If the FBI could carry out a pre–Sept. 11 sting operation against Hamas that included the use of no-warrant wiretaps, dummy companies, informants, overseas recruitment, etc., why weren’t those same aggressive techniques used against al Qaeda?
One possibility is that US support for international jihadis’ fight against Slavs gave anti-American jihadis unusual protection.
For example, Sept. 11 terror duo Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi were photographed in January of 2000 at an al Qaeda meeting in Malaysia, where it’s believed the bombing of the USS Cole was planned. Carrying Saudi passports, they then entered the US, and rented an apartment in San Diego, where their suspicious behavior (no furniture, frequent payphone visits, etc.) caught the attention of their neighbors. This promted A&A to find a new place to live: strangely enough, they moved in with a “tested asset” of the FBI who was tasked with investigating Hamas. (According to a report in Die Zeit, “Deadly Mistakes,” FBI agents actually interviewed the informant while the al Qaeda hijackers-to-be were in other rooms of the same apartment.) Despite the asset’s terror-investigating experience, he apparently failed to notice his roommates’ suspicious behavior.
When not taking flying lessons or contacting suspected terrorist organizations overseas the pair openly associated with FBI terror suspects such as Omar al-Bayoumi. Bayoumi liked the pair so much that shortly after they arrived in Los Angeles he drove them to San Diego, installed them in his apartment building, and paid their first month’s rent and security deposit. According to the Wall Street Journal ("Riyadh Paid Man Linked to Sept. 11 Hijackers"):
"The FBI first opened a counterterrorism investigation on Mr. Bayoumi in September 1998 and discovered he was in contact with several other people under scrutiny, the congressional report says. That inquiry was closed in 1999 for unknown reasons. Following a search of Mr. Bayoumi’s residence at one point, the FBI concluded that ‘he is providing guidance to young Muslims and some of his writings can be interpreted as jihadist.’"
Another friend of the pair was Osama Basnan, an open supporter of al Qaeda. About two months after Bayoumi began aiding the hijackers, his wife cashed the first of numerous cashier’s checks totaling tens of thousands of dollars. These checks were given to her by Basnan’s wife, who had received them, in turn, from the Saudi ambassador’s wife, Princess Haifa. While living in the United States Bayoumi was paid a salary by the Saudi civilian aviation department, which is run by Princess Haifa’s father. His pay reportedly spiked around the time he began aiding the hijackers.
Almidhar enjoyed international travel, and was overseas during the Cole bombing, which he’s suspected of participating in. In 2001 the CIA added Almidhar to their watch list. Still, he was able to meet with terror leader Mohamed Atta and then reenter the United States using the government’s “express visa” program for people with Saudi passports. It’s been reported that 3 of the Sept. 11 hijackers may have entered the US under this program, which started in June, 2001, and that no one who applied for a visa under this program was denied one – and this at a time when everyone from the FAA to Aghan leader Ahmed Shah Massoud was warning of a coming terrorist attack.
Michael Springman was the head of the American visa bureau in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia during the Afghan jihad of the ’80s. Springmann:
“In Saudi Arabia I was repeatedly ordered by high level State Dept officials to issue visas to unqualified applicants. These were, essentially, people who had no ties either to Saudi Arabia or to their own country. I complained bitterly at the time there. I returned to the US, I complained to the State Dept here, to the General Accounting Office, to the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and to the Inspector General’s office. I was met with silence.
“What I was protesting was, in reality, an effort to bring recruits, rounded up by Osama Bin Laden, to the US for terrorist training by the CIA. They would then be returned to Afghanistan to fight against the then-Soviets.
“The attack on the World Trade Center in 1993 did not shake the State Department’s faith in the Saudis, nor did the attack on American barracks at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia three years later, in which 19 Americans died. FBI agents began to feel their investigation was being obstructed.”
Shortly after Almidhar returned to the US, in the summer of 2001, the CIA asked the FBI to apprehend him and Alhazmi. The FBI’s failure to do so is particularly surprising since Alhamzi was listed in the San Diego phone book, so just dialing 411 might have worked.
A New York FBI field agent testifying before Congress:
“Briefly, ‘the wall,’ and implied, interpreted, created, or assumed restrictions regarding it, prevented myself and other FBI agents working a criminal case out of New York field office from obtaining information from the intelligence community regarding Khalid Almidhar and Nawaf Alhazmi in a meeting on June 11, 2001. This resulted in a series of e-mails between myself and the FBI H.Q. Analyst working the matter. In my e-mails, I asked where this new wall was defined. I wrote on August 29, 2001: ‘Whatever has happened to this, someday someone will die, and, wall or not, the public will not understand why we were not more effective in throwing every resource we had at certain problems.'”
See Mark Ames’ “America’s Dangerous Chechnya Game Aided 9/11 Terrorists” for another take on this theme.