FBI Director Mueller
acknowledged in 2002 there was no “legal proof
to prove the identities of the hijackers.” Yet
the bureau insists it correctly has identified
Nearly 48 hours after the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the names of the
hijackers flashed across TV screens for the world
to see. Based on intelligence information gained
from interviews, witnesses, flight-manifest logs
and passports found at some of the crash debris
sites, the FBI claimed it correctly had identified
all 18 hijackers. A short time later the number
was amended to 19. A few days later the names were
followed with photos of the men blamed for the
terrorism that claimed nearly 3,000 lives in New
York City, Washington and Pennsylvania. Incredibly
fast intelligence work - some of the information
coming from the National Ground Intelligence
Center in Charlottesville, Va. - enabled
investigators to tie the attack to Osama bin
Laden's al-Qaeda network.
While there is
no doubt the hijackings were the work of al-Qaeda,
questions remain about whether some of the
hijackers actually were the men the FBI
identified. Last year that doubt crept into the
highest levels of law enforcement after a series
of sensational news reports aired by the BBC, ABC
and CNN, along with several British newspapers,
cast suspicion on whether the FBI got it right.
The reports suggested at least six of the men the
FBI claimed were hijackers on the planes were in
fact alive. They didn't survive the crashes, of
course, but never boarded the planes.
six claimed they were victims of identify theft.
They were "outraged" to be identified as
terrorists, they told the Telegraph of London. In
fact, one of the men claimed he never had been to
the United States, while another is a Saudi
Airlines pilot who said he was in a
flight-training course in Tunisia at the time of
The stunning news prompted
FBI Director Robert Mueller to admit that some of
the hijackers may have stolen identities of
innocent citizens. In September 2002, Mueller told
CNN twice that there is "no legal proof to prove
the identities of the suicidal hijackers." After
that admission a strange thing happened - nothing.
No follow-up stories. No follow-up questions.
There was dead silence and the story disappeared.
It was almost as if no one wanted to know what had
happened. In fact, the FBI didn't bother to change
the names, backgrounds or photographs of the
alleged 19 hijackers. It didn't even deny the news
reports suggesting that the names and identities
of at least six of the hijackers may be unknown.
Mueller just left the door open.
Now the FBI is sticking with its original story -
regardless of whether photographs displayed of the
suspected Sept. 11 terrorists were of people who
never boarded those planes and are very much
alive. FBI spokesman Bill Carter simply brushes
off as false the charges from news reports that
the FBI misidentified some of the Sept. 11
terrorists. Carter says they got the names right
and it doesn't matter whether the identities were
stolen. This comes as a complete about-face from
Mueller's comment that there might be some
question about the names of the Sept. 11
terrorists because they might have been operating
under stolen identities.
What does the FBI
director think now? Mueller no longer is
commenting on the charges. However, Carter insists
the FBI got it right. End of story.
has been no change in thought about the identities
of those who boarded those planes," Carter tells
Insight. "It's like saying my name is John Smith.
There are a lot of people with the name of John
Smith, but they're not the same
What about Mueller's comments last
year? "He might have told Congress [about the
identity theft], but we have done a thorough
investigation and we are confident," Carter
How can the FBI be sure that the 19
men it "identified" are indeed the hijackers?
"Through extensive investigation," Carter insists.
"We checked the flight manifests, their
whereabouts in this country, and we interviewed
witnesses who identified the
But the series of stories last
year prompted the Senate Select Committee on
Intelligence to investigate the claims, according
to Paul Anderson, spokesman for Sen. Bob Graham
(D-Fla.), who was chairman of the committee.
Anderson says the committee apparently found
nothing to dispute the FBI identification of the
19 named individuals.
remains, particularly for those who claim their
names and backgrounds have been attached to a
photo of a dead terrorist. The photo might be
correct, they say, but the identification is not.
The Saudi Arabian Embassy insists that some
innocents have been maligned by a rush to identify
the Sept. 11 perpetrators.
The six Saudis
in question are:
Abdul Aziz al-Omari was identified as
one of the hijackers and the pilot who crashed
American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower
of the World Trade Center. Another man with the
same name is an electrical engineer in Saudi
Arabia. He lived in Denver after earning a degree
from the University of Colorado in 1993.
Coincidence? Consider this oddity. ABC News has
reported that his Denver apartment was broken into
and his passport and other documents stolen in
1995. In September 2001 he told the Telegraph, "I
couldn't believe it when the FBI put me on their
list. They gave my name and my date of birth, but
I am not a suicide bomber. I am here. I am alive.
I have no idea how to fly a plane. I had nothing
to do with this."
More disturbing is that
the FBI accidentally may have fused two names to
create one identity, because another man, Abdul
Rahman al-Omari, who has a different birth date,
is the person pictured by the FBI, but he still is
a pilot for Saudi Arabian Airlines. After his
photograph was released, he walked into the U.S.
Embassy in Jedda and demanded to know why he was
being reported as a dead hijacker.
Salem al-Hamzi was identified as one of
the suspected hijackers on American Flight 77, the
plane that was crashed into the Pentagon. Another
man who has the same name works for the Saudi
Royal Commission in Yanbu.
Saeed al-Ghamdi reportedly was one of
the alleged hijackers on United Airlines Flight
93, the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. He and
another hijacker were said to have been in control
of the plane when it was destroyed. A Saudi
Arabian pilot has the same name.
Ahmed al-Nami was identified as a
hijacker on United Flight 93. He also may have
been in control of the plane when it crashed. A
Saudi Arabian pilot with the same name is alive in
Wail al-Shehri was identified as one of
the suspected hijackers on American Flight 11. He
reportedly was in control of the plane when it
crashed. Another Saudi man who is a pilot has the
same name, and his father is a Saudi diplomat in
Bombay. His picture was displayed by the FBI as
the "terrorist" al-Shehri who crashed the plane.
The al-Shehri who is alive had resided in Daytona
Beach, Fla., where he enrolled in flight training
at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. He
currently works for a Moroccan airline. Last year
the Associated Press reported that al-Shehri had
spoken to the U.S. Embassy in Morocco. His
photograph having been released and repeatedly
shown around the world is evidence the man in the
FBI photograph still is alive, the Saudi Embassy
Waleed M. al-Shehri, a name used by
another suspected hijacker on American Flight 11,
reportedly is the brother of Wail al-Shehri. The
odd coincidence is that the other son of the
diplomat father is named Waleed M. This prompted
the BBC to report in 2001 that, "Another of the
men named by the FBI as a hijacker in the suicide
attacks on Washington and New York has turned up
alive and well."
The Saudi Embassy has said
it believes that bin Laden's plan was to have the
United States blame Saudi Arabia for the attacks.
Embassy officials say that, based on the amount of
hate mail they have received in the aftermath of
the Sept. 11 attacks, that scheme has