Posts Tagged ‘California’

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Al-Bayoumi’s aid to 9/11 hijackers revisited

September 22, 2014

To recap published evidence on whether money from Saudi officials was given to 9/11 hijackers Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar, the 9/11 Commission reported that Omar al-Bayoumi (a Saudi intelligence agent) helped al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar get established upon their arrival in San Diego, to include a one-time transfer of $9,900 that was reportedly refunded immediately. However, Congress’s joint inquiry into 9/11 found that an alternate assessment of bank records by the FBI found no evidence of a refund to al-Bayoumi. Some FBI agents believed that al-Bayoumi continued paying al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar’s rent, but the 9/11 Commission contradicts them. In either case, former U.S. Senator Bob Graham has indicated that al-Bayoumi played a broader role in the facilitation of al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar’s activities in San Diego than official published reports revealed.

Quotations from each source follow:

The 9/11 Commission Report:

We thus do not know when or how Hazmi and Mihdhar first came to San Diego. We do know that on February 4 [2000], they went to the Islamic Center of San Diego to find Omar al Bayoumi and take him up on his offer of help. Bayoumi obliged by not only locating an apartment but also helping them fill out the lease application, co-signing the lease and, when the real estate agent refused to take cash for a deposit, helping them open a bank account (which they did with a $9,900 deposit); he then provided a certified check from his own account for which the al Qaeda operatives reimbursed him on the spot for the deposit.

Congressional Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities before and after the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001:

However, another FBI document appears to reach a different conclusion: ‘a review of Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi’s bank records indicate [sic] there is no bank documentation that supports the reimbursement of [the rent money], or any monies to Omar al-Bayoumi from al-Hazmi or al-Midhar.’

The 9/11 Commission Monograph on Terrorist Financing:

A number of internal FBI documents state without reservation that Bayoumi paid rent on behalf of Mihdhar and Hazmi, a claim reflecting the initial view of some FBI agents. More thorough investigation, however, has determined that Bayoumi did not pay rent or provide any funding to the hijackers.

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham:

In San Diego, there was a man [Omar al-Bayoumi] and a circle of his friends. The man was described by the FBI as being a Saudi agent. His purpose in San Diego was to monitor Saudi students to assure that they weren’t plotting to overthrow the monarchy. But in January of 2000 he got a second assignment which was to provide protection for two Saudis [Nawaf al-Hazmi and Khalid al-Mihdhar] who had just entered the country. He was encouraged to invite them to come to San Diego—they did. He provided them money, a place to live, flight lessons, and an infrastructure of Muslims in San Diego to give them protection and anonymity. These two individuals were on the plane that flew into the Pentagon.

The official story is that al-Bayoumi could never be prosecuted for providing material support to terrorism since the evidence of giving money to the 9/11 hijackers is unclear, and he allegedly had no knowledge of what they would use the money for. However, the material support clause of 18 US Code § 2339 includes more types of support than just money, and paying somebody’s first month rent and security deposit, in a scenario where a landlord would otherwise not have offered a lease, could qualify as support, regardless of whether or not he was refunded. Whether al-Bayoumi knew what the San Diego-based hijackers were planning is a different question, but he was not thoroughly questioned by law enforcement.

As Money Jihad has noted, al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar seemed to have received disproportionately less financial assistance from Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and his financial intermediary Ali Abdul Aziz Ali than other 9/11 hijackers, even though they lived in the U.S. for a longer period of time and presumably had higher total living expenses. A full accounting of their potential alternate sources of income has never been made available.

In light of the somewhat conflicting accounts of the scope of al-Bayoumi’s interactions with al-Hazmi and al-Mihdhar, it would be appropriate to declassify the 28-page section of Congress’s joint inquiry into 9/11 that dealt with this subject to clear the air.

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9/11 hijackers funding: names and numbers

September 11, 2014

Follow the money

If you follow the money, the men in the middle of the disbursing of funds to the 9/11 hijackers were United Airlines Flight 175 hijacker-pilot Marwan al-Shehhi and a UAE-based computer specialist Ali Abdul Aziz Ali (Ali), who ultimately received the money from his uncle, 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Muhammad (KSM).

In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Al Qaeda was able to raise about $30 million a year, mostly from zakat and sadaqa from wealthy Arab donors and other supportive Muslims around the world. The money was funneled through Islamic charities—often charitable foundations backed directly by the Saudi government—and through hawala, the traditional Islamic system of transferring money without physically having to transfer cash. The same methods continue being used to fund Al Qaeda and its offshoots today.

Of that $30 million, $10-$20 million was estimated by the 9/11 Commission to have been given annually to the Taliban. The remaining money was used for wages, training, planning, and operations like 9/11, which is estimated to have cost $400,000 to half a million dollars to carry out.

KSM gave about $300,000 of that sum to the hijackers for their travel to and inside the U.S., living expenses, and flight lessons. He sometimes handed out cash to operatives during face-to-face meetings but he relied on intermediaries—most significantly Ali—for international transactions once the U.S. sleeper cells had been established. In addition to being KSM’s nephew, Ali is the cousin of 1993 World Trade Center bomber Ramzi Yousef, and the husband of terror maven Aafia Siddiqui. He currently resides in Guantanamo Bay.

In what amounted to the largest series of transactions in the entire run-up to 9/11, Ali sent at least $110,000 to al-Shehhi for use by him, Muhammad Atta, and presumably for the expenses of the other Florida-based hijackers—several of whose leaders had been a part of Atta’s prior Al Qaeda cell in Hamburg, Germany. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Campaign renewed to declassify Saudi Arabia’s financing of 9/11

September 2, 2014

The intelligence committees of the U.S. House and Senate released an 800-page report in 2002 entitled, “Joint Inquiry into Intelligence Community Activities Before and After the Terrorist Attacks of September 11, 2001.” The inquiry identified failures by the U.S. intelligence community to connect dots of relevant information available to them before 9/11.

The original report was classified top secret; the declassified version includes some redactions of names and methods scattered throughout the report.

The report is divided into four main parts: 1) overall findings and conclusions, 2) a narrative about the 9/11 attacks, 3) special topics about the attacks, and 4) “Finding, Discussion and Narrative Regarding Certain Sensitive National Security Matters.” It is Part Four that was redacted for the declassified version—that section constitutes the now infamous “28 pages” which has never been revealed to the public (corresponding to pages 416 to 443 in the original, top secret report; pages 396 to 422 in the declassified print version; and pages 428 to 454 in the PDF versions available online).

The first page of Part Four is un-redacted, and states, “Through its investigation, the Joint Inquiry developed information suggesting specific sources of foreign support for some of the September 11 hijackers while they were in the United States.”

In 2003, the New York Times reported that people who read the 28-page section of the top secret version said it indicated that two probable Saudi spies had links with 9/11 hijackers Khalid al-Mihdhar and Nawaf al-Hazmi. One of the likely spies, Omar al-Bayoumi, may have received money as a “ghost employee” of a Saudi civil aviation contractor from an unnamed Saudi official to disperse to al-Mihdhar and al-Hazmi in San Diego in 2000.

Providing further details, KPBS San Diego’s investigative reporter Amita Sharma reported on the 10-year anniversary of 9/11 that, “Before al-Bayoumi helped the hijackers, he received $465 per month from the Saudi contractor. After he helped them, he received $3,700 a month. I spoke with [former] Florida senator Bob Graham who co-chaired the congressional inquiry into 9/11, and here’s what he thought about the jump in pay to al-Bayoumi:  ‘The interpretation that we gave to it was that Bayoumi was a conduit of financing for the two hijackers while they were in San Diego.'”

Characterizing the 28 pages publicly, Graham later said, “that was the chapter that largely dealt with the financing of 9/11. Who paid for these very complex and in many instances expensive activities that were the predicate for 9/11?”

The formatting of the published report, which uses strike-throughs in place of the original classified text, indicates that Part Four includes bullet point findings, narrative paragraphs, and block quotes from FBI and CIA reports and testimony before the joint committee.

The final paragraph of Part Four is also un-redacted. There we learn that FBI director Robert Mueller testified before the joint committee that findings about foreign support for the hijackers while in the U.S. “would not have come to light had the [Congress’s] staff not probed” into the subject.

In 2003, 46 senators (including Democrats Chuck Schumer, Harry Reid, John Kerry, Hillary Clinton, and Republican Sam Brownback) supported declassification of the 28 pages in a letter to Pres. Bush. The Philadelphia Inquirer reports that Pres. Obama told 9/11 victims’ families in 2009 and 2011 that he would declassify the section. Currently, 10 members of Congress (seven Republicans and three Democrats) are co-sponsoring House Resolution 428, which would call upon the President to declassify the redacted pages.

A renewed effort is being supported by former presidential candidate and congressman Ron Paul (hat tip @TheNewSpy) to pass HR 428. The website 28pages.org is pushing a social media campaign to declassify the details about Saudi Arabia’s role in the 9/11 attacks. The conservative website Redstate.com and the editorial board of the liberal Miami Herald have also recently endorsed declassification.

Money Jihad predicted in January that declassification could take place this year.

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Fourth Somali sentenced in terror cash case

February 9, 2014

Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud, a taxi cab driver in California, has been sentenced to six years in prison for transferring funds overseas to the terrorist group al-Shabaab.  His fellow conspirators–another cabbie, an imam, and a hawala dealer–were sentenced to longer terms previously.

Money Jihad readers will recall that this case illustrates how the Somali remittance industry is fraught with the constant risk of funding al-Shabaab.  U.S. and British banks that have ceased doing business with Somali hawala houses like Shidaal Express, Qaran Financial Express, and wire services companies such as Dahabshiil, are well-justified if not required by anti-money laundering and know-your-customer requirements to sever such ties.  The humanitarian benefits of sending money to Somalia are far outweighed by the high probability that the money will be directed to, diverted by, or extorted for al-Shabaab to buy weapons and carry out operations that ultimately harm more Somalis than such money helps.

U-T San Diego reports (h/t Arun Hindu):

Final sentence in Somali terror case

By Kristina Davis, Jan. 31, 2014

SAN DIEGO — An Anaheim cabdriver who raised funds to aid terrorists in his war-torn homeland of Somalia was sentenced Friday to six years in prison, where he will join three other San Diego Somalis who were sentenced in the scheme two months ago.

Ahmed Nasir Taalil Mohamud, 38, played the most minor role among the four men, said U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Miller.

Prosecutors say Nasir raised about $1,000 from other cabdrivers in Orange County to send to al-Shabab fighters, who are using violence to try to overthrow the East African country’s transitional government.

The fundraising was coordinated by Basaaly Moalin, a San Diego taxi driver in contact with al-Shabab overseas.

Moalin, a naturalized U.S. citizen, was given 18 years in prison — the longest term — when he was sentenced in November.

Mohamed Mohamed Mohamud, who used his influence on the local Somali community as a City Heights imam, got 13 years. Issa Doreh, who worked at a money transfer business the men used, received 10 years.

The men have already served three years and will be required to serve at least 80 percent of their terms.

Even though Nasir’s role was minor, Assistant U.S. Attorney William Cole said in court that Nasir and Moalin were talking about real people’s lives when it came to what the money would be used for.

“It was a serious offense,” Cole said.

Nasir and Moalin met years earlier in St. Louis, where Nasir had moved to work as a cabdriver, said his lawyer, Thomas Durkin. They then moved to California, where they could make more money…

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Jihad aspirant pleads guilty in California

January 17, 2014

In a reversal of his initial plea, Sinh Vinh Ngo Nguyen (a.k.a. Hasan Abu Omar Ghannoum) has pleaded guilty to attempting to provide material support for terrorism.  Nguyen intended to travel to Pakistan to train Al Qaeda operatives.

The two-minute clip below is the audio from a Dec. 27 televised report by Dave Lopez at KCAL, the CBS affiliate in Los Angeles.  The voice you’ll hear from the man saying “we don’t see a lot of these cases” is Thom Mrozek’s—a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in L.A.

For the record, we do see many of these cases.  Far too many.

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Drug smugglers build fancy tunnels on US border

November 15, 2013

Gaza isn’t the only place with illicit smuggling tunnels.  More than 75 tunnels have been found along the U.S.’s southwest border since 2008 according to ABC News, which has remarkable footage from an underground mega-tunnel connecting Tijuana to San Diego:

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Turkish national convicted of funding jihad

April 4, 2013
http://blogs.ocweekly.com/navelgazing/8652208.87.jpg

Cartoon from the Orange County Weekly

Oytun Ayse Mihalik made three separate money transfers to Pakistan to finance terrorism.  The former CVS pharmacy employee could have been prosecuted on three separate counts of material support for terrorism on that basis.

However, the transfers were lumped into one charge for which Mihalik pleaded guilty, and rather than receiving the maximum 15-year sentence, or the 12-year sentence sought by prosecutors, she was only sentenced to five years in prison.

She’ll be back on the streets before we know it.  From the Los Angeles Times (with a tip of the hat to Dr. Hayat Alvi for tweeting out a separate news link on the sentencing)

O.C. woman sentenced to five years for sending funds to terrorists

By Victoria Kim

March 29, 2013

An Orange County pharmacist who admitted to wiring $2,050 to Pakistan to be used to fund terrorist activities was sentenced Friday to five years in federal prison.

Oytun Ayse Mihalik, 40, a Turkish national and permanent U.S. resident, pleaded guilty in August to one count of providing material support to terrorists after sending three money orders over a month in late 2010 and early 2011.

Mihalik used a false name, “Cindy Palmer,” to send the funds, according to authorities.

Federal prosecutors had asked for a 12-year sentence for the woman, alleging she provided the money to a man she met through a website, believing it was going to be used to harm U.S. troops.

She was motivated by a “desire to participate in jihad” and knew the sum was “more than enough to finance an entire operation against the United States military forces,” they wrote, citing her email communications with the man.

They also noted that she had created a “favorite” tab for “The Al Qaeda Manual” on her laptop and had searched the terms “true jihad” and “Jihad in Afghanistan” on her Web browser in “privacy” mode.

Her defense attorneys argued she had been manipulated in a time of vulnerability when her marriage was falling apart after a miscarriage. She accessed the website out of worry for her brother, who was going on a pilgrimage to Pakistan, they contended in court filings. They asked for a 24-month sentence.

The woman appears to have come to authorities’ attention after her husband called Immigration and Customs Enforcement, alleging she had married him under “false pretenses” after she moved out of their home for a trial separation. She became radicalized after a monthlong trip to Turkey two years into their marriage, he alleged.

“I go, ‘Listen, did you marry just me for my citizenship and do you want to harm someone here?’ And she looked at me blank and she said, ‘If I have to kill people for Allah, I will,'” the husband said in his initial report, according to a transcript filed with court papers.

See previous Money Jihad coverage of Oytun Ayse Mihalik and her use of Western Union here.

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