PUBLISHED MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 17,
Pensacola NAS link faces more scrutiny
Senator seeks answers on hijackers ties to Navy base
New Journal Washington Bureau
U.S. Sen. Bob Graham is requesting information on published
reports of a possible Pensacola Naval Air Station tie-in to last
week's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C.
As many as four of 19 suspected hijackers may have participated
during the 1990s in the base's flight training program for foreign
military trainees, according to reports in The Washington Post and
In addition, The New York Times reported that one of the four
also may have lived at the Fountains apartment complex near the
University of West Florida, leaving about a year ago.
Graham, D-Miami Lakes, who is chairman of the Senate Intelligence
Committee, was briefed early Sunday on the latest intelligence
information, but there was no mention of suspected hijackers having
been enrolled as pilot trainees in Pensacola, said his spokesman,
Since then, Anderson said, Graham has requested more information
on the possible Pensacola tie-in as well as updates on suspected
hijackers who may have been receiving civilian flying lessons at
commercial training academies elsewhere in Florida.
Graham and a number of state lawmakers returned to Florida aboard
a Florida Air National Guard flight Saturday. He could receive the
requested information today, Anderson said.
It's not unusual for foreign nationals to train at Pensacola-area
Pensacola NAS and Whiting Field train many of the more than 6,000
foreign military students who receive flight training each year at
U.S. military institutions.
The students are instructed in everything from warfare specialty
training to air navigation meteorology and land/water survival,
according to the NaPentagon and local military officials refused to
comment on the media reports on Sunday. They referred calls on the
subject to the FBI, which also refused comment.
The news articles caution that there are slight discrepancies
between the FBI list of suspected highjackers and the military
training records, either in the spellings of their names or in their
birth dates. They also raise the possibility that the hijackers
stole the identities of military trainees.
The Newsweek article says U.S. military officials gave the FBI
information suggesting that five of the alleged hijackers received
training in the 1990s at secure U.S. military installations.
It says three of them listed their address on driver licenses and
car registrations as 10 Radford Blvd. on Pensacola NAS, a base road
on which residences for foreign- military flight trainees are
Those suspects are:
Saeed Alghamdi, believed to have helped hijack United Airlines
Flight 93 that crashed in rural Pennsylvania.
Ahmad Alnami, who also was aboard Flight 93.
Ahmed Alghamdi, who is suspected of helping commandeer United
Airlines Flight 75, which hit the south tower of the World Trade
Saeed Alghamdi listed the address in March 1997 to register a
1998 Oldsmobile; five months later, he used the same address to
register a late-model Buick.
The other two used the address on driver licenses issued in 1996
The Newsweek article cites two other suspects with possible U.S.
military training: One may have been trained in strategy and tactics
at the Air War College in Montgomery, Ala., and one may have
received language training at Lackland Air Force Base in San
A Washington Post article adds a fourth suspect who may have
trained in Pensacola:
Hamza Alghamdi, who also is believed to have been aboard Flight
A New York Times article, using an alternative spelling, says
that Ahmed A. al-Ghamdi lived in the Fountains near UWF. The article
says he moved out about August 2000 and does not specify how long he
may have lived there.
The Fountains, off University Parkway, caters to UWF students and
also has a number of military personnel, according to several
residents. The apartment manager could not be reached on Sunday.
The FBI's official list of suspected hijackers gives the most
recent addresses of the four with possible Pensacola links as
possibly Delray Beach.
Complicating the effort to learn if the suspects ever trained in
Pensacola is the fact that Alghamdi is an extremely common name.
Scores of people with that name live throughout Florida.
Naval Education and Training Security Assistance Field Activity,
which administers training of foreign aviation students for the
Navy, is headquartered in Pensacola.
Robert Pemberton, the technical director, declined to comment
Sunday. But the group has estimated that 15 percent of aviation
students on any given day are foreign nationals.
They come from as far away as Egypt, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and
Locally, foreign pilots contribute to the Pensacola-area economy,
spending an estimated $10 million a year in local malls, restaurants
and shops, the Security Assistance group has estimated.
A consulting firm that conducted an international business
opportunities study for the Pensacola Area Chamber of Commerce four
years ago said the local economy would receive a boost by increasing
the number of foreign flight and aircraft maintenance students
training at area bases.
News Journal reporter Amie Streater contributed to this