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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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7 
THE ATTACK LOOMS 



7.1 FIRST ARRIVALS IN CALIFORNIA 

In chapter 5 we described the Southeast Asia travels of Nawaf al Hazmi, Khalid 
al Mihdhar, and others in January 2000 on the first part of the "planes opera- 
tion." In that chapter we also described how Mihdhar was spotted in Kuala 
Lumpur early in January 2000, along with associates who were not identified, 
and then was lost to sight when the group passed through Bangkok. On Jan- 
uary 15, Hazmi and Mihdhar arrived in Los Angeles. They spent about two 
weeks there before moving on to San Diego. 1 

Two Weeks in Los Angeles 

Why Hazmi and Mihdhar came to California, we do not know for certain. 
Khalid Sheikh Mohammed (KSM), the organizer of the planes operation, 
explains that California was a convenient point of entry from Asia and had the 
added benefit of being far away from the intended target area. 2 

Hazmi and Mihdhar were ill-prepared for a mission in the United States. 
Their only qualifications for this plot were their devotion to Usama Bin Ladin, 
their veteran service, and their ability to get valid U.S. visas. Neither had spent 
any substantial time in the West, and neither spoke much, if any, English. 3 

It would therefore be plausible that they or KSM would have tried to iden- 
tify, in advance, a friendly contact for them in the United States. In detention, 
KSM denies that al Qaeda had any agents in Southern California. We do not 
credit this denial. 4 We believe it is unlikely that Hazmi and Mihdhar — neither 
of whom, in contrast to the Hamburg group, had any prior exposure to life in 
the West — would have come to the United States without arranging to receive 
assistance from one or more individuals informed in advance of their arrival. 5 

KSM says that though he told others involved in the conspiracy to stay away 
from mosques and to avoid establishing personal contacts, he made an excep- 
tion in this case and instructed Hazmi and Mihdhar to pose as newly arrived 

215 



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216 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

Saudi students and seek assistance at local mosques. He counted on their break- 
ing off any such relationships once they moved to the East Coast. 6 Our inabil- 
ity to ascertain the activities of Hazmi and Mihdhar during their first two weeks 
in the United States may reflect al Qaeda tradecraft designed to protect the 
identity of anyone who may have assisted them during that period. 

Hazmi and Mihdhar were directed to enroll in English-language classes upon 
arriving in Southern California, so that they could begin pilot training as soon 
as possible. KSM claims to have steered the two to San Diego on the basis of his 
own research, which supposedly included thumbing through a San Diego phone 
book acquired at a Karachi flea market. Contradicting himself, he also says that, 
as instructed, they attempted to enroll in three language schools in Los Angeles. 7 

After the pair cleared Immigration and Customs at Los Angeles International 
Airport, we do not know where they went. 8 They appear to have obtained assis- 
tance from the Muslim community, specifically the community surrounding the 
King Fahd mosque in Culver City, one of the most prominent mosques in 
Southern California. 

It is fairly certain that Hazmi and Mihdhar spent time at the King Fahd 
mosque and made some acquaintances there. One witness interviewed by the 
FBI after the September 11 attacks has said he first met the hijackers at the 
mosque in early 2000. Furthermore, one of the people who would befriend 
them — a man named Mohdar Abdullah — recalled a trip with Hazmi and 
Mihdhar to Los Angeles in June when, on their arrival, the three went to the 
King Fahd mosque. There Hazmi and Mihdhar greeted various individuals 
whom they appeared to have met previously, including a man named "Khal- 
lam." In Abdullah's telling, when Khallam visited the al Qaeda operatives at 
their motel that evening, Abdullah was asked to leave the room so that Hazmi, 
Mihdhar, and Khallam could meet in private. The identity of Khallam and his 
purpose in meeting with Hazmi and Mihdhar remain unknown. 9 

To understand what Hazmi and Mihdhar did in their first weeks in the 
United States, evidently staying in Los Angeles, we have investigated whether 
anyone associated with the King Fahd mosque assisted them. This subject has 
received substantial attention in the media. Some have speculated that Fahad 
alThumairy — an imam at the mosque and an accredited diplomat at the Saudi 
Arabian consulate from 1996 until 2003 — may have played a role in helping 
the hijackers establish themselves on their arrival in Los Angeles. This specula- 
tion is based, at least in part, onThumairy's reported leadership of an extrem- 
ist faction at the mosque. 10 

A well-known figure at the King Fahd mosque and within the Los Ange- 
les Muslim community, Thumairy was reputed to be an Islamic fundamental- 
ist and a strict adherent to orthodox Wahhabi doctrine. Some Muslims 
concerned about his preaching have said he "injected non-Islamic themes into 
his guidance/prayers at the [King Fahd] Mosque" and had followers "support- 
ive of the events of September 11, 2001." 11 Thumairy appears to have associ- 



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^ 



THE ATTACK LOOMS 217 

ated with a particularly radical faction within the community of local worship- 
pers, and had a network of contacts in other cities in the United States. After 
9/ll,Thumairy's conduct was a subject of internal debate among some Saudi 
officials. He apparently lost his position at the King Fahd mosque, possibly 
because of his immoderate reputation. On May 6, 2003,Thumairy attempted 
to reenter the United States from Saudi Arabia but was refused entry, based on 
a determination by the State Department that he might be connected with ter- 
rorist activity. 12 

When interviewed by both the FBI and the Commission staff, Thumairy 
has denied preaching anti-Western sermons, much less promoting violent jihad. 
More to the point, he claimed not to recognize either Hazmi or Mihdhar. Both 
denials are somewhat suspect. (He likewise denied knowing Omar al Bay- 
oumi — a man from San Diego we will discuss shortly — even though witnesses 
and telephone records establish that the two men had contact with each other. 
SimilarlyThumairy's claim not to know Mohdar Abdullah is belied by Abdul- 
lah's contrary assertion.) On the other hand,Thumairy undoubtedly met with 
and provided religious counseling to countless individuals during his tenure at 
the King Fahd mosque, so he might not remember two transients like Hazmi 
and Mihdhar several years later. 13 

The circumstantial evidence makes Thumairy a logical person to consider 
as a possible contact for Hazmi and Mihdhar. Yet, after exploring the available 
leads, we have not found evidence that Thumairy provided assistance to the 
two operatives. 14 

We do not pick up their trail until February 1, 2000, when they encoun- 
tered Omar al Bayoumi and Caysan Bin Don at a halal food restaurant on 
Venice Boulevard in Culver City, a few blocks away from the King Fahd 
mosque. Bayoumi and Bin Don have both told us that they had driven up from 
San Diego earlier that day so that Bayoumi could address a visa issue and col- 
lect some papers from the Saudi consulate. Bayoumi heard Hazmi and Mih- 
dhar speaking in what he recognized to be Gulf Arabic and struck up a 
conversation. Since Bin Don knew only a little Arabic, he had to rely heavily 
on Bayoumi to translate for him. 15 

Mihdhar and Hazmi said they were students from Saudi Arabia who had 
just arrived in the United States to study English. They said they were living 
in an apartment near the restaurant but did not specify the address. They did 
not like Los Angeles and were having a hard time, especially because they did 
not know anyone. Bayoumi told them how pleasant San Diego was and offered 
to help them settle there. The two pairs then left the restaurant and went their 
separate ways. 16 

Bayoumi and Bin Don have been interviewed many times about the Feb- 
ruary 1, 2000, lunch. For the most part, their respective accounts corroborate 
each other. However, Bayoumi has said that he and Bin Don attempted to visit 
the King Fahd mosque after lunch but could not find it. Bin Don, on the other 



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218 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

hand, recalls visiting the mosque twice that day for prayers, both before and 
after the meal. Bin Don's recollection is spotty and inconsistent. Bayoumi's ver- 
sion can be challenged as well, since the mosque is close to the restaurant and 
Bayoumi had visited it, and the surrounding area, on multiple occasions, includ- 
ing twice within six weeks of February l.We do not know whether the lunch 
encounter occurred by chance or design. We know about it because Bayoumi 
told law enforcement that it happened. 17 

Bayoumi, then 42 years old, was in the United States as a business student, 
supported by a private contractor for the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority, where 
Bayoumi had worked for over 20 years. 18 The object of considerable media 
speculation following 9/11, he lives now in Saudi Arabia, well aware of his 
notoriety. Both we and the FBI have interviewed him and investigated evi- 
dence about him. 

Bayoumi is a devout Muslim, obliging and gregarious. He spent much of 
his spare time involved in religious study and helping run a mosque in El 
Cajon, about 15 miles from San Diego. It is certainly possible that he has dis- 
sembled about some aspects of his story, perhaps to counter suspicion. On the 
other hand, we have seen no credible evidence that he believed in violent 
extremism or knowingly aided extremist groups. 19 Our investigators who have 
dealt directly with him and studied his background find him to be an unlikely 
candidate for clandestine involvement with Islamist extremists. 

The Move to San Diego 

By February 4, Hazmi and Mihdhar had come to San Diego from Los Ange- 
les, possibly driven by Mohdar Abdullah. Abdullah, a Yemeni university student 
in his early 20s, is fluent in both Arabic and English, and was perfectly suited to 
assist the hijackers in pursuing their mission. 20 

After 9/11, Abdullah was interviewed many times by the FBI. He admitted 
knowing of Hazmi and Mihdhar's extremist leanings and Mihdhar's involve- 
ment with the Islamic Army of Aden (a group with ties to al Qaeda) back in 
Yemen. Abdullah clearly was sympathetic to those extremist views. During a 
post-9/11 search of his possessions, the FBI found a notebook (belonging to 
someone else) with references to planes falling from the sky, mass killing, and 
hijacking. Further, when detained as a material witness following the 9/11 
attacks, Abdullah expressed hatred for the U.S. government and "stated that the 
U.S. brought 'this' on themselves." 21 

When interviewed by the FBI after 9/11, Abdullah denied having advance 
knowledge of attacks. In May 2004, however, we learned of reports about 
Abdullah bragging to fellow inmates at a California prison in September- 
October 2003 that he had known Hazmi and Mihdhar were planning a ter- 
rorist attack. The stories attributed to Abdullah are not entirely consistent with 
each other. Specifically, according to one inmate, Abdullah claimed an 
unnamed individual had notified him that Hazmi and Mihdhar would be arriv- 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 219 

ing in Los Angeles with plans to carry out an attack. Abdullah allegedly told 
the same inmate that he had driven the two al Qaeda operatives from Los Ange- 
les to San Diego, but did not say when this occurred. We have been unable to 
corroborate this account. 22 

Another inmate has recalled Abdullah claiming he first heard about the 
hijackers' terrorist plans after they arrived in San Diego, when they told him 
they planned to fly an airplane into a building and invited him to join them 
on the plane. According to this inmate, Abdullah also claimed to have found 
out about the 9/11 attacks three weeks in advance, a claim that appears to dove- 
tail with evidence that Abdullah may have received a phone call from Hazmi 
around that time, that he stopped making calls from his telephone after August 
25, 2001, and that, according to his friends, he started acting strangely. 23 

Although boasts among prison inmates often tend to be unreliable, this evi- 
dence is obviously important. To date, neither we nor the FBI have been able 
to verify Abdullah's alleged jailhouse statements, despite investigative efforts. 

We thus do not know when or how Hazmi and Mihdhar first came to San 
Diego. We do know that on February 4, they went to the Islamic Center of 
San Diego to find Omar al Bayoumi and take him up on his offer of help. Bay- 
oumi obliged by not only locating an apartment but also helping them fill out 
the lease application, co-signing the lease and, when the real estate agent refused 
to take cash for a deposit, helping them open a bank account (which they did 
with a $9,900 deposit); he then provided a certified check from his own 
account for which the al Qaeda operatives reimbursed him on the spot for the 
deposit. Neither then nor later did Bayoumi give money to either Hazmi or 
Mihdhar, who had received money from KSM. 24 

Hazmi and Mihdhar moved in with no furniture and practically no posses- 
sions. Soon after the move, Bayoumi used their apartment for a party attended 
by some 20 male members of the Muslim community. At Bayoumi's request, 
Bin Don videotaped the gathering with Bayoumi's video camera. Hazmi and 
Mihdhar did not mingle with the other guests and reportedly spent most of 
the party by themselves off camera, in a back room. 25 

Hazmi and Mihdhar immediately started looking for a different place to stay. 
Based on their comment to Bayoumi about the first apartment being expen- 
sive, one might infer that they wanted to save money.They may also have been 
reconsidering the wisdom of living so close to the video camera— wielding Bay- 
oumi, who Hazmi seemed to think was some sort of Saudi spy. Just over a week 
after moving in, Hazmi and Mihdhar filed a 30-day notice of intention to 
vacate. Bayoumi apparently loaned them his cell phone to help them check out 
possibilities for new accommodations. 26 

Their initial effort to move turned out poorly. An acquaintance arranged 
with his landlord to have Mihdhar take over his apartment. Mihdhar put down 
a $650 deposit and signed a lease for the apartment effective March 1. Several 
weeks later, Mihdhar sought a refund of his deposit, claiming he no longer 



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220 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

intended to move in because the apartment was too messy. When the landlord 
refused to refund the deposit, Mihdhar became belligerent. The landlord 
remembers him "ranting and raving" as if he were "psychotic." 27 

Hazmi and Mihdhar finally found a room to rent in the home of an indi- 
vidual they had met at a mosque in San Diego. According to the homeowner, 
the future hijackers moved in on May 10, 2000. Mihdhar moved out after only 
about a month. On June 9, he left San Diego to return to Yemen. Hazmi, on 
the other hand, stayed at this house for the rest of his time in California, until 
mid-December; he would then leave for Arizona with a newly arrived 9/11 
hijacker-pilot, Hani Hanjour. 28 

While in San Diego, Hazmi and Mihdhar played the part of recently arrived 
foreign students. They continued to reach out to members of the Muslim com- 
munity for help. At least initially, they found well-meaning new acquaintances 
at the Islamic Center of San Diego, which was only a stone's throw from the 
apartment where they first lived. For example, when they purchased a used car 
(with cash), they bought it from a man who lived across the street from the 
Islamic Center and who let them use his address in registering the vehicle, an 
accommodation "to help a fellow Muslim brother." Similarly, in April, when 
their cash supply may have been dwindling, Hazmi persuaded the administra- 
tor of the Islamic Center to let him use the administrators bank account to 
receive a $5,000 wire transfer from someone in Dubai, in the United Arab Emi- 
rates (this was KSM's nephew,Ali Abdul Aziz Ali). 29 

Hazmi and Mihdhar visited other mosques as well, mixing comfortably as 
devout worshippers. During the operatives' critical first weeks in San Diego, 
Mohdar Abdullah helped them. Translating between English and Arabic, he 
assisted them in obtaining California driver's licenses and with applying to lan- 
guage and flight schools. Abdullah also introduced them to his circle of friends; 
he shared an apartment with some of those friends near the Rabat mosque in 
La Mesa, a few miles from the hijackers' residence. 30 

Abdullah has emerged as a key associate of Hazmi and Mihdhar in San 
Diego. Detained after 9/11 (first as a material witness, then on immigration 
charges), he was deported to Yemen on May 21, 2004, after the U.S. Attorney 
for the Southern District of California declined to prosecute him on charges 
arising out of his alleged jailhouse admissions concerning the 9/11 operatives. 
The Department of Justice declined to delay his removal pending further inves- 
tigation of this new information. 31 

Other friends of Abdullah also translated for Hazmi and Mihdhar and helped 
them adjust to life in San Diego. Some held extremist beliefs or were well 
acquainted with known extremists. For example, immediately after 9/11, 
Osama Awadallah, a Yemeni whose telephone number was found in Hazmi's 
Toyota at Washington Dulles International Airport, was found to possess pho- 
tos, videos, and articles relating to Bin Ladin. Awadallah also had lived in a house 
where copies of Bin Ladin s fatwas and other similar materials were distributed 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 221 

to the residents. Omar Bakarbashat, a Saudi, also met Hazmi and Mihdhar at 
the Rabat mosque. He admitted helping Hazmi to learn English and taking 
over the operatives' first apartment in San Diego after they moved out. Bakar- 
bashat apparently had downloaded stridently anti- American Web pages to his 
computer's hard drive. 32 

Another potentially significant San Diego contact for Hazmi and Mihdhar 
was Anwar Aulaqi, an imam at the Rabat mosque. Born in New Mexico and 
thus a U.S. citizen, Aulaqi grew up in Yemen and studied in the United States 
on a Yemeni government scholarship. We do not know how or when Hazmi 
and Mihdhar first met Aulaqi. The operatives may even have met or at least 
talked to him the same day they first moved to San Diego. Hazmi and Mih- 
dhar reportedly respected Aulaqi as a religious figure and developed a close rela- 
tionship with him. 33 

When interviewed after 9/11, Aulaqi said he did not recognize Hazmi's 
name but did identify his picture. Although Aulaqi admitted meeting with 
Hazmi several times, he claimed not to remember any specifics of what they 
discussed. He described Hazmi as a soft-spoken Saudi student who used to 
appear at the mosque with a companion but who did not have a large circle 
of friends. 34 

Aulaqi left San Diego in mid-2000, and by early 2001 had relocated to Vir- 
ginia. As we will discuss later, Hazmi eventually showed up at Aulaqi's mosque 
in Virginia, an appearance that may not have been coincidental. We have been 
unable to learn enough about Aulaqi's relationship with Hazmi and Mihdhar 
to reach a conclusion. 35 

In sum, although the evidence is thin as to specific motivations, our overall 
impression is that soon after arriving in California, Hazmi and Mihdhar sought 
out and found a group of young and ideologically like-minded Muslims with 
roots in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, individuals mainly associated with Mohdar 
Abdullah and the Rabat mosque. The al Qaeda operatives lived openly in San 
Diego under their true names, listing Hazmi in the telephone directory. They 
managed to avoid attracting much attention. 

Flight Training Fails; Mihdhar Bails Out 

Hazmi and Mihdhar came to the United States to learn English, take flying 
lessons, and become pilots as quickly as possible. They turned out, however, to 
have no aptitude for English. Even with help and tutoring from Mohdar Abdul- 
lah and other bilingual friends, Hazmi and Mihdhar's efforts to learn proved 
futile. This lack of language skills in turn became an insurmountable barrier to 
learning how to fly. 36 

A pilot they consulted at one school, the Sorbi Flying Club in San Diego, 
spoke Arabic. He explained to them that their flight instruction would begin 
with small planes. Hazmi and Mihdhar emphasized their interest in learning to 
fly jets, Boeing aircraft in particular, and asked where they might enroll to train 



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222 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

on jets right away. Convinced that the two were either joking or dreaming, the 
pilot responded that no such school existed. Other instructors who worked 
with Hazmi and Mihdhar remember them as poor students who focused on 
learning to control the aircraft in flight but took no interest in takeoffs or land- 
ings. By the end of May 2000, Hazmi and Mihdhar had given up on learning 
how to fly. 37 

Mihdhar's mind seems to have been with his family back in Yemen, as evi- 
denced by calls he made from the apartment telephone. When news of the birth 
of his first child arrived, he could stand life in California no longer. In late May 
and early June of 2000, he closed his bank account, transferred the car regis- 
tration to Hazmi, and arranged his return to Yemen. According to KSM, Mih- 
dhar was bored in San Diego and foresaw no problem in coming back to the 
United States since he had not overstayed his visa. Hazmi and Mohdar Abdul- 
lah accompanied him to Los Angeles on June 9. After visiting the King Fahd 
mosque one last time with his friends, Mihdhar left the country the follow- 
ing day 38 

KSM kept in fairly close touch with his operatives, using a variety of meth- 
ods. When Bin Ladin called KSM back from Pakistan to Afghanistan in the 
spring of 2000, KSM asked Khallad (whom we introduced in chapter 5) to 
maintain email contact with Hazmi in the United States. Mihdhar's decision 
to strand Hazmi in San Diego enraged KSM, who had not authorized the 
departure and feared it would compromise the plan. KSM attempted to drop 
Mihdhar from the planes operation and would have done so, he says, had he 
not been overruled by Bin Ladin. 39 

Following Mihdhar's departure, Hazmi grew lonely and worried that he 
would have trouble managing by himself. He prayed with his housemate each 
morning at 5:00 A.M. and attended services at the Islamic Center. He borrowed 
his housemate's computer for Internet access, following news coverage of fight- 
ing in Chechnya and Bosnia. With his housemate's help, Hazmi also used the 
Internet to search for a wife (after obtaining KSM's approval to marry). This 
search did not succeed. Although he developed a close relationship with his 
housemate, Hazmi preferred not to use the house telephone, continuing the 
practice he and Mihdhar had adopted of going outside to make phone calls. 40 

After Mihdhar left, other students moved into the house. One of these, 
Yazeed al Salmi, stands out. In July 2000, Salmi purchased $4,000 in traveler's 
checks at a bank in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. On September 5, Hazmi deposited 
$1,900 of the traveler's checks into his bank account, after withdrawing the 
same amount in cash. It is possible that Hazmi was simply cashing the traveler's 
checks for a friend. We do not know; Salmi claims not to remember the trans- 
action. After 9/11, Salmi reportedly confided to Mohdar Abdullah that he had 
previously known terrorist pilot Hani Hanjour. After living in the same house 
with Hazmi for about a month, Salmi moved to the La Mesa apartment shared 
by Abdullah and others. 41 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 223 

By the fall of 2000, Hazmi no longer even pretended to study English or 
take flying lessons. Aware that his co-conspirators in Afghanistan and Pakistan 
would be sending him a new colleague shortly, he bided his time and worked 
for a few weeks at a gas station in La Mesa where some of his friends, includ- 
ing Abdullah, were employed. On one occasion, Hazmi told a fellow employee 
that he was planning to find a better job, and let slip a prediction that he would 
become famous. 42 

On December 8, 2000, Hani Hanjour arrived in San Diego, having traveled 
from Dubai via Paris and Cincinnati. Hazmi likely picked up Hanjour at the 
airport.We do not know where Hanjour stayed; a few days later, both men left 
San Diego. Before departing, they visited the gas station in La Mesa, where 
Hazmi reportedly introduced Hanjour as a "long time friend from Saudi Ara- 
bia." Hazmi told his housemate that he and his friend "Hani" were headed for 
San Jose to take flying lessons and told his friends that he would stay in touch. 
Hazmi promised to return to San Diego soon, and he and Hanjour drove off 43 

Hazmi did not sever all contact with his friends in San Diego. According to 
Abdullah, after Hazmi left San Diego in December 2000, he telephoned Abdul- 
lah twice: in December 2000 or January 2001, Hazmi said he was in San Fran- 
cisco and would be attending flight school there; about two weeks later, he said 
he was attending flight school in Arizona. Some evidence, which we will dis- 
cuss later, indicates that Hazmi contacted Abdullah again, in August 2001. In 
addition, during the month following Hazmi's departure from San Diego, he 
emailed his housemate three times, including a January 2001 email that Hazmi 
signed "Smer," an apparent attempt to conceal his identity that struck the 
housemate as strange at the time. Hazmi also telephoned his housemate that 
he and his friend had decided to take flight lessons in Arizona, and that Mih- 
dhar was now back in Yemen. That was their last contact. When the housemate 
emailed Hazmi in February and March of 2001 to find out how he was far- 
ing, Hazmi did not reply. 44 

The housemate who rented the room to Hazmi and Mihdhar during 2000 
is an apparently law-abiding citizen with long-standing, friendly contacts 
among local police and FBI personnel. He did not see anything unusual enough 
in the behavior of Hazmi or Mihdhar to prompt him to report to his law 
enforcement contacts. Nor did those contacts ask him for information about 
his tenants/housemates. 



7.2 THE 9/11 PILOTS IN THE UNITED STATES 

The Hamburg Pilots Arrive in the United States 

In the early summer of 2000, the Hamburg group arrived in the United States 
to begin flight training. Marwan al Shehhi came on May 29, arriving in Newark 
on a flight from Brussels. He went to New York City and waited there for 



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224 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

Mohamed Atta to join him. On June 2,Atta traveled to the Czech Republic 
by bus from Germany and then flew from Prague to Newark the next day. 
According to Ramzi Binalshibh, Atta did not meet with anyone in Prague; he 
simply believed it would contribute to operational security to fly out of Prague 
rather than Hamburg, the departure point for much of his previous interna- 
tional travel. 45 

Atta and Shehhi had not settled on where they would obtain their flight 
training. In contrast, Ziad Jarrah had already arranged to attend the Florida 
Flight Training Center (FFTC) in Venice, Florida. Jarrah arrived in Newark on 
June 27 and then flew to Venice. He immediately began the private pilot pro- 
gram at FFTC, intending to get a multi-engine license. Jarrah moved in with 
some of the flight instructors affiliated with his school and bought a car. 46 

While Jarrah quickly settled into training in Florida, Atta and Shehhi kept 
searching for a flight school. After visiting the Airman Flight School in Nor- 
man, Oklahoma (where Zacarias Moussaoui would enroll several months later 
and where another al Qaeda operative, Ihab Ali, had taken lessons in the mid- 
1990s), Atta started flight instruction at Huffman Aviation in Venice, Florida, 
and both Atta and Shehhi subsequently enrolled in the Accelerated Pilot Pro- 
gram at that school. By the end of July, both of them took solo flights, and by 
mid-August they passed the private pilot airman test. They trained through the 
summer at Huffman, while Jarrah continued his training at FFTC. 47 

The Hamburg operatives paid for their flight training primarily with funds 
wired from Dubai by KSM's nephew,Ali Abdul Aziz Ali. Between June 29 and 
September 17, 2000, Ali sent Shehhi and Atta a total of $114,500 in five trans- 
fers ranging from $5,000 to $70,000. Ali relied on the unremarkable nature of 
his transactions, which were essentially invisible amid the billions of dollars 
flowing daily across the globe. 48 Ali was not required to provide identification 
in sending this money and the aliases he used were not questioned. 49 

In mid-September,Atta and Shehhi applied to change their immigration sta- 
tus from tourist to student, stating their intention to study at Huffman until 
September 1, 2001. In late September, they decided to enroll at Jones Aviation 
in Sarasota, Florida, about 20 miles north ofVenice. According to the instruc- 
tor at Jones, the two were aggressive, rude, and sometimes even fought with 
him to take over the controls during their training flights. In early October, 
they took the Stage I exam for instruments rating at Jones Aviation and failed. 
Very upset, they said they were in a hurry because jobs awaited them at home. 
Atta and Shehhi then returned to Huffman. 50 

In the meantime, Jarrah obtained a single-engine private pilot certificate in 
early August. Having reached that milestone, he departed on the first of five 
foreign trips he would take after first entering the United States. In October, 
he flew back to Germany to visit his girlfriend, Aysel Senguen.The two trav- 
eled to Paris before Jarrah returned to Florida on October 29. His relationship 
with her remained close throughout his time in the United States. In addition 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 225 

to his trips, Jarrah made hundreds of phone calls to her and communicated fre- 
quently by email. 51 

Jarrah was supposed to be joined at FFTC by Ramzi Binalshibh, who even 
sent the school a deposit. But Binalshibh could not obtain a U.S. visa. His first 
applications in May and June 2000 were denied because he lacked established 
ties in Germany ensuring his return from a trip to the United States. In Sep- 
tember, he went home to Yemen to apply for a visa from there, but was denied 
on grounds that he also lacked sufficient ties to Yemen. In October, he tried 
one last time, in Berlin, applying for a student visa to attend "aviation language 
school," but the prior denials were noted and this application was denied as 
well, as incomplete. 52 

Unable to participate directly in the operation, Binalshibh instead took on 
the role of coordinating between KSM and the operatives in the United States. 
Apart from sending a total of about $10,000 in wire transfers to Atta and Sheh- 
hi during the summer of 2000, one of Binalshibh's first tasks in his new role as 
plot coordinator was to assist another possible pilot, Zacarias Moussaoui. 53 

In the fall of 2000, KSM had sent Moussaoui to Malaysia for flight training, 
but Moussaoui did not find a school he liked. He worked instead on other ter- 
rorist schemes, such as buying four tons of ammonium nitrate for bombs to be 
planted on cargo planes flying to the United States. When KSM found out, he 
recalled Moussaoui back to Pakistan and directed him to go to the United 
States for flight training. In early October, Moussaoui went to London. When 
Binalshibh visited London in December, he stayed at the same 16-room dor- 
mitory where Moussaoui was still residing. From London, Moussaoui sent 
inquiries to the Airman Flight School in Norman, Oklahoma. 54 

Confronting training or travel problems with Hazmi, Mihdhar, Binalshibh, 
and Moussaoui, al Qaeda was looking for another possible pilot candidate. A 
new recruit with just the right background conveniently presented himself in 
Afghanistan. 

The Fourth Pilot: Hani Hanjour 

Hani Hanjour, fromTa'if, Saudi Arabia, first came to the United States in 1991 
to study at the Center for English as a Second Language at the University of 
Arizona. He seems to have been a rigorously observant Muslim. According to 
his older brother, Hani Hanjour went to Afghanistan for the first time in the 
late 1980s, as a teenager, to participate in the jihad and, because the Soviets had 
already withdrawn, worked for a relief agency there. 55 

In 1996, Hanjour returned to the United States to pursue flight training, 
after being rejected by a Saudi flight school. He checked out flight schools in 
Florida, California, and Arizona; and he briefly started at a couple of them 
before returning to Saudi Arabia. In 1997, he returned to Florida and then, 
along with two friends, went back to Arizona and began his flight training there 
in earnest. After about three months, Hanjour was able to obtain his private 



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226 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

pilot's license. Several more months of training yielded him a commercial pilot 
certificate, issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in April 1999. 
He then returned to Saudi Arabia. 56 

Hanjour reportedly applied to the civil aviation school in Jeddah after 
returning home, but was rejected. He stayed home for a while and then told 
his family he was going to the United Arab Emirates to work for an airline. 
Where Hanjour actually traveled during this time period is unknown. It is pos- 
sible he went to the training camps in Afghanistan. 57 

The fact that Hanjour spent so much time in Arizona may be significant. A 
number of important al Qaeda figures attended the University of Arizona in 
Tucson or lived in Tucson in the 1980s and early 1990s. 58 Some of Hanjour's 
known Arizona associates from the time of his flight training in the late 1990s 
have also raised suspicion. 59 FBI investigators have speculated that al Qaeda may 
have directed other extremist Muslims in the Phoenix area to enroll in avia- 
tion training. It is clear that when Hanjour lived in Arizona in the 1990s, he 
associated with several individuals holding extremist beliefs who have been the 
subject of counterterrorism investigations. Some of them trained with Han- 
jour to be pilots. Others had apparent connections to al Qaeda, including train- 
ing in Afghanistan. 60 

By the spring of 2000, Hanjour was back in Afghanistan. According to KSM, 
Hanjour was sent to him in Karachi for inclusion in the plot after Hanjour was 
identified in al Qaeda s al Faruq camp as a trained pilot, on the basis of back- 
ground information he had provided. Hanjour had been at a camp in 
Afghanistan for a few weeks when Bin Ladin or Atef apparently realized that 
he was a trained pilot; he was told to report to KSM, who then trained Han- 
jour for a few days in the use of code words. 61 

On June 20, Hanjour returned home to Saudi Arabia. He obtained a U.S. 
student visa on September 25 and told his family he was returning to his job 
in the UAE. Hanjour did go to the UAE, but to meet facilitator Ali Abdul 
AzizAli. 62 

Ali opened a bank account in Dubai for Hanjour and providing the initial 
funds for his trip. On December 8, Hanjour traveled to San Diego. His supposed 
destination was an English as a second language program in Oakland, Califor- 
nia, which he had scheduled before leaving Saudi Arabia but never attended. 
Instead, as mentioned earlier, he joined Nawaf al Hazmi in San Diego. 63 

Hazmi and Hanjour left San Diego almost immediately and drove to Ari- 
zona. Settling in Mesa, Hanjour began refresher training at his old school, Ari- 
zona Aviation. He wanted to train on multi-engine planes, but had difficulties 
because his English was not good enough. The instructor advised him to dis- 
continue but Hanjour said he could not go home without completing the 
training. In early 2001, he started training on a Boeing 737 simulator at Pan 
Am International Flight Academy in Mesa. An instructor there found his work 
well below standard and discouraged him from continuing. Again, Hanjour per- 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 227 

severed; he completed the initial training by the end of March 2001. At that 
point, Hanjour and Hazmi vacated their apartment and started driving east, 
anticipating the arrival of the "muscle hijackers" — the operatives who would 
storm the cockpits and control the passengers. By as early as April 4, Hanjour 
and Hazmi had arrived in Falls Church, Virginia. 64 

The three pilots in Florida continued with their training. Atta and Shehhi 
finished up at Huffman and earned their instrument certificates from the FAA 
in November. In mid-December 2000, they passed their commercial pilot tests 
and received their licenses. They then began training to fly large jets on a flight 
simulator. At about the same time, Jarrah began simulator training, also in 
Florida but at a different center. By the end of 2000, less than six months after 
their arrival, the three pilots on the East Coast were simulating flights on large 
jets. 65 

Travels in Early 2001 

Jarrah, Atta, and Shehhi, having progressed in their training, all took foreign 
trips during the holiday period of 2000— 2001. Jarrah flew through Germany 
to get home to Beirut. A few weeks later, he returned to Florida via Germany, 
with Aysel Senguen. She stayed with him in Florida for ten days, even accom- 
panying him to a flight training session. We do not know whether Atta or al 
Qaeda leaders knew about Jarrah s trips and Senguen s visit. The other opera- 
tives had broken off regular contact with their families. At the end of January 
2001, Jarrah again flew to Beirut, to visit his sick father. After staying there for 
several weeks, Jarrah visited Senguen in Germany for a few days before return- 
ing to the United States at the end of February. 66 

While Jarrah took his personal trips, Atta traveled to Germany in early Jan- 
uary 2001 for a progress meeting with Ramzi Binalshibh. Binalshibh says Atta 
told him to report to the al Qaeda leadership in Afghanistan that the three 
Hamburg pilots had completed their flight training and were awaiting orders. 
Atta also disclosed that a fourth pilot, Hanjour, had joined Hazmi. Upon 
returning to Florida, Atta wired Binalshibh travel money. Binalshibh proceeded 
to Afghanistan, made his report, and spent the next several months there and 
in Pakistan. 67 

When Atta returned to Florida, Shehhi left for Morocco, traveling to 
Casablanca in mid-January Shehhi's family, concerned about not having heard 
from him, reported him missing to the UAE government. The UAE embassy 
in turn contacted the Hamburg police and a UAE representative tried to find 
him in Germany, visiting mosques and Shehhi's last address in Hamburg. After 
learning that his family was looking for him, Shehhi telephoned them on Jan- 
uary 20 and said he was still living and studying in Hamburg. The UAE gov- 
ernment then told the Hamburg police they could call off the search. 68 

Atta and Shehhi both encountered some difficulty reentering the United 
States, on January 10 and January 18, respectively. Because neither presented a 



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228 



THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 



Atta's Alleged Trip to Prague 

Mohamed Atta is known to have been in Prague on two occasions: in 
December 1994, when he stayed one night at a transit hotel, and in June 
2000, when he was en route to the United States. On the latter occa- 
sion, he arrived by bus from Germany, on June 2, and departed for 
Newark the following day 69 

The allegation that Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in 
Prague in April 2001 originates from the reporting of a single source of 
the Czech intelligence service. Shortly after 9/11, the source reported 
having seen Atta meet with Ahmad Khalil Ibrahim Samir al Ani, an Iraqi 
diplomat, at the Iraqi Embassy in Prague onApril 9, 2001, at 11:00 A.M. 
This information was passed to CIA headquarters. 

The U.S. legal attache ("Legat") in Prague, the representative of the 
FBI, met with the Czech service's source. After the meeting, the assess- 
ment of the Legat and the Czech officers present was that they were 70 
percent sure that the source was sincere and believed his own story of 
the meeting. Subsequently, the Czech intelligence service publicly stated 
that there was a 70 percent probability that the meeting between Atta 
and Ani had taken place. The Czech Interior Minister also made several 
statements to the press about his belief that the meeting had occurred, 
and the story was widely reported. 

The FBI has gathered evidence indicating that Atta was in Virginia 
Beach on April 4 (as evidenced by a bank surveillance camera photo), 
and in Coral Springs, Florida on April 11, where he and Shehhi leased 
an apartment. OnApril 6, 9, 10, and 1 1, Atta's cellular telephone was used 
numerous times to call various lodging establishments in Florida from 
cell sites within Florida. We cannot confirm that he placed those calls. 
But there are no U.S. records indicating that Atta departed the country 
during this period. Czech officials have reviewed their flight and bor- 
der records as well for any indication that Atta was in the Czech Repub- 
lic in April 2001, including records of anyone crossing the border who 
even looked Arab. They have also reviewed pictures from the area near 
the Iraqi embassy and have not discovered photos of anyone who looked 
like Atta. No evidence has been found that Atta was in the Czech 
Republic in April 2001. 

According to the Czech government, Ani, the Iraqi officer alleged to 
have met with Atta, was about 70 miles away from Prague on April 8—9 
and did not return until the afternoon of the ninth, while the source was 
firm that the sighting occurred at 11:00 A.M. When questioned about 
the reported April 2001 meeting, Ani — now in custody — has denied ever 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 



229 



meeting or having any contact with Atta.Ani says that shortly after 9/11, 
he became concerned that press stories about the alleged meeting might 
hurt his career. Hoping to clear his name, Ani asked his superiors to 
approach the Czech government about refuting the allegation. He also 
denies knowing of any other Iraqi official having contact with Atta. 

These findings cannot absolutely rule out the possibility that Atta was 
in Prague on April 9, 2001. He could have used an alias to travel and a 
passport under that alias, but this would be an exception to his practice 
of using his true name while traveling (as he did in January and would 
in July when he took his next overseas trip). The FBI and CIA have 
uncovered no evidence that Atta held any fraudulent passports. 

KSM and Binalshibh both deny that an Atta-Ani meeting occurred. 
There was no reason for such a meeting, especially considering the risk 
it would pose to the operation. By April 2001, all four pilots had com- 
pleted most of their training, and the muscle hijackers were about to begin 
entering the United States. 

The available evidence does not support the original Czech report of 
an Atta-Ani meeting. 70 



student visa, both of them had to persuade INS inspectors that they should be 
admitted so that they could continue their flight training. Neither operative 
had any problem clearing Customs. 71 

After returning to Florida from their trips,Atta and Shehhi visited Georgia, 
staying briefly in Norcross and Decatur, and renting a single-engine plane to 
fly with an instructor in Lawrenceville. By February 19, Atta and Shehhi were 
in Virginia. They rented a mailbox in Virginia Beach, cashed a check, and then 
promptly returned to Georgia, staying in Stone Mountain. We have found no 
explanation for these travels. In mid-March, Jarrah was in Georgia as well, stay- 
ing in Decatur.There is no evidence that the three pilots met, although Jarrah 
and Atta apparently spoke on the phone. At the end of the month, Jarrah left 
the United States again and visited Senguen in Germany for two weeks. In 
early April, Atta and Shehhi returned to Virginia Beach and closed the mail- 
box they had opened in February 72 

By the time Atta and Shehhi returned to Virginia Beach from their travels 
in Georgia, Hazmi and Hanjour had also arrived in Virginia, in Falls Church. 
They made their way to a large mosque there, the Dar al Hijra mosque, some- 
time in early April. 73 

As we mentioned earlier, one of the imams at this mosque was the same 
Anwar Aulaqi with whom Hazmi had spent time at the Rabat mosque in San 
Diego. Aulaqi had moved to Virginia in January 2001. He remembers Hazmi 



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230 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

from San Diego but has denied having any contact with Hazmi or Hanjour in 
Virginia. 74 

At the Dar al Hijra mosque, Hazmi and Hanjour met a Jordanian named 
Eyad al Rababah. Rababah says he had gone to the mosque to speak to the 
imam, Aulaqi, about finding -work. At the conclusion of services, which nor- 
mally had 400 to 500 attendees, Rababah says he happened to meet Hazmi 
and Hanjour. They were looking for an apartment; Rababah referred them to 
a friend who had one to rent. Hazmi and Hanjour moved into the apartment, 
which was in Alexandria. 75 

Some FBI investigators doubt Rababah's story. Some agents suspect that 
Aulaqi may have tasked Rababah to help Hazmi and Hanjour. We share that 
suspicion, given the remarkable coincidence of Aulaqi's prior relationship with 
Hazmi. As noted above, the Commission was unable to locate and interview 
Aulaqi. Rababah has been deported to Jordan, having been convicted after 9/11 
in a fraudulent driver's license scheme. 76 

Rababah, who had lived in Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey, told 
investigators that he had recommended Paterson, New Jersey, as a place with 
an Arabic-speaking community where Hazmi and Hanjour might want to set- 
tle. They asked for his help in getting them an apartment in Paterson. Rababah 
tried without success. He says he then suggested that Hazmi and Hanjour travel 
with him to Connecticut where they could look for a place to live. 77 

On May 8, Rababah went to Hazmi and Hanjour's apartment to pick them 
up for the trip to Connecticut. There he says he found them with new room- 
mates — Ahmed al Ghamdi and Majed Moqed. These two men had been sent 
to America to serve as muscle hijackers and had arrived at Dulles Airport on 
May 2. Rababah drove Hanjour to Fairfield, Connecticut, followed by Hazmi, 
who had Moqed and Ghamdi in his car. After a short stay in Connecticut, 
where they apparently called area flight schools and real estate agents, 
Rababah drove the four to Paterson to have dinner and show them around. 
He says that they returned with him to Fairfield that night, and that he never 
saw them again. 78 

Within a few weeks, Hanjour, Hazmi, and several other operatives moved 
to Paterson and rented a one-room apartment. When their landlord later 
paid a visit, he found six men living there — Nawaf al Hazmi, now joined by 
his younger brother Salem, Hanjour, Moqed, probably Ahmed al Ghamdi, 
and Abdul Aziz al Omari; Hazmi s old friend Khalid al Mihdhar would soon 
join them. 79 

Atta and Shehhi had already returned to Florida. On April 1 1 , they moved 
into an apartment in Coral Springs. Atta stayed in Florida, awaiting the arrival 
of the first muscle hijackers. 80 

Shehhi, on the other hand, bought a ticket to Cairo and flew there from 
Miami on April 18. We do not know much more about Shehhi's reason for 
traveling to Egypt in April than we know about his January trip to Morocco. 



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S 



THE ATTACK LOOMS 231 

Shehhi did meet with Atta's father, who stated in a post-9/11 interview that 
Shehhi just wanted to pick up Atta's international driver's license and some 
money.This story is not credible. Atta already had the license with him and pre- 
sented it during a traffic stop on April 26 while Shehhi was still abroad. Sheh- 
hi spent about two weeks in Egypt, obviously more time than would have been 
needed just to meet with Atta's father. Shehhi could have traveled elsewhere 
during this time, but no records indicating additional travel have been discov- 
ered. 81 

Shehhi returned to Miami on May 2. That day, Atta and Jarrah were 
together, about 30 miles to the north, visiting a Department of MotorVehicles 
office in Lauderdale Lakes, Florida, to get Florida drivers licenses. Back in Vir- 
ginia, Hazmi and Hanjour were about to leave for Connecticut and New Jer- 
sey. As the summer approached, the lead operatives were settled in Florida and 
New Jersey, waiting for the rest of their contingent to join them. 82 



7.3 ASSEMBLING THE TEAMS 

During the summer and early autumn of 2000, Bin Ladin and senior al Qaeda 
leaders in Afghanistan started selecting the muscle hijackers — the operatives 
who would storm the cockpits and control the passengers. Despite the phrase 
widely used to describe them, the so-called muscle hijackers were not at all 
physically imposing; most were between 5' 5" and 5' 7" in height. 83 

Recruitment and Selection for 9/11 

Twelve of the 13 muscle hijackers (excluding Nawaf al Hazmi and Mihdhar) 
came from Saudi Arabia: Satam al Suqami,Wail al Shehri, Waleed al Shehri, 
Abdul Aziz al Omari, Ahmed al Ghamdi, Hamza al Ghamdi, Mohand al 
Shehri, Majed Moqed, Salem al Hazmi, Saeed al Ghamdi, Ahmad al Haznawi, 
and Ahmed al Nami. The remaining recruit, Fayez Banihammad, came from 
the UAE. He appears to have played a unique role among the muscle hijack- 
ers because of his work with one of the plot's financial facilitators, Mustafa al 
Hawsawi. 84 

Saudi authorities interviewed the relatives of these men and have briefed us 
on what they found. The muscle hijackers came from a variety of educational 
and societal backgrounds. All were between 20 and 28 years old; most were 
unemployed with no more than a high school education and were unmarried. 85 

Four of them — Ahmed al Ghamdi, Saeed al Ghamdi, Hamza al Ghamdi, 
and Ahmad al Haznawi — came from a cluster of three towns in the al Bahah 
region, an isolated and underdeveloped area of Saudi Arabia, and shared the 
same tribal affiliation. None had a university degree. Their travel patterns and 
information from family members suggest that the four may have been in con- 
tact with each other as early as the fall of 1999. 86 



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232 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

Five more — Wail al Shehri,Waleed al Shehri, Abdul Aziz al Omari, Mohand 
al Shehri, and Ahmed al Nami — came from Asir Province, a poor region in 
southwestern Saudi Arabia that borders Yemen; this weakly policed area is 
sometimes called "the wild frontier." Wail andWaleed al Shehri were brothers. 
All five in this group had begun university studies. Omari had graduated with 
honors from high school, had attained a degree from the Imam Muhammad 
Ibn Saud Islamic University, was married, and had a daughter. 87 

The three remaining muscle hijackers from Saudi Arabia were Satam al 
Suqami, Majed Moqed, and Salem al Hazmi. Suqami came from Riyadh. 
Moqed hailed from a small town called Annakhil, west of Medina. Suqami had 
very little education, and Moqed had dropped out of university. Neither 
Suqami nor Moqed appears to have had ties to the other, or to any of the other 
operatives, before getting involved with extremists, probably by 1999. 88 

Salem al Hazmi, a younger brother of Nawaf, was born in Mecca. Salem's 
family recalled him as a quarrelsome teenager. His brother Nawaf probably rec- 
ommended him for recruitment into al Qaeda. One al Qaeda member who 
knew them says that Nawaf pleaded with Bin Ladin to allow Salem to partic- 
ipate in the 9/11 operation. 89 

Detainees have offered varying reasons for the use of so many Saudi oper- 
atives. Binalshibh argues that al Qaeda wanted to send a message to the gov- 
ernment of Saudi Arabia about its relationship with the United States. Several 
other al Qaeda figures, however, have stated that ethnicity generally was not a 
factor in the selection of operatives unless it was important for security or oper- 
ational reasons. 90 

KSM, for instance, denies that Saudis were chosen for the 9/11 plot to drive 
a wedge between the United States and Saudi Arabia, and stresses practical rea- 
sons for considering ethnic background when selecting operatives. He says that 
so many were Saudi because Saudis comprised the largest portion of the pool 
of recruits in the al Qaeda training camps. KSM estimates that in any given 
camp, 70 percent of the mujahideen were Saudi, 20 percent were Yemeni, and 
10 percent were from elsewhere. Although Saudi and Yemeni trainees were 
most often willing to volunteer for suicide operations, prior to 9/11 it was eas- 
ier for Saudi operatives to get into the United States. 91 

Most of the Saudi muscle hijackers developed their ties to extremists two 
or three years before the attacks. Their families often did not consider these 
young men religious zealots. Some were perceived as devout, others as lacking 
in faith. For instance, although Ahmed al Ghamdi, Hamza al Ghanidi, and Saeed 
al Ghamdi attended prayer services regularly and Omari often served as an 
imam at his mosque in Saudi Arabia, Suqami and Salem al Hazmi appeared 
unconcerned with religion and, contrary to Islamic law, were known to drink 
alcohol. 92 

Like many other al Qaeda operatives, the Saudis who eventually became 
the muscle hijackers were targeted for recruitment outside Afghanistan — 
probably in Saudi Arabia itself. Al Qaeda recruiters, certain clerics, and — in a 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 233 

few cases — family members probably all played a role in spotting potential 
candidates. Several of the muscle hijackers seem to have been recruited 
through contacts at local universities and mosques. 93 

According to the head of one of the training camps in Afghanistan, some 
were chosen by unnamed Saudi sheikhs who had contacts with al Qaeda. 
Omari, for example, is believed to have been a student of a radical Saudi cleric 
named Sulayman al Alwan. His mosque, which is located in al Qassim 
Province, is known among more moderate clerics as a "terrorist factory." The 
province is at the very heart of the strict Wahhabi movement in Saudi Arabia. 
Saeed al Ghamdi and Mohand al Shehri also spent time in al Qassim, both 
breaking with their families. According to his father, Mohand al Shehri's fre- 
quent visits to this area resulted in his failing exams at his university in Riyadh. 
Saeed al Ghamdi transferred to a university in al Qassim, but he soon stopped 
talking to his family and dropped out of school without informing them. 94 

The majority of these Saudi recruits began to break with their families in 
late 1999 and early 2000. According to relatives, some recruits began to make 
arrangements for extended absences. Others exhibited marked changes in 
behavior before disappearing. Salem al Hazmi's father recounted that Salem — 
who had had problems with alcohol and petty theft — stopped drinking and 
started attending mosque regularly three months before he disappeared. 95 

Several family members remembered that their relatives had expressed a 
desire to participate in jihad, particularly in Chechnya. None had mentioned 
going to Afghanistan. These statements might be true or cover stories. The four 
recruits from the al Ghamdi tribe, for example, all told their families that they 
were going to Chechnya. Only two — Ahmed al Ghamdi and Saeed al 
Ghamdi — had documentation suggesting travel to a Russian republic. 96 

Some aspiring Saudi mujahideen, intending to go to Chechnya, encoun- 
tered difficulties along the way and diverted to Afghanistan. In 1999, Ibn al 
Khattab — the primary commander of Arab nationals in Chechnya — reportedly 
had started turning away most foreign mujahideen because of their inexperi- 
ence and inability to adjust to the local conditions. KSM states that several of 
the 9/11 muscle hijackers faced problems traveling to Chechnya and so went 
to Afghanistan, where they were drawn into al Qaeda. 97 

Khallad has offered a more detailed story of how such diversions occurred. 
According to him, a number of Saudi mujahideen who tried to go to Chech- 
nya in 1999 to fight the Russians were stopped at the Turkish-Georgian bor- 
der. Upon arriving in Turkey, they received phone calls at guesthouses in places 
such as Istanbul and Ankara, informing them that the route to Chechnya via 
Georgia had been closed. These Saudis then decided to travel to Afghanistan, 
where they could train and wait to make another attempt to enter Chechnya 
during the summer of 2000. While training at al Qaeda camps, a dozen of them 
heard Bin Ladin's speeches, volunteered to become suicide operatives, and 
eventually were selected as muscle hijackers for the planes operation. Khallad 
says he met a number of them at the Kandahar airport, where they were help- 



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234 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

ing to provide extra security. He encouraged Bin Ladin to use them. Khallad 
claims to have been closest with Saeed al Ghamdi, whom he convinced to 
become a martyr and whom he asked to recruit a friend, Ahmed al Ghamdi, 
to the same cause. Although Khallad claims not to recall everyone from this 
group who was later chosen for the 9/11 operation, he says they also included 
Suqami,Waleed and Wail al Shehri, Omari, Nami, Hamza al Ghamdi, Salem al 
Hazmi, and Moqed. 98 

According to KSM, operatives volunteered for suicide operations and, for 
the most part, were not pressured to martyr themselves. Upon arriving in 
Afghanistan, a recruit would fill out an application with standard questions, such 
as, What brought you to Afghanistan? How did you travel here? How did you 
hear about us? What attracted you to the cause? What is your educational back- 
ground? Where have you worked before? Applications were valuable for deter- 
mining the potential of new arrivals, for filtering out potential spies from 
among them, and for identifying recruits with special skills. For instance, as 
pointed out earlier, Hani Hanjour noted his pilot training. Prospective opera- 
tives also were asked whether they were prepared to serve as suicide operatives; 
those who answered in the affirmative were interviewed by senior al Qaeda 
lieutenant Muhammad Atef." 

KSM claims that the most important quality for any al Qaeda operative 
was willingness to martyr himself. Khallad agrees, and claims that this criterion 
had preeminence in selecting the planes operation participants. The second 
most important criterion was demonstrable patience, Khallad says, because the 
planning for such attacks could take years. 100 

Khallad claims it did not matter whether the hijackers had fought in jihad 
previously, since he believes that U.S. authorities were not looking for such 
operatives before 9/11. But KSM asserts that young mujahideen with clean 
records were chosen to avoid raising alerts during travel. The al Qaeda train- 
ing camp head mentioned above adds that operatives with no prior involve- 
ment in activities likely to be known to international security agencies were 
purposefully selected for the 9/11 attacks. 101 

Most of the muscle hijackers first underwent basic training similar to that 
given other al Qaeda recruits. This included training in firearms, heavy 
weapons, explosives, and topography. Recruits learned discipline and military 
life.They were subjected to artificial stresses to measure their psychological fit- 
ness and commitment to jihad.At least seven of the Saudi muscle hijackers took 
this basic training regime at the al Faruq camp near Kandahar. This particular 
camp appears to have been the preferred location for vetting and training 
the potential muscle hijackers because of its proximity to Bin Ladin and 
senior al Qaeda leadership.Two others — Suqami and Moqed — trained at Khal- 
dan, another large basic training facility located near Kabul, where Mihdhar had 
trained in the mid-1990s. 102 

By the time operatives for the planes operation were picked in mid-2000, 
some of them had been training in Afghanistan for months, others were just 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 235 

arriving for the first time, and still others may have been returning after prior 
visits to the camps. According to KSM, Bin Ladin would travel to the camps 
to deliver lectures and meet the trainees personally. If Bin Ladin believed a 
trainee held promise for a special operation, that trainee would be invited to 
the al Qaeda leader's compound atTarnak Farms for further meetings. 103 

KSM claims that Bin Ladin could assess new trainees very quickly, in about 
ten minutes, and that many of the 9/11 hijackers were selected in this manner. 
Bin Ladin, assisted by Atef, personally chose all the future muscle hijackers for 
the planes operation, primarily between the summer of 2000 and April 2001. 
Upon choosing a trainee, Bin Ladin would ask him to swear loyalty for a sui- 
cide operation. After the selection and oath-swearing, the operative would be 
sent to KSM for training and the filming of a martyrdom video, a function 
KSM supervised as head of al Qaeda s media committee. 104 

KSM sent the muscle hijacker recruits on to Saudi Arabia to obtain U.S. 
visas. He gave them money (about $2,000 each) and instructed them to return 
to Afghanistan for more training after obtaining the visas. At this early stage, 
the operatives were not told details about the operation.The majority of the 
Saudi muscle hijackers obtained U.S. visas in Jeddah or Riyadh between Sep- 
tember and November of 2000. 105 

KSM told potential hijackers to acquire new"clean" passports in their home 
countries before applying for a U.S. visa. This was to avoid raising suspicion 
about previous travel to countries where al Qaeda operated. Fourteen of the 
19 hijackers, including nine Saudi muscle hijackers, obtained new passports. 
Some of these passports were then likely doctored by the al Qaeda passport 
division in Kandahar, which would add or erase entry and exit stamps to cre- 
ate "false trails" in the passports. 106 

In addition to the operatives who eventually participated in the 9/11 attacks 
as muscle hijackers, Bin Ladin apparently selected at least nine other Saudis 
who, for various reasons, did not end up taking part in the operation: 
Mohamed Mani Ahmad al Kahtani, Khalid Saeed Ahmad al Zahrani, Ali Abd 
al Rahman al Faqasi al Ghamdi, Saeed al Baluchi, Qutaybah al Najdi, Zuhair 
al Thubaiti, Saeed Abdullah Saeed al Ghamdi, Saud al Rashid, and Mushabib 
al Hamlan. A tenth individual, a Tunisian with Canadian citizenship named 
Abderraouf Jdey, may have been a candidate to participate in 9/1 1, or he may 
have been a candidate for a later attack. These candidate hijackers either backed 
out, had trouble obtaining needed travel documents, or were removed from the 
operation by the al Qaeda leadership. Khallad believes KSM wanted between 
four and six operatives per plane. KSM states that al Qaeda had originally 
planned to use 25 or 26 hijackers but ended up with only the 19. 107 

Final Training and Deployment to the United States 

Having acquired U.S. visas in Saudi Arabia, the muscle hijackers returned to 
Afghanistan for special training in late 2000 to early 2001. The training report- 
edly was conducted at the al Matar complex by Abu Turab al Jordani, one of 



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236 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

only a handful of al Qaeda operatives who, according to KSM, was aware of 
the full details of the planned planes operation. Abu Turab taught the opera- 
tives how to conduct hijackings, disarm air marshals, and handle explosives. He 
also trained them in bodybuilding and provided them with a few basic Eng- 
lish words and phrases. 108 

According to KSM, Abu Turab even had the trainees butcher a sheep and a 
camel with a knife to prepare to use knives during the hijackings. The recruits 
learned to focus on storming the cockpit at the earliest opportunity when the 
doors first opened, and to worry about seizing control over the rest of the plane 
later. The operatives were taught about other kinds of attack as well, such as 
truck bombing, so that they would not be able to disclose the exact nature of 
their operation if they were caught. According to KSM, the muscle did not 
learn the full details — including the plan to hijack planes and fly them into 
buildings — before reaching the United States. 109 

After training in Afghanistan, the operatives went to a safehouse maintained 
by KSM in Karachi and stayed there temporarily before being deployed to the 
United States via the UAE.The safehouse was run by al Qaeda operative Abd 
al Rahim Ghuluni Rabbani, also known as Abu Rahmah, a close associate of 
KSM who assisted him for three years by finding apartments and lending logis- 
tical support to operatives KSM would send. 

According to an al Qaeda facilitator, operatives were brought to the safe- 
house by a trusted Pakistani al Qaeda courier named Abdullah Sindhi, who 
also worked for KSM. The future hijackers usually arrived in groups of two 
or three, staying at the safe house for as long as two weeks. The facilitator has 
identified each operative whom he assisted at KSM's direction in the spring 
of 2001. Before the operatives left Pakistan, each of them received $10,000 
from KSM for future expenses. 110 

From Pakistan, the operatives transited through the UAE en route to the 
United States. In the Emirates they were assisted primarily by al Qaeda oper- 
atives Ali Abdul Aziz Ali and Mustafa al Hawsawi. Ali apparently assisted nine 
future hijackers between April and June 2001 as they came through Dubai. He 
helped them with plane tickets, traveler's checks, and hotel reservations; he also 
taught them about everyday aspects of life in the West, such as purchasing 
clothes and ordering food. Dubai, a modern city with easy access to a major 
airport, travel agencies, hotels, and Western commercial establishments, was an 
ideal transit point. 111 

Ali reportedly assumed the operatives he was helping were involved in a big 
operation in the United States, he did not know the details. 112 When he asked 
KSM to send him an assistant, KSM dispatched Hawsawi, who had worked on 
al Qaeda s media committee in Kandahar. Hawsawi helped send the last four 
operatives (other than Mihdhar) to the United States from the UAE. Hawsawi 
would consult with Atta about the hijackers' travel schedules to the United 
States and later check with Atta to confirm that each had arrived. Hawsawi told 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 237 

the muscle hijackers that they would be met by Atta at the airport. Hawsawi 
also facilitated some of the operation's financing. 113 

The muscle hijackers began arriving in the United States in late April 2001. 
In most cases, they traveled in pairs on tourist visas and entered the United 
States in Orlando or Miami, Florida; Washington, D.C.; or New York. Those 
arriving in Florida were assisted by Atta and Shehhi, while Hazmi and Han- 
jour took care of the rest. By the end of June, 14 of the 15 muscle hijackers 
had crossed the Atlantic. 114 

The muscle hijackers supplied an infusion of funds, which they carried as a 
mixture of cash and traveler's checks purchased in the UAE and Saudi Arabia. 
Seven muscle hijackers are known to have purchased a total of nearly $50,000 
in traveler's checks that were used in the United States. Moreover, substantial 
deposits into operatives' U.S. bank accounts immediately followed the entry of 
other muscle hijackers, indicating that those newcomers brought money with 
them as well. In addition, muscle hijacker Banihammad came to the United 
States after opening bank accounts in the UAE into which were deposited the 
equivalent of approximately $30,000 on June 25, 2001. After his June 27 arrival 
in the United States, Banihammad made Visa and ATM withdrawals from his 
UAE accounts. 115 

The hijackers made extensive use of banks in the United States, choosing 
both branches of major international banks and smaller regional banks. All of 
the hijackers opened accounts in their own name, and used passports and other 
identification documents that appeared valid on their face. Contrary to numer- 
ous published reports, there is no evidence the hijackers ever used false Social 
Security numbers to open any bank accounts. While the hijackers were not 
experts on the use of the U.S. financial system, nothing they did would have 
led the banks to suspect criminal behavior, let alone a terrorist plot to commit 
mass murder. 116 

The last muscle hijacker to arrive was Khalid al Mihdhar. As mentioned ear- 
lier, he had abandoned Hazmi in San Diego in June 2000 and returned to his 
family in Yemen. Mihdhar reportedly stayed in Yemen for about a month before 
Khallad persuaded him to return to Afghanistan. Mihdhar complained about 
life in the United States. He met with KSM,who remained annoyed at his deci- 
sion to go AWOL. But KSM's desire to drop him from the operation yielded 
to Bin Ladin's insistence to keep him. 117 

By late 2000, Mihdhar was in Mecca, staying with a cousin until February 
2001, when he went home to visit his family before returning to Afghanistan. 
In June 2001, Mihdhar returned once more to Mecca to stay with his cousin 
for another month. Mihdhar said that Bin Ladin was planning five attacks on 
the United States. Before leaving, Mihdhar asked his cousin to watch over his 
home and family because of a job he had to do. 118 

On July 4, 2001, Mihdhar left Saudi Arabia to return to the United States, 
arriving at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. Mihdhar gave 



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238 



THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 






American Airlines 
Flight 11 

Left to right, 
Mohamed Atta, pilot; 
Waleed al Shehri, 
Wail al Shehri, 
Satam al Suqarni, 
Abdulaziz al Oman, 
hijackers 






United Airlines 
Flight 175 

Left to right, 
Maiwan al Shehhi, 
pilot; Fayez Baniham- 
mad, Ahmed al 
Ghaindi, Hamza al 
Ghamdi, Mohand al 
Shehri, hijackers 



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AL QAEDA AIMS AT THE AMERICAN HOMELAND 



239 






American Airlines 
Flight 77 

Left to right, 
Hani Hanjour, pilot; 
Nawaf al Hazmi, 
Khalid al Mihdhar, 
Majed Moqed, Salem 
al Hazmi, hijackers 





United Airlines 
Flight 93 

Left to right, 
Ziad Jarrah pilot; 
Saeed al Ghanidi, 
Ahmad al Haznawi, 
Ahmed al Nami, 
hijackers 



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240 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

his intended address as the Marriott Hotel, New York City, but instead spent 
one night at another New York hotel. He then joined the group of hijackers 
in Paterson, reuniting with Nawaf al Hazmi after more than a year. With two 
months remaining, all 19 hijackers were in the United States and ready to take 
the final steps toward carrying out the attacks. 119 

Assistance from Hezbollah and Iran to al Qaeda 

As we mentioned in chapter 2, -while in Sudan, senior managers in al Qaeda 
maintained contacts with Iran and the Iranian-supported worldwide terrorist 
organization Hezbollah, which is based mainly in southern Lebanon and 
Beirut. Al Qaeda members received advice and training from Hezbollah. 

Intelligence indicates the persistence of contacts between Iranian security 
officials and senior al Qaeda figures after Bin Ladin's return to Afghanistan. 
Khallad has said that Iran made a concerted effort to strengthen relations with 
al Qaeda after the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole, but was rebuffed 
because Bin Ladin did not want to alienate his supporters in Saudi Arabia. Khal- 
lad and other detainees have described the willingness of Iranian officials to 
facilitate the travel of al Qaeda members through Iran, on their way to and from 
Afghanistan. For example, Iranian border inspectors would be told not to place 
telltale stamps in the passports of these travelers. Such arrangements were par- 
ticularly beneficial to Saudi members of al Qaeda. 120 

Our knowledge of the international travels of the al Qaeda operatives 
selected for the 9/11 operation remains fragmentary. But we now have evi- 
dence suggesting that 8 to 10 of the 14 Saudi "muscle" operatives traveled into 
or out of Iran between October 2000 and February 2001. m 

In October 2000, a senior operative of Hezbollah visited Saudi Arabia to 
coordinate activities there. He also planned to assist individuals in Saudi Ara- 
bia in traveling to Iran during November. A top Hezbollah commander and 
Saudi Hezbollah contacts were involved. 122 

Also in October 2000, two future muscle hijackers, Mohand al Shehri and 
Hamza al Ghamdi, flew from Iran to Kuwait. In November, Ahmed al Ghamdi 
apparently flew to Beirut, traveling — perhaps by coincidence — on the same 
flight as a senior Hezbollah operative. Also in November, Salem al Hazmi appar- 
ently flew from Saudi Arabia to Beirut. 123 

In mid-November, we believe, three of the future muscle hijackers, Wail al 
Shehri, Waleed al Shehri, and Ahmed al Nami, all of whom had obtained their 
U.S. visas in late October, traveled in a group from Saudi Arabia to Beirut and 
then onward to Iran. An associate of a senior Hezbollah operative was on the 
same flight that took the future hijackers to Iran. Hezbollah officials in Beirut 
and Iran were expecting the arrival of a group during the same time period. 
The travel of this group was important enough to merit the attention of sen- 
ior figures in Hezbollah. 124 

Later in November, two future muscle hijackers, Satam al Suqami and Majed 



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Q 



THE ATTACK LOOMS 241 

Moqed, flew into Iran from Bahrain. In February 2001 , Khalid al Mihdhar may 
have taken a flight from Syria to Iran, and then traveled further within Iran to 
a point near the Afghan border. 125 

KSM and Binalshibh have confirmed that several of the 9/11 hijackers (at 
least eight, according to Binalshibh) transited Iran on their way to or from 
Afghanistan, taking advantage of the Iranian practice of not stamping Saudi 
passports. They deny any other reason for the hijackers' travel to Iran. They also 
deny any relationship between the hijackers and Hezbollah. 126 

In sum, there is strong evidence that Iran facilitated the transit of al Qaeda 
members into and out of Afghanistan before 9/11, and that some of these were 
future 9/11 hijackers. There also is circumstantial evidence that senior Hezbol- 
lah operatives were closely tracking the travel of some of these future muscle 
hijackers into Iran in November 2000. However, we cannot rule out the pos- 
sibility of a remarkable coincidence — that is, that Hezbollah was actually focus- 
ing on some other group of individuals traveling from Saudi Arabia during this 
same time frame, rather than the future hijackers. 127 

We have found no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the plan- 
ning for what later became the 9/11 attack. At the time of their travel through 
Iran, the al Qaeda operatives themselves were probably not aware of the spe- 
cific details of their future operation. 

After 9/11, Iran and Hezbollah wished to conceal any past evidence of 
cooperation with Sunni terrorists associated with al Qaeda. A senior Hezbol- 
lah official disclaimed any Hezbollah involvement in 9/1 1. 128 

We believe this topic requires further investigation by the U.S. government. 



7.4 FINAL STRATEGIES AND TACTICS 

Final Preparations in the United States 

During the early summer of 2001, Atta, assisted by Shehhi, was busy coordi- 
nating the arrival of most of the muscle hijackers in southern Florida — pick- 
ing them up at the airport, finding them places to stay, and helping them settle 
in the United States. 129 

The majority settled in Florida. Some opened bank accounts, acquired mail- 
boxes, and rented cars. Several also joined local gyms, presumably to stay fit for 
the operation. Upon first arriving, most stayed in hotels and motels; but by mid- 
June, they settled in shared apartments relatively close to one another and 
Atta. 130 Though these muscle hijackers did not travel much after arriving in 
the United States, two of them,Waleed al Shehri and Satam al Suqami, took 
unusual trips. 

On May 19, Shehri and Suqami flew from Fort Lauderdale to Freeport, 
the Bahamas, where they had reservations at the Bahamas Princess Resort.The 
two were turned away by Bahamian officials on arrival, however, because they 



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242 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

lacked visas; they returned to Florida that same day. They likely took this trip 
to renew Suqami's immigration status, as Suqami's legal stay in the United States 
ended May 21. 131 

On July 30, Shehri traveled alone from Fort Lauderdale to Boston. He flew 
to San Francisco the next day, where he stayed one night before returning via 
Las Vegas. While this travel may have been a casing flight — Shehri traveled in 
first class on the same type of aircraft he would help hijack on September 11 
(a Boeing 767) and the trip included a layover in Las Vegas — Shehri was nei- 
ther a pilot nor a plot leader, as were the other hijackers who took surveillance 
flights. «2 

The three Hamburg pilots — Atta, Shehhi, and Jarrah — took the first of their 
cross-country surveillance flights early in the summer. Shehhi flew from New 
York to Las Vegas via San Francisco in late May. Jarrah flew from Baltimore to 
Las Vegas via Los Angeles in early June. Atta flew from Boston to Las Vegas via 
San Francisco at the end of June. Each traveled in first class, on United Airlines. 
For the east-west transcontinental leg, each operative flew on the same type of 
aircraft he would pilot on September 11 (Atta and Shehhi, a Boeing 767; Jar- 
rah, a Boeing 757). 133 Hanjour and Hazmi, as noted below, took similar cross- 
country surveillance flights in August. 

Jarrah and Hanjour also received additional training and practice flights in 
the early summer. A few days before departing on his cross-country test flight, 
Jarrah flew from Fort Lauderdale to Philadelphia, where he trained at Hort- 
man Aviation and asked to fly the Hudson Corridor, a low-altitude "hallway" 
along the Hudson River that passes New York landmarks like the World Trade 
Center. Heavy traffic in the area can make the corridor a dangerous route for 
an inexperienced pilot. Because Hortman deemed Jarrah unfit to fly solo, he 
could fly this route only with an instructor. 134 

Hanjour, too, requested to fly the Hudson Corridor about this same time, 
at Air Fleet Training Systems inTeterboro, New Jersey, where he started receiv- 
ing ground instruction soon after settling in the area with Hazmi. Hanjour flew 
the Hudson Corridor, but his instructor declined a second request because of 
what he considered Hanjour's poor piloting skills. Shortly thereafter, Hanjour 
switched to Caldwell Flight Academy in Fairfield, New Jersey, where he rented 
small aircraft on several occasions during June and July. In one such instance 
on July 20, Hanjour — likely accompanied by Hazmi — rented a plane from 
Caldwell and took a practice flight from Fairfield to Gaithersburg, Maryland, 
a route that would have allowed them to fly near Washington, D.C. Other evi- 
dence suggests that Hanjour may even have returned to Arizona for flight sim- 
ulator training earlier in June. 135 

There is no indication that Atta or Shehhi received any additional flight 
training in June. Both were likely too busy organizing the newly arrived mus- 
cle hijackers and taking their cross-country surveillance flights. Atta, moreover, 
needed to coordinate with his second-in-command, Nawaf al Hazmi. 136 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 243 

Although Atta and Haznii appear to have been in Virginia at about the same 
time in early April, they probably did not meet then. Analysis of late April com- 
munications associated with KSM indicates that they had wanted to get 
together in April but could not coordinate the meeting. 137 Atta and Hazmi 
probably first met in the United States only when Haznii traveled round-trip 
from Newark to Miami between June 19 and June 25. 

After he returned to New Jersey, Hazmi s behavior began to closely paral- 
lel that of the other hijackers. He and Hanjour, for instance, soon established 
new bank accounts, acquired a mailbox, rented cars, and started visiting a gym. 
So did the four other hijackers who evidently were staying with them in New 
Jersey. Several also obtained new photo identification, first in New Jersey and 
then at the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles, where Hazmi and Hanjour 
had obtained such documents months earlier, likely with help from their Jor- 
danian friend, Rababah. 138 

Atta probably met again with Hazmi in early July. Returning from his ini- 
tial cross-country surveillance flight, Atta flew into New York. Rather than 
return immediately to Florida, he checked into a New Jersey hotel. He picked 
up tickets to travel to Spain at a travel agency in Paterson on July 4 before 
departing for Fort Lauderdale. Now that the muscle hijackers had arrived, he 
was ready to meet with Ramzi Binalshibh for the last time. 139 

The Meeting in Spain 

After meeting with Atta in Berlin in January 2001, Binalshibh had spent much 
of the spring of 2001 in Afghanistan and Pakistan, helping move the muscle 
hijackers as they passed through Karachi. During the Berlin meeting, the two 
had agreed to meet later in the year in Kuala Lumpur to discuss the operation 
in person again. In late May, Binalshibh reported directly to Bin Ladin at an 
al Qaeda facility known as "Compound Six" near Kandahar. 140 

Bin Ladin told Binalshibh to instruct Atta and the others to focus on their 
security and that of the operation, and to advise Atta to proceed as planned with 
the targets discussed before Atta left Afghanistan in early 2000 — the World 
Trade Center, the Pentagon, the White House, and the Capitol. According 
to Binalshibh, Bin Ladin said he preferred the White House over the Capitol, 
asking Binalshibh to confirm that Atta understood this preference. Binalshibh 
says Bin Ladin had given the same message to Waleed al Shehri for conveyance 
to Atta earlier that spring. Binalshibh also received permission to meet Atta in 
Malaysia. Atef provided money for the trip, which KSM would help Binalshibh 
arrange in Karachi. 141 

In early June, Binalshibh traveled by taxi from Kandahar to Quetta, Pakistan, 
where al Qaeda courier Abu Rahmah took him to KSM. According to Binal- 
shibh, KSM provided a plane ticket to Malaysia and a fraudulent Saudi pass- 
port to use for the trip. KSM told him to ask Atta to select a date for the attacks. 
Binalshibh was to return to Germany and then inform KSM of the date. KSM 



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244 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

also gave Binalshibh the email address of Zacarias Moussaoui for future con- 
tact. Binalshibh then left for Kuala Lumpur. 142 

Binalshibh contacted Atta upon arriving in Malaysia and found a change in 
plan. Atta could not travel because he was too busy helping the new arrivals 
settle in the United States. After remaining in Malaysia for approximately three 
weeks, Binalshibh went to Bangkok for a few days before returning to Ger- 
many. He and Atta agreed to meet later at a location to be determined. 143 

In early July, Atta called Binalshibh to suggest meeting in Madrid, for rea- 
sons Binalshibh claims not to know. He says he preferred Berlin, but that he 
and Atta knew too many people in Germany and feared being spotted 
together. Unable to buy a ticket to Madrid at the height of the tourist season, 
Binalshibh booked a seat on a flight to Reus, near Barcelona, the next day. Atta 
was already en route to Madrid, so Binalshibh phoned Shehhi in the United 
States to inform him of the change in itinerary. 144 

Atta arrived in Madrid on July 8. He spent the night in a hotel and made 
three calls from his room, most likely to coordinate with Binalshibh. The next 
day, Atta rented a car and drove to Reus to pick up Binalshibh; the two then 
drove to the nearby town of Cambrils. Hotel records show Atta renting rooms 
in the same area until July 19, when he returned his rental car in Madrid and 
flew back to Fort Lauderdale. On July 16, Binalshibh returned to Hamburg, 
using a ticket Atta had purchased for him earlier that day. According to Binal- 
shibh, they did not meet with anyone else while in Spain. 145 

Binalshibh says he told Atta that Bin Ladin wanted the attacks carried out 
as soon as possible. Bin Ladin, Binalshibh conveyed, was worried about hav- 
ing so many operatives in the United States. Atta replied that he could not yet 
provide a date because he was too busy organizing the arriving hijackers and 
still needed to coordinate the timing of the flights so that the crashes would 
occur simultaneously. Atta said he required about five to six weeks before he 
could provide an attack date. Binalshibh advised Atta that Bin Ladin had 
directed that the other operatives not be informed of the date until the last 
minute. Atta was to provide Binalshibh with advance notice of at least a week 
or two so that Binalshibh could travel to Afghanistan and report the date per- 
sonally to Bin Ladin. 146 

As to targets, Atta understood Bin Ladin s interest in striking the White 
House. Atta said he thought this target too difficult, but had tasked Hazmi and 
Hanjour to evaluate its feasibility and was awaiting their answer. Atta said that 
those two operatives had rented small aircraft and flown reconnaissance flights 
near the Pentagon. Atta explained that Hanjour was assigned to attack the Pen- 
tagon, Jarrah the Capitol, and that both Atta and Shehhi would hit the World 
Trade Center. If any pilot could not reach his intended target, he was to crash 
the plane. If Atta could not strike the World Trade Center, he planned to crash 
his aircraft directly into the streets of New York. Atta told Binalshibh that each 
pilot had volunteered for his assigned target, and that the assignments were sub- 
ject to change. 147 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 245 

During the Spain meeting, Atta also mentioned that he had considered tar- 
geting a nuclear facility he had seen during familiarization flights near New 
York — a target they referred to as "electrical engineering." According to Binal- 
shibh, the other pilots did not like the idea.They thought a nuclear target would 
be difficult because the airspace around it was restricted, making reconnaissance 
flights impossible and increasing the likelihood that any plane would be shot 
down before impact. Moreover, unlike the approved targets, this alternative had 
not been discussed with senior al Qaeda leaders and therefore did not have the 
requisite blessing. Nor would a nuclear facility have particular symbolic value. 
Atta did not ask Binalshibh to pass this idea on to Bin Ladin, Atef, or KSM, 
and Binalshibh says he did not mention it to them until after September ll. 148 

Binalshibh claims that during their time in Spain, he and Atta also discussed 
how the hijackings would be executed. Atta said he, Shehhi, and Jarrah had 
encountered no problems carrying box cutters on cross-country surveillance 
flights. The best time to storm the cockpit would be about 10—15 minutes after 
takeoff, when the cockpit doors typically were opened for the first time. Atta 
did not believe they would need any other weapons. He had no firm contin- 
gency plan in case the cockpit door was locked. While he mentioned general 
ideas such as using a hostage or claiming to have a bomb, he was confident the 
cockpit doors would be opened and did not consider breaking them down a 
viable idea. Atta told Binalshibh he wanted to select planes departing on long 
flights because they would be full of fuel, and that he wanted to hijack Boeing 
aircraft because he believed them easier to fly than Airbus aircraft, which he 
understood had an autopilot feature that did not allow them to be crashed into 
the ground. 149 

Finally, Atta confirmed that the muscle hijackers had arrived in the United 
States without incident. They would be divided into teams according to their 
English-speaking ability.That way they could assist each other before the oper- 
ation and each team would be able to command the passengers in English. 
According to Binalshibh, Atta complained that some of the hijackers wanted to 
contact their families to say goodbye, something he had forbidden. Atta, more- 
over, was nervous about his future communications with Binalshibh, whom he 
instructed to obtain new telephones upon returning to Germany. Before Binal- 
shibh left Spain, he gave Atta eight necklaces and eight bracelets that Atta had 
asked him to buy when he was recently in Bangkok, believing that if the hijack- 
ers were clean shaven and well dressed, others would think them wealthy Saudis 
and give them less notice. 150 

As directed, upon returning from Spain, Binalshibh obtained two new 
phones, one to communicate with Atta and another to communicate with 
KSM and others, such as Zacarias Moussaoui. Binalshibh soon contacted KSM 
and, using code words, reported the results of his meeting with Atta. This 
important exchange occurred in mid-July. 151 

The conversation covered various topics. For example, Jarrah was to send 
Binalshibh certain personal materials from the hijackers, including copies of their 



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246 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

passports, which Binalshibh in turn would pass along to KSM, probably for sub- 
sequent use in al Qaeda propaganda. 152 

The most significant part of the mid-July conversation concerned Jarrah's 
troubled relationship -with Atta. KSM and Binalshibh both acknowledge that 
Jarrah chafed under Atta s authority over him. Binalshibh believes the disagree- 
ment arose in part from Jarrah's family visits. Moreover, Jarrah had been on his 
own for most of his time in the United States because Binalshibh's visa diffi- 
culty had prevented the two of them from training together. Jarrah thus felt 
excluded from the decisionmaking. Binalshibh had to act as a broker between 
Jarrah and Atta. 153 

Concerned that Jarrah might withdraw from the operation at this late stage, 
KSM emphasized the importance of Atta and Jarrah's resolving their differ- 
ences. Binalshibh claims that such concern was unwarranted, and in their mid- 
July discussion reassured KSM that Atta and Jarrah would reconcile and be 
ready to move forward in about a month, after Jarrah visited his family. Not- 
ing his concern and the potential for delay, KSM at one point instructed Binal- 
shibh to send"the skirts" to "Sally" — a coded instruction to Binalshibh to send 
funds to Zacarias Moussaoui. While Binalshibh admits KSM did direct him to 
send Moussaoui money during the mid-July conversation, he denies knowing 
exactly why he received this instruction — though he thought the money was 
being provided "within the framework" of the 9/11 operation. 154 

KSM may have instructed Binalshibh to send money to Moussaoui in order 
to help prepare Moussaoui as a potential substitute pilot for Jarrah. On July 20, 
2001, Aysel Senguen, Jarrah's girlfriend, purchased a one-way ticket for Jarrah 
from Miami to Dusseldorf. On Jarrah's previous four trips from the United 
States to see Senguen and his family in Lebanon, he had always traveled with 
a round-trip ticket. When Jarrah departed Miami on July 25, Atta appears to 
have driven him to the airport, another unique circumstance. 155 

Binalshibh picked up Jarrah at the airport in Dusseldorf on July 25. Jarrah 
wanted to see Senguen as soon as possible, so he and Binalshibh arranged to 
meet a few days later.When they did, they had an emotional conversation dur- 
ing -which Binalshibh encouraged Jarrah to see the plan through. 156 

While Jarrah was in Germany, Binalshibh and Moussaoui were in contact 
to arrange for the transfer of funds. Binalshibh received two wire transfers from 
Hawsawi in the UAE totaling $15,000 and, within days, relayed almost all of 
this money to Moussaoui in two installments. 157 

Moussaoui had been taking flight lessons at the Airman Flight School in 
Norman, Oklahoma, since February but stopped in late May. Although at that 
point he had only about 50 hours of flight time and no solo flights to his credit, 
Moussaoui began making inquiries about flight materials and simulator train- 
ing for Boeing 747s. On July 10, he put down a $1,500 deposit for flight sim- 
ulator training at Pan Am International Flight Academy in Eagan, Minnesota, 
and by the end of the month, he had received a simulator schedule to train from 



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^3 



THE ATTACK LOOMS 247 

August 13 through August 20. Moussaoui also purchased two knives and 
inquired of two manufacturers of GPS equipment whether their products 
could be converted for aeronautical use — activities that closely resembled those 
of the 9/11 hijackers during their final preparations for the attacks. 158 

On August 10, shortly after getting the money from Binalshibh, Moussaoui 
left Oklahoma with a friend and drove to Minnesota. Three days later, Mous- 
saoui paid the $6,800 balance owed for his flight simulator training at Pan Am 
in cash and began his training. His conduct, however, raised the suspicions of 
his flight instructor. It was unusual for a student with so little training to be 
learning to fly large jets without any intention of obtaining a pilot's license 
or other goal. On August 16, once the instructor reported his suspicion to the 
authorities, Moussaoui was arrested by the INS on immigration charges. 159 

KSM denies ever considering Moussaoui for the planes operation. Instead 
he claims that Moussaoui was slated to participate in a "second wave" of attacks. 
KSM also states that Moussaoui had no contact with Atta, and we are unaware 
of evidence contradicting this assertion. 160 

Yet KSM has also stated that by the summer of 2001, he was too busy with 
the planes operation to continue planning for any second-wave attacks. More- 
over, he admits that only three potential pilots were ever recruited for the 
alleged second wave, Moussaoui plus two others who, by midsummer of 2001, 
had backed out of the plot. 161 We therefore believe that the effort to push 
Moussaoui forward in August 2001 lends credence to the suspicion that he was 
being primed as a possible pilot in the immediate planes operation. 

Binalshibh says he assumed Moussaoui was to take his place as another pilot 
in the 9/11 operation. Recounting a post-9/11 discussion with KSM in Kan- 
dahar, Binalshibh claims KSM mentioned Moussaoui as being part of the 9/11 
operation. Although KSM never referred to Moussaoui by name, Binalshibh 
understood he was speaking of the operative to whom Binalshibh had wired 
money. Binalshibh says KSM did not approve of Moussaoui but believes KSM 
did not remove him from the operation only because Moussaoui had been 
selected and assigned by Bin Ladin himself 162 

KSM did not hear about Moussaoui's arrest until after September 11. 
According to Binalshibh, had Bin Ladin and KSM learned prior to 9/11 that 
Moussaoui had been detained, they might have canceled the operation. When 
Binalshibh discussed Moussaoui's arrest with KSM after September 11, KSM 
congratulated himself on not having Moussaoui contact the other operatives, 
which would have compromised the operation. Moussaoui had been in con- 
tact with Binalshibh, of course, but this was not discovered until after 9/11. 163 

As it turned out, Moussaoui was not needed to replace Jarrah. By the time 
Moussaoui was arrested in mid-August, Jarrah had returned to the United 
States from his final trip to Germany, his disagreement with Atta apparently 
resolved. The operatives began their final preparations for the attacks. 164 



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248 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

Readying the Attacks 

A week after he returned from meeting Binalshibh in Spain, Atta traveled to 
Newark, probably to coordinate with Hazmi and give him additional funds. 
Atta spent a few days in the area before returning to Florida on July 30. The 
month of August was busy, as revealed by a set of contemporaneous Atta- 
Binalshibh communications that were recovered after September ll. 165 

On August 3, for example, Atta and Binalshibh discussed several matters, 
such as the best way for the operatives to purchase plane tickets and the assign- 
ment of muscle hijackers to individual teams. Atta and Binalshibh also revis- 
ited the question of whether to target the White House.They discussed targets 
in coded language, pretending to be students discussing various fields of study: 
"architecture" referred to the World Trade Center, "arts" the Pentagon, "law" 
the Capitol, and "politics" the White House. 166 

Binalshibh reminded Atta that Bin Ladin wanted to target the White House. 
Atta again cautioned that this would be difficult. When Binalshibh persisted, 
Atta agreed to include the White House but suggested they keep the Capitol 
as an alternate target in case the White House proved too difficult. Atta also 
suggested that the attacks would not happen until after the first week in Sep- 
tember, when Congress reconvened. 167 

Atta and Binalshibh also discussed "the friend who is coming as a tourist" — 
a cryptic reference to candidate hijacker Mohamed al Kahtani (mentioned 
above), whom Hawsawi was sending the next day as "the last one" to "com- 
plete the group." On August 4, Atta drove to the Orlando airport to meet Kah- 
tani. Upon arrival, however, Kahtani was denied entry by immigration officials 
because he had a one-way ticket and little money, could not speak English, and 
could not adequately explain what he intended to do in the United States. He 
was sent back to Dubai. Hawsawi contacted KSM, who told him to help Kah- 
tani return to Pakistan. 168 

On August 7, Atta flew from Fort Lauderdale to Newark, probably to coor- 
dinate with Hazmi.Two days later,Ahmed al Ghamdi and Abdul Aziz al Omari, 
who had been living in New Jersey with Hazmi and Hanjour, flew to 
Miami — probably signifying that the four hijacking teams had finally been 
assigned. While Atta was in New Jersey, he, Hazmi, and Hanjour all purchased 
tickets for another set of surveillance flights. Like Shehhi, Jarrah, Atta, and 
Waleed al Shehri before them, Hazmi and Hanjour each flew in first class on 
the same type of aircraft they would hijack on 9/11 (a Boeing 757), and on 
transcontinental flights that connected to Las Vegas. This time, however, Atta 
himself also flew directly to Las Vegas, where all three stayed on August 13—14. 
Beyond Las Vegas s reputation for welcoming tourists, we have seen no credi- 
ble evidence explaining why, on this occasion and others, the operatives flew 
to or met in Las Vegas. 169 

Through August, the hijackers kept busy with their gym training and the 
pilots took frequent practice flights on small rented aircraft.The operatives also 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 249 

began to make purchases suggesting that the planning was coming to an end. 
In mid-August, for example, they bought small knives that may actually have 
been used in the attacks. On August 22, moreover, Jarrah attempted to pur- 
chase four GPS units from a pilot shop in Miami. He was able to buy only one 
unit, which he picked up a few days later when he also purchased three aero- 
nautical charts. 170 

Perhaps most significant, however, was the purchase of plane tickets for Sep- 
tember 11. On August 23,Atta again flew to Newark, probably to meet with 
Hazmi and select flights. All 19 tickets were booked and purchased between 
August 25 and September 5. 171 

It therefore appears that the attack date was selected by the third week of 
August. This timing is confirmed by Binalshibh, who claims Atta called him 
with the date in mid-August. According to Binalshibh, Atta used a riddle to 
convey the date in code — a message of two branches, a slash, and a lollipop (to 
non-Americans, 11/9 would be interpreted as September 11). Binalshibh says 
he called Atta back to confirm the date before passing it to KSM. 172 

KSM apparently received the date from Binalshibh in a message sent 
through Binalshibh s old Hamburg associate, Zakariya Essabar. Both Binalshibh 
and KSM claim that Essabar was not privy to the meaning of the message and 
had no foreknowledge of the attacks. According to Binalshibh, shortly after the 
date was chosen, he advised Essabar and another Hamburg associate, Said 
Bahaji, that if they wanted to go to Afghanistan, now was the time because it 
would soon become more difficult. Essabar made reservations on August 22 
and departed Hamburg for Karachi on August 30; Bahaji purchased his tickets 
on August 20 and departed Hamburg for Karachi on September 3. 173 

Binalshibh also made arrangements to leave for Pakistan during early Sep- 
tember, before the attacks, as did Ali and Hawsawi, the plot facilitators in the 
UAE. During these final days, Binalshibh and Atta kept in contact by phone, 
email, and instant messaging. Although Atta had forbidden the hijackers to con- 
tact their families, he apparently placed one last call to his own father on Sep- 
tember 9. Atta also asked Binalshibh to contact the family of one hijacker, pass 
along goodbyes from others, and give regards to KSM. Jarrah alone appears to 
have left a written farewell — a sentimental letter to Aysel Senguen. 174 

Hazmi, however, may not have been so discreet. He may have telephoned 
his former San Diego companion, Mohdar Abdullah, in late August. Several bits 
of evidence indicate that others in Abdullah's circle may have received word 
that something big would soon happen. As noted earlier, Abdullah's behavior 
reportedly changed noticeably. Prior to September 11, both he andYazeed 
al Salmi suddenly became intent on proceeding with their planned marriages. 
One witness quotes Salmi as commenting after the 9/11 attacks, "I knew they 
were going to do something, that is why I got married." Moreover, as of August 
2001, Iyad Kreiwesh and other employees at the Texaco station where Hazmi 
had worked suddenly were anticipating attention from law enforcement 



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250 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

authorities in the near future. Finally, according to an uncorroborated witness 
account, early on the morning of September 10, Abdullah, Osama Awadallah, 
Omar Bakarbashat, and others behaved suspiciously at the gas station. Accord- 
ing to the witness, after the group met, Awadallah said "it is finally going to 
happen" as the others celebrated by giving each other high fives. 175 

Dissent within the al Qaeda Leadership 

While tactical preparations for the attack were nearing completion, the entire 
operation was being questioned at the top, as al Qaeda and the Taliban argued 
over strategy for 2001. Our focus has naturally been on the specifics of the 
planes operation. But from the perspective of Bin Ladin and Atef, this opera- 
tion was only one, admittedly key, element of their unfolding plans for the year. 
Living in Afghanistan, interacting constantly with the Taliban, the al Qaeda 
leaders would never lose sight of the situation in that country. 

Bin Ladin's consistent priority was to launch a major attack directly against 
the United States. He wanted the planes operation to proceed as soon as pos- 
sible. Mihdhar reportedly told his cousin during the summer of 2001 that Bin 
Ladin was reputed to have remarked, "I will make it happen even if I do it by 
myself" 176 

According to KSM, Bin Ladin had been urging him to advance the date of 
the attacks. In 2000, for instance, KSM remembers Bin Ladin pushing him to 
launch the attacks amid the controversy after then-Israeli opposition party 
leader Ariel Sharon's visit to the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. KSM claims Bin 
Ladin told him it would be enough for the hijackers simply to down planes 
rather than crash them into specific targets. KSM says he resisted the pressure. 177 

KSM claims to have faced similar pressure twice more in 2001. According 
to him, Bin Ladin wanted the operation carried out on May 12, 2001, seven 
months to the day after the Cole bombing. KSM adds that the 9/11 attacks had 
originally been envisioned for May 2001. The second time he was urged to 
launch the attacks early was in June or July 2001, supposedly after Bin Ladin 
learned from the media that Sharon would be visiting the White House. On 
both occasions KSM resisted, asserting that the hijacking teams were not ready. 
Bin Ladin pressed particularly strongly for the latter date in two letters stress- 
ing the need to attack early. The second letter reportedly was delivered by Bin 
Ladin's son-in-law, Aws al Madani. 178 

Other evidence corroborates KSM's account. For instance, Mihdhar told 
his cousin that the attacks were to happen in May, but were postponed twice, 
first to July, then to September. Moreover, one candidate hijacker remembers 
a general warning being issued in the al Qaeda camps in July or early August, 
just like the warnings issued two weeks before the Cole bombing and ten days 
before the eventual 9/11 attacks. During the midsummer alert, al Qaeda 
members dispersed with their families, security was increased, and Bin Ladin 
disappeared for about 30 days, until the alert was canceled. 179 

While the details of the operation were strictly compartmented, by the time 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 251 

of the alert, word had begun to spread that an attack against the United States 
was coming. KSM notes that it was generally well known by the summer of 
2001 that he was planning some kind of operation against the United States. 
Many were even aware that he had been preparing operatives to go to the 
United States, leading some to conclude that al Qaeda was planning a near- 
term attack on U.S. soil. Moreover, Bin Ladin had made several remarks that 
summer hinting at an upcoming attack and generating rumors throughout the 
worldwide jihadist community. Bin Ladin routinely told important visitors to 
expect significant attacks against U.S. interests soon and, during a speech at the 
al Faruq camp, exhorted trainees to pray for the success of an attack involving 
20 martyrs. Others have confirmed hearing indications of an impending attack 
and have verified that such news, albeit without specific details, had spread 
across al Qaeda. 180 

Although Bin Ladin's top priority apparently was to attack the United 
States, others had a different view. The Taliban leaders put their main empha- 
sis on the year's military offensive against the Northern Alliance, an offensive 
that ordinarily would begin in the late spring or summer.They certainly hoped 
that this year's offensive would finally finish off their old enemies, driving them 
from Afghanistan. From the Taliban's perspective, an attack against the United 
States might be counterproductive. It might draw the Americans into the war 
against them, just when final victory seemed within their grasp. 181 

There is evidence that Mullah Omar initially opposed a major al Qaeda 
operation directly against the United States in 2001. Furthermore, by July, with 
word spreading of a coming attack, a schism emerged among the senior lead- 
ership of al Qaeda. Several senior members reportedly agreed with Mullah 
Omar. Those who reportedly sided with Bin Ladin included Atef, Sulayman 
Abu Ghayth, and KSM. But those said to have opposed him were weighty fig- 
ures in the organization — including Abu Hafs the Mauritanian, Sheikh Saeed 
al Masri, and Sayf al Adl. One senior al Qaeda operative claims to recall Bin 
Ladin arguing that attacks against the United States needed to be carried out 
immediately to support insurgency in the Israeli-occupied territories and 
protest the presence of U.S. forces in Saudi Arabia. Beyond these rhetorical 
appeals, Bin Ladin also reportedly thought an attack against the United States 
would benefit al Qaeda by attracting more suicide operatives, eliciting greater 
donations, and increasing the number of sympathizers willing to provide logis- 
tical assistance. 182 

Mullah Omar is reported to have opposed this course of action for ideo- 
logical reasons rather than out of fear of U.S. retaliation. He is said to have pre- 
ferred for al Qaeda to attack Jews, not necessarily the United States. KSM 
contends that Omar faced pressure from the Pakistani government to keep 
al Qaeda from engaging in operations outside Afghanistan. Al Qaeda s chief 
financial manager, Sheikh Saeed, argued that al Qaeda should defer to the Tali- 
ban's wishes. Another source says that Sheikh Saeed opposed the operation, 
both out of deference to Omar and because he feared the U.S. response to an 



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252 THE 9/11 COMMISSION REPORT 

attack. Abu Hafs the Mauritanian reportedly even wrote Bin Ladin a message 
basing opposition to the attacks on the Qur'an. 183 

According to KSM, in late August, when the operation was fully planned, 
Bin Ladin formally notified the al Qaeda Shura Council that a major attack 
against the United States would take place in the coming weeks. When some 
council members objected, Bin Ladin countered that Mullah Omar lacked 
authority to prevent al Qaeda from conducting jihad outside Afghanistan. 
Though most of the Shura Council reportedly disagreed, Bin Ladin persisted. 
The attacks went forward. 184 

The story of dissension within al Qaeda regarding the 9/11 attacks is prob- 
ably incomplete. The information on which the account is based comes from 
sources who were not privy to the full scope of al Qaeda and Taliban planning. 
Bin Ladin and Atef, however, probably would have known, at least, that 

• The general Taliban offensive against the Northern Alliance would 
rely on al Qaeda military support. 

• Another significant al Qaeda operation was making progress during 
the summer — a plot to assassinate the Northern Alliance leader, 
Ahmed Shah Massoud.The operatives, disguised as journalists, were 
in Massoud s camp and prepared to kill him sometime in August.Their 
appointment to see him was delayed. 185 

But on September 9, the Massoud assassination took place.The delayed Tal- 
iban offensive against the Northern Alliance was apparently coordinated to 
begin as soon as he was killed, and it got under way on September 10. 186 

As they deliberated earlier in the year, Bin Ladin and Atef would likely have 
remembered that Mullah Omar was dependent on them for the Massoud assas- 
sination and for vital support in the Taliban military operations. KSM remem- 
bers Atef telling him that al Qaeda had an agreement with the Taliban to 
eliminate Massoud, after which the Taliban would begin an offensive to take 
over Afghanistan. Atef hoped Massoud's death would also appease the Taliban 
when the 9/11 attacks happened. There are also some scant indications that 
Omar may have been reconciled to the 9/11 attacks by the time they 
occurred. 187 

Moving to Departure Positions 

In the days just before 9/11, the hijackers returned leftover funds to al Qaeda 
and assembled in their departure cities. They sent the excess funds by wire trans- 
fer to Hawsawi in the UAE, about $26,000 altogether. 188 

The hijackers targeting American Airlines Flight 77, to depart from Dulles, 
migrated from New Jersey to Laurel, Maryland, about 20 miles from Washing- 
ton, DC. They stayed in a motel during the first week in September and spent 



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THE ATTACK LOOMS 253 

time working out at a gym. On the final night before the attacks, they lodged 
at a hotel in Herndon, Virginia, close to the airport. 189 

Further north, the hijackers targeting United Airlines Flight 93, to depart 
from Newark, gathered in that city from their base in Florida on September 7. 
Just after midnight on September 8— 9,Jarrah received a speeding ticket in Mary- 
land as he headed north on 1-95. He joined the rest of his team at their hotel. 190 

Atta was still busy coordinating the teams. On September 7, he flew from 
Fort Lauderdale to Baltimore, presumably to meet with the Flight 77 team in 
Laurel. On September 9, he flew from Baltimore to Boston. By then, Shehhi 
had arrived there, and Atta was seen with him at his hotel. The next day, Atta 
picked up Omari at another hotel, and the two drove to Portland, Maine, for 
reasons that remain unknown. In the early morning hours of September 11, 
they boarded a commuter flight to Boston to connect to American Airlines 
Flight 1 1 . The two spent their last night pursuing ordinary activities: making 
ATM withdrawals, eating pizza, and shopping at a convenience store. Their 
three fellow hijackers for Flight 1 1 stayed together in a hotel in Newton, Mass- 
achusetts, just outside of Boston. 191 

Shehhi and his team targeting United Airlines Flight 175 from Logan Air- 
port spent their last hours at two Boston hotels. 192 The plan that started with 
a proposal by KSM in 1996 had evolved to overcome numerous obstacles. 
Now 19 men waited in nondescript hotel rooms to board four flights the next 
morning.