The Jeddah Ciphers...

Between April 23 and June 29, 2001, thirteen men obtained visas to come to United States based on identities they presented at the American Consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. The Jeddah consulate had an express visa program to expedite such requests. The identities of the applicants had ubiquitous Arab tribal names (See alphabetic list below*), so common as to be almost untraceable by the Embassy. Since none of these identities previously had traveled to the United States, and were otherwise “clean,” they were not on any watch list. Most of these names were of young men from in the southern provinces of Saudi Arabia who had not been heard from by their families for many months, and, in some cases, years. According to relatives, many of these missing youth had gone to fight the Russians in Chechnya years before.

After arriving in America, the group stayed in pairs in cheap hotel rooms, mainly in south Florida. Soon after arriving, they applied for driver licenses and opened joint bank accounts. One of them, using the name “Fayez Ahmed” got a VISA and ATM cards in Florida and Ahmed used the cards to pay the living expenses for most of the other Jeddah conspirators. These cars were funded through a checking account at a Standard Chartered Bank branch in Dubai, United Arab Emirate in the name of Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi.

In the last week in August, the thirteen men booked first class tickets on September 11th flight— American Airlines flights 11 and 77, and United Airlines flights 175 and 93— over the airline web sites, paying with their Visa cards. After the hijacking, the FBI found 12 of the 13 names on the flight manifest ( Since “Fayed Ahmed” was not listed on the manifests of any of the flights, the FBI theorized he had assumed the alias “Banihammad Fayez,” who was on the manifest of Flight 175. )

It is not in doubt that the 13 men who came from Jeddah were hijackers on September 11th.

Here is what we do not know:

1. Were the hijackers the missing men. Or did unknown men use their identities for the mission?

Consider, the case of Abdulaziz Alomari. The day after the hijacking the FBI identified him in an affidavit as a hijacker who died on flight 11. The FBI also published his photo, Abdulaziz Alomari then came forward in Saudi Arabia and informed the authorities that his passport had been stolen in 1995 while he studied electrical engineering at the University of Denver (he reported the identity theft at the time.) “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." In this case, the conspirators had obtained his passport and provided it to an impersonator who resembled him. The impersonator then used the stolen identity to get a visa from the American consulate in Jeddah, obtain a Florida driver’s license and, on August 28, book seat 8G on AA Flight 11. He then few to Boston on September 6th, drove to Portland, Maine on September 10th, and on September 11th used the driver license photo ID to board a connecting flight in Boston— and Flight 11. Whoever he was, he was not Abdulaziz Alomari.

2. The identity of the other 12 men is also in question. In some cases, relatives identified the photographs from the visa files as ones resembling their missing relatives, but such identifications meant only that the missing men’s photos were used to get the visas (which would be expected in identity theft). There were independent photos of only two of the thirteen men. “Alomari” and “Moqed” were photographed by security cameras in the United States. But, it turned out, Alomari had been a stolen identity and no one came forth to identify “Moqed.” So, it could not determined if any of these thirteen hijackers were the missing men whose names had been used to apply for visas.

3. If these hijackers were not the missing Saudis, who were they? Were they pilots? Navigators? Commandos?

4. Where were they trained?

5. Who assembled the identity papers of the missing men and made then available to the hijackers? A state intelligence service— which is in the business of preparing legends for its agents— or a Jihad organization, which would have access to the papers of men killed in Chechnya, or another group?

6. Who financed them through the Dubai account? The name on
the account, Mustafa Ahmed al-Hawsawi, turned out to be an alias.

*- The names used by the hijackers were: Abdulaziz Alomari, Banihammad Fayez, Ahmed al-Ghamdi, Hamza al-Ghamdi, Saaed al-Ghamdi, Salem al-Hamzi, Ahmed al-Haznawi, Majed Moqed, Ahmed al-Nami, Waled al-Shehri, Wail al-Shehri, Mohald al-Shehri, and Satam al-Suqami

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