Before discussion about 9/11 was squeezed—in a pincer movement worthy of Hitler’s Panzer divisions—between the so-called “official story” and the subsequent campaign of disinformation that gave conspiracy a bad name, there were some promising avenues of investigation where definitive answers might still be possible.
Here are a few that remain at the top of my list. There are many others.
The FBI took a powder
On the 12th anniversary of the Sept 11 attack there has still been no official investigation into the murders of almost 3000 people that day. The Joint Congressional Intelligence Committee investigation, which met in secret, delivered a report famously containing 28 blank pages.
And anyone looking to the 9/11 Commission for answers had already been disillusioned, even before they issued “findings,“ because they were charged only with identifying what might have been done differently to prevent a future attack.
The FBI’s ballyhooed 4000-man “largest investigation in history” lasted just a little more than three weeks, until someone—we still don’t know who—mailed letters sprinkled with anthrax, changing the focus of the FBI investigation.
Days later, in an order describing the investigation of the terrorist hijackings as "the most exhaustive in its history," FBI Agents were ordered to curtail their investigation of the Sept. 11 attack. Officials said Robert Mueller, newly-sworn in head of the FBI, believed that his agents had a broad understanding of the events of Sept. 11.
"The investigative staff has to be made to understand that we're not trying to solve a crime now," said one law enforcement official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "It was now time to move on."
The order was said to have met with resistance from FBI agents who believed that continued surveillance of suspects might turn up critical evidence to prove who orchestrated the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Before all the breathless talk about missiles and holograms and termites in the World Trade Center took center stage, there had still been a few promising avenues of investigation where definitive answers might be possible without resorting to stadium-sized white noise generators.
Mohamed Atta at Maxwell Air Force Base
According to a flurry of stories between Sept 15 and 17 in the Washington Post, Newsweek, and Knight Ridder newspapers, as many as six of the terrorists, including ringleader Mohammed Atta, received training at U.S. military facilities.
"U.S. military sources have given the FBI information that suggests five of the alleged hijackers of the planes used in Tuesday's terror attacks received training at secure U.S. military installations in the 1990’s," Newsweek reported. Newsweek also reported that three of the hijackers received training at the Pensacola Naval Station in Florida.
"We always, always, always trained other countries' pilots,” a former Navy pilot told Newsweek about his years on the base. “When I was there two decades ago, it was Iranians. The Shah was in power. Whoever the country du jour is, that's whose pilots we train."
"In the wake of those reports we asked about the Pensacola Naval Air Station but we never got a definitive answer from the Justice Department," said a spokesman for Sen. Nelson. "We asked the FBI for an answer ‘if and when’ they could provide us one. Their response to date has been that they are trying to sort through something complicated and difficult."
The Senator had received no reply to his request. "Speaking for Senator Nelson," concluded the spokesman, "we still do not know if three of the terrorists trained at one time in Pensacola or not."
"Discrepancies in biological data"
Knight Ridder newspapers reported that Mohamed Atta attended International Officers School at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery, Ala. Another terrorist, Abdulaziz Alomari, attended Aerospace Medical School at Brooks Air Force base in Texas. And Saeed Alghamdi had been to the Defense Language Institute in Monterrey, California.
Official denial was swift, but strangely worded. "Some of the FBI suspects had names similar to those used by foreign alumni of U.S. military courses," said the Air Force in a statement. "However, discrepancies in their biographical data, such as birth dates 20 years off, indicate we are probably not talking about the same people."
"Probably not talking about the same people" does not quite strike the note of certitude we should expect in an investigation into the murder of 3000 more-or-less vaporized human beings. But it was enough for Newsweek, the Washington Post and Knight Ridder to all drop the story.
I didn’t drop the story. I'm funny that way. And several weeks later I reached a Major in the Air Force's Public Affairs Office. She was familiar with the question, she said, because she had read the initial Air Force denial to the media.
"Biographically, they're not the same people," she explained. "Some of the ages are twenty year off."
I told the Major I was only interested in Atta. Was she saying that the age of the Mohamed Atta who attended the Air Force's International Officer's School at Maxwell Air Force Base was different than the reported age of the terrorist Mohamed Atta?
I offered that if the Registrar of the International Officer's School provided the name and address of the Mohamed Atta who had attended there, I would call and confirm that he was still alive, just to relieve the Air Force of that burden.
"I don't think you're going to get that information," the Major replied.
She was right. I didn’t.
Still, I pressed her again, probably to the point of rudeness,
to provide a few specifics. And I was rewarded when she told me, in exasperation: “I do not have the authority to tell you who (which terrorists) attended which schools.”
It is hard to read this as anything but a back-handed confirmation that somewhere in the Defense Dept, even though she didn’t have the authority to release it, there exists a list with names of Sept. 11 terrorists who received training at U.S. military bases.
"Extremely well-connected, check. Friendly Arab government? The friendliest!"
I learned just how well-connected after finding the resume of an International Officer’s School graduate from the United Arab Emirates, Colonel and Staff Pilot Mohammed Ahmed Hamel Al Qubaisi, (shown in photo in recent posting as UAE Ambassador to Singapore) posted on the Internet.
Currently, his resume stated, he was a Defense Military Naval & Air Attaché at the United Arab Emirates embassy in Washington, after serving stints in his country’s Embassy & Security Division as Chief of Intelligence, and in the UAE’s Security Division/Air Force Intelligence & Security Directorate as Security Officer.
It’s safe to say that Mr. Al Qubaisi is pretty dialed-in in the UAE, and the furthermost thing from a terrorist. He’s a member of the Arab elite. It even looks like he’s a spook.
And so was Mohamed Atta.
Later I heard from the former wife of a CIA pilot who had worked on Maxwell Air Force Base. “I have a girlfriend who recognized Mohamed Atta when she saw his picture after the attack," she told us.
"She met him at a party at the Officer’s Club. And the reason she swears it was him here is because she didn’t just meet him and say hello. After she met him she went around and introduced him to the people with her. She knows it was him.”
She also said that Saudis were a highly visible presence at Mawell Air Force Base. “There were a lot of them living in an upscale complex in Montgomery. They were all gone the day after the attack.They had to get all of them out of here.”
The Venice "Magic Dutch Boys"
I called them the “Magic Dutch Boys.” Rudi Dekkers and Arne Kruithof, two Dutch nationals, purchased the two flight schools that trained three of the four terrorist pilots to fly at the tiny Venice Airport, which has an extensive history of CIA involvement,.
When Mohamed Atta and his terrorist cell left Hamburg and moved to Florida, Rudi Dekkers and Wally Hilliard were in the middle of an aggressive European ‘marketing’ campaign, reported the local Venice Gondolier.
"The world is my working place," Dekkers boasted to the paper. His plans were so successful the makeup of the flight school had soon changed, and foreign nationals came to account for over 80 per cent of the students.
Yet Dekkers repeatedly stated Mohamed Atta and Marwan Al-Shehhi—the pilots who brought down the Word Trade Center—just "walked in" off the street into his school.
Dekker’s and Wally Hilliard’s flight schools (they had another 100 miles south in Naples, FL) were annually training four hundred foreign nationals, many if not most from Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries.
My investigation uncovered numerous connections between Huffman Aviation and the CIA.
Here's a rhetorical question: Does the CIA use foreign contractors to establish plausible deniability in covert operations?
But The New York Times never mentioned anything about it.
Follow the money
Prior to the Sept 11 attack press accounts of Dekkers’ business dealings revealed him to be a fast-talking con man. Afterwards, the hometown Venice Gondolier ran a headline saying he was no stranger to headlines.
"Huffman Aviation Inc. has had problems in the last few months with the city of Venice, Sarasota County and the state of Florida, but the school keeps flying," the paper reported.
Dekkers’ wasn’t paying his rent out at the airport.
"When Huffman Aviation paid three months of overdue rent last Friday, May 12th, company president Rudi Dekkers said the rent wouldn't be late again. "No, we won't have this any more," he said during an interview last Friday."
A month later a headline read: “Huffman rent is late again.”
"Huffman Aviation Inc. is again on notice from the city to catch up on its rent payments or face eviction from the airport," the paper wrote on June 9th.
Nothing had changed by mid-July. "For the sixth straight month, Huffman Aviation Inc. has failed to pay its rent to the city on time."
Then, less than one month before 9/ 11, almost miraculously, Dekkers paid the rent.
"Ties to an organized network"
While they received humiliating newspaper coverage for being deadbeats, Hilliard and Dekkers were launching a commuter airline. Planes and pilots for the venture, known as Florida Air, came from Richard Boehlke, a Gig Harbor, Washington man.
Boehlke was at the same time involved in the massive Mob bust-out in Portland, Oregon of Capital Consultants, a pension fund management company that lost $320 million dollars, much of it from the pension fund of the Laborers Union, called the biggest Mob-run union in America.
"Boehlke would do anything for money, he was so desperate," said an aviation executive who had witnessed Boehlke's descent. "I’m surprised he hasn’t skipped the country by now, what with all the trouble he’s gotten himself into farting around with those Mafia boys down in Portland."
A major recipient of the largesse of the busted-out Capital Consultants was Alvin Malnick, whom Readers Digest once called "Meyer Lansky’s heir as head of Organized Crime."
In “Welcome to TerrorLand” I dubbed him “Alvin of Arabia, because he moved to Saudi Arabia and converted to Islam while doing some business with the King.
There is also the little matter of the bust of Wally Hilliard's Lear jet with 43 lns of heroin in Orlando in late July of 2000, just a few weeks after Atta arrived to attend his flight school. The DEA Agents on the scene later went before a Federal Judge to make sure Hilliard didn't get his Learjet back by pleading he was an "innocent owner."
If you’re looking for connections between the 9/11 hijackers, drug traffickers, and international organized crime, you need look no further than Huffman Aviation.
Yet The New York Times never mentioned anything about it.