Chapter 6: Were the “hijackers” sophisticated?

Journalist John Miller, who together with Peter Jenkins led the coverage of the 9/11 events on ABC News, referred shortly after 11:00 a.m. to the sophistication of the operation that represented for him a “confounding mystery”:

There are very few organizations on the planet that can put together such coordinated attacks that we have seen today… Whoever is behind this, put together an incredibly sophisticated program. Just the idea that you’d have multiple operators, in multiple cities with the ability to get on to a plane with either the weaponry or false weaponry or explosives, to be able to follow up a hijacking, again probably with a locked cockpit (Peter Jenkins interjecting: “Three of them may be”), again a hijacking and another hijacking, and another, and may be one that is still … and this is the part that has confounded me – you touched on this – How do you make a pilot of a plane full of passengers into a suicide pilot…and if you do not, how do you, as the terrorist, have the level of sophistication to take over the control of a sophisticated airliner jet plane to be able to fly accurately into targets like hitting dead center into the Pentagon, which is a low, a low, building (Jennings interjecting: “Knocking off telephone poles”), dead hits into the Trade Center… There’s a lot of mystery to this.

Anthony Cordesman said on ABC News at 11:30 a.m. (11 September 2001):

This is so complicated an operation that one reason we weren’t ready, is that no one believed there was an organization with the intention or the capability to execute something like this. People talk about bin Laden but it’s an umbrella group, it is the element under it that would have had to do, but not bin Laden himself.

The Final Report of the 9/11 Commission affirmed that the terrorist enemy “is sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal.”1

German author Gerhard Wisnewski remarked that the fate of the entire 9/11 operation — assuming the truth of the official narrative — depended on just four men, the pilots of the hijacked aircraft.2 The plotters had to find four ace pilots who were willing to commit mass murder and sacrifice their own lives. No mistake was allowed in the preparation and execution of the operation because there would not be a second chance for a surprise attack on the superpower.3

The belief in the sophistication of the alleged hijackers prompted author Terry McDermott to call his book, “Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers.”4 Perfect soldiers???

(1) Hani Hanjour’s exploits

According to the official account, Hani Hanjour steered a Boeing 757 (Flight AA77) into Wedge 1 of the west side of the Pentagon, more precisely between the first and second floor. According to official reports, the aircraft entered the building horizontally at 530 mph and pierced through a number of walls. This means that the pilot would have had to level the aircraft and fly horizontally for a substantial distance about 10 feet above the ground at this speed before impacting the building.5

Maintaining a fixed-wing passenger aircraft steady in the air so near the ground at such speed is considered by professional pilots as very difficult, if not impossible. Several professional pilots with combat experience, including Ted Muga, Russ Wittenberg, Ralph Omholt and Ralph Kolstad, said they could not imagine that an amateur pilot could fly that “tight spiral coming down out of 7,000 feet” and then “crash into the Pentagon’s first floor wall without touching the lawn.” Kolstad: “I have 6,000 hours of flight time in Boeing 757’s and 767’s and I could not have flown it the way the flight path was described.”6

The New York Times devoted an entire article to Hani Hanjour in 2002.7 Here is what the “newspaper of record” wrote about him: Hanjour “was reported to the [Federal Aviation Administration — FAA] in February 2001 after instructors at his flight school in Phoenix had found his piloting skills so shoddy and his grasp of English so inadequate that they questioned whether his pilot’s license was genuine.”8 According to CBS News, the staff of the Phoenix flight school was so appalled at Hanjour’s lack of skills that they contacted the FAA not fewer than five times and asked them to investigate how he got a pilot’s license.9 Peggy Chevrette, the manager of the flight school, said: “I couldn’t believe he had a commercial license of any kind with the skills that he had.” The FAA finally sent Inspector John Anthony to verify whether Hanjour’s 1999 license was legitimate. The inspector suggested that the school provide Hanjour with an interpreter during his flight lessons! Hanjour appears to have had protectors in high places.

(2) ‘Atta’s mysterious Portland detour

According to the official account, ‘Atta’ and his companion ‘Alomari’ rented a car in Boston and drove on 10 September 2001 to Portland, Maine, where they stayed overnight and flew back to Boston on the morning of September 11 before allegedly boarding the flight they intended to hijack (Flight AA11). By this detour, they risked botching their grand operation, should their connecting flight from Portland to Boston be delayed. This risk did not escape the sharp eyes of the Wall Street Journal. The paper noted that “investigators say they don’t know why two of the Boston hijackers drove to Portland a day before the attack, risking a missed connection.”10 This was a good question begging for an answer that never came.

In Staff Report No. 4 of the 9/11 Commission we read:

No physical, documentary, or analytical evidence found either by the Commission or by law enforcement agencies provides a clear reason why ‘Atta’ and Omari (sic) drove to Portland from Boston on the morning of September 10 only to return to Logan International Airport on Flight 5930 on the morning of September 11 (p. 3).

At the 12th Public Hearing of the 9/11 Commission on 16 June 2004, Commission staff member Dieter Snell confirmed that the Portland detour almost prevented ‘Atta’ and ‘Alomari’ from making Flight 11 out of Boston.11 Snell did not explain the reason for this detour either.

From the perspective of ‘Atta the terrorist’, the detour via Portland was certainly not a sign of a “flawlessly planned” operation. It was rather reckless. Why? Had he missed flight AA11 in Boston, none of the other “terrorists” could have replaced him as a pilot and the aircraft would not have impacted the North Tower of the World Trade Center. In that case nothing would have attracted the TV networks to focus their cameras on the WTC and no network could have shown in real time the second plane impacting the South Tower. The huge psychological impact of their carefully planned attack — showing the valiant Muslims crashing the second plane into the South Tower — would have been lost. For the planners of the operation, it would have been a historical disaster. So why did ‘Atta’ and ‘Alomari’ take this risk?

Let us now consider the consequences of this mysterious detour via Portland. Its main consequence was that ’Atta’s and ’Alomari’s bags were not loaded on flight AA11 but were calmly waiting at Logan Airport in Boston for the FBI.

According to a Memorandum compiled by the staff of the 9/11 Commission, the following items were found in ‘Atta’s suitcase (also based on FBI document 302-1306).

A four-page letter in Arabic; an electronic flight computer with case; an Islamic Finder Prayer Schedule; simulator Check-ride procedures; flight planner sheets attached to cardboard; a videotape of flight procedures for a Boeing 747-400; a videotape of flight procedures for a Boeing 757-200; a plastic device for determining the effect of an aircraft’s weight on the range; a folding knife; brand name “First Defense” Cayenne (red pepper) spray.

The second suitcase, belonging to ‘Alomari,’ reportedly contained:

Three English grammar books; an Arabic to English dictionary; a bottle of perfume, brand name Brylcream anti-dandruff hair dressing; a Saudi passport for ‘Alomari’; a Hudson United Bank checkbook for ‘Alomari’; three photographs; a handkerchief; a twenty-dollar bill, U.S. Currency

In an FBI list of “recovered identification documents (by laboratory number)” released later, additional items were listed as recovered from these bags.12

Author McDermott, commenting upon the paraphernalia allegedly found in ‘Atta’s bags, said what many thought: “Atta’s bag contained nearly every important document in his life…If you wanted to leave a roadmap for investigators to follow, the suitcase was a pretty good place to start.”13 The Guardian wrote, with tongue in cheek, “The finds are certainly very fortunate, though some might think them a little too fortunate.”14

For years, men wondered why ‘Atta’ would fill his bags with incriminating evidence rather than burn his papers in a safe place before perpetrating his grand operation. The answer came only in 2009.

The key to the mystery

An FBI document released in 2009 informs us that ’Atta’s luggage carried a “covert marking that indicated that the suitcases belonged to a passenger, [who] was a security issue.”15 A “covert marking”? Quinn John Tamm, Jr., a 9/11 Commission’s staffer, acknowledged this observation made by baggage expediter Philip A. DePasquale (“The two suitcases had a covert tag from U.S. Airways to warn that Atta and his luggage were a security issue”) but did not attempt to discover when, for what reason and by whom ‘Atta’ was regarded a “security issue” before the attacks.16 The bags were thus not held in Boston by mistake or because of a delayed connecting flight, but by design. And this intent was meant to remain secret, as manifested by this “covert marking.”

The mysterious Portland detour was thus not reckless after all. It was a sophisticated move, even if it was not conceived by ‘Atta’ but by those who filled his bags with incriminating evidence.

(3) Islamic terrorists who love to visit U.S. government offices

Several of the alleged hijackers contacted at various times government offices in the United States, even going there in person, to obtain duplicates for their driver’s licenses and for their pilot licenses, that they sometimes claimed to have lost.

‘Atta’ applied on 29 December 2000 for a replacement of his Airman Certificate, which he received on 21 December.17 He reapplied for “replacement of lost or destroyed Airman Certificate and Knowledge Test Report” on 4 June 2001.18 FAA issued on 19 June 2001 a duplicate replacement of the commercial pilot license to ‘Atta.’19

• ‘Al-Shehhi’ got his Florida driver’s license on 12 April 2001. He asked for a duplicate license two months later.20 On 3 June 2001, he applied for a replacement of his Commercial Pilot’s License, saying it was lost. He received a duplicate license on 19 June 2001.21

• Alleged hijacker Waleed al-Shehri got his Florida driver’s license on 4 May 2001 and a duplicate the next day.22

• Alleged hijacker Hamza al-Ghamdi got his Florida driver’s license on 27 June 2001 and two duplicates in August.23

Ziad Jarrah was issued a duplicate Florida license on 10 July 2001.24

• Alleged hijacker Hamza Saleh al-Ghamdi obtained a duplicate Florida driver’s license on 27 August 2001.25

• Alleged hijacker Ahmed al-Haznawi twice obtained duplicates for his driver’s license from the Lauderdale Lakes branch of the motor vehicle department, once on 24 July 2001 and the next time on 7 September 2001, just four days before 9/11.26

The reason these alleged terrorists collected duplicate licenses remains a mystery.

(4) Hijackers who don’t know how to order airline tickets

Apparently, “al-Qaeda’s Terrorist Manual” has no chapter how to correctly order airline tickets.

On 16 August 2001, alleged hijacker Khalid al-Mihdhar made three attempts to purchase United Airlines airplane tickets using a VISA credit card. The payment attempts were rejected because he exceeded the limit on the card.27 On 25 August he and his friend Majed Moqed booked tickets for American Airlines flight 77 using the website. Unfortunately, the tickets were not mailed to them, because the shipping address did not match the credit card address.28 So they had to collect these tickets in person from the American Airlines counter at Baltimore Washington International Airport on 5 September 2001.

On 13 September 2001, Michelle Erb, Service Director at United Airlines, advised the FBI that on August 27, an individual identifying himself as “Sajarah” had booked a reservation for alleged hijackers Ahmed Abdullah Alnami and Saeed al-Ghamdi through United Airlines’ Honolulu reservation office. The credit card was declined and attempts to contact al-Ghamdi failed.29 Alnami then called United Airlines’ Bloomington office on September 5 to check on the status of the two tickets he had ordered earlier, at which time he was advised that they were declined. Approximately 38 minutes later, al-Ghamdi contacted United’s Burbank office and provided a new Visa credit card number. On that occasion it was approved. E-tickets were issued for both of them.30 In a revised version it was Saeed al-Ghamdi who used his debit card to purchase tickets for himself and Ahmed Alnami, not from the Honolulu reservation office, but from the website.31

Ziad Jarrah had no problem ordering his plane ticket, but the ticket was sent by Federal Express to an apartment he had already vacated two days earlier.32

(5) Hijackers who lose their flight tickets

On 8 September 2001 – three days before 9/11 – ‘Alomari’ went to the American Airlines ticket counter at Boston’s Logan Airport. He claimed that he has lost his ticket, originally mailed to him in Florida. He was asked to fill out a form for a lost paper ticket and was reissued a new ticket. ‘Alomari’ also filled a claim that American Airlines had not mailed the ticket to him, allegedly to avoid the $100 charge for replacing the lost ticket. ‘Alomari’ was told that he would have to return the following day for the replacement ticket.33

‘Alomari’ was not the only ‘hijacker’ to lose his ticket. On 23 July 2001, Ziad Jarrah went to the STA Travel agency in Miami, Florida, to claim that he had lost his ticket and requested that it be reissued. STA Los Angeles then contacted STA Germany via email to get permission to reissue the ticket.34

(6) Hijacker who has ticket but wants to buy one

Gail Jawahir, a customer service representative at the United Airlines ticket counter at Boston’s Logan Airport, was interviewed three times by the FBI. In the first interview, conducted on 11 September 2001, she said that shortly before 7:00 a.m. two well-dressed Arab males approached her ticket counter. One of them indicated that he wished to purchase a ticket. She told him that he already had a United Airlines envelope with a UA itinerary in his hand. She informed him that he didn’t need to buy a ticket, for he already had one.35 Interviewed again by the FBI on 28 September 2001, she said she had checked Hamza and Ahmed Alghamdi (two of the alleged hijackers) into Flight 175.36 But when shown a photo lineup of twelve individuals believed to have been involved in the 9/11 events, she pointed to the photos of Mohand al-Shehri and Saeed Alghamdi (another two of the alleged hijackers) as the ones she had checked in.37

(7) Hijackers who need an Arabic translator

An unidentified female employee of American Airlines at Logan Airport, Boston, was interviewed on 20 September 2001 by the FBI and shown a photo spread of subjects.38 The employee identified on the photo spread Abdul (sic) ‘Alomari’ as the individual she checked in on flight AA11 on September 9 (sic), 2001. The employee stated that the man

did not understand the security questions in English so she tried to bring the question up on the computer in Arabic. She was unable to do that so she asked for help from Lois Internicola, a co-worker. Neither of them could get the computer to work and they could not find the book that contained a translation of the security questions. Finally, the unidentified employee called a translation service on the telephone located at her ticket station, number 17. She handed the telephone to the individual and he answered the questions. She then processed him onto AA flight 11 and issued his boarding pass.

According to an unidentified ticket agent interviewed by the FBI, Majed Moqed, another alleged hijacker, also didn’t appear to understand the security questions when she asked them.39

According to a third unidentified ticket agent at Logan Airport, Satam al-Suqami, a further alleged hijacker, also had difficulty understanding English. He remained at her counter for seven to ten minutes while she contacted a translator. 40

Leaving aside the fact that the identities of the above ticket agents were redacted, while most names of airline employees interviewed by the FBI are mentioned, we are presented here with imbeciles who allegedly intended to destroy America, but made fools of themselves at the airport and thereby risked losing the “historic battle between good and evil.”

Conclusions to Chapter 6

Numerous pundits have told us that the 9/11 hijackers were extremely well organized, coordinated, sophisticated. Their best pilot, Hani Hanjour, emerged to be a hopeless bungler.

In the present chapter we focused on the conduct of the “hijackers” before 9/11, as documented mainly by the FBI. We discover bunglers who lose their driver’s licenses and their airline tickets, need a translator at the airport, and do not not know what they hold in their hand. These are the klutzes – so we are told by eminent personalities – who defeated U.S. air defenses on 9/11.

This chapter reveals for the first time why the person going under the name “Mohamed Atta” was tasked to go to Portland, Maine, on September 10, 2001 and return to Boston on the morning of September 11 with a connecting flight.


1. Final Report of the 9/11 Commission, p. xvi

2. Gerhard Wisnewski, Operation 9/11, 10 Jahre danach (Knaur Taschenbuch, 2011) p. 39

3. Ibid. p. 27

4. Terry McDermott, Perfect Soldiers: The 9/11 Hijackers (Politico’s, 2005)

5. Staff Report of the 9/11 Commission, 26 August 2004, p. 34, #867

6. David R. Griffin, The New Pearl Harbor Revisited (Olive Branch Press, 2008), p. 79

7. Jim Yardley, “A Trainee Noted for Incompetence”, The New York Times, 4 May 2002. #2434

8. Ibid.

9. David Hancock, “FAA Was Alerted To Sept. 11 Hijacker”, CBS News, 10 May 2002, #2435

10. “A Careful Sequence of Mundane Dealings Sows a Day of Bloody Terror for Hijackers”, Wall Street Journal, 16 October 2001, #443

11. 12. Public Hearing of the 9/11 Commission, 16 June 2004, #2445

12. Recovered Identification Documents (By Laboratory Number), included in 911 DLs and IDs Senate Charts WTH0601604 (Team 5 Box 8), p. 20-25, #770

13. Terry McDermott, Perfect Soldiers (Harpers & Collins, 2005), p. 306

14. Brian Whitaker, “Chilling document hints at Armageddon”, The Guardian, 1 October 2001, #077

15. FBI Document 302-46163, quoted in MFR04016228 of 10 February 2004, #365

16. Ibid.

17. FBI timeline, Part B, Entry 1568, #114b; and FBI, JICI, American Airlines Flight #11, PENTTBOMB 265-NY-280350, 19.4.2002, p. 03008, #2711

18. NARA, 9/11 Commission documents. Team 5 Box 45. Airman Records Folder – Atta, #1068

19. FBI timeline, Part B, Entry 2095, #114b

20. Mitch Lipka, “Multiple identities of hijack suspects confound FBI”, Sun-Sentinel, 28 September 2001, #341

21. FBI timeline, Part B, Entry 1543, #114b

22. Mitch Lipka, Op.cit., #341

23. Mitch Lipka, Op.cit., #341

24. FBI timeline, Part B, Entry 2325, #114b

25. FBI timeline, Part C, Entry 2915, #114c

26. Alisa Ulferts, “Requests for Florida license raised no flags”, St. Petersburg Times, 14 December 2001, #444

27. FBI Timeline, Part C, Entry 2752, #114c

28. FBI timeline, Part C, Entry 2886, #114c

29. FBI Document 265A-NY-280350-302-51539 of 13 September 2001. Interview with Michelle Erb, #2709

30. Saeed Alghamdi, Investigative Services Division, FBI HQ, Team 5, Box 18, #1710

31. Stipulation in Moussaoui’s trial, Government Exhibit ST00001 (Part A), p. 72, #1166

32. Tim Golden, Michael Moss and Jim Yardley, “Unpolished Secret Agents Were Able to Hide in Plain Sight”, The New York Times, 23 September 2001, #2448

33. Boston Investigative Summary, FBI Timeline of 9/11 hijacker activities and movements, undated, Team 7, Box 20, p. 3, #2481

34. Ziad Jarrah Profile issued by the Tampa Office of the IRS on 20 March 2002, p. 60, #2090

35. FBI document 302-19081 of 11 September 2001. Interview with Gail Jawahir, Logan Airport, #2698

36. FBI document 302-29693 of 28 September 2001. Interview with Gail Jawahir, Logan Airport, #2699

37. Ibid.

38. FBI document 302-19191 of 20 September 2001. Interview of AA ticket counter employee, #2454

39. FBI document 302-754 of 13 September 2001. Interview with unnamed AA ticketing agent, #2696

40. FBI document 302-14505 of 13 September 2001. Interview with unnamed AA ticketing agent, #2697