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[] Neue Enthüllungen zum 11. September,

Exclusive: The Informant Who Lived With the Hijackers

NEWSWEEK has learned that one of the bureau’s informants had a close relationship 
with two of the hijackers

By Michael Isikoff

Sept. 16 issue —  At first, FBI director Bob Mueller insisted there was nothing the bureau 
could have done to penetrate the 9-11 plot. That account has been modified over 
time—and now may change again. NEWSWEEK has learned that one of the bureau’s 
informants had a close relationship with two of the hijackers: he was their roommate.

THE CONNECTION, JUST discovered by congressional investigators, has stunned some 
top counterterrorism officials and raised new concerns about the information-sharing 
among U.S. law-enforcement and intelligence agencies. The two hijackers, Khalid 
Almihdhar and Nawaf Alhazmi, were hardly unknown to the intelligence community. The 
CIA was first alerted to them in January 2000, when the two Saudi nationals showed up 
at a Qaeda “summit” in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. FBI officials have argued internally for 
months that if the CIA had more quickly passed along everything it knew about the two 
men, the bureau could have hunted them down more aggressively.

But both agencies can share in the blame. Upon leaving Malaysia, Almihdhar and 
Alhazmi went to San Diego, where they took flight-school lessons. In September 2000, 
the two moved into the home of a Muslim man who had befriended them at the local 
Islamic Center. The landlord regularly prayed with them and even helped one open a 
bank account. He was also, sources tell NEWSWEEK, a “tested” undercover “asset” 
who had been working closely with the FBI office in San Diego on terrorism cases related 
to Hamas. A senior law- enforcement official told NEWSWEEK the informant never 
provided the bureau with the names of his two houseguests from Saudi Arabia. Nor does 
the FBI have any reason to believe the informant was concealing their identities. (He 
could not be reached for comment.) But the FBI concedes that a San Diego case agent 
appears to have been at least aware that Saudi visitors were renting rooms in the 
informant’s house. (On one occasion, a source says, the case agent called up the 
informant and was told he couldn’t talk because “Khalid”—a reference to Almihdhar—was in 
the room.) I. C. Smith, a former top FBI counterintelligence official, says the case agent 
should have been keeping closer tabs on who his informant was fraternizing with—if only to 
seek out the houseguests as possible informants. “They should have been asking, ‘Who 
are these guys? What are they doing here?’ This strikes me as a lack of investigative 
curiosity.” About six weeks after moving into the house, Almihdhar left town, explaining to 
the landlord he was heading back to Saudi Arabia to see his daughter. Alhazmi moved 
out at the end of 2000.

    In the meantime, the CIA was gathering more information about just how potentially 
dangerous both men were. A few months after the October 2000 bombing of the USS 
Cole in Yemen, CIA analysts discovered —in their Malaysia file that one of the chief 
suspects in the Cole attack— Tawfiq bin Attash—was present at the “summit” and had been 
photographed with Almihdhar and Alhazmi. But it wasn’t until Aug. 23, 2001, that the CIA 
sent out an urgent cable to U.S. border and law-enforcement agencies identifying the two 
men as “possible” terrorists. By then it was too late. The bureau did not realize the San 
Diego connection until a few days after 9-11, when the informant heard the names of the 
Pentagon hijackers and called his case agent. “I know those guys,” the informant 
purportedly said, referring to Almihdhar and Alhazmi. “They were my roommates.”
    But the belated discovery has unsettled some members of the joint House and Senate 
intelligence committees investigating the 9-11 attacks. The panel is tentatively due to 
begin public hearings as early as Sept. 18, racing to its end- of-the-year deadline. But 
some members are now worried that they won’t get to the bottom of what really happened 
by then. Support for legislation creating a special blue- ribbon investigative panel, similar 
to probes conducted after Pearl Harbor and the Kennedy assassination, is increasing. 
Only then, some members say, will the public learn whether more 9-11 secrets are buried 
in the government’s files.
    —with Jamie Reno

    © 2002 Newsweek, Inc.

Revealed: The Taliban minister, the US envoy and the warning of September 11 that 
was ignored

By Kate Clark in Kabul

07 September 2002 Internal links Revealed: The Taliban minister, the US envoy and the 
warning of September 11 that was ignored  Germans 'foil US base attack' Police hold 16 
after two Afghan attacks 
Weeks before the terrorist attacks on 11 September, the United States and the United 
Nations ignored warnings from a secret Taliban emissary that Osama bin Laden was 
planning a huge attack on American soil.

The warnings were delivered by an aide of Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban Foreign 
Minister at the time, who was known to be deeply unhappy with the foreign militants in 
Afghanistan, including Arabs.

Mr Muttawakil, now in American custody, believed the Taliban's protection of Mr bin 
Laden and the other al- Qa'ida militants would lead to nothing less than the destruction of 
Afghanistan by the US military. He told his aide: "The guests are going to destroy the 

The minister then ordered him to alert the US and the UN about what was going to 
happen. But in a massive failure of intelligence, the message was disregarded because of 
what sources describe as "warning fatigue". At the same time, the FBI and the CIA failed 
to take seriously warnings that Islamic fundamentalist students had enrolled in flight 
schools across the US.

Mr Muttawakil's aide, who has stayed on in Kabul and who has to remain anonymous for 
his security, described in detail to The Independent how he alerted first the Americans 
and then the United Nations of the coming calamity of 11 September.

The minister learnt in July last year that Mr bin Laden was planning a "huge attack" on 
targets inside America, the aide said. The attacks were imminent and would be so deadly 
the United States would react with destructive rage.

Mr bin Laden had been in Afghanistan since May 1996, bringing his three wives, 13 
children and Arab fighters. Over time he became a close ally of the obscurantist Taliban 
leader Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Mr Muttawakil learnt of the coming attacks on America not from other members of the 
Taliban leadership, but from the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, Tahir 
Yildash. The organisation was one of the fundamentalist groups that had found refuge on 
Afghan soil, lending fighters for the Taliban's war on the Northern Alliance and benefiting 
from good relations with al- Qa'ida in its fight against the Uzbek government.

According to the emissary, Mr Muttawakil emerged from a one-to-one meeting with Mr 
Yildash looking shocked and troubled. Until then, the Foreign Minister, who had 
disapproved of the destruction of the Buddhist statues in Bamian earlier in the year, had 
no inkling from others in the Taliban leadership of what Mr bin Laden was planning.

"At first Muttawakil wouldn't say why he was so upset," said the aide. "Then it all came 
out. Yildash had revealed that Osama bin Laden was going to launch an attack on the 
United States. It would take place on American soil and it was imminent. Yildash said 
Osama hoped to kill thousands of Americans."

At the time, 19 members of al-Qa'ida were in situ in the US waiting to launch what would 
be the deadliest foreign attack on the American mainland.

The emissary went first to the Americans, travelling across the border to meet the consul 
general, David Katz, in the Pakistani border town of Peshawar, in the third week of July 
2001. They met in a safehouse belonging to an old mujahedin leader who has confirmed 
to The Independent that the meeting took place.

Another US official was also present possibly from the intelligence services. Mr Katz, who 
now works at the American embassy in Eritrea, declined to talk about the meeting. But 
other US sources said the warning was not passed on.

A diplomatic source said: "We were hearing a lot of that kind of stuff. When people keep 
saying the sky's going to fall in and it doesn't, a kind of warning fatigue sets in. I actually 
thought it was all an attempt to rattle us in an attempt to please their funders in the Gulf, 
to try to get more donations for the cause."

The Afghan aide did not reveal that the warning was from Mr Muttawakil, a factor that 
might have led the Americans to down-grade it. "As I recall, I thought he was speaking 
from his own personal perspective," one source said. "It was interesting that he was from 
the Foreign Affairs Ministry, but he gave no indication this was a message he was 

Interviewed by The Independent in Kabul, the Afghan emissary said: "I told Mr Katz they 
should launch a new Desert Storm like the campaign to drive Iraq out of Kuwait but this 
time they should call it Mountain Storm and they should drive the foreigners out of 
Afghanistan. They also had to stop the Pakistanis supporting the Taliban."

The Taliban emissary said Mr Katz replied that neither action was possible. Nor did Mr 
Katz pass the warning on to the State Department, according to senior US diplomatic 

When Mr Muttawakil's emissary returned to Kabul, the Foreign Minister told him to see UN 
officials. He took the warning to the Kabul offices of UNSMA, the political wing of the 
UN. These officials heard him out, but again did not report the secret Taliban warning to 
UN headquarters. A UN official familiar with the warnings said: "He appeared to be 
speaking in total desperation, asking for a Mountain Storm, he wanted a sort of deus ex 
machina to solve his country's problems. But before 9/11, there was just not much hope 
that Washington would become that engaged in Afghanistan."

Officials in the State Department and in UN headquarters in New York said they knew 
nothing about a Taliban warning. But they said they would now be looking into the 

Mr Muttawakil is now unavailable for comment he handed himself in to the Afghan 
authorities in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan last 
February. He is reported to be in American custody there, one of the few senior members 
of the Taliban regime the US has managed to arrest.

As America steadily broke the Taliban's military machine last autumn, there were no 
Taliban defections. Apart from Mr Mutawakil's one vain attempt to warn the world, the 
Taliban remained absolutely loyal to their leader's vision.

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