Category Archives: Living style

Hijack suspect lived a life, or a lie

Hijack suspect lived a life, or a lie

By Elizabeth Neuffer, Globe Staff, 9/25/2001

Boston Globe

NEW YORK – By now, even those who love Ziad Jarrah are confused about the truth of his 26-year-old life.

The Lebanese student, says the FBI, helped hijack United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco and aim it toward Washington, part of the deadly terrorist plot that unfolded Sept. 11.

But for that to be true, the young engineer would have had to live a double life worthy of a first-rate spy – concealing from his family, girlfriend, and friends that he was a Muslim extremist, not the religiously moderate, pro-American, fun-loving person they knew him to be.

”It makes no sense,” his uncle, Jamal Jarrah, said in a telephone interview from the village of Al-Marj, Lebanon, recalling that two days before the hijacking, his nephew called and told the family he’d be coming home for a cousin’s wedding in mid-September. ”He said he had even bought a new suit for the occasion.”

Of all the dozens of mysteries still swirling around this month’s devastating terrorist attacks, the life of alleged hijacker Jarrah has emerged as one of the more perplexing.

From Lebanon to Germany to the United States, there are few clues as to why he would have joined a terrorist organization, much less commandeered an airplane in a suicidal mission that claimed dozens of innocent lives as well as his own. Flight 93 crashed in rural southwest Pennsylvania, after passengers apparently tackled the hijackers.

Jarrah emerged as a suspect in that hijacking when FBI agents, reviewing flight manifests, found a Ziad Jarrahi – the ”i” in the last name a possible misspelling – on United Airlines Flight 93. Along with Jarrah, the other names on the FBI’s suspect list included Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, and Saeed Alghamdi – although at week’s end authorities acknowledged the list could contain errors.

So far, the best evidence of Jarrah’s involvement is in the striking parallels between his life and that of other alleged hijackers – and the fact that on Sept. 11 he went missing.

Jarrah lived in Hamburg, Germany, as did Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, who allegedly flew the planes that struck the World Trade Center. Like them, he attended a technical university (although not the same one they did) and then moved to Florida to take flight lessons. His roommate for two months this summer was Alhaznawi, another of the suspected hijackers.

And on Sept. 11, he vanished. It was his girlfriend, Aisle Senguen, who first alerted the police, calling to report him missing. German federal police say they found a suitcase of ”airplane-related documents” in her home.

But Senguen, who is now in a witness protection program, denied in a recent telephone conversation with the family that Jarrah was acquainted with any of the other alleged hijackers.

Echoed Jarrah’s uncle: ”He knew none of them – he was at a different university.” Convinced of his nephew’s innocence, he added, ”Maybe someone stole his ID. Maybe he was simply on the flight en route to visit some friends.”

Or maybe Ziad Jarrah did lead a double life – not atypical for members of Al Qaeda, the worldwide terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden.

Evidence presented in this year’s trial of four men accused of the 1998 bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania revealed that Al Qaeda members were told to mingle with Westerners, and conceal their extremist beliefs.

And terrorism specialists say that the practice of presenting one persona to the world, and keeping another secret, is a brand of spycraft not unknown in certain parts of the Islamic world.

”Taqiyya is what it is called,” explained German terrorism expert Bassam Tibi. ”You are two-faced. You hate me, but you smile at me.” Taqiyya, says Tibi, was practiced by many Shi’ite Muslims during historic periods of persecution by Sunni Muslims. And while Jarrah’s family was Sunni, he grew up in a Shi’ite stronghold, Lebanon’s Bekaa Valley, where the art of polite deception might well have been practiced.

Little else in Jarrah’s background, however, fits the profile of most Islamic extremists-turned-terrorists, typically born into a life of desperate poverty. Instead, Ziad Samir Jarrah was born May 11, 1975, the only son in a prosperous, educated family. His father, Samir, 62, is a local government official; his mother, Nasisa, 57, is a schoolteacher.

Growing up in the Bekaa Valley – a rich swath of green fields between two mountain ranges – Ziad Jarrah wanted for little. The area produces much of Lebanon’s fruit and vegetables and is also home to many of its well-to-do.

He loved sports, particularly swimming and basketball. He adored – and was doted on by – his two sisters, Dania, now 29, and Nisren, 24

And his upbringing was anything but radical. While the Jarrahs are Muslim, they are not particularly devout. In fact, believing education more important than religion, they sent their son to a series of exclusive, Christian schools.

As Ziad matured, he appeared neither political nor religious. He drank alcohol and had girlfriends. ”No one in the family has this kind of radical belief,” said Jamal Jarrah.

But by adulthood, Ziad Jarrah did have a dream: to be an airplane engineer. And so, when he graduated from high school in Beirut in 1995, the family agreed to let him follow in the footsteps of other family members who studied abroad. Jarrah chose Germany.

Although a Brooklyn apartment lease from 1995-1996 bears Ziad Jarrah’s name – and landlords there have identified his photograph – his family insists he was in Beirut at the time.

Not until 1996, they say, did Jarrah leave Lebanon for Gleisfeld, Germany, where he studied German and met Senguen. After a year, he moved to Hamburg, where he registered at the University of Applied Sciences. Senguen moved to Bochum, Germany, where she pursued her studies to become a doctor, but the two continued dating.

In Hamburg, Jarrah is remembered as a polite, quiet young man. ”He was a very, very nice boy,” recalled Rosemary Canel, who rented him a room in her stately home in a leafy suburb of Hamburg from 1997 to 1999. He rarely had friends over; he studied or watched TV while he was home.

At Hamburg’s University of Applied Sciences, Jarrah’s academic career appears to have been undistinguished. One of his professors, Ludwig Schwarz, recalled him in a telephone call as a quiet student who only got average grades.

”He didn’t stand out,” he said.

Classmate Michael Gotzmann, 25, who was in a study group with Jarrah, also has a hard time reconciling the Jarrah he knew – or thought he knew – with reports that he was one of the hijackers. ”He never said anything bad about America,” he told Der Spiegel magazine. ”To the contrary, he loved America, and said he always planned to go and study there.”

Yet Hamburg – a bustling port city where newly arrived immigrants rub shoulders with the German elite – is one hub for terrorist organizations in Germany. Studying there, Jarrah could have fallen under the sway of Islamic extremists linked to terrorist groups, says German terrorism expert Tibi.

”There is a lot of peer pressure,” even among German-born Muslims, Tibi noted, to embrace conservative Islam if not more radical groups. ”Once he was in, he might not have been able to get out,” he added.

An estimated 2,450 extremists live in Hamburg, a city of 1.7 million with a Muslim population of about 80,000, according to the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which monitors extremist groups. Al Qaeda has members in the city, as does the Palestinian group Hamas.

But if Jarrah found religion and the terrorist cause, he revealed nothing. Although records of the Federal Aviation Administration reportedly show him as having a pilot’s license in Hamburg, Jarrah told his parents he wanted to move to the United States to learn to fly a single-engine aircraft.

With their blessing, he moved to Florida at the end of 1999, living first in Hollywood, and then in June moving to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. In Hollywood, Jarrah lived in a seedy, palm-fringed complex of mostly single-story adobe-brown apartments, typically rented mostly by winter residents.

Several other suspects, including Atta, also lived for periods of time in Hollywood. While there, Jarrah drove a flashy, red Mitsubishi Eclipse, his neighbors at Bernard apartments said. ”His car stood out,” one said. ”He seemed like a bit of a showoff.”

But he was also a model tenant, recalls Carol, the manager, who would not give her last name. ”He was a very quiet guy,” she said. ”He went to work every day. He told us he was a pilot, but he didn’t say where.”

In June, Jarrah moved to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, where he roomed with Alhaznawi in an apartment attached to their landlord’s house.

”They said they were taking flying lessons around here,” said landlord Charles Lisa. ”They were polite and friendly … At times they had quite a few visitors over, but I never suspected anything.”

During his time there, Jarrah studied street fighting techniques at a local gym. He paid for the lessons in cash, said Bert Rodriguez, owner of US 1 Gym in Dania Beach. ”He was … strong, athletic, and well-coordinated. He was learning to be in control,” said Rodriguez.

When the pair were vacating their Lauderdale-by-the-Sea apartment, Lisa said, he asked them for a forwarding address. ”I’ll send you a postcard,” said Alhaznawi.

Jarrah’s family says they sent him $2,000 each month to pay for flight lessons. But last month, Jarrah did something unusual – he asked his parents for an extra $700, ”for fun.” When he called home Sept. 9, he confirmed he had received $2,700. His family believes he wanted to use the extra cash to go to California, possibly to visit friends.

But his destination, it now seems, was Newark. On Sept. 5, according to an employee of Passage Tours in Fort Lauderdale, Jarrah and his roommate each bought a one-way ticket on the Sept. 7 flight. Each paid cash.

As FBI agents scour Florida for clues to Jarrah’s life, his family has come to believe that Jarrah may well have been on Flight 93, but as an innocent passenger, not a perpetrator of the biggest terrorist attack in US history.

For his family to believe otherwise would be to admit they didn’t know him at all. ”It is unbelievable someone – anyone – would do this,” sobbed Jamal Jarrah over the telephone. ”Unbelievable.”

Globe special correspondents Amie Parnes contributed from Miami, Sylke Schumann from Berlin, and Isabel Stolte from Hamburg.

Atta and Alshehhi loved alcohol

Untitled Atta and Alshehhi loved alcohol

by Elias Davidsson

 At Shuckum’s

Shuckum’s is (or was) a restaurant and oyster bar in Hollywood, Florida. According to numerous news reports, Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi spent hours at that bar a few days before the attacks of September 11, 2001, heavily drinking alcohol.

When did this episode took place?

On September 5 and 6, 2001 (FBI 302-reports released in 2009)1; on September 6, 2001 (NBC News, September 12, 2001)2; on September 7 (Associated Press3 and New York Times4, September 12, 2001; Sun-Sentinel, September 13, 2001; Daily Mail (UK), September 16, 2001); on September 8 (Boston Globe, September 23, 2001; Time Magazine5, September 24,2001; St. Petersburg Times6, September 1, 2002); or on September 8 or 9 (Cox News, September 12, 2001)7

What exactly took place at Shuckum’s?

Tony Amos, Shuckums’ manager, declared to Ken Thomas of Associated Press on September 12, 2001 that “two men”, one of whom was Mohammed Atta, had each consumed several drinks and had given the bartender a hard time. Amos said: “The guy Mohamed was drunk, his voice was slurred and he had a thick accent.”8 Bartender Patricia Idrissi said to St. Petersburg Times that the men were ”wasted” when they entered the bar. She said she directed them to a nearby Chinese restaurant. They later returned and “each ordered five drinks”, she said.9 According to the New York Times of September 12, 2001, the ”man (…) drank Stolichnaya vodka for three hours”.10 Bartender Patricia Idrissi said that the men argued about their bill. Then one of the men pulled a wad of $100 and $50 bills, paid the tab and left her a $3 tip. The bar employees said FBI agents had told them that at least one of the men was from Pakistan and that passenger manifests showed they were on one of the hijacked planes that took off from Boston.11 Patricia Idrissi told journalists “Mohamed said he worked for American Airlines and he could pay his bill.”12

In another account of this episode, Atta “played video games” and the other two, one of whom was designated as Shehhi, “had about five drinks each”. In that account Tony Amos reportedly said that it was Shehhi, and not Atta, who “pulled out a wad of cash and put it on the bar table and said, ‘There is no money issue. I am an airline pilot’.”13

The reports agree on two main facts: (a) that the patrons drank heavily; and (b) that they made a fuss before paying their bill.

When did the FBI visit Shuckum’s?

According to the St. Petersburg Times of September 13, 2001, FBI agents arrived at Shuckum’s “soon after the attack”, meaning not later than in the afternoon of 9/11.14 This is corroborated by the New York Times.15 It was never explained how the FBI knew by the afternoon of 9/11 that Atta and al-Shehhi had at all frequented bars in the United States, let alone a particular bar among the approximately 48,000 bars that operate in the United States16 or the roughly 4,000 bars that exist in Florida alone.17

How was this episode linked to the crime of 9/11?

The drinkers were identified by Shuckum’s staff as Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, who were later designated as two of the 9/11 suicide pilots. According to NBC of September 12, 2001, “FBI agents [were] showing Atta’s passport photo to the bar staff.”18 According to the New York Times of September 12, 2001, gfederal agents arrived at the seafood restaurant and bar and flashed pictures of the man and one other who they said were suspected of being involved in the terror attacks (c) that morningh19 Anthony (Tony) Amos, Shuckum’s manager told media: g[The FBI people] just said these guys were on the manifest on a flight out of Boston, and I knew what it meant. They said the guys were dead.h20

How did the FBI deal with the decidedly un-islamic conduct of Mohamed Atta?

Among the documents sent to the 9/11 Commission by the FBI and released in 2009, we found three strange FD-302 reports relating the Shuckum’s episode. All three reports are significantly at variance with what media had reported. The FBI documents contain accounts of interviews of Shuckum’s employees conducted on the very day of the attacks by unidentified FBI special agents. According to these documents, Shuckum’s employees were shown photographs of Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi. These documents, examined below, are not identified by unique document numbers and the names of the agents are redacted.

In one of these reports21, an unidentified female interviewee, after being shown the photographs of Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, is reported saying she “did not recognize Alshehhi, however she stated Atta was in Shuckum’s on Wednesday, September 5, 2001.” This particular FBI report does not mention Atta or Alshehhi drinking alcohol or making a fuss about the bill.

In another report22, an unidentified female interviewee at Shuckum’s is reported saying she ”did not recognize Atta [but] did recognize Alshehhi and stated Alshehhi was in the restaurant with another man on Thursday, September 6, 2001 (…) between 2:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.” She is also reported as stating that Alshehhi ”sat at the end of the bar, did not speak English well and was very rude. Alshehhi complained about his bill, paid in cash and left. [The interviewee] heard Alshehhi state they were going to a Chinese restaurant.” In this report, too, no drinking is mentioned.

In the third report23, an unidentified, male employee, is reported saying that he ”recognized Alshehhi as a patron of Shuckum’s on or about Thursday, September 6, 2001.” The interviewee stated that Alshehhi ”was accompanied by another male of middle eastern descent.” He described Alshehhi ”as being confrontational and (…) arguing with the bar tender.” The interviewee ”did not recognize [the photograph of] Atta.” Here, again, no drinking is mentioned.

Apart from the discrepancies among these three reports and the glaring omission of the fact that the sighted men engaged in heavy drinking, it is extraordinary that the FBI was able within hours of the attacks to locate a bar in Florida that Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi were patronizing and could already flash photographs of these men.

How did mass media deal with the decidedly un-islamic conduct of Mohamed Atta?

The initial story of the Shuckum’s binge seriously undermined the official legend that the perpetrators of 9/11 were fanatic Muslims. So, the story had to be sanitized. On September 16, the Washington Post reported that at Shuckum’s “Atta played video Trivial Pursuit and blackjack with great determination”, while “Al-Shehhi and the other man had about five drinks each”.24 Six days later, alcohol disappeared from the story. According to the Washington Post of September 22, the manager on duty that night has said that he doesn’t recall seeing Atta drink alcohol.25 On September 27, another newspaper of record, the Los Angeles Times, reported Shuckumfs owner now saying that gAtta sat quietly by himself and drank cranberry juice and played a video game, while al-Shehhi and the other customer tossed back mixed drinks and argued.h26 The final nail in the coffin of the Atta drinking story was hammered on November 12, 2001, as ABC Australia broadcast a short interview with Tony Amos. He now said:

[T]he third gentleman, Mohamed Atta, was sitting at the other end of the bar and he was playing video games…Mohamed Atta, he was just drinking cranberry juice. He’d get up once in a while, come over to – who I found was this Marwan, was his cousin or claimed to be related in some way, and he would just maybe say something in his ear and then go back to the other end of the bar and just continue playing the video game. And he did that for four hours.27

Tony Amos may have been coerced to retract his original testimony or journalists put words in his mouth. Author Daniel Hopsickeer discovered weeks after 9/11 that Tony Amos and Patricia Idrissi, who were the source of the above reports, stopped working at Shuckum’s and had vanished. Almost ten years later, the Miami Herald discovered Tony Amos as owner of El Sloppy Taco in Brunswick, Md., who apparently confirmed the original account he gave on Atta and Alshehhi. He again emphasized to the Herald that at the time, FBI agents had shown him photos of Atta and Alshehhi and told him that “they were on the [flight] manifests”.28

(ii) The Longboat Key episode

A local paper, The Longboat Observer reported on November 21, 2001 that a bartender at the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites at Longboat Key, Fla., Darlene Sievers, had seen Mohamed Atta at the bar four days before 9/11 drink rum and Coke.29 She said she remembered his face because of the sizeable tip he left her. Atta gave her a $20 bill for a $4 drink and let her keep the change. She said she reported her encounter with Atta to the FBI after she saw Attafs picture in the media September 27, 2001. A waiter at the same restaurant, Frank Boyal, also remembered Atta and his companion. Mark Bean, Holiday Innfs assistant food and beverage director, remembered Attafs companion, Alshehhi after he saw the pictures of the alleged hijackers on television. Asked whether Beam and Seavers wee interviewed by the FBI, Special Agent Sara Oates said she gcannot confirm or deny that.h Darlene Sievers confirmed to Daniel Hopsicker these stories. The episode of Atta and Alsehhi at Longboat Key was echoed in great detail by the St. Petersburg Times of July 4, 2004 (#178). She said to the journalist of the Times: g[the FBI] called me twice and did spend some time out at the Holiday Inn – I felt they were taking it seriouslyh, although she says she never heard anthing more. Sievers remained gconvincedh that one of the men was Mohamed Atta: gI can remember peoplefs drinks and Ifll never forget those piercing black eyesh, she said.

(iii) Drinking in the Philippines

Apparently the very pious Atta and Alshehhi indulged in alcohol and sex before coming to the United States. According to the New York Times of October 5, 2001, Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, two of the alleged suicide-pilots of 9/11 spent time in the Philippines in various visits between 1998 and 2000.30 They reportedly stayed at a popular resort hotel, drank whiskey with Philippines bargirls, dined at a restaurant that specializes in Middle Eastern cuisine and visited at least one of the local flight schools.

Gina Marcelo, a former waitress at the Woodland Park Resort Hotel, said Alshehhi had thrown a party with six or seven Arab friends at the hotel:

They drank Johnnie Walker Black Label whiskey and mineral water. They barbecued shrimp and onions. They came in big vehicles, and they had a lot of money. They all had girlfriends…[but] they never tipped. If they did, I would not remember them so well.31

Victoria Brocoy, a chambermaid at the same hotel, recalled Mohamed Atta:

He was not friendly. If he asks for a towel, you do not enter his rom. He takes it at the door…Many times I saw him let a girl go at the gate in the morning. It was always a different girl.32

Another person who recognized Atta from photos was Ferdinand Abad, who was working there as a security guard in mid-1999. He remembered Atta asking at what time he should wait outside the hotel for a van to take him to the Angeles City Flying Club. Still another person who remembered Atta was Trudis Dago, manager of the Jerusalem Restaurant in Angeles City. He said Atta “would never smile and would never talk to anyone except his friend. I knew this face when I saw it in the paper”, she said.33

None of these drinking episodes could be explained by the need of the “hijackers” to “blend into American society”. These episodes demonstrate, however, that the persons who presented themselves in the USA and the Philippines as Mohamed Atta and Marwan Alshehhi, enjoyed drinking alcohol. Were these the same persons who were known in Hamburg as strict Muslims?

 Notes

1 FBI FD-302 document Nr. 265D-NY-280350-MM, of September 11, 2001. Author’s document #355; FBI FD-302 document Nr. 265D-NY-280350-MM, of September 11, 2001. Author’s document #356; FBI FD-302 document Nr. 265D-NY-280350-MM, of September 11, 2001. Author’s document #357. The FBI documents do not carry an identifying number.

2 NBC, September 12, 2001, 6:42:15. Cached on September 11 Television Archive at http://www.archive.org/details/nbc200109121841-1922, (last visited January 2, 2011)

3 Ken Thomas, Feds investigating possible terrorist-attack links in Florida, Associated Press, September 12, 2001, http://web.archive.org/web/20030402060235/www.nctimes.net/news/2001/20010912/10103.html

4 Dana Canedy and David E. Sanger, Hijacking Trail Leads F.B.I. to Florida Flight School, New York Times, September 13, 2001, at http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/13/national/13SUSP.html (last visited January 2, 2011)

5 Johanna McGeary and David van Biema, The New Breed of Terrorist, Time Magazine, September 24, 2001, at http://www.time.com/time/covers/1101010924/wplot.html (last visited January 2, 2011)

6 Thomas C. Tobin, Florida: terror’s launching pad, St. Petersburg Times, September 1, 2002, at http://www.sptimes.com/2002/09/01/911/Florida__terror_s_lau.shtml (last visited January 2, 2011)

7 Eliot Kleinberg and Colleen Mastony, FBI agents follow leads in Florida cities, Cox
News Service, September 12, 2001

8 Associated Press, supra

9 Barry Klein, Wes Allison et al, FBI seizes records of students at flight schools, St. Peterburg Times, September 13, 2001, http://www.sptimes.com/News/091301/Worldandnation/FBI_seizes_records_of.shtml. Author’s document #525.

10 Dana Canedy, New York Times, supra

11 Daniel de Vise, Curtis Morgan and Manny Garcia, On Terror’s Trail: Five Florida Men Were Among The Suspects They Were Listed Aboard Planes in N.Y. Crashes, The Miami Herald, September 13, 2001, Final Edition

12 Associated Press, Feds investigating possible terrorist-attack links in Florida, The August Chronicle, September 12, 2001, at http://chronicle.augusta.com/stories/2001/09/12/nat_319250.shtml

13 Amy Goldstein and Peter Finn, Hijack suspects profile: polite and purposeful, Washington Post, September 14, 2001 (author’s document #68)

14 Barry Klein, supra

15 Dana Caneday, New York Times, supra (Federal agents arrived at the restaurant “late Tuesday”)

16 Number of bars and restaurants in the US, at http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview/id/762475.html

17 Number of bars and restaurants in Florida, at http://www.manta.com/mb_43_C4_10/restaurants_bars/florida

18 NBC, supra

19 Dana Cadeny, NYT, supra

20 Ibid.

21 FBI FD-302, document #355. supra

22 FBI FD-302, document #356 supra

23 FBI FD-302, document #357 supra

24 Joel Achenbach, ‘You Never Imagine’ A Hijacker Next Door, Washington Post, September 16, 2001, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A38026-2001Sep15&notFound=true (last visited January 2, 2011)

25 Peter Finn, A Fanatic’s Quiet Path to Terror, the Washington Post, September 22, 2001, at http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&node=&contentId=A6745-2001Sep21&notFound=true (last visited January 2, 2011)

26 Carol J. Williams, John-Thor Dahlburg and H.G. Reza, Mainly, They Just Waited, Los Angeles Times, September 27, 2001, at http://web.archive.org/web/20010927120728/http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-092701atta.story (last visited January 2, 2011)

27 Liz Jackson and Quentin McDermott, Transcript: A Mission to Die For, ABC Australia, November 12, 2001, at http://www.abc.net.au/4corners/atta/transcript.htm (last visited January 2, 2011)

28Elinor J. Brecher, Mastermind may be gone, but troubled memories linger, Miami Herald, May 5, 2011, at http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/05/05/2203576/mastermind-may-be-gone-but-troubled.html

29 Shay Sullivan, Two Hijackers on Longboat? The Longboat Observer, November 21, 2001. Author’s document #177

30 Don Kirk, Filipinos Recall Hijack Suspects Leading a High Life, New York Times, October 5, 2001. Author’s document #176

31 Ibid.

32 Ibid.

33 Ibid.

What Muslim Would Write: ‘The Time of Fun and Waste is Gone’?

What Muslim Would Write:
'The Time of Fun and Waste is Gone'?
by Robert Fisk
The Independent (UK), 29 September 2001

Fearful, chilling, grotesque? but also very, very odd. If the handwritten, five-page document which the FBI says it found in the baggage of Mohamed Atta, the suicide bomber from Egypt, is genuine, then the men who murdered more than 7,000 innocent people believed in a very exclusive version of Islam ? or were surprisingly unfamiliar with their religion.

"The time of Fun and waste is gone,'' Atta, or one of his associates, is reported to have written in the note. "Be optimistic … Check all your items ? your bag, your clothes, your knives, your will, your IDs, your passport … In the morning, try to pray the morning prayer with an open heart.''

Part theological, part mission statement, the document ? extracts from which were published in The Washington Post yesterday ? raises more questions than it answers.

Under the heading of "Last Night'' ? presumably the night of 10 September ? the writer tells his fellow hijackers to "remind yourself that in this night you will face many challenges. But you have to face them and understand it 100 per cent … Obey God, his messenger, and don't fight among yourself [sic] where [sic] you become weak … Everybody hates death, fears death …"

The document begins with the words: "In the name of God, the most merciful, the most compassionate … In the name of God, of myself, and of my family.''

The problem is that no Muslim ? however ill-taught ? would include his family in such a prayer. Indeed, he would mention the Prophet Mohamed immediately after he mentioned God in the first line. Lebanese and Palestinian suicide bombers have never been known to refer to "the time of fun and waste'' ? because a true Muslim would not have "wasted'' his time and would regard pleasure as a reward of the after-life.

And what Muslim would urge his fellow believers to recite the morning prayer ” and then go on to quote from it? A devout Muslim would not need to be reminded of his duty to say the first of the five prayers of the day ” and would certainly not need to be reminded of the text. It is as if a Christian, urging his followers to recite the Lord's Prayer, felt it necessary to read the whole prayer in case they didn't remember it.

American scholars have already raised questions about the use of "100 per cent'' ? hardly a theological term to be found in a religious exhortation ” and the use of the word "optimistic'' with reference to the Prophet is a decidedly modern word.

However, the full and original Arabic text has not been released by the FBI. The translation, as it stands, suggests an almost Christian view of what the hijackers might have felt ? asking to be forgiven their sins, explaining that fear of death is natural, that "a believer is always plagued with problems''.

A Muslim is encouraged not to fear death ? it is, after all, the moment when he or she believes they will start a new life ” and a believer in the Islamic world is one who is certain of his path, not "plagued with problems''.

There are no references to any of Osama bin Laden's demands ? for an American withdrawal from the Gulf, an end to Israeli occupation, the overthrow of pro-American Arab regimes ? nor any narrative context for the atrocities about to be committed. If the men had an aspiration ” and if the document is above suspicion ? then they were sending their message direct to their God.

The prayer/instructions may have been distributed to other hijackers before the massacres occurred ? The Washington Post says the FBI found another copy of "essentially the same document'' in the wreckage of the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania. No text of this document has been released.

In the past, CIA translators have turned out to be Lebanese Maronite Christians whose understanding of Islam and its prayers may have led to serious textual errors. Could this be to blame for the weird references in the note found in Atta's baggage? Or is there something more mysterious about the background of those who committed a crime against humanity in New York and Washington, just over two weeks ago?

From the start, the hole in the story has been the reported behavior of the hijackers. Atta was said to have been a near-alcoholic, while Ziad Jarrahi, the alleged Lebanese hijacker of the plane which crashed in Pennsylvania, had a Turkish girlfriend in Hamburg and enjoyed nightclubs and drinking. Is this why the published text refers to the "forgiveness'' of sin?

The final instruction, "to make sure that you are clean, your clothes are clean, including your shoes,'' may have been intended as a call to purify a "martyr" before death. Equally, it may reflect the thoughts of a truly eccentric ” and wicked ? mind.

The document found in Atta's baggage ends with a heading: "When you enter the plane". It then urges the hijackers to recite: "Oh God, open all doors for me … I am asking for your help. I am asking you for forgiveness. I am asking you to lighten my way. I am asking you to lift the burden I feel …''

Was this an attempt to smother latent feelings of compassion towards the passengers on the hijacked planes ? who included children among them ? or towards the thousands who would die when the aircraft crashed? Did the 19 suicide bombers say these words to themselves in their last moments?

Or didn't they need to.

The entire Johnelle Bryant interview by ABC News

Transcript of 6/6/02 Johnelle Bryant Interview by Brian Ross, ABC News

The Johnelle Bryant interview and all references to Ms. Bryant have been deleted from the ABC News website but here is the interview in its entirety.

Face to Face With Atta, Part I
Excerpts From Government Worker's Interview Recalling Encounter With 9/11 Hijacker
ABCNEWS.com

June 6, 2002 ? Government loan officer Johnelle Bryant says she was face to face with Mohamed Atta, believed to be the ringleader of the Sept. 11 hijackers, for hours as he requested money apparently intended to finance a terrorist plot. Here are excerpts of Brian Ross' interview with Bryant.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: I'm a formal manager at, for a farm service agency. It's a agency, part of the United States Department of Agriculture. And my main office is located in Homestead, Florida. But my servicing area includes: Dade County, Broward County, and Palm Beach County, and, and Monroe County.

BRIAN ROSS: And, and what is it you do actually. Is it like a, a bank sort of, or?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: It's similar. Only, it's guaranteed, it's government financed loans for agriculture, for farming, type operations. We make real estate operating loans.

BRIAN ROSS: And so, it's open to any American Citizen to come, and?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes, sir. As long as they are farmers, and they do have experience farming. And they're family-size farmers. And they're unable to obtain credit elsewhere.

BRIAN ROSS: And how long have you been at the office in, in Homestead?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Two years. I started in Homestead, January of 2000. But I have been with my agency for 16 years.

BRIAN ROSS: And, when did you first meet someone who you say is Mohamed Atta? What happened?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: I met him somewhere between the end of April, around the third week of April to the third week of May of 2000.

BRIAN ROSS: Somewhere in that?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Somewhere in that general area. I can't pinpoint it down any more than that.

BRIAN ROSS: And tell me what happened?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: He came to my agency to finance an aircraft. A, a crop-duster.

BRIAN ROSS: That's what he told you.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: That's what he told me. Yes, sir.

BRIAN ROSS: What, what'd he say?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: It, it wasn't actually a crop-duster in itself that he was wanting to finance. He wanted to finance a twin-engine, six-passenger aircraft, that he could use as both a charter flights, and remove the, the seats. And he said he was an engineer, and he wanted to build a chemical tank that would fit inside the aircraft, and take up every available square inch of the aircraft, except for where the pilot would be sitting. And run the spray nozzles along the wind span. And use it as both a crop-duster plane, and as a charter plane.

BRIAN ROSS: And when he came, did he, what name did he give you?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Mohamed Atta. And I was taking notes. We typically take notes of a, it's considered an initial applicant interview. And while taking notes, I, I wrote his name down. And I spelled it A-T-T-A-H, and he told me, "No, A-T-T-A, as in 'Atta boy!'"

BRIAN ROSS: Atta boy.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Atta boy.

BRIAN ROSS: And did he tell you where he lived?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes. We, we, actually discussed his background and what he was doing in the United States.

BRIAN ROSS: What, what'd he say?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Before we really started talking about the loan.

BRIAN ROSS: Mm-hmm.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: And he told me that he was originally from Egypt, I believe. But that he had actually moved here from Afghanistan. And, I believe, he told me that he moved from Egypt to Afghanistan, having to do with some kind of political pressure. But I don't, I don't remember exactly what it was. He also mentioned that he had an engineering degree and had gone to school in Germany. Because when we were talking about the aircraft, and the chemical tank, he was wanting to put in the aircraft, I, I mentioned that a tank of that size wouldn't fit through the door. And he said that he was a, an engineer, and that he knew how to solve those problems.

He told me that he had sold all of his belongings at home, to move to the United States to start his dream, which was to go to flight school, and, and get his pilot's license, and work both as a charter pilot, and a, a crop duster, too.

BRIAN ROSS: How did he know to come to you for a loan?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Oh. He told me that he had purchased a book from, off the cable TV, that advertised how to get, how to obtain a free grants, or loans from the government. And he had said that he had paid $40 for it. And that it, it explained to him our agency, and our loan limits. Actually we have a guaranteed loan limit of $750,000. And he was asking for $650,000.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: He also thought that he, all he had to do to obtain the money, was to actually just come to my office, tell me what he wanted the loan for, and that he would obtain the cash, without any kind of application processing, whatsoever. And he, when I explained to him about the application process, he became very agitated. And he said that that's not what the book said. That the book said that I, I come to your agency and that I could get up to $750,000 in, in loan. And he also thought that the loan was going to be cash.

BRIAN ROSS: So he believed the TV commercial. Free money from the government.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: He actually believed, yes. He actually believed that he could walk into the office and say that he needed $650,000 to purchase an aircraft with. And that I would give him $650,000 in cash.

BRIAN ROSS: So he must have been very disappointed.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes, sir. He was. What, what kind of compounded that was the fact that our agency, we have a very large, very old safe. A great big black safe. And it happened to be in my office.

Yes. And he, he asked me what would, and he asked this in a rhetorically. After explaining what kind of security they had in his, in his country, he asked me what would prevent him without the, with any visual, audio security equipment, behind my desk and in my office with that safe sitting there. He asked me what would prevent him from going behind my desk and cutting my throat, and making off with the millions of dollars of cash in that safe. And, I told him that, well I kind of laughed. I mean I didn't laugh at him. But I chuckled a little bit about it. And I thought well, for one thing. I told him for one thing, there's, there's no cash in that safe. And then I explained to him about the evidence of indebtedness. And then, and he asked about, well, when you get a loan, you get cash. You get money. And you make loans so you have money. And I said, well, we do make loans, sir. However. The loans in this country come typically in two forms. You get a U.S. Treasury check, which is similar to a income tax return check. Or, it's, it's wired to your account. So it's electronic funds transfer. But we never handle cash. There's absolutely no cash in that safe. And so then he asked me what the second thing was that would prevent him from coming behind my desk. And you've got to understand that when he said this, he said it in a rhetorical manner, as compared to the lack of security in my office, versus what he was accustomed to, at, at home. And?

BRIAN ROSS: But, he said, "What would prevent me from cutting your throat?"

JOHNELLE BRYANT: "Coming behind your desk and cutting your throat and making, and making off with all the cash in that safe because you don't have any security in your office." And so I told him, "No, there's no cash in, in the safe, number one. And I told him number two, my, my training would prevent him from coming behind the desk and cutting my throat." And he asked me, and he kind of, he kind of, stepped back. And he said, "So you've had military training?" I said, "Oh, no, sir, I've never been in the military." And he, he mentioned something about that he understood that the United States allowed women in the armed forces now. But that he didn't understand, he didn't actually realize that, that they, they were given combat training. I said, "No, no I've never been in the military." And so then he asked me what kind of training that I had. And I told him that I took about six months of karate training. Koname Ru, karate training. And he asked what karate was. He asked if that was similar to tae kwon do. I said yes, it is, it's just a type of martial arts training. And he was very surprised that a woman would have that kind of training. And he was very interested in that kind of training. And he wanted to know how, once he became settled down, in, in the United States, how he could take that kind of training. And I told him that, just look it up in the Yellow Pages.

BRIAN ROSS: And what did he describe, how did he describe the business he wanted to start?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: A combination charter airplanes and crop duster.

BRIAN ROSS: And he wanted the money ?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: To purchase the aircraft.

BRIAN ROSS: And how much did he want?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Six hundred and fifty thousand dollars.

BRIAN ROSS: And what kind of aircraft did he want to buy?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: He, he actually wanted to purchase a six-passenger, twin-engine airplane, that he could pull the back seats out, and build a special made chemical tank to put, put into, into the aircraft to hold the chemicals for crop-dusting, and yet remove that when he, when he needed to, and replace the seats for, in, for charter type, plane.

BRIAN ROSS: So he wanted the plane where he could put a huge tank in the back.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes, sir. Yes, sir. And, and he mentioned that he could get a larger tank in a twin-engine plane than what he could, than the chemical capacity of a regular crop-duster plane, which he said that he could use it, to stay up in the air longer while he's spraying sugar cane, out in the Broward County area.

BRIAN ROSS: And what did you think of that when he told you he had this plan?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: I didn't think it would work. Because crop-dusters are very agile, and they fly under high wires. And my, my stepfather actually had a single-engine, four-seater plane, that I used to go up with him, on occasion. And, it's, they don't have near the agility of a crop-duster plane. So, any kind of, I didn't think they would, that what he was suggesting would work. I thought it was a very creative idea, on, on his part.

BRIAN ROSS: And you asked him about the size of the tank? About whether it would fit?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: He, he I didn't really ask him about the size. He informed, he offered that information to me. He said that he wanted to pull the back seats out and build a tank that would take up all the space of the back seat. And take up all the space, except for where the pilot sat. And that way, when he went out to spray, he wouldn't have to land and reload. He could just continue spraying, which, I, it didn't make sense. But I had, I mean, prior to 9-1-1 I had no idea what else he would be wanting to do with the airplane.

BRIAN ROSS: And did you tell him that you didn't think it made much sense?
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Face to Face With Atta, Part II
Excerpts From Government Worker's Interview About Her Encounter With 9/11 Hijacker
ABCNEWS.com

June 6, 2002 ? Government loan officer Johnelle Bryant says she encountered Mohamed Atta, believed to have been the ringleader of the Sept. 11 hijackers, as he requested money apparently intended to finance a terrorist plot. Here are more excerpts of Brian Ross' interview with Bryant.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes, sir. I told him that I didn't think that it, he would be able to use the same aircraft for, for both crop- dusting and, and as a charter plane.

BRIAN ROSS: What'd he say?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: He seemed to assure me that he, he was an engineer, and that it most certainly would. He was very sure about that.

BRIAN ROSS: So he told you he had studied this, or he knew what he was talking about?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yeah. Evidently he had put a lot of thought into it, yes.

Yes, sir. Yes, sir. He, he, the entire time he was in my office, his, his emotions kept going up and down, and up and down. At one point in time, when I told him that he, we were unable to finance the type of operation he was interested in, he, he kind of jumped back in his chair, and he started accusing me of discriminating against him because he was not a United States citizen. And he was from a foreign country. And so I tried to talk to him very nicely, and calm him back down. And, when we were, we discussed several things. And while I was discussing things with him, one of the reasons for discussing it was to keep him calm, so that he would relax. I was attempting, in every manner I could, to help him make his, his relocation into our country as easy for him as I could make it.

BRIAN ROSS: So he asked you about the picture over your wall?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes.

BRIAN ROSS: “Over your desk?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes, when he had asked me about what my qualifications were to hold my position, um, I told him that I, I used to work in Washington, D.C., in the national office as well, and um, he, he saw this picture, which was a going-away gift to me from uh, the people that I worked with in Washington, and he asked me if the autograph at the bottom of it were famous members of parliament. I told him that actually they're really close friends of mine that I worked with while in Washington, D.C., and I explained to him that we don't actually have a parliament, that uh, we have a House of Representatives and senators.

He actually tried to purchase the picture from me and he, he pulled out a wad of cash about that thick around and started throwing money on my desk. He wanted that picture really bad. He said that it was a beautiful picture of Washington, D.C., and um, I explained to him that it was a gift and that it was not for sale. And at that point he just more money down on the desk. And, I, I, I told him that, I said, "You don't understand. It's a gift. Thi-this picture is not for sale, not for anything." And so then he said that um,”

BRIAN ROSS: Why did he want it so badly did he say?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: He just said that it was one of the prettiest, one of the, the best he'd ever see of Washington. Ah, with the panoramic view, it does catch all the buildings and um, all the monuments in, in one photograph.

BRIAN ROSS: Did he ask about them?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes. Uh, he, he asked, when I was in Washington how many of, how many places did I get to go visit. And I told him that um, I had, had visited most of the Smithsonians and he asked me which building I worked in and, and my, the USDA building is part of that picture. And I should him the USDA building and he, he started, he said that he wanted to go to Washington um, as a tourist, to Washington, D.C., and, and visit it. And he said he wanted to go visit some ah, places across the nation too, but one specifically was asking me about Washington, D.C., which to him as a tourist he was concerned that he wouldn't be allowed any of the buildings. Um, and since he was not a, a U.S. citizen and I told him that there wouldn't be a problem with that, that there is security inside of most of the buildings, but there's, it would be like I, a metal detector similar to, to an airport where they search baggage.

BRIAN ROSS: When he, when he looked at this aerial view, did he ask about any specific buildings or where things were?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Mm-hmm. Uh-huh, he asked about the Pentagon and the White House and I pointed them out. Um.

BRIAN ROSS: He asked about the Pentagon?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes, sir, he did. And he asked about the White House and, and the Capital, um, which this, the photograph encompasses all that as well as all the Smithsonians and the monuments too.

BRIAN ROSS: And you showed them.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Right, in fact, he picked out where the Pentagon was, himself.

BRIAN ROSS: In addition to his interest in Washington, Pentagon, the White House, the Capitol, were there other areas of the United States he seemed interested in?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes, sir. When he told me that um, he was more excited about moving to the United States and that he, there were places he wanted to see such as Washington, D.C. He also told me he wanted to go to New York and visit the World Trade Center.

BRIAN ROSS: That's what he said?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes, sir. And he asked me if I'd ever been there. And I told him that I had, it had been a couple of years, but yes, I had been there and that, um, if he goes to uh, to New York that I recommend him going to the top to the obs-, observing deck and, if he went, to be sure and go right at sunset because you can take pictures off the top of it at sunset and it's beautiful pictures because that's, that's what I had done. And he asked me again if he would have any problems getting there. Um, and he would say, "Yeah, in his country ah, someone such as myself while I was visiting the country, I wouldn't be allowed to something like that." And, I told him again that I, to my knowledge he as a visitor, um, as long as he had an ID with him that he could go just about anywhere he wanted to. And he asked about the security to get it and I told him it was like at an airport, it was uh, uh, metal detector and most likely they search bags and that's, that's what he would, he would come across in the United States.

BRIAN ROSS: And, what were the cities he seemed to be interested in?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Um, Chicago, L.A. and Seattle, and it seems like he mentioned Phoenix because Phoenix is another city that I had only been to as a um, as a layover, changing planes.

BRIAN ROSS: So he didn't mention any specific location.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: No sir, just. When, when he asked me about the cities and when he found out I'd either been there, I had not been there or had not been outside the airport, he didn't mention anything else. Um, and I kept thinking that if I was in his shoes and I had just moved to a new country, I'd sold all my belongings to move to a new country and start a new life, I would want to go the major cities of that country and get some idea of the, my surroundings, the geographical makeup of the cities and, and that's what I thought he was doing.

BRIAN ROSS: So you thought he was essentially asking you for some travel tips: where to go in ?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Right.

BRIAN ROSS: In the United States.

BRIAN ROSS: Right. Did he talk about his own political beliefs, heroes?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Uh, yes he did. When he, when he asked me about leaving Washington, D.C., and asked if I'd been banished, um, and I tried to tell him that I hadn't, he, he started talking about um, an organization that uh, back in his country, and he kept referring to his country and I can only assume now that he was referring to Afghanistan. At the time I didn't know if he meant Egypt or Afghanistan, um, that [SIGH] uh, they had an organization in, and he, I couldn't understand, he got really emotional when he talked about it, like really excited about it. And, um, he said that they, they could use people. In other words, that they could use people, um, as, as members. They could use memberships from Americans, um. ?

BRIAN ROSS: In his … [OVERLAP] [INAUDIBLE]

JOHNELLE BRYANT: In this organization, um. With, with the type of background that I, that I had, working with Washington and all this stuff, and he, and when he would mention it, he, his accent came out and I didn't have a clue what he was talking about prior to Sept. 11. I'd never heard of Osama bin Laden. I'd never heard of al Qaeda. I'm sure I'd read about it at one point or time in the paper, but it, it wasn't something that I discussed.

BRIAN ROSS: Did he give you a name?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes, he um, I know now that he talking about al Qaeda, but the way pronounced it, it sounded like he was talking about a woman's name. He kept saying uh, it sound like, Akeda, Akeda, "Surely you've heard. Surely you know, Akeda." And I went, "Oh yeah, yeah, yeah right." [LAUGHS] I mean, I didn't know what he was talking about.

BRIAN ROSS: But he mentioned.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes, he mentioned it.

BRIAN ROSS: Al Qaeda.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: He, he mentioned Al Qaeda. He mentioned Osama bin Laden. And ?

BRIAN ROSS: He mentioned Osama bin Laden?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yes, sir. And when he, when he mentioned it. I didn't have a clue what he was talking about and, and?

BRIAN ROSS: You'd never heard of Osama bin Laden at that point?

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Not that I'd re-, remember. This was prior, this was nearly 18 months give or take prior to Sept. 11, so no, I didn't know who Osama bin Laden was. Um, to me, it was, you know, he could have been a character on Star Wars for all I knew.

BRIAN ROSS: Could have been Obi-Wan Kenobi.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Could have been Obi-Wan Kenobi for all I knew.

BRIAN ROSS: But he mentioned Osama bin Laden to you.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Yeah, he said, he mentioned that um, this man would someday be known as the world's greatest leader. I didn't know who he was talking about.

Bryant on Mohamed Atta's appearance:

JOHNELLE BRYANT: Very intense. His eyes. He had very scary-looking eyes. His eyes were black. So black that he was sitting, probably closer to me, when he sat across from my desk, for about an hour, he was sitting closer to me than perhaps you are. And his, his iris was almost he same color as his pupil. And when I was sitting there speaking with him and making eye contact with him, I had a difficult time seeing the difference between his iris and his pupil, which in itself gave him the appearance of being very, very scary. And then of course with his accent, he, he came across as being very intimidating. He had a, an unusual habit of, when he'd ask a question, and then he was listening to your response, he pressed his lips together. And, actually, the picture that came out in the newspaper, that's exactly what that man looked like. Except for the newspaper does not really show how black that his eyes actually were.

BRIAN ROSS: What were you thinking as you looked at it? Looked at those pictures, and thought back to the man who you had so kindly tried to help.

JOHNELLE BRYANT: How could someone be so evil? How could somebody be that evil, be that close to me, and I didn't recognize it? But I think prior to Sept. 11, most Americans, I know I couldn't, I can't speak for most Americans, but I could not comprehend. It, it's just a matter of just comprehending someone intentionally taking a commercial jetliner full of human beings, innocent human beings, as far as the terrorists were concerned, and, and using that to kill other innocent human beings. Those people were sick, beyond belief. But the scary thing is, is that they look like you and I. Not necessarily as, as, as an American, but they just look like people. They don't, they don't look like an evil monster.

Here is the preface to the Johnelle Bryant transcript that used to be on the ABC News website:

Face to Face
With a Terrorist
Government Worker Recalls Mohamed Atta Seeking Funds Before Sept. 11

By Brian Ross
ABCNEWS.com

June 6 ? Four of the hijackers who attacked America on Sept. 11 tried to get government loans to finance their plots, including ringleader Mohamed Atta, who sought $650,000 to modify a crop-duster, a government loan officer told ABCNEWS.

First Atta, then Marwan Al-Shehhi, Ahmed Alghamdi and Fayez Rashid Ahmed Hassan al Qadi Banihammad, all of whom died in the September attacks, tried to get loans from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Johnelle Bryant told ABCNEWS, speaking out to the public for the first time.

It was Atta who was the most persistent, and the most frightening, Bryant said in an exclusive, extensive interview in which she recounted how Atta railed against her when the loan was denied, asking her how she would like to see the destruction of Washington, D.C., and monuments there, which he observed in a picture on the wall of her Florida office.

Bryant recalled how Atta sat across from her with his "very scary" black eyes for more than an hour.

"His eyes, he had very scary-looking eyes. His eyes were black," she remembered. "How could somebody be that evil, be that close to me, and I didn't recognize it?"

Only after seeing Atta's picture in the newspaper did she realize who the man sitting inches away from her was, and alert the FBI of the interaction.

"I think it's very vital that the Americans realize that when these people come to the United States, they don't have a big 'T' on their forehead," she said, telling her story to ABCNEWS in defiance of direct orders from the USDA's Washington headquarters.

"They don't look like what you think a terrorist would look like," said Bryant.

"I had terrorists in my office, and I helped them," she said. "I gave them information unknowingly ? And I'm afraid that there probably will be a next time, unless it's stopped from the ground-floor level by an American."

Financing for an Immigrant's Dream

According to Bryant, who has worked at the government agency for 16 years, Atta arrived in her office sometime between the end of April and the middle of May 2000, inquiring about a loan to finance an aircraft.

"At first, he refused to speak with me," said Bryant, remembering that Atta called her "but a female." Bryant explained that she was the manager, but he still refused to conduct business with her. Ultimately, she said, "I told him that if he was interested in getting a farm-service agency loan in my servicing area, then he would need to deal with me."

Throughout the interview, he continued to refer to Bryant as "but a female," and Bryant said, "He would say it with disgust."

During the initial applicant interview, Bryant was taking notes. "I wrote his name down, and I spelled it A-T-T-A-H, and he told me, 'No, A-T-T-A, as in Atta boy!' "

He said he had just arrived in the United States from Afghanistan "to start his dream, which was to go flight school and get his pilot's license, and work both as a charter pilot and a crop duster too," she said. He was seeking $650,000 for a crop-dusting business.

"He wanted to finance a twin-engine six-passenger aircraft ” and remove the seats," said Bryant. "He said he was an engineer, and he wanted to build a chemical tank that would fit inside the aircraft and take up every available square inch of the aircraft except for where the pilot would be sitting."

When Bryant explained that there was an application process, Atta became "very agitated." He thought the loan would be in cash, and that he would have no trouble obtaining it to purchase an aircraft.

He also remarked about the lack of security in the building, pointing specifically to a safe behind Bryant's desk. "He asked me what would prevent him from going behind my desk and cutting my throat and making off with the millions of dollars in that safe," said Bryant, who explained that there was no money in the safe because loans are never given in cash, and also that she was trained in karate.

"He wanted to know how, once he became settled down in the United States, how he could take that kind of training," she says.

Bryant turned him down for the loan because as a non-U.S. citizen he did not meet the basic eligibility requirements and because the program is intended for actual farming purposes. But she referred him to other government agencies and to a bank downstairs.

He asked questions about whether his plans to be out of the country for a few weeks would interfere with his eligibility for a loan. "I think he said he needed to go to Madrid, and somewhere in Germany, and then there was a third country," said Bryant.

Being turned down for the loan altered the hijackers' plans. According to law enforcement officials, packing twin-engine planes with explosive chemicals, making it a flying bomb, had been the terrorists' plan since the mid-1990s. When Atta reported to his group that he could not get a loan to buy smaller planes, the plan was switched to hijacking passenger jets, according to what Abu Zabaydah, a top lieutenant of Osama bin Laden, has told American interrogators since his capture.

So in the fall of 2000, the hijackers who had been learning to fly small planes began to seek simulator training in the large jets they would fly into the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

Familiar Places, Unfamiliar Names

Before leaving Bryant's office, Atta became fixated with an aerial photo of Washington that was hanging on her office wall.

"He just said that it was one of the prettiest, the best he'd ever seen of Washington," she said, remembering that he was impressed with the panoramic view that captured all the monuments and buildings in one photograph, pointing specifically to the Pentagon and the White House.

"He pulled out a wad of cash," she said, "and started throwing money on my desk. He wanted that picture really bad."

Bryant indicated that the picture was not for sale, and he threw more money down.

"His look on his face became very bitter at that point," Bryant remembers. "I believe he said, 'How would America like it if another country destroyed that city and some of the monuments in it,' like the cities in his country had been destroyed?"

Atta also expressed an interest in visiting New York, specifically the World Trade Center, and asked Bryant about security there. He inquired about other American cities, including Phoenix, Los Angeles, Seattle and Chicago. Prompted by a souvenir she had on her desk, he also expressed interest in the Dallas Cowboys' football stadium, mentioning that the team was "America's team" and the stadium had a "hole in the roof."

Atta also talked about life in his country. "He mentioned al Qaeda, he mentioned Osama bin Laden," said Bryant. "I didn't know who Osama bin Laden was ? He could have been a character on Star Wars for all I knew."

He boasted about the role that they would one day play. "He said this man would someday be known as the world's greatest leader," she said.

Bryant and Atta shook hands on his way out. "I told him I wished him luck with his endeavor," remembered Bryant.

“How Could I Have Known”?

Bryant never thought to report her strange encounter because she thought she was just helping a new immigrant learn about the country.

"I felt that he was trying to make the cultural leap from the country that he came from, with all the violence, as compared to the United States," she says. "I was attempting, in every manner I could, to help him make his relocation into our country as easy for him as I could make it."

His questions about American cities, she assumed, were because he had moved to a new country and he wanted to find out about the major cities.

"How could I have known? I couldn't have known, prior to Sept. 11. I don't think anyone else would have either, if they'd been in my shoes that day," she says. "Should I have picked up the telephone and called someone? You can't ask me that more often than I have asked myself that ? I don't know how I could possibly expect myself to have recognized what that man was. And yet sometimes I haven't forgiven myself."

But that wasn't the only time she saw Atta. He returned again, slightly disguised with glasses. He claimed to be an accountant for Marwan Al-Shehhi, who was with him, and said he wanted $500,000 to buy land for a sugar-cane farm.

Ahmed Alghamdi and Fayez Rashid Ahmed Hassan al Qadi Banihammad also came separately seeking loans, but were less successful in speaking with people.

Bryant hopes her story will serve as a warning to all Americans.

"The American people, the public, need to be aware that if these men can walk into my office, they can walk into your office, they can walk into anyone's office," she says.

"If they watch this interview and they see the type of questions that Atta asked me on my first encounter with that man, and then someone walks into another American's office and behaves in the same manner, then perhaps they will recognize a terrorist, and perhaps they will pick up the phone and make the call that I didn't make."

————————————————–

On July 3, 2006 – 10:06am mrs panstreppon said:

Where is Johnelle Bryant today? Good question.

David Nason wrote a companion piece to Mark Steyn's vituperative column about Johnelle Bryant, published on 8/13/05 in The Australian. Nason wrote that Johnelle Bryant was "medically retired" from the USDA in 2004. LOL – I'm not touching that with a ten-foot pole!

I've been looking for Johnelle on and off for four years now. I want to send her a letter and ask her some questions about her story. I doubt she'd respond but you don't know until you try.

I looked all over south Florida for her in 2003 but no luck.

LOL – I was taken for $35 by Intelius the other day when I bought a full report on a Johnelle Bryant living in Honolulu. To put my purchase in perspective, I've shelled out a grand total of $2.50 for public information since 9/11 and that was for a Northern Lights search of "Charles A. Gargano" in October 2001. Worth every penny, btw.

What is strange about the Intelius report on a Johnelle Bryant living at 1232 Young Street in Honolulu is that 1232 Young Street does not appear to be on the City of Honolulu's property tax rolls.

The phone number is (808) 597-9094 but I don't want to call and bother anyone if I have the wrong Johnelle Bryant.

I'm also on to another lead about Johnelle Bryant's whereabouts. A blogger somewhere online suggested that Johnelle Bryant spells her first name as "Johnell". I broke down and spent another few bucks for an Intelius report on "Johnell Bryant" and I'm tracking down the addresses listed under that name whenever I have a spare moment.

There are "Johnell Bryants" listed in Miami, Arlington, Lubbock and Montgomery.

I'll keep everyone posted as to my progress!
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On September 11, 2006 – 8:01am mrs panstreppon said:

It is 7:30 a.m. on the morning of 9/11/06 here on Long Island. Another beautiful day like another 9/11 five years ago, only a bit colder.

I am thinking about Johnelle Bryant this morning.

I revised the first sentence in my blog entry to delete the part about Johnelle Bryant or Mohammed Atta being the stupidest person on the face of the planet.

I never really thought Johnelle Bryant was a stupid woman. I just wanted people to read my post because I think her story is so important.

I prefer to think Johnelle Bryant genuinely believed she met Atta at one time after 9/11 and when she reported her concerns to the authorities, she got entangled in a scheme perpetrated by the Bush administration to scare Americans.

I prefer that theory than to one about Johnelle Bryant being a willing participant in the worst kind of fraud.

A worst case scenario would be that Johnelle Bryant really did meet Atta. Terrorists do not say and do what Atta and the other hijackers supposedly did on their own.

Researching the Johnelle Bryant story did not require as much time as some of my other posts but I gave it the most thought. I consider this thread to be my best effort to date.

I feel so let down by the press. Where are the reporters who say they care about truth?

Isn't there one investigative reporter who wants to know how Johnelle Bryant came to be interviewed by Brian Ross on ABC News in prime time?

Johnelle Bryant is one of the potentially most important witnesses in the 9/11 case yet the 9/11 commission did not even mention Ms. Bryant once in its report.

The 9/11 Commission should have told us why they did or did not believe Johnelle Bryant.

The commission had an obligation, as did the press, to tell Americans why the FBI and the Bush administration allowed Johnelle Bryant to be interviewed because the reason has a direct bearing on the government's crediblity.

Johnelle Bryant's story frightened Americans in June 2002. Her story is more frightening today than it was four years ago.

My Johnelle Bryant thread is dedicated to Americans who want their government to tell the truth.
l

Clever, efficient and secretive hijackers (9/11)

Hijackers conducted surveillance flights ahead of 9/11

Saturday, September 28, 2002 Posted: 12:28 AM EDT (0428 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — The hijackers who took over four airplanes on September 11, 2001, and carried out the worst-ever terror attacks on U.S. soil conducted several surveillance flights prior to that day, according to newly-declassified information released Thursday.

One of those flights was on the same route as the plane that was crashed into the Pentagon.

The information was made public during a hearing conducted by the House and Senate intelligence committees. It came from a statement by FBI Director Robert Mueller — made at a closed-door hearing in June — about how the hijackers entered the United States and prepared their attack without arousing any suspicion.

"Meetings and communications between the hijackers were done without detection, apparent surveillance flights were taken, and nothing illegal was detected through airport security screening," Mueller's statement said.

"In short, the terrorists had managed very effectively to exploit loopholes and vulnerabilities in our systems. To this day, we have found no one in the United States except the actual hijackers who knew of the plot and we have found nothing they did while in the United States that triggered a specific response about them," he added.

Mueller said his remarks could not include a discussion of Zacarias Moussaoui because of the case pending against him. Moussaoui faces six conspiracy charges and a possible death penalty for his involvement with al Qaeda, the Islamic terrorist group behind the attacks.

Each of the return flights taken on the preparatory missions included a one-to-two day layover in Las Vegas, but Mueller said the purpose of the stops in that city is not known.

The FBI chief also disclosed for the first time that hijackers including Nawaf al Hazmi and ringleader Mohammed Atta had monthly, face-to-face meetings to discuss their deadly plan. More than 3,000 people were killed in the September 11 attacks.

Mostly, the hijackers blended in to American society, Mueller said.

"They dressed and acted like Americans, shopping and eating at places like Wal-Mart and Pizza Hut," he said.

Aside from minor traffic violations, they committed no crimes, and al Hazmi even reported an attempted street robbery on May 1, 2001, to Fairfax, Virginia, police, although he later declined to press charges.

Mueller said the September 11 attack plan was conceived and carried out using simple means.

"Clearly, these 19 terrorists were not supermen using extraordinarily sophisticated techniques. They came armed with simple box cutters," he said.

"But they also came armed with sophisticated knowledge about how to plan these attacks abroad without discovery, how to finance their activities from overseas without alarm, how to communicate both here and abroad without detection, and how to exploit the vulnerabilities inherent in our free society.

"There were no slip-ups. Discipline never broke down. They gave no hint to those around them what they were about," Mueller's statement continued. "They came lawfully. They lived lawfully. They trained lawfully. They boarded the aircraft lawfully. They simply relied upon everything from the vastness of the Internet to the openness of our society to do what they wanted to do without detection."

His remarks were released as top counter-terrorism officials defended their various agencies to lawmakers. Both CIA and FBI officials said they did the best job they could given the resources they had to work with.

Responding to criticism that the FBI missed clues about the use of aircraft by terrorists, the FBI's counter-terrorism chief said those clues came amid a torrent of other intelligence information.

"We had threats to malls, threats to power plants, threats to assassinations, across the board we had threats coming in every day," said Dale Watson, executive assistant director of the FBI.

In his statement, Mueller praised the work of his agency, especially after September 11, but admitted "there were clearly things we should have done better or differently."

And he warned that the threat from terrorists has not subsided.

"Those who masterminded and financed these attacks are still capable of doing so. Capturing a number of important operatives has been a huge victory but there are others, still loosely connected and still a potent threat," Mueller said.

"Nor should we forget that thousands of 'foot soldiers' — those who trained in the camps — remain disbursed. And there are those who, without direction or control, are compelled for ideological reasons to pursue jihad and kill Americans."

Mueller said the FBI needs new structures, new training and new technologies, which are now being put in to place.

"Nothing can be paramount to preventing the next attack," he said.

— CNN Justice Department Correspondent Kelli Arena contributed to this report.

9/11 ‘hijackers’ spill beans on eve of attack

http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2001/09/14/miami-club.htm

USAToday, 14 September 2001
Manager: Men spewed anti-American sentiments

The night before terrorists struck New York and Washington, three men spewed anti-American sentiments in a bar and talked of impending bloodshed, according to a strip club manager interviewed by the FBI. John Kap, manager of the Pink Pony and Red Eyed Jack's Sports Bar in Daytona Beach, said the men made the claims to a bartender and a patron. "They were talking about what a bad place America is. They said 'Wait 'til tomorrow. America is going to see bloodshed,"' Kap said.

He said he told FBI investigators the men in his bar spent $200 to $300 apiece on lap dances and drinks, paying with credit cards. Kap said he gave the FBI credit card receipts and a business card left by one man and a copy of the Quran that was left at the bar." –


Mohammed Atta, fanatic Muslim, drunk in Florida

FBI seizes records of students at flight schools

By BARRY KLEIN, WES ALLISON, KATHRYN WEXLER and JEFF TESTERMAN

? St. Petersburg Times,
published September 13, 2001

“A bar manager in Hollywood told FBI agents he saw the two men drinking heavily last week.


Tony Amos, the night manager at Shuckums Bar in Hollywood, told the Palm Beach Post that Atta argued with him over his tab. When Amos asked Atta whether he could pay, Atta got offended and said, “I’m a pilot for American Airlines and I can pay my bill,” bartender Patricia Idrissi said.
“They were wasted,” said Idrissi, who said she directed the two men to a Chinese restaurant a few doors down.

 

They later returned and each ordered about five drinks, she said. The bill came to $48 and the men began arguing in broken English. After the confrontation with Amos, she said, Atta paid her with a $100 bill from a thick wad of currency in large denominations.”


http://www.sptimes.com/News/091301/Worldandnation/FBI_seizes_records_of.shtml?

Hijack Suspect Lived a Life, Or a Lie

Hijack Suspect Lived a Life, Or a Lie
Boston Globe
25 September 2001

by Elizabeth Neuffer

URL:http://web.archive.org/web/20010925123748/boston.com/dailyglobe2/268/nation/Hijack_suspect_lived_a_life_or_a_lie+.shtml

EW YORK – By now, even those who love Ziad Jarrah are confused about the truth of his 26-year-old life.

 

The Lebanese student, says the FBI, helped hijack United Airlines Flight 93 from Newark to San Francisco and aim it toward Washington, part of the deadly terrorist plot that unfolded Sept. 11.

But for that to be true, the young engineer would have had to live a double life worthy of a first-rate spy – concealing from his family, girlfriend, and friends that he was a Muslim extremist, not the religiously moderate, pro-American, fun-loving person they knew him to be.

''It makes no sense,'' his uncle, Jamal Jarrah, said in a telephone interview from the village of Al-Marj, Lebanon, recalling that two days before the hijacking, his nephew called and told the family he'd be coming home for a cousin's wedding in mid-September. ''He said he had even bought a new suit for the occasion.''

Of all the dozens of mysteries still swirling around this month's devastating terrorist attacks, the life of alleged hijacker Jarrah has emerged as one of the more perplexing.

From Lebanon to Germany to the United States, there are few clues as to why he would have joined a terrorist organization, much less commandeered an airplane in a suicidal mission that claimed dozens of innocent lives as well as his own. Flight 93 crashed in rural southwest Pennsylvania, after passengers apparently tackled the hijackers.

Jarrah emerged as a suspect in that hijacking when FBI agents, reviewing flight manifests, found a Ziad Jarrahi – the ''i'' in the last name a possible misspelling – on United Airlines Flight 93. Along with Jarrah, the other names on the FBI's suspect list included Ahmed Alhaznawi, Ahmed Alnami, and Saeed Alghamdi – although at week's end authorities acknowledged the list could contain errors.

So far, the best evidence of Jarrah's involvement is in the striking parallels between his life and that of other alleged hijackers – and the fact that on Sept. 11 he went missing.

Jarrah lived in Hamburg, Germany, as did Mohamed Atta and Marwan al-Shehhi, who allegedly flew the planes that struck the World Trade Center. Like them, he attended a technical university (although not the same one they did) and then moved to Florida to take flight lessons. His roommate for two months this summer was Alhaznawi, another of the suspected hijackers.

And on Sept. 11, he vanished. It was his girlfriend, Aisle Senguen, who first alerted the police, calling to report him missing. German federal police say they found a suitcase of ''airplane-related documents'' in her home.

But Senguen, who is now in a witness protection program, denied in a recent telephone conversation with the family that Jarrah was acquainted with any of the other alleged hijackers.

Echoed Jarrah's uncle: ''He knew none of them – he was at a different university.'' Convinced of his nephew's innocence, he added, ''Maybe someone stole his ID. Maybe he was simply on the flight en route to visit some friends.''

Or maybe Ziad Jarrah did lead a double life – not atypical for members of Al Qaeda, the worldwide terrorist organization headed by Osama bin Laden.

Evidence presented in this year's trial of four men accused of the 1998 bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania revealed that Al Qaeda members were told to mingle with Westerners, and conceal their extremist beliefs.

And terrorism specialists say that the practice of presenting one persona to the world, and keeping another secret, is a brand of spycraft not unknown in certain parts of the Islamic world.

''Taqiyya is what it is called,'' explained German terrorism expert Bassam Tibi. ''You are two-faced. You hate me, but you smile at me.'' Taqiyya, says Tibi, was practiced by many Shi'ite Muslims during historic periods of persecution by Sunni Muslims. And while Jarrah's family was Sunni, he grew up in a Shi'ite stronghold, Lebanon's Bekaa Valley, where the art of polite deception might well have been practiced.

Little else in Jarrah's background, however, fits the profile of most Islamic extremists-turned-terrorists, typically born into a life of desperate poverty. Instead, Ziad Samir Jarrah was born May 11, 1975, the only son in a prosperous, educated family. His father, Samir, 62, is a local government official; his mother, Nasisa, 57, is a schoolteacher.

Growing up in the Bekaa Valley – a rich swath of green fields between two mountain ranges – Ziad Jarrah wanted for little. The area produces much of Lebanon's fruit and vegetables and is also home to many of its well-to-do.

He loved sports, particularly swimming and basketball. He adored – and was doted on by – his two sisters, Dania, now 29, and Nisren, 24.

And his upbringing was anything but radical. While the Jarrahs are Muslim, they are not particularly devout. In fact, believing education more important than religion, they sent their son to a series of exclusive, Christian schools.

As Ziad matured, he appeared neither political nor religious. He drank alcohol and had girlfriends. ''No one in the family has this kind of radical belief,'' said Jamal Jarrah.

But by adulthood, Ziad Jarrah did have a dream: to be an airplane engineer. And so, when he graduated from high school in Beirut in 1995, the family agreed to let him follow in the footsteps of other family members who studied abroad. Jarrah chose Germany.

Although a Brooklyn apartment lease from 1995-1996 bears Ziad Jarrah's name – and landlords there have identified his photograph – his family insists he was in Beirut at the time.

Not until 1996, they say, did Jarrah leave Lebanon for Gleisfeld, Germany, where he studied German and met Senguen. After a year, he moved to Hamburg, where he registered at the University of Applied Sciences. Senguen moved to Bochum, Germany, where she pursued her studies to become a doctor, but the two continued dating.

In Hamburg, Jarrah is remembered as a polite, quiet young man. ''He was a very, very nice boy,'' recalled Rosemary Canel, who rented him a room in her stately home in a leafy suburb of Hamburg from 1997 to 1999. He rarely had friends over; he studied or watched TV while he was home.

At Hamburg's University of Applied Sciences, Jarrah's academic career appears to have been undistinguished. One of his professors, Ludwig Schwarz, recalled him in a telephone call as a quiet student who only got average grades.

''He didn't stand out,'' he said.

Classmate Michael Gotzmann, 25, who was in a study group with Jarrah, also has a hard time reconciling the Jarrah he knew – or thought he knew – with reports that he was one of the hijackers. ''He never said anything bad about America,'' he told Der Spiegel magazine. ''To the contrary, he loved America, and said he always planned to go and study there.''

Yet Hamburg – a bustling port city where newly arrived immigrants rub shoulders with the German elite – is one hub for terrorist organizations in Germany. Studying there, Jarrah could have fallen under the sway of Islamic extremists linked to terrorist groups, says German terrorism expert Tibi.

''There is a lot of peer pressure,'' even among German-born Muslims, Tibi noted, to embrace conservative Islam if not more radical groups. ''Once he was in, he might not have been able to get out,'' he added.

An estimated 2,450 extremists live in Hamburg, a city of 1.7 million with a Muslim population of about 80,000, according to the German Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which monitors extremist groups. Al Qaeda has members in the city, as does the Palestinian group Hamas.

But if Jarrah found religion and the terrorist cause, he revealed nothing. Although records of the Federal Aviation Administration reportedly show him as having a pilot's license in Hamburg, Jarrah told his parents he wanted to move to the United States to learn to fly a single-engine aircraft.

With their blessing, he moved to Florida at the end of 1999, living first in Hollywood, and then in June moving to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea. In Hollywood, Jarrah lived in a seedy, palm-fringed complex of mostly single-story adobe-brown apartments, typically rented mostly by winter residents.

Several other suspects, including Atta, also lived for periods of time in Hollywood. While there, Jarrah drove a flashy, red Mitsubishi Eclipse, his neighbors at Bernard apartments said. ''His car stood out,'' one said. ''He seemed like a bit of a showoff.''

But he was also a model tenant, recalls Carol, the manager, who would not give her last name. ''He was a very quiet guy,'' she said. ''He went to work every day. He told us he was a pilot, but he didn't say where.''

In June, Jarrah moved to Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, where he roomed with Alhaznawi in an apartment attached to their landlord's house.

''They said they were taking flying lessons around here,'' said landlord Charles Lisa. ''They were polite and friendly … At times they had quite a few visitors over, but I never suspected anything.''

During his time there, Jarrah studied street fighting techniques at a local gym. He paid for the lessons in cash, said Bert Rodriguez, owner of US 1 Gym in Dania Beach. ''He was … strong, athletic, and well-coordinated. He was learning to be in control,'' said Rodriguez.

When the pair were vacating their Lauderdale-by-the-Sea apartment, Lisa said, he asked them for a forwarding address. ''I'll send you a postcard,'' said Alhaznawi.

Jarrah's family says they sent him $2,000 each month to pay for flight lessons. But last month, Jarrah did something unusual – he asked his parents for an extra $700, ''for fun.'' When he called home Sept. 9, he confirmed he had received $2,700. His family believes he wanted to use the extra cash to go to California, possibly to visit friends.

But his destination, it now seems, was Newark. On Sept. 5, according to an employee of Passage Tours in Fort Lauderdale, Jarrah and his roommate each bought a one-way ticket on the Sept. 7 flight. Each paid cash.

As FBI agents scour Florida for clues to Jarrah's life, his family has come to believe that Jarrah may well have been on Flight 93, but as an innocent passenger, not a perpetrator of the biggest terrorist attack in US history.

For his family to believe otherwise would be to admit they didn't know him at all. ''It is unbelievable someone – anyone – would do this,'' sobbed Jamal Jarrah over the telephone. ''Unbelievable.''

 


Friends of terror suspect Jarrah say allegations make no sense

Friends of terror suspect say allegations make no sense
LA Times
23 October 2001

by Carol J Williams

URL: http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sns-worldtrade-jarrah-lat.story

Jarrah, believed to be one of hijackers, appeared to embrace Western life

GREIFSWALD, Germany — Nearly every weekend of his childhood and adolescence, Ziad Samir Jarrah's doting parents drove him from war-ravaged Beirut to the Bekaa Valley oasis of Al-Marj so he could play with his cousin Salim.

Born just 40 days apart to two brothers of a close-knit and prosperous family, Ziad and Salim learned how to ride bikes together, how to drive and how to dodge their parents' plans for their future. More like twins than cousins, the two left Lebanon together April 4, 1996, at the age of 20, heading to the eastern German town of Greifswald in pursuit of both an education and a good time.

Today, Salim has a German wife, a young daughter and a thriving restaurant in Greifswald. He is a picture of integration and contentment. Ziad also seemed on track, destined for a career in aviation and a happy family life — until he turned up on the FBI list of the 19 suspected terrorists responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States. How a handsome, likable young man who appeared to be at peace with the Western world could have gotten mixed up in mass murder is one of the many mysteries still shrouding the terrorist assaults.

Little, if anything, is known about the personal lives of most of the suspects. Of the 19, only alleged organizer Mohamed Atta and Jarrah left behind a long trail of acquaintances. But family and friends say the Ziad Jarrah they knew exhibited none of the smoldering political resentments or cultural conservatism of Atta.

Instead, they recall Jarrah as quiet, pampered, a little lazy and madly in love. How, they ask, do you convert a happy, intelligent young man with little religious or political conviction into a suicidal foot soldier in a holy war? With no answers, they are left to speculate that he was brainwashed or coerced.

For investigators, many circumstances point to the 26-year-old Lebanese being part of a plot to hijack the four jetliners. Jarrah studied in Hamburg, where two of the suspected leaders of the terror plot lived. He trained for a pilot's license in Florida just a few miles away from other sky pirates. He lost his passport two years ago, about the same time that two other Hamburg suspects did, leading investigators to believe they were trying to cleanse their travel documents of visas that might arouse suspicion.

There also are jarring details and gaps from his months in Florida that friends and relatives cannot explain. Why did he rent a cottage with one of the other suspected hijackers of United Airlines Flight 93 in late summer? Why did he, like many of the other suspected hijackers, seek personal fitness training? And besides hijacking, what other reason could he have had to be on the flight from Newark to San Francisco, which crashed into a Pennsylvania field and killed all 44 passengers and crew?

Identified by their 'Arabic' names

Jarrah and the other three men named by the FBI as hijackers of the flight — Ahmed Ibrahim A. Al Haznawi, Ahmed Alnami and Saeed Alghamdi — initially came to be on the list of 19 because they "have been identified as having 'Arabic' names … on the UA93 manifest," according to the first FBI document alerting Hamburg police to their city's connection to the terrorist act, a copy of which was obtained by The Times.

What prompted investigators' theory that Jarrah was at the controls has never been disclosed. The first publicly released list of the 19 suspects named by the FBI on Sept. 14 provides no other information about Jarrah except his name and the words "believed to be a pilot."

That list was released in Washington a day after Jarrah's girlfriend back in Germany, Aysel Senguen, reported him missing to police in the Ruhr River city of Bochum.

If they didn't know already, police probably would have learned from interrogating her that Jarrah, who had gone to the United States for pilot training the previous fall, had just earned his license, and that he had previously studied in Hamburg.

But German police and officials who are familiar with the investigation say that they have little to link Jarrah to the two other Sept. 11 suspects who lived in Hamburg at the same time, Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi.

Federal prosecutor Kay Nehm disclosed the first hint of a connection only on Friday when he alluded to having a photo showing Jarrah at the 1999 wedding of a fugitive known to espouse fanatic views, Said Bahaji, who once roomed with Atta and Al-Shehhi.

Federal authorities in Germany have withdrawn assertions that Jarrah at one time lived at or frequented the Hamburg apartment rented by the three.

"He never lived with the others. He had three different apartments during his time in Hamburg, but none in common with any of the other suspects," a senior German official told The Times.

"The only information we have connecting the three Hamburg suspects is the FBI's assertion that there is a connection," said a high-ranking police source involved in the investigation, apparently unaware of the wedding photo. "We have come across absolutely no evidence of our own."

While Jarrah overlapped in Hamburg with Atta and Al-Shehhi from 1997 to 1999, he lived and studied in different areas of the city. The University of Applied Sciences, where Jarrah studied aviation construction, is in Hamburg's St. Georg district, a half-hour subway ride from Technical University and the Harburg suburb south of the Elbe River where Atta and Al-Shehhi lived.

The single room Jarrah rented from Rosemarie Canel on Alte Landstrasse would have put him even farther away. He is not known to ever have attended the Steindamm mosque that is the alleged meeting place of the other suspects and their purported associates from Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network.

Senguen has been in seclusion under a witness protection program since she reported Jarrah missing, and she has not spoken to reporters. But she has been in telephone contact with friends and family to say she didn't believe he was among the plotters.

"She said she'd never heard him mention the name Atta or anyone else" from the list of suspects, Jarrah's uncle, Jamal, remembers of Senguen's call to Beirut. "She knew him best these last years and she, too, says he just couldn't do this."

Canel, Jarrah's Hamburg landlady, remembers him as a quiet and courteous tenant who had few visitors and spent his nights studying or watching TV. On weekends he left to stay with Senguen, first in Greifswald, where they met in 1996, and later in Bochum, where she moved in 1999 to study medicine. She passed her medical school exams at Ruhr University just a few days before Sept. 11.

'Just a lovely, kind young man'

"He was just a lovely, kind young man," says Gudrun Schimpfky of Greifswald's Arndt University, who taught Jarrah to speak German in a program that brought them together six to eight hours a day, five days a week, for the year it took him to complete the college-level proficiency exam in 1997.

Jarrah called his family in Lebanon most weekends and was in touch with Senguen nearly every day, says family friend Mahmoud Ali, a Duesseldorf sports club entrepreneur who last spoke to Jarrah in July.

"There is nothing in his character that would allow him to do this — not from his past, not from his family, not from his country," Ali said.

Although Jarrah spent his first 14 years in war-torn Beirut, his family insists he was shielded from the hardships and showed no interest in politics. Jarrah attended Christian schools, graduating from a French high school, where he became fluent in French and English.

The Jarrah family is the most influential in Al-Marj, says Ali, and included Jamal, a banker; Nesim, a senior customs officer; and the fathers of Jarrah and cousin Salim — Samir and Gazi, respectively, high-ranking officials of the Lebanese social security system.

Ali has lived in Germany for 16 years and was already an established businessman in Duesseldorf when Jarrah and his cousin arrived in 1996.

"Samir told me to give them whatever they needed," Ali recalls. Jarrah never asked for money, he says, only Ali's connections with a travel agency that could procure cheap air tickets.

Otherwise, he got by on the $700 a month his parents sent — a sum they boosted to about $2,000 a month when Jarrah went to Florida last year for flight training.

Jarrah and Senguen began their relationship shortly after he arrived in 1996, and he moved with her to Bochum in late 1999. Still, they took pains to hide their intimacy from her conservative Turkish parents.

Senguen had complained to friends, including Ali, that Jarrah had become more conservative and possessive in recent months. But Ali dismissed a theory among police and the German media that Jarrah had become a religious fundamentalist.

"We Arab men are very jealous about our women, that's all," said Ali. "We try to tell them what to do, and they just ignore us."

Salim Jarrah said he believes his cousin decided to go to flight school because he simply did not want to invest the time required for him to earn a German doctorate in aviation engineering, which could take up to a decade.

From the United States, Jarrah made at least two trips this year to Bochum, which is just outside Duesseldorf, to see Senguen. The first was in late February and early March after he had spent three weeks in Beirut to be with his father, who had suffered a heart attack.

Senguen last saw him in mid-July. He returned to Florida after less than a week, missing the Beirut wedding of his older sister Dania on Aug. 2 because he was scheduled to take his test for a pilot's license, he told Senguen and Ali. Records show Jarrah earned his single-engine certification July 30 after successfully completing more than six months of lessons at the Florida Flight Training Center in Venice.

'He was a friend to all of us'

Those who met Jarrah at the flight school also say they can't see him as a terrorist.

"Our entire staff does not believe that he had bad intentions," says FFTC President Arne Kruithof. "Let's put it this way: Everybody interviewed here on this guy was in shock, because he was a friend to all of us."

"I don't think there's anyone in the time that he was here that could say anything negative about him; on the contrary, he would help everybody," says Kruithof, who insisted that Jarrah's demeanor was "not faked."

Thorsten Biermann, who roomed with Jarrah at the flight school for the first six weeks of training, found him to be "just a normal person, like anyone else."

Biermann says he never saw Jarrah pray in the time they lived together, and Jarrah never had visitors. However, he says his roommate was looking forward to a visit by Senguen that occurred after the German returned home Dec. 13.

Jarrah called his family two days before the terror attacks to confirm that he and Senguen would be in Beirut on Sept. 22 for another family wedding — this time Salim's younger sister.

Ali, the family friend, said Senguen called him Sept. 11 to tell him that she had just spoken to Jarrah — about an hour before he boarded United Flight 93. She described the conversation as pleasant and normal, although it is unclear whether she knew he was flying that day.

"We watched the news on television at the racquet club — all anyone did that day was watch TV," Ali recalled of the first hours after the hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center about 3 p.m. local time. "She was upset like everyone else, and when she didn't hear from him for two whole days when everyone in America was calling to say they were OK, she became really worried."

Ali next heard from Senguen when she called in tears from a Bochum police station, where she was held overnight and interrogated as detectives combed her tiny apartment, impounding a suitcase belonging to Jarrah and personal records such as phone bills and banking statements.

In retrospect, Ali wonders whether Senguen heard something in Jarrah's voice in that last phone conversation that put her on alert and prompted her to declare him missing.

Meanwhile, the tantalizing coincidences pile up.

Three months before the terror strikes, Jarrah traveled to Las Vegas. His uncle in Lebanon describes the trip as a gambling junket, but that June 7-10 sojourn also provides another possible connection with other hijackers. Atta, Al-Shehhi and three other suspects also made trips to Las Vegas between May and August, although none overlapped with Jarrah's.

Like Atta and Al-Shehhi, Jarrah reported his passport lost in late 1999 and obtained a new one from the Lebanese consulate in Bonn. Authorities speculate the men were trying to get rid of visas to Afghanistan or elsewhere, although Salim Jarrah insists his cousin was never unaccounted for in those days.

Although Jarrah paid his expenses in cash from money wired by his parents, U.S. federal investigative documents suggest he had a Visa debit card and that its number was only a few digits off from those used by four other suspects.

Jarrah also moved in April from Venice, Fla., on the west coast to Hollywood, in the east, living separately but in the same city as Atta and Al-Shehhi and spending much of his free time working out and taking self-defense classes at a gym in nearby Dania Beach.

Several of the other suspects also worked diligently at getting themselves in shape, although at different facilities.

Jarrah was also identified by a landlady in Ft. Lauderdale-by-the-Sea as having rented a cottage for a few weeks in late summer with another suspect who died on Flight 93, Ahmed Al Haznawi, someone Jarrah was never previously associated with.

It all leaves those who knew Jarrah wondering.

In one of the last photos taken of him, in Beirut early this year, he wears a jacket and tie and designer eyeglasses, his hair brushed back and an arm lovingly draped around the shoulders of his diminutive mother, Nafisa.

"We were all telling him he should marry Aysel and get themselves out of this little one-room student apartment," says Ali. "But he wanted this too. He really loved her."

Being nagged about living with Senguen was something Jarrah should have been used to.

"I used to criticize him for living with her. By our religion, this living together before marriage is not allowed," recalls Abdullah Al-Makhadi, a classmate of Senguen's at the Greifswald premed program and founder of a rudimentary mosque in the town that hosts more than 500 foreign students from Islamic nations.

Jarrah rarely attended Friday prayers and never prayed five times daily, as do the devout, says Al-Makhadi. "He was a weak Muslim, I must say."

Salim says none of the Jarrahs was raised with much religious conviction. The cousins went to parties and discos, drank alcohol and flirted with women of various ethnicity and religion.

"I remember the first time we went to a disco here, we were laughing at how small and pathetic it was," says the restaurateur. "Back home in Lebanon, discos are much more elegant, sprawling up several floors and much more modern."

That Ziad Jarrah might have become more serious in the last couple of years, when Senguen's 1999 transfer to Bochum ended the pretext for his weekly visits to Greifswald, is something his cousin cannot exclude.

But he says he can "rule out with 100% certainty" that his cousin could have turned into a fanatic.

"We came here to Germany so we could live better, not to die for some insane idea," he says. "We don't know if it was really Ziad on that plane. It seems it was, or he would have come forward by now. But if he died in that crash, he died as a victim like the other passengers."

Los Angeles Times staff writer Patrick J. McDonnell in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

Alleged hijackers leave behind incriminating evidence

Richard Surma (owner of the Panther Motel Apartments, north of Fort Lauderdale) said the men [Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al Shehhi] left behind a box cutter, an 8-inch-thick pile of detailed, high-quality aeronautical maps of every state on the East Coast, three martial arts books, and a three-ring notebook with a protractor. Also found was a tote bag from a flying school. The books were on kung fu, jujitsu, and a martial art he couldn’t remember. He threw out the maps but kept the martial arts manuals and the protractors.
Hijackers may have taken Saudi identities
By Kevin Cullen and Anthony Shadid, Globe Staff, 9/15/2001

vidence surfaced yesterday that some of the suicide hijackers who commandeered airliners originating in Boston, Washington, and Newark on Tuesday may have used aliases and adopted the identities of legitimate Saudi Arabian pilots to gain entry to the United States and access to the flight training they needed to carry out their attacks.

The FBI, meanwhile, has seized a will written by the Islamic radical who some investigators believe was the ringleader of the Boston hijackers, in which he said he planned to kill himself so he would go to heaven as a martyr, according to federal sources.

The will of Mohamed Atta, 33, written in Arabic and dated in 1996, was found in his luggage, which was not loaded onto doomed American Airlines Flight 11. That plane smashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York.

”It was written in such a way that he was going to martyr himself,” said a law enforcement source.

Aside from showing the zealotry that drove Atta and the other suicide hijackers, investigators said, the will is more evidence that the planning for the worst act of terrorism ever directed against Americans began at least five years ago. Records show that some of the suicide hijackers arrived in the US for flight training more than five years ago.

The FBI also has identified a second hotel where some of those who hijacked two Boston-to-Los Angeles flights stayed. Federal law enforcement sources say Ahmed Alghamdi and Hamza Alghamdi paid cash for a room at the Days Hotel on Soldiers Field Road in Brighton on Monday, the night before hijacking United Flight 175.

The hotel manager, Adam Sperling, confirmed yesterday that the FBI had been at the hotel Thursday afternoon to pick up a copy of the guest list.

Two of the men who hijacked Flight 11, Wail and Waleed al-Shehri, spent the night before at the Park Inn in Chestnut Hill.

The prospect of the hijackers using aliases has made an already convoluted, difficult criminal investigation even more confusing, as investigators seek to establish who hijacked the planes and how they got into a position to do so.

The Saudi government yesterday said that at least some of the suicide hijackers stole the identities of legitimate Saudi pilots, apparently in an attempt to deflect attention, as they spent more than five years gaining the flying experience needed to take the controls of an airborne commercial jet and fly it into a target.

Responding to yesterday’s Boston Globe report that some of the hijackers had exploited Saudi Arabia’s standing as America’s staunchest Arab ally to gain entry to the United States and access to aeronautics training later used to kill perhaps thousands, the Saudi government broke its silence, denying that any of the hijackers were Saudi nationals.

The Saudi government, presided over by the country’s royal family, is close to the Bush family, especially President George W. Bush’s father, the former president. The Saudi government is sensitive about the growing evidence that the hijackers used Saudi affiliations to gain the expertise they needed to kill perhaps thousands of Americans.

In an interview in Washington, Gaafar Allagany, the Saudi government’s chief spokesman in the United States, said the hijackers probably stole the identity of legitimate Saudi pilots. Allagany suggested the information released by US authorities indicating some of the hijackers were Saudis or had attended flight schools in Florida under the sponsorship of the Saudi national airline is wrong. He said none of the hijackers were sponsored or employed by Saudi Arabian Airlines, which is owned by the government.

The airline’s New York office referred calls to corporate headquarters, but that office was closed. Allagany, however, said he spoke to the airline’s executives. ”If they come to America, they have to come through the office of Saudi Arabian Airlines. They never heard of these names,” he said.

But investigators say, and public records show, that some of the hijackers listed Saudi Arabian Airlines as their sponsors while they attended flight schools in Florida.

And a Saudi newspaper editor yesterday said two of the hijackers, brothers Waleed and Wail al Shehri, were the sons of a Saudi diplomat, Ahmed al-Shehri.

Reached by the Globe in New Delhi, where he is third secretary of the Saudi embassy, Ahmed al-Shehri equivocated when asked if the two hijackers were his sons.

”I have no idea. Maybe,” said al-Shehri, who worked as an attache at the Saudi embassy in Washington until 1996. ”How do I know? We have a half-million Shehris in Saudi Arabia.”

Flight instructors in Florida said it is common for students with Saudi affiliations to enter the United States with only cursory background checks. Foreign students, who make up 80-90 percent of students at Florida’s 80 or so aeronautical schools, are subjected to far more scrutiny from US State Department officials if they come from Middle Eastern nations that are less friendly with Washington than is Saudi Arabia, instructors said.

FBI director Robert Mueller said in a briefing that he had ”a fairly high level of confidence” that the names of 19 hijackers released by the government yesterday were actual names and not aliases or stolen identities.

Mueller conceded that investigators were unaware that potential terrorists had been training at American flight schools. ”If we had understood that to be the case, we would have – perhaps one could have averted this,” Mueller said.

Mueller also acknowledged that some of the hijackers aboard the four flights were not in the country legally. But he wasn’t sure how many or which ones.

The FBI has conducted more than 30 searches throughout the country, issued hundreds of subpoenas, and seized computers, documents, and other evidence, Mueller said. By yesterday afternoon, the FBI had received more than 36,000 leads, he said.

Attorney General John Ashcroft said the FBI has forwarded a list of more than 100 names of individuals it wants to question in the case to the Federal Aviation Administration, the airlines, some 18,000 police departments, the US Border Patrol, and the US Customs Service.

”Now the nature of this list is that it would be changing constantly as people are either removed from it or added to it,” Ashcroft said. ”But we believe that the individuals on the list may have information that could be helpful to us in our efforts.”

In a telephone interview from the Saudi city of Jeddah, Jamal Khashoggi, the deputy editor of the Arabic newspaper Arab News, said he spoke to Abdulrahman Alomari, a Saudi pilot who said the hijackers had stolen his identity as part of their plot. Khashoggo said Alomari went to the US consulate in Jeddah yesterday to report that he was alive and well.

Abdulrahman Alomari was on the passenger list of Flight 11, sitting in business class next to Mohamed Atta, 33, who some investigators now believe was the ringleader of the group of terrorists who boarded two Boston-to-Los Angeles flights. Public records show that Alomari had lived in Vero Beach, Fla., and attended a flight school there.

But in the Justice Department list of hijackers released yesterday, Alomari’s first name is spelled Abdulaziz. Federal investigators said they could not explain the discrepancy between the American Airlines passenger list and their list.

Khashoggi said he also spoke to Amer Kamfar, 41, who is being sought by police in Florida as an alleged accomplice to the terrorists. He said Kamfar, a flight engineer for the Saudi airline, spoke to him yesterday from Mecca in Saudi Arabia.

”Kamfar said he doesn’t know any of these guys. He’s in total disbelief. He said he knew Alomari, that they went to school together,” said Khashoggi, whose newspaper supports the Saudi government. ”He thinks someone stole his identity, too.”

Nonetheless, police in Florida said they were still searching for Kamfar and said he was possibly armed with an AK-47. Public records show that Kamfar lived with Alomari in Vero Beach and that they both went to a flight school nearby, and that Kamfar listed Saudi Arabian Airlines’ post office box in Jeddah as his home address on his pilot license.

Al-Hayat, an Arabic newspaper based in London, reported yesterday that Atta was an Egyptian. While Atta has had an Egyptian driver’s license, and has lived in the United Arab Emirates, investigators found a Saudi passport in his luggage, which was left behind at Logan Airport when he boarded Flight 11 after taking a flight from Portland, Maine, Tuesday.

Al-Hayat, considered one of the most independent and credible Arabic newspapers, reported that Atta earned an engineering degree in Egypt and was not known to Egyptian authorities as belonging to radical Islamic groups in that country. The newspaper said Atta lived in Hamburg with another Egyptian, Marwan Shahin, before arriving in Florida last July to attend flight school.

But according to German police, and to investigators here probing the suicide hijackings, Atta came to the US with his cousin Marwan Al Shehhi, who was trained as a pilot and was aboard Flight 175 when it smashed into the World Trade Center South Tower 15 minutes after Flight 11 crashed.

Federal law enforcement sources said Atta was wanted for a 1986 attack on a bus in Israel, and German authorities said his terrorist record should have made him ineligible to enter the US. How Atta and Marwan Al Shehhi got into the country remains a subject of dispute among authorities.

Interviews with those who met Marwan Al Shehhi when he was in Florida indicate he left a Deerfield Beach, Fla., hotel two days before the attack, suggesting he drove straight through to Massachusetts to make the Tuesday morning flight at Logan.

Richard and Diane Surma, owner of the Panther Motel Apartments, north of Fort Lauderdale, said Al Shehhi signed out, and were not sure when the other two men left. Al Shehhi and another man initially rented the room for two. A visitor ended up staying with them.

Richard Surma said the men left behind a box cutter, an 8-inch-thick pile of detailed, high-quality aeronautical maps of every state on the East Coast, three martial arts books, and a three-ring notebook with a protractor. Also found was a tote bag from a flying school. The books were on kung fu, jujitsu, and a martial art he couldn’t remember. He threw out the maps but kept the martial arts manuals and the protractors.

While watching the horrific events on TV, Diane Surma said to herself, ”I bet those guys stayed at our place.”

On Wednesday, the Surmas talked to an investigator from the county sheriff’s office, who took a look at the material and called the FBI. The FBI confiscated it.

”My wife ran over and said we wanted to show them something. So they came over and it blew their minds,” Surma said.

The rooms cost $45 a night. The men paid cash in advance for each week. There were no signs of problems.

”They were neatly dressed, they made no noise. That’s the kind we like,” said Richard.

Marwan spoke good English, with either no or only a slight accent, said Diane Surma. She stressed he was nice and polite.

Richard Surma said, ”It’s not like Hollywood, where you can easily spot the bad guy. They blended in pretty well.”

Globe Staff reporters Shelley Murphy, Matthew Brelis, Michael Rosenwald, and Michael Rezendes in Florida, and Globe correspondent Leila Fadel contributed to this report.

The playboys-hijackers by Newsweek

As the deadliest attack on American soil in history opens a scary new kind of conflict, the manhunt begins

By Evan Thomas and Mark Hosenball

NEWSWEEK Sept. 24, 2001 issue ?  Such a polite, neat young man. He brought his landlord coffee and cookies. He remembered to use his frequent-flier number when he bought his ticket from Boston to Los Angeles?business class. And a good student, too, reported his flight instructor, though he seemed more interested in turning the plane than landing it. A little standoffish, maybe, but he could knock back a vodka with his buddies. So it was uncharacteristic for Mohamed Atta to be running a little behind when he boarded American Airlines Flight 11 on Tuesday shortly before 8 a.m. One of his bags never made it aboard, but maybe that was intentional, too, for inside was a suicide note.
 
THE FBI BELIEVES that Atta was in control when Flight 11 crashed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center, but maybe not. The hijackers had an abundance of piloting talent?four of the five terrorists aboard had some flight training. Indeed, there were enough hijackers with piloting skills to fly four airliners?two for New York, and two for Washington.

        At the White House on that beautiful, clear morning, the occupants were running for their lives. Vice President Dick Cheney had already been hustled into a bunker designed to withstand the shock of a nuclear blast when, at about 9:30 a.m., Secret Service men told staffers leaving the West Wing to run, not walk, as far away as possible. “There’s a plane overhead, don’t look back!? shouted a policeman. Agents were yelling at women to shed their high-heeled shoes so they could run faster. Several staffers saw a civilian airliner, reflecting white in the bright sunlight, appearing to circle nearby. Perhaps unable to spot the White House, the hijackers at the control of American Airlines Flight 77 dive-bombed the Pentagon instead.

        How could a small band of religious zealots knock down the World Trade Center, the most visible symbol of capitalism, killing thousands in lower Manhattan, and come so close to destroying the executive mansion of the most powerful nation on earth? Part of the answer is that few U.S. government officials really believed they could. Consider the dazed reaction of top officials of the Federal Aviation Administration, the agency charged with safely controlling the nation’s airways. Although a couple of aircraft had been behaving erratically on the radar screens of flight controllers for at least 15 minutes, officials at FAA headquarters did not suspect that a hijacking had occurred until the second plane, United Airlines Flight 175, rammed the South Tower of the World Trade Center at 9:05. A half hour later, when the third plane, American Flight 77, hit the Pentagon, the FAA officials responded in classic bureaucratic fashion. “Get out your security manuals,” ordered one top official. The officials dutifully began reading their manuals to determine who among them were deemed “essential” and should stay and work, and who should go home for the day.

        U.S. Air Force fighter planes did not arrive to protect the nation’s capital for another 15 minutes. Pentagon officials had watched helplessly as the suicide airliner bore in on the nation’s military command center. In the chaotic aftermath, the plane at the greatest risk of getting shot down was the one flying the attorney general of the United States. At least that’s the way it seemed to the pilot, David Clemmer, a Vietnam combat veteran who received a warning as he flew the nation’s chief law-enforcement officer, John Ashcroft, back to Washington from an aborted speaking engagement in the Midwest. Land your plane immediately, Clemmer was instructed by an air-traffic controller, or risk getting shot down by the U.S. Air Force. Clemmer turned to an FBI agent assigned to guard Ashcroft and said, “Well, Larry, we’re in deep kimchi here, and basically, all the rules you and I know are out the window.” The pilot notified air-traffic controllers that he was carrying the attorney general – but was worried that the message wouldn’t get through to military commanders controlling the airspace around Washington. “Thinking out of the box,” as Clemmer put it, he asked for?and got?a fighter escort into Washington. His plane, guarded by an F-16, was one of the last to land on the East Coast that day.

        Within a day or two, the haplessness, the confusion, the mentality of “it can’t happen here? had been wiped away, perhaps forever. An aircraft carrier patrolled off New York Harbor, past the skyline so horrifically sundered by the destruction of the World Trade Center. Washington was an armed camp on hair-trigger alert. “We’re at war,” declared President George W. Bush. “We will not only deal with those who dare attack America, we will deal with those who harbor them and feed them and house them.” The FBI had launched the largest manhunt in history, code-named PENTTBOM (for Pentagon and Twin Towers), tracking the suspected 19 suicide bombers and their backers around the nation and abroad. Intelligence officials told NEWSWEEK that they feared that between 30 and 50 teams of terrorists were still on the loose. It was hard to tell if the threat was real, or if America was gripped with the sort of frenzy that seized the nation after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor?and many citizens assumed that Japanese troops would soon be marching on Chicago. Northwest Airlines confirmed that flight attendants were staying away from work in droves. And bomb scares became routine. By Saturday, FBI agents had detained 25 people wanted for questioning on immigration violations and issued arrest warrants for two other “material witnesses.”

        Congress will no doubt hold hearings to assign the fault for a massive failure of intelligence. At the CIA, NEWSWEEK has learned, officials looked at the Justice Department’s list of dead hijackers aboard American Flight 77, the plane that hit the Pentagon, and recognized three of them as terrorism suspects. (“Oh s?t,” exclaimed one official.) In late August, the agency had asked the FBI to find two of the men, one of whom was believed to be connected to a suspect in the October 2000 bombing of the destroyer the USS Cole. But the FBI was still looking when the hijackers struck.
        The blame game will go on. But the finger-pointing may miss a darker and more troubling truth about the shocking attack. It is very difficult for a free and open society to defend against terrorists who are at once patient, smart and willing to die. The operatives run by Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization that reports to bin Laden, appear to be all three. As the PENTTBOM investigation exposes the sophisticated and long-conceived suicide plot, a portrait of evil genius emerges.
        It is often said that Islamic extremists wish to turn back history. They want to destroy the Western modernity that threatens to eclipse their fantasy of an 11th-century theocracy. But, like a judo expert who leverages his opponent’s superior weight and mass against him, Islamic terrorists have found a diabolically clever way to flip the Great Satan on his back. Blending into American society for months and even years, quietly awaiting the signal to move, bin Laden’s operatives have learned how to turn two of Americ greatest strengths?openness and technology?into weapons against the American people. Armed with pocket knives, they transformed U.S. airliners into guided missiles, flying bombs packed with 60,000 gallons of explosive fuel. That feat, while awesome, could be just the beginning. Talking on cell phones and by encrypted e-mail, operatives in bin Laden’s far-flung network can communicate from Afghanistan to Miami with little risk of immediate detection. It is chilling to think what they could accomplish if they get their hands on the acme of Western military science, the nuclear bomb. Without doubt, they are trying.
        “The ability to take our expertise and turn it on us is exhilarating to them,” says Sen. Ron Wyden, a member of the Senate intelligence committee. “They stay at it and stay at it to learn how to defeat our technological systems. It’s like rattling doors through the neighborhood, looking for one to break in. That’s what they?re doing with our technology.” The lock to Americ rickety, overburdened air-control system was especially easy to pick. But Americ water and electrical supplies aren’t much better safeguarded. And teenage computer hackers have already demonstrated how to use the wide-open Internet to wreck cyberhavoc on American businesses and homes.

        For all their professed devotion to medieval religiosity, the terrorists themselves appear to have comfortably blended into American culture. They do not appear to be poor, or desperate or down on their luck, like the stereotype of a young Arab man drawn to the false promise of entering Paradise through martyrdom. At least one of the 19 had a family, and all apparently lived comfortable middle-class lives, with enough money to rent cars, go to school and violate the Quran’s ban on alcohol by visiting the occasional bar. A senior European intelligence official told NEWSWEEK that some of the hijackers may have had Swiss bank accounts, which have now been frozen by Swiss authorities. Two of the alleged hijackers aboard Flight 93, Ahmed Alhaznawi and Ziad Jarrahi, drove a Ford Ranger and lived in a quiet neighborhood in Lauderdale-by-the-Sea, Fla. In front of the house was a wooden wind chime carrying the message THIS HOUSE IS FULL OF LOVE. NEWSWEEK has learned that the Pentagon has referred to the FBI reports that three of the hijackers may have received help from Uncle Sam – as trainees at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida; two others may have studied at Air Force facilities.
        Osama bin Laden, their spiritual leader and financier, comes from a privileged background himself. One of more than 50 children of Yemeni billionaire parents who got rich off construction contracts in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden, for a time, made money on those most Western of beverages, Coke and Pepsi. During the early ?90s, while he lived in Sudan, he owned part of a company that produced gum arabic, an essential ingredient of many soft drinks. Bin Laden may not have a vast personal fortune, at least not the $300 million ascribed to him, but he is able to secure funds from nefarious sources. According to intelligence sources, his agents are involved in drug running and he receives “blood money? payment from frightened Arab regimes that want to buy protection from his zealotry. According to U.S. intelligence sources, bin Laden is able to pay pensions to the families of suicide bombers.
        Mohamed Atta was, according to investigators, the perfect soldier in bin Laden’s army. He was a citizen of the world. Traveling on a passport from the United Arab Emirates, he lived in Germany for a time, studying at the Technical University in Hamburg. He frequented a nightspot named Sharkx’s Billiard Bar (?the Bar With Mega-Possibilities?), wore black jeans, and rented – but failed to return – a video of John Carpenter’s “Vampire.” At the same time, he requested and received a prayer room at the university for himself and about 20 other Muslim students. In the last two years, he began to wear Muslim dress.
        Atta, 33, may have had a shadowy past. According to German authorities, he is suspected in the bombing of an Israeli bus in 1986, when he was only 18 or 19 years old. If true, he should have been denied immigration visas. Instead, he was able to move freely between Germany and the United States. He was clearly preparing for some sort of terrorist action for months. According to law-enforcement authorities, he may have begun casing Logan Airport in Boston more than six months ago. And, NEWSWEEK has learned, he was seen last winter in Norfolk, Va., where, the FBI believes, he may have been surveying the giant U.S. Navy base as a target. Already, say investigators, there are important links between the hijackers who attacked American targets last week and the plotters who tried to sink the USS Cole in Yemen last October.
        Atta had plenty of cash. He wrote a $10,000 check to take flight lessons at one of Florid many flight schools. (Because of its year-round good weather and proximity to the beach, Florida attracts many international flight students, especially from the Middle East; background checks are said to be minimal.) Last December, he and another man paid $1,500 for six hours in a Boeing 727 simulator. “Looking back at it, it was a little strange that all they wanted to do was turns,” Henry George, who runs SimCenter, Inc., at Opa-Locka Airport, told The Miami Herald. “Most people who come here want to do takeoffs and landings.”

 

        At the time, Atta aroused no suspicion. When he turned in his rent-a-car in Pompano Beach, Fla., on Sept. 9, before heading north on his suicide mission, he reminded the dealer, Brad Warrick, that the car needed to be serviced. “The only thing out of the ordinary,” Warrick recalled, “was that he was nice enough to let me know the car needed an oil change.” Atta and several friends were regulars at a Venice bar called the 44th Aero Squadron, decorated in the motif of a bomber-squadron bunker, complete with sandbags. “I never had any problems with them,” said the owner, Ken Schortzmann. They didn’t want to be bothered, but didn’t drink heavily and flirt with the waitresses, like some of the other flight students. Atta seemed to be the leader. “He had a fanny pack with a big roll of cash in it,” said Schortzmann.

        Last week Atta and two of his buddies seem to have gone out for a farewell bender at a seafood bar called Shuckums. Atta drank five Stoli-and-fruit-juices, while one of the others drank rum and Coke. For once, Atta and his friends became agitated, shouting curse words in Arabic, reportedly including a particularly blasphemous one that roughly translates as “F?k God.” There was a squabble when the waitress tried to collect the $48 bill (her shift was ending and she wanted her tip). One of the Arabs became indignant. “I work for American Airlines. I’m a pilot,” he said. “What makes you think I?d have a problem paying the bill”?
        Although investigators now suspect that Atta may been the leader of his cell, it is not clear if and when he was, in effect, “triggered.” The pattern of bin Laden’s terrorism is to insert operatives into a country where they are “sleepers,” burrowed deep into the local culture, leading normal lives while awaiting orders. Intelligence sources believe that one or two control agents run by bin Laden’s Qaeda may have slipped into the United States in the last couple of weeks to activate the airliner plot. The idea of using suicide pilots may have been germinating for a very long time. One of the other pilot-hijackers on Flight 11, Waleed Alshehri, attended flight school in Florida in 1997. Last week FBI Director Robert Mueller told a news conference, “The fact that they received flight training in the U.S. is news.” But maybe it shouldn’t have been. Only last September an Orlando, Fla., cabdriver named Ihab Ali was indicted for refusing to answer questions about his ties to the bin Laden organization, including his “pilot training in Oklahoma,” according to court papers. Indeed, the records of the terrorism trial in New York for the August 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa offer a wealth of information about bin Laden’s use of U.S.-trained pilots. One of them, Essam Al-Ridi, who had been trained at a Texas flight school, was a key government witness, testifying that bin Laden’s associates used him to try to buy a private jet to transport Stinger ground-to-air missiles from Pakistan to Sudan.
        It is not known exactly how many of bin Laden’s operatives are still on the loose. One of the most intriguing suspects may be Amer Mohammed Kamfar, 41. Last winter or fall, he showed up in Florida and took flight lessons at FlightSafety Academy. He rented a house in Vero Beach, where he had a wife, who dressed in the traditional chador, and several children. Kamfar, who called himself “John,” “shopped at Wal-Mart and ate a lot of pizza,” according to a neighbor. Two weeks ago he packed up his family and left the area. Last week Florida cops put out an all-points bulletin, warning that Kamfar may be toting an AK-47.

         Two of the suicide bombers may have just slipped out of the federal government’s grasp. According to intelligence sources, on Aug. 21 the CIA passed along information to the Immigration and Naturalization Service on a man who belonged on the watch list for terror suspects. The man, Khalid al-Midhar, had been videotaped in Kuala Lumpur talking to one of the suspected terrorists in the Cole bombing (the man is now in jail in Yemen). When the INS ran its database, it found that al-Midhar was already inside the United States. The CIA asked the FBI to find him and an associate, Salem Alhamzi. But the bureau didn’t have much to go on. They listed their U.S. residence as “the Marriott Hotel in New York.” There are 10 Marriott-run hotels in New York. The bureau checked all of them and found nothing. Al-Midhar and Alhamzi were listed among the five hijackers of American Airlines Flight 77.
        Ever since the Customs Service foiled an apparent bomb plot on the eve of the millennium, U.S. intelligence has been very edgy about an attack on America. The man caught crossing between British Columbia and Seattle with explosives and timers in his car, Ahmed Ressam, later confessed that he planned to blow up Los Angeles International Airport. Ressam allegedly worked for a shadowy group of Algerian terrorists with ties to bin Laden. Twice a week, the “Threat Committee,” a group of top intelligence officials and diplomats, meets in the White House complex to review dozens of terrorist threats at home and abroad. In late June the CIA warned of possible terrorist action against U.S. targets, including those in the United States, for the Fourth of July. Nothing happened, but then in July the agency again warned about possible attacks overseas. The threat seemed grave enough to force U.S. ships in Middle Eastern ports to head for sea. Three weeks ago there was another warning that a terrorist strike might be imminent. But there was no mention of where. On Sept. 10, NEWSWEEK has learned, a group of top Pentagon officials suddenly canceled travel plans for the next morning, apparently because of security concerns.
        But no one even dreamed that four airliners would be hijacked and plunged into targets in New York and Washington. Some officials complain that the intelligence community has been too focused on terrorists obtaining weapons of mass destruction – biological, chemical and nuclear?while overlooking low-tech threats?like the use of penknives and box cutters to hijack a plane.
        The Threat Committee has every reason to worry about bin Laden’s trying to get hold of a nuke. During the New York trial of the men accused of bombing the embassies in Africa, one bin Laden associate testified that the boss had hatched a 1993 plan to spend $1.5 million to buy black-market uranium. He apparently failed – that time.

        Now the Bush administration and Congress seemed primed to do just about anything to foil future attacks. Justice Department lawyers have been told to take a fresh look at “everything,” one official said. Perhaps the most startling idea under examination would be a new presidential order authorizing secret military tribunals to try accused terrorists. The idea first occurred to former attorney general William Barr after the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988. Barr, at the time chief of the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, got the idea after learning that his office was used during World War II to try?in secret”German saboteurs who were later hanged. The idea was rejected, but it’s being revived on the theory that terrorists are de facto military “combatants? who don’t deserve the full run of constitutional rights.
        Civil libertarians may balk, but never underestimate the desire for revenge. Consider some statistics: more people were killed by the suicide hijackers last week than the number of American soldiers killed in the entire American Revolution. Or at Antietam, the bloodiest one-day battle of the Civil War. Or at Pearl Harbor. Or on D-Day. And those were soldiers. War had become more and more remote and sterile to Americans who experienced combat as a phenomenon that occurred on TV, either in movies or occasionally by watching cruise missiles light up Baghdad on the evening news. Now those same American civilians are in a war. Not as spectators, but as targets.
      

 With Michael Isikoff, Dan Klaidman, Martha Brant, Debra Rosenberg, Weston Kosova, Andy Murr, George Wehrfritz, Catharine Skipp and John Lantigua

 

Alhazmi and Almihdhar party’ing and lousy pilots

The Hijackers We Let Escape

Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman report.

Newsweek, 06/05/2002

Alhazmi and Almihdhar lived openly in the United States, using their real names, obtaining driver’s licences, opening bank accounts and enrolling in flight schools ? until the morning of September 11, when they walked aboard American Airlines Flight 77 and crashed it into the Pentagon.

[…]

Free to do as they pleased, the 25-year-old Alhazmi and 26-year-old Almihdhar went about their terrorist training in southern California. They told people they were buddies from Saudi Arabia hoping to learn English and become commercial airline pilots. The clean-shaven Alhazmi and Almihdhar played soccer in the park with other Muslim men and prayed the required five times a day at the area mosque. They bought season passes to Sea World and dined on fast food, leaving the burger wrappers strewn around their sparsely furnished apartment. And, despite their religious convictions, the men frequented area strip clubs.

[…]

Neither man lost sight of the primary mission: learning to fly. Almihdhar and Alhazmi took their flight lessons seriously, but they were impossible to teach. Instructor Rick Garza at Sorbi’s Flying Club gave both men a half-dozen classes on the ground before taking them up in a single-engine Cessna in May. “They were only interested in flying big jets,” Garza recalls. But Garza soon gave up on his hapless students. “I just thought they didn’t have the aptitude,” he says. “They were like Dumb and Dumber.”

 […]

With Mark Hosenball, Tamara Lipper and Eleanor Clift in Washington, Andrew Murr and Jamie Reno in San Diego

The terrorists and their last-night temptresses

The following article is an example of a "psychological" study which attempts to reconcile the fact that the alleged hijackers were profoundly religious, preparing to sacrifice their lives to Allah, and were nevertheless engaging in drinking and whooring for a long time before their alleged supreme sacrifice.  Such "psychological" analyses, purporting to be scientific, have been published by various authors, all based on the assumption that the individuals claimed by the FBI to be the perpetrators of the 9/11 crime, were Muslims.  Note that the author does not provide any evidence for his various claims, nor does he explain the fact that the alleged hijackers not only engaged in casual sex but possessed lots of money and spent time variously in drinking.    (Webmaster)

 

The terrorists and their last-night temptresses

Back to the Perpetrator’s Page

Jewish World Review Nov. 8, 2001 / 22 Mar-Cheshvan, 5762
Norman Doidge

Fanatics throughout history have had a hypocritical attitude toward sex. The men who crashed two planes into the World Trade Center claimed to be pious but spent the night before the attacks with prostitutes

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com — Here’s a contradiction. Many of the mass murderers who destroyed the World Trade Center went to prostitutes and lap dancers just before the attacks. That might seem unimportant, except for the fact that they claimed to be pious and, in part, justified their attacks by accusing the West of being a hotbed of sexual licentiousness. This behaviour reveals the ambivalent sexual undercurrent that is part of Islamic extremism with its view of woman as sin-evoking temptress, best appreciated either totally veiled, or totally unveiled.

In the early 20th century, an Islamic movement called salafiyya swept through much of Islam, influencing the official Wahabi ideology of the Saudi state and the radical Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. The movement aimed to revive medieval Islamic practices. By the 1930s, it portrayed Western culture as equivalent to jahiliyya, an Arabic term for the barbarousness that preceded Islam.

Osama bin Laden, originally a playboy and drinker, was influenced by this line of thought through Egyptian writer Sayyid Qutb. In his book Signposts on the Road, Qutb wrote that the West was "the most dangerous jahiliyya which has ever menaced our faith." In one of his books about his 1948-50 trip to America, Qutb described a church dance in Greely, Colo.: "Every young man took the hand of a young woman. And these were the young men and women who had just been singing their hymns! Red and blue lights, with only a few white lamps, illuminated the dance floor. The room became a confusion of feet and legs: arms around hips; lips met lips; chests pressed together." Pretty tame stuff compared to the paid sex his murderous followers would indulge in.

The story of the terrorists’ foray into American sexual hospitality came out when a Boston prostitute "freaked out" after seeing pictures of the Sept. 11 hijackers. She recognized one from her tryst with him Sept. 9 at the Park Inn, in Newton, Mass. Two of the hijackers of American Airlines Flight 11, which crashed into the World Trade Center, Waleed M. Alshehri and Wail M. Alshehri, spent the night in that hotel.

These were not isolated events. As reported by UPI on Oct. 10, the prostitute’s driver took her to the Days Hotel in Boston’s Brighton district, where she spent time with another hijacker. The same driver also routinely took prostitutes to a male relative of bin Laden. Terrorist ringleader Mohammed Atta and other hijackers reportedly spent US$200 to US$300 on lap dances in the Pink Pony Strip Club in Florida. Marwan Al-Shehhi, who, it is believed, piloted the plane that slammed into the south tower, frequently got lap dances in the Olympic Garden Topless Cabaret in Las Vegas, according to the San Francisco Chronicle. The Boston Globe reported that four other alleged terrorists, Satam M.A. Al Suqami, Marwan Al-Shehhi, Fayez Rahsid Ahmed Hasan Al Qadi Banihammad and Mohand Alshehri, who were staying at the Milner Hotel in Boston, called escort services on Sept. 10. The last three are believed to have helped hijack United Airlines Flight 175, while Satam M.A. Al Suqami joined those who hijacked American Airlines Flight 11.

Some have wondered whether the hijackers were nervous, knowing they were about to lose their lives, and dealing with their anxiety through a sexual release. Others have speculated that perhaps they wanted "a good look at the enemy" to see how "degraded" America was, to motivate them.

But fanatics throughout history have had a markedly hypocritical attitude toward sex. Most fanatical sects have an obsession with sexual purity, alongside extraordinary lapses of restraint. Most divide the world into the pure and the impure, the sacred and the profane, clean and unclean, pure ascetic man and female temptress. Mohammed Atta wrote that at his funeral, "he who washes my body around my genitals should wear gloves so that I am not touched there." He didn’t want women at his funeral either.

Fanatical leaders frequently demand their members subordinate all desires to the cause. The Russian nihilist and anarchist terrorist Sergey Nechaev wrote in his Catechism of the Revolutionist, "The revolutionary … has no interest of his own, no affairs, no feelings, no attachments, no belongings, not even a name. Everything in him is absorbed by a single exclusive interest, a single thought, a single passion — the revolution." Of course, the body has its own rhythms and demands, not so easily obliterated, even by ideology.

Islamic extremism doesn’t master sexuality — it exploits it by linking it to politics. In order to train Islamic suicide bombers, teenage boys are isolated from television and any outside influence when they are at the height of their sexual drive, playing on the Koranic promise to "martyrs" that, within moments of their death, they will be greeted by the 72 houris of heaven — virgins with whom they will have sex for eternity. Sex in this earthly world is devalued, but the promise of sex in the world to come is used to heat up the imaginations of these isolated, inexperienced loners. (The Thuggee cult of terrorist assassins — from which we get the English word "thug" — wandered around India strangling their victims. But they also had orgies in religious temples with temple prostitutes, to give them a glimmer of the pleasures they would have when they would unite, in death, with the Great and Terrible Mother, a divinity they worshipped.)

Sexual hypocrisy has been seen in fanatic cults throughout history. Shoko Asahara, leader of the Aum sect — which released sarin, a deadly nerve gas, in Tokyo’s subway system in March, 1995, killing 11 and injuring 5,000 — preached celibacy for his followers but, though married, took many long-term mistresses, and offered Tantric sexual initiations to "transfer" his "energy" to female followers.

Such cults frustrate everyday erotic longing for other people, so that the devotees will turn that longing toward the cult leader and the cause. Becoming overheated "lovers of the cause," they, like lovers everywhere, become willing to sacrifice for their beloved. At the same time, their leaders manipulate the guilt followers feel about sexual desire, saying, "If you still have sexual feelings, you obviously are not devoted enough, and must sacrifice more."

People who deny themselves erotic outlets soon see any normal expression of eros as the devil incarnate. That is what Qutb saw in the innocent church dance he witnessed. The fanatic is a narcissist who resents and dehumanizes anything that pulls him outside of himself. Yet, so consumed is he with his own specialness in all things, he grants himself a sexual licence as required. After all, those who underestimate the power of the world outside themselves become the first to be overwhelmed by it. They are the first slaves of passion, driven by a subterranean attraction to that which they claim to abhor.

JWR contributor Dr. Norman Doidge is a research psychiatrist and psychoanalyst. Comment by clicking here

Sept. 11 Hijackers as fundamentalist playboys

OpinionJournal

 

 

 

 

http://www.opinionjournal.com/best/?id=95001298
BY JAMES TARANTO
Wednesday, October 10, 2001 2:10 p.m. EDT

 Sept. 11 Hijackers as fundamentalist playboys

The Boston Herald reports that one of the Sept. 11 hijackers had a visit from a prostitute in a Chestnut Hill, Mass., hotel room on Sept. 9. The paper quotes an unnamed driver for a pair of local "escort" services–including one service that advertises escorts "for the most discriminating of gentlemen and their most important occasion"–as saying that the escort, a blond woman in her early 20s, had a 20-minute tryst in the hotel room with one of the hijackers and was paid $180 in cash. "The FBI has interviewed the driver and the call girl and has seized records from the two escort services, the driver said. The woman, shaken by her sudden involvement in the international probe, has hired a lawyer, he added."

The newspaper notes that this "is just the latest link between the Koran-toting killers and America’s seedy sex scene":

In Florida, several of the hijackers–including reputed ringleader Mohamed Atta–spent $200 to $300 each on lap dances in the Pink Pony strip club. . . .

And in Las Vegas, at least six of the hijackers spent time living it up on the Strip on various occasions between May and August. Marwan Al-Shehhi, who was aboard the second plane that slammed into the World Trade Center, frequently got lap dances at the Olympic Garden Topless Cabaret where he had a reputation as a lousy tipper, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

FBI agents have also reportedly questioned the owners of Nardone’s Go-Go Bar in Elizabeth, N.J. Several of the terrorists spent time in nearby Paterson and Newark and reportedly patronized the club.