Two 9/11 Hijackers Used N.J. College Computer To Buy Plane Tickets
NEWARK, N.J. — Two of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist hijackers used a public-access computer at a New Jersey state college library to buy tickets for the plane they helped hijack and crash into the Pentagon, a federal prosecutor said.
Ken Wainstein, the United States attorney for the District of Columbia, made the revelation Thursday during a congressional hearing in which the Bush administration pushed for renewal of provisions of the Patriot Act that make it easier for investigators to obtain library and other records. “Investigators tracing the activities of the hijackers determined that, on four occasions in August of 2001, individuals using Internet accounts registered to Nawaf Alhamzi and Khalid Almihdhar — 9/11 hijackers — used public access computers in the library of a state college in New Jersey,” Wainstein testified before a House Judiciary subcommittee.
“The computers in the library were used to review and order airline tickets in an Internet travel reservations site,” he said. On Aug. 30, 2001, someone using Alhamzi’s account logged on to a computer at the school to check on travel reservations for Sept. 11, 2001, that had already been made, he added. Wainstein did not identify the college, but an official with William Paterson University in Wayne said that shortly after the attacks, investigators seized several public-access computers from the college’s library. “The FBI, in furtherance of their investigation into 9/11, did take a number of our public access computers,” Stuart Goldstein, the college’s assistant vice president for institutional advancement, said Friday. “The FBI never informed us as to what they found or didn’t find.” William Paterson University is the closest state college to where the hijackers were living just before the attacks. Justice Department spokesman Kevin Madden said the testimony shows how important the library provision of the Patriot Act is to national security. “The more people learn about the Patriot Act, the more they learn that it is designed to protect them from harm and from terrorist acts,” he said. Madden said he did not know if libraries at other New Jersey colleges were searched after the attacks. Alhamzi and Almidhar were two of the five hijackers who helped seize American Airlines Flight 77, which took off from Dulles International Airport outside Washington, D.C., and crashed into the Pentagon. They were among a group of as may as six of the Sept. 11 hijackers who lived in Paterson shortly before the attacks. Two others, Hani Hanjour, who would pilot the doomed plane, and Majed Moqed, bought their tickets from a Totowa travel agency, paying with a wad of cash after their debit card was rejected less than two weeks before the attacks. House Judiciary Committee Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., R-Wis., said the testimony highlights the need to renew provisions of the Patriot Act that enable the quick retrieval of library information by authorities. “We put Americans’ lives at risk if we foolishly provide sanctuaries — even in our public libraries — for terrorists to operate,” he said.