Report: FBI Documents Link Dead Cleric to Pre-9/11 Flights for Hijackers

Thursday, 03 Jan 2013 09:02 PM

By Todd Beamon

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An American-born Muslim cleric killed in 2011 by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen was suspected of buying airline tickets for advance travel by at least three of the hijackers involved in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, FBI records show.

The agency suspected that the now-deceased cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, made the purchases within days of the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania, Fox News reports.

Based on a review of newly released documents by Fox, the goal of the flights remained unclear, but the 9/11 Commission report from 2004 noted that the hijackers had used flights in the days leading up to the attacks to test security and surveillance.

The documents, which have been heavily redacted, were obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of Information Act request, Fox reports.

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They detail FBI evidence tying Al-Awlaki to the 9/11 hijackers just 16 days after the attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans, Fox reports.

“We have FBI documents showing that the FBI knew that Al-Awlaki had bought three tickets for three of the hijackers to fly into Florida and into Las Vegas, including the lead hijacker, Mohammad Atta,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, told Fox on Thursday.

The records, he told Fox, showed that Al-Awlaki “was a central focus of the FBI's investigation of 9/11. They show he wasn't cooperative. And they show that he was under surveillance.”

One FBI report reviewed by Fox showed that Al-Awlaki used his Visa credit card to buy a ticket for “Atta, Mohammed -- American West Airlines, 08/13/2001, Washington, DC to Las Vegas to Miami," the document says.

That flight — according to the Joint Congressional Inquiry into 9/11, which first investigated the attacks and released its report in 2004 — was one of Atta’s many and crucial surveillance flights, Fox reports.

"On August 13, Atta flew a second time across country from Washington to Las Vegas on a Boeing 757 (seated in first class) returning on August 14 to Fort Lauderdale," the 9/11 report says.

Other FBI documents show a credit card record for a “Suqami, S. ----Southwest Airlines, 07/10/2001, Ft. Lauderdale to Orlando,” Fox reports.

Satam al-Suqami was among four “muscle” hijackers — trained to help subdue pilots, passengers, and crew — on American Airlines Flight 11. That plane crashed into the World Trade Center.

A third individual was identified in the records as “W. al-Sheri -- National Airlines, 08/01/2001, San Francisco to Las Vegas to Miami,” Fox reports.

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The individual appears to be either Waleed al-Shehri or Wail al-Shehri, Fox reports. The brothers also were muscle hijackers, according to the 9/11 Commission report.

The FBI did not immediately respond to a request seeking comment from Fox.

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