Chapter 13: THE 9/11 IMAM

... Unlike their counterparts in the FBI, U.S. Customs investigators were not so quick to let [Sheikh Anwar N.] Aulaqi [the hijackers' spiritual leader] off the hook. They have been looking at him for possible terrorist fundraising since 9/11.

According to information in classified documents disclosed publicly here for the first time, Customs agents had opened three separate investigations of Aulaqi in the so-called Green Quest operation initially led by the Department of Treasury to dry up funding for terrorists.

One of the investigations—filed as Case Number: HO02PI02HO0005—involves Aulaqi's connection to the subject of a Joint Terrorism Task Force investigation that originated with the Customs office in Houston. "RADWAN ABU-ISSA—SUBJECT OF HOUSTON JTTF INVESTIGATION—SENT MONEY TO AULAQI," states a document from the classified federal database called the Treasury Enforcement Communications System, or TECS II for short. Abu-Issa is a forty-one-year-old Syrian national who has been in the U.S. since at least 1997. A research scholar and Muslim activist, he has taken Saudi flights in and out of the country since 9/11. He now lives in Houston. Attempts to reach him at his Houston residence were unsuccessful.

The classified law enforcement document [click on DOCUMENTS link] lists the lead investigator in the case as Pamela L. Rhames, an FBI agent who was detailed over to Customs after 9/11 and now works in the Houston office of the Joint Terrorism Task Force. Contacted at her office, Rhames refused to talk about the investigation.

Aulaqi also was the subject of a Green Quest investigation in Washington led by Michael S. Tutko, a senior special agent with Customs. The case—No. DC02PU02DC0014—apparently has been closed. The U.S. Customs Service, and with it Operation Green Quest, have been transferred to the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement—better known as ICE—within the Department of Homeland Security, which has renamed the terrorism-financing operation and shared some of its portfolio with the FBI.

Separately, Aulaqi is the subject of a "current" terror-finance investigation led by senior ICE agent David C. Kane, who has been following the financial trail of the leaders of a Virginia group suspected of aiding Islamic terrorists. The Saar group, as it is called, is funded by wealthy Saudis. One of its leaders, Jamal Barzinji, signed the deed for the Dar al-Hijrah mosque where Aulaqi preached. The classified document describing the Kane case says Aulaqi is the "SUBJECT OF CURRENT INVESTIGATION," listing the case under the category "FINANCIAL." It describes him as the "FORMER IMAM OF DAR AL-HIJRAH MOSQUE IN FALLS CHURCH, VIRGINIA."

Because of the investigations, Aulaqi was added to the terrorist watchlist maintained by federal law enforcement. In late 2002, customs agents in New York thought they had their man when he tried to reenter the U.S. after a trip to the Middle East.

On October 10, 2002, Anwar Nasser Aulaqi arrived at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Saudi Arabian Airlines Flight 35. He gave an address of 3159 Row Street, Falls Church, Virginia—the Dar al-Hijrah mosque. An immigration inspector processing his paperwork noticed he was a match on the terrorist lookout list, according to the results of the primary inspection, a copy of which I obtained [click on DOCUMENTS link]. The inspector immediately referred Aulaqi to secondary for questioning. "REASON FOR REFERRAL: ANTI-TERRORIST PASSENGER," states the secondary inspection report. The lanky Aulaqi—described as 6 feet 1 inch, 160 pounds, with black hair and black eyes‹was hustled off to the customs inspections area where his bags were searched.

Next, agents escorted Aulaqi and his family to the customs detention area, according to the classified incident log I obtained [click on DOCUMENTS link]. A supervisor was called in as agents realized they had a big fish in their net. Then, a flurry of calls was made to Washington to notify officials there that they had the subject of multiple counterterrorism investigations in custody.

One of the first calls went out to Kane, the special agent at Customs, who informed the authorities at JFK that he would consult with headquarters and also "reach out" to FBI special agent Wade Ammerman, who previously had followed Aulaqi out of the bureau's Washington field office. About an hour later, Kane called back the supervisor at the airport with some disappointing news—they would have to release the imam from custody for diplomatic reasons. "RECEIVED A CALL FROM S/A KANE NOTIFYING US THE WARRANT ISSUED BY THE STATE DEPT. HAD BEEN PULLED BACK," the incident log says. FBI special agent Nick Pindulic called from the Washington field office to confirm that "THE WARRANT HAD BEEN REMOVED ON 10/9."

So there was a U.S. warrant outstanding for the imam's arrest. Yet it was withdrawn on October 9—the day before he arrived. It looks as if someone pulled some diplomatic strings for Aulaqi in Washington, indicating he perhaps has some powerful patrons.

The supervisor ordered the agents to release Aulaqi, and they in effect were forced to apologize to him and his family for detaining them for what lasted a full three hours. "PASSENGERS RELEASED WITH THANKS FOR THEIR PATIENS [sic] AND GIVEN THE COMMENT CARD," the incident log says. And with that, a "Saudi representative" escorted Aulaqi to his connecting flight to Washington, where he stayed for a short while "to close out his business," an associate tells me, before hightailing it back to the Middle East.

... Congress released the findings of its 9/11 investigation in December 2002. The final report scolded the FBI for failing to adequately investigate Aulaqi ... Last year, the independent 9/11 Commission agreed with the findings of congressional investigators and expressed further concerns about the cleric. "The circumstances surrounding his relationship with the hijackers remain suspicious," commission investigators said. Did Aulaqi know what the hijackers were up to? Did he prepare them spiritually for their suicide mission? The investigators wanted to ask him but could not find him after he fled the country with the help of higher-ups in the U.S. government.

"By the time we sought to interview him in 2003, he had left the United States, reportedly returning to Yemen," the commission said in its final report. "We attempted to locate and interview him in Yemen, working with U.S. agencies and the Yemeni government, as well as other governments that might have knowledge of his whereabouts." However, "Those attempts were unsuccessful," the panel said.

Aulaqi's whereabouts are still unknown, and Yemeni government officials have not been very helpful, even though the government originally sponsored his studies in America. He came here on a Yemeni government scholarship.

It is anyone's guess how many other young Muslims the 9/11 imam is preparing for martyrdom.

Chapter 17: THE MOLE HOUSE

FBI special agent John M. Cole was bushed after putting in another twelve-hour shift at the Washington command center set up to investigate the 9/11 suicide hijackings. In early 2002, the case, codenamed PENTTBOM, was still top priority for all agents.

But Cole had a stack of files waiting for him at his office at FBI headquarters related to his regular duties with the bureau's counterintelligence division managing the national programs for Afghanistan, India, and Pakistan. Part of those duties required conducting what are called "risk assessments" on applicants for FBI jobs, especially foreign language specialists, to evaluate their propensity for spying on the United States, among other security risks. Several of their personnel files landed on his desk. He was the final step in their background investigation.

The first file he looked at that night after dragging himself back to his office involved a Pakistani American who had applied for a language specialist position translating Urdu and Pashto, tongues critical to the bureau in its battle against al-Qaida. After thumbing through the paperwork, "I felt something was missing in that file," Cole says. "So I put it aside and came in early the next day to take a closer look at it." After rereading the file, he found several items that were troubling.

For starters, he learned that the applicant's father was a retired general from Pakistan. "I went ahead and ran his name through the Automated Case System and came up with several hits," Cole says in an exclusive interview with me. It turns out he had at one time been the subject of an FBI investigation, an alarming piece of information that was somehow overlooked in the preliminary background check on the applicant. The bureau had opened a case file on her father in the 1980s, when he was the military attaché stationed at Pakistan's embassy in Washington. Having worked that particular target, Cole knew that the military attachés assigned there doubled as intelligence officers. And he also knew that Pakistan's military intelligence was in bed with the Taliban, as well as al-Qaida. In fact, its officers introduced Osama bin Laden to Taliban leaders.

Cole stumbled on another alarming piece of information that gave him great pause about the applicant. Her father, who at the time was not a U.S. citizen, spent six months of the year living in the United States and the other six months living in Pakistan. "He¹s got a lot of friends that are still there in military intelligence, and he more than likely talks to them frequently, living there as he does six months out of the year," Cole says. It was a major red flag. Working as a translator with top secret clearance, his daughter could covertly listen to his Pakistani friends targeted in U.S. counterintelligence and counterterrorism investigations, presenting a clear conflict of interest and loyalties.

... About six months after [the Pakistani linguist] was hired, the FBI¹s counterintelligence division was handed a spy case involving Pakistan. Someone had leaked highly classified FBI radio frequencies to Islamabad.

The division opened an "unknown subject" case to try to determine who provided the information to the Pakistani Embassy. Agents sent the information to the FBI's engineering research facility down at Quantico to help isolate suspects. It was determined that the only employees who could have known the frequencies were the technical agent and the translators who had access to the codes.

³Boy, wouldn't that be something if it was one of the translators we hired," one of the agents told his unamused supervisor. The leak is still under investigation.


... But in another sign of a prevailing Us-versus-Them mindset, several Muslim translators have demanded separate bathroom facilities for Muslims at the Washington field office.

"Certain translators fanatic about Islam were sending e-mails around saying they didn't want to use the same commodes as Christians, because if they touch where a non-Muslim has been they could get dirty," [former translator Sibel Dinez] Edmonds says.

The other translator now at headquarters says he is not sure the proposal for separate bathrooms was motivated by religious beliefs. "There were also complaints that agents left the restrooms a mess," he says, insisting on anonymity for fear of reprisals. ...


... But here is what has not been reported in the press:

Federal Bureau of Prisons officials knew well before 2003 that [9/11-sympathizing chaplain Warith-Deen] Umar was instilling in prisoners the same kind of militant ideas that drove the 9/11 hijackers to slaughter three thousand people. And yet they did nothing. In fact, prison officials rewarded him with sparkling evaluations.

"BOP [Bureau of Prisons] staff observed Umar repeatedly give sermons that violated BOP security policies but failed to terminate his contract," the Department of Justice's inspector general found in an investigation of Umar and the federal Muslim chaplains program. The embarrassing revelation was buried in a footnote on page forty-eight of the department¹s 2004 report, part of which is classified.

"Several of his Contractor Progress Reports explain that he 'disparages Judaism and Christianity' and that his sermons are 'sometimes not appropriate,'" the report adds. "Despite this conduct, the same reports provide him with 'Good' or 'Excellent' marks."

Umar, who has a master's degree in Islamic studies and a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, is not an isolated case. A classified addendum to the report documents several cases in which FBI officials assert that authorized Muslim chaplains, contractors, and volunteers leading federal prison prayer sessions may even have ties to terrorist groups. And they suspect these individuals pose a threat to homeland security. ...


... Sam Podberesky, assistant general counsel at the Department of Transportation, led the meeting. [Former United Airlines vice president Ed] Soliday says he "told me that if I had more than three people of the same ethnic origin in line for additional screening, our system would be shut down as discriminatory." Podberesky viewed any human profiling as discriminatory, even if it is based on statistical probability. Soliday argued that the "terrorist threat, statistically, is from Muslim males under thirty." At least thirteen of the fifteen people on the FAA's own prohibited-passenger list before 9/11 were Islamic extremists. And every one of the suspects on the FBI's list of most-wanted terrorists were, and still are, Muslim, with nearly half of them named Mohammed.

But Podberesky—a University of Maryland-educated civil-rights attorney, whose wife, Rosita, and son are Hispanic—would hear none of it. He and the civil-rights attorneys working for then-Attorney General Janet Reno were on the same page. "They didn¹t want any minorities seen hassled at checkpoints," Soliday says.

So "we loaded up the system with randoms to make it mathematically impossible to get three ethnics in line at the same time," he tells me. Those "randoms" selected for additional security scrutiny include such low-risk passengers as soccer moms, Girl Scouts, and even little old ladies with walkers. To try to identify actual security risks, they programmed the automated system to score each passenger's profile based on twenty-four secret travel-related factors unrelated to ethnicity, religion, or place of birth, Soliday explains. They gave passengers points for positive travel habits, such as being a frequent flyer or using a credit card to pay for tickets. The points were added up, and passengers who scored above a minimum threshold were not considered high-risk. Those who fell short of it were selected for additional screening. This was the government-approved CAPPS system that was rolled out in early 1998 and run by the airlines on 9/11.

It is still in use today. ...


... [The Council on American-Islamic Relations] has desperately tried to project a moderate and patriotic image in the face of growing skepticism. "We are Americans and we are Muslims," is the motto that it runs in the nation's newspapers. Part of that image campaign involves dispelling notions that it is controlled by foreign interests in the Middle East. CAIR emphatically denies receiving any foreign support, including for its new headquarters. It argues that it is a "grassroots organization" largely supported by members who pay dues.

For the record, here is what Hooper insisted in a November 8, 2001, press release: "We do not support directly or indirectly or receive support from any overseas group or government."

But land and tax records tell a different story—if you can find them, that is (and then figure them out). And believe me, it is not easy. The original deed to the property for CAIR's headquarters—located a few blocks from the U.S. Capitol at 453 New Jersey Avenue, S.E.—is kept at the District of Columbia Recorder of Deeds Building. You can access it by computer. Problem is, you cannot read it once you call it up. The copy in the database was scanned from microfilm, not the original, and the resulting blurry type has rendered it illegible (printing the image does not help). The only way to read it is to view it on microfilm, which requires a trip to the third floor of the building.

In room 319, there are four carousels containing microfilm cassettes. Curiously, the cassette with the reel storing the CAIR document is missing. Not checked-out missing, either; but simply gone—as in lost and nowhere to be found. I asked to see a backup tape, and after some initial resistance, a clerk downstairs agreed to retrieve it from a room marked "Authorized Personnel Only."

Finally, I was able to read the original document, and it led me to a tangled web of Islamic financing. It turns out that in acquiring its headquarters, CAIR first entered into a lease-to-purchase agreement with the United Bank of Kuwait, the same bank used by the Kuwaiti Embassy. The bank owned the property and essentially leased it to CAIR. The unconventional five-year deal‹recorded as a "Memorandum of Lease and Agreement To Purchase"—was signed by Awad, the executive director of CAIR, on June 24, 1999. The deed remained with the Bank of Kuwait.

Yet oddly, CAIR listed the property as a real estate "asset" valued at more than $2.6 million on a balance sheet filed with the IRS that year, its tax records show. Odder still, it reported a loan of more than $2.1 million from the Bank of Kuwait for a "building purchase."

The lease contract only included an option to purchase the property, adding that the "Buyer/Lessee has the right to receive the deed to the property at any time during the term of the lease," which was set to expire last June.

CAIR did not exercise that option until September 2002, when according to another land document, it was granted title and interest to the property by the Bank of Kuwait in a sale totaling a little more than $978,000, based on the recording and transfer taxes stamped on the back of the document. The lease-purchase agreement was terminated.

At the same time, however, CAIR entered into a "Deed of Trust" contract with the Al-Maktoum Foundation of the United Arab Emirates, which put up the $978,000 for the property and now holds the rights to sell it, manage it, and collect rents from other tenants in the multistory building on the property. The document was signed by CAIR chairman Ahmad on September 12, 2002.

The Al-Maktoum Foundation is based in the United Arab Emirates capital of Dubai and is headed by Gen. Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the Dubai crown prince and UAE defense minister. So essentially, the UAE government is CAIR's new benefactor.

As one of only three countries in the world to formally recognize the Taliban, the UAE has an al-Qaida and 9/11 connection. Money for the 9/11 plot was funneled through UAE banks, and two of the 9/11 hijackers were Emiratis. After the attacks, Crown Prince Al-Maktoum was forced to address reports of al-Qaida money-laundering activities in his country, as well as a rumor that Osama bin Laden had been treated for kidney ailments at a Dubai hospital.

And in a surprisingly unsympathetic statement made just two weeks after the attacks, Al-Maktoum warned Washington not to strike Afghanistan and kill "innocent" Muslims. He also advised against confusing "legitimate" acts of resistance against "Zionist oppression" with acts of terrorism, arguing that the only real terrorists are "Israeli terrorists" and that Israelis should be included in any American war on terrorism.

"We should not confuse legitimate resistance with terrorist acts," Al-Maktoum said, referring to Palestinian suicide bombings. "The Arab and Muslim communities have paid dearly for terrorism, especially the state terrorism practiced by the government of [Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon and extremist groups in Israel. Regrettably, the powers in the international community have done nothing but watch the Israeli terrorists, a matter which has angered Arabs and Muslims." He added, "Confrontation of terrorism must cover Israeli terrorism."

Al-Maktoum¹s foundation, which builds hard-line mosques and schools in other countries, has also held Dubai telethons to support the families of Palestinian suicide bombers as part of a relief campaign called "We Are All Palestinians."

This is CAIR's new foreign partner—and it is not its only troubling source of Middle Eastern funding, either. ...


... Aly Abuzaakouk spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. As head of the Washington-based American Muslim Council, he lobbied both the Senate and House of Representatives to repeal the government's use of undisclosed evidence against suspected Middle Eastern terrorists in deportation proceedings. And targeting foreign policy, he lobbied against U.S. sanctions on Iraq, while pushing for the creation of a Palestinian state.

After 9/11, however, Abuzaakouk spent a lot of time defending Islam. He could not have managed the challenging new task without the assistance of his close aide Faisal Gill, who even helped him coax an apology out of former U.S. Rep. John Cooksey for intemperate remarks the Louisiana Republican made about Arab men wearing "diapers" on their heads. The young lawyer, who also lobbied to end the use of secret terror evidence, served as the American Muslim Council's director of governmental affairs at the time.

Today Gill is policy director for the Department of Homeland Security's intelligence division, where he has access to top-secret data concerning the vulnerability of America's seaports, refineries, nuclear plants, and other facilities to terrorist attacks.

In applying for the sensitive post, however, Gill conveniently left out the fact he worked for the American Muslim Council. The Muslim advocacy group has been under scrutiny in the government's investigation of terrorism financing, led by a special agent who reports to a bureau within Homeland Security. AMC was founded by confessed terrorist Abdurahman Alamoudi. At the time Gill worked there, Alamoudi still controlled the organization, investigators say. ...


... Citizens should also find out what kind of mosque is going up in their neighborhood, and who is backing it. I did. I noticed a large mosque under construction not far from my home in Fairfax County, Virginia. So I investigated. After pulling the real estate records at the county courthouse, I discovered the trustees were from Pakistan, and even used a notary public registered in Lahore, Pakistan—a major red flag. Pakistan, the cradle of the Taliban movement, was the base of operations for many of the 9/11 plotters, and the country remains a sanctuary for top al-Qaida leaders.

Then I learned that the lead trustee, Mian Muhammad Saeed, is also the imam of the mosque, called the Islamic Center of Northern Virginia. It turns out Saeed was the close spiritual adviser to the Pakistani terrorist who last decade fatally gunned down two CIA employees and wounded three others outside the agency's headquarters in nearby Langley, Virginia. After his recent execution, the Pakistani community hailed him as a martyr. Turns out Saeed is a hard-line Pakistani cleric, and there is a real fear that he may attract other violent jihadists to his mosque. This is information the public should be aware of, especially the Christian church and new Jewish school that will be the mosque's neighbors.


Email for media inquiries