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
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
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
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.