors and other fund-raisers, primarily 
in the Gulf countries and particularly in Saudi Arabia. 115 Some individual 
donors surely knew, and others did not, the ultimate destination of their dona- 
tions. Al Qaeda and its friends took advantage of Islam's strong calls for char- 
itable giving, zakat. These financial facilitators also appeared to rely heavily on 
certain imams at mosques who were willing to divert zakat donations to al 
Qaeda s cause. 116 

Al Qaeda also collected money from employees of corrupt charities. 117 It 
took two approaches to using charities for fund-raising. One was to rely on al 
Qaeda sympathizers in specific foreign branch offices of large, international 
charities — particularly those with lax external oversight and ineffective inter- 
nal controls, such as the Saudi-based al Haramain Islamic Foundation. 118 
Smaller charities in various parts of the globe were funded by these large Gulf 
charities and had employees who would siphon the money to al Qaeda. 119 

In addition, entire charities, such as the al Wafa organization, may have wit- 
tingly participated in funneling money to al Qaeda. In those cases, al Qaeda 
operatives controlled the entire organization, including access to bank 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 171 

accounts. 120 Charities were a source of money and also provided significant 
cover, which enabled operatives to travel undetected under the guise of work- 
ing for a humanitarian organization. 

It does not appear that any government other than the Taliban financially 
supported al Qaeda before 9/11, although some governments may have con- 
tained al Qaeda sympathizers who turned a blind eye to al Qaeda's fund- 
raising activities. 121 Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source 
of al Qaeda funding, but we have found no evidence that the Saudi govern- 
ment as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organ- 
ization. (This conclusion does not exclude the likelihood that charities with 
significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al Qaeda.) 122 

Still, al Qaeda found fertile fund-raising ground in Saudi Arabia, where 
extreme religious views are common and charitable giving was both essential 
to the culture and subject to very limited oversight. 123 Al Qaeda also sought 
money from wealthy donors in other Gulf states. 

Al Qaeda frequently moved the money it raised by haivala, an informal and 
ancient trust-based system for transferring funds. 124 In some ways, al Qaeda had 
no choice after its move to Afghanistan in 1996: first, the banking system there 
was antiquated and undependable; and second, formal banking was risky due 
to the scrutiny that al Qaeda received after the August 1998 East Africa embassy 
bombings, including UN resolutions against it and the Taliban. 125 Bin Ladin 
relied on the established hawala networks operating in Pakistan, in Dubai, and 
throughout the Middle East to transfer funds efficiently. Hawaladars associated 
with al Qaeda may have used banks to move and store money, as did various 
al Qaeda fund-raisers and operatives outside of Afghanistan, but there is little 
evidence that Bin Ladin or core al Qaeda members used banks while in 
Afghanistan. x 26 

Before 9/1 1, al Qaeda spent funds as quickly as it received them. Actual ter- 
rorist operations represented a relatively small part of al Qaeda's estimated $30 
million annual operating budget. Al Qaeda funded salaries for jihadists, train- 
ing camps, airfields, vehicles, arms, and the development of training manuals. 
Bin Ladin provided approximately $10— $20 million per year to the Taliban in 
return for safe haven. Bin Ladin also may have used money to create alliances 
with other terrorist organizations, although it is unlikely that al Qaeda was 
funding an overall jihad program. Rather, Bin Ladin selectively provided start- 
up funds to new groups or money for specific terrorist operations. 127 

Al Qaeda has been alleged to have used a variety of illegitimate means, par- 
ticularly drug trafficking and conflict diamonds, to finance itself. While the drug 
trade was a source of income for the Taliban, it did not serve the same purpose 
for al Qaeda, and there is no reliable evidence that Bin Ladin was involved in 
or made his money through drug trafficking. 128 Similarly, we have seen no per- 
suasive evidence that al Qaeda funded itself by trading in African conflict dia- 
monds. 129 There also have been claims that al Qaeda financed itself through 



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172 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

manipulation of the stock market based on its advance knowledge of the 9/11 
attacks. Exhaustive investigations by the Securities and Exchange Commission, 
FBI, and other agencies have uncovered no evidence that anyone with advance 
knowledge of the attacks profited through securities transactions. 130 

To date, the U.S. government has not been able to determine the origin of 
the money used for the 9/11 attacks. Ultimately the question is of little prac- 
tical significance. Al Qaeda had many avenues of funding. If a particular fund- 
ing source had dried up, al Qaeda could have easily tapped a different source 
or diverted funds from another project to fund an operation that cost 
$400,000-1500,000 over nearly two years. 

The Funding of the 9/11 Plot 

As noted above, the 9/11 plotters spent somewhere between $400,000 and 
$500,000 to plan and conduct their attack. The available evidence indicates that 
the 19 operatives were funded by al Qaeda, either through wire transfers or cash 
provided by KSM, which they carried into the United States or deposited in for- 
eign accounts and accessed from this country. Our investigation has uncovered 
no credible evidence that any person in the United States gave the hijackers sub- 
stantial financial assistance. Similarly, we have seen no evidence that any foreign 
government — or foreign government official — supplied any funding. 131 

We have found no evidence that the Hamburg cell members (Atta, Shehhi, 
Jarrah, and Binalshibh) received funds from al Qaeda before late 1999. It 
appears they supported themselves. KSM, Binalshibh, and another plot facili- 
tator, Mustafa al Hawsawi, each received money, in some cases perhaps as much 
as $10,000, to perform their roles in the plot. 132 

After the Hamburg recruits joined the 9/11 conspiracy, al Qaeda began giv- 
ing them money. Our knowledge of the funding during this period, before the 
operatives entered the United States, remains murky. According to KSM, the 
Hamburg cell members each received $5,000 to pay for their return to Ger- 
many from Afghanistan after they had been selected to join the plot, and they 
received additional funds for travel from Germany to the United States. Finan- 
cial transactions of the plotters are discussed in more detail in chapter 7. 

Requirements for a Successful Attack 

As some of the core operatives prepared to leave for the United States, al 
Qaeda s leaders could have reflected on what they needed to be able to do in 
order to organize and conduct a complex international terrorist operation to 
inflict catastrophic harm. We believe such a list of requirements would have 
included 

• leaders able to evaluate, approve, and supervise the planning and direc- 
tion of the operation; 

• communications sufficient to enable planning and direction of the 
operatives and those who would be helping them; 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 1 73 

• a personnel system that could recruit candidates, vet them, indoctri- 
nate them, and give them necessary training; 

• an intelligence effort to gather required information and form assess- 
ments of enemy strengths and weaknesses; 

• the ability to move people; and 

• the ability to raise and move the necessary money. 

The information we have presented about the development of 
the planes operation shows how, by the spring and summer of 2000, al Qaeda 
was able to meet these requirements. 

By late May 2000, two operatives assigned to the planes operation were 
already in the United States. Three of the four Hamburg cell members would 
soon arrive.