FBI DOCUMENTS: AMERICAN MUSLIM CLERIC MAY HAVE BOOKED PRE-9/11 FLIGHTS FOR HIJACKERS

Fox News in an exclusive on January 3, 2013, reported that the FBI suspected within days of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks that the American Muslim cleric Anwar al-Awlaki may have purchased tickets for some of the hijackers for air travel in advance of the attacks, according to newly released documents reviewed exclusively by Fox News. Excerpts below:

The purpose of these flights remains unclear, but the 9/11 Commission report later noted that the hijackers had used flights in the lead-up to the attacks to test security and surveillance.

The heavily redacted records – obtained by Judicial Watch through a Freedom of information Act request – suggest the FBI held evidence tying the American-born cleric to the hijackers just 16 days after the attack that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

“We have FBI documents showing that the FBI knew that al-Awlaki had bought three tickets for three of the hijackers to fly into Florida and into Las Vegas, including the lead hijacker, Mohammad Atta,” Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, told Fox News.

He added that the records show the cleric, killed in September 2011 by a U.S. drone strike in Yemen, “was a central focus of the FBI’s investigation of 9/11. They show he wasn’t cooperative. And they show that he was under surveillance.”

One FBI investigative report known as a 302 summarizes the bureau’s investigation of Al-Awlaki’s Visa transactions. While heavily redacted, the document indicates a credit transaction for “Atta, Mohammed — American West Airlines, 08/13/2001, Washington, DC to Las Vegas to Miami,” the document says.

The FBI documents show a credit card record for a “Suqami, S. —-Southwest Airlines, 07/10/2001, Ft. Lauderdale to Orlando.” Satam al-Suqami was one of the muscle hijackers on American Airlines Flight 11, which slammed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.

The third individual, identified in the records is a “W. al-Sheri — National Airlines, 08/01/2001, San Francisco to Las Vegas to Miami.” This appears to be either Waleed al-Shehri or Wail al-Shehri. The two brothers were also muscle hijackers, according to the 9/11 Commission report.

As part of its ongoing investigation of the cleric, Fox News was first to report in the special “Fox News Reporting – The Secrets of 9/11,” broadcast in September 2011, that the cleric was an overlooked key player in the worst terrorist attack on U.S. soil.

Fox News was also first to report that al-Awlaki was held at New York City’s JFK airport on Oct. 10, 2002, under a warrant for passport fraud, a felony punishable by 10 years. However, as Fox News was first to document, an FBI agent, Wade Ammerman, from the bureau’s Washington field office ordered the cleric be released from custody, even though there was an active warrant for his arrest.

Fox News’ reporting, which has not been publicly disputed by the bureau, suggests that after the 9/11 attacks the FBI tried to work with al-Awlaki or track him for intelligence purposes. Fitton says the newly released documents raise hard questions for two administrations.

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