New Details of the al Qaeda Plot
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Osama bin Ladin approved a scaled-back version of this plan and began choosing operatives including an Egyptian named Mohammed Atta.
|Mohamed Atta's U.S. visa issued in Berlin, Germany on May 18, 2000, 10 days after he acquired a new passport. From 9/11 Commission report|
"Atta was chosen as the emir, or leader of the mission," the report says. "He met with bin Ladin to discuss the targets: the World Trade Center, which represented the United States economy, the Pentagon, a symbol of the U.S. military, and the U.S. Capitol, the perceived source of U.S. policy in support of Israel. The White House was also on the list, as bin Ladin considered it a political symbol, and wanted to attack it, as well."
Atta and several others were ordered to go to the United States to go to flight school. Atta took classes at a school in Florida, along with a man from the United Arab Emirates called Marwan al Shehhi.
"In mid-August," the report says, "Atta and Shehhi both passed the private pilot airman test. Their instructors described Atta and Shehhi as aggressive and rude, and in a hurry to complete their training."
|A partly-burned copy of Ziad Jarrah's U.S. visa recovered from the Flight 93 crash site in Somerset County, Pennsylvania. From 9/11 Commission report|
Two other men chosen to be al Qaeda pilots failed their training, but bin Laden found a replacement who already had a pilot's license, and he sent another volunteer to flight school - a Lebanese man named Ziad Jarrah.
"It appears," the report says "that during the summer of 2001, friction developed between Atta and Jarrah, and that Jarrah may even have considered dropping out of the operation. Given his background and personality, Jarrah seemed a relatively unlikely candidate to become an al Qaeda suicide operative. From an affluent family, he studied at private Christian schools in Lebanon before deciding to study abroad in Germany. He knew the best nightclubs and discos in Beirut and partied with fellow students in Germany, even drinking beer, a clear taboo for any religious Muslim."
"Jarrah also appears to have projected a friendly, engaging personality while in the United States. Here he is, hair frosted, proudly displaying the pilot certificate he received during his flight training in Florida. Yet this is the same person who only a year earlier had journeyed from Hamburg to Afghanistan and pledged to become one of bin Ladin's suicide operatives."
|Ziad Jarrah displaying his pilot certificate. (center) From 9/11 Commission hearrings|
Jarrah made repeated trips to visit his girlfriend and his family. His girlfriend came to the United States to see him, and even went to one of his training sessions at flight school.
In late July, he visited her in Germany. He used a one-way ticket, suggesting he might not have planned to return. While he was in Germany, he had an emotional conversation with another al Qaeda operative, who encouraged him to go through with the plan. Jarrah went back to the United States.
Continued: part 3