A little less is known about Mohammed Atta=s activities than about those of Ali Mohamed, but it is clear that even without information from Able Danger, the government had enough information to keep tabs on him. Moreover, it is clear that the FBI had knowledge of the movements of Atta and two others in Venice, Florida before 9-11. In addition, two Al Qaeda terrorists were tailed in San Diego by the FBI. They resided there with a known FBI asset. The bureau forbade agent Stephen Butler from telling t he 911 Commission of his frustration that his superiors would do nothing about these two subjects, Hazmi and Midhar.
For almost four years, while he was in Germany, Atta was employed by a foundation run by the German and US governments -- Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft. He was an instructor in an exchange program , and did some work for it in Aleppo, Damascus, and Cairo. The US part of the program was overseen by the State Department but ranking private citizens such as David Rockefeller and Henry Kissinger were also involved. He also attended the Technical University at Hamburg, and German federal police ( BKA) investigated him for minor drug crimes.
According to a September 24, 2001 article in the German intelligence magazine Focus, German security people were watching and listening to the Hamburg cell in 1998 and 1999, and it is not unreasonable to assume their information was shared with the CIA. In 1999, the CIA attempted to recruit one member of that cell, Mamoun Darhazanli. There is evidence that he visited the Philippines in 1999, but there is no clear evidence that the Germans knew this. The American agency started following Atta in January of 2000 and found that he was buying dangerous chemicals in Frankfurt. On May 18, 2000, he obtained a visa in Berlin and arrived in New Jersey on June 3, 2000. There is some evidence that he had been in the US before, and there is clear evidence that he and Marwan Alshehhi visited the Philippines in 1999. Several months later, while in Florida, he received $100,000 from General Mahmoud Ahmad, head of the Pakistani intelligence service. This man was in Washington on September 10, 2001. In all, they probably received $325,000 from Pakistani intelligence. About $175,000 more came from unknown sources. Atta was attending a flight school at Huffman Avaiation in Venice, but he had previously attend two others. He and Marwan each paid $28,000 for instruction, but there were many places where instruction would cost a great deal less . He was a licensed pilot already and was given the privileges of an instructor. He may have even gone on some drug runs for them. It was known that he had business dealings with men who flew in from Germany to see him. It is also known that twelve other hijackers had lived somewhere near those two flight schools at one time or other.
The DEA confiscated and auctioned a private jet owned by one of the owners of the school. The agency found 43 pounds of heroin. No action was ever taken against the owner Wally Hilliard, a 70 year old born-again retired Midwesterner whose firm=s motto was AFight Sin, Hate Communism, and Back the Pack.@ The DEA did not arrest the pilot even though he had refused to give them his cell phone. He obtained the jet from the same people who provided Barry Seal with jets when he was working for the CIA, bringing drugs into Mena, Arkansas.( Richard Ben-Veniste of the 9/11 Commission had been Seal's lawyer.) The same jet had made 39 weekly milk runs to Venezuela before the DEA acted. The school=s co-owner was Rudi Dekkers, a native of Holland who owed his government $3,000,000. A former Huffman executive said it was clear their drug trade had government protection. Hiliard also operated an air carrier which was used and endorsed by Katherine Harris and Jeb Bush. There was a second flight school at that airport owned by another native of Holland, Arne Kruithof. The two Hollanders bought flight schools within months of one another. Other airlines operated out of that airport, including one known CIA company, Caribe Air, and the little known , Bratannia Aviation which was to obtain a multi-million dollar contract to maintain the Lynchburg, Va. Airport. Pilots for the3 various firms moonlighted by doing missionary flights at night for religions groups like Pat Robertson=s Operation Hope..
Dekkers claimed he did not know her, but they both used Pascal Schreier, a German, to recruit Arab students. From the time Dekkers came to Venice in 1999 Arab students were frequenting ths school in significant numbers. Dekkers and Hilliard had been in business together before, paid too much for the flight school, and had apparently lost millions in their ventures. Money was not their problem. They had an odd habit of conducting private conversations inside a plane that was in a building.
Dekkers said Atta was a terrible person, an incompetent pilot who left school December 20, 2000 and did not return.. Others claim Atta was there in 2001 and that he and the operator were friendly. In August, two of the other hijackers were with Atta, and Atta=s attorney father visited from Egypt. The three younger men were said to hire a Yellow Cab in the evenings which was driven by a retired Navy Seal, who left soon after they left Venice. Another driver reported that the two were on very friendly terms and that they shared a cab to a Sarasota night spot in August, 2001. Atta was apparently a hard drinker, and he sometimes partied with pilots most probably tied to CIA operations. . On September 8, 2001 he was two companions in a Ft. Lauderdale bar named Shuckums, where he got wasted and called out AF**k God.@Atta was also known to gamble and mix with ladies of the night, but he was not the only terrorist who was not a strict Muslim.
Four terrorists lived above a strip club called ALance in Wayne, New Jersey. They were Lebanese pilot Ziad Jarrah and three Saudi musclemen, Ahmed al-Haznawi, Ahmed al-Nami, and Saeed al-Ghamdi Probably because the were portrayed as religious fanatics, the FBI confiscated the security tapes showing them in the club. Videotapes of a nearb y video store patronized b y the hijackers and the Mossad agents tailing them were also seized, and later telephone numbers of the store patrons disappeared in a strange robbery.
The FBI showed up at Shuckums' bar eight hours after his plane hit the World Trade Center. For some reason, the FBI asked all kinds of questions about him in places other than Venice, where he spent much of his time. The FBI also asked a few questions in Venice, and agent talked to a flight school executive four hours after the planes struck. However, the bulk of the investigation there was left to the state Department of Law Enforcement.
Around 2 AM on September 12, according to Venice policemen, the flight school records were spirited away in two Ryder trucks that went to the Sarasota Airport, where Jeb Bush and a Florida Air National Guard C-130 were waiting. .
Mohammed el-Amir Atta insists his son was not involved in 9/11. Unable to accept what appears to have happened,has said that his son telephoned him on September 12, 2001. Almost a year later, he was sticking to his story, saying his son was in hiding.
Following the lead of the FBI, the 9-11 commission did not discuss the schools. The FBI has repeatedly said that Atta left the school in late 2000. At the Moussaoui trial, clear evidence was produced that Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi were still there and flying in February, 2001 and that the FBI knew all about it. Moreover, they violated airpark rules by taking off at night and were observed by a watchman and the police, who conducted the flight school. The FBI subsequently interviewed a Huffman administrator about the incident. Yet, another administrator told a Congressional panel under oath that the school had no knowledge of the two men after December 24, 2000.The Knight Rider papers, the Washington Post, and Newsweek reported a week after 9-11 that five of the hijackers had been trained at US military facilities at one time or another. This did not involve Atta=s brief employment much earlier in Hamburg, before he experienced a religious conversion in Egypt. It was said that Atta was at the International Officers School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. Abdulaziz Alomari was at the Areospace Medical School in Texas.The Sarasota Herald-Times discovered that Atta lived for more than two months at the Sandpiper Apartments in Venice in March and April of 2001 with a part-time stripper and lingerie model. She reported that the FBI urged her to keep quiet. Florida records show that Atta became a business partner of chief Morrocan military attache Colonel Ahmed Arara and another man in business venture of some sort. The attache could have been related to highjacker Mohammed Araras.
Soon after 9-11, FBI agents were in Venice asking questions that made it clear they knew about Atta=s movements there. The nature mof their questioning activities strongly suggests they were very much aware of Atta=s presence there before 9-11. They questioned another cabbie about their nocturnal rides with the other driver. They seized a pharmacy=s security tape for the day Atta and his father were there and excised that part of the tape. It develops in an odd coincidence that the woman who helped one of the hijackers find an apartment was the wife of Michael Irish, the senior National Enquirer editor who received an anthrax letter. Irish also used that aifield.
There were rumors that the flight schools had a CIA connection, and that their records were removed on September 12, 2001. . The limited action taken after the biggest drug seizure in central Florida history led to speculation about some kind of a protected drug trade. For years there have been rumors about CIA and DIA drug trading; and those who have written about this have had their careers ruined. There will probably never be enough evidence to prove why the Pentagon did not want to move against Atta and now claims it knew nothing about him. One employee said Atta and others moved on to a school in Pompano Beach to learn to fly big jets via simulator. He added that he did not think this approach could be successful.Fired FBI translator Sibel Edmunds was asked if she came across evidence that there was any evidence of a connection between drug trading and 9-11. She said,
"The 9/11 terror plot intersected with the activities of a drug trafficking network of international scope, in ways that form a "crystal clear" picture of what was going on.@ As she came to understand how tight federal gag order placed upon her was, she later answered this question with a "nondenial-denial." Don=t look for solid answers anytime soon. Daniel Hopsiocker, who has long investigated the Venice flight school attended by Atta, ties the seized a hereoin shipment found in the plane of one of the co-owners of the school. Puzzling over why the plane was seized but the politically connected owner was never touched, he concluded that someone with great influence in DC was buying drugs from Osama bin Laden. We know Al Qaeda sells drugs, but that connection is just a guess. It has also been suggested that he had been involved in a protected heroin smuggling operation and that this accounts for the Pentagon=s reluctance to pursue him earlier. Given the history of that airport, it is far more likely that the CIA was moving drugs through it. in 9-11
Quite a bit has been written about 120 Israeli Aart students who were in the United States before 9/11. Very frequently they stayed in close proximity to where Al Qaeda agents were staying. It is very likely that they were keeping the terrorists under surveillance. They worked hard to penetrate some federal agencies, particularly the DEA but their reasons for doing this are unclear. The fact that they were scouting federal facilities in places other than Washington and New York City might suggest they either did not know what the targets were or expected there to be more targets. Some of the agents were deported before 9/11 and several were detained for several months after that event. About 60 Israelis were picked up for questioning. Some speculate that the Israeli=s were working with Al Qaeda, but there is little evidence to sustain that notion. What they were doing was unclear.
There was altogether too much information about Atta and his movements easily available to federal intelligence agencies prior to 9/11. One could also assume that the Germans filled in American intelligence on what they knew. The CIA and Mossad have historically close ties, and it is possible that Langley knew most of what the Israeli painters knew. It would be possible to reach a definite conclusion if we knew for certain that the aviation schools at Venice still had strong CIA ties in 2000 and 2001. We lack that information, so the reader must draw her own conclusions.
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