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Moussaoui faced deportation before September 11, officials say

Zacarias Moussaoui
Zacarias Moussaoui  

Before September 11, U.S. law enforcement officials planned to deport Zacarias Moussaoui -- a suspect who now faces conspiracy charges in the terrorist attacks -- in a bid to learn more about the Frenchman, federal officials said Thursday.

The officials said the FBI hoped French intelligence officials might have better luck gaining information from Moussaoui, 33, who has been in U.S. custody since mid-August. That plan was aborted once the United States was attacked.

Moussaoui, the first and only person indicted in direct connection with the September attacks, is charged with six counts of conspiracy and, officials said, may have been the intended 20th hijacker.

Read the Moussaoui indictment  
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Nineteen men commandeered four U.S. airliners September 11, crashing them. Three of the planes had teams of five, while the fourth -- a jet that crashed in Pennsylvania -- only had four men, leading investigators to suspect that team was missing one man.

Moussaoui was taken into custody after a Minnesota flight school reported it had suspicions about him because of his insistence upon learning how to learn to fly large aircraft, including 747s, despite an apparent lack of skills.

But he refused to cooperate, authorities said, revealing nothing about his intentions or the kind of contacts he may have had with suspected terrorist groups.

Federal officials said they had intelligence information that Moussaoui might be linked to terrorist activities overseas. They said that he refused to allow agents to search his belongings, including a laptop computer, and FBI lawyers said they did not have enough evidence to obtain a search warrant.

The FBI figured French authorities might have more success and might be able to search Moussaoui's computer, according to federal officials.

As a French citizen, Moussaoui had the right to come to the United States without a visa but could legally stay only for 90 days. He had remained beyond that deadline when authorities picked him up.

Authorities said he had applied for an extension but was deportable.

Four of the six conspiracy charges filed against Moussaoui carry the death penalty. He is being held in Virginia, awaiting trial.




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