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9/11 panel describes how attackers got money

New details on hijackers' visa, immigration violations

From Phil Hirschkorn

September 11 attacks
Thomas Kean
Lee Hamilton

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The 9/11 commission has released new details about how 19 hijackers and suspected conspirators in the attacks of September 11, 2001, were financed.

The two new reports -- released Saturday shortly before the commission closed -- also revealed visa and immigration violations among the suspected hijackers.

The commission released pictures of hijackers' visas -- including the charred remains of Ziad Jarrah's visa, plucked from the wreckage of United Flight 93 near Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

Eight other alleged 9/11 conspirators applied for visas, and three of them succeeded, the reports said. Alleged plot mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed secured a visa in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in July 2001 under an alias, according to the reports.

The other two visas obtained were for Mushabib al-Hamlan, who ultimately did not participate, and Mohamed al-Kahtani, who was refused entry into the United States by an alert customs officer, the reports said.

Mohammed was captured in March 2003 and is being held at an unknown location. Al-Kahtani is being held at the U.S. detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Al-Hamlan's whereabouts are not publicly known.

The independent National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States released its so-called "final report" on July 22 in a 570-page book.

Congress established the bipartisan panel to investigate events before, during and immediately after the attacks.

Financing terror

The first of the new reports -- referred to as monographs -- deals with financing. It concluded -- as in previous reports -- that preparations for the attacks cost somewhere between $400,000 and $500,000 -- of which about $300,000 was spent in the United States. The costs do not include expenses for terrorist camp training, the report said.

Al Qaeda, which spent at estimated $30 million a year according to the CIA, was funded primarily by donors and corrupt charities, not Osama bin Laden's personal wealth or bin Laden-owned business fronts, the report says.

Bin Laden received $1 million a year from his family and was cut off in 1994. The origin of 9/11 funds is unknown but no money for the attacks was raised in the United States. The hijackers did not self-finance or have jobs.

The monograph reveals in detail how the hijackers received money from wire transfers, cash and traveler's checks, and credit or debit cards for overseas bank accounts. The report says most of the funds were sent by Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, a nephew of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

Immigration violations

A second monograph details how all of the 9/11 hijackers violated some aspect of immigration U.S. laws while gaining entry to, or remaining in, the United States:

  • Jarrah attended flight school in June 2000 without properly adjusting his immigration status, rendering him inadmissible each of the subsequent six times he reentered the United States between June 2000 and August 5, 2001.
  • Hani Hanjour did not attend school after entering on a student visa in December 2000.
  • Mohamed Atta failed to present a proper M-1 (vocational school) visa when he entered the United States in January 2001 and had previously overstayed his tourist visa.
  • Nawaf al-Hazmi and Satam al-Suqami overstayed the terms of their admission.
  • Each of the 19 submitted a visa application stating that he was not seeking to enter the United States to engage in terrorism.
  • At the time they presented themselves to U.S. ports of entry, all 19 had been trained in Afghan camps and had prepared for and planned terrorist activity.
  • At least two (al-Suqami and Abdul Aziz al-Omari) and possibly as many as seven of the 19 had false travel stamps -- associated with al Qaeda -- on their passports when they applied for visas.
  • The new documents also explain that the al Qaeda terrorist network favored using Saudi passports for its operatives because irregularities in the country's passport issuance system made the passports more readily available.

    Saudis flee the U.S.

    The second monograph also details 11 flights that left the United States between September 13 and September 24, 2001, carrying Saudi nationals, including members of bin Laden's family.

    "Fearing reprisals against Saudi nationals, Rihab Massoud, deputy chief of mission of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in Washington, D.C., called Dale Watson, the FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism, shortly after the attack and asked for help in getting some of the kingdom's citizens out of the country," the document states.

    The commission says White House Counterterrorism Security Coordinator Richard Clarke appears to be the most senior official involved in approving the flights.

    "President Bush and Vice President Cheney told the commission that they did not speak with Saudi government officials about the flights before their departure," the document states. "The president told the commission that the first he knew about the issue was when he read about it in the newspaper."

    The commission states that all the Saudi nationals were screened by the FBI to make certain they were not a threat to national security, and that no terrorists escaped from the United States on any of the Saudi flights.

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